Thursday, January 30, 2014

Laser Treatment Time

Hello. This is Judah. Laser treatments are scary, but I still trust in God.  Please pray for me.

One thing I like about laser treatments is that I get to have lollipops and a $5 lego.  Once I have 24 laser treatments, I will have $120 in legos.

When I put on my numbing cream for laser treatments, I usually get to watch youtube or netflix or legoclub.

On my way there, I usually listen to my favorite CD's or to the radio on my MP3 or read a book.

Sometimes, I bring my Bible, and sometimes I bring a toy.  But, last time I brought a toy, I ended up losing it. The good thing was, it was only a hotwheel car.

At the end of the laser treatment, I am very, very excited that it is finally over. When we get home, we usually watch a movie, and I get to pick the movie.
If you haven't had your daily dose of caffeine, you may want to grab that cup of coffee or sweet tea before you read this. In fact, you may not really want to read this at all because I am finding myself most wanting to write on days that I feel tired, defeated, discouraged, confused or frustrated. I don't only write when in that frame of mind, but I definitely do write when in that frame of mind. It must be some sort of release valve for me. So, as with so many of my posts, this one is more for me than anyone else.

I've been trying to establish a new routine of putting myself to bed by 11 pm and waking consistently by 7 am each morning. I know for some 7 am would be a dream as your morning comes much earlier. For a long time, I would have felt guilty that I have to make an effort to wake up by 7 am knowing that in the vast majority of 30 something year olds' lives, 7 am would be considered sleeping in. I no longer feel like a slug about this. I am seeking to live unapologetically a life that pleases God which, for me, includes waking up when I do. for now. And, obviously by having to write an entire paragraph about this, I am clearly walking in absolute freedom about this fact. Or NOT.  HA!

ANYWAY, I didn't wake up at 7 this morning because I was up past midnight enjoying my hubby's company on our first "in house date night."  Given our children, at ages 9 and 6, still do not seem to grasp the meaning of "GO TO BED," they are put to bed close to ten times or more before they actually STAY in their room.  Falling asleep does not happen until around 10 pm, and that is on nights we mandate they turn their lights out, stop reading, playing legos and/or talking!  So, LA and I do not really relax until they are asleep.

Parents of teens, I am so sorry. When must you ever get to spend time together?  I know harder days are ahead, and you are just laughing at me right now, not feeling the slightest bit sorry for me.  It's ok. I know I'm pathetic.

I did wake up before 8 am, which was good because we had agreed to meet friends at Chic-Fil-A by 8:30 am for their promotional free breakfast this week.  Morning chores were not entirely accomplished before we had to head out, but we were at least all dressed.

Arriving to Chic-Fil-A first among our small group of friends, I ordered our free breakfast, a bagel for each of us, and had a jump on my kids eating before friends arrive. For my children, socializing takes priority over eating any day. I suppose the apple does not fall far from the tree on this one. Although, I have to say that as I age, I think I am beginning to turn the corner on this one and may just enjoy eating more than socializing much of the time, which may explain the extra 10 pounds I have amassed over this past year. Unfortunate true story.

First to arrive, first to leave. I told the kids we would have a limited amount of time for breakfast and playtime with friends because we had to have a focused effort at school today given we had a dentist appointment after lunch to scramble to and errands to run after that. Giving them the heads' up was a good move; grumbling was minimal and I don't believe any tears were shed or threats made. Success.

Walking in my house, however, at 9:30, to see the pencil, paper, sweatshirt on the floor, legos on my console (my spot of beauty that is NOT to be adulterated by the kids' stuff), random pencil on the bench in the kitchen, empty baggies on the counter, just STUFF strewn here and there, a little bit in a lot of places...sent me to a place of angst and anxiety. Immediately, my blood started flowing a little faster and my mind was racing.  What do I attack first?  

I knew I had to keep the kids on a short leash and get them started on school, but I also want them to grow in picking up after themselves, in seeing the little trails they leave behind them everywhere they go. I kind of freaked out a little bit. I basically asked my kids to bow to my idol of order by saying, "Mommy cannot think straight with all this stuff strewn all over the place. My house feels a little cluttered, so my mind is feeling a little overwhelmed. Can we take 2 minutes, move as fast as we can to get all these little things put back into their homes?"

My children have heard this oh, once or twice. They knew what to do. We all sprang into action, took a little more than 2 minutes, and had a "fresh palette" from which to work.

Deep breath. I truncated our typical morning school routines by omitting our bible story but not neglecting prayer. We needed to pray. We always need to pray here. I could tell it was going to be an uphill kind of day. Kids had presentations to work on, challenging writing and grammar work this week and a Math test that may or may have not gone so well. I didn't know for sure because I still had to grade it.

I set the kids to work on research for their presentations on a famous artist. Tucker and Bella worked together on Carl Linnaeus; Judah read about Rembrandt.  I graded the boys' math tests. One boy did great on  his test; one did not do so great. Many errors, about half the test, prompted a little conversation with said boy about reading the problems before jumping into calculations.  On top of all else he had to accomplish in our shortened school day, he also now had to re-take his test.

After about 45 minutes, two of the three were pretty much finished with their presentations. One was still writing, writing, writing about his artist, watching videos, looking at pictures, tediously putting together his presentation for co op next Monday.  While I love to see my children really pore over information or give themselves to a project, I often feel a tension with the time it takes to go deep when I feel we have to go wide in this season of education. It's a tricky balance to find as a homeschool mom.

There is so much more that took place within those 3 short hours of school today, but I am already tired of rehashing every last detail of this painfully, long day.

Broad strokes include a tedious time teaching Bella about graphs in Math, helping her through words like "picturesque" and "clique" (hello, she's in first grade already!) in Reading, waiting for her to figure out that she wrote her "p" backward in the sentence I dictated to her (I think it took more than 10 minutes and I finally just told her that it was written backward), and correcting her poetry recitation when she missed the small, insignificant-to-me-but-not-to-poetry-memorization words like "the" and "but."  Nevermind the umpteen times I had to "check in" with the boys to make sure that all that ruckus I heard from my bedroom where I was reading with Bella was really them quizzing each other on their Grammar charts.

Oh my dear Lord, by lunch time I really wanted to quit the day, go for a run, hide in a corner and eat chocolate chips.  I was so spent by our 3 hours of "hurry up and get school finished", and I still had to get through lunch, dentist appointments, grocery shopping and dinner before I could come up for air.

I could go on to write about lunch with my children, who for whatever reason just do not like to eat when it's meal time; they do not like to sit still and eat a meal that is put before them. They take 4 bites and feel like their tummy is going to explode. I kid you not. I am trying to keep them from eating snacks in between meals, but they still balk about eating "a lot" in one sitting. By a lot I mean a full sandwich, 5 carrot sticks and a chocolate chip cookie. That was today's lunch. I had one who ate the carrots and cookie and left his entire sandwich but for one bite.  Whatever. I had to get them to the dentist. I didn't have time to fight today.

The dentist was probably the best time we had all day, ironically enough. No cavities; the hygienist and dentist were efficient and gentle, and Bella placed her own x-ray slide in her mouth for the x-ray technician, thoroughly impressing all the staff. Yup, that's my fiercely, independent, "Do not help me" girl!

3:00 pm. I have been going for 7 hours at this point, juggling the needs and demands of my three kids, working through conflicts with them, taking care of the physical needs that home management requires--all while giving cursory attention to the tens of thoughts, ideas, and questions running through my own mind each minute. If you have ever spent some time with me or my children, you know we really like to talk.  We have the capacity to talk a mile a minute. And, while that is true, what is even more true is that our minds go at even greater speeds. My.mind.never.shuts.up!  Unless I am hiking or watching 'my birds.' Thank you, Jesus, for my bird feeders and the woods that I now call "home."

So, I am about an hour into this post, and I have made myself even more tired than I was when I started.
What was the point again?
I think it was this.

There were so many moments in my day today when I heard a myriad of statements in my head:
I cannot do this. 
I am so tired. 
Why am I a mom? 
Why do I homeschool my children? 
We need to be a part from one another more often. 
I just have to make it to 5:30 when LA takes them to Tae Chuan Do tonight. They ARE going to Tae Chuan Do tonight no matter what.  
Just do the next thing. 
You can make it. 
I cannot lift my arms, I feel that exhausted.

And at one point--I think it was when I was finally driving home after running our grocery store/bank errands--I thought, "Wow, I haven't felt this way for a while."

Today reminded me of a season when my children were younger and I felt like this  And, when I was there, I thought I had been there from the time my kids were born and that I was never going to feel any different about motherhood and being at home full time with my kids. But, today, in the midst of feeling this way again, I was reminded that I don't feel this way all the time. I did come out of that "fog" of sorts. It did not last forever.

Motherhood is still really hard for me. It still feels like I'm a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I do question my choice to be at home full time and homeschool my children most days.  But, something HAS changed. I HAVE grown in stamina for these long days. My thresholds for mess, chaos, noise and ongoing refereeing of youthful conflicts HAVE increased.  I am giving of my time, talents and emotional capacity more readily, more second nature.  The need still outweighs my capacity. I still am crying out to Jesus in desperation much of my day. But, I have grown. Jesus has grown me. The daily sacrifice of "doing the next thing" has brought about change and growth in my life and heart.

I love fitness, so I liken this to doing a new exercise routine of any kind. Let's take push ups for an example. If you have never done push ups, your first goal is just to do ONE push up in right form. So, you do that ONE push up in correct form everyday for a week or more. Eventually, with consistency, one push up becomes easy, too easy. You decide to try for five push ups. Again, giving it consistency and time, you find yourself capable of doing five push ups without breaking a sweat. You move onto ten, then twenty. Some people can do 100 push ups. That is not you.  But, you are also not the person who isn't able to do push ups at all. You can do 20 now because of consistency and time.

So, all this for the "take away."  If you are a new mom or just new at something, any new 'role', you may feel awkward and weak and sure that you will always feel this way.  But, you won't. You will grow; it will change. Give it time. Give it consistent effort, consistently doing the next thing, consistently laying your heart and hands before the Lord, asking Him to establish you, establish the work of your hands, establish your heart in steadfastness, faithfulness and love for what HE has called you to. And, at some point in time, imperceptibly, things will change. And, you will have a hard day, a day like mine, when you feel like you do now. Only it will be an out of place feeling because you will have moved on from that emotional place you are in now. And, it will remind you of how far you have come, how far God has brought you.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Currently Reading

Taking a writing prompt from "Write Alm" today to share what I am currently reading.

Never being one to either finish a book or be in only one book at a time, I have three books that I am reading and actually plan to finish, at least two of them.

"War Horse" by Michael Morpurgo, a story about a horse, told from the perspective of the horse, who is initially bought as a result of a lost bet.  The horse, Joey, is eventually sold again to the military to be trained and used in the U.S. cavalry of WWI.  Having only read 6 of 21 chapters aloud to my kiddos, it is already showing itself to be a tear jerker. And, others have confirmed from either reading it themselves or having seen the movie, that indeed it will be. We'll see if my kids will be able to make it through the entire book.

"The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton.  A couple friends, Laurie and Danielle, turned me on to Kate Morton, and I am so glad they did. I have never had much of an appetite for fiction, always viewing it as a waste of time. If it's not real, why would I read it?  I think my imagination took some kind of massive blow as a child, and I have never quite recovered.  Nevertheless, Kate Morton has begun to amend my perspective on reading fiction for the good. No longer a waste of my time, I can not seem to get enough of Morton's writing.  I find myself near angry that my eyelids fall shut from exhaustion every night that I have a few minutes to delve into the world of relational mystery and intrigue and that she so masterfully creates.  I am 388 pages in on this 548 page saga and loving it!

"Untamed: How the Wild Side of Jesus Frees Us to Live and Love with Abandon" by Lisa Harper.
I am reading this during my all too brief, not-so-quiet-because-my-children-wake-up-with-me-no-matter-what-time-I-wake-up quiet time in the mornings.  Harper is a new author to me though she has written 9 other books before this one, some titles of which sound up my ally. For instance, her recent book, "A Perfect Mess" sounds like she may already know me!

I am appreciating greatly some of Harper's insights into the person, priorities and perspectives of Jesus, one in particular being how 'wild' Jesus is for women.  It took me the first couple chapters to appreciate Harper's sense of humor and 'voice', but less than half way through the book it began to grow on me a bit, and now I find myself more keyed in on the scripture she brings to bear and the claims they make about the Christ I follow.  It has not been as in depth a Bible study for me as I prefer, but it has been a good choice for me in this season. Her questions at the end of each chapter call more for a thoughtful pondering of one's life and perceptions of Who Christ is than an inductive study of specific passages.

I am grateful to be surrounded by a multitude of reading buddies who always have a long list of suggested titles for me to try as I have never considered myself a "reader." I like to run, to do, to move. Sitting down with a good book has only recently begun to appeal to me, especially if a cup of coffee or tea is involved.

Because I must remember

We were informed today about a national competition through Classical Conversations called the "National Number Knockout." You can learn more about it here:

The grand prize is $10, 000!

My son, Tucker, upon pondering the potential of winning this grand prize declared to me that he would buy a snack machine and an escalator with the money after he gave a portion to the church.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Five Minute Friday

When I was a little girl, my dad would pile my brother, sisters and me into the car and head out to visit friends.  We came unannounced but for the knock on our friend's front door as we stood on the porch to see if they were home.  Often our friends were home and graciously invited us in, sometimes to dinner, sometimes to just coffee and many times to just a sweet time of play, chatter and fellowship.

I am now grown, have a home of my own and love the idea of folks dropping in for a "visit" much like we did as a family with our friends.  But there seem to be social barriers, etiquette that keep one another at arm's length.  Upon moving into our new home this summer, I told a friend to stop in anytime she pleased, unannounced.  She asked if I meant it. I told her that I did.

What must we do as individuals, families and friends to convince each other that we really do mean it when we say, "Drop by anytime for a visit?"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Condemnation vs Conviction

Did you know that when you come to the end of the Sunday morning sermon, your morning devotional, or a provoking blog post, you have a decision to make? It’s a decision that will take you down either a path of destruction or the path of life. It’s a choice that must inform your emotions and will determine whether or not the content of what you listened to or read was life giving or life sapping. It’s a choice between condemnation or conviction.  Did you know you had a choice?

I want to help clarify the difference between condemnation and conviction as the two can so oft be mistaken for each other. Discerning the difference is crucial, however, in whether a person grows in holiness or continues to repeat patterns of sin, deeper enslaving themselves to bondage.

I believe there are three indications for discerning whether your response to God’s confrontation is life-giving conviction or life-sapping condemnation.  The way we FEEL, on whom and what is our FOCUS and the subsequent FRUIT of our response are three indications by which to discern whether we’re walking under condemnation or conviction.

Condemnation is a tool of Satan, birthed from guilt and perpetuated by fear. It can motivate one to change, but it cannot effect long-lasting, genuine change. It ensnares us to lies about ourselves, others and God. Condemning thoughts twist the truth, causing confusion and disillusionment. Condemning thoughts can come even while we read the bible, and the very words of scripture are used by Satan to shake our confidence in Christ’s redemption and love for us. 

We can respond to condemnation with a myriad of emotions: shame, anger, defensiveness, despair. Thoughts such as, “I will never change, “  “I’m unworthy of God’s love and will never measure up,” “I only do that because of this circumstance in my life,” or “I am tired of trying to change to no avail. I give up.”

Do you notice the subject, hence the focus of condemning thoughts? IT’s ME!  I will never…, I am tired…, I only do that because… A good way to tell if what you’re experiencing is condemnation versus conviction is to listen to the subject of the sentences being rattled off in your head. YOU will be the subject and despair, discouragement and disgust will be the emotions attached to how you feel about yourself and the standard to which God is calling you.

Conviction, however, will bring life-giving, hope-filled thoughts to mind. You will feel encouraged, joy and even a sense of relief that God in His kindness is revealing the cancers of sin in your life. You will feel hopeful that change is possible and even probable not because you, in your strength alone can bring it about, but because you are aware of Christ’s power to effect long-lasting change in your life.

You will recall scriptures such as these:
Philippians 1:6, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:13,  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Psalm 138:8, The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

On whom is the focus in these scriptures? Christ. Responding to God’s confrontation with genuine conviction will bring about Christ-exalting thoughts. Your confidence will be in HIS ability to change you, to give you grace to keep on trying when you have tried already so many times. Your joy will be derived from the truth that it is God’s mercy to point out to you the areas of your heart and life that are still ruled by your flesh and the devil because those areas are far from God. And, you know that the nearness of God in all of life is the greatest joy.

Your focus will not only be on Christ, the person, but also on His cross, the means by which change can happen and personal holiness is attainable. You will run to the cross where you can receive forgiveness for all the lack of measuring up, where you can be cleansed by the blood of Christ and where you can be robed in HIS righteousness. Where there is true conviction, you will remember the cross is what bridges the gap between your performance and God’s standard. And, you will know speechless joy at the thought of it.

We have identified the feelings and focus behind condemnation versus conviction. Let’s move onto the fruit of both which can be deceiving at first glance. You see, condemnation and conviction can both bring about change in a person’s life. 

Condemnation, birthed by guilt remember, can motivate one to change her behavior. But, guilt is an unruly task master, and eventually one will grow weary, weighed down by guilt and in despair give up her efforts toward change.  Conviction, however, may not bring about immediate change that is anything to write home about, but over the long haul will persevere and lasting change will be evident.
I’m a runner so I readily liken more abstract concepts to the concrete principles of running. Compared to a runner's race, condemnation is a sprinter: fast out of the blocks and impressive. Conviction, on the other hand, steadily plods along, tripping here and there but persevering nonetheless. The race is not a 200 yard dash; it’s a marathon, and conviction will win.

When one experiences true conviction from God in a particular area of behavior or pattern of thinking, she knows that there is no way to begin or sustain change apart from the help of God’s Holy Spirit. She knows change is going to be a battle but that the battle is the Lord’s (I Samuel 17:47). She knows it will require 
prayer and perseverance on her part, but that ultimately it is GOD who will bring about change in His time through His means. There is a confidence in Christ that buoys her efforts toward change. And, there is peace when she fails as she recalls that a righteous man falls seven times but gets back up again. (Proverbs 24:16)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014



One of my dearest friends, Laurie, who has a fabulous blog that you would do well to read, wrote a post in participation with some other bloggers who considered 2014 through the lens of what they want to give up or do away with.  They honed in on one thing and attached the prefix, "UN" to that thing that they want to rid from their lives.  It was their twist on the "one word" concept in which one chooses just one word to provide inspiration, direction or focus for the New Year. I did that. sort of. You can read about my "one word" here.

I enjoyed reading about Laurie's year of "uncomfortable" and thought I would chime in with what I want to be without this coming year. I want to be "UNcondemned".

Interestingly enough, searching through some files on my computer the other night while stuck sitting at the kids' Tae Chaun Do practice, I came upon an article I worked on but never did anything with entitled, "Conviction vs. Condemnation."  As I read over it, I thought, "I wrote this?"  It was decent. It was insightful and helpful.  And, I will post it tomorrow after I have had a few more minutes to proofread it.

Condemnation is something I am prone to, something of which I am praying for a greater measure of discernment and freedom.  I want 2014 to be the year of "UN"condemned for me first and foremost because Jesus paid the highest price one could pay, that of His life, so that I would know NO CONDEMNATION and second, because I believe the more I walk in the freedom Christ sacrificially bought for me, the more I will love and serve Him and genuinely love and serve others.

Friday, January 17, 2014

My Help

It has been a hard week in many regards, challenging me once again to rely on Christ at every turn, showing me over and over again how very desperate I am for someone OUTSIDE myself to come and be my help, my wisdom, my rest.

My scribbled prayer in my journal this morning read, "Lord, I am trusting that you are working out Your purposes in and through me.  You know I want to be used by you, but more than that, may I be changed by you.

I then opened a favorite devotional of mine by Paul Tripp, "A Shelter in the Time of Storm" and read the following:
God is our ultimate Helper...
Not only does He help you with internal weaknesses
but He alone is able to remove external obstacles.
Because He is our helper, 
we don't have to place the completion or success of the task on our shoulders.
It's not our job to complete the task;
it's our job to obey God's call.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Battling Temptation

I didn't wake up this morning knowing I would have a huge emotional hill to climb.

It started before my feet even hit the floor. Hubby did not wake up when he said he would, and then Bella demanded that I help her with hot chocolate NOW!
Bump #1--tempted to be irritable and lash out in anger for being disregarded and disrespected. "Do not return evil for evil," is what I try to apply. feebly.

Judah then woke up stuffy and begged not to be taken to church.
I agreed to stay home with him from church after he did not eat breakfast nor move from the couch with his blanket.

I thought it was just morning congestion that he would shake off by lunch time, in time for us to enjoy our monthly "family dinner" with LA's side of the family.  His willingness to get himself dressed was an indicator to me that he was well enough and motivated to see his family.

I hopped in the car with Skillet Chocolate cake and Magic cake and only then remembered that I had also offered to bring a salad.  Bump #2--tempted to believe my husband is frustrated by my forgetfulness and now, my tardiness too, because I have to run back inside to grab the salad ingredients.

We arrived at my brother/sister-in-law's, and I fought the temptation to feel like I was making myself a burden by needing bowls and silverware from my SIL to put together the salad and guacamole and that I was holding up lunch for everyone while I prepared the food.

After I put together a simple salad and guacamole, it was time to eat. Second in line was one of my sons, who will remain nameless.  Trying to serve himself lunch on real dishes was just more than he could manage, and he dropped the plate. CRASH went the plate to the floor. It fell along with my heart.
Bump#3--tempted to believe the self loathing, self destructive thoughts that I am a horrible mother who does not train her children well--that I should have anticipated that slip and carried the plate for my child.
And, I was at the same time fighting the temptation for my new-ish SIL to like us, to be fond of my kids and to not feel like she has to hold her breath every time we're near for fear of what we might break.

At this point, temptation and emotions got the best of me, and I had to excuse myself to go cry it out for a minute or two in the bathroom, pray and ask God for strength to be others' focused, to walk in grace, to move on.
**I am a 5 year old trapped in a 37 year old's body. It's true.

By God's kindness, I was able to recover and enjoy lunch with everyone, to move on conversationally, not be overly introspective and defeated.

Judah ate a small lunch but spent most of the time sitting on the couch. By the end of the afternoon, when he hadn't eaten dessert and was laying on the couch with his blanket over him, I started to feel regretful about my decision to come with him. Bump #4--tempted to beat myself up yet again for my poor judgment in bringing Judah to my bro/sis-in-law's house. Not only is my SIL pregnant for the first time, but she is also traveling out of state this week.

On our way home, Judah slunk down on the side of the door with his blanket and fell asleep. Once home, I took his temperature and saw that he had developed a fever over the afternoon. Bump #5 and really more of a hill than a bump--tempted to worry about Judah spreading infection to a young man who is staying with us right now to recover from his third kidney transplant. He is immunosuppressed, so catching a virus poses a serious threat to his recovery.

I texted the young man's mom, who is also staying with us, to let her know what was going on with Judah and that we had quarantined Judah to his room.  Her response was strikingly different from mine: "Thanks for letting me know. We will pray and trust the Lord."

I realized then that what was going on in my heart most of the day was not a matter of lack of trust in God for my son's health or for the health of others, though that was a part of it. What was going on in my heart is a serious craving for the approval of others or a fear of their disapproval, a longing to be honored and thought of, to be preferred and catered to as in the case with my husband and daughter first thing this morning.

I KNOW this can be a struggle for me. I KNOW it's wrong to allow these cravings to control me. I KNOW the truths to apply: I am fully accepted in Christ. I am His chosen, precious daughter, for whom He gave up His life. He sings over me with rejoicing.  Why do I yet crave for the approval of others to the point of becoming self centered, withdrawn, introspective, and defeated relationally?  I hate it. I really, really do. I fight it. Some days, like today, it is just one small skirmish after another, and the best I can do is to KEEP. GETTING. UP.

This is not all of who I am; this is a just one part of me.  Some seasons the temptation barely presents itself if at all. Sometimes, like the previous several months, I fight hard, long and much too frequently for comfort the temptations to be self focused, to give in to self hating thoughts, to not keep myself rooted and secure in the love my God has for me.  The wrestling that has taken place in my mind and heart has been distracting at least, obsessive at worst.

I know this is not a good path to be on. I know I must fight to take these thoughts captive, to not allow the enemy to take me out of the game by becoming so introspective, self protecting and defeated that I stop taking steps forward, steps TOWARD people and ministry rather than away.

When I am tempted in these ways, everything in me wants to crawl in a hole and disappear. I can become convinced that everyone would be better off if I just did not exist. IT is not easy to admit this so publicly. Many of my closest friends know this about me, but I wanted to be brave and write it here on the blog, where anyone can read it. It is scary and uncomfortable, and I will likely face regret at some point.

But, I have several motivations for doing so.
1. I want to grow. I want the enemy and my flesh to lose their hold on me in this particular area. I want to walk FREE, truly free to admit my failures and weaknesses and sins, as immature as they may be, because Jesus paid the greatest price for me to be able to do so. My heart longs to honor His sacrifice and to declare, "World, Jesus' blood covers ALL!  Jesus is a Redeemer and a Conqueror and a Lover to the unlovely, to the emotionally immature, to the self-centered idolater like me. He wants to redeem your life, conquer your sin, and love YOU, too"

2. I need prayer and am unashamed to solicit boldly and broadly for it. Thanks in advance.

3. I know as much as I want to be heard and understood, there are countless others like me who also want to be heard and understood, who battle this same kind of temptation and may think they are alone. But, I know that what I face, even at 37 years old, is common to man.  And, so I hope that in me putting myself "out there", someone else may find hope and courage in knowing they are NOT alone.


Judah asked me tonight where LA took me when we were dating.

Judah: "Where did Papi take you when you guys went out on dates?"

Me: "Starbucks, to the park or the mall.  We would sit outside a lot and talk."

Judah: "Where should I take my dates?

Me: "Here!"

Judah: "Or to Friday's or Bonefish Grille?" 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

"Wounded by God's People"

I serendipitously stumbled upon this video tonight, discussing the topic of Ann Graham Lotz's book, "Wounded by God's People". It was a thoughtful, humble discussion about an issue that, in my opinion, is not dealt with openly and honestly among God's people.  We are so quick to defend, deflect and dismiss our 'wounding' of others. And, I find the more religiously astute, the worse the offender. 

O Lord, my plea is that I not be so religious that I disregard how I may wound others, even unintentionally.  I know I have walked many days of my life that way, especially toward my family. Forgive me. Keep me sensitive toward how others need to see and experience Jesus' love through me.

"Wounded by God's People" may be my 2nd read for 2014.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Friendship for Grownups, What I Missed and Learned Along the Way by Lisa Whelchel

It's only the 5th day of the new year, and I already finished reading my first book! This is truly remarkable. But, this is what happens when the entire family but me is sick for an entire week. What a way to ring in the New Year, huh?!

Anyway, back to the book. There is a great summary of this book over at amazon:\
I am not the best at summaries, concise ones anyway.

But, I thought I'd share a couple thoughts I had about the book.

1. More Christians need to read this book. I believe there are too many God fearing people fearing rejection more than they fear God, too many playing it safe in relationships and not being truly known.  As Lisa Whelchel comments several times in the book, intimacy with others can be described with the three words, "into me see."  I wonder how many folks are missing out on true intimacy with others and even moreso, with God because they have walls of protection built up around their hearts, barricading them from the blessing of being known.

2. Her chapter entitled, "Afraid to be Free" was probably the most meaningful to me as she tackles what feels an elusive leap for me personally from living law bound to walking free in the grace of God.  One sentence that was highlighted AND starred in the margin reflects a shift that has been taking place recently for me in my view of God and my relationship with Him. It reads, "Maybe 'not sinning' isn't the primary goal.  Maybe staying close to the Father is the goal--and the answer to that very question*.)  *The question she is referring to is what keeps one from sinning if one embraces grace.

3. The last thing I read in the book, and almost skipped because I "judged" the initial lines as cheesy, ended up being one of the most endearing, well written parts of the entire book. And, it's in the appendix!
She calls it a "prose poem" (which I think I am discovering to be my favorite style of writing), and it articulates the longings one has for a friend, a deep kind of connection to another human being other than one's spouse, children or other family that closest reflects our friendship with Jesus.  The last line of this prose poem is addressed to Jesus and reads, "First, you gave your life. And then you gave me a friend....for life." I love how her words strike this delicate balance of upholding the truth that there is no friend like Jesus, and He is all we need while also affirming our need for deep connection with other earth bound humans.

4. Lastly, in this season of my life, having moved into a new neighborhood and attending a new church, I greatly appreciated what served as a "refresher course" of sorts in how to build meaningful friendships and deep connections with others. A practical part of the book comes at the very end, again in the appendix, where Lisa gives practical steps for developing and growing friendships and also provides tens of conversation prompts to begin branching out in the sometimes scary but always worthwhile pursuit of friendship.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

One Word

One word for the new year. One word. Not several journal pages full. Not a list of resolutions. No bullet points. Just.One.Word.--  To provide a focus for one's year, a way to 'see' what God may be trying to accomplish in one's life. One word. Really? Just one?  Impossible task for this verbose girl.

I first read about this idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Ann Voskamp, over on her blog, A Holy Experience.  She references the book, "My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word" as her inspiration and direction with this exercise.   I have read many of Ann's blog posts, and one thing I love about Ann's writing is her use of words, many of them, constructed as a poetic prose to prevail upon my hard, broken, needy heart.  Yet, she has chosen just ONE word for her year the last several years.   Her word for 2014 is "Jesus."  Seems a little like cheating to me. How can you go wrong with that one?
**That was my first and likely last criticism of this godly lady, even if it was "tongue in cheek."

My "California friend, Bethany" (as I refer to her because while I have never met her in real life, she is a friend to me, and she lives in California) mentioned on her facebook status that she has been thinking it over as well. What will her one word be for 2014?  California Bethany, like me, likes to use a lot of words to describe a circumstance or her feelings. This is, in a small way, why I feel we are kindred spirits. And, I thought, "If these ladies can narrow down to one word, so can I!"  Why must I turn everything into a competition?  Goodness gracious, some habits die hard.

Other friends of mine have jumped in on this exercise. My friend, Danielle, announced on instagram her ONE word for the year, "Blessing."

And so, I have been thinking about this one word idea.

The first word that came to me was, "RUN," not in the sense of run from one's problems, even though I am often tempted to do that at times, but rather in the literal sense of the word. In the past 6 months, God has given the gift of running back to me after going nearly 6 years without running regularly.  With an instable and weak spine, I thought regular running was out of the cards for me for good.  Nevertheless, I gave it another try this summer and into the fall. I had been running on average 3 times a week and had worked up to 5 mile runs.  Nearing the end of 2013, I began to think about trying for a half marathon in 2014.  It's been something I have wanted to do for a long time.

I mentioned it to my hubby, started looking up races I could sign up for in 2014 along with training schedules. Running on a mixture of head strong intentions, 4 days worth of Christmas goodies and worn out sneakers, I ended up throwing my back out at the end of December after getting greedy by going for a 6.5 mile run.  More than a week later, I'm still icing it and typing this from the floor.

All that to say, I am uncertain about choosing the word, "Run" for 2014. I will still pursue the half marathon as much as I am able, but I have to recognize my road to the half may be a long and often interrupted course.

The next word that I thought of was "ABSORB" as in absorbing others', particularly my husband's, offenses.  Ever listen to or read something that sticks with you for life? A message John Piper gave entitled, "Blessed are the Meek" from Matthew 5 contained one line that has stayed with me years later. It was, "Meekness is the power to absorb adversity and criticism without lashing back."   I am not meek, especially when it comes to absorbing any hint of criticism my hubby throws my way. I lash back like a lion, ferociously. This needs to change in order for LA and me to move forward in our communication and love for one another. So, "absorb" seems like it could be a good fit.

As I thought over "absorb", however, I sensed its focus was on me, my behavior, my ability to be Christ like or inability moreso. And, the thought of spending concentrated, mental and emotional energy on changing my heart and subsequent behavior that oozes out of that heart discouraged me.  Quickly, I recalled the changes God has been bringing about in my life, and I realized I want to walk away from old patterns of self focus, of 'law bound' effort and self atonement.  Choosing a word like absorb, I fear, would cast me daily into that pit again of self loathing and defeat. No thanks.

"Forgive" was the next word that jumped into my mind because I have some bitterness and hard feelings toward some folks, and I need to forgive and move on, whatever that is supposed to look like. Honestly, I have no idea what to even aim for with this one, how to go about it, and all that I mentioned in the previous paragraph again applies here.

"Rebuild"? As in rebuild my relationship with my husband, my Lord, His church. There has been much upheaval in our lives in the past year, and we are ready to rebuild, shift paradigms and patterns of thinking, being and doing.  I still feel a little unsure on some of the foundation work, however. I know that Christ is our Bedrock, our sure Foundation. That has not changed. He remains the same. His love endures. He is still our all in all. But, some of the ways we have done life for so long are changing, and we need to rebuild. eventually. I am just not certain we have all the foundation pieces in place quite yet. "Rebuild" feels a little premature still.

"Pray"?  Prayer is good. It is always a good thing. Prayer accomplishes more than anything else I could do. Prayer could be all encompassing.

At this point, I am perplexed and just want to be silly about the whole thing. How about the word, "Fun" because really, don't girls just want to have fun?  But, again, I have to try to have fun, or have a glass of wine in me to be fun. Fun is out.

HEAL?  because I have felt particularly broken this last half of 2013.
OPEN? to what and where and to whom God wants us to bless in 2014.
GRATEFUL? because as A.Voskamp says, "it always precedes the miracle", and I need some miracles in my life.
GRACE? because I have lived 32 years of life on earth professing to be a believer in Grace-Incarnate, Jesus Christ, and I don't really know that I "get grace", on the receiving or giving end.
TRUTH? because I am seeking afresh God's truths. What does it look like to follow Jesus who says HE is the TRUTH?
READ? because I always want to be reading more than I do.
WRITE? because I always want to be writing more than I do.
ARITHMETIC... because....just kidding. That was just was a stream of consciousness move there. ha!

It is at this point in my post that I stopped and had my hubby read it. He looked at me questioningly, "So, what's your word going to be?" I ramble on about how I don't only want to write when I have a nicely packaged conclusion or life lesson to share, but when I am still in process.  I want to write when I've got nothing.

Responding to that, LA shared with me that he has been thinking about a mantra for 2014. He is our "mantra maker", and he comes up with good ones that almost always reflect our life rather well.  He's certainly the concise one among the two of us.  And he said that as he prayed about 2014, the only thing that came to him was nothing.

We dialogued for a bit about this, puzzled, because for two task oriented, ambitious people, "nothing" does not sound all that appealing.  It even sounds frightening. But, we both agreed that for us, for now, it sounds right on.

NOTHING. and in expanded form, "I've or We've got nothing."

Nothing in my hands I bring, 
Simply to thy cross I cling; 
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to thy fountain, Lord, I fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Lemon Chicken Soup

My mom served this soup to us over Christmas vacation which proved to be timely as all of my kiddos and my husband have come down with some kind of respiratory virus in the past week. It is kicking their little behinds. I made the soup twice this week! I think the first to get sick may be on the mend given his complaining tonight at dinner, "All we have eaten this week is soup, soup, soup."

Here is the original recipe with a few of my additions:

2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2-3/4  teaspoon of pureed ginger (or you can grate some fresh ginger which would be even better!)
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 large red pepper, finely chopped
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups bow tie pasta
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced or shredded
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
4 cups of fresh baby spinach

Sautee onion in olive oil for about 4 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and sautee for an additional minute. Add carrots, celery, and red pepper. Sautee vegetables until crisp-tender.  Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Turn heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes with lid on top. Add bow tie pasta, chicken, fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and spinach.  Allow to simmer until noodles are al dente and spinach is bright green.  Salt and pepper to taste.