Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Slowing Down

We've been working on the house pretty hard for the last month or so. As I looked around this morning, things look different than they did last month...not good different, more like messy different. We've moved furniture around, cleaned out a few closets, stripped lots of wall paper, and completely dismantled the master bedroom and bath. We're making progress, but it is painfully slow. After Sunday evening's events, we have been forced to a snail's pace...

Charlie worked pretty hard on the master bathroom all weekend, removing the rest of the wall paper, ripping up carpeting, removing the vanity from the wall, tearing out the old trim, disconnecting the toilet. We purchased a new toilet and the flooring on Sunday and took the kids out to eat as a reward for the hard work over the weekend. After we tucked the kids into bed that night, I sat down to catch up on my e-mail and read a few blogs. I was about to call Charlie in to read something when I heard him say, "Ow! That hurt." I asked him if he was okay. Silence. I waited a few minutes then decided to check on him. I found him standing in the dining room pressing the thumb and first finger of his left hand together. He looked pale. I asked him what happened and he explained that he had just cut his hand with a brand new Xacto knife. I didn't see any blood at first so I asked him if it was bad. He went into the kitchen and sat down and said he needed a few minutes to calm down. When he finally showed me the wound, it was obvious he was going to need a few stitches. I gave him a clean cloth to help apply pressure and then called our friends to ask for help with the girls. I changed out of my PJ's and we took off for the ER.

We sat in the ER waiting room for over an hour and then again in one of the ER rooms for another 2 hours waiting for the doctor to sew up Charlie's hand. At one point, Charlie asked, "Why did this have to happen tonight?" I was wondering the same thing, but hadn't voiced the question. We ended up talking about the girls and about some issues we've been facing with them. Charlie shared that he thought this might be the Lord's way of slowing him down for a bit so he could spend more time with them. We talked about how many times we've been out to eat in the last few weeks and how many "extra" things we've been adding to our regular routine. We talked about the fact that we don't have any regular routine on the weekends. We listened to some of the patients around us and I found myself silently praying for them as they cried out or walked by, noticing some of them had no one to sit with them or talk to them. We listened to the tremendous thunderstorm happening outside and wondered if it was keeping Ruthie awake, as she is petrified of thunder. It was unplanned, found time together without the children. I hated the reason for the time, but loved the person with whom I was spending it. The doctor eventually came and patched my hubby back up and we were able to head home just in time to catch a few hours sleep before the next day began.

This afternoon, I was thinking about our upcoming weekend and how we have gone to great lengths to plan a kid-free weekend so we can work on the house. My mom offered to take all three girls on for the weekend (Mom, you are so brave!) and we have this opportunity to work, unhindered, on our remodeling projects. But, God has His own plans. We still have a kid-free weekend ahead of us, but we probably won't be doing much remodeling. Instead, we're slowing down. We have almost three whole days of time alone blissful! And, how needed. I don't think I knew that we needed this time until Charlie was hurt. I found myself thanking God that he wasn't hurt more seriously and knowing that I should treasure our time together, no matter what the circumstance. I also felt convicted about how much I take him for granted, assuming that he will be here each day when the Lord doesn't give those guarantees...He does guarantee to be faithful, though, so I am grateful for this found time and this opportunity to slow down. The Lord is good.

Father, Thank You for keeping Charlie safe Sunday night and for bringing healing to his hand. Continue to work in his body, restoring him fully. Lord, I thank You for my husband and for the unique person You have made him to be. Help me to be a better help-mate for him. Help me to help him accomplish all that You have for him to do. Help me to honor him and allow him to be the priest over our home. Give him wisdom and confidence to walk out Your plan for his life and for the life of our family. Bless him, Lord, with all that he needs to follow earnestly after You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Man, The Bat Warrior

Charlie has been working feverishly on the house all weekend. Partly because he wants to get the work done, and partly to please me. (Thank you, hubby!) While the girls were napping this afternoon, he set to work repairing the walls in the master bathroom. I could tell he wanted to work alone for awhile, so I decided to tackle cleaning out the laundry room. The floor was overcome with dog fur and the catch-all closet wasn't in any shape to catch much of anything besides said fur and the occasional lost shoe. I was pulling things out of the closet and sorting them and had just laid my hand on Emma's backpack. As I pulled it aside a piercing noise came from either inside her bag or just behind it. I pulled my hand back quickly. The sound was familiar but I couldn't quite place it. I nudged the backpack again--shriek! Okay, the noise was a life noise. A mouse? A bird? One more nudge--SHRIEK! I slammed the door shut and ran out of the room. It was all coming back to me in a flood: this was the sound of a bat.

It seems like our marriage has a lot of bat stories to it. When we were dating, I was living in and running a bed and breakfast. One day, while cleaning one of the bathrooms, I pulled the shower curtain aside to discover a giant bat hanging from the inside liner. I shrieked (of course) and ran out of the room. I called Charlie and asked him to come over. He did and then promptly watched from the safe distance of across the rather lengthy hall as I used a broom to swat the bat down and into a cardboard box. I then threw the box out onto the front lawn and ran inside, shivering and scolding my soon-to-be husband for not wrangling the nocturnal creature out of the house for me. He said it was funny to watch me throw the box into the air and run into the house. I didn't laugh.

Charlie's dislike of bats comes honestly. Growing up, he was a member of the quintessential young, American boy group--the Boy Scouts. One summer, on a camping trip, they went spelunking. On the list of supplies: three sources of light. Charlie packed one flashlight and several packages of batteries, thinking himself to be very clever. While trekking through a cave, they were told the cave was home to bats. Halfway through the hike, Charlie's flashlight dimmed and then went out altogether. After changing batteries, he realized the light bulb had gone out! Not long after, the bats began swooping and diving, trying to figure out what this strange creature was stumbling in the dark. And so, my husband's intense dislike of the winged creatures was birthed.

Not long after we purchased our home, we had another run in with a bat. This time, Charlie rallied to the occasion and chased it out of the house with nothing less than a broom. Another time, he cornered a bat in the living room and with the help of our friend Josh, managed to swat it to the ground with a cookie sheet. They scooped it up and flung it to the street. Very macho. Once, I got up in the night to go downstairs for a drink and noticed a familiar fluttering shadow. I raced back to bed, dove under the covers and begged Charlie to find the bat before it found it's way into the girls' room. We spent about an hour searching the house before he knocked it out with his trusty tennis racket.

Today, Charlie used yet another broom in his dance with the bat. He eventually chased the bat into one of the girls' umbrellas and I ran to another room as I saw his arm raise over the umbrella, hammer in hand. I'll spare you the details, but, suffice it to say, Charlie was a bit more violent in his disposal of this particular creepy flyer. It may have been gruesome and we may have had to sacrifice an umbrella, but I have respect for my husband's willingness to protect hearth and home from the invasion of these nocturnal beasts. And that, friends, is why I will call him: The Bat Warrior.

Thank You, God, for my awesome husband! Bless him now and always, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Yes, we are homeschooling. I wish I could muster up some excitement about this new adventure we're on, but I'm not in that place, yet. I have faith God will get me there because He has called our family to do this, but it will be a process...

We attended a "home school meeting" a few nights ago and I walked away feeling uncomfortable. I couldn't put my finger on the problem I was having. The people in attendance were normal, every day people, but something was bugging me. Charlie suggested we go for a walk so I could vent and clear my head. I confessed to him that I was having trouble fully committing to homeschooling. It wasn't that I didn't see God's calling or understand how wonderful the opportunity could be. The real issue was that an impression had been made on my heart and mind about the kind of people who home school. (Now, hang in here with me! Please don't be offended if you are a home schooler or were home schooled. I'm just telling you what my impression has been...not what God's Truth is...we'll get to that later.) We have had some limited access and exposure to home school families and, although they always share their love of the Lord and commitment to His Word, I'm always left feeling weird. I couldn't put my finger on it until the other day. "Rebellion" was the word the Lord gave to me. Here's what I mean...

When the Lord began to show us that He wants us to home school our daughters, He began by showing us in the Word all that we are responsible for as parents.
"Train a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it."
Prov. 22:6
He then began to burden our hearts for our girls in a very new way. We began seeing so much ministerial potential in our daughters...potential spiritual gifts and opportunities to minister to others. We both were very excited about the chance to give our girls an environment in which they could openly and vigorously explore God's calling and gifting in their lives. I was (and still am, truth be told) nervous about the practical application of actually teaching the girls, but it ultimately came down to the choice of obedience. Would we trust where God was leading and believe this was the very best plan for all of us, or would we turn away and choose a more comfortable but disobedient path? We chose to obey. The Lord never led us to think of public schools as evil or bad. He never allowed us to put our girls on an intellectual pedestal and exalt their intelligence. If anything, He made us so aware of our dependence on Him and His grace. We would need that grace to accomplish His will.
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

The Lord has allowed us to see so much open rebellion in other Christian homeschooling families. What I mean by that is a subtle undertone of "us" vs. "them," if you will. So many times, when we hear other families talk about their decision to home school, their answers are openly hostile and demeaning of others. There is a sinful pride in their attitude. Of course, you must believe that the choice to home school is the very best choice for you and your children. But, it is not the very best choice for every family. In fact, many Christian families are called to attend public school to be salt and light to lost and dying families. Some homeschooling families also seem to worship their children's intelligence. They give their child's intellect the highest place of honor and respect, ultimately teaching their child that a gift given by God has become the object of adoration instead of the Gift-Giver. This is all rebellion. Subtle, but still rebellion.
"Against whom do you jest? Against whom do you open wide your mouth and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of rebellion, offspring of deceit?" Isaiah 57:4

It's hard for me to write about this because I know it may offend others, even others I care for deeply. But, for me, the root issue is God's character. He is love, so He is patient, kind, joyful, peaceful, good, faithful, gentle, and full of control. Anything He calls us to do, He wants done in a manner that reflects His character. If we are truly His disciples, then we walk after Him and His Word and His ways. We don't demean or devalue others simply because they are led to make other choices. We don't worship anything or anyone else, especially our own children. (Encourage and cheer-lead them, yes... worship them, no.) We aren't prideful of our position, privileges, responsibilities, or opportunities.

1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
9For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians Chapter 13 (emphasis mine)

I know there are families out there who are homeschooling the right way and with the right hearts, but there are families who are not and they are placing themselves in opposition with other parts of the Body of Christ. Jesus says that the world will know us by our love for one the way we are patient and kind, joyful and peaceful, faithful and gentle, full of goodness and self-control.

I guess I'm posting this as a reminder to myself and my husband to keep our pride in check, to resist any rebellious thoughts or attitudes we might have. I want to remember what God is showing us now, as we begin this adventure with Him and with our children. I want to be accountable to Him and others for my choice to obey.

Thank You, Lord, for Your love which always brings me back to You. Thank You for Your character. Help me to teach my children Your ways, Your Word, YOU! I know it is only by Your grace that I will be able to accomplish Your will. Grant me Your grace unending...In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Clothed In Righteousness

We stripped wallpaper tonight. Ahem...husband stripped wallpaper, wife watched and encouraged and tried not to irritate husband. Anyway, as we are preparing to have our roof replaced, we've been taking down all the wallpaper in the house to be sure we know exactly where the roof has leaked. As Charlie was taking the wallpaper down in the master bedroom, one wall became particularly messy. With each strip of wallpaper he removed, chunks of the plaster also came tumbling down. By the end of the night, one huge section of the wall was missing and the bare lathe was exposed...what an unsightly mess! I found myself wishing we had left well enough alone and kept the wallpaper on the wall, hiding the entire problem.

I tend to think that way spiritually, too. I like things to look pretty and neat and perfect on the outside, when in reality, an unsightly spiritual condition is lurking underneath. As an example (one of many, many others), when we discovered I was pregnant with our third child, I was gripped with panic from the very beginning. I was starting to realize how much work our two toddlers already were and now, we were adding another little person to the mix. Panic turned to despair; despair gave way to anger; anger swelled into full-blown depression. I didn't pray. I didn't read my Bible. A dark, ominous cloud always hovered over my thoughts, coloring every situation an ugly grey. I was consumed. But, I did a very good job of keeping my depression a secret. I put on a smile and acted as if everything was alright. Some days, I even fooled myself!

When Olivia was born, the cloud moved off into the distant horizon for a bit. We had been blessed with another beautiful daughter and I thought the depression would disappear in the face of such blessedness. I was wrong. It came back, stronger than ever. Only now, I was busier and sleep-deprived. It was a terrible mix of circumstances and emotion. I was in real trouble...

My husband finally stepped in and took over. At my lowest point, he found me sobbing on the bathroom floor. I couldn't even vocalize what I was thinking or feeling. He didn't try to hug me or talk to me or give me advice. He sat down with me, opened his Bible and started reading. I know it was something from Ephesians, but for the life of me I cannot remember which passage. Somehow, the words were soothing. After awhile, I stopped crying and he put his hands on me and prayed. Later, after the kids were tucked in, he gently asked me if I was spending time with the Lord. I couldn't look at him or even answer. Silent tears streamed down my face and he knew the answer. We prayed again and he read more scripture to me.

A few days later, I happened to be on the phone with my dear sister, Lyn. Somehow, (of course it was the Lord!) we ended up talking about how things were going, spiritually speaking. I ended up crying and confessing to her that I was not really following after the Lord with any real intention. I had a hard time finding the words, but she ministered to my heart. She accepted my confession and led me in prayer of repentance. She then invited me to start attending a weekly Bible study with a few other women. I was hesitant to go, but she insisted I speak with Charlie about it. Charlie practically beamed when I casually mentioned the study. He was all too eager to take the girls on and give me the opportunity to be in the Word and in fellowship with other women!

That was over a year ago and I can confidently say that the Lord has lifted the dark clouds of depression. That's not to say that I don't have days or even strings of days when I feel "depressed" or "down." But, now, I recognize those times as times when I am out of fellowship with the Lord or when I am trying to cover over some spiritual ugliness.

"I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exalt in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness..." Isaiah 61:10a

Like the wallpaper covering the broken wall, we can also cover over our sins with a pretty attitude. But, there, lurking beneath the surface is ugly sin, keeping us out of fellowship with the Lord. We have a choice: keep up the wallpaper, the false pretenses, the false attitude of happiness, or, we can allow God to have complete access to us. If we choose to allow God that access, we can be certain He will bring into light our sin, our ugly walls in desperate need of repair. Then, He will go to work diligently repairing our hearts, restoring fellowship, lightening our load, bringing us joy. The choice is ours, but the work is His.

God, I love that about You, that You would want to do the work of restoration in my heart. I love that You are always reaching out for me, wanting to bring me closer to You. Thank You for giving me a desire to be righteous. Forgive me for the many, many times that I have attempted to cover over my sin with something spiritually ugly. Thank You for the blood of Jesus that covers me. In Your Holy Name, Amen

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

When We All Get To Heaven--Part 2

I wrote a few weeks ago about a conversation I had with my girls about what heaven will be like. (Read it here.) Since then, they have been obsessed with how fast we will all get to heaven. They argue back and forth about how quick our transition will be from earthly life to heavenly glory:

Ruthie: It will be this fast--zoom! (jumping off the coffee table)

Emma: No, it will be faster, like this--ZOOM! (spinning around and falling down)

Ruthie: It will be fast like this--schloom! (running through the kitchen)

Emma: No, like this, Ruthie--Whee! (spinning around in the office chair)

Ruthie: It will be faster than this--zip! (rolling across the floor)

Emma: Ruthie, that isn't fast at all.

Ruthie: Oh.

Emma: It's gonna be so fast we can't show it. Like the wink of my eye (wink, wink, blink, blink).

Ruthie: Yeah, like the clap of my hands (clap, clap).

Olivia: Blink! Clap! Jesus is fast!

Emma and Ruthie: giggles

Olivia: Jesus go Zoom! Whee! Fly to Jesus!

Thank You, Jesus, that we will be with you soon. Thanks for making a place for me and for all who believe in You. Thank You that our transition from here to where You are will be so quick, so smooth. Thank You for being my Savior and Friend. Thank You for my girls and for the way they see things. In Your precious name, Amen.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Henze Edition

We are remodeling our house.

Let me re-phrase that, we're attempting to remodel our house! What started as replacing the roof on our house has grown into adding gutters, storm doors, stripping wallpaper, painting every room of the house, moving furniture, patching cracks in the ceilings, ripping up carpeting, refinishing floors, and basically turning our entire house upside down and inside out. While I'm excited about the end result, the process is causing anxiety on my part. Our home is over 100 years old and nothing is ever easy in an old home. Every repair is harder and more costly than originally planned. The plaster walls look hideous without the wallpaper, nothing is "square" in the house, I'm horrible at choosing coordinating colors, and our once fairly organized home looks as if monkeys are in charge! The girls' absolute favorite TV show (and the only one we let them watch, in fact) is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They love to hear the stories of the families and see the houses demolished and rebuilt. They have been calling our efforts the "Home Makeover Show." Their only concern was that we might be tearing down the house...that, and could we go to Disney World, too, please?

I was feeling frustrated today at the little scraps of wallpaper that keep floating through the air, sticking to everything. And, the jumbled piles of "stuff" that keep moving from one horizontal surface to another. And, the ugly cracks on the walls and the smell of wallpaper adhesive and old carpeting. And, my aching arms and back. And, the endless list of things yet to do before we can actually paint or lay down flooring. My head was swirling with the details of a project much larger than anticipated. Overwhelmed was an understatement.

Then, I got this know, one of those "I want to show you something, dear Jen, so let me use what you are experiencing to show you a glimpse of Me" kind of pictures. I saw my life like my house....let me explain.

When we purchased our home, we knew the previous owners fairly well. They were a pastor family, our pastor family, in fact. This was the first home I was invited to when I first moved here. The family was lovely and this house very much reflected their personalities. After we bought the house, we left everything "as is." We added our own "garage sale" and "early attic" furniture and hung our own pictures on the walls and called it home. That worked just fine for a bit. Then, we began to add some little people to our lives and our home no longer reflected who we are. Our lives have changed a great deal in the seven years since we moved into our house. It doesn't match how we live or who God has called us to be. It's no longer comfortable. So, we're making necessary repairs and changes. Our home is being transformed into a place that reflects the Henzes and the blessings God has given to us.

My life, lately, is a lot like my house. God loved me just exactly as I was when I fell at his feet 17 years ago. But, I'm a different person now. God has done wonderful, marvelous things in my life to transform me into a person who (hopefully) is beginning to reflect Jesus. The thing is, though, I have to let God come in and tear things off my walls, patch up the cracks, replace things that are worn out. I have to let Him have His way with this temple. If I don't, it isn't the home He intended it to be.

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and that you are not your own?" 1 Corinthians 6:19

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16

Lately, the Lord has been showing me that I've been resisting the work He must do in my heart to make me, His temple, worthy of housing the Holy Spirit. I don't like that about myself, but praise God that He has lovingly pointed out this area of weakness and sin. Yep, sin is a big word here, but that's exactly what it is to resist God's work in your heart. If I am not actively allowing God to build me up, I am, by default, actively participating in tearing down the temple of the Holy Spirit.

"If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." 1 Corinthians 3:17

It's a big thought...being the holy temple of God. In the Old Testament, we see how important the temple of Israel was to God. Several chapters and books give detailed accounting of how the temple was to be built, what materials were to be used, where certain elements were to be placed in relationship to each other, and who could and could not be in service to the temple. But, these were all a foreshadowing of the holy temple God would create in each of us.

"...for the temple is not for man, but for the Lord God." 1 Chronicles 29:1

God always intended the temple of our hearts to be His dwelling place alone. He will not make His home there if He cannot reign alone, unchallenged.

So, here I am, just like my house; jumbled, things out of place, ugly walls exposed, dirty floors being ripped up, false paper facades coming down. It's not what I would call a temple "fit for a King." But, the funny thing is, I can already sense that the Lord has greater latitude. Even being the mess that I am, being willing and pliable in my Master's hands is so freeing and pleasing to the Lord. I really do want Jesus to rule and reign in my's the process that is painful.

But, come Lord Jesus, and make my heart clean! Cleanse me and make me righteous. Have Your way...Your will be done. I trust You and believe that You work all things for my ultimate and everlasting good. I give You my heart anew. Make your dwelling place in me and make me into all that You desire me to be. In Your precious name, Amen.