Asian Chanakuh :: Sixth Night


Something my middle brother and I have in common is our love of history. Years ago, Jack discovered a lot about our heritage, and in the process, discovered that only two generations ago, we had practicing Jews in our lineage. Because of that discovery, Jack decided to practice as a Messianic Jew, himself. It has been an adjustment for the entire family, but I wholeheartedly support it. I love the history, the richness of the reasons behind each Jewish holiday and tradition. It has been a joy to listen to the Hebrew prayers, to enjoy Shabbot Shalom, and this year, a few nights of Chanukah. 

This past Thursday night, my brother and his wife came to our house with a box filled with ingredients for an Asian Chanukah meal: sobo noodles, soup, pot stickers and some sort of gooey dumpling thing. It was a little strange, but if you knew my brother well, you would understand that 'strange' is normal.



Being the typical sister, I sat at the kitchen table while my sister-in-law bustled in the kitchen, heating soup and pot stickers, while I slipped through one of the best magazines ever. Did you know that 2oo years after the Salem Witch Trials there was a vampire panic in New England? Really? I'm serious, there was. People started digging up all the dead people's graves, cutting their hearts out, burning them and eating the ashes. Pretty nasty, right? Also, Tom Sawyer was a real person--a firefighter that Mark Twain met while nursing a hangover. Figures. 

 

While Kari was cooking, Jack set up the menorah and blue and white candles. Roger and I are currently planning on purchasing our own menorah so that we can celebrate the full eight days of Chanukah next year. EIGHT DAYS OF PRESENTS!!! ;P



It is Jewish tradition that the women and little girls light the menorah candles. Lucy is in favor of this, while Teddy is a little sad he does not get to play with fire. However, he was an awesome little man and wore his kippah and watched with glowing eyes.

Like how I got all poetic right there? Yeah, I rock.






Teddy was impressed with Uncle Jack's Hebrew as he led in the prayers, first in Hebrew and second in English. Me? I tried not to snicker at all the hacking and spitting in the pronunciation. 






Teddy vouched to skip the Asian meal (but who can blame him...as there was no ketchup). Instead, he filled up on all the chocolate coins he won in the game of Driedel (which, by the way, is Hebrew poker!). 





So, that's how our little family rocked the sixth day of Chanukah. It was a good time. On the eighth day, the family all packed into my little house again and we closed it out with presents, a turkey dinner, amazing latkes with spicy dipping sauce, and 3D TV. Once again, Teddy rocked his kippah while wearing superman pamjamas. The adults got a kick out of this--a throw back to Friends.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n44NAr1qtuU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-m7W5O_ZGYA&feature=endscreen&NR=1

~Gia
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The Monster Tree


It has become painfully evident that the magic of Christmas almost all but disappears when you are an adult. For instance, when you are a child, you only notice the excitement and adventure, but never really know about the stress and extensive planning your parents suffered through to bring you that moment. Now that I am grown up and a mommy, I know that the magic comes from the parents. Pfft. Santa? He's got nothin' on me, dude!

Every year, my family waits with anticipation to go to the Christmas Tree Farm. In truth, it's a new tradition--starting the year Lucy was born. Now that my kids are a bit older and actually understand how to look forward to Christmas Tree Day, the excitement is contagious. This year, Teddy asked every day if it was time to go yet. Perhaps that most excited is my dad who got the tradition rolling. Little by little, we convince more of the family to go with us each year. And THIS year...my entire collection of siblings and their little families were going. It was going to be PERFECT!!!!!!

Well...

Not really. But almost.

My kids rode with grandpa and grandma. They made it a little ways down the road before my dad pulled to the side, jumped out, and started throwing up. In all my years, I've never seen my dad throw up. My kids, however, got a front row seat. Teddy, all wide-eyed, declared, "Well...papaw can barf!" It was kind of like Teddy was proud. Hey, he could barf too! Go figure!

So, sadly, my dad was delivered back home and the rest of us sojourned on. I tried to reconcile myself to the loss of my dad by saying that he was too sick to be sad that he wouldn't be coming with us. After all, I'd rather someone be puking their guts out than have them be sad. I mean, sadness is WAY worse! Right??? Or am I nuts?

I'm not nuts.

In years past, the weather has been magical on Christmas Tree Day. One year, it snowed like a blizzard. We could hardly see as we traipsed through the rows of trees. There was lots of laughter; everyone was a kid that day. This year, after a long, hot summer with no rain, the farm was a bit sad to see. There were no trees! Even still, it was our special day. "Okay, Gia," you tell yourself. "Put on a smile and pretend this is the most amazing of all Christmas Tree Days. Do it! Just. Do. It."







There weren't a whole lot of trees to pick from. If you wanted to cut one yourself (which we did) then you had to cut a white pine. Roger was thrilled. He loves those the best. He wasn't, however, thrilled with how tough the trunk was to cut through. Big baby.


Everyone picked out the perfect tree. Teddy even pick out, and cut, his own. He was disappointed he couldn't find one that was EXACTLY the same size as him, but he made do. My brother cut an awesome tree, and then the entire top fell off. Bummer. But he found another...


On Christmas Tree Day, it doesn't matter that your anemia is making you feel like an 80 year-old woman. You smile, take pictures and have fun anyway. On Christmas Tree Day, it doesn't matter that your 6 year-old daughter is having a diva moment and crying over positively anything. You hold her close, whisper that she better straighten up or she's going to answer to Santa, and then kiss her cheek and tell her you love her (even if it's through gritted teeth). On Christmas Tree Day, you let the 4 year-old boy go nuts on sugar and caramel stuffed waffles (which, btw, are wicked!).  On Christmas Tree Day, you go into the wreath barn and pick out the prettiest wreath to buy for you mom because she just bought mine and my siblings trees (which she does every year). On Christmas Tree Day, the nice woman in the wreath barn will make you smile when she tells you she loves and admires the guts it takes for a woman to rock a faux hawk....which I do. ;P


On Christmas Tree Day, you will smile in front of the tree you are about to fell (which is also tradition) and pose for the family picture. When you go back through the pictures and notice there isn't a single good, perfect shot...you will smile...because, well, that's your family.


All in all, the slightly tainted magic is worth the monster tree claiming most of my dining room. There isn't a single thing perfect in life....

Unless, perhaps, you try to look at it all through the eyes of children. That's when you see the magic once more.



~Gia
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It's A Wonderful, Imperfect Life



I often dream that my teeth are falling out. Ever have that nightmare? Sometimes, in my dreams, I reach in and actually pull my teeth out, feeling a sense of relief when they are removed. I read somewhere that dreaming of your teeth falling out reveals that you are afraid of people seeing your imperfections. It baffles me that I should experience such a nightmare. After all, I do a pretty fantastic job at revealing my imperfections all on my own...on accident.

I am one of the top most imperfect people I know. I am not a perfect daughter, friend, wife or mother. I sometimes let my voice get much too loud when the children slam the door for the zillionth time, sending ornaments tumbling from the Christmas tree and books falling from the shelves. I shrink all of my husband's clothes and do not iron anything at all (but why bother when I already shrunk the shirts???). I don't always pick up the kitchen rugs when I sweep and mop--but just go around them. I don't shower everyday (though that's not always by choice).

So why not just be more open with our imperfections? Why not flaunt them like we would flaunt perfect, sculpted bodies if we had them (oh, don't be a prude...you know you would)?

Dude...I'm going to flaunt it like a peacock (yeah, that's the best I could come up with). Flaunt it like it's hot? Flaunt it like I've got it to flaunt??? Not any  better? Oh well. I will be more open with my crazy, chaotic life in all of it's glory, laughter, messes and beautiful imperfections. How much freer would we all be if we all simply raise our hand when people asked:

1. You poop
2. You've picked your nose
3. Passed gas
4. Belched like a linebacker


Those are just the top 4 for females. If you're a guy, I don't think this blog post applies to you. Men don't seem to cringe at imperfection--but more so embrace it (lucky butts).

For now, this is the introduction to a long line of imperfect confessions from a very imperfect, but bossome, woman. You've been warned.

~Gia
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Lion of Judah // Part One



Judah has been a hard man for me to fully understand. He is listed next in the lineage of Jesus Christ and might be one of the most important, in my estimation.

You see, Judah was a complete mess up and at the same time, a giant of a man--a hero and role model. I like him. I mean, who doesn't like a man that can fess up that he has screwed up magnificently and then sweep in the next moment to redeem his dastardly ways? That takes true courage and integrity. I don't like the guy that's perfect all the time, that never falls flat on his face, who doesn't act like a complete jerk once or twice. I want the guy that's been broken, sinned, ate his own mess and still stood up to be something amazing.

Yeah. I'm a sucker for the screw ups.

First, we had Abraham, father of Isaac who was the father of Jacob who in turn had a great deal of sons, one of which was Judah. But one of the most important parts of Judah's story, is to know who is mother was....

Most people know the story of Jacob and Rachel: The Greatest Love Story of All Time (roll of eyes inserted here). Jacob's father wakes up one day, looks at his grown son and says, "Jacob, I think it's time you find yourself a wife. Pack your bags and go look for one among our relatives." First of all, I know my relatives and I certainly wouldn't want to marry one! So I kind of pity Jacob right now. However, as he was traveling along, he saw this woman standing by the well and he instantly fell in love, or lust. He decided, "That's the woman for me. I have to have her."

Scripture says that Jacob kissed Rachel and even wept he was so sure this was the woman for him. So Rachel goes and gets her father, Jacob's Uncle Laban, and Laban invites Jacob to stay with them for a month.

You can imagine what that month must have looked like: all the cheesy montages of two young people falling into puppy love. There were probably picnics amongst Laban's sheep as Jacob nestled his head in Rachel's lap. I imagine there was a great deal of giggles...Rachel hand-feeding Jacob grapes...garlands of flowers being woven by Jacob....sonnets and sappy poetry...

You know, all those 'gag me with a spoon' lovey dovey moments.

At the end of the month, Laban is fully aware that Jacob wants to marry his daughter and he starts to scheming. "Sure, Jacob," he says. "You can marry my daughter...but you have to first work for me seven years."

Now, if this was me, I would have been putting up a fight, but silly Jacob had hearts kaleidoscoping in his eyes. "Sure!" he says. And he works for seven long years. But to him, scripture says it felt like only a few days, he was so in love with Rachel.

Finally, the wedding day comes and Jacob marries Rachel, heavily veiled. He enters the tent and commenced to (well, you know what). Silly Jacob should have asked for a candle so he could get a peek at his wife, because when he wakes up, he finds Rachel's sister, Leah in bed with him. He is outraged, and probably a little bit embarrassed, because no doubt he was whispering, "Oh, Rachel...Oh, Rachel..." in her ear throughout the night. Poor Leah. Men, on the contrary, would pity Jacob right about now, because legend has it that Leah wasn't exactly lovely to look at.

When Jacob confronts his uncle (maybe there were a few punches thrown...in fact, I'm certain there was), Laban explains, "What? It's our custom that the eldest daughter marries first...and that's Leah. But I'll tell you what, if you work another seven years for me, I will let you take Rachel as your wife too." Talk about sister wives!

Scripture tells us that Jacob's love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah (which was nil) so he agreed. At this point, I think Jacob is a moron. I would have beaten Laban to a pulp until he just gave me Rachel and took Leah back. But I guess people were more civilized back then (or as civilized as one can be with sister wives all around). At the end of another seven years, fourteen total, Jacob finally gets to marry Rachel. Dude? Was it even really worth it? Surely she's lost some of her luster by now!

People like to say that the story of Jacob and Rachel is the greatest love story of all time because he had to work so long to have her. But I think it's hog wash. It wasn't Leah's fault that she ended up the unwanted wife! God must have thought so too, at least in part, because He honored and repaid to her with good what her father had meant as evil. He blessed Leah's womb and she gave her husband many sons while Rachel only had two: Joseph (Jacob's favorite) and Benjamin.

Judah was Leah's fourth child that she gave birth to. In all, Jacob had twelve sons, six from Leah, two from Rachel, two through Rachel's mail, Bilhah, and two more from Rachel's mail, Zilpah. (cue in Rolling Stones Can't Get No Satisfaction now...)

It would have been easy for God to choose to honor the lineage of His son by choosing Joseph to be the next on the family tree. After all, Joseph was the first son of the favored wife. But God doesn't choose Joseph (which you will find out later is the 'good' guy). God doesn't even choose Reuben the first son born to Leah, and the first born son, period (which would have matched Jewish custom of blessing the first born son). Instead, He chooses Judah, fourth son to Leah, the unwanted and unloved wife.

I guess God and I have something in common: our love for the underdogs.

But the story of Judah and his many rise and falls in life is a whole other story.

~Gia


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Family Trees and Bad Apples



It is funny how when we are taught something as a small child, the story gets shot through a colorful prism of imagination and ends up a warped version of what the story should be. For instance, when you look at the first chapter of Matthew in the New Testament, we see the family tree of our Lord and Savior. It's made up of some of the most wretched characters in the bible: liars, cheaters, murders and prostitutes. But that is just at a glimpse. When you dig in and start to peel make back the pages of time and mystery, a much more complex and beautiful story is revealed.

I've never liked Jacob (son of Isaac, brother of Esau). I pictured him as the half-pint brother of strapping, gigantic, hairy Esau. From children's church, I learned Jacob was a cheat: he stole his brother's blessing and tricked his old, blind father. I disliked Jacob so much that I've never been fond of any boy, or man, that I've met in real life named Jacob. I figure they are liars and cheats, too. Gracious sakes, I have issues. ;)

But that's just a glimpse of Jacob.

According to Jewish history, Jacob wasn't half bad. He had his issues (like me, obviously), but he wasn't quite the villain my little girl brain pictured him as.

Jacob loved his father. He grew up learning at his father's feet, studying and soaking up all his father and grandfather, Abraham, had to teach him. He was a young scholar. Meanwhile, Esau had no taste for it; he hunted and stayed outdoors. I now picture Jacob with wire-rimmed glasses, tall and skinny; Esau a towering brute that guzzles wine, eats monstrous turkey legs and wipes his mouth on his hairy arm. Whenever Isaac tried to draw both boys in for lessons, Esau resorted to trickery to get out of it. Perhaps he simply ran out the door, slamming it behind him? My imagination can envision so many scenarios.

Here's where things get (I want to insert 'hairy' or 'tricky' here, but then it would a pun...so insert your own word here):

The birthright was a big deal back in the day. The birthright made the first born the heir and successor to the father, the head of the family. In Isaac's household, the first born happened to be Esau, even though his twin brother arrived just seconds, minutes later, taking his brother by the heel. Something tells me that Esau resulted to trickery in the womb, pushing and fighting his way out first, forcing his smaller brother behind. But whatever the case, Esau was the one to receive the birthright. It must have boiled Jacob's blood. After all, Jacob was the one that devoured every bit of knowledge Isaac and Abraham had to offer. He valued his heritage, their God and way of life. He took the time to learn from them while Esau spent all his time outdoors hunting. The big ape. ;P

On the day he was to receive the birthright, Esau wasn't simply hunting, he was plotting a murder of a family member, Nimrod, the grandson of Noah. It wasn't so much that Nimrod had crossed Esau. He hadn't snuck up and shot a buck Esau was after (for Nimrod was a hunter, as well). It had more to do with what was on Nimrod's back: the clothes of Adam (yes, the FIRST Adam), the most priceless treasure a hunter could dream of owning. And Esau wanted them.

When Esau finally made it back home, Jacob was livid. Didn't he realize how important this day was? He was supposed to receive the most precious commodity a son back then could gain! But Esau was wearing what he valued most. Filthy, muddy, and stained with Nimrod's blood, Esau made fun of his little brother for thinking so much of a silly birthright. Jacob's blood ran cold. It didn't take much convincing to buy the birthright from Esau. A bit of money, a little food, and Jacob was suddenly the heir to Isaac while Esau stuffed his face and sat happily in Adam's old clothes.

Isaac was too old and sick to fully understand the differences in his children. He still adored Esau and saw his heir when he looked upon the big hairy man. But his wife, Rebekah saw clearly all that was going on.  She noted when Jacob went to school to study to please his father. She also noted when Esau ridiculed and made fun of his little brother for doing so. Esau lived how Esau wanted to live.

When Isaac grew very frail and it was apparent his time on earth was about to end, he decided to carry on the tradition of his father and bless his eldest son for the last time. So, he sent Esau out on a mission to hunt, prepare the meat and join him for a meal that might very well be his last. With Esau gone, his mother flew into action. She gathered the skins of young sheep and covered her youngest son in them, hoping they would make Jacob feel as hairy and burly as Esau. She prepared a last meal, thrust it into Jacob's hands and told him to go to his father, pretend to be his brother and receive his father's last blessing.

Rebekah, bless her trickster heart (must be a family trait from her side of the family), knew there would be no convincing her husband of which son truly deserved the blessing. Jacob loved and valued the man his father was. Esau did love him, but openly mocked everything Isaac was about. There was a great deal of value over this blessing: a bunch of words that somehow became prophesy. Esau could not be the one that blessed and led the family; it would unravel to ruins...guided by the hands of a careless hunter, murdered, selfish man who did what he wanted when he wanted to do it. And then there was Jacob...

“And may the Lord give you of the dew of the heavens and [of] the fatness of the earth and an abundance of corn and wine. Nations shall serve you and kingdoms shall bow down to you; you shall be a master over your brothers, and your mother's sons shall bow down to you. Those who curse you shall be cursed, and those who bless you shall be blessed!”

That was the blessing Isaac spoke over Jacob. Certainly they were given to the right man. The thought of kingdoms bowing before Esau makes my stomach churn. Gracious sakes, picture it! Big hair Esau in Adam's garments stained with Nimrod's blood, a flask of spirits of some sort, grease dribbling from the corner of his lips from the fat of a leg of lamb clenched in a giant fist.

Okay. Perhaps I am a little unfair in my prediction. But I'm certain he would still be wearing those blood stained garments of Adam's.

So...

I guess my point is that not everything is as crystal clear as it is when you hear the story with the ears of an eight year-old child.

Jacob = misguided youth and thief
Esau = ripped off older brother
Rebekah = underhanded wife
Isaac = clueless old, blind man

Not quite.

Somehow, God orchestrated everything the way it should have been. We forget that God has even this story in HIS hands. Maybe God truly wanted a bit of 'dirty dealing' included in the life of Jacob, knowing Jacob would be the third from the top of His son's family tree. And why? Because He didn't want this whole giant story of His to be perfect. If it was, we wouldn't be able to relate. Because you and I, we're far from perfect. We may not kill for a relatives clothes, but we know what it feels like to want what we do not have. We understand that feeling in the depth of our heart when we see that we are not getting what we so obviously deserve...when we know we're the best man for the job not offered to us. Some of us know what it feels like to live in the shadow of a towering giant like Esau and not be valued in the eyes of those we crave approval from.

So God dirtied of the family tree. He tilted the frame hanging on the wall. He messed up the masterpiece, little by little, for us...on purpose. I imagine it was all done just to prove, "If I will include them, murderers and thieves as they are, what makes you think I won't include you, too?"

And that's good enough for me. From now on, I'm going to hug every real-lfe Jacob that I meet.

~Gia


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Not Like Those Other Guys



Isaac.

It means laughter. When you are young and sitting all fidgety in children's church, you're told it is because Sarah, his mother, laughed when the Lord said she would bring forth a son from her womb. After all, she was an old lady. Instantly, your child brain starts picturing Lucille (or insert a woman from your own childhood here) who sits at the front of the church, playing the tambourine with painted on bow-shaped lips and singing opera style to I'll Fly Away. In your mind, Lucille is Sarah, and she's about to give birth to a son. Gross.

Yeah. I'd laugh, too.

Yes, Isaac was the son of Abraham and Isaac. God did honor the promise He gave to Abraham, even though Abraham did not believe Him, took matters into his own hands, and had already produced an heir in Ishmael. Yes, Isaac is the key in that troublesome story that comes later on, the story I never understood as a child. Abraham had gone through many trails and tests the Lord set before him. He faced famine, near death time and time again, promises that seemed to go unanswered, and then God asked Him to prove his devotion by sacrificing his son on an alter. That's just not cool. It doesn't make sense. Why would God promise Abraham a son through Sarah, only to have Abraham sacrifice him? In children's church, when you reach this part of the story, the whole room goes quiet. All the kids stop fidgeting and grow wide-eyed. Everyone looks at the adults in the room, checking their hands for knives or any other instruments for sacrificial rituals. Would they be next? Where were their parents? Why were the doors shut? Would anyone hear them scream???

But here's what my teacher left out:

In this time and age, living child sacrifice was common practice.

Gasp!

How horrible! What kind of people do things like that (heathens)?! What kind of god demands such an honor?

But the God of Israel was making a point: He didn't demand such an honor. The Lord of Israel was attempting to develop a new relationship with the people and bring them out of some messed up ways they had created for themselves. First, He wanted to show them there was only one true God. He even calls Himself the one true strong God (Genesis 17:1 Message). But the people were stuck in rituals, idol worship, human sacrifices (again, seriously?!), and really had no clue who God really was. I am sure even Abraham was learning with each step toward this God few understood or knew. So when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, he didn't second guess it.

Some rabbis teach that Isaac was not a child at this time, but instead, was around 37 year-old. They believe Isaac loved this new, strong God his father was devoted to (yes, God wasn't new...but kind He was at this time because we'd fallen away). Isaac was willing to be a sacrifice. That's how devoted He was to the Lord. He blindly agreed to do whatever he could, play whatever role he was asked, so long as it brought honor the name of the Lord.

Yet, God had a good plan. He didn't want His people sacrificing their children on alters. That wasn't love! That wasn't honor! That hurt. Literally. And what kind of people did He want following after Him? People that could so savagely take the life of another; people bound by ritual, tradition and law? Not really. He wanted something different, and yes, it would take until the moment HIS son died on the cross for it to fully mature, but He had a plan. So when Isaac was placed on the alter and Abraham raised his weapon, God stopped everything...

Remember, this was normal to Abraham. I'm sure he didn't want to kill his son, but it wasn't unheard of. So imagine the surprise when God provided a lamb. Imagine Isaac's surprise when He realized he was not going to die that day. Basically God showed up and said, "Guys...I have a new way. Everything you thought you knew about Me, well...I'm not like those other guys. I'm not going to hurt you. I have a better way."

Imagine that laughter. Both in heaven and on earth.

So what is the story of Isaac revealing to me for such a time as this? Well...I sit her at the kitchen table and the sun is just now beginning to brighten the night sky. My heart is confused because I can't see the way ahead of me in ministry as clearly as I'd like. I know what I've been taught as a child, what my heritage is, but I see something new on the horizon. I see a strong God leading me....

And I suppose that in the very quiet of the morning, I hear the laughter of my Father echoing across the walls of my heart. He bellows out with joy, "My daughter, I have a new way! Everything you thought you knew about Me, well...I'm going to show you something different. I won't hurt you. I have a plan."

So I won't be surprised, but will laugh with him. I have a strong God leading me.

And you remember those Abrams I was talking about yesterday? He's leading them, too. I think He wants to use all of us Abrams and Isaacs to show the church and the world that our God is strong, good...and taking us into something new. Whatever it is, it's beautiful; it's good. It always is.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
~Jeremiah 29:11

~Gia







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Smashing Tradition



Lately, I've been noticing a new generation of young people rising up. It's a group of people that don't look like the 'traditional' Christian. They don't all look the same, but a great many of them have the same uniform: ripped up jeans (or skinny jeans), beanies on messy hair, tats, piercings, and TOMS. I mean, there's some give and take to this 'uniform'...but it's the basic make-up of a good many of them. Some of these kids/ adults might even be more 'traditional' in their appearance, but one thing unites them: They're tired of a religion that's stagnant. They are Abrams. I am an Abram.

If you grew up in church, you know the children's church song 'Father Abraham'. Oh, come on, you know..."Father Abraham, had many sons. And many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them. And so are you. So let's just praise the Lord!" ((I know you just sang it in your head...half tempted to get your right arm going as you march in place.))

Here's something you might not know about Abraham: He was tired of stagnant religion too, tired of nothing real or effective. His father was an idol merchant (according to Jewish tradition). Imagine being a kid and helping your dad run his store as people come in and out, buying little gods made of gold, bronze, wood and other inanimate materials. People valued these trinkets lining the shop walls; they handled them with the utmost care. But Abram wasn't convinced. All he saw was wood and gold and bronze. He didn't see the breath of life in the idols. They were not capable of creating the world he lived in; a world abundant in life. Maybe he heard stories of a one, true God? Maybe he simply heard the whispers of the Lord deep down in his bones? Who knows. But either way, he knew his dad had it all wrong. He realized there was only One.

It isn't easy to go against the flow. It isn't easy to stand against tradition and say, "Hey! Nothing real is happening here. I don't want any part of it. I want to follow something, someone, that has life!" Abram's father certainly wasn't listening to his son. In fact, one day when his father went out, Abram took a hammer to his father's store, smashing all the idols. Then, keeping the largest idol in tact, he placed the hammer in it's hand. When his father returned, he asked what had happened, clearly furious and shocked by the destruction. Young Abram calmly stated, "While you were gone, the idols got in a fight and the big one smashed all the other ones."

((Just take a second to picture how ridiculous his father must look right about now.))

"Don't be stupid," his father would have said, although probably in whatever lingo was hip in the city of Ur at that time. "These idols have no life in them! They can't do anything!"

It must have been hard for Abram not to shout, "EXACTLY!" Instead, he asked, "Then why worship them?"

In my world, I see God sitting on a shelf all over the country. He isn't doing anything. It's not His fault. I think it's our fault. We are shelving Him in our churches and our lives. Maybe we are afraid of what He will do, how He will 'upset' our lives if we let Him off the shelf...allow Him to truly be God?

But then there's this generation of Abrams rising up. They're tired of everything. They reach down and pick up hammers in angry fists. They  are ready to bust up everything we are allowing to replace the effective power of God in our word, churches, families and lives. They shout, "Why worship Him at all if You won't let Him truly reign?"

Because here is the thing...

If God was truly off the shelf, this place would look a heck of a lot different. Church would look different. You would look different. Our country and world would look different. There would be true life and power. There would be revival. There would be a whole lot of love cycling from church to church, from people to people. Open your eyes and look around; there's a whole lot of hate, drama, hurting hearts, broken people, social groups abusing other groups...

There's nothing real happening.

There's no real life...

No power...

No real worship.

It's there somewhere. But it's not shining bright. There's still too many people shelving God in their lives and hearts, churches and cities.

So watch out. There's a new generation of Abrams. They don't like tradition. In fact, many of them despise tradition. They want something new. They want to see God lifted up in such a time as this (which will not look like it did in the PAST). They're tired. They can't be fooled. They refuse to allow something counterfiet to replace truth. They want scripture that COMES from scripture. They don't want comfort. They're not afraid of storms and bruises. They want something real.

Why does any of this even matter? Because He loves us too much not to bring an army of Abrams to life. There's too many people in bondage; mummified in brokenness. God's love is too valuable to pack away, especially when He COMMANDED us to love Him and then love others.

I'll gladly lead the way with hammers in fists. Because there's no more time to waste. I'm over tradition. I'm ready for His love to shine through me and set the captives free. And maybe...just maybe...set the church free.

~Gia
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Makes Sense To Me


It's hard, sometimes, not to lose yourself. There's so much in our everyday life that demands, nay...TAKES...what it needs and wants from us. With my literal imagination, I see people with dull butter knives slowly, painfully, sawing off little parts of my body. "Mommy, I need something to eat!" And the four year-old little boy comes at me with his knife ready, a gleam in his eye, a giggle on his lips. ((Yes, a giggle...because what little boy wouldn't be giggling if they got away with walking around with a butter knife???))

Family is one thing. Then you add in work responsibilities. Church. Friends. And is there even something called 'dating'?

But I'm a stubborn chick with a chin made of steal and heels dug in deep. Don't you dare cut off too much of me, because I'll fight you tooth and nail before you get my fists.

I think we have to be that way...violently protective of who we are. The only person that is allowed to completely hack me to bits and pieces is Jesus. But here's the thing, friends: Jesus is perfectly happy with the whole person I already am. I know this because it is who He has created. I might put a few scraps and dings in myself, but He is right there, quick to polish me back up. And not only does He polish me and make me shine...but He brings me up to His lips, breathes a quick little puff of air, and gets what teeny tiny little specks of dust were hidden from the eye.  Then He puts me back down, smiles at what He thinks if perfectly beautiful and says, "Try not to fall down this time...but if you do, well, I will be right here."

I'm not saying there's not a lot of things about me He would rather I get rid of...but it is HIM who GENTLY removes those things through storms and brokenness. It is HIM who tenderly reaches deep within my heart to pluck what cannot stay. But for the most part, me, Gia, as a whole...pleases Him greatly. 

There's no point in allowing everyone to saw away and cut and take from what little of me there is. Things can wait. Kids, yes, can even wait. What comes first is maintaining a part of me that can still sparkle and shine for the love of Jesus. Am I disheveled, are my kids a little sticky and dirty-faced? Yep. All the time. Do I volunteer and jump at the chance to serve wherever there is a need. Nope...I do not. Do I let people try to change me...tell me to lift myself up to a level I've never been before. Not a chance, dude. 'Cause the only person lifting me up and placing me anywhere is my Jesus. And like I've said, He is lifting me up from where I fell, polishing me up, blowing off the dust...and setting me right back down where I was.

Doesn't make sense, does it? All the above is a pile of twisted, half-written thoughts from a ragamuffin heart.

But it makes sense to me.


~Gia
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First Day With Indiana Connections Academy

Lucy at her 'learning center' ready to begin school.

It was a hard decision: public school or homeschool? I never even knew there was an option that combined both. I think it was a commercial for Indiana Connections Academy that opened my eyes and easily solved my problem. Today, was our first day.  ((Did that sound like the opening of a terrible infomercial, or what?!))

Math Unit: Sorting and Comparing

Lucy is starting Kindergarten this year, but she still has her baby brother, Teddy (who is 3) at home. The easiest way to deal with this is to include Teddy in our school day. He gets to join us to the best of his ability. Today, it was easy. During the math unit, he helped sort and compare objects. 

Sorting crayons by shades.

He really enjoyed participating...and DOES wear shirts. Occasionally.




Sorting buttons by size and color.

The living room coffee table seemed to be the best place for the three of us to sit around and do group projects. It's on their level...and comfortable for everyone. ;) Mainly...me. Plus, when things go tumbling off, I don't hit my head when I crawl underneath to snatch said-wayward object up. 'Cause let's face it, pesky dining room tables are ALWAYS intentionally conking us on our heads.




When Lucy started her 'book work', Teddy found something to do in his bedroom and Lucy hopped back up to her desk. It was pretty basic/review. She flew through it.  ((This blog post is just SOOO incredibly riveting, huh?))




We were flying through the time, so we took a good half an hour to read library books during what was left of her language arts session.  It was okay because mommy read "Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse" with the BEST southern accent a girl could ask for....y'all!




 Teddy got bored (and hungry) and decided he wanted mommy to teach him how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He really didn't need much instruction. ;) In fact, while Lucy was working, he proceeded to inform ME of how to make a 'pwoper' sammich.



Kept my brain running

Still working.

She told me this was too easy.


And then it was art time. We all three enjoyed this unit. We huddled in the kitchen and dug out mommy's paint brushes. On big sheets of white paper, they made scribbles in wide, sweeping motions. After that, they painted the inside parts...which created a mosaic look.  I helped Teddy while Lucy worked on her own.



As Lucy worked, I read her and Teddy some of these questions.


Why, yes. That is a Picasso!
No?
Okay then. 
Teddy said it was a hot air balloon, anyway. 
I can see it.


 And then we headed outdoors to learn about motion and how to move things in as many imaginative ways as we could come up with. And OH (!!) what imaginations these two possess!




 I asked them how they could move their own bodies. 
"They have bones in them."
Me: "That's not quite what I mean."
"Then what, mommy?"
Me: "I mean, how can you make your body move...((WORK BRAIN!)). How can you make it move to the end of the sidewalk and back?"
They looked at me as if it was the stupidest question and screamed, "Run!"



"Jump!"




"Crawl!"
Yes, apparently Teddy is a bit of a slow crawler. He didn't do much of it as a baby to have much of a background in it. :/


Me: "And what do we use to do those things?"
"That's silly, mommy! We use our feet and our legs!"



We also talked about how we can cause other things to move...like dandelion seeds. That was an easy one, but they enjoyed it! 
In the process, exactly 236 fairies were made. 
((I dislike odd numbers. The 237th fairy was snubbed out beneath my thumb.))




Then I dropped a foil ball in front of them. "Make this move without using your hands or feet...or any other part of your body." I had to add 'any other part of your body' because Lucy immediately tried moving it with her belly and face. Can you say 'road rash'? Well, 'sidewalk' rash.


But then she caught on and decided maybe she could blow on it like she did the dandelion. And guess what?! It moved!
((But teeny tiny foil ball babies were not born during this experiment))

Teddy tries with a ball of tissue.



Then they tried moving them with other objects as extensions to their arms.  It turned into a race of sorts. Teddy won...but that's because he's a little stinker and cheats. ;)



With a face like that, who needs to play fair?


She takes out pent up aggregation toward her bother with a basting brush and tissue. It worked.



Lucy decides to see what she can make move by blowing through a straw. The rock did not move, but the leaf did. Go figure.


And that was really pretty much how our first day went. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the week picks up as more work is added to the lesson plans. But all in all, I am excited. Lucy is expected to spend 25 hours a week doing school work via life sessions with her teacher, or with me as her learning coach. Everything is carefully monitored and her teacher will assess her frequently to enrich her learning where she excels and help her where she struggles. She will still socialize through her school clubs and class trips (yes, she has classmates that are not her baby brother).

The most important thing is that my children (well, Lucy at this point) are being taught on a one-on-one level. Lucy knows that my focus is entirely on her and her brother. We are spending a great deal of time together, from the moment breakfast is finished and we say the Pledge of Allegiance, from the moments we pause for devotions and prayer, through all of her core lessons to the fun activities and experiments planned for her. This makes me happy...and slightly nervous. 

I know that Lucy is a strong individual and would rock a traditional public school. She would have no problem there. But it is important to her daddy and I that she develope to her full potential. I think she has a better chance of that with Connections Academy. Our children are our greatest responsibility. I don't want to hand that responsibility over to a teacher and a school system full of people I do not know. Connections Academy helps me keep the responsibility where I feel it belongs while still holding me, and Lucy, accountable. I'm happy with that. It isn't for everyone, but it is for me...and for Lucy...and one day, officially for Teddy, too.

~Gia
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