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!