Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thanks-living September {a linky}

Sometimes it's the simple things that I'm most thankful for.

We went to the beach with relatives visiting from Oklahoma. Since God knows one of my love languages is animals, he brought this friend on over. Paco the Pelican, as he is now known, wasn't afraid at all.

He just looked at me. Posing.
Isn't he beautiful?

Incidentally, we saw dolphins, fish, and giant orange and pink sea stars stuck to the pylons.
It was an extraordinary walk on the pier.

I'm thankful this month for opportunities to serve God. You know, he doesn't need our help
But He chooses to use us.

This month, it has been such a huge blessing to start 101 Wednesdays. So many women have responded, in my face-to-face life, through the blog, and a few even shared that they were thinking of starting their own studies in their communities. I knew God had been moving my heart to start it up; I just couldn't have predicted how inspired, humbled, blessed and satisfied I'd feel after doing so. (That's how you know you are where you're supposed to be, I think.)

I'm thankful our church encourages kids to serve the Lord too. My girl serves on the Power Hands team. It's only for 4th graders and up; they lead worship and hand motions for all the littler kids.

(And that's my mommy. She was looking so cute I had to take a photo of those two. She always looks cute, btw. I'm thankful for her too. She's a fun mommy and a very popular Nana.)

I'm thankful for quiet times and creativity.
I've been getting some myself, now that the kids are in school, and it's wonderful. I am really loving making things - special, one-of-a-kind things - for my shop. I'm very thankful for friends like you who have encouraged me and loved the results.

Here, my little guy is having some creative time of his own writing comics. He wrote multiple stories, some with three chapters, over the span of a few days. They are quite funny. My favorite was called "Episode 2 - My way" which was a silly version of a Star Wars epsiode.  

Lastly, I'm thankful that God goes before us. He knows what will happen tomorrow, and next week, and next year in my life. It's been a rough transition getting back to the school routine. Early mornings, busy afternoons, loads of homework, things forgotten, half-eaten lunches and tired everyone. It's tempting to dwell on the unpleasant aspects of September, for me anyway. But I'm choosing to be thankful that I don't need to figure things out ahead of time.

I don't need to know all the answers.

I have a good God.
And He goes ahead of me, making sure I will have what I need.
Tomorrow, and next week, and next year.

What about you?
What blessings did you find this month?



Friday, September 28, 2012

A laugh, a linky, Legos, and a lovely

1. This is my favorite new commercial. I live in Southern California, so I find it hilarious when people make fun of us. I mean them. Okay, us.

And another.

Here's what's even funnier. The same week I saw these ads, I also enjoyed the company of some relatives visiting from Oklahoma. They actually had a dairy farm, and thus know everything about cows. Well, a story was being told about a cow attack. The cow, apparently a girl cow, was attacking my cousin with her horns. Of course I said, "Wait. The girl cows have horns too?" And indeed they do.

At least I knew they weren't tusks.

2. The last day of September is SUNDAY, so get your posts ready to link up for Thanksliving. It's an end of the month linky I offer where we look back on the month and reflect on all we have to be thankful for. Since it's on Sunday, I'll open the linky on Saturday evening. Here's the code for using the button in your post.


3. If you have a child who loves Legos, then he or she may want to make this little friend for a fall activity. Isn't he so cute?

4. I made a couple of these October buntings if you're interested. I'm not listing them in the etsy shop though. If you'd like one, just put your email address in a comment below. They are 6' long and the orange flags are backed in black burlap. Classy Spooky, don't you think? (remember that infamous post??) First come, first pickins.

Happy weekend, everyone!


101 Wednesdays Tips and Homework, Week 1

Except let's not call it homework. Let's call it Reflection. Sounds much better than homework. Between my two kids, I have WAY too much homework in my life as it is.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read this. 101 Wednesdays is a weekly series I'm doing based on a small group I'm leading in my community. We are talking about the basics of faith, and every Wednesday, after I meet with the women face to face, I'll be posting some teaching and questions for reflection for those of you who are following along here.

Let me just start by giving you some helpful tips for participating in this Bible study.

1. Keep a notebook and pen at your side.

2. Find a space of about 30 minutes when you're least likely to be interrupted. It will be tempting to multi-task and read your chapters out loud to your child, since this is technically a children's Bible. And that's okay, as long as you also take time to read it alone also.

3. Before you read, ask God to open your eyes and heart to what He wants to show you. Doesn't have to be a complicated or formal prayer. Just take a minute to center your heart and acknowledge that He is the one who is actually teaching you based on what He knows you need.

4. Write in your Bible. Underline, highlight, whatever, but jot thoughts or impressions in the margins as you go. Make note of what jumps out at you or that you have questions about.

5. Take time to write your answers to the Reflection questions in your notebook. And remember, these are written for YOU. You won't get a grade. If one of the questions doesn't seem relevant to you, then skip it. But no matter what, be honest with yourself. Dig deep. Let what you're learning seep into your past, present, and future. If this kind of reflection is not something you're used to, it may feel difficult at first, and it make take some self-discipline to follow through. But it is important to learn how to live an examined life, and that takes practice.

6. Finally, spend a few minutes talking to God about what you read or are learning. Tell Him when you're confused or thankful or frustrated. If your mind wanders, it's helpful to write out your prayers. Remember that notebook sitting there? It's only for you to see, so don't be afraid to be real. Prayer is two things, in my mind: being real with God and listening.

We are not in this study just to know more about God. We are in it to know God.

Here is the assignment for Week 1:

Chapters 1-3 (Wait, go to the Table of Contents and number those chapters first) through page 36.

1. List three impressions or feelings you already had about the Bible, either positive or negative.

2. So now that we know we will learn how the Bible is one big story, name one way you hope that this story may help you in your own personal story.

3. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden, they allowed a terrible lie to come into the hearts of mankind: God doesn’t love me. Describe a time in your life when you doubted that God saw or cared for you. How did you feel?

4. God didn’t want them to eat the fruit because He knew Adam and Eve would then think they knew everything. This is the definition of pride, thinking we know better than God does, living our own way. God knew we would stop trusting Him, and He knew what would happen in our hearts. Fear and control can set in when faith is absent. Describe a situation where you struggled with fear and/or control. If you had trusted God at the time, how might things have changed (even if only in your heart)?

5. Reread page 36. End your time by telling God in your heart or on paper how you feel about the story so far. Have you been running from Him? Do you miss Him? Are you needing to be rescued with His Never-Stopping Love?

I'm so excited you're here, following along. Really I am. Community is the best. We will learn a lot together, I have no doubt.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Head bowed, sword raised

I don't have a lot of words tonight. Not my own, anyway. The only ones I feel like sharing are the two pieces of Scripture going through my head today. 

But before I get to that, thank you for your prayers for my morning. The 101 Wed. group was awesome and I can't wait to share more about it. I was about to burst into tears before I got out of the car because of how strongly I felt the Spirit moving this morning.

Back to my heart right now. Many times today, I thought of how the Bible calls God's word a sword. In Ephesians 6, where Paul is teaching on the armor of God, listing what we are to put on every day in order to be "strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength," the last item is not a piece of armor. It is not a defensive piece of protection. It is a weapon, the only one on his list.

"Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God's word."

In essence, I read Ephesians 6 to say, "Once you've made sure to protect your heart and mind, pick up your sword and get ready to use it."

God's word is an offensive weapon. Not defensive. It needs to be wielded and used with skill, striking at the right place, at the right time.

The other verse on my mind is this.

That pretty much sums it up.

Standing firm. Head bowed, sword raised.

How about you?


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

101 Wednesdays {back to the basics}

I'm getting back to the basics.

The meat and potatoes of faith.

The cornerstone beliefs.

Starting tomorrow, I'm leading a 101 Bible study in my city. I just gave it that name: 101 Wednesdays. It's not already a thing.

It felt pretty scary, but I invited as many friends and acquaintances as I could think of who seemed to be at least 1% interested in spiritual things. I knew many of them were not believers, which was sort of the idea. My motive was to bring church to them. If they would not make time in their lives to seek out and attend an intense 2.5 hour women's study with 100 women and 5-day a week homework, maybe they would meet at a coffee shop to talk about basics. I thought, "Maybe God has been preparing some hearts to take one small step in His direction. Maybe I could hold a woman's hand and help her take that one small step."

Wait, not maybe. I knew I could. If I were at least one small step ahead of someone else, and if God brought me that someone, I knew I could help her take that step.

That's my definition of discipleship. It is on my heart all the time, the "great commission," where Jesus said, "GO. Make disciples." The burden of that call finally got me off my rear end in my own community. But it wasn't just the call. God has lately been showing me how apathetic the world is becoming toward spiritual things. I have many friends who just don't care. Having a relationship with God seems irrelevant, unnecessary to them. If you look around, you'll see it. If it's heartbreaking to me, just imagine how heartbreaking the apathy must be to God, as a Father.

Goodness, I keep getting on tangents because this stuff is at the core of my heart. Back to my email. Many women I emailed didn't reply at all. But a few did. Then a few more. Then a few emailed their friends, and I got replies from a few more...women I've never even met. Today, I'm now concerned there won't be enough open chairs at the coffee shop. And I'm thankful for that problem.

So I thought I'd share the study here on the blog on Wednesdays too. Would you like to follow along?

The first book we are reading is the Jesus Storybook Bible. Yes, technically it's a children's Bible. Don't laugh, because it is incredible. It is written like a storybook, and it does a beautiful job of giving us a picture of what the Bible says in it's entirety. For those of us who didn't "grow up in church" or who feel intimidated or overwhelmed by reading the Bible, it is an excellent place to start. The Jesus Storybook Bible has been used in grown-up studies before to show how the most important things we need to know for our lives are at once both deeply profound, and also simple enough for a child to understand.

The subtitle of the book reads "Every story whispers His name," hinting at how the author weaves the stories together in the Bible to demonstrate its bigger messages. So it's the big picture that I'm interested in passing on to you guys through this book. We'll be able to breeze through it, and then afterwards, we'll start a more traditional book study of some kind. There are so many great ones.

If you want to follow along here, I will be posting a summary of what we learned that week, a reading assignment, and questions. They will not be "Try to get the answer right!" kinds of questions. They will be reflective, and are only for the purpose of processing what we're learning in the context of our real day-to-day lives.

Finally, I'm going to tell you a story about my friend.

I didn't send her the email because she is a strong believer already. She and her husband have worked in ministry at their church for over a decade. But she happened to be at my house, and somehow news of the study slipped out. I invited her out of politeness and was a tad apologetic that it was a "basics" study, assuming she would not be into it. Her answer shocked and humbled me.

She said she'd NEVER participated in a women's Bible study and NEVER attended a women's retreat because she doesn't know much about the Bible and feels horribly insecure. Because she wasn't raised going to church, she didn't know any of the stories. In fact, she'd work in the children's ministry at her church so that she could hear the basics taught in a simple way. She has such a deep insecurity about not knowing the Bible but being surrounded my mature believers that she said she often feels like she has to "fake it." And when I asked if her church ever offered women's studies, she said, "Oh yes LOTS! But none of them have ever had 'basics' in the title." She told me that 101 Wednesdays sounds like the only type of study she'd ever be interested in trying. 

Isn't that so humbling? God knew. He saw my friend's fears, He knew what she needed. And I was too presuming to put her on the email list. What a mistake! But he also didn't let my mistake thwart HIS great plans for my friend. Thank you Lord. So I'm inviting ALL of you to join in. It's up to you to decide if you want to follow along.

I'm getting back to basics.

It's for you if you're so intimidated by the Bible that it collects dust on your shelf.

And it's for you if you grew up on a pew beside your daddy who sat in the front row.

It's for you if you feel like something's broken.

It's for you if you never expected life could be this hard.

It's for you if you are just curious, just wondering who this Jesus really is.

Is he a teacher, a good example, a prophet?

Did He really sit in the black nothingness and speak each star into being? By name?

And it's for you if you sit here reading, wondering what on earth that has to do with you when your responsibilities and relationships threaten to do you in.

Reinforcing the cornerstones of my faith? Remembering how Point A (the Bible) connects to Point B (my life)?

Yes, that's for me.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Heeeey, what's YOUR name?

Hi friends!

Every so often I like to do a little meet one another post. It's helpful for me to know who's reading and learn a little bit about you. And it's helpful for you to know one another a little better too. I would like to think that we (you and I) here at top of the page are part of a community, a fellowship of women who want to grow and glorify God with their lives.

So if you would be so kind, how about say Hi to me and your fellow readers by leaving your first name, age and if you want, whether you have kiddos (ages?) in a comment?

It's time to de-lurk, girls. I'd love to know a little about you so that I can understand where you are in terms of life stage better.

Also, if you want, it would be great to know what kinds of things you may enjoy reading about, or issues you are struggling with. I hesitate to put that out there, since I almost exclusively write about what God stirs in my heart. But I just want to try it out. If you have a question, why not ask it? If we are in a functioning community, then we are here to support and encourage one another. Not just a one way convo from me to you, but an interactive exchange. That's my hope, anyway.

So I'm Leslie. :).  Sometimes when I smile really big, I get a scrunchy nose. I call that rabbit nose (see below).

I'm 37, and I have a son who's 7 and a daughter who's 10. Kev and I have been married for 15 years, and it's pretty clear that our marriage is the tool God has chosen to use in both our lives to refine us and draw us to Himself. I love having a family with him. I also love books, fabric, discipling other women, and wiener dogs not in that order.

So heeeeeey, what's YOUR name?  

(that's Joey, from Friends, btw. I'm dating myself, I know.)


Sunday to Sunday, in photos

This past week, it really felt like our fall schedule had descended upon us. Here are a few glimpses captured on my phone over the past 7 days. This is my every day life. And I love it.

Last Sunday, a trip to the flea market was in order to celebrate my sis-in-law's birthday. This table covered in vintage ice cream scoops made me wish I had a collection of something. Like maybe ice cream scoops. Aren't they pretty? Do you collect anything?

I guess you could say I have a mini-collection of Amy's lovely fabric wrapped bracelets. They went directly from the mailbox to my arm in seconds. Somehow they perfectly matched my outfit. For those of you who are unlucky and didn't win them from her giveaway (because I did!!), you can buy your own here, like commonfolk. (Just rubbing that in because I never win stuff ever.)

My girl takes advantage of our yearly insurance allowance for new glasses because it's just another stylish accessory to her . This was a funny visit, actually. My son was whispering his approval or concern depending on how many letters in the row she named correctly. He thought she was being tested and didn't get that the doctor kept changing how well she could actually see them.

My thread rack fell over and all these spools dumped everywhere on my desk. But it gave me a chance to look at them and arrange them again.All but 2 of them were my mom's and grandma's. The small wooden spools are stamped "15 cents", and the thread colors are vibrant and unusual. Somehow this assortment is a thread in an of itself, connecting me to the matriarchs before me, women who created. I love that. And I miss my grandma.

Here is me in my car, about to spend my first morning in one of my kids' classrooms. Helping out has always been one of my biggest priorities. It is some of the best spent time of my week. I highly encourage you to keep a regular presence in your kid's classroom, if possible. My son told me earlier in the month that he didn't know of any other mommy who liked to be in their class as much as I did. Now, there are moms who are in there more often. But that's not what he said. He said who LIKED to be. He is proud to know I want to be there, participating in their lives as students. The teachers feel supported, the kids feel loved. It helps to bring a hot drink.

I finally hung this verse that I got from Aly. When I was cutting it out, I felt like I was breaking some rule, though, like when your kid tears a page out of a library book. But she gets me, so it's all good. It just fit so perfectly in this old frame I found at an antique store and then stuck in a closet for months.

My girl started a new swim team this week too. She loves swimming. But it also means we are not home until 7 pm twice a week. Kinda throwing off my meal planning, and I don't have a routine worked out yet. It takes time to settle into fall schedules, doesn't it?

And finally, I wanted to share a verse I have in my 3x5 index card flip thing. I write verses I like in it, and flip through them every so often. It's like digging through a treasure chest of truth. I really needed this reminder last week that our battles are not with flesh and blood, but with the spiritual enemies we all have. Thank you Jesus for taking hold of my hand and helping me fight the battles raging in my mind, emotions, and relationships.

Can I get an amen?! Do not fear, my friends! You have an ever-present help.

And honestly, that means everything to me.


Friday, September 21, 2012

My first coupon code for the first day of Autumn (tomorrow)!

Tomorrow is the first day of Autumn, guys. Autumnal Equinox.

I learned that "equinox" is Latin for equal night. It's one of two days a year (Vernal Equinox being the other, in spring) when the day and night are more or less equal in length. Just a little trivia for you.

That means today is the last official day of summer, my favorite season. Well, I'm trying to look at the change in seasons with a happy heart. I'm looking forward to rain boots, and my favorite brown boots, and wearing scarves....okay, maybe all the things I like about Fall have to do with outfits, primarily boots. Not apologizing for that.

But I wanted to kick it off with my first coupon code. I listed a bunch of new items in my shop, including some little girls' necklaces and pommie keychains, and you can use the coupon code AUTUMN15 now through midnight tomorrow to get 15% off everything.

I know my shop has only been open for less than two weeks, but I like a reason to celebrate.

Even if it's the last day of my favorite season. Even if I will really miss the sun. The glass is half full, here; I'm so thankful for my overflowing cup of blessings. You are a part of that too, ya know. You really do bless me, and I'm thankful for each of you.

Wishing you a great weekend!


The Recipe for Growth

I'm a recipe follower. Some of my friends are the kinds of cooks who throw a bunch of unmeasured ingredients in a pot and suddenly it's the best meal you've ever had. They feel their way through cooking.

I just can't do that. I blame college. The many Chem Labs I had to take permanently burned into my brain the importance of following step by step instructions. We were required to hand write every step of an experiment before actually beginning. It took forever. But to this day, I feel comfort in reading and rereading a recipe in a cookbook as I work through it. This practice has caused me to appear to be a decent cook. When complimented, I always reply, "Well, I just know how to follow directions." I know that there are good cooks, and then there are people who can just read a recipe.

I think people approach spiritual growth similarly. Either a person is the type who feels their way through life, learning bits here and there, or she finds comfort in a recipe.

In the excellent Cloud and Townsend book called Changes That Heal, the Christian family therapists and psychologists offer a recipe for growth. Only three things are necessary, but ALL three are absolutely non-negotiable:

Grace. Truth. Time.

I read that book nearly 20 years ago and this has remained with me. When sharing His faith with others, Jesus is the only person to have ever had a perfect balance of truth and grace. We don't. Depending on our personalities, we either fall a little on the grace side of things, talking all the time about God's love and acceptance, which can undermine His intolerance of sin, or we have a passion for His holiness and truth, which can lead to legalism. And probably most of us struggle to include the necessary ingredient of time into our growth expectations (especially when it comes to others). I am often impatient for God to work. I forget that growth takes a lot of time and requires much patience.

You know how some cooks over-salt everything? Some cooks add too much spice or leave everything bland. No two are exactly alike. It's not unlike our personal walks with God. Everyone is different. And everyone has a taste, or gifting, that can lean us one way or another in following the recipe for growth. Lately, I've been trying to remember that since we are all different and are all part of the same body of Christ, we bring different things to the table. Since none of us is Jesus, we will reflect His strengths in various, albeit unbalanced, ways. 

Jesus is still our example, however, since He was perfectly balanced. He offered grace and loved others so deeply, but it was never without speaking truth. He didn't say to the adulterous woman, "Daughter, I love you and forgive you," give her a hug, and then leave. He said, "Daughter, I love you and I forgive you. Now let your life reflect it. Go and sin no more." Truth came with grace, and He gave a command for the future. There's the time component. He's not expecting instantaneous transformation. He says, "Now start making different choices. I want you to start looking like me." Over time, her life would change. That's growth.

That's what I want, for my life, and for the lives of the women in my sphere of influence. We need to follow the recipe, this time, folks. The haphazard guestimation style may work for soup but not for long term, consistent spiritual growth.

As of yesterday, I'm leading a weekly basics Bible study, so I've been mulling these principles over in my head. How, exactly, do people grow? Is what I'm offering balanced, and are my expectations appropriate given that time is a key component? That's why my mind came back to the book I read oh so long ago.

Grace. Truth. Time.

Which one could you use a little more of in your spiritual journey?

How hard are you on yourself? Do you regularly embrace God's grace and let His love wash away the burden of your failures? I know (because this is my weakest ingredient) that the evidence of lacking grace in your life is an ever present struggle with shame; I deal too often with condemnation and the accusing words of the Enemy because I do not practice grace like I should. I want to thrive in the light of grace daily.

Do you know truth and love God's word? Can you say what King David said in Psalm 119, "I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way." The evidence of lacking truth in your life is a struggle to prioritize learning about who God is and His standards for His children. I want to have a passion for truth, like David did.

What about your patience with yourself. Do you forget that time is a necessary component in transforming your character? If you have anxiety about your spiritual weaknesses, this nagging sense of urgency, or find yourself comparing your walk to others, then you may be needing to add time to your recipe for growth. I struggle with this too. These things take time. Lots. And God is in no hurry to make everything perfect in  your life or heart (darn!). And yet, it's so human to want to rush the process.

Which of the three ingredients for growth do you sometimes leave out of the recipe?


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sort of appalled my kids are not like me

It's strange how instinctual it is for a parent to subconsciously expect her child to be like she is.

I don't realize it, but I must expect them to be like me, or else I wouldn't be so surprised and thrown off when I find out they're not, right?  I don't know why, exactly. In my brain, I knew my kids would NOT turn out to be carbon copies of me, nor did I ever want them to be. But because I couldn't predict exactly HOW they would differ from me, I suppose, I end up bewildered when it actually happens.

Know what I'm talking about?

This is all coming back to me now, with school in full swing. I go through this every year, this process: "Oh yeah, okay. My child is not me. My child is not the same student I was. My child is not the same kid on the playground that I was. My child is not the same child I was." I have to recalibrate to not only acknowledge they are different, but also add, "...and that's not the worst thing."

Case in point.

Every fall, I feel stressed because my daughter doesn't quickly mesh with a group of friends. She floats. She sometimes hangs out all alone, or draws at the lunch tables, or reads a book. I was a more social kid, and so I have to stop myself from giving her pep talks on how to make a friend, be a friend, and so on. I tried that for about two years, and it didn't work. Incidentally, she is not stressed about her social interactions. I am. The ten-year old Leslie thought that being alone at recess was the worst thing in the world. While communication with her and training can be helpful at times, she is her own self, and doesn't need me trying to talk her into being someone else (ie. me).

So now, I go through this process of remembering,

"Oh yeah. She doesn't have that tight-knit friend group. And that's not the worst thing."

"Oh yeah. She forgets things in her desk, hesitates to ask questions when she needs help, and says she doesn't like school. And that's not the worst thing."

"Oh yeah. My son sometimes gets in trouble for doing compulsive things like rock throwing. And that's not the worst thing."

"Oh yeah. Boys pick up potty talk at school from each other. And that's not the worst thing."

See the pattern? I've learned to underreact at the things that used to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Trust me. I stressed out about all these things at one time or another.

Even when other moms are all up in arms about the girl drama or the potty talk, I really try to remember that my kids are a part of their own stories...God's own stories...and those are sacred. Perhaps my daughter's lack of connections on the playground leads her to a deeper friendship with Jesus. Perhaps my son's compulsivity leads us to a life-changing discussion on walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. I don't know, yet, how those issues will unfold, because I'm not the one ultimately in charge of their stories.

Yes, of course, I'm their greatest influence, and if you've been around here for any time at all, you know it's a huge priority of mine to be intentional in my mothering and the spiritual shepherding of my kids.

However, as they age, I will continue to lose control over their immediate circumstances and social interactions. That is precisely why I am in the business of equipping them for life when we're together! At this point, I need to focus on the continual adjustment of my expectations and push down that instinct to panic when things aren't going the way I'd hoped for them, even in the tiniest of circumstances.

I'd love for my kids to say they love school. But really, is it the worst thing in the world if they are the kids who say they don't?? Is it the worst thing ever for my introverted daughter to want to be alone at recess? Or for my son to learn a hard lesson from a school authority because he made a bad choice? Of course not!   Not only are these examples not the worst thing, but they are pieces of who my kids are, who God is shaping them to be. It's such a great reminder that I'm soooo not in charge of who my children were created to be, and who they will become. I've been given authority over them and responsibility for them, to an extent. But my job as a mother is limited, not infinite. The God of the universe has much bigger and better (and more loving) plans for them than I ever could.

It's freeing, isn't it? God sees my son and daughter at school. And in His divine, perfect wisdom, He helps me equip them at home to face the challenges HE KNOWS they will face. I can rest in that truth.

I may, at times, be shocked at how different from me my children are, but watching their stories be written by their Father who loves them....well, that will never cease to bless me.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

My new etsy shop opens today!

I've been working on some little projects lately.

Finding things and repurposing them.

Sort of reminded me of what God does with us.

It's really grown in my heart, this vision, so I opened an etsy shop.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when we give our lives to God, he salvages us.

The old is gone. The new has come.

This truth...I want to remember it every day, and so I create,

as often as I can, one of a kind pieces as unique as we are.   

I'm really excited to share this part of my journey with you.

When you have a minute, you can take a looksie ..... here.


Friday, September 14, 2012

An Update on learning God's Word

Back in January, I wrote this post sharing how I had committed to memorizing scripture a few months earlier. It was just time, I felt, for me to take up the discipline of scripture memory and better hide God's word in my heart.

But I already blogged about all I linked above. The reason I'm writing about it again is that some of you have asked me exactly what I do to memorize, and what I choose. Well, you may be unimpressed because it's very simple. Here's how I started.

1. I took an empty notebook lying around my house (see it, with the birdcage?)

2. I wrote a verse in it that I wanted to memorize.

3. I read it a few times a day until I no longer needed to peek.

4. Then I wrote a date at the top so I know when I learned it.

(By the way, writing that date at the top has become a little reward for me. I don't write it down until I can revisit my notebook a couple of times, know that verse completely, and not need any hints.)

For much needed accountability, on the 1st and 15th of each month, I'd type my newly memorized verse into a comment at Angel's blog under her memorizing posts (for more about that, read my post linked at the top from Jan). It made such a difference for me to have that goal; those dates of each month were reachable markers for me. Anyone can learn a verse in two weeks. I quickly realized it wasn't that hard.

And often times there, I'd read other people's verses in the comments, and think, "OH! That's what I want to learn next." Or I'd come across a verse in church that would speak to me, or think of one I sort of know from the past and decide to find it and REALLY learn it.    Right now, I'm thinking of the Fruits of the Spirit. Do you know that whole verse verbatim? It's in Galatians 5, I believe. I don't know exactly where. I can name all 9 of the fruits, but I don't know the whole verse. I don't know the verses before or after them. I'd like to learn this portion of scripture better. So I may look it up in my Bible, or on in order to read it in different versions, and then record it in my memorizing notebook.
I just looked in my notebook and counted from when I started memorizing in October, almost a year ago. I have committed to memory 38 verses! Oh my. That is more than I realized. Some were in passages or familiar sections, so there were like 4 verses in a group at times. And to be honest, I had a few months in there where I didn't memorize anything. My dates in my notebook jump quickly from March to July. Spring is always our busiest season, so I had grace on myself for those few months, and got back on the horse in the summer, with my kids.

Here's my suggestion. If you are feeling like it's a good time in your life to begin or restart the practice of scripture memory, find a notebook and start with Matthew 4:4. It was one of the first verses I recorded in my notebook:

It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Jesus said those words. It tells me that as much as I hunger for food in my body, I desperately need God's words in my spirit. They are my sustenance. I need to learn them and hold onto them like precious treasure.

One I'm working on next is 2 Timothy 2:15, also relevant to scripture memory (now I need to glance in my notebook):

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

I so badly desire to rightly handle the word of truth, friends.

I hope to see you at Angel's on the first of October!!  I'll be recording my latest verses tomorrow, since it's the 15th....the end of a longish passage I memorized with the kids (in a kid's version, no less - yes, that still counts!) over the summer.

Have a great weekend, and look out. Because next week, something BIG is happening. Something I've been working on for the last few months.

No, it's not a baby in my tummy.

Okay, I'll tell you a little, but I won't show you yet.

{My etsy shop opens!!}

I'm really excited.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Like a Baby Needing to be Swaddled

I'm a little overwhelmed.

This morning, everyone left by 7:40 a.m., and as I contemplated the whole day ahead of me, I was quickly overwhelmed by all that needed to be done. Not just everyday tasks like laundry or errands, mind you. Big projects, new endeavors, PLUS the laundry and errands on top of those were what surmounted to humanly impossible.

I knew I needed to start with centering my soul. It's not an option on days like this. And as I closed my eyes, listening to my Father, letting Him show me the bigger picture, I felt so much comfort. As I flipped through my memorizing notebook, I came across this that I learned last fall, from Psalm 63:

O God, you are my God.
Earnestly I seek you.
My soul thirsts for you,
My flesh faints for you,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I have looked upon you in the sanctuary beholding your glory and power.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
My lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live,
In your name, I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich foods.
My mouth will sing with joyful lips
As I remember you on my bed
And meditate on you in the watches of the night
For you have been my help.
In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

That struck me. Yes, that's where I want to be. In the shadow of God's wings. I imagine God is comparing Himself to a majestic bird and I am the little chick, nestled against Him, hidden and safe. It's not safety like a bird in an cage, but safety against His very own body. It's intimate, between a parent and a child. Only baby chicks know what it's like to be in the shadow of someone's wing. Baby chicks who waddle away are awkward, unsafe, and flailing.

That's how I felt this morning. Inside I was flailing, looking all around me, seeing all the looming threats.

If you are a mother, you've surely seen your newborn flail and cry, needing to be swaddled. Most babies love feeling securely wrapped in a soft blanket. Most feel very anxious when left to flail.

Well, mine was not most babies.

When my daughter was just born, she often cried. The nurse in the hospital would respond by swaddling her in the standard issue pink and blue striped blanket tightly. But instead of bringing her comfort, the cotton cocoon produced the opposite result. The more my newborn was swaddled, the more she cried, working as hard as she could to wriggle her arms free. After a day or so of this wrestling, we realized that she hated to be swaddled. That's why she kept crying. She absolutely needed to have her arms free. At ten years old today, I sometimes forget that she is still my newborn; I'll pull her covers up to her neck as I kiss her goodnight, and she quickly wiggles out to free her arms. We laugh at how little has changed, and how I sometimes forget that she still does not like to be swaddled.

This hating to be swaddled is simply her personal preference, but I'm afraid at times, it becomes the condition of my heart. In my toxic self-sufficiency, I resist the Lord's comfort when I need it most.

I think this morning, the reason I melted into His arms was because I've settled for busyness too often lately. Oh, there are a lot of "good" reasons. Excuses. But I've not taken enough time to spend with my Father in several days. It's not surprising that I started to flail. I started exposing myself to attack and intimidation at life spinning around me.

How I needed to return to the shadow of His wings. How I needed my loving parent to wrap my heart tightly to stop the flailing.

He is so faithful and so willing to love us, to press us against his very own body, even when we are no stronger than newborns.

He's probably been trying to love me, comfort me, speak whispers of peace over me for days, but I was wrestling to get my arms free. (How else could I keep all those balls up in the air?)

The practice of peace is so difficult. If chaos and busyness were simply a part of our culture, I think I could more easily maintain a peace-filled existence. But it's not only our surroundings; I can't blame it all on "the world." It's my flesh that wrestles with God most. My flesh wages war against the spirit of Jesus in me. Not enough time with Him means my flesh is winning the war, and I am left a restless, helpless baby.

Well, today I'm wrapped up tight. Peace-filled, and secure in my Father's love, come what may.

And rough times may come. Certainly, they will. We are in a season of transition in our home in many ways, and I often don't know what to expect. That's all the more reason why I need to stay under that wing, stay swaddled, and sit tight.

And know in my soul, my dad's got this.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Back in the saddle and I'm already frustrated.

So today was day 4 of the new school year for us.

We had a rough morning. The kids are just not all that crazy about getting up super early and staying aboard the "let's get ready for school" boat. Once they are up, they are just struggling to stay on task, remember what to do next, be on time for breakfast, and the list goes on. If it weren't for an unexpected fire drill this morning at school, they would have both gotten tardy slips.

Did I mention that it is only the FOURTH day? I'd usually hang that fail on my own shoulders, but I was actually on time. I told them each thing to do, was giving them extra time warnings ("You have five more minutes to finish breakfast...") using a friendly voice, and keeping my cool.

They, on the other hand, were rolling around on the floor moaning, getting distracted by Legos, and complaining about EVERYTHING.

After school, it didn't change. Even though I was fully getting an A+ myself on providing a little rest time, yummy snack, attentive chit chat, and after school read aloud time (what we call "book club"), no one was then ready to jump back into the homework grind. Everyone complained about bath time. And everyone got consequences for repeated disobedience.

If it weren't for the school supplies part, back to school would be my least favorite, people. I will never understand these two categories of moms: 1) the ones who say, "I just loooooved being pregnant," and 2) the ones who say, "I just can't waaaaaait for fall."

I think I could be UNpregnant and it stay summertime the rest of my life and I'd be pretty happy.

I don't have a lot of profound revelations tonight on our current situation. I've tried everything known to mothers for getting the kids to follow the morning routine. Some of them have worked, some of the time. In general, half the time, the kids are right on and responsible, with time to spare in the morning and happy hearts. The other half the time, they're falling lost her lunch box, one refuses to brush his hair, and someone ends up crying. Sometimes it's me.

The mystery right now, though, that I can't seem to solve is how to teach my kids to be hard workers, whether it's getting ready or homework or chores. I'm at a loss as to how to teach them to do all things with diligence and a pursuit of excellence.

I'm finding it hard to communicate that I want them to try their hardest and give their responsibilities their best WITHOUT communicating, "Just try harder!" all the time. It's the difference between pushing them for the sake of pushing versus  inspiring them to be their best. My sincere heart for one always sounds like the other, I fear.

A morning checklist may help them walk through the steps of a routine, but it doesn't address the deeper matter. It doesn't help me inspire a strong work ethic. When it comes down to it, I can call the problem "disobedience" because I am asking them to do this or that, and they are not exactly fulfilling my commands in my timing. But this disobedience mainly occurs in the less pleasant work-related areas. I get it; work is much less fun than playing. But work is a part of life, and moreso as you grow up. Work and the increase in responsibilities with age is consistently a bitter pill for my kids to swallow, and I'm always talking to them about this issue. How often do I need to give the empathetic "That's life," speech? 

I'm frustrated, can you tell? Maybe it's just age and maturity related. Maybe I'm just expecting too much. I know what kinds of responses and efforts I want to see in them, and on occasion I see them, but I don't feel confident in how to grow that character quality of being a hard worker more permanently.

Do you ever deal with these issues, if you're a mom? Do you think there is more to it than our basic human inclination to be lazy? Is it a matter of self-control? Obedience? Gratitude, even, motivating them to take care of their things and their bodies?     


Mentoring Post #5 up at Casey's: On Prayer

If you've ever wished for something really hard

          and called that prayer...

if you've ever tried to persuade God to be on board with your agenda

          and called that prayer...

if you've ever tried using a tad more spiritual language to talk to God
(because 0.1% of you believed that helped)

          and called that prayer...

then you're just like me.

And this post is for you.

{Mentoring post #5 is up now on Casey's blog.
Actually, she posted it Friday, and I'm just getting around to telling you. oops.}


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Teachable Moment: Fears in the night

This just happened five minutes ago. It's parenting lessons in real time on the blog tonight.

What's funny is that in a good parenting moment, I don't usually feel like I know exactly what to say to my child. I hash it out as I go. (Don't we all?) And often, like tonight, as I walk through a sticky situation, what I believe materializes even more clearly.

When I teach some important truth to my child, I reteach it to myself.

Know what I mean?

My son, who gets up typically a few times every night for all the reasons you'd guess, just came out of his room to ask if there could possibly be any "emergencies" tonight. Last night, by the way, he came out to ask if I was doing anything that could cause a fire.

I know this boy like the back of my hand, and I can basically read his mind, at least in this area. This is what's happening. He is lying in bed, restless and awake (just like I am for a good hour before sleeping), letting his mind get carried away with fears. For a while, he was afraid of someone coming in his window (I have NO idea how he landed on that creepy possibility. We don't talk about those kinds of sad stories, or even watch the news. I say it's straight from the enemy.) But lately, his fears are more home disaster themed.

So while I held him, I was tempted - SO tempted - to make promises I couldn't keep. For instance, as a loving, nurturing mommy who wants more than anything for her child to feel safe and secure, it's so tempting to say:

"Oh, honey. Nothing like that is going to happen."
"Awww, our house isn't going to catch on fire. You're perfectly safe."
"Little buddy, daddy and I aren't going to let anything bad happen to you."

As if we have total control. The more I was tempted to give him false reassurances, the more I began to flat out REFUSE to tell my child something that wasn't 100% bullet proof. As my heart ruffled through all the possible responses to his fears, I only had one thing left to say to him. It was like I pulled every piece of paper out of the file cabinet until only one remained.

(And by the way, I didn't say this all sappy and sweetly. I took his bony shoulders in my hands, looked him in the eye, and used my serious voice.)  I said, "I can't tell you what's going to happen because I don't know the future. But I DO know the most important thing, the only thing I can promise you: God loves you, bud. He sees you, he knows what you need, and HE is a bigger, stronger protector than even daddy and I."

He asked more questions, not quite getting it. Alright, he's only 7. He pressed the "fire" thing, still wondering if my husband or I EVER do any activities at night that could lead to a fire. He even said, "So what are the other things that can cause a fire..." No. I continued to REFUSE to entertain and feed the fear gripping his heart. I told him instead he needed to STOP the fears by talking to God and then trusting Him, because He is BIGGER and STRONGER than anything that could happen.

Friends, I will not tell him life will be all sunshine and rainbows. There are horrible floods in the south right now. We could have a record-breaking earthquake in the middle of the night. I know people who have lost everything to house fire. EVERYTHING. When my son asked with terror in his eyes, "Well, if we have a fire, will I be able to grab my stuff?" Don't you think every bit of my being wanted to say "YES! You'll always have your blankies and your guys and your favorite Legos." That's what he wanted to hear. But do I want him to lean on lies or on Jesus? That is the question I had to ask in the moment.

I want Him to lean on Jesus. And that's it.

Because one day, fear of losing his blankie will become fear of losing his job.
Fear of someone coming in his window will become fear of someone breaking his heart.
And the list goes on.

I knew tonight I needed to water that one seed that was planted a few years ago in his heart....a seed of faith.

Faith needs roots to weather the real, ripping storms of life. And roots grow when one's faith is tried.

I'm choosing to step into my little buddy's faith-trying storm, not shield him from it.

Lord have mercy, because I'm sure it's not the last time.

linking up with Amanda, here {a tad late}

Monday, September 03, 2012

One reason why people don't come to church

I stood in front of my chair yesterday morning at the 11 o'clock service singing the song, and I felt a sting in my heart.

It was a familiar pain. A good pain. And it caused me to think...."What exactly is this ache I feel on Sundays, when I open my heart up to Him in His presence?"

Do you know what I'm talking about?

I haven't always felt this sting in church. I used to fall into a category of church-goers whom I think are more or less immune. You know the category; those who are attending to have an experience, to "feel good," to spectate, enjoy a little holy concert, get a little inspired for the week, and then go out to lunch afterwards. Do I ever understand that person! I was that person for years. And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's just a step in one's maturity (and not a destination). Those years were simply a portion of my journey.

I mean, I do enjoy the music, the donuts, the chit chat, and the inspiration. But that's no longer why I'm there. That stuff is sort of the icing on the cake, you could say. I look forward to going to church these days to meet with God. To fellowship with Him, personally. Of course, I can do that anywhere. But it's so easy under His roof. There are no distractions. Brothers and sisters are serving me there, leading me into worship, teaching me something new about Him, and there are quiet times when I can hear His voice.

When I walk in those doors, I lay my heart on the table, expecting Him to show up.

He does. And oh, it stings.

Friends, tell me you hear me on this. I want more than anything to be loved on and changed by Jesus, and that means I have to expose myself. I bring my whole heart. The problem is my heart is never perfect. I might feel a little proud of how the week's gone, in terms of my parenting or whatever. But the second I open up Sunday morning to my Creator, my One True Love, I can't help but feel the grime of my humanity. In His presence, I immediately know I've missed the mark.

Did you know that the word "sin" is an archery term that means just that? When an archer shot an arrow that didn't hit the bulls eye, the judge would yell "sin!" The arrow missed its mark.

God's mark is perfection. No matter how good my week goes, on Sunday I know I've missed His mark. There's always this moment when I open up, inside. He meets me, I feel the sting of my sin, I grieve it for a moment, and then I let His grace wash over me. It's a quick process, but necessary. By the way, He's not ever bringing to mind my sin in specifics right then. I just have a sudden awareness of being so human, so broken, compared to Him.

Now let's imagine that I didn't have a strong familiarity with the truth that under Jesus, my sin is forgiven and I can stand before my Creator blameless. I look perfect wearing Jesus' righteousness. Let's just say that was me. I can tell you I would NEVER want to step foot in church. Why would I want to face my failure in missing the mark again and again? No amount of good music or inspiration can counteract that kind of inner shame.

Imagine your friends and family who don't know Jesus. I don't care how they've talked their way around the concept of sin and missing God's mark. Unless they are coming in the doors of a church with a heart of stone, they feel ashamed to be there. For a second, I FEEL ASHAMED TO BE THERE. But I know I'm forgiven and it's all good. Of all the excuses, I'm starting to believe this unresolved shame is the main reason our friends and family stay away.

So the lesson, for me, as I thought of all this yesterday, is simply confirmation of Jesus' greatest command. LOVE. It's the only way a person drowning in their shame might choose to come to church, if they have a mustard seed of faith that God is Love. And it's my job to tell them so. I almost typed "And it might be my job to tell them so." No. There's no "might be." It is my job. (Matt 28:18-20)   

Truth be told, that's what gets me to church, freely, habitually laying everything on the table week after week, sting after sting. I love our worship team. I deeply appreciate our children's ministry. And the teaching from the pulpit is straight from God's word.

But I want to be there, I push through the sting, because I know He loves me. That's it.

 {Linking up with my girl Laura a little late b/c I thought
tomorrow was Monday, but guess what, today is.}

bits of splendor