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Monday, March 25, 2013

One Thousand Gifts

             Recently, some friends and I started a book club. Me and a few other ladies from church picked a book and decided to meet on Thursday evenings to discuss what we have read during the week. This is our way to ensure that we are surrounding ourselves with other Godly women and nurturing healthy relationships throughout the week - not just on Sundays. The only issue is that we all have children who are all usually in tow. Thankfully, one saint of a friend has graciously allowed us to use her house as a corral for the ten (yes, I said ten) kiddos that accompany us four adults (she also has little ones so her house is already baby proofed - double blessing!).
            I can just imagine what this would look like to an outsider who had no idea what was going on. Ten children ranging in age from (roughly) eight all the way down to one year running around in basically a free-for-all while their mothers attempt "grown up" conversation through the chaos. Only in a room full of mothers and children would one see a woman speaking casually about a recently read book while reaching out to catch a falling child with one arm and swatting a toddlers hand away from an electrical outlet with the other. (By the way, this saint of a friend has all her outlets responsibly covered - I was just trying to paint a picture here.) 
           Well, the book we chose to begin our book club journey with is called 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp and, so far, it is amazing! I highly recommend reading if you ever get the chance. I don't want to spoil it for anyone so I'll just say it is a book about tremendous loss, great blessing and learning to praise God through all circumstances. There is also a list involved, which is how I got the idea for this blog post. We all decided we would join Miss Voskamp and make our own "gift" lists. I have been promising myself (and this may have been the Holy Spirit's leading here, as well) that once I reached 100, I would post them here. Well, today was the day! This morning I reached 100 and have even a few more now. They are not in any particular order so please do not look for rhyme or reason in them. I simply wrote down what the Holy Spirit gave me to write. Here goes:

1) Sunshine out my window
2)Daylight out my window (if it's cloudy)
3)Quiet moments of nap time
4)Freshly made Irish Potatos
5) Comfy sweat shirts that are also cute
6)Strength in Christ
7)Putting one foot in front of the other
8)Whisper of the Holy Spirit
9)Birds chirping
10)Weight of heavy blankets covering me
11) Awesome thrift store finds
12)Tiney hineys
13)Ephie and Ely hugs
14)"Your silly!" , "No, your silly!" (game I play with Ephie)
15)Children screeching with glee chasing each other
16)Open lipped, slobbery kisses from little ones
17)Sunshine on first day of spring
18)Old, worn, highlighted, written-all-over bible
19)Excitment of new friendships
20)Other moms who understand
21)Long lost cousins coming to Easter egg hunts
22)Trials that draw me closer to God
23)Husband who loves to tickle
24)Husband who loves to cook
25)Husband who loves my body (just the way it is)
26)Black and white photos
27)Sepia photos
28)Bumble bee on a flower in March
29)Playgrounds right up the street
30)Big boys on big boy swings
31)Super thick hair
32)Favorite shows that leave you in suspense
33)Wild tickle giggles
34)Little hands reaching up to me
35)Ephie and Ely realizing the moon . . . first time
36)C-section scar
37)Humble-spirited, child innocence
38)Very first parking space
39)Children repeating everything you say
40)Picking up husbands socks
41)Intimacy the way God intended it
42)Tiny details in dreams
43)Making husband's lunch for work
44)Struggles to lean on God through
45)Early morning quietness
46)First pot of morning coffee
47)Flavored creamers
48)Little love notes left around
49)Children's art work on the fridge
50)Ephie imitating Elmo dancing
51)Cheering others up
52)Fluffy white clouds on bright blue sky
53)Not one but TWO Saturdays off in a row
54)Ephie's goofy smile
55)Ely's fills-up-his-whole-face smile
56)Husband's mischevious smile
57)Focal point B&W pictures
58)A book that calls you to action
59)Friends further along in their walk with Christ
60)"I ya you" (I love you)
61)Pale skin freshly tanned (obviously this is a gift "to be")
62)Arguments resolved
63)Fingernails painted clear
65)Children finishing dinner (all of it!)
66)Healthy, active children
67)Freedom from addiction
68)Freshly fallen snow . . . . yet unmarred by bootprints or tire tracks
69)Spring cleaning
70)Glass of red wine after long day
71)Sunglasses doubling as headband
73)First day of manicure
74)Self-done manicure (its pretty and free!)
75)Long stretches after long sitting
76)Road trips
77)Seashore in summer (also one "to be")
78)Children saying grace
79)Huge weeping willows
80)Tire swings
81)Vegetable gardens
82)Back yard away from home . . . Penn Warner
83)Children watching rains drops
84)Mom coming to church
85)Bright white moon against sky almost black
86)Hitting all green a hurry
87)Hot sauce on everything
88)This one is personal so I will keep it between the Lord and I
89)This one is also just between me and Him
90)Morning baby babble
91)Children's sleep breathing
92)Flag blowing in the wind
93)Spotless blue skies
94)Pure doggie glee hanging out car windows
95)Long shadows in the afternoon
96)"Big boys" in footie pj's. . . .reminder they are still my little guys
97)Mom in church
98)Crickets chirping on summer nights
99)Children watching snowflakes
100)Pillowtop cloud softness
101)Pancakes in the morning
102)Dried roses lasting forever
103)Big fluffy snowflakes
104) Walls separating warmth from cold
105)Refrigerator/freezer full
106)Bellies filled
107)Breath filling up lungs

         How amazing that we lift up empty hands to our God and He fills them! I hope and pray these gifts will be as much of a blessing to you as they have been to me. I know there are more than a hundred here and I will be on the hunt for many more.

         I would love to hear from some of you about gifts the Lord has given you, as well. Perhaps these gifts could spark an idea for your own list! I would love to hear about it and I'm sure the Lord would love for you to tell about it.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."
                                                                                                       Mathew 5:14-15



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How big is God.....really?

           As I was driving down the road today, coming back from the library with my little ducklings in tow, I began to think about the Lord. Sometimes my wheels get spinning and they run away with themselves and this is usually when an idea for a piece of writting falls right into my lap. Today, I began to think about and ponder this thought: just how BIG is God....really? How amazingly huge, complex, superior, and soverign (just to name a few) our Lord must be to have created the entire universe and everything in it! Every once in a while I think I may have a tiny glimmer of an idea of how big He must be and my breath is taken away by it. It only lasts for a split second, though, and then it evades me once more.
           Think about the amount of time and energy it takes for us to love somebody. Not just love them as in that oh-she's-so-sweet-I-love-her love, but LOVE them as in till-death-do-us-part love. To know someone up and down, inside and out, down to the very marrow of their bones. To seek out their every emotion, thought, like, dislike, good and bad quality and to write this information on the very flesh of your heart, to store it away in the very core of your soul. Now that's giving one hundred percent of yourself one hundred percent of the time! It makes me weary just thinking about the time and energy it takes for us, as humans, to love even one person this way. God, however, loves all His children this way.
          This is how big the Lord is.  He didn't simply create us and then leave us to go on our way, fumbling through the world and hoping we'll get it right at some point. He didn't just randomly throw darts at the board of physical, mental, and emotional attributes when creating His precious children. No. He scrutinized, analyzed, pondered, and put some serious thought into how each and everyone of us would turn out. Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." Our Lord is not an arbitrary God! Psalm 139 says our God has searched us and known us. In verse 3 the Psalmist says, "You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways." Did you catch that? The Lord does not simply sit back and watch us as we scurry along the earth, he scrutinizes our paths and is intimately acquainted with every detail of our lives! Can you imagine how much energy (both physical and emotional) this must take? It's quite humbling to think about.
         While I cannot even begin to fathom the greatness (in all senses of the word) of our God, it is quite comforting to know that no matter where I go, no matter what I do I can never get away from Him. Not that I would want to, of course! However, it is nice to know that in case I ever have a moment of temporary insanity/stupidity and try to escape Him, it simply cannot be done. Paul says in Romans that, "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." I'd say that pretty much sums up just how BIG our Lord really is, wouldn't you?
        This is not something I ever expect to be able to comprehend or wrap my mortal, human brain around. At least not until that glorious day He calls me home and I see Him face to face. For now, I can trust in a Father's love so big, so immensely huge, that (even though this world is big and scary) I will never get lost again.

                                                          Love always,



A Work Worth Completing

         I think we frequently can become so used to the chaos and anxiety life produces that we simply accept it as normal. I have done this myself on more than one occasion.   Burdens, guilt, fear, worry, sickness….we carry it all without even asking for help. We so quickly forget that Jesus is there holding out His hands waiting to take the heavy loads from us. Much too often I think we simply don’t even see Him standing there. The busyness and noise of the world vies for our attention, stealing it away from the one it really should be on. Or perhaps we cling ever so tightly to those cumbersome loads because to let go would seem much too foreign to us. In a sense,  it would be very similar to stepping out of the boat and onto the water.
         Tonight I asked God why humans are so obsessed with perfection. Even as believers (and sometimes even more so as believers) we often forget that we are born sinners and strive for perfection. Perhaps this fascination with perfection and subsequent aversion we harbor toward (gasp!) mistakes is one reason we find it so hard to allow our Father to give us a hand with that pesky baggage. We try so hard not to sin (often to the point of self-righteousness) and when we do we withhold forgiveness from ourselves as if it is even ours to give.
          Every so often the Lord has to remind me that it is He and He alone who can bring about a change in me. When I begin to strive for perfection I begin to see myself as worthy of perfection and consequently I am taking the glory away from Him. When I pass judgment on my own sins instead of turning to God and asking Him for forgiveness I am attempting to do His job. A job for which I am highly unqualified! Besides, if we humans were able to attain perfection on our own we wouldn’t need salvation. Our beautiful, merciful, and loving savior would have died in vain.
          This is not to say we should not endeavor to become the true children God created us to be, which means making a valiant effort to turn away from our sins. Oh no! How would we ever reflect God’s unfailing and perfect love if we all stayed exactly the same as when He called us? How would the still lost ever get found? No. We must first believe and invite Jesus to make His home in our hearts. Then we can begin to yield to His gentle and loving correction.
         In spite of this truth, I think far too many people have a skewed idea of Christianity. Many (myself included) feel as soon as they get saved they must live perfectly blameless lives or else they are just failures. Many new believers (again, myself included) think that if they are not instantly changed and matured there is something wrong with them. I can’t tell you how many times I have told myself, “Maybe your sins are worse than any others. Maybe you are the one person God cannot forgive.”
           Let us not forget, however, that God is not some fancy, deceptive magician. He does not simply touch us with a magic wand and transform us overnight. Not that He couldn’t do this type of magic if He wanted to (trust me – He could), this is just not usually the way He does things. Changes which seem to happen overnight often are only skin deep and rarely last. Our Lord is on to something much bigger! He has started a work in us. A work takes time. A work takes nurturing and love. A work takes a mighty hand to see it through to completion.  So instead of beating ourselves down mentally the next time we find ourselves falling short (yet again!), let’s turn our faces to the loving God who has begun something big in us – a complex and intricate work which He sees as worth completing. Remember, He is always faithful to complete His work and always knows what He is doing!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Even When We Don't

          It's hard to imagine, when looking at my children whom I would walk through the hottest fire to protect, that there are other children out there in the world who are totally unprotected and even in danger in the presence of their own parents. I think "rape" is the ugliest word in the entire universe. When I hear the ugliest word in the universe paired up with one of the most beautiful and blessed words, children, it makes me feel as though the floor were falling out from under me and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I remember having that same feeling in the first few seconds after I found out my father died. It is not a good feeling.
        The other day at work I was scanning the news pages on the internet at work (terribly swamped, as you can imagine) and a bright red headline jumped out at me from the bottom of the page. I will not repeat exactly what it read here because just seeing the words in print on the computer overcome me with a sadness so heavy I cannot hold it up. The man the article spoke of had hurt a lot of young children in a tragic way. I did not read the article because shortly after seeing that on the screen I excused myself, went outside and sat on the steps next to the front door. I had to have a moment with God after reading that. I cried and asked Him why He allows things like this to happen (major cliché, I know). The interesting thing was I did not feel fearful as I asked God for answers or even just some reassurance. I remember a time in my life when I saw Him as this intimidating, stern-looking judge waaaaay high up on His bench just waiting with His gavel perched in the air to strike it down.  A loving, but unsympathetic and uncompassionate God.
           Lately, however, something has been changing. The night I read the headline for this article (I never even read the article itself) I came to God in a way a child comes to her father when the world is being unfair and she wants Him to fix it. That night, driving home, I began to think of those children again. I think maybe things like this affect me in such a sever way because, in a way, I feel like somebody ought to feel pain for these precious blessings from our loving God. Somebody ought to cry for them. No doubt their parents and loved ones would cry, of course. But what about people who didn’t know them? We are a world that can simply turn its head and pretend nothing is wrong, pretend it didn’t happen. I cannot. Sometimes I feel that if we weren’t so busy pretending all the time we’d face reality and fix it instead of pretending it was something else.
             As I was driving, I talked candidly with God. I cried that if He looks upon the heart than why doesn’t He stop such a sinful thing when He sees it brewing in a man’s heart? I cried for the infants (infants! Infants, for Heaven’s sake!) I cried that I wanted to help but that I could never stop all the children from getting hurt because I could never be everywhere all at once. That is precisely when He cut me off, in mid-sentence, and said, “I can". Very simply but with incredible power. Then He said, in a voice that sounded just like my conscience, that I should pray for the children. This “judgmental and overly stern” God I had imagined was taking me by the hand and comforting me. It was as if He was saying, “I know life is unfair, but I am bigger and stronger than you could ever imagine – don’t sell me short.”
           That night I needed a reminder that God was still there. He did not condemn me for doubting. He did not judge me for wavering. He reassured me. He offered me a place to rest my heavy and heartbreaking burdens, right in His hands. Lately I have been feeling such a heavy sorrow for the world. I find myself coming home from work at night wanting to wake my two sleeping little angels/maniacs to just hold them and feel the weight of them in my arms. I once heard the phrase, “When a woman becomes a mother for the first time she becomes a mother to all children.” Perhaps this is why I cannot stop myself from breaking down in tears when I hear of an innocent, helpless child being hurt. Sometimes I think I am too sensitive but I don’t know how to be any other way. Besides this is the way God made me and I am quite sure He knew what He was doing. (He is God, after all).
            I ended that car ride home with a new prayer; one that gave me a little peace. I prayed for God to be a shield and fortress of protection for those who cannot protect themselves. I asked for Him to stop this kind of sin if He saw it brewing in a man’s heart. I asked for Him to be the justice these children deserve. I do not know how, exactly, He will answer my prayers, but I do know that He knows exactly what He is doing – even when we don’t.
Love always,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Art of Forgiveness

    I learned something (or, I should say, remembered something) about my husband over this past week. Everyone has certain skills that they are good at, even great at. Some women are great mothers, seemingly born with a nurturing ability. Some men are excellent fixers. Give them a hammer, some glue, and a wrench and they can refurbish a Toyota in their sleep. Others have what I call emotional skills. These are less tangible, although no less important. Some can sense the aura of a room full of people simply by walking into it, while others can detect the deeply hidden pain in a close friend’s voice over the phone. Everyone has something (usually a few things) God has made them pros at. For my husband, it is the art of forgiving.

            I realized over this past week, as we fought and made up, that he is an excellent forgiver. There have been many times when we have fought and have done things (not on purpose, usually) to hurt each other. I, being the imperfect forgiver I am, will kiss and make up easily but not quite truly forgive him. I say (and even believe) that I do effortlessly enough. Yet, a few days or even weeks later the incident will pop up in my head and I’ll realize I am still harboring some anger. I may even (gasp!) save it for a later fight to throw back in his face just to prove how wrong he is.

           With my husband, though, when he forgives me it is as if the incident had never occurred. He says he forgives and, here’s the kicker, he actually means it! I stand there, waiting for some more words on how badly I’ve hurt him and how wrong I was, but they never come. Perhaps it is so hard for me to believe it is really as simple as “I forgive you” because God has not yet perfected that art in me. If the tables are turned and I am the one being asked for forgiveness, you better believe the accused is going to know exactly how wrong they are. (Yes, this is something I am working on) My dear, sweet hubby, however, has this ability to forgive the way God forgives us – by forgetting afterward!

         Perhaps this is not the kind of thing one thinks of when listing another’s good qualities and special skills and very few ever perfect this art. But let me tell you this – it is one of the most special skills a person can have. God said in Hosea 6:6, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” Forgiveness is a Godly quality! Sometimes the Lord needs to shake us out of complacency and He will often use my husband to achieve this with me. Often, I do not even realize that I am swimming in self-righteousness until I see that sweet humility in my husband when he so readily forgives my trespasses. Or when he willingly apologizes to end a fight (even though we both know I was the one who was wrong).  Thank you, Father, for giving me a husband through whom you can mold me, and thank you that you have already set him apart for your own.

A Little Voice

Here is a poem I recently wrote and posted on "the book". I hope you enjoy it I pray the Lord's name will be honored by it!  It's green for Saint Patty's Day!!
A little voice inside me
tells me where to go
Your small and gentle whisper
without a doubt I know.
You’re there when I lay down
there when I arise
a constant, steady presence
in You my safety lies.
Your guidance is like rubies
Your conviction as pure gold

Your rebuke is a Father’s hand
my wayward soul to hold.
You’re gentle when I need compassion
firm when I go astray
defending when I need a shield
a shepherd when I lose my way.
The words I give are not enough
my praises sell You short
the beauty of the most precious jewel
could not describe the Lord.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Fairness of Parenthood

       So here is my second ever blog post - yay! I promise I will not announce each blog post's number as I write them, lol. I guess I'm still excited about this new journey. Well, this one is one that I wrote on the infamous Facebook as a "note" back in January and so some of you may recognize it. I always thought, however, that this would be on my blog - if and when I ever got one. So here is my perception on the "fairness" of parenthood.

      It is so unfair. Why does it always seem that your children have an overabundance of energy - which bursts forth in various forms such as yelling, jumping wildly, kicking, and (my personal favorite) head butting you right in the nose – right at the exact same moment all of YOUR energy appears to have abandoned you? Ephraim happily and giddily played drums on my arm and shook his little head back and forth (quite similarly to Linda Blair in that movie, The Exorcist) all the while squirming as if he had a horde of fire ants in his diaper. He could not sense the tension growing in me as I tried to put pants on his flailing feet and a shirt on his thrashing arms. He could not feel the anger swelling up inside of me which I held desperately onto so as not to unleash it on my unsuspecting and oblivious 2 year old.

      There have been many times when that tension has flowed forth, tearing down the floodgates of my gritted teeth and clenched fists on its way out. Those walls were not even close to being strong enough to hold onto that ire and, sadly, my children were not strong enough to catch it. And why should they have to be? For the most part, our boys are pretty well behaved. They have their “two-year-old” moments like any normal toddler. For example when I say, “Time to eat” and they take off running. Or when I say, “Don’t touch that” and Ephraim splays a smile across his face wider than the Rio Grande and closes his eyes as tight as he can as if to say, “You can’t see me!” Or, for example, when it’s time for the boys to get out of the tub, freshly cleaned, and Ely decides to poop in the water. Yes, they certainly have their moments of toddler hood but, then again, don’t we all?

       My children are, after all, just children. Oblivious, innocent, mischievous, trusting. They do not know that their game of run-away-from-mommy is making me madder than a swatted bee. They do not understand why milk all down the front of the freshly cleaned shirt, which they have only been in for five minutes, is a bad thing. All they know is that it’s fun. All they understand is that “mommy laughed once before when I did this so she’ll laugh this time, too!” My babies are too young to know about fatigue, too innocent to know about anger and irritation, too free to understand restraint. And that is precisely the reason I did not allow my anger at my wiggly Ephraim to seep out to be detected. I simply finished dressing him, put him in his crib, and said good night to them both. True, my children can drive me nuts at times but then I think about what it will be like when they are old enough to understand the “give and take” of relationships. They will certainly learn about restraint, fatigue, anger, and frustration soon enough. For now, though, I chose to let them go on believing that if they shut their eyes tight enough, I truly can’t see them.

                                                  Love always,

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My first blog post! Yay!

           Being that is my very first blog post - EVER - I will keep it short and sweet. Lately, the Lord has been pressing my love of writing on my heart and I believe He is calling me to use it for His glory. Well, I am all about using the talents He has given me to bring honor to His name and maybe even (eep!) be a reflection of His light for others. Nothing excites me more than to think the Lord could possibly use me for the growing of His kingdom! So, here it is....the blog I have been thinking about (and, thus, praying about) for a few months now.

        I cannot promise it will be riveting. I cannot promise it will make perfect sense. I cannot even promise it will be constant or extremely regular. The only thing I can promise is that my words will come from the heart and will have been prayed over and talked about with the Big Guy. I will ponder and analyze my thoughts, as I usually do with my writing, and try with all my might to only post things that He presses on my heart. It is my prayer that this blog will find those it is intended for and bless them in a way only the Holy Spirit can. With that - here goes my first attempt at "blogging"! (I feel like an insider at a secret club or something!)
          Could you imagine living in a perfect place with no tears, no pain, no strife, no evil or sadness? Could you imagine not just living in in this place but being the King of it all?? Reigning supreme over perfectly endless beauty and wholly complete love? Now, imagine giving all that up to move to a place saturated with sorrow, injustice, and intentional malice. All for someone who ignores, disobeys, mocks and defames you! Our Lord did exactly this. He stepped down from His glorious throne in heaven and immersed Himself in the gritty muck that is our world. He rolled up His sleeves, girded up His loins and jumped head first and full force into the sinful mess that was keeping His people (us) separated from Him. Our precious, loving Father knew there was no way we'd be able to reach Him through our own efforts and so He took it upon Himself to fix what we never could. We could never avoid sin left to our own devices (and some of us would never even try!) Our beautifully merciful Father knew this and so decided to provide us with a solid, unwavering, and impenetrable way around this problem - our Lord Jesus Christ!
               That's just His kind of love. Amazing. Freeing. Beautifully humble. Indescribable. I hope and pray this blog will only be a reflection of this love - of His love. The Lord has done indescribably amazing things in this sinner and it is my joy to shout it from the rooftops. I hope you will stay with me through this journey and I pray you will be blessed through it.                     
                                                            Love always,