A Day in the Life: Life with Hannah is never dull

Hannah was more than happy to have me post this, Sarah is the proud cinematographer.  Now back to the insanity...

A Day in the Life: Quiet Time

This new series is a glimpse into the fun-filled, action packed life we lead (please read with rich sarcasm).  I am having a bit of writers block when it comes to writing about how Dave and I met.  Part of this stems from the fact, that to me, the whole thing was utterly romantic, but when I put it on paper, rather dull.  So I am waiting for inspiration.  In the meantime...some of the uber exciting things that make up our typical day...

Beginning with...the beginning of our day.  Quiet time.  After eating breakfast, this is the first thing on our schedule.  We started this a few years back, just because Mom needed a few minutes of quiet first thing in the morning, but we have all grown to enjoy it.  We each say one thing we are thankful for, then read a Bible or devotional for 15 min.  Annie still doesn't read, but contents herself to look at the pictures.  Every few weeks, we go to the library to get new Children's Bibles, which makes for a nice variety, and the packet that Stephanie is doing below, is a devotional that our church gives to the kids every month.  I try to keep it casual, too much structure and I start loathing a thing.  But we still love this time, and therefore, love sharing it with you.

And let's be honest, a lot of mornings, quiet time is not so quiet.

how security lost its luster...

So many of you, my friends, have spent some of your life living in transition.  Many of you are missionaries, military families, or just have husbands that would like to be in school forever.  We have moved more times than I would have liked, and a couple of the moves involved me throwing a tantrum. 

With that in mind, I am loving reading Karen's blog this month, about Living in Transition.  This post, Invite People In, has especially inspired me.  Invite people in to your life, no matter if it is for an hour, a year, or your lifetime.  So true.  Very true.  She talks about Jesus' ministry as an example, great example of the impact that can be made in a few short minutes, or a few short years.  It changed the world, people loved harder, cried deeper, and stood stronger...and it is still happening to this day.

There are hundreds of people that have impacted my life in such a powerful way, and some I never met, I just observed from a distance and some I have known my whole life.

This week, I had a friend that I have known for just a few months tell me that I was family now.  I feel like her family, like she is a part of my family...like I have known her forever...

And tears stream down my face as I think about the possibility of missing out on the friends I now have here in Evansville, the friends that I didn't know God had in store for me and my family, that I told Him I didn't want...I wanted security instead.  Security is totally overrated.

What Came Next...

So, a year later, as I was feeling that God didn't want me to ever get married or give me the things my heart desired, I had this revelation...not audible, but from God's mouth, definitely.  It was Fall again...my sophomore year, and I realized that God made the person I was going to marry...if indeed I would marry.  God knew my heart's desires, and although He didn't have to give me what I wanted, He could.  He's God.  It seemed like a dare almost..."pray for whatever you want in a husband."  I knew that it was an invitation to see God work.  My list was short that day...off the cuff, I didn't write it down or add to it later, I just put 4 things on the list.  It didn't feel like it was supposed to be a list with character traits, just a list of almost silly things my heart desired.  So here is the list:

1.  He be over 6 feet tall
2.  He like math.
3.  He like softball (and I definitely should have clarified this one...softball and not fantasy baseball...that is what I meant to say).  ;)
4.  He would take walks with God, talk to God personally (I had a roommate that did this, it was inspiring to me).

I asked, and then forgot all about the list, until a very strange day in May...

Some more gratitude from the past...

So I wrote before about a boyfriend from the past, and if you are female and didn't know me at the time, then you are might have a small part of you wondering about this relationship and where it went wrong.  I mean, you probably didn't even remember it until I just said something, buy now you are really interested (or maybe it is just me that sits up way to late reading about other people's love life's.  Or possibly not, but anyway, I am going to tell you about how grateful I am that another college student agreed to share a little piece of her life with me one day in the SUB in K-ville MO.  But even more than that, she agreed to share her intimacy with her Creator...it changed my life.

{cut back to Fall 1997, a few months in to my freshman year of college}

I never took myself as one to be "homesick."  Really, I was all about adventure and had been waiting for college and living on my own for years.  I was normally all about making new friends...which had been relatively easy up to this point, basically because the friendships consisted mainly of shopping and talking of boys and the like.  It was very easy to find other people excited about those things.  But that last year of high school things changed a bit, and I became a Christian...life became more meaningful, and with that, so did my relationships.  Two in particular were very hard to leave, number one, the guy I was dating in the previous post, and my dear friend Megan, whom had become a mentor to me, even though she was 2 years younger than me, and therefore still in high school 2 more years.  I learned so much about life from her...I still do.  Anyway, I missed these two people especially, and it was hard, I didn't know it would be so hard because I really didn't have that depth of relationship before.  So after a month in Kville, I was ready to call it quits and move back where my friends were.  I wanted to quit because life was hard and I was lonely.  I am sure everyone was lonely those first few months, but I whined about it more, no doubt. 

During these lonely months, I met this girl, Mandy, at the campus ministry I was hanging out at, and I am not sure how it came about, but we ended up setting a lunch date a few days later to get to know each other.  I was very excited, as I would be spared thinking of my loneliness for a few hours.  When the day finally arrived and I sat down across the table from her, and I was pretty shocked by the words rolling out of her mouth.  She was engaged as of last night.  She was marrying a guy she never dated, but God had "spoke to him" and made clear to him that he was to ask her to be his wife.  At this point you probably think I was thinking she was crazy...but at that point in my life it sounded completely amazing, romantic in a "set apart" sort of way.  Absolutely foreign to the dating regimen I had come to know quite well.  As her story unfolded I sat amazed, listening, seriously amazed.  She spoke of God as if He were right there next to her.  Like hearing His voice was like taking an anxiously awaited phone call.  I hadn't ever experienced God like that, first hand.  At the end of the conversation, this Josh guy sounded like he was probably mounted on a white steed, but God sounded even higher...yet lower, more real, all at the same time.  It was truly an amazing story.  But what happened next was not so amazing.

As I walked back to my dorm room, the weight of the whole thing hit me.  The idea that God really knew more than me, that He wanted me to trust Him in the dating area of my life.  As that thought sunk into my being, I began to see what He did want from me...why He had put Mandy in my life on that day and at this stage of my life.  He wanted me to trust Him.  And with a whole lot of reluctance and a very, very small dose of excitement (at what God had in store), I broke up with the guy I had been dating.  I knew it was what I was supposed to do.  There was not a single doubt in my body.  It wasn't something he or I had done, it was what God had planned, and thankfully, He cleared my head that day to allow me to follow Him.

The days that followed were, of course, harder than the homesick days from before...I wished I could be back in KC with Megan, or on another planet where that guy I had liked so fiercely didn't have a phone number.  But I can say with absolute gratitude that other people came into the story, they loved me when I was a mess, and God pulled me through to see the beauty of following Him.  I look back on that day as the day I learned to hear His voice...it wasn't audible, but it was clear...It didn't seem sane at the time, but His plan was better...not easier, just better.  Thanks Mandy for letting me peer into your story and you relationship with God...that day I embarked on something bigger than me.

On fearing God

I've been learning about fearing God lately.  And thinking a lot about fear.  Tornado sirens do that to me.  God's power is pretty amazing, scary really.

When I first started reading the Bible, one of the questions I asked, was about fearing God.  What did that mean exactly.  I have no idea who I asked, but whoever it was tried to explain that it was more of a reverence, like a respect than a fear.  It isn't a bad explanation at all, but it has taken me a while to get it. 

I have been learning that the way I fear God is a litmus test for how much faith I have...or how much I trust Him.  If I don't trust Him, then the realization that He has the power to destroy everything I hold dear, scares the living daylights out of me.  It leads me to all kinds of emotions that I don't even want to admit I have, and ultimately panic, and sometimes bitterness.

On the other hand, when I am at a place of peace and trust with God, I am able to acknowledge His power...respect His power, but without being scared.  I mean, pain is scary, and unknown pain scares me even more, but when I am really in a place of trust, then I know that even those unknowns are taken care of...that I am not in control, and that is a good thing.

I am learning that "fear of God" depends entirely on my perspective.

Song of Gratitude: Part 2

After yesterday's post, I don't want anyone to get the impression that I grew up in this terrible home.  That isn't true at all.  My parents were always very supportive...and still to this day, I go to my parents to hear those words of support.  But Christ was not the center of our home...mostly because my family didn't know Christ.  But despite that, I grew up in a loving home, with parents who cared deeply for their children.  We spent lots of time doing fun family things, taking family vacations, going on fun outings, my Mom used to make elaborate cakes for my birthday...a tradition passed down.  My Dad carted us from sporting event to after-school activities, even if we did have to listen to Car Talk on the way.  :)  Not a bad childhood by any stretch of the imagination.

We also went to church my whole life...but that church didn't recognize the Bible as authoritative.  I think they did in the denomination's doctrinal statement, but when it came to reality, not so much.  Being a good person was what was important.

I don't want to speak for my parents here, but I'm going to.  :)  My Mom would say that she didn't become a Christian until after I did, and my Dad had heard and accepted the gospel earlier in life, but didn't put Christ first until about that same time.  My parents had began to study the actual Bible at a study at the church we attended, and eventually left to go to a church that did hold to the authority of the Bible.  Then what happened next is pretty astonishing.  After a couple of years attending that church, they attended the Missions Conference held at the church and knew God was calling them to the mission field.  And a couple of years later they left and went to Bolivia, and today, are in Southern Spain today ministering to the North African population.

As an adult, I have had the privilege of witnessing the spiritual growth, and sacrifices they have made for the Gospel.  Not a lot of grandparents are willing to let their grand-kids move away (without a fight anyway), let alone being willing to move to the other side of the world, only seeing them for a month a year.  I watched them sell most of their belonging at a series of garage sales, and the house that they had spent quite a while saving to buy.  Now, I get to hear the amazing stories of the North African church prospering and becoming independent, and I am so glad my parents get to be a part of that.  I am sure that if my parents could reverse the clock, they would wish for another chance at raising a family, but God uses all things to His glory, and the transformations in my parent's life has definitely brought Him glory.

BTW--I have kept from using proper names for the privacy of the first family and the security of my parents...It would be great if you would make sure to do the same if you comment.  :) 

A Song of Gratitude: Part 1

The new church we are attending has asked me to do a short bio for their monthly womens newsletter.  It is because I am the newest woman in the church, probably, and no one knows much about me.  Anyway, I am trying to write two paragraphs summarizing my life up to this point.  As I attempt this short-winded feat, I am constantly thinking of all the people who gave of themselves so I could be where I am today.  I have gotten to be loved on by some pretty amazing people in my relatively short life time.  So I'm going to spend today telling you about one family...in hopes to follow it with others.

My Senior year of high school...a pretty selfish time in the life of Katie Branson.  Katie mainly cared about one thing...Katie.  I did some "good" things that year...and even hung out with the "good" crowd most of the time.  I can not say this is any of my doing though...I just really wasn't interested in partying.  If I had been, I'm sure that is where I would have been.  But this isn't about me.  :)

Calculus class...senior year.  After the first few weeks I began to notice a guy in class.  I couldn't have told you what it was at the time, but looking back, he had peace.  I'm sure he also cared what others thought of him, but not like most people.  It didn't seem to be ruling his life.  He had something that I didn't and I wasn't sure what it was...I just knew he was different.

A few months later as I was talking to him and he asked me where I was going when I died.  Going to church my whole life, but never cracking the Bible, my view of God rested on I'm not sure what, but anyway, I was somehow sure that a loving God wouldn't send people to hell.  He responded in a very strange way.  He told me that the Bible didn't say that.  Interesting thought, having an authority outside of yourself.  As the conversation finished and he explained what the Bible did say, I remembered hearing that same thing at a Baptist youth event I had gone to in Middle School.  "Oh, yeah, I know that."  I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something like that, because, I knew everything then.

As life progressed and I did crack the Bible, I did start learning what it actually said, and I also began dating this guy.  Now if I'm his parents, this is not a desirable situation to be sure...I am not cream of the crop here, and I am pretty much as selfish as people got, but I am immensely grateful to them.  I am in tears I am so grateful to them.  Not for letting me date their son, but for letting me glimpse into their lives.  For the first time in my life I got to peer into the inner-workings of a functional family.  A family where the kids respected their parents, and the parents respected their children.  In fact the entire time I knew this guy, I never heard him speak even a slightly bad word of his mom or dad.  They spent time together...the Bible really was their authority in life...and they genuinely loved others.  This stuff was all foreign to me, I really didn't know families could actually function that way.

Today, I'm sure their family is much the same as it was, healthy, loving people, loving God.  And I know that this side of Heaven, they won't see any reward for loving on me, and allowing me to be part of their lives, but I am immensely grateful...and my family is too.  Without them I wouldn't even know what a family living for God would look like.  But today I think of their example regularly, praying for the strength to love like that.  It is also unlikely that they will read this, but if by chance they do, Thank you.


Chief of Sinners

Some of the deeper ponderings now...

I was rereading Acts 9 last week.  It is the account of Saul's conversion.  I was struck anew by the section.

I once had a friend once tell me that after reading through the Gospels, he was convinced that if there was someone not to imitate, it was the Pharisees.  It is true, really, Jesus doesn't even give them the time of day most of the time, and when he does, he ends up exasperated.  It's like talking to someone who always knows better...it is a frustrating experience (please no slighting comments on the irony of me writing those words.  :)).

So the question I was asking myself last week was why Paul.  He seemed to be the exact opposite of the typical disciple mold.  He was hardened to the point of killing disciples.  Proud of his own zealousness.  Perfect in regard to the law as far as he was concerned.  This person sounds more like the assemblies of religious zealots that questioned Jesus, but got no answer, than a man after God's own heart.  His pride...really, that is what struck me.  But God chose him.

So this all got me thinking to the passage where he refers to himself as the chief of sinners.  I always thought he said that about himself because he had killed disciples of Christ, or he was just being humble, thinking himself worse than he really was.  But it occurred to me, that he was the chief of sinners.  He had served himself, his pride and his own god (the law).  Not the true and living God, but one he created.  He was the worst of sinners, a man with a hardened heart towards the true God.  But as Paul himself says in 1 Timothy 1, it was to show God's perfect patience.  The fact that despite being the furthest from needing God, God came to him, and by His mercy changed him.

And then I began to think about sin...my perspective on sin.  I have ranks on sins, even if I don't want to admit it.  But I always thought pride should go closer to the bottom, because everyone struggles with it.  But I'm pretty sure I was wrong.  I think pride tops the list, and although pride leads to many other sins, it also manifests itself in the form of being better than those sinners.  I spend my day teaching my children to work hard at all they do, make healthy lifestyle choices, and develop self-discipline, but if I don't spend even more time showing other mercy, understanding the perspectives of others and humbling myself before God, I am just encouraging my children to become the chief of sinners.

To be more blatant...I often worry about my children being promiscuous, lazy, or ending up in prison; but I never think, "what if my child ends up being arrogant".  I mean, I know it is a bad character trait, but I always thought it would be better than the alternatives.  Apparently not.

God is good

Well before letting loose one of the heavier topics that I have been mulling over this last month, I thought I would just do a little update on our life.

The title is apt...God is good...but He would still be good without the blessing upon blessing we have received these past few months.  And sometimes when I receive, I forget to say thanks...or acknowledge the Giver.  This time has been so different.  I seem to awake each morning with a contentment that I am just giddy about.  I mean, I don't deserve a darn thing, and yet my life is so comfortable.  I love, love, love my house, and at the risk of spending the whole post telling you about every nook and cranny, I will limit myself to just two things. 

I have the most beautiful tree outside the living room window.  It is a Linden tree Crabapple I believe, and it was pretty when we looked at the house, but now that it has lost it's leaves, it is covered with red berries.  The branches form a ceiling for our front walk that is just perfect, and I can sit by the fireplace, enjoying the snow-covered limbs every morning with a cup of coffee.  It is pretty perfect. 

And the second thing is the kitchen sink.  The kitchen is not spectacular, just ordinary laminate countertops, and oven that is a bit smaller than I am used to, and a basic fridge, but the sink...the people before us went all out.  It is solid stone so I can't stain it, and sooo deep, plus I can lay my biggest cookie sheet flat in the bottom.  On top of that , the faucet is also a sprayer and I just love it.  I mean, I do spend a good deal of time at the sink, but I never thought a sink could be so wonderful.  Quite silly, really, now that I have written it all out.

And on to the more important things in life.  The week we moved in, the girls met a neighbor girl who, we soon found out, has 3 sisters.  These 4 girls are pretty much the same age as my girls.  They are over about every day to play.  It is pretty incredible really.  It was the thing that I prayed for more than anything else...friends for the girls, and already we have managed a birthday party for Hannah with a house full of friends.  The neighbors seem just as excited to have us in the neighborhood, and it is all quite overwhelming...not the girls...the blessing.  Actually, the house runs much smoother with 8 girls than 4.  Guests seem to encourage polite behavior towards sisters, and so the house is even more pleasant with more.  Anyway, I could keep going about the blessings, for a few more years, but I will spare you.  I'll just say I feel blessed beyond measure, and then some.