Thursday, July 28, 2011



What a great word.  Ya just got to love the long e vowel sound.  It sounds so deliberate, decisive yet carefree. See? 

Free conjures up happy memories of free space in BINGO, a smile maker for kids at garage sales, the sight of a helium balloon taking off into the sky.  Free...I like it.

Yet, there is something I may actually like better.  Better than free?  What could it be?  A bargain!  I know bargains are best because I'll brag about them more.  Anyone who compliments the bargain item will get a monologue complete with all the details of price and store name. 

I know.  I've even done it at Aldi's, mind you.  Yes, as pitiful as it sounds, once they had bread marked down to something like 25 cents. I flipped open my phone while standing in line and sent a mass text to my friends letting them know.

The new top on clearance for $3 at Old Navy, anyone who compliments it will for sure get an earful about the bargain and where they can find it.

I don't know about you, but I don't really do that with free stuff.  Is it because usually free stuff is the stuff you don't necessarily love, like a ratty one eyed teddy in a garage sale bin, or some tops that no longer fit your sister, or the free space that everybody got in BINGO?

What if you got something you absolutely adored for free?  Would you talk about that?  What thing would I love to get right now?  A motorcycle!  That's it!  What if I got a free motorcycle that runs and is an adorable shade of baby blue?  Would I decide that free was better than a bargain? 

But what if I found it for $500 and bargained the guy down to $100.  Would I like it better?

Doesn't make sense, but I would!  Everytime I'd ride it I'd smile to myself and think that was pretty amazing that I got this for a hundred bucks. I'd smile to myself, think good thoughts about myself and have a great day.

Free, if it really is something I love would make me think good thoughts about the giver.  How sweet!  Why'd they give me that?  What good thing had I done for them?  Would they want something in return?  Oh no!  Do I have to give them something in return?  Are they expecting it?  Will it feel weird if I don't give them something back?  Will I have to avoid them if I don't have any money to give them something back? 

Although my initial thoughts would be positive about the giver, it wouldn't take long for those thoughts to go back to me.  Only instead of thinking good thoughts about myself, I'd be thinking worry-filled thoughts about what I needed to do.

Bargains must indeed be better than free.  Bargains keep me as the subject of the sentence.  Bargains keep me as the protagonist in the story.  Bargains keep me thinking good thoughts about my favorite person...Me!

Hey...maybe that's my favorite word instead.


Sunday, July 17, 2011


Ugh...that was my initial thought when Pastor Jeff asked me to chaperone our youth group.  They were leading a Vacation Bible School in Pittsfield and staying in a hunting lodge down there.

I had been mentally planning all that I was going to do when my girls were gone.  I knew I could get lots done...but not anymore.

I drove down on Tuesday night.  What would I do all week?, I wondered.  I really didn't have "a job."  I counted the number of days.  I basically just had Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night.  Three days should go fast, I thought.

When I got to the Lodge, I was pleasantly surprised.  It was beautiful.  It had a gorgeous lake.  And most importantly of all, it had air conditioning!

I was greeted by Meredith.  She showed me around.  We walked around the lake to the dock where Michaela was busy swimming and playing games.  Madison was playing soccer on the side lawn.  Cool, I thought.

That night, Pastor Jeff had a "Praise and Worship" time.  I sat in awe as each kid prayed.  I rejoiced as hand after hand raised with praises to God.  "I'm thankful God kept us safe through the tornado warning."  I'm just glad God cooled everything down."  "I'm glad we're all getting along."  "I still can't believe God brought us 49 kids!"

As I lay down that night, sharing a room with Deb Casula, the ultimate teen chaperone, I had a hard time sleeping.  That's not normal for me!  We were so busy sharing stories of what God had done in our lives.  That night we had our own praise and worship service.  As I fell asleep I wondered, why had I wanted these days to pass?

The next morning, we arrived at Pittsfield First Baptist Church.  The first VBSers arrived.  A stocky older boy and cute little sister, sheepishly got out of their car and shyly headed to our welcome tent.

I hurried over. 

"Hi.  I'm Ms. Lisa."

The young man shoved his hands into his jean pockets.  "I...I'm Levi."

"He's my big brother.  I'm Chloe."  The little sister said confidently.

Soon we were leading VBSers into the church for songtime.  I noticed Levi chose the very back of the auditorium.  While everyone else was singing, doing the motions and hopping around, Levi stood awkwardly. 

I hated that no one was sitting on the other side of him.  I quickly made my way beside him.  After song time, Levi headed to his first station.  I walked beside him. 

"You ever had sushi?"  He asked.

"I have," I replied in surpise.

"I like it.  Do you?" Levi asked.

"I do!"

"I really like cooking," Levi said with a smile.

"Oh yeah?  What do you cook?"  I asked.

"Well you know those dinner rolls?" he asked.

I nodded.

"You take one of those and cut it in half.  Now don't use a butter knife.  Use a knife with jagged edges.  Then butter both sides real good."

I smiled.

"Keep the roll open and put both sides down in a frying pan.  Brown it.  Then take it out and fry an egg in the pan.  Put lots of salt and pepper on it.  Then fry 2 slices of baloney.  Then put it all in the roll.  That's all."

"Wow, that does sound good!" I told Levi.

He smiled.
I had made a friend.

I found myself thinking about Levi after VBS was over.  He was precious!  Here he was an eleven year old getting ready to move into a difficult stage of life.  He needed to know Jesus to navigate through those tough years.  I prayed for him. 

That night, Kassie (one of our youth) and I talked about her Bible lesson. 

"How about we add in an invitation" I asked her.  "That way if God's working we'll know and can give kids the opportunity to trust in Christ."

Kassie liked the idea.

As the invitation was given.

You guessed it! Levi and 4 other kids received the gift of salvation.  I was amazed. God had worked in these young hearts, revealing Himself.

How could I have been so hesitant and negative about giving my free time to join the youth group? 

On Sunday morning, many of our youth went back to Pittsfield First Baptist to enjoy a "Celebration of VBS" church service led by Pastor Mike.  Unfortunately I couldn't go.

After church, I anxiously awaited my girls coming home.  How had it gone?  Did many of our VBSers come back?

My girls eventually arrived. 

"Mom," Madison said excitedly, "Levi and his little sister were there!  Levi asked where you were.  He wanted me to give you this."

I reached out and took a piece of folded up white paper.  Inside Levi had drawn a gnome.  In the corner, he wrote:  To Mrs. Lisa, a good friend of mine and god.  Drawn by Levi.  7/14/11

What a blessing I had been so close to missing!

God replaced my selfishness with praise.  

God replaced my hesitancy with anticipation.

God replaced my ugh with a wow!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Kind of Person He is

We had an amazing week in Branson with my mom, dad and sisters the other week.  Yes, we were in Branson because 'The Studebaker Meet' was in nearby Springfield.  For those of you that don't know, my dad loves those old cars.  Growing up we always had our annual summer trip to wherever the National Studebaker Meet was.  We've been to Seattle, Boston, South Bend, Lancaster, Grand Rapids...everywhere!

So what a treat to get a 'blast from the past' and have my children get to enjoy 'The Studebaker Meet.'  In typical Hackenberger fashion, my family (who all lives in Ohio) drove up together in my dad's bus. 

On Thursday we headed to 'The Studebaker Meet.'  It was noon when we got there and we were all starved.  Not many of the food stands were open, but we did notice a Chinese stand.  My girls and I quickly ordered our favorites, while my sister, Eve, and her kids decided what they wanted.  As we waited for our food, the lady took their order. 

As our food came out, Eve said, "Go ahead and eat.  Don't wait for us.  Your food will get cold."

Meredith stood there, holding her orange chicken and bottle of Pepsi.  "We'll wait.  That's the kind of people we are."

I looked at Meredith, thinking, "What?  Speak for yourself.  I'm starving.  This place is slow!  Our food will get cold!"

Fortunately, Eve repeated.  "Go eat!  We'll join you in a minute."

I didn't argue.  She's my older sister.

As we walked to find seating inside the swap meat, with air conditioning, I thought of Mer's words..."That's the kind of people we are."  

It sounded so- so not like us.

A few days have past.  We're back home.  I'm enjoying the summer.  I am loving getting to walk every morning!  My favorite part is that I'm all by myself and I can just pray away for the 40-60 minutes.

For some reason, this week particularly I'm noticing the difference.

No, not the difference in my weight.  Let's not talk about that.  (O.k. lets!  Yesterday I ate a grapefruit and oatmeal for a snack, at two different times, and this morning I gained 1/2 a pound.  Anyone who eats a grapefruit and oatmeal should be LOSING weight.)

Back to 'the difference.'  Actually the difference is even better than a weight loss, it is the prayer difference.  This week Matt's been in Ohio working for my dad.  Daily I have prayed for him.  Sometimes going back to where you used to live can be disappointing.  Friends move on or aren't there.  The feeling of it not being the same can leave you feeling displaced.  I prayed for God's leading and that he'd have a great time!

Thursday night he called. 

"It's great being here," he said.  "I can tell that God is bumping me into people."  He went on to tell me of a friend's dad he saw while jogging.  "He even hugged me when I was sweaty," he said.  "He invited me over for supper and I got to catch up with the whole family."

From 'precious-beyond-words' neighbors, to friends and family, Matt's having a great time!


Not a chance!  That's just the kind of 'person' God is.