Friday, May 21, 2010

The Urgency to TRULY LIVE!!!



It was a beautiful day for a hike. Tom and his wife, Anisa, were content to just soak up some sun after an extensive winter. It was a lazy day to recuperate from a long week and the “hustle and bustle” that is oftentimes Life.

For the most part they just walked along the path, well worn by other visitors. Crocuses, daffodils, narcissus, and other brightly coloured beauties were sprouting triumphantly from their damp, earthen beds. Twittering birds sang, flirted, and played around the tree branches above, skipping from one air current to another with glee.

Such joy! It was easy to relax and breathe with such beauty and tranquillity.

Squirrels, wary of these strangers to their home, scampered nervously from their position in a nearby maple tree. They were, seemingly, on a mission to find more nuts. A frenzied mouse sprinted across the path to find shelter in a group of ferns, and in the distant sky, a hawk was gliding and soaring, possibly on its way to find its next prey.

As Tom walked along he was thinking about how content he was. He and his wife both had great jobs. They had raised two beautiful and successful children, who now had families of their own. They were good people who volunteered when they could, donated to various organizations, and leant a helping hand to whoever had need. They were known by all to be kind, generous, and full of integrity. They went to church., and they enjoyed fellowship with others. All in all, they were set.

There was something that plagued his mind, though, even as he sauntered down the muddy trail. Something seemed to nag at his heart, but he was not sure exactly what it was. He thought to share his concern with Anisa, but decided against it, as he really did just want to relax and not let any concerns dampen the serenity.

Anisa was ahead of him by about three meters. Oh, what a woman! She was so beautiful, a true godsend, and as close to a Proverbs 31 woman as any could get. She obviously loved God and sought to always draw closer to Him. Her greatest desires were to seek after, to live for, and to learn more about Him and His ways; and, she had a passion for encouraging others to do the same. She prayed often for her family, friends, and others, and he had never seen anyone who entered into relationships with such passion. Honestly, he did not always understand it. Sometimes he thought it more of a weakness, as it left her vulnerable to so many who might take advantage of her kindness and care. She was too trusting, too loyal, and too interested. But then, he knew that their differences complimented each other.

Tom loved God. He prayed, whenever he thought of it. Perhaps he could do more to encourage growth in his own heart, but he just did not have that urgency. He did what was right, and felt that he was doing a good job at being the best person he could be. He read the Bible occasionally and really did like Pastor John’s ways of sharing God’s Word. He heard people talking about living for God fully surrendered, and, well, he just shrugged his shoulders. “Moderation. Everything in moderation.” That was best. Surely being an extremist and labelled a fanatic was not what Jesus would want them to do. “What Would Jesus Do?”, as far as he was concerned, meant this: living a life of loving and caring and respecting others; not judging; being a good citizen and standing for what was right and moral. Peter, Paul, and the disciples? Extremists, but that was for then, not for now.

A rock tripped him and jolted him out of his deep thoughts… Oh!

He had not realized how deep in thought he was! And now they were approaching the summit of this mountain. They had come here many times before, and he looked forward to soaking up the view that would be before them. It was one of his favourite places to come to and just… be.

Anisa arrived first and stood at the wooden railing intended to keep people from falling over the edge of the cliff. As Tom approached he could see her smiling, and he knew that she was mentally thanking God for His creativity and wonderful imagination. It truly was a sight to behold: the trees blossoming and budding, the earth coming alive in color after spending so many months clothed in deep browns and other blander shades.

A deep sigh escaped from within his heaving chest, and Anisa glanced at him, eyes full of appreciation and joy.

For several minutes they just stayed there, then Anisa decided to sit on a rock off to the side, closer to the trees, leaving Tom in a clearing closer to the railing. As they both meditated in silence, Tom was startled by a movement under his feet. What? In the moment that he was ready to step back, he saw the railing sink down away from view and the earth began to crumble before him. Astonished, he looked towards Anisa who glanced up just as Tom began to scramble to keep from sliding down the growing precipice. Panic seemed to stretch across the distance between them, as Anisa could only cry out, hands outstretched, and watch her beloved tumble over the edge.

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A few years ago my pastor here in Italy asked something that has penetrated deeply into my heart.

He asked, “Where is the most dangerous place to be? (regarding relationship with God)…And he gave us a few minutes to consider the answer.

I thought to myself, “Hm… Well, let’s see. I think that the most obvious dangerous place to be is distant from God, not knowing Him, and unsaved. Right?

Wrong.

He said something that startled ME, and I knew it was true.

“The most dangerous place to be is this: When you think you are okay with God, and you are not. (!!!!)

I knew it was true. I have learned many things the hard way. For example: just knowing and living the “right things to say and the right things to do”, won’t save you. Neither will going to church every day of your life, being a good person, giving all you have to the poor, volunteering for all worthy and important causes, giving largely to charitable organizations, or being the nicest, most generous, most loyal, most loving person. (Each is important but will not bring you salvation from sins or get you to heaven.)

The Bible is clear: (my comments in parenthesis)

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— (being good is not enough, knowing how to say and do the “right” things is not enough… we can do nothing to save ourselves, but we are saved out of HIS love and mercy)

Mark 12:30
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' ( that does not sound like “in moderation” to me…)

Philippians 2:12
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” (do not become lax and complacent, don’t let yourself become too comfortable or fall asleep…Keep seeking and drawing near to God, and He will be found by you and draw near to you. He will strengthen you, keep you, and help you.)

Revelation 3:16
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (pick a side, and live urgently!!! Walking the fence is not safe. There are only two ways to go. The fence does not count and actually is considered as leaning to the wrong side.)
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I will tell you honestly. It hurts to see family and friends suffering because they have chosen to walk away from Jesus. I see them struggling through trials and daily life, and I wish I could give them the “will” to love Jesus and live for Him; but, I can’t. I will not say that I have arrived and am just fine now… No, I have to “work out my salvation daily” just like everyone else, but… I know that I find my strength, joy, hope, love, peace, encouragement, and help in serving Jesus, in looking to Him, in seeking after Him, and drawing near to Him.

That is what I know, from personal experience. I know what it feels like to feel far from God. I know what it feels like to lose someone; or to feel overwhelmed in grief, depression or challenges threatening to destroy me. I know failure, but I also know what it feels like to see growth and feel triumph.

This journey is not meant to be walked alone. He wants to walk with you, sometimes carry you, and definitely take you by the hand and guide you, minister to you, provide for you, and just love you.

If you should have any questions or comments, please consider leaving me a comment on this post and signing in as anonymous (or leaving your name). Or you can send me an email by “viewing my profile”.

Blessings and many thoughts… Celita

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Christ Alone...



In the middle of a battle that began long before my time, but one that affects me every day, in every way. It is debilitating and motivating at the same time.

There is a bombardment of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual artillery set against my brothers and sisters in the Lord, and because I care… well, it hurts. Cancers, blood clots, surgeries, never-ending fevers, lay-offs, discovered masses, down times, deaths, overworked and going on empty, babies being sacrificed for “no hope” (or should we say for convenience’s sake?), broken hearts, overwhelming doubts and fears, men with such sad and hopeless eyes, weak wills, no strength to continue on… on and on I could go; trial after trial, in an effort to wear us down, weaken us, hurt us, discourage us, destroy us. And, yet, when we are weak, God is STRONG.

I will not stand by and be trampled!!! I will not lie down and just die!!! That is not the way of a child of the living God. That is not the way of an heir with Christ. That is not the way of a sinner saved by grace who now has “the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead” living in her. We are more than conquerors in Christ! We have the victory through Jesus! Let us STAND in faith! Let us STAND in hope! Let us STAND in confidence in the ONE who has control and knows all… Let us TRUST IN, CLING TO, AND RELY ON JESUS!! Let us believe!! AMEN! Keep holding on. Keep seeking. Keep drawing close to God, because when you do He has promised to draw near to you. And, keep persevering and taking the right path… whether, crawling, trudging, running, walking or whatever… KEEP GOING!!!

For, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (from 1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB)

IN CHRIST ALONE (by Michael English- singer and songwriter)
In Christ alone will I glory
Though I could pride myself
In battles won
For I've been blessed beyond measure
And by His strength alone, I overcome
Oh, I could stop and count successes
Like diamonds in my hands
But these trophies could not equal
To the grace, by which I stand

In Christ alone
I place my trust
And find my glory
In the power of the cross
In every victory
Let it be said of me
My source of strength
My source of hope
Is Christ alone

In Christ alone will I glory
For only by His grace
I am redeemed
And only His tender mercy
Could reach beyond my weakness
To my need
Now I seek no greater honor
Than just to know Him more
And to count my gains but losses
And to the glory of my Lord

In Christ alone
I place my trust
And find my glory
In the power of the cross
In every victory
Let it be said of me
My source of strength
My source of hope
Is Christ alone

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 2010 Luca's Birthday Package From Grandma and Grandpa...


Too excited for words!


His expression says it all... (ugh, it is a little blurry, but you get the point...)


Wow! So happy with his new gifts!! Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa!! I love you and miss you very much.

May 12-16, 2010 Luca's 6th Birthday And Party...

Luca's Actual Birthday Day...


At least two of us are happy... What happened, Miranda? Don't be cranky.


I wanted this, Grandma! Thank you... (Mom, I know you gave this to him last time we went, but I just gave it to him, since he is starting first grade next year. He loves it!)




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Luca's Party

The card I made for Luca... Bolt's Bone...


Dogs, Dogs, Dogs...


Waiting for guests to arrive. All kids are wearing something dog related. No costumes, just little things.

Thank You, Jesus, for the great ideas and the help to make the cakes just right. Yay!


Luca's Dog Bone cake... (candy outline bone filled in with white icing.) That yellow was perfect and so bright and cheerful!


Bolt's Lightning Pawprint Cake... (I really like my new Wilton dyes!!! So concentrated, I did not have to worry about running out of yellow to get a bright color... Just two dips of the toothpick and then mixed! Nice!)


The two cakes... One dog related, one "Bolt" related. :-)


This is hilarious!! I text messaged this guest about having them dress up as dogs for the party, if they wanted to. He asked if even adults had to, to which I said, "Sure! Please do!" But he said he only had a horse's head, no dogs. Then I remembered a bit of trivia from the movie, Hidalgo. You can check here for the reference. Apparently, the Sioux word for "horse" actually means "big dog". So I said that the horse mask would be fine, and that from now on I would call him, "Big Dog." hahahahahahahahhaah! He added just the greatest laugh for everyone when he showed up like this. Anthony did not believe he would when I said what happened. Boy, was he surprised!! It was great. Grazie, C!!! hahahahahahahaha!!


E in her doggy mask. So creative! And she and her sister gave them to Luca when the party was done. Nice! They are enjoying them.


S in her dog mask... cute, huh?


After instructions, ready to begin the Sniff-and-Find Candy Hunt...


The Sniff-and-find Candy Hunt was successfully completed!! :-)



The kids delved into their found "treasures". Yes, I got them all hyped on candy. Everyone else does it to me, and this was an easy and super fun game for them.


I just had to participate myself. Woof!





Blowing out the candle...


Luca's guests...






Something very funny just happened... Don't ask, I don't know. I was mostly with the kids.


Listening to some conversation... sorry so blurry.


I and S... again, sorry so blurry... Ugh.


Baby M is getting so big!!! She is turning into a big girl right before our eyes!


Miranda with M and I...


Free play time... Animals! What else? hahahah...


Free play time... Thanks, mom, for the free entertainment... Animals, animals everywhere! :-)


Luca with S and E. They gave him the pants and shirt set. He likes clothes!



Luca and his 10 year old cousin, S. She made him this card of "Bolt", and she and her family gave him a new watch. He loved both items!


Grandma and Grandpa sent a surprise package from the States for Luca's birthday! Nonna and Nonna gave him money, which he was excited about. Mamma and Papà had some small gifts and provided activities, food, and fun for a howling party. The theme was "Dogs", but I added a side theme of "Bolt". Luca likes the movie, and so do I.

I decorated with all dog paraphernalia I could find. I made the cakes from scratch, and decorated them myself. We had a Sniff-and-find Candy hunt; had Dog Charades which then changed to Animal Charades; played Dog 7-Up which then changed to Animal 7-Up; had "Bolt" on for backgroud entertainment;and ate cake, laughed, and just had a great time.

Oh, S, I, and M, I am so sorry I did not get a picture of you with Luca and the gift you gave. They gave him a Speed Racer double-looped racetrack.

Luca, we are celebrating God's faithfulness to you. We are rejoicing because of this life with which He has blessed you and us. "Let your light shine brightly for Jesus, my son. May God "bless you, keep you, make His face shine upon you, be gracious to you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26) Amen!"

May 14, 2010 Beginnings of Window Installation.





View from front. See the "old" front door?

Anthony's prototype window is ready to be installed. Here he is getting the frame set. Have yet to take the picture with the glass in, but at least you can see this.

May 2010 Guitar, Mother's day, and Other Random Photos...


Miranda is all princessed up... she loves dresses! Mother's Day!


Me and my baby girl... on Mother's Day!


Mother's Day Famliy Picture May 9, 2010 (What a great day!! Laughs, memories, I did not cook... hahahah)


My littlest cowboy...


This would have been the best picture!! UGH for blurriness!




It has been a challenge trying to teach my kids discipline, but there are moments when my heart just soars to see the bits of improvement.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

April 2010 Random Kid Pictures...


Sunday school lessons and coloring...




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One of those days when mischievious little fingers are working hard and fast. And mamma only found out days after...

Such a good helper, right? He is doing what mamma asked him, right? Hm... That may just be a cover-up for being mischievious. And, if mamma nor papà have the camera, then who does? hm... something is up.


Maybe I should have named him Alvin... sigh... Always climbing, always getting into things. What a stinker, and my sweet little boy. :-)


Culpril number 1...


While mom is upstairs, the culprits will play...


Giosaia, I now know that you were one of the culprits. It is written in your eyes. hahah...

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Again... These are Luca's pictures. Sneaky bugger, got my camera and had a hay-day a couple of times. This is just one of those times, but tell me... Do you think I have a budding photographer here or what? I never showed him how to use those special buttons. Heh, I learned about them gradually, while he just picked up the camera and went at it. I think with some lessons on keeping his finger out of the flash, he could be a 6 year old pro. :-)













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There is my littlest man!! He also is liking dinosaurs now!


I have been told that he looks just like me. What do you think?


Me and my two youngest...


Dario has just woken up from his nap. In an effort to not have any mishaps caused by his intrusion of his diaper, I have found that it frustrates him to have his onesie buttoned from the outside. Hence the new fad. And, he loves his cowboy hat, especially when watching his favorite movies, Toy Story 1 and 2. :-)(Uncle Joshua, take a look at those shoes! Remember them? They have gone through all of them!)


Luca and his punky hair!


Just had to show you Miranda's girly pose. Where did she learn that? hahaha...


Miranda posing after mamma did her hair. Her first ever double french-braids. Oh! She was so pleased!


The back of Miranda's double french-braided head... Her first ever, and she loved them!


The Lone Ranger has returned!! Antonio put this get-up together by himself. Great Job!


Mamma, take a picture! and guess what! They posed themselves!!! Hand-holding and all!


Thank you, Miss Kathy, for this idea. Luca had a fun time making letters out of kitchen utensils.