December 28, 2011

2012: The Year of Watching

Christmas has come and gone, but we are still watching. Watching not for the Babe in the manger, but for Jehovah Jireh.

And we have seen the work of His hands.

One week after our benefits were terminated, the One who is Faithful and True has sustained us far more abundantly than our petitions and thoughts.  My feeble faith is no match for Him. His goodness has reduced me to tears time and time again in these recent weeks.

I can't believe this is me, living this life and walking this path. If I think about it too long, I panic. Then I remember

Keep watching...


I think back on the first yearly theme, which prepared us to leave our old life. We didn't know it then, but He did. The themes have formed the foundation for this season.




2008 was the Year of Peace & Simplicity
2009 was the Year of Trust & Obedience
2010 was the Year of Faith & Freedom
2011 was the Year of Giving

2012 will be the Year of Watching

I'm looking forward the blessing of sharing it with you.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV

December 23, 2011

Christmas is for the Watchers

I light the candles scattered among our nativities, and my soul whispers the familiar word that dominates my thoughts.

Watch...

As our family keeps watch, I consider how that first Christmas was for the watchers. 

Joseph, watching for a roof to shelter his betrothed, great with child. Watching for a place fitting to birth the Prince of Peace. Weariness from the journey did not deter him.  This night - this holy night - was for watching in awe as the Creator came to His creation, helpless and tiny.  

Mary, keeping watch over her newborn son and pondering the miraculous in her heart. Her song was sung long before. She praised God before her delivery. She praised God before her deliverance. This night - this silent night - was for watching over the Lord of All.



Shepherds, watching over their flocks that night. They worked though all of Israel groaned with the years of waiting to hear from God. Carrying out their duties as usual, not knowing that their lives were about to be radically changed.  Not men of much learning, but wise enough to leave the work behind and follow the Lord's proclamation. This night - this glorious night - was for watching God keep His promise in the most unexpected of ways.

Magi, watching the brightest star appear in the sky. At just the right time, it appeared to herald the incomparable work of God. Though they didn't have the Scriptures, they couldn't deny Him.  They left everything behind to find Him. This night - this wondrous night - was for watching God's brilliance overtake the darkness.



I watch the flames flicker, shadows dancing over the birth scenes. Despite Joseph's weariness, Mary's weakness, and the disappointing circumstances they found upon their arrival in Bethlehem - despite it all, God came.

And the world, not watching, missed it.

I close my eyes, think long about my own weariness, weakness, and disappointing circumstances. Then I glance again at the Babe, and I remember that God will come.

And so I keep watching.


December 15, 2011

Leaving Another Old Life

The books and the back pack have been stored away, for good.  My mind wanders back to 18 months ago, when a hard hat and steel-toed shoes were relegated to our past - we hoped, for good.

Here we are again, shedding the skin of an old life. One we'd grown comfortable in. One that brought hardships and pain, but also blessings and joy. Each scar runs deep, a permanent mark.

The flesh that was our identity these past 18 months is gone.

We are naked.

I am terrified.

This new flesh is tender, feels raw under the harsh elements of the world.

Did Jesus bristle at the hay in the manger the way I find myself bristling at having to do this - the watching and waiting -  all over again?

Did He pause for a moment, hesitant to leave the beauty and comforts of Heaven for this fallen world, as I am hesitant to leave the comforts of the known? 

I beg the Lord for sustaining grace, desperate for Him to quiet the cries within my spirit.

I ponder the story of His birth, each participant beckoning to me in a unique way. There, in the Word, I find solace...

...and strength to keep watching.

December 13, 2011

A River in the Desert

From my quiet time last week...

God often delays in answering prayer. We have several instances of this in the Bible. Jacob did not get the blessing from the angel until near the dawn of day - he had to wrestle all night for it. The poor woman of Syrophoenicia received no answer for a long while. Paul asked the Lord three times for "a thorn...in the flesh" to be taken from him, and he received no assurance that it would be removed, but instead a promise that God's grace would be sufficient for him. If you have been knocking at the gate of mercy and have received no answer, shall I tell you why the mighty Maker has not opened the door and let you in? Our Father has personal reasons for keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show His power and His sovereignty, so that we may learn that God has a right to give or to withhold. More often the delay is for our benefit. You are perhaps kept waiting in order that your desires may be more fervent. God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if He keeps you waiting, you will see your need more clearly and will seek more diligently, and that you will treasure the mercy all the more on account of the wait. There may also be something wrong in you that needs to be removed before the joy of the Lord is given. Perhaps your views of the gospel plan are confused, or you may be relying upon yourself instead of trusting simply and entirely in the Lord Jesus. Or God makes you wait for a while so that He may display the riches of His grace more abundantly in the end. Your prayers are all filed in heaven, and if not immediately answered they are certainly not forgotten, but in a little while they will be fulfilled to your delight and satisfaction. Do not allow despair to make you silent, but continue to present your requests to God.
~ Spurgeon's Morning & Evening (December 9th)

And so, we continue to wait...and watch.

December 8, 2011

A Sweet Reminder

What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do. Look at it in a personal sense: "All things work together for good to them that love God" - that is a promise - "to them who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28, KJV). "But how can I know that is true for me?" asks someone. The answer is the incarnation. God has given the final proof that all his promises are sure, that he is faithful to everything he has ever said. So that promise is sure for you. Whatever your state or condition may be, whatever may happen to you, he has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5, KJV) - and he will not. He has said so, and we have absolute proof that he fulfills his promises. He does not always do it immediately in the way that we think. No, no! But he does it! And he will never fail to do it.  ~Martin Lloyd-Jones

*Excerpted from Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Taking comfort in this sweet reminder today, and continuing to watch...

November 29, 2011

Keeping Watch


The Advent Altar  occupies the kitchen corner, fresh candles and a new Advent resource alongside the familiar wreath and the small nativity. I carefully write last year's message on the board, reminding us to Prepare...our home and our hearts.

Yet this year, there is a new message on my heart. Its whispers, deep in my spirit, nearly reach my ears.  It dominates my thoughts and I hold fast to it.

I erase last year's message and painstakingly write this single command,

Watch.

Watch for the Redeemer made incarnate.

Watch for the unexpected.

Watch for the miraculous.

Set aside the distractions and just watch.

In this season of celebrating the Babe in a manger, I find myself watching for Immanuel, God with us.

Watching for His guidance, as my husband graduates from college.

Watching for His plan, as we continue to search for a job.

Watching for His grace, as the benefits we counted on are cut.

Watching for His provision, as our savings dwindle and our income is once again drastically reduced.

And so while we wait, we watch.

O my Strength, I will watch for you,
   for you, O God, are my fortress.
~Psalm 59:9 (ESV)

November 11, 2011

Flooded

Reading these posts, I am flooded.

Flooded by memories 

of caramel-colored children...their beautiful faces beaming despite their circumstances.

of run-down shanties,,,too numerous to count.

of proud young soldiers...realizing their need for Christ.

of the pieces of my heart...left on another continent.


Flooded by tears

as I look at the photographs

as I look back at my own



Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011


Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 
~Matthew 25:44-45 (ESV)

November 3, 2011

It's Not About Me

The blog has been dormant for almost a month. Writing has taken a back seat to living. The days have been filled with being a helpmeet and a mother.  The stock pot and canning pot have been hard at work again and the freezers are brimming with food prepared for the winter. I am ready to nestle in this, my favorite of seasons.

Yet there is much to do.  R will graduate next month. I cannot wrap my brain around that sentence. This season in our lives is nearly over, another one, yet unknown, peeks its head over the horizon. We are back to waiting. I'd forgotten how painful waiting can be. I'm seeing signs of nerves rubbed raw and I nearly crumble at the thought.  I've gone back through the archives to relive our journey and to remind myself that God is faithful. Victory is coming, though I confess I don't like not knowing how or when. I try to be content with just knowing it's out there. I remind myself how gracious God has been these past two years.

Yes, two years.  We'd talked about the approaching date, seeing it there on the calendar and marveling at the amount of time gone by. It was a fleeting thought, soon buried under a mountain of homework, chores, and daily routines.  When we didn't think about it again until the date had passed, I realized that we no longer define our life in terms of one event. That it did not destroy us, but that God has used it to display His glory. Oh! how I pray we have pointed to Him through this! 

Two recent worship experiences have made me wonder about that.  The first, a worship service in another church that was so completely God-centered it astounded me. I left that place with an ache in my heart, a longing for what I've been missing.  The second, a challenge from a friend to pay attention to our worship songs - do we sing more about ourselves than God? I went into service with that thought swirling through my mind. After one chorus, I knew the answer.  Even a chorus that proclaims to be getting back to the heart of worship is about man.  Determined NOT to sing about myself, I listened for true worship songs.  Singing just those songs brought me to a place of worship I had not known for longer than I care to admit. I saw how paltry my worship offerings have been.

And so once again I wrestle with blogging. I am keenly aware that any attempts I make here to magnify Him are small - miniscule, really - in comparison to what He has done.  Words cannot describe it and I feel foolish even trying. But should I give up? I honestly don't know.

I do know that I don't want this blog to be about me. In this world of unending self-promotion, I want praise the One who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8, ESV)

I will continue to take up this corner in the blogosphere, tiny as it may be. And I hope you'll continue to join me, even if our meetings are few and far between. 


October 7, 2011

On Her 13th Birthday

When they placed her on my chest, I couldn't hold her. Anesthesia numbed my limbs and my brain. Somewhere in the fog, my Dad cared for me while my husband cared for his new girl. I still remember the tears that brightened his eyes.  The smile that showed his joy, masking his uncertainty. The weight of this new responsibility heavy upon his shoulders.

He held her first. 

Unlike most babies, she said "Mama" first. But she's still a Daddy's girl. Thirteen years later, that bond they forged there in the hospital nursery is stronger than ever. He still gets teary-eyed over her. The smile is still full of joy and uncertainty. The weight of raising a teenage girl in these times, heavy.

He's never let go.

**********

Before she was born, I thought I knew much about being a parent. Today, as I think over the first thirteen years of her life, I realize I only know two things for certain.

The days are long, but the years are short. Thirteen years have passed by in a blur. I had no idea life would move so fast.

Time is growing shorter. Soon, she'll be leaving our home. I must use the time we have left wisely. I am so incredibly thankful that God can - and will - work in her life to make up for my insufficiency. (I'm learning much from this book.)

**********

These thirteen years of being her mother have brought depths of joy and pain I cannot describe. They have humbled me in ways I could not have imagined.  They have changed my life.

I thank God for each and every day He's allowed me to be her mother. I pray He'll allow many more.

October 6, 2011

Thankful Thursday


Praising God for:

~medical professionals who listen thoughtfully

~13 years with my beautiful girl.  We celebrate her birthday tomorrow

~CJ's willingness to fast on her birthday as part of the 30 Hour Famine

~the prayers of friends...always sweet and always necessary

~the beauty of His creation. A storm coming in over the ocean. The pounding of the waves. The majesty of an eagle in flight. Incredible to watch this week.

~traveling mercies

~His forgiveness and grace for a wretch like me


If you fix deep in your understanding the natural goodness of God, even this will fall far short of God’s actual graciousness.
~Richard Baxter

September 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday



Praising God for:

~long-awaited & much-needed answers

~cooler temperatures in the forecast

~friends who bow their hearts and knees to the Father on my behalf.

~a husband who loves me, even when I am selfish, ungracious, and unkind

~the mercy of God & the atonement for my selfishness, ungraciousness and unkindness.  Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe!

~the conviction of God regarding my place of service to Him and to my husband

~the upcoming turn of the calendar page.  One step closer to December and college graduation!

~His sovereignty, and the peace that gives. Although, I confess I need to keep reminding myself of it so that I don't give in to the temptation to micromanage our current circumstances.

~music floating through the air in our home as CJ practices the piano




*Banner HT:  Hollie

September 21, 2011

Autumn Bible Study: Ruth

I've read the Book of Ruth many times over the years. Filled with the stuff fairy tales are made of, this book has always captivated me. Lately I've been digging deeper into the story of the woman grafted into the lineage of Jesus, using Esther and Ruth (Reformed Expository Commentary) and Ruth: Loss, Love, & Legacy.  It's a slow, deliberate, and fascinating journey.

And too good not to share.

Later this week, I'll begin blogging through Ruth.  I hope you'll grab your Bibles and a cup of coffee and dive into God's Word with me.

September 16, 2011

Savoring...

~football season

~Sunday mornings with my 7th & 8th grade girls

~Esther and Ruth (Reformed Expository Commentary).

~rows of canning jars, filled with ruby red tomato sauce, bright green beans, and sunshine peaches

~Chris Tomlin's Arriving. This is the only CD of his that I own. It's years old, but the songs are incredible.

~Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. It's especially sweet to read this with my man before we turn out the lights each night.

~Yogi Peach Detox Tea

~Brown Cow Yogurt

~the last of the garden bounty. Tomatoes and eggplant have fallen to a trickle, so each new find is a treat.

~memories of a weekend with dear friends and worship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

~the thought of bringing out the autumn decorations this weekend

What are you savoring these days?

September 14, 2011

This Man

This man receives sinners. - Luke 15:2

Observe the condescension of this fact. Jesus, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, who towers above all other men - this Man receives sinners.  This Man, who is no other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces - this Man receives sinners.  It requires an angel's tongue to describe such a mighty stoop of love. That any of us would be willing to reach the lost is nothing wonderful - they are, after all, our own race; but that He, the offended God, against whom the transgression has been committed, should take upon Himself the form of a servant and bear the sin of many and be willing to receive the worst of sinners - this is marvelous.

-Charles Spurgeon
(Evening, September 13th)

September 13, 2011

Autumn Upon Us

The canning pot is temporarily resting, in anticipation of apples and pears that will soon arrive. The kitchen table has been converted to CJ's study area. A laptop and a stack of books rest on the dining table more often than not. We slip back into the routine that my soul needs. Autumn - with its crisp days, candle-lit evenings, and brilliant hues - is soon due. Anticipation of its arrival washes over me.

My girl has started her third and final year of middle school. I think back to the beginning of her first year. We were coasting along in life, blissfully unaware that our world was about to be turned upside down. I remember how God brought us through the initial shock, and how He helped us prepare for a new life.  I can't help but think of last year, as she started her second year of middle school while we were adjusting to R being back in college. I recall how hard that first semester was, and offer yet another thanks to God for His precious grace.

And so we stand, at the beginning of the end. In three short months, we'll be celebrating a graduation and, Lord willing, a new job. Trepidation threatens to creep back into my days. Yet I know whom I have believed, and I am trusting, trusting...

September 2, 2011

Lessons from a Hurricane

Our town in no stranger to storms. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd brought devastation by water. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel's winds felled 100 year old pines and carved paths through neighborhoods. In 2006, an unnamed storm brought more flooding.

Hurricane Irene left much damage in her wake. Here in Virginia, the scenes aren't as grim as in New Jersey and Vermont. We have much to be thankful for. As normal life resumes, I think on the lessons I learned over the past few days. They are things to be pondered on, tucked away in my heart for safekeeping, and hopefully lived out in sunny days as well as rainy ones.

I've been reminded that procrastination is not a virtue. I completed many of the items on my list prior to Irene's arrival, but left some chores until Saturday morning. When the electricity (and with it, the water) went out at hours earlier than expected, I was caught by surprise. Thankfully, our most important preparations were complete. Still, things at home would have been better if I had been more diligent.

I've learned my home relies heavily on water and electricity. I won't pretend we were roughing it, since we had a generator to provide lights and keep our freezers going. Still, there were so many things I couldn't do for the 4 days we didn't have power and water.  I was forced to stop procrastinating and organize my desk and R's study area. We'll be getting CJ's area together this weekend (our Labor Day weekend tradition).

I've learned how distracting modern conveniences and technology can be. I enjoyed the break from television and internet (our cable company was down). We played games. We navigated past fallen trees to visit friends and family. We talked to our neighbors. We went to the park to play with a friend's children. No Facebook updates, no Google Reader, and no constant information stream jostling for our attention. It was actually very pleasant.

I've learned to love my family even more.  There's something about huddling together inside while the rain and wind blow fiercely outside, camping out together in the living room (where it was coolest), and working together in less-than-ideal circumstances that draw you even closer together. There is no one on this planet who I love more than my man and my girl.

I've learned how desperate my own depravity is.  In the midst of all of this, I too often found my thoughts focused on how inconvenienced I was rather than worrying with what others might be going through or trusting God's sovereignty.

I've learned that still  I have so much more than I need. Surrounded by things I couldn't use, moving others to make room for extension cords and water jugs, I was a little overwhelmed by the things I still cling to. I think Autumn nesting will bring another purge.

I've learned, again, how blessed I am. With a husband who took major pains to prepare our home for the worst, a boss who let us invade his home to take hot showers and do laundry, and friends across the country and the Atlantic Ocean who kept check on us...I'm one blessed woman.

I've learned that who we are in every day life is who we are in the midst of a storm.  It doesn't matter if it's trusting God, being selfish, or showing kindness and compassion, how we live in the good times prepares us for how we live in the bad.

I've learned, again, that God is totally and completely sovereign. Saturday's evening devotion from Morning and Evening(while the hurricane was churning):

Into Your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, Faithful God (Psalm 31:5)
The object of a believer's interest in life and death is not his body or his possessions, but his spirit; this is his choice treasure:  If this is safe, then all is well...At all times we should commit everything to Jesus' faithful hand; then even if life should hang on a thread, and difficulties multiply like the sands of the sea, our soul shall life in safety and delight itself in quiet resting places.

And yesterday morning's:

In seasons of severe trial the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust, and so he is compelled to cast himself on God alone. When his vessel is capsizing, and no human deliverance is at hand, he must simply and entirely trust himself  to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone!

His timing was perfect. Then there were the prayers of precious friends, who were asking that the river surrounding our town crest below predictions. I'd told them I thought 16 feet was safe. They prayed, and the predictions dropped to 16 feet! One of the gals said she'd pray for 15. The river crested at 14.7 feet. I never stopped being amazed at God.

And so, life continues. R has returned to school. I've returned to work. CJ is preparing for 8th grade and I'm still wondering when that happened. Things are back to normal, but I'm praying these lessons will stay with me for a long time to come.

August 23, 2011

What's on My Nightstand - August

August days are waning. Mercifully, the temperatures drop ever so slightly, hinting at cooler days ahead. Tomatoes will soon give way to apples. Shades of green will melt into brilliant hues of orange and red. Cool evenings under the reading quilt are nearing. I am giddy with anticipation.

Since last month,

I've completed:

~Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. This story of unusual friendship in ancient China was beautiful and haunting at the same time.

~Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  A friend passed this Southern charmer along to me. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

~The Help. I had concerns that the book wouldn't live up to the hype, but it did.

~Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (audio). One of the best books I've ever "read". I've found myself cringing, getting goosebumps, and laughing through tears as I've listened to the true story of Louis Zamperini, a 1936 Olympian who survived a plane crash at sea and 2 years as a Japanese POW in WWII.

I've tried:

~The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. I decided to put this one down for now in favor of Tim Challies' first book, which I had not read.

~Snow Falling on Cedars.  This one didn't grab me as much I'd hoped, so I returned it to the library after a few chapters.

I've picked up:

~The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (Kindle). I had been wanting to read this book by Tim Challies for a while, and decided there was no time like the present.

~Emma. It's been far too long since I've read any Jane!

I'll soon be starting:

~Abigail Adams (audio). I haven't read anything about the Revolutionary War era in a while, and this biography piqued my interest.

~Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus


I'm constantly looking to:

~Spurgeon's Morning and Evening

~Matthew Henry's Method For Prayer

~Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

~Paul Tripp's A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble

You can click on over to 5 Minutes for Books to see what others are reading.

July 28, 2011

Fifth Day Morning - The Giver

CREATOR, UPHOLDER AND PROPRIETOR OF ALL THINGS,
We cannot escape from thy presence and control,
nor do we desire to do so.
Our privilege is to be under the agency of thy omnipotence,
righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy and grace;
For thou art Love with more than parental affection.
We admire thy goodness,
stand in awe of thy power,
abuse ourselves before thy purity.
It is the discovery of thy goodness alone
that can banish our fear
allure us into thy presence,
help us to bewail and confess our sins.
We review our past guilt
and are conscious of present unworthiness.
We bless thee that thy steadfast love and attributes
are essential to our happiness and hope;
Thou hast witnessed to us thy grace and mercy
in the bounties of nature,
in the fullness of thy providence,
in the revelations of Scripture,
in the gift of thy Son,
in the proclamation of the gospel.
Make us willing to be saved in thy own way,
perceiving nothing in ourselves but all in Jesus.
Help us not only to receive him
but to walk in him,
depend upon him,
commune with him,
follow him as dear children,
imperfect, but still pressing forward,
not complaining of labour, but valuing rest,
not murmuring under trials, but thankful for our state.
And by so doing let us silence the ignorance of foolish men.

(p. 215, emphasis mine)

July 26, 2011

What's on My Nightstand - July

Although summer days are long, they don't leave much time for reading. I carefully select a few books to keep me company when I can no longer bear the heat. Limited time causes me to be more discriminating in my choices, which makes reading more enjoyable and beneficial.

Since last month,

I've completed:

~March (audio). Exquisite prose is the mark of this captivating story. I was hooked from the first pages.

~A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering (Kindle). Michael Horton's insight on suffering and what it means for the Christian is outstanding.

~Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.  CJ wanted me to read this with her. An encouraging story, to say the least. Bethany Hamilton is a strong role model for young women.

~The Organized Heart: A Woman's Guide to Conquering Chaos (Kindle) This is a powerful book that is far from the ordinary "how to" organizing fare. Staci Eastin has spoken directly to my heart. While I've done much to improve the organization in my home the past few years, I've learned there are still some heart issues to be addressed.

I've tried:

~The Rural Life. I liked this book. I put it down because it's one that's easy to come back to.  For some reason, I think of it as more of an Autumn read.

I've picked up:


~What Is a Healthy Church Member? (IX Marks).  A short, but impressive read.

~Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I'm just getting into this one.

I'll soon be starting:

~Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Audio). Just waiting for the library to get it to me!

~The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. I'm pretty sure this one is going to be worth my while.

~The Help. I'm probably one of the last women in the country to read this book. I'm finally going to get around to it.

What's On Your Nightstand

Visit 5 Minutes for Books to see what others are reading.

July 21, 2011

Thankful Thursday

This week, I am particularly thankful for:

~The wonderful group of college women in my church family. They are beautiful inside and out, and I've thoroughly enjoyed leading them in Bible study and just hanging out with them.

~Garden bounty and the local farmer's market. Preserving it all requires quite a bit of work, but I know we'll be enjoying it for months to come.

~Air conditioning.  Temperatures here are expected to reach triple digits this week.

~Extended periods of feeling better.  I'm still not 100%, but I have hope that I will be.

July 20, 2011

Falling

It's been a while since you posted on your blog, my husband remarked.

My posting has been sporadic, at best. Perhaps I'm growing tired of my tiny corner of the internet. Perhaps I'm hiding from guilt of knowing that the life I portray here is more often the woman I want to be rather than who I actually am.  I long to be an authentic worshiper of my Sovereign God, a woman who thinks deeply and loves fiercely.

I fall so terribly short.

I read what other women write, and I am ashamed that I cannot speak with the same knowledge and eloquence. Even my comments are not particularly thoughtful. Words, which have long been my friend, are no longer easily found.

I fall silent.

My hands are occupied with pursuits beyond the keyboard. Turning the pages of a good book. Teaching 5-year olds in Vacation Bible School. Preserving the fruits of our garden labor. Splashing my girl in the pool. Clapping to cheer my man on in softball.

I fall into bed exhausted.

Yet in all this falling, I'm grateful my life is shored up by the One who will never let me fall from His grasp.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
~Psalm 63:5-8

June 28, 2011

What's on My Nightstand - June

Cucumber and squash plants heavy with their fruit clamor for my attention. The tomatoes will soon follow. The cool clear water of the pool beckons. The friendly fellowship of church softball games, too inviting to ignore.

Books lie nearly forlorn on my nightstand.

Since last month

I've completed:

~Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (audio). A long, but fascinating read. I admit, I probably never would have finished it if it hadn't been for the audio book. I'm glad I did.

~Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (audio) Oh, how I loved the tender story of Henry & Keiko!

~The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery. Flavia de Luce is a delight!


I've tried:

~The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay. I didn't get past the first few pages. I had looked forward to this one, but I could not get past the repetitious foul language.

~Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. This one didn't grab me, either. I may try again later.

~Mansfield Park (audio). I love the story of Fannie Price, but I'd rather read it than listen to it. I prefer to listen to narrative stories, rather than one person tackling many character's voices in dialogue.

I've picked up:

~March (audio). The story of Mr. March, the absent father in Little Women.  It's a story full of beautiful prose, heartache and humor.

~The Rural Life. Rich essays celebrating life away from the noise of the city.

I'm still reading:

~A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering (Kindle). Michael Horton has caused me to think much about my view of suffering. I'm taking this one slow, because it's been very timely for me.

And soon I'll start:

~Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.  CJ asked me to read this one with her.

~The Organized Heart: A Woman's Guide to Conquering Chaos (Kindle).

What's On Your Nightstand


Visit 5 Minutes for Books to see what others are reading this summer.

June 24, 2011

Lessons Learned - About Myself

After sharing lessons learned about our home, our girl, and my man, it's only fair that I share lessons I've learned about myself during the past year and a half.

I am more easily satisfied and resilient than I thought.

Several years ago, I wanted the newest and latest of everything. I bought shoes and purses on a whim. I was constantly feathering my nest with pillows and other decor.  If I saw something I wanted, I found a way to justify buying it. We took trips to Boston and New York. We were living the American dream. And paying for it dearly.

God, in His sovereignty, knew that some things needed to change. Nearly two years before R's employer announced the mill closure, He began convicting me of all the waste in my life.  As I began to reduce the clutter and the spending, an amazing thing happened. I realized the things I thought made my life were really choking it out of me.

I've learned to weigh the value of everything before allowing it to take valuable space in my home and in my life. I've learned I'm just more satisfied eating a meal I've prepared, watching a movie at home, and hanging out in our back yard than going out for dinner, a movie, or shopping. I've learned that the things I have and the places I go don't define the quality of my life.

I am more controlling and selfish than I thought.

I've always been a controller. Not only do I like to know what's going on, but I like to be in charge of it. It's been an exercise in patience and self-control to balance helping my husband with schoolwork and paperwork with taking over completely. It's been an exercise in humility to remind myself daily that God's ways are higher than my own.

When this path doesn't seem to make sense, or I want to just get-to-the-end-and-be-done-with-it-already-thank-you, I must tell myself yet again that having control is an illusion crafted by the enemy to draw my attention from God. When I tire of being the primary source of our family's income, wanting to slough off that responsibility along with my work clothes at the end of a long day, I have to remember that this is temporary and that I should be grateful for the provision of my job. When I'm tempted to stomp my feet at God and ask why my dreams of going back to college have not been realized, I recall the changes wrought in my dear husband's life, changes I would not have witnessed if my plans had prevailed.

In those moments, I quietly whisper prayers seeking forgiveness and the strength to let go.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 
~John 15:5 (ESV)


June 22, 2011

Acknowledging the Miracle

I lay on the table, looking over at the IV needle ready to carry a course of dye through my abdomen.

How did I get here?

It all started with a simple bug bite on my calf, or so I thought.  The "bite" became an angry rash that would ease for a few days only to return with a vengeance. I tried lotions and creams, everything I could think of to avoid going to the doctor.

Six weeks later came other, seemingly unrelated, symptoms. I went to see my family doctor, suspecting a nuisance infection that antibiotics should have cleared up in a few days. The symptoms didn't subside. Knots formed in the lymph nodes at the top of my left thigh. Just rising from a chair sent waves of pain through my body. I went to see the doctor who delivered CJ and has seen me through numerous surgeries since. She was immediately concerned. The infection from my leg had apparently traveled through my bloodstream. She ordered a battery of tests.

I spent the remainder of the day being poked and prodded, giving blood and drinking some sweet syrup concoction to help the radiologist see my insides. And see them, he did. He asked my doctor if I'd had a trauma of some kind, because my blood vessels were so swollen. The infection was mounting a serious assault against my body.

Three antibiotics later, the infection was gone but the symptoms remained. Every day for 3 months, I'd been suffering from these miserable symptoms and was not getting any better. My attitude, my family, and my life were all seriously impacted by my health. Frustrated, I went to see yet another doctor for one last round of testing. He could find nothing, and suggested a shot of prednisone might give some temporary relief. I refused, feeling that residual internal swelling might be causing the symptoms. He agreed that waiting another six weeks might be wise.

After the appointment, I thought about a blog post I'd read, Eating to Heal the Body. I went back to Kelly's account of her healing after a kidney transplant.  I've been concentrating on eating real food for the past year, but I hadn't done any research on eating for healing.Convinced I was right in my diagnosis, I began incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods in my diet. Within two days, my symptoms began to subside.

That was two weeks ago. I still have symptoms, but they are not as frequent or as intense. I have had many days with no symptoms at all. After three long, excruciating and frustrating months, I am finally feeling better. I am slowly finding my way back to my life.

If I hadn't ignored the rash and hoped it would simply go away, I would have saved myself a lot of pain, frustration, and money. I truly needed medical attention and avoiding it was not wise. However, avoiding a steroid injection was. There are times when perhaps we know our bodies better than the doctors. Before agreeing to a treatment we're not comfortable with, we should consider if there are suitable natural alternatives available.

I am thankful for the doctors, lab technicians, and radiology technicians who worked together to diagnose my infection. I am thankful for the antibiotics that defended my body. I am thankful for pain relievers that helped me make it through some rough days.

More than that, I'm grateful for the Lord's healing. He also could have healed me immediately, yet in His sovereignty He chose not to. When the doctors didn't know what to do, He prompted me to seek other avenues. Certainly, he could have healed me with modern medicine. It would have been no less a miracle.

Why do we look for God only in the miraculous? Why do we associate God's activity in our lives with a spectacular disappearance of a medically documented tumor but are not as ready to acknowledge the same in its reduction over time through radiation or surgery? Is God not as much the healer when a wound recovers gradually through various human means as when he miraculously intervenes? ~ Michael Horton, A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering (p. 91)

June 17, 2011

The Broken Heart

O LORD,
No day of my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in thy sight.
Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart;
Praise has been often praiseless sound;
My best services are filthy rags.
Blessed Jesus, let me find a covert in thy appeasing wounds.
Though my sins rise to heaven thy merits soar above them;
Though unrighteousness weighs me down to hell,
thy righteousness exalts me to thy throne.
All things in me call for my rejection,
All things in thee plead my acceptance.
I appeal from the throne of perfect justice
to thy throne of boundless grace.
Grant me to hear thy voice assuring me:
that by thy stripes I am healed,
that thou was bruised for my iniquities,
that thou hast been made sin for me
that I might be righteous in thee,
that my grievous sins, my manifold sins, are all forgiven,
buried in the ocean of they concealing blood.
I am guilty, but pardoned,
lost, but saved,
wandering, but found,
sinning, but cleansed.
Give me perpetual broken-heartedness,
Keep me always clinging to thy cross,
Flood me every moment with descending grace,
Open to me the springs of divine knowledge,
sparkling like crystal,
flowing clear and unsullied
through my wilderness of life.
~Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions (p. 83, emphasis mine)

June 16, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I am giving God thanks for:

~the last day of school. A year of hard work, of stretching and growing both inside and outside of the classroom. I'd forgotten how difficult middle school can be.

~my girl's desire to live differently. She's not the most popular or athletic kid, but she loves Jesus. I'll take that over earthly accolades any day.

~a summer calendar that's virtually empty. Plenty of time for family fun and games, impromptu cookouts with friends, last minute trips to the amusement park, and church softball. The stuff that great summers are made of.

~weekly Bible study with a group of 9 college-aged ladies. They sharpen and inspire me. I'm so thankful they're allowing me to invest in their lives.

~the Holy Spirit's conviction this morning. May I be broken and poured out for Him!

June 10, 2011

Lessons Learned - About My Man

I've shared lessons learned about our home and our girl. In honor of my husband's birthday this weekend, I thought I would share things I've learned about him in this past year. 

Next month brings the beginning of the third decade I have known him, the man I love. For twenty years now we've been the closest of friends and confidantes. I thought I had him pretty well figured out. Then life changed.

Through shock and grief, tension and uncertainty, anxiety and more uncertainty, I've seen the man I married transform before my very eyes.

My man is more intelligent than he realized.

Confidence has been an ill-fitting garment on his shoulders, despite my best efforts to make it more comfortable for him. My praises, and the praises of our girl, go only so far. In these past months, his confidence has been built upon the respect of his classmates and professors, the right answers on homework problems, and the satisfaction of a job well done. The man who was unsure about taking this path has grown with each passing step, and it has been a sight to see.

My man is more intelligent than I realized.

I've always known he's smart. I've long admired his talent to build and fix things, to look at a drawing (his own or someone else's) and bring it to life. I've never seen him give himself over to reading and studying like he's had to do this past year. Listening to him talk about statistical analysis, ethics and the regulatory environment, and leadership in business, I've gained a new appreciation for his intellect.

My man is finding new things comfortable.

The work jeans have been retired. The once standard ball cap hangs in the mudroom. Steel-toed boots have been replaced by sandals and tennis shoes. A new life requires a new wardrobe.

Days of coming home at the break of dawn, trying to sleep while the sun burns down hot through our bedroom window are a faint memory. Missing Sunday worship twice a month is all but forgotten. His body recovers from the years of swing shift, the snatching of sleep at odd times. His spirit recovers from portions of life missed, family gatherings and dinners with friends, ballgames and trips to the amusement park.

I am finding new things comfortable.

Hearing him greet me when I arrive home each day. The privilege of family dinner each evening. The blessing of feeling him next to me in the bed each night. They are things I don't take for granted. I never want to.

My man appreciates the little things.

A few months ago, I started leaving him short notes listing the reasons I love him. He quickly became accustomed to getting them. Who knew such a small act would mean so much?

Sending silly texts to each other throughout the day, holding hands while watching our favorite television series on DVD each night, learning Spanish with him. All little things, small investments that have yielded big dividends in our  relationship. Fires make our love stronger, more enduring.

My man loves me more than I realized.

He spends his days surrounded by classmates young enough to be our own children, his evenings immersed in books. He stretches his brain to grasp foreign concepts. He humbles himself to allow me to be the breadwinner.  He is daring to dream new dreams. All of this to make a better life for our family and to better serve the Lord. His life boldly proclaims his love for me, the depths of which I had never understood.

As we celebrate another year of my husband's life, I'm thanking the Lord

...for His goodness in knowing just how much a lost and hurt young woman needed this man who would cherish her.

...for His wisdom in bringing me to this man who is most certainly my better half. Aside from Christ, he is the best thing about me.

...for His grace in giving two selfish and sinful people these 20 years of love and friendship, a strong marriage, and a beautiful daughter. I am blessed beyond measure.

Happy birthday, my sweet man. I am so incredibly proud to be your wife!

June 3, 2011

Lessons Learned - About our Girl

A few weeks ago, I shared some lessons I've learned about our home during the past year. I'm finally getting back to this series with lessons learned about our girl.

The stretching of the past year has been tough on our girl. There are days she handles it with grace, knowing that our current state is temporary. Yet to a 12-year old, temporary can seem like an eternity.

She's watched friends' dads go back to work, their lives resuming normalcy. While her own is anything but. It must be difficult for her to understand that we are living in a new normal. Sometimes, I struggle with that reality myself.

As she's learned to adjust to having a full-time student for a dad, I've learned a few things about her.

My girl is stronger than I thought.

She admits that she first saw R losing his job as a tragedy, but she realizes now that God is in control and that He is good. She's seen Him work in our family and has proclaimed that to her friends.

Some days the weight of "No, we can't afford that." or "Not this weekend. Dad has a lot of homework to do." is too much to bear. She complains. She is, after all, 12. In those times, I tell her that this temporary sacrifice is bringing great reward for our family.  Not the reward of buying things we don't need in order to keep up with the Joneses, but the reward of a simple yet satisfying life. I remind her that R's working hard now so that (hopefully) he won't have to go back to a life of shift-work.

These reminders strengthen her resolve to persevere.

My girl is more adaptable than I thought.

She's learning to appreciate simple pleasures. In cooler months, we had family game nights and movie nights at home. We laughed. We cried. We snuggled. We enjoyed the quiet haven of our home.

She's been working alongside R to plan and plant our garden.  Her hands have gotten dirty.  Her eyes have sparkled. She is excited to watch the plants grow and produce food to sustain us.

This summer will bring homemade popsicles and ice cream, church softball, and evenings in the backyard. We'll savor our time together before the demands of school creep back into our lives.

My girl is funnier, more loving, and wiser than I thought.

As I watch her navigate the perils of middle school along with the tremendous changes in our family life, I'm amazed at some of the things she says and does. Little things, like drilling her dad for a quiz or helping with dinner, give me glimpses of the woman she's going to become. True, there are many, many times when I'm frustrated because I've had to tell her four times to do something. In those instances, I need to stop before I yell and remember occasions when she's done something without being asked. I need to remember just how hard it is to be 12. I need to give her grace.

May 27, 2011

Friday's Fave Five - Anniversary Edition




18 years ago today, my life was a bevy of last minute wedding details. 48 hours remained until our vows would be spoken and our lives would change. We could not have imagined how much. Nor could this immature girl have guessed how much she had to learn...how little she actually knew about being a woman, let alone a wife.

If I could go back in time and give that young bride five pieces of wisdom, I'd say...

#1 - Don't scoff at his dreams.  Instead of belittling them, encourage him to reach out of his comfort zone (and yours), in obedience to God. For all things are possible with God. ~ Mark 10:27

#2 - Don't sweat the small stuff. And much of it is small stuff, even though it looms large. Remember, these things are just a small portion of your life that only affect you & your marriage if you let them. And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? ~ Luke 12:25

#3 - Be content. A successful marriage cannot be measured by the number of pretty things you accumulate.  Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. ~ 1 Tim. 6:6. 

#4 - Love him more. - Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. ~ 1 Peter 4:8.

#5 - Love God more. Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. ~ Joshua 22:5



(Friday's Fave Five is hosted by Susanne @ Living to Tell The Story)

May 24, 2011

What's On My Nightstand - May


What's On Your Nightstand

It's time once again for What's On My Nightstand over at 5 Minutes for Books. I'm still trying to stay with the 3-book plan, which has been made easier with my new found love of the audio book.

Finished:

~Lady Susan. A quick and delightful book of letters. Obviously early Jane, but fun nevertheless.

~How Do I Love Thee?  I didn't know the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This was an interesting novelization of her life, with plenty of strange truths.

~Loving the Church: God's People Flourishing in God's Family. I wasn't particularly fond of the format of this one, but John Crotts has some really good things to say about the role of the church and the members within it.

~Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. To say I enjoyed novel about the plague in a small 17th century England doesn't quite fit, given the subject matter. I will say that it is a compelling study in how people deal with tragedy. The ending left me unsatisfied, still I would recommend this book.


Currently Reading:

~A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering (Kindle, non-fiction). The discussion at Elizabeth's on Wednesdays is worth reading, even if you aren't reading the book (although I HIGHLY recommend that you read it!)

~Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (audio, biography).  I'm finally on the last disc. It's been a very interesting story, although a bit long and detailed for my taste. I have learned much about the Third Reich and Hitler's power over Germany, and have been fascinated by the Christians who opposed him.

~The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (fiction).  I decided to give this a whirl after reading Carrie's post that included it among books she's happy were recommended to her. I'm only a few chapters in, but already adore Flavia de Luce. I can't wait to read the next two books in this series.

Up next:

~Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (audio, fiction)

~A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith (biography). This one has been on my list forever, but I am going to get to it!

~The Organized Heart: A Woman's Guide to Conquering Chaos (Kindle, non-fiction)

~Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle, non-fiction), as part of Challies' latest Reading the Classics Together.

~The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay (fiction).

Concern about what I've been reading - particularly fiction - has been gnawing at me. I didn't understand it at first, because I'm very careful to choose "clean" books (I find certain language offensive). Still, I decided to cull my bookshelves again. I had accumulated a large number of Christian romance novels, but the prospect of reading them no longer appeal to me. Then I read this article by Russell Moore, which confirmed my convictions.  I'm determined to focus on classics and works that are more thought-provoking and witty (while clean at the same time).

If I want to be more intentional in my life, I must also be more intentional in my reading.

What about you...what are you reading these days? Are you intentional about what you read? Do you have any recommendations for me?

You can visit 5 Minutes for Books to see what others are reading.