Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Hand of God

This photo was taken from my backyard on Saturday, right after the fires had begun...

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
 the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’
Proverbs 30:15a-16

"He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants."
Psalms 104:4

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.  
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
Isaiah 43:1b-3a

My beloved mountains are in flames. My heart is breaking-almost 10% of the population of my adopted hometown have been evacuated-their homes in imminent danger. Even the house that my family lived in on the Academy, when I was in college, is in an evacuation area. I can't see because of the smoke but I can promise you one thing: this is the hand of God.

I have been on edge since the first reports came in on Saturday. The fire started Friday,  and all the officials were hopeful that it would stay away from the city, that rain would come, that it could be contained. I worried, I prayed, I stared into the distance, as if the power from my vision would be enough to dispel the ferocious flames. 

We survived on that hope until Tuesday afternoon. I could hear the wind screaming around my house-it has been so hot here, well over 100 degrees some days, that we have been keeping all the blinds closed against the blazing sun. My heart sank-I knew this was a bad omen. Then the reports started flooding in. The worst possible thing: the fire had jumped through a canyon that was the last point separating numerous neighborhoods and the city from the flames.

I was dumbstruck. Looking through Facebook was mind-numbing. Every person I knew from the Springs was posting about the devastation. Some had been evacuated, some had posted photos-several were fleeing their homes. Then, anyone I knew from out of town was posting mundane things: photos of coffee, friends, trips recently taken. And I realized that must be how any city suffering a natural disaster feels. Alone, and separated. 

 We left the house-we are many miles south of the flames, and the danger is negligible. The town was a bizarre scene: to the north, thick billowing clouds of smoke and ash obscured the sun and the mountains. To the south, the sun shone and the sky was blue, the wind was calm.

There should be mountains in the left of this photo. The strange purple blue cloud is smoke-there were no natural clouds that way.

As we went further we were stunned by the darkness. It seemed wrong to be carrying on in a normal way, but there was nothing we could do. I stood in Costco glued to a television that someone had turned to a news channel. Then I heard something that I have clung to ever since. The speaker was talking about the confluence of events that had to occur for such a devastating turn to take place. Literally within minutes the wind had to be blowing a certain direction, the fire had to be at a specific place, the temperature had to rise, and a multitude of other details had to fall perfectly into place for the fire to crest the ridge of the canyon it was in, come down the other side and begin to devour the houses there.

"The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." Joel 2:31

And I realized: God had orchestrated those events. Only He could make those things happen at just the right time. I don't know why, but He is behind all this. This is the hand of God. He has a reason. He created fire- out of all the elements, it is the most destructive. I do know this: we are powerless to stand against it in our humanity. We can fight and we can persevere, but in the end victory (or defeat) rests with Him alone. And I was comforted. I know it seems strange, but hearing that it was the most bizarre of coincidences assured me that it was not a coincidence at all.

Do I think this is the end of the world? I don't know; I doubt it. However, it definitely calls to mind so many of the end time prophecies. And that is probably a good thing. We walk as if we have definite security in our place in the world, and in reality the only security we have is as far from this world as possible.

I haven't stopped praying, but I have stopped worrying. My prayers are simple: "Please, Jesus. Please. Be merciful."  I won't pray for the Lord to do anything but His will-it is abundantly clear that He has a purpose far beyond my understanding. So, pray for my dear city: for my beloved mountains, for all of the people, for their salvation, with me- we are walking through the fire, the flames all around, but the Light of the world is guiding and I know that I have been summoned by name...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Denver "Fake-end"

I know you are all curious as to what I have been up to! Well, last week I was recovering from VBS overload, so I didn't do much- other than laundry!

 Sunday was Father's Day, so we spoiled Joel, and then Monday my grandparents stopped by for the night on their way to Missouri.

Joel has this week of off school (although unfortunately, not work!) so we decided to run up to Denver on the only two days he will have off together all summer!

I decided that it wasn't really a "stay-cation", because we stayed in a hotel. It was more like a weekend, in the middle of the week. So, I dubbed it a fake weekend, or a "fake-end"- you like?

We had a wonderful, relaxing time. Joel used part of his Father's Day gift, a gift card to "The Art of Shaving" and he got a professional straight razor shave. He loved it. Kind of like a pedicure for guys.

I shopped. And shopped. And shopped some more! I bought this delicious yellow cardigan. And paid full price! But it was from Forever 21 so it was a whopping $13. I have big plans for this little sweater.

How, I ask you, can you not love a store where the jewelry starts at $1.50?!! I could not resist picking up a couple more pieces to add to my collection. You can hardly buy a soda for that price, and trust me, I get a lot more compliments on my necklaces than my beverage choices.

We also spent some quality time at Ikea. I know that sounds like a funny statement, but when there is free childcare, we consider it quality time. Besides, I found the most perfect curtains for my living room. I have sloooowly been changing things over in there. These were my curtains before:
Hard to see in the picture, hard to appreciate in real life. They are brown, which matches nothing, because I prefer black. Satin, which is so not me, and plain. They were cheap, and they covered the window. But then I found these:
Can I just say love? They need hemming, but they are the perfect colors and they are so much more cheerful and eye-catching than the old ones. They make me happy.

After all our shopping we checked in to our hotel and did some swimming. After that we went to dinner, did a little more shopping (I know, I have a problem) and then came back and did some more swimming. It was a good thing we got all our swimming in the first day, because it was 90 degrees on Tuesday and only 65 on Wednesday morning. Typical Colorado weather!

We went to H&M and trolled the 16th Street Mall. I refrained from buying anything-aren't you proud of me? The kids thought it was fun to ride the trolley, and we all enjoyed some Starbucks-perfect for a slightly damp, chilly, summer morning. Here are my favorite people with their "coffee":

We thought it was hilarious that there was a Starbucks on every corner. There are at least 4 within 3/4 of a mile. And they are all busy! We weren't ashamed to add to the revenue stream.

We headed home, swung by the outlet mall, and finished out our shopping themed trip with a stop at Costco, where I found this:

May I just say that samples work? I don't like cheddar popcorn, but the caramel corn in there is worth the whole bag! Tasty stuff.

Anyway, it was delightful to get away with our little family. Joel won't get a true vacation this year, but it was nice to pretend. The kids thought swimming was the greatest-especially at night when we had the pool to ourselves. We decided we definitely need more fake-ends.;)

Monday, June 11, 2012

One Stop Swap Shop

I love clothes. Shopping is a competitive sport for me, one that gets my blood pumping and my eyes gleaming. I am an excellent clearance shopper-not just cheap clothes, but fashionable, no-one-would-guess-I-only-paid-a-dollar-for-it kind of stuff. I don't necessarily consider myself a "trend setter" but I do love to put together different outfits. However, all this shopping causes one problem: extra stuff.

I have been on a mission to declutter and simplify my house. I am not ever planning on having six shirts and two pairs of pants or anything drastic like that, but I did decide I wanted to get rid of everything that was too big for me and most of what was too small (the dreamer in me couldn't get rid of a few choice items!), and anything I just didn't care for. So I purged:once, twice, three times! And I had a ton of things that I couldn't wear.

I have tried selling my clothes. On Craigslist, at yardsales, to consignment stores. I had a girl on Craigslist who bought my jeans and then decided she wanted to return them. I have marked tons of stuff for yardsales only to return home with 3/4 of it. And I have taken it to consignment stores to be offered $10 for three pairs of jeans (two Gap, one Lucky), never worn New Balance shoes (given to me by a friend) and 6 tops! Ummm, no thank you!

So, what's a girl to do? I could have donated my things to Goodwill. I am a big fan, and I think they have a quality program. But I am friends with lots of non-shoppers. Who often comment on my taste in clothes. So finally, one day while trolling the internet I decided I wanted to have a clothing swap! It would be a great way to give things to people who would appreciate my quality clothes, grab a few new things for myself and have a party! I love a party, too.:)

First, I sent out an Evite. I set the time and date. I also included that each guest should plan on bringing at least 10 things to swap. They were welcome to bring more, but I felt like that would be a good starting point. Believe it or not, I had a few friends who had trouble coming up with that many things! It could include: pants, tops, dresses, shorts, sweaters, jewelry, scarves, accessories, purses, shoes-basically anything you could wear.

A few people were worried that we weren't all the same size, but since most of had clothes that were too big, too small, and also just weren't "right", we had a variety of sizes from 4-12. Definitely something for everyone!

And because I can't resist an opportunity that says "party", I had to do a couple of my own little things! I chose to repeat the colors from my birthday party, so I could reuse the paper lanterns and tablecloth. The party was in the afternoon, so I went with simple food: crackers, cheese, salami and pepperoni, chips and dip, veggies and these delightful cookies! My friend supplied the red velvet cupcakes.

 I also made a really tasty punch. I used 3/4 of a bottle of cranberry-cherry juice, added 1/4 cup lime juice and one-third of a two liter of ginger ale. I made the ice cubes in a muffin tin and floated lime slices on top-thanks, Pinterest! Punch just says "party", doesn't it?

I put together little prizes,too. I decided I would have a prize for: most items, item that had the most ribbons (that meant the most people wanted it) and for best outfit put together from swap pieces. It didn't quite work out that way, but it would have been fun!
The prizes were a big hit. I put in a cute accessory from Claire's (thank you, 10 items for $10 clearance-perfect!), either a ring or a necklace. This one was a ring that I loved so much I bought a duplicate for myself! I also included either a lotion or hand sanitizer from Bath and Body works and for fun-since it was about clothes (which are laundry) I put a different sample of laundry detergent in each one. I send away for free samples all the time, so I had plenty handy. However, it would be really easy to put a Tide Pod, or something like that in each one.

And then it was time to swap! I forgot to take pictures once every one's clothes were out-this is just my stuff, except the green Target bag. Crazy, huh? I used my rolling rack to hang all the shirts, dresses and skirts and then folded the pants, swimwear and layering pieces on the green tub.

I bought ten different colors of $0.50 ribbon from Micheal's and cut off ten 10 inch pieces from each roll. We used these to mark which things we wanted. If two (or more) people wanted the same item, we removed the ribbon and "drew" for it. Basically someone held a piece in each hand and someone else picked a hand. It actually worked out to be pretty fair!

Everyone took their time looking through the items, trying things on, and finding things for other people. They tied the ribbon either on the hanger, on on the belt loop, or wherever. Once everyone had used their ten ribbons, anything else was free game to take. Anything with multiple ribbons we held a drawing for, and I tied up all the leftovers for Goodwill. We had a great time eating, chatting and swapping, and several people said they hoped it would be a semi-annual event! Maybe, but for right now, my closet is pretty clean!


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