Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Word for the Weary Soldier

Every day feels like a battle - a battle against the flesh.  His Word sinks deep into my soul, cuts deep through my hard heart and reveals the sin inside.  And I battle.  Guilt and shame thrust me into the battlefield and I swing a sword and throw up a shield only to be hit again and fall into a muddy pit of pride, anger, and self.

Why do I lose every battle?

How do I win over sin?


The word falls over me as I lay wounded and muddy.


I don't have to win the battle over my sin.  It isn't my job - not mine alone, anyway.

He comes to my rescue, lifts me out of my dirty sins, cleans me off and reminds me that if I would just rest in the knowledge that He's there beside me. . .  Well, He fights the battle for me when I put down my sword and let Him shield me. . . 

For the soldier of God, fighting in the battle against sin, perhaps victory comes not to the one who fights sin the hardest. . .  Maybe it comes to the one who falls the hardest into the arms of the Savior.

Praying for the grace to just invest more in my relationship with God - the every-moment-of-the-day time spent praying, reading, meditating, seeking, praising, and seeing Him - my only hope in the battle.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dancing in the Storm

Having lived, for many years, in Savannah, Georgia, I know my way around hurricanes.  I've weathered tropical storms, heard the stories of tragic storms of the past, and evacuated for hurricanes that ended up hitting South Carolina or Florida instead.

Being hit with Irene's fingers, here in south-central Pennsylvania. . . it was a different perspective.

A mild earthquake a couple days before caught my attention.  The rumbling under the chair, moving me about like a small boat on a rough sea was hard to ignore.  Not tragic, but hard to ignore.

And then, just a few short days later, we sat outside and watched her wave.

My husband led us in clearing the yard and securing our outdoor toys and furniture.  Then we stood and watched.  Having always been busy helping to board up windows or pack treasured goods and sit in a car in bumper-to-bumper traffic in past hurricane experiences, I was amazed when I finally got to see what the storm looked like.

Dark clouds, so many you could hardly see sky, quickly spinning in a south-west arc.  It was amazingly beautiful.  And when my three year old daughter looked up at me, so concerned, wondering what my response to these scary clouds and rough winds would be. . . I picked her up and danced.  We danced with the trees. 

God is awesome, His creation is awesome; and in the midst of natural disaster - earthquakes and storms - it is impossible to turn a blind eye to His power and sovereignty.

So, why live in anxiety and worry that the ground will open up and swallow me whole or that the wind will wreck our home or floods destroy our belongings?  God's creation belongs to Him; I belong to Him.  He will do as He pleases, and I can sit in anxiety and panic or I can sit in holy fear as I watch the beauty of it all.

* Watching Irene's farthest reaches.
* Dancing with 3yo and the trees.
* Cold windy wetness reminding me of years of coastal living.
* Family - staying in touch, letting eachother know all is well.
* A night spent in prayer.
* Church the day after the storm.
* A sermon I needed to hear.
* Precious baby smile and talk.
* Garden in shambles. . . but nothing worse.
* A chance to help a friend with a sick child.
* Every north east family member safe and accounted for.
* "Mom, I like you."
* 3yo morning giggles.
* Garden time - picking up the pieces.
* Sunflower heads hanging with grape vines.
* Lots of hot peppers. .  . to do what with?
* Father-son outing after a tough 8yo day.
* The color of grape jam on toast.
* Seed catalogues - eye candy.
* Big sister reading aloud to little sister in bed.
* The way they look when sleeping so peacefully.
* Playful teasing with husband.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Post-In-Law Slump

They came.

And you just never know what to expect when they come.

I always expect the worst and occasionally enjoy the surprise of a fun visit with no confrontational letters later.

But I knew this time; I could tell.  Just two days in and she was frazzled, and he was rescuing her as well he should.  The next day political spats began and came to a teary climax the next morning.  And that afternoon the daggers shot from eyes and words began to me murmered under breath and "going home early" was overheard.

I stayed buried the whole time in the protection of a good book.  But I knew. . .  They were leaving and the letter would come - the letter that would trip me up and land me on my backside, hard on the ground, sore and shaken.

They left early on Sunday morning.  We spent the day relaxing, recovering. 

And then it came that night, after promises of no hate or anger or drama - the note.  She must have written it as soon as she got home and then pushed the "send" button before we could even get in bed for the night and sleep peaceful.

A tyrade of anger and rage, it questioned my parenting, my faith, my homemaking, my integrity.  Everything from false accusations pointed at my children to criticism of my reading all week. . .  I knew in my heart that it was all wrong - all an attempt to make me cry, make me grovel, make me apologize for nothing I did wrong. 

But my head kept telling me there was something to it.  And, as always, I gave into the guilt.  My stomach knotted and my eyes burned in secret moments over laundry, in the shower, in the dark in my bed.  I didn't want anyone to know; didn't want to make the situation any more horrible.

How do you recover from that?  How do you pull yourself out of the pit made for you by someone close?

You look to God for the lesson in it all:  Be content with what you have, where you are, who you spend the moments with.  Because lack of contentment and joy-in-the-moment lead only to bitterness and a biting tongue.

And then you sit back contented in the place He's placed you.  You look around and find the joy-moments, the love notes from God worth oh so much more than the hate mail in your in-box.  You let Him hold you with each moment and rest in His grace which is greater than every real and imagined short-coming.

* 3yo in a cowboy vest hand-stitched by my Mother-in-Law.
* Seed shopping with my kids at a local farm store.
* Bees on smiling sunflowers.  Resident monarch on the zinnias.
* Laughing with my chidren.  Laughing with my husband.
* 3yo gripping a lollipop in a tight fist - eating slowly, one lick at a time.
* Slurping noodles - big smiles and laughs.
* Bright striped pants and polka-dotted shirt with blue Mary Janes - a look only a kid could pull off.
* Blanket forts in a tree.
* Small, sweet tomatoes from the garden.
* Easing a younger mom's mind.
* 3yo:  "I want you. . . mom. . ."  and  "Is that the cross God died on?"
* The serene scent of a book.
* Sweaty bare toes in sand.
* That I always have a choice in how I react.
* A purple pepper found in the garden.
* Cherry tomatoes:  "These tomatoes are making me happy, mom!"
* A second small crop of tomatoes.
* Falling asleep to cricket-chirp and waking to bird-song.
* The sound of the wind.
* Watching 7yo create, thought to paper.  And coming to understand her a little better.
* Warm, moist kiss on my forehead.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Remember He Provides

The Lord provides!  Rest in the midst of pain. . .  Friends in the loss of family. . .  A quiet place in a crowded yard. . .  A reminder of how much He's blessed and continues to bless - lest we ever forget.

* Health through the night. . . why do I fear?
* Psalm 91 - memorized - and such a help to my anxious soul.
* Hummingbird in my garden!
* Sun-speckled leaves.
* Cool shadowed spots on the asphalt - relief to summer feet.
* Shady spots under bushes and trees, just perfect for hot puppies and cats.
* Every individual mother - each one different in some way, many ways.  I see that finally.  Lord, help me to show this lovely, liberating reality to other young moms. . .
* Open windows, if only for one day.
* Knowing I'm a newbie gardener and not the first to make these newbie mistakes.
* A possible solution and plan.
* Headache relief.
* Feeling decent after not falling asleep till after 3am.
* A good morning after a rough night.
* A broken possession: reminder of what's really important.
* The crunch of walnuts.
* Eebee
* Butterflies on zinnias. . . the big monarch that lingers.
* Mom on the phone.
* A better day - much better.
* Kids excited, counting down days, hours.
* 3yo smiles.
* An exhuberant 5yo Happy Birthday!. . . a day early.
* A great friend who loves my kids - their pseudo-grandma.
* A BBQ full of strangers that wasn't so bad. . . quiet corner found.
* Time alone to dig for book treasures at a thrift store.
* Baby grass.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Flowing with Milk and Honey ~ All Over Nourishment

"He brought us to this place, and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. . ."
~ Deuteronomy 26:9


The day He saved my soul, He brought me out of barren land and set me in a place flowing with milk and honey.  It is there for me - always - waiting to be enjoyed, savored.  It flows; will I drink?

The Word of God:  milk and honey to the soul.  Regular time, set apart to read, to drink it in. . . nourishes my soul and grows me up, builds those spiritual bones and makes me strong.

The Word of God:  milk and honey to my soul.  I meditate upon those Words, let them saturate my day and coat my soul with the sweetness - let them stick like honey.


As I drink in milk, I drink in Calcium and Vitamin D - the bricks and mortar of my body.  They make the bones strong, replenish all I lost during four childbirths and years of nursing, depleting.  I drink so I don't break.

And in those winter months, when energy lags and throats sting and sniffles and aches hit with a vengeance, honey soothesIt coats the throat, soothes the belly, builds up the body.  I swallow it down in all its sweet goodness so I don't fall.


Once a week I stand at the kitchen counter and stir it up - my bowl of beauty.  I squeeze about a tablespoon or two of honey and mix it some cream or milk. . .  Stir it into a sticky liquid and head to the bathroom.  Before I turn on the shower I coat myself in this honey-milk.  From head to toe - covered in a thin, sticky film that smells so rich.  But I save some.

After I get in the shower, I rinse hair and pour the rest of my concoction over my head and massage it into scalp and locks.  And then I rinse body and shampoo hair.

As I dry off, I see it - all that dead skin just flaking off so easy.  And my skin is soft and glowing once more.  And my hair curls up and thanks me for the rich drink.

Milk and honey:  body and soul.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Saving Me from Myself ~ A Personalized Telling of Psalm 91

When I step outside my hectic day to spend a quiet moment with Him,
I find the way to stay with Him. . . all day.
Then I can say, with laughter on lips, "He's here!
A refuge for me. . . all day!"

He saves me from myself: the sins that trip me up and throw me down,
The sins that make me sick in mind and body and soul.
When I'm most deeply submerged in those sins, He spreads His wings and beckons.
I can hide there, in Him.
I can find protection in Him, in the truth of His Word.
I can find relief from my sins, the anxiety that makes me watch the night clock,
The worries that go right to my heart when I rise,
The panic that makes me weak and stomach sick,
And the fear that wrecks my day. . . if I will just take that moment with Him.

All around me, they fall in their sins. . .
Family and friends, even, collapse in a pile of sorrow and self-inflicted grief;
But I can be saved from this - I need not be swallowed whole.
I look around
And I see what comes of sin - of giving oneself over to the pull of it all.

I must make the Lord, alone, my refuge;
I must dwell in Him, dwell on Him.
For with my mind set on God and my soul finding rest in Him
I am saved from myself - that sickness, that sin, no longer has a hold on me or my home.
Angels around me, surround me
To keep watch over me, to help me.
Just as I fall, I call out and they catch me,
Providing a buffer - saving me from myself.
I can face these anxieties!
From the greatest fear to the smallest worry, I can face it all. . . if I'll just take that moment with Him.

May the Lord say of me, "She's oh so human and falls again and again;
But she loves Me.  I will help her; I will love her.
She calls on My name each time she falls; I will lift her up out of this. . . again.
I will be with her through every temptation;
I will deliver her.
I will show her the satisfaction of a life lived in Me.
I will save her from herself."

Monday, July 25, 2011


Fear, anxiety, worry, depression, sadness. . .  All these emotions, these regular plagues. . . I fight them with gratitude. . .  I make the choice to set my mind on His gifts:

* Red, metallic nail polish on little bitty toes.
* Being listened to.
* A husband who tells me to "say no" to myself.
* A cuddle after discipline.
* Time alone - quiet - slow thoughts.
* Gray, hot haze.
* Sunflowers coming into bloom.
* What to do with all those tomatoes!?
* Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. . .
* Spouse and children. . .
* Cheap treasures at the thrift store.
* A found bike.
* Faith:  it's all that holds me up sometimes. . . Even when I doubt, I cling to faith.
* Knowing myself.
* Borrowed books.
* Listening to a good dad. . . gleaning.
* Hammocks.
* Sweaty, red child faces.
* Child-rigged tree swings.
* Pyrex - a new old love.
* Feeling slightly more refreshed than the day before.
* A belly-ache that turns out to be nothing.
* Kids telling the days of the week by family rituals.
* 3yo bringing me the prayer book.
* 5yo asking me to do morning prayers again after he wakes late.
* A rough day that finally comes to a yawning end.
* Weekends.
* Benedryl.
* 3 skillets to cook Saturday-morning pancakes on.
* Time alone with my 3yo.
* Answered prayers.
* Lightening that just missed - up-close - pretty awesomely beautiful!
* Milk and honey.
* Finally getting to talk to my mom.
* A cat nap on a Sunday afternoon.
* Warm popcorn, fresh of the stove.
* The loud clap of thunder that scares me into the arms of God.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Sane Mom's Manifesto ~ #1


Asking someone if they would do something and telling someone they must do something are two entirely different things.  I will not ask my kids if they would do something unless they actually have a choice.  If I expect them to do something, I will tell them they must do it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Thanksgiving Should Begin in Mid-July

There's a fight over the carrot patch - kids pushing a shoving and clamoring to see who'll get to pull out a bigger carrot.  We form a line and take turns, oldest to youngest.  Each carrot pulled brings squeals of delight and an analysis of the 4' x 8' plot on which we laid down seeds back toward the end of spring.

They hastily rip off tops, pile carrots high in their box, run them to the kitchen sink to rinse and then chomp on in.

They come back for a couple red tomatoes and to snip a zinnia each.

Oranges, pinks, reds and yellows. . . sweet tastes and sweet smells. . . the feel of dirt beneat the nails, caked thick on finger tips.

We celebrate a Thanksgiving for the harvest at the end of it all - when the last bit's been gathered in - late autumn.

I think I'll start my Thanksgiving in now in mid-summer when we begin reaping the bounty.

* Lightening in the distant cloudy night sky.
* A reminder to hold plans loosely.  I always need that reminder.
* Gooey, half-melted chocolate chips in cookies.
* Visit with old friends - lots of hugs - lots of laughs.
* Plump heirloom tomatoes in abundance. . . turn red, little guys, turn red!
* The tired that makes me rest.
* Husband so quiet in the morning, I don't even wake.
* Baby ears of corn with blond and red hair.
* Splashes in the cold water.
* Kids snacking on carrots just pulled out of the earth.
* Brothers wrestling. . . laughing.
* Digging up carrots with the kids.
* Fresh-cut flowers on the kitchen counter.
* Ceiling fans.
* Inspiration and comfort food.
* Grace for my scattered inconsistent brain!
* The peace that come with just stopping it all for a minute.
* Pencil + Paper = Flexible To-Do List  :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Desiring the Kingdom: Habits for the (Home)(School)

After gleaning a dozen personal habits from my reading of James K. A. Smith's Desiring the Kingdom, I remembered that the book was written (and shared with me) to address education - Christian education.  How could a mother or teacher take these ideas and work a revolution in her home or class room?  How was I going to use these concepts in our own homeschooling?  What would these heart-forming habits look like for kids?  I've adapted the afore-mentioned habits to work with my kids on a home/school level, and I think any teacher or parent (homeschooling or not) could do the same with the children in his or her care.

  • Live a liturgical week.  Stopping to rest and worshiip with others on Sunday.  Also attending other, regular church functions throughout the week.
  • Live a liturgical year.  Develop in your children a desire for God through the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent and a celebration of Him during the seasons of Christmas and Easter.  Schedule times of seasonally-based worship and learning into your days just as you do other activities and curricula.
  • Shepherd your children toward baptism into the church.  Encourage their membership in the Kingdom and Family of God.  Teach them to prioritize this citizenship - this family.
  • When your children do make that step of faith into a new Kingdom and Family, welcome them and pray for and encourage them in their role as a fellow citizen and heir with you and the Church.  Make service to and within the community of believers accessable to them.
  • Every morning, before the day officially "begins," gather together to pray and ask God for His mercy and grace throughout the day.  (We do this at breakfast.) 
  • Gather again at other times of the day to pray.
  • During your morning gathering, also pray for God's guidance through the coming day.
  • Post The Two Great Commandments somewhere near your "gathering place" as a reminder for all.
  • Along with your regular Scripture memorization, have your kids memorize The Apostle's Creed.
  • Every morning, when most U. S. children are reciting the Pledge of Allegience together, lead your children in reciting The Apostle's Creed - our pledge of allegience to God and His Kingdom.
6.  PRAY
  • Set aside times throughout the day to pray together.  Pray for the needs of others.  Pray for guidance and wisdom for yourselves.
  • Set aside times throughout the day to read God's Word together.  Read it as a story from beginning to end or as segments picked out and read for instruction.
  • Give your children the time and resources to read God's Word daily on their own.  Encourage them to surround this time of Bible reading with prayer and praise to God.
  • Sing to the Lord together throughout the day at regular times.  Teach your children hymns and help them memorize Psalms.  Meal times and bedtimes are great stopping points to do this, but any set time of the day will do.
  • Play praise music during down times or during chore times.
  • Spend time talking with eachother.  Just because you are with eachother all day doesn't mean you need to neglect communication.  Make a point to spend time conversing and listening and teaching the children to do the same.
  • Make your house a welcoming home.  Regularly invite others in, and teach your children to be hospitable and inviting.
  • Make family meal times a priority.  And don't just content yourself to sit together in front of the TV to eat.  Most of the time we need to making meal times a gathering around a table in which we share both food and conversation.
  • Try very hard to not rush these family meal times.  Take time to enjoy both food and fellowship.
  • If there have been on-going skirmishes amongst family members during the day, consider having a time before the blessing of the meal during which forgiveness and reconcilliation take place.
  • Again, practice hospitality with your children. . . have regular meal-time guests.
  • In the middle and / or at the end of the day, sit together for a time of confession.  Children and parents (or teachers) alike should all be encouraged to confess their sin struggles to eachother, ask forgiveness of eachother if needed, and pray for forgiveness and help from God together.
  • Be sure to end these times of prayer with a word of assurance of God's forgiveness.  Perhaps learn and recite 1 John 1:9.
11.  GIVE
  • Encourage and teach a habit of sharing.  Do not allow anyone in the family to easily take the attitude that certain things belong to them.  Teach your children that all we have is God's and that we are stewards of the things He has blessed us with and that one of the ways we do a good job of this is by sharing His blessings to us with others.  Begin the habit of giving inside your own home.
  • Next, teach your children the importance of giving to others outside your immediate family.  Have kids get involved in either taking some of their own time to make gifts for others or taking some of their own money to buy gifts for others.
  • Next, teach your children to give to those they may not even know.  Decide, as a family, ways to give to charitable causes - a local faith-based organization or a national organization that provides for those in need.
  • When your children begin earning their own money, teach them good stewardship of their money.  Teach them that this money, though they earned it with work, still belongs to God.  Teach them to give, in gratitude, to God and then to manage wisely what they keep.
  • Flee the temptation to shelter your kids completely from the world.  Having entrenched them in all the above habits, make a habit, now, of going out into the world.  Cover them in prayer and let them out into a suffering world.
  • Get the kids involved in community sports, clubs and groups.
  • Voluteer your services as a family to those in need.
  • Let your children get paying jobs and / or voluteer their time to do work for free for people in the neighborhood.
  • Teach your children how to form healthy and safe relationships with those outside the Body of Christ, and teach them how to bring the lost into the Family.
Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 1
Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 2
Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 3

Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 3

It's simple really, this formation of habits - Christ-centered habits.

We incorporate the church year and its seasons into our plans, celebrate and mourn together with the church. We gather together with other believers on a regular basis. We accept God's invitation to commune with Him and invite others in to do the same. We sing. . . together. . . psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We seek and submit ourselves to the will of God. We confess, regularly, to God and eachother, those sins that so easily ensnare us and weigh us down. . . and we forgive and accept forgiveness.

Here are a few more habits to help us along in our quest for a true heart-desire for God:

THE HABIT OF ENTERING THE ROYAL PRIESTHOODEnter into covenant with the body of Christ through baptism into a church. Says Smith, "Baptism is not just a picture" of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. . . It is the formation of a new citizen - a citizen of the the unified body of Christ. When we are baptized into the community of believers, we swear allegiance to the Kingdom of God and the Family of our Heavenly Father. But we must go beyond being baptized ourselves. We must also receive with prayer and encouragement others who are baptized into this Kingdom and this Family. We open our lives and homes to our new family, fellow-citizens of this new Kingdom.

Recite, regularly, the Apostle's Creed - memorize it, even.  Having become citizens of the Kingdom of God, we make our Pledge of Allegiance to God and His Kingdom when we say (together) The Creed - our statement of shared beliefs.  By so doing, we remind ourselves of our allegience to God and His people, remind ourselves of our Christian heritage, and remind ourselves of our beliefs.

Pray, habitually, throughout the day, both individually and with other believers.  Intercede for others in prayer before God.  Pray for guidance for yourself.  Every time we pray for others, we take a step outside our own concerns and interests and follow God's call to give, sacrifice, and serve others - to have compassion and consider the needs of others over our own.  Every time we pray for guidance and wisdom, we recognize our own humble state and our need for God.

Read the Word of God.  And listen to it being read.  Get caught up in the story of the Gospel, from the beginning to the end.  Smith proposes that "imbibing the story of Scripture is the primary way that our desire gets aimed at the Kingdom."  When we get wrapped up in the Story, we see our place in it - our purpose.  The Word of God also sets forth for us an idea of how we should live. . . it shows us "the kind of people we are called to be."  Reading and being taught the Word of God - the Story of the Gospel - colors the lense through which we see the world - regular, habitual reading naturally leads to a Gospel-centered view of the world.

It is easy to just go through the motions of communion, especially in churches where the Lord's supper is celebrated every week.  But do make an effort to bring your whole self into the experience of the Eucharist.  Listen to the words your minister speaks and reads - get drawn into this chapter of the Gospel story.  Allow yourself to use every sense in partaking of the bread and wine.  Look at the colors and textures, feel the bread, smell the wine, taste each element and savor while you meditate on the body and blood of Christ.  Consider what the Eucharist means to the Body of Christ:  God's blessing, His provision, His forgiveness.  When we focus our whole body and mind on the Lord's Supper, a weekly participation in this sacrament actually becomes quite a blessing - a time of restoration and an opportunity to examine our own demonstration of forgiveness and reconcilliation.

The act of habitually giving to God and His Kingdom is a way of thanking Him for His blessings in our lives.  When we give, we "feel" it - or, if not, perhaps we should make sure we are giving to the point that we "feel" it - and thereby reinforce in our minds our covenant relationship with a generous God.  Habitual, consistent giving of our money and / or earthly possessions into the Body of Christ also solidifies (as so many of these habits do) our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are sharing, giving what is deemed ours to those who have need of it rather than storing it up for ourselves as is the way of the world.  We are recognizing that nothing is our own - it is God's and as such it all belongs to the Kingdom of God.

Obey the Great Commission.  Go into the world, interact with the culture, and then invite them into to the household of Faith.  Pray God's blessing on every interaction you have during the day - coat your humanity in prayer.  Then, by going forth, you take the blessing of the Kingdom of God into a lost world.

Twelve habits - rituals that form our hearts and desires. . . that have to power to turn our hearts toward God.  This is not a works-based theology. . . we are not earning the free gift of Salvation.  Christ did that on the cross.  We are merely choosing a better way of life - a life centered on Christ - a heart devoted to God.

Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 1
Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 2
Desiring the Kingdom for the (Home)(School)

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Introverted Thanks-Giving

I'm an introvert.  That's the technical term for shy, right?  Up until I met my Myer's-Brigg's obsessed husband I was merely shy, but he upgraded me to introverted.

Getting together with people is, well, a chore for me.  It is hard work - emotional work - and it takes its physical toll, too, the preparing to be with others.

Bible studies, church and church dinners, get-togethers with friends. . . they all leave me gasping for air at some point before-hand and wringing my hands till they're numb while we're together.

But always, always, always after. . . I'm thankful.

Because people, for all the anxiety they bring me, are truly gifts from the Lord.  And every woman I've shared my heart with at a Bible study, and every friend I've laughed with over dinner. . . each one is a blessing.

* They still like to snuggle with me. . .
* Bright bursts in the sky.
* A day to celebrate - together.
* Old men yelling at baseball game.
* The thrill of a good play.
* A LATE night of TV and hot wings the night before the last day of vacation.
* A crying 5yo who wants me, his mom.
* Kids in baseball caps, hot dogs in hand.
* Freedom in Christ - the most important and hardest-won freedom of all.
* Sweaty summer evenings.
* A 7yo who hasn't cried for me in quite a while. . . And now. . .
* Feta. . . and sweetened whipped cream. . . yum.
* Cold, orangy pops.
* The quiet beauty of an early summer morning.
* Personal pizza with the kids.
* Encouraging husband and sharing struggles.
* Trusting God to give what He thinks we need, not what we think we need.
* 5yo whispers in the middle of the night.
* Early morning bunny-sighting with 3yo.
* 5yo on  a bike.
* Fellowship with good friends.
* Waiting for things to ripen.
* Picking our own home-grown blackberries.
* Sweet sleep. . . finally.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Falling into HIS Plans

"The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps."
~ Proverbs 16:9
I'm a lister - a planner.  I fill journals, notepads, scrap paper, word docs and anything else I can find with lists and plans and lists of how to accomplish my plans.

And then it happens.  I'm knocked straight down off my list by the hand of the Lord.

I get upset.  I cry and stomp my feet (sometimes literally).  But I always hear the humbling voice of the Lord whispering (okay, sometimes He shouts), "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD'S purpose that will prevail." (Proverbs 19:21)

I think I know it all - how it all should go.  How my day should be laid out, what a perfect house looks like, what a perfect child acts like, what a perfect marriage is, how a perfect mom / wife behaves and thinks and talks. . .  And I write down my plans and lists accordingly.  And God shows me that I know. . . well, not a whole lot after all.

I'm humbled.

And it hurts.

But it's also pretty freeing. . .

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD, "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
~Jeremiah 29:11
If I can just be humbled, just be okay with it. . . I can fall into the freedom of letting Him who really knows best plan my days, direct my steps. . . I can fall into the peace that comes with that freedom.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Hard-to-See Blessings

Two little twin boys - miracles to their mother - answers to prayers, so many prayers of so many people prayed with so many tears. . .  They are truly gifts from God.  They are gifts He gave each to the other.

I watched them today at church, just turned a year old.  They crawled after eachother, looked for one another when sad or worried, played with eachother like the best friends they are.  I wonder if they will ever realize the blessing they have in one another.

Sometimes the most obvious blessings are the hardest to see.

* My garden.
* Chicken pasta salad - a summer staple at our house.
* Berries.
* Frozen fresh fruit - yum.
* Sweet fellowship with a small few after the crowd goes home.
* No more credit cards!
* Lyme disease test - NEGATIVE!
* LONG hike through the hilly woods - single file - crying finally stopping and root-hopping beginning.
* Cold water.
* Italian - yum.  Juicy pear water ice - yum.  Eating both with good friends - laughing, sharing - happy and warm.
* Quiet reading out back at dusk.
* Saying, "No."
* The smell of tomato vine on my hands.
* Generous strangers that give coupons so six treats at the water ice shop only cost $5.
* Colors.
* Warm sun first thing in the morning.
* Snuggly sleeping bag in the family room - all ready for a 3yo.
* The joy a yellow pad of paper brings to a 5yo.
* Family.
* A dripping hose.
* Blooming zinnias and poppies.
* Baby watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes and carrots.
* Pepper plants having a growth spurt.
* Dirt - you can't messy it up.  :)
* Golden hay lying across sunny fields.
* Book browsing.
* Voice of an old, dear friend just dripping Southern charm - a reminder of "home."
* Smell of herbs in the garden shop.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Humble I am Not

Humble I am not. 

Though I've always fooled myself into thinking I am.

I self-depricate.  That's humility, right?  I constantly second-guess myself - my decisions, abilities, work.  I must be pretty humble.

Then I read this book.  And I find that, in spite of all this, I'm not, in fact, humble at all.  I'm proud.

True humility serves, willingly, in the day-to-day.  And each interruption brings me closer to shouting out in irritation that my plans, my desires, my wishes, my ideas are being trampled on.  My focus is on me.  Otherwise, they'd almost not even have to interrupt and ask.  I'd be aware.  I'd jump in there to offer my help, my service, my thoughts, my ear, my shoulder, my arms and hands, my eyes, my laughs. . . without being asked and without getting irritated.  But I am proud, so I only offer these things grudgingly and only after being asked.

I don't serve; I slave.

True humility gives genuine consideration to the ideas and thoughts and words and actions of another.  And I fight and buck and muse about how "it's not fair".  My focus is on me.  Otherwise I'd listen, reflect, consider, flex and bend, change my mind, do rather than expect.  I'd make the step forward. I'd lunge forward, without outside force, to engage in conversation and offer unconditional love and give what someone else needs. . . without having to be pushed there by guilt or exasperation.  But I'm proud, so I only give after fighting with all my might.

I don't give; I give in.

Lord, humble me.  I need Your help, Your humility.  I don't have it in myself; cultivate it in me.  Help me to serve my children and my husband in every small moment of the day.  Help me to listen and consider the words and actions and thoughts of my husband and children.

Help me to be truly humble.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Small Joys

I was on a cleaning rampage yesterday afternoon, and then I saw it. . .

. . . someone had set up house before me.

In the under-oven drawer, in a 6 cup muffin tin, a little mouse, presumably clothed in an apron, feather duster in hand, had created an abode of her own.  I laid eyes on a neatly kept home: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom.

After running out for mouse traps (for, while I find the whole thing cute, I still don't want to share my kitchen with cute mice in aprons), I set to work cleaning.  And, not one mouse, but two scattered; and I screamed. . . and we all took to the counters while the cat avoided the kitchen and we waited for Daddy to come home and save us.

But I realized, while sitting on my kitchen counter, waiting and watching, that there are small joys even in these little moments of chaos. . . and the every-day moments of chaos as well. . . that's where they're best found, actually. . . His gifts:

* The neatness and storybook-esqueness of a mouse house in a muffin tin.

* The shared panic after seeing a couple mice scurry around the kitchen.

* The personality of animals - not only does God take the time to create each person with a unique personality. . . He creates each animal with a unique personality as well.

* A quiet meal out.

* Kids running through a sprinkler.

* Lilies growing wild.

*Old keys, old paper, old handwriting.

* 8yo reading.

* Crying that makes 3yo's eyes look green.

* An evening alone.

* Cold dew on bare feet.

* A family doctor who's also a family friend.

* Chalk drawings on black top

* A pool, only just big enough. . . and cool enough.

* Lightening storm at night.

*A good rain for the garden.

* A good movie with the kids.

* A good, fun homemade meal.

* Late-night tdip in a cool pool after a hot, sticky day.

* Fireflies dancing in the corn fields.

* Early morning helping husband.

* Late-night sweaty 3yo, arms wrapped around my neck.

* Butter pecan ice cream.

* Pretty book from the library.

* Exhortation to down-grade the to-do lists and upgrade His Word.

* 3yo falling back to sleep.

* Miss Marple.

* Turn in affidavit - check.

* A husband who can answer the tough questions.

* Sweet, wild black raspberries.

* Clover-scented breeze.

* Itty-bitty baby watermelon just showing in my garden.

* First poppy blooms.

* Small bumblebees and butterflies.

* Boys, sticks, rocks and railroad tracks.

* Free apples.

* 5yo so excited to finally have his own library card and Summer Reading GO booklet.

* Our own cilantro at dinner.

* A generous husband who wants to help others. . . even when he sorta doesn't want to at all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 2

Every day people get out of bed, get themselves cleaned up and ready for the day, eat breakfast or grab a cup of coffee to-go, and drive to work or school or play-dates.  We spend our lunches together at resturants or alone in front of a TV or computer screen.  We talk, converse, share ideas.  We work, play, and plan.  We come home to spend some time in rest or in more work with a family - watching TV, cleaning the house, helping kids with homework.  Then we get cleaned up again and climb into bed just to get ready to do it all over again the next day. 

Habits.  Rituals.

They are all necessary parts of life.  And each habit produces a desire and an idea of what is worthy of our desire.

We can't help but live this life.  Unless we are going to live a life completely separated from the world, we have to engage in these habits.

Smith's solution, in his book Desiring the Kingdom - his idea for keeping our hearts after the Kingdom of God - is to engage in counter-formative rituals.  The various elements of Christian worship, when made a habit or regular practice, will work to both show us the Gospel and give us the opportunity to practice living the Christ-centered life together.  He offers some great ideas in his book, aimed, I believe, at those heading churches and / or Christian education establishments.  I, however, have tried to use his ideas and bring them down to a practical and personal level.  Here are the first six habits I have adapted from his book.

  • Organize your time according to the Liturgical Year, observing annual celebrations and holy days as well as weekly Sabbaths.
  • Reserve the periods of Advent and Lent as times of penitence - times of denial, self-examination and waiting.
This habit of organizing your time around the church year will serve as a sort of exercise in desiring the Kingdom of God.  While we await a weekly day of worship and rest, and then, while we live through the self-denying periods of Advent and Lent, we learn to desire the coming of the Kingdom.

  • Regularly gather together for worship and fellowship.
  • Regularly gather together with other Christians that are not your mirror image - Christians who are quite different in so many ways from yourself but who share the common bond of Christ with you.
  • When you regularly gather with other Christians, make a habit of "invoking" the mercy and grace of God.
This habit of gathering together serves to bring renewal and restoration for us, the broken members of the Body of Christ, so that we can go out and suffer and serve a lost world.  We come together with our sins and weaknesses and look, together, to God for healing and strength, mercy and forgiveness.

  • Accept God's invitation to commune with him.  Practice regular interaction, conversation with God.
  • Regularly welcome others into your life and your home as God welcomes you into relationship with Him.
When we habitually practice hospitality, both receiving God's hospitality to us and extending hospitality to others, we are reminded that we need God. . . we need eachother. . . we need relationship. . . we come to desire it even more, that connection with God and our brothers and sisters.

  • Sing to the Lord, often.
  • Make singing with others in the body of Christ a regular practice, both at church and other gatherings, even just casual get-togethers.
  • Memorize psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
By ritualistically making music to the Lord, we first strengthen our faith and belief in Him and His word.  Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are a beautiful reiterration of our belief in God; and they serve to both build up and reinforce our belief system.  When we sing together with other believers, we practice what the Bible teaches about serving as one body composed of many parts.  We can come together with Christians of all backgrounds and still create one beautiful melody.

  • Begin each day by looking to the Lord for guidance.
  • Make a habit of reminding yourself of the two greatest Commandments:  Love the Lord with your whole being, and love others as you love yourself.
A regular dose of guidance from God, a reminder of His Commandments helps us to reprioritize our lives and creates a desire for God's vision for our lives as opposed to our own that may be warped by the habits of our culture.

  • Confess your sins to God often.  Take time out of each day to reflect on your life and really take a hard look at where you are falling into sin.
  • Make a regular practice of confessing your sins to your brothers and / or sisters in Christ.  "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed."  Look, together with other Christians, at where you are all struggling personally as well as where you, as a body of believers, are failing to fulfill God's call.
  • Just as important as the practice of confessing sin is the practice of receiving God's grace and forgiveness.  If this is something that you struggle with, come up with a tangible way to remind yourself of your forgiveness, something that you can put on or touch or, perhaps, writing your confession on paper and then wadding it up and throw it away.
Sin, itself, is just a sign that we've misprioritized.  In other words, when we sin, we place greater importance on something other than God and His kingdom.  We love something else more - desire something else more.  Confession and repentence help us to reprioritize, to re-aim our hearts toward God.  And, when we confess, and then receive forgiveness, we play out the Gospel message both privately and then, also, corporately with other Christians.

Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 1
Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 3
Desiring the Kingdom for the (Home)(School)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 1

Every winter brought the curse of strep throat when I was growing up.  Seemed my tonsils were breeding ground for the bacteria.  Several mornings I'd wake with a burning pain in my throat.  As I lay in bed in my dark room, I'd hear my dad in the hall - he'd cup his hands, blow warm breath into them and then rub them quickly together like he was trying to start a fire.  As soon as I heard that noise, I'd hop out of bed and take my sore throat to him for examination.  He always did and said the same things, perhaps without even realizing it. . . He'd get his little engineer's flashlight and tell me to open my mouth wide.  He'd then peer into the mechanics of my throat and utter his prognosis.  Then he'd switch off the flashlight, put his left hand on my right shoulder and pray for me.  Every time, the same.

And guess what I realized last year I do when my own kids are sick. . .   Without even thinking, I examine, prognosticate, touch and pray.

That is the power of practices - the power of habits, particularly those that involve the whole being - they shape your life, your heart, your ideas.

About a year or so ago, my husband's boss gave me James K. A. Smith's book Desiring the Kingdom to read and discuss with her.  She wanted to put the ideas in the book into practice at the school, and she wanted to know if I had any ideas, related to my own homeschooling, that could help her.  Wading through the book, written by a philospher for those who can read "philosopherese," was difficult.  But the message and ideas in the book are the things of change - a whole new perspective on the Christian life - the idea that it is the practices, not the beliefs, of the Christian life that are the most formative in shaping in us a desire for God.

We all love something; and while our habits will often show what we love most (our home, our career, our family. . .), those activities that we make a point to habitually engage in are also responsible for forming those most intense loves in us.  And we are unwise to discount the seemingly mundane habits in our lives.  Something as small as getting in the car and immediately praying with the family for protection on the road vs. getting in the car and immediately turning on the radio can, without our even realizing it, affect our love for and trust in God vs. our love for and trust in our family vehicle or soothing music.

As I sit down, going back through this book, re-evaluating my habits, I realize just how much of what I do is creating in me a love for something or someone other than God.  Because, when my practices are not Christ-centered, my heart cannot be Christ-centered either.  When I rush into my meal without stopping to thank God. . . love of food.  When I spend more time cooking and cleaning than worshipping and praying. . . love of home or material objects.  When I spend more time teaching my kids than learning about God from His Word. . . love of education or love of children.  Some of these are not bad habits, and some of these are not bad loves, but the love that should be the center of my life - of all I do - is the love of Christ and His Kingdom.
My pastor often asks the question, "What do you find yourself spending the most time thinking about?"  It takes just a few minutes of reflecting on that question to realize where my heart lies - what my ultimate desire is for.  And it takes just a few more minutes of reflection to pinpoint which habits have built up that love of the wrong thing.  Smith says in his book, ". . .such rituals grab hold of our desire and our love through our bodies - through material, visceral rhythms, images, and experiences that subtly inscribe in us a desire for other kingdoms. . ." kingdoms other than Christ's (104).

So, what do we do?  We all have to cook and clean and make sure our children get an education and that the finances are in order.  We all have to drive to the store for things and engage in a secular culture.  But, I think the first thing we need to remember is that almost all of these things can be wrapped in Christ-centering habits like prayer before meals and car rides and the placing of a check in the offering plate at each pay day.  These things seem small, but they keep us centered on Christ.

The second thing, the thing Smith suggests, is engaging our whole selves in Christian worship practices that will both form our desire for God and act as a counter-formation to those secular habits that we have to engage in every day.

We all love something - our hearts yearn for something to love.  And, as Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in God."  Are our habits leading our hearts to this place of rest?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shelter from the Storm

There's a storm inside me. . . often. . .

It develops when a full agenda colides with child rowdiness and fluctuating hormones. . .

And then it thunders inside my chest and rain beats against my brain. . .

Like the weather, I have little control over the development of these storms. . .  But, just like with the weather, when I know a storm's a-brewin', I can take steps to deal with the rain and wind.  I can find shelter - for me and my family.  Shelter from the storm inside me.

I can take a break from the full agenda - even just a few minutes outside in fresh air.  I can love my kids and shower them with hugs and laughter.  I can drink a glass of ice cold water and dip my feet in the stream and breathe. . . and thank Him for every blessing, big and small.

Like. . .

* Solitary trips to the library - quick, quiet and productive - a time to hunt for treasure while helpful librarians get me books from archives.

* Free showers for my kids as they play in the rain.  And that same cold rain cools me off after a hot, exhausting day.

* Protection and shelter through scary storms and tornado warnings late into the night.

* Dry-milk-in-the-mix pancake mix when I realize we're out of milk!

* Waking, checking the time, and falling back to sleep for another couple hours.

* The promise of cooler temps and more fun outdoors.

* The calm after the storm.

* Imagination.  I'll focus on the blessings of this trait. . .

* Easy-peasy menus.

* My four loud, boistrous, energetic, creatively messy kids ~ I do love them.

* Do-overs! Grace! Second chances!

* A pile of dirty clothes = fellowship.

*A soothing, trickling stream in the backyard.  Oh, how peace and water seem so closely connected.

* Found tomato plants sprouting up all over my garden.

* Gray and gloomy mornings that  make you want to snuggle.

* Fuzzy socks and sweaters on cool summer mornings.

* The sound of geese flying.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Things that Bring Peace

Just the right word of encouragement.

The sight and sound of water running through the back yard.

A cool breeze on a summer day ~ a breath of sweet-scented fresh air.

A gift from my mom.

An easy, mind-working book with that relaxing bit of British wit.

A moment with my journal.

Time digging bare-handed in dirt, growing something.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Subduing My Little Plot of the Earth

I sit on the ground and run my fingers through the dirt, sifting through chunks of sod, throwing the grass and roots to one side to create a nice plot in which to grow - to produce.  It's a small space, really; but, in it, I take a stab at subduing the earth.  I touch it, manipulate it, and attempt to make it bring forth food for my family.

And my heart quakes a bit as I nervously plan and survey my efforts.  I've neglected this mandate, and I'm such a green green-thumb.  Totally out of my element. . . I wonder if anything will grow.

I so want this to work - to not only provide my own family with fresh produce while saving some grocery money. . .  I want to help those in need - those families at my own church that I know could use some free veggies.  I want to offer the little I have. . .

. . . And that's it!  Fresh veggies from the garden sound delightful.  But what I really long for is to have something to give - however small - a mite of my own to put in the collection box - to hand over to God - to give to others.

And I want to do this with my children.  I want to teach them what it means to be a steward of all the Lord blesses you with. . . that good stewardship means taking the little blessing you have, making the most of it, and then giving it away.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thoreau on Nesting ~ Gratitude 11

"There is some of the same fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in a bird's building its own nest.  Who knows but if men constructed their own dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged." ~ H. D. Thoreau
I'm so thankful to have a home to make and a family to nourish. . . Would that I let it keep me singing more than sighing.

200.  A morning thought.
201.  Drizzle.
202.  Collecting my thoughts.
203.  An answered prayer to be savored.
204.  Kids slurping spaghetti.
205.  Kids digging for worms.
206.  Finding burried treasure with a 4yo.
207.  Races in the back yard.
208.  Kisses and loves.
209.  Order in the midst of chaos. . . or is the other way around?
210.  Little arms tied around mine.
211.  Little Monets.
212.  A morning walk and the found empty robin's egg that now sits on my kitchen windowsill.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It Starts with Me

My 8yo is self-centered. . .

My 6yo is hyper-sensitive. . .

My 4yo is angry. . .

My 3yo is manipulative. . .

I am all these things.

I'm beginning to see that the first step in dealing with these sins in my children is to deal with them in my own heart first.

Like my 8yo, I cry and stomp my foot when things don't go my way.  I question when asked to do things I don't want to do.  I argue when I don't agree.
  • Oh, to be thankful in EVERY situation.  To smile always, even through tears, and give out-loud praise to God in every circumstance.
  • Oh, to do the hard work without asking anyone, "Why?"
  • Oh, to seek to agree - to humble myself, to get off my own platform, to release my own opinions.
Like my 6yo, the littlest things set me off.  I wound myself with every word, action and look that makes me uncomfortable.
  • Oh, to take criticism as Divinely directed help and let insults roll off my back.
  • Oh, to allow God to use others to guide and help me.
  • Oh, to see God in everyone's face.
Like my 4yo, I boil over - some days it takes almost nothing to set me off.  I shout and hurt myself and others with my actions and words.
  • Oh, to live a life of peace - always seeking to live in the peace of God - to live peace, react peace, be peace to others.
  • Oh, to shut my mouth, bite my tongue, choose quiet.
  • Oh, to still my body - to be still before God.

Like my 3yo, I take the easy route of manipulation to get what I want and need.  Rather than firmly communicating my needs and trusting God to provide, I nag and pout and bicker to get my needs met.  Rather than discipline and train my children, I bribe and threaten to get obedience, cooperation and respect.
  • Oh, to want less.
  • Oh, to correctly communicate my needs to others and trust them to God alone.
  • Oh, to choose the difficult path of consistent discipline and training that leads to life rather than the easy path of bribery and threats that leads to destruction
These things that my children struggle with will need correction and disicipline and teaching and training.  There are specific actions that need to take place to help my children deal with these sins and heart issues.  But the first and most important thing I can do for my kids is to work on my own heart and deal with these sins in my own life - to be an example of righteousness and show them what to do when they slip and fall in these areas.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gratitude 10

161.  2yo's bob and "flapper" look - her "dancy clothes".

162.  Read faces and sweaty locks.

163.  Husband getting there safely.

164.  Warm sun through the window.

165  Anticipation of good fellowship.

166.  My beet-red face after mowing the back.

167.  Baking. . . my therapy.

168.  Learning to let go.

169.  Cool breezes.

170.  "Stained glass" crosses on every window - constant reminders.

171.  Lilacs - even if this is a low-bloom year.

172.  Safety.

173.  Bright green leaves on the sugar gum tree.

174.  A mouth full of PB&J.

175.  Brown bunny munching his lunch as I take my walk.

176.  My two creative girls - always making, singing, dancing and "dreaming" - especially nice when they create together.

177.  PB&Js and peanut butter cookies - the foods of childhood!

178.  My four children - they've been given to me to train and help form. . . and to be formed by.

179.  God loves me in all my faults and weaknesses - I am accepted and unconditionally loved.

180.  My tree climbers.

181.  Welcome home hugs.

182.  Sibling play - chase, hide-and-seek.

183.  The guy who let me make my left before going on his own way.

184.  Watching TV with my kids for a bit.

185.  Having husband back.

186.  Sleeping on the sofa for Friday Night Late Night!

187.  Filling the pantry.

188.  "Can I bake the cake with you?"  6yo's desire to spend time helping me bake.

189.  By the stream with the family.

190.  Cool water on toes.

191.  Smooth stones and odd shells beneath the clear, sparkling water - memories withing a memory.

192.  Toy ships setting sail.

193.  Rocking my 4yo in my arms the first half of the sermon. . .

194.  . . . Looking at photo albums with him the second half.

195.  Finally finding a "Strawbaewy Giwl" cake topper of sorts.

196.  A good, yummy, big dinner - pork cooked just right.

197.  Husband proud that I was humble enough to fix boxed mac & cheese - it's the little things that please him.

198.  Tea together.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Blogging My "Passion"

By way of some soul-searching and somewhat deep-thinking, I've decided to re-visit the idea of a blog based on family traditions. . . It's, I guess you could say, my passion.  Please check out my first post and share your own May Day ideas with me!

May Day Traditions for the Family

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gratitude 9

I'm such a failure.  This is how I feel a majority of the time, quite frankly.  And this weekend was no different.  Seems at every turn I'm confronted with another reminder of how miserably I fail to "measure up."

Friday and Saturday had me reeling in these feelings.  I just felt down and worthless. . .  dark.  I was literally in despair.  I tried to focus on the cross, the meaning of the Lenten season, grace undeserved.  And, while it helped me feel sure about my standing with God, it just didn't help lift the feeling of heavy burden and darkness off of me.  I went to bed Saturday night feeling. . . despondant.  Sat up half the night feeling physically ill, knowing it was emotional. . . I was not really sick physically, just emotionally.

But the sun rose the next morning - the SON rose.  And, though I couldn't figure out just how it happened, or why, I felt light.  The weight was lifted.  Resurrection rolls were baked, ham popped in the oven, clothes put together, hidden eggs found.  I was quite underdressed, my daughter was in flip-flops with her fancy grandma-sewn dress, and my 2yo insisted on cowboy boots.  I knew I had to spend this glorious morning in the nursery - miss church - worship - sermon - communion - for the third week in a row.  But I felt so. . . joy-full. 

My mind couldn't get away from it - He rose!

His death gives me redemption; His resurrection gives me hope!

135.  The glorious, miraculous resurrection of my Lord - my Hope!

136.  Kids sleeping in.

137.  Small successes and Divine inspiration.

138.  The smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and bananas.

139.  Taking the time to write it all down = realizing how much they learn in a day.

140.  Shopping - alone - peace.

141.  The flow of the stream in the backyard.

142.  Long, lush grass.

143.  2yo coming in from playing in the yard - wet up to her knees from playing in the rain.

144.  A good book - a conversation.

145.  Dealing with set-backs and the set-backs that re-arrange a day to look pleasing to God.

146.  Watching the birds flit about the yard on a rainy day.

147.  Rain drops dancing on puddles.

148.  Children singing - so proud - waving to moms.

149.  Chocolate.

150.  Lunch outside to the music of birds.

151.  2yo singing and dancing - my little performer.

152.  Bare feet on soft, green grass and cool stream.

153.  Yellow polka-dotted green yard.  I love dandelions!

154.  Finally finding her lovey - at 12:15am!

155.  Wild violets.

156.  Fruit trees in bloom.

157.  Sophisticated blooms of the dogwood.

158.  Walk outside - an immediate mood-lifter.

159.  A little chipmunk peeking up from behind a tall tuft of grass.

160.  Memories:  my grandma's cinnamon buns, the humid heat of Savannah, the smell of salt water and seaweed, those good ole hymns, bubble gum ice cream, weeping willow trees, fishing with Grandpa, feeding corn kernels to squirrels and ducks, old family stories told over and over and over. . .

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gratitude 8

It's a habit of mine - when things are at their craziest, and any one of my children is causing more than their share of headaches, I lean over, look in their eyes, and say, "I love you."  A reminder to myself and them.

And, until now, that comment was greeted with grumpy grimaces, rolling eyes, greivous growls, and an occasional chuckle.  But my exhuberant, talkative Mary has begun returning the gift of "I love you."  She looks back up and smiles with big blue eyes and replies with all the sincerity a two year old can muster, "I love you, too, Mommy."

106.  A 2yo's sincere love.

107.  2yo helping me fold soft, sweet-smelling laundry.

109.  2yo so very impressed with her 3yo brother's felt art.

110.  Saying goodbye once. . . and then getting the unexpected opportunity to have lunch and say goodbye all over again.

111.  Red buds on gnarled, white branches.

112.  Children laughing - loud in the back of the van.

113.  6yo sleeping - dog in arms like a teddy bear - head pressed against cool glass.

114.  A sack-full of yummy breads, courtesy of my mom.  Breakfast: check!  :)

115.  Coming home to bright green grass and small baby leaves on our silver maple.

116.  4yo's sneezes.

117.  Fellowship - the comfy kind.

118.  "Rain on the green grass. . . but not on me."

119.  Swish of water in dishwasher.

120.  Seeds on the internet for lunch - 2yo singing along - memorized Scripture, so easy! 

121.  Bright-colored kids toothbrushes.

122.  4yo with grape hyacinths - I may never have flowers blooming in my yard, but I will always have a sill-full of lovingly picked bouquets.


124.  Dandelion in a jar with water.

125.  Running into a friend at the library - great to talk!  :)

126.  Books!  Lots of books!

127.  Her little hand on mine.

128.  Little piggy toes.

129.  Dancing trees.

130.  Seeds.

131.  Everyone safe after a night of dangerous weather.

132.  Boys who want to "camp out" with their dad.

133.  Waking to sunshine after the storms.

134.  The opportunity to serve husband by cleaning his office.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gratitude 7

71.  Fresh air!  Glorious fresh air!!

72.  Collaborative music of birds and wind chimes.

73.  Bare feet; bare arms.

74.  81 degrees at 8:00 pm.

75.  Weather that necessitates a quick yard pick-up ~ a gift to the neighbors. :)

76.  Waking up in the morning with the bedroom windows open - listening to the chorus of birds outside.

77.  Being inside on a windy, rainy April day!

78.  Sooooooo many neat birds out in the rain.

79.  4yo wanting desperately for me to read to him. . . in spite of my obvious irritation.  Sorry, little guy.

80.  A slow moving train means more time to sing in the car with my kids and Andrew Peterson.

81.  First wildflower bouquet of the year.

82.  4yo with hammer and nails and scrap wood.

83.  2yo with shovels and mud.

84.  6yo with new crayons and blank paper.

85.  8yo with friends and forest.

86.  Little girl's surprised gasps over homemade felt toys - so simple.

87.  Toasted coconut.

88.  "Mom, I'm bored. . . Can I do math?. . . practice my letters?"

89.  Bright forsythias along the graying highway walls through NYC.

90.  Hilton chain's beds, pillows, and blankets - must be the coziest in the world.  Where can I buy these?

91.  6yo pouring over Little Bear - really reading - so intent.

92.  8yo telling me about how the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion already had a brain, a heart, and courage.

93.  "Mom, I'm a really good shell 'finda'."

94.  Ice cream in a trough surrounded by a couple dozen happy kids - spoons in the air.

95.  Mom's roast beef and gravy.

96.  Driftwood and seaglass and little bitty shells and slow, comfortable conversation with my mom.

97.  The sound my 2yo girl makes when she yawns.

98.  A good night's sleep - the kind you don't want to get up from.

99.  New England shake shingle houses, hospitality and hot breakfasts.

100.  Chickens and fresh eggs in a back yard coop.

101.  Planks nailed to branches high up in a pine tree - work of a child, enjoyed by my children.

102.  Kids playing toe-tag with waves.

103.  The undeserved mercy and grace of the Lord.

104.  Aniticipation. . .

105.  Real ice cream.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gratitude 6

Some days are just hard.  Nothing serious or mind-blowingly bad happens; but dirty laundry, dishes and clutter blend into one chaotic heap.  Kids argue and challenge.  I feel a failure and cry out, "I just can't do it!"

A child ails.  I worry - it's what I do, what I've always done.  All day - worrying, fighting worry, struggling against it.  Thanking God, praying and thanking again.  I break through to peace a few times, but the victories are small and fleeting and only serve to remind me of the large worry-holes in my faith-walk.

So anxiety leads to depression, yet another struggle.  And I look hard for the blessing behind the disappointments.  The gloomy sky becomes the warm, grey felt stretched across a cold day.  The expenses of diapers and pet food become my four unique children and the cat and dog they love so much.  The near-forgotten anniversary becomes the committed-husband who loves me "even-though" and sometimes even "because-of."

And I breathe a sigh of peace, contentment.  My good and gracious God is always there.  I just have to rub my eyes a bit, clear away the fog of self, to see Him peeking around at me in all His beauty.

38.  Stars so bright I can see twinkling and color.

39.  My alarm clocks:  A cozy 2 year old and a hungry woodpecker.

40.  Startling sight of a duck flying through the woods. . .

41.  . . . and the kids all trying to chase it down the stream bank.

42.  French bread rising on the counter.

43.  Pink and purple sunrise all dotted through with clouds.

44.  When the words just come.

45.  Shared laughter.

46.  Finding out you're not the only one trying to cling to God's grace.

47.  8 year old telling THE Story with the resurrection eggs he just made.

48.  4 year old embellishing the story of Peter and John healing the lame man. . . apparently a donkey, a dress and a cave were somehow involved.  :)

49.  A friend blessedly surprised by a pregnancy no one thought was even possible!

50.  Neosporin and a large, hidden-away bandaid found just when I needed them.

51.  Mr. and Mrs. Mallard's return to the stream.

52.  Finding chocolate in the trunk of the car after a particularly rough shopping trip.

53.  Finding butter in the back of the fridge after having nervously put back a box to save money on said shopping trip.

54.  Little 2 year old's talk:  "Do you love me?  Do you love me now?  Do you love me now?  Do you love me now?. . ."

55.  Bird-song in the rain.

56.  Bold, big-bellied robins flocking in the field.

57.  Drooping daffodils - still lovely - a sort of somber beauty.

58.  Little cupcakes with icing all buttery goodness.

59.  Girls dancing - bright, shiny ribbons in their hair - big smiles.

60.  50% off Crayola means my kids have crayons again!

61.  Good friends who'll even watch sick kids.

62.  Fevered baby snuggled under blankets.

63.  Water. . . clean, thirst-quenching water.

64.  Broken fever and a full-night's sleep.

65.  Kids playing in the woods - building forts and digging up treasure.

66.  Colored felt and a child's imagination.

67.  A husband who still wants me - 12 years later.  :)

68.  My children and all that they require of me.  :)

69.  Looking forward to spending time with my mom.  I'm hoping for a few tear-enducing jags of laughter with her.

70.  4 year old in red socks and white shoes - hillarious - and he jumps like a monkey into my arms when I smile at him and say, "I love you. . ."