Thursday, September 29, 2011

On my kids and heaven and hope

It's Friday.

I have two things on my heart today. One is a conversation. The other is a book I don't yet own. They are related.

A bit of background on the conversation. Last Wednesday, I was having a rough day. It was one of those days when my heart wasn't whole. It felt broken, like the pieces were being held together by thin threads of truth. I was sad, and I was doing all I could to rise above the fray and be the most competent, joyful mother I could for my little ones.

I did a fair job of it, after spending much of the morning when they were away at school reading God's word and talking to Him. But by the evening, I was spent. My husband had a commitment that night, so I knew no reinforcement was on its way. It was all on me.

I sat at the dinner table with them in a quiet house. My brain was tired, my heart still a fragile house of cards. And this is what I do, when I am forced to blend my own personal world with that of my children: I teach them what I'm trying to remind myself. Wednesday night, I was telling myself that one day, maybe soon, Jesus will come for me. Perhaps before my body wears out on this earth, He will pick me up, wipe away every tear, and take my hand for eternity. He will make my heart whole, permanently. It's the best possible, most hope-filled thing I could think of.

And so I told them, quickly realizing I'd never told them this before. My kids have known that when you die, you will go to heaven if you've asked Jesus to be in charge of your life. But I've never explained the possibility that He could come back first, before we die. I said, "Did you know this? He is coming back for us?" They both shook their heads no.

And so we went. I explained what the Bible says, that He will meet us in the air (I Thes 4:17). That He will come on the clouds (Luke 21:27), that no one knows the day or the hour (Matt 24:36). That it will be a big, happy, wonderful surprise, because that's what Jesus likes to do. Surprise us. I told us all what a great hope we have that Jesus is coming for us. And faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen (Heb 11:1)

Of course, I didn't anticipate the mild concern and funny questions, like, "What if I'm afraid of being up high?" and things like that. I had to laugh at the perspectives of my children. They are so pure, literal, and inquisitive. But it's stirred up some great conversations about heaven, and the whole deal.

Which brings me to the book. I've heard this book is a great tool for teaching kids about heaven. And since the topic is on the table at the moment, I thought I'd pick it up.

Have you read it? I'm going to try to find it today at the bookstore. 

And wow. If you want to read an incredible post on hope, read this. Ann Voskamp's words are so powerful to me. She speaks straight to my heart. Or, I should say, the Lord does, through her insights.

So what are you up to this Friday? Any good reads lately?


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: When I screw up Plan A

Last night, I went to midweek church, primarily because my daughter was set on helping build a 100 foot- long banana split with the 4th/5th grade ministry. My husband wasn't able to come, my son complained about going, but we went, as I was committed to supporting her desire to participate.

I sat in the seat of the grown-up service, realizing we'd be getting home late and it was Wednesday night; time to write a Grace on a Thursday post again. And I was drawing a blank.

Then I glanced at the evening's outline in my hand. The title read: "Grace." Awesome, Lord. He provided just what I needed.

Ryan, one of our pastors, challenged us to process God's grace in a way I hadn't previously. I know grace is available for me when I'm going through hard times. I know grace is available for my overall, big-picture sin, paving the path to salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection. What I hadn't thought about is how it is by grace that God "reconfigures" His plans for me when I screw them up.

It reminded me of a car navigation system. When you drive off course, the system's voice doesn't scold you, condemn you, or force you back to the beginning of your mistake. It patiently reroutes you. It locates you exactly where you are at that moment, and guides you back onto the right course by a different path.

God is a lot like that (with a much less annoying voice). I don't know the number of times I've chosen to go my own way, provoking Him to His face and deciding my route seems best. Tons of times, though. Tons of times I've managed to thwart His best plan for me. Tons of times I've lost my patience and spoken a harsh word. I've ramped up control instead of knelt in prayer. I've missed opportunities out of laziness and selfishness. I've flat out chosen to rebel. And miraculously, God has never once left me in the dead end of sin. Instead, He draws me, in grace, away from my bad ideas and back onto His course. 

Have you experienced this? How God will take the mess we've created and rearrange the parts so that our best interest is still the priority? Nothing else in life works this way. Mistakes are always set-backs in every other area of life. But with Jesus, we can be completely working against His plan A - for instance, harboring bitterness in a relationship - and He will set to work convicting, healing and rearranging our hearts so that we come out of the hardship better off than we were before. That's simply amazing.

Romans 8:28 is such an important verse. You may know it. It promises that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. Tonight, I thought of this verse strictly in terms of my mistakes as being the "all things." God not only works things outside of our control together for our good. But "all things" includes my own willful sin. What a grace that is! I may endure consequences for my poor choices, but God is regularly rerouting my wayward journey so that I am being guided back to Him. Back to forgiveness. Back to hope and peace and joy. That is what I call redemption. And it's all because of grace.

Thank you, Lord, for showing up for me last night and giving me fresh insight on what grace does. We so depend on it, every single day. May we follow you faithfully today, and if not, may we quickly embrace your generous grace to realign our wills with Yours.

{P.S. For those of you who are new here, I have another blog where this girl and I chat, called Cake & Cotton. My latest post is here, on a quick and easy fall craft I did with the kids last week.}


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

As long as it's called 'Today'

I'm back!

Blog Sugar weekend was really, really great.

The extra two days with some of the women was an incredible blessing. And as for the event itself, I was so very impressed by each speaker, and most of all the leadership, Rachel, Andrea and Jen, who infused the entire evening with beauty, delicious food, and most importantly, Jesus. I learned some things about blogging, but perhaps the greatest impression I had was that of solidarity. 

I was encouraged.

I am only one of hundreds of women, finding her voice, and offering up her heart (and blog) to the Lord for His good purposes. We have a shared vision, a shared love for the Lord, and a shared opportunity to be a light.

That's why I'm loving this verse today. 

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Hebrews 13:12-14

I'm holding.

How 'bout you?


Friday, September 23, 2011

Off for the weekend!

Well, I think this is the longest weekend ever that I'll be the one away from my husband and kids. If I've ever been away from the kids for a stretch, it's been with him. Three nights without any of them? Wow, it feels like it's gonna be a long time. I already miss them.

But I'm off to Newport to stay with some bloggy friends prior to Blog Sugar. Fellowship, great meals and the event itself are the things I'm looking forward to the most. And maybe sleeping in. Yeah, that would be nice too.

My kids asked me today if I'd leave them kisses.

Last time we left for the weekend, I punched out circles of paper and labeled them as my goodnight kisses for each night I was gone. I'm so glad they reminded me to do it again!!

So there you have it. Goodnight kisses, and a weekend alone, but not.

I'm gonna let God shower me with the blessings of friendship this weekend. He is a good God, and I'm thankful to be a part of His family. Now off to meet some of my sisters, face to face...


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: in Alyss' words

Happy Thursday, everyone. I am pleased to host Alyss today, formerly from Oh What a Day it is Today, and now from r o o t s! You should check out her blog, because she is adorable and really stinkin' funny. She also has rad music spinnin' in her corner of the blogosphere. But mostly, I love the way she shares about her life and loves with truth, passion, and humor. Here's her take on grace today. Thank you, Alyss, for your vulnerability and example to us all to pursue grace with humble courage.

Two truths and a lie:
1. I am a homebody.
2. I am obsessed with my son's face.
3. I never procrastinate.

Number three up there? Get out of here with your lies. While everything is always finished on time, it is rarely finished early. Needless to say, it is 10:30pm on Wednesday night and I am just now finishing up this post. Leslie asked me to write on the subject of grace two weeks ago. It's taken me this long to finally succumb to what I feel I should open up about.

Two weeks ago, reading the word "grace" in Leslie's email sent whispers to my heart from the Lord. Whispers of how I needed to face issues that I have long put on the back burner. For years, I have struggled to give grace to someone who has hurt me immensely. It has held back my ability to completely forgive. It has prevented peace. It does not made my Lord glad.

The person I'm referring to is my mother-in-law. Out of respect for our family, I'll refrain from regaling you with all the details of what has led us to where we are now in our relationship. A quick point of reference is that it all began with the splitting of my husband's parents. After 20 something years of marriage, it fell apart.

Nothing, and I mean, nothing has been the same.

We rarely see my father-in-law since his remarriage. All bridges have been burned between my mother-in-law and the rest of the family. Rumors, gossip, lies, and distaste for one other have spoiled that side of the family's relationships. And in the midst of it all, I blamed her. For years, I struggled with being okay with the divorce. I struggled with the remarriages. I struggled with how to even talk to my mother-in-law, let alone sit in a room with her without acting completely awkward.

I have never really had the experience of rebuilding relationships that had weathered such storms. I guess my feelings for her were made pretty clear by my lack of enthusiasm and apathy towards her presence.

What came next were countless hurtful emails to my husband about my character, conversations with my brother-in-law concerning my "coldness", and then finally, WWIII. A full on blowout between the two of us. That happened, and then the issue froze. It became quiet. I have not touched the issue since. My brain has told my heart to shut its trap and "be over it already". But it is ever present. Daily, I can see it just out of the corner of my eye.

Have you ever felt so completely wronged and unjustly accused that forgiveness for those who have embittered you seems unfathomable?

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Luke 23:34

How is it that my Jesus in Heaven is able to forgive all humankind for savagely nailing His innocent hands and feet to a cross while I cannot give grace to my mother-in-law for, essentially, hurting my pride?

How is it that I receive God's grace moment upon moment, yet I cannot soften my heart to extend that grace for one moment to my mother-in-law?

Grace, that which is unmerited favor.
Grace, that which is the giving of good to the undeserving.
Grace, that which pardons.
Grace, that which opens the heart to forgiveness.

This post doesn't come wrapped up in a brown paper package tied up with string. It's messy and ripped open with packing peanuts strewn about. I don't feel that I will ever get the apology or "I was right" gratification that my selfish heart so desires. I don't want to deal with it. I don't want to be the first one to give grace. I don't want to forgive until I feel righted.

Unmerited favor.

Did Jesus wait until the crowds fell to their knees in repentance before proclaiming...

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Luke 23:34

If only I could be more Christ-like.

I dream of mending this relationship, and I dream of the "good ol' days" when the bridges were intact. My sinful heart finds it so far-fetched, but I know that my God is one who delights in the joys of his children loving on each other. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Granting grace to my mother-in-law just so happens to be one of those things.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, God knows I can...

Here is my prayer:

Lord, soften my heart.
Give me your eyes in this situation.
Put in my the desire to mend what is broken.
Stir in me an unconditional love for those who have hurt me.
Thank you for granting grace when I least deserve it.
Oh, Lord, teach me to do the same.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Contentment Challenge 2011 (a.k.a. Blog Sugar)

This weekend, if you haven't heard, a big west coast blog event is going down. It is so big that some friends are crossing the Mississippi to get there. It's called Blog Sugar (see the pink button on the sidebar??). And I'm finding, for me, it's bringing up issues of contentment. Or lack thereof.

And I expect I'm not alone. I thought I'd just bring this stuff to the surface now, so we all have it sorted by this weekend, and then we can leave the insecure versions of ourselves at home. {Don't you love how I am churning up the junk most everyone else is happy to let lie? You're welcome.}

So my first Contentment Challenge is obvs. I want to buy something new to wear. Somehow, I decided in my head that I wanted something new that was green. I know, specific. And unnecessary.

But guess what. When I'm honestly assessing my closet, I have plenty of lovely things to wear. Blog Sugar is not the inaugural ball. I'm going California Casual. Which means skinny jeans, something girly and perhaps shiny on top, and it's still a toss up between boots and peep toe heels. Also that ensemble is subject to change. I may do some try-ons in my closet.

All that to say, this week, I observed and faced my discontentment with my wardrobe, and decided it left a bad taste in my mouth, akin to the taste I get when I see my kids grab the toy catalogs from the mailbox and fill them with pen circles around all the things they feel they need. Never a thought goes to the mountains of expensive and formerly special toys in their rooms. Yuck. I'm instantly trashing those catalogs this year come Christmas season.

I've also been getting the vibe that some of us are a bit nervous about Blog Sugar. I mean, I COULD spend time worrying about not knowing people, or I COULD spend time worrying about people not knowing ME. I could compare myself and my blog and my necklace to every woman I meet.

But what fun would that be? That would make the whole event miserable, don't you think? So what are we going to do to combat that comparison so likely to sneak into our fragile hearts next Sunday night?

This is what I'm going to do. I'm going to look each beautiful woman in the eye and see her. See her name, and her heart for blogging and sharing her life, and the care she put into her outfit. I'm going to appreciate the woman God made her to be, appreciate her story, and the way she is putting herself out there into the blog world. You know, it is a risky thing, this blogging, particularly in a world of women. It's even riskier to show up to something like Blog Sugar and act like you have it all together (when none of us really do, right?).

Sadly, I know we all know some women who are not that nice. They are envious and gossipy and feel the need all too often to put others down to feel better. God forbid any one of us is caught in those traps this weekend, right? I very much want to be a part of a community of women who bless and encourage one another, and I know the first step is making sure I'm that kind of woman myself.

Because all of us are risking ourselves here. All of us are a tad nervous about being seen. All of us are just doing our best. I'm deciding to do MY best at acknowledging that you are doing a pretty darn good job at all you do. I might even tell you that you look so beautiful. And I'll mean it.

I'm going to say sorry when I don't remember someone's name, and humbly announce that I'm bad at that. I'm going to be humble when I don't recognize someone who recognizes me. I will laugh at myself, and give myself grace when I realize I'm talking too much. And I'll accept myself for not having it all together. For not having enough time to switch to my cute purse, or say Hi to all the right people, or BLOG about Blog Sugar during Blog Sugar (you know some people will be!).

I'm just me, and that's it. Even though you may meet me, and like my outfit, and say, "Wow, your hair is a really unusual color!" don't be fooled. I'll still be broken, messy, me in the middle of my life's journey. And it will be great to meet you in the middle of yours.

And for those of you who aren't coming to Blog Sugar, good job today. Good job pulling the day together, and giving love away. I appreciate you and your heart, and even if I don't know your name, I know the God of heaven does. He sees you, and thinks you're simply beautiful too. Thanks for putting yourself out there into the risky world one more day. It needs you.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday mish mosh

Happy Monday friends!

I thought you may like to know some of the stuff going on in my little world. This is what I WANT to be doing today.

But alas, I am not 91 years old in dog years (like Cal is), or I'd have a good excuse.

Since school started, I've been on the ball with meal planning on Sunday night for the whole week - dinners and breakfasts! Booya. (OK, it's not that impressive. That means I've done it twice now.)

So Sunday night, I make a small stack of my fav cookbooks or magazines, and grab two notepads and a pen. One notepad is for my grocery list (right column = produce, left column = everything else). The other notepad is a special one that is broken up into the 7 days of the week. I got it in the dollar bin at Michaels, but you could just make your own. The top sheet is for dinners, the second page is for breakfasts. I mark off the nights we will be out of the house. It's nothing fancy, people. We're not talking five - or even three - course meals. In fact, this week, I tried as hard as possible to choose things that make for a one-pot meal. A protein, veggie and a carb all in one dish. If I had pre-planned blogging about this, then I would have tried to write more neatly.

And the only reason I plan out breakfasts is that my mind doesn't work at 6 a.m. My mind wakes up somewhere around 9. But life unfortunately requires that I function like three hours prior. I'm not a fan of that requirement.

My lists are making me so happy and I feel so organized. When it comes to the middle of the day, I don't need to drum up a meal plan or scrounge the kitchen for something to assemble. I have all the ingredients I need for the whole week. OH, and weekends aren't on the list. But by Saturday, we usually either go somewhere, or have leftovers we can enjoy. So my plan only covers M-F.

Tonight, I'm making Chicken and Orzo Soup. It's like in the top 3 soups in our house. Everyone loves it.

Also, I took some time this morning to continue reading this.

I'm really enjoying it. It's about how even though 2 million Israelites were delivered out of Egypt, only two of the original crowd ever made it to the promised land of Canaan. Two out of 2 million. Here are a couple excerpts.

Let's be honest: we tend to like and remain fond of certain parts of being enslaved. We're not always totally convinced that God has a match for some of the things that made bondage feel deceptively satisfying...The problem is not necessarily with desiring some sweet pleasure from the past; the problem is with wanting what the enemy offered instead of the new thing God is providing. Looking back keeps us from looking forward...But you and I can never climb out onto that exhilarating ledge with God until we've accepted and applied His deliverance to our lives. Until we know release, we will never know freedom. Until we turn away from Egypt, and refuse to look back, we can never truly set our sights on Canaan. Deliverance comes first, or destiny never comes at all.

If you ever have a chance to attend a women's Bible Study on one of Pricilla Shirer's books, then do it. We did her study on Jonah last year and I was pretty blown away with her gift at delivering truth with power and authority. She is an amazing teacher. I'd love to hear her speak live some day.

Finally, I'm trying my hardest to stave off a cold. And with Blog Sugar this weekend...!? Really? If you think of it, please pray for my overall health this week. And for those of you asking what I'm wearing: I don't know. But I can tell you this. I'll be trying hard to appear like I'm not trying too hard. Just like every single other lady there. Let's just be honest.

Oh, and one last thing....I'm super stoked that Heather featured my Cake & Cotton post on Life Made Lovely today! Yay! Love that Heather.

So what are you up to today?


Friday, September 16, 2011

Headband love

sweet saturday.

my friend Shauna found this first.
we were at an antique store and she spied it.
a vintage green velvet headband in its original package.
it has metal fixtures on its belt-like adjustable strap.


she picked it up, and then said,
"this would be so pretty in your hair."

i know she kinda wanted it.
but she knew i would love it too.
and she loves me.
so she gave it to me.
that makes a sweet saturday...
yeah, the headband, but mostly the friend.

linking up with April, who has a special place in her heart for all things vintage and headbandy.


Holding fast to hope

I was just reading this in Hebrews and it is the truth I want inscribed on my heart today.
It's hard not to waver, but I will hold fast to hope.
Not wishing star or crossed-fingers hopes.
Hope in a God who is faithful!
The end.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: Where God lives

I went to the Mission yesterday. I feel so fortunate to have such a beautiful piece of history in our area, and one so easily accessible. Hundreds of years old, it is one of the only relics of the past to be found on our glittery southern California coast.

I parked down the block a bit, intending to duck into a coffee shop first on the way to my destination. There, I ran into an acquaintance and chatted for a while, small talk, really. We parted with wishes for a good morning, and I pressed out the door. I pushed the wrong side of it first, though I've been there many times. I waited at the light, impatient to walk across the street to the entrance, and so I crossed against the flashing red hand between cars. My latte was no longer hot. My hair, just styled last night in curls, was going limp from the heavy morning mist. One more bit of wasted effort, I thought. My worries were chattering back and forth in my head as I flashed my entrance pass and twisted through the turnstile.

I walked past volunteers clipping dead weight off rose bushes, and stepped through the first welcoming, weathered stone archway leading to the courtyard. Suddenly everything changed.

I knew God was there. I could sense His presence as heavy as the mist. What was it, exactly, I wondered, amazed and breathless. Was it the place, this holy outdoor cathedral built by devoted followers centuries ago? No, I know better. God does not reside in a building or a geographical spot you can pinpoint on a map.

It was not the place. It was the pace. God was so easy for me to recognize and hear because, at the Mission, all is at peace.

I stopped every few feet to watch one thing or another and saw a rhythm, nature's rhythm, whispering His name.

Koi fish floated slowly and effortlessly in the great fountain, round mouths opening and shutting and opening again.

A group of four hummingbirds zipped and played over a vast purple-flowered bush. I've never known they had a song before, perhaps because I've never seen more than one at a time. I've never heard them sing to each other. Theirs was a rapid, waltzing song, groups of triple sounds, and something about it seemed to me to be incredibly joyful.

I looked at a plant of pink flowers and knew inside those buds was a rhythm, an order of growth, and waking and sleeping.

A group of tourists speaking French stood huddled, clicking cameras and speaking in low tones, hearts beating reverently.

Order and peace was over everything, and the hand of the Lord was evident, keeping all steady and lovely.

Giving thought to my own life, at a glance and in comparison it seemed rushed and messy. I thought it must appear so chaotic and ugly to my Lord. So peace-starved at times that His voice and His presence must be sought out hard.

I thought, That's grace...Him seeing my peace-less mess and calling me His own anyway. Choosing not the Koi fish or the hummingbird or the rose as the object of His choicest love, His richest blessing of Himself. But choosing me.

Me. Who is not graceful or singing or patient.

What kind of grace sweeps up a handful of dust and decides to transform it by Love into something beautiful, against the forces of a dark world and a clay-stained heart that would rather rebel? What kind?

As much as I write about grace here, at the moment, I know nothing of that kind.


{Note: All photos above were taken by my son when he was 5, last year, on one of our visits together. He used his birthday camera. It was a morning much the same.}

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Encouraging my kids

Every school year, I know things can go to a bad place when you mix me and homework and a small child.

I have issues, I am well aware. I am not very patient with complaining about homework, throwing oneself on the bed in dramatics about homework (them, not me), laziness, forgetfulness, etc. I've written some posts (like this one) about this very topic because it's one area in which I am always working out my faith.

I also know the verse from the Book of Veggie Tales, chapter 3 (just made that up): "A thankful heart is a happy heart."  (I'm sure it's also in the Bible in some form or another.) Gratitude for my kids make me less grouchy over their childishness.

And the quickest path to feeling thankful for my kids is through encouraging them. To find something to compliment or build up about him. To see the good in her that she struggles to see herself.  

I've armed myself with a couple of ways this fall to intentionally encourage my kids. One is Lunchbox Love. (I blogged about these last year here).

These little credit-card sized notes are so great. You should get some. Inexpensive, reusable, easy to read, and simple. If you're packing a lunch box, yeah, you could write a note or use a Post-It. I'd just rather throw one of these in, because at 6 a.m., I don't have a lot of words. Or dexterity. The cards have something encouraging on one side, and something quirky on the other, such as a fun fact about how many teeth sharks have. Both kids got one on the first day this year. (I was shocked I didn't forget.)

The other thing I found is $.99 cards for kids at the Christian book store. These are more for moments when you know your child really needs an uplifting word. The ones I found are by Dayspring, part of a line called Little Inspirations, and they are so sweet!

And lastly, I'm sure I've shared about this book before. But what a change it made in my life as a mother! It is called How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk. It's a long title. But it's a classic, written many years ago, and read by over 2 million people. It has taught me many ways to see my children and build them up. I read it when my daughter was 4, and knew quickly that God had placed this book in my hands, literally equipping me with what I needed. Five years later, I refer to it from time to time, rereading sections, and reminding myself of the better ways to speak to my children. It is a secular book, but it was life-changing for me, since it helped correct some bad communication habits I'd picked up from my own childhood.

I now TRY to say things like this:

Instead of, "Wow, that picture is incredible!" I try to say, "Wow, I can see how careful you were to stay in the lines. That's what I call diligence."

Instead of, "Your handwriting is so messy. You can't turn in work like this!" I try to say, "It takes patience to make your letters neatly. Try again."

Instead of, "I'm so proud of you! Your oral report was the best one!" I try to say, "You looked up, you stayed focused, and you read your facts with a loud voice. I can see you tried your hardest. You should be proud of yourself!"

I really, really, really want to be an encourager in my children's lives. I don't want to simply offer commentary about what they do, or where they fall compared to other kids. Doesn't that approach lead to performance-driven adults? I want to see who they are, and what they need. And most of all, I want to listen. Here's my personal plan this fall to be an encourager to my kids. When homework time is about to go awry, I plan to:

Step 1: Listen and tune into their hearts' needs
Step 2: Find my own thankfulness for them
Step 3: Speak words of encouragement about his/her character

Easy peasy, right? Not really. But I'm sure going to do my best!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

School beginnings

Happy Monday, friends!

Last week, my kids had their first two days of school! I know, our district starts a wee bit later than most, but what a fun and full couple of days it was.

While fall is my least favorite season (because it is the gloomy ending to my favorite one), I do love back to school. To me, that is a season in and of itself.

And to celebrate this brief, happy season of fresh backpacks, nervous energy, Target trips and school supplies (mmm, how I LOVE them), I bought myself these after I drove out of the school parking lot. Alone.

I considered them my prizes, awarded for a summer well spent. ;) That green straw is such a sweet treat. And I've been eyeing this CD for a month.

Hey! You noticed! I did NOT opt for my usual "grandeblackicedteainaventicupextraicenosweetner." I got my second favorite - the passion tea/lemonade concoction. And this time, check it out, the short-hand on the cup is PTL. I do not actually EVER use this acronym to mean "Praise the Lord" as I've seen it used over the years. It seems so 1980's. But seeing those three letters, I was reminded by our friends at Starbucks to do just that. See how they are encouraging us to praise the Lord? That's one more reason you should go there and order a PTL. Also, it's yummy.

Here are a few glimpses from inside the classrooms on day one. I loved Amy's pics of her little buddy on day one of 1st grade, so I sorta copied. Amy, you are just too inspiring not to copy. 

A classroom just isn't a classroom without a calendar wall like this one. Am I right?

This is a happy corner.

The science text book on his desk had to be immediately opened and read. Backpack still on.

"MOM! This book has facts about animals in it!"  School is so cool, isn't it buddy?

A very organized teacher had these ready for her kids. What promise inside those special boxes! (Even alphabetized? I'm impressed.)

If we thought day one was fun, look how day two started. These guys are my fav.

Their smiles and energy for a new year are making those early mornings more bearable.

I had way too many back to school pics to share with you today. So I put some of them here. If you want to see my special Back to School display that I made the night before day one, check it out on my other blog, Cake & Cotton. It's one that makes me really happy, and is a good reflection of our love for books and learning in our home.

Let's be honest. I sorta want to still be in elementary school myself.


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Fourteen candles

No it's not someone's birthday. It's a widespread power outage over SoCal tonight. Less fun.

The last two days, it has been triple digits in temperature here, and I'm thinking that our electric company just about exploded when every person turned their AC on at once this afternoon. Thus the power being out for several hours. Daddies can't get home on jammed freeways. Food is slooooowly spoiling. The kids were under threat for opening the fridge, freezer, or house door, for fear of shifting the temperature balance I had established earlier today.

When it hit 82 degrees indoors, we abandoned ship for the neighborhood pool. I sliced up a cantaloupe and manually lit my burner to make a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches to take with us. (I was like a bomb squad person, carefully reaching into the meats drawer of the fridge, door cracked only the width of my arm.) Dinner poolside was heavenly, compared to being cooped up.

I'm typing quickly, on my very limited laptop battery life (and now you know I can for reals type, since I can't see the keys). I also have limited cell phone life. And very, very limited lighting. I did manage to find 14 candles, and have them nicely lit in all the rooms. It's sort of lovely, in a way.

And God - what a good God He is! - knew my little guy would be afraid of the extra dark. He hung a big, bright moon in a cloudless sky right outside his window. I told my son it was his own special nightlight, because God knows what he needs.

The kids and I talked about Callahan tonight. He's our 13 year old dachshund, who recently went fully blind. I felt sad for Cal, remembering that his world always looks dark now. I noticed that after he went blind, a funny thing changed about him. For the first 12 years, he was a very feisty, wiggly little dog. Every time I'd pick him up to put him outside or into the car, he'd fight and fight to get down and run wild again. As soon as he lost his sight, he'd go limp when I picked him up. It was startling at first, since I've grown used to wrangling him.

But when he lost his sight, he learned quickly to depend on mine. He trusted I would do him no harm and that I knew what he needed. I pick him up now, and he patiently, calmly waits for where I bring him next.

What a lesson this is for me {sigh}.

When my vision in my life grows dark, on those days I feel totally blind, do I trust Jesus enough to stop fighting? Do I lay limp, secure in His more than capable arms, and let Him carry me?

Oh how I long to be growing ever aware of my blindness. Oh how I wish I never feared the dark.

Suddenly, deep down, I feel grateful for this dark all around me. It's a visual reminder that when the "dark" blankets our days without warning, when we're suddenly struggling to navigate our lives, tripping, worried, and afraid, we need to cease striving. Be still. And trust the One who never lets go.

He knows what I need. The end.