Monday, August 8, 2011

Taken Away

This morning, sitting in a brand new home surrounded by boxes and the silence of sleeping children, I opened up my bible. The passage I happened to turn to was Daniel chapters four and five. Despite my whole-hearted belief in the sovereignty of the Lord, I forget His ordination of even a page I turn to so randomly.

Two years ago we left a church full of deep relationships to pursue selfish ambition at another church who like on a first date had been on her best behavior. The move there was unsettling and not very joyful. Literally after about two months into the new church I now refer to as the Bermuda Triangle, we began to recognize a crumbly foundation, deep character flaws and manipulation on catastrophic levels, that would later even attempt to assault our marriage. Toughing it out for fifteen months until things transpired to a point we could not in good conscience continue to keep our family there, we turned our resignation in and literally only one individual in leadership even attempted to hear our account of events. Severence was offered for three months as long as we followed a gag order and what followed was months of struggle - deep emotional stress, nausea, insomnia, nightmares, spiritual depression and isolation.

As painful as this experience was - a shock to my little girl brought up in church senses - I knew even this time was from His almighty hand. Since this location had been such a train wreck, we prayed for God to give us clarity, and over and over again, we received a clear "no," either we or they didn't feel we were a right fit or we would be the second choice out of sometimes seventy applicants. It was exhausting waiting, struggling day to day just to keep up. Months of searching for employment saying "Lord, we will go Wherever you want, just show us where," took us literally to other countries even, yet we didn't 'hear' a call. After the end of a weeks long interview series with multiple churches, we decided to stop looking and figure out how to survive where we were.

Shane and I had had our own little happy kingdom that we chose to leave. It was by God's hand of judgement and grace He took us away into this isolation. Even His putting us on a main road instead of a neighborhood kept us isolated. After so many months of struggling, not just financially, but deeply battling to understand this affliction and the injustice of our voice not being heard, we knew it was brought by our Father, and asked over and over again to be taken away from this Bermuda Triangle that we couldn't escape on our own. He led us to a church plant in North Atlanta where we were welcomed and our wounds began to heal. Their kindness went beyond appearances and they weren't afraid to enter into that pain with us. Just as we began to feel comfortable there, our Lord would take us away.

One weekend while the children and I spent time with family out of town, my husband went to a lunch with a couple of men who were a part of an online network of worship leaders. One of them passed my husband's contact information to a pastor friend whose church was in search of a worship leader. By the time my husband got home from that meeting, he already had an email from the pastor. Just days later he met the pastors in person and soon after our family went to worship and interview with their session and we knew we had found our call.

I am still certain that it is from His Hand we are afflicted with all kinds of hardships, but it also by His hand we were and are blessed. It was His judgement of our selfish ambition and non-recognition of His blessings, but also was His grace to take us into the valley to teach us, to reveal our need for all that He IS. It was His mercy and grace to bring us back to life, back to community. The judgement and grace of my King, so intertwined, so hard, but so GOOD is such a mystery.

I cannot begin to describe the blessings and community we have experienced in these past four days since moving. Moment after moment we have experienced being the exception to the rule in how we came to rest in a lovely brand new home, how we needed a washer and dryer and were given some the day we moved in, how when we arrived our porch was filled with kind people waiting to help - unloading the trucks in less than two hours, how delicious meals have been brought to our door each evening so we can focus on unpacking and settling in, meeting new neighbors and their children joining ours in play.....The kindness and community is overwhelming and so good for this broken, patched up heart.

At every turn God is winking at me, reminding me that each gift is from Him. His very taking us away from what we had made into our little earthly heaven into isolation - His grace and judgement intertwined is GOOD. He took us from what seemed like such a desperate situation and lifted us out so we could recognize His might hand in every moment.

My little kingdom wasn't near as vast as King Nebuchadnezzar's, but like him, God drove us from what we called 'life,' took us away until we knew that it is He who gives and He who takes away - yet He is Lord and He IS Good. In His judgement AND His grace He takes us away to Himself.

May each of us be taken away........away from this cluttered, selfish, culturized frame of mind and into the hand of our King, our Maker, the one who ordains our steps and calls us His own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Expenses Paid.

By Hamed Saber from Tehran, Iran CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

We just arrived back 'home' from another interview. The best thing about the children and I going along for my husband's interview process is that we gain a greater understanding, a better mental picture of the scope of God's kingdom being spread through every tongue, tribe and nation. The hard part is waiting to hear if they 'want' us and us discerning God's will.

I must say the struggle, the waiting, the financial stress is exhausting, but I know He means for this uncomfortable stretching of my spirit for His purposes, His good.

Looking back over the past five months of having no steady income, I am humbled and amazed at God's provision and honestly, on paper, have no idea how we've survived. We have been astonished by surprise checks in mail, generous parents and friends being servants of the King, offering help and food and encouragement to us along this hard road. Like the manna God daily provided for His people while they were in the desert, He has provided for us daily (Exodus 16). Just what we have needed. not more. not less.

In "our situation" as we have come to say in soooo many conversations lately, I often fantasize about what life will look like again when/if we ever have steady income again. Sometimes I even wish we were living in the early days of America, living off of the land when what one "needed" was less and what one had to spend was his or her time. Time to till and sow and reap. This time of need has taught me so much about myself, how I perceive "need," how impatient with God I really am, and how no matter how hard I try to solve problems with moralism or works, my attempts are futile. I cannot be perfect for me, for my husband, for my children, for God. I really hate that too. I want to be a.b.l.e to BE perfect, but it won't happen; it's not possible.

I've realized that too often, I equate security and need with a dollar sign. And unless you're living off the land in some nomadic lifestyle or living with someone who's covering your expenses, you really do need money to eat, to drink, to have shelter with electricity and running water, to have computers and software and phones and internet access to communicate with clients and, and, and.......

The stress of the day to day survival, making sure my children have food to eat, answering the "When can we go to Disney World, Mommy?" questions and explaining why I do not know when or if we will do x y or z has certainly affected all of us.

I was convinced that my eight year old son was still exhibiting signs of ingesting caffeine three days after his daddy had given him coffee. He had been fidgety, spilling things, aggravating his sisters much more than usual and almost, quite literally, bouncing off the walls. That was until tonight while the hubs was away and the girls were all tucked in bed, I asked him to sit and chat with me. I gave him the "What is Up with you lately?," pointing out his erratic behavior. After a few moments of silence he told me he was afraid - afraid we were poor.

I knew the stress has affected each of us differently, but had hoped the kids wouldn't notice the depth of our desperation. They are smart, sensitive little folks, who DO notice. - And - What a Responsibility we parents have to answer, to counsel, to love, to model!

The words that poured from my mouth were the very words I needed to hear myself. Explaining that
1. Even though we're broke and don't have the biggest toys/house/new car/fill in the blank, we are, compared to so many others in this world, very rich, even materially.

2. God is not a genie in a lamp, but hears us and cares deeply for His children and will provide for our needs.

3. We must turn our fear, our worry, into not just a prayer, but a dialogue with the One who IS in control. Expressing to God when having a hard time trusting, believing, etc.

4. Because of Christ we are truly rich.
Children of the world "trust in chariots and horses" (Psalm 20:7) and equate riches to money and things. Everywhere we turn the world sells us this lie, even when we know we cannot take any of that earthly wealth with us when we die.

Children of God must choose to find their riches in the hope that was paid for on the cross. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Because of Christ, those who believe have the eternal hope of having a real relationship with God, who is not far off. That is the ultimate wealth! The expense of our sin, was paid for by Christ! He has covered our expenses, our debt.

In our "situation" our prayer has been for God to shepherd us like the ignorant sheep we are - that He would hit us over the head with a clear "Yes" or "No." So far, either by being chosen second out of thirty or more applicants (more than once now), or by us knowing it wasn't right, we've received all "Nos" thus far. We have said, "Lord, we will go wherever You want us to go. Just show us where!" and we have been literally around the world, but have not had a clear call-yet. I know that God is putting together the puzzle without giving me a peek at the box that has the picture on it!

In my impatience I am susceptible to believing the lies that He doesn't keep His promises, that He has forgotten me, that He will not provide, that the debt of my sin is too big, that it won't get better. For my sake and for the sake of my children, His children, I must fall on my knees and equip my heart and mind with the truth of His Word that I so often avoid. I must combat those lies with the assurance that my expenses, in fact, have been paid and "...the Lamb..will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. " (Revelation 7:17)

Opal Pool, in the Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
By Opal_Pool_YNP2.jpg: Acroterion derivative work: Gaendalf [CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

"...Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won, May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all."

(excerpt from Be Thou My Vision, At­trib­ut­ed to Dal­lan For­gaill, 8th Cen­tu­ry; trans­lat­ed from an­cient Ir­ish to Eng­lish by Ma­ry E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Jour­nal of the School of Ir­ish Learn­ing, 1905, and versed by El­ea­nor H. Hull, 1912, alt.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today I am watching, waiting, wondering....
longing for His purposes to "ripen fast" as Cowper says.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

By William Cowper

Friday, April 8, 2011


I'm surviving. Walking along wanting a glimpse of where this path leads. I'm distracted.

Distracted by this state of limbo it seems we're in. Hovering over uncertainty. Anxious to know where we're going to land.

Distracted by the the death of my high school art teacher who inspired my creativity through drawing and painting. She introduced me to the impressionists who I still love today. She took me to Sarasota and introduced me to Dali, to Colorado where I saw the Rockies for the first time, and to New Mexico where we explored Georgia O'Keeffe's ghost ranch.

Distracted by the abundant supply of freelance work God has provided to sustain us while I sit in front of a computer for hours on end while my children hustle and bustle at my feet and I stop to throw in another load of laundry or say hello to my husband.

Distracted by the dwindling items in our pantry and my worldly desires for a new summer wardrobe.

Distracted by our vehicle that needs work as we approach the final payment.

Again, I'm distracted by the worry of things in my life that are hard. I am blind to how the Lord has orchestrated all of it and still provides water from the rock. I choose to be distracted by this life, the tangible, my reality, rather than fixing my eyes on the One who is unseen. - The One who has sustained us over these last several weeks, months, years. We found He led us to a church that is a breath of fresh air. The hubs has found God has provided my husband with part-time work that is flexible so we can go out of town three times in the next few weeks to out of town interviews. And I continue to receive He continues to provide new jobs as soon as I finish another - hence my lack of blog posts as of late.

As I proceed into this unknown....I pray that I WILL be distracted by all that He has proved Himself to be - my Savior, my provider, my comfort, the One who knows pieces of me I've yet to discover myself. Distracted by His goodness during the hard times that He has placed in my story. I must put one foot in front of the other and choose to be distracted by what is pure and true and good and not by my worries over things that are truly out of my control.

While I cannot see Him in the way I perceive tangible, what is tangible is what He has already accomplished in my story. That is enough. He is enough. to satisfy. to justify. to save. He IS the Provision I need.

I read an article today, Easter Everyday, by Brooke Musterman, and was reminded what I should be distracted by.

Coming soon on my blog for your curiosity and perhaps your amusement:
I've been asked to review a few new products: Yanni's latest album which should be interesting...and a new kids' meal product. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


the view from my room in Kelowna, BC, Canada, looking out on the Okanagan Lake

Sitting in the room of a resort looking out at the Okanagan Lake nestled in the mountains of British Columbia- the kids with friends, the husband at a meeting - it was quiet....Stepping onto the balcony taking in the crisp cool air, surrounded by mountains, clouds lingering and hinting of snow.

It's certainly a testimony of God's goodness and His good sense of humor that during a period of my husband's unemployment the job search has taken both of us to Europe and Canada. After such a season of hurt, feeling abandoned and thrown away, He continues to remind us to "be of good courage," to remember He holds our future - not the ones who hurt us. Boy would I love to get into His mind to see what He's up to.....

Over the past couple weeks as our reserves have faded and anxiety grows, God has brought several individuals and circumstances to bring encouragement to our hearts. He DOES provide. everything we truly need. not just the material, but He brings the deep spiritual things that our hearts long for...nourishment. I forget this.

On the Canadian bunny slope at Big White which seemed like a black diamond to me, laughing with new friends who felt like old ones renewed my spirit. Hearing my husband lead a large congregation in worship and him being affirmed by the church leaders -"this is what you were made for"- strengthened our resolve to stay the course. God took us three thousand miles away, gave me rest, made me quiet, gave me a glimpse of what could be. again. I was so deeply encouraged. as a wife partnering with her husband in ministry work. as a child of God. as a mother breathing in stillness to refuel for the return to her children. I was revived.

Every day I hustle, just trying to survive until bedtime, forgetting the joy He has given me. I starve in the famineland of what I can do rather than feast on how good He is. He proves Himself sufficient over and over again, yet I doubt. I look for a state of happiness where life and love and world are perfect, never to find it. I bury joy in Him and render myself useless for His kingdom.

I refuse quiet.

I bury my hope, my belief. I throw it away because my circumstances don't meet some imaginary standard of perfection. I forget all He has done for me today and over two thousand years ago. He is the Good Shepherd - meeting me, seeking me out, coming to rescue me in my forgetfulness. He gave me water from a rock and I forget.

For months I've wanted to rewind, to hit the Ctrl+Z, the undo button on my life to enter back into the season of blessing and community we foolishly left, but I am beginning to see that in all of it - the leaving, the coming into a hornet's nest, the family tension, sickness and loneliness in all of it, He carries me back to Himself. In Him I am made stronger, more confident in Who He is and more certain that 'I must decrease and He must increase.' that His grace is good, is sufficient to cover all my weakness, all my sin and doubt. That I am free in His mercy.

His love is sustaining, never ending and always meets me where I am. I don't have to put on a sunny, made up face or pretend I have this life stuff figured out - He sees through to my heart and comes to me - every. time. He comes to me not because of any good in me, but because of the goodness of Christ He has bestowed to me. I am His child.

Feeling the breeze roll of the lake and sweep over my face encouraged me to remember the One to whom I belong who wants me to rest in His faithfulness.

Pay attention to the "Yet God..." and "But God..." moments
Isaiah 30:15-26
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, 
 in quietness and trust is your strength, 
but you would have none of it. 
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ 
Therefore you will flee! 
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ 
 Therefore your pursuers will be swift! 
A thousand will flee 
at the threat of one; 
at the threat of five 
 you will all flee away, 
till you are left 
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, 
 like a banner on a hill.”
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; 
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. 
For the LORD is a God of justice. 
Blessed are all who wait for him!
People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!” He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shopping for Peace

Overwhelmed by my every day existence, I headed out of the house the other day to clear my mind, hoping to hear myself think. I needed a break from work and kids and laundry and noise. Perusing the aisles of my 'go to' little strip mall, I wasn't shopping for stuff, I was shopping for peace. Looking at all the stuff on the shelves that I don't truly need, I was convicted that I pursue peace from all the wrong places.

So often I convince myself that I "need" some kitchen gadget or something new to beautify my home. I make some internal declaration that "I will truly be happy when..." For a long time that statement involved living in a home I could call my own, one I could transform into some little glimpse of heaven on earth. Truth is, I still have that in my head, but I know even owning my own home would bring the stress of maintenance and taxes and broken water heaters. Do I really want to spend all my life -my time- working to own stuff and then spend my time off work maintaining and grooming and repairing that stuff I hold so dear? Is that what this life is created for?

I'm not saying owning things is bad. I'm just not so sure that the having of stuff is worth my time. that pursuing stuff that's supposed to make my life comfortable is contributing to some big picture in this life. As long as I live on this planet, I will probably be subconsciously trying to set up my heaven on earth.

While being in the midst of this fruitful land where even the poor are far richer than much of the rest of the world, my hope is that I could be more conscious to not buy into the lie that my heart can be satisfied with stuff, that I can work to earn some false peace that this life, even this country is supposed to offer me.

When my focus is misplaced by the sin of a heart driven in selfish pursuits, I am rendered useless in working for the One who made me. I have entered into the business of propping up myself instead of promoting my King. Do I want to worship the work of my own hands and neglect to acknowledge the ultimate work of Christ?

Our culture teaches me to want stuff, to "need" stuff, to worship stuff and self. Our culture tells me to pursue material wealth and fame; to promote self because I deserve "it" - whatever "it" is. Our Creator has said "...whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [His] sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25) Am I willing to be inconvenienced for my Creator? my Savior? Will I find comfort in Him alone or will I continually look for peace in my current comfort-level, my circumstance? Am I willing to lay aside myself and depend on Christ to truly save me, to bring comfort to my soul? or will I ever depend on my human self (that only has mere breath)? or will I live for the One who gives me that breath? Where will my children see me find peace?

God, forgive me for always thinking that I can find or buy peace instead of acknowledging that You are Peace. Help me to stop shopping elsewhere for the perfect peace You alone can give. Amen.

......I found these verses from the book of Isaiah reminding me where my trust should lie and from where my peace must come.

Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. So people will be brought low and everyone humbled—do not forgive them. Go into the rocks, hide in the ground
 from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty!
 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled
and human pride brought low;
the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. The LORD Almighty has a day in store 
for all the proud and lofty,
 for all that is exalted
(and they will be humbled),
 for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty,
and all the oaks of Bashan,
 for all the towering mountains
 and all the high hills,
 for every lofty tower
 and every fortified wall,
 for every trading ship 
and every stately vessel.
 The arrogance of man will be brought low 
and human pride humbled;
the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
 and the idols will totally disappear. People will flee to caves in the rocks 
and to holes in the ground
from the fearful presence of the LORD
 and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth.
 In that day people will throw away 
to the moles and bats
their idols of silver and idols of gold,
which they made to worship.
 They will flee to caverns in the rocks
 and to the overhanging crags 
from the fearful presence of the LORD 
and the splendor of his majesty,
 when he rises to shake the earth. Stop trusting in mere humans,
 who have but a breath in their nostrils.
 Why hold them in esteem?
Isaiah 2:6-22

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26

Friday, January 21, 2011

Idolizing "Easy"

Do you idolize "easy"??

I do.

Last month, I stepped out of my comfort zone to experience a week in the life of missionaries in Eastern Europe. Before my husband and I went, I romanticized what the missionary life must look like: vacations to neighboring countries, speaking a different language, walking on cobblestone streets and eating yummy foods amid the beautiful architecture. The reality of what they're truly experiencing is not quite as romantic. Holidays away from family, communication barriers with locals, loneliness, struggling just to learn the culture, changing their very existence - for the sake of the gospel.

Exploring the possibility of becoming a missionary in that land foreign to me, I have been doing some deep soul searching. Digging my heels into the ground, I was determined not to buy into the idea. My resistance began with my want to avoid bitterly cold winters and deep snow, to avoid having to learn to drive a stick shift in the snow, having no homeschool support, leaving HGTV and thrift stores behind. That's not to mention the idea of moving 6000 miles away from family and friends. I realized how selfish my motivations are - how ME-centered my instincts are. My motivations are sinful, self-ish- naturally. I was slowly awakened to idols I didn't even know I had. The ease of my little American life.....

When I found myself grumbling at the thought of experiencing those inconveniences, I realized I idolize "easy" in everything from avoiding conflict with my husband, family, or friends to rarely going to the grocery store during the day when it's crowded. So often my joy, my worship of the Lord, is caught up in how I perceive the convenience of my life, my bank account, my children's behavior, my relationships, my diet, my health and my home. Over and over again my joy is wrapped up in the blessings and not the Blessor.

I am Eve in the Garden. Doubting that what God says is true. I. am. Eve. Every thought in my head reeks of sin and distrust of my Creator preventing me from seeing Christ and His perfect work, His atonement. His grace. which. is. sufficient. for. me.

Time and again God has provided for my every need. Yet I doubt....Even now he has given me work and my husband gigs to sustain us after severance is gone. I do not know how we will make it through February or March or any month thereafter, but I have moved from worry to trust. (This is a big step for me as worry is in my genes). I will still doubt, but I am more confident in who HE is and especially who I am NOT. God has shown me how in control he is of my health, my family, my marriage. He is ushering me to Himself always. Exposing my sin and my pride all the way. My pride in wanting to put on a mask to tell the world I'm doing good and feeling good..when He knows I am not. I like to pretend I'm in "Easy." He stretches me and makes me uncomfortable with who I am, yet reassures me of who He is.

"Easy" doesn't usually get me closer to the Savior. "Easy" doesn't stretch me outside my comfort zone. "Easy" doesn't usually bring the level of worship that I experience when I am in a pit. "Easy" makes me think and live like Heaven is here. "Easy" makes me think I am in control.

I might just need to see God's own handwriting telling me to go or hear His audible instructions to be confident of His will - especially after the year we've had feeling like we'd come to the "wrong" place. But when I was thinking of what it would cost me to be a missionary in a foreign land, leaving everything I know and ones I love, I was missing the boat! I never thought about what it cost Christ. I was acting like this was my life to live - for myself, not for my Creator. I was missing the big picture of why I SHOULD go vs. why I SHOULDN'T or for whom I should go. I took my feet off the brakes of my will and asked for HIS.

Now the truth is, my husband and I haven't discerned God's will in this decision yet and feel that a "no" is just as important as a "yes." While I'm gunshy after the past year of being stuck in a valley, I am more confident than ever that it is He who leads us into the valleys and onto the mountaintops. I would never want to re-live the past year and a half, but He has shifted me from a "we made a mistake" mentality to a "God brought us here for HIS purposes" confidence. And I am certain it was not for my glory, but for His. I am certain that He HAS deeply blessed us in that valley, drawing us to a clearer perspective of who He is.

I must not pursue God's will for blessing, for "easy." His blessings must not be my motivator. Who He Is must challenge me to ever pursue Him, to want Him to captivate my heart. I must worship HIM. Not stuff, not ease of life and health and wealth. I must not hinge my joy on seen things, but on Him who is unseen. Any gospel preached that claims health and wealth and good days belong to me outside of heaven is false. All those things will fade away. The foundation of my house will crack - I must build the foundation of my soul on THE CORNERSTONE and rest there - in Him, not in what I think is "easy."

...Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12 NIV

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - C.S. Lewis

Heidelberg Catecism

Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?

Answer. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

Here are two ends of life specified.
1. The glorifying of God. 2. The enjoying of God. First. The glorifying of God, 1 Pet. 4:11. "That God in all things may be glorified." The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. l Cor. 10:31. "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial; now, man being a rational creature, must propose some end to himself, and that should be, that he may lift up God in the world. He had better lose his life than the end of his living. The great truth asserted is that the end of every man's living should be to glorify God. Glorifying God has respect to all the persons in the Trinity; it respects God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, who lost his life for us; and God the Holy Ghost, who produces a new life in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity. - Thomas Watson's sermon Man's Chief End is to Glorify God

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Friday, January 7, 2011

Handmade gifts

I love giving and receiving handmade gifts. This year after visiting Edie of lifeingraceblog's 12 Days of Christmas event, specifically the tutorial on sewing zipper pouches and Jessica of Happy Together's rosette tutorial I was excited to sew something special for the ladies in my family. The zipper pouches were a hit! The fabrics weren't expensive at all; in fact the houndstooth came from a skirt I bought for about $1 at Goodwill, the red roses were made from a Dupioni silk remnant on sale in a scrap bin!

I hope you'll try your hand at making them too!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Joy Problem

Today I began reading Little Men by Louisa May Alcott to my children. I was so moved just by the first chapter. Twelve year old Nat, an orphan found mourning the loss of his father in a cellar, was taken in by a couple who cared for many other boys from similar backgrounds. (my own children watched as I my voice quivered holding back tears) As Jo, the mother, was showing Nat the lay of the land, she simply took his hand and said "My child, you have got a father and a mother now, and this is home. Don't think of those sad times any more, but get well and happy; and be sure you shall never suffer again, if we can help it." And more tears flowed.

That first chapter touched on so many things relevant to my life, feeling like an orphan, a cast away, wanting to actually adopt an orphan in the near future, wanting my home to be one filled with joy and wanting the Lord to reach down, take my hand and lead me to a joyful place.

Why is joy such a problem for me?! I do believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died knowing I was His child whom He was saving and I do believe He was my substitute, paying the ransom for my soul. But why do I have such a hard time with joy? Because I am to rooted in the world? and not the Word?! Am I weary because I don't look at myself as a Pilgrim in this world? or Perhaps does being a Pilgrim make me weary? or both...

I AM convinced that God wants me to be "joyful always" (I Thessalonians 5:16-18), even here on this earth, especially on this earth, but man, is it tough sometimes. This world does not offer up spiritual satisfaction. No money, no vacation, no t.h.i.n.g. has the ability to fill me. Christ does satisfy. The suffering I experience here is supposed to drive me to my knees and to HIM. Over and over again I look, I wait for joy to happen to me. I wait for my circumstances to change, for God to write His will for my life down on paper so I can attempt to obey and check off some magic list. Even then my joy would come from my attempt to get it right. In this present day, with my husband's job search that has not been fruitful yet I just want the Lord to tell us what to do. to move. to stay. what. to. do. In the waiting and even when He does provide, my joy must not come from the provision, but from the person of Christ. The more I attempt to rest my joy in some tangible Thing, the farther away I am from the true joy of resting in Him.

The things in this world will orphan you -every time. God's Word does give you the 'lay of the land.' His Word tells you "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 3:8). When the believer's hour has come He will say "My child, you have got a [father] now, and this is home. Don't think of those sad times any more, but get well and happy; and be sure you shall never suffer again.."

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him,
He shall see His face with joy,
For He restores to man His righteousness. Job 33:26

He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him,
He shall see His face with joy,
For He restores to man His righteousness. Psalm 5:11

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Psalm 51:12

In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other...Ecclesiastes 7:14

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. Isaiah 61:10-11

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy birthday, Edie!

life in grace

Today is the birthday of a dear lady I've never met. Her blog is a beautiful communication of all things heart and home that has touched my heart so often. The Tuesday before Christmas Edie lost all her earthly possessions in a fire. What she truly possesses is so much more than all the worldly goods so many of us desire. She has a heart of worship. She worships the Lord in all that she does in her home and heart and especially in her relationships. She is a friend I've never met, a mentor and woman of God.

Join me in wishing Edie of lifeingrace a most bountiful and very happy birthday! May God restore all that you have in heaven and on earth as He pours His love out on you! Happy birthday, Edie!

The Joy of Homeschooling

My prayer for 2011, is for the Lord to restore my joy in Christ. The world and all the circumstances in it nearly destroyed my and my family's spirit last year. I need a refreshed outlook on my God, my King, my Savior who puts meaning in all this mess of my life and this world.

Lately, I haven't been excited about much, we're a few weeks away from losing steady income and scared to death. If you would, please send up a prayer for a job for my husband. Please....

In the midst of this worry today, buried in design work, laundry, our first day back to homeschooling, two feverish children on the couch, potty training and a headache that won't subside, I received an email from a friend asking about why I chose to homeschool. For the first time in a while I felt excited! And I was MORE than happy to respond right away. The email communication went a little something like this:

So, I wanted to pick your brain about homeschooling. We are considering it... just in early stages of praying and looking into it. I am overwhelmed! Can you tell me what lead you to your decision? And, give me the ups and downs? For me the main reason is just that I hate that [my son] is gone for sooooo long each day at such a young age. And, when he is home he is tired and cranky so we don't get his best hours to do all the at home learning (music, Bible, etc...) that I want to do. Does that make sense or am I being an overprotective, controlling mom? ;) Also, how do you work it with the little ones? I think [my little girl] could join in on some of it, but not [the baby] yet. Just wondering how you work it out logistically. So, whenever you have time, which may be never, I realize!!

"Hi! We're doing okay, just down to the wire with the job search.....

Ahhh, homeschooling! I am SO glad we decided to bring the kids back home this year after having them in the [private] school last year!

The Ups:
First, we love the flexibility of being able to travel and not be on some 'master schedule' that someone else has planned where we have to ask special permission to do things with our children. (That just never set well with me).

Second, while my house is a little messier and there's more sibling and parent to child conflict - there are many more opportunities to teach real 'life' skills of communication, working as a team on chores/running a household/meal planning/personal responsibility, serving one another, talking with neighbors and people of all ages as opposed to just their peer groups. Not to mention more opportunities to pour God's word into every situation in those "Best hours" as you put it!

I do want the 'best hours' of my child's day, being present to encourage them, avoid or alleviate frustrations (allowing them to take a break when they need it), and create a routine that works best for our family as a whole and for each individual. I love walking them through the day, my getting to know who they are, and helping them to identify their strengths and weaknesses, helping them to focus on God in even the little moments.

Most of all, I realize that my children will, Lord willing, be with us only for a small fraction of their lives, so I want to lay a strong foundation under them that includes a strong familial relationship, that encourages them to be confident in Christ, independent of the world and teaches them how to be life-long learners.

One of the things I hated last year was feeling like we had two separate families - the school kids and the little ones. It didn't feel like a family unit. Now that they're home, they're playing more with their little sisters, using their imaginations more, and not growing up so fast. I personally see (and hear from friends who have their children in school) their peers who are in school, even Christian schools, focusing more on boy/girl relationships, putting one another down, bathroom humor, etc. While we've had the 'talk' with our big kids (7&9), they still play with cars and dolls and aren't as interested in the latest Disney preteen shows. (I admit, I'm not a big Disney fan, in general).

I love that I can focus on building up where they are individually weak and encourage their strengths, helping them every day to see God's giftings in their lives and how that fits with God's calling on each of them.

As for concerns over socialization, usually we are involved in a co-op or really, just a support group of about 10 families that do field trips together and have park/play dates regularly.

Incorporating little ones....Because of our style of schooling - short lessons given by me, then the kids go do their assignments, coming back to me for help, the little ones either are in the room quietly coloring/playdoh/puzzles, etc, are watching a very limited amount of tv/Sesame Street or Sprout, or freely playing in their room together.

Every day may look somewhat different, but I really try to incorporate learning in everything we do. For example, during meals I have eaten beforehand so that I can teach or read while they quietly eat (This usually makes for a pretty peaceful mealtime). During breakfast, I try to read a short bible story (Catherine Vos, Child Story Bible) which the kids narrate/retell in a journal later or read from Susan Hunt's ABC Bible Verses book. Then, during lunch (again, I've already eaten or eat later) I read aloud a chapter book and ask comprehension questions; we recently finished the Narnia series. The kids still have their own age appropriate chapter books to read as an assignment.

The downs:
You have to be more intentional about having time for yourself - hopefully [your husband] could help protect and encourage that time for you. I used to have one night a week designated to get out of the house....We still need to work on that! We do have a "quiet hour" or two during [my 2 year old's] nap when the big kids have quiet time in their own rooms doing a quiet activity. That hour or two is priceless!

As I said before, where there are people, there's sin, so there's a lot more opportunity for your kids to see your sin -and your repentance!

You are in no way being overprotective or controlling! There is no one who loves your child (on earth) more than you and [your husband], so no one else has their best interest in mind as much as you! It is fun experiencing those 'light bulb' moments when they 'get' a new concept and I am always so excited that they love to read when you give them rich literature.

I'm going to send you some links to other sites and maybe some blogs that are really good either for curriculum or just encouragement.

In our efforts to save money, I piece together curriculum and use the library a ton. I use book lists from Sonlight and Veritas and Ambleside to get ideas for age appropriate books that are very rich, 'living books' that fuel the imagination and are not dumbed down. I use Abeka for math, the Get Ready for the Code and Explode the Code series are great for little ones learning to read and write. Beautiful Feet and/or Story of the World for history and God's Design for Science. For art, there are projects within the history curriculum we do and I also use a book called Discovering Great Artists that teaches short lesson or bio on the artist and has a project to do. We also use the internet as a resource.

I know I've written a book, but I'm always encouraged and ever reminded of why I'm doing this when someone asks! So thank you for asking!"

Thank you friend for reminding me of why I chose this and why I love it. Thank you, Lord for restoring my joy of homeschooling in this hour!