Monday, December 27, 2010

The Mark of the Lion

I was hesitant at first.

"You HAVE to read this series," Kristi begged. "Seriously Taryn, you have to. You will love it."

I wasn't so sure.

She went on, "It's really not my type of reading. It's more so something you would enjoy, I promise."

I am not sure why I didn't believe her. I later concluded that the scenario I was most afraid of was the one in which I would read the series and not like it as much as she said I would.

Or as much as everyone else said I would. Virtually everyone I talked to said it was excellent.

But what if it wasn't? What if I was left disappointed, after wasting my time on 3 books from a series I didn't enjoy? Disappointment would surely follow.

Normally I love surprises. And actually, although I think way too much into everything, I think that's another reason I didn't want to read this series. Everyone else loved it too much. It had already been discovered in its uniqueness. As with anything else in life, I like going in with no expectations or pre-formed opinions. Otherwise, too quickly, what everyone else thinks or says becomes my stance rather than being prepared to be blown away by something secret that I discovered on my own.

I am not saying I don't have a mind of my own. I am merely just saying... perhaps the thoughts and opinions of others holds far more weight than they should. For example, have you ever had someone tell you about a book or movie, and with their explanation you paint a picture in your head about what you think it will be? Then you read it or watch it, and it is absolutely nothing how you had envisioned it in your mind based on what you were told.

Anyway. One afternoon after lunch, Kristi drove me to her mom's house. Her mom has an endless supply of books and book series, and is great at recommending new finds to me. Before I started this series, I was hung up with Jodi Piccoult. She wrote "My Sister's Keeper" and writes a lot of fiction centered around causes, disorders, diseases, and controversial topics. All her writing is cleverly crafted with a sense of realism. Her books are quite often page-turners and I always learn something. Perhaps another reason I was so held back from reading the series.

The series in which I speak of is "The Mark of the Lion" series. That afternoon, Kristi instructed her mom to seek out the 3 books and she handed them to me.

"It takes awhile to get into them," she warned. "Don't give up after 2 chapters."

The first night I started book one, I curled up on the couch, prepared to get myself through a couple of chapters as an introduction.

I didn't put the book down until page 114.

I finished within a week and quickly dove into book 2. I finished that one last night and plan on starting book 3 sometime soon.

Without going into "book report" mode, I will say that one of the main characters-- Hadassah-- definitely challenges you in your spiritual walk. It seems almost impossible to have the faith, humility, and boldness that she did... but it is not. It is not impossible, it is just merely uncomfortable. And most Christians aren't used to discomfort.

A lot of the situations Hadassah found herself in are situations that we are very fortunate to avoid in today's times and in a place like the US. Yet just because we've been handed freedom in choosing a religion and worshiping as we want, and just because most of us live in warm homes and have plenty to eat, and just because we aren't made slaves or gladiators in order to survive... just because, it does not excuse us from our duties as a Christian. In fact, I would think it would be MORE of a reason to reach out. We, who are fortunate... we who are so blessed beyond measure, what holds us back? In these books, for Hadassah, holding back meant protection of her life. To speak up or speak out could get her killed. So any hesitation on her part is understandable. Yet she never hesitated. She always lived her Faith, no matter what that would cost her. She knew that in the end, nothing was more important than Christ and proclaiming His name, and if she died for it, so be it.

But what of me? I can witness on a street corner, in a coffee shop, or in an elevator, and I won't be sent to the lion's den for it. But do I?

Sometimes, I think our many blessings blind us if we aren't careful. Lately, I have been convicted about a couple of things: what I own, and what I watch. Ultimately, what I own is not mine, but God's. So how much "stuff" that I have... how much of that glorifies God? Second, what I watch affects what goes into my mind, and what I think on. How much of the things that I watch... how much of that glorifies God? How much of it teaches me, edifies me, builds me up, and is pure and lovely?

A lot to think about after 2 books from that series.

So I must say... my uncertainty in reading this series was definitely unwarranted. Thank you, Kristi, for your suggestion!

Love you all!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Do you believe in Santa?

Everywhere you go, places are covered in Christmas. Sparkly decor, swaying ornaments, cinnamon scents, and melodic carols all flood your senses. It has been this way for over a month.

In three days, it will all be over. Christmas trees will come down. Ornaments will be wrapped carefully in bubble wrap and stored in boxes until next year. Twinkle lights won't twinkle anymore, holiday cookies and treats will be fully digested, and gift wrap will be 50% off at Walmart.

I find it interesting how society prepares for Christmas so far in advance, and in such a big way... the anticipation leading up this holiday every year is huge.

And then it's over.

Just like anything else in life you plan for... a party, a wedding, or a big event... it all eventually comes to a head. Yet with Christmas preparations, planning, and celebrating, I feel like a lot of it centers around Santa and gifts.

I realized this year that I never believed in Santa. I just never did. I was the 4th of 4 kids, and by then, the magic of playing up a pretend holiday character must not have appealed to my parents any longer. My mom promises that she talked about him and gave us each a present from "Santa" every year. And she probably did. But at the end of the day, my parents are the ones who received my Christmas list... not Santa. And my parents are the ones who bought me those gifts and gave them to me, I knew... not Santa. And the idea of Santa traveling all the way around the world and delivering gifts to me on Christmas Eve never seemed realistic to me. Not to mention, it was always my family's tradition to open gifts with each other on Christmas Eve. So that killed the whole "Santa" theory for me, anyway.

Believing in a fictional character like that must have never appealed to me. And the funny thing is, I am probably the most idealistic romantic out of the whole family. Out of anyone, I'm the one who is lost in thought, dreaming up something new, or 1,000 miles away in another world a lot of the time. So it's interesting that I never entertained the idea of Santa.

I'm not really heartbroken over this, either. I think Santa is great and all, but he's not my idea of quality time spent entertaining a child's imagination over. I'd much rather spend my kid's time talking about the real reason for Christmas, and Someone who IS real.

I'm not condemning belief in Santa. Trust me, I'm not. I think he's great.

From a Christian standpoint, though, I like to more so focus on Baby Jesus. Baby Jesus is born, eventually grows up, and teaches the world about sacrificial Love, displaying the ultimate example of it on the cross to save us from sins. This is our one true gift, the only gift we really need to find peace in life. No amount of Christmas presents from Santa will bring the sort of joy we can obtain by accepting the one Christ has to offer. Furthermore, Christmas is a great time to practice this sort of love... selfless, sacrificial love. God sent Jesus as our (ultimate) gift... how can we "gift" this love and joy to others during the season?

My Christmas season has been quite busy. My sister and her husband and 5 children moved into their new home within this past week. I helped baby-sit a couple of the days. Their new house is beautiful and will be perfect for their family that has done much growing over the past several years. Also this week, my "girl" friends and I had a great evening together eating Italian at a small local Italian restaurant, followed up by heart-to-hearts and dancing with "Just Dance II" on the Wii. Last night was our annual Kaiser extended family Christmas. We rented out the soccer forum, and it worked great for all the little kids to run around. Better that then someone's house. :)

I'm thankful for all these things and looking forward to a wonderful Christmas celebration with my family on Christmas day!

The pictures, although out of order, will help illustrate. :)

Silas, exhausted after a day of eating and watching Dora
Milo has the biggest blue eyes
All the girls
Around 2 pm, Silas and I were hungry for a snack so we each had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios
The boys playing soccer at the Soccer Forum. My brother Tate has not lost his touch!
Just Dance II. Not sure what this move was.
Sweet moment-- Sylvie and her dad
Kelly and I
My Grandma K. saying hi to Milo
Kaiser Clan
Naomi painted me a flower.
Popsicle Sharing

Love you all! T

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hankie Curtains

One day, I walked into my bathroom and noted something was different. Hanging from my large window were several vintage hankies that had been sewn together into a curtain. My mom loves to sew, and has her very own unique line of clothing and accessories that she labels "Sutsie Pie." She always incorporates vintage hankies into anything she makes; purses, baby blankets, baby clothes, and shirts.

Anyway, picture below are the curtains that now hang in my bathroom. I love them, and am so fortunate to have such a creative mom!

Friday, December 17, 2010


I have been thinking about writing a blog post on cereal all day long.

Pictured is one of my FAVORITE sugar cereals, one in which I often eat before going to bed if my stomach is hungry. Snap, Crackle, and Pop posed long enough for me to get this image; although, one of the poor guys didn't quite make it into the picture.

It started this morning. I was enjoying a bowl of Crispex for breakfast, and I had to marvel at the act of eating this particular food. It is not just eating, you see. It is drinking, as well. It is one of the few meals that you both eat and drink at the same time. But I can't take credit for that observation. I first heard this thought from Jerry Seinfeld.

Along those lines, I began to think of how I eat cereal. I take a bite, and then right away I swallow the milk, while the cereal lingers. I crunch the remaining cereal, then swallow it. I found myself wondering if some people swallow both the cereal and milk at the same time. It would be very hard to do the opposite; swallow the crunch first, and the milk last. Although that method would make the most sense; it's like a drink that washes it all down. The next time you eat cereal, you will have to determine your eating style.

Then I thought: Who even came up with cereal? For real. It is actually a bit odd, if you think about it too long. It's like when you say a perfectly normal word 70 times in a row, and then suddenly that word that you are very familiar with becomes strangely peculiar. It starts to sound funny, and all at once you don't feel acquainted with it anymore. Really-- it's a bunch of little crunchy bites, either full of fiber, sugar, carbs, or a combination of all three... and then you pour milk over it. MILK. The crunchies float in milk, and over time the pieces at the bottom start to become soggy, but if you're lucky, some of the pieces retain a sense of crispness the whole time. But I want to know, whose idea was it to manufacture all different kinds of cereals so that we could pour it into a bowl and then top it off with milk?

I'm not complaining. I'm grateful, rather. Cereal is one of my top choices in breakfast and my all-time favorite bedtime snack. I guess I'm just a little bitter that I didn't think of it first. Then I could have been crowned with inventing a food that you both eat and drink at the same time.

Oh well. I will just sit contently with my passion in photography, and continue to enjoy cereal as a breakfast item and snack.

Love you all!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Church Note #3

It's a blizzard out there today!

It didn't stop Morton from holding church services, though. We're pretty tough here in Morton. We had a few overflows from Washington, Peoria, and Gridley attending, and a lovely Christmas program this afternoon.

Anyway, I was thinking it has been awhile since I have written a church notes post. So here it is...

Not My Will
We received a handout with this service that included an outline that was adapted from a devotional written by Andrew Murray in the 1800s... just to give credit were credit is due. This was a very extensive outline, so instead of rehashing the entire thing, I will pick out a few points and keep it at that. :)

Doing God's Will-The Way to Heaven
"Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." -Matt. 7:21

First and foremost, doing God's will is of utmost importance. We might ask-- what is God's will? That's our very problem. God would will that we repent, give our lives to Him, and then follow Him all of our days. This may not always entail knowing how God wants every situation to work out, but that is where trust comes in. Clay cannot ask the potter to be something different or request to see the end product. Clay must simply be molded, and clay has enough softness and give to allow shaping and refining to occur. We must be clay in God's hands.

Some may know who God is, may recognize Him, may have heard about Him all their life, and may even say they believe in Him. But if we haven't recognized our sinful nature, repented for our sins, and committed our life to Christ, we aren't getting a spot in Heaven. I have a feeling that there are a lot of deceived, misinformed, so-called "Christians" who will one day be very disappointed that they refused to fully understand Christ's cross and His gift of salvation.

Praying-- According to God's Will
"And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us." -1 John 5:14

Sometimes, we ask for things we don't need, or for situations that are not good for us. Often, we have no way of knowing this-- and at times, we do, but we want what we want. The key to this verse is that we "ask anything according to His will." How do we do that?

There is no better way to fall into alignment with God's will than by studying His word, deepening your knowledge of God and depth of insight. If you are tuned into God, you will ask for things that are godly, things that please God. If you are tuned into the world, yourself, and others, you will ask for things that are self-focused.

What is more important-- my desire, or God's will? Learn to accept His will as your supreme joy. If any man shall do His will, He shall know His doctrine. He also must believe. Faith and knowledge are both needful.

Suffering-- According to the Will of God
"For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing." -1 Peter 3:17

Even when we do what is right, we may still suffer for it.

That's the kicker. When we do what is right and are punished for it, it is human to want justice. It may be easy to throw up our hands and say, "Fine! I tried to be nice but it doesn't make a difference... I may as well be angry or retaliate." Is that what Jesus did? When he walked by with His cross and people spat on Him, did He spit back? When He was beat from head to toe, did He beat them back? When He hung up on the cross, did He say, "I can't believe I am going through this for a bunch of people who hate me?" No. He said, "Forgive them-- they don't know what they're doing."

Before it all happened, Jesus asked for the cup to be removed-- but for it to proceed if it was the Father's will. And it was. We need to have that same attitude and realization. We may be able to look ahead in our lives and see suffering on the way-- big suffering, suffering that may look like too much to bear. But if it's God's will, and for His glory... which often, it is... we must be willing to accept.

I have been learning lately that just because I act Christ-like or respond in a Christ-like manner to adversity or anger, it does not mean that the other side of that will suddenly fully accept me with open arms. In fact, it may be the cause for further rejection, persecution, or struggle. Being a Christian, when it comes down to it, is not always the most popular label, and Christ himself said we would suffer for His sake.

Remember this during suffering...
I am here by God's will- exactly as He planned.
God will give me grace to conduct myself right.
God will teach me why He brought me here (to refine).
God is also capable of bringing me out of this.

Another point that was brought out during this sermon were the following thoughts:
So often, when we see others, we see them through our own eyes: who he is, what he does, and what he deserves. We need to see all people through God's love.

What if we turn those judgments/thoughts back on ourself? Who am I, what do I do, and what do I deserve? In the end, I deserve Hell... as does everyone else. No job, no personality, no beauty, no social status, no popularity will ever save a person or make him more likely to enter Heaven over another. We are all offered the same gift of Love-- and why would we not want every soul to accept? As Christians, we must see others through Christ's love and not through human eyes. A human sizes up a person and puts him into a box. God sees a soul worth saving, worth sending His only son to die for.

Love you all!


Tuesday, December 07, 2010


I know I promised a return with depth and insight, but instead I am trading for a pictorial update. I am always good for one of those. The past few weeks have brought about a Thanksgiving celebration as well as Christmas decorating.

Before we look at pictures, I have to talk about the weather here for a minute. Illinois has officially turned into Alaska. It's about 12 degrees out most nights. Whenever I go outside (which usually only consists of traveling on foot from my car to whichever warm building is my destination), one thought is always running through my head: Is this necessary? It is SO incredibly cold. But then, we have to be subjected to these polar temperatures before we can truly appreciate the beautiful mild Spring time, the lush green (and humid) Summers, and the bright and crisp Fall season. Right? (That's what I tell myself).

And who doesn't love snow?

I am not sure why I always end up talking about the weather. When I was younger (grade school age), I used to eat my breakfast at the kitchen table while reading the Weather section of the newspaper. I would always check out the high and the low for the day, the average temperature, the record highs and lows, and the temperature in Phoenix. I had a secret goal to become a meteorologist someday. Some dreams never do quite come true, but having the liberty to do frequent weather reports on my blog is right up there with being an actual meteorologist.

Onto those visuals...

Thanksgiving Feast-- fully equipped with BBQ turkey, the best way to eat it!

This is how Silas feels about green beans. Actually, I think he does like them.
He's just a boy of many faces.
Applesauce Puffs-- the world's greatest cinnamon treat
Some fresh fruit to offset all of the other empty calories
Classic Tillie
Christmas Decor arrives! My mom's dining room table. This year's theme is silver and sparkle.
I can't help it
The wire tree
Banister decor
Just one of many sparkly ornaments on my mom's tall tree
The miniature tree in my bedroom
Door wreath
It's been a pleasure! I'll be back soon. Ideally, I'll be back on some snowy afternoon, and I'll be all curled up by the fireplace inside listening to Christmas music and sipping a warm cocoa topped with whipped cream, and I'll type my blog entry from the laptop warming my lap.


Love you all! T

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Tree is Up

Has it really been 16 days? Time flies when you're busy. Actually, time flies no matter what. That is my conclusion.

Winter is officially here. The past several days have been swathed in blustery gray, bitter wind, and intermittent flurries. I just talked to my cousin today who lives in Arizona-- it was 70 degrees and sunny there. I have often thought that I lived in the wrong state.

Although, I do enjoy the seasons. Or at least the idea of them. It goes along w/my personality. I get bored of "the same" too quickly, so variety is always advantageous. Yet, every winter, I find myself wanting to scream every time an icy wind pierces my face and halts my ability to breathe.

Along with winter comes the flu, and it has seemingly traveled through most of my family (and family units), starting the week of Thanksgiving. Somehow, I have dodged the illness. Either that, or I had it a month ago. Or maybe I just take too many probiotics, I don't know. At any rate, I am still wiping off everything I touch with disinfecting wipes and sanitizing my hands before I eat anything. Funny that we step that habit up during flu season when in reality, that is how we should always live?

In other news, the Kaiser household Christmas tree is now up. My parents and I always reserve the day after Thanksgiving for Christmas decorating at our house. We used to go chop down a live tree, but the past several years we have set up our "fake" (but still pretty), very tall tree. It sits in the addition of our house, and sparkles in the window... most can see it from the 4-way stop.

So while most are out running from store to store, getting their Black Friday bargains, we are at home listening to Christmas music and winding twinkle lights around our banister, adding sparkly ornaments to our tree, and sprinkling glittery figurines on our mantle. Except this particular Friday, right as we were starting to decorate our tree (our first project for the day), we received a phone call from my sister's house. It was her husband, telling us she was hit pretty hard with the flu, and needed someone to take her to the hospital. He couldn't do it because they had 2 other sick children at home.

Don't be alarmed; this is simply protocol for my sister. Several years back, she had the flu so terribly that by the time she got to the hospital, she was in awful condition. Ever since, when she gets sick, her body dehydrates very quickly so a hospital visit and several bags of fluid are usually needed. We are always very careful in our family to be proactive in this, so this was simply one of those times in which we needed to do so.

My mom spent the better part of her day in the hospital with her, while I stood on top of a ladder and decorated the tree all by myself. I actually quite enjoyed myself. I really like doing projects by myself, especially if it's something that is creative and low-stress. I like to move at my own pace (which is usually quickly) and I have fun in the independence of it all. Don't get me wrong; I love to be with people. And honestly, it was sad my mom and I couldn't share in our tradition together this day. Yet in the end, helping each other is what family is for, and that is exactly what my mom was doing... even if it was at a hospital.

I'll be back soon with something more inspirational. Was a bit tired and hungry tonight, so light-hearted updates always come more easily :) Love you all!