Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Shopping

Sometimes shopping at Christmas time is a lot of fun; sometimes it's the worst chore of the season. From my point of view, it takes a lot of planning, time, and shopping savvy. With 7 children, it's a daunting challenge. I try to find special gifts at good prices and keep our giving as even as possible. I shop early and stay late. I wait in long lines, wrestle with the crowds and drink plenty of coffee.


I've found a secret to changing this activity from a chore into a great time. Firstly, I remind myself that I'm loving my children well by giving them gifts. I'm blessing my extended family by giving them time (spent shopping), attention (carefully selecting items) and giving a gift. In the midst of the heightened activity of the Christmas season, it's easy to forget the "reason for the season."


Secondly, I pray before, during and after my shopping trips. I ask the Lord for extra help in finding just the right gifts at just the right prices. Like many other families, we live on a limited budget and I don't have extra money to throw away on dumb gifts. That would be wasteful. So I pray and ask for divine wisdom. Then, as I'm shopping I keep "praying in the spirit." I don't want to participate in the hectic-ness of the Mall, so I do my best to stay focused on the Lord.

The result: a great time finding just the right gifts for my family and enjoying the presence of the Lord.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Movies

Many times I feel that we watch too many movies and too much TV. When my older kids were little, we watched very little (and usually only PBS). I try to carefully monitor what and how much the kids watch.

However, I've found that I've developed a bit of a soft spot for some Christmas movies. I don't like the cheesy "Hallmark Specials," but I think there are some real treasures out there especially for the holiday season. We started watching our Christmas shows on Thanksgiving weekend.

So far, our family has watched:
Eloise at Christmas
The Muppets Christmas Carol
Santa Clause
Santa Clause 2
The Polar Express
Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanksgiving Fun

What I did on Thanksgiving:
Had my 3 college students and teaching daughter from Florida home for 5 days;

Pulled out sleeping bags, extra pillows and all the bath towels;

Had Daughter #3 make spiced applesauce;

Put 2 extra leaves in the table;

Got out all of the good china;

Put the largest table cloths I have on each of the three tables;

Invited 1 brother-in-law, 2 sisters-in-law, 3 nieces, 1 nephew and 1 dog to join us;

Roasted a 22 pound turkey;

Served carrot cake which was a collaborative project of all 3 sons;

Went to Son #3's performance in Cheaper by the Dozen;

Played "In a Pickle" with nieces and nephews;

Ate too much stuffing, but not very much turkey;

Ate rutabaga but not lutefisk;

Was thankful and grateful for God's multitudinous blessings!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Things I Love/ Things I Hate

Things I Love:

  • my husband
  • my children
  • coffee
  • chocolate
  • a good clean mystery

Things I Hate:

  • whining
  • headaches
  • garden-eating rabbits

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why 7?




A favorite professor of mine once said to me that when God told mankind to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth that I didn't have to do it all by myself.

There's a story behind our family's size:

When we were engaged we had our first unresolvable discussion (aka fight) while listening to a set of tapes on expectations and marriage. (Our pastor thought these would be good for us since we had only known each other 5 months.) This particular tape was on how many children we would like to have. I said, "4." Jim said, "2 and let's wait 5 - 6 years." I thought that he was hard-hearted and selfish. We put away the tapes and decided that God would give us grace and wisdom when the time came.

We'd been married a little over a year and were expecting our first child when we attended a Basic Youth Conflict Seminar and heard Bill Gothard talk about the value of a large family. I don't remember what he said, but I felt I heard the Lord say that "6" was our number! Ohmigosh! What was I going to say to my husband? Well, God was good enough to say the same thing to him.

So here we are with 7 children! When we were expecting our 6th, I heard the Lord say, "Six and a surprise." Now what was I going to tell my husband? Without intending to, we conceived another baby, but we miscarried her 4 months into the pregnancy. I told the Lord that I didn't like that surprise. Losing a baby was hard on all of us. My husband and the Lord wanted another. Thus, Emma!

Why blog?

"Why blog?" a good friend asked. Good question. With a bajillion bloggers out there, who's to say that anyone would ever stumble onto my mom-ly ramblings. One of my children was appalled that I was going to write one. "No Mom!" she moaned, "I don't want to be a blog child." Fair enough. So, why write?

When I was in high school, and people would ask what I wanted to do (assuming I'd grow up) and I would reply that I was going to write. In college, I was even more convinced that I wanted to write. Wasn't that what successful English majors did? Instead, I had a houseful of very literate children. For the past 20-plus years I've written piles of to do lists, lesson plans for every genre of literature and period of history, the occaisional Christmas letter and sporadic entries into my "memoirs."

"You should write a book," a curious young mom said to me one day. She herself couldn't comprehend my household of 7 homeschooled children. So I thought I'd try my hand at blogging. Perhaps in the context of this mix of little paragraphs I'll find the stuff of a book. If not, I'll have exercised my brain a little more, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why 007 Mom?




The obvious reason for the "007" moniker is that I'm the mother of 7 marvelous and fascinating children: girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl! And I'm married to a "James," making me a Mrs. James (see the Bond and 007 connection?)

I've never aspired to Super Mom-dom, or even Soccer Mom-dom. I have too many children, not enough money to have my nails done, and am a recovering perfectionist (aka trying hard to be content with NOT getting it all done.) But something about the 007 mystic intrigues me. When my husband introduced me to the Bond movies, my practical side kicked in and said, "That can't happen! That's not for real!" when Roger Moore skipped across the water on alligator heads. I had to consciously engage my willing-suspension-of-disbelief abilities. After that, I was hooked. Apart from the gratuitous sex and violence, these movies are a hoot.

I've found that my ability to engage that willing-suspension-of-disbelief faculty (refer to your college lit. syllabus for a definition) has been a great boon for my parenting. Examples: You want to wear this pair of muddy jeans when??? That crash I heard was what? Your brother just ate what? You want me to have dinner for 30 when?? We have to pay how much for tuition?

Sure! No problem! When you're living in Tam's "007 World" anything is possible. Raising and homeschooling 7 children on a limited income, diminishing energy our and a certain dergree of cluelessness takes a lot of creativity and a certainty that the impossible is achieved if only in our imaginations.

Warmly,
Your neighborhood 007 Mom,
Tam

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Argentina, Days 8 & 9

Friday & Saturday, October 5 & 6, 2007
Dear Friends and Family

We leave today. All week I had planned to have a piece of this delectable chocolate cake that they set out for breakfast. Wouldn’t you know, on this last day they didn’t have it! I substituted with a small chocolate tart.

Because of differing flight schedules, we leave Mar del Plata in stages. How odd it feels to say good-bye to some and not to others. Reminds me a bit of camp when I was a kid. We’ve exchanged business cards and e-mail addresses. We feel God would have us stay connected with some.

Our schedule for the day includes a 6 hour bus ride to Buenos Aires, a 6 hour wait at the airport, a 10 hour flight to Houston, TX, an hour rush to go through customs and meet our next flight, and a 2 ½ hour flight to Mpls/ St.P. Oh my!

So, why did we have to go all the way to Argentina and spend all that money? Mostly, because we felt the Lord say, “GO!” We felt God would teach us (which He did), give us more Kingdom connections (which He did), and impart to us the faith and grace to make the next steps for our personal lives, the church, and the city (which He did). We’re still digesting a lot. Pray that we don’t get indigestion!

Loving you and looking forward to being with you again,
Tam

Argentina, Day 7

Thursday, October 4, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,

Today is our last day of meetings. Ed Silvoso and others again presented the possibility and urgency of discipling the nations, not just individuals. We’ve been challenged to see our world redeemed and in need of reclaiming. Think about it … if Hitler could disciple a country towards anti-Semitism; if Marx discipled Russians to be communists; if the media can disciple us to be materialistic, selfish and immoral … why can’t we see that the Lord can use us to bring not just people but systems into alignment with God.

In his book, Transformation, Ed writes that Guatemala has one of the highest rates per capita of Christians and yet had a terribly corrupt political system. What’s wrong with this picture?? In the afternoon we met with the other Minnesotans. We heard what God was doing in other parts of the state and shared significant points gleaned from this conference. God really has to do a work to expand our visions and increase our faith to believe that He will bring His Kingdom to the Northfield area and to Minnesota.

We skipped dinner and finally did a little bit of shopping. After taking a taxi, we wandered around a commercial area. A couple of interesting highlights: Dogs make up a part of the crowd milling about the plaza. They aren’t friendly or mean. Actually, they look a little sad. One was even curled up on a beggar’s mat and covered with a blanket. And, you don’t handle or go through the merchandise. They have signs that say “Don’t Touch.” Instead, you say that you want a man’s large t-shirt and they bring out a stack. You select the one you want and pay for it.

Our evening was spent at the closing service for the Spanish track of this conference. Latinos know how to enthusiastically worship the Lord! Not knowing Spanish, I sang along in English or tongues. As part of the service, they prayed for a reconciliation of Jews and Argentines. During WWII, the Argentine government sold blank passports to Germans for gold stolen from the Jews. Mar del Plata was the port at which the transactions took place. What a tremendously powerful evening!

We leave tomorrow, so pack tonight. Though my belly has been over-full for these past days, I feel I’ve only gotten glimpses of Argentina and glimpses of God’s plan for the nations.

Tam (wondering who will turn down my bed and give me chocolates at home….)

Argentina, Day 6

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,

When we travel, I love to go shopping. I usually don’t buy much, but I like to see what stores and merchandise are like. When we were in Moscow, our leader told us to keep our spiritual antennae up and get a feel for the spiritual temperatures of the places. Unfortunately, we have had no time to shop … yet. But I have picked up a bit about the Argentine people. I know that we’ve had limited exposure, but one characteristic I’ve seen with Christians and the hotel and restaurant staff: an incredible graciousness and desire to serve and bless. They possess a greater capacity to honor one another than I’ve seen here in the States. They were almost offended when I wanted to take care of my own suitcase.

The time here is completely filled. Even the mealtimes are potent with spirit-filled fellowship and more testimonies. Because we ask the Lord to direct our days, we can be free to go to the meetings, have personal quiet time, nap, shop, etc. If we could only approach our days more simply ask God, “What would you have me do, today?”

Tonight at dinner we sat with a man, Simon, from South Africa. This was his first time out of his country (let alone his continent) and he was sponsored completely by a business man. He had walked for a whole day to attend a Harvest Evangelism Meeting in Cape Town. The business man was impressed by his determination and commitment. Simon pastors a bunch of people from his village, but has to work in a factory because there’s no money for a salary. His greatest desire is to preach on the radio.

All of our traveling between towns and to restaurants has been via “double- decker” buses. They are great fun. The conference has a large number of “security” to guide us poor English-speaking souls. They are so kind and considerate.

What a treat it is to love the Lord in another country!
Tam

Argentina, Day 5

Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,

Some tidbits about Argentina:
· In public restrooms, you must get your toilet paper from an attendant or a large dispenser near the sinks. If you don’t, too bad for you.
· They love their meat and pastries.
· Turn signals are optional when driving and lane designations are merely suggestions for motorcycles.
· Ex-prisoners make excellent security guards.
· The Argentine coffee is superb! It’s extra strong and black but not in the least bitter. They serve it in small espresso or demitasse cups. What a treat!
· In both hotels, you slip your keycard into a slot next to the door and that turns on the power for the room. Don’t let your roommate walk out the door and take his keycard with him if you happen to be in the bathroom.

Some testimonies of what God is doing all over the world:
· The HIV/AIDS rate in Uganda dropped from to 6% after the First Lady of Uganda (a Christian) worked with others to develop the “ABc Plan” which says: “Abstinence, Be faithful, and condoms” as a response to the sexual activity that was spreading AIDS.
· The CEO of an oil company in Elk River uses the profits of his company to plant over 500 churches in the Ukraine.
· A business man from Hawaii, by being “unashamedly ethical” leads the president of Tahiti to the Lord.
· A pastor of one of the largest churches in Singapore feels called to work for redemption in the entertainment industry and becomes a stage magician. (check out www.magicoflawrence.com)

Tonight at dinner we were treated to music and testimonies from South Africa. It was colorful, exciting and rhythmic. (Maybe they could come to Minnesota and teach us how to really clap and dance!) Get this … for the Global Day of Prayer a number of them climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro in order to pray at the highest peak in Africa. Maybe we could all ascend St. Olaf Avenue.

Another marvelous day…. another late night,
Tam

Argentina, Day 4

Monday, October 1, 2007
Dear Friends and Family

The thrust of this conference is to impart revelation regarding making disciples of our towns, states, countries and the nations. (see the Great Commision) Our faith is strengthened by testimonies of people who have walked through some strategies and become prototypes. We’re challenged to think of church differently.

Here’s a concept: think of your own personal circles of influence (family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, friends, etc). Now, imagine yourself as a pastor of this group. Your heart is to love, encourage, and bring the Kingdom of God in any way that the Holy Spirit makes possible. You pray for them on a regular basis. Now, let’s say we each have at least 50 such people in our lives. Do you know what that makes us? A church of pastors with a congregation over 500! Hmmm. Food for thought.

A key component for us here are the mealtimes. Not only is the food first-class, but the fellowship around the table is part of our faith-building and networking. On the first night we say across 2 men from Cape Town, South Africa. The younger man, Sydney, was laid off from his job in a ministry office, so he washed cars and did gardening for 2 years so that he could stay near the ministry. He’s saved enough to start a ministry within the city. Another man, Nacho, stands on the streets of Los Angeles with a sign saying “Jesus loves you and so do I.” Recently, a man came up to him with a gun. Only, he didn’t want to use it on him; he wanted to relinquish it because he’d decided not to commit suicide. God is doing amazing things, and it’s a privilege to hear these stories.

Tonight we attended an Argentine conference for the citizens of Mar del Plata. They’ve proclaimed that their city is God’s city with the backing of pastors, businessmen, and government officials. They performed a song about Argentina’s prophetic destiny, complete with children dancing and an acrobatic feat. Following testimonials from delegates from our conference and a teaching from Ed Silvoso, they commissioned over 2000 “market place ministers.” Worshiping with other nations has a profound affect on my understanding of the bigness of God.

We’re staying up far too late, and getting up early. Since the maids have turned down my bed and left little chocolates, I think I’ll hang up the bathrobe they have for me and take off my monogrammed slippers and crawl into bed.

Love to all,
Tam (chocolate before bed…a new habit.)

Argentina, Day 3

Sunday, September 30, 2007
Dear Friends & Family

(You’ll be glad to know that we showed restraint and didn’t eat supper. Ok, so we weren’t hungry anyway.)

Yesterday we traveled from Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata, and ocean-side city of a million. We are now in the Hotel Costa Galana, another incredible place. Beautiful rooms, out of this world food, and the most efficient and professional service. All in all, we are out of our league. The people at this conference are world-class movers and shakers in transforming their communities, schools and governments. “So what do you do?” “I’m the CEO of Uganda’s version of the IRS.” “I own a town in Indonesia.” “I run the largest architectural firm in Hawaii and design new towns for the president of Tahiti.” “Me? I’m a mom.” (Quiz: which one of these answers was mine?)

Spending some quiet time with the Lord, I was kind of grumbling through some stuff, when I felt the Lord ask me, “Is it about Me or about you?

This morning (following another over-the-top breakfast buffet) after some sweet worship, Ed Silvoso spoke about being rightly prepared to be used by the Lord. If it’s about our abilities, energies, or even our cleverness, we won’t give the glory to the Lord. And He’s jealous for His glory. But when we come to Him empty-handed but willing, He’ll change the world using moms, etc.

Tonight, as we ate at a restaurant owned and run by Christians, we were entertained by professional tango dancers and folk music and dancing. I’m hoping the pictures turnout well. Two South African men sang a duet for us. Then, after one sat down, the first young man proposed to a another young woman on his ministry team. As she came forward, he got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife. Needless to say, hooting and hollering followed!

Tam (again, full, tired and amazed by the Lord ….)

Argentina, Day 2


Saturday, September 29, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,

Ever see the movie The Santa Clause with Tim Allen? Remember how he packs on the pounds, seemingly overnight? I have a feeling that we are guinea pigs for just such an experiment. The breakfast we were served was almost overwhelming. Fruits, egg thingies, ham, steak, bacon, pastries, breads, cheeses, cereals, juices, brownies, cookies, and (best of all) a most delicious cup of coffee. I was cautious and kept to a high fiber cereal and fruit (I know… boring) and it’s a good thing I did. Just 2 hours later we were again treated to a large meal at a restaurant near the Los Olmos prison. These steaks were only ½ an inch thick.

By now, some of you may be thinking, “Did we send Jim and Tammy all the way to Argentina just to pig out?” Well, kind of. There’s a real sense that all we do is spiritual and the Lord is inhabiting all of it. The conversations around the tables during the meals are sweet, enlightening, deep and trivial and a great blessing to all. A key aspect of the Lord’s agenda in these days is ministry that flows out of relationships and fellowships. We’ve already heard testimonies of divine connections opening doors for the Kingdom to advance. And this is a great opportunity for me to see what’s in my heart. Will I tally in my head the expense of everything? Or will I joyfully accept it all as a marvelous gift from my extravagant God?

This day, Saturday, all 450 of us boarded buses for the Christian prison. (The testimony of this place is amazing… we’ll fill you in on the details later.) Greeted at the gates by smiling guards, prisoners, and staff, the atmosphere was electric. We could hear lively worship coming from a courtyard surrounded by barbed wire. Many times during the worship and prayer I found myself in tears. The men in this minimum security prison have been praying for us by name for the last 30 days. A sweet older gentleman who was a recent inmate played “How Great Thou Art” on the harp. A young man shared his testimony of coming to know Jesus at another prison, getting transferred to this place, and meeting his father who abandoned him as a child. When we left, the men lined up and shook our hands and blessed us in the Name of the Lord. Simply Amazing!

Tam (humbled by God’s extravagant grace ….)

Argentina, Day 1


Friday, September 28, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,

Since you are praying for us and we’re here in great part because of your generosity and your encouragement, I thought I’d keep you a bit abreast of our adventure here in Argentina.

Jim and I left the house around 10:30 on Thursday morning (a huge thanks to Dick Cover for driving us to the airport!) and arrived in Buenos Aires Argentina at 9:00 am on Friday morning. We were in the air about 11 hours with a 4 hour layover in Houston. Airports are fascinating places. I love watching people. In an airport, people have a bit of “lifelessness” about them. They’re probably looking forward to their destination, but their faces and demeanor sure don’t show it. Hmm, I’m sensing an object lesson here. Do our faces and demeanors show that we know our destination is Heaven and that we are looking forward to it?

Upon arriving at the airport in Buenos Aires I was immediately conscious of the effects of the Tower of Babel! I heard nothing of my little brand of Minnesotan English, ya sure. The only Spanish I know is si, gracias, nachos, and quesadilla. Thankfully, the customs official said little, and I could aptly use two of my vocabulary words. I kept wanting to say things in German, since this is the only foreign language I know. How odd.

Our one night in Buenos Aires was spent at the Panamericanos (www.panamericanos.us). A stunning 5 star hotel! Jim says “I was born for hotels like this.” A telephone in the bathroom. Dimming lights. A king size bed. Hard wood floors and a heated marble floor in the bathroom. Our first event with the conference delegates was a dinner at a large restaurant around the corner. It was an amazing 7 course meal: rolls, greens with marinated onions, empanadas, spicy sausage with a fist-sized piece of gouda cheese, steaks an inch thick and the size of the plate, French fries, and a vanilla/raspberry ice with chocolate sauce. Our return trip to the hotel was more of a waddle than a walk. Now with full tummies and very little sleep for the last 36 hours, we should sleep like logs!

Tam (too tired and full to think anymore ….)