Friday, March 19, 2010

My friend Shannon....

This morning as I drove into Franklin, it was very easy to sing God's praises. On the heels of an AMAZING blessing, it is EASY to be grateful, positive, chipper. Then all of a sudden the face of my dear friend Shannon popped into my head, and I felt a bit of conviction twinge in my heart. See Shannon, my dear Shannon, she can call me excited about her brand new job shoveling elephant poop at the zoo. Shannon can be positive about anything. She can make lemonade out of her house burning down or her arm falling off. She is the QUINTESSENTIAL cheerleader... completely adept at cheering VORACIOUSLY for her team all the way through the fourth quarter when they are down 127 - 0. She can do it! Her positive little face made me wince.

Sure it's easy to be that positive when something good just happened to me, but am I that positive when the bad stuff happens? Typically I can do a pretty good job of keeping my chin up during hard stuff, but I want more. I want my HEART to wear a Shannon smile. I want my HEART to rejoice in having a job shoveling elephant poop!

Life is going to give you lemon drops and lemons... The challenge my dear friends is to face BOTH with joy in your heart and praise on your lips. Yesterday, as we were taking a walk, AFTER we had been JUST given a HUGE blessing, God bestowed another small one on us. As we passed a house in our cul de sac, the owner pointed to a bike in his front yard and said, "We're getting rid of that bike. If you know anyone who wants it....." We now have a bike for both of the adults in our family! Noah looked at me and said, "Mom, God sure loves us hey?" I replied, "Yeah, He sure does, Noah. BUT He loves us just as much when we're suffering."

He is not any less good when bad things happen to us. He doesn't love us any less when the rain is falling. So I for one am purposing in my heart to pull out my cheerleader smile ALL the time and to work HARD to get that smile to reach all the way to my heart during the worst of the storms.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gleaning from our suffering....

I believe the reasons for this thing called suffering are many faceted. I've blogged about it before. Suffering can be a natural consequence of a choice made. Suffering can be our faith being tested and purified. Suffering can be for the blessing and encouragement of others. Today I think maybe suffering can be for the sake of my children.... so that something beautiful can be birthed in them.

Back at Christmas, when Christmas Angels blessed us with a MULTITUDE of gifts, our children became inspired to do the same for another family next year. They've been saving their allowance ever since. Today I saw in my children another beautiful thing birthed out of our suffering.

This afternoon, Elijah brought the mail in, and the second I saw the return address, I knew what was inside. As I pulled out the note card and opened it up, tears started to build in the back of my throat. A check was taped closed inside, but I bypassed it savoring the encouraging words I found. I started reading the note, "Kastner family, The Lord has laid your family on our hearts..." Then at the end a P.S. that let me know someone is reading these words I blog, "I hope from this your little ones can enjoy their favorite meals." Without opening the check yet, I lifted it to read the words written beneath, "Thanks so much for sharing on your blogs....." Finally I opened the check. My breath caught at the sight of the amount! This check wouldn't just help our little ones enjoy their favorite meals.... it would help us get our new washer too!!!! The tears spring quickly from my eyes, and I hiccuped a quick cry.

Hannah said, "Guys! Mom's crying." As I closed the card, I said, "It's good tears, Hannah. It's good tears." Noah, wise beyond his years and "first in class" in this course entitled, "The suffering of the Kastner family," quickly said, "Someone blessed us with a check didn't they?" I nodded, words eluding me.... the discernment of my baby... the BLESSING from God.... the conviction of how ONCE AGAIN my faith had wobbled a little... they were all overcoming me again. Noah came to me and grabbed my hands in the middle of the kitchen and just started praying,

"Dear Lord,

Thank you for blessing us! Thank you for the people who blessed us. We pray that you bless them. Bless them today. Bless them this month. Bless them this year. Keep on blessing and blessing and blessing them.


I opened my eyes and gazed at this 10-year old man of God standing in front of me. If I never, ever have another penny the rest of my life.... If I have to rely upon the goodness of God's people, humbling myself and laying down my pride to accept the charity of my brothers and sisters in Christ all the days of my life... it will all be worthwhile. For my children IMMEDIATELY look to God when we are blessed. They immediately KNOW who blessed us. It wasn't Mr. & Mrs. ___________ from Podunk, OK who blessed us. It was GOD! So they immediately give Him praise. But they also know the second thing to do when someone blesses us, they ask God to bless them right back.

So thank you Mr. & Mrs. ______________ from Podunk, OK. Thank you for blessing us! The Kastner children WILL eat their favorite meals all weekend and into next week for sure! And the Kastners will finally have a wash machine again too. But more than that.... so much more valuable than that, your gift helped teach four little children (and their ever forgetful Momma) that God NEVER forgets them.... that there are angels walking among us.... and that it is VERY blessed to be generous.

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:40

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Worship Wednesday: Healing Rain

This morning I had a bit of a writer's block.... [I KNEW that would happen if I started this Worship Wednesday thing!!!!] I turned to my bff... the source of much of my inspiration, "I got NOTHING for Worship Wednesday! What's your favorite worship song right now?" I asked of John. His answer, "Healing Rain." I actually don't remember ever hearing this song before. I googled the lyrics and listened. Boy! Is it good!

In light of the last eight months, I totally get why this is his favorite song right now, and knowing it is his favorite has ministered to me in ways I cannot explain.

Healing rain is coming down
It's coming nearer to this old town
Rich and poor, weak and strong
It's bringing mercy, it won't be long

Healing rain is coming down
It's coming closer to the lost and found
Tears of joy, and tears of shame
Are washed forever in Jesus' name

Healing rain, it comes with fire
So let it fall and take us higher
Healing rain, I'm not afraid
To be washed in Heaven's rain

Lift your heads, let us return
To the mercy seat where time began
And in your eyes, I see the pain
Come soak this dry heart with healing rain

And only You, the Son of man
Can take a leper and let him stand
So lift your hands, they can be held
By someone greater, the great I Am

Healing rain, it comes with fire
So let it fall and take us higher
Healing rain, I'm not afraid
To be washed in Heaven's rain

To be washed in Heaven's rain...

Healing rain is falling down
Healing rain is falling down
I'm not afraid
I'm not afraid...

Maybe you need some healing rain today... You know it truly is available to ALL - rich & poor... weak & strong... no matter what your sin... He died for it, and His mercy is big enough for it. Let Jesus soak your dry heart with His rain today. Feel His mercy, His healing rain flooding over you...

May you have a blessed Worship Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Way better....

I wonder.... Is this kinda what Heaven will be like?

My children, sun-starved and fresh-air-deprived, from being cooped up over a long Wisconsin winter, have REVELED in the chance to play outside these past two sunshiney days. They beg to remove their coats. They run about like puppies looking for a good spot to pee. Today Jeremiah is even outside in shorts! Bikes and t-ball.... walks and kickballs.... These are the things Wisconsin kids dream of all winter long.

Today it had me thinking... Is this kinda what Heaven will be like? Now we sit Son-starved and throne-of-God deprived, cooped up in this sinful world with its heartbreak and illness, disappointment and struggle. But soon it will be spring! And we'll REVEL in walking the streets of gold! Soon we will bask in the light of His presence. Soon we'll be like excited puppies dancing in front of our Master.

Yes I think this is kinda what Heaven will be like. But it will be better then the coming of spring is to a Wisconsin kid.... WAY better.

Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 2 Corinthians 5:2

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Put on love...

Did you know that a state trooper without much to do on a Sunday morning can pull you over because your front license plate is only attached by one of the two bolts? We know that now.

Serious as a heart attack, this morning lead-foot hubby is driving WELL within the speed limit because now that he is driving on an occupational license from too many points for speeding he knows hasn't-had-a-ticket-in-6-years wifey may KILL him for exceeding the speed limit by even one mile. We drive past about four cops pulling people over (boy that crowd headed to church on Sunday morning must be more dangerous than the bar crowd letting out at 2 am). Speed demon hubby (again INCHING along at the posted limit) is exiting freeway while wifey says, "Boy are they out in force this morning!" Sure enough... flashing lights in the rearview mirror.

I am actually starting to believe my husband's paranoid assertion that the man with the badge is out to get him. We got a warning for violating a traffic regulation. There was no fine associated with the warning. It comes with no points. I asked the police officer, and we don't even have to take the citation in and prove we fixed the problem. Pretty much that whole pull over was just to make sure that we nearly missed church. We deposited the children at their respective Sunday school areas and scooted into service just in time to catch the very last song of the worship set. (Which was lucky cuz at our church, you cannot reenter the sanctuary during the preaching of the word.)

Pastor Aaron was ON FIRE again today, and coincidentally enough (although I, just like Leroy Jethro Gibbs, do not believe in coincidences) his sermon included EXACTLY what I had planned to blog about today. The second thing that God has been teaching me through this incredibly stressful, testing time: And over all these virtues put on love, (Colossians 3:14a)

See through all the things I spewed about yesterday: caring for two elderly (and not always very agreeable) relatives, having no wash machine, crabby husband plagued by tight neck muscles, still not quite able to pay the bills, and a SERIOUS desire to assault a law enforcement officer this morning.... besides praying without ceasing, God has been telling me to put on love. When I am at the end of my patience.... when I have nothing left to give.... when I have cleaned up one too many poop accidents... when I am frustrated with lead foot hubby... when I want to deck a cop who had nothing better to do with his time then make us late for church because of a stupid license plate.... put on love....

You can NEVER go wrong with this strategy. You are NOT going to EVER stand before God and hear: Gosh you just loved too often. I really wish you had been cranky more. or You were too kindhearted. You shoulda been a bit more selfish.

And over all these virtues put on love.... It has been seeping slowing into the recesses of my mind. I am not getting the application of it very well, because with the heat turned up pretty high on me, I am having a hard time donning the coat of love.... I'd prefer to blow up when the kids are whining about doing their lessons. I'd prefer to be snarky when Gma is fighting me about watching her sugar intake. I'd prefer to offer some CHOICE words to sore, stiff-necked hubby. And I REALLY would have preferred to punch that State Trooper in the face.

Instead, I am trying very hard to remind myself that love is NEVER a bad option. It should be my "go-to" strategy ESPECIALLY when things get hot. So today (THANKFULLY because it kept us out of jail) instead of punching that officer, I pleasantly said, "Have a nice day." As John slowly pulled away.

Here's to putting on love! It is a wonderful strategy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pray without ceasing....

My life has been so stressful lately! Many have expressed concern over the blogs I've been posting. I guess that's the downside to bare naked honesty. Too much is never enough. I try sometimes to keep a few of MY details out, in order to make my writing applicable to more people, but then I seem to muddy the water and arouse suspicion. Idk...

Just this week I told John, my gut was getting sketchy and was telling me to run away from my life as a lesson for awhile, like I did this past summer when the heat was turned up too high. He encouraged me to take a different route this time. Wisely advising, that possibly by standing through the heat God would reveal even more to me.

So here I stand. My yuck displayed (or at least mostly displayed) for all to see. I've really been going through it lately. I can't EXACTLY finger when this most recent plunge into the depths began, but it has been a rough start to 2010, a year I had hoped would be MARKEDLY better than its predecessor 2009, a year which will go down in infamy as the year that nearly destroyed Jami Lynn Kastner.

Since the middle of January, I have been helping the rest of my family to care for my elderly grandmother. This is a labor of love for all of us; however, even when laboring for love you can get depleted. All of us are playing different roles in this play entitled Keep Gma out of a Nursing Home as Long as Humanly Possible. For me it involves traveling to Franklin (a 1-hour drive one way) twice per week and working and homeschooling from my parents' house while caring for Gma. I also prepare dinner (most of the time) for my entire family on those days and try to keep Hannah from destroying my mother's things (not very successful at that one). Caring for Gma is not THAT bad in the grand scheme of things. Her care involves mostly gently cajoling her to do the things she needs to do: teeth brushing, hair brushing and ensuring her meds are taken and vitals are recorded. I do prepare her meals (but big WUP I was doing that for four little ones anyways.... what's adding in one more mouth to prep food for). Most things she is still capable of doing herself. Also, this labor is not without its perks. I am compensated monetarily. We are fed from my parents' pantry two days a week. They have cable, a fact the children RELISH. However, it is still exhausting to take the Crazy Kastner Show on the road two times per week.

Add into the insanity the fact that our washer broke about a month ago. So for that long I have been dragging the laundry of a family of seven to and from Franklin with us twice per week. Again.... there is ALWAYS a silver lining.... my Gma and Auntie Marge fold all my clothes while we are at my parents, but still it is EXCRUCIATING to have this big of a family and have no washer. We are VERY close to hopefully having enough money to replace the beast, but until we do.... on I plod dragging my dirty (and then clean) clothes to and from Mom & Dad's.... being a burden to my parents electric bill and depleting their laundry supplies... and remaining incapable of instantly cleaning up any childlike emergencies (puke, HUGE milk spills which become VERY stinky when stored for 3 or 4 days, other things to delicate for the senses to be posted here).

Oh and that brings up the next little stress to my system. My Great Aunt (also elderly and now incapable of living independently) moved in with us at the beginning of February. In many ways, this is not so bad. She pays us room & board (which is a HUGE help). She LOVES and ADORES the kids and frequently occupies them (especially Hannah who could definitely use 24-hour observation to keep her out of trouble). However, it is still a shock to our system to have a new person in our house. She does require assistance and care, which is a little hard but I keep telling her (because she feels bad and that she is a burden to an already stressed out woman) she changed my diapers when I was a baby... I can do my part and get her a cup of coffee or remind her to take her meds. It is, however, quite "interesting" living with someone who has spent the past five years basically being a hermit. She has REALLY toned down the continual talking about inconsequential things; however, she still reads me EVERY SINGLE street sign we pass when we are in the car. It's like I have a living breathing GPS system sitting next to me. That means that four times a week for one hour each time I have to hear,

"Madison Road. Turning onto Madison Road."

"Hwy 33. We're at Hwy 33."

"Washington County. We're in Washington County now."

"Hwy 41. That's how we get to Milwaukee. Hwy 41."

"Germantown. Already in Germantown."

ALL THE WAY TO AND FROM Franklin! It is interesting to say the least.

The typical Kastner stresses have been heating up too.... John's neck/shoulder muscles have been revolting lately. They seem to get tighter by the day. The other night he walked into the bedroom, and his shoulders were nearly touching his earlobes. The pain and tightness tends to make him a "little" crabby to the point that I'm about ready to make a bed for him on the front porch and start sliding his meals through the screen door. And lack of money... ahhhh lack of money my constant companion..... we are now just $106 away from paying off our van yet last month we had to scrape and struggle to come up with a HUGE amount of back payments to ensure we were allowed to keep the dilapadated beast we just about own. I cannot remember the last time I was able to go to the grocery store and just BUY the things we need. This week I promised the kids that the second I had the full amount budgeted for groceries they could each pick their favorite meal and that week we'd have "Favorites Week" for dinners. They are so sick of having no "snackies" in the house, but yet they still don't tire of pancakes for dinner. PLEASE!!!! No one tell them that this is because pancakes cost just pennies per serving and make a VERY economical dinner. They think I am spoiling them!

Finally, add into this recipe for a breakdown: stress with my work, still adjusting to living in a new community, my oldest entering the "tween" stage and acquiring a rare, but oh so lovely, teenage type attitude, rolling my stinking ankle every time I try to get a little "me-time" by working out, a bum back cuz I'm old & out of shape, my face breaking out like a teenager, having a husband I rarely see cuz he works two jobs, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! STOP THE RIDE I WANNA GET OFF!

I've been begging God for answers, solutions, coping strategies, and as always, He "gives generously to all without finding fault" (from James 1:5) I have been getting some answers, and here's the first one.

pray continually; I Thessalonians 5:17

That's the entire verse. I swear it is. If you don't believe me, look it up! It doesn't say, "Pray when you're in trouble." It isn't, "Pray when good things happen." It isn't even, "Pray morning, noon and night." I think that I Thessalonians 5:17 may be the most poignant verse in the whole Bible.... "pray continually;" (emphasis mine)

I looked up continually. Here's what I found:

1 : continuing indefinitely in time without interruption

2 : recurring in steady usually rapid succession

Continuing indefinitely in time without interruption.... recurring in steady usually rapid succession.... Is that how you pray??? I guess I'll have to examine that idea to arrive at my answer to that question.

At first I guess I thought that God was saying to me, "Pray some more, Jami." But the more I looked at it, the more I came to a different conclusion.

If my directive from God's Word is to pray "Continuing indefinitely in time without interruption.... recurring in steady usually rapid succession...." I guess I would have to look at EVERYTHING I do as part of my prayer. I stopped to think: Is my life lived as a prayer to God? Are my words formed as a prayer to God? When I'm talking to my children? Is it language worthy of being before the throne of God? When I'm working? Is it work worthy of being before the throne of God? When I am relaxing? Is it in a manner worthy of being before the throne of God?

This concept is rocking my world. [Quick Sidenote: I absolutely LOVE and ADORE the way God takes a concept we know... one we have known since Sunday School.... one we memorized in AWANA.... one we heard about in Youth Group.... even one we clung to in previous dark days.... and REVOLUTIONIZES its meaning to us so we understand and KNOW it more deeply more completely... the same yet completely different.] This morning it came to fullness in my heart. It had been kinda lurking around in the shadows of busyness for several days and today it stepped out into the light and made itself FULLY known.

pray continually;

So that's the first coping strategy God is giving me.... turn my life into a prayer to Him.... make every word I say.... every action I execute.... a PRAYER TO HIM.... make my inner thoughts and the aroma of my attitude a PRAYER TO HIM.... be CONTINUALLY (Continuing indefinitely in time without interruption.... recurring in steady usually rapid succession....) in prayer.

That's my challenge to you today too....

pray continually;

I've got tons more that God is teaching me through all of this, but today's blog is long enough. You'll have to wait until tomorrow for more. So until tomorrow...

pray continually;

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The fog....

What is up with this DENSE fog??? Last night was AWANA, and as the time to leave approached, the kids and I looked out the window with apprehension. We could hardly see the house across the street! Jeremiah (he's my weather-phobe) kept saying, "I don't think we should go to AWANA. I don't think we should go to AWANA." But I told him we'd be fine. We'd just leave a little early and drive carefully.

We departed fifteen minutes early and made it down the drive before the uneasiness started setting in. Wow! Out here it looks even worse, I thought. I looked both ways and really couldn't even tell if there were any cars coming down my street. However, since there are RARELY if ever any cars coming down my street, in faith, I pulled out onto Nevada Heights Road. I traveled slowly towards Madison. I could barely see 25 feet in front of me. Again pausing before turning onto the road, I shot up a little prayer that there were no cars I couldn't see racing down Madison Road, and I made the left turn. The war in my mind was deafening, What in the world are you doing risking your babies' lives and limbs??? Don't be a baby! It's not that bad! Back and forth the war continued until I reached 33. About 50 yards before 33, I started becoming pretty certain that I would indeed turn around and head home. I could not imagine pulling out onto this road where people would be traveling in excess of 55 mph when I couldn't see more than MAYBE 50 feet on either side. I turned around. I admit it. I am a wuss. But don't judge me until you are transporting four of the most precious things in your life through fog as thick as pea soup!

This morning as I looked back out on the lingering fog, I still couldn't see any of the houses across the street. I knew they were there, but I couldn't see even one of them. I felt isolated and alone, like I might be the only house in this subdivision. I didn't doubt the presence of the other houses. I didn't wonder if in the night somehow they had moved. They were there. They were just covered in a thick blanket of fog. Yet still I felt alone. It got me thinking.

There are a lot of times when I can't see God. There are times when the fog of trials is so think around me that I can't see Him. I know He is there, but I can't see Him at all. I feel isolated and alone, like I might be alone in this fight. I don't doubt His presence. I don't wonder if He has left me. I know He is there. He's just covered in a thick blanket of trials. Yet still I feel all alone.

Here's the lesson for this day: our feelings, our senses, they don't always tell us the truth. I often feel worthless and like a failure. I often feel like I am all alone. I often feel like there is no hope. But all of these things are lies! I am so valuable that God sent His only Son to die for my sins [For God so loved the world (Jami Lynn Kastner) that He gave His one and only Son... John 3:16a], and in His eyes I am never a failure for the blood of Jesus covers over all my shortcomings [....the blood of Jesus, His son, purifies us from all sin... I John 1:7b]. I am never alone! NEVER! Even if my husband and children, my friends and family were all to leave me, still I would not be alone. [Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.... Psalm 23:4a] There is ALWAYS hope [On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us... 2 Corinthians 1:10].

So today remember that your feelings are not necessarily the truth. There are times to "trust your gut" but NEVER when your gut goes against God's Word. When your feelings do not line up with the Word of God, then tell your feelings to take a hike!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Worship Wednesday: God of this City

You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are

A family is a city. That's what I ALWAYS think of when I sing this part. It's not that I don't care about my city, state, nation. It's just that God continually calls my heart to thoughts of this "city" John and I are building here. He is the God of THIS city (the Kastner family). He is the King of THESE people (the Kastner family). He is the Lord of THIS nation (the Kastner family). I have this strong and abiding conviction that John and I are building something GREAT here in this thing called the Kastner family.

Sunday morning I prepared to resume walking after my Lucy-like episode which resulted in a twisted ankle. I started out down the hill and not even halfway down, I stepped in a pothole and rolled my SAME ankle! I stood there ankle throbbing and told Jeremiah, who was preparing to bike while I walked, "I hurt myself I have to go back in." He started to walk towards me, and I said, "Oh honey, you don't have to walk me back up I can do it." He said, "No, Mom, I wanted to pray for you." He is the God of THIS family. He is!

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

I believe this "city" John and I are building is something so great that it threatens Satan. I believe that's part of why we have had to overcome so much. I think Satan attacks those who pose the greatest threat to him. For about three weeks now, I have been walking down a dark and deep valley. I have scraped my knee on the rock of logical consequences. I have rolled my ankle in the pothole of past sins. I have wrenched my back tripping over the little rocks Satan keeps tossing in my path just because he can. I can see my house in the distance, far away, behind the fog.... I'm trying to plod on to get to my safe haven, still safety is so far away. But there He is in the darkness; lighting the way. There He is when it's hopeless; giving me hope. There He is when the storm rages; giving me peace.

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

NO ONE! There is NO ONE like our God. NO ONE! There is NO ONE else who created an entire universe. There is NO ONE else who is perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent. There is NO ONE else who stepped down from a heavenly throne to walk this earth as a common man only to DIE to set us free from our sins. There is NO ONE else who rose again. There is NO ONE else who can get me through this day. There is NO ONE else who deserves my praise.

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

Greater things have yet to come. And greater things are still to be done in THIS city (the Kastner family). I cling to my tattered, weather-beaten, torn up hope that GREATER THINGS HAVE YET TO COME for the Kastner family. He DOES have a plan for this family. It IS a plan to give us HOPE and a FUTURE. I will NOT let Satan steal my hope. I will not!

Because you know what??? Even if this is all the Kastner family EVER experiences for the rest of our time here on earth: medical woes, financial struggles, relational issues.... There is something so much greater when this life is done. So whether we see the greater things here on earth or in eternity, they WILL come. They WILL!

I hope you have a WONDERFUL Worship Wednesday. If this song doesn't do it for you, maybe the knowledge that Friday is just one more day away will. Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


What do you do when you stop believing?
What happens when you stop thinking that good things can occur?
What about when you stop trusting your situation can get better?
What do you do when you stop seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?
What do you do?

How do you keep going when all hope is gone?
How do you get out of bed when you fear the day will only hold more bad news?
How do you put one foot in front of the other when all you want to do is throw in the towel?
How do you?

Where do you find the sunny skies?
Where is the rainbow after the storm?
Where is the good in all this yuck?
Where is it?

When will this night end?
When will we see the rainbow?
When will this all be over?
When will it?

Who could calm these stormy seas?
Who would keep going against such a formidable foe?
Who will carry me when I can't walk anymore?
Who will do it?


Look to God.

[It is the answer to EVERY one of my questions.. Go back and check! I did after God gave the answer to me.]

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lucy! You got some essplainin' to do!

As I sit here at my desk, scraped knee throbbing and twisted ankle aching, I am pondering the realization I came to last night: I often feel like my life is an episode of I Love Lucy. Now I don't have too many recollections of specific episodes of I Love Lucy. In fact, the only one I can pull up right now had Lucy & Ethel working in a candy factory, and in order to keep up with the conveyor line they were stuffing candies into their mouths. That's all I've got. However, I do remember the entire gist of the show was Lucy (and typically Ethel) getting into trouble and just having CHAOS ensue all around her. Here's the episode of I Love Jami that played out yesterday.

To set the scene, I have had a DIFFICULT week and a half or so, which started with a ton of emotional "re-healing," on the heels of which came my baby girl developing pneumonia, all throughout this time my work has been stressing me out to the point I fear I will stroke out, and then throw in a dash of normal Kastner Kraziness: a diorama had to be made for AWANA, Hannah's Cubbies' vest has been missing for two weeks, the wash machine has been broken for three weeks, we had to scrape together the money to get current on the van payment this week OR ELSE, and on top of all that, I decided to start working out to get back into shape. I haven't been drinking NEARLY enough coffee to compensate for these occurrences, but the exercise endorphins have been helping.

Soooooooooooooooooo.... I spent the day yesterday working. I sent out eight reports!!! (that's VERY good.... trust me.... typical would be 2 or 3) I also ROCKED our homeschooling world with my new rule: NO TV or Xbox until EVERY bit of school is done! The only TV break they took (in order to give me time to wrap up a little more work) was to watch a documentary on Australia I found on Netflix. By 1 p.m. we were done with school and by 4 p.m., I had gotten in nearly six hours of work! I was CRUISING!

I was bound and determined to workout even though tonight was AWANA and that was going to put some boundaries on my time frame. So at 4:30 I took off down the cul-de-sac on the cardio portion of my workout. As I traveled down the street, I saw there was a house for sale. Out of curiosity, I picked up a flyer and then to be funny, I started texting the details to my sister. I said, "Wanna move? 222K.... 3 BR... 3 bath... 1.25 acres..." POW! The pain hit me like a freight truck, from out of nowhere! Texting while walking is apparently just as dangerous as texting while driving for someone like Lucy (I mean Jami). I had veered too far to the left and stepped off the pavement onto the rocky shoulder, rolling my ankle and CRASHING to the ground forcefully. My ankle was twisted, my knee scraped, and my hands were burning (I had my gloves off so I could text better). I got up quickly and started hobbling towards home. It must have been the exercise endorphins or something, but it wasn't feeling too bad so I finished my first lap and started my second. They started wearing off in the second lap though, and I had to hobble back up my driveway.... AHHHHHHHHHHHH! to the house and RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) my ankle.

After 15 minutes of RICE, I had to get up and get to work on dinner. I went to the kitchen sink to wash my hands and flipped the faucet to on. sputter, sputter, SPUT! No water came out. I don't know why (call it mother's intuition) but the FIRST thing that flew through my mind was (HANNAH!!!!!!) Somehow in my spirit, I just knew this was her work. I checked under the kitchen sink to see if the tube to the faucet was crimped. Nope! Then I went to the mudroom to check if a breaker was tripped. Nope! I traveled to all the other faucets on the first floor to see if any of them had water. Nope! Finally, destination downstairs I checked the basement bathroom faucet. Nope! Just too investigate ALL options (even though I still suspected Hannah) I checked the well/septic tank meter light is good. Nope! I called John and went to accuse the boys of messing with something outside. Nope! They hadn't done ANYTHING (well that remains to be seen, but they weren't the water culprits. They were just playing in the quickly disappearing snow).

John said he would finish up one thing at work and head home early. I left a message for the landlord and then got an idea. If this was a problem with the well, then the other two homes that share our well should be having water troubles too. So I hobbled up the hill to the first house, trying to baby my ankle but not having much luck as the bending of my knee brought misery too. No one was home. I continued on to the second house starting to huff and puff from the exertion of climbing this hilly terrain with an injury on each leg. They had water. So it wasn't the well.

All the way back to my house the thought, "Hannah did something. Hannah did something." kept echoing in my brain. I decided to take one more look. I went into the furnace room (which just so happened to have a burnt out light and I therefore could not see anything) and was drawn (in the dark) to this orange lever. Somehow I just felt like this might be the problem. However, keep in mind, I am NO plumber. I actually had no idea if this lever controlled gas, water, or even sewage. But something inside me said, "Turn it!" As I gently turned it, I heard something liquid starting to rush through the pipe. I quickly turned it back to the starting place. I sent Noah upstairs with instructions to try the kitchen faucet and then turned the lever again. Voila! We had water! The water main shut off is in the hallway outside my office (the furnace room). It is LITERALLY at Hannah's elbow level (about two feet off the ground). I am POSITIVE that while standing outside my office in the "Knock and wait for Momma to finish her work call" posture, she just got bored and decided to play with that lever. AHHHHHHHHH! Crisis number 2 solved.

Racing upstairs barking orders to don AWANA clothes and jackets, find AWANA books, and GET IN THE CAR, I also placed calls to John and the landlord informing them the problem had been solved. As I was heading for the door to get in the minivan, Noah came rushing in, "We forgot to put the seats back in the van!" The boys had cleaned the van on Monday, and now we were down the entire back row of seats because they forgot to put them back! With no time to wrestle that stupid seat (which is ANYTHING but easy to remove and reinstall) I instructed Noah to just ride in the front seat with the seat slightly reclined (Something I RARELY do.... I promise! Do NOT turn me in to the seat belt police!) We headed off for AWANA and that was when the realization hit me, "My life is like an episode of I Love Lucy!" However, my conveyor belt wasn't finished moving quickly yet.... There was still time in this episode for a cherry on top of the sundae.

I dropped the kids at AWANA (somehow in the chaos Hannah had left her book at home so now she was minus her missing vest AND minus her book). I hobbled back to the car and returned home to see how John was doing installing my new under-the-sink water filtration system which had arrived just today. Here it is.... here's the cherry: The system we received was damaged. It couldn't be installed. We'd have to go through a return/exchange process and wait for a new one to arrive. I collapsed into my chair... throbbing knee, aching ankle, tightening back and shoulder (when you're old falling has widespread effects which aren't always initially noticed) SCREAMING and sighed. "Well, tomorrow's a brand new day," I thought.

I woke up this morning itching to get this I Love Lucy blog live. I had NO idea what lesson I was going to spin this into. I just knew that I had suffered through that sitcom-like evening, and I was going to get some mileage out of it! About halfway through typing this, Noah (the first one awake today) came downstairs. Last night, he went to sleep watching Facing the Giants, and now he had something written down his arm (from shoulder to wrist). He proudly displayed his homemade tattoo and told me it was his new motto. "Never give up. Never back down. Never lose faith." That was my lesson! It's the lesson you are all supposed to learn from "watching" this episode of I Love Jami. NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER BACK DOWN. NEVER LOSE FAITH.

That's what I'm gonna do.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Worship Wednesday: Power in Worship

Worship is such a powerful thing! Worship can encourage your soul, turn your day around, pick your chin up off the ground. The reason why is very similar to what I wrote about last week: Worship gets your eyes on God and OFF of all that is around you. When we focus on God, our circumstances fade away.... our problems are minimized.... worship fades out the screams of this world.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

So there you sit in the midst of a mess. Your bills are all past due. Your aging body is aching and sore. Your precious baby is infirm. Your marriage is a mess. Your job is about to make you stroke out. Your elderly mother is sick. You're lonely and sick of being alone. Your womb aches to be filled. You have PROBLEMS! No one is denying you have problems. With a grumpy look on your face (and firmly in your heart too), you reach out and turn on some praise music. The words start to flow over you:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate
and hath shed His own blood for my soul.

All of a sudden the bills, aches, illness start to fade away as that last line echoes in your soul: hath shed His own blood for my soul! You see his bloody body hanging on the cross and realize that His gift, His sacrifice is worthy of concentrating on. Your attention is drawn away from the ick all around you and you start to focus on Him.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It starts to dawn on you that YOUR SIN was nailed to the cross. YOUR SIN. You don't have to bear it anymore. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! As that sinks in, the stress, worry and fear start to fully break away. Gratefulness and thankfulness are revealed.

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

Hope! Hope! Hope infuses your soul! There is HOPE! One day in the not too distant future, the trump shall resound! But until then, it is well with my soul.

Worship IS a very powerful thing. Just yesterday I text my dear friend Ros asking for prayer. "PRAY!" I told her, "We need prayer!" She replied in her wise way (wonder if she ever gets tired of reminding me of it), "Praise Him. It opens the doors to the Miraculous!" At the bare minimum, even if praise doesn't usher in the exact miracle you were hoping for, it adjusts your attitude and does a miracle there.

Real quick in closing..... here's a couple of quick Jami ideas for getting more worship (and power) into your life:

1. Let your house resound with worship! Why not have worship be the background music in your house? Is there anything more worthy? Spongebob? Eric Clapton? Cable news? There's nothing wrong with any of these things. BUT oh the power if as you walk around your house all day, your mind is called to worship instead of your attention being caught by Spongebob getting hooked on a fishing line. Would the whole climate of your house change if you caught your self singing along, "Lord reign in me" instead of "Layla... you've got me on my knees?" Don't you think it would make a difference if your were dwelling on the thought of kneeling at the throne of God instead of the latest plunge of the stock market?

2. Let your car resound with worship! I'm not in the car all that often. I like being a hermit/shut-in. But when I am in the car (especially if I'm stressed) I turn it to K-Love (our CD player doesn't work so well and CD's do NOT last long around Kastners). Why not use that time in the car to worship? Let your mind be drawn to Him.

3. Workout to worship music. I've been trying to get my butt back into shape, and I have been more successful because I've been viewing my workout time as some quiet time with God too. I pop in my ear buds and away I walk with praise music resounding in my ears.

4. Make worship a part of your quiet time. Plan to sing at least one worship song as a part of your daily quiet time. OR... maybe take one day per week and have your entire quiet time be worshiping God.

5. Family worship. Last year we were SO good at this. We have drifted away from it, and keep trying to get back to it. Once a week, we have a family worship service. Just us... (well in the past it sometimes included a friend or family member). We don't have a lot of musical talent, so we just turn on a worship CD. We sometimes use a power point with lyrics, but that's not really required. Sometimes we'd take communion as a family. But no matter what we PRAISE! We'd sing and dance and PRAISE OUR GOD!

Try to think of worship like water.... everyone could use a little more of it in their life. Have a great Worship Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A season of solitude....

It seems for quite some time now that God has been walking me through a season of solitude. Some days this solitude is welcome, but some days it is just lonely.

Less than a year ago, we were living in Franklin. We were surrounded by neighbors, about eleven two-family homes on our cul-de-sac. There was hustle and bustle all around us. We had random drop-bys from friends, family, former cheerleaders, and youth group kids. It kept us on our toes and meant we were rarely (if ever) alone. We were involved in a small church where we knew EVERYONE. Going to church wasn't just a spiritual event, it was a social event too. The grocery store was just 5 minutes away and Taco Bell, blessed Taco Bell, was just 5 minutes away as well.

Today, we live in Butt-Nowhere, WI. Our current cul-de-sac holds about seven single-family homes. Our doorbell never rings. Friends have to plan most of a day in order to come visit us. Our church is HUGE, and we hardly know anyone there. The grocery store is 3x as far, and Taco Bell, blessed Taco Bell, I hardly remember what a run for the border feels like.

This morning I was feeling loneliness settling around me. While last week was rough, this week started out even better! (heavy sarcasm here) This weekend Hannah had a bit of a cough, but really nothing to blog about. Sunday afternoon and evening she was running around playing, with a cough, cough here and a cough, cough there. About 8 or 9 p.m., we were lying in my bed watching Hannah Montana The Movie, and she said to me, "Mom I can't keep my eyes open." The poor baby was so wiped out. What I didn't know was that moment was the beginning of a downward spiral. She spent the night vomiting mucous and spiking a fever. At its height her fever was about 103 UNDER HER ARMPIT!!! The next morning we called the pediatrician who wanted to see her, and our fears were confirmed. She has pneumonia. The good news: it was caught early, and therefore will require only a course of antibiotics to get rid of it. The bad news: she can't stand the "pink medicine," and it is VERY hard to get a 3-year old to swallow something they don't want to swallow.

Anyway, I was feeling the exhaustion of having a sick baby on the heels of an emotional week and I started to feel so lonely. As I peered out the window at the gray fog enveloping my neighborhood, I felt the gray fog of sadness crowding in close. All of a sudden in my spirit, I heard Eva's beautiful voice singing:

This world holds nothing for me
I will follow you
This world holds nothing for me
I will follow you

I let the words of that song wash over me:

I need you Jesus to come to my rescue
Where else can I go?
There's no other name by which I am saved
Capture me with grace

I felt Him swarming in and surrounding me. I felt His presence comforting me. My troubles were still there: Hannah still has pneumonia. I am still struggling through an emotional battlefield. I have worries and cares, but:

Lord, I put my trust in You

I think that's the lesson of my "season of solitude..." THIS WORLD HOLDS NOTHING FOR ME. I think my Father has pulled me apart from all the busyness and noise of service and friendship and fun to place me in a simpler, quieter place where I can focus more on Him. Where I allow Him to fulfill all my needs. So here I am these words running through my head:

This world has nothing for me
This world has nothing for me

I will follow You
I will follow You

With my eyes refocused for the day and new hope planted in my heart, I'm going to go start my day. Hope This world holds nothing for you today too.
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