Friday, April 30, 2010
I also brought Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elizabeth Elliot, who is refreshingly no-nonsense about her faith in God. I had to share this excerpt with you, which she references in a chapter called “God’s Sheep Dogs.” Apparently she too was moved by this passage, originally written by George MacDonald. Don’t read it casually. It is not casual. It is speaking of the deepest desire of God for us, the very marrow of love. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that God does not desire to control us or restrict us. He desires to dwell with us. And teaching us to do so often requires that our loving Shepherd use a strong hand.
“Man has a claim on God, a divine claim for any pain, want, disappointment, or misery that will help to make him what he ought to be. He has a claim to be punished, and to be spared not one pang that may urge him toward repentance; yea, he has a claim to be compelled to repent; to be hedged in on every side, to have one after another of the strong, sharp-toothed sheep-dogs of the Great Shepherd sent after him, to thwart him in any desire, foil him in any plan, frustrate him of any hope, until he comes to see at length that nothing will ease his pain, nothing make life a thing worth having, but the presence of the living God within him; that nothing is good but the will of God; nothing noble enough for the desire of the heart of man but oneness with the eternal. For this God must make him yield his very being that He himself may enter in and dwell with him.”
Sometimes we feel the nipping at our heels. Sometimes the teeth are sharp, and it hurts. The five words, "...God must make him yield...," is the most dramatic part of the passage, to me. Sheep are kind of rebellious, always wanting to go their own way, or just plain wandering off.
My feelings after reading this passage are these: there is no room for my complaining about my discomfort. I will wait. I will trust. I will not just believe in God. I will believe God. More of You, Lord. Less of me. Send the dogs. Hem us in. Lead us to You.
Takes my breath…and my words…away.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
But yesterday held a few surprises. One was the find of very great, very cheap new canisters for all my dry goods so as to thwart the persistence of little winged beings who keep turning up in my pantry. So super gross and I hate them. So I bought 11 new canisters. Here are some of them in all their glory.
Help yourself to a pest-free pretzel, loved ones.
And then I got a little crazy, in a good way. I had also purchased 6 new paste food colorings so that I can make this delightful dessert masterpiece for my daughter's eighth birthday coming up. Upon putting them away, I decided to clean out my food colorings and tube frostings (I have a lot). I threw a lot away, wiped them all down, got a new gallon ziploc. But how could I put that neat parcel away in the messy Baking Drawer, I wondered. So I then cleaned out and re-org'd the Baking Drawer. (I have a lot of baking tools and supplies since it's the only kind of cooking I really enjoy. Too bad mommying time has mostly replaced baking time, at least at this stage of life.) But look!
But then I got really crazy. Because all the disorganized drawers were suddenly looking hellish to me. (Does that ever happen to you? You've looked at the same chaos for months and then one day it makes your skin crawl? Must have something to do with the flying things.) I decided to tackle the worst offender of them all. Feverishly. And its name is The Junk Drawer. I wish I had taken a "before." But here's the "after". Look at all the pretty colors.
Yes, I like to organize with shoe boxes (see Baking Drawer) and shoe box lids. Especially ones which previously contained kids' shoes because they're small.
By the way, there were six tape measures in there. And FIFTEEN of those plastic things you attach to chop sticks to make them kid-friendly (see them to the left of the scissors, mixed with the alligator clips?). Mind you, we only have two children. Not fifteen. But my husband likes to pick some up every time we're at Pick Up Stix. Just in case. Kind of fascinating. If you want a couple, let me know.
Speaking of my cute husband, he thinks I say quirky and confusing things sometimes. (Well, I'm not arguing that one.) Like when he asked me if I could label the canisters, since almost all of them contain a white powdery material. I replied that it was easy to tell the difference: "The flour is the biggest, the powdered sugar is super white, the granulated sugar...just IS (I meant "is granulated" - it's even kinda sparkly), and so you know by process of elimination which one the pancake mix is, if you don't happen to notice that it's kind of lumpy." He laughed at my answer and repeated back what he heard: "It's big, its white, it just IS. You say funny things." He was kind of shaking his head because I was a piece of work. I am a piece of work. And, okay, I'm extra familiar with all the white baking products and he's not.
I'm rambling towards a point. Husbands and wives are different. I try to stay on the side of fascination, rather than the side of annoyance with that difference. I think we are a divine mixture. I think our mixture is beautiful, dynamic, revealing, and convicting...on most days. And on the days that the annoyance takes over....well, maybe I'll just get out my label maker.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Read this short and sweet post on John Eldredge's blog about cactus flowers. I looked up photos to go with it, based on his description, and I found these.
Friday, April 23, 2010
I've had six big, cardboard boxes in my garage that I've been ignoring. I've been turning a blind eye to their existence, simply because they were handed off to me by my dad (another sentimental pack rat) and are filled with my childhood. You think you can't box up a childhood? Well, if you try hard enough you can. It's not that I didn't want to take that black hole of a tour down memory lane, I just knew it would be a massive undertaking. And tonight I had to face the music. My husband has been looking at the boxes for six months and started "consolidating," which means I quickly got roped into the project.
These boxes were full of things I chose to save from late elementary school through high school. I saved some normal things people save, like yearbooks, awards, and my high school letterman's jacket. But that was a small fraction of the stuff. A sampling of the items won't even do justice to the craziness I encountered, but I'm gonna give you one just to entertain you. Here are a few things that, turns out, I didn't need to save after all:
1. Concert Program from Amy Grant's "Lead Me On" tour
2. Keno game sheets from my first family trip to Vegas
3. First parking ticket, neatly stapled to a piece of paper next to the receipt I received after paying it.
4. Old scantrons. Yes, you heard me. A stack of them.
5. Every single card, postcard, or folded up note ANYONE ever sent me or passed me in class. Ever.
6. A Cotillion dance card, filled out with the names of 10 boys I was friends with and was planning to dance with. (Perhaps even stranger than saving this is that I was in Cotillion, and that they made us fill out dance cards, like in the days of Pride and Prejudice.)
7. Every single paper I ever got a grade on, and every notebook for every class. (Do you understand how much paper that is?)
8. About 30 cassette tapes, and one CD - George Michael's "Praying for Time" (Why haven't I been listening to this!!??)
9. A torn-off portion of a poster I helped paint to advertise a dance in Jr. High, dated (I dated everything), and complete with comment that a boy I knew died that same night. Always documenting the facts.
10. This item below. This was the clear winner.
Let me just say first that upon seeing the front of this folded piece of paper, I thought, "OH, good! Finally this might be something actually worth saving..."
BUT, this is what was inside.
Can you read that? It says, "wrapper from Christmas box of Sees Candy I won at Cottillion 4 the swing." Wait, WHAT? It's a wrapper from a candy that I ate 22 years ago. I saved that. I pasted it to a piece of paper. I gave the wrapper a caption. I dated it. I folded the paper over and then wrote "DON'T THROW AWAY!" on it. And I'm just glancing over the fact that I used the number 4 for the word "for." Apparently, I wanted to forever remember how awesome I was at the swing.
Another thing I found was my first "big girl" Bible, and a Bible study notebook that I used for years, jammed with notes, outlines and pieces of paper. I was given this Bible on Christmas Eve when I was 10 (which I know because I had dated it). I began attending my first small group sort of Bible study in 7th grade. And what astounded me, even more than the loads of crazy I found in those boxes, was how much of the word of God has saturated my years. It seems like always. Verses, bookmarks, of course all the encouraging notes I ever got from my leaders were spilling out of this pile of childhood.
And yet, here I am decades later, finding it so hard on some days to remember truth, and hold onto God's promises. I found one page of notes on verses that apply to relationships between men and women. It is baffling to me that I learned those things while I was not yet a woman; I was a child. And yet, I still need to learn them today. I'm still learning how to follow God, and truth never expires. But honestly, I feel uncomfortable about still needing to learn the same truths that I learned 20 years ago. Isn't God thinking, "You should know better by now..."?
I wonder why it is so hard. And tonight, I don't have a good answer. I only have the reality that life is a series of challenges, and you can face them with God or alone. I'm so thankful that for most of mine, in childhood and now, we've faced them together. And even though life is terribly hard at times, facing it alongside our good and gracious and faithful God is enough.
I flipped through the Bible I found, and discovered some writing in it. Some verses were circled with hot pink marker. Some Psalms were boxed with the word "Song" next to them, indicating one made into a worship song I sang in youth group. A bookmark said "JOY: Delight and peace not affected by circumstance." And on a blank page in the back, I wrote the reference Isaiah 41:10, which reads,
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
I'm so thankful some things never change.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
OK. Thinking big is great for a lot of reasons. And I teach my kids along similar lines when appropriate. God is big too, and He loves big. Big surprises, miracles, rescues. And I love that about Him. I need that about Him.
However, some of the most important things in life require very, very small steps and careful attention to detail. Caring for a baby. Improving a relationship. Learning a skill, or breaking a habit. Yes, sometimes, these things enjoy sudden leaps forward. But generally, growth moves at an almost imperceptible pace. This is my challenge most days.
And this is a photo of two of my people on skis for the first time, last month. See the sign? SLOW. I kind of hate slow (and I just added the "kind of" because it sounds less horrible). But if I were 4 years old, wearing slippery boards on my feet, and on snow, I would love slow. I'd be content moving inches at a time, and I'd feel the greatest success simply from not falling. These little guys are not at all concerned with speed, only making it from point A to point B.
I really want that perspective right now. It's so easy to feel discontent with the slowness of my life. All the things I haven't tackled and all the places I'm NOT yet are truly relentless in their assault against me. Nearly all of the time, it doesn't appear that I'm doing anything "big". Tonight I'm choosing to be content with the small successes of the day. For my own edification, here are some of them:
I purchased, prepared and fed my people good food.
I did two loads of laundry.
I made my bed and did a decent job of tidying everywhere else.
I gave two apologies, and received two also.
I kissed and hugged my people a lot.
I stood outside with my kids just to smell the rain, and got a little wet.
I allowed for toy chaos to happen.
I came up with a plan for preparing my daughter for an upcoming test.
I edited some new photos.
I listened to my son read me a book...very, very slowly.
I listened to my husband's frustrations.
I listened to the rain.
I listened to my heart, wrote this post, and befriended "slow."
If you take time to think through the little and the slow and the teeny bits of your days, you see how big it all really is. List them today. You'll see. There is nothing insignificant about the amazing life God has given me, and the person He enables me to be. He is present, He is working, and He loves writing my story, one teeny bit at a time.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Let me set the stage. I have just pulled up to my parents' house, which is on an uphill slope. And as in all neighborhoods, everyone knows that cars drive way too fast down their street. Add this to the thing I love and hate - they live directly across the street from the neighborhood park. As expected, my son gets out on the sidewalk side of the car and runs into the house while I finish a conversation with my husband on my phone. I am still sitting in the car. About one minute later, I watch through my windshield a silent version of this scene that seems to go in slow motion: my full-of-energy little guy runs full throttle out of the house, down the short driveway and right into the street blazing a path to the park, giving zero heed to the fact that he is even entering a street. As fast as I can, I am scrambling to open my car door and stop him, narrating frantic bits to my husband, but it is way too late. Had there been a car coming, I couldn't have reacted in time to protect him. But there wasn't. No car anywhere in sight. Oh God. Thank you.
My son knows better than this. He knows the "stop at the curb and look both ways" routine. We've done it literally hundreds of times. Part of my slow-motion paralysis was out of shock that he was actually running into a street in the first place. I always expect running and craziness from him, but I didn't see the street part coming. He got way ahead of himself, letting his desire to go to the park override all his knowledge. Most importantly, he forgot the rule to always always always hold hands.
Tonight I was thinking about how hard it is for me to walk with God - I mean, right with Him - not getting ahead of myself, or not lingering back. It is so hard. One of my biggest challenges right now. And I was reminded of this incident with my son this past week. I want so badly to get to certain places in my future. I imagine them, feel them, fixate on them. And they are great places, such as a more secure financial spot and a closer, richer marriage. I can see these places are often just across the street, a very short distance away. So I run ahead, giving no heed to God's cadence. Sometimes it's just my thoughts that get carried away, and sometimes I actually start trying to take "progress" into my own hands. I can so easily let go of God's hand and enter into dangerous territory.
The opposite also happens. Have you ever had a bad day that just empties you for several more? Painful days follow us for a lot longer. When one of these days hits me, I tend to linger back, confused and injured. It's not that God wants to rush me out of a hard time, but I know He does want to heal me and help me walk forward with Him. He offers a hand to hold, and to hold me up, when I can't walk on my own.
My prayer tonight was for God to give me the discipline and courage to walk with Him at His pace. I know what it's like to hold His hand, and it is a wonder why I don't every single day. Holding onto God leaves no room for anxiety. None. Fear cannot accompany you. Peace, joy, love, security...all the things I need and want are there for me, filling me up. And yet like a child, I often let go and run ahead. (Wait, I've had that kid, and that kid is exhausting! Sorry, Lord.) Some days I even get hit. Self-doubt, fear, insecurity and vulnerability run me down without stopping. In those times, my Father runs to me in the street, picks me up, holds my face in His hands and says with love, "Precious daughter, hold my hand."
My favorite verse in the Bible is Micah 6:8 because it boils down what God requires of me. When I need simplification and the bottom line of my "job" as a Christ-follower, this is where I turn:
O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Back to the photo situation. You may be asking yourself why I've used the photo of me at the fish hatchery for my blog header. Plainly, no good photos of me exist because I am the only one in my family who really takes any. That means I am usually not IN any, unless I ask to be, which results in semi-lame, posed pictures of someone else and me. Or fish and me (I cropped the fish out of the above). Not my favorite.
Today I'm super excited about the fact that my pal Shauna (as featured below) is becoming quite an amazing photographer and took some photos of me especially for my blog. Aren't I lucky? Just you wait. Very soon, this blog is going to jump up in coolness, and you'll feel even cooler just witnessing it. Did I mention I was super excited? So are the trout, see? OK, maybe I just threw them some pellets. But they are excited nonetheless.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
This is my friend Shauna. Whenever we take photos together this is how it looks. I lean in, she leans out. We laugh about it and joke about how she has trouble bonding with others (but she doesn't, which is why it is funny). And yesterday was her birthday. I thought about the many ways I wanted to do things to show her how thankful I am for her, but my life got in the way. The only thing I did get to do was make my family sing the birthday song in unison on her voicemail. Creative, huh?
[ Well, my friend, you deserve more than that. So here is a little collection of things I would have brought you, if our fridge wasn't totally empty, and the kids were cooperating, and the explosion didn't happen inside my house. Ok, there was no explosion; it just looked like there was. It's a birthday collage for you. ]
But besides all these treats, I wish there was a photo I could include to represent how thankful I am that she is my friend. The photo would capture how she is an example to me and others around her in so many ways. It would show how, even though she leans out of photos with me, she leans into life. I know she would not claim to be fearless or perfect. But through faith, she is able to lean into whatever challenge she is facing with strength and a resolution to learn from it.
Maybe you are facing something today that you are leaning away from. A relationship or a responsibility or a conflict. I am, and I'm sure if you don't have one in mind, one will come your way in a matter of hours. When we feel the resistance, maybe we can remember that there is a lesson waiting for us and a chance to grow. And maybe this time, we can choose to lean in, and watch what happens. Don't begin to think you can only lean in when you have things together. Because really leaning in means admitting you don't. It is about letting God into your insufficiency, and letting Him help you face what you don't want to face alone.
OK. Time to go face my day, leaning in and looking up.
I don't pretend to have any idea what it is like to have to fetch my family brown water in a jug. But I still care that someone has to. And that someone may be a 35 year old woman with two kids like I have, just born there and not here. It's my responsibility to know and to care and to love, in the small way that I can. In my otherwise insulated world, one very small commitment will make a very big difference to a few people. Even if it was just for that 1/2 person, it would have been worth it.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Because of this darn book, my eyes are opening to the lack of grace more and more. I'm feeling a deep heart break for these kids, and my own, due to my lack of grace for them up until now. I also realize that if I'm ever going to grow in grace as a person, it has to start with giving grace to myself. I blame you, Tim Kimmel, for turning my program upside-down. Well, it's God's doing, really. And I can't blame God. I can only pray with my whole heart that I will be able to generously pour onto my children some of the lavish grace He's given to me. In my weakness and vulnerability. In my quirkiness. In my mood swings. In my complaining. Every day, I am the child who needs grace, and I'm so thankful that I always, always have it.
"The real test of a parenting model is how well equipped the children are to move into adulthood as vital members of the human race. Notice I didn't say "as vital members of the Christian community." We need to have kids that can be sent off to the most hostile universities, toil in the greediest work environments, and raise their families in the most hedonistic communities and yet not be the least bit intimidated by their surroundings. Furthermore, they need to be engaged in the lives of people in their culture, gracefully representing Christ's love inside their desperate surroundings. "
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
SCL is a blog that I follow (see right column, under "These People Inspire Me"). It is written by a guy named Jon Acuff who basically loves to show the humor in a lot of things that Christians like or have come up with, most of which have nothing to do with God and what really matters. At times, Jon ties his humor into a larger lesson on life in a powerful way.
But not today.
Today, those of us who read his blog and also have a blog have the opportunity to take part in one of his satirical posts. The title is:
The “Is that contestant on American Idol a Christian?" Scorecard
I do this. I watch Idol and then try to guess who is winning because they are being prayed for by a mega church backing them somewhere in the U.S. Not really, but I have to admit I do get a little excited when a contestant says they led their youth choir at church, or sings "Jesus Take the Wheel" during the competition. It's a fun game and you should try it. Thankfully, Science (ie. Jon Acuff) has come up with a more accurate way to find out if your favorite contestant loves the Lord with all his/her heart.
Basically, you can score your favorite contestant by adding up points based on the answers to the questions on the scorecard.....each blog participating is posting one question. I was given this one:
103. The contestant somehow finds a way to slam the book, “Golden Compass” during one of their interviews = +3 points
To add up your score with over a 130 other ideas on this scorecard, visit stuffchristianslike.net.
And if you're in the mood for some seriously funny stuff, read Jon's words on:
Deep V-neck syndrome and Skipping parts of the Bible
If you'd just prefer the serious, try:
Thinking you're naked and Getting wrecked by these two words
Hope you enjoy!
Sunday, April 04, 2010
This picture is worth 1,000 screaming, boastful, malicious, rude, insensitive, foul, unkind, selfish words. And then some.
Thank you, Lord, for the surprise of Easter.
Jesus paying the price for our mistakes was the thing we least expected, and yet the thing we needed most.
I've decided it's an interesting phrase, mostly because these people seem so sure they are correct. "I was born for this" is certainly a statement of knowing one's purpose. And I can't think of anyone I know who is 100% certain of his or her life's purpose. I am sure only of the fact that I don't know the reason I was born. I can give you some theological answers - I was born to love God, and to love others. I can give you a description of the jobs I have - part of my purpose is clearly to be a good wife, mother, friend, etc. But what is the more specific reason I am on this earth in God's eyes? I don't know, because God is the one writing the story and He doesn't always let me in on the details.
You know where I'm going with this. It's Easter, for goodness sake. You think I'm going to say that Jesus was born to be our Savior. It's all too familiar. But this Easter, while reading the accounts in the Bible, I noticed that Jesus had his reality show interview too. You won't believe what He said. Minus the cameras, He is asked to explain himself, tell everyone why He is so special. It was kind of an informal trial after He is arrested, but here is a bit of the conversation (now, think first century reality show):
Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about Me?"
"I'm not a Jew, am I?" Pilate replied. "Your own nation and the chief priests handed You over to me. What have You done?"
"My kingdom is not of this world," said Jesus. "If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn't be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here."
"You are a king then?" Pilate asked.
"You say that I'm a king," Jesus replied. "I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice."
"What is truth?" said Pilate.
He totally said it. I read this a few days ago and had to read it over and over. Here is a man who truly knew His purpose! Jesus was born to tell us the truth. Think about it. He could have been born, lived a perfect life, been wrongly accused of something, and still died a martyr's death, effectively paying the price for our sins, without teaching us a single thing in the process. He could have been a silent lamb led to slaughter and still gotten the job done, in terms of saving mankind. But though dying for our sins was a definite part of Jesus' purpose, He was born to tell us the truth.
Pilate gives the same response many people give Jesus when faced with the truth. It is a stroke of dismissal: "But what is truth, anyway?" If you continue to read the account above in the Bible, you'll see that Pilate's statement is the final one in the conversation. After he utters it, he leaves the room. This philosophical argument is the quickest way to shut out Jesus and His purpose in our lives.
So these are the questions I'm pondering based on Jesus' interview: Am I "of the truth" from regularly listening to His voice? Or am I just coming up with my own ideas? Am I willfully shutting out truth in any area of my heart? Am I praying that God would lead me to His purposes for my life, and not just indulge in my own? Am I also sharing truth with others, as Jesus modeled? These are all questions with varying answers, depending on the day. But I am thinking. And asking. And praying.
The whole pre-crucifixion scene in the governor's quarters would make for a pretty crazy reality show. But I need the resurrected Lord and His truth to fill my life so badly that at the end of the day, I'm glad it was Jesus who got voted off.
[or how about this ending]
...I'm glad it was Barrabas who got the final rose.
[or what about]
...I'm glad to hear Pilate say: "King of the Jews? YOU'RE FIRED!"
[OK, I'll stop]