Monday, March 28, 2011

My favorite Easter idea

Last week, I tasted a bit of the holy.

Not often do we get those chances in life. But I tried a project, and it became so much more.

Immeasurably more.

It's shocking that all I did was make one choice to step out. Try something new. A lot of times, my ideas don't work. They don't flesh out like I imagined. People are whining, hungry, get the idea. Not exactly what was pictured on the magazine page where everyone is sitting so...very...still.

But on occasion, an idea becomes out-of-the-blue magical.

On one of my new favorite blogs, Contented Sparrow, I saw this idea for making an Easter Garden. Lo and behold, Megan lifted it from my favoritest Ann at A Holy Experience and this post from 2009. Ann called it a visual parable. I was mesmerized.

And my giant giant giant pot was empty.

After school pickup, we drove straight to the garden store. It was sprinkling, but under the umbrella, I had two helpers fluttering with excitement about making our garden. Everyone got to choose some miniature plants. Everyone anticipated the planting of something special.

Creating with hands in fresh soil brought focus, life coursing through little plants brought gentleness. Even the rock path was laid carefully.

Truth-planting and life planting all at once. All life hinging on truth. Life sustained by the very breath of truth.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."  
John 14:6

At first it seems that the way leads to emptiness. A tomb lies hungry for death. A prickly cactus at the end of the path reminds us of pain, the so very great cost.

But water in our pond reflects hope. 
“If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”  John 4:10

The garden awaits.

On Palm Sunday, we'll read the greatest story every told, we'll light candles along the rock path, and wait for Him, eager and burdened with a debt we cannot pay.

On Good Friday, the candles will not be lit.  We'll read about the darkness and the earthquake. And His words.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

Jesus will be wrapped in a cloth and laid in the tomb. Men will stand guard, as if they could contain Life. Saturday too the path stays dark.

But Sunday, Easter Sunday, now that day makes all the difference.

The stone will be rolled away.

The cloth will lie vacant.

And we will celebrate freedom.

Looking at our Easter Garden every day as I walk past makes me long for Him. The empty scene is merely a reminder of my empty condition without Him. But a promise is also rooting deep.

For the next month, we'll watch the thyme and succulents grow, and feel the promise of Life swell within our hearts.

"For God loved the world so much that He gave..."
John 3:16

ADDED: To see what happened in our Easter Garden one month later, on Good Friday, click here.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Can you pronounce Habakkuk?

Me neither.

Can you find Habakkuk in the Bible?

Me neither.

It is only 2 pages long. I can never find it.

But I love this verse. It is the last verse in the very short book.

This verse inspired the book I wrote about here.

It is one of my favorites of all time, which is why this verse means so much to me.

You should go to the bookstore and buy it.

Then read it.

Right now. 

Or click here. That's easier and doesn't use any of that super expensive gas in your car.

Happy Sunday, friends.
I have good stuff to share this week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: Shelter

It's already Thursday? What did I even DO this week?

Let's take a little inventory.

I kept up on my 40 days project (see #12 in that post). I made a giant pot of homemade spaghetti sauce. I did exactly one load of laundry, and that was the dog's bedding since I found it wet with a mystery wetness. I did the special exciting project with the kids that I have YET to tell you about. And I had a lot to say. This may be the first week ever that I've blogged five days in a row.

But at one point in my week, I felt a little distant from God, as one can get simply from busyness, from ordinary life getting in the way. When I realized it, I took a moment to reflect on how the distance felt. I suppose in a word, I felt exposed, as in unsafe or vulnerable. I had wandered out on my own for a bit. It kind of relates to my feelings from yesterday. But in that same moment of reflection, something in my memory whispered,

"Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you."
James 4:8

God was beckoning me to His side so that I would be safe.

I liken it to the way I call my child to my side when I see he or she is in potential danger. If you're a parent, you know what I mean. Danger doesn't even have to mean speeding cars in a nearby street. There are times when I just want my children at my side. I need to know that they are with me, accounted for, under my charge. If they are next to me, then I know they are safe. When we are out in public, the minute they disappear from my sight, my mind and body go on heightened alert until I know where they are.

My heavenly Father is a perfect parent, and I think He must feel the same way about His children. A huge benefit of being His child is certainly His protection.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Psalm 91:1-4

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”
Psalm 91:14-16

In His shelter, that is where I want to stay. Close enough that His shadow falls over me, hides me under his wing.

I look around and notice many people don't seem to have a refuge. They try to create places to hide, no doubt. But those places aren't truly safe. They're lonely.

In His grace, God offers something so much better: true acceptance, unconditional love without condemnation, and a shelter in time of need.

I've learned to lean into my Father's shadow when I get off course because I'm known there. I'm treated gently, I'm encouraged, I'm strengthened. The more I live under "the shelter of the Most High," the more I long for it.

On this ordinary Thursday, lets both accept His invitation, a gift of grace, and draw near.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

He ran out to meet him

An hour ago, I planned to sit down and write about something else. Something really, really fun and cool that I did with the kids yesterday. I actually can't WAIT to share it.

But a lot can change in an hour, and at this moment, it's hard to describe why different words must now be born. Like a woman in labor, I ache with a story. I tried to shove the burden off, and write the fun thing. But something presses in on me, like God squeezing out the truth so that I can read it back to myself. Right now, my spirit groans to transcribe drips of living water into black and white. I don't know if anyone else needs to see the words standing here, frozen and all powerful and full of life, but I know I do. The words are God's latest bit of the story for me, His words that stop me cold.

It's short, really.

I must start with the fact that there is a battle going on for everything worthwhile in your life and mine. Family, relationships, ministry...all of it. Anything worth fighting for must be fought for. But much of the time, I can't really see it. And other times, I don't realize that my struggles are just part of the grander battle. I can get comfortable and thankful and forget to be watchful.

"Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."
I Peter 5:8

And I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but all of a sudden, today, I felt myself standing in the middle of a war. I hardly had any warning. Suddenly, I was dodging bullets and furrowing my brow and scrambling to remember what to do. What do I do, Lord? Tell me or arm me or shield me!  

I had a visual of myself standing in an open field in the midst of a movie-like battle scene. Our vicious foe had broken through to our side. I got isolated, separated. Bullets were whizzing past me on all sides. I felt vulnerable and defenseless. In my spinning head, I cried out to God, "What is going on here! I'm standing in the middle of this war and I feel like I have nothing but...nothing but...(I was searching for the weakest weapon possible).....a tiny rock!"

And then my throat clutched up. Because as soon as I landed on it, I saw that tiny rock in my mind. It was in my hand, next to a sling. I was a child on a battlefield, armed with only a rock and a sling.

And a Mighty God by my side.

David asked the soldiers standing nearby, "Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

David exclaimed to Goliath, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied...And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle."

"As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him."

You know how it ends. A fearless child conquers a giant with a tiny rock, and a big God. (You can read the full story in I Samuel chapter 17.) Nothing about it makes sense. Nothing. It's really important to discern exactly when what makes sense needs to take a backseat to believing what God can do.

But go back, because he ran out to meet him. I can't believe it, and my eyes read the words again. When the enemy charged, David didn't stop and hold up a big shield. He rushed towards him and took down the enemy with crazy-courageous faith. Make no mistake; his weapon was faith.

"How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight."
Hebrews 11:32-34

It takes faith in God. Faith in His plans. Faith in His goodness, His character. Faith in what He has promised to His children.

Beth Moore said today in my Bible Study, "Pick the right battles. Don't waste your strength fighting the wrong enemy." She must have said this because fighting the real enemy, the Deceiver himself, takes all the best I have to bring. And in the midst of battle, I cannot afford to forget this, even for one day:

"Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm."
Ephesians 6:11-13

Like I said. Living water in black and white, frozen and absolute truth that sometimes I just need to read again and again and again. Thanks for listening.

{and for those of you new to top of the page, this is how I roll over here: one day, it's fish tacos and pretty things, the next it's me laying it all out on the table. you can unfollow if you want, i won't be offended. there are plenty of blogs - really good ones, too, don't get me wrong - that stick to fish tacos and pretty things. as much as I'd sometimes like to, I just don't live there all the time. but I do write with love for God and love for you. so I hope you stay.}

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tea, fish tacos, and CERT

Good morning, friends!

I'm so glad to be sitting down with you for a moment. I'm having iced tea (obvs) and some really yummy cookies from Trader Joe's. Does the whole country have TJ's? I have no idea. If you don't, I'm sad for you. Almond Windmills are so delish. Little crunchy windmill-shaped sugar cookies flecked with almond bits and sprinkled with sugar. 

What is wrong with cookies for breakfast? Nothing.

So today I have a bunch of thoughts.
I went to my fav store in the world Anthropologie yesterday and wanted to buy some knobs. They are meant to be cabinet knobs, but I want to somehow use them as hand towel hooks on a bathroom wall. My hubs says you can't just stick knobs into the wall. He's got rules like that. I thought maybe I could screw them into a piece of wood of some kind, and then hang it. Complicated huh? I'd ask you for ideas about that too. Because, wow, the knobs are so great, and match my new bathroom colors like amazingly.

Did you know that one of my favorite foods in the universe is fish tacos? Today I got to try a new place for lunch with some awesome ladies. It was the BEST Mexican food restaurant. Loved it so much. I had fish tacos, of course. And then I had the thought that besides our great weather in California and all the greatness our coast has to offer, one of the best things is the Mexican food. If you don't live here, I'm sad for you just for that reason. Well, I guess lots of other states MAY have comparable Mexican food (but I'm seriously skeptical). Other countries? I highly doubt it. Unless you live in the actual Mexico.

If you ever visit me, we'll go get some Mexican food. And then you'll want to have it every day. And then your toddler will ask for "rockamoley" all the time, and then he will be potty trained on tortilla chips. That's what goes down on the left coast.

Ok last thought. My brother, who is a rock star in many ways, is taking this community course in L.A. on emergency preparedness. He keeps telling us amazing things that he's learning. The idea is that the class not only teaches you how to protect and provide for your family in an emergency, but it allows you to be a member of a trained volunteer task force for your city where you can serve your community with your skills, were a natural disaster to occur. He told us that during the Mexico City earthquake aftermath, 400 good samaritans showed up to assist, and 100 of them lost their lives in the process because they were unskilled and untrained for such a disaster.

This program is really interesting. Apparently, it began in L.A., and then FEMA picked it up (FEMA is a part of the national government in place to assist with emergencies across the country). You can go here, on the CERT website (stands for Community Emergency Response Teams), and look up the nearest education program in your area.

Seriously, his training sounds so cool. He said the first and easiest step to being prepared is leaving an extra pair of shoes at your bedside containing a whistle, an extra pair of glasses (if you wear them), and a flashlight. I asked, "Why the whistle?" He said the average person who is trapped can yell for help for 30 minutes, but you can blow a whistle for days. Makes you think, huh?

Last class, he and three other people had the challenge of moving a 30,000 pound boulder off the ground by 18 inches, the distance one would need to lift a large piece of rubble to free a trapped person. They were only given 2 crowbars and some pieces of wood. It took them three hours, but they learned how to do it. Would you have any idea? Neither would I.  

Here's my brother, all geared up. Isn't he awesome? He didn't know I was bragging about him and CERT, and happened to send me this pic today!

In L.A., the program can be completed in 30 hours. In my town, for whatever reason, it is only a 20 hour program. Sounds worth it, huh? Spread the word because people need to know this stuff.

 Well, now, I'm going to go check out YOUR virtual coffee posts.
Because I neeeever dominate the conversation (um, that's a lie).


Monday, March 21, 2011

Today I'm thankful, in pictures

Fresh paint and a clean slate.

Paint that doesn't make my family consume toxins with all their meals for the next month.

Breakfast helpers.
(yes, those are stuffed animals hanging from the cabinets. I was told that Pooh Bear was enjoying a tire swing.)


Hoop art. I can't stop myself.


T-ball, healthy bodies, and joy.

Lastly, God's words.

When I first saw it in an email, the photo above made me think of Hebrews 12:1.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Run your race, friends.

{Just a glimpse of my life made lovely.}


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Daffodils don't worry

"That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’

These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

- Jesus

Matthew 6:25-33

Friday, March 18, 2011

Motherhood's a thankless job

You know what? I just have to vent for a minute about motherhood.

It is a crazy, crazy job.

If this were the only reason it is crazy, it would be enough of one (but it's not the only one): It is simultaneously the most important job in the world, and yet the least appreciated all the way from the children who directly benefit from it to society at large. Mothers are scrutinized and demeaned far more often than they are honored and encouraged. But I don't want to open that "society" can of worms. That's just part of my vent.

Right now, I'm talking about my kids. Well, just one of them.

I just want to say that my son is sort of a little sick...sick enough to be at home, but not sick enough to be mellow and snuggly. He is sniffling constantly, but also talking at me constantly. I think my mind may in fact explode.

We spent a short while at the park to get some fresh air. I'm taking his temperature, feeding him, scratching his little head, saying YES to everything.....YES you can build a fort. YES you can have my cantaloupe. YES you can put together the giant train track. YES you can bring out the art supplies. YES you can leave it all out for now. YES I will listen about Star Wars and the backstory on your stuffed animals' lives. But is he ever satisfied with what I'm offering?

No. I sit down for a few minutes at the computer to find a phone number, make the phone call, do a task for my husband, and figure out the weekend's plans. But the talking at me continues. Talking and asking and talking and asking. My head wanting to explode.

Finally, I give him a fully self-controlled mini-lecture about how staying home from school sick can be a little boring. He needs to PLAY. He needs to use his imagination. He needs to let me do some mommy jobs. (He needs to not detect the slight panic in my voice! I'm on the verge.)

Silence is his reply. He crawls into his fort with his bestie Patches the horse.

A few moments later, this sign pokes out between the pillows.

He's even taped it to a popsicle stick.

What is enough for that critter???

I'm tempted to feel defeated, but instead I laugh.

I laugh and laugh because of how precious and beautiful he is, and while I'm giggling I playfully ask him if he thinks that is really true. He pops out of the fort, smiles and shakes his head, No.

No it's not true. I love him more than I love my own self. More than I know how to express.

Kids are constantly "telling" us, whether with popsicle stick signs or whining or their insatiability, that nothing is enough. It's critical that I remember what God says is enough.

Remember when I talked about how my to-do list is probably not the same as God's list for me? Just think about how poorly matched His ideas for me are with my child's ideas for me. I'd be playing Legos for ten hours straight, with breaks for just as many snack times, if my son had his way.

Children can drain you in ways you didn't know you could be drained before they existed. And I'm pretty certain God doesn't want that to be a daily occurrence. Of course, there are days where you are literally laying down your life for your child through difficult circumstances. For some moms, these are long seasons of sacrifice. But in the everyday, I absolutely must listen to that still, small voice (God's, not my children's).

He is the only one who knows which priorities need attention. Which people need loving. Which hands need holding. Sometimes of course it's my child, and I need to drop everything else. Sometimes it's my husband and I need to cut short bedtimes stories in favor of time with him. Sometimes it's a hurting friend who needs a call, and so I put on a movie to occupy the kids. But the point is, I never really know what or whom to choose unless I listen. I'm scrambling to do all and be all, unless I listen.

Tune in. Still my busy heart and mind.

I strongly believe Jesus never wants to confuse us or make it tricky to know what He wants. He is not this half-hidden God with a secret agenda. If we are having troubling hearing Him or following Him, it is because of us, not Him. It is because we have too much junk in the way. Or pride. Or distractions. So this is my prayer today:

Lord, let me hear you clearly. Still my mind. Stop it from wanting to explode. Affirm me in my day's work, and show me where enough is. Then please, let my satisfaction run deep, knowing that You are the only person I need answer to. You are the one to speak "Enough" into my soul. You are the one who knows me, loves me, and desires for me to know the peaceful satisfaction of following You.

Have a good weekend, friends. Don't let your minds explode.


Giveaway winners!

Lucky ducky!
The winner of the giveaway is....

Aly !

You won the special hoop art I made in honor of
Shakespeare and Julius Ceasar and the Ides of March!

By the way, I used for the first time.
It's cool, takes about one second, and no hat necessary. I'm a fan.
Yay for Aly!

So back to Ceasar. The story is even better than the salad. Do you remember it now? The soothsayer, kind of a creepy old man, saunters up to Julius Ceasar on the road as he is on his way to the Forum and says, "Beware the ides of March!" Julius kind of blows him off, assuming he's a little looney. But then guess what? When all the leaders gather, Brutus leads a coup and Caesar is assassinated. "Et tu Brute?" Julius utters as his best friend literally stabs him in the back. Brutus was his best friend, but pride was the real enemy. This scene could be the most frequently referenced betrayal in all of literature! Isn't it exciting!! I know half of you are like, "Is she really still talking about this?"  

Sorry, I'm kind of nerdy like that. I really love the classics. 
And I'm not the only one, because someone got all my questions right at the crack of dawn, no less. So congrats to.....

Britt K ! 

She gets a custom headband for being a good listener in high school!

Thanks for playing, friends. I hope you have a great weekend.
Maybe I'll Netflix this piece of film.

I've never seen it, but with Brando? Yes please.

(Aly & Britt me (see sidebar) and we can arrange the details.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: Hope

Yesterday I was kinda overwhelmed at one point. So many things to do. All of them seemed important and I didn't know what to prioritize. I gave myself a timeout and sat on the edge of my bed, my bare heels perched on the frame. I closed my eyes. The first thing that came to mind was the tsunami in Japan.

My daughter was doing homework, my son was picking up his room. I wondered what I would choose to do if I only had fifteen minutes left with them. How would I feel? What would I say to them?

The thing that jumped out at me most powerfully, the thing that I would want to grab their shoulders and try to shake into their souls, is that they cannot simply believe in God. They must believe God. Believe that He is good and loving and worthy of their total trust. And know that trust is an action of the will, it is work, and it is daily.

It is hourly.

My mind flipped back to my to-do list. After reflecting on what is also my own crucial, hourly work - to believe God - suddenly all was less important, and I grieved the way I raise my tasks and hobbies and worries to a level of focus - dare I call it worship - that should be reserved for God alone.

Last week, a friend in my Bible Study shared a story. Her close friend, a woman of God, suffered a serious accident, and for a moment, crossed the line from life to death. You've heard stories like this, I'm sure. But the one greatest impression this woman had was not the usual seeing of all light, or hearing beautiful music. She felt an instant lifting of tremendous weight off her soul. A massive relief of burden pushing up and off of her. She was released from the grip of our current, dying existence.

My eyes flush to think of it. The weight lifted off in a blink. And the discomfort we feel in our present bodies, in our sickness, in our pain and despair and cloudiness, are just blessed reminders: we were created for more than this. We were created for freedom.

On a Thursday, knee deep in T-ball and spring cleaning, arguing with my husband, and making snacks for the St. Patty's Day class party, it's hard to remember. But I want to.

Today I'm embracing perspective. It is a perspective only followers of Jesus can claim, that one day, everything will change. He will wipe away every tear. Bind up the brokenhearted. Set the captives free.

That, my friends, is a hope that will not disappoint (Rom 5:5).

Hope is an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19).

Hope is a helmet of protection (I Thes 5:8).

It won't be long until that day. Maybe just a blink. All our troubles will be lifted off, and we will be home.

I'm keeping these truths in mind as I click off the computer, walk into my day, my relationships, my work, remembering my Hope.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Ides of March Giveaway!

Today is a special day. (Do you know why?)

In honor of today, look what I made for one of you!

I wanted to give you a little gift because I love words and today is a celebration of words (I'll tell you why in a minute).

I love anything with the alphabet or typography, and so I really love this fabric with fancy lettering on it. And book pages? Well, pretty much any creation can use a book page or two. Strings of words, someone’s beautiful expression in the starck simplicity of black and white is art on so many levels.

So to be entered in my little hoop art giveaway, become a follower, and/or tell me you already are one!

And here’s the second surprise.

If you are the first one to comment with the correct answers to these questions about today, March 15th, I’ll make you a custom headband, similar to the ones I made for my blog friend Kyle when I participated in Danielle’s Headband Swap in January, AND you'll be entered in the giveaway for my hoop art. Possible double prizes!

So it's time for your literature pop-quiz. Don’t google it, friends, because Jesus will know you cheated. You gotta rely on that good education you got, right?!

March 15th is also known as the Ides of March. (Did you know this already??) One of the greatest writers of all time – an incredible word artist – referenced the Ides of March in a story he wrote.

1. Who’s the famous author?

2. Which of his stories refers to the Ides of March?

3. And why was the main character told to "Beware the Ides of March"?

I’ll bet if you paid attention in high school, you probably learned this. English class? Humanities? My teacher was so into this author that she wore a shirt with his face on it twice a year, on the Ides of March and the author’s birthday. Those days were a little sacred in our classroom.

And ya know, isn't it funny how certain things stick with you from school? I think I remember the literature the most. Well, the boys and the literature. In that order.

Happy day to you!

Monday, March 14, 2011

My lovely weekend

I had a lot of lovely in my weekend.

I finished painting my kitchen, which started last week. You can see some early stages of the project here. I don't hate painting. And I ADORE the color. You may not adore it. It's a little crazy, I know. But just trust me, k? It's amazing. It is exactly the color of the inside of a ripe avocado. And avocados are yummy in my tummy and on my walls. Goodbye beige.

My cutie black glasses that I found at a flea market last weekend will be filled with some cool mossy something soon.

The best part was hanging my new valance. One friend with really good taste made me an apron out of this fabric. Then she suggested I make it into a valance. She has some great ideas. I lucked out on the rod, on clearance for $9.97.

Doesn't pom pom fringe make everything better? I attempted a box pleat too. The preppy in me loves box pleats. Especially on wedding gowns. Inverted box pleats are equally lovely.

Being able to paint a bold color on your walls is one benefit of having a small kitchen. It looks so great with my black granite counters and cherryish dark wood cabinets.

Back to my weekend. Today something UNlovely, called waking up at 6:30 a.m. on the Sunday of the spring time change to make it to a swim meet by 7:30, resulted in other kinds of lovely.

Like this.

Little bunnies who wake up that early get hot chocolate from McDonalds on the way.

And get to bring their blankies.

More of my lovely.

Me doing my jobs. Finding out when and where we need to be.

Very lovely. My little princess got first place in one of her heats. She was absolutely ecstatic. No one knows that I got a little choked up.

Thank the Lord for the sunshine which finally came out around 9.

These photos felt like my reward for getting up in the dark. Especially this one.

This was their reward. One was rewarded for a day-well-swum, and one for a lot of happy-hearted patience.

Hope you found some lovely in your weekend too!

I'm linking up today with Heather at Life Made Lovely Monday!
{I reallllly love her featured post today too, btw}


Friday, March 11, 2011

The tip of the Lent iceberg

I've never attended a church that has taught on or participated in Lent. I've mainly been exposed to it through friends who do. It seems to me, in my limited exposure, that it is a religious practice for many people, which is to say I'm not sure everyone who gives up something for Lent knows why they are doing so...if that makes sense. But I also know people who pursue the tradition with sincerity and hearts full of worship as well. You probably do too. Inspiring, huh?

Each year the tradition intrigues me more. This year, I feel drawn to participate in a Lenten fast. And as I've begun to be mindful of my sacrifice, which was to start Wednesday and continue for the 40 days preceding Easter (Sundays are not counted), I'm also realizing that I have only discovered the tip of an iceberg. I really have no idea what I'm doing.

I have no idea how to go about regularly denying myself something, particularly for 40 days, and extra particularly while maintaining a heart that is embracing that bit of suffering as a means to better understanding the cross. I am so incredibly comfortable, in our culture. My typical experience with self-denial is when I reluctantly stop at the fourth Girl Scout cookie, or resist spending money on something I want but don't need. Tip of the iceberg, I tell you.

I feel a strange tension. I realize I seldom say no to myself, and am an infant in its practice, but Easter still rushes towards me, the thing for which I'm supposedly preparing my heart. The millions of people fasting for Lent, tasting death of the self in a small way, are pointing to a death so huge, so critical, so humbling.

My shallow self-denial and Jesus' death on the cross feel so very far apart. Am I really to feel some sort of oneness with Jesus? Am I really going to somehow experience a teensy fraction of the sacrifice He felt? I think the answer is No and No! Again, I'm nowhere near expert status, but fasting to feel like a "fellow sufferer" doesn't seem to be the point of Lent, as I once understood it. I will never, ever suffer like the Lord did. And I don't believe I will ever understand a fraction of what His sacrifice felt like. In fact, it seems prideful to believe I could understand any of what he truly went through.

And perhaps that's precisely the point. This post by Ann Voskamp is helping me see more of the Lent iceberg, beneath the surface. Deeper lessons are to be learned from Lent, not only in our success, but also in our failure to maintain self-denial. Our complete inability in our flesh to live sacrificially is a lesson in an of itself.

I can't share with you what I'm attempting to give up; even for me, it's a little too personal. (You know I'd share if I could, friends!) But I will tell you last night, on Day 2, I had forgotten about my commitment until after I broke it.

I broke it, and then I read Ann's post. Though her words stung a little, I could relate with her. Is my focus that poor? Am I that indulgent? Do I love Him so little? If you have a few minutes, read Ann's post. It's dramatic and a bit long, but it made me think about my own heart. It made me wonder if Lent is more about facing our own rebelliousness, realizing our desperate need for a Savior, than proving we know how to suffer like one.

Just trying to work it out, friends. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: Rushed

You know those days when you don't stop? You don't really realize it when it's happening. You're body is moving at a quicker pace than usual all day long. You don't really taste any of the food you eat. And when you do finally stop, late at night, your back and feet throb from bearing your weight for too long without rest?

That was my day today. I have a lot on my plate right now. Thing is, most of it is my own choice. I'm not a victim of my own life, here. But at one point, a thought flew through my rushed mind: this is not what God wants for me. To exist like this, even for only one day, is not His best for me. It's not.

Today, I need grace, and I'm pulling it down around me at this moment as it relates to my agenda. As a believer and follower of Jesus, I am FREE from needing to create my own agenda. He has a very suitable, fulfilling one for me, each and every day. He knows the plan.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

And the crazy part is that the Lord's agenda for me is macroscopic and microscopic at the same time. He knows my ultimate purpose here on earth, and He is always gently directing me towards it. But then He also cares to draft a good, pleasing and perfect will for my ordinary days (I may not always find it good, pleasing and perfect, but He does, in light of the bigger picture). Isn't that such a relief? I don't have to be in charge; He knows the plan!

I once heard someone say that most likely, many things on our To-Do lists are not on God's list for our day. That struck me. Many times, I'm certain I'm adding to His list. What in the world? How long will it take me to learn that when I am feeling overwhelmed, often I am the cause of my own undoing?

I told myself today: Pare down. Let it go. Finish that tomorrow. Tune in to His list.

I let my own mental To-Do list slip away and remembered. I remembered to trust Him. He knows what "enough" is. He knows me better than I know myself, my limits. The same two syllables throb in my spirit like my heart beating: trust Me.

There is something in rushing and busying that tastes of distrust.

Grace, oh how I need it. My prayer is that God would speak clearly to me when I add to His list for my day. When I cross off His priorities and scribble down ones I think are more important. I'm not adding on guilt, I'm shedding my burden to achieve more than the God of the universe is asking me to. I'm taking his easy yoke, His rest. His competence. It's enough.

I'm finding grace on a Thursday. Hope you are too.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Bolero jackets and freedom

You know when someone clicks that light bulb on for you? When someone says something to you where you take pause and then think, Good point! Well, that happened to me last week.  
The woman said, "People are so turned off by Christianity because all most Christians ever talk about is how we're obligated to do one thing or another. No one is ever talking about what we are FREE FROM as believers." I thought: Wow. Good point.

That someone was Beth Moore. And, OK, she was speaking "at" me through a video we watched during Bible Study. But whatever. I still thought, Good point, Beth Moore, you genius-Bible teacher-who-named-her-dog-Queen-Esther-and-loves-bolero-jackets.

Boy does that woman love bolero jackets. But back to the point. She's right. All too often I'm hearing believers spout off dissertations on how hard the Christian life is. And you know I'm one of them! Life is hard, Christ-follower or not, and I like to yammer about the challenge it is for me many days. I get it. It does help to voice my frustrations, and it's very good to be transparent in the right time and place about my struggles.

But I'm adding balance over here in my corner of the blogosphere. I took Beth's point seriously. She spent one hour talking about what we are free from as believers - really amazing, powerful benefits of allowing Jesus to come into your life and rearrange things - and we need to talk about these.

You and I need it. The world needs it: the frequent reminders of the incredible, illogical freedoms we have in Jesus.

So something's coming. I'm starting a new series called Grace on a Thursday where we can talk about ways freedom has wafted into our hearts. Times we've learned to let go, find peace, and choose rest.

Doesn't even the mention of rest make you want to exhale a sigh of relief? My spirit needs relief, and is so continually thirsty for rest. Isn't yours? My hope is that Grace on a Thursday helps to uplift and point us toward experiencing more freedom. So stay tuned; I will be featuring some great guest bloggers too, sharing the ways in which they've found freedom along the way.  

That popular little song "Amazing Grace", the whole "I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see," business is a lot more than just lyrics. It's an expression of freedom. But I do think that if God were a blogger, He would have inspired the title " Grace" instead.

'Cause that's how we bloggers roll. Lots. of. extra. periods. even. in. the. mid. dle. of. words.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Memorizing as a family

So my teachable moment from the last post expanded.

While I was thinking about my son and teaching him how he could earn a "good name," I also thought about how he could improve on his obedience at home. It's not too bad, but there are many times a week where he is simply not taking my instructions to mean anything.

So back to Bible Gateway. I knew there was a verse that said "Children obey your parents," but I didn't know this verse could be found with slightly different words in TWO places.

Ephesians 6:1 says: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Colossians 3:20 says: Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

And then I did what I always do when looking up verses. Always always. I read the context for each verse. On Bible Gateway, when it is showing you a verse, there are always links you can click to expand the passage or expand the whole chapter. I always read at least the expanded passage for contexual hints as to the meaning of any given verse.

And when I expanded Colossians chapter 3, I felt a little sting. The larger passage says this:

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

My husband and I had sort of a rough week, too. And so I could not in good conscience hold my son to God's standard without holding myself to it as well. The fact of the matter was that this week, no one in the family had been functioning as God required.

So I emailed my husband with the suggestion that at dinnertime, we talk to the kids about this passage. We admit how hard it is to sometimes obey God's instructions. And we commit to memorizing our part of the passage, so as to keep His ways in our hearts. He thought it was a good idea, and so I made these. (Did you like how I was trying to follow his lead on the matter, and not just force my plan on everyone without making sure he was okay with it? Yeah, sometimes I do that.) 

And don't you love my colorful 3x5's??  They are so much happier than plain ones. I had to print, for the sake of the kids, and I hate my printing. It takes so much concetration. Why is it so hard for me to print, as opposed to writing in cursive?

Again, Bible Gateway allowed me to select the verses in the NIrV version so that the words were easier to understand. I wanted the kids to be able to better understand the husband and wife verses as well.

I really liked the mommy verse in the NIrV:

Wives, follow the lead of your husband. That's what the Lord wants you to do.

So simple, and so important.

We put the cards in a basket in the middle of the kitchen table and agreed we'd have them memorized by the end of the weekend. I'm so glad that the kids can see us taking our responsibilities seriously, and that we too are committed to following the Lord. It is important that our kids not be led to believe we are perfect and that living a faithful life is easy. Because we really aren't and it's really not. Kids feel much more acceptance, I believe, when they see that everyone else in the family makes mistakes too.

Humility, apology, grace, and truth. A family can never have too much of these.

Happy weekend, friends.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Teachable Moment: Reputation

I'm gonna tell you right now that this post is going to end with a quote by Luigi. Because he is one passionate little car. And he's Italian. Two things I respect.

Today I worked in my son's K-garten class. That is always an interesting experience. And it was a completely disgusting germ fest, given the number of apparently ill children in that room. I don't know how that teacher survives it without a full on hazmat suit. But I swear, every week, that 90 minutes I volunteer is by far some of most well-spent time of my week. I learn volumes about my child and the way he is interacting in the portion of his world I am in no way controlling.

So today, a pretty little lady friend of his came up to me, pointed to my son across the room and quietly said, "Um, he sometimes doesn't listen." She was probably a first born, making sure I knew there were shenanigans happening with my child. I said, "Oh. Does he sometimes make a bad choice?" and she replied, "Yea, and sometimes he doesn't be a good listener and sometimes he gets his pin moved down." (They all have clothespins that get moved up or down depending on behavior.) I wasn't shocked or anything. At all, actually. Remember this post?

But I thought her words would make for a good teachable moment later. I thought I'd mention it to him when we got home and perhaps talk a little about the word "reputation". Now, my son is actually pretty mature for a K-gartner, by the way. I didn't get the sense at all that this was over his head, or I would have saved my "teachable moment" speech for a later date. But when I shared the story with my son, he said, "Yea, a lot of kids say that about me and tell the teacher when I do something bad." He didn't seem to like being turned in for his classroom crimes. At that point, I saw the green light go on for introducing the idea of why a good reputation was important.

But first, I went to Bible Gateway, the site I ALWAYS use to look up anything and everything, and searched for verses that included the word "reputation." It wasn't giving me what I wanted, but I recalled that somewhere I'd read verses that talked about the value of desiring a "good name." That search led me to Proverbs 22:1. I then grabbed my daughter's Bible, which is the NIRV (NIV version for young readers, in simplified language - LOVE IT!) and read it to my little guy in that version:

You should want a good name more than you want great riches.
To be highly respected is better than having silver or gold.
It took a little explaining of the words "highly respected." And what it meant to have a good name. Of course, I clarified that the verse does not mean having a cool name, but it means it is important what people think about you when they hear your name. Then I gave examples: "Let's think about daddy. When he is at work, and when someone hears his name, they think 'Yeah, that guy is a really hard worker, and he treats others with kindness.' That means daddy has a 'good name' at his job; people think good things when they hear his name. That's also called having a good reputation. And the Bible says it is something we should want even more than lots of money. That is how special it is." 
He was totally tracking with me. I then neatly printed the verse on a 3x5 card and said he'd be memorizing this verse this week. (We simplified the words a little so that he could read them all.) Now, this is the first time I've required scripture memory as a form of correction. I have some mixed feelings about it. Of course, I'd never want scripture memory to be associated with punishment! But the Bible also says that all scripture is "useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness," (2 Tim 3:16). My son has done pretty well at memorizing verses in AWANAs for the past two years, so I know he can do it without a problem. I'm just aware that I need to be very careful at how I present such a challenge.
I was so impressed that at dinner tonight, when I asked my son to show his verse card to my husband, he was able to explain the entire thing in his own words. When my husband asked him what it meant to have a "good name" he knew. And when my husband asked an even trickier question, "What is something someone may say about you if you have a good name?" he said, "Wow, (his name in 3rd person) is a really good listener in class." It stuck. Kinda shocking, huh?
You know that feeling when you realize something you chose to do as a mother actually worked? Well, today I had that feeling for a moment. And my feelings would best be expressed in the words of Luigi from Cars: I must scream it to the world, my excitement from the top of someplace very high!

Because you know what? My parenting ideas don't always work. And maybe my 5-year old won't have an improved reputation amongst his peers by the end of the year. But truth was heard today in my home, and that conversation will surely be revisited over the years.

The truths of the Bible are just seeds. I just need to plant one every so often. Imagine what may just spring up...