Monday, November 28, 2011

Moms In Touch Monday: Wonderful Counselor

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"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."
Isaiah 9:6-7


At the time this prophecy was delivered by Isaiah, there would still be several hundred years of waiting for its fulfillment on the part of the people of Israel.  Don't you suppose many of them thought they had been forgotten?  Or that they heard it wrong?  I know that my faith is often far too impatient for waiting to see just what God has up his sleeve.  And yet, he acts in the fullness of time.  The waiting is sometimes precisely the tool he uses to accomplish his purposes.  During this Advent season, the season of waiting, our Moms in Touch group is focusing on each aspect of the character of the prophesy of the Messiah.

Adoration:  Today we focused on God as our Wonderful Counselor.  We marveled at the mystery of the Trinity, as God pointed the way to Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor, and then when Jesus appeared, he pointed to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor.  Psalm 16:7-8 (we also read 9-11) was our springboard for praise: 

"I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; 
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken."

We praised God for his wisdom, for his presence with us even when our minds are racing with all of the details we need to address, or the matters facing our families and loved ones.  We praised him for the light of his presence and guidance in the dark of the night or the dark moments of our souls.  We praised him that his plan is that we would see him taking us by the hand, guiding our way, and therefore not be shaken.

Confession:  As we meditated on God as our counselor, we read the very familiar, but very quickly forgotten (well, by me at least!) Proverb 3:5-6:  

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."

Our confession time at Moms In Touch is always silent, but I don't mind telling you that there is a situation I dealt with in the last week using my own understanding.  My desire was to make everyone in the situation feel better and possibly mend some feelings that were hurt unintentionally, and not by me.  But, I really needed to leave it alone and trust God to straighten it out.  Regretably, I did not wait for his counsel.  Thankfully, he forgives, and there is always room yet for him to work.

Today we asked God to show us any areas of our lives where we are leaning on our own understanding, forging ahead to fix things, or check them off our to-do list when waiting is what's needed.

Thanksgiving:  We thanked God for the time with family in recent days and weeks, and for the richness that each of our relationships brings.  We also thanked him for being our Counselor as we navigate our way through each of those relationships and the challenges they can bring.  We thanked him for faithfully answering many of our prayers since we last met.

Supplication (requests):  As we prayed for our children, we asked God to help them know his wise counsel, and to instruct them with wisdom through each choice they make, through their assignments, and through each interaction with others.  We asked him to make his presence clear to them in times of anxiousness, and to help them lean on him rather than acting on their own limited understanding.  We also prayed for teachers as they wrap up a trimester.  We prayed that as they look at their students' progress, God would encourage and energize them with the successes they see, and that he would provide them with wise counsel as they seek ways to make connections with students who are not doing as well as they could or should.  

"Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen."
Romans 11:33-36

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm not thankful (a reality show in three parts)

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Part 1.
It's the eve of Thanksgiving, 4:37 P.M, and  I'm not thankful.

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I'm not thankful that my house is a wreck less than 24 hours before it should be a beautiful, delicious smelling hub of grateful festivity.

I AM thankful that the mess consists of a game that we all had fun playing yesterday (when I was more motivated to play than work), but that never got put away.  And also a music stand where a flute was practiced by a girl who loves her instrument.

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I'm not thankful that there is not one square inch of available counter space to start stuffing a turkey or making a pumpkin roll.

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I AM thankful that part of the clutter is a botany experiment of my budding scientist,

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and some platters that my Moms in Touch group filled with goodies to let the staffs at our kids' schools know that they are appreciated.

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I'm not thankful that I cannot find my dining room table (or floor), much less imagine setting it for a feast on short order.

I AM thankful that much of that stuff came from a friend who needed help preparing for a move, and was stuff we will be able to use. (Yay for free school supplies!)

I am not thankful the friend and her family have moved, at all.  I AM thankful that God brought them into our lives as a blessing, and that we can encourage them as they follow his call on their lives.

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I'm not thankful that the top of the stairs is littered with everything the kids had with them when they came in the door today.

I AM thankful that they were happy to get here and eager to enjoy four relaxing days of family time.  I love having them here.

Part 2.

Honestly?  There are some other things in this season of our lives that I am not thankful for.  It's been a season of transition, and it has brought some difficulties with it.  Difficulties we wouldn't have wished for, but that have helped us and our kids grow and learn things that couldn't have been learned any other way.  And for that, I AM thankful.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I am not thankful FOR these things...but I am thankful IN these things.  Life, at its best, is a challenge.  To give thanks in ALL circumstances is not an easy thing to do, but it is a life-giving choice.

God is always up to something, after all.  Something good for us.  Something good IN us.  Easy is not his objective.

Part 3.

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5:24 P.M.  That's more like it. The difference an hour can make!

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I guess I better get back to work.  It seems a lot more manageable now.

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Have a happy Thanksgiving!
And may a grateful heart be at the top of your list of blessings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Note to Self

Dear Me,

It's that time of year again.  Time to buy the turkey.  And you know what that means.

The expectations are rising.

I want you to remember one thing.  They are YOUR expectations.  Yours and no one else's.

You might forget the rolls.  But probably not.

You might not find the perfect gift for Lee.  He wants NOTHING.


You might not get all the baking done that you have committed to, and you may just have to buy some cookies at some point.  The bakery makes good ones.

You might not get all the photo gifts made, and you might not even finish Bethany's quilt.  No one is expecting them.


You might not finish the DVD project for Bethany's play to get it to the kids before Christmas.  No one gave you a deadline.  This is a volunteer project.

This year for the holidays?  You are fired from being Wonder Woman.

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Stay sane and enjoy yourself!

Tracy P.

P.S. If you are reading this and the shoe fits, wear it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nifty Gift

You've seen my plugs for Shutterfly before, right?  I blogged about my photo books long before they ever thought of paying me to do that.  I love my Shutterfly books. Recently they made them even more like real scrapbooks with complete creative control.  I love that.

But this year I'm not sure I'm going to get any books done before Christmas.  Since I have been working so much on my photography, I thought I'd take a favorite shot from each season and make some cards to give in sets.  It just happened that when I ordered some of these tonight they offered me a nice little discount on my next project if I would blog about them.  Maybe you would be that lucky too.  So go to Shutterfly and check out their cards.  And stay for the books.  :-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Moms in Touch Monday: God, who is rich in mercy


Moms In Touch Mondays
Our group in meets in my living room 
on Monday mornings, 
but you can join us here at The Journey anytime 
as we pray for our kids and their schools.

Learn more here about Moms in Touch
and how to find a group near you.

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Most weeks I start thinking of the attribute of God to focus on at our next meeting well in advance.  Or at least the day before.  This was not one of those weeks.  I awoke this morning wondering what it would be today, and immediately I thought of that little snippet of a verse, "But God, who is rich in mercy..."

Thank heaven for concordances!  Mine directed me to Ephesians 2:4-5.  "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved."

Adoration:  We went to a longer passage, Titus 3:1-8, for our focus today.  Verses 4-7 say, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."  So we praised him for
  • His kindness
  • His love
  • For not waiting until we scored enough righteousness points to build a relationship with us
  • For the washing of rebirth and renewal that we so desparately need
  • For pouring his Spirit out on us generously through Jesus
  • For justifying us and giving us the hope of eternal life
Confession:  As we reflected on the richness of God's mercy, we asked him to show us where we fail to show mercy.  We also asked him to show us if there are ways in which we resist his mercy by trying to be strong and righteous on our own.  We asked him to help us receive his mercy, and extend it to others.

Thanksgiving:  We thanked God for the fact that through his mercy, he comes alongside us in our weakness, and holds us up through his own power.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  We thanked him for his demonstrations of faithfulness to us and our families as well.

Supplication (requests):  We prayed that our children would also be receptive to God's mercy and extend it to others.  We prayed the verses earlier in the Titus passage for them (Titus 3:1-2):  "Remind the people (our children, and us!) to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men."  Oh, that we would all see every person as someone in the very same need of mercy as we are ourselves, and that we would treat everyone with that same consideration and humility!

Amen, Lord.  Make it so.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Thrill of Hope

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Thus begins the Christmas season at our house.

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Really, it's an exception to the rule*, but for good reason.

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Ben got out of bed this morning and wanted to play Wii first thing.
Like any self-respecting mom who would like to sleep in, I said yes.

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But then he saw it.  And remembered.

Last night we went shopping for our Operation Christmas Child boxes, both kids with money they volunteered to spend.  As Ben was going to bed, he said he wanted to write a note to his recipient, telling him what each item was for and how to use it.  I had told him there would be time in the morning.

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He stopped, on the way to the Wii, to take care of it.

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He wrote.  (He hates writing.  Or so he says.)
He drew pictures.  (He's terrible at drawing.  Or so he says.)

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He packed and decorated.

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He smiled.

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Bethany couldn't wait to join in when she woke up.

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She sharpened a lot of pencils.

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And played with the toys, just a little.

Tomorrow she will lead the congregation in prayer 
for the children receiving all of our boxes.

Some days I wonder if all of our teaching them
that it isn't all about us
goes right over their heads.

On days like today,
I am thankful that I get to experience
a thrill of hope.

If you haven't heard about Operation Christmas Child,
take a moment to check it out.
What a great way to start helping your family
catch a glimpse of the gift of giving.

Far from stopping there,
Samaritan's Purse has many other ministries as well,
meeting a variety of physical and educational needs all over the world.
We love taking a part in a ministry that opens doors to
life changing relationships.
We pray that those on the receiving end
experience as never before
a thrill of hope.

*The rule:  Thanksgiving comes before Christmas.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where I'm From

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I am from the gray house with the red door that Rae and Jack built at the top of the hill on Morris Road. The house with the best view in the neighborhood, overlooking the creek and the skating pond, the woods and world beyond.

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I am from the giant acorn-laden oak tree in the back that they said wouldn't make it, and tart rhubarb turned to sweet desserts that came back year after year.  From the garden with fragrant flowers, some that were planted by me.

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I am from telephones that actually dialed, from Little Kiddles, Easy Bake Ovens, and giant inflatable chairs with furry footprint stickers.  And flower power and peace signs.

I am from golfers and card players, bowlers and cookie bakers, from Deckers and Shores and Nerisons.  From a mom whose love smelled like something warm just out of the oven after a busy day at school, and a dad whose witty puns made us groan until we learned to make him groan right back.  Groans with smiles.

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From many cousins and aunts and uncles with boisterous voices and contagious laughter.

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I am from the school of "If you want something done right you've gotta do it yourself", and "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." And also the school of hard knocks from protective older siblings who could harass me if they wanted, but woe unto anyone else who tried. Who eventually would help me find my way like no one else and be my inspiration.

From Lutherans and Jews and people left wondering, and some finding.  From confirmation and the alto section, to youth group trips to the Boundary Waters and Young Life camp.  From How Great Thou Art, and What A Friend We Have in Jesus. Boy, do we ever.

I'm from big Sunday dinners, with popcorn later for supper--in the metal popper with real oil and hot butter that still smelled amazing the next day--and Wide World of Sports and Wonderful World of Disney, after cheering for Fran Tarkenton and the Vikings on TV.

I'm from Minnesota, from Norwegians with lefse and Russians with matzo ball soup, and "Heinz 57s" because they couldn't quite identify all the varieties (although "slightly eccentric" was surely one).  I'm from sliding down snow-covered hills, cold noses and warm cocoa, from summer swimming in the lake and from crisp, cool autumns with the smell of bonfires.

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From Grandma Vi, who made turkey for the kids because they might not have acquired a taste for the roast duck, and who had a present for the younger sister because she might not understand why both twins were getting birthday presents, but not her. And from Grandma Shore, who always had a little extra pie crust with cinnamon and sugar, and enough time to come to swim meets that lasted forever, to cheer me on and to play Spite and Malice with Mom while they waited for my next event.

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Also from the delicious aroma of the pipe-smoking Grandpa, who drove us through the mountains (literally) in a motor home, and always found a campground with a pool.  Not to mention Uncle Don, who played the guitar and sang songs that made everyone laugh and sometimes made the girls cry, who every year threatened to build a fire in the fireplace before Santa came, but in the end, never did.

I am from dreams, some of which shattered with my parents' marriage, and some of which came truer than I could ever have hoped or imagined.  Because that great God and friend is also a redeemer.

I am from the boxes of photos in the basement, report cards and newspaper clippings and school projects carefully kept by a mom who cared and took note of our every accomplishment. I am from ribbons and medals and a few trophies...

...that never figured one iota into how much I was loved.


Note:  I found the template and some sources and examples at this link on mamakatslosinit.com.  I tweaked it a little for my own liking, but I have loved reading the ones others have done.  Fun walk down memory lane for me.  I bet you would enjoy it too.  Be sure to come back and leave me a comment if you do!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Moms in Touch Monday: Our Provider


Moms In Touch Mondays
Our group in meets in my living room 
on Monday mornings, 
but you can join us here at The Journey anytime 
as we pray for our kids and their schools.

Learn more here about Moms in Touch
and how to find a group near you.

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Jesus said, 
"Look at the birds of the air; 
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, 
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them."

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"Are you not much more valuable than they?"

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"See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  
Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor 
was dressed like one of these."

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"If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, 
which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, 
will he not much more clothe you?"

Matthew 6:26-30

Today at Moms in Touch we gathered in God's presence, focusing on him as our provider.  Throughout our time we reflected  on 1 Timothy 6:17-19:  "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

Adoration:  We praised God for being the provider of everything that we need.  We praised him because he provides richly, and not sparingly.  We praised him because he has an unlimited supply, and no matter how many come to him, he has an abundance available for all that he desires to share.  We praised him because he is never surprised by any need, nor at a loss for how he will manage to meet it.

Confession:  During our silent time of confession, we asked God to show us any area in our lives where we are overwhelmed or worried by not having enough of what we need; things like finances, time, wisdom, help, skill, compassion.  We asked him to help us recognize our worries right away so that we would turn directly to him as our provider.

Thanksgiving:  We spent some sweet time thanking God for his provision for us and our families in recent days, weeks and months.  I need to go back and make a list of needs that he has faithfully met!

Supplication (requests):  We prayed for our kids to be quick to notice their needs and to turn to God as their provider.  We prayed many of the elements of the verses above--that they would have such confidence in his provision that they would feel free to be generous.  We prayed that they would seek their satisfaction in things that will last instead of the empty treasures of this world that promise to make them happy, but ultimately disappoint, that they would take hold of the life that is truly life.  We also prayed that the staff members at their schools would find joy in God's provision.

How about you?  Of what do you find yourself needful today?  Take a moment to share that need with the God who richly provides us everything for our enjoyment.