Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: in Kristy's words


Kristy is my first official friend in New Zealand. Woohoo! Reading her blog, Paisley Jade, has made me want to visit her corner of the world so badly, and, not to mention, visit her and her darling family of 6. Kristy is so creative and cute, I just love her. She can crochet nearly anything, bakes ridiculously yummy desserts, and makes it all look so darn easy. And she is one fun mama. I love her heart for her family, the world, and the Lord. She is so generous to share some thoughts on grace here today. Be sure to check out her blog too. You'll be blessed by this beautiful girl. 



Hi everyone... I’m Kristy from paisleyjade.com. It’s an honour to be asked by Leslie to share on Grace on a Thursday!

Grace – such a beautiful word with so much depth and meaning.

There are so many things I could share, but I really feel to share about my journey (or should I say struggle) with feeling inadequate. This is a battle I have often come up against... as a mother, a woman, a wife and as a pastor’s wife. No matter how hard I try or how well I do, there has often been a feeling that it wasn’t quite enough, especially in the eyes of others. I think it became such a burden and struggle that at times I have just felt like giving up – not bothering to try at all anymore!

That’s where Grace comes into it. It has been so freeing to discover God’s grace for me in my everyday life. Instead of battling with my inadequacies, struggles and flaws, God’s grace means what I have and do... is enough. He steps in to fill my lacks. Instead of comparing myself to others, I see myself in God’s eyes, and it has been so freeing!

As a young mother, trying to keep on top of a busy life, I was given this scripture which gave my heart such peace...

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” Isaiah 40:11

The realisation that God sees me and my life, and that He ‘gently’ leads those with young was such a freeing revelation to me as a young mother. His grace was there for me when I needed it. All the expectations I felt from God and others melted away – He loves me just as I am, inadequacies and all.

This verse has carried on with me through my life, when I have been tired, unwell, burdened and just plain overwhelmed with situations and circumstances. Knowing that my Heavenly Father is aware of my circumstances and is loving and gentle is so freeing.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place or room for me to develop and grow. During the hard times He is my strength, and the rest of the time, there is freedom to step out, grow, tackle challenges and develop into the woman He has called me to be. It’s so exciting to look back and see how much I have grown in areas, areas I probably wouldn’t have even dreamed of if I hadn’t rested in His grace during the tough times.

I am so thankful for His amazing grace, there for us to receive no matter what.

Be encouraged, His grace is there for you each day, and it’s a beautiful journey to walk daily in it.


 (image found here.)



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pros and cons of redheadedness

PRO: It's sorta unusual, so sometimes people compliment it.

CON: Some of those people are also insensitive and say IN FRONT OF MY KIDS, "Ooooh, it's too bad neither of them got your pretty hair." Rude!

PRO: I spend exactly zero dollars keeping up the color.

CON: I couldn't hide in my college classes, no matter how large they were. Half way through the semester in Physics, my professor came up to me and asked why I hadn't been coming to class. Me = awkward silence, thinking: Um. What? How the heck did you know I was missing, in this auditorium of 200 kids??

PRO: It will be REALLY easy for you to spot me at Blog Sugar!! And this time, being easy to spot is under the "PRO" list because I want to meet you and give you a hug and see your cute face in three dimensions, not just on a screen. OK? So find me. It won't be difficult, even amongst 200 people. Professor Whats-His-Name (I really can't remember his name) proved that to be true.


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{check out this link today to see the other friends who will be there too.}
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The quiet work

I notice, when I stop and look around our garden, how quiet the Lord's work is.

There are secret goings-on. Much I cannot see.

And I notice there is much promise of what is to come.





I notice how content He is with slowness. God is so very patient with the half-hidden, ripening fruit.





I cannot tell a difference, one day to the next, looking at my tomatoes.

But they are ripening, filling, and each minute growing closer to mature. I know it because I can see the green. Their vine is alive, having everything it needs. And so there is a promise of maturity, if they remain.


I notice His work is executed with care and pride. He looks on His art with a smile. Even if only He sees it.





Even if every other living creature walks by, failing to see what He's doing,

He sees.

He knows what He's doing. He keeps caring. Shaping. Marveling at the beautiful unfolding.





That's what artists do, you know. Make beauty out of nothing. They take dust of the earth and create the extraordinary.

A true artist is satisfied to be the only one who sees, really sees a thing...a canvas, or a sculpture, or a heart...for it's loveliness.





We are so blessed to get glimpses. We can photograph a flower. We can hear a story. We can hold a hand. But these bits are flickers, like distant stars in blackness.

Whether a tender tomato or fragile heart, I think we really cannot fathom how miraculous the works of the Lord truly are.


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Confessions about Summer List 2011

The 2011 Summer List is here!


Here is my post from last year, the first year we made a summer list. And while I feel like I've really grown as a person (wow! last year, I had a LOT of words and apparently anxiety about balancing plans with no plans. what a stress case.), this year, the Summer List brought forth another unlovely, fatal flaw about me as a mother:

I hate when my kids mess up my art, especially in Sharpie.

I decided that since the kids get to do so much art all the flippin' time while I get to do their dishes and laundry, that I got to be the one to make the poster itself. Fun colors. Puffy clouds. We all brainstormed the ideas, but I got full control of all Sharpies.

And here's what you must know. In Junior High, I was on the poster-making committee. For all of 7th and 8th grade, I made posters and painted giant banners for every single event or special day our school had. I rocked at posters. So yeah, I think I was reliving that special season in a teen's life known as junior high, where nothing goes well except perhaps poster-making.

Two-thirds of the way through my "art", they wore me down. I reluctantly let the kids write a couple of the bullet points and nearly bit their heads off when the words got too close or too far away from the previous line. One bullet circle got drawn with a color I WASN'T EVEN USING - (deep breaths) I have no idea how that marker slipped past me - and the circle was not uniform in size and shape, so from then on, I drew all the circles. I mean, after I traced over the erroneous one in the right color. Then, once the list was all finished and I was starting to breathe a sigh of relief, I nearly went into cardiac arrest when my son picked up the blue Sharpie and quickly started to draw a line connecting bullet points of activities he thought we could do on the same day. NO! We do NOT connect them with giant permanent lines! My husband gave me "big eyes." He thinks I'm sorta psycho. Minus the sorta.



Yeah. You thought I was oh-so-spiritual. I'm a total basket case in certain things. I'm not ashamed to admit it because, frankly, so are you.

Anyhoo. It was not a proud time for me. I'm sorry kids, I wish I was more mellow about certain things. I'll testify on your behalf when you're in counseling for the many ways I ruined you. Let's look at the bright side. The Summer List exists, and I'm going to work hard to make summer memorable and magical for you. That I promise.

Just...hands off the Sharpies. For both our sakes.


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{aaaaand....the winner of the Sheri Rose Shepherd message is JAMI! Hooray for you, friend!!}

If you missed out on that one, check out the "i heart summer" giveaway happening on my other blog, cake & cotton, over here


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quickie weekend giveaway!



In the early days of this here blog, I wrote a book review about a book I read and loved. It's called Preparing Him for the Other Woman by Sheri Rose Shepherd. The subtitle is A Mother's Guide to Raising Her Son to Love a Wife and Lead a Family. It's really so great. (You can read a lot more on a breakdown of the text itself on the other post). This past spring, I went to our church's women's retreat. I was a bit excited because Sheri Rose was the speaker, and I had loved this book of hers. 

Off I went to the conference. At the book table, I told her how much I'd been touched and challenged in my mothering by her book. I also told her that I liked it so much that I bought an extra copy and gave one away on my blog. She lit up and said, "Oh here! Take this to give away too!" And she handed me a CD, an audio message on the same topic. Wasn't that so amazing and kind of her? She definitely has a heart for sharing her wisdom with any and all who want to hear it.

So that is what I'm doing! Giving it away.

Want to get in on it? The CD has the exact same picture as above on it and says on the cover: "What kind of husband will your son grow up to be? The time is now to prepare our boys for victory."  It says that this is an audio message recoded at a Mothers of Boys Conference. On the back of the CD, it says this (let me know if you get butterflies in your stomach like I do when I read these words...):

Can you raise your son to one day love, lead, and protect a wife and family in a world like this? The answer is yes. The heartbeat of this message is to give mothers the tools to help their sons become tender warriors who will one day fight for their families; a Godly husband who faithfully loves his wife; and a leader who is a man of his word. The time is now to take your love, tears, prayers and influence and pour them into his future.

To that I say Yes, Please!  If you want to be entered to win this audio message, it's just too easy. Become a follower and comment that you did (or leave a comment saying you already are one). You can get an extra entry if you leave a second comment stating one thing you appreciate about boys. That will be fun, right??

I'll make it a short drawing and will pick a winner Sunday night, June 26th, at 10 pm Pacific.

K, friends? Good luck and have a great weekend!


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Grace on a Thursday: Spills


This post is subtitled: The Mod Podge Sadness of 2011.

Your mother always said not to cry over spilt milk. But I'm pretty sure she knew that it is perfectly okay to cry over spilt Mod Podge. Especially when you discover the spill one hour after it happened. And when you discover it was spilled all over the pile of clean laundry. Someone small failed to mention the bottle launching out of the craft pantry and bursting onto the ground next to my mountain of clean linens.

Good thing the spill in the Gulf last year was oil and not Mod Podge. Those poor ducks were better off than my sheets. (You didn't think there was a silver lining in that oil spill cloud, did you?) Apparently when Mod Podge on sheets goes into the washer, it converts the substance to cement instead of washing it out like it would white glue. I'm actually considering myself lucky the stuff did not ruin my washer after seeing what the mess turned into after being washed and dried.

Also a big plastic box of beads launched out of the pantry, sending a zillion beads to all parts of the room. And mixing with the spilled Mod Podge sitting unattended on the stone floor of my dining area. It was an awesome sight to come home to after my trip to the grocery store. I'm gonna keep it short and say that I didn't handle it well.

The night o' spills (which was Monday) served to remind me that my plan is getting thwarted. My plans to have my house perfect, the laundry all caught up, and my family organized before school gets out...um...today at noon (!!!) aren't working out. And I'm etching this notion of things going awry into my head for summer itself.

I have big dreams and bigger expectations for summertime. Memory-making, special outings, time with grandparents and friends we rarely see, tons of art, tons of reading, some workbook study to keep our brains working, family vacations, and heaps of happiness are just some of my goals off the top of my head.

SO I NEED TO REMEMBER: SPILLS MAY HAPPEN. My plans may not work out. In fact, they probably all won't. I don't simply need to organize my craft supplies and beach bags to prepare for summertime. I need to stock my house with grace. I will need it handy to dole out to myself and my kids when things don't go as planned.

I can have my ideas, all five thousand of them swirling around in my head, for how my kids and I may want to spend our time. I just can't let my ideas become the only "right" way to spend it. And I'm not even saying that I want a full schedule. I totally do not. But sometimes even our plans for downtime don't work out. Sibling rivalry, or emergencies, or something else throws off our time of rest.

Today, I'm claiming grace on a Thursday for having a still disorganized house, still heaps of laundry, and still feeling ill-prepared for summer that is now basically here. Life skips along, whether or not I'm feeling prepared. I dont. At all. And I really need grace to feel OK about that. Spills and other interruptions happen, and I long to be a more flexible, gracious person when things don't go my way. But when I'm not, on the average day where I'm simply doing my best and even that doesn't seem to be good enough, I need grace to accept myself. My imperfect, inflexible, unprepared, overreactive, underslept, distracted self.

Because He accepts me, and loves me to pieces. Somehow that truth wipes away all my spilt-milk tears, and gives me the strength to stay standing. 


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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The hardest 8 words


At night, tucking in my little guy is often a long process. Settling into bed takes a long time for him. His limbs are constantly in motion. Kicking, wiggling, tossing, playing. He can barely focus on my goodnight words, much less find his way toward sleep.

To lead him toward rest, I play this game. Usually, after we've played this one. I start always at the toes, placing my hand as softly as I can on them. I whisper, "Be still, little toes." Then, "Be still, little legs. Be still, little knees..." gently placing my hand on each joint and limb. He loves me to quietly command them to be still. And each part obeys.

We end with stilling his eyes, and his thoughts, as I softly touch his face and head. If I forget a part, he wiggles it exaggeratedly so I'll notice. So I'll give the command, and it can finally come to a rest. He doesn't have a hard time with the idea of going to bed. He just struggles to find rest on his own, once he's in his bed.

Today, I realized how much I am like him. The other day, I read of one woman's heart on how saying "Yes" to God is the hardest thing, that ultimate submission of one's life to His leadership. For me, it was not so. I was always a rule-follower. I took pleasure in making the good choice, and since I was in church from day one, following God came more or less naturally.

But obeying these 8 little words is a whole different story:

"Be still, and know that I am God." 
Isaiah 41:10

The words are almost too familiar. They must be read slowly, a couple of times. I recognized today how restless my heart can be, like a little boy, wiggling in bed for far too long. I don't fight the Lord's leadership, but at times, it is very difficult for me to rest in the Lord on my own. For me, that resting comes down to living like He doesn't need my help.

I act like God needs my help sometimes in my anxiety. Or in my planning. In my ruminating on past conversations and what was said. In my hastiness. In my preoccupation with managing my relationships. In my reliance on my own understanding, and my failure to consult His. In my prayerlessness.

There are two life-changing commands in this short verse, both quite difficult. Both whispered, as Jesus places His hand on our restless hearts and minds. "Be still," and "Know."

"Be still" is a command of stopping. Ceasing to move, to juggle. The thoughts and movements in one's spirit come to rest, and the eyes of the heart open to hear and see Him clearly. And "Know" is a command to agree. When I know that He is God, I am agreeing with my whole being that I am not. Knowing is an act of the will.

I'm so thankful I have help in finding rest. I have a good Father. He sits next to me and whispers, "Be still, little heart. Be still, little mind. Be still, little hands and feet. Close your eyes. Rest in me. And know that I am God."

Lord, may I remember to practice daily the stopping and the willful agreement that You are God, You are at work, and You do not need my help. Amen. 

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Monday, June 20, 2011

My side of the story, by Kevin (the husband)




[on New Year's Eve of last year, I wrote a post about a rough season in my marriage and how the Lord taught me to endure through trials. This is Kevin's side of the story. He is so gracious and amazing to write out each of these important words. You must know that he is not a wordy guy, and so his words here are quite valuable. Because I know him, I know he's selected them carefully. I'm impressed and humbled. And I feel honored to share them with you. Show him some love today...but not too much. He's mine.]


I didn’t realize it at the time, but I thought pretty highly of myself. In a word I was capable. I could climb mountains, build boats, play the guitar, and cook. I could carry on a conversation with almost anyone. I had a deep appreciation for nature and cultural things. I was creative and a romantic. I excelled in work and had always been rewarded for it. I trusted in God and knew my Bible. I desired to be a good husband and father. I was a good catch.

Then, a certain redhead caught my attention. She was feisty. She was smart. She was passionate. She was creative. She was fun. She was beautiful. But she had way too many words. So eventually I broke up with her. Months later, I couldn’t get her out of my mind, so I pursued her again and we dated for another year or two. Unfortunately, she still had way too many words, so I broke up with her again. After a year apart, I still couldn’t get her out of my mind, so I asked her to marry me. I was 23 years old. She said yes. And for the first time in my life, I discovered just how incapable I truly was.

I was her husband. And I guess I thought that as her husband I was principally responsible for her well being in every way. I was responsible for practical things like shelter and food. But I was also responsible for her heart, and in this I was ill-prepared. I wanted her to be happy. I needed her to be happy. I had no idea how to make her happy. I wanted her to be content. I needed her to be content. I had no idea how to make her content. I wanted her to think highly of me. I needed her to think highly of me. I had no idea how to handle it when she didn’t think highly of me.

Looking back, at least ten of our nearly 14 years of marriage were marked by my feelings of inadequacy, which led to resentment, which led to feelings of entitlement, which led to isolation. This cycle repeated itself so many times in our relationship that, over time, it became harder and harder for me to break out of it. Eventually, I was stuck there. I was detached. I was alone.

The thing is I really didn’t mind feeling alone. Often times the only catalyst for our arguments was the fact that she wouldn’t let me stay there. That’s the thing about being “independent” or “introverted” or “the color green” or “a waffle” or “a beaver” or any of the other creative ways people like to define it. Most days I was OK with feeling alone. It was safe. It was predictable. And I was “capable,” so I really didn’t need anyone else.

A few years ago, Leslie and I were driving home from a weekend together in the mountains. It had snowed the whole weekend. It was an amazing trip. We were connected in a way we hadn’t been for a long time so I guess she felt like it was probably a good time for some not-so-casual conversation. She asked me a simple question. “Do you feel like anyone needs you?” Almost instantaneously and without question I said NO. She was surprised by my answer, but in hindsight, I think I was even more surprised. My family loves me. I have close friends. I know that I’m valuable to my employer. I know that if I died today I would be missed. People would grieve. But am I NEEDED? My interpretation of this question was more like – am I irreplaceable to someone in some way? No. That was my answer. That was how I felt. And realizing it made me angry. Really angry. After all, I had so much to offer, and I believed nobody really needed it. That’s when things really hit bottom for us.

My anger was right under the surface for the next six months. I couldn’t get that question out of my head. I thought about it all the time. The more I thought about it, the more resentful I became. My anger turned toward God. I felt like He had abandoned me. I was tired of feeling alone in my marriage and I was convinced that it would be better for us to be apart. I told myself that it would be really hard at first, but eventually it would be better for everyone.

Fortunately, our story doesn’t end that way. It easily could have. At one point, I did ask my wife to leave with the kids. The practical solution was for them to stay with her parents until I could figure out something more permanent. She calmly refused, and shortly after I started counseling.

It took time for me to surrender to the idea that I was the problem. Leslie had her issues. But I was the one who was holding us back. I remember vividly when my perspective began to change. We were in the heat of an argument when I heard God’s commanding voice say to me, “When you fight against her, you are fighting against Me!” She is His daughter. She is my gift. And I was destroying it. Little by little, God gave me the wisdom and the discipline to look at myself and take responsibility for my actions and my role as the leader of my home.

There is no tidy ending to this story because the story isn’t over. In many ways, the story is just beginning. In some ways, our story begins new every single day. Yes, in countless ways, grace has swept in and filled our home. In this grace, I’ve learned that there is someone who needs me. There is someone who considers me irreplaceable. It’s Jesus Christ. I’m so irreplaceable that He chose to die for me. My responsibility as a husband, father, and a friend is to spend each day trying to be more like Him. My job is to love like He does. And a beautiful and surprising thing happens when I do that. I realize that people do need me, because I have something irreplaceable to offer them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I love snacking and vlogging

I did another VLOG.

I kind of like vlogging. You may be seeing more of that, since I don't have to be at my computer and it takes like 2 minutes. It's blogging, to go. Here are my thoughts for the day on making the most of your time and snacking on truth. Taken in the Volvo, doin' my everyday deal.




And here's one more thing I forgot to say (stop reading this if you haven't yet watched the vlog). Many of the lyrics of Christian songs are straight out of the Bible. So when my children or I am learning a song simply by listening to it over and over, we are memorizing God's word on accident. And that is no small deal.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

Hebrews 4:12

When I hear those tiny voices behind me in the car singing, "Your naaaaame is a strong and mighty tower. Your naaaaame is a shelter like no other..." my heart is full. I know those truths from God's word will come alive someday to them. I know those truths are being hidden in their hearts.

And mine.


{P.S. Get ready, because on Monday, I'm sharing a really special post written by my most special guy, my husband.}

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fathered


Today, I volunteered in my son's Kindergarten classroom for the last time. I was happy to be stationed at the art center helping the groups of children, as they rotated one station to the next, decorate blue construction paper dress shirts for their dads. Some of them weren't so engaged in the project and were a little squirrely. My excellent-with-children skills (ha) told me I needed to motivate some of the boys to focus by getting them to talk about their dads. This poorly thought-out strategy went fine, until I used it on Josh simply to manipulate him into working.

I said, "Josh, how about sitting in your seat and working on your card? Do you have a special dad, Josh?" I swear I wanted to swallow back the words as soon as I said them, because I knew realistically - statistically - the answer could have been "no." Josh said, "My dad's in jail. Want to know why? Because..." and then he mumbled something about a fight. "But that was just the first time." Josh continued, "The second time was because he missed his meeting with his doctor. I mean his cop," and he smiled and blushed at his mistake.

This horrific conversation got worse because I'm kind of an idiot and should just shut up already. Instead, I said, "Do you have a grandpa you could give your card to?" Josh answered flatly, "He's dead." Just as I was about to flush with embarrassment at how badly I was handling this scene at the art table, Josh perked up with an idea. "I know! I'll just put this in the mail to my dad in jail!" "Yes, great idea Josh," I confirmed, faking cheerful. "Great solution."

I thought about this sweet little boy with a round face and big, eager eyes all day. He had told me he knew how to tie his shoes, the ones with dragging laces. But he didn't. He told me he knew how to whistle, and demonstrated it proudly. And, in so many words, he told me he has no father to look into those eyes with love and encouragement and strength. None to teach him how to tie dragging shoe laces. None to cheer at his whistle. In so many words, he told me he needed to be fathered.

Some of us were not fathered well. That's the world we live in, and that sort of pain exists beneath the facade of many, many people. Men and women. With Father's Day on the horizon, I have one thought about that. None of us had a perfect dad, and therefore each of us needs some re-fathering.

Good thing there exists one perfect Father. We all have a desperate need to feel unconditionally loved, provided for, protected, and guided. And God is so very eager to fill those shoes. He wants to make us His children and re-father us in every area of hurt, every single corner of our hearts where our earthly fathers failed to meet our needs. For some of us, those areas have sustained deep wounds. For others, the damage is less severe. But again, we've all suffered some level of hurt.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father." For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.
Romans 8:14-16 

Abba in Greek is the equivalent of Daddy. Do you know that God longs to be your Daddy, the one you never quite had, but always wished for? It was Him, all along. He was waiting to fill that void. And if you don't yet know Him as that Father, He's still waiting. I'm not sure we can allow Him to re-father us until we acknowledge how our earthly fathers failed us. He wants to re-father you. Invite Him to re-father you. Because believe it or not, He wanted to adopt you the minute he began creating you in your mama's womb. He is a Father who knows where you came from, and knows exactly who you were designed to be. He is re-fathering me in all those broken corners of my heart, little by little, showing me more every day just how much I am His beloved daughter.

I still have a lot to learn from my Heavenly Father. And He has a lot more to teach.

So much more than how to tie my shoes.

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For more reading on how God longs to father us, this book makes for an amazing gift for the man in your life, whether your father, brother, husband or friend. It is a valuable gift for any man with "father" issues (which is all of them.)

For women, I read this book in Bible study a few years back. It was excellent for walking through the ways we expect God to love as our earthly fathers did. It helps explore hurts endured and walks through healing truths about who we are as daughters of God.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: in Julie's words





You know Julie, I bet. If you do, I already know how you feel about her and her blog, Joy's Hope. Let's just say up front what we all agree on: she's one amazing girl. Funny, crazy good taste, baker-ific, big heart, did I say funny?, really great mom, has a slightly inappropriate attraction to guys in bands, super intentional, and has long, beautiful blonde hair that is the envy of many a woman.

She's the real deal and I'm proud to call her my friend. And somehow, ten of her words say as much or more than I do in 1,000. I'm so happy to share her words here today.



I am a girl who needs a lot of grace.
A lot a lot a lot.
I'm always waiting to the last minute, disorganized, extraordinarily sensitive, painfully A.D.D. and prone to bouts of panic.
It's a fun combination.

But time and time again I see evidence of grace undeservedly being poured out upon my self-made circumstances.

How can I not turn around and extend the same grace to others?

How many times have I let friends down?  
How many times has my family suffered the aftermath of my panic?

Grace steps in where I fall short.
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.

When faced with ugly...
choose beauty.

Choose grace.

Always choose grace.
Even when it isn't easy.

That is the beauty of grace.  It isn't supposed to be easy.

But it is always worth it.

Always.

On being available

Today at A Holy Experience, Ann is hosting her usual "Walk with Him Wednesday," this week revolving around the theme of living a life that is "Christ-centric."

It's funny because I have been weighing and kneading this post in my heart for the past week like a ball of dough. What has been on my heart aligns perfectly with Ann's theme. For me right now, the lesson the Lord is impressing upon my heart is that to live a Christ-centered life means to be available.

This past week, my husband and I have been helping a family, dear friends of ours, going through a hard season. And it has meant time talking, praying, thinking, texting, and emailing. I haven't wished away one second of it. It has been such pure joy to be used and to be helpful, to feel equipped, when someone else needs the help (Lord knows that I've had seasons of feeling helpless, so to be the one serving instead of the one needing to be served for a change feels good). The time and energy I've had to give has been amply, graciously provided by the Lord, and I know He's wanted me right where I was. I am certain of that. But from the outside looking in, I've been reminded: Love takes time.

Think about your most precious commodities. Surely they are money, time and energy. Right? Many times, I feel like I don't have ANY of these three to give. But I think, if I'm honest with myself, I'm the most possessive, most selfish with my time.

I don't mean to be. I'm sort of passively selfish, meaning I am in the habit of hoarding time for my own agenda. I feel entitled to my time, in some way. The evidence is on my calendar. It is filled with my ideas of how I think my family and I should spend time. And I am a planner, friends. I'm thinking you know that already. But in case you don't, I am someone who feels secure and happy when I know what to expect.

Where is all that getting me? It's still sinking in....oh my. Jesus has a lot of work to do in me yet. I feel the result, and breathe it out of my own self-induced exhaustion. When will I learn that His burden for me is light, and my own is unbearable? Still, I insist on creating and carrying my own burdens. I fill up the calendar. I hurry my children. I don't remember how critical it is to be available for God's agenda, God's assignments.

The only solution, I'm thinking, is to plan to be available, which means intentionally leaving time where there is no plan. Being available to love and serve another means you can't plan the when or how. I am not talking about simply being willing to be interrupted in the midst of my plans; I'm talking about having ample amounts of time where I have no plans but to possibly be used.

I'm also not talking about being available to our children or husbands, in this particular post. I know that is a huge part of living a Christ-centered life, of course. They are our priorities. But this past week, I've been focused more on the friends, the neighbors, the extended family members, the widows, the less fortunate in our society. Do you realize how much responsibility we as followers of Jesus have to the hurting ones in our lives? The way I live my life is the only Bible some of the people in my life will ever read.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:12-13


Of course the Lord does not desire to overwhelm us, but He surely desires to use us. He hasn't placed those people around us for no reason. And I am sure of this: if we offer up some unplanned time to be used by the Lord, He will fill it with holy calling. Someone you know will need an encouraging phone call. Someone may need a handwritten note. Someone may need childcare, a meal, or a knock at the door followed by a hug. 

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:16-17

Living a Christ-centered life means being in the business of relationships. If I were to ask others if help is needed, most people would say, "No, it's okay. We're fine. But thank you anyway!" Most people don't want to be needy. And many, many people are. So I want to show up. Give. Love. Isn't this how Jesus lived? He didn't stand on the street corner and say, "Hey, if anyone needs anything, just let me know. Seriously guys. I wanna be there for you." He acted. He touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, and whether it was food or forgiveness, always took the time to look someone in the eye and meet a need.

I have to keep asking myself, How can I respond to God's call to love His people if my most precious resource - my time - is all used up?

But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands..."
Psalm 31:14-15 

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My first VLOG for my 200th post!

OK folks.

Kristy finally made me decide to do it. She was so stinkin' cute on hers.

Here's my first VLOG in honor of my 200th post.

Happy Tuesday to you! Thanks for sharing virtual coffee with Amy and me this morning.





{And guys, this VLOG thing took me way too long to make happen. My laptop's software just wasn't fast enough to follow my voice and motion without making me sound possessed and making my eyes blink reaaaaly sloooowly. So try not to notice the tired eyes and exasperastion on my face. It was my second sitting trying to do this, my like tenth recording, and I was NOT about to give up. So help me out...is there some free site or VLOG recording software that I need to know about?? 'Cause I kinda like changing it around once in a while with a video. And of course I like to talk.}


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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Well I don't have a brain tumor

Because for a while I kind of thought I did.

This is one of those posts I struggle to compose, but the lesson is so important that I know I need to. Over the past year or so, I've been noticing a very subtle but increasing problem with my speech. So subtle that my husband hasn't noticed. I've been stumbling over my words a bit, struggling about once a day to get the right word or words out, in the right way. Sometimes the letters get squished, or a syllable gets substituted with something slightly different. I might say, "The dog needs to go out-thide" instead of "outside." Another thing that happens is that sometimes I have to pause and shut my eyes for a second to think of a common word, like "couch," when I'm staring right at it. I know everyone jumbles words from time to time. But not every day.

It's been unnerving. I don't know if you've noticed, but words and expressing myself are kind of a big deal for me. I went to my general doctor about six months ago, feeling completely foolish even bringing it up at my annual check-up. He suggested I pay closer attention and revisit the issue if I noticed it worsening. Well, I did notice. (And perhaps I only noticed it because now I was paying closer attention.) But this week, he sent me to a neurologist.

It was the craziest experience. One reason being that I suddenly found myself in an episode of Grey's Anatomy, where I was Meredith's 75 year-old patient being screened for Alzheimer's. After the first few questions, I started laughing and nervously chattering about the similarities to the show, while the poor P.A., who was younger than I, politely smiled, most likely thought I was a pathetic little housewife, and said she didn't watch it. How could I not laugh when she said, "I'm going to say three words. In a few minutes, I want you to repeat them back to me." That line's been in nearly every episode for months. They're performing a clinical trial, you know.

(Side note addressed to Ms. Physician's Assistant: BTW, I still know them. Flag, ball, tree. And another thing. Thinking it's June 6th instead of June 7th does not count as minus one on the stupid test. It just means I'm a mother, with no reason to know what the exact date is. June 6th, give or take a few days, is FINE. You're lucky I knew it was June already. And lastly, I'm not that pathetic.)

Back to my brain. The doctor finally came in. I passed all the tests, he ruled out a degenerative condition, and so he began questioning my lifestyle. How do I sleep at night? How about my eating...vitamins...am I a vegan? (apparently vegans can have vitamin deficiencies that can cause memory problems). All well and good, and yes I eat plenty of meat. So then he began peering at me. I swear it was like he was reading my mind. All the while, he was slightly grinning. It wasn't a smirk. It was almost like he recognized me, or...recognized my brain.

For the second time, the appointment started to feel really crazy to me. The doctor said that my brain was simply maxxed out, overfull, and that I was demanding too much of it by way of multitasking. He compared it to a computer that slows down when too many programs are open at once. And while his diagnosis sounded so NOT complex and somewhat obvious, his words started to peel back something deeper inside. I started to feel really exposed, like I was sitting there without a shirt on.

You know that feeling when you talk to your best friend, and she is completely tracking with your every thought even though you've only said five words? That is what was happening, but I was talking with a man, who was also a stranger. Super weird. He got exactly what I was saying and had a way of clarifying my thoughts further. I tend to believe he was speaking from personal experience. This is what it comes down to. Many times in the course of my day, I am relegating my communication to auto-pilot and have already mentally skipped ahead to something else. My lack of attention to my words and sometimes to whom I'm even speaking is the cause for the mistakes. It was a new thought for me that not everyone's brain is doing that. And it took one to know one.

As quickly as I felt strangely known and seen, I also felt a stab in my spirit. The kind that comes from the Lord, what we call conviction. The peeling back and revelation of my problem came with deep conviction I won't soon forget: I need to be more present. I need to take a breath. Focus. See to whom I am speaking, and communicate more carefully, even if it is simply, "It's time for homework."

How could I have assumed anything worth saying could be delivered through that auto-pilot part of my brain, while I gave my real attention to shuffling through mail or chopping vegetables? There were a couple of moments, while I talked with the doctor, when I feared he would notice my eyes were swollen with tears.

As soon as I got to my car, I didn't know whether I should cheer because I didn't have a brain tumor, laugh because it was such a simple problem, or melt into tears because of what I began to realize has been lost...the time, the moments, the opportunities for relationship...all because I've become a habitual multitasker. Mostly, I felt grieved. And still do.

So that's where I'm at, on a new tack. Trying to open my eyes, slow down my words, and be all there, wherever I am. Today I don't remember fumbling my words once. I think that's a good sign.


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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Happy Campers, Part 2


Well, I downloaded the pics from Camera #2. Poor thing.

There were a few more worth sharing. Camera #1 broke as soon as the sun went down, so Camera #2 was on duty after dark.

Oh. And since I didn't tell you much of the dark side of the story, part of the problem was the sprinklers. They are HOA run, so I made a special call to ask that they please be delayed due to the party (normally they come on at 8 pm). An eager woman on the phone assured me that they would take care of it. Not only did they come on at 8 pm, getting our tent and all the girls' stuff wet, but they came on again THREE MORE TIMES in the following hour. Two of the sprinklers were broken, and so those created a river down the driveway, right under our fire pit and through Camp Sophie. Awesome. Thanks, HOA. You certainly did adjust them.

But somehow, chocolate and marshmallows were distracting enough for our campers not to care. Marshmallow in the hair is a sign of a good party.


Baskin-Robbins made some awesome ice cream logs from their "roll" cakes (ya know, the ones you see at Christmas time?). They did a great job at making them look like logs.


This young lad, in a very uncharacteristic move, decided to have a complete meltdown because I sang the traditional "Happy Birthday" song, instead of the repeat-after-me army sergeant "Sound-off!" version he wanted to sing. At that point in the night, I felt entitled to my song. Darn it. After all that work, I'm singing the song I WANT TO SING to my daughter. He wailed through the whole song.


And then immediately, all the candles got blown out by the wind. Here's me with some forced birthday cheer (see it?), relit candles, and one last chorus of "...happy birthdaaaaay toooo youuuu."


Someone who felt like being nicer than I did to my wailing child (I'm not even sure who it was now) remembered to let him lead his version after mine.
 

Since the party ran a little behind, Sophie didn't get to open her gifts until after her guests left, and we went inside. It was nearly 10 pm.

Had to show you how cute this owlie is that I got from this shop on Etsy.


Some tired campers.


One great, very memorable day.


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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: in Rachel's words


Today I'm so happy to be hosting Rachel's words for Grace on a Thursday. Her happy little corner of the blog world known as No. 17 Cherrytree Lane had me at 'hello'. Rachel is full of passion and the pursuit of God. She is vulnerable, feisty, and her faith has a fearless quality to it that challenges me to the core. This recent post of hers on her 4-year blog anniversary kinda sums it up. Please check her dealio out over there, particularly on Tuesdays, when she has an open forum for sharing prayer requests. She's awesome, and so is what she has to share today. Thanks Rach. {I felt a little like Monica when I said that just now.}




GRACE.

How much do I give? Is it rational to end grace and to stop handing it out? Is that even Biblical?
You see, in the past year I have struggled with the idea of grace, insomuch as I wrestle with the idea of continually passing it out.
Clearly, none of us are perfect and we all need it, but OH MY WORD sometimes I am at my wits end.

 
People:
Disappoint.
Abandon me.
Hurt me.
Isolate me.
Ignore me.
In sharp contrast, I recognize how I sometimes treat my Master.
The Lord.

He is my Saviour, after all.
Yet:
I disappoint Him.
I abandon Him.
I hurt Him.
I isolate Him.
And yes....
I ignore Him.

For some reason, beyond my limited understanding, He continues to take me back.
He shows me grace, time and time again. There is no, "I told you so" or "You deserve a swift kick". Just pure, simple, beautiful grace. The same grace that I withhold from those that hurt me. I selfishly hold that grace so close to my vest, in order to save myself from hurt but always expect overflowing, perfect grace from Him. It's so unfair.

He gives the grace that I refuse to.

Where would I be without the Lord's grace? I would be lost and truly alone, suffering from a major case of anxiety because a life apart from His merciful hand, isn't worth living. It goes to show the wide chasm between my selfishness and His plentiful abundance.
The next time I plan on clenching my fists tightly around grace, I will graciously extend it to whomever needs it. Simply because that is what my heavenly Father does for me, on a daily basis.
Who am I to decide who deserves it?

Romans 5: 15-17

"But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Happy Campers, Part 1

There are two sides to every story.

The story about the Camping Party this weekend has two sides as well. A good side, and a dark side.

For now, I wanted to share some of my favorite shots from the day. Shots all from what I'll call Camera #1. Brand spankin' new, beautiful camera #1 that we got like a month ago. Also known as the camera that got dropped halfway through the party, shattering the screen and sending it to camera heaven. Certainly the climax in the dark side of the story.

Camera #2, the old, sad camera whose lens cover refuses to fully open and close without help, and whose battery had about 5% of its charge had to be called in for back up. It has not been hooked up to my computer for downloading yet. Who knows what I can salvage from there. Photoshop will be involved, no doubt.

But for now...let's just look at the bright side. Because there was lots and lots of that too.


This is 100% my creative hubs. From idea to completion. Awesomely creative + super handy = I really like you.


Tissue pommies will be at every party I ever, ever have forevermore.


She's my fave.


Our tent is really an awesome and giant screened in thingy from Wal-Mart. It's tent-ish. And fun to decorate.


Banners are a must.


A brisk hike into our beautiful hills was my girl's wish for her party. (She doesn't get that from me. It's all that outdoorsy guy I love.)


The view from above. Wow! Nature has a few perks. I'll admit it.


The s'mores platter was a hit. How about Cookies and Creme Hershey's or Kit Kat in your s'mores?


Campers making some field bunnies.



One. Happy. Camper.

I love that girl so much.

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