Friday, July 25, 2014

Lera's Story

If we're friends on Facebook or Instagram, you've seen this hashtag: #LerasStory. We created it so we could gather together all the pictures we post and the words we say about her on each site. Those words express our shock and awe, pain and longing, wonder and shake-your-head craziness that is the story of God in our lives and how He wove one little girl in a far away part of a far away country to change not only our stories but so many others. Here's how it all began...

Have you ever made one of those statements that you just know made God smirk at you? Perhaps you said it and thought you heard the echo of a deep sound and wondered if that was thunder...while part of you knew it was Him chuckling at you. That's what we should have heard one day as we sat on the swing in the peaceful camp of our sister church in Ukraine. We had helped clear things from dinner...had set up chairs in the tent for the upcoming meeting...had cleaned up some...had made sure all the girls with us were doing well...and what do you know? Wayne and I found ourselves with each other and not needing to do anything.

It's a rare moment so we took advantage of it and caught up on thoughts and experiences...on feelings and activities...the normal unload we do when we're both goinggoinggoing and only have a little time to pause. It was during that twilight conversation that we came to the topic of adoption and all God was moving in our friends and in our church. I can't remember who said it first, but we began discussing how we were feeling about our own family. Did we feel called to adopt? The truthful, peaceful, settled answer from us both was no. We'll respite fund...pray without ceasing for them all...but no, not us.

It didn't feel relief as if I didn't want it for us, but I did feel a sense of "good, that's behind we can move on with what's next for us." (I know it. I can hear Him chuckling now. Back then, I just thought a storm cloud was moving in. Silly me.)

Fast forward just a few short weeks later. We're back in Texas. Football meetings have started so I've said goodbye to Wayne until November. Cassie is still in Ukraine, and as she often is, Cassie has been out of touch for about 2 weeks as she's in an orphanage...we're never quite sure where. We'll know she's alive and well when she gets to wifi back in Kiev and starts posting pics. And sure enough, here they came.

I did as I always do as I scanned those precious faces: Aww...precious...sigh...she's a cutie...I'll take him any day...ha!...tear...oh, there's Cass!...sigh...haha...oh, good grief...and Cass again...
Except, this time something new came out of me when I saw this picture.

It was:
She's mine.

And yes, I was a little freaked out. But I just kept clicking through pics. And every time I saw her like in this one, my heart said, "Mine." The same way it did when I saw Cass. Mineminemine.

And it didn't stop. I thought and prayed until I finally messaged Cassie a couple of days later and said, "Tell me about the boy in the blue shirt and the girl in the pink and that other girl in the red shirt...the one in the pic with you who you called your princess." So, she told me about the first two...but with the little girl in the red shirt, a quick response wouldn't do...and I got my first glimpse into what God had already done in our family as Cassie posted this:

Writing this through tears. This is my small, beautiful, princess Lera. I am not kidding when I say I want to get her home. She is 5 years old, has autism and fell in love with me. So much so that three days in she was calling me Mama. She loved my earrings and absolutely loved my necklaces. How fitting that her favorite one is my "I will come to you" necklace from Kate Clayton. She would hold it and play with the pearl and plane as long as I would let her. The nannies didn't like it when I held her because they didn't want her to get attached. I held her anyway. There was nothing sweeter than calling out her name and watching her whole being light up as she skipped over to me, arms outstretched. She loved singing with me. Mostly made up words but I knew what I was singing to her...truth, love and hope. Putting her to bed was a precious time. She would grip my neck tight as I told her I loved her, was praying for her, to have sweet dreams and I would see her in the morning. Leaving her was the hardest. I was sobbing as she clung to my neck and wouldn't let go. The nannies asked if I wanted to take her home and upon my declarative yes they told me she couldn't be adopted because she is sick. My God is big though. I will pray and see what He does. He is bigger than a system and bigger than a piece of paper. Who knows what He will do. Missing her always. Praying someone holds her and sings to her and tells her they love her. Please, Jesus. I don't know what to do but my eyes are on You.
Cassie knew it, too. She belongs with her. But what Cassie didn't know was that she was hers because she was mine. But did I mention that we had just sat on a swing and knew it was "no"? How do I tell Wayne that it's a yes bone-deep-settled-when-can-I-have-her yes? Well, God gave me an unexpected opportunity.

Usually once we get home from Ukraine, we say goodbye to Wayne that same day. But he came home that Friday night and said, "Guess what? I don't have work tomorrow. At all." A whole Saturday?? Crazy. The girls and I had planned to run to Ikea for some stuff, but babysitting jobs had opened which meant that Wayne and I were about to have an entire day alone. I knew this was my chance. As soon as we dropped off the girls and took off down the road, I said, "I'm so grateful to have some time with you. There are a couple of things I want to talk to you about."

And he said, "Me, too. One thing, I was thinking...we should see about bringing home that little girl, Lera."

Yeah. I know it. It doesn't happen with us often either. In our 25 years of marriage, it's been that easy...never. Usually one of us is ready to run ahead while the other has reservatnions or just needs some time to think. But this time? God was sweet to move us both...separately and together.

That's the short part of it. We were just done. It was settled in about 20 seconds. I said, "That's what I was going to say..." and he said, "Then let's figure it out..." and off we drove to Ikea. But now we walked through saying things like, "We could put this in that corner. And that bed would probably work. She's going to love that little chair." as if it were a normal day in our lives when in fact, God had changed everything in us.

We came home and told the girls what we were thinking, and they were quick to say, "YESYESYES!" We messaged Cassie and told her...cue major tears. They were of one heart and mind toward her though we warned them what it might mean. You read Cassie's words. They call her "sick"...autistic...developmentally delayed. We'd have no way of knowing ahead of time what her real issues are...what can be "fixed" with specialized help and what would be forever. We weren't asking them if they thought it was a good idea for Wayne and I to commit ourselves to her. We were telling them that when we die, Lera would be theirs...for the rest of their lives. Would they agree to that? Could they even understand what they were saying at their young ages? We asked them to give it a few days of thinking...and their answer didn't change. All of a sudden, we were a family of 6.

Well, that was August of 2012...and it's late July of what's the problem?
Yeah...adoption is always costly, isn't it? We know that it should be...for our adoptions here are just shadows of the reality of the gift God gave the world...the adoption of sons and daughters with Himself as Father. The cost for this was the life of His only Son. That means we probably should have been prepared for things like:
  • finding out her status wasn't "orphan" but the equivalent of a foster child here which means they had to locate her family to see if she could be returned to them
  • the police taking their own sweet time finding any information on her parents while we prayed, "please let her go them..."
  • winter coming which meant it's cold which can apparently mean that no one does anything
  • the director needing to file for a status, wait...the Child Services needing to do,'s the director...or maybe we're supposed to...sigh...
  • Last July we visited her. You may have seen the pics:

  • Finally...15 months from the first contact about her...we get told there's court date: November 27, 2013. Anyone remember what happened November 21? That's right...all this mess. Protests in Kiev...government changes...ousted president...parliament changes...and during it all, we were told, "It's not completed. Court isn't happening. Her status hasn't been changed."
  • Press repeat.

And that's how it's been. Nothing much has changed. I could highlight the news that wasn't news...the papers that we filled out...and re-did...and re-did. The homestudy that doesn't expire until March of 2015 that they wanted redone. The countless times we got the same paper notarized by the precious ladies at Monteith Abstract and Title here in Temple.  Finally, this spring our lawyer in Ukraine said to just get the final documents they asked for and send them. We'll just file and see what happens. So, we got it completed and fly them over....

Except...sigh...we arrived to discover that apparently changes are happening in the adoption system there for them to become Hague certified...and the US is making some changes...all of which means we're back at "we don't know."

What we did know 10 days ago is that if we were in Ukraine where our girl was, we had to do all we could to get our arms around see how she ask them again to please do what they can to get her out of the system. After a lot of ups and downs...moments where it looked like we wouldn't be able to get to finally worked out as you probably saw in these pictures.

It was such joy to see her eyes light up when she saw see her take Aisley's hand and put her hand to her ear as she did last year every time she wanted to see our phones. It gave us a jolt of hope to hear her repeat our words...something the women at the orphanage said she'd never be able to do. It was so fun to see her writing...with either hand! She is still so funny...and stubborn...and playful...and snuggly...and manipulative...and mischievous. In other words, she was still such a Ransleben girl. ;-) We love it when we see her make her own way...get what she wants...scheme and fight. We know it means she hasn't lost hope. We know it means she's determined to survive. We know it means she's an orphan. We love to see her smile and laugh and tug on a friend and sing a song because it means her heart hasn't lost hope in life.

We enjoyed a day with her before we had to leave. We're so incredibly thankful for that. For one day, we were a together family...

Friends met her. We can't tell you what that means to us. We got to laugh and play with her...comfort and soothe her.


Where do we go from here? The major change is that a new rule would mean we now need an American agency. Or do we? Some documents seem to say yes because our papers were kicked back to us in the middle of that uprising. Some agencies here agree...some agencies disagree and say that because we began before all of this started, we're fine even if we're starting over with new paperwork. In other words, we don't know what to do. Our lawyer there says now that he's just going ahead with it, and we'll see how it plays out. If he hits a roadblock, he'll let us know. What do you bet there might be one or two left?

So...there you go. That's #LerasStory. That's the quick way to tell you how a little, unknown girl in the middle of nowhere Ukraine became a little girl who is prayed over by hundreds. That's how God took a couple from "I wonder what's next for us with an empty nest..." to a couple who could have a daughter with them for the rest of their lives until she goes to live with her sisters.

More, this is the story of a God who has a greater adoption story to tell and decided to display it to us and through us: the glory and the pain...the suffering and the overwhelming joy...the struggle and the perseverance He provides...the walk of faith that is built on knowing that His Son is our only hope...and finding that He is hope enough. And He did it all by taking His love and pouring it into our hearts for a little girl named Lera.

The Lord has done great things for us. Praise Him with us.
There is so much left undone and unknown. Pray with us. Pray for us.
And say it with us: Christ is our only hope. Praise be to God, He is truly hope enough.

Thanks for reading this. Thanks for remaining with us. We'll need you to the end of not only this story, but throughout our lives until He calls us into sight and life. We promise to return the favor.

Wayne, Kim, Cassie, Aisley, Brennan, and Lera

PS...yes...I used to blog some before writing for the church. Feel free to see what I used to rant about. You'll find a lot of the same diediedie messages you've heard before. ;-) Will I go back to it? We'll see.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What We Eat: Bow Tie Chicken

This recipe comes from the TBC cookbook and is by a dear friend and great cook, Sarah Sewell. But of course, I can never leave a good thing alone so some changes happened along the way. Most importantly, the veggies stay in huge chunks so that everyone can pick out what they don't like. One of these days, right? They'll all eat whatever's on the plate? Sigh...
Here's what we ate last night...and anytime I've got some extra grilled chicken! LOVE it.

Bow Tie Chicken

2 Tbsp butter
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jar alfredo sauce
1 to 1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded mozarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup tomatoes, peeled (You're welcome, Cass.) and chopped
4 cups bow tie pasta, cooked and drained
3 chicken breasts, grilled and chopped

Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Saute onion, mushrooms and peppers until softened. Add alfredo sauce and stir. Pour 1 cup milk into sauce jar, replace lid, shake and then pour into pan. Add cheeses, seasonings (taste to see about salt), tomatoes and chicken. Lower heat. Stir until cheese melts and blends and everything is hot. Mix cooked pasta in. Add a little more milk if you'd like it saucier or if you want to put it in a dish and heat for 20 min. or so. Once again, I just mix it all and serve from the pot most times. Have I mentioned, I hate dishes? I have? Okay. Just wanted to check.

PS...just so you know: peeling tomatoes is really easy. Simply boil water in a small pan. Add a tomato and let it simmer for about 30 seconds. Plunge it into ice water after and when it cools, the skin comes off very easily. I just like to make Cassie feel like I'm going to a lot of effort. I rarely do so there's not much opportunity for that mother guilt we're supposed to pass on. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What We Eat: Oatmeal Everything Bars

Would be better titled: What We Try Hard Not to Eat. Or Oatmeal Every Calorie Bars. Something that gives you more warning. We seriously don't make these unless we are assured that they will be feeding a crowd because they are ridiculously good. Laura B. made them for a cookie exchange, I think, and I've yet to forgive her completely. I don't even like chocolate (Yes, you read that right. Oh, stop. There's nothing wrong with me. Well, there's lots, but that has nothing to do with food.) and I LOVE this cookie. Probably the two sticks of butter...or the bag of caramels...or the high fiber oats. Sure.


Oatmeal Everything Bars

1 (14 oz) bag caramels
5-6 Tbsp milk, divided
2 cups flour
2 cups oats
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups chocolate chips (I usually use milk chocolate.)

Put the unwrapped caramels into a microwave safe bowl. (Surely no one would put the plastic wrapped ones in the microwave, right? But okay...) Add 3 Tbsp milk and heat on low power in the microwave until all are melted and it's really liquidy. (Says it's not a word. Whatever.)

In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients except for chocolate together by hand, pressing all of the brown sugar into the other ingredients. Melt the butter and combine with the dry ingredients. Add 1 Tbsp of milk at a time until it forms together like cookie dough. (On humid days, it doesn't take much. In west Texas at about 10% humidity, probably the rest of your gallon.) Now for the fun part.

Take 1/2 of the mix and press it into a 9X13. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and then drizzle the caramel all over. (I always laugh in disbelief that I'm making something that has all of this in it...YUM!) Sprinkle the rest of the dough on top until it's covered and press lightly together.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan before you start cutting it into really, really small pieces (so you feel better when you eat 5 at a time). If you don't wait, it all slides around.

Oh. my. I love this stuff. I do want credit for making this light. No. You read that right. The recipe I got called for 3 sticks of butter! I couldn't bring myself to do it...thus the milk in the batter! Bring one by when you make it. Just one. Large one. Or 5 small ones. Whatever.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What We Eat: Parmesan Chicken

Not to be confused with Chicken Parmesan. I'm sure that's good, too. But this is yumminess on a plate. Kids love it. My girls love it more than the local restaurant version which is good 'cause I'm not ever taking them there...even if a cookie in a pan, topped with ice cream comes after it. Excuse me while I raid the fridge.

This one's for Holly F. Glad Parker enjoyed it!

Parmesan Chicken

1 can chicken broth
5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound each one to about 1/2 inch thick with a kitchen mallet (or the side of whatever you can pound with...sometimes I've used the chicken broth can unopened...whatever works) If chicken breasts are large, you can cut them in half. Add chicken to broth (save 1/4 cup if you are making the oh-so-good sauce below), cover and chill for 3 hours.

2. When chicken has marinated, remove it from the broth and dab with paper towels to remove excess liquid. Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Combine flour, salt and pepper on a plate or shallow bowl. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan in another bowl. To bread the chicken, first coat each breast with flour...then egg...then breadcrumb/cheese mix. If you need to, let them rest for a bit in the fridge while you get everything else the sauce...have I mentioned the sauce?

3. Melt 2 Tbsp butter and then add a couple of Tbsp of oil to barely cover the bottom of a large saute pan, and heat on medium until hot. Saute each one for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until browned. Try not to move them while this is happening. me...tend to fall apart when you disturb them too much. Remove to paper towels to drain and keep warm until ready to serve. Add more butter and oil each time you put on more chicken. (No. This did not come from the Weight Watchers' website. What made you ask that?) Serve each one with a couple of spoonfuls of...mmmm...sauce drizzled oh, so lovingly over the top.

Lemon Butter Sauce:
1/4 cup salted butter (if not just add a dash more salt to the pot)
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups heavy cream

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add broth and simmer 1 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, sugar and salt. Add cream. Simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes until thickened.

My apologies to Holly F. for not giving you the sauce when I brought it over. I confess I drank it all before I could make it the 2 blocks to your house. That fruit of the Spirit called self-control? Not so much. Lemon anything makes me a little nuts. Next time! (I know you're ready for another baby, right? Wait. Please. Stop crying. I was just joking.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What We Eat: Chicken Spaghetti

I've been promising Cassie for a a year...or two...that I'd give her a copy of our family recipes. This seems like the easiest way...and maybe I'll actually follow through. Here's the first only because she just texted me to ask me for it.

Chicken Spaghetti

3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 pkg. sliced mushrooms
3 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 can reduced fat cream of mushroom soup
1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups colby jack cheese
16 oz spaghetti, broken into smaller pieces and cooked

Cook the veggies in the butter...mmmm...over medium heat until onion is soft and translucent. Add chicken, soups (reduced fat! healthy!), cheese (never mind) and stir until cheese melts. Add as much of the spaghetti as you'd like to make it as saucy as you'd like. I never add all of it...and should probably figure out exactly how much this is, but who cares, really? Just put it in the fridge for when you need a quick lunch by adding butter and melting the rest of that cheese on top. You and the girls used to make that all the time when I was reading/studying/praying/talking on the phone/napping after falling asleep trying to pray (note to self: praying while lying on bed is a bad idea). Where were we? Oh, yeah. If you want to dirty another dish, pour it all into a greased (Yay! More fat!) 9X13 and heat at 350 degrees until it's hot...maybe 20 min. But why not just put it into individual bowls and sprinkle them all with paprika and serve? You hate dirty dishes anyway. Like mother, like daughter.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Religion v. the Gospel

from Tim Keller adapted by The Journey

“I obey-therefore I’m accepted.”

THE GOSPEL: “I’m accepted-therefore I obey.”

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.

THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I'm not confident. I feel like a failure.

THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am "simul iustus et peccator"—simultaneously sinful and lost yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’

THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.

THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

HT: Vitamin Z

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Facebook jealousy

It probably all started when we were tiny and one of our parents told us not to tell our siblings about something that only we got to do like stay up a little later or lick the beaters when she was making cookies. Or perhaps when we were told by our teachers that if you want to share candy with a friend, you have to bring enough for the whole class. Or maybe it was when our moms handed us the birthday party invites and then told us that we had to make sure that we gave them out only at the end of the day...and then to be very secretive when we talked about it so no one's feelings got hurt.

Good intentions behind it, I'm sure, but it's left us with a lasting problem because we're not children. And the allowances that were made for us then should not be made for us now while we're in our 20s, 30s or (Lord, please, please, no) our 40s. I thought of this just this morning as I looked on Facebook and saw that some younger friends of mine are getting together for Bunco tonight. (P J Bunco...whatever that you win them? Wear them? Would I feel the pressure to go buy something new so that everyone thought that's what I actually wear to bed??)

I think I've played the game before. I can remember something years ago...maybe at a women's night out sometime. I get the point...roll a certain number in a set time. Yea. Okay. I can do that...but not for long. And knowing me as these ladies do, I thought it would be fun to write a little comment under the post that said something about my not being invited, don't they think I'd enjoy it, promising not to lecture on Romans 9, etc. But besides not being able to lie about the lecturing part, I hesitated in the middle of typing. Why did I stop? Why wouldn't that be funny?

Because we are grown women who don't obey the commands of God. Read these:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Romans 15:2

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit,
but in humility count others
more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

There are so many others...becoming a slave to all...serving one another...showing honor to others for their good...bearing with one another...the list goes on and on. We know it. We know that's what Christ did for us. Paul starts that Philippians 2 passage that way: have the mind of Christ who gave up everything for us. He wasn't concerned about His own pleasure but ours. He wasn't worried about being left out; He was worried about the fact that we were on the outside. He humbled one did it to Him. And He did it for us...and to leave us an example that we might follow after Him.

But our problem is that we read those Scriptures and wonder why no one's doing it for us. Who's looking out for my interests? Why aren't they humbling themselves to serve me? When am I going to get mine? Why don't they want me around? When is someone going to think about me?

He did, ladies. He did think about you. From eternity past, you've been right before Him. He knit you together...wonderfully, beautifully made my the hands of the Creator of stars and atoms. He took the time to not only plan your form but also your times and places. And then He carefully selected the opportunities you'd have in life, in His church...things that He knew you could do so well. And seal the idea to show us the depth of what He's willing to give us...He did not spare His own, only Son for us, but freely gave Him to die for us. Will He not together with Him freely give us all things?

Yeah. We get it. God loves us. But...sometimes it's just not enough for us, is it? We still feel so empty that we seek others to fill us up. And it makes us selfish, selfish creatures who can not rejoice when others rejoice. Instead we notice their rejoicing and turn it into a mirror, a reflection of our worth or of our lack. A house purchase makes us discontent with where we live. A child's grade on a test makes us feel like failure parents. A talent, a party, a dinner...good grief...even mentioning running errands with a friend or a date with a spouse brings envy. Not because we don't want good for them...but because we are so far from humble that others needs can not surpass our own. Consider them MORE important than ME?? Are you kidding?

But Christ didn't leave us here to memorize His commands, but to obey them and to teach others to do so. So, how do we start on this one? Paul already told us. Consider Christ. Think of the gospel. Know who we are...worms, broken pots, wretched women. Know what He did. Know what He left...honor, glory, riches, might, worship, comfort, peace, affection. Jesus gave up the party, gave up having others think well of Him, gave up being included, gave up the mansion...for us. And then know well who we are in Him...and pray to have it matter. Pray that God would make us servants as Christ was that we might truly want more for others than we do for ourselves.

Rejoice with them as they play Bunco tonight. Hope that they have a great time. Pray that it encourages them, refreshes them as young moms. Ask Him to bless them, build them up, and to make their words and actions so reflect the truths of the gospel that they leave knowing Him better than they did when they arrived.

And rest deep within you, knowing that Christ's death gained you more than the forgiveness of your sins. It gained you freedom from yourself, from your selfish agenda, from being a slave to sin...and made already are...alive together with Him. Are you so filled with the wonder of that truth that you are not in need today of Bunco? No? You know what to do. Click some links above and listen, yield and repent with me.

Then maybe we can log on to facebook and find a friend to encourage. Maybe, just maybe, one day a comment about not being included can just be funny because we'll all know the love of God for us in Christ Jesus. And that will finally be enough to make us full...and fully servants of others.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Twlight: The End

Update: I've heard there's some confusion. Let me be very clear: This is NOT a part of the real book. This is what another lady who doesn't like the books wrote as her own ending.

Twilight Part 7
(Previous Posts: Really? You did see that this is number seven? You want to read six more? I didn't think so. If you change your mind just click the "Not As Silver" words at the top of the blog and scroll way, way, way down.)

More fun from my new friend (And I'm done. Promise. At least until the next time I hear what your book club is reading!) and after you read it, click here to view the cake I made to celebrate the end of this series. I'm available for your next book club gathering. (No. I won't stick around, Candace...geez...) Bon Appetit, Edward!

Edward leaned toward me, his perfect face inches from mine. His sweet, delicious breath ghosted over my face. His golden eyes glowed with love.

“How do you like it?” he whispered, his velvet voice purring in my ear.

I couldn’t respond, so dazzled was I by his sparkling skin. He shone like a diamond in the sun, a godlike creature before me.

He smirked at my befuddlement, but then his face darkened and he thundered, “Don’t be difficult, Bella!”

I cringed, but he instantly softened, chuckled his bell-like laugh, and leaned toward me again. His cold, pale fingers brushed my cheek. I stopped breathing.

“Come here,” he said, bounding up in one of those blindingly-fast movements I’d grown accustomed to. “I want to show you something.”

He led me to a small creek and sank gracefully into the grass at its edge. I tripped over a pebble and landed on my face in the mud. Edward laughed. How could he love me? He was so beautiful, gorgeous, and perfect. Like the statue of David come alive. Like Adonis, a god, an angel.

Edward removed his shoes and rolled up the cuffs of his jeans, and I gasped at the sight of his white, smooth ankles. Sunlight reflected off his toenails, each an ivory glint of perfection. I’d never seen Edward’s feet before. I hadn’t realized he could be more beautiful than he was, but there seemed no end to his beauty.

My heart beat madly in my chest, bounced up into my throat, ricocheted off half a dozen ribs, and finally settled somewhere in the vicinity of my kneecap. I collapsed.

Faster than a speeding bullet, Edward had lifted me in his marble arms and cradled me to his granite chest. “Bella? Bella!” he screamed. “No!”

The sight of his perfect, glorious face so twisted in anguish sent waves of torture through my body. “Edward!” I gasped.

His cold, unyielding lips pressed to mine, but I dared not move for fear of breaking his control, so irresistible did he find the scent of my blood. I could not bear knowing I had caused Edward pain by forcing him to eat me. My heart fluttered around my kneecap.

The kiss done, Edward set me on my feet. Without moving, I tripped over a stick and would have fallen in the stream had Edward not caught me in his iron embrace.

“Will you answer a question?” I asked.

“Of course, my love, my life, my forever,” Edward said, casually tearing boulders apart with his toes. I watched, spellbound for a moment, before remembering myself.

“I once asked if you could turn into a bat, and you just laughed.”

Edward smirked. “Because it was a stupid question. We don’t turn into bats. Why would we want to turn into bats?”

“But can you turn into something?”

“Of course.” He stood, stretched, and his shirt rose enough for me to catch a glimpse of his sculpted abs above his waistband. I hyperventilated and passed out.

When I awoke, Edward was speaking.

“—for disguise.”

“What?” I asked breathlessly.

“I said, we turn into fruit. It’s great for disguising yourself.” He watched me carefully, to see if this revelation would finally be the one that convinced me he was a monster, that sent me screaming from him.

“Oh.” I said. “What kind of fruit?”

He looked frustrated, annoyed, euphoric, scared, nervous, grumpy, amused, sleepy, and sad. Like an archangel come down from heaven to bless me with his presence. “An apple.”

“Oh. Can I see?”

Rage colored his features. “No! Why can’t you understand? I’m a danger to you! I could kill you! I should leave you forever!” He threw himself forward and wrapped his arms around me. “I should go – right now! It’s the only way to keep you safe!”

Despair settled over me, so thick and heavy I could hardly see. “No, Edward! Don’t leave me! I know we’ve only been together for three hours, but I want to spend forever with you! Please!”

He pulled back and looked at me, thousands of emotions roiling in his liquid topaz eyes. “Do you mean that, Bella?”


“Very well.”

His perfect, glorious, heavenly face dipped toward me, and he touched his cold lips to my neck. He growled deep in his throat, a sound that traveled up and down my spine like lightning.

Then came a sharp pain. His grip tightened. I gasped his name. My sight dimmed until all I could see was the sparkle of his skin, calling me to paradise.

Then nothing.


Edward looked down at the body of Bella Swan, pale and lifeless in his pale and lifeless arms.


His sobs shook the forest for six long seconds, and then he stood, wiping a drop of blood from the corner of his mouth.


He sprinted for the edge of the forest, moving faster than any living creature, and wondered if that Angela girl would be his new lab partner.

The End!


And now you don't have to read the book. Your brain will thank you.

Can I have a little fun?

Twilight Part 6
(Previous Posts: Go to this one and start reading!)

Come on.
Just a little fun? It'll only take two posts. I mean, we’ve got 11 year olds and 30 year olds tacking up the same posters. (And I’m not kidding. I can show you it in the classroom where she teaches.) I’ve got to have some fun with it. And a great gal out there provide that much needed levity. I don’t have a clue if she loves Jesus, but she might. I haven’t checked her out much. But I do know that we could enjoy many cups of coffee together ripping apart Bella and Edward.

Here’s a couple of great parts to her post on Twilight…

The Catalog

Number of Pages in the Book: 498
The First Hint of a Plot that Is Not Bella and Edward's Romance: page 328
When the Plot Actually Arrives: page 372

Boys that Totally Love Bella (including Edward Cullen): 5

Approximate Amount of Time Bella and Edward are Romantically Involved Before Bella Is Begging Edward to Turn Her into a Vampire so They Can Be Together Forever: Like, two weeks. Maybe three. The timeline's a bit fuzzy.

References to Edward's Beauty: 165…Broken Down into the following categories -

  • Face: 24 (Favorite adjectives: glorious, heavenly, seraphic)
  • Voice: 20 (The voice of an archangel, donchaknow.)
  • Eyes: 17
  • Movement: 11
  • Smile: 10
  • Teeth: 8
  • Muscles: 7
  • Skin: 7 (Note: This only contains accounts of Edward's skin being beautiful. I didn't count references to it as "pale," "cold," or "white." If I had, this number would be about ten times larger.)
  • Iron Strength or Limbs: 5
  • Scent: 4
  • Laughter: 3
  • Handwriting: 2
  • Chest: 2
  • Driving Skills: 1

The Number of Times...

  • Bella Is Clumsy or Makes a Reference to Her Clumsiness: 26
  • Bella Sneers at Forks or Its Inhabitants: 22
  • Bella is "Dazzled" or Rendered Speechless by Edward's Beauty or Touch: 17
  • Edward Tells Bella to Stay Away from Him While Completely Contradicting Himself with His Behavior: 16
  • Bella is Utterly Desolate at Edward's Absence: 12
  • Edward and Bella Kiss: 8
    • Bella's Hormones Get the Better of Her and She Attacks Edward, Almost Causing Him to Eat Her: 2
    • Edward's Kiss Makes Bella Faint: 1
    • Edward's Kiss Makes Bella's Heart Literally Stop: 1
  • Bella Thinks She Isn't Good Enough for Edward: 6
  • Edward Is Referred to As Godlike: 5 (Note: This number might be off, as I didn't start counting until three or four mentions in.)
  • Edward Tells Bella She's Unnatural: 5
  • Edward Sparkles: 3
  • Bella is in Mortal Danger: 3
    • Edward Saves Bella from Mortal Danger: 3
  • Edward Stalks Bella, For Real: 2 (Note: One of these instances involves watching her sleep every night for, like, months.)
  • Bella and Edward Argue About Who Loves the Other Most: 1
  • Edward's Inability to Read Bella's Mind is Explained: 0

I would have kept track of how many times Edward's mood shifts unexpectedly and for no reason, but I didn't have that much paper. I am sad, though, that I didn't keep track of how many times words like "granite," "stone," and "marble" are used in reference to Edward. His arms, his lips. Explain to me how kissing cold, marble lips is at all appealing. And yet it makes Bella faint. I give up.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

But Kim...

Twilight Part 5
(Previous Posts: Wall-E, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

I'm going to use this post to answer some questions and some concerns that y'all've been so gracious to send to me (if you're not from the south that would read...that you have all been so gracious...). I'll give a sample comment or question and then provide a brief response (Hey. I heard that.).

So, if I read the book and liked it, I'm in sin.
I have no idea. I'm very, very clear that all I could look at is the outside. It's God that would have to see into your heart to know it. You probably do, too. Let's say you were reading along and thought...Seriously, around here we call sneaking into someone's house to watch her sleep, stalking. Or you thought...Okay. Come on, Bella. Enough about his breath. Or perhaps it passed through your mind...if my daughter thinks this is what it's going to be like when she's 17, she's in for a huge disappointment. But the story's fun. Or even...She's in love with another. Good grief, that's bad. Then you may not have swallowed it whole and put up posters inside your closet door so your friends don't see it. If you keep justifying everything they do in the books as right? You find yourself wanting to be in their world rather than yours? It's a problem you should consider.

And if in reading them, you keep thinking that I'm going a little far and you really don't think this is such a big deal? Well, if we live near each other then I hope to see you soon, give you a big hug, and ask how everything's going. I hope to love you well, and that you'll do the same while we both keep in mind that God is faithful to us both to bring us to completion. He'll get it right in us both eventually. I can be 'bout you?

What about the good stuff that's in it...the way Edward keeps her from giving in...the fact that he loves her for who she is not what she does...that he delights in her...etc.?
I'm right there with you. Good stuff. Call good, good. Call evil, evil. (Isaiah 5:20)

Shouldn't we let our girls read it so they see those good things?
How discerning is your daughter? How settled in Christ? How content with the way God made her? Struggling to awaken love before it's time? (Song of Solomon 2:7) Content with the way God made her and firm on how God instituted marriage and why it exists?

Do you talk with as much passion about the Word to her? Have you read the Bible with her...talked about it the way you talked about the book?

That's more what's on my mind than whether or not she's read this specific book. But shouldn't we show her good models of values we're looking for? Sure. But can't you pick a better book that doesn't need as much explaining and filtering and searching the Word??

On a side note, one mom commented that Bella does nothing to attract Edward and wanted her girls to see that. I looked again at Twilight and read a ton of quotes from the other books (haven't read them), and I've got to say I strongly disagree. If I'm watching Cassie and guy and she says and does what Bella does, I'd...well, she knows what I'd do...and it won't be pretty. I find out she's got journal entries like this? We've got so much work to do in understanding what responding looks like. One wise woman said it like this...Guard your heart. Some courtships advance all the way to the altar. Some don’t. Keep your heart at the same level as the commitment. Don’t let your heart race ahead. Sound like Bella??

Okay, Kim, but what about Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, etc.? Or Christian books like Redeeming Love? If we take this tack, should we ban all romance movies, TV and books?
Maybe. I have no idea how they're affecting you or how poorly they reflect Christ. When it comes to a movie like Pride and Prejudice (and I'm thinking of the book and BBC good, by the way) which all my girls have seen several times, there were several places we've talked...Lydia and Mr. Wickham's relationship and the pushy aggressiveness she and her sister display...Elizabeth's tendency to jump to conclusions without getting to know what motivates people...her and Mr. Darcy's pride which stand in the way of communicating...willingness to wait and grieve deeply but reflectively like Jane...Mr. Darcy doing good quietly behind the scenes, not wanting applause from men...Elizabeth's admission that she was a fool and her willingness to say so to everyone.

Love that book. And there's some problems with it, when it calls good what is not reflective of Christ's marriage plan for us (e.g. whiny manipulation isn't seen as good, but not ever seen as anything but expected). We talk about those as well. But for me, the time spent talking and pondering those issues are worth the effort. Maybe you wouldn't think so or it would feed some desire within you that would make you weaker to temptation. You decide.

At least we could say that Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love was written with the Word in mind. You can read the book of Hosea to see what it portrays. I wouldn't let your jr. high daughter read that one either. Cassie has, but I'll wait a few years to even offer it to Aisley even though it's great. But the same holds true. Michael, the main character, is a strong leader, full of faith. And I remember when I was reading it that it moved me in good ways, but I know that I am also sometimes tempted to dream about what it might be like to married to a guy like him instead of Wayne, especially during football season! It is not good for me to read most fiction at night during the fall. I'm just more tempted toward discontentment. I have to know it and fight it by fleeing from these sorts of things. You decide how you might do right now.

I'm with you...but she's already read them. Now what?
Read them. Talk about them. If in reading them you feel the conviction that you shouldn't have allowed that to happen, at least without reading them together, please just tell her. Tell her that you're sorry. She'll probably brush it off a little...saying she really liked them. Just say it again and mean it. Tell her you'll try to do better next time. Then tell her you'd like to spend some conversations with her talking about some of the ideas, propositions and scenes and how they match up to or oppose Scripture. Then you gotta get busy in the Word, don't you??

Will I ever get to read a book or watch a TV show or movie if this challenge is true?
Sure. Do so without thought, discernment and a renewed mind? Hopefully not. Rejoice in what is darkness and bitterness in God's view? If He is so gracious, we'll all grow to approve only of what is excellent...and so be pure and blameless in the Day of Christ Jesus. I'm right there with you. Let's keep running together.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

See it for yourself

Twilight Part 4
(Previous Posts: Wall-E, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

So, if it's not really about this book or any other, why am I picking on this one? It's a good question, but probably a more personal answer as a woman, a wife of 20 years and as the mother of three girls, ages 11, 13 and 18.

There's a reason I posted first about the analogy between our physical obesity as a nation and our spiritual obesity as a church. But what I didn't point out that we're all seeing is that it's not just the adults in our nation that are growing heavier (over one third of the women in our nation are statistically obese). The real tragedy in the last 20 years is that childhood obesity has tripled. So, it's not simply what we as adults are choosing for ourselves that's the problem, is it?

Can you make the jump with me to our young girls and their entertainment? Back in the old days when I was a young'un, homosexuality was opening criticized and mocked on TV. When Mike and Carol Brady showed up in the SAME BED together...well, I can't tell you the furor it raised. The only movies I ever saw were Disney and that was few and far VCRs, remember? (Yes. I'm that old.) The only time we got to see any late night TV was occasionally at Grannie's, which is probably why I can still remember some images of violence and sex. Problem is...those images are much less violent and the sex much less tame than in the Twilight series and certainly less than normal nightly programming. (And since Bill Clinton isn't here, let's not get into definitions of sex.)

Then there's the other reason that flows from this one. My girls aren't going to stay girls forever. Cassie's already voted. They are becoming women...who will give themselves to their husbands, raise children and serve the body of Christ. And they will struggle, won't they, in all these areas...none more so than in their marriages.

I know this because I'm in it. And I know it because of the woman after woman after woman with whom I talk about their struggles. I know it because of dear friends I walk beside and pray with and who listen to me and encourage my faith. And I know that our hearts are a problem when it comes to romance and fantasy. I know how discontented we can be with our spouses. I know that feasting on the world and snacking on the gospel makes us fat, lazy and ineffective for the Kingdom...especially for transforming our homes for the Kingdom.

Books like Twilight tell about our inner world. They describe feelings, sights, sounds in rapturous, dramatic ways. They take us to a place usually far, far, far away from the daily sights and sounds of toddlers crying and poopy diapers. They take us to a place where men see us...fight for us...declare that no one has ever caused him to move outside of himself like we can. TV shows like the Bachelor pull us not just to watch, but to delight in what we watch. They're not asking us to observe them, but to like them. And if we go there? We enter back into our reality with a skewed perspective. We can't see as clearly as we should why we're there, what our marriage is for, what Christ would call us to as disciples. Are you tracking with me?

Back to the girls. They are young disciples, not fully formed...much more easily deceived...much less sure of the Word. They're still on a mostly milk diet...sometimes not yet able to handle steak. Cassie's chewing on a lot. Aisley's coming along so well. Brennan's still the same...calling black, black and white, white. Things aren't real complicated for her.

Want me to change that? Want me to introduce a book to her that has some good things happen like a guy who is drawn to a girl just for who she is and not for what she looks like or does for him...but a girl who also gives herself in such a way that she'd renounce her parents...even her very soul for him?

Want me to give Aisley...who is so empathetic to people that she can side easily with them in their sin if they're hurting bad enough...want me to give her a character who will easily feed that part of her that chooses people over the Words of Christ?

Want Cassie who's entering that great time when she'll be ready for love (
Song of Solomon 8:4, Ezek. 16:8, Gen. 2:24) but is holding on to the hope that she'll find a guy who's actually a man...want me to feed her this as she goes from our home next fall? Really? That's the image? That setting? Those are the words you think should ring in her head as she readies herself for Christ's call upon her life?

Not sure what to think? I’m just going to start with some quotes and am assuming that you’ve read all the previous posts.
Once again, they are 17 in this book. Not married. In high school. Okay, okay. I'll quit. With that set up…can you see what effect these might have?

Referring to Edward…

He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.

The meadow, so spectacular to me at first, paled next to his magnificence.

As I had just that once before, I smelled his cool breath in my face. Sweet, delicious, the scent made my mouth water.

I could smell the unbearably sweet fragrance coming off his chest.

He pressed his cool lips to my forehead, and the room spun. The smell of his breath made it impossible to think.

If I stopped looking for him, it was over. Love, life, meaning… over.

Because there was just one thing that I had to believe to be able to live—I had to know that he existed. That was all. Everything else I could endure. So long as he existed.

Because, through the heavy water, I heard the sound of an angel calling my name, calling me to the only heaven I wanted.

Bella’s words to Edward:

Don’t I taste as good as I smell?

You are my life. You’re the only thing it would hurt me to lose.

If he’d asked me whether I would risk my soul for Edward, the reply would be obvious.

I don’t care! You can have my soul. I don’t want it without you—

(Can I get some props for not making sarcastic comments all the way through?? Come on. His chest glows??)

But does it get better in the next books? Well, how about one preview quote from Bella in Eclipse, speaking about Jacob Black...

He was more than just my friend. That’s why it was so impossible to tell him goodbye — because I was in love with him. Too. I loved him, much more than I should, and yet, still nowhere near enough. I was in love with him, but it was not enough to change anything; it was only enough to hurt us both more.

Yep. After all that, she's torn between two and that tension even lasts after they're married in the book Breaking Dawn (Yep. There are sex scenes in that one where they go all the way albeit after marriage. Though you get references to the taste and feel of bodies, they do refrain from actual descriptions at a certain point.) Okay? I've got problems and so should you.

Or how about Bella's high view of marriage...biblical?

But more than that, I just couldn’t reconcile a staid, respectable, dull concept like husband with my concept of Edward. It was like casting an archangel as an accountant; I couldn’t visualize him in any commonplace role.

And then there's the descriptive quotes I left out. Picture the scenes between them that these all went in. Picture her offering her virginity to him...trying hard to get him to give in. I feel like surely you see it now. Surely you know that this kind of obsessive…I’ll give up my own soul for him…I’ll defy my parents…I’ll give my own life to have him…that kind of love is reserved for One, right? You have been crucified already. Your life is already demanded. You have been claimed. You must forsake all others for Him. All others. No one else in your eternal existence gets what Bella offered to Edward. (And then for Jacob...sigh...)

But that’s the temptation. To give up what is inside of us that belongs only to Christ and offer it to another who will really satisfy us. To believe that human love…the love of man with a woman…can be what only Christ can be for us.

Wayne will die. Today. Tomorrow. In 59 years if God is so gracious. And if I am alive, my life is not over. My hope is not gone. I remain standing on solid ground. Wayne is a gift…more gracious than any other earthly gift I’ve received. But he is not my passion. I am joined with Him to represent my passion. He is not my highest treasure without which I am lost. He and I are together…I am so in love with Wayne 20 years into our marriage. I can’t imagine even knowing where to begin if you ask me about how I feel about him or how he’s been used in my life. I am unendingly grateful.

But he only gets what’s his. My devotion is God’s. My life is God’s. To paraphrase Mark Driscoll from a sermon a couple of weeks ago…If Wayne follows Jesus, I follow Wayne. If Wayne stops following Jesus, I’m still following Jesus. He gets his. Christ gets all. (For more on this idea, please see this little 3 minute clip...or better yet, buy this book or read it free online here.)

That’s the gift of God in marriage…in that deep, deep relationship between man and woman. Everything else we keep creating in our fantasies only fuels our desire to have more than what God’s given us in this creation. He has told us to keep pure what is His. And to keep pure from any other until that day when He seals the relationship. Our hearts are supposed to be given at the same level as the commitment. Bella gives what is not hers to give…herself. We’re God’s. He owns us. He gives us.

And any book that goes into rapture about any other way…that calls good what God calls evil…is not to be rejoiced in. But it’s just a book, right? Yep. And donuts are good for you. So, I wonder why these pants don't fit? It's a mystery.

Q&A coming next...