Friday, July 25, 2008

Living It

Tomorrow I leave for a week of camp in Estacada, Oregon. This will be the fourth year that my friend Amber and I have planned, prepared for and directed a week of camp for Jr. High Girls. This year I will also be our morning speaker.

Our theme for the week is Olympics and in the mornings I will be comparing our lives in relationship to God to a race. We'll be talking about how running our the right race (in relationship with God) will result in a wonderful prize (eternity with that God). We'll be talking about seeking out coaches to mentor us (like Paul & Timothy's relationship), and surrounding ourselves with teammates who encourage us to love God and people more and do what's right. We'll be talking about training ourselves and how that is difficult but it gets easire over time, and how it is definitely worth all the hard work. On Thursday we will be talking about hardship and pain. We'll see how in Hebrews 11, many people before us have obeyed God, even when it was hard, because they had faith that they would one day receive a reward that is better than all the suffering they have experienced. We'll also talk about how God has a different perspective on our hard times than we do. That's because we're just flailing about in them, but God is working them out according to his plan for our lives. He will use these hard times to grow us, to strengthen us, and to draw us closer to him.

That's what I'm planning on saying this week. But saying it is soooo much easier than doing it. The last couple days have been very difficult. On Wednesday I talked with two different people who are going through gut-wrenching, life-altering hardships. How do I offer hope to someone who feels as if they are drowning in pain and grief and uncertainty? In the end, all I can do is cry with them, pray with them, and remind them that God has not left them and that nothing that is happening is beyond his control. There is hope, dear world, even when you cannot see it or feel it or imagine it! Jesus himself experienced betrayal, abandonment, emotional and physical suffering; but in all that he knew that the pain would end in the conquering of sin. And when our character and our lives have been perfected in His presence--and sin is no more, and the curse is no more, and this fallen world is no more--then, THEN, you will experience the fullness of joy, and you will not have to fear this pain ever again.

So I've said it. But the Lord is calling me to live it. Yesterday my car broke down, leaving me stranded on the side of the road. Yes, the car that was to drive me and two counselors out to camp tomorrow. I need to get a new car, but how am I going to afford that? This morning I found out that there is a problem with my loan application. We're going to see if we can fix it, but there is a possibility that my home-buying dream may not be working out afterall. And then there is something else, which I would rather not share in this public forum, but it has fairly serious ramifications for my life and has caused me much anxiety over the past few weeks. I'm not trying to pretend that these things are comparable with the pain that some of you have experienced or are experiencing, but it has been enough that I have had to verify whether or not I could truly practice what I preach (to use a cliché).

So I'm sitting here and I'm kind of wondering why I'm writing this all here. But I think this is why. It's because I want to say to myself and to all of you that I believe that God is in control of my life. Nothing is happening to me without his consent, and I trust him to fulfill his promise to work all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Does that make our pain stop? No. But it does give us hope for the future whether that future will be fulfilled in this life or in the next. God does not promise to give his people easy lives, free from problems or pain or suffering. Instead he asks us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, one who bore so much burden for the sake of others. But he does promise to never leave us, to guide us, to comfort us, to give us peace, to use what we are going through to strengthen us, and to work it for good in our lives. And he also promises us a beautiful future day when it will be said:

"The dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!"

I would truly appreciate your prayer this week for my friends, for our week at camp and for me. That all would bring glory to God, whatever may come.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My arm works just fine, thank you!

I used to think electric toothbrushes were for weak or lazy people. Hey, until I lose the ability to move my arm slightly back and forth, I'll stick with the manual toothbrush!

Recently, though I've decided that my gumline is maybe starting to recede a bit by one of my teeth in particular. I've been told that vigorous and extensive brushing (a favorite pasttime of mine) can chase those gums back even further, but an electric toothbrush that cleans without as much pressure can give your gums a break and allow them to grow back a bit. I specifically heard that in regards to a very expensive electric toothbrush. Well, I couldn't bring myself to pay $100 for something I'm used to paying $2 bucks for, so I comprimised and bought a $7 dollar one.

Having just completed my first brushing with the electric toothbrush, it is too early to see any change in my gumline. But I did notice a side effect that I didn't really expect. My teeth feel SO much smoother and cleaner than they usually do after brushing. I think I'm hooked. I thought I was doing a great, thorough job with my arm and manual brush, but I don't think I can go back. Alas! I too have become one of the lazy masses entrusting my dental hygiene to AA batteries.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Glimpses Into the Mind of Kimiree

The time is 9:30pm and the place is my parents' family room. My mom is hunched over a Charlie Brown puzzle and my 18 year-old sister is sitting near me and we're talking.

Kimiree (the 10 year old) is watching my mom work on the puzzle. Suddenly, Kimiree turns to me and announces, "I want you and me to get matching outfits and then have our picture taken together!"
How does she know what I want for Christmas?

It's dinner time at my parents' house and I'm over there for the evening. Kimiree is sitting to the left of me and she suddently turns to me and with pity in her tone asks doubtfully, " you really think you're ever going to get married?"

When Kimiree was younger, she nicknamed me her "Cushy Sister." Even though I sometimes was sensitive about my weight, I couldn't help but smile. She wasn't making a fat joke, she just thought I was the most comfortable sister to hug! :-) This last week she said to me, "Kristi, I am soooo sorry that I called you the "Cushy Sister."

Another evening when I was at my parent's house for dinner, my Dad's long-time friend was in town and staying with my family overnight. While we're at the table with our guest, Kimiree asks, "So...why is it that boys can't have babies? Is it because they don't have boobs?" (Yeah, it's past time for "The Talk.")

I love my baby sister--and I love the way she makes me laugh!

These pictures aren't current, but they're from a particularly fun day we shared in 2005!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ugly Insect Bite

I woke up on July 5th with a nickle-sized Insect bite on my knee. I don't remember ever having such a dark and large bite mark. After four days and it still not going away, I took some pictures of it last night, just to keep track of it.

This morning it looks as if it's changed abit. Now it's bullseye-collored.

I've heard the bullseye is a mark of a brown recluse spider, but I think the lesion is way too small for that, plus it should have grown and developed over the first few days--not to mention that brown recluses don't nest in my region. I read somewhere that tick bites can remain for weeks and small ones are coin-sized, and some of them form bullseye's, so maybe that's it. I don't know, I've never seen a tick. And don't people get ticks from outside? I was outside sitting on the grass on the 4th of July, but I was wearing jeans that covered my legs. And I never felt or saw anything that night--only the next morning. Do ticks craw around inside houses?

Okay, enough about my spider or tick or insect bite. If you have any ideas on what it could be, let me know!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Have I Mentioned That I Hate Sales Pitches?

I do. I hate it when people pressure me to buy something I don't want or need, or something that I just can't afford.

For several years I've been using a European-Based desktop publishing program (that I much prefer to Publisher, which came with my MS Office package). The software for this program always starts out at over $100 dollars when a current version is released, but I often end up upgrading just before the one after that is released, and get the soon-to-be second-to-latest release for $10-$20 dollars. It seems financially responsible.

The only thing that annoys me about the software is that each time it is installed on my computer I have to call for a registration code (the program is usable without it, but this annoying REGISTER NOW screen always pops up). Once, a couple of versions ago, I called the company and waited on hold for 45 minutes, at which point the service center closed and I was promptly told to call back another day and disconnected.

This morning I finally gave in and called to register the program that I installed on my new computer in January of 2007! (Thankfully, I was only on hold for a minute.) Now I purchased this version in 2006, which means it was probably released in 2005. The customer service operator told me, "Oh wow. That version. You know that's 6 or 7 years old, don't you? I could hear an upgrade sales pitch coming, so I tried to save him the effort. "It's a few years old," I agreed, "and I've thought about getting another upgrade sometime. But right now, I'm unemployed and don't really have money to spend on upgrading a software that for the most part works very well for me as-is."

Now, their whole registration process is built around getting us to buy other versions. They input my installation code and then they claim it "takes a few minutes to get the registration number" for me to input into my computer. In those "few minutes" the agent asks what I use the program for, and if I've tried any of their other software. I told him I had what I needed in the program I had.

He then began to tell me about the newest version that was released a few weeks ago and how it costs $130 dollars, but he had an upgrade offer for me of $59.95. I again reiterated that I'm unemployed, but I even told him that maybe once my job started up and I was in a better financial place I would reconsider. He told me "this offer is only good for you today!" (Total lie, anytime you call or check their "sale" website, you get that sort of deal.) When I said that a one-time-offer didn't it make me suddenly have $60 bucks I don't have, he left me on hold for a minute and when he came back told me, "I just talked with my supervisor and received permission to discount the sale price even further down to $49.95!"

At this point I was beginning to feel bad for the "suckers" who actually pay full price when the company obviously makes plenty of profit selling their product for WAY less. I was also getting frustrated with his lack of understanding though, and in a desperate attempt to see how low they would go I told him, "I appreciate the offer of that $10 discount, but I really don't have $50 dollars to spend on software right now any more than I have $60 dollars...the most I could spring right now is TEN dollars." At this point, I figured the sales guy was desperate enough for his comission that he just might be able to get it down to $10 bucks. Afterall, that's what I'll pay for it next spring! Unfortunately, he did not take the bait. In fact, after that, my registration number "arrived" VERY quickly and he ended the call very abruptly.

I wish this technique worked at the gas station. I pull up, the attendant comes to my window and asks, "What can I get for you today?" I eye the gas prices and say, "I was going to fill up, but you know, I don't think I can afford to spend this much money on gas right now." He replies, "Well, that's fine! Because today I'll offer you a discounted gas price of just $1.95 per gallon." (Take it, imaginary Kristi, take the deal!) "I'm really sorry," I counter, "but I just don't have $25 dollars now to fill up my tank." (Remember those days when gas cost almost $2 bucks and we thought it was outrageous? When I first started driving, I filled up the Tercel for $10 bucks or so. I actually remember filling up for 97-cents a gallon.) The gas station attendant walks inside the small building, rushes back out grinning and tells me proudly, "My supervisor said I could offer you $1.61 per gallon!" I reply, "I'm sorry, I just don't have more than 32-cents a gallon to pay!" Of course in real life, I would have taken the $1.95 and laughed at the suckers paying $4.25.