Monday, November 29, 2010

Blessings Given and Taken

We drove through hours of rain this past week.  Pouring rain.  A cold rain that came in sheets and made seeing difficult (but that we gave thanks for because our land was still bone dry).  The roar of the rain combined with the cries from The Princess in the back seat to fill my head with sound louder than I thought I could stand.  I couldn't wait for the car ride to end, and we still had over an hour to go.  But we had a goal and a reward ahead.  Our friends.

Each year we travel to another part of the state, the one we used to live in, with its rolling hills and winding roads.  It was our home for seven years.  It was the place where our two boys were born.  And most of all, it was where I really discovered as an adult what a church family was. 

When we moved four years ago from that home and that place, we left behind part of our hearts.  We joined family here, and the blessings of living near them are many.  It was what I had always hoped would happen -- our moving back home.  I love having my children here near their grandparents.  I love living less than thirty minutes from my sis and closer to my best friend. 

But we left so many behind.  We left the people that became my family when my family was far away.  We left close friendships that can't be replaced.

Yesterday, as I sat across from my husband at a church meal with empty chairs beside us, the contrast was fresh in my mind.  Where before our table was full to overflowing with friends, it's now . . . not. 

"God gives, God takes.
God's name be ever blessed"  (Job 1:21, The Message).

holy experience

Blessing God's name for gifts #457 - 482:

safety in traveling while the heavens poured

much-needed and asked-for rain

staying with friends

their gracious hospitality

maple pie (mmmmmm)

Baby Girl's quick attachment to Pocahontas

a hand-painted ornament from that Indian princess

a house full of memories

family away from family

Thanksgiving traditions

Christmas traditions

both trees up and decorated

Baby Girl hanging the first ornament

Christmas lights that work!

red everywhere (it's my favorite)

Christmas movies

most of my Christmas shopping completed

good deals

a sister who comes to my rescue

little girls in Christmas dresses

my boys saying prayers in the service at church

Baby Girl loves her sparkly shoes

communion at the table with my love

my husband across from me at the table each day


glimpses of eternity in the every day


Monday, November 22, 2010

Cheesy Grins, Forgetfulness, and Love

I love Baby Girl's cheesy grin.  She squints up her eyes and grins really big and just cracks me up.  I love the way she asks me to kiss the booboo that she's had for a week and then says, "Tank you, Mommy," in her serious, pitiful voice as she cocks her head to the side.  I love her sweet, tempting "Seep wis me," as I tuck her into bed.  And I love that she goes down her indoor slide head-first in her pink tutu.

I love The Stinker's forgetfulness.  I love that he can be cleaning up the dishes from dinner and completely forget what he's doing because his little sister has done something to make him laugh, and he's enjoying her.  I love how he sings Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas songs at the top of his lungs as he works on his art projects.  I love how he runs to the piano every chance he gets to practice "Deck the Halls" and "Shout to the Lord."  I love that he likes to play board games and appreciates the comics and isn't too big to be silly with his sister.

I love The Thinker's inquisitiveness.  I love that he thinks so much about life.  And I love that he has so much to share that he can't keep it inside and just must speak about it all as soon as he can about whatever he can think of.  Whew!  Even when it wears me out.  I love that he loves books, like me.  And sports, like his dad.  I love watching him mature and learn and grow more and more into the man he will become.  I love seeing him making strides to control his temper and show patience toward his brother.

I love them.  They are my children.

Our Abba Father loves us like that.  He knows our sitting down and our going about.  He knows our thoughts.  He knows our prayers before we ask.  He knows those individual things about us -- our habits, gestures, facial expressions, and attitudes. 

He knows how I lose car keys every other month and at least two pairs of sunglasses a year.  He knows how I struggle with anxiety, and how weary I can get.  He knows how a beautiful sunrise just makes my day. 

And I still ponder that He is mindful of me.  And not just mindful . . . but that He loves me.  He really loves me . . . like I love them. 

And much, much more.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."  Jeremiah 31:3

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"  1 John 3:1

Treasure His lavish, everlasting, Fatherly love.

He loves you -- cheesy grin, forgetfulness and all.

holy experience

Because I don't want to forget Gifts #431-456

cheesy grins

The Stinker's love for Christmas songs

The Thinker's maturity

youth basketball

The Thinker's first game (and he leading scorer!)

my husband's help when I'm sick

my parent's help when I'm sick

not having to go to the grocery store this week

hot showers

doctors and nurses

a good Sunday School lesson and discussion

hot coffee

sitting by my mom in church

a spagetti dinner at my parent's

a warm home

oodles of hand-knit scarves

Baby Girl's first haircut (adorable and without tears!)

The Stinker's cheerfulness as he works

watching Baby Girl dance with her daddy

my piano

the ability to play

the parents who paid for lessons

the one who patiently taught me for five years

the gift of music from my heart through my fingers

holiday celebrations

my Abba Father -- I just love Him


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What's in a Name?

The anxiety comes and goes like the weather.  Lately, it's a persistent fog distorting all my thoughts.  My scripture cards have been out often.  These verses I keep returning to:

"The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe"  Proverbs 18:10.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God"  Psalm 20:7.

While these verses bring some comfort to me, I begin to really think about them as I meditate . . . and I begin to wonder.  Why God's name?  Why is there such an emphasis on "the name of the LORD," instead of just saying, "the LORD"?

It took a child to teach me . . . . or rather a child's Bible study.  I have read before many verses referring to God's name.  We are to call on the name of the Lord, sing praise to His name, exalt His name, ascribe glory due His name, revere His name.  And ultimately, trust in His name.  I've read lists of His names; seen artistic hangings of His names, and found beauty in the titles He carries.  I've found comfort in His names.  But recently as I walked through a study, God What's Your Name?, with The Thinker I began to really ponder what it means to trust His name.  I found that it's stunningly simple.

To know the name of the LORD is to know the LORD. 

Meanings of names have always carried weight with me.  As we were considering names for our children, I would pour over baby books and toss out names that meant "bitter" or "supplanter" or things that I associated with something negative.  I wanted to pass on more than just a pretty sound.

The name of the LORD is even more than that.  Each of God's names essentially defines who He is. 
     Elohim tells us He is Creator
     El Shaddai tells us He is Almighty God
     Jehovah-jireh tells us He is Provider
     Jehovah-shalom tells us He is Peace
     Jehovah-raah tells us He is our Shepherd

As I began to know God's names and read some of the stories around which they are presented to us in the Bible, I began to understand that trusting in the LORD's name means trusting in the many parts of who He is for each and every need I have. 

If I need healing, He is Jehovah-rapha.  If I feel overlooked, He is El Roi.  If I feel lost, He is Jehovah-raah.  I can trust in His name.

"Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." 
~Psalm 9:10

May you know His name.

Seek to know His name through His Word at Internet Cafe Devotions.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Purple Tutus and Pink Castles

Boys, boys, boys.  For fourteen years, our family was blessed with them.  My nephew made his entrance on Halloween night (all three pounds of him) as the first of my parents' grandchildren sixteen years ago.  We liked boys so much, my sis and I blessed the family with four more over the next eight years.  Go Tonka trucks, John Deere tractors and anything dirty!

And then She graced us with her presence . . . a surprise in every sense of the word.  Two years ago, as doctors and nurses took bets while they waited, I labored.  I held out hope for a girl, but with a record like ours, I wasn't banking on that happening.  Plus, we had a girl's name picked out but couldn't agree on one for a boy.  Murphy's Law was pointing blue.

I still remember my nurse for that day.  I absolutely loved her.  And it was she who asked when the baby was finally born after hours of impatient waiting and upping Pitocin and agonizing over an epidural, "Did you see?"  Her face positively glowed.

"Did I see?" I asked, confused.  "See what?  Oh, no. No -- I didn't see!  I was too busy looking at the beautiful face and dark head of hair!"  I looked frantically for the telling end, but the doctor had the baby turned over.  All I saw was a sweet, scrawny bum.  I looked at the nurse's face and demanded an answer.  "No, I didn't see -- what is it?!"

She hesitated briefly then blurted, "It's a girl!"

"A girl?!?"

A girl. 

Purple tutus. A pink castle. Baby-dolls galore. Dresses and bows and darling purses.  Tea parties.  A heart-melting, sugar and spice package. 

My husband and I cried happy, awe-filled tears together.

Every one of my baby's births was a time I hold close to my heart.  Each one was special in its own way.  My first was . . . my first.  My second was peppered with visits from friends during and immediately after labor.  And my last gave us ALL a girl.

Two years later, it is a blessing I am still in awe of.  One that delights me and scares me silly all at once. 

So, I give thanks for the fear and the delight of purple tutus, pink castles and twin pony tails.

Happy Birthday to my two year-old Baby Girl.

holy experience

My cup overflows with gifts #419-430:

my birthday girl

pinkalicious cake

a camera to capture fleeting moments

pink poodle purses and a pink tricycle

joy on everyone's faces

years of boy things to enjoy, boogers and all

The Thinker placing in his last Rain Gutter Regata

surprising warm weather to play outside

sidewalk chalk

warm blankets and hoodies when the days got cold again

cold, starry skies

a God who gives birthdays


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Hate, Hate Exercise

I hate to exercise.  Hate it.  I have friends that run a ridiculous number of miles and post it on Facebook from time to time.  I love my friends . . . but I think they're crazy.  The thought of willingly running five, ten, twenty miles, all at once, is just absurd.  Down to the mailbox and back is more than enough for me, thank you very much.

Now, I love to play.  I like kickball, dodgeball, backyard games of softball or basketball.  I like hiking miles and miles in the mountains and taking long walks with friends.  I even enjoy a class of kickboxing or Pilate's if someone I know can distract me with chatter.  But call it exercise for exercise sake, and I instantly dislike it. 

Yet, as I write this moment, I am sitting on my exercise bike with my computer propped up beside me and my legs are peddling furiously.  I feel the burn.  And later I have plans to stick in a DVD and workout with some lady who has amazing flexibility, because I don't.

So, why am I torturing myself?  Because I need the exercise.  Since going through my last pregnancy two years ago, I've noticed a definite change in my strength and well-being.  And my pants are getting a bit tight.  Ahem.  I know I need to get my rear in gear, and that fuels my fire a bit to get moving.

Sometimes, I feel much the same about the spiritual disciplines.  Discipline -- a word akin to exercise.  Practicing spiritual disciplines for discipline sake makes me dislike them at times.  It seems dutiful and dry and boring to pick up the Bible or to pray just because I should.  But when I'm feeling weak or heartsick, and I'm getting squeezed by the pressures of life, there is a stronger desire within to seek the Lord. 

But as in physical exercise, it's harder to get in shape, than to stay in shape . . .

(t-shirt from

. . .so it is in our spiritual lives.  I shouldn't have waited for my pants to get too tight to start a regular exercise routine, and I shouldn't wait til life squeezes me to practice walking with Jesus.  For that is of far greater value than pants that fit just right.

"Rather, train yourself to be godly
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,
 holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." 
1 Timothy 4:8

Let's train together for something that will last.

*For the record, many of my running friends are also very godly people.  Doesn't that just stink?  (Grin.)*
For more training in the Word, check out Internet Cafe Devotions.  Get fit!


Monday, November 8, 2010

The Best Sort of Gratitude

I scrape tomato sauce off plates over the sink as we finish up dinner so that we can move on to the rest of our evening.  Dinner is the together time that we have between work, school and the evening activities.  Tonight is a bit rushed, for I forgot to put the lasgna in the oven before I left, and we have a deadline to swallow the meal and get out the door.

The Stinker interrupts my clean-up with a yell, "Oh, Mom!  We forgot our thankful leaves!"

His face shines with anticipatation at the sitting down together and writing on paper leaf cut-outs our gratitude for a gift of that day.  It is a tradition started a few years ago, for each to write down every day in November something we're thankful for and stick it to the wall for all to enjoy.  In times past, a paper trunk has made the tree seem more tree-like, but often it's just leaves -- colorful spots of gratitude posted as reminders of the abundance of blessing.

I pause, frustrated that I've forgotten already about this anticipated evening ritual, frustrated at the rush that pushes thankfulness aside and focuses on the urgent.  Shouldn't there always be time for gratitude?  Then, I stand thankful for the young one of my own to remind me of the important, thankful for time to give thanks, and thankful for so many blessings to record.

As the pen is passed and the leaves are chosen, we smile at one another's blessings for the day:
     books and warm blankets
     Pizza King
     a brother and sister to play with
     wipes in the car (to clean up The Princess when she cried so hard she vomited)

Small gifts, some amusing and some serious, fill our walls each November.  And as the trees outdoors lose their leaves, our tree inside branches out.

Our hearts branch out too -- towards each other and toward the Giver of all good gifts. 

For shared gratitude is the best sort of gratitude.

holy experience

And the gifts go on.  Praising a generous God for gifts #401 - #418:

gratitude lists of many kinds

people to remind me to give thanks

spots of color on my wall as evidence of blessing

remembering that giving thanks allows our lights to shine before men

a phone call with an old friend

pajamas with a pink tutu

Baby Girl's bowed head and folded hands

"1, 2, 3, 5, 5, 6 . . . " is the way she counts

a heart that accepts correction

tiny twin pony tails

family that are also friends

loving my husband more each day

a clean floor (even if only for a few minutes!)

a Sunday dinner without having to cook a thing

ladies at church who pick up my slack

movie night at home with my family (Toy Story 3 this time)

texts from my brother

a son who writes "I love you" on my to-do lists

A Giver who gives even when we forget gratitude


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Joy and Sorrow of Christmas Cards

I have been working on Christmas cards.  I know, I know.  It's a sickness.  It's hard to explain just how much I love Christmas . . . the lights, the carols, the greetings, the stories, the gifts, the cheer.  It's the most wonderful time of year, you know.  Which is why I start in October. 

Christmas cards are one of my favorite parts of the season, and I enjoy working on them early and taking my time.  I love to add handwritten notes when I have something to say and often include a picture of the family or the kiddos.  These were a few of the 100 attempts for last year's card:

I like to send the cards out the last day of November, so that ours is one of the first to greet our friends with good cheer.  In other words, I like to kick off the party!

As much as I enjoy choosing the cards for friends and family and signing our names and greeting, there is one part each year that's a bit solemn:  when I have a name to cross off the list.  Then my Christmas card time becomes a time of prayer for family that is still here and grieving.

And maybe that's why I most love Christmas:  it is a reminder that while joy and sorrow mingle together here, there is a Someday when we can put aside our sorrows forever.  Because the Word became Flesh -- and changed everything.

"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people . . ." (Luke 2:10).

"No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever"  (Revelation 22:4-5).

Soli Deo Gloria!!  Let's start celebrating!

For more good tidings, visit Internet Cafe Devotions.


Monday, November 1, 2010

A Gift From the Past

Two years ago, I had the privilege of going to a Beth Moore conference in Louisville, Kentucky.  For someone with a forgetful mind, I surprisingly remember much of what she spoke about and the theme for that weekend.  As always it was touching, entertaining and meaningful.  But more importantly, I came away with a gift:  Beth shared with us a way of studying scripture that I have taken to heart.  She reads a small portion of scripture each day until she comes to a verse that just speaks to her.  Then she takes that verse, writes it on a spiral-bound notecard, and carries it around with her to meditate on it.  I went home from that conference and began to do the same.

I need to admit upfront that this is not something I have been consistent with.  When I am doing a Bible study or involved in a book club, I tend to let this go.  I wish I wouldn't.  But it is a fruitful tool that profits me much.

I have been struggling with feelings of anxiety lately.  This is something that occurs occasionally for me, and it's usually mild.  But I hate it.  The other night, the anxiety was set off by a simple unbidden thought.  And the solitary thought flew unchecked through my mind and brought a flock of nagging friends.  The unease nested in my spirit until I was feeling overwhelmed with all the unwelcomed imaginings.  And that's when the whisper of Words filled my mind, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7).

The words were a spark of hope ready to smoke out the brood of bad tidings in my head.  I remembered my scripture cards and quickly retrieved them to turn to the very first one. These were some of the words uncovered:

The LORD is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness.  He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.  ~Isaiah 33:5-6

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts. "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come . . . to save you.  ~Isaiah 35:3-4

"For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."  ~Isaiah 41:13

"I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."  ~Isaiah 49:15-16

Scripture after scripture, of over one hundred cards filled, spoke to me of God's might, love and faithfulness.   I realized that at the time I began this collection of verses, I was also feeling anxious.  Two years ago for some of the same reasons and others different, I was feeling the weight of fear.  And He pulled me through and left me with a gift to use again. 

The last page in my second notebook of cards finishes the gift beautifully.  "Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for You."  Jeremiah (32:7). 

My anxiety is not too hard for Him.  The world and all its problems?  Not too hard for Him.  The gift of peace rests on me.  And I give thanks. 

holy experience

Giving thanks for gifts new and old #379-400:

anxiety that makes me lean closer

scripture from the past

a Word, living and active

a teacher who gives good gifts

more rain

protection from the storm

Baby Girl's kissable piggies

handmade items

some Christmas shopping already finished

The Stinker's good help in so many things

sharing joy with my brother and new sis

dressing up for fun

family parties in the fall

white chili on a cool Sunday

perfect gifts from family

my preemie nephew now 16!

a great prayer given by him

teenagers' tenderness with a toddler princess

my husband's constant friendship

cleaning up the kitchen together

nothing too hard for God

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