Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 67

Thanking God this week for...
  • safety as we traveled over the last few days
  • the privilege of being able to stay home with Elijah
  • Joel's dedication this past Sunday and getting to be a part of celebrating that answer to prayer
  • lunch with my sister-in-law
  • time spent with family
  • a massage on Monday (Christmas gift from my parents...ahhh)
  • time spent catching up with dear college friends
  • their hospitality and generosity
  • people who know me at a deep heart level
  • the beauty of snow
  • lunch from La Charreada--my favorite Mexican restaurant from college
  • gas station cappuccino
  • a wonderful husband who encourages me to make such road trips
  • Elijah's good-natured disposition during the trip
  • coming home to that wonderful husband
  • fresh flowers welcoming me home
  • peanut butter cookies welcoming me home
  • Elijah's giggles
  • these and ten thousand more blessings given to me even when I don't deserve them
  • grace greater than all my sin

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 66

Thanking God this week for...
  • challenging blog posts
  • books
  • homemade cheesecake
  • backrubs
  • my camera
  • - a wealth of photography information
  • friends willing to watch Hank when we go out of town
  • my incredible husband
  • the way Elijah breaks into a big grin when he sees Steve or me for the first time in a while
  • His patience with me
  • the fact that He is slow to anger
  • not treating me as my sins deserve

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CDs for iPod Trade: Update

A few months ago, I blogged about a cool website I'd found that offers a trade service--you send them your old CDs, and trade up for a new iPod (you can make up the difference with cash if you don't have enough CDs to trade). I finally got around to submitting our CDs a couple of weeks ago. First I emailed the company a list of what we had; to my surprise, they were interested in physically reviewing nearly all of the 50 or so CDs I listed! Since they offer a 4GB Nano for 75 CDs, I was optimistic that we would get a great deal and only have to pay a little cash.

Well, I just got a phone call from the company today. Out of 50 CDs and 2 DVDs, we're only getting $20 worth of credit. I'm pretty disappointed. They're only willing to give us full credit for two of the CDs--out of FIFTY.

I'm blogging about this just as a warning to any of you who might want to try the trade after hearing about it in my previous post. I'm not implying that the company is fraudulent. I was just under the impression that if the CDs looked good and played okay, they were acceptable. Almost all of our liner notes and jewel cases were in mint condition--but many of the CDs supposedly have surface scratches. To be honest, I didn't inspect the playing sides, because I knew they played okay. Big mistake. Apparently if they *look* scratched, even if they *play* fine, they aren't acceptable for trade. So if you're thinking about submitting CDs for trade--inspect them carefully. If they are not absolutely picture perfect, you won't get credit for them, or at least not full credit.

Basically I wasted a lot of time and $5 shipping and won't be getting an iPod after all. Bummer. The company did offer to ship my old CDs back at no charge, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with a box of CDs I don't listen to anyway.

Holy Love

A lot of times, particularly when faced with some of the more offensive stumbling-block truths of Christianity, you'll hear people say, "God is love. Period." But I think it's foolishly simplistic to imagine we can reduce the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe to one word, as though His infinite majesty can be effectively summed up in four letters.

As for the false dichotomy between His holiness and His love, I read this quote recently and found it provocative:
"If we spoke less about God's love and more about his holiness, more about his judgment, we should say much more when we did speak of his love."

--P.T. Forsyth, quoted in The Cross of Christ (John Stott)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Parenting Ambitions

Those Middletons are at it again with their convicting posts--and I'm glad. This time it's Luke who writes:
"As marriage is an incredible forum for bringing sin to the forefront in one’s life, having children is no different. The aspirations I have for my son reflect clearly the aspirations I have for myself. It magnifies what my heart has held as greatness. And when I try to square those aspirations and definitions with God’s Word, I find that they could not be further apart."

Read the whole thing--complete with a quote from one of my favorite books--here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle

He remembered my birthday AND subscribed to my feed? Maybe I should vote for him after all.

This website is crazy--but funny, in that "huh?!" kind of way.

(HT: Shauna)

UPDATE: Never mind. Obama quoted as saying: "I make no apologies for being able to talk good." Oooo-kay.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Six Months Old

Somehow I blinked and six months went by since our baby boy was born. Is that possible? I know I don't post pictures of Elijah nearly often enough for some of you, so I figured his half-birthday was a good occasion to put up a few.

Life with our little man gets more and more fun. I am definitely not one of those moms who mourns putting away the little clothes and wishes her baby wouldn't grow up quite so fast! I enjoy him so much more now than I did at first. When he grins in recognition as I enter the room...when he giggles as we tickle him...when he babbles at us...when he blows raspberries or makes silly faces...I think, "how can anyone miss the newborn stage compared to this?"

This week marks an important milestone in that, by the grace of God, we made it to six months on nothing but breastmilk. Breastfeeding has been so, so, so much more difficult than I that feels like quite an accomplishment. We celebrated by giving him his first taste of real food: mashed banana. The faces he made were hilarious; the full-body shiver after every bite, priceless. Still photos don't do it justice. I don't know if it was the texture or the taste, but he really didn't know what to think. Steve and I about died laughing.

Elijah isn't one of those chubby babies with six fat rolls on each thigh, but his pediatrician has reassured me at every single visit that he's perfectly healthy. He's growing consistently and his height and weight are proportional (his head isn't...but Daddy says that's just because he's got big brains :) So I am thankful--we have been blessed with a healthy, beautiful little boy.

Six months of motherhood have brought many delightful, unforgettable moments...interspersed with a whole lot of trials and ugliness. It is so kind of God to choose this particular way to refine me...but the process isn't pretty. This week I've been reflecting on the words of a friend of mine whose little boy is a week younger than mine. Kristin confessed to "wanting a prodigy," then wrote:

Am I more concerned with the fact that he can’t sit up or that he is a sinner in need of grace? Do I spend more time thinking of ways to train him physically or spiritually? Is my definition of his future success based on godly character or worldly goals?
I could have written most of this post--so I'm thankful for Kristin's transparency, as it provided a timely kick in the pants. Once again I have to ask God to burn the pride out of my heart, to set me free from jealousy and competitiveness. Life is too short, and Elijah too precious, for me to waste time worrying about how he stacks up to other babies (or how I measure up as a mom). The bottom line is, we both need a whole lot of grace--and God has shown Himself faithful to provide that over and over again.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Morning After

I think one of the worst times to be a woman is the morning after a haircut.

A friend of mine watched Elijah for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon so I could go get a long-overdue haircut. Nothing too drastic, but I did finally take the plunge and have the stylist cut the "swoopy bangs" I've been thinking about trying for years now. You know the kind--where the part is way down low and they swoop across your forehead? I like how that looks, but I'm always hesitant to try something new. I didn't know if it would work with my hair texture, and I can't stand having my hair in my I just don't like to fuss with my hair, period.

Anyway, after some fussing, the stylist got the swoopy bangs to look like what I had in mind, and I even sprung for the expensive salon product to get them to stay that way myself. The test, of course, was post-shower this morning...

Um, yeah. The bangs are currently held back with a barrette. My attempt to swoop them was disastrous.

Thankful Thursday, Take 65

This week, I'm thankful for...
  • God's abundant provision, beyond what we ask or imagine
  • getting to keep my car after all
  • laughter
  • kisses
  • a healthy baby boy
  • funny faces Elijah makes
  • music
  • bread dipped in olive oil and seasoning
  • vegetable beef soup
  • a thoughtful phone call
  • long emails to read
  • convicting blog posts
  • fun things on the calendar to look forward to
  • the skin's remarkable ability to heal itself
  • baby clothes handed down to us by a friend
  • conversations that go deeper
  • forgiveness
  • mercy
  • the ability to approach God, purchased at the cost of His Son's death

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

By Us and For Us

"Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). Indeed, 'only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross,' wrote Canon Peter Green, 'may claim his share in its grace.'"

--John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rhythms of Faithfulness

I found this post from Anna last week provocative and timely. She writes of her time reading Scripture:

The dullness of my heart and the blindness of my eyes frustrate me. I want to be astounded and inspired, and instead I close the Book and cross “devotions” off my mental to-do list. I feel unchanged.

But maybe that isn’t all there is to it. Maybe something about the rhythms of faithfulness, the daily return to those same time-worn passages, is significant. Because those truths begin to form an undercurrent to my life.

Friday, February 08, 2008

What Sleep Deprivation Will Do to You

Thought you might enjoy starting the weekend with a laugh at my expense...

This morning before Steve left for work, he said, "Do you remember asking me a strange question in the middle of the night last night?" I started to giggle, because I vaguely remembered an exchange, but asked, "What did I say?" Apparently I asked him, "After you changed him (Elijah), what did you do with the thingy?"

Steve of course had no idea what I was talking about, so he said, "What? What thingy?" I fumbled for the right word--unable to find it in my sleep fog--and got very impatient. "You know! The thingy! It's like a...a...garlic press, with little things coming out of it!"

I sort of remember saying something about a garlic press, and I definitely remember being really frustrated with Steve because he just did not understand what I was talking about. He could see that I was frustrated, but he was completely baffled, so he just rolled over and went back to sleep.

The scary thing is, I was at least somewhat awake when this happened, because I was getting ready to grab Elijah and nurse him. I have NO idea what in the world I was talking about. Strange...

Sovereign Grace Sale

I love it when ministries I deeply value and admire have ridiculous sales on their resources! Over the summer, Steve and I stocked up when Desiring God held their $5 book sale; this month, Sovereign Grace is offering their music and several books at deeply discounted rates.

Head on over to the Sovereign Grace Store while supplies last--all CDs are $6! Several other items are on sale as well, plus shipping within the U.S. is free! You can't beat this deal. I can highly recommend three of the CDs, so I'm anxiously awaiting my shipment of a few more.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 64

Thanking God this week for...
  • my new mentor!
  • keeping us safe from Tuesday's tornadoes
  • 72-degree weather in February
  • long walks in said weather
  • salad
  • naps
  • this new (to me) CD
  • nerve endings
  • the fact that the insurance company's wanting to total our car is an inconvenience and not a huge financial crisis
  • conviction from the Holy Spirit
  • hope
  • sending His Son to absorb the wrath I deserve

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

As Lent begins, I don't want to just take something away. I want to add. It's a pet peeve of mine that Christianity is often defined by a list of "don'ts." We view our faith in the negative, rather than highlighting the positive. So besides not doing certain things for Lent, I want to do certain other things--intentional practices that will help me grow in my understanding of the cross and my intimacy with God.

The primary way I'm pursuing this goal is by studying John Stott's book The Cross of Christ. Stott writes:
"Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. ...It is impossible for us to face Christ's cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior we urgently need."
It seems like the perfect book to study during Lent. I'm praying that this study will help stir up in me the kind of "mournful joy" and passionate emotion such truth deserves--the kind Laurie described.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Comments and the Fear of Man

In thinking about what to give up for Lent, it occurred to me that it might be an interesting experiment to let Steve choose what he thought I should give up (and vice versa). I had an idea of my own, which I still plan to do, but was curious to see what he might think of. He said he was game, so tonight we exchanged suggestions. His idea for me caught me by surprise. It definitely wasn't anything I would have expected him to suggest, but I said I was willing to give it a whirl.

Steve's thought was that I should give up blog comments, "because sometimes I care too much about what other people think." He wasn't sure if that was even possible, but I explained I could simply turn off the comments until Easter. He then said he didn't think that was necessary, that I could go back and read them later, but that I should just not read them during Lent. Fair enough--I can easily turn off email notification so that I don't get a message when someone comments--and writing about it here is plenty of accountability to not peek at them :)

While it may not be particular to blog comments--that's just a specific way Steve thought it could be addressed--I do struggle with fear of man (see this book for a really helpful treatment of the subject). I often place disproportionate value on people's opinions and not enough emphasis on God's opinions. (Is there such a thing as God's "opinion"? I mean, "opinion" implies there is more than one valid feeling/thought...but if God says it, that's the way it is, period...anyway, I digress.) Perhaps this unexpected suggestion from my husband--whose vastly-different-from-mine perspective helps me with blind spots time and again--will prove to be a valuable exercise in helping me set my heart on what God says and not make idols of the opinions of man.

So, feel free to continue to comment on posts here, if you're so inclined, but don't feel snubbed or ignored if I don't respond. I'll read it after Easter, and if you need to get in touch with me in the meantime for whatever reason, my email address is in the sidebar.

Lent: Awareness of Desire

“Lent is a season of waiting. In that sense it is like Advent. But while Advent waits eagerly for the appearance of the Savior, Lent waits, with heavy responsibility, for his death.”
--Noel Piper, Treasuring God in Our Traditions

Some years, Lent sneaks up on me, and we're several days into it before I decide what I'm going to give up (if I haven't already done it or eaten it). This year, for whatever reason, Lent has been on my mind for quite a while. I've been watching for Ash Wednesday with anticipation, and now it's almost here.

In junior high, the idea of giving something up for Lent was a novelty. I'll never forget watching friends of mine punch the center out of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and carefully peel all the chocolate off so they could still eat the peanut butter, having given up chocolate for Lent. It always struck me as a little...bizarre. Needless to say, the focus wasn't spiritual; it was more fad than fast.

This year, perhaps more than ever, I have a clearer understanding of Lent (thanks to a book I recently read) and a deeper desire to turn away from self and turn toward the cross. These two quotes are helpful in explaining why I think it's beneficial to give something up for Lent, in a way I never could articulate before:
"In some churches, fasting has been a traditional way of expressing dependence on God during Lent. …The practice may be nothing more than legalism, or on the other hand, it can be a way of saying, ‘Oh, God, I want you more than I want any of the good things in my life—food, videos, crossword puzzles, shopping, etc. You are the one who fulfills my desires.’ …Whether it’s a fast from some particular food or meal or from some activity…we need to remember that fasting is two-sided. It’s not just turning away from something for a while, but it is also turning toward God." (Noel Piper, Treasuring God in Our Traditions)

Christian fasting is a test to see what desires control us. Fasting reveals the measure of food’s mastery over us—or television or computers or whatever we submit to again and again to conceal the weakness of our hunger for God. A real lived-out human act of preference for God over his gifts is the actual lived-out glorification of God’s excellence for which he created the world. Fasting is not the only way, or the main way, that we glorify God in preferring him above his gifts. But it is one way.
(John Piper, A Hunger for God)

I'm painfully aware that many things have mastery over me. My hunger for God is shamefully small and weak in light of His greatness and His ability alone to satisfy my deepest needs. But I'm hopeful, because His Word promises that if you draw near to God, He will draw near to you (James 4:8). As I let go of some blessings over the next few weeks, I pray God will deepen my love for Him and show me how He alone can satisfy the desires of my heart.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Motherhood and the Cross

It must be the week for powerful blog posts that arrest me and make me slow down to let their truth sink in. The latest is from Laurie, one of my favorite bloggers-I-don't-know-in-real-life, who writes:
God used His Word, various teachings, and many books or articles to help me understand the cross better. But there was one expositor in particular that helped transfer the written word to my heart. This divinely appointed means of moving the truth of the cross deep into my affections was motherhood.
I can relate so closely to much of what she wrote. How I pray that God will use motherhood to do a similar work in my own heart!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing

This blog post--a farewell from a blogger I don't read, but was alerted to by a blogger I read regularly--has left me reeling. I've printed it off to read carefully (because of my terrible propensity to scan Internet articles at warp speed) and often (because I'm afraid the words hit a little too close to home). This quote alone is enough for me to chew on for quite a while:
I would love to write another story about that beautiful evil Pandora. In my story, she would release a box full of a million good things leaving restraint in the box."

Read the rest here.