Friday, November 15, 2013

Teddy Roosevelt on Commitment

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doers or the deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Max Lucado

"Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when the day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest."

"War and Peace" on God

"I ought to tell you that I don't believe, don't believe in God," said Pierre, feeling it essential to speak the whole truth.
The freemason looked intently at Pierre and smiled as a rich man, holding millions in his hands, might smile at a poor wretch, who would say to him that he, the poor man, has not five roubles that would secure his happiness.
"Yes, you do not know Him, sir," said the freemason. "You cannot know Him. That is why you are unhappy."
"Yes, yes, I am unhappy." Pierre agreed. "But what am I to do?"
""You do not know Him, sir, and that's why you are very unhappy. You know not Him, but He is here. He is within me, He is in my words, He is in thee, and even in these scoffing words that you just uttered." said the mason, in a stern, vibrating voice.
He paused, evidently trying to be calm.
"If He were not," he said softly, "we should not be speaking of Him, sir. Of what, of whom were we speaking? What dost thou deny?" he said all at once, with authority in his voice. "Who invented Him, if He be not? How come there within thee the conception what there is such an incomprehensible Being, a Being all powerful, eternal, and infinite is all His qualities?"
He stopped. There was a long pause.
Pierre could not and would not break the silence.
"He exists, but to comprehend Him is hard,"  the mason began again, not looking into Pierre's face, but straight before him, while his old hands, which could not keep still for an inward emotion, turned the leaves of a book. " If it had been a man whose existence  thou hadst doubt, I could have brought thee to the man, taken him by the hand, and shown him thee. But how am I? an insignificant mortal, to show thee all the power, all the eternity, all the blessedness of Him to one who is blind, or to the one who shuts his eyes that he may not see, may not understand Him, and may not see, and not understand, all his own vileness and viciousness." He paused. "Who are thou? What art thou? Thou dreamest that thou art wise because thou couldst utter those scoffing words," he said, with a gloomy and scornful irony, "while thou art more foolish and artless than a little babe, who, playing with the parts of a cunningly fashioned watch, should rashly say that because he understands not the use of the watch, he does not believe the maker who fashioned it. To know Him is a hard matter. For ages, from our first father, Adam, to our day, have we been striving for this knowledge, and are infinitely far from the attainment of our aim; but in our lack of understanding we see only our own weakness and His greatness...."

My Drawings

            Lately, I've been doing a lot of drawing. Here's a few of my projects:

 Someone once told me that when trying a new art form, start with a self-portrait because it's the face you know best and... you won't offend anyone. So, here's my first attempt at manga. 

Yes, it's Excalibur from the stories of Camelot.

Ok, I like guns. They're fun and easy to draw. This is my rendition of a Beretta M-9.

I drew this one upon request from my cousin.

Who doesn't love E.T?

A paisley flower

For my mom

Isaiah 40:31

A sword with the verse about the sword of the Spirit engraved in ancient Norse runes.

Mexican Panfry

Mexican Panfry is nothing more than boiled and sliced potatoes fried in a skillet with eggs, onions, salt and pepper. Top with sour cream and salsa for flavor, or... if you like a little spice... sprinkle some cayenne on top. Very yummy!

Cooking Gluten/Sugar Free

My little sister is sensitive to gluten and sugar. Therefore, my family doesn't eat any in order to ensure she doesn't feel left out. Sometimes, as the primary person in charge of cooking meals for a family of 17, it can be difficult to come up with something delicious, cheap, and satisfying with these limitations.

Viola! Cucumber rounds! 5 thick slices of cucumber topped with cream cheese and ham. Yum!

Suitcase Ottoman

Yay! Finally, I've found the time somewhere between cooking and cleaning for 18 people, freelance photography, leading Junior High Youth Group, working as a barrista at a Christian coffee house, and learning how to bring beauty to the world  to post a photo of one of my many projects. Being the kind of person that is both crafty and paranoid about throwing anything away before it's been used to it's utter last, I do a lot of what is called "updos". Simply, that means that I take old things and create something new out of them.

In this case, I found this old suitcase at a moving sale next door for $1 and fell in love. But... it's simply unpractical to pack in this kind of suitcase anymore, especially considering this one's size. It's fits my color scheme of light blue, dark brown, and white perfectly... so I simply had to find a good use for it.

Then, I saw on pinterest a picture of new ottomans made from old suitcases. After looking at a lot of pictures, I figured out how to do it. I found an old broken chair in my basement and took a pruning saw to the legs. I was nervous I would ruin the entire chair, but instead was able to remove the legs and screw through the bottom of the suitcase into the tops. Then, I took the chair and made a swing for the children in the backyard.

I LOVE my new ottoman. It's currently sitting at the foot of my bed, holding extra bedding. It's the perfect height for sitting upon, and quite sturdy.

A year-old testimony

"This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long!"-Fanny Crosby

Leeanna "Lillee" Zahn... that's me. Nothing special, nothing amazing. Without Christ, I would be nothing. Worse than nothing, actually. The portions of my life that I lived apart from Christ were miserable. He has done everything for me. Let me tell you how:

19 years ago: May 14th, 1993, I was born to teenage parents in St. Paul, Minnesota. They were both new Christians, determined to raise me in the Lord. And so they have done.  From day one, my Daddy has protected me and loved me. He has held my heart in his hands, and I have him wrapped around my pinkie. My mom has been there for me in everything, even when I was the worst daughter imaginable. I want to be just like her when I "grow up". I am the first of many children to come, 16 so far. Mom and Dad have raised us up to be "shining stars in the universe", a living testament to God and how He wants families to run. Sure, we've had our difficulties and things have gone awry from time to time, but everything has "worked together for good" thanks to Christ in our lives.

When I was 3, I "asked Christ into my heart". I'm not sure what I understood at that time, nor what I understand now. God spoke to my childish heart through my reading of the Scripture and singing of my favorite hymns in church every week. My dad became a pastor after graduating from college when I was 4.

This was my favorite time of my life. I was optimistic to the core. I loved my friends, my family, my town, my house, my church... I loved life. Sure, I went through some crap, but I always bounced back like an Indian rubber ball. I was living the life. Small town, small church, old ladies that begged my parents to let me sit with them and fed me tic-tacs during the service and taught me every hymn in the hymnal, lots of friends to roam the countryside with, Mrs J. on the organ every week... Life couldn't have been better in my little eyes.

But, when I was 8, we moved. If I were to ever go back and change something, it would have to be then, because that's when my life started to go downhill. I hated moving. I missed my friends, my church and my Grandma. Dad was at work all the time. It really was a great place for us, but I never saw it because when I started to grow resentful. My sister, who had always been my best friend, found a new friend who supplanted me in my opinion. My brother suddenly realized that boys don't have to listen to girls. I hated it. I wanted to go back "home". I wanted life to be the way it had always been. My attitude started to effect my relationships. I started to argue with my mom because I thought I could make life in Illinois the way it had been and she just wasn't trying hard enough. I was secretly mad at my daddy for making us move. My sister liked others more than me, I thought, and Christian was being a "brat". I started to question my parents.

Then, I learned we were to move back to Iowa. YAY! Life can return to the way it's always been, and everything would return to ok. Nope. Even if it had, I wouldn't have seen it as the seed of resentment had become rooted in my heart. I continued to grow more angry, more arrogant. Not only did I question my parents, but God too, for He was not giving me what I wanted. Yes... that's the way I thought.

By the time the tornado came and destroyed my house when I was 12, resentment had totally taken over my heart. I gave up on God, gave up on my family, gave up on my friends. I decided not to trust anyone... it hurt too much. I forgot how to love, how to focus on Christ, how to forgive.  I lived my life for me and made my family's lives miserable.

I lived like this, hiding it so no one would try to "fix" me, for 3 years. It was absolutely miserable. Life without Christ always is. Eventually, I started playing with the idea of suicide. Nothing I had tried seemed to work. What else was there?

I came to summer camp as a last resort. Through the friendships God brought to me there, and His continual quiet work on my heart, I realized that the only way to be free was to cling to Jesus. I wept for hours, pouring out my pain and resentment before Him, begging Him to save me. And He did! He made me a new person. The next year, I started working as Junior Counselor at the same camp and started showing my campers the grace that Christ had given me. Grace was the only thing I understood, and so it's what I taught.

Soon after camp, it became obvious that I didn't understand something essential: love. I was still obsessed with myself, even after all Christ had done for me. I hurt my family so much that my father sent me away, telling me that I was destructive influence. Maybe he might someday let me back.

That was one of the most difficult times in my life. I no longer had my family, I had no friends I really trusted to turn to. All I had was Christ. And run to Him, I did. I spent months begging for forgiveness. I wept over my cold heart, how I had no emotions other than pride that were real. I couldn't love, not even close. Everything was about me. He changed me... oh, did He change me those days! He broke me over and over again... and soon, it started to hurt. I started to feel. Everything should be about Him, not me.

By the time summer camp came around again, I was changed. I didn't understand what had happened, but my heart overflowed with love for God and others. I wanted to show the entire world what Christ had done for me. By the time summer camp ended, my Dad told me I could come home.

I finished my senior year confused over the future... and came to camp again a completely insecure young lady. Thankfully, I had no campers that summer because that would have failed badly. God taught me reliance on Him and Him alone. I screwed up so badly over and over again, but He still loved me.

Then started my internship at the same camp. I came in hating myself. I knew God loved me, but I didn't try to understand. I thought I was worthless and unlovable, not worth the time. Through the unconditional friendship of the guys I was working with coupled with God continuing to break me over and over, He showed me that He has a purpose for me. He showed me that He made me for a reason, that I am not worthless. He showed me that I had things He had placed in me, that I am lovable. This realization totally changed me again. God keeps working.

I realize now more than ever how screwed up I am. All that is good in me is Christ. Christ found me, saved me, changed me, redeemed me, and made me the person I am. In me there is nothing good. It is all Christ. When I rely on my power, I'm unsubmissive to my father; disrespectful of my mother; hateful towards my family; and horrible to be around. I'm repulsive. God is the One who changes me.

Who is my neighbor?

May I tell you a story?... or rather, may I retell a story told by the greatest story-teller of all time? If the answer is no... than you can close this webpage and continue on with yor life elsewhere. If the answer is yes, than sit back and relax... for here I go.

"And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”-Luke 10:25-37 (NKJV)

A hundred years ago, the world was much bigger than it is now. Ok... not in a literal sense, but the world has grown closer together in the last century than it has ever been before. Just think about it... A person can pick up a phone and call a friend in Mexico, or click a button and send a message to a client in New Zealand. The toys we give our children are made in Taiwan or China, the vehicles we drive are composed of parts manufactured across the world, the gas we put into those vehicles is from the Middle East. Foreign tv-shows can be viewed any-time, any-where.

What does this have to do with my story, you ask. Well, I'll tell you. A hundred years ago the people you came into contact with mostly consisted of those within a 30-mile radius of where you lived. Those people were your neighbors. On the contrary, in this day and age, the people one comes in contact with is no longer restrained to people in your city... your county... your state... your country.... your continent... or even your planet (as we converse with those people who are exploring outer space). Everyone is your neighbor. Take that thought and apply it to the story.

The priest and the Levite could not touch the injured person lying in their path because the practices they imposed upon themselves in the name of religon did not allow them to do so. Whereas, the pagan... the one who did not follow religious practices was able to serve. Now! Before you start thinking this is a sermon against any and all religious practices, understand that is not my point. My point is this, the story becomes true in a modern day setting as well. Christians are so caught up in what they can't do, that they forget their mission as is stated in Matthew 28:19: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". Instead, the pagans, the ones who claim no belief in the Father of Love, have become better at serving the world we live in than us. This, my friends, is outrageous! Did not Jesus Himself say, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."-Matthew 9:12-13

Our focus has been to much on the teaching of the already saved and pure, and not enough on the millions of people still on this earth doomed to burn in the fires of hell. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" states Romans 3:23, we are no better than the rest. We are all liars, theives, cheats, ones who commit adultery and murder in our hearts. The people of the world are not looking for a bunch of Christians perfect in their ways, but for others to walk alongside them and guide them to the only Truth. A people ready to get their hands dirty in the name of love, to be that shoulder to lean on when times are rough, to be humble when they fall. That is what the world is seeking for so desperately... and is not being able to find.

Everyone is our neighbor. "Go and do likewise"

A past blog post re-visited

Today is the last day before Staff Training and then summer camp at Hidden Acres Christian Center where I will be working as a Junior Counselor until July 16th. Before I leave, I want to talk about something that has happened in the last two months.

At the Staff Retreat back in March, Earl Taylor gave us a challenge: a challenge to see the world through Jesus' eyes and not the world's. When we (the Staff) as a group prayed, I didn't really think I needed a lot of work done on my eyes. I am ashamed to admit that I was proud of the fact that I stand for what I believe, and many things in today's culture that are considered normal repulse me. Things like abortion, yes; but also the everyday things like flirtatiousness and a need for independance from families.

What I didn't realize was I may see the world through God's eyes (which I now highly doubt) but I didn't see myself. I was selfish, so self-centered I couldn't even join a conversation without talking about myself. I was dealing with so many internal dilemmas that I hid outside of my home, but took out on my family. They were hurting from being around me, and I never even saw it.

When God finally showed this to me, I at first blamed the conflict on other things. Satan has given me so many things to blame in my life. My life has not been easy on any accounts. I became a Christian at 3, yes.. but I struggled with demonic visitations when I was 4 and 5 and was continued to battle with them for years. I have 13 wonderful little brothers and sisters, yes... but there are 5 more in heaven I never had the chance to meet. I've lived in the same town for years and have grown close to friends nearby, closer than I had ever been with friends before, yes... but a tornado destroyed my home and my security 5 years ago. Yes, we stayed in Stratford throughout the tornado recovery, but in a tiny rental home while the insurance swindled us out of thousands of dollars and we were forced to build a home my mother hates.

My life has been rough, I had so many things to blame conflict and stress on, but the real reason rested almost entirely on my shoulders. I won't say that my parents and siblings never did anything wrong, because that would be a lie. But I let myself grow resentful, to hold everything I ever felt inside. When you stuff your feelings and don't let anyone else see them, you become so consumed with yourself the rest of the world is thrown out of focus.

So, I left my parents home because I was a destructive influence on my brothers and sisters. I went to live with my grandparents in Boone, and from time-to-time in Mitchellville with my aunt. Life has been really rough. Knowing how to sort through others' problems but not your own is so frustrating.

Through it all, God has shown Himself graceful and merciful beyond anything I could ever imagine. Why should a sinner like me focus on anything other than Him? There is nothing better than Him, not in this town, or this state, country, in the whole universe there is nothing better. Especially not myself. His love had covered all my sin, His grace has forgiven it, His mercy had given me much more than I deserve. Even through writing this, I am crying in amazement. Truly thinking about Him brings me to my knees in awe.

My grandparents have talked with me and tryed to work things out. They have been amazing! But the people who have had the biggest influence in bringing me back is a family here in Boone. When they saw I was hurting, they invited me into their home. They never asked any questions, they knew I would talk when I was ready. We played football and Rook, and just hung out. I've only seen them from time-to-time since that Sunday they invited me over, and you wouldn't think one day would make such a differance, but it has. I could never thank them enough for being there for me as they always have. Being around them makes me want to be a better person, inspires me to be all I can be. Even though they knew all that was going on, they still loved me unconditionally and accepted me as I was.

God has been so good to me throughout my life. I have an amazing family. I have outstanding friends. When I left Him for 3 years, He never left me. He never let go. Through all the hard times, He is the one I can count on to be there whenever I need someone to talk to. Why.. oh why.. would I focus on myself when God is so much better?

The Entertainers of Krakow

Father Daughter Love

Baby's First Pictures

Let me say, what a sweet-pie!

"Seeing Double"

This set of twins are some of my favorites to work with. I've been taking their pictures since they were babies. They just love the camera and to have fun.

"Beautiful Baby"