Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Flour in my Hair

The little drummer boy has always been right there with Santa and Rudolph in my mind... made up characters that are all over Christmas, but don't really have much to do with the real story of Christmas. That little fella has been more annoying, however, because he claims to be part of the birth of Christ, but he's a fake! He wasn't there, he's not in the Bible anywhere.

But I was listening to my favorite cookie-baking CD today, Mercy Me's The Christmas Sessions, and was struck by that little dummer boy. There I was, minding my own business, trying to get another thing checked off of my ginormous Christmas to-do list, and he smacked me right up side the head. Something about Mercy Me's version, I think, because in the chorus, there's less emphasis on the Rum pa pum pum, and more on asking, "Shall I play for you?" And the final line of the song they sing, "I played my best for Christ, then He smiled at me."

Hmmm. There I was elbows deep in flour and mess, trying to make these cookies that are ridiculously hard to manage, thinking about what else needs to be done--and for what? Is it for Him? Oh how easy it is to get caught up with the wrong motivations. And how He longs to smile at us when we have our eyes in the right direction.

And here I've been giving the little drummer boy a bad rap for being a Christmas fake. May we all play our best for Christ, during the Christmas Season, and throughout the year.

photo credit to Lacey Dahlstrom

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Give Up

Surrender sounds like a passive word. Seems like it's another way of saying, "do nothing." In this adventure of trying to be a fully committed follower of Christ, to be His, there's a lot of surrendering goin' on. I must surrender my will, my self, my picture of how things should turn out, my grudges--lay it all down and trust Him to take care of it. Surrendering is something I've thought about and written about, and been working to do for quite a while. And that's the way it's supposed to be, Jesus said we'll need to do it daily. Surrendering isn't a check on the to-do list, it's a way of living.

The new ah-hah moment for me this past weekend is this: surrendering is NOT passive. It isn't doing nothing at all. Waving the white flag isn't doing nothing, walking across the lines and holding up your hands, that isn't nothing. That's taking steps in a new, different direction. And it's scary. Maybe a little lonely. And there's some loss involved, so it's sad, there may be some grieving.

Sometimes surrendering is a relief. There's all this stuff, this burden I've been carrying around, and thank You, Jesus, I can lay it all down before You. There's a freeing lightening of the big, heavy load. But this weekend, I've felt this fear, loneliness, and sadness. It's been troubling, and I've been asking God what's the deal? Where's the joy? I'm trying so hard to surrender, where's the pay-off?

But I'm thinking this morning, that maybe this is what surrender feels like, too. Really giving something up means a real death of sorts. And really trusting, really having faith, is believing God has something so much better for me than my dreams when I kind of liked them, and miss them for a while.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I was just saying to Scott last night that one of our cats, Greta, has never mastered that getting-out-of-the-way thing that cats typically do. Usually, cats slink around and anticipate your moves, sliding out of the way at the last second. Not Greta. She gets stepped on regularly, and she places herself right in the middle of doorways and stairs. We are often contorting ourselves to step around her. Goofy cat.

She likes to be right in the thick of things. This is especially true if she thinks she might be able to see the bottom of her dish, if she feels it may be coming perilously close to empty. Regardless of the state of her dish, though, she follows me around and I am always in her line of sight. Not big on meowing--unless you pick her up or step on her--she just makes her presence known by getting in the way. It occurs to me this morning that she may be on to something.

Ever notice how sometimes everything you read and hear is sending the same message? I'm doing a Beth Moore Bible study of the book of Esther, our series at church has been on the last chapter of Philippians and all about joy, and I just finished Phil Vischer's book, Me, Myself and Bob, about the rise and fall of the company he started, Big Idea, makers of VeggieTales. God has a beautiful way of getting His message through, loud and clear--even if it takes three different messengers! (and if you count Greta, four)

So here's what I've been hearing: We have to get to the place where only God is enough. He have to wait on Him, not the stuff, event, job, etc. Waiting on Him means giving up ALL the self stuff, including our dreams, even dreams He may have given us, and being completely and totally about Him. Loving with all we've got and all we are: mind, heart, soul, strength. I believe this with my head, I have for years. But living it out in a practical way is tougher for me. I don't know exactly what it looks like to wait on the LORD every moment, you know, while doing laundry, making lunches and racing for the bus, being a chauffeur, vacuuming, shopping, taking a shower, reading or watching tv, whatever....

Yes, I can be prayerful while I do these things, and sometimes I do a good job there. But waiting on HIM, rather than the next thing is kind of what was an eye-opener for me. I don't like the waiting part, I like the results part. But in the waiting is where we hear and see Him. If we don't wait, we miss it, our focus not on Him, but on the results.

And then I see Greta. She waits on me. She is singularly focused, following me, looking at me, watching for where I'll go next, gets in my face and makes me love her. Even as she's doing other things, like watching the squirrels out the window, she has one ear cocked toward me. Even when the dish is full. Maybe that's how I need to wait on the LORD. Singularly focused on Him, always listening for His direction, always looking for Him. And even if I'm in His way, He won't step on me, He'll redirect me. "The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives." Proverbs 37:23 NLT Wow, He is so good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Magic School Bus

How can it be that the bus stop stirs up so much in me? Am I a kook? That's a rhetorical question. There is something about the kids walking away, going somewhere else, away from me, to grow and learn... I have a love/hate thing going with it. I love that they're becoming their own people, going off into the world for just a little while. I hate that it's a reminder that someday they'll do it for real. They'll grow all the way up, or at least go all the way away. Their care will be beyond my jurisdiction.

I was thinking this morning about how my kids walk to the bus stop differently in the mornings:
I have one who wants me to be at the bus stop, or be watching it until the bus comes. Love that I'm still wanted, "needed," and you know, a little fresh air won't kill me in the morning. Hate that I'm often in the driveway or walking down the street in my jammies, that the weather is getting yukky, and hate that I suspect a little bit of a power/control thing, getting mom to do our bidding.

I have another one who kisses me good bye, professes love for me, and walks out the door, never looking back. Love the confidence, and the readiness to start the day. I like to think some of it comes from knowing there's love at home. Hate that there isn't even one tiny bit of needing me once the threshold has been crossed. I feel out of sight and out of mind.

And finally, I have one who bounds out the door, adjusting jacket and backpack, all a little discombobulated, gets to the end of the driveway, turns and goes about 10 paces or so down the street, and ALWAYS, like a reflex, looks back to see if I'm watching, and gives me a wave. Ok, I just love everything about this departure. It makes me smile every morning. But I still get that squishy feeling as the steps take my baby farther and farther away.

The Bible reminds us in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for love, and a time for hate. It doesn't mention this battle in my heart where I'm engaged in both at the same time. But that same passage in the third chapter is about seasons. I think my struggle is now and has often been to fully appreciate the season that I'm in right now. Not anxiously awaiting the next thing, and being completely IN the season I'm in. So maybe loving and hating simultaneously is how I do it. I don't know.

At the end of his whole "there's a time for this and a time for that" message, Solomon says, "What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God." (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13)NLT

Oh Lord, help me enjoy the gifts that these children are, and help me to remember the WHOLE SCOPE of Your work, here on our street, in our home, in our lives.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

And, Action!

I was reminded again today of how very, very important it is to keep a record of the things God is doing in your life. Some call this "journaling." Some people can do that, and some really enjoy writing out their prayers, or dumping feelings all over a page. If that's not you, don't sweat it. Does the very mention of the j-word make you twitchy? Let me offer some encouragement to you.

For starters, call it something else! It can be just a pad of paper, or a folder full of scraps of paper, written in the car in a hurry. And take the pressure off of yourself to meaningfully write beautiful prose.... You can jot down a few words that will be a reminder to you. Bullet points are a beautiful thing; you don't have to write a whole story. It's for you, so no need to impress anyone, ya know? Think of facebook status updates, or tweets on twitter. Did God open the door today for you to have a conversation with someone? Did you see an answered prayer? One sentence will do.

Jesus warned about getting stuck spiritually in His parable about the farmer scattering seeds. When he explained the meaning of the parable to His disciples, He said, "The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity." (Luke 8:14 NLT) This life is full of legitimate cares. Bills have to be paid, kids have to be taken care of, work has to be done. In all those cares, we can rejoice in the moment of seeing God's activity, and then bounce right on to the next care. Remembering His love and activity can help keep those cares from crowding out His Good News.

There is such value in having a tangible record of God's activity that you can hold in your hands, look back at and remember, and see what He did. When you're keeping track, you'll be amazed at how His work in you starts to stack up! And what a blessing, during times of doubt and questioning, to be able to look back and see proof, to read in your own handwriting what He did in your life. He was active in the past and He is active today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Can I Hear You Now?

Scott spent an intense 3 days in Berkeley, CA at a seminar titled, "Unlearning Racism" last weekend. He arrived home at about 1:00 Monday morning, and had to go to work after a few hours sleep, so there hasn't been a lot of time for him to tell me all about it. It was one of those "hard-to-put it-into-words" kind of deals. Bits and pieces are coming out of him....

One of the important lessons he has shared with me is about how people listen to each other. There are things we do, in conversation, that shut down communication. Sometimes we shut it down because there are things that just seem too hard to talk about or hear, or we can just be so busy with our eyes on our own selves that we close the door on someone else's story.

This makes me wonder about my own conversations with God. Am I shutting His voice down? Where are my eyes looking? Something to think about.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where to Begin?

Oh, the things I've been meaning to do: e-mails that need to be sent, the stack of books to read, the linen closet that is screaming for reorganization, and on and on. It's amazing to me how the days slip by, the immediate needs pressing for attention just crowd out all the other stuff. All those things I've been meaning to do are left untouched, after weeks. I want to use the time God's given me well. I want to be in an obedient posture, ready for God to use me wherever He may lead, and yet I feel whole days and weeks get eaten up by the events of today or prepping for tomorrow.

Sometimes my reaction to this is to be stubborn about the calendar. I get sort of passive/aggressive with it, unwilling to fill up the month, but that's silly. We need to have the soccer games written on there, or else I end up having us in two places at once. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, and start making lists so I can feel some control. Scott and I heard in a Sunday School class once years ago that what Satan does is "rob us of the now." How true. I want to remember that this is the day that the LORD made, I want to rejoice and be glad in it.

The best way to do that, for me, is to start the day with Him. Begin with my eyes looking up, rather than at the calendar and lists... so easy to say, but harder to drag myself out of bed in the dark to get those few moments before the pressing begins. It's worked for me in the past, so with the new school year, I'm getting back on track! Decided to start reading some books of the Bible I've never read before.. Joel, Amos & Obediah. I'll go through them slowly, and ask Him to show me what I need to see. He honors that prayer. Everytime.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Family Adventure!

We call it a "Family Adventure" when we're off to try something we haven't done before, or when the plans aren't completely solid and we'll be winging it. It's sort of a signal to the kids that we don't have all the answers, and we'll all find out as we go. Yesterday, we were racing to get home from my parents house (an almost 4 hour drive) so the boys would be home in time for their fantasy football draft (or some such thing).

Scott and I have noticed over the last couple of months that our gas gauge (an old-fashioned needle kind) is acting a little quirky in its old age... you know where this is going, right? I was driving along with the cruise set at about 74mph, and the gas thingy said we had more than half a tank, which I knew wasn't right, since we'd been driving 2 hours and had a half tank when we pulled out of my parents' driveway. We were about 5 miles away from the oasis, and had decided we'd better stop and fill up, since how much gas we had was a bit of a mystery. (and mama had to go potty) Yeah. Well. I've never run out of gas before, until yesterday.

The cruise was still on, but the spedometer started creeping down. I turned off the cruise, stepped on the gas pedal, and it kept going down!! THEN, the low fuel light goes on and the needle is below the E. Um, yes. Thank you very much Mr. Indicator Light. I turned on the hazards, made my way over to the shoulder, and Scott and I are frantically searching our brains for everything we've ever learned about what to do when you run out of gas. Turn off the air, radio, and dvd player. Jiggle the steering wheel to move those last few drops of gas around in the tank, just let her roll down the road as far as she'll go...

I coasted down the shoulder with the hazards blinking, until Scott saw a house near the highway, on the other side of the tall grasses and barbed-wire fence. "Stop here! Maybe I can get some help at this house." So Scott jumps out to go look for help, and I turn around and start praying with the kids. "OK, well, you know what this is? It's a Family Adventure!" The people in the house were actually in their driveway, getting ready to leave, and Scott waved and yelled, and they noticed him (Yay!) but alas, they did not think they had any gas. A few minutes pass by, Scott waiting by the fence, them looking around to see what they can find, me and the kids praying and waiting...

They found a little gas can with a couple of inches of gas in it, handed it over the fence, and we all hoped and prayed it would be enough. The VERY helpful Good Samaritan guy on the other side of the fence thought if we could get it started, we'd be able to make it the 3 miles to the oasis. Scott poured every drop out of that baby into our tank, ran back with the empty can to our rescuers, ran back to the car, and after 3 attempts, the fourth time the engine turned over. Insert HUGE deep breath here. We made our way to the gas station, still praying and thanking God for the help, had to wait in line for an open pump !!! and finally filled up our trusty blue steed.

And now for the reason why I would tell you this story: It's the reason I started this blog in the first place, to bear witness to the ways God is active in our lives. We saw God provide for us in a million ways yesterday! WHERE we ran out of gas was a gift; WHEN we ran out was a gift--a few minutes later and those folks would not have been home; even the fact that Scott was wearing the brightest golf shirt he owns yesterday is a gift--the friendly people saw him at the fence, and the trucks whizzing by while he was pouring the gas saw him from far away. The whole ordeal really only cost us about 15 minutes. That's incredible. And that's what God does, He does things we can't wrap our minds around. He is miraculous! When we're part of His family, the Adventures are the greatest.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Goodbye, John Hughes

I am 41 years old, went to high school in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and in 1984, when Sixteen Candles came out, I was a sophomore. It actually came out on VHS when we all turned sixteen, and we watched it over and over and over at Polly's house. So of course, I am and always have been a huge John Hughes fan.

So sad to hear of his sudden passing, because I always hoped he'd write one more thing--a book or movie, whatever--that would teach some more lessons he's learned in life. He wrote such great, true characters, and told their stories in an honest way. I say hooray for him that he left Hollywood and it's crap.

All the talk these last few days have been about the teen angst movies, which were great and perfectly timed for me, but my all-time favorite John Hughes movie is She's Having a Baby. I posted about it before here. I just thought that I'd sing the praises once more of this beautiful picture of marriage, cuz, as usual, the press is all about the easiest, biggest, and most obvious.

Here's a link to a great story about him and a girl who became his pen pal for a couple of years...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's Been Such a Long Time...

Life is noisier in the summer. It feels like I'm always trying to catch up... the laundry, the mess, the food... I have trouble stringing two thoughts together. We blow in and out of town and the summer keeps rolling by; the kids' legs keep getting longer. Evidence of God's activity in my life? It's everywhere. This home, this family, this noisy-for-a-season life.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Inspired... the latest issue of "Everyday Food" and looking forward to making this again with fresh-picked strawberries, this summer.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Short Thought for Today

A parenting tip I picked up somewhere (or maybe I thought of it myself? I doubt that.): I don't always have to get on every roller coaster ride with my child. I can meet for him at the end of the ride--love him, support him, listen to all the tales of the ups, downs, twists and turns--but I don't actually have to GO ON the ride. Hmmm. There are some rides I want to go on too, or maybe a few where I should be alongside, but I don't have to get on all of them. And I believe this philosophy works in all relationships.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Do You Have in Your Hand?

Wow, was last week crazy for our family. I would love to share all the ways we saw God at work, but the stories aren't really mine to tell. They belong to Scott and to Lars mostly. I can say that we were amazed at God's activity; His perfect timing, the people He placed in our paths... I'm over and over awed by how much God loves imperfect, prideful, quick-to-doubt me.

I love how God teaches through connections of real life experiences, His word, from other people's stories and from our own. I've been thinking through an idea this last week that I can share. The connections that led me to it? Reading The Hole in Our Gospel, the study I'm doing in Proverbs, and some of the events of last week. A million times I've written about the importance of "intentionality." As a parent, a wife, a daughter, a neighbor, a follower of Christ, I gotta' be doing what I'm doing on purpose. I must pay attention to what I do (or don't do, in some cases), be aware, and be decisive. This is a drum I've been banging for quite some time, but I happened upon another one, the drum right next to the intentionality one.

The action step that has to follow intentionality is surrendering. I think intentionality happens in your head, and heart, and surrendering is more active. Surrender happens when you open your hand--the one that's hanging on to the thing you're clinging to--and let go. I guess I've written and thought a lot about surrendering, too, but this is a new thing for me to see intentionality and surrender together, as a two-step process. I found it in Proverbs 21:5, where it says in the New Living Translation, "Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty." I think the good planning is being intentional, and hard work is surrendering.

Here's a benign example: if I decide to be intentional about getting into shape, I need to set my mind to it. I need to be intentional about how I grocery shop, what I put into my mouth, and how I incorporate more physical activity into my day. But to really get over that hump, there's some things I have to surrender. I have to let go of the bigger portions and the bowl of ice cream that I really, really want after the kids are in bed. I have to put on my shoes and go for a walk, give up some of "my" time and get moving. The intentionality is a very important first step, but to make real progress, I have to be willing to give up some behaviors, and deny that voice in me that says, "mine. mine. mine." Makes me think of the sea gulls in Finding Nemo. And what happened to them?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review--The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer that Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World

Someone close to me saw that I was reading The Hole in our Gospel and said, "Oh great, another book by some rich guy, who, after he'd made his millions, then decided to take his faith seriously..." Richard Stearns is a rich guy, who did radically change his priorities and the lifestyle his family was living, after working as a CEO of a big-wig company for many years. But when he took the position as the President of World Vision, he came to see some truths that are applicable to all followers of Christ, regardless of income or career path.

The thrust of the book is that we have a tendency to take the Gospel (the Good News, that Christ is our salvation, that His Kingdom is real and the life He offers is forever and abundant!) and mold it into what is comfortable, leaving out the parts that require surrender... leaving a gaping hole that is breaking the heart of God. In the introduction he explains that,
"the good news was meant to change the world. Belief is not enough. Worship is not enough. Personal morality is not enough. And Christian community is not enough. God has always demanded more. When we committed ourselves to following Christ, we also committed to living our lives in such a way that a watching world would catch a glimpse of God's character--His love, justice, and mercy--through our words, actions, and behavior....Living out our faith privately was never meant to be an option." (pg. 3)

The book spells out exactly what the conditions are in developing countries, what poverty looks like and how it impacts entire villages and cultures. And Stearns shows lots of ways we can begin to live out the whole gospel, in big and small ways. He tells his own story of how he was confronted with the whole gospel, when he was asked to consider the position of President of World Vision, and how he saw the hole in his own walk, despite his desire to be a fully committed Christian.

I love a section where he explores the debate over faith and works... and how he boils it down: "But faith and works were never meant to be in dichotomy.... Simply put, we are saved by faith, saved for works." (pg 198-9) Our faith is what saves us, but our works are where our faith is demonstrated. The idea of our faith being something just for us is really missing the boat.

Stearns writes honestly and it feels like you can hear his voice. He shares how he was driven to succeed, and when he became a Christian and how that changed his life. He challenges us all to look at our own stories. Who are our neighbors, and how are our lives giving them a glimpse of God's character?

I reviewed this book as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger Program. You can get more info about the program at and more info about the book itself at

Thursday, May 7, 2009

One of These Things is Not Like the Other One...

A few weeks ago I caught just the tail end of a radio interview. I don't know who was talking, but it was about managing finances and getting out of debt. I heard the interviewee say that he and his wife had purposed to live differently, and it was this conviction that helped them get out of debt. He described the difficulties, and sacrifices they made and said, "You know, when you decide you're gonna' live differently, then you're gonna' live different, you're not going to do things the same way, and you won't look like everybody else."

This idea has been rattling around in my brain ever since. It's an idea that covers much more than just the financial realm of our lives. We do, in our family, purpose to live differently. To live in this world, but to be motivated differently, and make decisions differently. Hopefully our speech and the way we treat each other sounds different. The way we make and spend money may look different. In our management of time we strive to be different.

Over and over in the New Testament, it is made clear that we are to live here in this world, be engaged here in this world (in other words, we aren't supposed to create little worlds of our own, isolated from others--that Fundamentalist Mormon commune in Texas comes to mind) but we aren't to be overcome by the world and worldly ways. Tricky business, it is. When people talk about changed lives, and transformation, this is it. Living differently.

I guess it goes back to the idea of intentionality. Recognizing that with each action or inaction, we are making choices that are leading us closer to or farther away from worldly ways. So our thoughts about it are important. Using our minds and being aware of what we're doing helps us be different. But when we are followers of Christ and accept His salvation, we also have a resource to help us in our endeavors--the Holy Spirit. So there's more to it than just being intentional. We also must surrender our selves, and seek the help that God has given us.

Just thought I'd spill the rattling contents of my brain out...
How do you live differently?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Morning, World!

The stated purpose of this blog is to "bear witness to the ways God moves in my life, and you can... 'make of it what you will.'" After a few days of warmer temperatures and some sun, today we woke up to a gloomy 40 degrees, with some sprinkling to boot. God moves in my life through my kids. This morning, He gave me the gift of laughter with Lily. Thank You, LORD!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Wishing Lily a Happy Earth Day over breakfast this morning, she instructed me to turn the lights off for at least one hour today. Hmmm. It seemed like a good time to talk about how this day is a nice day to think about taking care of the Earth, but that we really should be good stewards every day, not just this one day a year.

But, in honor of this special day, Lily wanted to wear a shirt from her old school, a charter school with an environmental focus. Earth Day had her feeling sentimental. She was only there for kindergarten, so all of the spirit wear purchased for her (read, pink) has long been outgrown. We got out the one shirt we have left that fits her, and she proudly went to school in it, "even though it is a boy shirt, I like it." We certainly believe in reusing around here!

This shirt was originally purchased for Lars...
and then Luke wore it... and finally, today, Lily is wearing it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Lesson from Thora

Sharing our home with two cats brings me joy in lots of ways. When I'm home alone, I'm really not all by myself. I have these two quirky, warm, sometimes snuggly, sometimes wild companions. I talk to Greta and Thora, and they follow me around the house, supervising my activities. They sleep most of the time, but always do it in whatever room I happen to be in. Every now and then, they'll teach me a thing or two.

Today I sat down at the computer and started to listen to a sermon on-line. I was listening with one ear, and thinking about doing a couple of things at the same time. Just as I was about to get up, Thora jumped up on my lap, in desperate need of attention. She forced me to stay put, slowed me down, and I gave the sermon both of my ears. It was good teaching I needed to hear.
Fortunately, the camera was in reach, so I could snap a pic of her. She's a good kitty. She knew exactly what I needed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter = New Life

During the end of the kids' Spring Break, we went to see my parents in Galesburg. My Grandmother (technically, my mom's step-mom, who had been living with my parents the last two years) had a stroke on March 14th. The day we arrived in Galesburg, she had been transferred out of the hospital and into a nursing home. She requires around-the-clock care that my parents just aren't qualified to provide at this point. We visited her several times each day of our stay, bringing new artwork from Lily, and other things to make her room feel less institutional.

For the last at least 40 or 50 years, various people in her life (her sister, my folks, me, my brother, a cousin.. that I know of...) have shared the Gospel with her. Her response was always something along the line of, "I don't need that, I'm a good person." Sometimes her responses would be a crankier version of that, other times a contemplative no thanks.

But one evening, while we were saying good night, my dad asked if he could pray for her, and she said yes. Ever since she'd been in the hospital, this had become a sort of nightly thing for them. We were all there, so we gathered around her (me, my parents, and all three kids) and put a hand on her. While praying, my dad asked her if she'd like to ask Jesus into her heart. Would you believe it? She said yes! Right there! The kids got to hear and see this great thing happening. She repeated after my dad, simply saying, "Jesus, come into my heart." And she cried afterwards. I really sensed that it was a moment of surrender for her. Mentally, she has good and bad days, but she knew what she was doing that night, and she remembers it, knows what it meant.

Leave it to me to take an exciting moment like this, analyze it to death, and find some sadness in it. That's what I've done. It is a wonderful thing that her eternal life is secure. It is. And I'm thrilled that my kids got to be there to see it happen. But it saddens me a bit, because she's at the end of her life, and she will (most likely) miss out on the chance to actually follow Christ. You see, I don't think salvation is just a ticket to heaven, or, as I've heard it called, a "fire insurance policy." It's a chance to be in relationship with Him, to know Him better, to follow His plans for your life, and enjoy the blessings he has for you. It's a chance to see the fruit of the Spirit flow from the Spirit out of, joy, peace, patience, kindness, all those good things we can't manufacture or sustain on our own.

There's more to it than uttering that prayer, at least I think that's God's hope and design--that there be more to it. I'm not saying that once you've accepted His salvation you have to become a certain kind of person, or follow a prescribed list of rules. But God is in the heart-changing business, and if you wait til the end of your life, you missed out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lily just saw a commercial for Jenny Jones, and declares that I should not lose weight. If I got "all skinny like that," (this was a commercial starring Phylicia Rashad, who, after her 21 lb. loss is still looking curvy and healthy) Lily worries I won't have a good lap, won't be as "comfortable" anymore.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Thanks for the Memories

It's a funny thing, how the memory works. We don't really get to chose what our minds will hold onto, and what they'll let flitter away without us even noticing. And how about those childhood things you remember as always happening, that in reality only occurred a few times? When it was my turn to wash the dishes as a kid, I hated the icky remnants of food floating around in the sink full of soapy water. Didn't want to touch any of that with my hands. I seem to remember that my older brother would always throw a few saltines in there, just to gross me out. But how many times did he really do that? I doubt that my hysterical reaction was enough incentive for him to do it every time I washed the dishes.

We don't get to choose what someone else will remember about us, either. At a junior high school reunion a few years ago (yes, jr, high, not high school. I went to big schools.) I was surprised by the things people would say that they remembered about me. Stuff I had completely forgotten about, like the way I wrote on the board every morning, "Smile, it's Happy Tuesday Day!", or "Wednesday is Prince spaghetti Day!" , etc. Alas, I was that girl. There are people who have snapshots in their minds of who you are, based on memories of things you don't even remember you did. Strange.

I wonder what pieces of growing up my kids will hold onto. And what memories of them my brain will keep. I have always loved reading, from the moment I figured out how to do it. One favorite series as a little girl was Carolyn Haywood's books about Betsy and her friends Billy and Ellen. But I'd forgotten all about her, couldn't even think of Haywood's name.

We went to the library last night, and Lily was looking for a real chapter book, that she could read on her own. She's read a few Juney B. Jones books, but she wanted something bigger to hold in her hands, I think. Those are little paperbacks, and she wants to feel more like her older brothers. I suddenly remembered about Betsy, and found those oldies but goodies on the shelf. (I typed "Betsy" into the search thingy, and there was my old favorite.) Lily thought it looked good; it's a hardback, with 159 pages, and she's off. She's liking Betsy, too!

I snapped this pic of her this morning, walking to the bus stop by herself this year, because Luke goes to a different building at a different time. I want to hold onto the image of them happily, confidently heading off to school knowing they're loved. She's just growing up, my Lily, and getting old enough to find her own favorite authors, have her own memories now.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Woot! Woot! Chugga' Chugga'

Another bunch of loose threads in my head that maybe tie together somehow... Wanna' go for a ride on my train of thought? Scott and I went to see Slumdog Millionaire this weekend, happened to see the movie The Kingdom also, and heard a clip of Rush Limbaugh speaking at some conservative shindig somewhere, and I'm reading about David in 2 Samuel.

Slumdog tells the story of a boy growing up in the slums of India, and The Kingdom gives a glimpse of life in Saudi Arabia. I was struck by the darkness in these cultures...or more so by how the darkness is just out there, where everyone can see it. The millions of people living in the slums of India are not hidden, there's miles and miles of "homes" with a piece of blue tarp for a roof, there's filth and greed, and cheating, it's every man for himself, etc. And the people who live in Saudi Arabia with men walking the streets armed to the teeth, boys raised to hate people who don't pray to the same god... The awfulness is out in the open. We don't see that stuff here in the US. If it's here, you have to look for it. The images in these movies shock, and stick with you.

I just heard a snippet of Limbaugh while flipping channels. He was saying that our country, as young as it is, is so much better--wealthier, freer, healthier--than all these others, and he asked, "why is that? We all have the same human make-up, we aren't more evolved than any one else." (or he said something like that) I didn't see anymore, so I don't know Rush's answer to his questions, and have no doubt that he thinks he knows the answer. I saw this clip as I was digesting the contrast of life growing up for these kids in India and my own kids here in white bread suburbia. Why is it like this?

Reading through the stories of David's life, I see how God loved him and protected him, but also taught him and let him make mistakes and experience the consequences. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, there has been darkness in the world. Sometimes it covers miles and miles, or it's right in your face, baring its ugly teeth. Other times it's covered up, or dressed up and disguised. But there's darkness everywhere. But God's love and protection are everywhere, too. We only have to accept it. Here's what David said about how the darkness impacts God...
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
Psalm 139:7-12

It doesn't impact God! He sees through it all. I don't understand why things are the way they are. I can't find the answer (maybe if I'd listened to Rush a bit longer, it'd be crystal clear, ha!) but maybe it's one of those questions that needn't be answered now. Maybe it's the love and protection we need to embrace for the here and now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Loosen My Grip, Lord

A few things swirling around in my head today. Just things that have happened to people we know recently and what I've been reading and watching, it's all got me thinking. I just finished reading The Shack, (took me forEVER), I saw a quirky little movie called Then She Found Me, and have been studying the Psalms of Ascent--15 songs the Israelites would sing on their pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Psalms 120-134--in Beth Moore's Stepping Up. The recurring theme? Betrayal and Forgiveness. Sometimes I go deep.

Betrayal happens. In our imperfect human-ness, we hurt others. Sometimes it happens when we don't mean for it to, and sometimes we know exactly the impact our actions or words will make on another, and out of anger or our own pain, we let them have it. Zing. We have all done it, and we have all had it done to us. But what to do with it when it happens?

I think there have been studies to make this point, and the Bible makes it clear that holding onto your anger wrecks you. Sometimes you take others down with you. Forgiveness is the only way to find relief. In the movie I saw, the main character has to "make peace" in order to move on with her life. I think we all believe in the concept of forgiveness, and making peace, but the practice of forgiving someone else is slippery. Your head may buy the idea, but hearts can be slow to follow.

I love a conversation towards the end of The Shack, where Mack, who has been done wrong by someone else, is talking to God about what it means to forgive them. God gently explains to Mack what forgiveness isn't. It isn't embracing that other person, or deepening the relationship. It isn't saying the actions were ok, or even forgotten. These things might all happen over time, but the initial act of forgiving someone is much smaller, more simple, a tiny step. It is described in The Shack as removing your hand from that other person's throat. Taking your hand off, and trusting that God knows what has happened; who was wrong. And, we may have to peel our hands off one finger at a time, we may struggle, but as we let go of that person's throat, we let go of the weight of the anger.

Over and over we can read in the Psalms about how David and his people have been mistreated, and how God sees and protects them. And we also see how God forgives the Israelites when they fall short of the mark. We learn from the Psalms that it's ok to complain and cry out to God when we're hurt. I think this is an important step in the peeling away of those fingers. Because when you know God knows, it's easier to trust Him to handle it.

The idea of "making peace" is a funny one to me. Peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit. It's something that grows or flows from the Spirit within us. We cannot manufacture peace on our own. We, alone, with our own head and heart and nothing else, can't make peace. We can unwrap our fingers, though.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom?

So when the advertising people came to our house a couple of weeks ago, they were looking for funny stories of morning craziness, and pearls of maternal wisdom. I don't know if they found what they were looking for here. By the time I had talked for an hour, saying what felt like the same things over and over--therefore boring myself (hopefully not others) to tears with my own voice and ideas--I just can't say whether or not there was any wisdom, funniness, or craziness. I have since thought of all the things I should have said...

Something that surprised me years ago as a new mom, was that once we established and slid into a nice routine, like with naps or eating, that "schedule" would only last for 3 months or so. Our growing baby would grow right out of his groove, and we needed to adjust to the next groove. I think this has been true for twelve and a half years. Maybe we go longer than 3 months now, but with 5 personalities filling this house, there's always shifting and flexing, while you juggle all the balls and try to maintain stability at the same time. That's what it means to be part of a family. Or part of any organization made up of many individuals-- a church, a school, a small group Bible study, a business, you get the idea.

I heard or read during those hazy new mom days that a child will ask a thousand times a day in a thousand different ways, "Do you love me?" and "Who's in charge?" So my job is to answer those questions a thousand times, and perhaps in a thousand different ways, "Yes, I love you," and, "I'm the mom, you're the child; I'm in charge." My time at home this year, and every year is a gift. Opportunities to repeat a thousand times...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What Do You Think?

We had a family adventure yesterday. Through a college friend, we got an opportunity to be part of an on-line video ad. What that really means is, 3 people from advertising came to our house yesterday, and recorded an hour-long interview of me and a 15-minute conversation with the kids. Maybe we'll have provided some sound bytes that are useful to them, and maybe you'll get to see some of them someday on-line, if you click on an ad for Capri Sun's new breakfast drink called Sunrise!

It was great to sit down and answer someone's questions about our morning routine. I had permission to talk all about me and my kids, and how we do things, and why we do what we do, the way we do it...and it was appealing...but now I'm exhausted. I'm so sick of me and how I do things. And sick of thinking about what others will think of me, my home, my routines, my hair, my clothes, my fingernails, my children, blah, blah, blah. As I spent the morning cleaning the house (definitely not a typical part of my morning routine, wink, wink, nudge, nudge) I kept wondering what the advertising people would think, and then what the people who watch the videos would think. I would catch myself, and scold myself, and before you know it, I would be doing it again.

They ended up coming early !!!! and I realized right before recording was to start that I didn't have any make-up on. Did I insist on taking the time to put on my face? No, 'cuz I'm a dork. So I probably look like my morning routine could use some improvement...

We did get a free box of Sunrise! juice pouches, and Lily gives it two thumbs up, plus two big toes up. So there you go.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lessons Learned on eBay

Once upon a time there was a girl who had a red, KitchenAide 4-slice toaster that she loved. The color of it made her smile when she walked into her kitchen, and it had a bagel button that made everyone in the family happy. That toaster breathed its last one day, and she began searching for a replacement. She was surprised to find that the folks at KitchenAide don't make that exact toaster anymore, but then her parents found a 2-slice version, pretty and red (also not made anymore) marked way down at their local department store.

They brought her the new toaster at Christmastime, and inside the box was a catalogue of other lovely items that KitchenAide made at the time the toaster was packaged. But ooh, something caught the girl's eye in that catalogue! A coffee mill/grinder! With a hopper that holds 16 ounces of beans; a grinder that has 16 different settings, from espresso to coarse; a design that replicates a 1938 (or 48, can't remember for sure) design, very fun and retro; and that comes in that same beautiful, smile-producing red color! "Hmmm," thought the girl, "I wonder how much that is? I love it! It would look great in my kitchen! It would fit right next to the coffee maker! I wouldn't have to take out the beans and grinder everyday...they'd be right there at the ready! I want it!"

Alas, KitchenAide doesn't make this mill/grinder anymore. She couldn't find a store anywhere that still had one laying around, marked way down like its cousin the 2-slice toaster. And this is how the girl found herself looking for this item on eBay. It was her first time to shop on eBay. And yippee! She found one--though it was stainless steel, not red--with a starting bid of only $9. "Wouldn't that be awesome," she thought. And even her husband agreed, a handy thing like this would be nice to have for twenty-five bucks or so. Yes, well. Um, as the bidding battle got down to the last two minutes, the girl finally surrendered to some other crazy shopper, who "won" it for $365!!! What happened?! How had she let herself agree to pay a whopping $360 for this thing? And it wasn't even red!

She found two others listed on eBay, one pink (not for her kitchen, thank you very much) and one....hear the music swell...RED! But this time, she had experience, and typed in the amount she'd be willing to pay, and walked away from the computer. She prayed about it, and in a moment of clarity, realized it's just a thing. If she got it, it would be fun, if she didn't, she would be ok. She thanked God for the new toaster. She asked God for forgiveness for getting swept up, for being so selfish and unwise. A few days later, she got an email announcing her "victory" for much, much less than $360, And today, her coffee maker has a friend standing next to it, and her toaster is no longer the lone red pop in the kitchen.

I believe God honors our prayers. I believe he honored mine about this purchase. Are you picturing Bruce Almighty suffocating in the mountains of post-it note/email prayers stacking up and thinking, "God doesn't want to be bothered with this kind of silliness, whether or not I buy this..." God is not Bruce. He wants us to move and make decisions thoughtfully. He wants us to think about good things, and if we take everything to Him, there's room in the noggin for the good things. He wants to hear about everything. It says so in the Bible:
Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:5-9

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm intrigued by the life of David, one who was so highly esteemed that Jerusalem was called "the city of David" and yet along with his great deeds are the recordings of some of his naughtiest moments. He was God's anointed one, appointed to the throne of Israel by God Himself, and still so completely human, prone to get caught up in pride just like every person you know. Kind of a relief to know that we don't have to live the perfect life for God to use us.

In 2 Samuel this morning, I noticed a recurring theme about the importance of seeking God--asking Him what to do, going to Him for wisdom. Twice in the 5th chapter, David asks God about attacking the Philistines, and both times, God answers him. Both times David attacks the Philistines when and how God instructs him, and the people of God see tremendous victories.

Then, in the next chapter, David wants to reclaim the Ark of God from some bad guys who had stolen it when Saul was losing his mind (and apparently, his kingdom and Ark). David moves ahead with his plan, thinking he's doing the right thing, and a good man ends up losing his life because he touches the Ark. They hit some bumpy ground, and Uzzah reaches out his hand to steady the Ark, and well, you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, right? No touching the Ark, baby! it's HOT!

David and his men abandon their original plan to bring the Ark to Jerusalem and instead leave it (I'm assuming) where they are, at some guy's house. A few months later, they go back again to get the Ark and move it the rest of the way to Jerusalem. What's interesting is that the second time around David says, "When we transport the Ark of God this time, no one except the Levites may carry it. the LORD has chosen them to carry the Ark of the LORD and to minister before Him forever." (1 Chronicles 15:2--emphasis mine--this story is told in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles) I am thinking that David asked God about what to do the second time, but maybe not the first. Maybe he thought he was doing an honorable thing, and seeking God in all of it didn't occur to him. And this second time, David is following some very specific instructions.

Hmmm. I never enjoying having to re-do things. Help me remember Lord, to ask you the first time!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

This was not my idea...

but I like it, so I'm copying from a blog I like to read. Well, except I'm going to modify it a bit. She reposted the first line of the first post of each month last year. Beck writes beautifully, really poetic. My first lines are so boring, I won't make you look at them again. One of the dangers of conversational writing? I'll try to work on that in the future...a resolution!

So, in the spirit of yesterday's post, where I learned that remembering what the LORD has done for us is an essential piece of living a God-centered life, we'll look back over 2008. But I will re-post the LAST sentence of the LAST post of each month, because it took me a while to get to my point in these writings. My goal for this blog was to record God's activity in my life and let you, dear reader, "make of it what you will." So, we shall see if I stuck to it...

This is supposed to be fun, these childhood things, why can't I have fun with it?

...on Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

So with God's help, I'm gonna' be strong and courageous, baby!

I love the way he suggests here that surrendering our selves is a process, and he gives some practical, first steps to take.

Holding on to that junk is getting in the way of the affirmation of being God's child.

Well, it's good to verbalize your expectations, right?

Maybe it'll work for you, too.

...the plan to have the kids do "jobs" everyday this summer. It went pretty well. The plan, that is.

And yet, God has graciously given them to me year after year, and patiently waited for me to realize the blessing.

I need to be looking into that pot on the back burner and stir it up, tend to it a little bit before there's nothing there, for all of our sakes.

And he is truly a blessing.

...a post on Lars's birthday.

I can't think of any more words to add.... I mean, you know, he's too much!!

...a post on Luke's birthday. :)

It could be a chance for us to get to know God better, together.

...on the Sabbath

She is waiting and watching....

...the ONLY post for the month of December, on our cat Thora finding a perch in the Christmas tree.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Careful What You Ask For

Would it be alright if I just skip the excuses about why it's been such a long time since I posted and just get back to the writing? I think that's what I'll do. You can figure it out that I've been too busy, without routine or inspiration....

So, it's back into the Old Testament I went this morning. I would like to have a better understanding of the ways of God's chosen people, would like to know the little stories that occur in between all of the familiar ones. So I started in 1 Samuel, which begins at the end of the period of Judges.

The Israelites still want a king, they don't want to have God as their leader, or, I think, a priest/judge whom God has called as their leader. They want more than a king, I think. They want a Royal Line. They want to know who will be coming next. They want to be like other people. (1 Samuel 8:1-5) So Samuel is kind of the last judge. It grieves him that the people keep telling him to ask God for a king, and God finally tells Samuel not to take it personally, that this is not a rejection of Samuel, but of God Himself, and to go ahead and give them a king. Warn them of all it will mean, God says, and tell them how a king will treat them. And so God appoints Saul as the first King of Israel.

There's a swearing-in of sorts for Saul, and then Samuel makes his final address to the people of Israel, where he reminds them of all the great things the LORD had done for them and their ancestors. (1 Samuel 12) He tells them God is giving them what they've asked for, but that obeying His commands still needs to be their way of life. And just to kind of add an exclamation point to it, Samuel asks God to bring rains and thunder to show them how wrong they were to ask for a king. Well, that freaks them all out. They are afraid, and crying out for their lives.

Our messages at church yesterday (for both the adults and for Lars in the junior high service) were about living a God-centered life. About what we need to do to tap into the supernatural power of God, have access to it daily. And for Lars, it was about what it looks like to be a lukewarm Christian, and how displeasing that it to Christ. I want to be God-centered. All the time, everyday, all day. Until I get distracted by, well, it can be anything. And then I get discouraged.

I think God drew me to the following passage this morning, as an encouragement:
"Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people.
“As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.”

So, yes, I will not always get it right. I will need to adjust my focus, and readjust it. I will ask for the wrong things. God says to keep on keeping on. Love Him and obey Him with everything I've got. It pleases Him to call us His children. And the real key to keeping on? Thinking of all the wonderful things He has done for us.