fun

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Life More Abundantly

Published May 27, 2014 by Dawn

Last night was girls’ night at my house. My sister, two of my nieces, and my daughter and I all got together and watched movies, ate fudge and made hair bows. It was a blast! The best part of the night for me was getting to see the budding personalities of my daughter and nieces, and to understand the hearts of the women in my life that I love dearly. Below is a list of the highlights of the night:

Best misunderstanding:
My sister: “What movie are we going to watch?”
Me: “I don’t know…”
My sister: “Well, you have netflix, so there’s endless possibilities.”
My daughter: “Is it funny?”

Philosophy from a four-year-old, after being bitten on the toe in bitter revenge:
“You shouldn’t bite my feet anyway because … they’re dirty.”

Best movie of the night:
Penelope – It’s got a great message that counteracts the message girls are receiving in our culture today, a gorgeous male lead and a surprise ending. I highly recommend it for girls’ night!

Best fudge:
My daughter insists this one was mint … I guess I concur. The worst was the Heath flavored fudge … what is that?

Best Bow:
It’s so hard to judge this one … I took a poll, wish I had a picture, but it seems that out of roughly 25 bows, the winner is a toss up between a hot pink/lime green combination with a jewel in the center, a hot pink/white bow with tiny jewels all around, and a gray, green and black bow with googly eyes all over it (super cute idea!).

Best entertainment:
Hands down, it was the four-year-old on a sugar high.

Best girl moment:
Putting googly eyes on our faces and taking pictures! Again, wish I could share but it was hilarious!

We had so much fun last night. I got up this morning after slightly less sleep than normal, walked through the wreckage and thought, “Girls’ night was a mess!” There’s hot glue wads all over my dining room, cups and plates everywhere, blankets strewn all over the couch, and crumbs in the floor. Near the couch is a pile of things that used to be hidden away beneath it, thanks to the four-year-old. And obviously, I will eventually have to clean it all up. But how can I complain? I enjoyed a great night with the lovely ladies in my life who make me happy. And that is enough to make the mess seem minimal.

There are many opportunities in our days to embrace people. To allow them into our lives and get to know them deeper. I know that sometimes, I hesitate, or even run from it, because I know it’s messy business and I’m not up to taking care of the mess. But I’m starting to think it’s all worth it. This is life more abundantly. Relationships. Family. Fellowship. It’s so worth the mess. It’s so worth the misunderstandings. It’s so worth the joy. It’s so worth the vulnerability. It’s even worth it when they rearrange your purse (thanks Cinderenda!). Without people, without the sharing and love, what exactly do you call “living”? Yes, this is life, mess and all.

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Silent Works

Published March 11, 2014 by Dawn

I took my kids to the park the other day to enjoy some beautiful weather. It was a nice, albeit short, reprieve from the abnormally cold winter we’ve had this year (it’s supposed to snow tomorrow … good ole’ Missouri weather). And of course, my kids were magnetically drawn to the little stream running through the park. Both had their shoes off before I could blink, and were really disappointed when I made them put them back on. We’re not shoes people, obviously.

Anyway, we spent time playing baseball and they rode their bikes some, and eventually, they were both flirting with the edge of the creek. When I made it abundantly clear that I did not want them wet, they took to sitting on the bank and dropping rocks and dragging sticks in the water. Then they made a sport of reaching for the trash that was in the middle of the stream and pulling it out. Thirty minutes later, the stream was completely clean and all the trash had been put in a large discarded salt bag they picked up. They were offended by the laziness of people and very happy to see the water free of debris. I was so proud of them. Because they did all of that without expecting to be acknowledged or paid for it. They did it out of the kindness of their heart and the drive to better their little corner of the world.

I think this is the way all of our “works” should be. A silent gift into the lives of others that doesn’t demand a return or a pat on the back. Matthew 6:1-3 tells us this is the desire of our Father:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,…”

Troublesome Trio

Published March 10, 2014 by Dawn

My family has collectively decided on a new hobby: skating. And I’m not just talking about me and the kids. It’s been a month or more of skating every Saturday night for myself and my kids, my siblings and their spouses and kids, and my mom and step dad. I’m wondering when the management is going to offer us frequent skater miles.

We were skating last weekend and I was people watching, per the norm. I love to watch people. Partly because I love to study people, and partly for my own amusement. People crack me up sometimes. I happened to notice a trio skating around the rink: a girl holding hands with two boys, one on each side. I thought, “that’s really awkward, I’m sure.” We’re talking teens here, not little kids. And suddenly, I thought about our relationship with God and the world. We’re kind of like that girl in the middle.

These guys seemed to be enjoying themselves. And they might, for a while, both enjoy basking in the attentions of this adoring female. But you know, inevitably, one or the other is going to want her to make a choice. One of them, or both of them, is going to expect her to choose between the two of them.

As I recall, our God is a jealous God. He’s not too happy being on one hand while the world holds the other. He’s not okay being the third wheel and He definitely does not want to frolic with us holding the hand of the world. He wants us all to Himself. James 4:4 very bluntly tells us how God feels about this strange threesome: “… don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Eventually, in our walk with God, His patience with our worldliness flatlines. He grows us to a point where it is no longer a matter of overcoming habitual living, and then He looks us square in the eye and says, “Well, are we moving on together? You coming with me, or what?” God eventually brings us to a place where we have to decide who’s hand we want to hold. Do we want to continue on with the things of this world or do we want Him completely?

The truth is, a lot of what we know about grace is a lie. Jesus didn’t die for our sins so we could live in worldliness. He died to renew our fellowship with the God. So we could walk away from sin and not be bound by it any more. Jesus had power over sin, and he filled us with the fullness of his spirit so we could also have dominion over our carnal flesh. Our failures highlight our need for Christ. We aren’t supposed to accept them and act like nothing is wrong. We are told to resist the devil. If we are holding hands with the world, we are holding hands with the devil. That hardly sounds like resisting him.

“Choose you this day whom you will serve  … As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)” From now on, I’m skating with my hand in His, holding tightly and rejecting the advances of the world and Satan. Yes, Lord, you’re the only one for me. I am completely yours.

Your Jealous Best Friend

Published September 15, 2013 by Dawn

When I was a little girl, my siblings and I spent a lot of time with our cousins. My dad’s family was especially close. We had one female cousin around our age and my sisters and I adored her. Every time she came over, we all three vied for her attention. And we all three asked her the same question: which one of us is your favorite. We each had the desire to be as wonderful in her eyes as she was in ours. The hardest part of this relationship was seeing your favorite cousin enjoying your sister more than she enjoyed you. Without words, you found out that for that day at least, you were not the favorite. We were all three equally jealous best friends.

I was thinking this morning of our unique relationship with the Holy Spirit, in which he comes alongside us and joins us in every part of our day. Every day. What a wonderful best friend we have! Only, this morning while I was thinking about all of this, I was also contemplating how many ways I have communicated to the Holy Spirit that though He is with me always, I have struggled to embrace His friendship because I have another friend that vies just as eagerly for my time and attention: The World.

Oh, it’s not what you think though. I’m not out there being worldly while the Spirit sits and sadly watches. My attention is just averted quite often to those things that are more temporal and less satisfying to the Lover of My Soul. I’m not exactly out there gallivanting with sin, because that’s not what a Christian girl should do. I am just looking longingly at things that tear my attention and focus off the Holy Spirit and all the wonderful things He is doing in and through, and for, me. For instance, relationships and money and status and recognition … while all of these things can be wonderful and used by God, if that isn’t what God has for me, then I shouldn’t be spending all my time longing for them at the expense of this now-moment that the Lord wants to work in.

You see, either way, you have a jealous best friend. Whether you are friends with the world, or friends with the Lord. James 4:4 tells us that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” and Galatians 5:17 says that, “the desires of the flesh are against the spirit.” The world, with all it’s glamour and allure, jealously seeks all your time and attention. This best friend, though momentarily comforting and fun, does not want you to enjoy the benefits of the presence and power of God, so she distracts you with trivial, fleeting things like wealth and acclamation, entertainment and a mindless, numbing sort of rest from all your cares. Instantly gratifying, requiring no long-term commitment or investment, the world is a fair-weather sort of friend, who knows how to laugh and have fun. She’s the best friend you can spend a weekend indulging yourself with.

On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is also jealous. James 4:5 says that “He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us.” Your God, His Spirit inside of you, is jealous for you! However, this friendship is the real deal. He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). He’s in it for the long haul. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” according to Proverbs 18:24, and that friend is the Holy Spirit. There is no storm you will ever have to weather alone. The Holy Spirit is not a fair-weather friend. He provides shelter in the storm, peace in the chaos, life in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Holy Spirit is with you through thick and thin, and the only thing He cannot accept is your friendship with the world. “You will either love one and hate the other. (Matthew 6:24)”

Choosing which friend to align with is often left to our fickle emotions of the moment, though. Like, we often subconsciously make this decision by asking, “which friend serves the me better in this?” Does the world make a better friend in this moment, by allowing me to enjoy myself without the hindering convictions? Or does the Holy Spirit help me get out of this mess that the world helped me get into? Ouch! This does seem to be the way we choose who’s our favorite for the day, doesn’t it?

Holy Spirit, I don’t want to be that friend anymore. Convict me when necessary, but guide me always and hang with me through thick and thin because you make me better, and I love that about you. You are the greatest gift of friendship I have ever known, and I pray that you will inspire me to be better to you. Truth be told, you are my favorite. Thank you for understanding the war that my flesh is in against the things of God, and I pray that you will always stay beside me, gently coaxing me to look at you and not at the world around me. After all, all that glitters is not gold. Thank you for this truth today. I love you.

In it to win it!

Published August 26, 2013 by Dawn

I don’t know what it was about today … maybe my expectations were too high. After all, I invited my best friend and her family over after church today to hang out and have lunch. She brought over her two kids and a nephew, which should have been plenty to keep my kids thoroughly occupied while she and I reminisced and her husband did his best to enjoy our girl-talk (he at least pretended to enjoy it). I expected to have a great time. What I didn’t expect (maybe I should have) was the onslaught of spiritual war that happened all throughout their stay. My kids found every reason to whine, complain and act a fool while they were there, and by the time they left, I was completely out of patience. Our chit-chat over what they could have done differently to avoid the upcoming hour in their room started as the door was closing behind our guests’ departure. I was so aggravated!

After we talked and both stomped off to their rooms, I went to mine. I didn’t want to fall apart out in the open. I sat on my bed and right before I responded to all the frustration with tears and an anxiety-driven prayer, I had this thought: “I’m not going to let the enemy have even an inch in this. We’re at war and I’m in it to win it!” So instead of crying, I took the opportunity to nap. I overslept their hour and right as I was getting good into the REM cycle, my son came into the room and started talking to me. Just a few sentences, followed by enough silence for me to slip back into my REMs. Then he’d come back in and say something else. This went on for two hours! I was more exhausted after my nap than I was before! We headed off for the evening service at church, and then afterward, went out to the state park near our house for a walk. More whining and complaining on the way set me up nicely for a bad mood.

We started off on the trail, and it wasn’t long before there was a mosquito buzzing around my ears, a gnat trying to plunge into my pupil and a horse fly taunting me. Every step of the way. SOOOOO ANNOYING! All I wanted to do was take a peaceful walk! I prayed, I demanded the devil to leave me alone. Nothing worked, it seemed. Finally, I stopped and after a few attempts, managed to kill the gnat in front of my face. Small sort of accomplishment, but it was a victory none the less … until a few feet later, there appeared another one in exactly the same flight pattern with the same destination: My pupil. I let him have it. He dove right in my eye and I thought, “Well, mission accomplished for both of us, I guess.” For whatever reason, another one picked up where he left off and continued to really just grate my nerves. All the while, this horsefly was doing figure eights around my head, my knees and my kids. That was enough to make my daughter batty. But to add to the aggravation, she scraped herself with a stick and began to act as if she had incurred a fatal cut. OH MY GOSH!! I prayed some more. Short of walking the mile I needed to accomplish before turning back, I turned around and headed for the car, praying I could just make it there without losing my mind. It was quite a ways to the car … not so far to go from losing my mind.

Then it happened. It may be described as losing my mind. Probably looked that way from a distance. But I decided it was time for war. I grabbed the walking stick we had found and began to swing at the horseflies. Yes, that’s a plural. It seemed they were everywhere. And some of them were just hovering midair right out of reach. Taunting us! My kids burst out laughing and all the sudden, we were all three trying to kill horseflies with walking sticks while we walked back to the car. The walk I had been dreading turned into a nutty game that restored our joy as we laughed our way back to the car. By the time we got there, we had accumulated quite the entourage of horseflies. There were probably twenty zig-zagging through the air around us and our vehicle, which is incredibly ridiculous to think that they were intentionally pestering us, though it definitely seemed that way. By the time we made it safely inside, though, it didn’t matter. We had made lemonade out of our lemons, our sour faces and attitudes were gone and we were once again enjoying one another.

I learned something in this. No matter how hard you combat the enemy, there is always another waiting to take its place. There will always be battles. Always pesky demons doing their best to steal your joy. In truth, you will always be engaging in battle. If you aren’t, you should be worried that you are not a threat to Satan’s kingdom. If you are, throw a party! You have worried the devil. But know this: you are victorious already. So you can laugh in the midst of trials and tribulations. Make the most of your life. Don’t let the enemy have your joy, because in reality, it’s the most important thing you have aside from your relationship with God. It’s your strength, according to Nehemiah 8:10. The joy of the Lord is what makes your relationships with others enjoyable. So do whatever you have to do to hold on to your joy, even if it looks silly. It’s gonna be worth it!

Peaknuckles!!

Published April 19, 2013 by Dawn

The hardest part of writing this blog may be explaining the background details that led me to a very profound thought last night in the midst of some of the deepest laughter I’ve engaged in in quite a long time. I was sitting on the couch trying unsuccessfully to watch a movie while my kids took showers. Unsuccessfully because my daughter, queen of all piddlers, had gotten me caught up in a competitive game of Peaknuckles. You probably don’t know what that is unless you grew up in the boonies without a television. It’s a very base sort of entertainment that’s incredibly hilarious due only to the human factor in it. It’s known by several names, Peaknuckles being the one I’m familiar with. A student informed me he and his brother called it “Bloody Mercy” and I also found on the internet that others simply refer to it as “Say Uncle.” Whatever. In our house, it will forever be known as Peaknuckles. The gist of the game is to interlace your fingers with the fingers of your opponent and then use all the strength you can muster to bend their wrists back to a place where they give up, yelling “Peaknuckles!!” And then you are declared the winner and they decide many times over to try to beat you until both of your hands are mangled and sore from this senseless form of competition, and your abs have had a thorough workout because of the laughter. This is why I don’t engage in Zumba or Crossfit. I get my workout done through housework and intense games filled with laughter. It works for me.

Anyway, she started it off as a way of distracting me from the fact that she should have been getting in the shower. And since I’ve been working longer hours than usual, it worked without any hesitation on my part. I loved the opportunity to just play for once. So, she started grappling with my knuckles and I caught on really quickly to what she was enticing me to, so I simply held my hand steadfast, knowing she didn’t have the strength to push my hand back to bend my wrist. But then, she became really determined to push my wrist back and with as much strength as she could muster, with her game face on, she gave it all she had. My hand didn’t budge. I looked at her face, contorted due to the effort she was putting forth, and busted up laughing. With each renewed effort, she grunted and groaned, trying her hardest to win this battle. I held my hand steady and laughed until it hurt and tears formed and slid down my cheeks. She gave it her best and failed every time. I won every time. It didn’t matter much because it was all in the spirit of fun. But as I was watching her during this game, I had this thought: “I can’t wait until the day I can look at Satan in the midst of the battle and know the strength inside of me so well that all I can do is laugh in his face because of the futility of his efforts against me.”

I have been in battle all week long. Intense battle. And Satan has come against me so strong on several occasions that though I was poised in the midst of them when other people were present, I fell apart the moment no one was looking and I just know Satan had a small victory just knowing he had shaken me. I felt a small victory, knowing that the Spirit of God had helped me maintain my witness. But I was also bothered by the fact that I couldn’t not let it get to me. I may have remained composed during the onslaught, but that was mainly just on the outside. The inside was still ruffled. Still frightened. Still hurt. And after it was all over, I still fell apart. I kept praying, “Father, whatever you are trying to perfect in me, don’t let up until I’ve changed.” And so every day this week, I’ve been in battle.

I don’t know if that day will ever come for me. I seem to be so sensitive that everything gets to me, and when the enemy attempts to ruffle my feathers, whether I portray it outwardly or not, I surrender my peace almost always. My joy is effectively stolen from me almost every time. I’ve never been able to laugh in his face, because I am so weak in my own strength. I cry out “Peaknuckles” in every battle I attempt to fight in my own strength. I don’t even know what that will look like, should it ever happen that I have the upper hand. And maybe that’s what keeps me humble.

But I know what it looks like for Jesus to laugh in Satan’s face. And that’s comforting. Jesus simply stands steadfast and laughs at Satan when he tries to pull something. Satan, with all determination in his face, can do nothing more than groan and grunt in effort against the power of Christ, but Christ will not budge. Man! That’s a guy I want playing in my place. He never loses. And in light of Christ’s strength, Satan seems almost comical in his hopeless attempts to battle the Son of God.

I think about all the things Satan is battling in my life: my future. Promises spoken from God that have yet to be fulfilled. The fullness of the will of God in my life. I have cried out in surrender over them many times, and then Jesus stands up and says, “No. Let me take this one.” And I am persuaded to trust his strength. And I look forward to the day when Satan will yell out in pain and helplessness, “Peaknuckles!!” And he will release those things he’s trying so hard to keep from me. And he will walk away rubbing his sore knuckles and Christ will hand them to me and say laughingly, “Did you see his face?!”