Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Heart Faces: Silhouettes



This week over at I ♥ Faces they are having a little contest for the best silhouette photo. I couldn't help thinking of this one, the afterglow of a super fun day at the lake with my siblings and our families. It is one of my all time favorites. Don't you wish you could just close your eyes and be there?

Be sure to go by and see the other entries, and maybe enter one yourself. This site has lots of great photo and editing tutorials, which I keep promising myself I will study and put into practice. Soon! But every time I start, it makes me want a new camera.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Honor

This is my beautiful Grandma. We got to go visit her on Saturday. She lives three and a half hours away from us, and is no longer well enough to have us overnight, so we don't get up there very often. That fact made this trip all the sweeter.

Because of Grandma's health, we often have difficulty tracking her down.  Her siblings live close to her and keep up with her, but if we are unable to find her at home, it is sometimes because she is in the hospital, sometimes in rehab, and sometimes simply unable to get to the phone. So I have become lazy in calling, lazy in sending cards (she can't see anyway).  She NEVER complains about that, but I have been wishing for a way to simply honor her.  It has reminded me of a time about fourteen years ago that I will never forget.

I was in Central Asia, winding up two years of teaching, and VERY ready to head home. But on my way, I was planning a detour to visit my brother and his family in a rather volatile part of west Africa where they had been living for several years. The way my mom reacted to this news let me know that she felt like I was heading into a black hole, never to return.  She had been through so much with her world-traveling children. She just wanted me right back where she could have me safe and sound. 

Around this time, I had a group of expat women gathered in my home for a Bible study one afternoon. As we shared prayer requests, I asked them to pray that God would provide me with a way to honor my mom. As if in a single chorus, their resounding response was, "Don't let her make you feel guilty!" And almost as quickly my response to them was, "I don't do guilt, I just want to honor my mom." We had a good conversation about it--it was so clear that many of them had dealt with the sense of having to choose between God's call on their lives and their own parents' wishes, and they were wounded by the seeming impossibility of living a life pleasing to their parents. But here's the cool thing: God answered that prayer just a few minutes after we had prayed. The phone rang, and it was my mom. (It was so expensive to call that we only talked about once a month, so it really seemed like no coincidence that she would call just then.) I took the time to chat with her for a few minutes while the others went on with the Bible study, and told her several things I was looking forward to us doing when I got home. Somehow, that seemed to melt down her defenses, and she also got excited. By the time I got off the phone, I knew I truly had honored her. I didn't change my plans, but God had granted my desire, and blessed my mom in the process.

Back to my Grandma. I confess I have been feeling a little guilty for not being a better granddaughter. I could do better. But when I really think about how to do that, I've been at a loss. So we have been praying for a time to go visit when she is at home and we are all healthy. Saturday was the day. A beautiful day! Grandma had purchased some flowers earlier in the week that she was determined to plant, and she had started in the morning. She didn't get far before she ran out of steam. There was much left to be done when we got there. As luck would have it, Bethany loves to plant flowers! Grandma's sister was there part of the time, and Lee worked on some tall and heavy tasks while we girls worked on the flowers. Grandma's sister was so thankful to have the extra hands, and when she said so, Bethany said, "Well we're just so glad we could help!" And once again I realized that God had given that precious opportunity to honor my Grandma.

The Lord tells us to honor our parents, and it pleases him when we do.  But as adults, it is our responsibility to OBEY him, even if his will is in conflict with our parents' will.  My prayer is that someone else might be encouraged by the fact that our great God will provide "everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:2-4). I have come to believe that even if it isn't possible to please both God and our elders, he will give us the way to honor them if we truly seek it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Fragments

I planted all of my flowers this week. What therapy! 
Here is my favorite (so far)...

I helped another mom get started documenting her young family's life today. She was practically beside herself with excitement!

In fact, she nearly chirped her head off saying thank you.

If anyone is looking for me, I'll be at the ball field, because after all...





Monday, May 18, 2009

Show Time!

On Sunday the kids took part in their long-awaited choir musical at church. We are blessed with a wonderfully talented minister of music who leads our kids on Wednesday nights during children's choir. They learn so much from her about so many things, but the thing that impresses us the most is the way the truths in the music stick with them. All the kids know is that they are having fun!

Here are a few highlights...not the world's best video, but you'll get the idea.

video

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Refreshed! (finale): God's sheepdogs

At the end of the day, it is time for the shepherd to take the sheep home to the pen, where they can rest in safety. Throughout the day he has led the way, and while most of the sheep have followed, somebody has to herd the stragglers back onto the path. That's why the shepherd has his trusty sheepdogs to follow the flock and make sure they get home. The "sheepdogs" in the psalm are some wonderful characters: Goodness and Mercy. 

Here is one of the things I love most about my Heavenly Father: He pursues us. He did it for me, and He has done it for my husband and kids. Once He gets your attention, you can't help but notice how irresistible He is: the kind of God who trails us with his goodness and mercy. Not guilt. Not legalism. Not fear. And once he catches up with us, HE STAYS.  All the days of our lives. Because we might get off the path, or stuck in a thistle bush.  He'll be coming right behind us...with Goodness and Mercy. 

Forever! I can't even imagine, but I sure have fun trying. Oh to be truly HOME in the presence of Christ. 

I may not be home yet, but at least for today, I can let Him catch up with me so I can bask in His goodness and mercy.  

I am amazed that several of you have waded through this series with me.  It has seemed like a lot of words, but God's truths are life-giving, and I am grateful that they have ministered to some of you as they have me.  May you be blessed with peace that comes from resting in His presence, hemmed in by goodness and mercy.

Note:  Our leader used the book Traveling Light by Max Lucado as much of the foundation of her teaching for this retreat.  I would highly recommend it, along with the fiction classic, Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, which gives a stunning depiction of God as our shepherd.  

Monday, May 11, 2009

Refreshed! (part 6): Anointing

Lee is right when he calls me the Closure Queen. It seems to me I was in the middle of recapping a retreat that was SO good! In fact, here's where we were before I got sidetracked.


Only one more lesson to go after this one. If I don't put them in writing, I will forget them. And believe me, I can't afford to forget.

"You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."

Anointing. In the interest of full disclosure, while I managed to photograph pretty much every element of the 23rd Psalm on the grounds of the retreat center, there was not a whole lot of anointing going on.  Nor were there any shepherds, or even sheep for that matter. When we saw a video about the life of shepherds and sheep in the hills surrounding Israel, they didn't cover anointing either! Leave it to me to think, "Hey! What about the anointing?" 

Sure enough, our perceptive leader answered my unasked question in the next session. She told us that the oil was used for several purposes. For one thing, it was a salve for any sores. Hmm, medicinal purposes...healing!  

OK, so this is a different kind of medicine altogether, but it's the best I could do. Someone was taking extraordinary care of these sheep is my point.

Oil was also used on the heads of the rams during mating season so that when they had their showdowns with each other their heads would glance off each other and they would be less likely to seriously wound each other. 

A third purpose, however, really intrigued me. The oil was smeared on the sheeps' noses as an insect and snake repellent. When they were feasting on the table lands, there were often adder holes in the grass. The shepherd also put oil around the hole openings he saw to keep the snakes from getting out, but even if one came to bite a sheep on the nose, it would slide off the oily surface first. There were also flies--referred to as "nose flies"--that would swarm around the sheeps' noses if they were unprotected, and even burrow and lay eggs in their nostrils. Obviously this was most annoying and quite a nuisance.

I thought about the things that annoy and "bug" me. There are some serious recurring themes, I must say.  The deepest burrowing goes on closest to home. I thought, AHA! An anointing is exactly what I need--something to make these nuisances slide off instead of festering. That made me smile, and since that lesson, I have found myself several times saying, Lord, anoint me so I can let this slide!  Amazingly, it helps!  

How perfectly this accompanies the challenge to accept the invitation to feast in the presence of my enemies.  With head anointed, I can focus on my Shepherd's abundant provision, allowing him to deal with the threats to my inner peace.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cause for Celebration


Today was such a fun day! We went to church, and then had a little extra time before we had reservations for brunch. Lee suggested that we go to a nearby park.


I'm such a lucky mom!


And if that weren't enough of a blessing, Bethany took a long awaited plunge today--literally. She has been so excited for this day to make a public proclamation of her faith. We couldn't possibly be happier for her! Our prayer is that God will continue to reveal himself to her more and more completely. We have found that to know Him is to love Him.

video

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

My family manages to give me the world's biggest bouquet of flowers every single year for Mother's Day. I wonder how they do that!! They must have to order WAY ahead of time. They tell me that the Lord fills their order free of charge. I love it!

I just wanted to share my gift with any mom who happens to stop in for a peek.  Enjoy!



By the way, if you are one of the sweet people who used to read my old scrapbook blog, yes these are last year's pictures. Because I know you'll keep me honest! :-) They are every bit as glorious this year.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program...

You know how in the middle of getting away for a relaxing time without the pressures of home, you suddenly start missing your family?  No?  Me neither.  Honestly, being away on a retreat for two and a half days was perfectly blissful.  

However, I am desperately missing them on my blog after two weeks.  So here's a little random slice of life before I come back and wrap up the retreat with some more good stuff.

Today Bethany stayed home from school with a sore throat and congestion.  After we had played all the cat's cradle and Chinese jump rope I had in me, and she had watched all the TV I could justify, we went out to get the old plants out of the pots.  And voila!  Bethany found a new friend.



Last weekend we went somewhere beautiful.  More about that later.

And last but not least, my Mother's Day present arrived yesterday.  I am completely satisfied!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Refreshed! (part 5): The Table

Whew, we made it through the valley. There's something about it that just leaves a girl speechless.  And well it should.

We have finally arrived at my favorite of the lessons on our retreat. Believe me, this photo does it no justice.

The image of the real shepherd leading his sheep to "the table" referred to higher ground, a table land or mesa if you will. There is more moisture there, and a far more lush place to graze, especially when the country below is hot, dry and barren. The path can be very difficult, and there are more predators along the way than there would be on the lower ground. But a feast awaits, and all will be satisfied. The shepherd will be on guard to provide protection. The sheep need only to help themselves to the meal before them.

On Saturday night of our retreat, we were given the task of brainstorming the hinderances to our following "The Shepherd". Some did so in groups, some on their own. Some were common obstacles, others deeply personal. In the end, the leader taped them up on the wall.  

Sunday morning for the worship service, a beautiful, bountiful table was prepared for communion. This was no small taste of our Savior's passion. It was a feast. And while it was not served by a person, the very table invited us to eat, drink, and be satisfied.  

But behind the table was the wall of hinderances to our following. Some of them were quite ugly. Abuse. Death of a loved one. Illness. The loss of a dream. Depression. Anger. Some of them were merely circumstantial limitations. Caring for young children or aging parents. Menopause. The contrast between these and the beautiful table was stark. And it hit me.

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies."  How often my attitude says to God, in effect, "Make my enemies go away, and then I will commune with you." He wants to satisfy me as I allow him to deal with my "enemies", but I want none of it. 

So I sat and ate. I drank my whole glass of juice (we are Baptist, after all). It was delicious. And satisfying. I pray it's a lesson I will not soon forget.

For truly, my cup overflows. 
 And whatever enemies I may have 
are no match for Him.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Refreshed! (part 4): The Valley


Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

Friday, May 1, 2009

Refreshed! (part 3): My Guide


There's not a whole lot of righteousness or unrighteousness about sheep.  They just do their sheepy thing.  But the condition of the flock is a reflection on the shepherd.  The sheep will follow him anywhere, so it is his job to guide them carefully.  His reputation depends on it.

We serve a righteous God. If we follow him in faith, he promises to guide us carefully. He doesn't promise that the path will be straight, flat and smooth. He does promise to be trustworthy in his guidance. He knows the final destination is worth some precarious paths. And he knows that the more we follow him, the more we reflect him.