Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Half-a-day without Internet....

Today read something like a book titled, Jami and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It should have been a GREAT day! Since he worked last Sunday, John got today off. I planned to zip through my morning work and then spend some time lounging about with him. How does that saying go again??? The best laid plans of mice and men....

Since John didn't have to work, I awoke VERY late, by 7:30 a.m. I am just groggy and off my game! Yesterday's headache had subsided but I could tell the slightest bit of stress would bring it roaring back. I started the coffee and sat at the table with my Bible. I'm still working my way through James and found a PEARL of wisdom at the end of chapter 3:

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18

John got up and headed downstairs to check his e-mail quickly before I got started working. He came up shortly thereafter bearing the news that would begin my slippery slide down into the valley of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, "Can't get on the Internet." Well I rushed downstairs, cup of coffee sloshing to check out the situation and found that it was likely not our computer but a problem with our provider. I came to this deduction when I tried to call for technical support and was met with a continual busy signal. At 8:20 a.m. I finally reached a live person who told me, there was indeed an outage but they expected it to be resolved within in 30 minutes. Apparently in Bertram-Wireless"ese" 30 minutes = 7 hours because my Internet was not back up and fully functional until 3:20 p.m.

Many of you may be thinking, "So what? You couldn't play your turn on FB Scrabble. Big WHOOP!" But may I remind you that this blog writer is not a stay-at-home mom she is a WORK-at-home mom.... just changing that first word makes a world of difference when considering Internet service. I was hamstrung! No Internet means no work! Well, for most mortal women. I on the other hand am a little more stubborn than that. Using my Blackberry I downloaded the obscure browser Opera (because it is the only Blackberry browser compatible with our remote e-mail service). I then logged onto my e-mail and could at least monitor my workload and answer e-mails for a few hours. By lunch, however, it was getting a little dire and I had CALLS to make. I created a little workaround which involved the help of a few coworkers, but I got the job DONE today!

It got me thinking.... do I approach a day without God's Word with the urgency I approached this half-a-day without the Internet???? Am I as determined to find a workaround when I awaken late and "don't have time" for my quiet time? Am I as jittery and sketchy about getting time with God as I was about meeting my work deadlines today? I've gotta be honest, since that is the whole premise of this blog I've created here: I'm not. A day without God's word bring a bit of guilt and a ton of excuses, but I honestly do not attack that problem with the tenacity I attacked my inability to logon to work today. But I WANT to. I WANT God to be SO much a part of my day... so vitally important... that I come up with whatever workaround is necessary to make sure that not a day goes by without me spending a little time with Him.

I bet you do too.... But life is so crazy, so busy.... There are so many things to do... children to feed... messes to clean.... work to be done... But guess what??? We MAKE time for the things that are important to us! And we have to MAKE time for our God. The next time your cell phone is broken.... or your car breaks down... microwave is on the fritz.... washing machine won't do the spin cycle... As you sit there lamenting the stress of not being able to text your BFF... not being able to drive to all the places you want to be... having to make popcorn the old fashioned way on the burner with a pan (yes Christine and Courtney you CAN make popcorn without a microwave)... or schlepping the clothes to the laundromat.... Use it as an opportunity to inventory your time with God. Ruminate on the lengths to which you are willing to go to get around those inconveniences.... And then get inspired to be just that bullheaded in getting around anything in between you and your time with your God.

Just a few quick Kastner updates:

1. We cancelled John's neurocognitive test because we were trying to figure out what was going on with the vehicles of this household.
2. The minivan should be ready tomorrow.... after this second round of attempts to fix it, the tab is going to almost reach the initial estimate's cost: just over $500 will be the entire damage. Buick is going to cost another $300 to fix. We can't swing that right now (on top of the minivan repairs) so we'll be waiting to get that fixed.
3. God is still SOOOOOOO good! He is JUST as good as He was back on Saturday when we thought it was only $130 to fix the minivan. He is JUST as good as He was when we had two perfectly reliable vehicles. He is good ALL the time! Don't you forget that!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I *heart* my blog readers!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I Thessalonians 5:11

WOW! Thank you ALL so much! I got a ton of encouragement from yesterday's comments/replies. (Oh and aren't the reaction buttons FUN?!?!?!) It was so good to hear that my "debasement" encourages people. If what I am going through ministers to just ONE person, then I consider the humiliation of laying it all out there, WELL worth it! So on I share... get ready because the roller coaster ride continues:

About an hour after I posted my blog yesterday, John returned home in the minivan. I rushed out to greet him and said, "Show me those brake lights, baby!" I saw no lights. My stomach fell a little. I asked, "Are you pressing the brake?" He confirmed he was. "Ummmmm nothing is happening." I said feeling a little sick. "Try the blinker." Nope! Nada! "Are the headlights on?" They were. No taillights either.

So our little problem was NOT actually fixed. Joy! Joy! We called the repair shop (which keep in mind had our Buick in its lot waiting to be looked at), and our friend Stevie apologized profusely. He promised that HE would be the one to work on the van this time, and he would figure out what the problem was, and he agreed to pick it up from our house on Monday because we NOW are actually carless. He also agreed to try to get a look at the Buick right away so we could at least have one car back.

A recheck of the van indicated that we actually had taillights and brake lights, IF we were not using the blinkers, but once the blinker was used, the taillights and brake lights were gone. So we decided to jet to Franklin and borrow my parents truck so John would be able to get to and from work. I tried hard not to use the blinker the whole way.

So here we are. We have NO working vehicle. We have borrowed my parents truck (not sure how long we can use it though), and John can get to and from work, but we still have not heard anything about the Buick and the minivan's problem remains undiagnosed. Wanna know the weird thing? I'm not scared. Really! I promise you. I'm not! I'm not discouraged. I keep pinching myself thinking maybe I'm asleep or something, but I'm not discouraged at all. Wanna know the weirdest thing? I'm kinda excited and happy. Now before you call social services to come get my children because they are being cared for by an insane woman, PLEASE let me explain.

I'm excited because I am EXPECTING something HUGE from God. I really am. I am expecting a HUMDINGER to WOW the world on this one. That's part of why I rushed down here to blog about this today. See if the miracle happens BEFORE I get to put the crazy, DIRE, need-the-red-sea-parted situation out there, then it will lose a little of it's SHEBANG! when I finally tell it. I wanted you to hear the situation, to feel the need, and to have a chance to be a part of the MIRACLE! Pray right this instant. STOP your reading and PRAY that God takes care of the Kastner's transportation situation. Because I promise you with ALL of me, if you pray you WILL see that prayer answered and you WILL be part of a miracle. I know with all of me the Kastners will see miracles through this. We already have seen one: while carless, John is still driving to and from work thanks to a loaner car from his generous in-laws. So QUICK pray so you can be a part of the next miracle which is coming.

I'm also happy. I swear I'm not just working hard to find good in a bad situation. I am really, truly giddy happy over this. John gets to drive the truck! Even if it is for only just a few days, he has been reunited with a past love, and it is AWESOME for him. In case you don't know, the truck used to be ours, but desperate finances caused for desperate measures, and we handed the truck back over to my parents. That truck was the NICEST vehicle John has ever "owned" (granted the bank owned it and we were making payments to them for it... but you get what I'm saying right?) My husband is not a proud man. He GRATEFULLY drives a 1990"ish" Buick LeSabre, with no a/c (and no longer any blower motor even), with a driver's seat which is stuck in recline, with a driver's side window that doesn't roll down, and with a "Don't let the car fool you, my treasure is in heaven" bumper sticker. He thanks God for the little beater every day because it CONTINUES to get him to and from work, and because it was a MIRACLE from Heaven as our Pastor and his wife GAVE it to us for FREE. So I know that I know that I know that he would never speak an ill word of his precious little beater Buick, and that he is not too proud to drive it. However, I also know that he is LOVING driving that truck again. In his heart, that baby will always be "his" and while he doesn't love it more than Jesus or me or his children... no matter who "owns" it he will ALWAYS love that thing with a deep and abiding love. So I am HAPPY that in the midst of this trying time, with his neck still throbbing from his recent setback and with the stress of having not one but TWO vehicles in the shop, that he is at least able to have a LITTLE bit of comfort from being reunited with his love truck.

So where's the lesson Jami? Well... this morning I was reading James 1 and something hit me. Now I have memorized the ENTIRE book of James (with my sixth graders in 1996... are you one of them? shout out and say you memorized it for me!) so I KNOW this verse. However, this morning it hit me in a different way.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
James 1:2

PURE joy it says. PURE!!!! I thought about the word "pure" for a little bit. I thought about the fact that one tiny little speck can make something "impure." So PURE joy conjures up the idea of NOT ONE SPECK of worry, fear, doubt, anger. NOTHING but JOY when you face a trial. I do not know if my joy right now is pure, but I do know that it is the closest thing to pure it has ever been. I keep thinking, "Shouldn't I be stressing about this?" The thought will flit through my head, "Shouldn't my tummy be in at least a little bit of knots?" I almost feel guilty like shouldn't I at least have a "healthy" amount fear about this situation? But I don't. Am I a little inconvenienced because of it? Sure! I forgot to get coffee yesterday at Wal-Mart so I am drinking my LAST cup of coffee this morning. However, once again I am unable to drive even to Mayville to get some. Am I a little disappointed because of this situation? Sure! We missed out on a lake party John's boss was having yesterday. Not only had I prepared TWO dishes to bring along, but the kids had been wearing life jackets ALL day in anticipation of the event and then we couldn't go. Do I wish a little for the easy way out? Sure! I would find it GREAT if I looked out my window to find God had dropped a BRAND new fuel-efficient, 4-wheel drive vehicle which seats 7 on my driveway. He could even put a pretty red bow on top for effect. But in spite of all these feelings there is no worry, no fear, no anger. I am excited in anticipating the resolution of this matter and I am happy that John gets a little time to re-kindle his love for his "baby" (a pretty black Chevy truck).

So maybe that is my lesson today.... PURE joy. Not just searching for good in the bad, but really truly just having JOY
*JOY that we were considered worthy to be used as God's billboard again
*JOY that we were chosen to be the recipients of another miracle of God (for what else is it but a miracle when you are driving to work but you don't have a working vehicle???)
*JOY that we are poised to be the recipients of another miracle (for He did NOT bring us out this far to take us back again!)
*JOY that John gets to drive the truck again
*JOY that no matter what He has us in His capable hands.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
James 1:2

[One quick prayer request: Tomorrow John is having a neuro cognitive test done to establish a base line so the doctor can track if his memory issues are a result of a nerological problem. It is an eight hour test! PLEASE pray for him.]

Saturday, July 24, 2010

God's billboard.....

So yesterday I spent some time skimming through my blog entries and adding labels to them in order to encourage people to read more parts of my blog. As I read I started to feel a deepening sense of shame settle upon me. Ugh! Our life as chronicled in my blog reads like a never-ending story of destitution! I started to feel embarrassment and shame creep in. Maybe I shouldn't be telling everyone all this. It is so HUMILIATING! I felt a quiet whisper to my soul, "I have a purpose. This is not for nothing." Without fully getting the "purpose" I plodded on finishing up my labeling and moving on to another task.

Later I was sharing this with Christina. I said to her, "I guess my faith must just be REALLY weak because it keeps on being tested." She responded with words that comforted my soul, but more than that, I believe they were a word directly from God. She said, "No.... Your faith is really STRONG. People around you need to have their faith strengthened and God knows you are strong enough to do that for us." I pondered that a little and tucked it away.

Finally, the third piece of the puzzle came to me during Family Worship. We were singing the song Undignified by the David Crowder Band. We got to this part:

And I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Some may say
It's foolishness
And I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Leave my pride
By my side

and it HIT me! HARD! Maybe God is calling me to lay my shame and humiliation out there for everyone to see so that they can ALSO see His power and greatness revealed through it, and if that is the CASE!!!!! I'll become even more undignified than this!!! I completely WILL leave my pride by my side! This stinks! It is humiliating! I'd much prefer to be living with creature comforts... bills paid on time... vehicles that WORK! but if just ONE person sees Jesus through my humiliation, then BRING IT ON! Let me be debased! Let me be humbled! Let me be poorer then poor for I am being used by God.

This morning God revealed more to me: John and I are a billboard for God. He is using us to broadcast His power because he found us to be strong enough to take it and to have big enough mouths to blab about even the embarrassing parts of our struggles!

Here's what happened this morning..... If you've been keeping up on my blog, you know that our minivan is in the shop. The original estimate was $600. A preliminary report (which we thought was their "final answer") was that the repair would only cost $118.92; however, not too long after, we were told that was only the figure for the FIRST thing they were trying to fix the problem. We have been CLINGING to hope and REFUSING to let the devil make us worry since TUESDAY. Yet still NO answer from the repair shop.

Yesterday John's Buick started having some troubles. We prayed HARD, but this morning he called me at about 9 a.m. and said he could NOT get the car into gear. Trying not to panic at the thought of being completely without a car, I called my parents who are out of town for the weekend (and by my count would have at least two if not three unused cars sitting in front of their house right now). Dad said, "Go get the truck." So I started making plans to figure out how to pick up the truck, while John called the repair shop to see if they could tell him what the problem might be with the Buick.

I went in and rallied the troops. Told them that we needed to pray for a miracle. The kids sat up rubbing sleep out of their eyes and immediately bowed their heads. After we prayed for a miracle, I returned to the kitchen and started texting my "prayer warriors." Before I could even FINISH the text, John was calling back. When he called to ask about the Buick, he was told the minivan was READY. While the guy didn't have the exact total, he remembered it was less than $130!!!! PRAISE JESUS!!!! I didn't even have time to ask my friends to PRAY for a miracle before I received it!

Over and over and over again over the past few weeks God has been speaking to me, "If God is for us who can be against us?" That is what I want to speak to you today. For those of you who need a miracle RIGHT now, please listen closely and read this part carefully: He already has your miracle PREPARED! Just because you don't see it yet, doesn't mean it isn't coming!!! Do you believe that He is on your side???? Then what does it matter what you face??? You have a BIG HUGE GOD on your side! Doesn't matter what the devil has on his side. It can't compare to what you have.

Let's imagine that Elijah and a bunch of 7 year olds are going to play basketball. Let's say that standing among the 7-year olds waiting to be picked for a team is Shaquille O'Neal. Elijah is a team captain, and he gets first pick. He, OF COURSE, picks Shaq. Does it matter who the other kid picks for his team???? Does it matter if he takes ALL the 7 year olds available???? Elijah has SHAQUILLE O'NEAL on his team!!!! The game is OVER before it begins!

That is what you have. Does it matter if the other side scores a few points? Does it matter if they win a few battles??? You have GOD on your side!!! We ALL know that NO ONE can beat God so Satan can have his trivial little victories for in the end.... GOD WINS!

I hope this installment of the Kastner's destitution turns into a MIRACULOUS victory for God has encouraged you. I know it encouraged me... and Christina... and Rosalind...

Friday, July 23, 2010

The miracle of life: a cat's birth story

On Monday evening, our little Mercie Mae gave birth to four healthy kittens. Go ahead and laugh at the new country peops... we thought she was too young to get preggos. Turns out a kitten "becomes a woman" quite earlier than a human. In our ignorance, we started letting our NOT-fixed kitty freely roam our country locale, and before you know it, one too many late nights led to a very bulging abdomen.

As the end of her pregnancy approached I kept lamenting, "I'm not even a cat person!" I was thinking, "Yeah! This is JUST what I need! Because I didn't have enough stuff to do around here already." When her behavior changed significantly on Monday morning, it became QUITE evident we'd be helping her birth those kittens soon. I had read on the Internet (what in the WORLD did we do before Google???) that because of her young age, there was a high chance that Mercie would have a small liter, give birth to dead kittens, and/or have no interest in the kittens. The Internet gave details on how to help your cat give birth just in case she showed no interest. "Ewwwwww!" I screamed out to God after reading the instructions, "I can't be a cat midwife! I didn't even like being in the room when I gave birth!"

Well, Mia Peiffer, my friend's daughter, wanted to be informed when the kittens were born. She called on Monday night to check if they were here yet. I told her no kittens yet and hung up the phone. Within five minutes of that call I heard the first kitten mewling. It was like she was prophetic! I quickly called John, and we stood watch to "help" Mercie with her labor. What happened amazed me and filled me with wonder at how great our God is. (I'm not gonna lie it also made me gag SEVERAL times.)

Our Mercie Mae, still really a kitten herself, knew exactly what to do. She did everything just like the Internet said she would. AMAZING! How did she do that? I didn't buy her a kitten version of What to Expect When You're Expecting. She just KNEW. The instincts God gave her kicked in and she just KNEW!

What an amazing God we serve! What an incredible Creator! He took the time to make sure that EVERY SINGLE creature on this earth would know EXACTLY how to bring new life into this world! This silly little kitty knew exactly how to bring those kittens into this world. She has also become QUITE the great momma cat, caring for those kittens like a pro.

It reminds me of "consider the lilies of the field..." If God cared THIS much about cats, how much MORE does he care about you! You are so much more precious to Him then a cat! You are created in His image! You are the apple of his eye! You are important enough to Him that He sent His ONE and ONLY Son to die for you! Do you really think He doesn't see your problems? Do you really think He doesn't know about your pain? Do you really think He doesn't care? Pshaw! He sees. He knows. He cares.

P.S. Stay turned for a "Free to a good home" post in a few months!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Too blessed to be stressed....

Do you ever just wonder what business God is about? Like I mean, I TRUST Him, and I KNOW that He has my best interest at heart; however, there are times when I just think, "Seriously God? Seriously?" The funny part is this is a RECURRING theme in my life. Almost always I have SO MUCH on my plate that any mere mortal would be in the loony bin from like HALF of what I'm dealing with... It makes me think, "Hmmmmm God what are you doing in this situation? What am I supposed to glean?" and I'm not gonna lie pretty frequently, "When will this all end!?!?!?!"

Take for instance today:

1. John is on the second day of being home with another neck/brain surgery setback. It was really VERY innocent. On Tuesday night, Hannah jumped up on him to hug him then she grabbed his chin to turn his head and give him a kiss, and POW! excruciating pain and he literally collapsed to the bed. Well, not really one to give up without a fight, John went to work on Wednesday but even during his commute when he called, I could tell he was in no shape to work. He was back home shortly after lunch and has not left bed since. The most ironic part of all of this is that on Sunday he said to me, "Babe, I have been trying to deny it for almost two days, but I think I have another kidney stone." Well I don't know how many of you recall that part of the saga. How in late 2008 - early 2009, John had three different bouts with kidney stones, and how one scan of his kidneys revealed "several" stones in the kidneys. AYE YI YI! REALLY!?!?!? So now this one week we are dealing with kidney stones AND brain surgery setbacks. The only good news is that now the pain from his neck is so severe that he can't feel the kidney stones moving.

2. Every now and then this telecommuting thing is not so fun. See Hannah infiltrated my office this morning and picked up my work phone when it was ringing. When I figured that out I wanted to PUKE! I just spent the morning doing damage control: apologizing to the reference, apologizing to the client, apologizing to my boss... My stomach is still in knots from the entire ordeal.

3. Our minivan... so yesterday I rejoiced to my family and even ALL of FB about the fact that our minivan repair, which had been estimated at $600 was only going to be $118.92. Then just before lunch I called to check on the status and the owner of the shop said, "Well that's just the first thing we're trying. We don't know for sure that is going to fix the whole problem. Didn't they tell you that?" Well, no, kind, balloon-popping sir, they did NOT tell me that... thanks for peeing on my parade! I have been CLINGING to my hope though and REFUSING to doubt. I am trying to BELIEVE that the first thing will be the only thing and this will STILL be a miracle from God; however, they STILL haven't called back about it.

So in the midst of all of this, I'm left to wonder a little:

God what are you doing in this situation??? (actually THESE situationS.) This morning I read this out of Hebrews 12:7a Endure hardship as discipline; and from Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. I have mused before about why we suffer, but this week as I've been reading in Hebrews I have been hearing over and OVER from God, "WHY you suffer doesn't matter. HOW you suffer DOES!" Take the suffering... take the hardship... as discipline. Discipline doesn't only mean punishment. Discipline also means training. When we endure hardships, we should consider ourselves to be "in training." Now John and I have been in training A LOT since we've been married. I keep telling myself, athletes training for the Olympics require MUCH MORE discipline than those training for a recreation department athletic event. So I keep soothing myself by imagining myself as an Olympic athlete.

What am I supposed to glean??? This question has SO many answers for my situation today. Some of them I am sure have not even been brought to my attention yet. But so far here is what I have:

1. the body is a frail thing. It cannot be cut open and have a portion of it's skull removed without far-lasting implications.

2. pain is sooooooooo relative. Kidney stone pain seems excruciating; however, when compared to the pain of the side-effects from brain surgery... it becomes minute. That is an IMPORTANT lesson... because the stress of having a sick husband, a big boo boo at work, an out of commission minivan can look pretty HUGE but when compared to the stress of _________ it could become minute.

3. EVERYONE makes mistakes. EVERYONE has snafus. See I live in this terrible world where I expect Jami Lynn Kastner to be perfect. One tiny mistake... One tiny screw up.... and I am spiraling out of control, hating myself, thinking I'm worthless. Yes I SHOULD have shut the door to my office. Yes I SHOULD have noticed sooner that Hannah was not upstairs. But EVERYONE makes mistakes. I have to learn to deal with that.

4. Do not EVER let Satan steal your joy. I was dancing around, bawling yesterday when they called to tell me that the van would be $118.92. Then after the second call I couldn't quite conjure up dancing. My parade had been metaphorically peed on, but I still REFUSED to stress or worry about it being more costly. I chose to keep my mind trained on the $118.92 and I REFUSED to look at the $600 looming in the distance. See that is a CHOICE! We ALLOW Satan to steal our joy. We ALLOW Satan to make us worry. We can CHOOSE not to give him that power.

5. God is God over ALL of this too. He is God over John's neck pain. He is God over John's kidneys too. He is God over John's job and this time spent out of work. He is God over my job and the issues Hannah caused. He is God over our minivan and its possessed taillights. He is God!

Finally, to my last question:

When is this all going to end??? I have longed for a VERY long time from relief from continual and constant "testing of my faith"... I know! I know! it's "developing perseverance." I know! I know! "Perseverance must finish its work." I know! I know! that when perseverance finishes its work I will be "mature and complete.... not lacking anything." But guess what???? I am TIRED and I think my faith has been tested enough! But here's the answer to my question... Even if it NEVER ends. Even if this is what the REST OF MY LIFE looks like: wounded husband, tight finances, enough stress on my plate to feed a family of seventeen.... I will STILL praise Him, AND I am STILL too blessed to be stressed!

God has given me more than I could ever ask for. More than I could ever imagine. Whether He has me walking down sunny paths with flowers lining the way or trudging up a rocky cliff with my blood trailing behind... It doesn't matter because I will never stop loving Him and I will never stop believing that I am blessed.

Day 7... My final thoughts

So sorry I left you all hanging on the wrap up to the soul cleanse thing. It has been an INSANE week (more to follow in another blog) and I have not had a second to breathe much less blog.

I really enjoyed our endeavor. The soul cleanse revolutionized my life in a few areas, refreshed my soul and refocused my spirit. I highly recommend embarking on a week long "diet" for your spiritual life. I think we would all reap different benefits from one but we would ALL reap benefits.

Quick wrap-up then... What I learned from my soul cleanse:

***(for Jami Lynn Kastner) the TV is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. I do not do moderation well in just about ANY area of my life, and TV is an area where I just should not even start.
***children learn best by example. You can't tell your kids to love Jesus. You can't lecture or Bible read your kids into loving Jesus. You have to love Jesus with ALL of yourself and let them SEE how to love Jesus.
***A lot of the time, healing is like peeling an onion. The healing happens in layers. God peels off layers of hurt one at a time, so each underneath layer can get prepped before hitting the harsh, cruel elements outside the onion. I like that type of healing. While I'm impatient for the healing to be "complete," I like that God is gentle with me when healing me.
***My husband is an fountain of spiritual wisdom. Every once and a while like a geyser he spews forth some of that wisdom and I am amazed at what showers all around me. I am glad my children have THIS daddy for many reasons but mostly because of the spiritual things he reveals to them.
***I love Jesus. I just do. I love Him always, completely and FOREVER.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 6... ONE thing

The more we do Family Worship; the more I hear my children walking around with a song on their lips. The more we pray together; the longer and more in-depth my children's prayers become. The more we read the Bible; the more they talk about what is in the Bible. Basically, the more God they get; the more God they want!

That is the ONE thing. Of course, I want my children to have a good education. Of course, I want my children to be healthy. Of course, I want my children to grow up to be successful human beings. But if I give them NOTHING in this world, but this ONE thing: a love for Jesus Christ. I am a success.

Which is actually very humbling and convicting to me..... Where is that ONE thing in my life? Is it left for last after all my busyness? Is it smushed into the beginning of my day before I get started with work, laundry, schooling, meal prep? If that ONE thing is most important in my life, then why doesn't it LOOK most important in my life? Why isn't every week the way the last one has been? Saturated with God... Focused above... Bathed in holiness....

I think that is the challenge moving forward. We have one last day of our soul cleanse. But it won't end there. I have to carry my clean soul with me every single day and KEEP IT CLEAN too. Alas, I digress into tomorrow's topic....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 5... Praise is NOT dependent upon our circumstances

The title of this blog seems a little more ominous then it really is. It is simply the thesis of the final prayer I prayed with the kids yesterday, and it is simply the lesson God taught all of us yesterday.

Yesterday was not a ridiculously difficult day. I was EXHAUSTED by the severe weather of the previous night. We had four storms role through Dodge County, and I FINALLY got what I wanted: a little SEVERE weather up in Dodge County! When I conversed with a friend at church (Dale Houghton insert your name here) about us moving to Dodge County last summer he said, "Isn't there always a tornado warning in Dodge County?" Then we moved here, and NOTHING, NADA, not a severe storm to be found. Well, I got my wish on Wednesday night. Only, as is the case with many things we wish for, I didn't realize the FULL ramifications of a night of severe weather. I was awake more than I was asleep on Wednesday night. First I was trying to calm four children terrified by a power outage. Then I was lying awake wondering if "this was a tornado" because the tree in my front yard looked like it was going to take wings and find another yard to reside in. During the third storm, I really truly thought the lightening was exploding in my front yard. So I was very, very, very tired yesterday. However, we had a fairly normal day. We did our summer school work. I worked. Laundry and dishes and chores were completed. Not much out of the ordinary occurred.

Well, as we have ANOTHER birthday approaching, there are party preparations to be made, and I had to get to Wal-Mart to get the supplies and some much needed groceries. (When your only option left is mayonnaise sandwiches you KNOW you gotta get to the store.) I thought a little bit about how this might put a crimp in Family Worship for tonight, but I had NO other option. I work all day and don't have time to go to Wal-Mart during the days. We waited until John was almost done working his second job so that he could shop with us. Somehow the Seventh Circle of Hell (shopping at Wal-Mart with four kids in tow) is a little more bearable with the daddy's help. The actual shopping wasn't THAT bad, although it didn't take more than 15 minutes for Hannah AND Elijah to be relegated to riding in the cart for bad behavior. (I do NOT know what it is about Wal-Mart! AHHHHHHH!) So we left Wal-Mart driving down 60, and we saw a cop stopping someone. I start driving a little more carefully and placed a quick warning call to John (who was behind me) that there was a cop. (I just KNOW that Cori thinks she knows exactly where this is going, but keep reading... I think you'll be surprised). I continued on and made the right turn onto P, but as I turned I took the turn a little too wide and crossed over the center line. A little bit down the road and flashing lights were in my rear view window. "Well, here it is," I thought. "My day of reckoning is here." I had been expecting it for quite some time. See I have been driving for longer then I care to admit with tail/brake lights that are possessed: sometimes they work/sometimes they don't. I know FULL WELL that they need to be fixed, but the estimate that the shop gave us is a little tough to swallow, and I'm just not sure where to fit that amount into our budget. So I just stopped driving unless I HAD to and tried to stay as close to home as possible. Well... that was all over now.

I have to take a quick rabbit trail to announce that (I'm sorry AIMEE! I know law enforcement is supposed to be near and dear to my heart BUT) I am NO fan of the Dodge County Sheriff's Office. NONE! And I am NOT kidding you it is ALWAYS the EXACT same officer causing me woe! Does he fricken follow the Kastners around? Since we moved to Dodge County (just one year) we have had more encounters with law enforcement (and all but 1 of them have been with this same officer) than we have in the entire rest of our marriage combined. Not-my-favorite officer, did take the time to point out that he only gave me a ticket for inattentive driving when he could have given me "crossing over the center line" which would cost me more points and more money. Well thank you so much kind sir. He also gave me 15 days to get my tail/brake light fixed. GREAT! because I'm sure I will be able to figure that out in 15 days when I haven't been able to figure it out in the 15 weeks (I'm estimating here but it's my blog so I can do that!) it's been manifesting the evil spirits. He also let slip that he was only "working overtime tonight because of the traffic initiative" they have going, which explained why John saw another THREE cops on the country roads leading home to our house. Whatever... there are SO many things I could say about my not so little ticket. I could defend myself by pointing out it is my first one in over seven years. Or I could admit how much it humbled me because I GRIPE CONTINUALLY at my husband about his poor driving habits. Or I could just be responsible and realize that I did something wrong and it was well within dude's rights to ticket me because of it. But this is not about any of those things.... it is about this:

I arrived home in not the best mood. It was already after 9 p.m. We had to put away hundreds of dollars in party supplies and groceries. The kids STILL hadn't even had dinner. I threw a frozen pizza in the oven and turned on the music and we PRAISED! We sang our VERY favorite song: Set me on Fire. We screamed it out! We danced about! We praised our Jesus!

Then before we consumed the frozen pizza that was to be our dinner, we prayed and I uttered the words that were the lesson of the day:

"God we praise You, not because we are in a good mood, not because the events of the last few hours were pleasing, but because You are worthy of PRAISE and Your praise does NOT depend upon our moods." I paused for a second, a catch in my throat, praying silently that my babies were GETTING THIS! "We praise You right now because You are good ALL the time."

I hope YOU are getting this too. Yesterday wasn't a HORRIBLE day. Yesterday had horrible parts. But no matter how horrible or how amazing my day (or your day) was, God remained the same. He was worthy of praise when I was standing on the side of Hwy P being eaten alive by mosquitoes and chastised by Deputy After-the-Kastners. He was worthy of praise when Hannah looked up at me and sighed, "I just LOVE you Momma." He was worthy of praise when my head was POUNDING from lack of sleep. He was worthy of praise when Noah got that averaging problem all by himself on the first try. See, praise is NOT dependent upon our circumstances. Praise is dependent upon Him... and He is good ALL the time!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 4... One home

Do you ever wonder why you even read the news? All it contains is bad news! Does it ever make you feel overwhelmed? I mean you're just ONE person in a world of zillions. What can you do?

It all starts with one person. It all starts in one home. As we prayed yesterday John touched on this idea, and it really ministered to my soul. If all John and I EVER do is set this one family of six people on fire for God, that is a start.

Let's just imagine, for argument's sake, that each of our children marries and has two children. If our children just set their families on fire for God, the number of on fire believers would swell to eighteen! If the numbers kept going exactly like that in just five generations, John and I would have indirectly helped set 122 people on fire for God! Now multiply that by just ten different families doing the same... 1220!!!!

We CAN make a difference! It JUST starts with ONE FAMILY at a time! This is the truth I have been reminding myself of during these past two difficult days (today was better than yesterday but still NOT good). I keep clinging to the fact that we CAN change the world just by affecting change in this ONE FAMILY!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 3... Epic Fail

Ugh! I was NOT a shining beacon of God's light today. Ugh.... This was a BAD day.

It all started because of the Kastner Family Homeschooling Doctrine. See our Statement of Faith on homeschooling does not include the words "Summer Break." From the Head Mistress's point of view, we do take a break in the summer because we only do reading and math. But the pupils of this Academy of Insanity do not see that as a break, and today they revolted over that fact. They whined their way through math, complained their way through flashcards, and gnashed their teeth through reading, and the teacher did NOT respond to the melee with grace.

I got frustrated. I was impatient. I muttered to myself, "THIS!?!?!? Is what I gave up my career for?!?!". It was not a banner day.

But even in an epic fail there is a lesson to be learned. Even in a major screw up there is value. By Family Worship time I had gotten control of my frustration and conviction had set in. We started with a lecture and then moved into a repentant spirit of worship. The first song had me on my knees bawling. I poured out my repentance to my God. By the time we closed in prayer, all hearts had repented and not many eyes were dry.

See sometimes a Momma has to teach her children what to do when they screw up, and oftentimes showing them what to do is better than telling them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 2... Prayer Walk

Have you seen Facing the Giants? It is one of our FAVORITE movies. I haven't blogged about it in quite some time though. That movie just ROCKED my world and is the source of MANY good ideas, blogs, and resolutions for John and me. One of those ideas came to us in April 2009. Inspired by the man who walks the halls of the high school praying over each locker, John and I began walking the aisles at our church prior to Sunday service, and praying for a revival. Well today John spring boarded off his initial good idea and came up with another doozie!

Ever since leaving New Day Church, John and I have felt God calling us to take a break from service. At New Day, we were self-admittedly over-committed. It seemed we served in every ministry they had available: set-up, worship team, lunch-making, youth group, meals for those in need. After four years we were POOPED and really felt that God wanted us to abstain from getting involved in church ministry for awhile. However, anyone who knows us can probably imagine what a difficult pill that was for us to swallow. We are doers. We are servers. We are NOT ones to just sit there in warm a pew. However, that was exactly what God was asking us to do. I fought back a little, testing the limits my Heavenly parent had set and begged, "Isn't there ANYWHERE I can serve God? I feel so useless without service!" Quietly I felt Him answer, "Your neighborhood is going to be your mission field."

As a result John and I have made efforts to reach out to those in our little neighborhood. We have gotten to know a few people, and we have reached out a little through prayer and service. Well today God gave John an idea which flowed perfectly with this new commission God had given us. He said that, just like we used to walk the aisles of New Day Church and pray, we should start walking the streets of our neighborhood and pray. GENIUS! I LOVED it!

So we started tonight. Admittedly we only made it down "our" cul de sac and part of the adjacent one. The kids pooped out halfway back up our cul de sac. Initially I told them they could go inside while we walked/prayed the rest of the neighborhood, but just a short way down the second street, I started feeling very uncomfortable about walking while they were at home and out of my line of sight. So we did a blanket prayer over the last two streets and headed back home.

As we walked down our little street, we prayed for all our neighbors. For the ones we know, we prayed specifically. Our friends Mike and Rose were out in their garden, and John even walked up the drive and asked if he could pray for Rose. We have been holding them tight in our prayers for several months as Rose has suffered some medical struggles that even the Mayo Clinic has been unable to diagnose. (I would really appreciate it if you could pray for them too. Pain and sickness are so hard to bear but when it is undiagnosed the suffering is greatly increased.) (Yups Kristie we prayed for you and your little clan too as we passed by your abode). For the ones we've yet to meet, we prayed more generally. Regardless it was a GREAT inaugural Prayer Walk, and I look forward to making it a weekly occurrence.

An update on the rest of the Soul Cleanse:

We are doing GREAT so far. No TV. No talk radio. No secular music. This morning we arose at 5:30 a.m. and had our individual quiet time which ended with prayer together as a couple. Immediately after "wake up call" I read the Bible with Auntie Marge and the kids and we prayed. As a family we did our prayer walk and followed it with Family Worship. Right now, John is doing bedtime Bible reading and prayer with the kids while I blog (last night's blog kept me up WAY too late).

We are experiencing some breakthroughs, but on a few issues we are still pounding against the barriers praying that God will bring them tumbling down. An odd side effect that I really didn't think of or expect has been a RIDICULOUS increase in intimacy. The more frequently we pray, praise and read the Word together the more I see of my husband's heart, and I REALLY like what I see. I know we're only on day 2 here, but I SURE hope that we can keep a consistency to some of this.... especially in the area of prayer together. We've always kinda gone in fits and starts in this area, and I just keep thinking if this is how much we've grown and learned and reaped after just two days of GREATLY increased prayed time, what would 2 weeks bring us? or 2 months? or 2 years? We shall see I guess.

Okay everyone I gotta close this up. We still have intercessory prayer on our Soul Cleanse agenda for tonight and my eyelids are already drooping. Have a great night!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 1.... Garden

Today I decided to just take a look at my vegetable garden. I had given up on it a few weeks ago. See when I was planting my tomato plants back in May, I dug up an ant hill. Ever since then I have been warring with the ants for control of that tiny little plot of land. A few weeks ago with anthills everywhere and plants which looked like they hadn't grown a millimeter I threw in the towel. However, today out of morbid curiosity I took a little jaunt over there to check out what had become of my little guys. What I saw shocked me! Several of my tomato plants were blossoming! I could NOT believe my eyes! I got to work fighting a new battle, this time against the weeds and grass which were threatening to overtake my tiny little garden. Three hours, one aching back and more blisters then I can count later I had reclaimed about seventy-five percent of my garden and come away with a great analogy.

See this soul cleansing John and I have embarked on is a REALLY good idea. However, I couldn't miss the lesson from my neglected garden. Ignoring a garden for weeks and then trying to reclaim it is MUCH more back breaking then simply caring for it daily. A thorough soul cleansing is good for us, BUT if it is all the "tending" we do for our spirit it will be back breaking and gut wrenching. A cleanse of our spirits will be much easier to weather if it is coupled with daily caring for our soul.

However, even with daily care, our souls can get gunked up with the ick of this world. That's why John and I are on this soul cleanse. And today was a GREAT day! We stuck to all of the things we have resolved to do (and not do) today. We had decided yesterday to share with the children what we were doing but not force them to do any of it. We wanted them to make their own decision on the matter. It has been QUITE a blessing to observe the cleansing of their souls. When I asked Hannah what she wanted God to do this week, she answered, "Heal my Daddy's owie." This morning Noah showed he had really been pondering this concept when he showed me what he had written in his journal, that God would "make me a better man."

Our "Interim Church" turned out to be pretty cool. We weren't taken aback by the fact that our little posse of seven was about one-fifth of the congregation today. It was SMALL! While I still really LOVE LifeChurch, I had the oddest sensation that we just kinda "fit" at Marshview Ministries. Only God knows what is in store for us there, but for now it is a great place for the Kastners to worship closer to home. Two random thoughts from the sermon that I REALLY liked:

1. Elephants in the Sahara desert have ears that are sensitive enough to hear rain falling from miles away. I want to be that sensitive to the voice of God.

2. We need to hunger and thirst for righteousness like we HAVE to eat or drink or we will die!
I did have a brief moment today where I nearly lost my resolve (and my marbles). I was trying to make lunch and EVERY SINGLE person who lives in this house besides John was talking to me at the same time. Noah and Elijah were begging to play Xbox. Auntie Marge was chiding me for not letting her buy McDonalds for lunch cuz "that would have solved your problem of what to make for lunch." Jeremiah was repeatedly asking to watch a show. I started to go postal on everyone's butts, but then I remembered what I was supposed to be doing this week. I dropped my mayonnaise-covered knife and went to John and asked him to pray for me. Then with my spirit calmed, I returned to making sandwiches and listening to everyone clamor my name at the exact same time.

So Day 1 is nearly over.... I'm feeling pretty good about this thing we've embarked on. I'm also feeling this odd sneaking suspicion that God has already freed me from two of the things I am asking Him to bring me healing in. However, I don't want to jump the gun on proclaiming victory so I think I will simmer on it a little while. All I can say is I just feel DIFFERENT in my thoughts/fears/worries/even actions towards these two specific topics and if that is ALL I get from this week it will be so much more then enough.

Please pray for us after you read this. Tomorrow will be the true test if we can really clean our icky souls out... Taking a soul cleanse into the work week... I'll let you know how it goes!

Cleansing my soul....

This morning a friend's Facebook status (Sarah Bowling) caught my attention: it said, "I think ever so often we should consider doing a soul cleanse - just some food for thought." I immediately took this idea to my bff. "What do you think, Hon? Are you game?"

Together we started pondering the idea of a soul cleanse. We are SUCH huge fans of cleansing diets. While we never seem to make it all the way through one, we still believe deeply in the concept of cleansing toxins from one's body. So the idea of doing a cleanse for our souls really appealed to us.

We started thinking through what a cleansing diet involves: eliminating junk food and increasing healthy food.... the result of which is a cleansing of toxins from one's body. Then we marinated on how could we fashion a "cleansing diet" for our souls.

First we contemplated what things are junk food to our soul. Junk food in our diet isn't necessarily evil, but it does fill our bellies with food that does not bring much nutritive benefit to our bodies. There are things in our life that do the same thing to our spirits. They are not necessarily evil or sinful, in and of themselves, but they fill our time with stuff that does not bring much benefit to our spirit. We tried to identify what things in our life have little to no spiritual value. The list John and I came up with included: secular music, talk radio, and TV. We decided these things, while not "sin," are taking up space that could be filled with more spiritual pursuits.

Next we contemplated what is spiritual health food. What are the good things we should increase in our daily spiritual "diet" in order to eliminate spiritual toxins. We thought, "How can we get more God into our lives?" These spiritual "health foods" boiled down to three things: 1. Prayer 2. Reading the Word 3. Worship. We started thinking through our schedules and coming up with ways to get more and more of these three things into our lives.

One thing we change we have ABSOLUTELY got to make is: we have to get back to church! Car problems have kept us from traveling the 40 minutes to church for months now. We need a BIG repair to fix the problem and are not able to drive long distances right now. Today we spent some time searching for an "interim" church, and we found one just 15 minutes away! Even if it isn't the church where our hearts are, at least we will be at church. And who knows! Maybe God has plans for us at this "interim" church.

Another thing we are committing to: Family Worship. For a long time in the beginning of 2009, our family faithfully worshiped together on Friday nights. We would spend an hour or so, praising and worshiping, dancing and clapping, crying and praying. It was an AMAZING thing. However, somehow when the storms started we let that habit fall to the wayside. It is being revived again this week. In fact, this week we are going to try to do Family Worship EVERY SINGLE night! (Some of you BETTER keep me accountable and ask how many times we actually did it!) Then after our cleansing week ends, we plan to return to weekly Family Worship times.

It didn't take long as we were hatching these plans, for me to feel my stomach drop with the realization that Satan was NOT going to like this. I wanted to throw up, but yet I was not really deterred. See quick rewind back to 2009. John and I were ON FIRE for God! We were praying fervently and faithfully for a revival in our church. We were working hard to lead the youth of our church closer and closer to Christ. Using Facebook, I started a prayer group. I spent nearly every morning praying through long lists of requests, some from people I didn't even know personally. We might as well have been waving a red cape in front of a raging bull. John even posted on Facebook one day, "Bring it on Satan." Only we didn't fully realize how what we were doing was going to stir of the forces of the evil realm, and I don't think either of us had a healthy enough respect for what exactly Satan is capable of. So when Satan charged at us we didn't have our eyes on him, we weren't prepared for his attack. He blindsided us from what seemed like out of NOWHERE. He brought weapons to the fight that we didn't even know existed, and while he did not win (for he NEVER does) at the end of the battle John and I found ourselves face down in mud that was tinged with our own blood. Gravely but not fatally wounded, we found ourselves with a new appreciation for Satan's crafty power, a sickening realization of our frail, wicked humanity, and a triumphant assurance of His sovereignty, goodness, and never-ending, loving, kindness.

But this time I feel we will weather the battle better. I stopped the second I got that sick realization that we were about to HACK off the devil. I went to John, and we agreed in prayer, covering our entire family, our possessions, our relationship with the blood of Christ. I know we are about to make the devil a very unhappy camper, but this time we are ready for him. I don't want to fight him again. I don't relish the thought of battling him, especially since we really haven't even recovered from the last series of skirmishes. But I want MORE of God in my life. I want to know Him more deeply. I want to love Him more completely. I want to reflect Him more clearly. And if I have to fight to get that, so be it.

Last night we watched Independence Day. (I LOVE that movie! However, during our soul cleansing it will not be on the list of approved pursuits.) After an air battle with an alien which results in a crash, Will Smith opens the alien craft to find the alien inside is STILL alive. He punches the thing full in the face and knocks it unconscious. That scene inspired me! His character had just finished a grueling dogfight in which his best friend was killed. He was tired and weary yet when he saw the enemy was still writhing he rose to the challenge and knocked that alien OUT!

I too have been through a grueling battle. The past 12 months have been wrought with battles. My husband, my marriage, my family, my very life, and everything I hold dear have been threatened. I am tired and weary, but I tell you what, I am NOT going to go down without a fight! I am going to keep on taking swings at that crafty old snake, and I will crush him under my foot because I am a child of the King and MY SIDE WINS IN THE END! No matter how many stupid little battles Satan appears to have won along the way, in the end WE WIN!

So I am inspired and motivated, and I am girding up my loins for battle. But I am also reaching out my hands to my Father the King, expectantly and confidently waiting for Him to fill my begging hands with good and amazing things from above.

I'm going to do my best to chronicle this journey here daily. I will try as hard as I can to be as transparent as possible and let you all walk with us through this cleansing of our souls... I don't think it will be easy. I'm reminded of the vomiting that occurred the time I tried to begin my new year with a cleansing diet but the shock of caffeine withdrawal had me nauseated by the severe headache pain. I'm thinking that a spiritual cleansing might not be much more pleasant than that. However, I full, well believe that the benefits of cleansing my soul will FAR outweigh the benefits of any kind of cleansing of my physical body.

So here we go! Project soul cleansing begins when I wake up this morning. One week of eliminating spiritual junk food and increasing spiritual health food. I have made a list in my journal of "toxins" that I hope God will purge out of my soul and breakthroughs I hope He will bring. But I FULL WELL expect that at the end of this week, the list of actual toxins purged and actual breakthroughs made will far exceed my expectations and will be exceedingly more than anything I could ask for or hope for.

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