Sunday, February 27, 2011

Love for Faith Blogs

 I'm a little excited.

Over the weekend, I found out that
top of the page is now on faith blogs!

(see the sidebar button??)

I'm featured in the "Faith & Family" category as well as the "Heartfelt" category.

And even cooler than that is all the OTHER really great blogs you can find there!

I have discovered some really awesome ones. And I found two friends were already there too.

You know Danielle, right?  She's amazing and funny and loves the color mustard yellow. That's why I put her name in that color. She also really likes lipstick. We're faith blogs neighbors under "Faith & Family".
You know I heart you, Danielle!

And then there's Rachel. She has a special place in her heart for Jesus, all things vintage, and Mary Poppins. She has great taste and an even greater heart.

 And here is a new fav of mine: Megan. She had me at the header. Whatintheworld. Graph paper, stitching, all my favorite colors, the subway map, birds...what is she trying to do to me??
 I loved it all so much. And then I read her words.
Love every bit. 
You should check out faith blogs, and these three ladies, if you don't already know them. So much coolness, I can't believe I get to be beside them!
I also have an opportunity, being a part of Faith Blogs, to submit posts for being featured on their own blog. I thought I'd ask you friends for some input. Any posts you remember that either spoke to you or stick out in your mind that you think I should submit? 
Have a great Monday, all!
{I had a great teachable moment with my big girl tonight. I'll be sharing that later this week.}

Friday, February 25, 2011

Serving a struggler like me

Under certain circumstances, I have a hard time being served.

Today, both kids and I were strugglers. The littles got sick in the night and I was on the verge. My husband was the Ultimate Superhero to us all. He had a day full of meetings booked at work, and yet cast his schedule aside to stay home to serve us. I'm sure that wasn't easy or well received at the office. When I whispered from my bed as he passed through the room, "Thank you for serving your family today," his sincere reply was, "What else would I do?"

Wow. That's a man.

But under these extremely unpleasant circumstances, I have a hard time not feeling guilty for having someone lay down their life for me (and what I consider MY responsibilities, my kids). I am okay with the ways my husband serves me when it's for a fun or romantic reason. I love being loved by him in the many small ways he chooses to make me feel special. But when I see his exhaustion, when I notice he hasn't stopped to shower or eat because he's choosing to keep his hand on the back of a sick child, when I see him lay himself down to sacrificially serve our family, I feel uncomfortable. I don't want to receive it. That gift feels too big, and I, too unworthy.

God brought this to mind tonight. Somethings' awry, He's gently saying to me.

Because being served is kind of a big deal to Jesus. Not as in us serving Him. I mean Him serving us.

Remember during the last supper, in the upper room, when Jesus grabs a towel and basin and begins to wash Peter's feet? (Here comes the Leslie translation) Peter kind of freaks out. This is how the conversation goes (and oh, how I relate to this guy):

Peter: WHAT?! Knock that off! You're not gonna wash my feet. I should be washing YOURS! 
Jesus: You don't get it, but you will one day.
Peter: NO! I won't let you do it!
Jesus: Well, if you don't let me serve you, you have NO idea what I've been talking about. And you have no part in my business.
Peter: (Silence for a second) Well, if THAT'S the case, then wash my hands and head too, because I'm all about your business!!

(Peter used a lot of exclamation points when he spoke, I believe. The Bible doesn't tell you that part, but I'm inferring it. For the real version, you can read John 13) I think this is where Jesus smiles to himself about this guy. What passion, what intensity Peter had. He's so compulsive, the way he is literally working out his faith in the moment, and spouting off whatever comes to his mind. I so get that!

And I get how he has a hard time being served. It is not logical, what Jesus tries to do in our lives.

He kneels down in front of us. (What kind of King does that?)

He unties our sandals.

He washes every bit of filth away. Every sign of the earth sticking to us, in us. Despite our calloused soles. He restores us.

Jesus takes a position of humility far below his rank. In fact, His chosen spot is actually the exact OPPOSITE of where He deserves to stay. But He doesn't. He doesn't stay on a throne and shout down to us. He came down to look us in the eye, be our Emmanuel, and then crouched even lower to clean off our grime. Forever. It cost him his life. I'm nowhere close to deserving that.

My husband's service also feels like something I don't deserve. I'd rather power up, perform, and try to earn that kind of love. Earning it, or promising all the ways I can repay, makes so much more sense to me. Don't we all try to earn that which we feel we don't deserve? Doesn't that unworthiness linger under our skin when we are given an amazing gift? But I know that if I don't receive my husband's love, his imitation of Jesus himself in our home, I know nothing of the business of heaven. I know nothing of true love.

Jesus, help me accept all I don't deserve, with grace. Help me stay still while you care for me, instead of trying to wriggle away in my discomfort. Help me receive the great gift you've given me in a husband who longs to serve his family. Because I am so very thankful for it all.

You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.
John 13:13-15

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A snowy day

A couple of weekends ago, when California was the only place in the country being super stingy on the snow, we tried to find some. We only found a little.

But we had a lovely weekend.

I love breaking out the winter gear if only for a few days.

I was way overdressed. Even in the mountains, it was nearly 50 degrees. But of course, I had to give my cute snow accessories a chance to shine.

Here are some things I'm loving.

Cute smirks.

I love this picture. And the mountain man stubble.

Cute snow bunnies.

Cute snow engineers.

(Wow, are those snowball makers the bomb or what? Some friends brought them along.)

And this is one of my favorite photos. I don't know what kind of tree this is, do you? Look at how beautiful it was against the winter white backdrop.

Signs of life and love and hope amongst the chill.

And though the wintery weekend was fun, I still prefer this kind of skiing, myself.

Driftwood poles, slopes of sand, and warmth.

Doens't that sound lovely?

Here's to the next ski day.

{ Linking up today with Kristy and her amazingly cute blog, Paisley Jade }


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Over HERE today!


Today you can find me at Casey's blog

This girl is a beautiful, amazingly talented artist, mommy to two babies, lover of great style, and writer of an awesome blog that is seriously catching on. Especially, I hear, with new mommies. You should for sure check it out and click follow, since you will like her. (And her recent post on swimsuits! Someone has summer on her mind and that makes me feel like it's gonna be here soon! Thank you for that hope, friend!)

So Casey asked me to write a post about some lessons I learned as a new mom, and so I did. Actually, I wrote about what I think is probably the most important lesson I learned as a new mom:

How to let go of my head knowledge (or dodge it from others) when an opinion or a book or a theory on parenting is standing in the way of trusting my God (who is a way better parent than I am).

That was really hard for me when I had a little baby in my arms, the most ginormous responsibility I'd ever had. Really hard for me to surrender my ideas in favor of God's.
(He's tricky because sometimes He disagrees with me. I'm tricky because sometimes I try to talk Him into agreeing. That never works.)

So THANK YOU Casey for featuring my words and a bit of my personal story.
You are awesome!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Praying for friendship

Yesterday I was thinking about cake & cotton, the other little blog I write with my friend Shauna. If you follow cake & cotton, maybe you saw this series of posts we did where we basically took the time to appreciate one another for what we value in our friendship. We have a beautiful friendship. God has really provided so many things in my life through her. We and our children are a part of each other's lives on at least a weekly basis. And in addition to all the crafting and fun things we do, our friendship is very practical.

It's all reminded me of how much women need other women. Moms need other moms. We are not meant to do this alone. You may think that Shauna and I are lucky to have each other, and that is true. I know it's rare to find a good friend. But we haven't known each other forever. Our friendship did not always exist. And that's the story I wanted to tell (from my perspective, since I'm sure she has her own).

I remembered back to when my husband and I moved to the area we live in now, about 11 years ago. We moved roughly thirty minutes away from our old friends and I was kind of lonely. I started praying that God would bring me a friend in our area. I wasn't asking for a herd of people. I just wanted one person. One with whom I could laugh and cry and get a pot of soup from when I was really sick. I wanted support and a listening ear through my daily ups and downs. I wanted someone to talk to about starting our family (this was before I had kids), and I wanted to know I wasn't alone in my struggles.

Listen friends. I prayed this for five years. Five years it took for God's timing. Five years of feeling fairly disconnected. I had some friends, I guess you'd say. Neighbors here and there. Old friends who lived far away that I talked to on the phone. But I didn't have a person I could depend on to support and encourage me, practically as well as emotionally, in my daily life. And even after I met Shauna, she wasn't this person in my life for quite a while.

When we met, I had a baby girl and I was really hurting for some regular companionship. I needed something to get me out of the house with my baby, provide some grown-up interaction, and give me something to look forward to. And even though I was praying for a friend, I knew I needed to do my part. I needed to courageously pursue friendship if I were to find it; it wasn't just going to drop into my lap. So since she lived in my area, I asked Shauna if she wanted to start getting together once a week for bagels or something. She gave me a handful of polite reasons when she told me she couldn't. Pregnant with her first baby, she didn't really understand how it felt to be a new mom yet. But she also had a lot on her plate. At the same time, her mom was dying. I equally had no idea what she needed, as she went through that devastating time with her family. A small foundation for our friendship had been laid, but the timing was still not right.

I think it took another year or so before we began to regularly hang out with our babies in tow. Our common love for the local mall helped;  it was an easy place to meet up with the strollers. And slowly, very slowly, we became the kind of friend to each other that one rarely finds. During the rough seasons we've both had in our individual families, our friendship gained some serious ground, as we chose to speak words of truth to each other when necessary, instead of just shopping, lunching, and placating our egos (though we did and do that a lot too). Our windows of time together became critical times to pick each other up, and soothe hurt and confusion with grace and truth. Good thing we weren't both going through our hard seasons at the same time (coincidence?). I don't know what I would have done without Shauna's input in my life over the last couple years. She has been God's way of caring for me many, many times.

And I wonder if you have a friend like this. I want you to. I believe having a good friend, and also being one, is something for which each of us was created. Do you know friendship is very, very important to God? And seasons change. In earlier seasons, I had different friends for different reasons, each contributing to my growth and who I was becoming. But if you are in a lonely season, and many of us are when we have young children, I encourage you to start praying for God to bring you a friend. He knows exactly what and who you need. I cannot TELL you the number of ways God has made Shauna the right friend for this time of my life. Handpicked by my loving Father.

Is there a place in your life where can you courageously pursue friendship? With whom do you have some common ground, in life-stage, or love for shoes, or what?? Pray for friendship. Ask someone to coffee. Keep asking after they say No. And most importantly, open up. A little vulnerability goes a long way in a growing friendship. You need this. Really you do.

Then wait, trust, and watch for God's provision.

{head over to Tea on Tuesday with Christi
and then enjoy coffee with Amy
and all the other pretty ladies linking up today at Virtual Coffee}

Friday, February 18, 2011


In the last couple months, we've had a lot of sickness over here. Somehow we managed to escape it all fall, and then post-Christmas, the germs just decided to take up residence in our house. My daughter had three different fever spells in a two-week time frame. She's missed a lot of school. Once it was an entire week straight.

And a strange thing happened during those days. Even though she is a very well-spoken and capable third grader, she started using a lot of baby-talk. After about the third day, I was getting sick of it. I started lecturing her about using a "big girl voice," acting so bothered about her new habit. It was grating on me, for whatever reason (well, maybe part of the reason was that both kids and my husband were all sick and I was the last man standing), until I kept hearing myself say in a quite unpleasant tone, "Pleeease, STOP talking like a baby!" I realized at that point that my own voice had become more annoying than hers.

So I backed off. I started observing, instead of complaining. She wanted to watch our old Winnie the Pooh movies. She wanted to snuggle and read Peter Rabbit together, instead of pour through a chapter book alone in her room. I saw that in many ways she was reverting to babyish preferences. I was suddenly intrigued instead of annoyed. I kept watching and trying to understand the reason for her sudden adoption of smallish ways.

And then I was touched. A little guilty, but also touched, because it clicked. I finally put myself in her shoes, imagined myself as the child - the sick and weak child - with a loving parent around. I have the same need as my daughter, even as a woman; I do the same when I'm sick or weak. I want to be smallish, and I allow myself to be smallish, when I realize I'm in good hands.

You know whose hands I'm talking about. When I'm sick or broken down or overwhelmed, inside, way inside my heart, the thing I want most is to curl up and close my eyes next to the One who has me. The One who can take over. You know you are loved when you can let go of performing for a bit. All my spinning plates can be stilled and gently stacked up by the Lord's hands when I'm not up to par. Even if only for a day or two, He carries me, and I am so thankful. I don't act smallish in the exact same ways as my daughter. For me, it's more that I become emotionally smallish, or humbled. I allow myself to stop keeping it all together like the professional parent and grown-up that I am most days.

Do you know this feeling? Sometimes I have to let myself be smallish to remember that I'm not more than a child who needs a loving Father. And if I go too long without remembering that fact, if I am striving to perform the heck out of my life, and acting as if I am totally self-sufficient, you better believe that same loving Father will bring circumstances to remind me how smallish I really am. Humbling circumstances. I'm thankful for those too (though not always at first). I say I'm thankful for the Lord sending humbling circumstances my way in those instances because my striving without His input always ends up badly. Like crash-and-burn badly.

We all long to be smallish some days. My daughter grabs her Pooh Bear, I let go of my striving. I'm safe to do so because no one is going to tell me to just "act like a big girl!" No way. Jesus would never say that to me in my weakness. He scoops me up, like a gentle parent. He lets me curl up like a small child and stays close until I'm stronger.

This Psalm has always resonated with me. Even a man, a king no less, David, rich in power and prestige, longed to be smallish. He wrote these beautiful words:

My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Psalm 131:1-2

On your weak days, feel free to come as a child, just as you are, to God. No amount of performing means anything to Love. Would you expect any from your own child? Or would you just wrap them tightly in your arms for as long as they'd stay there?

Yeah, me too.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Love and Trust

It seems like love and trust go together. The stronger the love, the stronger the trust. In fact, the famous passage on love in I Corinthians 13 includes the very short, very direct sentence, "Love always trusts."

I've been thinking about this simple and profound statement tonight because it also defines what love is, in a way. If love always trusts, then what is it if trust is lacking? I understand that perfect love - God's variety of love - always trusts. But in our every day, imperfect relationships, something gets in the way of the love always trusting.

Ok, I'm talking marriage here. Let's be honest. I find it really hard to trust my husband in all matters at all times. I do. And he doesn't trust me in all things, all the time, either. We question each other's judgement. We're skeptical and we doubt each other and we look at each other with that, "Really?" "You really had to buy that?" "You really think THAT is the best suggestion?" "You really chose THOSE words to speak to me?" Most of the time, those questions are not even asked out loud. But my husband and I love each other too, and doesn't love always trust? It's hard to wrap my mind around the love and trust equation.

What I'm realizing is that one thing seeps in between love and trust. And that's fear. It has to be fear. Fear is the only thing strong enough to wedge in and start asking really reasonable questions. Fear asks "What if....?" and then suspends you without an answer. What if he doesn't really care how I feel? What if she doesn't really respect me? What if God isn't even listening? Fear throws you out over the edge of the cliff without a parachute. We are left spiraling down with an armful of problems that sound really possible.

And here's the thing. I am not trustworthy all the time. You are not trustworthy all the time. We all make mistakes and hurt each other. Which means throughout my relationships, I can live every day suspended by fear if I let myself. The only person trustworthy ALL THE TIME is God. Fear does not ever want you to know the only answer to a "What if..." is "...then God."
Love always trusts. The only way this statement makes any sense at all is in the context of a relationship with Him. If God loves us (and He really does), then we can always trust Him. Do you believe that? 

I don't believe the "Love always trusts" verse means that we should blindly trust others no matter what because that equals love. I have friends who have been really damaged by others' devastating sin against them. I am not about to tell them that real love always trusts. We can only ever trust in the Lord. I believe He can heal us, and allow us to trust our spouses and family members and friends despite our pain. But only through His work. Without Him, no matter what, love always speculates.

In my own marriage, I can get pretty close to perfectly trusting my husband. He can get really close to perfectly trusting me. But it won't ever be perfect trust, or perfect love. We are full of imperfect, and that's why we need Jesus. He takes our imperfect, offers us grace that we don't deserve, helps us to forgive one another, and says, "Don't listen to Fear. Don't even look over the edge at the What ifs. Trust in me instead."

I also thought about this verse, equally simple and profound. I John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." Love and fear can't coexist. That's something to think about.

It's hard to stay wrapped safely in real love. Love from God, I mean. Keeping myself defined by His love for me prevents the fears from seeping in. I know he has my back. He is my net at the bottom of the chasm, even if I do let my fears take me down. And when I'm safe and filled up and made whole by His great, great love, it is so much easier to trust others, because I know I'm really trusting in God. All my "What ifs..." end in "...then God." He will be my help. He is ever worthy of my trust.

So today, I'm letting love seep in and drive out my fears, those subtle weeds that lead to division and strife. Love can patch up my every injury. Love will sever every cord with which fear has tried to bind me. It is not just a cheesy saying; Love will set me free.  

See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. 
Isaiah 2:12

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Desiring romance

I used to fear Disney Princesses.

When my daughter was in her twos and threes, I was sincerely afraid that her affinity for all things princess would turn her into a romance-lovin' young woman whose main goal in life was to find her Prince Charming. Totally suspicious of what Mr. Disney was trying to sell my toddler, I thought she'd grow up thinking that twirling for someone's attention was what life was all about. Before I knew what was really going on inside her, I thought I could prevent her from buying into that world of fantasy and living to be defined by a boy.

But I started watching my daughter more closely. Was she imitating Cinderella, or was she twirling out of something much more innate? Eventually I had to ask myself if my toddler was not merely reflecting the longing I too had inside as a grown woman? Was she just more free and uninhibited to ask for the love and adoration I too desired? And did Disney Princesses have anything to do with it at all?

Now, I realize that Cinderella is an icon because she reflects our feminine hearts, and not just the little girls'. The story of Cinderella says that Love is transforming. Love can pick us up out of destitution and hopelessness and make us radiant. It is the quintessential beauty for ashes story. It's a story that needs to be told, but in a slightly different way. (Enter: the mommy)

When I was in college, living away from family for the first time, I remember clearly lying in bed at night - on several nights - literally feeling the pain of loneliness. I so longed to be married, thinking that was what I needed. And at 22, getting married helped, for a while.

But a decade later, I realized I felt the exact same way. Things weren't smooth and I was still horribly lonely. I was twirling and twirling, so tired of twirling, and no one seemed to care. I've told this story before, but the loneliness brought me to my knees.

And there, I found it. Romance.

The Prince was smiling at me. He was in love with me. He saw right past my tattered dress into my heart, and loved what He found there. He loved it because he knew what to do with it. He wasn't confused or thrown off or intimidated by me. He didn't think I was too much to handle. He saw me as a beautiful, radiant woman.

And that love is still transforming me.

My daughter is eight now. I really don't know how this happened, but she is drawn to country music. She loves the Dixie Chicks and Taylor Swift. And of course, she loves the love songs. (Well, aren't they all love songs?) I'm tempted to be afraid of all those blondies singing about the boy of their dreams, selling my daughter on the idea that a boy can fill up her soul. Right now, she probably believes it. Which is why I take my job very seriously: to teach her what that longing is there for. In age-appropriate bites, I'm teaching her about a love that will fill her up more than any man ever will. I'm introducing her to a Prince and a Love that will never let her down.

And maybe, like me, she won't get it until she's thirty. I'm telling you, I've heard the phrase 'God loves you' one zillion times in my life. I've been in church since birth. And until I sought Him in my loneliness, until I asked him to tell me who I was, I had no idea what it meant. So maybe my daughter will have her own journey of heartache. But it's my job to tell her the truth, because Taylor Swift certainly isn't, and she has a pretty loud voice.

Finding out how loved we really are is always a surprising twist in our story. As soon as we think all is lost, the Prince comes to rescue us. He showed up in my darkest hour. Somehow he got past all the obstacles. Somehow, my prison was unlocked and I had a chance at freedom. He had one slipper, in my exact size. I was the one He was looking for. I was the light in His eyes. At first, I wondered, How could this be? It is hard to receive real, unconditional, passionate love. But it's harder to go back to the tower all alone.

I hope today you know how loved you really are. If you feel you have stopped longing to be seen and adored due to past hurt, I encourage you to bring that hurt to God. He wants to tell you what He sees in you. And if that seems daunting, try reading Captivating (see bookshelf to the right). It explains all the concepts in this post in great detail, and was instrumental in teaching me who I was through God's eyes. It is filled with powerful truths.

May I twirl today uninhibited, knowing my Prince sees the whole me and thinks I'm absolutely beautiful anyway. Who needs a fairy Godmother when you have Love?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Don't be jealous

Last night, my man and I celebrated Valentine's Day with an at-home-after-the-kids-go-to-bed date.

It was way better than a restaurant. Primarily because my husband is an AMAZING cook. He volunteered to make me dinner. {I think someday he should go to culinary school.}

This is what he made: 

Well first, he made me a bouquet of red roses. He cut them, put them in a vase, and then made a mini-version for my daughter. Wow. Should I stop right there? I know, you're already jealous.

Then, he made the very best ever in the whole wide world wedge salad with blue cheese, lemon-marinated onion, bacon crumbles (the turkey kind, because he knows me), grape tomatoes, and homemade dressing.

Then, mashed potatoes with rosemary butter, grilled baby asparagus, and the most perfect fillet mignon

Then he made a fire in the fireplace

This is what I made: 

Um...well, I made myself really pretty..???

I also made THIS, the best Valentine's playlist ever (or at least until next year when I like all different songs). Wow, it was amazing mood music. You can steal it.

Then I made a nice dinner spot at the coffee table, next to the crackling fire. We sat on my big, over sized faux fur throw pillows. {I had to push the dog off of mine once or twice. He thought I had made him a cozy spot by the fire. Sorry, Callahan.}

Let me just say it was heavenly. 

I was so spoiled.

I love LOVE, and I love my sweet guy and the way he loves me.

What are you doing with your sweetie for Valentine's?

Friday, February 11, 2011

happy anniversary, little blog

Today, February 11th, my little corner of the blog world turns one. Yes, it's my one year anniversary of blogging! It's so strange, actually. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea what would come of that leap. Some friends encouraged me to start, and I really had no idea what it meant. I didn't know any of you, for one. And I didn't have a clue as to how God would begin to work in and through me on the internet.

And so for my anniversary, I debated about what to write. A lot of bloggers review their favorite posts, sort of a "best of" reflection. I liked that idea. I have some favorite posts, to be sure. And then I thought I'd walk through my own stages of blogging, from my super ugly first header (which included a random photo of me in front of what looked like a prison, wearing a sweatshirt I indeed sleep in in the wintertime), through the growth and experience and relationships I've gained. But you can read about that for yourself, really. Though not bad, none of those anniversary post ideas were speaking to me.

But this is. I want you to know something. I need you to know it.

I can go back to most of the posts I've written over this past year and be quickly sucked back into the emotion behind that post. I remember the feeling, but I often don't remember the words. I often don't really understand how I strung those words together to communicate what it says. And I am often brought to tears by what they say. I'm totally serious. My friend Julie has a link on her blog to this post of mine. Because of that, over 600 people have read that one post. That is shocking to me. I went back the other day to try to recall what I even wrote, and by the end I was in tears. What those emotions and tears reminded me is that these are God's words. I am merely a pawn in His fingertips.

His truth, in all its bloggy pixelated beauty, continues to minister to me, help me, speak to my heart, remind me of His unquenchable, unreasonable, incomprehensible love. His words never expire. And that brings me to tears. These posts (not including the ones on Tron and how I want a Corvette) are a compilation of God's words to me. And to you. Most of it truly doesn't feel like my words at all.

This little blog is an ever-changing, living account of God's work in my life, spilling out through my keyboard, reaching your eyes, trickling into your heart and saying the exact thing God wants you to hear when you need to hear it. Many different people may read many different things through the words. The message for you is what God wants it to be. And when something you read jumps out at you, whether it's on top of the page or anywhere else, when you get a lump in your throat, or think "Wow, this was just what I needed today," you can know that God knew that. It's not an accident or a coincidence. He sees you, He sees me, and He desperately wants us to get it:

He is love.

We can't hear it too many times. And if top of the page ever ceases to help the both of us "get it," then someone let me know, because that's when it needs to be shut down.

In I Samuel, chapter 7, in the Bible, God helps the Israelites by holding back their enemies in a battle. In fact, God throws the enemy side into panic with "a mighty voice of thunder." (Can you imagine that?) Samuel is in charge, and after the victory, as an act of gratitude, he builds a meager altar to the Lord. He sets up a stone and names it "Ebenezer," which means "a stone of help," and at the altar, he declares, "Thus far, the Lord has helped us."

Today, I'm declaring the same. Thus far, the Lord has helped us. I'm so grateful that He's helped us through this little blog, and through my words offered up. Thank you, Lord, for being mighty in our battles. Thank you for seeing us and hearing our cries. Thank you for this past year of your loving help.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The headband swap of 2011

So my favorite New Yorker, Danielle, arranged a headband swap on her happy little space of the blogosphere called Take Heart (see the cutie deer on the sidebar??). She thought a few blog friends would participate. But lo and behold. Fifty friends wanted to partake, and I was one.

I got paired up with my new friend Kyle. She blogs at Like the Rain. Not only does she have great taste, she has a beautiful heart. I'm so enjoying her blog, where she talks of life and love and family with transparency and resolve.

I like that.

She is intentional and offers her story and life up to the Lord's use. You should visit her blog right now.

Well, after you look at my cool headband. Check it.

It is so colorful and beautiful. The middle section is like a piece of fabric from a carpet bag or a tapestry. The edges are beaded in turquoise. I LOVE it. Thank you so much Kyle!!

Even more than the headband, I love that we're new blog friends.

{Sorry for the impersonal pics. You get just the headband today. I'm not up to par, as my generous children have shared all their germs with me. This shot was taken between sneezes. But cute hair accessories are helping me feel better}

OOH, and tomorrow is top of the page's 1-year anniversary!  So stay tuned....

Monday, February 07, 2011

A dozen things you didn't know about me

I've seen other bloggers make a list like this and I've always wanted to do it. Those personal, quirky, pieces of their puzzle feel like a gift. And really, the little things are what make up a life. So here are a few random pieces that make up my own puzzle.

1. I really love movies. Old classics, romantic, comedy, drama, family, even animated...most anything except when a good story is ruined by too much violence. I can mark periods of my life by the movies that I loved and watched over and over. In childhood, it was Goonies, Annie, and Pollyanna. In high school it was Say Anything and Dirty Dancing. In College it was Reality Bites. We watched it once a week. Not kidding.

C'mon. You know it's so good. I knew all the dialogue between Winona Rider and Ethan Hawke. Some of my favorites since I've been a grown-up are Once, Tristan and Isolde, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Moulin Rouge, Serendipity, The Holiday, and August Rush. A good movie, one that resonates with timeless humanity, is something I really savor.

2. I can’t wait until I can trade in my station wagon for a non-mom mobile. This is my first choice, a 1969 Corvette Stingray. It would look so cute on me, I think. I keep dreaming that that day will come on my fortieth birthday, except that is not too far off.

3. I’m really sensitive to smells, and my sensitivity got worse after having kids. What we used to call “super nose” when I was pregnant just never went away. I have to hold my breath when I wash ketchup off the dishes after dinner. I can’t stand it.

4. I don’t know what color my hair is. I can’t really “see” it, and I don't realize it is any different from everyone else. I've never colored it, and when I look in the mirror, I don't see the color, which is what most people notice about me. So when I see another red head out there in the world, I ask my husband, “Does she have my same color?” so that I have an idea of what mine looks like. Most of the time, he’ll say something like, “No, yours is a little lighter,” and so it doesn’t really help. This sounds strange, I know.

5. I love animals. Each kind speaks something about God to me, and I believe that's part of their purpose. Animals can move me to some great realizations, like when I wrote this post. Sometimes I feel I even learn how to appreciate God through observing them and how He’s made them. His power, His joy, His creativity, His loyalty, His mystery….it’s all on display in the animal kingdom. So yeah, if you come with us to the zoo, I may be teary once or twice and try to hide it from you. Stop giggling.

6. I have a weird anxiety about dropping things. If I’m carrying an arm full of mail and some things start to slide out, I have to tell myself that everything will be okay if I drop some of it. Seriously, I feel like I might freak out when I drop something down the side of the seat in the car, or the crayons roll off the table at the restaurant. I have to take deep breaths. I also feel really stressed when the grocery bags tip over in the trunk and I hear the oranges rolling all around. Think I have issues with chaos??

7. I’m kind of competitive. Not crazy, but I don’t mess around, especially with board games. I like games, and I equally feel bad/like to beat you at them. My favorite is Scrabble. I was super into Pac-Man and Donkey Kong growing up since we had them in the garage. Arcade-sized. It was awesome. And I secretly have this fear that once my kids get big enough and we decide to have a video game system in our home, that I’ll be the one tempted to spend an unhealthy amount of time improving my strategies. That’s kind of embarrassing.

8. I love learning. I wish I could be taking a class on something – anything – all the time. I love school supplies and test-taking and books and scantrons and pencils and Target in September. At one point, I seriously considered how I could get a PHD and become a professor so that I could be in school forever. When one of my kids says, on occasion, that they don’t like school, I have to conceal my wash of panic on the inside while I feverishly try to talk them out of it. Wow. [btw, I think that is the ONLY feeling I do try to talk them out of ]

9. I want to write a book someday. I have no idea what it would be about.

10. I’ve only gotten one traffic ticket, and it was when I was 18, the morning after Grad Night. Not that I haven’t deserved a whole lot more of them.

11. I’m not afraid of public speaking. I competed in speech contests when I was a teen, and it scared me so much that all that fear got used up, I guess.

12. My two biggest goals right now are within the art of homemaking, something I’m not great at. Yet. We are in the process of repainting and redecorating….making our space look like us instead of looking like stuff we’ve just always had around us. And secondly, I am challenging myself to do this. It starts March 9th (covering the 40 days prior to Easter) and will require me to go through my whole house – every drawer and closet and shelf – purging what we don’t need or want. I’m really scared, for some reason, and am feeling plagued by feelings of incompetence, which isn’t my usual deal. But I’m also really hopeful that these two changes will feel like a big breath of much needed fresh air.

So there you have it. Did you learn a couple things about me? I’m a piece of work, but God’s work. He’s always got me, and that means all my strengths get used for good things (when I let them), and all my weaknesses get redeemed (when I let them). All the in between is just my own unique mixture of crazy and lovely.

So I’d LOVE to get to know you better too. Really. If you feel so inclined to make your own list, let me know. (Should I do a linky thing??) ‘Cause I wanna read it!

please visit Amy's blog today and check out others linking up to her {virtual coffee} on Tuesday.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Grace on a Thursday

By Thursday of the week I start to mentally list out the things I meant to do that week and didn’t get to. It seems I regularly have a sigh in me on Thursdays for that reason. It is so easy to focus on what I didn’t do, and totally forget about all I did do! Anyone else do this? Right now, I kind of know I did a lot of great things…I just can’t think of any of them.

But I can see the pile of paperwork that didn’t get sorted, the 2010 calendar still on the counter that I didn’t get transcribed onto the 2011 one, the shower that still desperately needs cleaning, and two projects for others that I have not completed.

I don’t clearly remember the teachable moments I took advantage of with my kids, but I recall many times I lost my patience. I no longer feel proud of a day well spent, but still feel guilty for any time wasted. I can even remember thoughts I shouldn't have had and wrong attitudes I indulged for too long.

What IS that? Why does the memory of our successes vanish like a fog, but our mistakes relentlessly prick us? I don’t have the answer to that one. But whenever I feel this way, I know I need one medicine, and that is a huge dose of Grace.

Right at this moment, I’m going to heap up my mistakes.

Dump all the losses and small failures and misspoken words into a big pile.

And what I’m NOT going to say is, “There’s always next week.”

I’m not going to say, “I’ll try harder next time.”

And I’m certainly not going to make excuses, or dismiss the pile, or pretend it all doesn’t really matter. It all matters, and the reason I know is that someone lost His life for that pile.

My pile of mistakes matters so much that someone had to die.

Someone took the punishment for my heap of mistakes, mismanaged emotions, laziness, selfishness and lots of other things. And I can’t let myself wallow in self-pity over the fact that it all matters, that I hurt people and myself. I don’t let a sense of condemnation overwhelm me. But I realize I need Grace.

The response God wants from me is so very simple. He just wants me to accept it. I need Grace. I don’t need to be better or try harder or perform for Him. Grace is a free gift, but I have to receive it.

My arms can only carry one thing: either they are full of my garbage, or they are full of Grace. And I can’t receive Grace until I let go of my garbage.

I’m letting go. Right now. I am walking away from the guilt of the week, the struggle, the stress, the shame.

Bye bye.

I can do that because I’m free. Jesus gives me the freedom to walk away. And that fact makes me bend my chin to my chest, close my eyes, and do another big sigh.

And say Thank you. Thank you.

Praying you too find the courage to let go of your garbage from the week, and welcome Grace on a Thursday.