Monday, December 27, 2010

This is a Hard Post to Write...

... but I have to write it anyways because I said I would and besides I just... need to. :P

A reader of my blog once told me that people liked posts in which I talked about what I, personally, was learning. Especially when the learning involved getting hit in the face with softballs, apparently.

Anyways, this story/lesson doesn't contain any violence of that nature, unfortunately (for those who like excitement and blood and all that) or fortunately (for those who are sympathetic and kind and stuff). And if you're in both those categories... well, I guess that's okay.

So, that's enough rambling, I think. On with the story. Well, about two years ago, I asked my dad if I could start a blog, and he kindly allowed me to. Hence the birth of Lily of the Valley. (And then my subsequent explosion of other blogs: What's Next??, Rejoice Always (this is the blog you are reading right now, just so you know.) Quotes, Poems and Such Like, The DDA (I didn't start that one, but I contribute there), My Bright Lights blog, and a few others; two small group book discussions and a family one that isn't active yet.) 

That kept me pretty busy for awhile, and then I asked if I could join the Rebelution forum. Permission was also granted for that, so I went ahead and applied and was accepted. After a few months, I ended up getting on the forum team, and that kept me even busier. Since many of the forum team members were on gmail, I asked if I could also get an account to keep in touch better that way. Of course that included lots and lots of chats, which are very distracting and gave me even more to do.

Also at this time, Jay Lauser started getting me involved in several of his projects and forums and all that, and so then I was really busy.

Now I am doing a lot less projects and have been doing less on the Rebelution as well, but still I have been spending more and more time online since I first "became a person" on here, and I have noticed several things.

Yes, all those things are "good" things. They are all things I'm glad I have been involved with: I've learned a great deal, met some wonderful friends, and even been able to help people. My parents are also glad for the experience I've gained and for the friendships I've made.

However, even "good things" can become idols. And even "good things" can prevent you from doing the best things.

Don't you hate it when you realize that you are something you despise? I do.

See, I always despised the whole idea of moms who put their families second for work or even "ministry". But guess what? That is what I have been doing. Of course, I don't have children of my own yet. But I still have a family. And, moreover, I am developing habits for when I have my own family. And lately, I have been disobeying my parents by spending too much time on here, thus straining our relationship... and I have been doing less with my siblings... and my chores are sometimes neglected... all while I sit here and do "good things".

And, even worse than that, my relationship with God has been hindered. This has become an idol, much as I hate to admit it. I spend far more time on here than I do on things that further my relationship with God, and my thoughts are far more consumed with things going on here than on my God. How pathetic is that?? Seriously, He gave His life for me. And I get distracted by such silly things!

Besides those two very serious things, I have also started neglecting some of my "real" (aka non virtual) projects for online ones, and I have been content with my friends on here instead of actively reaching out to hurting girls at church. (not that I haven't at all, just not near like I should be.)

I am also addicted to it. Like literally--physically. Did you know that your body produces drugs? I hope so... because that's pretty basic. But anyways, when you do certain things, it sends a pleasure "drug" through you, and you brain likes it. Duh. And so you can get addicted to whatever caused that. Well, guess what? Chatting and things like that can cause that sort of rush. And guess what? It is addicting. :P And so, I literally feel like I have to do it. Weird! So basically I am a drug addict. :P haha.

So... what's the point of me telling you all this?

Well, first, to acknowledge it and ask you all for prayer.

Secondly, to let you all know that I am taking a month long internet fast, and that when I get back things will be different. I will be working out with my dad exactly what will be different, so you'll have to wait until I'm back to get that announcement. :)

Thank you all for listening! Er, reading. Anyways, I shall miss you all, but I will be having fun with my family and all my projects. And my letter writing. Oh yes! I was going to say that if you happen to have my mailing address and/or phone number, you are free to contact me through those venues. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mysteries, Blessings and News

Hushed conversations
Whispered suspicions
Quiet excitement
Almost daring to believe
Growing hopes
Querying, wondering
Waiting impatiently
Starting to believe
Asking, confirming
Are you sure?!
It definitely looks that way!
Hardly able to believe it
Such news: 
A new baby! 
Another miracle 
An unexpected and delicious one 
God is good
We are blessed.

(Proof! :D)

It's a funny thing, being the oldest in a largeish family. Often people feel bad for you, as if it's a terrible burden and "oh you poor dear girl, you have all those bothersome younger siblings running around." Hence, when I tell people how many younger siblings I have, I usually quickly add, "and it's tons of fun! I really enjoy it. We like being around each other." And then I smile. And they sort of don't know what to do. Sometimes they say something about that's nice. haha.

But really, though it is a great responsibility to be the oldest, it is also a great privilege. And though younger siblings can be bothersome, they can also bring great joy. And while they are lots of work, they are also great for building character. ;)

And I love them. Every single one. I can't imagine my life without them. 

[Emily just now asked me to check if there were any new Jostie Flicks. Guess what I found? This:


Of course. God has a sense of humor. :)]

Which is why I am absolutely thrilled that I will soon (but yet not soon enough) gain a seventh younger sibling!

 Sure, this new baby will mean losing some sleep; sure, my arms will ache with holding baby; yes, I will have to change some less than pleasant diapers; Of course my ears will be greeted once again with the wails of an unhappy baby-- but think of what else a new baby means! 

Chubby, kissable cheeks; adorable, wiggly little toes; sweet, clingy fingers; Bright, laughing, curious eyes; Sweet, perfect lips; wispy hair; a cute and squeezable chin (My own little thing. I just like chins...); huge, unreserved, frequent smiles; a warm and comfortable and soft body to snuggle with, a new mind full of wonder and excitement over everything... so many, many blessings.

A entirely new life in our home. What a miracle!

Yes, a baby means work. But think what else a baby means!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

But I Don't FEEL Like it!!

(NOTICE: If you skip or skim the verses, this post will not make any sense. Please make sure to read them!)

Me either, sometimes.

All too often, I know what I should do... but I don't feel like doing it.

Sometimes what I should be doing is loving someone.

But... wait!

Isn't love... you know, a feeling?

I'd like to think it is. That would make things much easier.

If that were true, then I wouldn't have to love my brother even when he takes forever to let me on the computer. I wouldn't have to love my sister even when she is mad at me. I wouldn't have to love people that hurt me. I wouldn't have to love my parents even when they tell me I can't do something I want to do.

Oh, it would be so convenient if it were true...  What a lot of bother I'd get out of!

Or... maybe not. What if it were true?


Then... that would mean that my parents wouldn't love me if I disobeyed them. That would mean that my siblings wouldn't love me if I am demanding or hurt their feelings. That means that my friends wouldn't love me if I were insensitive or mean to them. And... the most dreadful possibility of all: That would mean that God wouldn't love me-- I can assure you that far too often I am contrary to His perfect will-- I regularly and knowingly miss the mark He has set.

But! Love--real love-- is not a feeling after all! And guess what?? God does love me--and you! Hurrah!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Ephesians 5:1-2

Wait: He died for us? That is how He showed His love? Yes. You see, we were hopeless; completely lost. There was no way any of us could measure up to His standard-- and without that, there was no way for us to be reconciled to Him. Someone needed to die. Someone needed to take the punishment for all of us. But we couldn't do it. None of us managed to be that perfect, spotless sacrifice. We failed. We needed God. But how could God die for us? A man must die for mankind. And so, in the greatest mystery and sacrifice of all time, God became man. He lived that perfect life; He died that horrendous death; He took the wrath of God for us--and then He rose again! Proving, once and for all, that He had conquered death, that He was The Savior. Wow.

God didn't just say, "Oh, I love you guys so much." No. He died. His love is not a love of words-- He gave up His very life-- for you! For me. This whole love thing... it's so much MORE than feelings. Sure, feelings are nice. But that's not love. Not real live love.

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a 

Those are actions--choices of the will.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

You don't just suddenly feel like always being kind and patient and humble and meek and ready to bear and believe and hope and endure all things. You choose to. And why make that choice?

Well, "We love Him because He first loved us."

"And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment." Mark 12:30

So, How do we love God?

Love is expressed by actions-- in this case, by obeying His commandments. This is how He loves us-- by His actions, especially of dying on the cross for our sins.

Also, if we love someone, we are going to spend a considerable amount of time with them, are we not? So then, it would seem to follow that if we love God, we will be spending time talking to Him and reading His word to find out more about Him and about His commands. Another thing that we do when we love someone is tell others about how wonderful they are. So it is with God-- if we really love Him, we will be willing and eager to tell others about Him. And we will be praising Him for all He has done for us.

So... we've covered a wee bit of how God loves us, and some of how we can love God... The following verse transitions us to another major application of love:

"In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:9-11

Now that we have experienced the love of God in our own lives, it is our duty and our privilege to then go out and love our fellow man. In fact, if we do not love one another, we are liars!

"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" 1 John 4:20 

*cringes*  Oooh...This passage is long... but it's so good and so connected that I'm going to post the whole thing. Please be nice and read it!

 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Okay... abide. The whole branch abiding in the vine thing makes sense. do we abide?

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  

Now that is humbling...

6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  

 Yikes. I'd rather not be that branch! How do we abide??

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  

 Wow! That sounds great! But... how do we abide?

8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

So, you say you want to glorify God? That is how!

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  

10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 

 Ohhhh!! In order to abide in His love, we must keep His commandments! Well then, what are His commandments?

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 

 Wow... He doesn't say this to make our lives difficult-- instead, it's to make our joy full!

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 

 Oh! His command is for us to love each other as He has loved us!

13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  

 So... what does it mean to lay down one's life for his friends? Obviously we're not ALL going to have a chance to literally die for our friends... but there are other ways to lay down your life-- like giving up your time and so forth. What do you think?

14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  

15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  

Wow... how amazing to be called the friend of the Most High God!!  But we must remember verse 14: "IF you do what I command you."

16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

Once more--humbling. It isn't anything we have done-- it's all by the Grace of God.

17 These things I command you, that you love one another.

John 15:1-17

There we have it: when it's all boiled down, our command is simply this: love one another. Simple-- but not easy.

What are your thoughts on loving your neighbor? Who does that include? What does it look like practically? Discuss below!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In *Everything* Give Thanks...

So, what did you do for Thanksgiving? I got smashed in the mouth with a softball.

*Laughs slightly* No, really, I did.

See, [begins story mode] our church has this tradition of playing softball on Thanksgiving day. Now, there is something you need to know about us Manns: we only play softball on Thanksgiving day. And last year, I didn't even go. That is to say, we are nearly clueless. Ahem. But, for some reason, my four younger older siblings wanted to go. My parents didn't particularly want to go, so I ended up driving and my parents stayed home along with William and Matthew.

Anyway, we were all out there, valiantly humiliating ourselves for the sake of tradition, with the Manns at least attempting to look like we knew what was going on. We... sort of succeeded. I was in the outfield, where a few of us girls were hoping the ball wouldn't come our way. (Me especially, probably, though I didn't say so out loud. Like some of them did. See, I can catch normal balls alright. But I never catch with a baseball mitt... so yeah.) Heidi (who is good at all sports, it seems.) was moaning about how boring it was. I agreed. At that time. Afterwards I thought it too exciting. She was also saying that if the ball came over she was going to drop to the ground and proceeded to show us how. (Afterwards I wished I would've just done that. :P)

Alas, the ball did come in my direction. So, I made the courageous decision to try to catch it. I moved forward, since I could tell it would drop in front of me if I didn't move. I almost judged it right. Almost! Some people thought I would catch it, even. It was coming closer, closer-- WHAM! On the ground I went. That was rather shocking and confusing. And my whole mouth-- my whole face! Hurt! I couldn't tell what exactly was hit-- all I knew was that I was bleeding at a terrific rate. After a few seconds I realized it was my mouth and then asked the people who had come over whether I still had my teeth. Somehow, at times like that, you realize that teeth are sort of important. [Um, major understatement.] Apparently I did still have teeth. That was a relief. By this point, my whole mouth and both hands were covered in blood and more was pouring out. (Pardon me if you don't like blood. But it's true!) I remember vaguely thinking it might get on my clothes and then recklessly deciding I didn't care a bit. I think I also thought that I would then have a "battle shirt" as the Ursus (friends of ours) call shirts that you've bleed on. Unfortunately I didn't bleed on my shirt. :( Anyways, you will all be happy to know that I didn't cry, scream, or otherwise freak out. What was the use? Even at times like that, practicality rules.

Someone kindly brought water to wash my hands off, and another water bottle (A squirty one!!! You have no idea how awesome those are in such situations!) to wash out my mouth. They also got ice in a plastic white grocery bag, which I promptly started applying. At this point my thoughts were mainly, wow, this happened to me. And, this is going to take awhile... And, I'm glad it isn't worse! I was also praying, of course.

I was sitting against the fence, holding the ice on, and gently exploring my mouth with my tongue. (After this initial exploration, my tongue behaved quite nobly and contained its inquisitiveness. I was very proud of it.)  I thought one of my bottom teeth felt kind of odd. At first I thought it was lose... but then part of it fell off. :P I didn't really care at that point... I was glad my tooth didn't hurt. I was also thankful it wasn't worse-- I mean my front teeth could've been knocked out. One of the elders happened to be there and he prayed for me. Hannah kindly got a soft white T-shirt out of the van to put my ice in. (The bag wasn't exactly comfortable.)

Abby and Daniel, two little children from church, were looking at me so pityingly. It was very cute and almost funny. :)

Someone offered a mirror, but I was like... oh, I'll see it when I get home. But then I started feeling a little curious, so I asked Cheryl to get my purse, and looked at it. It was slightly worse than I'd thought-- I didn't realize my lip was scraped on the top. And when I looked inside... well, good thing I'm not particularly squeamish. See, my front teeth (of course) cut up my lip really bad. Only, one little strand of my lip, instead of breaking, was stuck between two of my top teeth. So my lip was held against my teeth. That was disturbing. After I saw that, I really wanted to get home and fix it. I started formulating a plan to that end.

A friend of ours kindly offered to drive us home (I couldn't really drive and hold the ice on. heh. :P) and someone else followed us and brought her back to the field afterwards. Providentially, she'd already driven our van, so that wasn't an issue. :) Josiah talked to me on the way home (About things other than lips, which was nice of him.) and I sort of mumbled responses through my swollen lip and ice. haha. I noticed that the shirt (one of papa's) was a blood donor shirt. I thought that amusing, even then. :D

We hadn't called our parents because we didn't want them to worry while we were coming home. So I came in with this shirt over my mouth and papa was like, oh no. So I showed him and he was kind of... I don't know how to describe it. I guess sort of concerned, shocked and somewhat worried. Then mama came over and of course she was even MORE like that... by this time I was more myself and so I sort of brushed it off. Eh... if you can brush things like a very swollen and bloody lip and broken tooth off. Anyways, I quickly asked for scissors. Yes, scissors. I then proceeded to do my little surgery quickly (um, after we sterilized the scissors), before I lost the nerve. I cut/pulled the strand till it broke and then flossed what was left out. Thankfully it didn't hurt... much. :P And then I was very relieved. :D

Andrea said I should tell my children that a shark bit my tooth off. haha! I think I will. :D

So, there ya have it. My lip story, as light-hearted as I could make it. (It's okay if you laughed.) So... what does this have to do with thankfulness? Well, you will remember two things: One, the verse this blog is named after says, in part, "in everything give thanks" and, two, that it was Thanksgiving.

So, I wrote a list of things I was thankful for about this whole situation: (I wrote this in my "Major Events" journal while holding the ice on my lip.)

I'm thankful...
  • That it wasn't a front tooth that broke
  • It wasn't my nose or mouth or eye or ear or throat
  • That we had ice and pain medicine and water there
  • For everyone's kindness
  • That the bleeding stopped quickly [otherwise I would've needed stitches. *shudders*]
  • That I didn't cry (haha)
  • That Elizabeth drove us home
  • For Papa's soft shirt
  • For a big van to lie down in 
  • For funny friends
  • That I don't need stitches!
  • That my tooth nerve isn't hurt
  • For Mr. Jackson's prayer
  • For Abby and Daniel's cute concern
  • For Hannah's support in walking to the van
  • For being able to find humor still 
  • For ice packs
  • That I didn't faint
  • That we had Thanksgiving meal yesterday [Wednesday]!
  • That I am young and heal quickly 
  • That God has a reason for this
  • That this is one of my worst injuries.
Now I have even more things to add:

I'm thankful for...
  • Drinking straws
  • People's prayers
  • Herbs which are fun to use and speed up healing
  • The speed at which it has healed
  • The ability to smile without pain
  • The ability to talk freely 
  • Being able to eat solid food 
  • Emily and Hannah making me smoothies when I couldn't eat normal food
  • Our new vitamix to make the smoothies in 
  • The pain going away so quickly (it only lasted two/three days!!) 
  • Being able to "camp" still, at our friend's house (though I did sleep in the house. haha.) 
  • Being able to sleep some that first night... 
  • The patience and other lessons learned
  • God's grace in that I'm not very worried about how it looks/will look
  • Vitamin E and aloe and goldenseal
  • Whistling (even though I can't yet.)
Well! I could probably continue for awhile longer, but this is already really long. (for me) (I hope you two are happy. You know who you are, my long winded blogging friends. ;))

Anyways, the point is this... I wanted to tell you the story. hehe. Okay, well, that was part of it. But I mainly wanted to encourage you all to look for those things that you can still be thankful for even in the midst of hard situations.

P.S. Softballs are NOT soft.