Monday, June 28, 2010

Nikelle Evadne Carlson - Victoriously Faithful until Death Representative

Nikelle is 8-years-old today. I look at her, all dressed in style, her long legs accentuating her height and wonder who she will be as an adult. What kind of impact will be made on the world simply because she is in it?

My oldest is a confident and compassionate human being. She surprises me by knowing clearly what she likes and dislikes and doesn't hesitate to voice her opinion. More often than not, she considers the feelings of others and forms friendships with ease. This year, as she handed me her "small" invite list for her birthday (of over thirty people), I was pleasantly surprised to hear her explain why each friend was important enough to her to be on the list.

I've always noticed how much Nike is like her daddy. She takes life in stride and thoroughly enjoys its little moments. This year, I noticed that she actually has a few similarities to her mom as well. Besides being a people person, she gets her hopes up high which leaves her easily disappointed. Nikelle is actually a fairly talented little writer. I enjoyed watching her formulate her written reports for school this year as well as her fun little short stories such as "The Ballerina, the Bruiser, and the Bully" AKA "Nikelle, Jaycie and Andelise".

There have been many cherished moments shared between Nikelle and her daddy this year. Doing church set-up was probably the most memorable for them. Every Sunday morning possible, Nikelle assisted Rod in preparation of communion. What a cool opportunity for them to serve God together! There are also the little moments of Rod driving Nikelle down the street to the bus stop on his way to work each morning. With summertime being in full gear, Nikelle is intentional about waking up early enough in the morning to get her goodbye hug and kiss from her daddy. We learned through tears and sobs that waving goodbye out the window is simply not good enough for this daddy's girl. Thankfully, her daddy's soft spot in his heart for his little girl (and the fact that he had only just left minutes before) resulted in his turning around and coming home for that much desired morning hug and goodbye kiss.

It has been so neat to watch Nikelle process her decisions this year or even watch her face as she comes to an understanding while we explain why we do or do not do something. Nikelle is learning to make her decisions based on what God says and we pray she continues in her desire to make her choices based out of love for Him.

"Nel" (as her baby sister nicknamed her) is an avid reader. It is so encouraging to find her reading a "chapter book" just for fun. Her art work is actually quite impressive, especially the cartoons she draws with instructions from the internet.

The role of "big sister" is one of the best parts of her character to see in action. She is an amazing big sister! When she received her first "ZhuZhu pet" from her friend for her birthday, she did not even hesitate to allow her little sister to play with it first. Nikelle even slipped up the next day when she said, "Jay, let's go play with your ZhuZhu pet - I mean our ZhuZhu pet." Sharing just seems to come naturally to her. She is more than happy to help with her baby sister when asked as she entertains her by dancing with her, pretending to be a horsie for her to ride on or just simply helping her out of her crib.

I am thankful to have a daughter with such a tender heart. With her in my life, I am a better version of myself. It is exciting to think about her future. As she allows her heart to remain moldable in God's hands, I believe He will use her in a powerful way for Him. Eight years ago, this world became a better place because God gave us Nikelle Evadne Carlson.

Nike, remember, you are victorious in Him. Nikelle Evadne, remain faithful to him until death. Nikelle Evadne Carlson, while you represent your family (as a "son of Carl"), you are even more so a representative of the family of God. Live life intentionally, my daughter. We love you!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daddy's Girl

I have so many memories wrapped up in this holiday of Father’s Day. It’s a struggle to work out my emotions as we prepare to head out to the zoo today. Despite the fact that this was my dad’s annual tradition, it is still the way my husband desires to spend this holiday. I no longer attend the zoo to honor my dad but the memories still flood my mind and I am certain my emotions will get the best of me at some moment today.

Anytime we would go to the zoo, amusement park or county fair as a family, my mom and dad would hold hands. While there is such a treasure in reminiscing with the knowledge that my parents loved one another, there is another part of this memory that I cherish warmly in my heart.

Being Daddy’s little girl, I always longed to be the center of his attention, even when his attention was directed towards his wife. I was so secure in my daddy’s love that I would go up between my parents and separate their interlocked fingers until I was placed between them walking hand in hand with my daddy completely misplacing my mom. I loved walking around holding onto my daddy’s strong hand that was calloused from all his hard hours of labor in construction. This position left me feeling cherished and special. I belonged to him and it felt like a declaration that he was mine as we strolled along. Holding hands with my daddy was something I did long into high school. I was not ashamed to be seen with him. I was so very proud to be Daddy’s little girl.

There is a special bond between a little girl and her daddy. I see it now with my own daughters. Every morning, my oldest does her best to be awake in time to say goodbye to her daddy because if she is sleeping, we don’t wake her up. My husband understands the importance of the kids getting their sleep as well as the fact that I very much desire time to myself in the morning.

This past week, she came down the stairs a few minutes too late to get her goodbye hug. Walking up to me, I knew she was disappointed. “I’m sorry you missed saying goodbye to Daddy.” She responded with a shaky voice. “It’s okay. I waved goodbye to him out the window.” The torrent of tears began as she came to me for comfort. I couldn’t help but feel her disappointment and picked up the phone to call my husband who had just left a minute before. Just minutes later, he was pulling in the driveway with nothing but love and affection for his firstborn. He hugged her and assured her how important it is to him to be able to give her that morning hug goodbye.

I can’t help but think of my relationship with my own dad when I see my girls with my husband. I think there is just a natural bond between a daddy and his little girl. My girls run to the door with a shout “Daddy’s home!” at the end of every day. They love to sit and cuddle with him on Saturday mornings. Everything is more fun with daddy. They create drawings for him to take to work. It’s a special treat to ride with daddy in his car. The moments go on and on.

I remember the way I claimed the seat at the dining room table next to my dad. It did my heart good to know my dad was nearby. I loved to pick cards or create poems that would bring tears to my dad’s eyes. For me, success was in seeing his emotions revealed. Even well after I was married, my dad was a man whose approval I longed for.

Life is different now. I can no longer seek my daddy’s approval. I can no longer reach for his hand. The last time I held my dad’s hand, it was that of a man whose body was ridden with cancer. It brought memories of how very much I was his little girl. Today, as I head to the zoo, I am reminded of a moment when my little girl held her papa’s strong hand and my heart misses those memories and cries for the loss of opportunities for any more to be created.

Although I know it is my hand that belongs in my husband’s hand, I can now understand why my mom allowed me to break up the moment she shared with my dad. A mother wants her daughters to have a special bond with their daddy. I think it is one pathway to a relationship much more important. A little girl’s view of God can be deeply rooted in her view of her earthly father. That’s where I seek my approval now. It’s where I should have sought approval all along. It was a good place for me to start, though, with the daddy God gave me. And I am comforted when I watch my girls with their daddy. God our Father is so much sweeter when our hearts are fond of the daddy he gave us.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

40 days

"You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy."

This is how Psalm 63:5 reads in the New Living Translation. As I read the verse, my mind went to what I believed would be the richest of feasts. I don't know that there are many foods missing from the table when I imagine the richest feasts. Pastas and cheeses would definitely be a part concluding with a lavish dessert bar with lots of chocolate invade my imagination.

As I thought on this rich feast I was creating in my memory, I realized that I could not say these same words as the Psalmist said to God and have it be truth. If I were to say the words, that is all they would be... words. I know that my actions would be to run to that feast and enjoy every tiny morsel I could bring to my lips. I enjoy food. There is a chemical reaction that occurs when these fabulous flavors reach my taste buds. I completely relax. Food is a drug for me. So to say that God satisfies me more than the richest feast... well, I wouldn't go that far.

So I found myself faced with a challenge. Which means more to me? Satisfaction from food or finding my satisfaction in God? I long for my satisfaction to come from God but even as I sit and type, my mind is mentally calculating the food that is currently in our home and whether or not I will give in to the temptation to eat it.

A few months ago, after reading this verse, I went on a 40-day fast from desserts. Different verses such as Deuteronomy 23:22-23 kept me committed to the fast. "It is not a sin to refrain from making a vow. But once you have voluntarily made a vow, be careful to fulfill your promise to the Lord your God." Numbers 30:2 goes along the same lines. "A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do." So whether it was my commitment to God or the fear of lightening that kept me on track for those 40 days, I did complete the fast from desserts.

While attending the Hearts at Home conference in February of this year, I listened in on a session entitled "Growing Grateful Kids". The speaker and author, Susie Larsen, spoke on partial fasting. She talked about the fact that we should allow nothing to master us outside of God which would be our purpose behind a fast. As I listened to her tell stories about requiring her children to fast from an old toy or electronic device that seemed to have power over them, I couldn't help but think of the way food has power over my own life. She went on further to talk about self-restraint and how in exercising restraint, we are saying to God that we need Him more than we need these things (i.e., desserts). I wrote down her words, "Don't do the easy thing; do the right thing." While Susie's talk was directed at growing grateful kids, she stressed the importance of how "lessons are often caught more than taught". "We cannot impart what we do not possess."

Through this fast, I learned that I can say to God, "You satisfy me more than the richest of feast." There are days I choose not to. Many days I make the conscious choice of reaching for food rather than turning to God but I am far from ignorant of my foolishness before God.

I am no longer on a fast from desserts. I've contemplated going abstinent when it comes to these decedent treats, but I've decided to strive for balance instead. Proverbs 13:25 says "The godly eat to their hearts' content..." while Jesus says in Luke 12:23 that "Life is more than food". In my opinion, the Bible shows us that balance is something to strive for. It is all found in knowing that it is God that satisfies.

The Bible actually has a lot to say about my relationship with food. The answer is found in my relationship with God.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lasting Legacies

Do you ever think about the Bible stories you were taught as a child? I think that I recall so many of the stories perfectly until I read them again as an adult. Take the story of Samuel for example. As a child, I remember hearing about how God called Samuel in the middle of the night. Each time God called, Samuel went to Eli the priest because he assumed Eli was calling him. After a couple replays of Eli assuring Samuel he was not calling him, Eli instructed Samuel to say “Yes Lord, I’m listening.” I had in my mind that Eli the priest was instrumental in mentoring Samuel in a relationship with God.

Recently having heard someone comment on this story, I made a note for when I reread the story for myself. Her thoughts were that Eli, who should have been accustomed to hearing God’s voice, did not even recognize it enough at first to know it was the voice of God that Samuel was hearing.

Samuel was born to Elkanah and Hannah. Struggling with infertility, Hannah prayed to God for a child. When God answered her prayer, she named him Samuel (meaning “asked of God”) and dedicated him to the Lord by leaving him at the temple where he grew up serving the Lord. As I continued to read the story, I realized how there is not much said about Eli’s role in Samuel’s life. A clearer picture of this story to me now seems to be that Samuel served the Lord in spite of Eli.
Eli’s sons were “scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12 NLT). We read in 1 Samuel 3:13 that the Lord has “warned judgment is coming upon [Eli’s] family forever because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them.” How could Eli show Samuel how to live for God when he didn’t even show his own sons?

In 1 Samuel 2:29, God asks Eli “Why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you give your sons more honor than you give me – for you and they have become fat from the best offerings of my people Israel?” We are told in Chapter 2, verses12-17, how “Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting. The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” So the sin of these young men was very serious in the LORD’s sight, for they treated the LORD’s offerings with contempt.”

1 Samuel 2:30 informed Eli that an end will come to his family and they will no longer serve as priests because God “will honor those who honor me and despise those who think lightly of me.” In Chapter 3, the record of when God called to Samuel during the night, His message was that “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”

Eli’s sons died in the battlefield on the same day. When Eli heard the report, he “fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight.” (1 Samuel 4:18)

What I take from this story is that Eli, a priest, had a place of authority where he could have made a difference in this world for God. Eli was warned but he chose to live a life without purpose. He chose to be disobedient and not take a stand. He died in a way that leaves him remembered for his sins.

He had been Israel’s judge for 40 years. I can only imagine the kind of impact one could make for God in a position of leadership for 40 years. Rather than leaving behind a legacy of a life lived for God, he left a sad remembrance of his lack of leadership.

It leaves me asking myself what I will do with the time and positions God has given to me. I don’t want to be remembered as being a lover of food. I want to be remembered as being a lover of God!

Read 1 Samuel

Friday, June 4, 2010

Showing Responsibility

I love to surround myself with family and friends as we celebrates the birthdays of our children. Our oldest, Nikelle, will be turning 8 at the end of this month. When we began planning her birthday party, she brought me her "small" list of those friends she wanted to invite. There were "only 37 kids" on her incomplete list. Her reasoning for considering it a small list was that "Well, it's not like it's 100".

Today is her first day out of school and we received about 6 RSVP's from the 28 kids invited from her second grade class. This presented me with quite the challenge because while I very much appreicate RSVP's, I do not take it upon myself to contact those who do not respond. I simply try to make an educated guess and go with the motto "it's always better to have too much than too little".

My little girl decided that since this was her first day without any school, she would call her friends and inquire as to whether or not they would be joining her at the party. I have to admit that this was a huge relief for me! 17 responses I now have from my daughter's phone calls make planning her celebration so much easier!

I think I'm going to like this next year of her life. She really proved a huge amount of responsibility. She's an organized little kid. She loves people and is so excited to have her friends share in her day. I am, too. I love that we can celebrate big. It's one way to show how thankful we are that God gave us another year with them.