Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year's Day Tradition: Pork and Sauerkraut

Growing up, we always ate the same meal New Year's Day, pork roast and sauerkraut. I can't say I really appreciated the flavor of that meal as a child, but I look forward to it all through the holidays now. My mom gave me some pointers when I made my first roast for Charlie a few years ago, but I've since tweaked my recipe to suit our taste buds a bit better. I know many families enjoy a pork roast on New Year's Day. Thought I would share my own recipe with anyone looking for a tasty and easy first dish for 2008...Enjoy!

On New Year's Eve, sometime before you head to bed, place a thawed pork roast in your crock pot. Add 1/2 cup of water to keep the roast from sticking to the bottom. Slow cook on low through the night. When you wake in the morning (or maybe the afternoon!), the roast should be completely cooked and very tender. Cut open a bag of fresh sauerkraut and drain most of the liquid from the bag. Place kraut around and over roast. Slice 1-2 apples and mix them into the kraut (the apples take the bite out of the kraut so if you prefer the bite, skip the apples!). Replace cover and continue to cook until apples are tender--low: 2 hours, high: 1 hour. Serve with mashed potatoes and a salad. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Toy Clean-Up

As a mother of three toddler/pre-school/kindergarten age children, cleaning up toys is always an issue at our house. This year, I seem to have stumbled on a method that is working rather well, so I though I would share. It's so simple, really, and allows the children to have some autonomy with their belongings.

First, I went to our local Wal-Mart and purchased 2 large, see-through, plastic tubs with lids ( about $5 each). I had an idea of how I was going to categorize the toys and had already collected containers from around the house that would work for my project. I then took pictures of each category of toys...Barbies, ponies, dress-up clothes, blocks, etc... and taped them to the outside of each container. Then, we made a game out of sorting the toys. It took a couple of hours to sort through each and every toy, but the end result was great. Now, when it's clean-up time, the girls can clearly see where their toys are supposed to go.
Second, after sorting all the toys, I put half the toys in the guest room closet. This initially met with some resistance, but after a few minutes, my girls got the idea that those toys weren't available for play time and occupied themselves with the toys that were. In 3-4 weeks, we'll swap toys, putting the other half of the toys in temporary storage. They will be thrilled to see the "new" things, and the "old" ones will be neatly put away, ready for the next exchange. This little trick serves two purposes: 1) less toys to clean up 2) a better appreciation of the toys they actually have access to.

Lastly, we instituted a new "toy time-out" rule. Each night, the girls are responsible for putting all their toys away where they belong (within reason, according to their ages). If they don't put them away or put them away with a poor disposition or don't take the time to put things where they belong, the toys go into "toy time-out." Depending on the situation, the toy remains in time-out for 1 day to 1 week. This teaches them to care for the things they have been given and understand that everyone in the family participates in the care of our home. This particular aspect requires steadfastness on our part as parents. It's easy to feel tired and want to just put the toys away for them. Like many issues in parenting, sometimes the best thing for our kids is also the hardest thing.

Okay, hope that helps someone else out there in blog-world! It's made our lives so much simpler and peaceful. Be blessed and a blessing today!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Best Gift Of All...

Yesterday, our entire family was under our roof for a Christmas celebration. Charlie's brother flew in from Boston Friday evening, my parents drove in from Ohio to celebrate my birthday with us Friday afternoon, Charlie's folks arrived Saturday around noon followed shortly after by his sister; and my brother, sister-in-law and sweet niece, Lilly Marie, showed up around 3:30 PM. Our house was brimming with people we love and who have loved us all our lives. Our girls were radiant with expectation and excitement. They adored having so many people shower them with love, attention and affection...oh, and the gifts that accompanied those people as well!

Charlie has to be on call for his office Christmas day, so we knew months ago that we wouldn't be able to travel to see either side of the family over the holidays. I have long dreamed of hosting a Christmas weekend, filled with festive foods, Christian fellowship, music, games, laughter, and general merry-making. I seized the opportunity to invite everyone to gather here. I scoured every back issue of Fine Cooking I own, searched through recipes online and poured over my own recipe box. We scurried to finish the downstairs portion of our remodeling projects and spent days cleaning and organizing closets, drawers, cabinets and the guest room. We shopped and chopped, cooked and cleaned and wore ourselves out thoroughly--all before one guest ever arrived! Two days before our first guest was to arrive, I found myself with a list too long to possibly complete and barely enough energy to put one foot in front of another. Instead of being energized about our Christmas extravaganza, I was wondering if I was going to survive!
Friday morning (which happened to be my birthday, as well!), while the kids were playing at a friend's house, I took a break from my final cleaning marathon and found this gem at Ann V.'s:

Christmas 1 Corinthians 13
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,
strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
but do not show love to my family,
I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen,
baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and
arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime:
but do not show love to my family,
I'm just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen,
carol in the nursing home,
and give all that I have to charity;
but do not show love to my family,
it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes,
attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata
but do not focus on Christ,
I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love does not envy another's home
that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return;
but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
and endures all things.
Love never fails.

Video games will break,
pearl necklaces will be lost,
golf clubs will rust,
but giving the gift of love will endure.
--Author Unknown

I started thinking about why I wanted everyone at my table in the first share the tremendous love with which Christ has overwhelmed me; to minister to those who have made my way smoother and easier; to soothe secret aches and pains, too tender to disclose; to bless my children with the memory of their childhood home filled with love and joy; to allow the humble beginnings of Christ to be center-most in our celebration. The list went on and on...I was reduced to grateful tears as I remembered all that my Jesus has laid on my heart these last few months and the middle-of-the-night longings I have poured out to Him concerning our families. I felt the Holy Spirit lifting me out of the dreary valley of "doing" to the vista of "being." Being His daughter, His beloved, His chosen and anointed. There is so much freedom in relationship.

Soon, my tired feet were eager to complete the task of bringing the gospel of peace to those who would cross our threshold. My aching arms were now aching to hold the hearts and cares of those who were in need of the love of Christ. My dishpan hands were ready to be immersed in Living Water that would quench thirsty souls. My heart, which once was numbed by a relentless pursuit of perfection, was covered in the precious, life-giving blood of He who is perfect. My lips began to make gutturals of praise instead of complaint. Love's hope was re-born...

Yesterday was a blessed day for us all. The food was delicious, the house was shining, the gifts were appreciated, and merriness was made by all. My children went to bed rejoicing over the birth of Jesus and the love they had been able to share with family through the day. But, the best gift of all was God's reminder to us that He came to show us His love. He afforded Charlie and I the opportunity to be used as instruments of His love. He allowed us to express His love in our lives and allowed that love to overflow into the lives of our family. His love, His precious love, is the best gift of all.

Thank You, God, for Your love...thank You for always drawing back into the center of it. Thank You for loving through me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Christmas Wish List

Remember making those Christmas lists for Santa, or your folks, or the grandparent who always spoiled you? This is my Christmas wish list...

Peace...not on earth, just in our house. For one entire hour. All my girls loving each other, sharing their toys, putting each other first, smiling, joyful, obedient.
(I'd settle for no temper tantrums today.)

Self-cleaning do they get dirty the moment I put the cleaning bucket away?! If a little fairy could magically wave her wand and make the wet sinks, dirty towels, unflushed toilets, spotty mirrors, and overflowing trashcans disappear each time someone used them, that would be wonderful!
(I'd actually settle for flushed toilets.)

Self-folding laundry...I don't mind washing it, drying it, ironing it, or even putting it away. I just don't like folding it. If they invented a laundry folding machine, I'd be first in line for purchases!
(Today, I'd take laundry that ends up in the hamper and not on the bedroom floor.)

A backyard with a micro-climate...I like looking at snow and the way it blankets the earth, covering up things that are normally ugly. I even enjoy a snowball fight once every decade, or so. What I would enjoy, though, is a little tropical micro-climate in the backyard, where I could enjoy sunshine and tropical weather and a small beach front all year 'round. Snow suit at the front door, swim suit at the back door!
(I'd settle for sunshine and melting snow.)

Some of my body parts from my twenties...Namely, my joints and muscles. Oh, and maybe my waistline.
(Today, I'd take hips that don't scream when I run.)

An extra eight hours each night reserved only for sleeping...not cleaning or cooking or worrying or checking on the girls or the dogs or the thermostat or, or, or... Just sleeping.
(Okay, so I'd settle for just ONE night like that!)

Thanks, Lord, that You don't always give me what I want, but always what I need. All joking aside, I'm so grateful for the many ways you shower me with blessings day in and day out. I love You, In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Our Christmas Verse

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Matthew 1:23

This is the verse the girls and I have memorized for Christmas this year. For a variety of reasons, this holiday season has been tough. We're hosting both sides of the the family over the weekend for a Christmas celebration, Charlie has had to work an inordinate amount of overtime hours, we've been racing to finish up the home improvement projects we started in July (yes, July!), and finances are low this year. It's hard not to focus on one (or all!) of those spirit dampners each day. It seems we are being bombarded with distractions and attention grabbers. One morning, I was on my knees in the bathroom, silently pleading to God for mercy and strength to get through the day, simply so I could crawl back into the safety and security of my bed. I felt Him whispering to my heart, "Emmanuel, Emmanuel. Don't forget, My name is Emmanuel." I grabbed a hold of that Helping Hand and drew strength from the knowledge that God is with me. He is with me. He is with me.

It has almost become my mantra.

Just before I answer the phone.
Before my hand reaches into the mailbox.
As I answer the doorbell or check my e-mail.
As I open the cabinets to search for dinner.
He is with me...He is with me...He is with me.
When my head hits the pillow at night.
When my eyes struggle to open in the morning.
As I crawl around on the floor, picking up toys and crayons and shoes.
As I scrub the toilet and take out the trash.
He is with me...He is with me...He is with me.
When the snow and ice fall, locking us inside for days.
When the harsh winds blow.
When the rain falls.
When the sun shines, if even for a moment.
He is with me...He is with me...He is with me.
When I can't see my way.
When I'm struggling with doubt.
When I fall into sin.
When I feel the warmth of His forgiveness and grace.
He is with me...He is with me...He is with me.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
His Name is called Emmanuel.
God with us
Revealed to us
His Name is called Emmanuel.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays--Things You Can Give Without Spending Money

Okay, so it's Wednesday and I'm a day behind. Who cares, right? Thanks to Ann for starting the Top Ten idea...sorry I didn't get to it yesterday!

Since it's the season of giving, here are some things you can give that will probably mean more than something you could buy at a store:
10. An invitation to dinner. Invite your favorite friend, couple, neighbor, co-worker, or someone new to your church over for dinner. Make it a simple meal with creative touches. Play cards, go for a walk, go look at Christmas lights, make ornaments together, etc. Make it a memorable time for all.
9. Offer to babysit. Know anyone with little ones who doesn't have much in the way of help? Offer to babysit for them for an hour or two hours or an evening or a weekend...whatever is comfortable for you. I promise it will be a treasured gift!
8. Bake bread. Bread is one of those universally appreciated gifts. It's easy and extremely inexpensive to make. It just takes a bit of time as you wait for it to rise. If you're really adventurous, include a little flavored butter with the bread.
7. Give something living. No, not one of your children or the beloved family pet. Do you have any beautiful plants in your yard or home? Bulbs that can be divided and shared? Plants overflowing their pots? Bundle them up in a nice package along with care instructions and give them away. Add a pretty bow and an offer to come and help with the planting and you've got a winner!
6. Free Christmas clean-up! Offer to help someone take down, organize and put away their Christmas decorations. That task usually falls to one unfortunate soul per household, so why not give them the gift of help and company. Take a nice lunch and/or basket of goodies along to make a day of it. They'll remember your gift next year as they unpack their neatly stored items.
5. Give the gift of the Word. Write or print out words of encouragement or promises from the Word and frame them or organize them into a booklet. This is an especially good gift for someone who is struggling with grief, loss or depression.
4. Give fitness. So many people begin the New Year with fitness goals. Offer to be a fitness buddy and set up a work-out schedule you can accomplish together.
3. Got any great recipes? Copy some of your own tried and true recipes onto pretty recipe cards. You could also include the ingredients of one of the dishes for the recipient to try. This is a great gift for newlyweds or the college grad.
2. Time. Isn't it true that everyone is running helter-skelter these days? Give the gift of time by offering to serve someone else. Offer to do yard work or wash a car or clean house or cook meals or whatever you might be gifted to do. Make it a gift of service while also spending time with the person you care for. It's a win-win.
1. Prayer. This doesn't have to be an advertised gift, but rather a personal commitment to lift a specific person in prayer. If there's someone in your life who you especially want to come to know the Lord Jesus, gift that person with your prayers and lift them daily to God.

OK, that's my list. Happy gift-giving to you all!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Santa Claus, Air Conditioning and Heaven

It's been a bit hectic around here, what with last minute shopping, massive baking, errands, snow storms, and the usual chaos of three kids! Here are a few cute quotes from our little tribe:

Concerning Santa Claus...
Ruthie: Look! There's Santa Claus! In the white beard and the red pants!
Olivia: Santa Claus!
Emma: Guys! That Santa isn't real. That's just a man dressed up in a suit pretending to be Santa!

Ruthie: (thinking) Well, Santa might not be real, but the man inside the suit is real. Maybe he thinks he really is Santa so be quiet or you'll hurt his feelings!

"Air" Conditioning...
As we were getting ready for a wedding this past weekend, the girls and I were having a "beauty day," meaning they were allowed to use the off-limits master bathroom to get ready. We had clothes, shoes, make-up and what-not strewn all over the place. They took turns showering in our tub and I let them use my special shampoo and soaps--a special treat indeed! While I was helping Emma dress and fix her hair, Ruthie was in the shower washing her hair. She kept saying over and over, "Mommy, I just love air conditioning! I love air conditioning!" It took me a few minutes to realize what she meant was, "Mommy, I just love hair conditioner!"

On Heaven...
This morning, I could here the girls arguing in another room. Everyone was fighting over the same Barbie doll. I walked in and confiscated the Barbie and used the opportunity to pray with each of them and remind them that above all, we show love for each other. After everyone calmed down and was emotionally stable, Ruthie started telling us how she hoped there were lots and lots of beautiful Barbies to play with in heaven. Emma smirked and said, "That's a messed up kind of heaven, Ruthie." With tears in her eyes, Ruthie said, "Okay. I don't want there to be any Barbies in heaven." I pulled her on my lap and asked her, "Why did you change your mind, sweet pea?" With her big, beautiful, teary blue eyes, she looked at me and said, "If that's a messed up heaven then I know it's really hell so I don't want to go there."

From the mouths of babes...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Where I'm From

I am from cars with bucket seats; from Big Wheels and Aqua Net; jelly shoes and leg warmers.
I am from government apartments.
I am from bird nests on the window sill and raccoons in the chimney.
I am from biting your tongue while stewing inside and curly hair;
from Russell and Rosellen and Luke and Ruby.
I am from the overly sensitive and “the glass is half empty.”
From “do it right the first time,” “try, try again” and
“everything has a place and everything in it’s place.”
I am from “we don’t believe in Bible thumping”, the frozen chosen and
“God helps those who help themselves.”
I’m from Springfield, Heugonots, and Terre Haute; Hamburger Helper and powdered milk.
From the dad who was never there, the mom who always was and the basketball star brother.
I am from divorce and never feeling like we had enough;
I am from a mom who gave everything she could.
I am from vacations on lakes and in deserts;
bumping around the country in beat-up cars and old RVs;
from a family, who despite all my many faults, still loves me, loves me, loves…and I them.
Thanks to JAN at Midsummer Meanderings for posting her own "Where I'm From" as well as the link to the site where you can download the form to make your own poem. I, too, would love to read anyone else's!

I Am The Dog

This afternoon was my first foray into outdoor running. Yes, it’s December. Yes, it gets dark at 5:00 PM here. And, yes, it’s hovering around 35 degrees. But, I was cooped up all day and thought I would give it a try. Actually, I was planning to just take a brisk walk to give my legs a bit of a rest. As we rounded the corner at the end of the block, though, clear, even sidewalks beckoned me to give them a good lashing with my feet. My lungs were practically begging me to force the cold, crisp air deeper into them. So, off we went. We? Oh, yeah. Me and the dog.

We have a mutt for a dog, Elvis. His talents include barking, eating, pooping, and scaring anyone and everyone who dares to cast a sideways glance in his general direction. He’s actually pretty tame with our family, but the yard is his turf and he protects it with vengeance. When I decided to go for what I thought would be a walk, I knew it would be hard to just jet past him. He knows what it means when he sees us take off down the alley—we’re going somewhere and he’s not. I took pity on him and grabbed his leash as I cranked up my music. Upon site of the beloved leash, he broke out into his doggy smile. He started prancing around the yard, running back and forth between me and the gate. I was going somewhere and he was going with me.

Elvis is a strong, muscular dog. He weighs close to 55 pounds, so he can be a handful. He knows the leash means he gets to go somewhere, but getting him to mind the leash…well, that’s a life long battle for him. It’s a love-hate relationship: he loves to walk; hates to be told where to walk. As soon as I started running, I knew bringing Elvis might cause some problems. He was all over the place; sniffing this bush, licking that snow drift, running back and for across the sidewalk in front of me. He “did his business” several times along the way, forcing me to break my rhythm each time and wait for him. At one point, I jerked on his leash and got down in his face and said, “Listen, dog! We need to come to an understanding. You are running with me. I am not chasing after you. Pick a side and stick to it!” He just gave me that doggy grin again and licked my face.

I ran to a nearby cemetery, thinking it might be easier to run the paths that wind through there. At least we wouldn’t be contending with other people, or “walking, talking snacks,” as Elvis thinks of them. Every headstone needed a good sniff and some were “baptized,” I’m sorry to say! As we turned to head for home, I found myself getting more and more frustrated. How was I supposed to pay attention to what I was doing while wrangling this beast all over the place? As we approached the street that leads to home, Elvis started to slow down. Apparently, he was getting over the newness of being outside his regular domain and was settling down next to me. “Great.” I thought, “Just as I’m ready to quit, he decides to behave.” That’s the exact moment I heard this in my head:

You are the dog.

What? I am the dog? What does that mean? I started thinking about the past half hour and how my dog had been behaving. If it hadn’t been for some strong discipline, we would have surely ended up in the freezing creek or down a muddy embankment or crashing through the woods after some poor little rabbit. I am the dog?

Oh. I AM the dog.

I’m all over the place, spiritually speaking. If it weren’t for the leash of His Word and the Holy Spirit, as well as other believers placed strategically in my life, I too would be crashing through the woods, chasing after anything that looked enticing. I would be constantly wandering too close to the edge, slipping off into certain spiritual danger.

I’d like to think that I’m a bit more disciplined than my dog. I mean, sure, I still need a leash. I’m still tempted to go places I shouldn’t in my mind; to chase after goals that aren’t His; to wander around with people who won’t lead me any closer to Him. Hopefully, though, it only takes a gentle check of the leash to rein me back to the path. Hopefully, I’m growing to a place where He can trust me to just walk beside Him; always glancing to see where He is leading, striving to please Him. I’m not there, yet, but I hope that’s where I’m headed.

One more thing about my dog…and me, I think. When we got within sight of the house, his ears perked up and he gave me a longing look. I knew what he wanted. “Let’s go, boy,” I said and we raced up the street to the house. We both wanted the same thing: home. He wanted a drink. I wanted to wipe the sweat off my forehead and warm up my legs, but there was no need for me to tell him where we were going. He knew. The same is true for me. When my day comes, when heaven is within site, Jesus and I will be running together, racing towards the goal—eternity together.

Until then, though…I am the dog.

Running With Endurance

Last week, I ran three days in a row. I know, I know, I learned the hard way that this is not the most effective (or wise) way to begin a running pattern. Thankfully (I think), I came down with a cold Thursday evening that kept me in bed for a few days, so I was off the treadmill for four days. When I got back on last night, I wondered if I would have the will power to actually run or if I would just do a brisk walk and call it quits. I have this history with running, you know. As I let my legs warm up and turned on my mP3 player, I actually started feeling excited about my run. I was so curious to see how my body would respond. It was fun! When I first started running, I was averaging--now bear in mind that I'm in my 30's and am completely out of shape. No smirks, please--a 15 minute mile and I could barely run that one mile. Last night, I ran 1.6 miles! And, my first mile took 14 minutes and my last .6 mi. only took 6 minutes! As a bonus, I cranked up the treadmill the last 2 minutes just to see if I could run faster, and I could! I actually enjoyed my run tremendously. My legs were still like jelly and I was sweating like, well, like someone who just ran a mile and a half, but I enjoyed the run. It got me thinking...

We're in this spiritual race. Hebrews says,
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1
While I was nursing my cold, my body was actually building and repairing its tissues and muscles, making me stronger. What appeared to be a time of physical inactivity was in reality a time of great improvement. When I returned to the dreaded treadmill, my body was capable of running faster, further and with more endurance. More endurance...hmmm.

Are you feeling, today, right now, in this moment, like you are not even in the race? Not because you choose not to be (that's another issue all together), but because the Lord has side-lined you? Do you feel like He has asked you to sit next to the foot path and wait? That can be so frustrating. Especially as you watch other runners sprinting ahead, getting so far ahead they seem to disappear.

Take heart! Jesus knows you and has prepared this race for you, so you can reach the goal, the finish line. It takes endurance, though. Running at full speed day in and day out may seem like the best way to accomplish the goal, but this often leads to spiritual burn-out. Instead, scheduled down time, to build and repair your spiritual muscles, will help increase your endurance. God is so loving and wise. He only lets us see a little bit of the path. If He showed us the deep, lonely valleys or the long stretches of desert or the rocky mountain paths, we would lose heart. He stops us along the way to give us rest, to let our spiritual muscles build, to increase our endurance so we will reach the goal. So we can travel the road ahead. He knows the way. He knows you. He knows what is best. Trust in that.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me strength to run physically and spiritually. Help me to appreciate the times you cause rest for me. Help me to truly rest, instead of railing against Your will. Help me to trust You more. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A "New Haircut"

Being a girl, I've had many haircuts in my life. Aren't we all looking for the "perfect" do? Anyway, I've given my blog a new "haircut", of sorts. Hope you all enjoy the new look! Your comments are always appreciated and so encouraging so keep them up. I've also provided my e-mail for those of you who have prayer requests or just want to say "hi!" Be blessed and a blessing today!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Birthday, Emma!

Dear, sweet Emma,
Today is your sixth's really been six whole years since God brought you into this world and my arms. He used you to make me a mother and it has been six years of absolute joy and privilege. Yesterday, you said, "Well, it's my last day being five. I better really enjoy it!" How true, sweetheart! That's exactly how I think of you--someone who is really just enjoying God's good pleasures. You always have great ideas of ways we can all enjoy Him. Right now, you have a real tenderness towards others who are less fortunate than you, especially children in other countries. Every spare penny you find goes into one of your "mission jars" for another country. I love that about you! I love that you are teaching me things about mission work!
I know you love your sisters but that they irritate you at times. I appreciate the way you love them anyway and always try to be fair with them. I especially love the way you try to protect them and are always teaching them about Jesus. Ruthie recently told me that she hoped she grows up to be your best friend. That says so much about the love you two share as sisters!
This has been our first year homeschooling and we've had ups and downs. I hope you will look back when you are older and only remember the "ups!" You are learning to read and are really great at math!. We've been working on your 100 Gifts List for Christmas and I'm really proud of the things you know are gifts from God. Really, I'm just so proud of you!
Emma, this was an awesome day with you today! Every day of your life has been a blessing to me and Daddy. We are so excited to see God's plan for your life unfold and for you to step out in it. God bless you today and each day of the coming year! I love you, sweetheart!

Run The Race...

I'm not a runner. You know that old Biology theory that all creatures have a fight or flight instinct? I'm a fighter, not because I enjoy the fight, but because it requires less movement! Of all the P.E. activities in school and sports I participated in as a youth, whenever running was involved, my legs became heavy and I would groan in my spirit. I'm not a runner.

My 35th birthday is in a few weeks and I've started noticing more grey hairs, more mood swings, tighter pants, less energy...generally less overall healthfulness. It wasn't always like this. I used to enjoy working out and being fit, eating well and feeling better. Somewhere between gaining 55 lbs while pregnant with my first baby and chasing after 3 little ones 5 years later, I realized I had stopped taking care of myself, physically speaking. I retained an average of 6 pounds after each pregnancy times 3 kids...well, you can do the math! The weight isn't the biggest thing that bothers me; it's the lack of energy. Some days, I'm tired by 3:00 PM and I've got a good 8 hours of the day left!

With a history of high blood pressure and weight gain in my family, I decided this birthday was just the impetus I needed to kick things back into high gear. We own a treadmill so that has been the easiest place to start. I don't have a lot of time to spend on it, so running (shudder!) is the efficient use of my time. I think I can hear my high school gym teacher snickering around the corner...

As I was huffing and puffing through my 15 minute run today, I was thinking about how good it actually felt to get sweaty and feel my heart pounding. My legs were aching and my hips were begging to know why they were being treated so harshly, but overall, it felt pretty good. I know this new-found interest in being fit was born of the Lord, so I started asking Him about it. He began to show me so many spiritual analogies to the running I've been doing in. I don't have my thoughts collected yet, so I'll write about those when they are clearer...

When I jumped--no, crawled--off the treadmill, legs like jelly, dripping with sweat, Emma said,
"Mom, why are you running all the time?"
"Well, honey, I just want to be in better shape."
"What shape do you want to be?"
"No, not that kind of shape. I mean I want to be healthier and take care of the body God gave to me. He wants me to do the best I can with it and use it for Him."
"Oh." thinking.... "Does God want you to run a race with your body?"
"Well, in a way. He wants me to keep my muscles and heart and lungs strong and healthy so I can accomplish all that He wants me to. The Bible says we are supposed to "run the good race" which means we are supposed to stay strong in the Lord. Part of running God's good race and being strong in Jesus is taking care of my body and exercising."
"Mom, it's a good thing you started running 'cause I don't think you were in the race before!"

Oh, brother!

Thank You, Lord, for my body. Forgive me for taking it for granted and not taking care of the gift that it is to me. Thank You for each new breath. Thank You also, for Emma's words. If there are ways that I haven't been in the race and been strong for You, strengthen me and GET ME IN THE RACE! I'd rather be hurt running alongside You than comfortable in the grandstands. I choose You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays--Reasons We Are Homeschooling (well, trying, anyway!)

Thanks, again, to Ann of More Questions Than Answers for hosting Top Ten Tuesdays!
10. We can go to school in our jammies if we want.
9. I get to spend all day with my girls, watching God's world unfold in front of them.
8. I have hundreds of daily opportunities to weave the Word of God into my girls' lives.
7. No long bus rides, brown bag lunches, heavy back packs, or school yard bullies!
6. Each of my children can learn at their own pace. We can slow down or speed up whenever we want and explore topics of interest exhaustively.
5. My girls are learning moral values based on Biblical truth, not cultural norms.
4. We have lots of opportunities to serve others as a family through our school--babysitting, cooking, visiting the elderly, etc.
3. "Extras" like music, art, drama are always in the budget!
2. My kids can be kids much longer--not "mini-adults."
1. Homeschooling is an issue of obedience, and choosing to do so makes us obedient unto the Lord.

Lord, Thanks for this list. Most days, I really don't want to obey. I whine like a little child being forced to do something that is ultimately for my own good and the good of others. Give me the desire to be obedient. Help me to remember that this is YOUR plan and Your ways are not my ways, Your thoughts are high above my thoughts. Give me a peace that surpasses any feeble understanding I might have. Thank You for having a plan for me, a plan that will ultimately lead me and my family closer to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Me, a Disciple?

A new blogger friend, J. at Midsummer Meanderings, gave me this award. Very humbling. I almost didn't post it to my blog because lately is hasn't fit my description of myself. I still don't think of myself as someone trying to carry Christ's message to the ends of the earth...maybe to the shower or the garage or possibly my front porch. I wanted to pass the award along, though, so I have to post it on my blog to give it away. Without further ado, the receipients are:

Ann, at More Questions Than Answers
Charity Grace

I don't get around the blog world much (or the real world, either for that matter!) so I've chosen these for the time being. Thanks, friends, for helping us all walk closer to Christ!

This award originated with Dan King over at Management by God, who states, "Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple, and the role of the disciple (per the Great Commission) is to make more disciples. The role of a disciple of Christ is to carry His message to the ends of the earth. It is with this heart that I have created the Mathetes Award."Those who receive it are to pass it on to other disciples who are sharing the good news in their own bloggity ways.Here are the rules: Winners of this award to pass this on to other "disciples". As you pass it on, I just ask that you mention and provide links for(1)the originator of the award (Dan King of management by God), (2) the person that awarded it to you, and then (3) name the sites of those you believe are fulfilling the role of a disciple of Christ.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Top Ten Tuesday--You Know A Birthday Is Coming When...

Thanks to Ann for hosting "Top Ten Tuesdays!"

Emma's birthday is fast-approaching and with it comes certain signals:

10. I find catalogs with crayon and pen circles around desired items.
9. We can't avoid the toy section at Wal-Mart because she always has "one more thing she wants to show me."
8. Handwriting for school involves her writing her own invitations to her party.
7. Every morning begins with "Only__more days until MY birthday!"
6. She asks hourly, "How many more days until my party at Chuck E. Cheese?"
5. Her ideas for her birthday cake might require a drafting board and a professional pastry chef to accomplish!
4. She's already cleared off a shelf in her cabinet for birthday gifts she hasn't even received yet.
3. I find myself digging out baby photos and getting weepy over my "baby" turning six.
2. Emma keeps asking me how old I am and then telling me, "Mommy, that's pretty old!" (Thanks a lot, pip squeak...)
1. Daughter #2, not to be outdone, has begun counting down the seven months worth of days left until her next birthday!

Thank You, Father, for this daughter of mine. Thank You for choosing me to be her mother...what a blessing! Bless her, even now, as she sleeps sweetly. Help me to treasure these last few days of her being five. Thank You for another year, month, week, day, hour, moment with her. She is a treasure and more than I could have imagined! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dusty Books and Living Water

Cleaning out the attic has become an annual event at our house. I look forward to it almost as much as a trip to the dentist or an afternoon spent scrubbing out the oven. I could feel the blast of cold air as I tugged open the miniature doorway to our attic. The scent of dust combined with insulation and stale air wafted across my face inducing an immediate sneeze. I zipped up my fleece and bravely poked my head into the nether regions of our second story. Boxes were piled haphazardly on top of one another, suitcases blocked the entryway. A basket of out-grown toys had spilled over onto pink, plastic lined insulation. A dismantled crib lay forlornly on its side. I collected my thoughts and attempted to formulate a plan for organizing the chaos. For more than a fleeting moment, the plan involved simply closing the door and saving the project for another day, any other day.

I began dragging out boxes and baskets, crib parts and Christmas decorations. I was determined this would be the year that I would do more than just re-stack everything. This year, I would take the time to sort through each and every item; discarding, re-gifting, donating, or packing away the treasures we have accumulated. After almost an hour of work, I unearthed a treasure trove too good to pass over lightly. Books. Hundreds and hundreds of books, lovingly packed away to make room for a growing family. We had promised ourselves that we would pull them back out of the attic as soon as we could find room. Six years later, the books lay covered in a blanket of soot and dust. Eleven crates in total, all waiting to be re-discovered and re-claimed.

I spent the rest of the day sorting through the crates. I found old friends—books that had been gifts and treasures from friends and family. A book my grandfather had read as a child, complete with his neat, grade school autograph. A pamphlet I was given when I accepted Christ. A collection of song books and hymnals given to me by saints of the faith. I also found enemies—theology books from college that denied the deity of Christ, but were required reading. A Book of Mormon left by a passerby, lost to our pleadings for truth in his life.

The best find for me, though, was our collection of Bibles. A Bible from Charlie’s infant baptism and another from his baptism as a youth. My father’s old King James family Bible, largely unread and unused, but containing precious letters he wrote before his death. There was a stack of Bibles that had wandered into our home over the years, used for their commentary or wording, giving us a different way of knowing the Word. There were some old Bibles and one brand-new Bible. A Bible from a friend who had lost the courage to give it to her father and one from a friend who had decided in college that she was giving up on God.

In one of the last crates, I spied a familiar shape. Reaching down, my hands grasped the worn leather and the gates of memory lane were thrown wide open. This was my very first Bible, one given to me at my confirmation ceremony around age twelve. I remember the day I received it, not understanding the treasures contained within, rather treasuring my name embossed on the front and the leather cover my parents bought to accompany it. For several years, it stood at attention on my childhood bookshelf, unused but respected. Somewhere in high school, God’s calling on my life began to dawn and this Bible was pulled down from its dusty home and became a constant companion. I carried it to school, to work, to church, to Young Life meetings. I never went far without it.

As I unzipped the cover, I found a gateway into my past. Inside, I found flowers from my father’s funeral pressed between pages of scripture. There were pictures of old high school friends—many of whose names escape me today; scribbled questions about who God is and where He is and what He is doing; the name of a junior high crush doodled over and over. Towards the back, I found an encouraging letter from my mother, telling me she was proud of the young woman I was becoming. Sermon notes with questions about the teaching and whether it could be trusted. Searching, burning, searing questions…Missing, though, was Jesus. I noticed immediately that this Bible was all about me; about preserving memories and emotions, thoughts and moments. Jesus was missing. Not one passage of scripture was underlined. Most of the pages still felt like new. This Bible’s purpose had been to preserve important moments; not to preserve important principals. I had stuffed between the pages, evidence of my life. Looking back, I can see clearly that there is no evidence that any of the life-giving words contained within this Bible had been stuffed into me. It was a spiritual filing cabinet and key files were missing: application, alteration, repentance, resurrection.

Words of scripture came to mind,
“For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…” Hebrews 4:12
Living, life-giving, sustaining, nourishing. Active, working, helping, guiding. This was missing from my past, missing from each memory and moment pressed between the pages of holiness. I had consecrated each paper scrap and picture, letter and note, failing to understand that I had within my reach words of living water, bread of life…I carried in my hands precious light, but God’s light had not yet penetrated my dark heart.

After looking through the memories contained within my Bible, I carefully placed each flower and letter in its place. I zipped up the cover and sat, wondering what to do with it. I was tempted to throw out the evidence of my ignorance. Instead, I found a home for my first Bible on the shelf amongst our others. Seeing it standing in line with so many others, I knew that it—and the memories within—have a place in my testimony of God’s love for me. Even when I was ignorant of Him and His Word, He was ever-faithful, gently drawing me into His love. I wondered how I would look back on this time in my life and if I would see things that He was trying to teach me. Seeing that Bible on my shelf, I took comfort knowing He is in complete control and will be faithful to complete the good work He has started within me. (Philippians 1:6)

I finished sorting and stacking the books and other attic treasures. Happily, many items had found a home outside of ours. As I prepared for bed, my fingers danced across the bookshelf with glee—so many books, waiting to be re-read and re-discovered! I pulled down my first Bible once more. This time, I opened it to the book of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has not come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” John 1:1-4

Though I did not know it then, the Word had always been with me. In fact, nothing in my life had happened apart from His knowledge…including the memories contained within my Bible’s pages. I placed the Bible back on the shelf, this time on the shelf containing my “must reads.” Maybe, just maybe, God isn't finished using it in my life…

Thank You, Lord, for being real to me, for being more to me, for simply BEING. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Top Ten Tuesdays--Thanksgiving

Thanks, Ann, for hosting Top Ten Tuesdays!

Top Ten Reasons I'm Thanking God This Thanksgiving:
10. Everyone in my immediate family is healthy this year!
9. Our remodeling projects are close to completion.
8. Olivia--she can eat the entire Thanksgiving meal with us this year--no special preparations!
7. Ruthie--she was born to sing and praise Jesus all day long and she is a constant reminder that I should do the same.
6. Emma--it is such a joy to watch her learning and growing; spending time with her is such fun!
5. Charlie--God has blessed me with a faithful, loving, prayerful husband who watches over all his girls.
4. The lateness of fall and the way it has staved off the cool weather, letting us enjoy warm weather a few extra weeks.
3. Our church body--worship was so special last Sunday as everyone spontaneously shared their love and praise of the Lord.
2. Friends and family to spend the holidays with.
1. The life-saving, life-changing grace and mercy God renews and extends to me with each breath I take. It is so amazing!

Thanks You, Lord, for the many, many ways you shower me with Your blessings. I love You! Amen

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I'm published! Well, at least published in the sense that a piece I wrote has been included in our church newsletter--tee-hee! I was a little embarassed to find it on the front page...I think I was hoping it would be buried towards the back. Oh, well! So, without further ado, here's my piece...

I lay there, shrouded in “death,” my body entombed in leaves the children had piled on top of me. I could hear the rhythm of my own breathing, the drum-like beating of my heart echoing in my ears.


“Cover her feet.”
“Pile the leaves higher.”
“Get the rake!”

I heard them working faster, piling the leaves higher, making my grave secure. My children and their friends, all motivated by the same goal.

“I can’t see her at all!”
“I think we’re done…yeah, we’re done. She’s dead now.”

I heard a bird faintly chirping one of the season’s last songs high among the trees overhead, almost a mournful melody, calling us to take notice of Fall’s fleeting beauty. I heard the muffled noises of cars passing by, knowing they were straining to see what the pack of children was doing. I waited, resting on the bed of fallen leaves, listening to the beauty of God’s world going on around me. How long had it been since I enjoyed the simplicity of God’s creation? The texture of the leaves was beautiful. I gently stroked one that had fallen into my palm. It was still supple from the life that had previously coursed through it. Soon, it would become brittle, eventually crumbling into a thousand pieces before returning to the earth as dust. It would provide sustenance for the tree which had birthed it, but there would be no resurrection for this small leaf.

“Jesus! Come out of the grave!”

I waited. I could still hear the pattern of my own breathing. It was slower, more relaxed now. I closed my eyes and listened to the children shuffling around… such amazing creations. How could I have imagined such joy in knowing them; in the way in which I have been changed these last six years? My former self, unrecognizable; the childish, selfish girl gladly exchanged for a woman, a mother. I am re-living my childhood, enjoying each moment of theirs, trying to capture these precious moments on the canvas of my mind. Today’s picture will take a prominent place in the gallery. I lay there, knowing I would never want to resurrect my former self. “No, child,” the Spirit whispered to my soul, “the old is gone, the new has come. You are a new creation.”

“Jesus! Come out of the grave!”

I continued to wait. I could hear the children scurrying about, waiting in anticipation for their make-believe savior to emerge triumphant. I contemplated the beauty of each of them-- their births and how creative our God is in His design of them. I thought about this stage of their lives. They are still being birthed, spiritually speaking. The oldest ones are awakening to the calling of God on their hearts…a calling sent out from before time began. They love Him… unconditionally… passionately… wholly… simply and with purity, and with all defense of His omnipotence. They know only that their Jesus loves them and has befriended them and this knowledge is more than enough to skip down the path of life. The younger ones are grasping His holy name tightly, allowing the Holy Spirit to intertwine His loving grace around their still-tender hearts. I see the holy reflection of my Maker when I see them bow their sweet heads in adoration, giving thanks for beetles and snails, and stretch their hands to heaven in praise of bicycles and sunshine. They have hold of the Lord Jesus, and have not yet been tempted to emancipate themselves from His love. That day will come…and when it does, I pray the Holy Spirit resurrect the tender embers of this childhood ardor and fan it into an unquenchable flame that consumes all sense of self.

“Why isn’t she coming out?”
“Maybe we have to put more leaves on her.”

More shuffling, more leaves…then silence.

“Jesus! Come out!” a chorus resounded.

I remained in my decaying bed, breathing in the sweet smell of grass and dirt, enjoying the solace of the grave. If Jesus tarries…someday, a real grave will embrace this body. I will no longer walk this earth, breathe it’s air, feel the warmth of it’s sun on my cheeks, turn my face into it’s harsh winds or finger the falling snowflakes. No, one day, this fallen body will fail. Sin will have victory over my body and the rhythms my heart and lungs have been beating out since my birth will stop.

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26

Do I believe this? Do I? I do. Oh, Lord Jesus, I do! My heart soars when I think of the day when I will see Your face. An eternity awaits my adoration of You. You are my resurrection—my re-birth, the renewal of Your intended design in me. That thought alone carries me along the winds of change, knowing your plan does not.

“No, child, I do not change. I am the Lord.”

The children began to conference. “Why won’t Jesus come out? Who can get Jesus out of the grave?”

Finally, the older two chime in together, “Only God can get Jesus out of the grave!”

(With deep, booming voices…) “Jesus! It’s God, your Dad, come out of the grave!”

I sprang from my leafy coffin and said, “I am the resurrection and the life!” amidst a chorus of delighted cheering. They were on their feet, hands stretched to the heavens, whooping and hollering, “He did it! He came back to life! He was dead and now He’s not! Whoo! Whoo! All right, Jesus! You’re the best!”

You are more than the best, Lord, God. You are more than I can imagine, or dream, or ponder, or conceive. You are. You were. You will be…there when we are all resurrected in You.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Depression Disclaimer...

Okay, so I received some e-mails and comments (forgive me for not posting them) from some wonderful folks who took issue with some things I said about depression in my post
The Hugging Place--To Remind You of His Presence. First, thank you so much for reading and visiting and generally encouraging me in my walk. It's humbling that you would return over and over! Second, I agree that depression is a multi-faceted plague and would never assume to know each and every face of it. I do, however, know how it worked in my own life. For me personally, and again, this is not meant to be applicable to every situation, I withdrew from the Lord and began to operate in my flesh and exposed myself to attack from the enemy. That's how it happened to me. What I know now, is the truth about about myself, and I know the truth because the Lord has shown it to me. It was never my intention to instruct or exhort anyone else suffering from depression. If you are suffering with depression, please, please, please seek help from a member of your pastoral staff or someone equipped to give you God-centered counsel. It is a tough road, but one I know from experience Christ will walk with you.

Finally, if you left a comment for me or e-mailed me with your concerns, I am simply not going to post them because I believe it would take away from the scriptural emphasis of the post. The post was not about depression--I simply used my own experience with depression as an example. If that has offended anyone, I ask your forgiveness. My desire is for the Lord Jesus to be glorified.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Hugging Place--He Is Your Father

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. Psalm 139:13-16

I used to really struggle with the idea of God being a father figure. My own father had abandoned us when I was a child and when I re-connected with him as an adult, it was literally on his death bed. I have the most vivid impression of him being a lonely, broken man; a man ruined and ravaged by sin. I was too young in my faith to even begin knowing how to share Christ with him. I just remember feeling that sin had robbed him and me of something better, something more. So, as I grew in my understanding of God, I had a hard time addressing Him as my Father. My exposure to a father had been negative and I didn’t want to associate those feelings with God.

But, God had another plan. When Charlie and I became parents, God replaced all of those negative feelings and memories with positive, God-centered experiences through my husband. Watching him share the Word with them and tenderly lead them in the ways of the Lord restored my ideas of fatherhood. I began to understand how God could be my Father, and in fact, had probably spared me the cruelty of a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship by allowing my earthly father to leave us. He also began to gently reveal His Fatherhood in my own heart. He never pushed or forced His way in, but carefully opened my heart with His grace and mercies.

In these six verses of Psalm 139, we see a glimpse of God’s tenderness towards us. He is our Father, not just a far-off God. He was intimately involved in every aspect of our becoming. He was there when we were just chemicals. He swirled those chemicals together in a fantastic way that made each of us unique and special. He had a specific outcome in mind when He fashioned each of us and He took great pleasure in doing so. He is so proud of us!

We need to be in the “Hugging Place,” in the place where we are simply enjoying the pleasure of God’s presence so He can remind us that He is our Father. If you had a great relationship with your earthly Father, no doubt you have fond memories of hanging out with him, listening to him, learning from him, being challenged by him, being encouraged by him. God wants to do that with you, too. If, like me, you don’t have those kind of warm memories of an earthly father, then all the more reason to allow God to show you what His Fatherhood is all about. You and I need to replace our negative images with holy ones.

In these verses, David praises God for the way he is made; for God’s sovereignty in his design and creation. We need to spend time praising God in this way, as well. Too often, we allow the world and society to define the image we have of ourselves. When we spend time with the Lord, the One whose design for us is perfect, we begin to see ourselves the way He does: beautiful, wonderful, precious, His…Our negative thoughts are replaced by thoughts of God’s love for us. And, He does love us…Oh, how He loves us!

Thank You, Father, for being just that--my Father. Thank You for all the ways You have encouraged me, taught me, held me, loved me. Help me to receive Your authority in my life. Help me to understand You more and more. I love you! In Jesus' name, Amen.

The Hugging Place--To Remind You Of His Presence

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed is Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be the night,” even the darkness is not night to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. Psalm 139:7-12

After our youngest child was born, I descended into depression. It had been hovering overhead like a black storm cloud, waiting to envelope me. The combination of a new baby and powerful hormones did me in. I felt as if I were in a fog, struggling to see my own hand in front of my face. While hormones and the stress of adding another child to two already small children played some part in my struggle, the biggest component of my depression was my unwillingness to simply fall at God’s feet and abide in His presence. Looking back, I can see now that He was always there, holding me and loving me. At the time, I was just unwilling to see beyond my narrow view, to see just past my circumstances to my Salvation, my Hope. The enemy had convinced me to wander out, away from God’s protective wings, and then he pounced. I felt cut off and alone, desperately fighting the flood of emotions that were trying to drown me and silence my testimony.

As we look at the next passage of Psalm 139, we see David’s reminder that we are not alone. There is nowhere we can go—not even death—where God cannot reach us. He is Emmanuel—God with us. I think we say this so flippantly, without stopping to think about what it means that God chooses to abide with us. He is with you:

When the mail brings an unexpected bill to a negative bank balance.
When your husband or wife speaks words that hurt.
When you’re up pacing the floors with a colicky baby, unable to provide comfort or relief.
When the car won’t start, the washer overflows, the roof begins to leak

He is with us. Always. Forever. There is nothing you can do or not do, say or not say, be or not be, that will make God desert or forsake you. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you.

For 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. Romans 8:38-39

We need to spend time in God’s presence each day to be reminded of that love. We need it. Absence makes the heart wander. We were made to worship the Living God. If we don’t spend time with Him daily, our hearts wander off in search of something else to worship. And the enemy is waiting, enticing us with a variety of idols: self-importance, self-sufficiency, self-empowerment to name a common few.

Nothing can separate you and me from God. As we spend time with Him today, let’s thank Him for His personal presence and let’s ask the Lord to continue showing us all the ways He is with us.

Father, thank You for being with me…today and each day and each moment of my life. Help me to turn to you faster when troubles come along. Remind me that no thing You have made—and You have made all things—can keep me from You unless I choose to let it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Hugging Place--Because He Knows You

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6

Why does God desire to spend time with us? After all, He’s God. He doesn’t get lonely or depressed or need company. He doesn’t need to unwind or vent His frustrations or cry on our shoulders. What does God get out of our time with Him?

Me. You. That’s what He gets. And, that’s exactly what He wants. Of all the beautiful things and wonders His hands have made, you and I are most precious to Him. Of all His creation, we were chosen to reflect His image and given free will to worship Him, to know Him and His will.

My kids were asking me what I want for my birthday this year. I told them I wanted a day with them, just spending time together and enjoying each other. They looked at each other, then my oldest daughter said, “But what present do you want, Mommy?” She didn’t understand that I, as her mom, just want the gift of time with her. I want to hang out with her, enjoying who she is. And, I want her to know me and how very much I love her. It’s the same with the Lord. He already knows every detail of our lives. He wants us to come to Him, whatever condition we’re in, and fellowship with Him.

That knowledge is too wonderful! Let it sink in for a moment: the God of our universe, Master, Maker, Savior wants to hang out with you. There is nothing else He would rather do or place He would rather be. He’s never busy or tired or sick or preoccupied. He is always available to you. Spending time with God accomplishes two things:
God reveals Himself to you.
God reveals that He knows everything about you.

Today, spend time with your Lord and Savior, Jesus. Just hang out with Him. Talk to Him. Tell Him what you are thinking and feeling and hurting over and wondering about. Be still before Him and wait for Him to answer. Don’t be in a hurry. Rest in the knowledge that He is before you and behind you and in complete control.

Lord, Jesus, thank You for being with me. Thank You for knowing everything about me—things I don’t even know myself. Help me to rest in the beauty of Your control over my life. Help me to rest in You. In Your precious name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays--Anniversary Edition

Thanks to Ann at More Questions Than Answers for this meme!

Top Ten Memories With My Husband:

10.Our honeymoon trip to Jamaica--the extra night in Miami, the extra travel vouchers, the extra-large (and free!) ocean-view suite, the extra special grace God lavished on us.
9.Chasing down bats!
8.Telling him I was pregnant for the first time and the look of disbelief on his face--priceless!
7.Telling him I was pregnant for the second and third times and the look of anticipation on his face--priceless and a relief!
6.His hand holding mine during labor, so gentle and so strong...
5.Driving somewhere, anywhere, with him, 3 kids snoozing in the back seat, catching up on all that God is working in and through his life, listening to him share his love for our Lord.
4.Watching him whirl around endlessly in a theme park tea cup ride, getting greener and greener each moment, doing it all for the love of a little girl.
3.Watching him build a life-size igloo in our backyard for hours and hours in the freezing cold.
2.Waking to feed the baby in the middle of the night, only to find him already awake, pacing the floors with her and talking to her about Jesus.
1.The look of love on his face as I walked down the aisle as his bride...he still holds that look for me each and every day, though I don't deserve it.

I love you, husband! Happy Anniversary!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Hugging Place

My kids have different personalities (no big surprise there!) and so I relate to them differently. Emma, our oldest, is strong-willed. She’s always willing to take the lead and take charge, even when she isn’t sure where she is going. Emotionally, she’s a lot like me. She can be sensitive to what others say…about her, about others. She enjoys affection, but isn’t overly emotional. Ruthie, our middle daughter, is all emotion. It can be a great thing—she gives spontaneous hugs and kisses everywhere and all the time. She is sunshine and rainbows. She can also hold our family hostage as we weather her temper tantrums. More than once, we’ve been late to an event as we wait for her to finish crying over her shoes and socks or her jacket or her seatbelt or, or, or…

Our little Olivia is a combination of her older sisters, while still being uniquely, “Olivia.” Recently, she has been a devoted “Mama’s girl,” jealously guarding her spot on my lap and hollering, “My mommy! My mommy!” if any other child (including her sisters) dares wander into her territory. She adores my hugs and kisses and tickle sessions in a way the other girls didn’t. In fact, she seems to crave the affection, and I have been reveling in this stage of her life, knowing it will not last forever.

We have a spot, Olivia and I, where we come together for ritualistic cuddling. After her nap, when I hear she has awakened, I go to her room to rescue her from her bed. I change her diaper and wash my hands and then we meet at the top step. Each day, she turns to me with her arms outstretched and says, “Hold you, Mommy.” I scoop her up and we sit down. I stroke her hair and she hugs my neck. I tell her I love her and she says, “I love you, too.” I kiss her head and she rubs my arm. It’s only for a moment, but it’s one of my favorites of the day.

Today, after I carried her down the stairs and she wandered off to play with her sisters, I thought about our ritual moment. She always seems desperate and yearning for the affection, almost as if she needs reassurance that I love her. She needs me and I am always willing to lavish her with love. Questions came to my heart:
Am I yearning for God? Am I desperate for Him? Do I need Him and acknowledge that need to Him?

If we are believers, if we have placed our trust and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, don’t we all have a desperate, daily need for His affections?

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

Are we yearning for God, leaning into our days and nights and joy and pain with outstretched hands saying, “Hold me, Father?”

At night, my soul longs for You, indeed my spirit within me seeks You diligently. Isaiah 26:9a

I call the spot at the top of our stairs “The Hugging Place,” because that’s where Olivia demands and I grant her desire for affection and attention. Do we have spiritual “hugging places,” places where we stop and request God’s loving presence, allowing the Spirit to wash over us and make us new? Places where we are refreshed, renewed, reminded of His great love? Places where we simply abide in Him and He in us? He is so happy to indulge…
“But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.” Isaiah 54:8b

This week, I’ll be spending time in the “hugging place,” exploring why God wants us to meet Him there and what we can expect from Him. Hope you’ll join me!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"Old Friends" and A Book List

Yesterday, I cleaned out the attic. I have a piece written about that adventure, but am waiting to see which article I've written will be used for our newsletter. I'll post that when we put the publication to "bed." Anyway, I re-discovered a treasure trove of books in our attic. I knew they were in there, but had forgotten how many we had...hundreds of books! All waiting to be re-gifted, donated, added to our library, or discarded. I happily spent the afternoon sifting through eleven (yes, I said 11!) crates of books.

We set aside a large pile to gift or give away and threw away some that we wouldn't want anyone else to stumble over. Then, I spent some time today making my Fall/Winter reading list:

A Sand County Almanac Aldo Leopold

Drawing Close to God Stephen D. Eyre

The Way of Agape Chuck and Nancy Missler

Old Testament Prophetic Books C. Hassell Bullock

The Joyful Christian, The Four Loves, The Business of Heaven C.S.Lewis

Moments With The Savior Ken Gire

Walden Henry David Thoreau

How They Found Christ Bill Freeman

The Practice of The Presence of God Brother Lawrence

Alphabet of Grace Frederick Buechner

Some of these are old friends and some are part of Charlie's collection. I'm excited to have my list together and started with Alphabet of Grace last night. Praise the Lord for written words, both His and those inspired by Him!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

One Thousand Gifts List #1-16

Thanks to Ann at Holy Experience, I'm starting my own One Thousand Gifts List, a list of 1,000 things God has given to me. What a superb project to begin and complete as we rocket through the holiday season.
1. The way the sunlight filters through the trees this time of year--golden, shining, illuminating my path.
2. The sound of crunching leaves on sidewalks and streets as I shuffle through them with my children.
3. My daughter, Ruthie's, belly laugh, echoing through the house.
4. My cozy college sweatshirt, keeping me warm on a chilly day.
5. The ability to think and reason and understand, in a way that He designed to glorify Him.
6. Hands to lift in praise and reach to lift my children.
7. My home, safe, secure, warm, dry, comforting.
8. My husband's hands as they wrap around me in joy, sorrow, comfort, pain, pride, and defeat-they are always there.
9. The smell of fresh laundry, neatly folded and stacked, ready to be tucked into their little wooden beds for another day.
10. The sound of children through the house, filling it to the rafters with noise and commotion, songs and laughter, chaos and arguments, joy, joy, joy to my heart!
11. Old shoes that fit my feet just right.
12. New shoes that remind my feet to "stand up straight."
13. Best friends and old friends and new friends and soon-to-be friends, to journey through life together, exploring all that God has for us.
14. Ten fingers, ten toes, all wiggling to warm up today!
15. Green, green, summer-green grass on November 1st!
16. Time to sit and think about gifts...
Whew, this was harder than I thought! I'm so glad I'm doing this because I need to be more mindful of the thousands and thousands of things God has given to me!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What My Kids Think of Halloween...

Today is Halloween and in our community, "Trick or Treat" will be happening. My kids have never gone trick or treating. Usually, we attend a "Hallelujah Party" hosted by our church. For a variety of reasons, the party is not happening this year, so we are getting together with friends to knock on a few doors tonight. My husband and I had mixed feelings about going out tonight. We did buy them princess costumes, but we bought them costumes they can play in all year. I have no major issue with candy, so that part is okay. It's the pagan aspect of the night. It's the idea that the intent is to be scary or scare others. It just doesn't seem to be a God-glorifying event. Arguments can be made for and against Halloween, but the only argument I was concerned with was the one made by the Holy Spirit in our hearts. I continued to seek wisdom, all the while preparing for the day.
Yesterday, I told the girls that we were going to our friends' house for dinner and trick or treating. They all whooped and hollered around the table with excitement. They love their friends and they love to dress up so they were in heaven. I explained that we would let them collect a little bit of candy and then head home. They looked at me in bewilderment. Emma said, "What candy?" "Yeah, what candy?!" said Ruthie. "Well, you get candy when you go from house to house on Halloween." I answered. "You mean you get candy AND you tell people about Jesus, too?!?!" Emma asked in excitement.
Somehow in their little minds, they figured the only reason we would be going door to door would be to tell people about Jesus. The costumes were just for fun and Halloween was a holiday all about Jesus. After all, every other holiday we celebrate is about Jesus, too. My heart swelled with pride and broke in disappointment at the same time. I was about to tell them the cold, hard truth about Halloween and what they should expect to see when Emma said, "Well. that's okay. The candy will be fun but we should still tell people about Jesus, too. I don't think He would want us to take candy if we didn't tell other people about Him."
Enough said.
So, today we're making little scripture cards that say "It's no trick...Jesus is a treat!" for the girls to hand out at each house. They are so excited about doing it and I love that we have taken a pagan holiday and made it into a great opportunity to talk with the girls about the Lord.

Thanks, Lord, for Your wisdom and for Your grace. Thanks for taking today and making it into something that can please You. Keep us focused on You tonight, and not what we see All around us. Help us to bring You glory. Thank You for showing me that You are in control! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays--Signs Your Kids Are Getting Older

Thanks to Ann for creating a new meme, "Top Ten Tuesdays." Following her lead, mostly because our kids are about the same age, here are my top ten signs my kids are getting older:

10. No more cribs in the house.
9. Almost no more diapers in the house!
8. The kids can read their own bedtime stories.
7. Everyone but me sleeps soundly through the night.
6. My older two request privacy in the bathroom and shower, now.
5. Only one car seat in the car, accompanied by two big girl booster seats.
4. No one wants to hold my hand all the time--I actually have to ask to hold hands!
3. My oldest is starting to sound like me--yikes!
2. Board bools are being replaced by chapter books, some without pictures.
1. My daughter is getting e-mail!

It will be fun to do this again in another 5 years...

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Picture Perfect Day

Last weekend, we took the kids to Conner Prairie for the day. It was this picture-perfect day, complete with a canopy of sunshine and falling leaves. These are some photos of our trip:

An X-ray view of our little tribe...

At the axe throw...Charlie was one of only two folks to hit the target! What a guy, and a real hero to the girls!

Pumping water...
or at least, trying to!

As Emma wisely said, "I'm going to take a picture of this in my mind so I can remember how happy I am."

Thank You, Lord, for the beautiful day, the beautiful memories, my beautiful family, and beautiful You! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Isaiah 58:6-14 Tell Me What You Think...

I'm looking for some feedback on this passage. It's one of the passages I may use for my article. What do you think?

Isaiah 58:6-14
6"Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke?
7"Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8"Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9"Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am ' if you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
10And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.
11"And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
12"Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
13"If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word,
14Then you will take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Meatloaf, Menus, Computers, and Writer's Block

This is a random post. I was invited to write an article for our church's newsletter and I have writer's block. Most days, I can't type fast enough to get the words out of my head and onto the screen. Not today. Drawing a complete blank. So, a few random things...

We had meatloaf for dinner and it's a favorite in our family. Meatloaf gets a bad rap at many family dinner tables, mainly because most folks have had pretty bad-tasting, dried-out, questionable-content, meat-in-the-form-of-a-loaf. I adapted my mom's recipe and it is a winner. Even my picky eaters scarf it down!

Jen's Easy Meatloaf
1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 egg
15-20 crushed butter flavor crackers (not saltines!)
1/2 onion, chopped (about 1/2 C)
3/4 C ketchup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Have a glass or metal loaf pan close by to transfer meat mixture. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix by hand. (Go ahead, get your hands really messy!) Mix until ketchup and egg are thoroughly incorporated. Transfer to loaf pan and pat evenly into pan. Top with the following:

1/2 C ketchup
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
Mix ketchup and brown sugar together in small measuring cup and pour over meatloaf.

Cover loaf pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake additional 15 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

I've had several women ask me recently how I plan out meals and do grocery shopping for our family. I guess I hadn't given it much thought, but this is how it works for me...
First, I look through our pantry and freezer to get an idea of what we already have on hand. Then, I take a look at our grocery store ad for the week to see what sort of specials they are running. I write out each meal for each day of the week I'm planning. If we are planning to eat out, I write it down so I remember to budget some grocery money for that event. Breakfasts are almost always homemade oatmeal with several topping choices or cold cereal. Lunches are typically leftovers from the night before or soup and sandwiches. Dinner is where I put most of my cooking efforts. Here is a sample of our weekly menu:
B: Cereal, Yogurt, OJ
L: Chicken nuggets, grapes, carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes
D: Chinese Take-Out
B: Eggs, toast, fruit
L: Conner Prairie sack lunches
D: Special Family Night Out
B: Homemade oatmeal, yogurt, milk
L: Leftover Chinese, sandwiches, veggies
D: Steak Fajitas, Quesadillas
B: Cereal, bananas, milk
L: Leftover fajitas and quesadillas
D: Ham, Bean and Potato soup, cornbread
B: Oatmeal, yogurt, juice
L: Leftover soup and cornbread
D: Crock pot orange chicken, rice, salad, ice cream
B: Oatmeal, yogurt, milk
L: Pizza Hut
D: Meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, steamed broccoli, cantaloupe
B: Waffles, apples, milk
L: Leftover meatloaf
D: Big Sandwich, veggie chips, cantaloupe, raw veggies
B: Cereal, yogurt, juice
L: "Must Go's" (leftovers from all week)
D: Chicken and Dumplings, mashed potatoes, salad

It works well for me to have a plan, but I'm also flexible. If it turns cold and rainy one day, I might swap out a lighter meal for one that is a little more hearty. In addition to my planned meals, I always keep the ingredients for a good spaghetti dinner on hand, including frozen bread sticks and extra green beans. If we have unexpected company or my husband ends up in charge of dinner, an easy meal is at our finger tips.

The Lord is blessing us with a new computer! It's in the want category, but I must say, after almost 8 years, this computer has seen better days. We got an amazing deal on our new one and were even able to purchase a new printer, complete with a port for our digital camera, so more photos will be appearing in my posts--yea! I'm really looking forward to our updated system. I will be able to do more writing and reading, surfing and dealing. Thanks, God, for showering us with every good and perfect gift!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ground Hog Day and The Green Eyed Monster

I love being a stay-home mom, a domestic engineer, if you will. I love giving my kids opportunities I didn't have because my mom had to work. I love being available to them and allowing God to change me into the wife and mom He wants me to be. Mostly, I love knowing that I'm walking in obedience in this area of my life.

Most of the time.

Lately, I've been struggling with the green-eyed monster--jealousy. I'm painfully aware that this is a sin. I know that the Lord does not want me to fix my gaze on anyone or anything but Him and His plan for my life. Still, I have found myself hunkered down at home, watching the world zip by all around me as I spend yet another day on my hands and knees picking up Cheerios, Barbie shoes and crayons; wiping noses and toilets; chasing children and dogs; reading book after book of children's fiction, hoping to have a few minutes to read a few lines of a book without pictures. My husband asked me the other day if I ever thought my life was like the movie "Ground Hog Day." I laughed and then felt like crying when I realized he was right. It's pretty much the same routine each day, just another name for the day. And, since we decided to home school, there are seemingly many, many more "Ground Hog" days in sight!

Please don't misunderstand....I really do love the plan God has for my life. He is infinitely wise and knows the best place for me to accomplish His will. I've just struggled with the plan He seems to have for others...

For instance, it is a REALLY big deal to have time alone. My husband is fantastic about taking the girls outside to play or go for a walk or even to the grocery to give me a few moments to collect myself. Still, I'm envious of other women who have regularly scheduled time to work out or walk or read or...whatever they want to do, without children in tow. I'm also envious of women who have built in family support systems. Our families are as supportive as possible, but they each live over 3 hours away. They help when they can, but it isn't a regular occurrence. I covet little luxuries like new shoes and mp3 players, pedicures and lunch with friends, vacations and weekend get-a-ways. My husband spoils me with time and attention, but our budget is pretty tight with only one salary.

This thought process drove me to the Word this morning, searching for the cure to what ails my soul. It was so simple, really. It's hard for me to understand why I had not seen it before. The answer? Thankfulness.

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre. For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hand." Psalm 92:1-4

Instead of fixing my eyes on all that God has done for me, all that He has rescued me from, all the He has promised to me, my eyes were fixed on the landscape of this world and all its' trappings. (key word: TRAP) I was coming to God with my laundry list of things that seem unjust in my life, not thanking Him for all He has already provided.

"O come, let us, sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods, in whose hands are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land." Psalm 95:1-5

If the God who made the earth and all that is in it chooses to bless me today, why shouldn't I offer Him continual sacrifices of praise? Why would I choose to focus on anything but Him? The book of Job asks better questions:

Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place? Job 38:12
Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Job 38:16
Where is the dwelling place of light? Job 38:19
Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that an abundance or water will cover you? Job 38:34

God is not so subtly reminding Job (and me) that He is God alone. He commands the universe. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, all-consuming. And still, he looks on me with love. He considers the cries of my heart; my heartaches and pains; my groanings and complaints. All He asks in return for this love is faith. Faith in Him and the power of what He accomplished on the cross. Faith that He is Love. Faith that His Word is true and right. Faith that He has a plan for for me and that plan is the very best plan ever dreamed or designed.

I need to be more thankful for what God has done, is doing and has promised to yet do in my life. I have not yet found in scripture anything that promises me a new mp3 player or a pedicure. I don't see any promises or entitlements to time alone. I haven't stumbled across any evidence that this life in Christ will be smooth sailing. But, I do know that God is in control. Job says it best,

"I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." Job 42:2

No purpose God has for my life can be thwarted. That is so comforting. I am so thankful for that promise. He is with me, working in advance to prosper me and accomplish His will. Little 'ol me. Amazing.

Loving Father, Thank You for all the many, many blessings You have poured out on my life. I do not deserve them or Your presence, which You so freely offer at all times. Thank You for reminding me to look to You in all situations. Help me to offer each day anew to You. Help me to be thankful for each moment. Thank You for making a plan for me and working to accomplish it. Thank You for Jesus. In His name, Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Things They Say: Marriage

This was the conversation I overheard today at the lunch table:

Ruthie: Henry, you are going to have to spend time getting used to Emma so you can marry her someday.
Henry: Well...(giggle) I don't know about that...(more giggles)
Harmony: Well, Henry, you have to marry someone!
Ruthie: Yeah, then me and Harmony will be sisters.
Emma: No, Ruthie, that's not right.
Henry: Well, I'm not big enough to get married yet, but I know I can only marry one girl.

Long Pause

Harmony: I guess you better pick really careful then.
Emma: Actually, God picks who we marry. He has it all planned out in His big mind.
Harmony: Yeah, He has a really, really, HUGE mind!
Emma: We have to wait until he shows us who to marry. He makes sure they know Jesus and they think we are the most beautiful girl in the whole world.
Henry: I'm not a girl!
Emma: I know! You will think your girl is beautiful. Your girl will think you are brave like a Jedi Knight.
(Huge grin from Henry)

Ruthie: Well, I'm going to wait for the boy God picks for me cause I don't want to mess it up and marry the wrong boy.
Harmony: Yeah, me too!
Ruthie: C'mon Harmony, let's play grocery store.
Harmony: Okay.

Emma: C'mon Henry, let's play with the train.
Henry: Okay. Maybe God will make me see you beautiful someday, but it isn't today!
Emma: Ahhhh! Henry! I'm just little!

Lord, help these children to always take marriage seriously and to allow You to choose their mates for them. Thank You for their innocence and for the reminder that Your way is the best way. In Jesus' name, Amen.