Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BWN 2!

I got a call from Jen Thursday to let us know they were hosting the annual Black & White Night early this year so that we Pauls could attend!!! We LOVE this event (and we love the Murrays - works well that we get both!) Black and white food this year consisted of spicy cheesy potato soup, bean dip with black corn chips, quesadillas and sour cream, artichoke dip and white corn chips, crispy 3 cheese raviolis with black olive tapenade, venison jerky, oreos, coconut cuffins, Penny cookies, and white and dark chocolates. Also Cherry Dr. Pepper, rootbeer floats, coffee, & water. Scrumptious fare, I tell ya!!
We had a few more participants this year too. Attendees were Kate, Ryan, Tofer, James, Cassia, Seth, Mo, Jen, Deea, Don, Laura, River, Minda, Kara (& oat & barley).

There were some FABulous costumes this year! Tof as the Ninja, Kara's African head wrap, Ryan's godfather/pimp (?), Minda's netted leggings, Don's little snow cap... Just awesome!
We kicked off the festivites with a Little Rascals episode, then voted to watch Danny Kaye in The Court Jester! Hearing Kara laughing was THE BEST! So contageous!
Just a couple more photos to punctuate a great memory!!
What cool, cool cats we are! Ya, Baby!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Keeping Days

We are still well ensconced in the icy blanket of winter. I've found myself wanting excuses to not venture out. I remember days like this from my childhood when everyone seemed content to settle for the day around the fire or gather in the kitchen to bake bread and set some hearty soup to simmer on the stovetop. Grandma called them "keeping days". I asked her once what she meant by that. She said they were the days you wanted to "keep indoors", "keep the fire glowing", "keep yourself busy", "keep the door closed"... and they were usually the days you wanted to "keep in your heart" for years to come. Though I haven't felt up to snuff this week, knowing the unknown is about to feel as encroaching as the winter has lately has caused me to turn these last few days in our home to "keeping days".
We spent an afternoon watching these little Pine Gross Beaks in the pines outside of C's bedroom window. Flocks of them flitted about eating the seeds from the pinecones and chirruping happily.
A friend, who is an artist, has taken to encouraging M. (in big and small ways) in her art. Buying her supplies, books, giving her tips and pointers and making her canvas boards so that she doesn't have an excuse to not play, experiement and grow in her abilities. The scent of turpinoid wafts up the stairs, and I don't hear from her for hours it seems.
With J. home so regularly now we have been having scads of dinners together! It's been wonderful to listen to all the laughing chatter though the 'mmm's over their mouthfuls of food.
And through it all, we pack. A little more each day. The stacks grow taller. Wider. Deeper. The moving day draws closer. May each day offer up a moment to "keep" in hearts for the uncharted days ahead.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Not Packing!!

Groans from my youngest are heard often right now. "It's snowing - - AGAIN!", is the explaination given in almost the same tone as the groan that preceeded it. She is so anxious to live in a place of year-long summer.
Cassia and I look out our windows and see a smal heard of doe wending their way up the mountain through our backyard with the snow obscuring them, helping them blend with their surroundings, and we sigh in contentment. We will miss this place. Wednesday, just after it began snowing, we drove down the mountain to spend the evening with our "homies" (home group). This was my first real connection in Bozeman. I didn't have friends yet, didn't know my way around, and had no one that took time to see how I was doing (my daddy had just died, our pastor was dying, James was seldom home as he was learning the rhythm of this new adventure...) until this group came along. Dan & Jess, Sam & Sara, Matt & Sara, Peter & Naomi, Doug & Kaitlin, Jon & Abby, Randy & Becca, Julie & Wade, & Scott & Sadie brought a sense of 'home' to Bozeman for our family.
Malinda was 13 when we came. Just earned her safe sitter certificate from the hospital and eager to begin watching little ones. Dan and Jess had just had their first child, a little bundle of pudge and smiles named Lily. When Jess returned to work Malinda began watching Lily, and has never stopped. Lils is now 2.5 ( I always think she is older because she is such a precocious little thing!) and, as you can see, they adore each other.
Our home group recently divided in hopes of drawing more families into this type of incredible fellowship. Sam & Sara have added Katie and Ryan, and we have added Erik and Amber. Matt & Sara were in Colorado, Jon & Abby have moved to another state, as have Wade & Julie, so as we gathered as a family to say our fond farewells, there was a sweetness and a sense of loss. A joy at having them around us, with us, and yet knowing there was a gap where others once held place.
We woke the next morning to thickly frosted pines and diamond dust. We just couldn't stay inside and pack or work on college stuff! Out we walked into the soft land of the quiet giants.
I took so many photos. I felt giddy. My world had changed with one snowfall. It was a world enshrouded in pale, blue winter light and proud fir trees who now bowed low. Tofer stuck close by my side (I should have worn my Yak-traks!). Took some photos of his own. Found his own kind of wonder. And shared it with me, as I did with him.
So much more fun than packing a bunch of dusty nic-nacs into boxes!
As a post script: We still have no new assignment, and do not know where we will be heading. Keep us in your prayers. We are literally and completely at the Lord's mercy. It's exciting. At least it is right now. In 2.5 months if we don't have some direction it may not be quite as fun :o).

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Time to Let Go

(Card made by my friend Danni ~ she is so awesome!)There is a time and a season for everything under Heaven. This is a season of change for the Pauls. Change in job, location, and of seeing at least 2 of our 3 young adults off to college.
Last week was full of college apps, transcripts, references, and essays in the Paul household. Finding out that the deadline for applications to the college they wanted to apply to was 3 days away sent us into a scurry. Each of them needed 3 references, + 4 500 word essays (that's 2000 words each!) on different subjects!! Besides the fact that we had to order SAT scores to be sent and move money from their college funds into my bank account so I could pay the fees. In the end it all came together. God allowed all the people we needed references from to be home and available, for us to be able to file the app online so the deadline postmark was achieved and each of them were able to quickly write out 2000 words on the required subjects. Amazing!

Reading their essays, after they had been sent, brought tears. I love my kids. As parents, we aren't always sure we are doing a very good job; constantly questioning God's decision to allow us to be part of raising these little souls. We have had many that have told us we how wonderful they think our kids are, but when I read it their own words, words uncoerced and without knowing I would even read them, of how they feel we did, I was humbled. An odd sense of wonder filled me. Wonder at all the struggles, discipline, the talks, frustrations, & hard decisions being worth the cost because of the joy. I have a little more experiential knowledge of how Jesus felt in enduring the cross for the joy set before Him.

I asked their permission to post them here. It's more for me. This is our family blog where I put memories and thoughts, struggles and triumphs. This, to me, was a triumph. I want it preserved - because something tells me there are more struggles ahead. (2 Peter 1:15, Heb. 10:32-38)
I am pasting them here as they wrote them - no corrections...

Tofer's Essays - in snippets:

I have grown up in a Christian home (both parents being Christians). My relationship with my parents is more than a lot of guys my age have. My dad & I are a team when we are together. Though our wills clash and we butt heads sometimes, I never doubt his love for me. My mom is an amazing woman of God, & I know I often take her for granted. She is there for me when I am down, always, and expects nothing in return for the constant outpouring into my life.
For the most part I am submissive to authority and function well under leadership. I believe God has placed authority in everyone’s life to keep order, structure, & discipline in community. Without it the community is in the highest danger of failure and doomed to chaos. A family is not complete without a father and mother. The Father should lead and love his household according to Christ’s standards. The mother should lead the family in unity with and in submission to the father. Lastly, the children should come under the authority that God has placed in their lives. The past 2 years have been a trial and a joy as my dad took the role of Worship Pastor here in Bozeman. I never expected what God had in store for me or my family when He brought us here. God showed me through my dad and other men of God that pride, jealousy, bitterness, and anger were in my life just beneath the surface. Those things were brought into the light and dealt with. I let a lot of things go, and am learning to not hold onto wrongs done to me and to lay down my pride & get comfortable with confessing sins and asking for forgiveness.
As a family we take a Sabbath. It is very important to us to let God recreate His life within us as we rest in Him, #1 because He commands it and #2 because it is a necessity.
I write a lot of music. My dad and my sister join me every once in awhile to write a verse or a chorus with me. Music has always been a part of my family.
I say this, not out of pride but, because it is the truth - as a family we pour our time and energy into the church.
I have 2 sisters, one older, one younger. They are a joy to me and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
God is my everything. I couldn’t live without Him. I have a passion to see those who don’t know Him come to the realization that they need a savior. They are blind to who He is and what He has done. I want to help them see. With that said, I want my life to be that of a missionary! My commitment to Him is full and always will be, by His grace.
Grace is what I am most thankful for. I am just beginning to grip the value and necessity of it.
As for my history with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and pornography, I don’t really have one. I’ve never craved sin. I have craved adventure, adrenaline, and attention. However, the more I continue to know God, the easier it is to let go of earthly ‘feel goods’ & set my desires on Christ alone. I’m done testing out sin for myself, heeding the warnings of The Word and other in my life.
As with any ‘walk’ of forward, ongoing motion I pray that my spiritual walk with God will always be just that. On May 24th, 2000 I received Christ into my heart, though I had asked Him to save me from Hell when I was 3 years old, I had suddenly come to the realization of who Christ is and what He did for me (though, I still don’t fully understand it). I know, beyond a shadow of doubt that I am a Christian. A sinner who was saved by grace, through the cross of Jesus Christ, in pursuit of glorifying my Lord. (Which includes bringing others to a saving knowledge of Him, listening and following His calling on my life, &, in that, being a positive example for others to follow.) Because I professed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord of my life, & I believe in my heart that He is risen from the dead after taking the sins of the world upon Himself and conquering them through the obedience of death, I know that I am a Christian.
The Word of God is my light and my way, my guide for (I wish I could name them) all my decisions. It’s a comfort & a challenge, an inspiration & a joy, it’s the only Truth in which I place my trust, it’s firm & never fails to keep me on the right path!
My prayer life needs improvement, and always will, but I am learning to live my life as a constant prayer unto God. Thinking of Him more often, consulting Him for everyday wisdom, learning His will, and walking in accuracy and alignment with His plan for my life. I’m not ashamed of prayer. In a large group I can be bold and pray out and feel comfortable, but I enjoy seeking the Lord in my room with the door shut as well. I love talking to God, knowing He is right there with me.

Growing up, like most kids, I dreamed big. NBA, NFL, CIA or FBI were on my list! I began to let go of those dreams as I got older and realized that what I viewed as successful and important wasn’t God’s view of those things. When I first read the scripture, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations”, I started to get excited and a dream started to form in my heart of a life of adventure in God’s plan.
As I got older, the kindling of the desire to be on the mission field grew in intensity through studying Christ’s life here on earth. I began to see that people were His mission in life. He would always stop to talk, heal, preach, & encourage; sharing the love of their Maker with them.

Cassia's Essays - in snippets:

Both of my parents gave their hearts to God long before I was born and, now 18 years later, they are more His than ever. They’ve had heated disagreements in the past but always sought reconciliation. Forgiving, forgetting and moving on afresh. Mom and Dad have always seen parenthood as season of fashioning arrows who, when their shot out, hit the mark. They made a decision even before they had kids to homeschool. And as of this May my Mom will have taken all three of us through our senior year in Highschool. My dad has worked long weeks for as long as I can remember so that my mom can be home, but takes his responsibility of Father and not just provider seriously. He’s constantly speaking truth and love into our lives.

Both of my parents have never been shy to discipline us when they’ve seen a need for it. We grew up being taught that honoring and respecting the authority figures in our lives was indispensable and didn’t enjoy the consequences when we chose to disregard this. I’ve always appreciated the people who have held positions of authority within my life , and have been blessed that the said men and women have really sought to love me and been individuals of integrity.

In our family we often do devotions of our own throughout the week but like to gather together for them as well. We also recognize a Sabbath every week. On these days we make a point to be alone with God and each other, taking a brake from work and allowing God to recreate us and breath on our relationships with eachother. It’s been a time to being still as well as a time to celebrate who He is and what He’s done/ is doing. We definitely haven’t always been the perfect family or example but God has continually been alive and at work in our home, and each year finds us closer to God and each other.

I became a PK just before turning 17 and have grown up within the church. I love the body Christ and am so thankful to have had that privilege. I wish there was a lot less confusing religion with the Gospel however. A lot fewer facades and a lot more vulnerability between each other. Something that God’s been teaching me is that the more acquainted and accepting we become with ourselves the better were able to know Him and be used by Him. We should know who we are without Christ and who we are as redeemed sons and daughters of God. Familiar and at peace with our strengths and weaknesses. Knowing and rejoicing in the promise God made when He told Paul : “My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

I’m told by my parents that Jesus came to live in me when I was about 3, following a brief question and answer exchange around our dinner table :

[from my highchair] “How does Jesus come into our hearts?”

Momma: “By us asking Him to. And, (with a comforting smile) you will when your ready.”

Wherein, hardly missing a beat, I bowed my head and proceeded to tell Jesus I loved Him, asking him to “please, come into my heart”.

As the years progressed and I became better aware of what that petition entailed, I never regretted making it. I became more and more fascinated with Jesus. The things he taught and the life He lived. Horrified at the death we were guilty of helping Him suffer. Yet in spite of this I subconsciously entertained the belief that salvation was something to be earned. The result was a very religious, self righteous young lady. All this time however, I hadn’t been able to grasp the truth that God really desires to be in relationship with His children.

During my 13th summer I attended camp with my youth group and all the seeds that my parents had been sowing in my heart concerning the relationship factor of walking with Jesus sprang up. By the time I returned He wasn’t just my Lord, He was fastly becoming my best friend.

There’s definitely something to be said for not simply knowing God in your head but also in your heart. You can only love someone so much when your not in relationship with them and the love that was ignited in my heart towards God, through our new found friendship, was deep and transforming.

I wish I could say that from that time forward I ceased to sin or obsess about being the perfect Christian, but I can’t.The growth I’ve experienced since then, however, has been tremendous.Slowly but surely God began the process of uprooting all my convenient deceptions, convicting my heart about the things in my life that were pulling at our relationship, and directing my focus off of me onto Him. Truth has been setting me free.

As far as continuing to cultivate my heart goes,it’s been amazing actually experiencing and realizing that the Bible is alive and life giving…I need it. I suffer when I’m not feeding it to my heart and allowing it to renew my mind.
Just as imperative for me is prayer. When I’m not consistently seeking God through prayer my relationship with Him becomes handicapped and my heart grows less soft. Prayer also helps me put things in back in perspective and see the bigger picture.

I’m still a work in progress and always will be, but my heart is hopelessly lost to my King and I am thoroughly enjoying the adventure of being His daughter.