Thursday, April 28, 2011

Today I'm over here!


 Hello all!
alyss was so kind to ask me to write for her series on motherhood, and so today, I'm over at her scrumptious blog

Come visit. You'll like this girl.

Look at her and her adorable little guy named Jude. I LOVE that name, too btw.

So Alyss made me think about what I've learned from motherhood. I had trouble picking which thing, and mulled over articles and posts I've written in the past along those lines. But lying in bed the other night, it struck me, the Thing.
Possibly the biggest thing I've had to learn.
And am still learning.

Well? Why are you still here?
I can't TELL you! You have to read it over there.

Oh and also, read the posts below mine, some of the other motherhood stories she's been posting as we lead up to Mother's Day. They're sweet too.
{Try not to notice that I'm like the senior citizen of the group.}

Have a great weekend!

Grace on a Thursday: in Casey's words

 You guys know casey right??? I knew it.
She blogs at from the heart of casey about that lil' Wiegand family of hers.
She is so many things! Talented artist. Passionate believer. Inspiring art teacher. Supportive wife. And seriously devoted mama to the blessed boy and girl below.
Just look at them. They are the cutest little blondies.

Casey's passionate heart shines throughout all she does, and all she is. I love it. She is so inspiring.
Bask in her heartfelt words today, and show her some love!


Sweet Leslie has been such a breath of fresh air in my life. Whenever I post something that is troubling me, I am wrestling with...her advice is ALWAYS so freeing. 

I recently posted about being a bit overwhelmed. I am a stay at home mama trying to run an art studio out of our home, paint (my "job"), answer emails, phone calls....all the while putting my husband and kids first.

I am a people pleaser. And I am failing badly.

I have so many untouched emails.
Countless un-returned phone calls.

So I guess what is overwhelming me is the inability to keep everyone happy. My dream come true is to be a wife and a mama. My kids really are my world...probably a little bit too much at some points, but they are. And so staring at my phone all day to keep up with emails or ignoring them while I return a list of voicemails is not working for me.

So balance. How do we do it?

I am learning. Perfection doesn't happen. 

My relationships with Jesus and my family come first....and as long as I keep my eyes upward then I should be fine. My sweet friend Jessi also said i should think about this.

"What should your hands be diligently working on, and then ask Him to help you accomplish it to His glory."

Perfectly said.

Thankful for grace. I need it. And I need to remember to be quick to give it as well :).

"When you decide to live out what you believe. When you decide you want peace in your possession, then you will find out what that looks and feels like. You begin to pray for God to give you peace. You incorporate peace in your relationships. You decide to respond differently. You speak in love. Act in tenderness. You imitate what you know about peace until it becomes a reality for your character and your life."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Choosing to make it lovely

I was going to write about pillows. I made a really cool pillow out of my husband's old button down shirt. That would have been lovely. I'll show it to you eventually.

But I chose to tell this story for Life Made Lovely Monday instead, because I think for me it better reflects what I try to remember, that I have some ability to make my life lovely, even when it is not.

Not lovely: little boys with double pink eye and tear-inducing ear pain. 
Not lovely: late night trips to urgent care.
Not lovely: the following even later night trip to the pharmacy.

This is where I have to give the glory to God before I go any further. HE is the only one who strengthened me for the night. HE helps mothers do their jobs! He is the source of all my lovely, always, period.

I called ahead to urgent care, asking if they were busy. "Right now, there's no wait!" "Great, I'll be there in five minutes." IN those five minutes, four families came in ahead of us. There was a single doctor on duty. SO we watched a movie, made a little bed in the waiting room on the kid couch, and read a new book about predators. Eeesh, we're talking a lot of large photographs of various open-mouthed, fanged animals. I couldn't even look at the pages with the snakes. And I remained fully enthusiastic, somehow, while comparing piranha to barracuda.

By the time we made it out of the two hour urgent care ordeal, I was already tired. As we reached the pharmacy - the only 24 hour one being another distance away from home - I saw tons of people waiting at the counter. It was obvious we were going to be there a long while. Then and there, I chose to make this yucky night one to remember for good reasons, and turn this frown upside down.

I realized I had my camera. He perked up. "Can I take one of you, mama?"

While waiting for an eternity just to be acknowledged at the pharmacy, I chose to be thankful I didn't need any of these things.

Then, after turning in our prescriptions and realizing it was going to be another long wait to receive them, I made a new rule ('cause moms get to do that): sickly little boys who have to wait in doctors' offices and pharmacies way after bedtime get special things. That alone got a giant smile.

His first choice of places to visit inside the pharmacy: the frozen aisle. Just know that he hates ice cream and chocolate. We found ONE flavor of sorbet. Thank you, Lord.

Yeah, well, I DON'T discriminate as much, especially when it comes to Easter goodness. And part of the rule is that I get treats too.

Here is his pretend sick face that he wanted me to capture.

'Cause he really felt like this. Thank you Jesus for Motrin. It masks the sickness that his eyes still show. Why the black hoodie still on? I don't know. I was too tired to care.

It helped that he is my night owl. Just like his mama.
Next stop: the true meaning of Easter, New American Drug Store Version.
Know what? This was so good that it deserved more photos.
Dear fluorescent lighting,
I hate you.
Dear marshmallow bunny,
Never leave me.
Dear Leslie,
I won't, as long as you avoid the gym.
Marshmallow bunny
And then I was persuaded into snack time part 2 for my sweets-hating saltaholic. 'Cause I am a really awful awesome tired mama.
(He may have told me not to hog them.)
I'll leave you with this. Big Binks.
I bet my wiener dog would try to eat Big Binks and then he would die.
My little binks was more interested in pretending it was a guitar.
I'm not kidding, we had a lot of fun, and on only $4. Sadly, I can't remember the last time I had so much time to look him in his weepy red eyes, talk to him, read with him, treat him like a big kid, and say YES to so much. Irresponsible? Maybe. But we made some memories out of unpleasant circumstances. 
And pushing aside my own fatigue (let me tell you, it was there, and I was smooshing it down in a big way), my main feeling was grateful. So grateful I have generally healthy children. So grateful for simple joys, medicine, and resources to care for my family. So grateful for the way God helped me choose to make my life and my son's life lovely, at least for a night. 

The last word

In Roman history, a criminal was given a written charge, sort of like an indictment. When the criminal had paid for his crime, the charge was stamped "Paid in Full."

In Greek, the word Tetelestai was used.

It was Jesus' last word before he died on the cross. (John 19:30)

That last word, it meant everything. 

Many Bibles translate Tetelestai as "It is finished." 

Our debt, which separated us from our perfect Father, is cleared. Cancelled. Erased.

"He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross."
(Col 2:14)

And it's been cleared once and for all. Past, present, future.

Who can comprehend a love like that?  

Have a blessed Easter, because our mountains of debt have been paid in full!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Last night at our tomb

Last night, our Easter Garden came to life.

Or came to death.

As my husband read John 18 and 19, the torches were lit.

OK, birthday candles.

When we read of Jesus' death, the lights were extinguished. Someone may have suggested we sing "Happy Birthday" first. Sort of missing the point.  

Jesus was wrapped in a piece of cloth and placed in the tomb.

The stone was placed over the opening.

In case the disciples were to come and steal his body, guards stood watch. They were from Medieval Great Britain, but no one seemed to notice.

And now we wait.

Silliness, short attention spans, and Lego representations aside, we humbly consider the cost it took to reconcile us to our Father.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Posts I'm loving all over town

Hi friends!

I just had to share some of the greatness out there in the blog world.
Here are some posts that have either inspired me or taken my breath away lately...

Rachel's, on why we should get uncomfortable on Good Friday.

Ann's, on her daughter's wish to die. Whoa.

Kyle's, on a woman named Grace. You have to read this story, people. With a tissue (you too, Shauna).

Mollie's, on a very simple and adorable Easter craft idea. Can I get this done by Sunday??

Heather's, called "Never underestimate a blogger" because people are changing lives through blogging and I love that.

Shauna's, where you can see, if you go to her Pinterest boards, how very well she knows my taste on the "Leslie" one! What a friend.

& finally

Joye's, and her touching perspective on personal loss.

You've probably seen most of these already. Some are a few days old. But in case you find yourself with some reading time tonight, take a gander.

(A gander? Where did that expression come from? Doesn't it have something to do with geese?)

So there you have it. These posts cover the spectrum...a little teary, a little crafty, a little inspiring.
Now all you need is a little time! 
Have a great day.

Grace on a Thursday: Favor

I am sitting somewhat paralyzed tonight in front of my screen.

How do I begin to write my Grace on a Thursday post for the day before Good Friday? Broaching the subject of a death-on-a-cross level of grace feels like trying to harness a hurricane with a butterfly net.

Grace, when you begin to really understand it, is so powerful and shocking. I've heard many define grace as "unmerited favor." Unmerited, indeed. Jesus died for me, and yet I provoke Him, I grieve Him, I plain ignore Him.

And His favor is still crazy all over me, pressing into every corner of my soul.

I spent about twenty years as a believer in Jesus before I felt it, though. That's a long time. In the last couple of years, when I went through my hardest days yet, my eyes opened to more of His favor than I'd ever known. I can guarantee you it was not because of anything I was or did. In fact, it was the opposite. I was completely broken. I was stopped in my tracks, not sure of what the next day held, and afraid to ask. That, my friends, is precisely where I needed to be: exposed and needy.

It wasn't as if I then felt sprinkled with love. I was overwhelmed. God's favor washed and poured over my spirit for no reason other than that I was His. I was broken, helpless, and finally able to hear how altogether lovely I was to Him. Lovely because He made me and loved me, exactly where I was, and exactly who I was.

Letting go of my striving and self-sufficiency (since it had all failed anyway) is what allowed me to feel gathered up, filled up, and really loved in a way no other person can love you. That's grace, the only way I know how to describe it.

Today, I really hope you know that Easter - Jesus dying on the cross (which threatens to roll off the tongue all too familiar and devoid of meaning) - is because His favor is crazy all over you. No matter what, that's the truth. He died because He couldn't stand to live another day without providing a way to heal up your relationship with Him. If you've never deeply felt His favor for you, then ask Him to show you. He so wants to show you. His favor is the whole point, and that's where so many get it wrong.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3
He keeps drawing me with that kindness. No matter what I do to mess things up, God is relentlessly kind to me. I don't mean in my circumstances, but in the deepest part of my heart, the part that needs it so badly. Grace on a Thursday, this week, will turn into a throat swelling, wordless, and probably teary gratitude at church Friday night. I can feel it coming. I'll wear the waterproof mascara.

Love you all. Really I do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


My chalkboard got erased today.

I had written up a bunch of great plans. Starting with a quiet morning to myself, I then had a lunch date with a new friend over Mexican food and possibly shopping. I even had *childcare* for after Kindergarten let-out. It was all very promising - like, I almost laid out an outfit promising - until a tiny voice woke me up at 6:00 a.m. yelling, "MOM! I think I'm gonna do throw-ups!"

God took a big giant eraser, swept back and forth through my plans, knocked the chalk dust off, and waited for my shock to disappear.

Clean slate.

After I took care of my little guy and he fell back asleep, I started to stack all my crafting ideas up in my mind. I got excited thinking about my clean slate of a day. Oh, you have no idea how many projects I have piled up on the back burner. I started to think: Wow, I can finally finish my drape panels, I could sew the pillows for my friend's birthday, I could do that other project...oh, but I need some more Mod Podge...I need to make more hair accessories to sell, how's my stock of book pages....wait, Bible pages...I need an old Bible for that project....yeah, that will be awesome....

And so I went off into my own mental craftland. And darn it! Remember what I wrote...when was that?...oh yeah, YESTERDAY? Remember my conviction and the truth that was speaking to my heart? Well, I soon remembered:

My life is not my own. I was bought with a high price.

And then, I knelt upon my green couch, my face pressing into the seat cushion.

Lord, what is YOUR list for my day? What will give me lasting satisfaction at its end? Show me how I might serve you with my time.

{Clearly, this issue, my burden to use my time wisely has been at the forefront of my heart. I also wrote about it last week, after thinking of an hourglass and how the sand keeps spilling, doesn't wait for me.}

So I held them up, my empty hours, and asked Him to lead me. Funny that my first thought was to make a list. I knew I needed to write down the things God would speak to me. Of course, He did. {It's not audible, you know, right? It's more like impressions, thoughts I'm not smart enough to come up with. The Lord's "voice" to me is always calm, orderly, and reasonable.}

I wrote down six or seven things, and then no more ideas came. They ranged from writing someone a note, to changing my sheets and cleaning my room, to emailing a teacher. Of course it included down time with my sickie too. All practical and important. When the list was done, I knew, I just somehow knew, that then it was time for my projects. Sort of like my free time to use my hands and find joy in the making.

I just finished two pillows for my friend. The Lord knows what I need, and He provides it.

Overall, can I just say I had a great day? Despite my plans shifting and my little guy being sick, it rocked. The only reason is because when we walk with Him, we are filled up, aren't we!? It is the best feeling to be obeying and serving. I never expect it, but those feelings of satisfaction come every time. He blesses our faithfulness like crazy. And how often do I miss out, ending my day feeling defeated and as if I've failed at everything just because I don't stop to ask how I should spend my time? My precious, precious time.

So let's talk about Jessi, my new favorite blogger who writes at Naptime Diaries. I really love her blog a lot. And she has this Wednesday thing going on. I am IN LOVE with this, people. She calls it 1% change. She seems to feel as passionately as I do about taking small steps towards growth while letting go of our feelings of inadequacy in the process. Yes please!

{Jessi, can you tell how into your program I am right now??}

So here is my 1% change:

Asking God to write my to-do list. Asking what He has in store each morning. Asking how I can best serve Him with my time, one day at a time.       

Lord, help me make it happen!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What if you knew

This year, we're trying to read through the Easter story nightly, as we lead up to Sunday. We started last night. On Bible Gateway, I signed up to receive emailed devotionals, which contain basically just the passages, to read this week.

We gather around our Easter Garden and light a new candle each night along the path to the tomb. Tonight was night two. In both the readings, and visually in our garden, we anticipate the cross.

After tucking my kids into bed, I wondered what it was like for Jesus on Monday night. He was fully man and fully God and knew, on a night much like tonight, He had only three days to live.

What if you knew you were going to die on Friday?

What would you do for the next three days?

Ya know, the typical answer to that question is the "live like no one's watching" philosophy. Go all out. Do all the things you've never gotten to do. In a word, indulge.

I thought about it. My answers were not much different. The first thought I had was that I'd eat whatever I wanted. Which is pretty funny, since I eat most of what I want anyway. I guess I'd just eat more expensively.

But Jesus turned his meal into a lesson.

I'd want to say goodbye to everyone I knew. I'd probably send out a mass email and do a long, emotional Facebook status update to reach those I couldn't take the time to call.

Jesus spent his time with his closest friends, those He knew would honor his memory best and longest. He made sure they knew what He was all about. 

I'd want to make sure all my stuff was in order, like who gets what, especially for the sake of my children. I'd also leave a note with all my passwords. (I'm not kidding. These are the thoughts I had when I was really honest with myself.)

Jesus knew none of the stuff mattered at all! The Bible doesn't mention a single possession that he took time to manage, particularly in his last days.

I'd hug my family and not want to let go. I'd soak in my relationships with my husband and children and parents and brother.

Jesus kept pouring out truth, teaching, washing feet, healing, ministering to the lost, taking only brief account of his family. He assigned the care of His mother to His friend John. Otherwise, He taught and led and served. Oh, how He served until his last breath.

Probably the last thing I'd do would be pray and read my Bible. Because I'd be seeing God face to face in three days, right? I'd think that conversation could wait.

Jesus prayed. And prayed. And prayed.

The truth is, I don't know how many days I have left on this earth. I'm not guaranteed a tomorrow. It's startling to notice how I spend my days compared with Jesus. Of course, I can't be Him. I'm not called to be the Savior of the world. But I can certainly inventory my priorities. I can reflect on whether they align with His, in my own life's version.

Selflessness. Service. Discipleship. Prayer.

This verse rings in my ears these days.

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.
I Corinthians 6:19-20

It's only true if we have asked Jesus to live in us. If we accept his gift of grace and salvation, it is as if we are bought, with His blood sealing the deal. Does that sound a little weird? I think it would to me, if I didn't know the Lord better. If I wasn't keenly aware of his crazy love for me that meets me in my darkest hour, I would not want to be bought by anyone. I'd want to be a free agent. Being bought means you are a slave, right?

Well, here's the thing. It just depends on what you want to be bound to.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin."
John 8:34

Yep, so that's me. And everyone else in the world. We are or were all slaves of sin until Jesus severed our chains.

Still on the horizon this week, the one thing that rescues me from my slavery to sin is His blood.

That is a high price, one for which I'm so thankful God paid.

And so, if I belong to Him, if my life is not really my own, then I must ask:

"What, on earth, am I doing?"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Palm Sunday!

They call it the "Triumphal Entry," Jesus' walk into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to begin Holy Week.

Where was the triumph, at that point, I'm wondering right now? People were cheering and parading behind him like he was the spiritual equivalent of Brad Pitt. But on a donkey. He hadn't conquered anything yet.

Before he entered the city, the Bible says that Jesus looked over the land and wept for the people, those he so longed to take under His wing. He literally says He longed to gather them to Himself like a hen gathers her chicks.

And they said "No thanks." They just didn't believe He could love them so much.

His heart broke for his lost lambs.

They shouted and cheered to his face, but doubted Him in their hearts. 

Where's the triumph in that?

Where's the triumph in the following days marked with agony, betrayal, trials, beatings, confusion, and loss?

I heard a perspective yesterday on what Jesus knew He would endure on the cross. I'm not talking about what he went through physically, although that alone would be more than any of us could bear. I'm talking about what he endured emotionally, spiritually. It struck me in a new way.

I heard it in an excerpt from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Yeah, it's for kids.

And oh, how it's for grown ups too.

"Papa! Father!" Jesus cried. And he fell to the ground. "Is there any other way to get your children back? To heal their hearts? To get rid of the poison?"

But Jesus knew - there was no other way. All the poison of sin was going to have to go into his own heart.

God was going to pour into Jesus' heart all the sadness and brokenness in people's hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus' body all the sickness in people's bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus.

But there was something else, something even more horrible. When people ran away from God, they lost God - it was what happened when they ran away. Not being close to God was like a punishment. Jesus was going to take that punishment. 

Jesus knew what that meant. He was going to lose his Father - and that, Jesus knew, would break his heat in two. 

Where, I ask, is the triumph in that?

On the horizon, soon to come.

Have a blessed day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Behind the scenes from Monday

On Monday, I wrote this post about how my daughter set our family in motion to make some elderly folks on our street some Easter baskets. Her heart is amazing. The idea is amazing. Spreading the truth of God's love around our neighborhood is one of the very best things we can do as a family, right?

And so I should've expected some interference. Everything worth doing must be fought for.

I really wanted to tell you about the heart part of the story first, hence my post on Monday. But as the scene unfolded, I realized I should tell you the ugly parts too. I want you to know that my life is not all pastel eggs, charity, and smiling children. Far from it!

First of all, I had a really hectic week ahead of me, which means that on Monday, I did not want to make the baskets. We had the supplies, Easter is two weeks away, and I wanted to put it off. And I could have. But my darling girl came home from school intent on making them up. Again, I saw her heart in there. Her passion for giving and encouraging our widowed and elderly neighbors is embarrassingly beyond my own. I felt I had to honor her in that. I kept it as hidden as possible that I was honestly just trying to get the project done. Great attitude, huh? Well, it was what I had to give at the moment.

Second of all, two words: Easter grass. Hate hate hate. Everywhere. It was the paper kind, not the plastic kind, so it left shards and crumbs all over, and kept getting tracked into a wider and wider radius.

Third of all, I don't believe I've introduced you to our naughty, senior citizen wiener dog, Callahan. Notice how one basket is missing its big chocolate bunny? Connect the dots here. Chocolate = poison to dogs. Cal seems to hunt it down every chance he gets. He is 12 years old and has not yet died from the large amount of chocolate he has consumed in his lifetime. He totally swiped the bunny OFF THE TABLE somehow, ripped it apart and ate half of it before we caught him.

Fourth, did I mention that I just wanted to get basket-making and delivering over with? Yeah. Still.

Fifth, naughty wiener dog, Chapter 2. No joke. After we delivered the first basket, we came home to do something. The other three baskets were still on the kitchen table. Cal snuck into the kitchen and this time gave a stiff yank to my tablecloth with his teeth, sending one basket to the floor and breaking all its dyed eggs. I was so very annoyed by little Cal, mostly because he broke my favorite "Jesus loves you" egg. I yelled at that jerk dog.

Sixth, throughout the project, I was trying to take pictures, and the kids were having one of two responses to that: 1) not wanting me to, or 2) having the fakest expressions on their faces ever. It's just one more small thing that contributed to my tense voice.

Seventh, well, I can't remember, but there must have been more bad things. This project happened to NOT involve any child melt downs like usual. They had happy hearts this time, and I was the grouchy one.

The point is that I don't always feel like doing all the projects we do. I need you to know that. Sometimes the timing is terrible, or I forget some supplies, or sickness is dragging someone down. When these factors stack up against me, I'm reminded that I have to choose my life. The lesson-learning and memory-making doesn't always happen automatically. Monday, I made the choice to do the baskets. Other days, I say no in light of other priorities. It's just regular life over here, with some good, intentional choices thrown in on occasion. For me, that's the best I can do as a mother. We all need to cut ourselves some slack, don't we?

So to recap, for the encouraging bottom line of the basket project, read Monday's post. For a more realistic look at the typical costs when we take a step of faith, I knew I needed to add this side of the story. 

And know what? It's okay. In light of the beauty I find from my efforts to love others and teach my kids to do the same, I really don't mind the rocky road I have to often travel to get there.

Well, I mind it at the time. I'm just saying it's worth it. You know what I mean.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: in Erin's words

Erin is my dear friend. We met about five years ago in MOPS. In the elevator, we discovered our sons' birthdays were two days apart. Soon after meeting her, I knew this girl and I were made of the same stuff. We eventually served on MOPS leadership together. Erin is one of those friends who is always tracking with your own brain. Isn't that a great feeling? Here's an example. One MOPS speaker came to explain how to talk to our kids about sex. Afterwards, Erin and I were not that stunned to find out neither of us could take it seriously due to the speaker's frequent use of her made up word "comfterbility," as in, "Perhaps your parents didn't talk about sex due to their own uncomfterbility." Um yeah, that's not a word, and therefore I don't even know how to spell it.

You also must know that Erin is the first person who encouraged me to start a blog. I didn't even know what a blog was at the time. But she was speaking life into me, seeing my gifts and my heart, before all this started. Of all her great qualities, I think the one I admire most is her brave intentionality. That's kind of two things, because not only is she intentional in her mothering and her life, she makes choices with a fearless resolution. I'm guessing Erin does not think she is fearless. I'm sure she has fears. But from my perspective, her choices reflect the fact that her fears do not win. I admire her so very much, and that's why I asked her to share a little of her heart with you.

Before I get started, I have to mention something about Leslie in case you don’t know her, and if you do, I know you will nod and smile when I say this - she is a wonderfully provocative friend. My sense is that she didn’t just ask me to write this post because she likes me, rather, she’s calling me to action, challenging me to look deeper, knowing that I will grow from it. She likes her friends to grow, especially in the Lord. Leslie, it worked! Thank you, dear friend.

I had planned to write something else for you but then “today” happened and once again, the Lord gently reminded me that I’m living according to His schedule, not my own; thankfully, He also showed me that grace can be found even when it is least expected and most definitely undeserved.

My husband and I are wading our way through a self-imposed stressful situation right now and today it just about maxed us out. Do you know the kind I’m talking about? It’s like when you decide to embark on something and then about halfway through you’re staring into each other's eyes and saying, “What the heck are we doing?” That’s what happened today except I’ll honestly tell you that we didn’t say “heck.” It was that kind of day.

And so, it is with this backdrop that I found myself at my children’s swimming lessons, doing something that I rarely ever do in public, especially when I’m with my kids: I was texting up a storm, stressfully responding to questions I needed to answer, and even talking on the phone during the lesson, and on and on…throughout the day.

I guess this might not seem like a big deal, but for me, it’s a huge deal, and I still feel pretty sick about “checking out” in such a major way. I have this really strong desire to see the world around me and intentionally stay connected. I don’t want to miss a chance to see the Lord’s "invisible qualities,” which He reveals to me in everything He has created: my family, my surroundings, and my home. But guess what, I have to be looking! And really, how can I see when I’m tethered to an electronic device? Today ended up being a day where I was looking down when I should have been looking up. I missed the sun on my face and most of the swim lesson too. I’ll never get that time back.

And where did grace step in? First I have to mention my favorite definition of grace. In his book David, Charles Swindoll says that “…grace is God giving Himself in full acceptance to someone who does not deserve it and can never earn it and will never be able to repay.” It is days like today that I’m grateful beyond words for the grace that He has bestowed on me.

I’m also so thankful that the Lord is not the only source of grace (though He is the ultimate) in my life. Guess who else gives me grace without even thinking twice about it? My kids of course! In their innocent little hearts and minds, they know they love me no matter what; forgiveness happens so easily and grudges are rarely held for long. A very heartfelt apology and serious snuggle time goes a long way too! They show me what grace looks like in the flesh, even on days like today when I have a hard time staying focused.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

True religion (not the denim kind)

As far as I know, my daughter has not read much of the Bible. She's only 8. She's heard stories at church, and I talk to her about truth when it applies to what life is throwing at her. We've had teachable moments before, where I've had a chance to tell her this, this and this.

And yet, it seems she knows things I haven't taught her.

It's weird, kids and faith. Their hearts are so pure at times, it's as if the things of God spring up naturally. Of course, there are plenty of other times where I think they are the most disobedient, selfish little beings on earth. But every so often, I'm amazed. Faith is obvious to them. Good deeds are not a stretch. To love is a given. Innocence sees truth with a clarity I no longer have. Age and experience and the pains of life seem to cloud it.

A few days ago, my daughter says, out of nowhere, "Mom, why don't we make Easter baskets for the widows on our street." My heart flashes this verse from James:

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:27

I wonder, "How does she know?" Is it because her "religion" is still pure and genuine, allowing her to love and show mercy as a reflex, rather than a decided gesture? As a parent, you can only say YES YES YES to these kinds of suggestions. I'll spend money, time, and energy in a heartbeat to support such endeavors, grand acts of kindness and charity thought up by a mere child.

Perhaps, I'm the mere adult. Perhaps hers is the stuff of real faith. Hers is the heart that understands how simple it is, why we are here in the first place.

To love.

Our home rests in our spot on our street for a reason. We happen to live between two widows. That's no accident. Today we delivered dyed eggs, chocolates, smiles and hope.

My son tried sheepishly to turn down a kiss on the cheek from the grandma who lives next door. He got one anyway.

Someone on your street might just need some chocolates and hope too. Easter provides a great opportunity to share the love of God with our neighbors. Little goodies in baskets from the Dollar Tree were all it took to make the idea a reality.

Wish I had thought of it myself.

{and lest you think my projects, my children, and I are all smiles and free spirits doing these kinds of things, tune in on Friday for the "behind the scenes" story. everything worth doing must be fought for, my friends.}

Monday, April 11, 2011

Any given Monday

 On any given Monday...

...I'm tempted to feel anxious about my week.

...I'm tempted to question whether I can handle it all.

...I'm tempted to shy away from work and conflict and hurt.

...I want to walk the path of least resistance.

...I'm tempted to forget that I'm a daughter of the Lord Almighty.

...I wonder what I'm doing.

...I have to rely on educated guesses. And sometimes not even educated ones.

...I want something I don't have.

...I feel afraid of the unknown.

...I mess up. Maybe several times.

And on any given Monday, my Father in heaven has something to say to me.

He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
Isaiah 50:4

I hear Peace. Rest. Believe.

As Oswald Chambers says, the "rest" which the Lord offers us is not a lying-down-taking-a-nap kind of rest. It is an inner rest of the soul that enables us to do just the opposite, to rise up out of that which holds us down and DO precisely the thing God wants us to do. His rest brings action and productivity. Rest is not always quiet and calm.

On any given Monday, I have a choice to listen to the Lord or be consumed with my own ideas about the week. There's no doubt my ideas are louder.

I may have to walk through this verse once or twice. I learned this verse in high school. I needed it as much then as I do now. It's a formula, of sorts, and I love formulas. OK, I guess promise is a better word.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

So good.
On any given Monday, this is my prayer, for myself and for you.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Yeah, joy and peace and hope.

This Monday, I'm going to trade up for a little more of that.

{Hoping you have a good one, friends.}

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: in Shauna's words

{I'm so happy to have the pleasure of featuring my first guest for Grace on a Thursday! Shauna is my incredible friend of 8 years. Her blog the reed life is another level of beautiful. Her crazy lovely photography and humble words reveal her even more amazing heart. And after you read this, you'll know I'm not lying. Don't miss the goodness happening over there. From my perspective, she gets to be the first guest poster because she's my pal and I want to show her off. From her perspective, she is probably agreeing to be first because I'm her pal, and she loves me despite my issues. And despite my too many words. I'll stop talking now.}

I'm Shauna Reed and I am the mommy over at the Reed house.
I'm also the other half of cake & cotton, where Leslie and I have a funny little conversation going on.
Leslie is a very special friend in my life.
She is truly one of the most loyal people I have ever been around.
She and I are different in lots of ways (as you will see if you click over to our sassy little blog), but one thing we almost always agree on is our need for grace.
So that is why I am so blessed to be the first guest to share one of the many ways I can accept the grace offered me.
Grace on a Thursday.

One thing I have a lot of is little kids.
Yep. I've got three.
Now some of you have more and some have less, but I'll just bet that all of you who are mommies have felt burdened, at some point, with a lack of time or attention to give to your kids.
And I just had to share with you an idea about this seeming deficiency that has been stewing in my little head lately.
It is an idea I heard from a friend of a friend called benevolent neglect.
Now, I didn't make this up or coin this phrase...I just heard it somewhere. And it stuck in my head.
It is the definition of something that I have somehow known, deep down, since the day my second born son was born.

That although it seems overwhelming to have to muster up enough love and energy to give to all your kids, at times, there is a sort of benefit to leaving them alone!
Now, come on, don't freak out, of course this doesn't mean ignore them.
It just means when you are giving it all you've got, and it just doesn't seem to be enough, you can either panic and start to get over controlling, or you can realize that God sees your little child much more clearly than you do.

It means that although you are super into what is happening with your child and want to always be his helper and guide, it may be that just when you run into the end of yourself and the other son, or daughter, or husband takes your last bit of self and service.....that little guy (the one that needs you but you are empty) stands up on his own little feet.

He stands up for himself (without mommy's tutelage)
or his sister sees his need and helps
or his daddy has a chance to step in
or he is alone...but really is that so bad?
Is he ever really alone?
Can you entrust him to the Lord?
Can you trust that He sees his path, and even means it for good?
Can I?

Benevolent neglect.
It means that I swallow my pride and realize that me keeping my child's life nice and tidy is not the only way for him to be taken care of.
It means that I realize that life is messy, even if you are 5 3/4 years old.
It means that I accept the grace that God has already handed me and take my place.

I am not the manager of my child's life.
I am here to help him navigate as best I can, and sometimes I will fail.
And in my failure......God can still glorify himself.
The best thing I can do is not distract that from that glory by drawing attention to myself, as if the story is about me!

Maybe you will relate to this and maybe not.
I tend to labor over my story and at times forget that there are other characters and that they have their own story unfolding.
In short, I make things about me.

And the truth is, although each new life that comes to your family takes a little time away from the others, God will give you the grace to handle your job.
It may come in many different forms. 
Look for it.
Is anything too hard for Him?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What the grains say

I can't add a single grain of sand to my life's hourglass.

It spills and spills. God allows it to pour downword, grain after grain.

My life holds a rhythm only He can hear. He knows the cadence of my breaths and my heartbeats. Like a baby in the womb who grows inside the rhythm of his mother, the Lord is intimately familiar with mine.

Last year, I started blogging. It wasn't my first venture into writing. But it is the first long term record of my journey. I began lining up strings of letters against the grains of sand spilling. Key strokes clicked to my rhythm, gave the grains a voice.

When I'm leaning into my Lord, I find my stride, and the grains spill with a melody conducted by the Life-giver Himself. The sand splashes down, radiating life, purpose, and nourishment in abundance, so I can then spill out to others.

My words try to capture time passing. They reflect divine work mingled with human effort. If I've learned anything from blogging, it is this: when I am disconnected from the Lord, I lose my voice. The grains beat the base of the hourglass with a crisp, empty echo.

But they keep spilling. They don't wait for me. They pound hollow until I wake up.

I can't get the lost ones back.

As soon as I remember to open the eyes of my heart, I know what to do: stop and reconnect. And then forgive myself. Deep inside, I know something precious has been wasted.

When connected and walking in His truth, I have something to say, my rhythmic clicking, my offering held up in my two pale and aging hands. When once I yield to the Lord's leading after wandering away for the millionth time, I hear the melody of my hourglass rise. Once again, my time spills with beauty and purpose like a song.

No one can silence the song of a life lived within the will of God.
Neither does death bring it to an end.
Not even the powers of hell can stop what God is doing through His children.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

My great weekend {over tea}

Hi friends! Have your cup of tea or coffee ready for this lovely Tuesday?

My first question is: Do you iron your tablecloths?

Mine always have creases from being folded in the drawer, but I never want to take the time to iron them. I hate ironing. But then they look kind of bad. You iron yours, don't you?

Well, I had a great weekend at Women's retreat. We were at the conference center in Murrieta Hot Springs (they actually have natural hot springs there you can go in). I spoke to the speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd after one of her talks, and in the middle of a sentence, I realized I did a giveaway last year on top of the page for a book of hers! (I love that book, btw.) Anyway, I told her, and upon hearing about my blog, she GAVE me some more stuff to give away! Cool, huh? More to come on that. And more to come on some neat lessons I learned this weekend as well. But I forgot the camera. Sorry.

You know how when you go away and leave the hubs and kids behind, you don't quite know what you'll come home to? And you know how you've trained yourself, after 13 years of marriage and 8 years of parenting, to have very low expectations about what condition the house will be in? Well. I was so blessed to come home to a very tidy house - even vacuumed! - and this huge sign hanging in the family room.

My dumb pixel width that is messed up on my blog right now means the right side of every photo gets cut off. So you don't get to see the "easter egg E" they made. So lame.
As soon as I arrived home, the kids said, "OH! We didn't get to pick sweet peas for mama!" My husband replied, "Well let's all go right now!" So off we went to the hills on a wildflower round up. (Oh, I wish I had thought to bring my camera! But if you want to see some pics of where we went, just around the corner, you can check out this post by my partner in crime. Hers capture it quite well. Just take out the brunette, add a red-head, husband and 2 kids and there you have it.)

Everyone was so happy to have mama home. We had lots of extra snuggling that night. My little K-garten buddy even gave me 100 eskimo kisses. That's a special thing we do every so often. We both think it's really funny to swish our noses back and forth while counting to 100 as fast as we can.

Even better, this week is spring break! So we are able to enjoy slow mornings. Unscheduled time with these sweet peas is the best.

Here's a game. In the pics above, do you see: paper plates, Krisy Kreme donuts, old spaghetti sauce jars I wrapped with scraps of fabric, burlap and ric rac which took 5 minutes and I like a heck of lot better than vases, kids who won't let me take pictures of the jars and flowers without poking cute faces inbetween, cowboy boots with cargo shorts, and love notes I left at each person's spot to remind of my love while I was away? 

In the spring, I love breaking out my bright yellow felt Easter cut-out place mats I got at Cost Plus World Market two years ago. Why are they so fun and happy? They looked amazing with my daffodils last week too. Just lean in a little and get a whiff of these sweet peas!!!

Here's one more funny thing. In a couple weeks, my outdoor-loving husband is going on a guys backpacking trip. He goes a couple times a year. Always a week or so before, I start finding packages at the front door of things he's ordered online for the trip, like new gear and clothing specially suited for backpacking. Today, a package arrived while I was on the phone with him. He had me open it, and was so completely entertained by himself that he bought this hat to wear. He was cracking up. I thought it was funny too, of course, but I was mainly laughing in fascination at how much he was laughing. Boys.

Oh, and you KNOW I then had to have a ridiculous conversation with my kids, who didn't understand it. YOU try to explain a Big Foot trucker hat to your kids without sounding ridiculous. It's not possible.

I personally think my owl that I got in the dollar bin at Target is far more exciting. Don't you love him? But I love my funny husband even more. Lots.

Have a happy day.

Wait! One more thing. Have you seen our giveaway at Cake & Cotton this week? You should visit 'cause I made something cute...little bean bags in vintagey spring prints perfect for some little fingers.

Visit {Amy} and the other ladies meeting up today by clicking below.