Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What moment are you in?

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I would share some of what we are doing for school ( I am so excited about some of the resources that can be used whether you homes school or not!). But truth is, there have been a few too many days where it has not gone exactly as I have planned or that I have not used all the resources I have intended. If I was primarily concerned about keeping our daily "schedule" I would be a basket case right now. Okay...so, maybe I am a little bit of a basket case...I do love schedules!:)

It seems that, each week, something comes up that is unavoidable and leaves us scrambling or trying to get more work done in a day because we either need to make up time or get ahead of schedule...and that just throws my hour by hour plans out the window! And, if I am being really honest, there are times when I am just a poor manager of our school time and I become part of the problem! So, with all that said, some of the things I want to share with you may not happen every day or in the exact way I want it to happen...but they are always the goal and a big priority!:)

You'll have to wait for a couple of days (or it may be a few more days away...my dear mom, sister and niece are arriving tomorrow for a visit!!!!), though, to hear about the resources...because the Lord helped me see something today that really affects the foundation of all that we do each day.

I have already shared before how it is so easy for me to, in my mind, be on to the next thing that I truly don't enjoy what I am doing right now or glorify Him with my whole heart. I do not live Jim Elliot's principle of "Wherever you are, be all there." The Lord has been working on my heart in that area...and today I realized how much my kids fall into the same trap and how sinful their attitudes often are because of it.

They will sit there with frustration written all over their faces...but often, it has nothing to do with the fact that they can't figure out what they are working on...it's that they are already thinking about wanting to play or the chores they have to do when they get done with school...and it is causing them to grumble and complain over what they are doing right at the moment. Instead of "being all there" and faithfully working through their assignments, they are already wishing for something different and seeing school as an obstacle in the way of what will bring them "happiness" instead of as the job God has called them to do for His glory.

It has huge ramifications for how long it takes them to complete their work, the quality of their work, how much they retain, and, of course, their attitude. (This could obviously apply to any area of all our kids' lives, not just school.)

Yes, we all need plans and schedules...but once we have sought to do the best we can to walk wisely by making the most use of our time, we need to "be all there" in whatever we are doing...as 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks...". We need to instill in our kids a thankful heart for RIGHT NOW (as we first seek to have that heart ourselves). As I told my kids at lunch today, "We have no idea when God might choose to end our lives...this moment may be our last...what does this moment look like in your life?"

I need to ask myself the same question constantly as I seek to examine my own life, my priorities, my pursuits and my passions...what am I doing with the life God has given me RIGHT NOW? How am I seeking to obey and honor Him above all things in my thoughts and actions RIGHT NOW?

How we think about the "here and now" has great ramifications for how we live this vapor of a life!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Danger in the Spotlight...


For those of you who checked my blog this weekend, you know that I spoke on Saturday (if not, see the post below this one). It went great, I had a great time, and others were greatly blessed (from what I have been told). Notice I keep using the word "great"...because, I sit here on Monday morning out of the "spotlight" and back to the "ordinary". It is very easy, in the flesh, to see what I did on Saturday as the good thing, the great thing, the thing that has meaning and purpose and changes lives and to see what I am doing today as what I MUST do...but not really being all that great. There will not be many hugs of appreciation or words of encouragement, there will probably be no "good jobs" and "the Lord really used you" coming from the lips of my children. I will be tempted to believe the lie that greatness comes from doing great things.
It's an easy lie to believe. I have read countless stories of missionaries and pastors and women of God who have done great things for the cause of Christ...left dear family only to lose their own family, or their own life, on the mission field, imprisoned for the cause of Christ, preached amazing sermons in the midst of great persecution...men and women who's words and actions leave me amazed and wondering if God will ever choose to use me in a fraction of the way He used them.

Here is what I am tempted to forget: Greatness is the result of God taking "ordinary" lives and "ordinary" things and doing extraordinary things to display HIS glory so that HE might be seen as great! God asks for faithfulness...not "greatness". Each moment lived in the "ordinary"...and I say that in quotation marks because ordinary by no means equals boring, meaningless or without purpose...the calling of a wife and mommy is a high, beautiful calling...but it is usually lived out in the "trenches" of life and not on the mountaintops, right?!...each "ordinary" moment is an opportunity to live for the glory of God. "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God", 1 Corinthians 10:31 says. What could be more ordinary than eating and drinking?!

You see, these men and women who I mentioned above...never aspired to "greatness"...they aspired to knowing God, loving Him with all their hearts, and faithfully and passionately obeying His call for their lives. They did not aspire to greatness...they aspired to obedience and God took their faithfulness with "little" and made them faithful over "much". God took their "ordinary" actions and used them to make Himself be seen as great through their lives!

My husband gave the illustration to me of a baseball player who hits a grand slam and wins the game. Everyone remembers that player and the act that he accomplished...but it's so easy to forget that what he did was only made possible by the 3 men who came up to bat before him and made a hit that put them on the bases!

Or, as we listened to a couple from our church share with us over lunch yesterday how God brought them from Africa to Canada, we were amazed by all the "ordinary" encounters (a garage sale, a meal brought over, a wait in an airport) that led to God being seen as great and providing in AMAZING ways through "ordinary" people and things.

Some people may have walked away remembering what I shared on Saturday...but the only way I was even able to share was the result of a few ladies and their hard work setting up the room the night before, getting there early the day of, and staying hours past the breakfast to clean up. "Ordinary" work.

I just got done reading a book by a missionary gal who lives in Mexico. The title of Lila Joy Quezada's book says it all "Diving Off the Pedestal". Being in the "spotlight" can be a very dangerous place to be, not just because others elevate us to a place we do not belong, but because we can easily feel like that is where greatness happens. Dive off that pedestal...or even the thought of a pedestal....with me and let's swim in the waters of God's mercy and grace as we seek to live our "ordinary" lives to the glory of our extraordinary God!

"If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth's grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of it's meanest village; it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot: the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God's will." John Newton

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Speaking!

I had the privilege of speaking today at a ladies breakfast at our church. Though a bit nervous, I was excited to use the gift I believe God has given me and minister to the ladies in that way! I was asked to speak on my "life story" and, as I prepared to speak, it was good to take time over the last few weeks to reflect on what the Lord has done in my life so-far. After I spoke, I had a few requests for quotes and so-forth, so I thought it might be a good idea to just post what I shared right here on the blog....

"My goal this morning is to be honest and transparent...that means that some of what I will say might embarrass me but prayerfully will also encourage you!

I grew up in a Christian home and I am so thankful for all that the Lord kept me from as a result...but it also created a new dilemma in my life. I became so used to “doing what I was supposed to do” that I really didn’t see myself as sinful as I was. Yes, I knew that I needed a Savior, and I believe the Lord saved me in the 5th grade...but there was a lot of Pharisee in me, too! Doing the right thing but not always for the right reasons and, even those things meant nothing to the Lord if they were not done in His strength...for “apart from Me you can do nothing” Jesus said in the book of John.

Looking back on my childhood and couple of thoughts come to mind for today:

1)Our children really do need to be reminded all the time that they are sinners and there is nothing good in them apart from Christ! They do not need self-esteem...they need to be taught to highly esteem Christ!

2)They need to recognize that their sin is, above all, against God...not you. I was often so sad about “letting my parents down” but not always sad about the fact that I had sinned against the Lord. And, it is so easy to give our kids that mindset without even meaning to...we do it by the way we respond to their sin. If their sin really bugged us or interfered with our plans we tend to make a big deal about it and come down hard on them. But, often, if they sin and it didn’t really affect us or cause us much discomfort or we just plain don’t feel like dealing with it, we say little or nothing. Our kids begin to see their sin as big sin/little sin and base what they do on the consequences. Big sin is when mom and dad get upset, little sin is when it doesn’t really get them in trouble. They begin to live within those boundaries (of consequences) forgetting that all sin is equal in God’s sight...all of our sin sent His Son to the cross. It’s God standard our kids need to be trained to live by...not ours!

Okay...back to my story! :) The story of how God kept stripping away the Pharisee in me and showing me my sin! He has used many things and continues to...to show me that I truly am helpless and apart from Him, there is no good in me.

David Powlison once shared a great illustration that I read in the book “Girltalk” by the Mahaney women and it’s been a visual for me for many years!

“If we hold out a soaking wet sponge and squeeze it, what will happen? Water will fall on the floor. We may look at the puddle and think it was caused by the squeeze. However, the squeeze only revealed what was already in the sponge. You could squeeze a dry sponge but no water would come out.

What’s the point? As with a sponge, what is in our hearts will spill out of us when the squeeze is on. In other words, difficult interactions or trying experiences (the squeeze perpetrators) are not the cause of our angry reactions; rather they serve to reveal the sin that was there all along. Matthew 15:18 says that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart”.”


So, with the sponge illustration in mind, I’ll try to give you a snapshot of my life up until now!

*** God has and continues to use my marriage to “ring me out” and I have been and am still amazed by all the sin that resides just below the surface. I never realized just how selfish I was until I got married! Your experience may be different but, in complete honesty, the first few years of married life and especially the first year was not a “honeymoon”...it was hard! There was a lot of sin that needed to be flushed out and repented of in my own heart that I never really knew was there! If you are in your first few years of marriage and it is so much harder than you thought it would be..don’t be embarrassed to say so and to ask for godly council, wisdom and encouragement! You are learning what it means to truly consider someone else as more important than yourself...learning to love with God’s love when the rubber hits the road and your struggling to like the guy that not that long before made your heart bound at just the sight of him.

And, by the way, I am in no way saying that my dear husband is not a like-able guy...he is wonderful...but in the end, I am a sinner who married a sinner and that means sin is and will be apart of our marriage and sin is never a bed of roses. Plus...we women can be a bit hard to please, sad to say! And while we need to see the ways we sin in our wrong expectations, the following does give us a good laugh in the midst of our struggle:

The Husband Store

A brand new store has just opened in New York City that sells Husbands.
When women go to choose a husband, they have to follow the instructions at the entrance:
You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are 6 floors and the value of
the products increase as you ascend the flights. You may choose any item
from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you
CANNOT go back down except to exit the building.
So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband.
The 1st floor sign on the door reads:
Floor 1: These men Love the Lord and have Jobs.
The 2nd floor sign reads:
Floor 2: These men Love the Lord, have Jobs and Love Kids.
The 3rd floor sign reads:
Floor 3: These men Love the Lord, have Jobs, Love Kids and are extremely good looking.
"Wow," she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.
She goes to the 4th floor and the sign reads:
Floor 4: These men Love the Lord, have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and help with Housework.
"Oh, mercy me!" she exclaims, "I can hardly stand it!"
Still, she goes to the 5th floor and sign reads:
Floor 5: These men Love the Lord, Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, help with Housework and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.
She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the 6th floor and the sign reads:
Floor 6: You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor.
There are no men on this floor.
This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please.
Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store please watch your step on the way out!


All that to say, it is so very much worth working hard for the glory of God to be the wife He has called us to be and to have a marriage that honors Him. As the years go by, it keeps getting sweeter and sweeter and I better understand and agree with Elisabeth Elliot’s second husband, Lars who said,

“A wife if she is very generous may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the other eighty percent and both of them will be happy.”

***God used our first baby to “squeeze me” in what I truly believed about His sovereignty. At 5 months pregnant our son was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, an chromosomal abnormality that meant he would most likely be stillborn or would die within days or weeks of being born. I carried Garett for another 3 months and he was stillborn a month and a half before his due date. Throughout those months of waiting, knowing, crying, and praying, God’s sovereignty, His control of all things was, to us, like a lighthouse for a sailor on a stormy sea...He was our constant and our source of hope. He can be trusted completely and He must be trusted completely!

He also taught me something else. He had taken a dream I had since I was little...to be a mommy...and caused me to realize how easy it was to hope in something other than God. To love His good and precious gifts even more than the giver, God Himself. He demanded first place in my heart, required submission to His will, even when it wasn’t what I would have chosen, and helped me to see the treasure that He is and the joy and peace that comes in loving Him above all and resting in His perfect plan! All of His plans are for our good!

***Then God saw fit to twist the sponge of my heart through the gift of children. It’s almost funny to say that...but God uses all things to sanctify us...both what He gives and what He takes away! I thought I had rid the weed of selfishness from the garden of my heart as God had worked on me through marriage...but it was clearly only dormant and reappeared as the babies started and kept coming! Denying self took on a whole new meaning and it still does as it is what God has called us to, each and every day! Don’t ever think that because being a mom is hard, you must be doing something wrong...being a mom is VERY hard and requires more than we could ever give...and that’s exactly where God want’s us, right?!!! I loved this story that I read as I could so relate...I have a feeling some of you might be able to, too:

One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house. His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard. The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall .. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.
He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she may be ill, or that something serious had happened. He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls. As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, "What happened here today?"She again smiled and answered, "You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world did I do today?" "Yes" was his incredulous reply. She answered, "Well, today I didn't do it." -Veronica Kavanagh


The blessing it is to be a mom, the struggle it is to be a mom, and the responsibility that comes with this beautiful calling could keep me talking for the rest of the morning....but then you wouldn’t get to go home and actually enjoy that gift...so, I’ll keep it short! Elizabeth Prentiss, author of “Stepping Heavenward” (a must read!) said it so beautifully in her book upon the birth of another baby:

“Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery, Here is a soul to train for God. and the body in which it dwells is worth all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ’s name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!”


That should be the desire of all of our hearts...but we live in a culture that does not see children that way...they see them as a burden, trouble, freedom robbers...and when we do not have our eternal glasses perched on our noses, we fall prey to that lie...to not see the precious gift we have been entrusted with and the mission field right in our very own homes!

***And if 4 kids were not enough to bring me to my knees and help me see my absolute need for and complete dependence upon the Lord and His constant mercy and forgiveness, He laid it on my heart to add to that number!:) Notice I said “my heart”. Adoption was not on Bryan’s heart at all! In fact, he told me it would take a miracle for God to change his heart or he would have to die and my second husband could join me in adopting! It took a lot of waiting and praying and it still blows me away that God changed his heart so completely. Ladies...don’t nag...pray. Only God can change your husband’s hearts...you cannot. And no matter how much you may think you might like the job, you are NOT his Holy Spirit. Bryan will affectionately call me that -the holy spirit-as a gentle was of letting me know I am stepping over the lines...and it also helps remind me Who I should be going to first anyway!

Waiting is not only something I did before the “yes” from Bryan...we did a lot of tough waiting through the adoption process. I could have spent the whole morning talking about our adoption story and why we think adoption is so beautiful...not just earthly adoption...but, so much greater, our adoption, as believers into the family of God! God could have just saved us and justified us and then left us to fend for ourselves. But He didn’t...He brought us into His family, gave us His name, and all the rights of sons and daughters. It’s just amazing to dwell on...God is amazing!

I know that not all of you can relate to physically adopting kids but I know that you can all relate to waiting. It seems like we spend much of our lives waiting...waiting on someone to do or not do something, waiting for something to happen or for the situation we are in to be over. Paul Tripp said something years ago that has stuck with me ever since and has changed the way I view waiting:

"Waiting on God isn't about the suspension of meaning and purpose. It's part of the meaning and purpose that God has brought into my life. Waiting on God isn't to be viewed as an obstruction in the way of the plan. Waiting is an essential part of the plan. For the child of God, waiting isn't simply about what I'll receive at the end of my wait. No, waiting is much more purposeful, efficient, and practical than that. Waiting is fundamentally about what I'll become as I wait. God is using the wait to do in and through me exactly what he's promised. Through the wait he's changing me. By means of the wait he's altering the fabric of my thoughts and desires. Through the wait he's causing me to see and experience new things about him and his kingdom. And all of this sharpens me, enabling me to be a more useful tool in his redemptive hands."

May we glorify God in the midst of all of our waiting!

***So, this is my story so-far. Lord willing, God will give me many more years of stories to tell of His faithfulness and goodness amidst the backdrop of my sin, weaknesses, and imperfections. My goal and prayer is in Phillippians 2 and Colossians 1...to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling....struggling with all his energy that He so powerfully works in me”. As I have sought and continue to seek to fix my eyes on Christ, there have been some things that have helped along the way that I wanted to pass onto you in closing:

1)Be in God’s Word daily, it is food for your soul. Very rarely do any of us go a whole day without eating because we know what a lack of food does to our body. How much more does our soul...our spirit and emotions...need the daily strength and sustenance that can only come from God’s Word! Something that has been a wonderful help and discipline for me the past 7 years is a read through the Bible plan. John MacArthur has taken the Word of God and put it into a “daily read” format in his book “The MacArthur Daily Bible” and it’s my favorite!

2)Pick up a book that is Biblically sound and will spur you on to Christ-likeness and START READING! Just reading ONE PAGE a day will allow you to read about 2 books a year! You have to start somewhere...and oh, the wealth of godly encouragement that is found in the pages of a good book! My heart and soul has been richly blessed over the years from the words of Godly men and women! And, if you are not sure what to start reading...see any of the pastors or their wives...you’ll get enough suggestions to last you for years, I bet!:)

3)Lastly...cling to, memorize, meditate on, and make 2 Corinthians 10:5 your daily prayer:

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Everything we do or say starts in the mind and we must daily do battle there. We can only battle effectively when we are able to discern thoughts that are not of God, take them captive and then replace them with words of truth...God’s Word. We have got to be women of the Word! And, as we continue to fall in love with God and His Word, as we seek to obey Christ in a place where no one can see....the thoughts in our mind...we will find true joy, rest and victory! We’ll be able to echo a hearty agreement with Alan Redpath when he said:

"There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing,
that can even touch me until, first of all,
it has gone past God and Christ, right through to me.
If it has come that far,
it has come with a great purpose
which I may not understand at the moment. 
But as I refuse to become panicky,
as I lift up my eyes to him and accept it
as coming from the throne of God
for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart,
no sorrow will ever disturb me,
no trial will ever disarm me,
no circumstance will cause me to fret,
for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is!
That is the rest of Victory!"

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Pizza Friday...and Chocolate Chip Bars!


A few months ago I posted about an easy pizza dough recipe that I found. It got even easier when I finally realized that I could "whip it up" in my Kitchen Aid (I'm a bit slow at catching on to the wonders of the Kitchen Aid I was given!). I have also tried making the dough by replacing the flour for ALL whole wheat flour and I am impressed with the texture and flavor!

Anyway, my friend, Cindy, gave me an unbelievably easy recipe for chocolate chip cookies in bar form. They have the texture and flavor of shortbread and cookie all in one and they are so simple you can make them up while the pizza is baking in the oven and throw them in when the pizza comes out! My kids love them!

So...here is the recipe...I think I will cut back on the butter by a 1/4 of a cup next time and they were done in about half of the time that is listed...but our oven seems to be on the "fritz".:)

****Do not cut back on the butter...it was not one of my best ideas!:)******

Happy Friday!

Chocolate Chip Bars

1 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
Cream together well then add:

1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups of flour
1 cup of chocolate chips

Press into a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 25 minutes

So simple, huh?!:)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Black and White....or Maybe it's Gray?


I am a black and white kinda gal! I'd like to say that my standard for that black and white is always the Word of God...but that would make me perfect...and I am far from it!:) Sadly, there are times when what I see as sin (black) and what I see as right (white) has nothing to do with what God's Word says and everything to do with my own opinion, experience and preference. I become the standard instead of God's Word being the standard....the Pharisee in me rears it's ugly head!

As a result, there are times when love for other believers does not flow out of my life the way that it ought to because I hold them to a standard that not even God holds them to and, as a result, judge them unjustly. Of course, in that moment it seemed pretty "just" to me till God gives me a spiritual spanking through His Word, my husband or others!:)

So, articles like the one below are huge blessings to me and an encouragement to my heart as I seek to love what GOD loves and hate what HE hates!


Doing Well and Doing Better

April 25, 1995 by John Piper

One little way to undergird our efforts to love as we ought is to recognize moral gradations inside the bounds of good and evil. In other words, the Bible teaches that there is evil, and then there is worse evil. And the Bible teaches that there is good, and there is better. Sometimes we lose this perspective because we believe that falling short of perfection is sin. And how can sin be called good?

Perhaps we define perfection differently than God does. Jesus said, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). But Paul said, “He who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better … Let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let them marry” (1 Corinthians 7:38, 36). So you can fall short of doing “better” and still “do well.” So is less than “better” sin in this case? No. Paul explicitly says that doing less than better in this case is “not sin.”

Is less than “better” a falling short of perfection? Probably, if you define “perfection” in absolute terms. But evidently Paul did not think this way. It seems that “perfection” had some room in it. It seems that when there are several options, several may not be sin, even though one may be better than the other. So we must be careful not to overstate the demands of perfection. Even inside perfection, there is good, better, and best.

The same is true of evil. Inside evil there is bad, worse and worst. This is why Jesus ended one of his parables about the end of the age by saying, “That slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few” (Luke 12:47-48). In other words, hell is not a place of invariable suffering. There are gradations of evil and gradations of torment in hell.

But that’s not my main concern here. My concern here is to caution us about over-absolutizing perfection. I have said often that none of us will attain perfection in this life (Philippians 3:12). That is true. And it is comforting that there is always forgiveness for sinners who bank on Jesus. I have also said that there are many gray areas in life where we do not know the ideal course of action and must choose what we hope will do the greatest good, when we are quite unsure. That, too, is true. It is both frustrating and comforting. We must live with ambiguity, and we are relieved of the burden of omniscience.

But now I am saying something different (not contradictory). Not only will we fall short of what is expected of us often in this life, and not only are there gray areas of ambiguity in the choices that we make, but also (this is the new thing), even when we don’t fall short, we may be doing well, better or best—all of which are not sin. In other words, not only are there gray areas between white and black, but there are shades of white inside of white. And the darker shades of white are not sin (1 Corinthians 7:36).

Knowing this, I say, will help us love as we ought. Think about it.

Growing, little by little, with you,

John Piper

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life as a Vapor


Life feels really fragile today. I talked to my precious sister this morning and she was telling me about some of the heartache going on in the lives of people in her church. One dear, godly woman, who also was my favorite elementary teacher, has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. She has 3 teenagers and a wonderful husband who battled cancer himself a few years ago. Their hope is in the Lord but I can only imagine how their hearts must be aching.

Another family just found out that the little 2 year old girl they were in the process of adopting from Haiti died. Having adopted ourselves, those children, though thousands of miles away become very much apart of your family and your heart. When we thought we had "lost" the boys, our hearts grieved as though I had miscarried...so, I find my eyes welling up with tears at just the thought of the way this family must be hurting. This is not the first daughter that has gone before them to Heaven. They lost their 6 year old daughter a couple of years ago, too.

A family from our church back East knows what it means to lose two daughters, too. A few years ago, their little baby McKenna Joy was diagnosed with a deadly illness when she was 3 months old and she died before her first birthday. Last year, God saw fit to bless Kelly with another pregnancy...another baby girl. She has the same illness as her older sister and her days have been numbered much sooner than any of us would have ever planned.

My emotions are getting the best of me making it hard to write this post. My heart grieves for these precious families and the loss that they have and are experiencing. But I am praising the Lord, too, that they all know and love Jesus with their whole hearts. They know the character of God and, because they know who He is, though they may not understand why the things that are happening are happening...they trust His sovereignty and the fact that God only does what is best for us. What hope and what testimonies they have been as they cling to Rock of Salvation...as they are living examples of the words of Charles Spurgeon: "I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the Rock of Ages".

And, as I said in the very beginning of my post, it reminds me of how fragile life is...truly a vapor as James says. Bryan and I have been reading John Piper's "Life As A Vapor" in the morning and I can't help but recall a few things he has said that have me pondering and reflecting on life and how I am living it. I'll close with a few of his thoughts:

"Since every moment is the beginning of the rest of your life, and every moment is the end of the past, every moment should be governed by the glad affections of both gratitude (toward the past) and faith (toward the future)."

"Whatever pleasures or pains may come our way in this day, they will all be mercy...we never rise above the status of beneficiaries of mercy. We are always utterly dependent on the undeserved. God never owes us anything in ourselves. The smallest faith and the fullest obedience receive one thing:almighty mercy."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whistler!


Bryan and I had the blessing of going away for two nights this weekend. A dear family in our church offered to watch the whole gang (and they had a WONDERFUL time!). It was the first time we had been away on our own for almost 2 years...and boy was it nice and VERY quiet!:) It's amazing how you just get used to the constant commotion and activity that having six kids brings!

The best I can do for describing Whistler to those who have not been is to compare it to Tahoe...times two or maybe three!:) I guess, if you haven't been to Tahoe either, that wasn't too helpful!:) Sorry! We could only imagine just how amazing it must have been during the winter Olympics!!!

We were so thankful for the beautiful weather on Friday! We had fun mini-golfing at a course made of all real grass and we had a beautiful afternoon walking around Lost Lake and exploring "Whistler Village".
One of the coolest things we saw was what they did to some of the ski courses. During the summer, they turn them into obstacle courses/trails for mountain bikers! The bikers take themselves and their bikes up the ski lift and then ride down! It was SO NEAT! And there was no specific age demographic. We saw younger guys and gals and we saw older couples (50+!) and groups of older guys all making their way down the mountain! It looked like so much fun!
While we enjoyed our time away immensely, it felt good to come home, too. We are so very thankful for the life God has given us, the family He has blessed us with and our church family. It made coming home just as sweet as going...and that is a gift that keeps our hearts overflowing with praise!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are We Sinning When We Don't Enjoy Our Kids?


Loaded question, huh? It's going to take a while to get to the bottom of this one...so grab your tea :) and don't disagree till you get to the end!

I am not going to go down the road of giving you a big disclaimer about how much I, of course, love my kids and how they bring joy to my heart and I am so glad that God called me to be a mom doing exactly what I am doing...because all those things are true...but, really, they have little to do with the heart of my question!(And, no, this post is not coming on the heals of a bad week!:))

Being a mom is hard...REALLY HARD!!! Not only do we have to fight our own flesh and our own sin...but we are in constant battle with our kids flesh...our kids sin. JC Ryle describes it beautifully in his book "The Duties of Parents":

"It is painful to see how much corruption and evil
there is in a young child's heart--and how soon it
begins to bear fruit!

Violent tempers,
self-will,
pride,
envy,
sullenness,
passion,
idleness,
selfishness,
deceit,
cunning,
falsehood,
hypocrisy,
a terrible aptness to learn what is bad,
a painful slowness to learn what is good,
a readiness to pretend anything in order to gain
their own ends--all these things, or some of them,
you must be prepared to see, even in your own
children! In little ways, they will creep out at a
very early age! It is almost startling to observe
how naturally they seem to spring up.

Children require no schooling to learn to sin.

You must not think it a strange and unusual thing,
that their little hearts are so full of sin. It is the
only portion which our father Adam left us; it is that
fallen nature with which we come into the world; it
is that inheritance which belongs to us all.

Never listen to those who tell you your children are good.
Think rather that their hearts are always inflammable as
tinder. At their very best, they only need a spark to set
their corruptions on fire! Parents are seldom too cautious.
Remember the natural depravity of your children, and
take care."

I have six of the above mentioned running around my house all day!:) Many times it feels as though there is not much to enjoy...it's more of a determination to train, exhort, teach, encourage, instruct, referee and just get through the day without my own sin hanging all out! Sometimes it can feel like trial upon trial of various kinds!:) And trials take me to the book of James...specifically chapter 1 verses 3-5:

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."


Thought number one: The joy is not in the trials...it's in what they produce. Jesus himself endured the cross (not enjoyed it) for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

Thought number two:
Scripture tells us NOT to grow weary in doing good because God knew that we WOULD grow weary (thanks, mom, for that insight!).

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9


Thought number three: We have long bought into the world's lie that we should be happy and, if we are not happy...if we are not finding pleasure in what we are doing...than we need to stop doing it or figure something else out because we must be doing something wrong.

Honestly, that lie has been embedded into the very foundation of how we think and it breeds discontentment in our hearts all the time. Pleasure and enjoyment is not the "end game" for the believer. The end game is to be "holy as He is holy"(1 Peter 1:16) and the life God has called us to is one of denying self, taking up our cross and following Him (Luke 9:23). In fact, that is the premises of two books we own by Gary Thomas..."Sacred Marriage" and "Sacred Parenting". The front covers sum up the theme of the books:

"What if God designed parenting (marriage) to make us holy more than to make us happy?"


Will we, many times, be happy in our marriages and, in regards to this post, in our parenting? You bet. Life is precious...our children are precious gifts. God's Word is clear that they are a blessing and if you have them, you can "Amen" that truth! But they must never be looked to to bring us joy and happiness. Only Jesus can do that!

So, I believe that our hearts can be freed up a bit as moms knowing that we are not sinning (or are bad moms) when we do not always enjoy our kids...there are many times they are just not enjoyable (and many times we are not either!). We do sin, though, when we are joyless...we sin when we place our hope for pleasure in our relationship with our kids...we sin when we do not set the Lord always before us and look to HIM to fill our heart with true delight and joy!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!


We were SO VERY BLESSED by the gift of tickets to go see the Red Sox play the Mariners last night! I'll be honest...you really have to love baseball when it takes almost as long to drive one way to the game as it takes for the game to actually be played!:) It's crazy to think, though, that it takes the same amount of time for us to drive from Canada to Seattle to the game as it did to drive from Yakima, Washington to the game!:)

We made a stop in Everett to visit my brother Andrew (I forgot to pull out my camera..bummer!) and he so graciously allowed us to throw some Papa Murphy's pizzas in the oven for an early dinner (can you imagine all 8 of us eating at the ball park? That would break the bank for sure!).

Then it was on to the ball field to watch warm ups. As the kids ran down hoping to have a ball thrown their way...their mommy was praying for just that! My heart spilled over with joy when God chose to answer that prayer and Darnell McDonald (from the Red Sox) threw a ball to Micah! HIGHLIGHT of the trip for all of us!!!:)
We met up with my brother, Paul, who was able to get a seat right next to ours! We saw Lester pitch, Kalish hit a home run (my daughter Grace just announced to us as I am typing this, "Someone got a home run?"...that shows just how much she watched the game!:)), Big Papi swing the bat, and the Red Sox win! The kids really had a blast and so did we!
We are all a bit tired from the late night...but so very thankful for the special gift of a game and the memories that we made as a family!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Not Endorsing...Just Proverbs 31ing...

Thought I had better make a disclaimer!:) I found out that if I put "Google Adsense" on my blog I might be able to make some money. It's more of an experiment at this point...but I figured that if my writing could help bring some income to our family, it was worth giving it a try.

Having said that...I am going to seek to keep an eye on what type of ads are placed in that little box on the right and at the bottom of my new posts. No amount of money is worth having something on my blog that I would stand completely against and that someone might actually click on and be lead astray. From what I understand, it can take a few days for "Adsense" to get a "feel" for my blog and put appropriate ads in the box so that is a part of the experiment, too! Please feel free to give me feedback. If you see something you know is not good...let me know! I want to honor the Lord with this blog and, yes, even with the ads!:)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quote for your ponderings...


Spurgeon has done it again...this quote needs no explanation, no commentary or conclusions added. It stands alone and leaves much to ponder about. For me, it's the quote of the year and it was too good not to share! Happy Friday!


"I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the Rock of Ages."
C.H. Spurgeon

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"What age will be easier?


That is the question my dear daughter Faith posed to me today. She prefaced it with, "Mom, you won't hurt my feelings if you say an older age but...what age will be easier for you and you'll be less tired and stuff? When I am 11?"

I was somewhere between smiling, crying, and thinking I had better get my thyroid checked :)... as I hugged her tight and told her that every age is easy and hard. Every age has great things and tough things about it...just like the seasons of our lives. But I loved her just the way she was, at just the age she was and I was so thankful for the gift that she is!...and, then, as she walked away, I started thinking...

Don't we all do that about life...we assume the "next season" of life will get easier. We assume the silver lining is coming sometime soon. We wait expectantly for summer break or Christmas break or vacation or you fill in the blank...because then it will get "easier" or more relaxing. But, often it's not easier and often the silver lining is actually the top of a new mountain to be climbed...and we feel discouraged, tired and lacking the joy that is so much apart of the Christian life!

At the root of it all though is where we have placed our hope. We have placed it in things and people that are guaranteed to disappoint us (even our most favorite people!). We have placed our hope upon seasons of change when we so desperately need to place it upon what doesn't change! God alone must be the the source of our hope. The Object of our trust. The Center of our lives upon which everything else revolves around!

I have spent most of my post using words like "we and our"...maybe this isn't a struggle for you...but it's one that the Lord has certainly been growing me in these past few years! I am so thankful that "The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." Psalm 145:8 And I am so glad that He has given us His precious words to daily remind us:

"For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."
Romans 15:4

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." Psalm 43:5

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Horse Tale...


If Grace isn't playing with her baby dolls, then she is almost always doing something that involves horses. In fact, lately...it's been all about horses!:) She has tried to convince Bryan and I that we should buy her a horse for her birthday and we have tried to explain to her the expenses of having a horse and the fact that our budget could not handle that type of "ongoing gift". She was not to be deterred...her next idea was that we could buy her a pony (since it is so much smaller) and it could just live in our backyard and eat our grass!:) Our answer was still firm...but we couldn't help but smile over her thought process.

She seems to understand that buying a horse or a pony is out of the question and yet, she has stilled been just as determined to "ride a horse". She has clearly decided that if she can't have real horses to ride...she is okay with substitutes...her sister and brothers!:) It is really quite comical to see my kids with pillows on their back cinched tight with belts (saddles) and a string around their face for the bridle.
Titus got tired of being the horse...so he bacame the sheriff/farmer and that carrying case you see in the picture is his plow!:) I know that the days of this type of creativity will come to an end way sooner than I can imagine...so, for now...I'm taking it all in, laughing at their antics, thanking God for my dear children and writing it down so I won't forget!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Does the plan actually work?


"If at first you don't succeed...try, try again."

It's one of those quotes that I have heard so many times before...and, I was reminded this week in a book that I read, that it's actually a bit of faulty advice! Sure, we are called to persevere, we are called to run the race, we are called to repent when we sin and to pursue Christ...we are not called to be quitters...we are called to be conquerors in Christ Jesus. And, of course, all the "trying" we do must be done in HIS energy which He so powerfully works in us (Col. 1:29)!

Keeping all those things in perspective, it's also just as true that the reason we may not be "succeeding"...no matter how much we "try" is because our method just isn't all that great! Our well-thought out plans really aren't that swell! Our road to success turned out to be a trip to the dump.:) No matter how hard we may try to make things work they just won't until we tweak our plans or just change them all-together!

That, my friends, sums up the first full week of homeschooling!:) It has been a week of trial by error. Not only have the kids had to re-adjust to a world of math equations and cell formations and the many forms of punctuation but they have had to do so on an entirely new "set-up"...a computer that only responds to keys being tapped in just the right sequence and buttons being pushed AFTER the answer has been determined not BEFORE (the later will give you a big fat "0" on your assignment!). There is no erasing and starting over (although, I have this really cool feature on my "teacher program" that allows me to erase and change whatever I want...it is getting used quite often!:)).

From the way I am writing you must be thinking I am just kicking myself for trying something new and must be planning how to buy all the curriculum I have used in the past and mourn the money lost on 3 new computers. NOPE, not this crazy lady...though I'd be lying if I hadn't thought that several times this past week! Not to mention the several times I was half tempted to walk my clan over to George Greenway Elementary and introduce them to their new school!:)

What I am learning, in the midst of it all, is that having a plan is important but only if that plan actually works. And it's okay to say:

"Sorry guys, this just isn't working...let's pray that God will help us come up with something that will work."

"Sorry kids, Mom's idea was truly a terrible one...sorry that made your day harder...we are going to try to figure out something new."

"Your Dad is a really wise guy and I'm going to ask for his help and advice when he gets home!"

There has been a bit of starting and stopping this past week, of frustration and anger, of complaining and grumbling, of crying and wanting to quit, of being too tired to even try to find another "angle" or "solution", and a lot of sinful responses (I'll take 90% of those, sadly)...but there has also been a lot of learning and growing, of stretching and bearing, of mercy and grace, of forgiveness and wisdom, of hope and peace....because Christ power is perfected in weakness, He takes our cares and gives us His peace, He gives us new mercies every morning...He is faithful even when we are faithless!

All that said, today was a great day of school. Our "re-worked and then re-worked some more" plans, methods and schedules seem to be working well for my 6 kiddos. I want to give it some time, but hopefully I can share some of what we have learned this past week with you and maybe it will aid in your day as well!

"For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me."
Colossians 1:29


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ethiopian and Back to School Food Fun!!!


I am so excited!!!! My sister-in-law, Michelle, went over to our Ethiopian friend's (Mrs. Bea as our kids like to affectionately call her) house last month and videotaped her making some Ethiopian food dishes! This is a JEWEL of a gift as there is a bit of technique to making Ethiopian food and it can get "lost in translation" when you are trying to simply read the directions. If you have adopted Ethiopian children, this will bless your socks off...and theirs too! Or, if you are just looking to expand your culinary skills...I think you'll really appreciate the YouTubes, too! There are 3 parts about 10 minutes each. Here are the links to get you there:

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

Also, I am always looking for ways to make school lunch time easier and quicker (yep...even though they are all home) and my sister-in-law's sister gave some great tips recently on their blog NEAR TO NOTHING. I love the PB & J idea!!! If your kids are heading off to school (or not!) I think you'll find it well worth a few minutes of your time to check out their blog!