A New Year, A New System

So, we had an amazing second Christmas, and spent lots of fun time with my in-laws. Honestly, I did not expect the gift exchange to be as big as it was, but everyone got lots of fun stuff! And I certainly can’t complain about all the extra help, love, and time I got to have with everyone (and Jimmy)! Oh! And we got to play Settlers (among other board games), which is a real treat since we hardly have the time and bodies to get through a whole game.

One of gifts I have most utilized this year was practically free: the bullet journal system. My mom mentioned it and when I looked around the web, I thought I would really like to try it out. I had gotten a journal from Jimmy, nothing fancy, which is perfect because bullet journaling takes some trial and error. If you’re interested, I found this great blog on how to start without getting overwhelmed and I mostly agree. But, really, you should work on it a little yourself and see what you like about it. The blogger doesn’t like to write grocery lists in her bullet journal, but I love it. Writing something on paper and marking it off, in addition to using ibotta is a much better way for my brain than any technological way I’ve used. (Ibotta is a cool grocery rebate app, my referral code is “ostfodm” without quotes, if you want to try it. Why not? It’s free money!)

  
I personally don’t do diary entries, prayers, or stories in my bullet journal. It functions well for me as just a planner for now. One of the best pieces of advice in the blog is that the Daily Log isn’t just meant for to-do lists, it’s meant for ideas, notes, and other little things you want to write down. It’s a log. That’s one thing I didn’t take into account when I started my Weekly Log in lieu of a daily one. Then I wound up with pages and pages of Collections that I maybe didn’t need. But, I do like a few of them, such as ideas for EV’s 2nd birthday, waiting on, home improvement, and, ironically, collection ideas. I also have pages to track EV’s sleep schedule, grocery lists like I mentioned before, and some inserts with Japanese characters so I can practice my kana if I ever get to it!

That’s another thing: I have so many Japanese language learning tools now. Bullet Journaling is one, but I also got a game, I have a number of books, and the app Human Japanese. I’ve been really excited about it lately, but that’s happened before. Who knows what will happen next? I hope I can some day get into a classroom setting because that environment seems to work well for getting me to actually do the learning. Regardless, my Habit Tracker in my journal shows that I’ve been working on it almost every day, so that’s something!

Gosh, I could go on and on. But I will share one lesson I’ve learned about myself and this bullet journal system: I need a Weekly Log and a Daily Log. The weekly log helps me see what I hope to get done for the week, what plans I’ve made, and I find it’s a great place to write down prayers and have my habit tracker. What I forsook about the Daily Log was that, even if I don’t have tons of things to do in one day, I have lots of thoughts that I want to write down, and all those thoughts don’t need their own collection pages. Now I just have to figure out what I really want to do as for formatting.

Note: I can’t believe January is already half over!

I hope everyone is having a good year so far! I’m looking forward to an exciting 2016 for the Kramers 🙂

What Really Happened at the Hospital

If you happen to be connected with me on Facebook, you know by now that Labor Day weekend was a complicated and frustrating one. EV broke her arm, and I know a lot of people want to know what happened. I tried my best to stay positive despite the craziness, but the truth is, it was a pretty horrible experience. Honestly, one of the worst experiences of my life.

What really happened at the hospital, though, was that God was doing work in our family, and that is worth celebrating!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything… Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-4;12 NIV)

It is no surprise to me that this verse came up multiple times before any of this ever happened. God showed me that when Christians persevere in any kind of suffering, they are met with actual reward in the end. There is no doubt. For what we went through at the hospital, we will be rewarded eternally! That gave me so much strength when we were sitting and waiting in the hospital room. Afterwards, however, I learned another lesson: we are made perfect in perseverance. Now, I have just one more tool in life’s tool belt that I know how to use.

But I know there are other details about what went down that y’all want to know. I have no problem documenting them for you. Maybe some day I will come back to this post and it will remind me of the amazing work that was done. Continue reading

The Things I’ve Learned

It’s been a… rocky few months, to put it very lightly.

There are obvious changes happening. In my life, the most obvious would be the arrival of my second child in just two short months. And then, there have been less apparent things, both good and bad, that are changing the course of my life. It’s not even only my life, but everyone’s. So many things have happened. Maybe someday I will write about them, or publish the small amount that I have written in private. I’ve certainly thought about them a lot, to say the least.

Really, though, it’s what all these experiences have taught me that’s important. So, that’s what I will share.

Before I go on, let me say that these things are significant because of the way I learned about them. I sought after the truth, and it was given to me through God’s word, the changes in my heart, and confirmation in my spirit. To me, it wasn’t a journey of self-discovery. Rather, it was through active seeking of something outside myself, something constant, and I have been blessed to know that it is available to me, as it is to all of us, through Jesus.

Marriage has been an exceedingly prominent theme in my learning from God. At first, I wasn’t quite sure why I was learning so much about it, but then one thing happened, and then another, and then another. I realized that God wasn’t seeking to teach me about my own marriage in particular, but marriage as a whole. His design for marriage is undeniable. His intention for marriage is clear, which is why it was given the name “marriage.” Those who seek to do His will recognize these truths are written perfectly in His Word. Though He has been teaching me about marriage for many years, I was recently called to surrender my perspective again, so I could be affirmed in the truth.

Broader than the topic of marriage, I’ve learned about redemption. It is certainly related to marriage, in that many marriages need it. But, redemption is always possible, always available, and it is relentless. I’ve learned that there is no limit to what can be redeemed. I’ve heard a lot of “it’s too late,” and a lot of “it’s hopeless,” but because of Jesus, these things are just not true. Our God is absolutely without limits, as is His love and goodness. We are the ones who resist redemption.

Which brings me to another big lesson about resistance. It’s so clear to me now, but before I just couldn’t see it. When we seek change, reconciliation, healing, or any manifestation of goodness, we focus so much on having something visible and tangible. What God wants, though, is a spiritual change. The Bible says ask and you will receive (Matt. 7:7), but there’s a catch. If you are resisting the change that will happen in your spirit, why should God give you anything? What does He owe you? It has been a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over, but it finally makes sense. Only when I allowed my heart to be surrendered and work to be done within would I get the physical reward that I was seeking. I had to care about what God cares about first, and let all other things be second. God wished to bless me, and I praise Him for choosing to do that! But I can’t say I cared any longer for the wealth I received. It was dust compared to the treasure I got from within.

I have learned so much about wisdom. James 1:5 says that if you ask for wisdom, you have it. I realized that, even though I had received wisdom so many times, my attitude when asking for it was misguided. Although there are times when wisdom collides with you in obvious ways, you must believe that you have it when you ask for it. It’s almost as if it’s already been given to you before you even ask. Continue reading James 1 and you will see that doubt is what snatches wisdom from your grasp. Doubt distances you from God, so the message is really this: trust Him. He will save you if you walk into destruction, so don’t be afraid. Ask for wisdom, and leap.

It goes very much alongside preparation. God prepares us, and He prepares others. So, wherever you step, you must trust that He has prepared that path for you, and if it is the wrong way, He will intercede. He has prepared you for this moment your entire life. When the Jews doubted and became afraid, He punished them! We get so much validation from others for being cautious and smart, when the reality is that we are fearful and doubtful. We forget that Jesus wants us to go to God like children. To the world, it looks like foolishness. But it is freedom. Believing that we have been prepared for whatever will come next is pure, childlike freedom.

So then, what right do I have to be afraid of anything the Bible says about the work of a Christian? Should I fear rejection? Persecution? Suffering? If I am wronged, should I be unloving? Unwilling to reconcile? This has been the most recent lesson for me. I am still struggling, still probably going to sin, still learning. But I trust in God’s work. And I know that the instructions I need to live this life are available to me. I’ve learned some of them already. And I have total refuge in my Lord, the one who so graciously gave me instructions, and even more, sacrificed His only Son so that when I failed to follow them, I needn’t be punished.

The same is true for you as well. If you have never accepted Jesus into your heart by following the instructions in Romans 10:9 to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that He rose from the dead, then right now is the moment to do it. You want to be set free from the chains of this world, and be born again into a new life. That is salvation, and my friend, it is free for the taking.

The Only Vaccine Argument You Need To Hear

That’s right. This is the ONLY one you need to hear. Are you ready?

I’m not going to get into the arguments that are pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine. There have been enough parents, doctors and people of all kinds to compile list after list of reasons why we should or shouldn’t vaccinate. I’m not going to do that. In fact, this hardly has anything to do with vaccines. But it has everything to do with the state of our world’s health.

I’m going to talk about God now. I warn you because I know that this argument is more valid than any of the other ones, but it requires you to understand that it is based on Jesus. If you don’t believe in or love Jesus, it is totally your decision to keep reading or not, but you need to hear this too. However, I’m going to focus on those of you who do love Jesus.

We messed up. That’s why this whole thing is even an issue.

What any pro- or anti-vaccine advocate would tell you is nothing compared to what I’m about to tell you. That’s because they are focused on telling you HOW we got sick.

It doesn’t matter how. It matters why.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says this: “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (NKJV)

You see that? See the words “heal their land”? See the distinction of “my people”?

The unbelievers are not the problem. They don’t know better. Christians, lovers of Jesus, we are WHY this nation is sick. We know that God can heal the sick. We know that He is all-knowing and all-powerful, and that He alone can save this depraved country. And He would, if we would turn from our wicked ways.

The unbelievers are not responsible. We are.

I’m not going to say that each person who has gotten sick is paying the price for his or her own sin, because that’s not true. The final Day of Judgment hasn’t come yet, but it will, and that’s when we will see true justice and grace. But today, this sickness is a warning sign. Illness and death are products of all of our sins. But, if we believers would stop being wicked in our ways, God would heal this nation. That’s a promise!

So, I guess, after that, it doesn’t really matter if we vaccinate or not, because God is the authority over all things. He has led me to both skip the vaccine and let my daughter have the vaccine. The devil has tried to intercede, making sure I don’t listen to my Lord, but I ignored him.

We skipped a number of my daughter’s shots because I was scared. There was a reason I was scared. I couldn’t figure out who was telling the truth. The devil overcame me with confusion. I did research, I listened to moms I trusted, I considered what doctors said, I even prayed, and I still couldn’t decide.

So, for her 6-month shots, I gave it to God. I prayed, and surrendered, and I drew so amazingly close to God. There is no doubt in my mind I did the right thing. I was terrified and humbled.

We went to the office to vaccinate her. And you know what happened? A child screamed bloody murder in the next room. My spirit knew it was Satan. He was trying so hard to scare me. I was convicted that she was supposed to get her shots. God was gently nudging me that direction through multiple avenues, and there was no greater confirmation to me that I made the right choice than when Satan was desperately trying to make me unfaithful. Oh, but I was so filled with the Holy Spirit, peace just rushed over me. Dumping down like rain! It was magnificent!

She got her shots and cried for maybe 20 seconds. It was over. No side effects. There is zero indication that she is anything but healthy. And you know what? No matter what anyone tries to tell me, I know why she was vaccinated.

God wanted it. He has given me peace about that.

That isn’t to say that God wants that for every child. I’m sure it’s different for every parent. But I can’t listen to this pitiful argument anymore. Vaccinate or don’t vaccinate. I don’t care. I care that you listen to God in every aspect of your life because that is the ONLY thing that will ever make a difference to your child’s eternity.

And, according to 2 Chronicles, every one else’s life too.

Don’t you trust Him? Stop arguing! No human can do anything to your child’s body that God can’t reverse. No human can even touch your child’s spirit! No germs or side effects or sickness can change what God has ordained!

If we turn from our wicked ways and seek Him in prayer and every aspect of our lives, we would all be fine. Don’t lose hope that it won’t happen. Nothing is impossible for God. But YOU must check yourself. YOU must surrender. YOU must humble yourself and stop worrying.

When you do, everything will change. Maybe even the whole world.

How’s that for a vaccine argument?

Qualms about #nofilter

We have messed this one up good, fellow Instagrammers.

You know how, like, errrrbody uses hashtags these days? Yeah, that’s fine. But you know how, like, some people use errrrrry hashtag on the planet in one picture? That’s kinda annoying sometimes. But still, whatevs.

What we rly messed up lately is #nofilter. I am certainly not a fan of misusing hashtags, obviously. And I am absolutely positive that people use popular hashtags on purpose so that other people will look at their pictures, WHICH IS FINE, but not really when the hashtag has NOTHING to do with the picture, or perhaps, is basically a lie.

Exhibit A

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This particular hashtag is closing in on 100 million posts. And I really don’t think people understand the intention behind this one. Maybe I’m the one out of the loop here. So let me clarify. A #nofilter photo should meet these requirements:

1) There is, indeed, no Instagram filter on the picture, and
2) The picture is true to being straight from a lens, without editing OR is very minimally edited, but still true to what the subject of the photo looks like in real life.

I think most people only follow rule 1, and some just don’t pay no mind.

You see in Exhibit A, basically all the pictures are edited in some way. Pictures 3, 4, 7 and 12 are the only ones that look like they didn’t use a filter or edit, but the rest of them look at least a little edited. #1 for example. No filter? Really? They must live in a very high exposure, low contrast, warm-colored environment. Pictures 5 & 6 have a vignette, which I doubt is pure luck, pictures 9 & 10 have clearly used Instagram filters (or a comparable editing program), and picture 11 is BLACK & WHITE, which would be impressive if it weren’t edited, but it is.

I used #nofilter once. I took an impressive picture of the Angel Oak that required zero editing. I thought, “I should put #nofilter on this so people can enjoy it along with the other impressive photos that are hard to believe haven’t been edited.”

Exhibit B

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This is that picture. After I put it up, I thought, “Actually, I might enjoy looking at cool pictures.” I was disappointed. Because I saw something like Exhibit A. And because it’s so popular, all the cool pictures that do end up there, like mine, get pushed down by the others almost instantly.

Now, I certainly have misused hashtags. I’ve broken my own guidelines, and perhaps I have done so once or twice intentionally. And really, I’m not even so sure that my rule of 3 or 4 hashtags per post matters that much. I look at some businesses reaping benefits from using a TON of them, and that’s cool with me!

What I don’t get is why, if people aren’t going to follow both rules of #nofilter, it makes any difference at all. Sure, you can follow the first rule and edit the original picture into oblivion, but why? Why would anyone care?

I suggest that people start putting, like, 5 filters on their pictures and using #mofilter! Save the other one for stuff you might actually like to see without a filter.

Goodness me, I feel like I should have a whole category for my comments on social media etiquette!

EV’s First Halloween

I promised to update with Halloween pictures of our little love, so even though most who read this have probably already been spammed with pictures on Facebook, I am going to put them here anyway, because they are just so adorable!

For her very first Halloween, EV dressed up as…

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A ladybug!! So cute right?

I wanted to keep with the theme, but you know, I’m terrible at prepping Halloween costumes and I’m also terrible and wanting to spend money on them, so I did something super easy! I present to you a lady-bug and a gentleman-bug!

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I spent $5 making the antennae, and everything else was in my closet!

Here are some more pictures of our quiet night.

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Cute right?

Though I wish to elaborate on the glorious things that have been going on with me, I will leave this blog as a simple “look how cute my babybug is” type of thing. Please, though, if you see me, ask me about this life-changing thing that has happened to me! We will be in the northwest in a matter of days and I am so excited to meet up with some familiar people! It’s been too long!

I leave you with one final photo. Farewell and Happy November!

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Food for thought: Food for soul

This is a topic my mother-in-law suggested I write about, since we spent a lot of time eating together this week.

Like many others, I’ve struggled with eating right. I loooooove food. It doesn’t help that my husband is a great cook. I have always been head over heels for sugar. During my first trimester, I ate more sugar than I thought I’d ever be able to stand. But I want to make the right choices for my daughter and myself. I think every mother looks at food and wants to make good choices for her family.

So, I read all kinds of blogs and articles and studies.

What I’ve learned, however, is that there is a fine line between eating right and being afraid. Especially in this country, where packaged food is often cheap and often yummy, we have a hard time balancing the nutritious and the not-so-nutritious (and the budget). And you’ll get a lot of people (bloggers, doctors, health coaches, etc.) who will readily tell you that it isn’t a balancing act at all: always choose the good-for-you stuff. But then you’ll find that the opinions on “what’s good for you” vary tremendously. I’ve seen healthy and unhealthy vegans. I’ve heard of a “diet” that consists of nothing but bacon and multivitamins. I’ve read both sides of the soy debate. And the caffeine debate. And the red meat debate. And the organic debate. And nuts, citrus fruits, seafood, GMOs, wheat, rice, you name it, there’s debate about it.

Frankly, the whole thing has left me a bit overwhelmed.

So, I decided that there is only ONE way to navigate this whole food crisis: give it to God. I mean, that’s how I would handle any other kind of crisis in my life. Why not this one?

Turns out it was the best choice I could have ever made for my health. Because, really, it’s my spiritual health that matters.

Our bodies will fade. There is absolutely nothing that we can do to change that. They will one day die, disintegrate, and be gone, until God weaves them together again in Heaven. Whether you are healthy or not makes no difference. Of course, you can certainly elongate your life by being healthy, but it doesn’t change the fact that your days are still numbered.

In Heaven, however, we will be made anew. Our spirits will be in full bloom, glorious and unmatched by anything here on Earth. So what does that have to do with eating food?

What we eat and how we live in these bodies is not nearly as important as what our souls do. My body is simply a vessel for me. But like a vehicle, if you don’t take care of it, you’ll have a much harder time getting where you need to go. Our bodies are tied to our spirits while we are here. But remember, too, ANY kind of food is a massive blessing. We forget sometimes that our big supermarkets and grocery stores and rotten tomatoes in the fridge are things that many people wish they had. And life, as fleeting as it is, is worth using to make a difference.

So food, then, is still an important choice. But it’s nothing to be afraid of. I always imagine this: if I pray over my food, be thankful for the days I have, and trust God to take care of me, then I can be free to make choices. He put me here, after all, and I don’t think He wants me to struggle with something innately tied to this impermanent body, especially when my needs are met regardless. I think He wants to challenge me sometimes, so I’m not careless with this wonderful gift. I think He wants me to enjoy food, but not overindulge in it. And ultimately, I know He wants me to drop everything I have at His feet, so I can be free from fear and toil. He wants me to be willing to go hungry if that’s what it takes to further the glory of His kingdom. He wants me to care more about feeding my soul than feeding my body. And He wants me to teach this to my children.

Food is for your soul. So worry not.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:26-27 NIV)