September 27, 2012

Thankful Thursday

~A date with my man. Sharing a pizza at our favorite local restaurant always does my soul good.

~Friends who pray.

~The bittersweet ending of a good book. I didn't want to let Francie go.

~The announcement of October's reading selection for The Book Club at Desiring Virtue. I ordered Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior the day Jessalyn told us about it.

~Thought provoking and encouraging discussions.

~Seeing my sister so happy as she said "I Do" to her best friend.

~The love and prayers of an older woman who ministers to me as a surrogate mother.

~Watching my girl mature physically, emotionally, and spiritually with more finesse than I could ever muster.

~The first day of Autumn.

"It is grace at the beginning, and grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie upon our death beds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us in the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the Grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. The Christian life starts with grace, it must continue with grace, it ends with grace. Grace wondrous grace. By the grace of God I am what I am. Yet not I, but the Grace of God which was with me." ~Martyn Lloyd-Jones

September 24, 2012

Fighting for Your Girl's Heart

Today I'm over at Out of the Ordinary blogging about how to fight for your daughter's heart. Click on over and join me as we continue to wrestle this out together...

September 22, 2012

Fall Into Reading 2012

Katrina's Fall Into Reading Challenge 2012 is underway. I'm not going to be lazy and just send you to the Fall Reading List I posted last month. I'm listing them again, with a few updates. I've omitted the books I've completed or nearly completed since August, and added a couple for review.

~Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption because her story touches me to the core.
~The Nine Day Queen of England: Lady Jane Grey because her story intrigues me
~Bringing It To The Table: On Farming and Food because my granddaddy was a farmer & Wendell Berry's writing captivates me.

~Little Women because it's been too long.
~Home because Lisa recommended it.
~Fahrenheit 451: A Novel because it's required for my girl this semester.

On Audio:
~John Adams because I admire him.
~A Room With a View because I know I'll be craving something British.
~Pride and Prejudice just because.

For Study:
~Gospel Wakefulness because I need it.
~In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life because my life needs a shift in focus.
~Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives because I need a difference.
~Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel because this topic has been on my mind lately.

For Review:
~The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship because the title intrigued me and you can't go wrong with Thabiti Anyabwile.
~Helen Roseveare: On His Majesty's Service because listening to The Poisonwood Bible made me want to learn about an actual missionary in the Belgian congo.

With the exception of books I plan to study, that's 1 book in each category per month. I'm thinking this is manageable, especially since some of the books are short or written for children. We'll see how it goes!

September 19, 2012

Is Proverbs 31 for Me?

I'm honored to be guest-posting at Desiring Virtue today on the topic of Proverbs 31. Before you're overwhelmed by intimidation, consider Lydia Brownback's words in A Woman's Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything

“…we do well to see the poem as an inviting challenge rather than as a condemnation of what we haven’t yet achieved. What we are able to glean from her is a heart attitude – what about her heart enables her to live the life she does? Her life is a picture of what happens when everything else is Proverbs is applied.” (p. 166)
So, is Proverbs 31 for you? Click here to read what I've learned.

September 13, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Praising the Lord for:

~September, the first of the "ber" months, ushering in my favorite time of year.  In anticipation of Autumn, I've already made my first batch of pumpkin muffins. I think I'll be breaking out the Autumn decorations this weekend to further celebrate.

~A week of cooler temperatures. Hallelujah and Amen.

~A weekend visit with friends who are always so gracious in opening their home to us.

~A fine start to high school for my girl. The work load is heavier, and playing field hockey along with that means she has to manage her time well. So far, she's been very responsible.

~Such a positive response to Out of the Ordinary.  It's been especially encouraging for me to see the number of women who want to fight like a girl. My partners in this group effort are much more learned and articulate than I, so please check out their posts. You'll be blessed.

~Safety during automobile woes last week, and my man and my dad who handled it.

~Real foods. After eating out too much lately, I'm happy to be back in the kitchen to prepare nourishing foods for my family.

~Every juicy tomato my man is able to coax from one of 16 plants. My freezers runneth over, impatiently awaiting sauce-making day.

~For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)

September 11, 2012

I Still Remember

Lord,I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy...I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.
~Habakkuk 3:2, 16a 

Eleven years have passed since that horrible, horrible day. Reading words I wrote in response all those years ago, fresh pain washes over me. I still can't comprehend the magnitude of what that day meant for our country. It's truly one of those "where were you when..." moments; the Kennedy assassination of our generation.

I was sitting at my desk, caught up in my daily routine, when I heard of the first crash into the World Trade Center. At first, I brushed the news off as just a “freak accident”. Checking with CNN, I quickly learned about the second hit. My work forgotten, I became engrossed in following the latest developments. As the hour passed, I could hardly believe the mass chaos and devastation unfolding as I was watched. Indeed, as I sat glued to the internet and the television, realizing the magnitude of this tragedy, my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound. I realized that life will never be the same again. Days passed. When I pondered this crime & the ramifications for our world, decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled at the evil which Satan had perpetrated.

Yet God reminded me that He is in control. Justice is His, and His will shall be done. Hijackers do not have the last word. Biological warfare does not have the last word. Terror itself does not have the last word.

My man & I had been planning a trip to New York. Our tickets arrived on September 12th, in a large white envelope with United printed large in the top left corner. We'd made reservations at a hotel that stood in the heart of the Financial District, unharmed but temporarily closed. We determined to keep our plans, and so we went on November 11th, two short months after the attack. The heavy stench in the air, tangible evidence that the City was still hurting.

We decided to visit Ground Zero on the last day of our trip.  I knew I needed to mentally prepare myself; I never considered that no amount of preparation would ready my heart. As it turned out, we got lost and without warning we were there, standing in front of Ground Zero in all its horror and stubborn glory. Tears filled my eyes immediately. Ash and debris fell around me as men worked to restore streets, water lines, and the subway system.  My heart was wrenched, devastated to see a parking deck full of cars covered in rubble. Cars no one was coming to claim. Looking at the hundreds of vehicles there, the loss became real to me. The statistics had been a number that didn't compute in my math-impaired brain. Yet I was faced with all these cars that weren't going home to a driveway, a garage, or a family.

Everywhere we went, people thanked us for coming. My Southern accent had given me away as a tourist. At the Broadway show we attended, the cast applauded the audience for our support. The Big Apple embraced us with a hospitality which, though not Southern, was warm and gracious...and more welcoming than almost anything I've ever experienced.

We stood in tremendously long lines at the airport. Watched as airport personnel rifled through our bags. Waited as my man was called aside for one of the random passenger searches. Stared in awe at the National Guardsman with machine guns standing ready. I was thankful, proud to be an American. Friends thought we were crazy to go, but I've never regretted that trip. It was truly a defining moment in my life.

*edited from the archives

September 10, 2012

Out of The Ordinary: Fight Like a Girl

Today is my first post at Out of the Ordinary.

The realization of my girl's 13th birthday hit hard, cold water poured onto my unsuspecting face. Only five years left. I thought about how fleeting those first five years were, from the time the doctor placed her on my chest until I watched her march merrily into kindergarten. Five years left to mentor, teach, love and lead. It seemed so insufficient. I determined to be more proactive, to redefine the course of my motherhood.

Click here to continue reading.

September 6, 2012

Discussion: Small Wonder - Foreword & Small Wonder

Elizabeth has asked us to think deeply about our faith; to affirm our beliefs; to articulate our defense of the Gospel:
As Christians, it’s a given that we have a moral responsibility to respond decisively to injustice and abject evil, but it’s equally ours to learn to contend for the faith in the face of peace-loving and socially conscious secular reason and thought. All too often, we’ve not adequately prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have, so we either run and hide, fight too hard, or let things go bust. But nobody wins when that happens.
Encouraged - and a little intimidated - by this challenge, I am jumping in to the discussion of Small Wonder, a collection of essays by Barbara Kingsolver. I've just finished listening to perhaps Kingsolver's best-known work, The Poisonwood Bible, which introduced me to her eloquent prose and her strong beliefs about politics and religion.  It also made this task a bit more daunting. Nonetheless, I have great hopes for this discussion.

Kingsolver began writing Small Wonder on September 12, 2011. It started as her own cathartic means of dealing with this unspeakable evil. "Writing, which was both painful and palliative for me, turned out to be my own way of giving blood in a crisis." (Foreword) The first essay, Small Wonder, is her emotionally-charged response in the aftermath of the tragedy. It is clear that the events of that day shook her to the core, inciting her search for answers. Rather than comment on the essay itself, I have chosen one passage that made my heart ache.
[I] have spent a lifetime learning to believe in things that can never burn down. I can invest my heart's desire and the work of my hands in things that will outlive me. Although it grieves me that houses are burning, I have fallen in love with a river that runs through a desert, a rain forest at the edge of night, the right of a species to persist in its own wild place, and the words I might assemble to tell their stories. I've fallen in love with freedom regardless, and the entitlement of a woman to get a move on, equipped with boots that fit and opinions that might matter.  The treasures I carry closest to my heart are things I can't own: the curve of a five-year-old's forehead in profile, and the vulnerable expectation in the hand that reaches for mine as we cross the street. The wake-up call of birds in a forest. The intensity of the light fifteen minutes before the end of the day; the color wash of a sunset on mountains; the ripe sphere of that same sun hanging low in a dusty sky in a breathtaking photograph from Afghanistan...Small change, small wonders - these are the currency of my endurance and ultimately of my life. (20-21)
Kingsolver has realized that the material things in life are temporary, unworthy of our idolatry. This is a noble acknowledgment; however, in her search for something more, she has been deceived into worshiping creation rather than the Creator. I immediately thought of Paul's words in Romans:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 
~Romans 1:18-20, ESV

Paul goes on to write that no one understands; no one seeks for God (Romans 3:11). Kingsolver's words are confirmation. She's not seeking the One True God; she's already found her gods and believes they offer her a life of truth and substance. Our world, our country, our neighborhoods are filled with people who feel the same. They find hope in their children, in the beauty of nature, in a myriad of things. We are surrounded by people who hurt, who just want to feel better. They medicate themselves with various comforts, striving desperately to numb the pain.

How do we, as Believers, begin to minister to those who have set their hopes on these lesser gods? I believe we are wise to start with Peter's instruction to love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (1 Peter 1:22) I confess my struggles in this area - frustration with hardened hearts, impatience with those drowning in sin and death, pride and an ugly sense of entitlement to the grace I have done nothing to deserve. 

Loving from a pure heart demands that I share the Gospel. Yes, some - perhaps many - will reject it. I must remember that it's not my job to save people, only to glorify God by being obedient to His command.

I look forward to this challenge of Elizabeth's. To be encouraged by what others are learning, read the discussion on the Foreword and Small Wonder here.

September 4, 2012

A Blind Eye

The September issue of Smithsonian Magazine includes an interesting article about the study of inattentional blindness. In one experiment, author Daniel Simons asked subjects to jog behind a man and count the number of times he touched his hat while jogging.  As they ran, they passed two men apparently beating a third. During the day, more than 40% of those participating didn't see the fight. At night, that number increased to over 65%. (source)  Simons writes:
How could they miss something right before their eyes? This form of invisibility depends not on the limits of the eye, but on the limits of the mind. We consciously see only a small subset of our visual world, and when our attention is focused on one thing, we fail to notice other, unexpected things around us—including those we might want to see. (emphasis mine)
How many times have I been so fixated upon something in front of me that other parts of my surroundings become invisible?

I ignore those around me because I am so focused on accomplishing the task at hand. Dinner on the stove and piles of laundry cause me to avert my eyes from my family's greater needs.

I ignore those around me because I am so focused on what I want. A good book or television show beckon more loudly than the voices of my loved ones.

I ignore those around me because I am so content in my own little world. The pleasures of home entice me far more than the hardships of my neighbors.

I ignore God because I am so complacent in my feeble faith. The riches of His mercy and grace fade in comparison to wealth of knowledge I carelessly (and mistakenly) profess. 

My narrow focus keeps me from seeing the unexpected - the conversation my girl wants to have, the attention my husband needs, the hurt in my neighbor's eyes, the treasure in the Lord's Word. They are lost to me because of my inattentional blindness.

As I grieve over this knowledge of my sin, I am thankful that God does not suffer from this same limitation. I am thankful that nothing is hidden from his sight (Heb. 4:13, Psalm 139:7, Prov. 15:3). I am thankful that there is coming a day when every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7), including my own, and my blindness shall be no more.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12)