Monday, June 28, 2010

Put Me In the Zoo




Every couple months, my 2 1/2 year old daughter falls in love with Robert Lopshire's Put Me in the Zoo. She'll want to read it over and over. Before naptime. Before bedtime. And any time in-between. Until finally either me or my husband snap and we hide the book.

But despite the fact that at the moment I have zero desire to touch Put Me in the Zoo, I can still appreciate how subtle the message is. Most kids stuff these days beats you over the head with its message - be a good friend, don't hit, share your toys, etc. But a classic like Put Me in the Zoo isn't nearly as message-oriented, and as an adult, I sure appreciate it.

The, er, creature in the book (Seriously, what is that thing? I asked my daughter, and she told me a dog.) wants to live in the zoo. The zookeepers proclaim that he's unwanted, and they toss him out. A boy and girl follow, and ask why he thinks he should be in the zoo. The creature then proceeds to entertain them with all the things he can do with his spots. He can make them different colors, he can juggle them, he can make them various sizes, he can put them on all kinds of things, and so on. With everything that he can do, the dog-like creature is confused about why the zoo doesn't recognize his value and put him in the zoo!

Then the little boy points out that the zoo isn't really the best place for him - the circus actually better fits his skills.

The book closes with an illustration of the creature looking very happy in front of an audience, stating, "Yes! This is where I want to be. The circus is the place for me!"

How often am I so focused on where I want to be, where I want to go, where I think I belong, that I completely miss out on something that would be even better? That would bring me more satisfaction? That would fit my abilities in a more complete way?

I guess it's good my daughter wants to read the book so many times, because this is a lesson I'm constantly relearning. Closed doors are often an invitation to let go of my sub par dreams and embrace the richness of God's plans for me.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I’m going on vacation and I’ll turn into a blimp!

Camy here! And that’s exactly what I was fearing the weeks before my vacation. I’m sure at least some of you can relate, yes?

I’ve been working really hard to eat healthily and exercise regularly the past two months and I was really scared it would all go to pot while I was on vacation, because, well, that’s what usually happens to me. I eat out a lot more, and the “safe” foods I usually eat are not always available where I go.

But God convicted me that I was just not trusting Him enough with my health. So I prayed for Him to help me while I was on vacation.

So far, I haven’t been eating great, but I haven’t been horrendously bad, either. I haven’t always stayed within my calorie range, but no 3000 calories a day, at least.

The best part is that I’ve been running regularly! Yay! God has really been helping me stay motivated to keep up with my running training. I posted earlier about running with this new method by Jeff Galloway, and so far I’m still really enjoying running. So much so that I’ve actually gotten up EARLY to go running before the things planned for the day! Can you believe it??? And no, an alien has not invaded my body, nor have I finally gone off the deep end. I think God has been helping me stay motivated to keep up with my running, and the fact that I still like running hasn’t been a bad thing, either.

I still have a week left of my vacation, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up the running while I’m at conferences. God has really helped me out during my vacation, even for something as small as helping me to stay healthy!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pray for Claire

It’s not unusual for people who are familiar with our story to contact me when they hear about families in crisis. And it’s not unusual for my heart to break all over again each time I enter another family’s tragic story. But as hard as it is, I don’t mind going back to that broken place, because every time I do, I enter God’s tangible presence. When His children suffer, He goes before them, hovers over them, watches their backs.

Grace is a mystery. It can’t be earned, imagined, or manufactured. It can only be received. It’s true no matter what the nature of the suffering may be. And when God pours His grace over you, logic and common sense take a backseat to faith. You may hate the circumstances you’re in, but you can’t deny that He is in the midst of them, providing daily bread, giving peace. You see Him in the compassion of His people, you see Him moment by moment in a million little mercies, and even while your heart is screaming to be anywhere but here, you see Him working all things together for good. And you know that you know He’s making all things beautiful. In His time.

Like I said, I hear a lot of people’s stories, and they all take a piece of my heart. But once in a while a story comes along that is so similar to ours, it grips and won’t let go. It transports me back to ICU, back to the unknowns and the fear. It reminds me what it was like to live in a world undone, where everything is put on hold, and the whole future is one big black question mark.

Claire’s story is like that. Claire is a precious little girl who nearly drowned several weeks ago. Like Jacob, she was without a pulse for 30 minutes. At first she was in ICU on paralyzing drugs and a respirator, also like Jacob. And now, like Jacob, she has been transferred to Baylor rehab. Her father, Tyler, is telling their story as it unfolds, and when I read his words I often feel like I could have written them myself fourteen years ago. His updates are honest, beautiful, heart-breaking, and inspiring. You can follow their journey here.

Please pray for this precious family. It’s easy for me to say that God will redeem their sorrow, and I believe with all my heart that He will. But they still have to walk through this valley to get there, and the path can get very dark sometimes.

I borrowed this picture of Claire and her mother, Tiffany, from their journal. Thank you for praying.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Time to be accountable


Today I took coffee to my friend Michelle's house but I had another motive than just getting some caffeine and chatting. She's a new friend because recently I moved from Montana to Little Rock, Arkansas. Michelle works at my husband's office and we hit it off.

Recently, Michelle asked me to be an accountability partner, and I immediately said yes. In the past I've connected with friends in this way and it's really helped me on my Christian walk. Even though the word 'accountability' sounds overwhelming, I've found it's good just to have someone to talk to about: 1) things that are going well, 2) things that aren't going so well, and 3) how I'm dealing with them. As we chat, Michelle asks me questions about these things, and I ask her too.

Yet perhaps the most important part of meeting together is prayer and sharing God's Word. Today when we met Michelle and I spent five minutes praying for each other. Also during out talk, we brought in God's point-of-view on things. When Michelle was sharing her struggles, I talked about a Bible verse I had recently read that applied. Then, she did the same with me. Michelle not only shared her thoughts, she also reminded me of God's thoughts.

Have you ever considered having an accountability partner? Maybe you should think about it. Look around and think of someone who you enjoy being with—someone who is encouraging to you. This person doesn't have to have a perfect relationship with God, neither do you. In fact, hopefully through your time together you'll not only grow closer to each other, but closer to Him, too.

Perhaps you already have someone you share all the details of your life with. If so, consider taking that relationship to a new level. Pray, read Scripture, or read a devotional book together. Even best friends can become closer if they open up their whole lives to each other.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Secrets to the Championship

Today, my son’s Nathan’s baseball team had their team party. It was extra exciting this year because they had won the championship. (Go A’s!). Apparently other coaches from the league had been watching our team play near the end of the season, trying to find out the secret behind why the A’s were undefeated. Our coaches, Mike and Scott, shared what they thought had made the difference, adding that they encouraged their own kids to apply the same rules in life.

1) Have fun – For as long as Nathan has played under these coaches, I have never heard them pressure kids to go for the win. Instead they sent the team out with a reminder to enjoy the game.

2) Do your best – Not, do it perfectly every time; not do it like that other player. Do your best. And the coaches could tell the difference.

3) Keep a smile on your face – Whether a player hit a home run or struck out, the coaches encouraged him to have a good attitude.

The best part I think, is that the coaches led by example. They enjoyed the season,
did the best job that they knew how to do, they always sent players back to the dugout with encouraging words, and kept every post-game recap as positive as possible. (“You guys got some great hits. Next game we need to work a little harder on our fielding, but all of you worked hard and played well.”)

Mike was right on target when he pointed out the importance of applying these same guidelines to life. Think about it: when you enjoy what you are doing, you can’t help but do a good job. If you focus on your best instead of perfection, your best will be even better. If you keep a positive attitude, you tend to experience joy whether you win or lose, succeed or discover that you have some things to learn.

We can apply these principles to our spiritual lives too by enjoying God and the path He has us on, doing our best for Him, and letting His joy shine through, regardless of the circumstances.

Which of coaches Mike & Scott’s guidelines do you need to apply more? How has doing your best, having fun, and keeping a smile on your face helped you be more successful? Thank God for being the kind of coach who wants His children to enjoy the lives He has planned for them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Just Gotta Tell You




Chasing Lilacs is definately my kind of book. You know the kind where you instantly fall in love with the main character? Sammie's real and she's funny and her life's not perfect. Kinda like she's your best friend. You'll miss her when you have to put the book down.

Here's how the publisher desribes the book:

It is the summer of 1958, and life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for twelve-year-old Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother's "nerve" problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.
When her mother commits suicide and a not-so-favorite aunt arrives, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears: Her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious kid from California whose own troubles plague him, or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on. Then there's the elderly widower who seems nice but has his own dark past.
Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie has ever done.

Hope you meet Sammie for yourself! I bet you'll love her too.

Love,
Julie

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's Officially Summer


My test of when summer has officially arrived?
The perfect watermelon.

Sigh.

So now that we've found our first perfectly ripe watermelon, I can sit back and welcome the summer.
Welcome summer!

How do you spend your summer? We like hanging out at the pool mostly, and two of my kids compete on a summer swim league so we'll add some swim meets to that mix.

Are you going to camp?
Are you doing any sports?
Got a vacation planned?


Share what summer is like where you are!



Monday, June 14, 2010

Sheep and Wool Festival!

Camy here, just back from the Estes Park Wool Mart! It’s a sheep and wool festival held in Estes Park, Colorado, and I had a blast!

I went with my friend Danica Favorite and her family. We got to see sheep, alpacas (the picture above), paco-vicunas (kind of like alpacas), angora goats (their fleece makes mohair yarn), angora rabbits, cashmere goats, yaks, llamas, and we even saw pictures of a pygora goat, a cross between a pygmy goat and an angora goat.

I also got to buy fleeces! I bought a pound of alpaca fleece in this rich lovely brown color and I bought an entire fleece of a black sheep (he was a cross between a Teeswater and a merino/CVM). I got to talk to the shepherd who is this really nice older lady who loves to tell stories about her sheep. She suggested the fleece I eventually bought after I told her that I was a beginning spinner, and what I wanted to use the fleece for, and how much I wanted to spend.

I will process the fleeces (the alpaca one probably won’t require much processing, to be honest, but the sheep one will) and spin them into yarn. I’ll be able to make yarn for a ton of stuff, including this one cardigan I want to make (it’s designed by Twinkle) where if I bought the yarn it would cost $80, but this way it will cost only about $30.

We had a lot of fun even though it was raining. The rain wasn’t too bad, just a steady drizzle, and there wasn’t much wind so it wasn’t too cold, either. But we all had muddy shoes and pants by the time we left the fairground.

I loved it! I hope to be able to go again!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Amazing Transformation

As I reflect on God's transformative work in me, I can easily imagine who I might have been if he had not entered into my life.

Transformation. Renewal. In Christ that is what we have.

A new creation. That is who we are.

Letting go of the old is difficult work, often painful. But it's God work, his creative hand unfolding us, making us new.



"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Blessed transformation.

Jan

www.jankern.com
www.courageousmoves.com

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Undefeated


On Tuesday my son Nathan’s baseball team plays for the championship. They remain undefeated and have a good chance at winning. I couldn’t help thinking today, what it takes to be undefeated, in baseball and in our spiritual lives. Both require . . .




Practice
Commitment
Being a good sport when you lose AND when you win
Remembering what you need to focus on (the ball, the next base, whether a pitch is good)
Learning from mistakes and moving on
Good defense

Today, as the Reno Little League A’s added to their undefeated streak I was feeling rather defeated in one area of life. I guess it’s time to look at how I got to this place. Am I focusing on the wrong things? Is there an area of my spiritual walk where I could us more practice? Maybe I need to work on defense against the one who wants to bring me down. I’m sure God will make it clear. I’ll be sure to give you a praise report when He does. Until then I’m thankful for the creative way that He spoke to my heart today.

So are you feeling defeated? Ask God to show you which of these areas of sportsmanship might get you back in the game.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thank you, God




My youngest child Thomas graduated from high school last week. I wanted to stop and say, "Thank you, God." Thomas's birth was such a time of celebration. We have two daughters, now 28 and 26. Our third child was a baby boy. Oh, how I'd prayed to have a son. But Robbie only lived twenty minutes. He was born with a rare birth defect called anencephaly--meaning absence of the brain. We had a small graveside service for him and I can remember thinking, I'll never smile again. My heart will never heal. This hurts too much.

I'd decided that's it. No more children. But slowly, very slowly, I began to feel a tiny spark of faith to try and have another baby. Two years after Robbie died, Thomas was born.

What joy! "It's a boy!"

I've been praying a certain prayer for Thomas since he was born..."that he grow in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man." The Lord is gracious. He's answered my prayers.

I wanted to share my joy with you all today.

Has the Lord answered a prayer for you?

So much love,
Julie

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Achievement




Today I read about two young stars I admire, Dakota Fanning and Emma Watson. I'm praying these two girls continue to handle stardom and wealth with class. I don't remember ever reading a story where the girls acted in any way but with dignity. Having fun and being goofy does not mar your image whereas boozing and "slut-fashion" does.


Both actresses have paid attention to their education as well. Emma made straight A's her senior year and is going to a well known college in Rhode Island. They're holding it together and I wonder what kind of spiritual help they are getting. Do they have mentors who emphasize lasting values?


I don't really envy their celebrity status as they took on the challenge of high school. Do you know what I think of when I see their fresh and happy faces? Their skin! For me and my best friend, acne was the additional stress factor that nearly did us in.


Clear skin may be beyond our control in these hectic days of proms and finals and heavy textbooks, but dignity is not. Dignity is something you choose. There are three things that put pock marks all over your image as a person who respects yourself and those around you:




  1. Inappropriate clothing


  2. Inappropriate actions


  3. Inappropriate words


Which order would you put them in? I put them in the order that another person might perceive. A stranger (the papparazzi?) would see what you're wearing, what you're doing, and then get close enough to hear what you are saying.



But I don't think this is the order of importance. Which order would you put them in on that criteria?



Lots of thoughts are swirling around in my brain. I'm thinking of the visual thesaurus and what words I would see if I put respect into the search box. Ever tried that? Here's the link: Visual Thesaurus


Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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