Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Miss the Old, Young Jill

I was flipping through some of my old pictures and came across a few when we use to have all of Jill's friends out to our house. We would have scavenger hunts, movie nights, bonfires, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, and Birthday parties. Some of the faces changes, but the core group stayed pretty much the same. I found myself smiling as I recalled some of the highlights. They were good times and I miss the teen-age Jill who would keep me up till all hours of the night with goofy friends, giggling girls, dramatic love lifes, and long visits after everyone had left and it was just the two of us. But it is bittersweet, too. I guess I never realized how much I cared about those teenagers who passed through our lives so quickly, and even now...how lonely I get for THAT Jill and her friends. They kept me young. Now the silence is excruciating as Gregg and I fall asleep in our chairs and I long to hear Colter and Dakota singing with their microphones to some song on the American Idol singing game. Dakota could really belt out Tiny Dancer! I miss Robert and Colter bickering over some video game, and Motz' smile. I miss Chirsten and Jill's giggling over a whispered secret and Kevin cracking jokes that were actually quite witty. I miss stumbling over the bodies strewn across my living room floor watching movies and eating abundant amounts of junk food. And there was always some form of drama to be found whether it was Tessa and Cameron's not getting along or the moodiness of one teenager or another. I guess what I really want to say is thank you! To each one of you that entered our doors, you made my life fun and I love you all. It's bittersweet to know that as you all grow older, you all go separate ways and drift apart. You were good friends to Jill and you made her teenage years memorable and exciting. I hope that you will pause a moment to think of the fun times at the Raben's and think of us with the same fond memories that we think about each of you. Now for a few memories:

Boys trying on all the homecoming dresses :0) What was it with the boys wanting to dress up in girls clothing?

Halloween night and the spooky lights going on and off and Courtney trying to punch out the guy in the trench coat (Shawn Wright)while Darrick and Quinn were too afraid to go outside or go to the barn to find the clues.

The Pirate Party and Anthony running away with all the loot.

Eating Aebleskivers and little smokies until you were sick.

The Silly Supper where you had no idea what you were ordering.

The water fight.

Grandpa Jim chewing out the girls for chasing the chickens.

Hanging out on the top of the haystack.

Motz getting his pickup stuck in a snowbank and Gregg pulling him out.

Robert and Colter playing that old cowboy Nintendo game...and liking it.

The Mighty Armadillos (Thank you Chance, Danny, Jason, Jarod, Colt, Sam, AJ, Dallas, Colter, Quinn, Ashley, Jocelyn, etc.) That was one of the most fun things I ever did. (Loved doing Seven Brides, too. Quinn, your solo blew me away!)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lifted Out of the Box

It has just been recently that I have been enlightened to the fact that the major portion of my life has been spent imprisoned in some kind of a box. The first couple of years of my life were enjoyed in the confines of a crib..a playpen...a carseat...a highchair...a stroller.... or my mother's arms. They were meant as a form of my protection, and even as I started to explore the perimeters of my well guarded fortresses, and began climbing out of the crib or playpen, I was reminded over and over again how dangerous it was to be unconfined or unrestrained. As I grew, the boxes became a little bigger, and the borders went a little farther, but I began to slowly understand that there was a well planned conspiracy to keep me within the four walls of my safety zone. Now the box became my room....my yard..and my city block. I would get glimpses of "the outside" once in awhile, but was quickly reminded by my parents and peers that scary things were on the outside and the big wide world would gobble you up if you dared to dream a different dream than the one that lay inside of the box that was designed especially for you. As the teen years approached, my box grew and expanded...only this time it extended beyond the physical and began to develop inside of my mind, my thoughts, desires, dreams, and spirit. Although I was free to roam the four corners of my large box, other boxes of various sizes began to fill the box I was enclosed within, pressing me into the corner from all sides until I had very little room in my box left for me. The little boxes came in the form of peer pressure, desire to please others, obedience to the laws, parents, church, friends, teachers, ideas, politics, sexual beliefs, so many boxes...and being the opinionated person that I am...I had lots of beliefs and words on every subject imaginable. As adulthood approached, I began to see that others lived in different boxes than I did....but boxes just the same. The borders may have extended farther than mine, but they weren't any more free than I was. They were restrained by different ideologies or ideas...but they were still in bondage. I would look outside my four walls, with a floor and ceiling, and wondered if I would ever really understand what freedom was. It sounded sooo good. Jesus said that He came to set the captives free...and I definitely was a captive. The church (religious establishment) would tell you that Christ could set you free...but then they would tie you up so tightly in the bondage of fear, shame, or some other warped religious rhetoric. I now believe that they were so afraid that you might escape their grips and truly find the freedom that Christ talked about, leaving them to remain in their box all alone. So they worked even harder at keeping you in the same box as them. Religion (man created rules about how we should live under the law) is a horrible way to live. It keeps you in bondage. It keeps you in a box. Christ came that we may have life and have it more abundantly. I had been "religious" for many years...it has just been recently (the last couple of years) that I have really discovered God's grace. It is sad that it took soooo many years before I found the freedom I had longed for. I had tried to climb out of my box many times. But it wasn't until I lifted my arms to Jesus and said, "I'm ready to come out", that I was released from my bondage, and I want to share that with you. Religion produces "a works mentality", an "I can earn God's favor"... Religion produces "a judgemental" attitude, an "I am more holy than you" attitude. Religion produces hypocrites...pretenders....Grace produces an understanding of what Jesus did for me on the cross and a love and desire to serve and please him. Grace produces an uncondeming love for others. Grace (God's undeserved favor) gives us freedom without boundaries...because boundaries are unnecessary for someone who is so in love with the one who died for you. As I told you all once before...I quit attending church for over a year. It was the best thing I ever did....a time of growth and letting go of security...but God has called me back to church....and I LOVE IT! I WANT TO GO TO CHURCH! I CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK EVERY SUNDAY! What produced such a radical change in my thinking and in my life? I was set free! It is all because of God's amazing grace...Jesus lifted me out of the box, and said I love you....be free! And I fell down on my knees and worshipped Him saying....I love you and it is my desire to serve you! Are you tired of being in bondage? Are you ready to be lifted out of your box? There is amazing freedom waiting for you outside of the box and His name is Jesus. I guarantee you...once you are FREE to worship....YOU'LL NEVER BE THE SAME!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Valentine's Day Love Letter From God

My dear child,
Because it is so close to Valentine's Day, I decided to express my love for you in a Valentine's Love Letter. I know that my Holy Word is also my love letter to you, but you haven't picked it up for a very long time so I thought I might have a better chance of reaching you through facebook. Even when you are very busy, I see that you can squeeze in time there, so maybe you will receive this afterall. It seems sometimes, we go for such long periods of time without talking to one another and I often get so lonely for you. I sometimes think that you must get lonely for me, too, but I still never hear from you. I just want to remind you of how great is the love I want to lavish on you, so that you might remember that you are my child.
(1 John 3:1) I want you to know that I have loved you with an everlasting love; I draw you to me with lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3). In this world with all of it's definitions of love, it would be understandable to see how confused you might become. The world lives for today and lets tomorrow worry about itself. You are so precious to me. It makes me sad when I see you give yourself away so readily to people or things so undeserving of your affections. You are valuable. Why can't I make you understand that? Everything I created in you is perfect to me. I made you exactly the way I did for a reason. You are my symphony. Every musical note in your laughter pleases me. You are my poetry. Every inward part of your spirit has the rhyme of my own heart. You are my finest work. Why can't you understand that and start living the life I intended for you? Why must you waste your beauty and heart on my creation rather than on me, your creator. I so want you to live a life of love, just as Christ loved you and gave himself up for you as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to me. (Ephesians 5:2) You can rely on the love I have given you. I am love.(1 John 4:16). I am faithful. My love never fails. My love endures forever. I will strengthen and protect you. (2 Thesselonians 3:3) I am like no other lover that you chase after. I am faithful and true to the one I love. I will never leave you. Where others may let you down, hurt you, or reject you, my love is unfailing and unconditional. I pursue you and woo you to come back to me. My child, return to the one who knows everything you have ever done and does not reject you but draws you into my loving and forgiving embrace. I wonder sometimes, if your friends or the church have misrepresented me to you...that possibly you may believe me to be stern, unforgiving or even expecting something from you in order to stay in my good graces. I assure you that isn't true, but men love darkness instead of light (John 3:19). Be warned, a time is coming when men will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to other myths. (2 Timothy 4:4) They do not understand my love. They love the creation more than the creator. I am with you. I am mighty to save, I take great delight in you and I will quiet you with my love. I will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17) Did you know that I long to hold you in my arms and sing into your hair to quiet you with my love? As far as the east is from the west I have removed your trangressions from you. (Psalm 103:12) I have compassion on you. I satisfy your desires with good things. Well, my dear child....I guess I'll close. Think about what I have said. It's really simple. I love you. Come home.