Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thoughts on Santa and faith

This morning our eight year old got out of bed, went to the kitchen and turned on all the lights. Very unusual, since he has an aversion to bright light first thing in the morning. When I got to the kitchen he said, "Santa is sure to find us with all these lights!" A true believer.

By the time he was four, we knew we really needed a plan for how to handle Santa. We're not really into the buildup about gifts and thinking up a list of things we want. (Part of our "contentment thinking" philosophy. More about that here.) But Santa is inevitably, and happily, part of Christmas in America, and what parent really wants to suck the fun out of Christmas? We asked around about people's experience with Santa, and resonated with the friend who said her parents basically didn't give any indication one way or the other.

So I took the kids (then ages 4 and 2) to the store one day, and let each of them pick a roll of wrapping paper. (Hot Wheels and Dora.) They were already telling us that Santa was coming. On Christmas there were presents wrapped in their chosen paper with no tags indicating "to" and "from". The kids immediately identified which ones were theirs and credited Santa (who, by the way, had impeccably good taste in gifts for a guy who hadn't been given any direction!). Ben was more than astute enough to have made the connection between the paper he chose and the gifts he opened.

It's been fascinating to watch this pattern of belief unfold. This year for the first time I'm told there must be cookies left for Santa. "Really? Well, cookies it is then." (Bethany is saving some that she decorated at church a week ago.)

And what does this have to do with faith?

I recently read this quote from C.S. Lewis from an essay describing his use of fantasy to convey spiritual truth. "I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings."

I've been doing some online reading these days that has caused me to reflect on whether we're teaching our kids that faith, worship, giving and service are obligations based on how they "ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ". Honestly, we have tried not to do this, but rather to set the example of putting our own love for Christ into action. It's good to check ourselves, because we could run the risk of sucking the joy out of the journey of faith for our kids if we try to determine the course for them.

I'm NOT advocating that we should try to avoid influencing our children's faith foundations. But I am wanting to be intentional about letting God be God in their lives. I want to allow Him the freedom to woo them into relationship, just as He did me. I want them to respond to Him in love and gratitude as He shows them who He is. I want to be sure not to throw obstacles of legalism in their path that would confine them to a religion of duty rather than a love affair with an almighty God and merciful Savior who calls them "my child", and "friend".

There can be no doubt that our kids have chosen Santa for themselves, by following the example of other joyful believers. And so far they have also chosen Jesus. May we encourage them to own their relationships with Him, much more by our joyful following than anything we tell them they must do or think or feel.
(Note: Santa is also a joyful believer who points out the real meaning of Christmas in Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki. HIGHLY recommended!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On the eighth day of Christmas...


We love to take Christmas light drives in December, and didn't get to it until last night. We went to some new places and hit the jackpot--TONS of really nice lights! Bethany provided the running light commentary. "They're ready!"... "They get a lump of coal!" This house is my personal favorite, thanks to my husband who is not only industrious, but also is not afraid of heights. We're ready!

The kids wanted to sing the 12 days of Christmas while we were driving around. They couldn't remember all of the words. Lee would prompt them a little, and when we got to the 8th day, he said, "eight maids a ...." to which Ben said, "uh...dusting?" So from now on around our house, it's eight maids a dusting. I hope they get here soon.

(Originally posted on Tracy's Scrapbook)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A season of preparation


Happy Advent!  This is one time of year (and Lent is the other) when I really appreciate the sense of reflective anticipation that was instilled in me through my liturgical heritage.  We evangelicals tend to forget that a season of waiting is a season of preparation.  We are so eager to jump to the happy ending that we tend not to have the patience for the tension of the chapters of climax.

Or in this case, the silence between the chapters.  More than four hundred years between the old and new testaments of scripture.  How's that for a pregnant pause?

The scripture photographed above is the beginning of Handel's Messiah (rendered in calligraphy by Timothy Botts--breathtaking book!!).  The text of Messiah does the most amazing job I've ever seen of capturing scriptures that illustrate the need and waiting for a Savior, and the fulfillment of the promise.  It is packed with paradox, and has made me love the prophets.  It has caused me to realize that all of history--in fact, all of eternity--rests on a BUT. Listen...

"For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, BUT the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (From Isaiah 60:2-3)

The writer of the book of Hebrews puts this spin on the BUT:  "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,..." (and then He was quiet--though not absent--for centuries!) "...BUT in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.    The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Hebrews 1:1-3a)

His WORD.  After 400 years of silence.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. ...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."  (John 1:1-5, 14)

Whew!  Gives me goosebumps.  Ponder that while you're waiting for your cookies to bake.  :-)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A business is born!

It's official...I'm now the proud owner of a small business!  I've launched my website and I'm ready to go.  (If you want the web address, comment and I'll email it to you--I'm not posting it here for privacy reasons.)

I can hardly wait to start building people's photos into DVD keepsake scrapbooks.  Figuring all of this digital stuff out has been an exciting adventure.  I'm thankful for all of the amazing memories in my own life that have given me the vision for a service like Milestones.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving Reflections

"For the Lord is good, and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalm 100:5


Every time we "girls" put a Thanksgiving dinner on the table it takes me back to being in my 20's again. I never would have believed back then that we could pull it off without Mom. One year when my sister's kids were little, and long before I was married, we had a slumber party at Mom's the night before Thanksgiving and went through the whole meal preparation together. That was a truly inspired idea! Who could have known we'd lose her LONG before we thought it was time to be asking for last minute instructions?

Thanksgiving was at our house this year, so I cooked the turkey. It was a beauty, I must say. We had the whole spread covered between my sister, my sister-in-law and me. Mom would have been proud. That always makes me smile.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Newsflash!

Bethany has always loved Dora the Explorer. She was Dora for Halloween last year. And as recently as a month ago I had to explain to her that it was too cold for her to wear her Dora sundress to church. (Not to mention that I had already taken it to Goodwill.) I was excited a few days later to find a winter jacket in her favorite colors with Dora on it. She didn't exactly share my enthusiasm when she saw it after school, but I thought she had just had a tiring day.

Today was the moment of truth. COLD. Time to break out the winter jackets. Bethany just sort of frowned. Before cutting the tags off, we asked if there was something she didn't like about her new jacket. She quietly said, "I'm big now."

We'll miss you Dora! Thanks for all you taught us. But now, maturity is calling.

And so may we all leave the lesser things behind to grow "in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Ephesians 4:13

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Like a Pumpkin

Following Jesus is like being a pumpkin. He picks you from the patch, brings you in and washes all the dirt off of you. Then He cuts off the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, fear and selfishness. Then He carves you a new smiling face, and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see.

This isn't new, but I was amazed again at how true it was as the kids made their jack-o-lanterns. They so meticulously cleaned them and got out each and every seed, unfazed by the slime, and full of anticipation of the final products of their carefully executed plans.

Thank you, Lord, for not being bothered by the messy job of cleaning me out. You've got the finished product in mind. Hallelujah!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The little things





We had a fun weekend. Nothing big, just enjoying the little things. We had lots of leaves to rake up, and the lawn needed mowing. And Bethany needed something to do. So Lee used her as a "yard waste compactor". He would add some more leaves and bounce her up and down on them. You should have heard her giggling her head off.

Then it was time for Ben's basketball practice. Yes, that's right, a new sport for Ben. I cannot believe these second graders can play so well and make so many shots. They are a blast to watch, and these dads are such great coaches.






Lee and I got something special in the mail--a love note from our little girl. She very secretly found an envelope and addressed it and took it to the mailbox for us to find. How lucky are we! (Originally posted on Tracy's Scrapbook)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hidden with Christ

"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:3-4

These verses have taken me by surprise in the past few weeks. On first glance, I thought this would have been the perfect message for me to reflect on when I was home with preschoolers a few years ago. Compared to other chapters of my life, that was a stage when my life was very much hidden. So why is now the time that I hear this message echoing from so many places?

It seems that the answers lie in the questions. Hidden...not "from whom or what?", but "with whom?", and "where?" With Christ. In God. If another person could see me, in a literal sense, drawing near to God, my presence would be imperceptible compared to His greatness. Not that I have no value, but my value is completely enveloped in the glorious worth of my Creator. And Christ is my vehicle to this amazing hiding place.

The idea of being hidden in someONE reminds me of the time that Lee and I went to the Boundary Waters with some friends. A bear came to visit our campsite, so I grabbed my camera to take his picture. It's too bad the automatic flash worked--he either didn't like it, or wanted a closer look. There was a fallen tree between the bear and me, but when he started heading my way, I ran and hid--right behind Lee and the other guys. What made me think he would find them more intimidating, I'm not really sure. Thankfully, he decided to ramble up the path to the john and we never saw him again.

Being hidden with Christ in God is such a truly safe place, and such a place of intimacy with Him. I get out and about more often now, and it really is a good time to be reminded that my goal isn't to be noticed, or not noticed. My goal is that when people see me, I am reflecting HIM, and that when they don't see me, I am content with the security and honor of being hidden in Him.

As I pondered all of this today, I noticed these lyrics playing through my mind:

How could I stand here
And watch the sun rise
Follow the mountains
Where they touch the sky
Ponder the vastness
And the depths of the sea
And think for a moment
The point of it all was to make much of me
Cause I'm just a whisper
And You are the thunder

I want to make much of You, Jesus
I want to make much of Your love
I want to live today to give You the praise
That You alone are so worthy of
I want to make much of Your mercy
I want to make much of Your cross
I give You my life
Take it and let it be used
To make much of You

And how can I kneel here
And think of the cross
The thorns and the whip and the nails and the spear
The infinite cost
To purchase my pardon
And bear all my shame
To think I have anything worth boasting in
Except for Your name
Cause I am a sinner
And You are the Savior

This is Your love, oh God
Not to make much of me
But to send Your own son
So that we could make much of You
For all eternity

--"Much of You" by Steven Curtis Chapman

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Parenting Update

In case you actually read this blog on a regular basis, you may have wondered what happened to the wild and crazy parenting idea we had here. If you missed it, the bottom line is that we were going to back WAY off on our...well, our control, I guess, and let the kids monitor themselves for a little while. (Read the linked post for the reasoning on this!)

Well, if fifteen minutes--or a few hours--is a little while, I'm sure we've succeeded. The pace of life and the need to set up the school routine necessitated a little too much guidance for us to abdicate altogether. But you know, just thinking about it was so good for us. I've found myself more aware of the need to move into a time of allowing my kids to make mistakes (read MESSES), and to support them in taking responsibility for them. I SO need to train myself to relax, and NOT to take ownership of the messes, whether spills or relational conflicts or forgotten library books. I'm not good at this. But I can get better!

I hope you're not too disappointed that we chickened out. It's nice to have the idea still in our back pockets.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's a mindset


"Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:1-2

Several months ago, my attention was drawn to the third chapter of Colossians. It occurred to me that if someday the tides turned, and we were oppressed like so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, and left without our Bibles, I would want to have memorized Colossians 3, and the first part of chapter 4. So I am going to memorize it in the weeks ahead. Anyone care to join me?! This week verses 1-2.

This stained glass cross is in the back of our church's sanctuary, and I have grown to love it over the years. It's too bad it's in the back instead of the front, but lucky for me, I am often in front singing with the praise team or choir. I am drawn into worship as I picture Christ seated at the right hand of God behind that cross--which was once ugly and hateful, but now transformed and beautiful. Transparent, it is the means by which we enter into the presence of God. He beckons us to come and sit at his feet.

We are to set our HEARTS and MINDS on things above. I noticed the repetition and the contrast. Where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. NOT on earthly things, although that is where we inevitably spend our time. When we are heavenly minded, we are MORE earthly good. Oh Lord, help me set my mind on YOU, so that you can more easily use me to impact my world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lessons from my garden: Things that last








"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8

Our flowers experienced a little frostbite last week, and some of them fell indeed. For the rest, it's just a matter of time. I spend a lot of time tending them. I want to transfer much of that energy this gardening "off-season" into things that will last forever.

I have already joined a Bible study for the year, and am excited about learning from the book of Daniel. But it would be easy just to zip through the homework, enjoy the discussions, and not let it make a lasting difference in my life. Having the kids in school affords me much more freedom than I have had in a long time, and it would be SO easy to let it slip through my fingers on a little of this and a little of that. I am praying that I will have the discipline to exercise the freedom to be still and know that He is God...to know more of Him than I have ever known before. Pray for me!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The rest of the story...

You're gonna love this. Remember the "Good Grief Gator" post--the one with our friends' moving van? (You can click here if you don't.) Here's the rest of the story.

When these friends sold their house, they noticed the buyers only lived about two blocks away from us. We knew who they were because their son had played baseball with Ben. So they moved out of our neighborhood.

On the first day of school Ben came home and told us about Colin. He was a new kid at school. He thought he would like to play with Colin. He had noticed that Colin rides his bus. (You know where this is going, don't you? Wait, it gets better!) Lee and Ben biked by on Saturday to check out our hunch that he was the new neighbor, and sure enough, there he was. Better yet, he also had a first grade sister, and very friendly parents. A matching family! (In fact, our matched kids were born just days apart from one another.) The kids and their mom just left after a nice visit. I didn't dare ask if they play dominoes...

I love Maria's quote from the reverend mother in the Sound of Music: "Whenever God closes a door, He always opens a window." Thanks, Lord, for this open window!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Back from tea time






Thanks to all of you who stopped by the garden to enjoy tea with us. It was fun to have a lot of new visitors. I do hope you'll come back--I'd love a little company on my journey anytime! Special thanks to those who said hello.

I made it to quite a few tea parties myself this week (more about that here), and met many amazing women in the blogosphere putting their gifts of hospitality to use right on their blogs! Talk about beautiful.

As for me, I took a spiritual gifts inventory once, and came out in negative numbers on hospitality. Seriously! (The creators of that inventory may also have lacked that particular gift!) But soon after that I noticed that my new Bible actually had a typo in Romans 12:13. It's supposed to say, "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." But mine said "practice hospitality" twice! So you need to practice, I thought. And I did. I'm glad God goes to the extra effort to make His point sometimes.

I learned a few other things at tea time:

1. Sometimes the best way to find the beauty in life is to remember what you have that you'd forgotten about, and put it to good use.

2. I found that (I'm only speaking for myself here!) it's easy to put on a beautiful tea when the guests aren't going to see what the rest of your house looks like. I hope I'm not finding it this easy to just keep up a good appearance in the other areas of my life (especially my character) and settle for that.

3. By definition a treat is something that's enjoyed occasionally. It seems to me that much of the enjoyment of life is determined by the extent to which we pace ourselves. Tea is a treat, and I'm going to remember where this tea party began so that I can drink it in a little at a time in future moments of quiet!

And now, back to the simpler things!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Welcome to Tea!



A very special tea indeed, for a little girl who is six. The garden is in full bloom, and the girls have lovingly prepared the pretty tea treats and table favors. They are all ready in their gloves and garlands...and there is a surprise performance after the refreshments!

Tea Time


Ever since I inherited Mom's silver tea service, I have had a special place in my heart for the beautiful and whimsical. Well here is a lavish little taste of both. At the risk of having someone say I have too much time on my hands now that the kids are in school, I am taking part in a virtual tea party. It's like a really amazing progressive tea party with the best of everyone's everything, and no calories! (Rats.) Click here to find it, and tour you way through the week if you wish. After this little journey, it'll be back to cleaning house for me. I made some headway on the kitchen cabinets and the guest room yesterday...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lessons from my garden: The Color Purple


The color purple must have been one of God's best ideas EVER! (This photo courtesy of one little girl who absolutely MUST pick the flowers, and one mom who is still learning to go with the flow...you know, when life gives you the blossoms all picked off your hostas, make a fun picture out of it.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A milestone day!

Today is the first day of school. Ben is in second grade, and Bethany is in first. It is also Ben's eighth birthday. No small amount of excitement around here! (For more about the morning, click here.)

You know what all this means? I am celebrating my 8th anniversary as a stay at home mom by sending BOTH of my kids off to school ALL DAY! Is it OK for me to use the word "celebrating"?

Well, of course I am celebrating eight years as a mom. What an unbelievable eight years it has been! Our kids are so much fun, and so uniquely created by their Maker. He amazes me and catches me by surprise often as I observe Benjamin and Bethany, and the special traits that they each possess, each so characteristically THEM. What a great God! It has often made me think how much He must have smiled and laughed as He lovingly crafted each of us, and how much joy it must bring Him just to watch us "do our thing".

And yes, I am celebrating being a stay at home mom. It was a MAJOR change for me to end a 15 year teaching career that I loved, to trade it in for a full-time position in parenting. I have never regretted it, not even once. It has always been the right choice for me. How I celebrate the fact that I have savored these years with my little ones! While some days have been more challenging than others, with all my heart I celebrate the fact that I will never look back and say that I wish I had enjoyed those years more because they were gone so fast. I have enjoyed them as much as a mom possibly could. And I am so, SO thankful for the opportunity that both the Lord and my husband afforded me.

And yes, I am unashamedly celebrating sending my kids to school, all day, both of them. Hallelujah! Do you see their faces? They jumped out of bed this morning, made their beds, practically ran for the breakfast table...they are SO excited! Schools are wonderful places, and we are blessed with a very fine one. There is no doubt that they'll be seeing me over there a lot, just as they did last year. These are the "wonder years" where they still love school, and are happy to have Mom there.

So what now for me? Well, morning walks and a cup of coffee, uninterrupted showers, Monday morning Moms in Touch, Tuesday morning Bible study, CLEANING my house...that should get me to about Christmas. After that, I'll keep you posted. Today I'm going to buy Ben's birthday present. Did I tell you he's eight?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reflections

My blog has a new look! The photo at the top is from a very special little stop on my journey. A year ago spring, Lee and I left the kids with his parents while we were vacationing in Georgia, and made a little getaway to Callaway Gardens. The azaleas were in full bloom--it takes my breath away just thinking about it! We spent two days walking the footpaths and taking it all in. Praise God for his amazing creation!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Choices

Sometimes, it's just great to have a few choices. Yeah, I know, it probably has something to do with being a control freak. I prefer to look at it as creativity.

Ever since I got my Mac, I haven't been able to use the "compose" mode in Blogger. (Which you understand if you use Blogger!) If you don't use Blogger, that really just means that if you want to do anything besides just plain typing in the font they give you, you have to know HTML code. I just don't. I was a little bummed (but not bitter). I did learn enough HTML to create a hyperlink. So that was good.

Well anyway, all of that just changed! No, I didn't give up my Mac--are you crazy? But I learned that if I downloaded this free browser, Mozilla Firefox, I could access the lovely editing tools. I know...you're glad too. ;-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Today's stretch of the road

So we're driving north on the now infamous 35W to Bloomington, a route we seldom take, to get the kids to basketball camp this morning. I take the 90th Street exit and Benjamin, who is going into 2nd grade, and apparently knows all of the best routes around the metro says, "Mom, why aren't you taking the 82nd St. exit?"

"Because basketball camp is on 84th Street, so we would be going too far north, and have to turn back south. And besides, there are fewer lights on 90th Street, and the speed limit is higher (which is significant because we are not exactly early)," I reply. "Any other questions?"

"Uh, no, I guess not."

It's good that a couple of those logical genes came from his mom. I'll be needing them.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Parenting Moment

Is it just me, or has it occurred to anyone else out there that parenting would be better left to the professionals? I mean, seriously, it's about the most counter-intuitive thing I've ever done!

God gives you this baby who can't do anything and doesn't know anything, so you do what comes naturally. You protect him, you teach him, you help him, you work with him. It doesn't take long to figure out that if you really want him to get something, you probably have to teach it in one form or another a thousand times.

Thing is, there is no tally counter that beeps when you reach a thousand. Or two thousand, just for safe measure. It is just now occurring to me that when he is zipping across the street on his scooter and I see a car coming down the block, this is not the time for lecture #3478. It's the time to thank God that he sends his angels to tend our kids. The very thing that made me a good mom a few years ago, could actually hamper my child's growth today. How is that fair?

We have a really hairbrained idea. We are considering having a few days where we let our kids self-monitor their behavior. We'll let them decide whether they've earned dessert. And why. We'll comfort them if they've been wounded or had their feelings hurt, but if they want their sibling dealt with, they will have to figure out the most effective way to do it themselves. With any kind of luck they will encounter more natural consequences than they would if we were intervening. They will have no positive reinforcement for tattling or whining. And maybe, just maybe, they'll be honest enough to hold themselves accountable. Wouldn't that be miraculous! But mainly, we'll get a few days' reprieve from riding them and "being consistent". If nothing else, we'll have the opportunity to reflect on our own responses and adjust. To let our parenting "grow up" with our kids.

Stay tuned. And just in case, be prepared to send in the professionals!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Good grief, gator...



...our loss is your gain!

Some precious friends of ours are on their way to Florida. They say they're staying there. They packed some big pieces of our hearts into that moving van. To add irony to injury, when they were cleaning out their stuff they gave us a gator costume! Thanks a lot. Well, it is cute, and Bethany is happy with it.

Sometimes the journey has more to do with someone else's journey, and that's hard. But our sovereign God doesn't make it right for them without also making it right for us. We don't have to like it, but, once again, contentment is ours to choose.

So who out there lives relatively closeby and likes to play dominoes?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Souvenirs


We've just returned from a 17-day vacation odyssey. We visited 8 states, saw license plates from 46 states and a few assorted provinces, and had more fun than we deserved...by far! (For more about our trip, click here. For pictures, click here.)

Our kids have a special way of collecting souvenirs. They may not even know you can buy things imprinted with the name and logo of the place you visit. Quite some time ago Bethany started collecting rocks. Other things from nature, too, but mostly rocks. Lee calls her our little geologist. Ben has joined her, and they amassed a tidy little collection from our trip (along with a couple of the mass-marketed kind). They could easily tell you the story behind each item, where it came from, and what we did there.

On our last leg of the trip, I read my favorite account about a rock collection from Joshua chapter 3. The Israelites were crossing the Jordan river, and the Lord had Joshua command one person from each of the twelve tribes to collect a large stone from the middle of the river as they crossed on miraculously dry ground. They were to pile them up as a remembrance of God's faithfulness for generations to come.

So here is my "rock collection", the reminders of God's faithfulness from this journey:

1. Perfect traveling weather and safety.
2. Great health and sleep for all of us.
3. Enjoyment of so many new parts of His creation--mountains, springs, flowers...
4. Lots of great time with family and friends.
5. Time to focus on having fun together, and unexpected opportunities to do many things we all love to do.

Thank you, Lord, for times of refreshment. May our little treasures truly be reminders of your goodness.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lessons from my (neighbor's) garden: Appreciation


It never hurts to TELL your neighbor how good she is at something. In this case, roses. (You never know when a vase full of them might show up on your kitchen counter!) :-) Gifts appreciated are more eagerly shared.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kidwatching







Summertime is magical. Granted, it affords extra time for sibling squabbles, but overall it is so good to let them relax and reconnect with each other. It gives me a chance to enjoy my truly favorite pastime: kidwatching. It's amazing to see what they do when given nothing but time. Make newspaper hats. Organize shells while eating popsicles. Pretend to be tigers. Have races with stuffed animals and a deck of cards. Drink out of the sprinkler. Sit on the end of the driveway (read TEST BOUNDARIES) in a wheelbarrow at sunset, waving to the cars that go by. Thank God for time to be kids...and more to the point, thank God for kids!

Stay tuned...the summer is young.

(Originally posted on Tracy's Scrapbook)

God's Tattoos



"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." Isaiah 49:16

I came across this verse recently, spoken by the Lord to his people. It occurred to me that you can't "un-engrave" something. It's permanent. And to engrave something on your hands, that would be a tattoo. Now it just so happens that my kids LOVE their tattoos. In fact, I have to admit, they don't wash their hands very well when they have them. After a few days, they just look like they have dirty hands. But they are still loving the memory.

Can't you just imagine God's hands? It's one thing to think of our names being written in the Lamb's book of life, but another thing entirely to picture them engraved on the palms of his hands. Hmmm...right beside the scars.

Now each time the kids put a tattoo on their hands, I remember that I'm God's tattoo. It makes me grin from ear to ear...how he loves us!

Friday, June 8, 2007

School's out!


Summer vacation has arrived. This morning at about 8:00 the kids started playing "Risk". Mac and cheese for lunch, playing outside with friends...so far so good! The kids have had an AWESOME year at school, with fantastic teachers (who let me volunteer a lot!) and really great friends. We are so blessed, and looking forward to more. But for now, let the games begin!

Oh, by the way, Ben's face still had the remaining face paint from yesterday's school picnic--he was painted as a tiger. Surprise, surprise!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Lessons from my garden: Expectations


It happens every year. I forget what plants I had the year before that should be coming back. And then one appears that I hadn't expected, and I get so excited. Once in awhile, it really is an annual turned perennial. (Bethany has a huge dianthus like that in her container.) I love it when that happens! But if you have any experience in gardening, you know what I'm about to say--it's usually a weed. This year I thought a verbena had come back in one of my containers. It's this gorgeous green plant, complete with scalloped edges, just like a verbena. But the other day I was in a greenhouse, and noticed that those scalloped edges on the verbena leaves really didn't look like mine, and they were much smaller and more delicate. And not in threes. Duped again. So the next morning I went out to take one more look and think about getting it out of there, when WHOA! Here were these gorgeous raindrops painted exquisitely on the tips of those scallops--not at all what I had expected! What a wonderful surprise.

Expectations. You know, our whole attitude towards life really boils down to how we manage our expectations. We are big on teaching our kids that, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6) But it is sometimes hard to model. We easily fall into "discontentment thinking". "I can only be happy if..." or "I am not happy because..." or "I should have had..."-- that sort of thing. Weeds in our garden of thoughts, if you will. A recipe for a great loss.

When we find ourselves out of sorts, it's pretty easy to sort out by asking, "What was I expecting?" Often we expect people to meet our expectations, and they don't. But was it a reasonable expectation? Did I communicate the expectation? Did the other person "sign up" to meet it ? And sometimes our circumstances fall in place such that some time or money or other resource or anticipated event we expected to have doesn't materialize. Some of our choices are no longer available. And then one choice remains: will we choose contentment, or discontentment?

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:20-21

What are you expecting?

P.S. The faux verbena is history. But there is one just like it in Benjamin's container. I'm leaving it right there to see what it becomes. And to see if it collects any more raindrops.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

And now for something completely different...

This week I got an email from a friend who has a great heart for the Jews to hear the Gospel. She included a little Jewish history lesson that completely captivated me. She mentioned that the feast of Shavuot is being celebrated this week. It is also known as the feast of Pentecost, which is what the Jews had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate when the Spirit descended on the believers in Acts 2.

To quote my friend, "This is the holiday when the Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. The Jews consider this holiday as the birth of them as a nation. Two thousand years ago in Jerusalem crowds of Jews were gathered together to celebrate Shavuot. God chose that day to send His Holy Spirit down on the disciples and thus the church was born."

Is that cool or what? Moses went up Mt. Sinai for the Ten Commandments, and came down glowing, having been face to face with the Lord God. The believers gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate receiving God's word, and He sends His Spirit! And talk about glowing! They start telling everyone--really, "each in his own language"! Whoa.

So why didn't I know this before? Why doesn't the book of Acts make reference to this? Well, it was written to the Jews, so nobody needed to explain to them what the feast of Pentecost was, I guess. Ezekiel prophesied about it: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:26-27

Paul references it later, beautifully, in this comparison of the two simultaneous events: "Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

"Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day whan Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

I wonder what other amazing treasures are still veiled in my understanding. Bring them to light, Lord!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Lessons from my garden: Brokenness



There is something I try to remember to tell myself, that I have also begun to tell my kids. Things are not always as they seem. You never know what makes people act the way they do. What broke or spilled or frustrated them this morning. What run in they had with a family member. What illness or difficult circumstances they are dealing with.

This picture reminds me of that. Two identical iris plants. One looks lush, green and healthy. The other looks scrawny, weak and thirsty. But I know why. I divided my irises this year. They were huge, and well developed, so it was time to break them apart at the roots and replant them. The sick looking iris has been broken. The mature looking one in the back was actually the smallest plant in the garden, and looked to me not quite ready to be divided, so I left it alone. The divided ones may not bloom this year. They are busy reestablishing their roots. In time they will be more beautiful and prolific than before.

May people deal with me graciously when I am broken or reestablishing my roots. And may I do the same for them.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lessons from my garden: Growth



What do you see in this photo? I see a fabulous Mother's Day present. It took me a couple of years in this house before I realized that my crab apple tree was near full bloom every year on Mother's Day. We actually have four of them, but the one in front is by far the biggest, and I can hardly get enough of it in the short time it's blooming. It's a nice enough tree anytime, but for about a week each spring, it is GLORIOUS!!

I'm thankful for the eternal God who has been around long enough to see the big picture. He sees us and our circumstances from the perspective of completion. I'm so glad that where I see my own immaturities, he knows his plans to nurture and enable me to grow. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lessons from my garden: Hope




"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:1-6

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. This past weekend there was little or no sign of life on the trees. Now some of them have little tufts of leaves, and others are filling in. By this coming weekend there will be color everywhere. Each day brings major change. I love how the brown gives way to a faint green, which brightens and fills in, and then gradually mellows into the deep, cool shades of summer.

Every year at this time, I find myself thinking of hope. Those lifeless branches of winter have actually been nourishing the life that would erupt at just the right time into the beauty of spring. They always do. While God's love is unchanging, he created seasons for us to remind us that after winter comes spring. Our lives are ever-changing, but even suffering leads to hope.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Transformed!





I love Easter. I love how Easter morning changes everything. Jesus said, "It is finished" on the cross. But it wasn't until Sunday that there was proof positive for his weary and confused followers.

We had fun celebrating this year. The kids really took it all in. From the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, to the somber Passover meal on Maundy Thursday, to resurrection morning. We used a book entitled "Benjamin's Box" to trace the path of Jesus's last week through the eyes of a child, and gathered artifacts for a box of our own along the way. And of course we decorated Easter eggs. The delight on Ben and Bethany's faces as they crafted their masterpieces reminds me of the delight our Savior takes in transforming us. Our Redeemer lives!