Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Did you swap? I did.

Did you guys participate in CaseyDanielle, and Alycia's New Year's Swap?

Well, if not, too bad so sad for you.

Because I did, and I met Stephanie from Just a Little Bit Louder. Out of the 300 participants, we got matched up.

She is super cute! We were not swapping anything particular. You just had to find out what your person likes and then send them a package.

Yesterday, I got this in the mail. Oh how fun to get such happy mail treats!!

First of all, she sent me two of these. Necklaces handmade by women in Uganda.

AHHH! I love them. Not only are they adorable and stylish, but they are supporting someone's livelihood. One is a natural color, and the other is multi, which, she noted, was for my daughter. How SWEET is that? Well, I may just hold off a few days before I tell said 9-year old. I want to wear them first. I'm so mean! Act not surprised, okay?

Next, she sent me the sweetest little tea set - a pot and two little cups with owlies on them! That's because I told her I like owls and because she is very thoughtful. :) Look at this darling thing.

Finally (yes! the gifts kept coming out of that box!), the thing that meant the most to me was this book.

It is by Madeline L'Engle, an author we BOTH really adore. Well, little did I know that L'Engle wrote this daily devotional. ON GRACE. I totally needed this and didn't even know it. Right? So perfect, Stephanie!! I can't wait to get into this thing. In fact, I wish it was still January 1st so I could start at the beginning. (For those of you thinking, "Well, you could still start at the beginning and no one will care," to you I say, "You must be new." I could not read pages for days that are in the past. That's weird.)

So thank you Stephanie times a million. If I lived in way-up-northern-USA-freezing-land like you do, I'd come give you a big, giant hug. In my parka.

And thank you Casey, Danielle, and Alycia for hosting fun times!



Monday, January 30, 2012

Music and a Giveaway

Music is a big deal for me.

You probably know that, because I write about songs that inspire me all the time. In my Bible Study lesson last week, I think Beth Moore said it best: A song helps us communicate something we may not otherwise say. Our whole lesson was on song, in fact. My eyes were opened as to how much the Bible references more unexpected uses of song and singing.

Psalm 32:7 says that the Lord sings "songs of deliverance" over us whenever we are afraid.

Job 35:10 says that God gives us songs in the dark of night.

Zephaniah 3:17 says that the Lord delights over us with singing.

Job 38: 4-7 says that while God was creating the earth, the angels and stars were singing together!

Psalm 63:5 says that singing lips are the result of a satisfied soul.

1 Corinthians 14:15 says that we can sing with our spirit, but also we can sing with our minds.

Revelation 5:13 says that every creature in heaven - can you picture that? - is praising God.

Isaiah 55:12 says that mountains will burst forth into song.

And Deuteronomy 31:19-22 expresses that a song greatly enhances our ability to memorize! Don't we all know this? You have to read this passage. When God is telling Moses what to teach His people, He actually tells Moses to teach them in a song. It is in the text, and it is a long one! But God knew a song was the best way to root His truth and promises into the hearts of His people. How did I miss this in the past?

(All of the above is from Beth Moore's study Stepping Up.)

So yesterday, I was in the car with the kids and we were listening to a Christian CD. I was amazed as I focused on how well my kids knew the words, and how familiar they are with all the current songs on Christian radio and the ones we sing in church. It was beautiful, really. To hear those little voices singing, "How He loves us, oooooh, how He loves us..."

I've written about this before, but it's time to bring it up again. Driving in the car is the perfect time to be instilling our children with truth through song. Many times, they are literally memorizing Scripture unaware.

And that's why I want to give one of you this CD!

Rob Biagi is an awesome Christian musician and performer for children, and he is phenomenal. I actually love Rob's music. He has such a heart for children, and his passion to teach them God's word is felt throughout. His songs speak to my heart, as well, because He is speaking truth we all need. And his are the only CDs that don't eventually annoy me. (I can only take so much Veggie Tales, I'm sorry.) We have several of his CDs, but this is his newest. You can follow him on Facebook here.

To enter my giveaway, just leave a comment! If you like Rob Biagi Music on Facebook, leave a comment for an additional entry. I'll have the random number thingy pick a winner on Wednesday night, okay?

Regardless, I'd encourage you to find some good Christian music to put on in your car and in your house. Especially if the tensions start to rise, like in the evenings, or whenever your family hits that "witching hour." Search for Christian radio stations in your area online and then program them in your first couple spots on your car stereo. Even mainstream stores like Wal-Mart and Target carry Christian CDs if you don't have a local Christian bookstore. And don't forget about Pandora. Oh, how I love Pandora! Don't you? There are a lot of good artists out there, and Pandora exposes me to new ones all the time.

For the sake of us all, if you have a favorite CD or encouraging way to lift your family up through music, please share! We can't ever get too much of it.

{OH! And don't forget to check out my latest Mentoring post on Casey's blog here.}

Linking up with my friend Jami....


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Missed it again

So I missed Insta-Friday again. But rules schmools. Here's a little Insta-Late.
But first, I have to tell you that my real computer is broken. Sad. This one I'm using at the moment is like 6 x 10 inches. It's my "to-go" laptop, and works fine. But my regular baby has been at a repair guy for nine days and he has determined it needs a new motherboard. How dumb is that. I don't even really know what a motherboard is. Sounds expensive and important, hence the title "mother" in the name.

Broken computers make me not want to be on one. I feel pouty and uninspired and annoyed that technology is supposed to make my life easier but usually just makes it more complicated.

Don't worry. I'm sure I'll be back into my usual blogging deal any day now. In fact, a Mentoring #3 post will be up at Casey's any minute. I'm excited for that. February is going to be super fun too. I'm opening a little *shop* soon on the blog, which I can't wait to share. And I have two guest posts on love and marriage happening elsewhere next month. {Not that I feel I have much of anything down pat in that area at the moment. Lord have mercy.}

But for now, here's a little shallow nonsense via Instagram, all in the category of my style lately.

1. Date shoes. Dorothy meets Anthro. A gift from my cool dad for my birthday.

2. Target + turquoise + $5 = comes home with me.

3. Wearing #1 and #2 above, with my pretty friend of about 12 years. 8 of us, on the town, acting like grown-ups. For the most part.

4. School drop off, taken by a passenger. Is your steering wheel like as cold as ice in the mornings? I guess it's because I park outside, not in a garage. And, well, winter.

5. Rockin' my leg warmers. A gift from my super cool friend Jenn who lives in NoCal and only likes cool stuff.

6. 2nd day of the no-heat curls. Every time I do them, I can't remember what I did without them. Except for not like my hairstyle very much. I remember that.

7. Yellow umbrellas make any grey day a little brighter.

I hope you're having a great weekend.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: in Heather's words

It is my pleasure to introduce Heather Holden to you all today! Most likely you already know her. She is such a sweetheart, spreading her love and encouragement in comments all over blogland. And she keeps a lovely blog called We Are the Holdens. Well, because they are {see below}. What a beautiful family she has, and an even more beautiful heart. She was also recently a birthday girl (January babies are extra cool).

Today, Heather was kind enough to share her thoughts on grace with us, and she includes a vulnerable story about how she encountered grace in her own marriage. Thank you so much, Heather, for reminding me that the times we find ourselves to be the most foolish are also the times we are blessed by grace the most. Please show Heather some love today (and don't forget to check out her blog)!

Grace is such a small word but one that holds such a vast meaning.

Oh, the depths that it goes. This pardon I receive daily comes without my deserving it at all.

That is what grace is to me, something given to me that I did nothing to deserve. But please make no mistake to think I should know anything other than that which I have experienced personally. The older I get the more I realize how very little I actually do know and still there is so much more to be learned.

I though,…I have received this grace. For it is by none other than grace that I am able to write out my thoughts here to you today.

Jesus and his love for me, marrying my husband, giving birth to my children - all of it grace.

I could tell you of my salvation or of all the blessings that have been given me in this life, but the pages would be never ending. This unmerited grace is interwoven in every detail of my life, and it always comes back to, points back to grace.

It is pretty easy to receive grace and it's something I desire from others. Like one day, after a late night of working on the computer, I ran across an ad for a “work from home” business. For only $99, I could receive the information to start me on my way to making a great monthly income. I went to consult my husband and get his advice on the situation only to find him snoring, loudly. My time was running out and if I didn’t make the decision quick it would be lost. How many red flags do you think I needed before catching on to this? Apparently a bunch, because I hit “purchase.” My “make money from home” business started downloading and so did the fact that I had been scammed. I was worried that Jode would be upset with me about wasting the $100, money that’s not easy for us to come by, on a scam from the computer. I was devastated that I had been so dumb and couldn’t even believe myself. He had every right to be upset at me, mad even. But you know what? He wasn’t, and he’s never thrown it up to me since….grace given.

I can’t get past the showing of grace to others. Do I give or show that same grace that I so easily want to receive? When is the last time I’ve shown grace where it has cost me? Meaning it’s hurt a little.

I can give grace to my kids, even my husband, most of the time, fairly easily. But what about the one to whom it’s hard to show grace because he or she is just a difficult person. And what if I feel a wrong has been done to me?

I think about the person in the church that my family loved and respected. We had invested our lives with him and his family, and he wronged us. I didn’t want to forgive or show him any mercy or allow any grace to flow to him. He didn’t deserve that. It was going to be hard and it was going to hurt to do those things.

But I was reminded that grace isn’t always easy. If it were easy, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on a cross. He is the one I have to ask to give me the grace to forgive or show others. It’s definitely not about me or anything I can do on my own strength. It’s a flowing of grace in and through me so that I can give because I have been given to.

People are hurting from every direction and we have no idea what they are going through. Some just need to be heard; grace can be shown through taking the time to listen.

The wife with no baby in her womb.
The family who has gone through loss of business, land, and home.
A little girl in school who tells of her parents divorcing because her dad is mean.
The waitress with worries of how she will make ends meet.
People who are broken and need grace.
We want to experience that same grace from others as well.

I want to continue to know more and more of this grace so that it is free to flow through me.
Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Thank you Leslie for your Grace on a Thursday posts. They’re always a highlight in my day and you are an encouraging soul…a truly beautiful person.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Three little books

Well I haven't. And I'm dying to.

I have three new books and only one set of eyes. What to read first? How can I choose among a famous work on writing, a classic fiction novel I've always wanted to read, and John Piper's take on what the Bible says about marriage? All so great!

Check them out:

First up is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by renowned author Anne Lamott.
This book, from what I skimmed in the store, is super witty, smart, and helpful if you love words as much as I do and want to learn how to use them even more gooder. That was a joke.

I love this excerpt:

"The core ethical concepts in which you most passionately believe are the language in which you are writing. These concepts probably feel like givens, like things no one ever had to make up, that have been true through all cultures and for all time. Telling these truths is your job. You have nothing else to tell us...There will need to be some kind of unfolding in order to contain it, and there will need to be layers.  We are dealing with the ineffable here - we're out there somewhere between the known and the unknown, trying to reel in both for a closer look. This is why it may take a whole book."

Second is Watership Down, a fiction tale about rabbits. Yes, it is, and it is a world famous classic. The introduction was completely charming: this author used to tell these tales of adventure to his children while they went on road trips through the English countryside. Something about his relating telling such stories and how his girls adored them made me long for the days when cars did not have DVD players.

Finally, this was a impulsive purchase. This Momentary Marriage, by pastor, teacher and modern-day theologian John Piper. Upon flipping through, I discovered that unlike many books on marriage, this one has zero fluff. He is clear and concise regarding all Scripture pertaining to marriage and our corresponding responsibilities. There is no psychology, personality assessment or any addressing of our unique bents (which, in the right context, are really helpful to read about also). This book is simply straight truth without apology, and a call to obedience. His tone appealed to (first-born) part of my brain that longs for order and instructions to follow. It seems a refreshing contrast to the usual kinds of marriage books I prefer.

So. I don't jump on the modern fiction bandwagons (though I'm fine with the wagons, they're just not my thing). It's not The Help, The Hunger Games, or anything to do with vampires. I know these books are more obscure. But, by chance, have you read any of them? Tell me I'm not the only nerdy one.

Any votes on which I should read first?


Monday, January 23, 2012

You press the potato button

Happy Monday, friends!

Well, a lot has been going on over here. I painted my son's room this weekend (with two small enthused helpers). It occurred to me to run downstairs, grab a camera, and take photos of the fun project, but I decided it was all I could handle just watching like a hawk two kids with paint rollers in a tight space. All accidents were averted, though. And his room is one step closer to being Star Wars'ed out. He has a long piece of wall that overhangs, about a foot from the ceiling. I'm going to paint it with flat black today and somehow write, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away on it."

I've also been having fun with my new birthday phone. I totally meant to link up for my very first Insta-Friday last week and completely forgot. So this week I'll have a bunch of little cute square shots to share.

This morning I'm thinking about simplifying. I want to get back to the heart of this post, where I was inspired to ask the Lord for His agenda for my days. I need to be more faithful in surrendering my agenda, and not getting ahead of Him. That's what it feels like my regular inclination is: to get ahead of God and His work in my life.

These thoughts caused me to remember a conversation I had with a friend last year. I was telling her how I no longer cook baked potatoes because I always mess them up. She looked at me confused. I explained that I don't know if it's foil or no foil, it's a pain to puncture them a million times with a fork, I want big bakers, but then they never cook through, so are my punctures enough, I leave them in the oven for an hour and the centers are still hard...I was at a loss as to how to get a perfect potato baked. She again looked at me like I was from another dimension and said, "Well. I just throw them in the microwave." I returned her same look. "What?? For how long? Does it make them mushy? Or radioactive? Who cooks a potato in the microwave??" I obviously don't use mine much. She then leaned towards me and said in the tone I use to impress to my children that they should know better, "You just press the "potato" button."

I was baffled by the news that there was such a thing. Lo and behold, I found I had one of those. In one statement, my potato-baking became totally simplified.

This morning, I was reminded of how complicated we make our own lives. I get overwhelmed with the problems surrounding me, and I think sometimes God is essentially saying the same thing to me: "You just press the "potato button." Which in His language, equals, Let Me Handle It.

This is one of my absolute favorite portions of scripture. (I need to put it on my memorizing list!)

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty.
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
Psalm 131

Here are some things that are going in the "too difficult for me" folder today:

fixing the deeply rooted issues in my marriage
solving the mystery about why my daughter cried the whole morning as she got ready for school
determining how a little vacation a month from now will go
knowing how to talk to a friend who is struggling in her faith
understanding how God can heal even when things look hopeless

I will certainly take steps in all these areas to do my best. I am not making an excuse to discard my responsibilities. But I refuse to let myself worry. I refuse to overly "involve myself" in these problems. To me, that means, I need to take a day at a time. Slow down to the Lord's patient pace, bring my anxieties to Him in prayer, and trust that He is still on His throne. I am not. And I am only to follow His lead. Not rush ahead.

We complicate our lives so much. And that's not what God wants for us. I'm speaking to myself when I say, "Don't be overwhelmed by what's ahead of you this week. Just walk humbly with our God, one step at a time."

And don't forget you have a "potato" button.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: in Parenting (and some books)

As a mom, I find it really challenging to walk the fine line between training my kids in the truth and giving them grace. I've found there are two types of parents (because none of us is perfectly balanced): those who err on the side of emphasizing rule-following, and those who err on the side of emphasizing grace. Just because of the way my brain works, I'm the former kind. I set rules, and when they are broken, it seems the right thing to do is enact reasonable consequences. I presume that avoiding the consequence will be an incentive for my child to obey the next time. Common sense, right?

But is that the way God parents us? Well, yes. Sometimes. But not all the time. Often, I make mistakes and do not get what I deserve for them. I get grace instead. Unmerited favor for no good reason other than His love for me. It is a different kind of lesson, but still quite effective at shaping my heart.

So then, if that kind of grace must be a part of my parenting, then which time do I decide to give grace? And how often? Is it possible to give a consequence and grace at the same time? At what point does grace start to look more like license, and license begin to erode training? Besides walking closely with God for these kinds of case by case answers, I read books.

One book I really loved is called Grace-Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel. Wow. It really convicted me, and made quite clear what grace in parenting was and was not. I totally recommend it.

But some friends of mine are reading a new book, called Give Them Grace. I flipped through a copy the other day and I was sucked in by the first couple things I read.

It is written by a mother and daughter pair, and basically shows how rules were never meant to make us good. Rules were set in place by God to show us that we were broken, that we could never ever be perfect. To show us our desperate need for a Savior. (Now I'm really going to paraphrase, based on what I read three days ago.) What this book said, in the two pages I read, is that in our parenting, it is critical that we are not saying to our kids, "I see that you're having trouble loving your brother. Well guess what, you HAVE to be loving because the Bible says so." But instead, we should communicate, "I see that you're having trouble loving your brother. And you know what? You can't truly love him by yourself. You need a helper. You need Jesus to teach you." It suggested we practice presenting a child's version of the gospel whenever they are faced with their mistakes.

Don't be surprised when they fail. Don't shame them for it. Don't tell them to just try harder. Tell them that everyone makes mistakes, and that's why everyone needs a Savior.

Yes, they get consequences. Yes, there is follow through and training with God's word. But there is also a clear message that they WILL fail to do what is right from time to time and that it is humanly impossible to be "good," (though so many kids I know, including my own, are striving for that title already).

I mean, how many of you are reading or have recently read blogger Emily Freeman's Grace for the Good Girl? I believe it conveys the exact same message because so many of us as adults are broken in our understanding. We think we need to earn something with God, and so we perform the heck out of life and end up defeated. Grace is what erases all moral tally marks, empties our 'good' banks, and reminds us that we were never going to get there. And we didn't have to, because Jesus got there and is happy to wrap us in His goodness instead.

It may sound negative to basically communicate to our children, "You'll never succeed at being 'good'," but in fact, that message should be freeing to them, and to us. Every other religion seems to be all about trying harder and harder to reach God or prove oneself to Him. But true, authentic Christianity is about throwing up our hands, acknowledging our need for God, inviting Him into our lives, and allowing Him to transform us from the inside out. Only grace can be that freeing and that promising. And our kids need it.

So I'm going to get Give Them Grace, which means you'll be hearing more about it, I'm sure. And in the meantime, when my children disobey, I'm going to try the gospel approach. I have to say, when I'm being a disobedient kid, it works on me.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Year's Eve in review (a little late)

I've had so many thoughts lately that I haven't yet found a window to share about our New Year's weekend in the mountains. Some friends whom we love have an amazing cabin a couple hours away, and they so graciously invited us to spend the holiday weekend there with them. 

Our family tradition for the past couple years (since the kids have been old enough to tolerate a major deviation in the schedule) has been to let our kids stay up until midnight, which means all day long, we stretch everything out. Late breakfast, late lunch, rest time around 5, dinner at 8, then maybe a game, some baking, a movie (see...with a well-oiled plan, nobody notices how late it's really getting) and then finally, the big countdown. I'm so strict with our daily routine and bedtimes that it feels extra special for them. They feel so grown up.

This year, with our pals, we added mustaches to the mix. I think it needs to remain a part of the New Year's traditions. I just HAD to show you these.

Mustaches make one feel sinister, for some reason. (Or maybe we were just sleepy.)

One bandit, not sleepy. (Until 11:30, when he asked to "take a little nap")

Caught red-handed! Rascally varmints.

2012? It's on.

I also have to share a thought I had this year. When our kids were tiny, I sort of lamented the loss of our freedom on nights such as New Year's Eve. I wished we had the luxury of dressing up, going out on the town, and getting home in the wee hours of the morning one night a year in celebration. I thought our babies were somehow holding us back.

But my whole perspective has changed. Now, the clock strikes midnight and my two beautiful, sleepy-eyed, PJ'd kids are right there brimming with excitement to share hugs, kisses, and sparkling cider toasts in fancy glasses actually made of glass. We all yell "Happy New Year" and embrace not only one another, but a coming year together as a family. Really, there is no where else I'd rather be and no one else with whom I'd rather celebrate. And when I feel like dressing up, I still do. Who says my husband and kids don't deserve a black cocktail dress even though we never leave the couch and the kitchen?

In practicing making the most of the situation, I found that the situation itself - staying home for New Year's with my kids - held the most I could ever want. This year, being with friends too was icing on the cake.

If you can remember back two weeks, how did you celebrate the New Year? Did you stay up? Did you let your kids?


Monday, January 16, 2012

On crying

I'm not one of those women who say they "never cry." I am also not one who gushes at commercials. I confess I've been known to tear up at movie trailers involving kids who become BFF's with large ocean animals. But who doesn't?

Otherwise, I'd say I'm an average female crier. Romantic movies. Awesome parenting moments. Heartache. Weddings. Grief over my own mistakes. I cry at all that stuff. But what I observed in my own self recently was something that surprised me. For as much as I support self-expression, I don't always feel the freedom to cry. I still will, however (like when I can't help it), which means I often have shame or some sort of embarrassment attached to my tears.

It's true. Sad, but true. I am often in a situation where I need to cry, to let that emotion out, but also want to hide it. Sometimes it's from my kids, sometimes it's from my husband, sometimes it's from my peers at school when I step out of the car at pick up. Now, I'm not blubbering all the time. It's not often. What is it though, that makes me feel so inhibited?

Well, let me take a shot at it.

Something tells me crying means crumbling. "Pull yourself together!"
Something tells me crying should be hidden from children (um...they are people who cry all the time, so what sense does that make? )
Something echoes in my head, "Why do you have to be so emotional?"
Something whispers to my heart, "You are just too much."

I'm challenged to wonder, is this really what God intended for me to feel and think? Isn't He the one who made my body to burst forth in tears when my heart can't contain its emotion? Did Jesus feel this barrage of shame all the times He cried (which were many)? I seriously doubt it.

The other night, I was driving in the car alone. I heard something on the radio that triggered something hurting in me, and I just started crying. Weeping. I wasn't going to meet up with anyone. I had no reason on earth to feel embarrassed or ashamed to let out my emotion. And there it came, this mist-like negativity which made me feel messy and ugly.

And then the strangest thing happened. While I was crying, I had this visual in my head of Jesus smiling at me - no, He was gently laughing - not at me, but in undeniable endearment. The way I can't keep a straight face when my son throws himself on the ground in dramatics. (Sometimes I think his emotional self-expression is completely adorable.) And Jesus was looking at me like that, so lovingly. It distracted me long enough to ask an exasperated "What??" in my heart. The reply was, " Aww, go ahead and cry, my daughter. It's okay. You are so beautiful when you cry. Because it is then that your heart looks like mine."

Which made me cry harder. But this time in freedom.

Of course! How could I forget that He who holds the stars in place also fashioned for me a heart of flesh, tender and delicate. He entrusted me with powerful emotions to wield and to learn from.

And to feel.

Do you know, friends, that Jesus designed your heart to feel? Freely? We are not permitted to act on all those feelings in whatever way we choose. But we are permitted - expected - and encouraged to feel our feelings, not hide from them. Not let them shame us into an emotional corner. That night, I was hurting. My heart of flesh needed to say so. And the Lord reminded me that He too has a soft heart. He too feels heartache and grief, and I'm sure some at my own hand.

I was reminded of this verse - frankly, a verse that scares me:

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 11:19

Perhaps my biggest fear is developing a heart of stone. Oh, you know exactly what that looks like. So do I. It is a scary place to go, to feel the first bits of numbness creep in. It's easy to justify, in the name of "self-protection." I get it. I do. And it terrifies me when I find myself toeing that line. So I want to believe Jesus when He says my crying is lovely. I will eagerly throw off any shame entangled with my emotions simply because I want so badly to preserve a heart of flesh. Maintaining a tender heart is risky business in a broken world, and is no small task before God either. But God forbid I succumb to fear and let my heart grow hard.

I learned this week that my heart deserves my respect. I shouldn't extinguish or ignore my emotion and my pain. I can't let it rule me either. But I can offer my true emotions to God and let Him in. I can feel my sadness without being afraid of it, and ask Him to get to work on healing me. And most importantly, I learned that when I bear a heart of flesh, I resemble my Father most.

Now there's a reason to have a good cry.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: Fighting to Rest

I forget that rest is holy.

I decide that, instead, it is a waste of time. It is unproductive. It is indulgent. It is selfish.

But in truth, it is ordained for my life. And I forget that.

When the laundry is piled high, counters are cluttered, and demands are constant, I forget that rest is still a part of God's plan for my day. In His grace, He calls us to it.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need.

This morning, I chose it. Yeah, I hadn't written my post for today yet. Yeah, the counters covered in school papers and breakfast dishes were shouting at me. Yeah, I had the pile of clean sheets in my hand. I started to carry them to my daughter's room to change them and busy about the day's chores. But today, I remembered.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

I set the sheets down against the roar of arguments lining up in my heart. Picked up my Bible and my memorizing notebook, and chose to rest my spirit. I read a chapter, practiced my verses, and then I took a much needed nap. Yeah, it was not even 9 a.m. yet. But God was whispering to me how much I needed it. The fight to stop doing stuff was a rough one. Obedience is often swimming upstream, against all logic sometimes. God knows that without rest, my body and soul will get sick. This favor that I don't deserve...this grace He pours out beckons me to follow.

He leads me beside quiet waters.

I woke up shocked that two hours had passed, and the second battle began. The same thoughts assaulted me - indulgent, selfish, wasteful, unproductive - and I had to hack at them as with a machete in a jungle as I got dressed. Satan is quite proficient at this strategy, I thought. He does a fine job of keeping us busy and emptied, unable to give because we do not have.

This life strips us down. Every day wears on us enough that repairs are required daily. But I have to ask myself: Do I even believe that God would rather have me rest than have me working for Him? Doing my best performance as a Christian woman? It is His grace that stops us mid-performance and says, "Rest your body, rest your mind, rest your spirit...only in rest can you find my best."

He restores my soul.

A friend told me yesterday that she's been having sleepless nights. One after another, she lies in bed awake. Unable to rest. She told me that finally, a few nights ago, she cried out to God, saying, "HERE! Take it all!" She didn't even tell me what the "all" was. She didn't have to. (We know exactly what she means, don't we?) And not surprisingly, she fell right to sleep.

May you, my friend, find rest this weekend. May you feel truly restored in your body, mind, and spirit.

But expect to encounter a fight along the way.

I suggest a machete.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Accountability to memorize in 2012

When my kids went back to school last fall, I made a loose commitment to myself to memorize scripture. It wasn't quantified or anything. I just took a new notebook and started with something. I wrote it down. I read it and repeated it in my brain over and over until I KNEW it. Once I knew it, I wrote the date next to it.

It was not much of a system, but it worked. However, a few weeks later, I found Angel's blog. Actually, I think she found me, and then I found her back. She hosts a twice-monthly scripture memorizing accountability forum. On the 1st and 15th of every month, she writes a post titled Moxie Memorizers and then whoever has something memorized can type it into a comment. (Here is her first 2012 MM post. You can see my comment below it where I typed in the verses I have been working on). The bonus is that when I read through everyone else's comments to see what they're memorizing, I always find something I feel inspired to learn too. The hardest part is deciding what to learn next.

Basically, taking part in Moxie Memorizers two times a month gives me a more defined goal. You know what? It is NOT hard to memorize one verse in two weeks. Not if you have that little notebook on your desk and you flip it open every couple days and review the verse you're on. I'm sincerely surprised at how easy it's been. And when I go back to review the passages I learned over the last few months, I'm so, so pleased. I am retaining not only the words, but the truths as well. God's word is so useful! I should never underestimate how practical truth is to my everyday life.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17

You know, if we did this every two weeks, we'd have 24 new verses committed to memory by the end of the year.

What do you think God may do with that storehouse of wisdom? And to whom could you possibly pass on such encouragement, such truth needed so desperately in our world? Your co-workers? Your children? Your friends? Most importantly, we could encourage and remind ourselves to lean not on our own understanding, but to continue to trust and follow Him.

I'm certainly keeping up with Angel's memorizing program this year. It's been such a blessing to me, I just had to tell you about it.

Want to join me??


Sunday, January 08, 2012

B-day recap and my 2012 word

Welp, I really appreciated all the birthday love from last week that you sent my way. It just added to the sunshine of my day.

Although, I can't lie. My B-day did have some pits. I had already cried twice by 8 a.m. Just the expected mixture of high birthday expectations mixed with trying to get the kids dressed, fed, and ready for school. For some reason, I thought those steps might run smoother on my birthday. Um, yeah not so much. (It also should be against the laws of the universe for hormones to be wacky on your birthday too. Just sayin.)

But after the house was quiet, one special friend and her little lady came over with yummy breakfast treats and iced teas for us to enjoy. Then the three of us went to get pedicures. That was fun. I haven't had one in I don't know how long.

Next stop on the birthday train was the mall. Another sweet friend met us there, and I think the highlight (besides the coconut cupcake she brought me!) was wondering whether the individual in the Victoria's Secret marketing department passed all his or her spelling tests in school. One boxed Halloween costume on the clearance table featured a sub-classy ensemble for a naughty airline employee. The name of it was "Air Hostress." Hostress. Hmm. And speaking of school, when I showed Julie the jammie shorts I was buying that said "extra credit" on the back and said, "Look what I'm getting," she replied, "Of course you are," because she knows I am a recovering overachiever and still loves me.

The day of fun chugged along as I said goodbye to my pals, picked up the kids, and we all went to the harbor with some more friends for an ice cream. It was there that I started to notice my little guy's cough. I thought it was because he was running a lot. Except then he was suddenly congested, and flushed, and ...oh no. By the time we got home and I put him in the bath, I realized he had a fever and his cough was sounding awful. How fast those bugs can descend, huh? I knew we'd have to cancel our family celebration and get him in bed early.

After letting go of the plans and wrestling with feeling sorry for myself, I was reminded that God was still celebrating me. He was smiling on me, proud of who He has made me to be. Honestly, it really lifted my spirits to think about God being with me that night. My Immanuel, just like I talked about a dozen times last month. It's real. It's now, not just for Christmas.

Then I sensed a word that He's been bringing around me lately. I hadn't noticed it until that night.

It is HOPE. That's what He wants me to focus on this year.

Hope is the word I heard in a movie I watched.
Hope is what jumped off the page in my Bible reading the other day.
Hope was the name of the woman I was behind in line.
Hope is in the title of this free eBook I downloaded and read straight through last week.
Hope is and has been all around me.

He's been whispering it to me for days.

And on my birthday, I finally heard Him. It was His gift.

I'm really curious. What will He do with my hope this year? What exactly am I hoping for? And how intentional do I need to be with this hoping? There is so much to think about. Perhaps God is giving me that word because hardship will tempt me to forget. Perhaps heartache will leave me feeling hopeless.

So I have it, a holy admonition to HOPE.

Dear friends, through the ups and downs of this year, please help me not to forget.

Do you have a word you want to focus on this year?


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: Opening gifts

It's funny that Grace on a Thursday is falling on January 5th. Because it's my birthday. I'm 37 today.

I did have a passing desire to be like her and do something super generous for the world. 37 random acts of kindness in celebration. Seems like everyone's blogged about it. Everyone was all fired up a few months ago to do copycat birthday celebrations in one way or another. It's sincerely a great and inspired idea. And honestly, I totally DON'T want to do it.

Maybe because Christmas just ended, but I feel like I've just done 37 things for others. But times 10. I'm tired of doing and cooking and decorating and making every single thing intentional. I just want to get a pedicure and an ice tea on my birthday.

A piece of me feels sort of lame and selfish about that, but God is speaking to my heart. He's graciously reminding me that He wants us to take sometimes. After all, how can He fill me up if I don't take time to receive anything from Him?

What if my husband and children and friends all selected and wrapped beautiful gifts for me today and I left them unopened on the counter. Let's say all birthday long, I busied around, taking care of everyone else while they stood there staring. Then the next day, I kept on doing the same. I could not stop giving long enough to receive. I ministered at church, helped with homework, prayed for someone, fed the dog, watched her kids, called grandma, washed their clothes, made them dinner, read a story, sang a song, and picked up the mess. Just what if I never opened their gifts? What if I didn't see myself as valuable enough to stop, in order to let them give to me?

I do not want to be that woman who neglects to open the gifts God has for me.

I do not want to be someone who neglects her own soul care and calls it "giving."

(And yes, I just implied that getting an ice tea and a pedicure could constitute "soul care". It most certainly can, if those things are simply a vehicle to taking time out in order to remember who I am, and whose I am. Of course, if getting a tea and a pedicure are just part of the busying around, it doesn't count at all.)

I do really try to let God refresh me and bless me. I try to open His gifts. And not reluctantly, but with enthusiasm. With a hopeful expectation too, knowing that He is an awesome gift giver, desiring to meet my deepest needs.

I will say that being able to stop and receive blessings and refreshment from the Lord is a tricky business. It takes some vulnerability, and I know women who can't seem to do it. Either they feel unworthy, or they don't understand the importance of letting Him refresh our souls from time to time. In both cases, a better grasp of grace is needed. Grace is simply favor God has for us that we don't deserve. It has nothing to do with worthiness. It's just free love. It is room to be regular you, all performing switched off.

Grace is as important as air for us to function rightly. God doesn't need burnt out martyrs; He needs strong, healthy followers. Putting aside God's huge storehouse of blessings and refreshment and joy and love for us in the name of serving is just not His desire.

I know Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. It's the foundation of everything I believe. But sometimes we forget how much time He spent alone. Talking with His father, or his best pals. Relaxed. Getting filled back up.

Heck, back in those dirt-road days, had there been a Happy Nail in sight, He may have even gotten a pedicure. I'm just sayin'.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Teachable Moment: Anger

I haven't done one of these Teachable Moments posts in a long while, but today certainly presented one I thought I'd share.

My son is 6 and a half. I wrote about him here last year, in my "Introductions" posts right after the first of the year. I love that post. It talks about his wildness, and how I see God's glorious nature in him, at times. My son is an amazing creation.

And he has a little issue with anger. I tend to believe it is a male thing to struggle more with authority. What do you think? Anyway, as the day progressed, he was in the middle of doing some keyboarding practice on the computer when it froze up and he lost his progress. He was so frustrated that it was clearly time for him to walk away. Computers sometimes freeze, and life is disappointing. We've all been there.

As a mom, I know the drill. Empathize, encourage, redirect. I managed to go through these motions with patience and authority. And still his anger flared. In times like these, I can tell that my words may as well be spoken to him under water. His brain is so flooded with emotion, I know he can barely receive my love or make out my instructions.

I could see his frustration escalating despite my efforts. I more strongly exhorted him to "find his self control" with a warning tone, and as he got up, I saw the wheels turning. He picked up a pair of scissors on the table, and I stated in my firm mommy tone, "Put the scissors down," anticipating his next move.

He threw them anyway. Not at anyone. Not even close. But he threw a pair of scissors across the room, and after hearing me say not to. I did not react, but sent him directly to time out so that he could cool down, where his anger flared higher. He stomped and shrieked, while I restated, "When you find your self-control, then we can talk." The more he acted out, the more minutes he got. That stopped him fairly quickly.

After he was composed and totally silent for about five minutes, I called him over to sit next to me. I referenced a conversation we'd had just two days earlier where I detailed 1) appropriate responses to my instructions, and 2) appropriate responses to getting a consequence when disobeying those instructions. We covered those again. But then I talked about anger and what the Bible says. It went something like this:

Do you think it is wrong to be angry? (He nodded.) Actually, it's not. Everyone gets angry, and that is just a feeling. I feel angry when I lose something important. I feel angry when I can't do something I want to do. You feel angry when something breaks, or when someone hurts you. It's okay to feel angry.

But do you know what the Bible says? It says, "In your anger, do not sin." (This is where I use the word "sin" interchangeably with "making a bad choice" because he understands that language already. Nearly all kids by the time they are 2 or 3 understand that they are capable of making a bad choice. They may not yet be able to control their impulses like a six year old, but they understand right and wrong on a basic level.)

Let's look this up. (enter: Bible Gateway, using the NIRV translation which is the NIV for early readers and which I LOVE for teaching my kids what God's word says). Let's read this together:

Scripture says, 'When you are angry, do not sin.' Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Don't give the devil a chance.
Ephesians 4:26-27 

So buddy, can you see that verse tells us that it is okay to be angry, but anger will tempt us to make a bad choice? That means we have to use self-control. The part that says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry," means that if you have angry feelings, it's better to work them out before the day is over. If you carry your angry feelings to the next day, then you'll be even more tempted to make a bad choice. That's giving Satan a chance. He wants you to make bad choices. He knows how to tempt you when you're angry. The longer you stay angry, the more chances He'll have to tempt you. 

Then I made him write it out on a 3x5 card, and let him choose where he wanted to tape it up. He taped it to the fridge and I plan to practice it with him all week. Who doesn't need to know this verse by heart, pray tell??

So let me just say, I've been watching his anger get the best of him for several days in a row now. It's a post-holiday funk, I'm sure. Just like we are all in. But particularly when I see a problem being repeated, and the usual daily management skills aren't working, this is how I combat it, people. With God's word. Because what else do I have, as a parent, to back me up? God's word holds my biggest and best arsenal of parenting tools. Nothing else is certain in this crazy world, and I want my kids to grow in both knowledge and wisdom. So I can't afford to parent without knowing what it says.

It went well. My son seemed quite happy to learn the verse, and thought it was a fun little assignment to write it down and tape it up. I gave him a colorful note card and a ball point pen. The little things can make it fun for them.

What he doesn't know is that I do the same for my big-girl self! I forget how to live according to God's ways. So I write down His word. I use cute paper. I tape it up. I memorize. I'm not reinventing the wheel. I'm teaching my kids how to grow just like God teaches me. Because, again, what else do I really have?

And at the end of the day, what else do I really need?