Sunday, October 11, 2015

Getting Perspective

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Photo credit: Emily Miles (Angkor Wat)

This morning, as I was cooking pancakes for the crew, I pulled out an old “journal” of sorts and found some thoughts I had written about one of Earl’s sermons (dated August 21, 2011). It has challenged me and encouraged me once again.

Last Sunday, Earl was teaching on Romans 8:26-30 and focused especially on verse 29 – “. . . those whom He foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son . . . “

He used the example of a world where being a star basketball player was supremely valued and asked us, “If you lived in this world and you had the power to do whatever you wanted for those whom you loved, wouldn’t you want to make them star basketball players?”

In heaven, all things exist to glorify Jesus, and God, who has the power to do whatever He wants for those He loves, is conforming us to the image of Jesus. (Such a glorious and mind-boggling promise!)

As a parent listening to him teach, I couldn’t help but make application as a parent: What society do I call home? Do I consider myself a resident of heaven, temporarily living in a foreign land, but confident of finally being able to live there fully under all its rules and laws and values? If so, is that what I am preparing my children for? Am I leading them to value what residents of heaven value, even while living in a foreign land? (I know, I know, only God can incline a heart, but that doesn’t free me from my responsibility to teach and model – Deut. 6:6-9)

Perhaps heaven seems a long way off and I find myself just wanting to fit in here and succeed here because it is right in front of me. And I’m encouraging my children to do the same.

Or maybe I’d like to fit in both places. So I follow this world’s values until they conflict “too much” with God’s values and then try and apply as much of God’s laws as I can.

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Photo credit: Emily Miles (Angkor Wat)

Still really good questions to think about this morning.

This life is a pilgrimage. I am here for a purpose and only for a short while. Lord, what would You have me do today as I continue my journey? What are You trying to show me? What do I need to see and learn? Who am I to love today? I confess, I’m getting a little weary and long to take a rest (“Are we there yet?!”). Please give me the strength I need to continue to be about Your business and not just to sit down in the road, content to play with the rocks and stones in the dust. I need Your strength to continue on . . . and to rejoice along the way. I have young companions with me who need a good role model and an encourager. Help me to be a good leader as I follow You. And thank You so much for the abundance of other fellow companions You have provided to share in this journey with me. Yes, there is much to rejoice about, as I keep my eyes open and my feet moving . . . by Your grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Amen.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Slowing it Down on Sunday Mornings

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Back in June of this year, our church changed facilities. We went from meeting at a local elementary school in the morning, to meeting at another church facility in the afternoons.

And I am loving the new routine!

Sunday mornings now mean for me, slow-waking-up-mornings, leisurely lingering over a cup of coffee. The house is absolutely quiet until about 9am while we all are still in bed sleeping, reading, etc. I get our room to myself, as Earl is up and in his office enjoying his own quiet morning (which is no different from his M-F routine). I am not having to fight to keep my eyes open during my Bible reading or prayer time (like most weekday mornings when I’m up at 5:30 am). I now have quality as well as a quantify of time to spend working on Bible memory. It’s not a rushed morning.

And breakfast is at 9 am. Together. This is something that is also unique about Sundays. During the week, breakfast time is “every man for himself”. The kids usually eat together, after fixing their meal, as Earl and I have already eaten much earlier. But now, I fix a “special breakfast” that we don’t normally have. One week, it may be a crock pot breakfast casserole that I’ve put in the night before. Or we may fix crepes (One of our favorites!).

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It may be good old-fashioned pancakes. Or we may look up and try something new one of these days, because we have the time to do it now. (Saturdays are usually up and on to the day’s chores and activities.) At first, some of the younger kids would wake early and help me in the kitchen. But now that we are all settling comfortably into a new routine and the excitement of change is wearing off, they are enjoying staying in bed until called for breakfast. I enjoyed the company, but I equally enjoy the quiet morning time in the kitchen all to myself, listening quietly to some worship music and continuing my meditation of all that the Lord is trying to say to me when I take the time to slow down.

What is my heart and mind thinking on? Lots of things. I think back over the week and about those things that frustrated me. I talk with the Lord about what I was trying to hold onto; about what I was afraid of losing; about what I was afraid wouldn’t happen if I didn’t make it. I confess my fears about the coming week (Are you sensing a theme here?). I remind myself, again, of all of the promises He has made to me, His beloved child, about who He is, and what He has done, and what He will do. I seek to get in a position where I can see my life and days and circumstances from His vantage point. I strive to quiet my heart before Him. And I prepare myself to worship with the Body of Christ at Coast. I face my inability to love like He loves. I talk about my excuses and He gently reminds me of the Truth. I pray hard that He would grow me to love those around me as He would love them if He were here again in the flesh. I pray for open ears during the teaching time. I want to grow in my ability to live pleasing to Him. I ask for grace to not shrink away from His gentle rebuke, but to humbly submit to His chastening where needed.

And when my heart is quiet, I thank Him. I thank Him for this life He has allowed me to live. I thank Him for the people around me and for how He is using them in my life to love me and grow me. I thank Him for His presence and His help. I thank Him for His patience and gentleness. And the list could go on and on. That’s one of the things I love most about Sundays. Not every week, but many weeks I get to come into our time of worship after having already primed my heart. I didn’t always get a good chance to do that when we had to rush out the door at 8:45 am.

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Sundays have always been about church for me and Earl, and is true for our kids now as well. About 10 years ago, an older woman in our church gave me a copy of a book that has really resonated with me in how I feel about Sundays. I don’t agree with all that is suggested, but I certainly concur with the spirit and longing of the author. Listen to this excerpt:

“As a couple, David and I vowed to work together to restore our observance of the Lord’s Day, to seek to make Sunday the best day of the week, the high point, to struggle to establish this rhythm of the sacred in our lives as individuals and in our lives as a family. We wanted Sunday to become the joyful focal point of our weekly lives.

“Now it’s important to underline the word joyful. We did not want to slip back into an old legalism, that grim old joyless observance of the Lord’s Day with its killing can’ts and don’ts and won’ts and shall nots. That attitude has done as much to create a dread of worship as anything I know. It was against this kind of legalism Christ had to continually speak. In three of the Gospels his words of reminder and rebuke are recorded, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ I wanted the kind of celebration in our family hearts that I read about in Isaiah and Deuteronomy: ‘If you . . . call the Sabbath a delight . . . if you honor it, not going your own ways . . . then you shall take delight in the Lord . . .”(Isaiah 58:13-14). ‘You shall rejoice in your feasts, you and your son and your daughter’ (Deuteronomy 16:14).

“So David and I moved slowly but determinedly into recapturing Sunday meaningfulness . . . We refused to schedule meetings on Saturday evenings. If we were traveling, we attempted to return home in time for church on Sunday. We curtailed our social activities; we reminded our teens, ‘Tomorrow is Sunday; be home early tonight,’ and we began to establish new family traditions to create activities that would encourage Lord’s Day appreciation. Not only were we going absolutely counter to the secular culture of society in which the weekend was viewed hedonistically and narcissistically, but we soon discovered that we were going counter to the secularized culture of the church where a full calendar was viewed as sacred.”           (Making Sunday Special by Karen Burton Mains)

It has been wonderful, I have realized, to get to slow down on Sundays. Really slow down. And I am finding that we are ALL appreciating the rest.

And in that slowing down, we’ve actually found the strength and energy to open our home more. We have a slow and restful morning, and then we are rested enough to host a family or two after the service in the evening for dinner. Dinner is easily prepared ahead of time and is just waiting for us. Sunday evenings have been sweet as we have shared it with other brothers and sisters. (Before, we would leave the house at 8:45 and not return home until about 3pm. Earl might be even later. We were wiped out by Sunday evenings.) Yes, it has taken some extra thought and planning to make these changes happen (breakfast, hosting for dinner), but I have found abundant grace and even on most days a joy in the doing. It’s still a work in progress.

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So, we are enjoying this new season, and the newfound energy to change things up a bit and hopefully grow a whole lot!

May He be honored and may we be filled up with more of Him and with fullness of joy!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Catching Up. WAY Up.

Life has been so very fun this year. There have been a lot of celebrations so far and wonderful memories made.

In March, Molly turned 14! She continues to enjoy ballet and still has her hopes set on getting to work at the equestrian center. We’re just waiting for the Lord to make the next apprenticeship program happen. She tackled Pre-Algebra this year like a rock star and grew a lot through her friendships. She participated in our youth group at Coast and has grown in her understanding of the Word as well as in her desire to live for the Lord. She makes being a parent fun!

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In March, we also began getting our backyard ready for Emily’s graduation party at the end of May. We snagged an old bed frame from the side of the road and used it for a fence.

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We got rid of weeds, moved dirt, and planted. Jan’s sister also gave us some very nice patio furniture as well as a fire pit.

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We headed quickly into the end of our school year, trying hard to finish up by the end of May and enjoying the last of fieldtrips and academy days with friends.

Jonathan, Annie and Molly made handmade “weathered” journals for history:

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For Presentation Night, Annie played a thug (forest urchin) and Molly played a kind peasant woman:

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David and Emily did a skit together with some friends and David played a doctor and Emily played a mother in “Mother, I think I’m dying!”

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Jonathan made his debut as the wolf in his class’ skit. He even had a solo part! “The Three Piggy Opera”:

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We spent our spring break doing standardized tests and studying for the SAT. It only took a few hours in the morning and then we were done for the day and enjoyed a more relaxed schedule.

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April always brings surprises in our home. I found this sign on the back of our van after I got back from taking Molly to ballet. (Thanks, David!)

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And they found THIS when they got up in the morning and turned on the lights for their quiet times:

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In April, Jonathan turned 10! What fun it was to celebrate that boy with all of his friends. It turned out to be a VERY cold, windy and drizzly day, but we still had fun. We even ended up bringing some friends back to the house with us for coffee and to play with the birthday Legos.

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As part of Emily’s senior year home economics, she recovered our old worn-out rocking chair and did a bang-up job!

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We got David registered for fall over at Goldenwest College. He will be taking some community college classes as a high school senior.

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We rejoiced with Emily when her passport finally arrived in the mail. Her trip this September is becoming more real. More about that later!

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We enjoyed the spring/summer weather with water fights (until Governor Brown instituted strict water rationing for CA!) and the duck family that graced our yards one unexpected morning.

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We enjoyed having Jan’s sister and mom over for Easter and made some fun deviled egg chickies:

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Well, that about brings things up to speed until May. Since May was such an epic and exciting month for us, we will save those photos for the next post.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Does My Cup Runneth Over?

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My morning meditations began at the gym today. They often do. I listen to contemporary Christian music or worship music to feed my spirit and focus my thinking while strengthening my physical body. This topic (of what music Christians “should” listen to) is my passion and this week was a very good “case” for my passion. I have nothing against “secular” music or instrumental or classical music, etc., (I have lots of it on my MP3 for study times, etc., but it’s not what I listen to even remotely the majority of my listening time.) My days are short, my battles are many, my goals are high, and my flesh is so weak. I need music with lyrics that will help me to keep my focus on the LORD and remind me of His truth and will help me preach to myself.

This morning a song played with the line “

And oh there's something 'bout the way
Your sun shines on my face
It's a love so true I can never get enough of You

No matter what's coming at me, you'll always be the beautiful I sing about

I had a hard time singing His praises and finding Him beautiful this week. Life was hard and I found myself confessing that I “could not” thank Him for my present circumstances. I was not pleased with the “fruit of my labor”. I thought I deserved better. It wasn’t fair. As I heard myself audibly voice my complaints as I drove in the car alone, and the tears flowed, I knew I was in a very difficult place and needed to get out. But I seriously felt powerless to change how I was feeling about things. I reminded myself that He is good and all that He does is good and carried out in faithfulness. But I certainly wasn’t “feeling the love”. I knew He called me to trust Him and lay down my life . . . all that I held “dear” and all that my heart longed for. Ouch. That one was VERY hard. The pain was very deep at that point. (I’m very thankful for a husband and good friends who are there to pray for me when I can’t “get myself out” of the pit).

I was at the gym Tuesday morning. Life was fine. By Wednesday morning, as I was pushing myself through my workout, my heart was breaking and at the same time I was angry. By this morning, Friday, life was “back to normal”. And isn’t that how it goes? Our lives are a series of ebbs and flows of circumstances and emotions. What caused my spiral-downward this week? I don’t know. It most likely was a combination of physical fatigue and hormones. It was a test of my faith. It was an assessment of whether my thinking was grounded in Scripture. It was the fruit of my worldview. Take your pick. It could have been any or all of them. But it doesn’t really matter why I spiraled necessarily. They important thing is how did I respond and how did I fight?

Another song this morning mentioned the line

“my cup runneth over”

That is right from Scripture and we’re all familiar with it. Psalm 23 says, “My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life . . . “

That is a statement of truth. The Holy Spirit questioned me this morning right then and there while on the treadmill, “Do you really believe your cup overflows? Was it overflowing Wednesday when you were questioning My dealing with you?” How I answer that question is vital to my Christian life and my day to day walk. What does it mean to say “my cup overflows”? Does it mean feeling blessed and happy all the time because of how great life is going? Does my cup stop overflowing when the paycheck doesn’t cover all the monthly expenses or the grade on the math test was below satisfactory and you gave it your best, or your shift at work can’t get covered and you are going to miss an important event or your spouse lets you down in a major way or  . . .  ________________________________ (you fill in the blank)?

I know the answer in my heart of hearts. I knew on Wednesday that He is good and all He does is good and is done in faithfulness. But it was really really hard to see my cup as overflowing. Though I know the answer is that it is ALWAYS overflowing (the Bible says it is), I need to continue to wrestle through being able to articulate it, even though the storm has passed. Because I will be there again, I’m confident. And I need to pass this on to my children. Because they will be there, I’m confident. And I want to be able to encourage my friend who calls “in the night” and needs to know her cup overflows, even in the darkest of days. I need to really know.

Yes, my cup does indeed runneth over. (Now, Lord, please help me to explain it to myself in the context of this life You have carefully planned for me.)

Amen.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

I Love My Wind Chimes

 

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Yesterday we had what is not so affectionately called the “Santa Ana Winds”. These winds blow hot and fast. They come off of the desert and dry everything out. It makes hair full of static electricity and skin crack. It kicks up dust and pollen and brings much distress to all allergy sufferers. No one around here really enjoys the Santa Anas.

But the one thing I do enjoy about them is the fact that they are winds. And I happen to have a wind chime. And I love hearing my wind chimes.

I have always enjoyed the wind. I don’t particularly love having my hair in my face, but I truly enjoy the wind. I will make everyone stop, if we’re out, and have them just “listen!” Listen to the wind rustle through the tree tops. I love being in the mountains and hearing the wind blow through the pine trees. That’s the sound I enjoy most.

And one of my favorite pictures from Scripture is when Jesus is talking to Nicodemus in John 3 and He explains that being born again is a work of the Holy Spirit. Then He likens the Holy Spirit to the wind. He says, just like you can’t see where the wind is coming from or where it is going, but you can hear the sound of where it has been, so it is with the Holy Spirit as it blows through the hearts of man.

My wind chimes remind me of this conversation and of this truth. They remind me that the Holy Spirit is working, even though I can’t always see it. Oh that I could be like my wind chimes, proclaiming the work of the Spirit to a wondering and watching world (Where is God?).

And 1 Peter 4:18 reminds us that “it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved”. That means God uses adversity to draw us to Himself as we see our need for Him. The Santa Anas mean ”adversity” here in southern CA.

So, when I hear my wind chimes blowing out back, proclaiming the wind passing through our “land”, and I feel my dry skin and my husband and I “shock” each other every time we touch, I am once again reminded that the Lord is in our midst, working in our hearts to make us content and satisfied in Him.

I love my wind chimes!

 

8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tickling the Ol’ Ivories

 

All of our kids have taken piano lessons at some point. Right now, David, Molly, Annie and Jonathan are taking lessons. Earl and I are so proud of each of them for persevering through the many days of practice (and even on an old piano which has at least one dead key), and it has been so fun to see them enjoy their current songs and play with enthusiasm and joy!

They all enjoy their days of playing at home much more than they do recitals. But, twice a year they do participate in a small recital. We just had their “winter” recital. Their teacher is a wonderful Christian lady who lives just on the next street over from us in our neighborhood. The kids walk to lessons (So nice!). She is a very encouraging and skillful teacher and the kids are very comfortable learning under her. We’re grateful that they are enjoying their lessons and look forward to practicing . . . for the most part.

Here they are before the recital:

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All of our performers are very serious when they play, but their “nervousness” must work for them because they all played EXCELLENTLY!

(Jonathan is very enthusiastic and confident and plays with great gusto!)

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(Annie played her piece with such sweetness in her dynamics; one moment we were straining to hear the notes, the next moment they were filling the sanctuary. The effect was beautiful!)

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(Molly has grown in her dynamics as well and really knows how to make a piece swell. She played “What Child Is This” with incredible emotion.)

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(David developed his style very early on. He loves the jazz pieces, and it is always fun to watch him playas well as listen to him. He moves with his music and really seems to enjoy the rhythm.)

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Well done, guys!

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