Saturday, November 26, 2016

Orphan Thanksgiving

I love being with my family. I hate being away from them on holidays. Or birthdays. Or family game night. But, it is what it is.

We're almost never alone on Thanksgiving. Either we travel or someone comes to see us. We've been here for 9 years and I can count on a couple of fingers the number of times it's just been our family. This year, no one was able to come visit us and we didn't make plans to be away. Weeks and weeks and weeks ago, Garrett asked me who was coming for Thanksgiving this year. When I told him we'd be alone, he loudly declared, "Thanksgiving is for a lot of family getting together. I HATE when it's just us."

My sentiments exactly, kid.

And that's when my idea of Orphan Thanksgiving was born. If we were going to be all alone, we were going to make the best of it. I invited two families from our church. One family is here from Ukraine and the other moves a lot and has no family in town. About a week ago, another couple, who'd heard about my plans for Orphan Thanksgiving asked if they might be able to come over.

Of course!

The more the merrier!

I asked each family to bring a dessert and a Thanksgiving staple. I handed out a list of what would be on the menu. I told everyone that if there was something they always had, if it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it, to please, by all means, bring it.

There would be six kids so I decided to do a table for them. I bought a tablecloth (tablepaper?) that they could color.


The adult table took some work because my house was not made for entertaining. Seriously, I don't get it. Utah homes are built for Mormons. Mormons have big families. This house was not made for entertaining big families. It makes no sense. After reconfiguring our furniture 32 times, borrowing a table and chairs from the church, and buying some blue tablecloths (tableplastic?) from Dollar Tree, we were finally ready.



On Thursday, we woke up, turned on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, debated the merit of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and got to work. About the parade. I generally find it boring but I love all the musical numbers from Broadway shows and all the aerial shots of NYC give me chills. My husband would rather be watching football. My boys told me when I turned on the parade that they hated it. But then they were squealing like school girls over the giant Pikachu balloon. Garrett helped me in the kitchen while Matthew yelled, "MOM! GARRETT! COME SEE THE GIANT POWER RANGER!" or, "WHOA! YOU SHOULD SEE THIS PIRATE SHIP!" Troy cleaned floors.

I cooked this guy...


and yams and green bean casserole and gravy. I made a Cool Whip Fruit Salad which my family just refers to as Pink Salad. I opened cranberries and olives and pickles. We set out drinks and we waited for the stuffing, potatoes, rolls and pies to arrive with their people.


At 1:30 our guests began showing up. One of them brought us this!!!

We ate at 2:00. It was delicious. It was a feast to behold. We stuffed ourselves and talked and laughed and before we knew it, it was after 6:00. The kids were all getting along--although loudly. The adults were having a fantastic time. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and everyone left around 7:00 pm. 

It turns out that family is fantastic but orphans are pretty great too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Return of the King

My pastor is a wise sort of fellow. Don't tell him. It'll go to his head. In and of itself that would be no problem. But there is the little fact that I also happen to live with him.

He writes a monthly article for a church newsletter. I'm hijacking his musings and posting them here without permission. I don't really need permission. I always have the option to just kiss him and make up. Here are his words:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.                                               Hebrews 11:16

I don’t know if you heard but there was an election recently.  You might have missed it.  It was really hard to find any information on TV.  So few people were sharing their opinions on social media that it is easy to understand if it escaped your notice.

The truth, of course, is that unless you were living under a rock or just emerged from a year-long coma, you are well aware of the election that just transpired.  There were widely varied responses: shock, euphoria, anger, despair, ambivalence. 

Let me say this.  It is no secret that our nation is deeply divided and much variance exists, even within the body of Christ. So how do we respond?  What words do I have to say to all of us as we move forward?

First, let me break my longstanding pattern of not endorsing a party or political candidate.  I would like to tell you where my allegiance lies.  I am a monarchist.*

That’s right.  I’m done with democracy as the ideal, I long for a return of the King.  My advocacy, my hope, and allegiance is to Jesus Christ.

I’m not saying this as a cop-out or an attempt to be tongue –in-cheek.  I am reminded that it is God who raises nations and brings princes to naught.  Any success that our nation enjoys is not the result of our own gifting or cleverness but is a demonstration of God’s mercy toward us.  I realize that God smiles upon obedience but I also know that this principle extends to all peoples. I realize that God’s salvation plan is not based upon nation building but is to be the spread of the Gospel all across the globe.

I have come to learn that I am an American best when I am not an American first.  When I remember that I am an ambassador and a stranger in a foreign land, I realize it is my job to represent Christ, His love and His character.  I am called to live at peace, if it is possible, and to conduct myself in a respectable manner while I wait for Christ’s return.

So how should we respond?  What do we do until Christ’s comes back?

Do not despair if an election does not go your way.  Likewise, do not rejoice overmuch when your candidate wins.   Human beings will let us down.  Even the political parties that you have the greatest affinity with will disappoint you and break their promises.  Remember that God is in control.  He still holds this world securely in His hands.

Be a good citizen.  We are called to live at peace, if it is possible, and to conduct ourselves in a law abiding and respectable manner.

Exercise your right to vote.  It is a great privilege to be a part of our own governance. 

Pray for those in authority.  Scripture states, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3. 
Remember that God used pagan kings like Cyrus to accomplish His work.  He humbled rulers like Nebuchadnezzar to reveal His power and greatness.  And those words written to Timothy were written during the reign of one of the most notorious Emperors of Rome: Nero.

Finally, share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Remember why we are here.  North America could disappear like Atlantis under the waves of the Ocean but even if this happened, our calling would not change.  We are here to share Christ.  To live as His witnesses.

Like you, I enjoy living in a land of freedom, of opportunity, where I can raise my family in peace.  I will do what I can to preserve such blessings. But I need to remember that this is not my home.  I need to remember that elections and edicts do not determine the ultimate course of human events.  It is God Almighty, my King, who holds that power.

Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
                                                                                                                                                Daniel 4:34-35

*When I read the Bible, I am sadly reminded that the majority is often wrong.  From Babel to Kadesh Barnea, the majority of persons, time and again, walks in a manner contrary to God.  I, however, will side with the King, regardless which direction the crowd goes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I Will Hope for a Better Tomorrow

I'm an Independent. I'm moderately conservative. Out of high school, I considered myself moderately liberal. I registered Democrat. Most of my views haven't changed. The line has. Out of college, I realized that I didn't want to be identified as a Democrat OR a Republican. I've been an Independent ever since I changed my last name in 2003. I cannot vote in the primaries. If I could have, I would not have picked the candidates that were chosen.

Every day, when I drive my children to school, we repeat the same two things. They tell me that they will be men of honesty, integrity, and kindness. Then they tell me that they will do their best to practice the Fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They fail every day because they are still small and because they are human. But I am striving to teach them by example.

My worldview is not seen in the Republican Party or the Democratic one. I can't find it in the Green Party or in the Libertarian one. My worldview comes from the person of Christ Jesus. If He did it or said it, I want to try to emulate it. I fail every day because I am not perfect. But I am striving to show people the love of Christ by example.

I have voted for President five times. I've voted for the Democratic nominee. I've voted for the Republican nominee. I've voted for someone who is not the nominee of either major party. Not one time has the candidate I've chosen represented everything that I should be about. Because I have never written in Jesus.

One day.

One day, He will reign supreme.

Until then, I am for kindness. I am for integrity. I am for honesty. I am for compassion. I am for love. I am for listening. I am for respect. I am for forgiveness.

I have a lifelong friend who would probably identify herself as pretty liberal. She was a Bernie supporter. Over the course of this election, we have lamented our major party options and briefly discussed third party candidates. Today, she posted this on social media and it is with her permission that I post it.

I didn't want either candidate to win. I was prepared with 100% certainty that when the winner was announced, I would not be happy to hear it.

I figured it would be a close race, but Hillary would take it. Never could I have dreamed Donald Trump would sweep the votes across our entire country. Is it that people hate Hillary so much that they reluctantly voted Trump? No, that's not what I'm gathering from all the cheers of his supporters. He didn't just get "lesser of two evil" votes...he got eager, hopeful, adoring, excited votes.

It's not his win that breaks my heart; I was prepared for the possibility. The heartbreak is in watching those who truly celebrate this man's victory. -Jayni

I had had a discussion with my husband the night before the election. I told him that I just didn't understand any evangelical wholeheartedly backing either major party candidate. I responded to my dear friend's message.

As an evangelical Christian, I told Troy two nights ago, "I understand Christians making their choice, either way, come what may. Because there are only two viable candidates. And, obviously, I respect the third party vote. But I do not understand how anyone can call themselves a believer and give either of these candidates anything but a reluctant vote. They do not represent what we stand for or the people we should be. To back them and eagerly support them is appalling to me." In case you, or anyone else, wondered what THIS evangelical's position is. Although I do completely agree with praying for whomever is in office and doing my best to coexist.

I didn't want these choices. I had no part in the two of them making it through the primaries. I didn't want to wake up to President Clinton or President Trump. Still, like my liberal friend, I knew it would be one of them. Come this morning, one of them was going to be the President elect--barring some unforeseen miracle. I am not celebrating this new President. I believe the psalm that says, "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God." Psalm 146:3-5

I hope that my friends, family members, and acquaintances can see Jesus in me. If they don't know to look for Him, I hope they can see something that resembles kindness, integrity, honesty, and compassion. They will not see a woman who is happy about this outcome, but neither would she have been if the electoral map had been shaded entirely blue.

I'm just a girl who, come what may, is going to try to live out her faith on a daily basis. I will pray for our leadership just as I have done for every other President since I've been able to vote.

I will hope and pray for a better tomorrow.