Wednesday, December 29, 2010

adoption process update...

so, i have not talked about it on here in awhile, but i thought i'd give you an adoption process update.  here are the highlights.
  • on january 10th, i will begin taking my foster to adopt classes with caring family network (CFN). the classes will take 5 weeks.
  • i am almost out of debt. i will be 100% done with my ridiculous credit card debt on january 11th (or before if i make the payment before the due date out of excitement)
  • i am going through "created to connect" (curriculum by michael and amy monroe based on karyn purvis' book the connected child) with a group of friends here in austin that have all adopted or are going to adopt.
  • i won't be able to complete my homestudy until i move out of the engstroms house and into my own place. so at some point this spring (i am thinking late march) i will move out of their house and into a place of my own. i will have to find a place and for the first time ever i have to take schools into account.
  • i am still driving borrowed cars,  but this year i will have to purchase a reliable 4-door car.  i am not sure exactly how this will go down.  i could afford a car payment, but would prefer not to have one, so i am still praying an thinking how that will go down.  but the lord has not failed to provide yet, so i am confident he will when the time comes.
so as you can see, this year is going to be one of a lot of change. i am curious to see what i will be writing about this time next year. thanks for your prayers and support.

new year's resolution...

so i love to read.  i don't always make the time for it that i want to but i love it.  this year, i am going to try to change up my reading habits. i am going to set my own syllabus so that i have a timeline and a goal and i am going to incorporate some other types of literature - maybe even some fiction other than john steinbeck (gasp!) i do not enjoy fiction. even if it is good, i always feel like it is a waste of time and that i could be learning more from some non-fiction. 

so i would love some suggestions of books to read.  especially your fiction suggestions.  perhaps your favorite biography.

so what would you recommend for me? i will make my syllabus after i have all of your suggestions.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gifts of Christmas...

I was challenged a few weeks ago to think through what I have been given because of Christmas. The following was a list I kept on my iPhone as I thought about these things. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have any to add.

Because Jesus came and was born the following are my true Christmas gifts. Because God is with me this is what is mine:

• I am loved more than I can imagine.
• I am saved from sin that has overcome me.
• I am free to love because I am loved more than I can imagine.
• I am free to be vulnerable because Christ became vulnerable. I can take some blows in order to restore relationships and share the gospel.
• I can love those who I typically despise (even if I won't admit it) because the gospel is for all and came to the despised and downcast of society.
• I can fight for justice and pray for his kingdom to come hear and now because I know it will. I can't lose hope.
• I have the responsibility to continue spreading the good news that all may know.
• I can trust that the fulfillment of god's promises are going to happen just as the fulfillment of his promises happened with the Messiah.
• I can take god at his word without fear even when things seem impossible (virgin birth).
• I can have no fear because god came to be with us.
• I know that Christ will return so I am free to serve him. Knowing where the victory lies.
• I can suffer well because Immanuel was a man of sorrows and can empathize with me.
• I can give up my freedoms and rights in order love and serve the orphan.
• I am free to go to the nations because He came to me.
• I can be wronged and just absorb it because as a man Jesus set that example for me.
• I can endure suffering and hardship because I have been reconciled to god through Christ and can have peace on earth.
• I can quit trying to improve and prove my moral value because when Jesus was born my soul felt its worth.
• I don't have to fear even the hardest circumstances because God came to be with us - emmanuel.
• I can let go of what I have always wanted and receive all I have ever needed - even though they look very different!

Monday, December 13, 2010

[thoughts during advent] just like he said...

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 
-Luke 1:68-75

as i continue this season to prepare my heart to celebrate the coming of jesus, who takes away the sins of the world, i read the scripture above this morning.  it is zechariah's song. i can only imagine the excitement he is feeling as he gets to see this plan unfold!  the one who has been promised for so long is almost here! the deliverer from genesis 3 is coming! the lamb whose blood would save us from god's wrath was coming.

years and years and years earlier, god had even described his son, the deliverer he would send. the book of isaiah has so many promises from god about what he would be like. and they are so accurate that one is tempted to think they were written after the fact. god gave his people this message of hope because he knew things would get worse before they got better (especially for the contemporary readers of isaiah because they were about to go into babylonian captivity).  and he wanted them to know how much he loved them.  that a deliverer was still coming. that he had not forgotten about his promise.

this is not just cool for us to see because we know jesus was born, but it should also be encouraging to us.  we already know jesus has come, but we (like the israelites) long for the day that he will come back and rescue us forever!   revelation is to us like isaiah was to them. god wanted us to know that he has a plan, and the birth of his son is a reminder that he will do exactly what he promises.

i often have to remind myself that the lord’s promises are true, his promises for my future and his promises to give me what i need today.  his promises for justice his promise that one day this world broken by sin will be restored! i have to remember that his plans are greater than my little mind can comprehend, even when things seem to only be getting worse. when i don't see how he could be keeping his word.  i hope that this message is one that encourages your heart and reminds you that he is good.  what promises have you forgotten or what promises have you given up on? he who began a good work, will be faithful to complete it!

(For more reading check out Isaiah 9:2-7, 53:1-12 and “Operation No More Tears” from the Jesus Storybook Bible)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

[thoughts during advent] the lamb of god...

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1:29)

so before you think i have my holidays mixed up, i wanted to clarify that i do in fact know that it is christmas and not easter. and that even though i am about to talk about passover and moses and the movie "ten commandments" comes on at easter, its message is just as wrapped up in jesus' birth. just hang with me here.

to set the back story, israel is enslaved by egypt.  they moved to egypt during the great famine of joseph's time, but years later the new pharaoh thought they were too numerous. he grew fearful and made them slaves. god raises up moses to free the israelites from slavery and take them into the promised land.  pharaoh would not let the people go, no matter how nicely moses asked.  so god sends 10 plagues to egypt to show his power over probably what is one of the strongest nations in the world at this time.   

the final plague is a horrific one. god is going to kill all the firstborn sons in the land!  god had moses tell the israelites that only one thing could save their firstborn sons; they kill a perfect lamb and put the blood of that lamb on the door frames of their houses.  then when the angel of death comes to kill the firstborn sons, he would pass over those houses because of the blood.  he would not punish them because he will see the blood of the innocent lamb. 

 we know that for years after this, people celebrated the passover only hoping for another lamb that would save them once for all, rather than the continual sacrifices that they had to make.  many still live like this, but we know we don’t have to!  we know that in lowly manger in a small town, a baby was born whose blood would save us all!  rather than seeing our sin and our rebellion, god would see the blood and the righteousness of his son and his wrath would pass over us, just as he passed over the houses of those with blood on the door frame! wow!

the lamb of god who takes away the sins of the world, came to us! immanuel! let us not forget to celebrate that this season!

Friday, December 10, 2010

go to christmas gifts...

if you are looking for some easy christmas gifts that people are sure to love, i recommend either of these books.  both of these books have helped me grow in my prayer life and have done the same for others. 

the valley of vision has taught me so much about prayer and has helped me express my thoughts and feelings in prayer.  i am telling you this book of prayers will change your life and challenge you. i have given this as a gift many times!!

operation world is a book that i just got this fall.  it has also changed my prayer life.  in this book, there is a different people group to pray for on each day of the year.  so in a year, you literally pray for the world.  it lists facts and specifics about each people group and give you specific requests to pray for.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

[valley of vision] amazing grace...

i read this prayer this morning. great timing. i have much to be thankful for.

amazing grace
from valley of vision

o thou giving god,
my heart is drawn out in thankfulness to thee,
for thy amazing grace and condescension to me
in influences and assistances of thu spirit,
for special help in prayer,
for the sweetness of christian service,
for the thoughts of arriving in heaven,
for always sending me needful supplies,
for raising me to new life when i am like one dead.

i want not the favor of men to lean upon
for thy favor is infinitely better.

thou art eternal wisdom in dispensations towards me;
and it matters not when, nor where, nor how i serve thee,
nor what trials i am exercised with,
if i might but be prepared for thy work and will.

no poor creature stands in need of divine grace more than i do,
and yet none abuses it more that i have done and still do.
how heartless and dull i am!
humble me in the dust, for not loving thee more.

every time i exercise any grace renewedly
i am renewedly indebted to thee
the god of all grace, for special assistance.

i cannot boast when i think how dependent
i am upon thee for the being and every act of grace;
i never do anything else but depart from thee,
and if i ever get to heaven it will be because
thou willest it, and for no reason beside.

i love, as a feeble, afflicted, despised creature
to cast myself on they infinite grace and goodness,
hoping for no happiness but from thee;

give me special grace to fit me for special services,
and keep me calm and resigned at all times,
humble, solemn, mortified,
and conformed to they will.


last sunday (11.28.10) i was returning to work after being off for 9 days (i worked the weekends and thanksgiving to my rest advantage). i was excited to be back at church, to see all my volunteers and kiddos. 

we had purchased christmas trees to decorate our large group room with at st. john. so as soon as i arrived, i grabbed a pair of scissors and went to open them and get them setup for the kids. after all, i was going to teach/reteach them the motions to the 12 days of christmas (now a tradition at the stone) and we needed to set the tone.  i opened up the scissors to cut the tape and as i was slicing the tape, somehow my right pointer finger slipped and i sliced my it instead.  it hurt. i gave it one look and knew it was deep.  i could not stand to look at it any more, but i needed someone to verify that it was indeed as deep as i thought and if it was deep enough to get stitches. 

i ran into our resource room where erin was working and tried to get her to look at it and help me.  she promptly handed me a tissue as i was bleeding everywhere and said that she could not look at it.  my adrenaline had kicked in and i could not stand still.  the cut did not hurt as bad as i would have thought, but the blood and the uncertainty of stitches was making me crazy! i asked (it might have been more like yelling) erin to get me some butterflies from the first aid kit. as she was looking, i just walked into the hall and screamed loud!

i started walking down the hall toward the foyer when i saw one of my lead volunteers walking up. i ran and opened the door and immediately greeted him with a "look at my finger. does this need stitches?"

he must have seen the panic on my face and just took me to sit down on one of the couches to work on stopping the bleeding first (things i should have known - after all i am first aid certified!).  people started to gather as rob was helping me and trying to put a butterfly on my wound.  a couple that i work with started looking up clinics i could go to (none of which were open yet -  it was before 8:00am still) so we started texting all the doctors and nurses that we knew would be coming to church.

well after a bit, one of the doctors that we texted (an OBGYN) came up to look at it.  he brought stuff to stitch me up right there on site if i wanted. i figured being an obgyn he has done his fair share of stitches, so i let him. :)  we walked right on back to green room bathroom and began.  i am not going to lie, the lidacaine shots were the worst part. i squeezed the mess out of my friend melissa's hand (who was with me the entire time btw) and forgot to breathe.  and just to put my pain tolerance in perspective for you, i did not cry when i broke my arm. so this hurt real bad. but within a few minutes it was awesome. i got 2 stitches and a very clean wound. thank you dr. erwin!

the pain has been minimal this week, until i bump my finger into something. looks like will be keeping my finger, though i am nervous using scissors still.  i actually made erin setup those trees for me because i could not bring myself to open the boxes. i made lots of jokes about my finger as i had to hold it up all day.  sang lots of "this little light of mine." introduced myself as lilo and pointed to my finger and said "this is stitch."

i have some pictures that melissa took below. i won't post the ones where she is stitching me up because they make me squeamish!  but if you are interested, you can follow @mdithmer on twitter and see them there.

me. clearly proud of my stupidity.

melissa may have jokingly tweeted that stew was going to sew me up and a few people believed it. so we took a pic afterward.

Friday, December 3, 2010

[thoughts during advent] mary...

    In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
    And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
    And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:26-38 ESV)
have you ever thought about mary's reaction to this news? "behold, i am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

she was just told that she was going to have a baby, as a virgin, betrothed to a man who is going to think this is crazy and likely leave her. her life dreams were all changed by this proclamation. people would think differently of her. she would lose many friends and be talked about.  this is exciting, but make no mistake, it was going to be quite costly!

and mary just says, let it be to me. how was she able to respond this way? i know i would have responded more like zechariah did when the angel told him that elizabeth would conceive or like sarah did when god told abraham that sarah would have a son. a response out of what i can know or experience. a response of one that forgets that my god works in the supernatural. a response of one that has forgotten the promises of god.

mary is not some wonder woman with secret powers that you and i do not have. she is human just like you and me. it is god who gives her the faith to trust him. one of my prayers this week has been that he would transform and renew me each day and give me faith like mary. that when he calls me to something, rather than laughing at its impossibility or being fearful of all that it will require of me, i too can say, "behold, i am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

oh emmanuel - god with us! your nearness is our good. help our unbelief! give us faith to trust your promises and know that they are good.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

[thoughts during advent] waiting...

the advent season is about preparing our hearts to celebrate the arrival of jesus (emmanuel - god with us) and to remind us to look forward to his triumphant return. it was hard for israelites before jesus was born. there was a very long time between isaiah's prophecies (or even genesis 3) and jesus' birth. and it is hard for us now. it has been some 2000 years since jesus said he was coming back. so we wait.

but waiting is hard. it is easy to get distracted when we are waiting. shiny things catch our eyes and they cease to fixed on jesus. or we hear the serpent tempting us with the same lie as eve, "did god really mean that? he is holding out on you." we all at some point will or have forgotten what we are even waiting for.

henri nowen says, "fearful people have a hard time waiting. ...the more afraid we are, the harder waiting becomes." ("waiting for god" watch for the light"). a very true statement. our impatience is often rooted in the fear of losing something, not having something, not getting something, something bad happening to us, etc.

so how do we remedy this? nowen says, we must remind ourselves of the promises of god. we have no need to fear when we know what we are promised and that the one making the promises always is true to his word. this also keeps us from being distracted from other things that claim to be as good or better than god or his promises.

god is so good to us! giving us promises to give us hope! and boy do we need it!

nowen also says that this needs to be done in community.  he uses the story of mary and elizabeth as an example. they are able to encourage one another during the time of their pregnancy, reminding each other what god had promised. 

likewise, we need people around us reminding us what god has promised. calling us out when we run after other things or believing lies. we are waiting for our jesus to come back, but we need help. i hope you have those around you who are in your life and can remind you of god's promises (if not this is a good time to start). and i pray that during this season you get even more time to dig into his word and learn more and more about his promises. cling to them, even in hardship. he always comes through!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

[thoughts during advent] he shall bruise your head...

    Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
    He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
    And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
    The LORD God said to the serpent,
    “Because you have done this,
        cursed are you above all livestock
        and above all beasts of the field;
    on your belly you shall go,
        and dust you shall eat
        all the days of your life.
     I will put enmity between you and the woman,
        and between your offspring and her offspring;
    he shall bruise your head,
        and you shall bruise his heel.”
 (Genesis 3:1-15 ESV)

this is familiar story for many of us.  we know that adam and eve messed up, ate the fruit and got kicked out of the garden of eden.  but there is much more to this story!  first, let’s look at the lie that was told to eve.  the serpent told her that she would not die, but that rather she would be like god.  he was telling her, “god doesn’t love you.  he is holding out on you.  just try it and you will see.  just a little.  it won’t hurt.” mind you, she was in PERFECT relationship with god.  she had everything!  but the fruit looked better, so she ate. and from that moment on, all of mankind has struggled with this same lie!  we want our autonomy and independence or something we feel god is withholding from us, so we sin and leave god.  we are all like adam and eve.  we have gone astray and sinned.  we have all either lived or desired to live independent of god because we have thought that something was better.

i love how the jesus storybook bible puts it, “in another story, it would all be over and that would have been THE END. but not in this story. god loved his children too much to let the story end there.  even though he knew he would suffer, god had a plan – a magnificent dream. one day, he would get his children back.  …one day god himself would come.” 

oh how he loves us!  as god is telling adam, eve and the serpent their punishments for this sin, he tells the serpent that someday, a child would come from a woman that would bruise/crush his head!  this is the first we hear of the gospel!  the promise of a deliverer! a child that we know years later would be born in a manger, live a perfect life, empathize with our weaknesses, die on the cross, and rise again as he took and defeated the punishment we deserved!!!

we have hope because we know this deliverer!  i would encourage you to take some time this week to confess and repent, maybe even fast.  spend time confessing your sin and dwelling on the god that does not leave us even though we have left him. i think it will do wonders for your heart in as we prepare to celebrate christ's birth this year.

if you have kids, or even if you don't have kids, i would highly recommend reading "the terrible lie" from the jesus storybook bible. sally lloyd-jones essentially says the same things i have said here, but much more eloquently.