Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Coming...

November is just around the corner, and if you're a longtime reader of Lavender *Sparkles*, you know what that means:


I'll have an official kickoff post coming on the 1st...just wanted to give a little heads-up for anyone who might be interested in joining me this year.

CSA Adventure: Week 25

Obviously, it's not much of an adventure anymore, but I'll finish what I started. We have delivery on Friday mornings now, instead of having to pick up our share on Thursday afternoons. The pick-up place was right on Steve's way home from work, so it wasn't really inconvenient, but this is nice nonetheless.

I was expecting only eggs and beef today, but our farmer surprised me by dropping off a whole chicken. They asked us earlier in the summer if there would be interest if they started selling chickens, and I expressed interest. I asked about it again recently, so she brought one for us to try.

Also, Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed one of our NewYork strip steaks (it was big enough that we could split it and save the other for later) last week. We had a simple but fabulous meal: grilled steak, real-butter-and-heavy-cream fettuccine alfredo, and steamed broccoli that was to DIE for with that yummy alfredo sauce on top of it. Can't wait to try the filets that are still in the freezer! It had been a LONG time since we'd had steak at home, so this was a fun treat.

This week:
  • a dozen farm-fresh eggs
  • two pounds grass fed ground beef
  • one whole pastured chicken

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 138

A little more from John Piper to put this week's gifts in perspective:

"All of these blessings bring love letters from God. But unless we stress continually that God himself is the gospel, people will fall in love with the mailman--whether his name is forgiveness of sins or eternal life or heaven or ministry or miracles or family or food." (God is the Gospel, p. 143)
Thanking God this week for Himself and His love letters, including...
  • the gorgeous fall colors--I just can't get over how stunning they are!
  • beauty right outside our back door, if only I slow down and look up
  • the color of the sky--it is just SO *blue* in the fall
  • the joy of watching Elijah play in leaves as Steve raked them up on Sunday
  • Elijah's ability to sit quietly through LONG church services--I am so amazed at how well he is doing staying with us instead of going to the nursery!
  • my husband's wisdom, logic and levelheadedness
  • the way Steve is always so thoughtful to call on his way home on nights when we are having guests over, to see if I need him to pick anything up
  • fellowship with friends from church on Tuesday
  • grace to complete my to-do list on a busy day, without stress
  • the faithful wounds of a friend
  • my homemaking journal--endlessly grateful to Ann V. for the idea/inspiration
  • cleansing me
  • replacing my heart of stone with a heart of flesh
  • continuing that work of cleansing and replacing, not just once but over and over each day
  • bringing Scriptures to my mind when I need them
  • carefully purifying me in the heat of His Refiner's fire

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


"This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts" (Psalm 119:56).

Everything is a gift--
including my faltering, stumbling obedience.
I have not mustered up the steps
on the narrow path.
I did not create these feet,
renew this mind,
restart this dead heart.

Obedience has fallen to me;
my weak hold on His laws and promises
is all of grace.
My keeping is His keeping--
I keep only because I am kept.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Modern Idolatry: Keller and Powlison

Tim Keller's newest book was released last week, and when we heard that Westminster Bookstore (whose prices are often as good as or better than Amazon) was running a great deal on it, Steve instructed me to order it immediately :) We're big Keller fans--especially after hearing him speak live back in January--so we'll be fighting over this one when it arrives, I'm sure.

The book is called Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. It's about a topic that I think confuses a lot of Christians: idolatry. I think when many of us hear the word, we typically picture the Israelites bowing down to a golden calf--but the problem of idolatry is just as pervasive today. We're not exempt just because we don't worship wooden statues; our idols are even more insidious, because they are usually invisible.

The class I've been taking through the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation this semester has been really monumental in helping me identify idols in my own life and understand how idolatry is at the root of all sin. One of the most powerful pieces I've read on the subject of modern idolatry is an article Dr. David Powlison (the class lecturer) wrote many years ago called "Idols of the Heart and Vanity Fair."

Apparently, Keller cites Powlison's article as a major influence in his thinking about modern idolatry. The article was originally published in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and CCEF has generously made it available online (in PDF and html) for free!

I cannot recommend this article highly enough. It is well worth your time to pore over and learn about what idolatry looks like in 2009 and how to fight it in your own life.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 24

The vegetables, it seems, are done. We'll still be getting eggs and beef for a couple more weeks, but our produce farmer has nothing more to give us. That's understandable--if it frosts and kills your plants, there's not much you can do--but frustrating, because it means that our per-week cost was even higher than we realized. We were averaging the total over 26 weeks, not 23. Twenty-three means those dumb banana peppers were even more obnoxiously expensive.

On the bright side...we are getting double shares of beef. I don't know why, but I'm definitely not complaining--especially when you see just what beef we got today! We're also getting a dozen eggs instead of the half-dozen we've been getting all summer.

This week:
  • a dozen farm-fresh eggs
  • two pounds grass-fed ground beef
  • two large grass-fed New York strip steaks!

Friday, October 23, 2009

On Whining

I say the words approximately forty-seven times each day.

Don’t whine. Use your words.”

About forty-six of those times, the word that follows is the same: “Help.”

Sometimes I say the words cheerfully, with patience. Sometimes they come out sternly, with a hint of irritation. Sometimes they rise to top volume, my yelling no more mature than my two-year-old’s whining. But when I hear that word—“help”—I drop what I’m doing and figure out what Elijah needs. “Help with what?”

Usually it’s something exceedingly simple for me to do—open a bag of blocks, or pull a toy off a high shelf. I might remind my son: “There’s no need to whine. Whining drives Mama crazy. Just use your words. Just tell me what you need.”

It occurred to me yet again today how much more alike we are than different, my toddler and I.

I have a Father who delights in helping me. He knows how helpless I am, how easily I become frustrated. All it takes is one simple plea: “Lord, help me!” Yet most of the time I grumble, or fume silently about my circumstances. It may not be as audibly grating as my son’s whining, but it’s all the more obnoxious for the knowledge I have that Elijah lacks.

I have a Father who delights in helping me.
He is astoundingly patient; He hears my every cry. And the things that cause me such frustration, such anxiety and turmoil, are exceedingly simple for Him to handle. He loves for me to cry out to Him—not with bitter complaints, but with faith-filled pleas, trusting Him to help me.

Next time I tell my toddler, I think I’ll remind myself: “Don’t whine. Use your words.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 137

"...gratitude that is pleasing to God is not first a delight in the benefits God gives (though that will be part of it). True gratitude must be rooted in something else that comes first--namely a delight in the beauty and excellency of God's character.

"...You would not be honored if I thanked you often for your gifts to me but had no deep and spontaneous regard for you as a person. You would feel insulted, no matter how much I thanked you for your gifts. If your character and personality do not attract me or give me joy in being around you, then you will just feel used, like a tool or a machine to produce the things I really love.

"So it is with God. If we are not captured by his personality and character, displayed in his saving work, then all our declarations of thanksgiving are like the gratitude of a wife to a husband for the money she gets from him to use in her affair with another man."

--John Piper, God is the Gospel (p. 136-137)

Seeking to corral this so-often-adulterous heart, I step back from the gifts this week and thank God for...
  • His Spirit--not a gift for the prophets alone, for only some special category of pastors and holy people--but for ALL His children!
  • breathing life into me when I was nothing but a pile of dry, dead bones
  • keeping His promises
  • giving His Spirit not just to the men, but to His daughters as well
  • Jesus, whom my sins pierced, and whose death gave me life
  • mercies new every morning (and throughout the afternoon and evening, too)
  • His "Never-Stopping, Never-Giving-Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love"
  • knowing that that love doesn't depend on my performance
  • the privilege of calling Him "Father"
  • His sovereign, wise control over all things
  • reconciling me to Himself so that I could know a joy incomprehensible, incomparable: eternity with the One my soul was created to delight in and enjoy, the One who can satisfy me like none of His good gifts ever can

"May He grant us to delight in him for who he is, so that all our gratitude for his gifts will be the echo of our joy in the excellency of the Giver!" (Piper, p. 138)

My Portion

"The LORD is my portion;
I promise to keep your words."
--Psalm 119:57

"The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."
--Psalm 16:5-6

The most fundamental truth about my circumstances is not my material goods, my marital status, my children, career, church situation, friendships, trials or successes. The most fundamental truth about my circumstances is "the LORD."

I live in Tennessee. / My citizenship is in heaven.
I have a husband. / The LORD is my betrothed, and He is preparing me for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
I am a mother. / The LORD is my Father.
I stay at home. / The LORD is with me.

When I think of "my circumstances," I shouldn't think primarily of the external, visible truths about my life. I should look to invisible, spectacular realities: The Great I AM.

Wherever I am, I am in Christ. Whatever I am doing can be for His glory. Whatever I have is a gift from His hand--and pales in comparison with the gift of Himself. Whatever I lack, He has graciously withheld because it is not what I need. I need Him--and He is.

I can be content with the arrangements of my life not because I am delighted with the particulars themselves, but because I am His and He is mine. Whatever my circumstances, the LORD is my portion--and that means the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Remember One Thing

“What one thing about God in Christ speaks directly into today’s trouble? … Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t swallow all of truth in one gulp. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. Bible “verses” aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.”
--David Powlison

(quoted at Of First Importance)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 23 this point I am ready to just cut my losses and be done with this. Three more weeks.

The good news: Steve, who usually picks up our share each week (it's right on his way home from work) had to work late last Thursday, so I had to pick up the share. But Elijah was napping from 3-5, which is the pickup window. I called our farmer and she graciously offered to drop it off at our house on Friday morning! That was a blessing.

The bad news: This week's share was so piddly that it didn't even come in the big bag. We usually get our produce in a reusable grocery bag--the standard size you've probably seen at Kroger and other stores--and our beef in a smaller bag. Not that the big bag is ever actually full, but still. All we got this week was the smaller bag.

Our farmer was a bit apologetic and commented that we just haven't had any sunshine this week--which was true--and this late in the season, a meager share would have been totally understandable. That is, if we hadn't been receiving somewhat meager shares all season long. I had expected that we'd be getting huge harvests in the peak of the summer, so that the pathetic shares in the beginning and end would average out. But we all know that didn't exactly happen.

So here's what we got this week:
  • about two servings of salad greens
  • three small banana peppers
  • one cherry tomato. ONE. seriously.
  • one serving of snap peas
  • six farm-fresh eggs
  • two pounds grass-fed ground beef

Um. Yeah. That was it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 136

Thanking God this week for...
  • my mom's visit this week
  • the joy of watching her delight in her grandson
  • a date with my hubby on Sunday night while she babysat
  • a morning away with coffee, my journal, my Bible and a good sermon while she babysat
  • tasty Gala apples, perfect flavor and texture, purchased on sale
  • His mercy in spite of my procrastination
  • the fact that even the wind and waves obey Him
  • the privilege of intercession

Saturday, October 10, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 22

The CSA is winding down...only about 3-4 weeks left, I think...and it seems to be ending the way it began, with other miscellaneous gift items to fill in the sparse produce. It was at least fun to get a gigantic pumpkin--and we got a double share of beef, though I have no idea why.

This week's bounty:
  • two servings of lettuce
  • two dozen-ish cherry tomatoes
  • basil
  • more of that weird greens/cabbage I have no idea what to do with...completely bug-eaten
  • several cayenne peppers with a little glass bottle and instructions for preserving
  • sage hair rinse
  • a pint jar of apple cake
  • a large pumpkin
  • six farm-fresh eggs
  • a grass-fed beef chuck roast
  • grass-fed beef cutlets

Friday, October 09, 2009

Practice What You Preach

It's funny how when you write lofty things, you have to live them out. Your proclamations are soon put to the test, and you have to reexamine them, determine whether you really believe what you said, or whether it was just so much hot air.

As I said earlier this week, I've been discouraged with my self-counseling project for my class. But God met me through this week's lecture and through His Word. I was moved to express confidence in Christ in the midst of my failure, to declare my commitment to press on in faith--so inspired, in fact, that on Wednesday night I cranked out a three-part series about it.

And then I failed. Miserably. Today has been a hard day—and I have struggled to deal well with the failure, to repent and press on. How can I keep asking forgiveness for the same thing over and over and over? Doesn’t it indicate that my repentance isn’t real, if I just keep turning back?

I finally sat down to write the paper that's due tomorrow, and I reread words from Sinclair Ferguson’s book Children of the Living God (this week's homework assignment, and the focus of the paper):
“Many Christians go through much of their life with the prodigal’s suspicion. Their concentration is upon their sin and failure; all their thoughts are introspective. That is why (in the Greek text) John’s statement about the Father’s love [in 1 John 3:1] begins with a word calling us to lift up our eyes from ourselves and take a long look at what God has done: Behold!—look and see—the love the Father has lavished upon us!”
This quote reminds me of another I’ve heard countless times: “For every one look at your sin, take ten looks at Christ.” The principle is simple, but in my morbid introspection, I turn it on its head, drowning in sin and occasionally throwing a desperate glance toward Jesus. Ferguson’s exposition of 1 John 3:1, which I’d never heard before (the NIV really obscures it), urges me to reorient myself.

Do I believe what I said about persevering when the process is slow? Do I think that my failure negates my identity?

How many times just today have I told Elijah that the beans must stay IN the bean table? Yet at no point, however frustrated I am at finding dry beans on the the couch cushions...on every dining room chair...does he cease to be my son.

Somehow, in my discouragement, I must lift up my eyes from myself and take a long look at what God has done. After all, my hope is not in my performance; the cross is my only hope.

"SEE what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!" (1 John 3:1)

Baby Steps

One of the most important things I learned in my class lecture this week was to celebrate and "validate incremental change short of perfection." We're doing self-counseling projects--I've chosen an area of sin in my life, and over these few months, I am trying to tackle it. I'm looking at specific failures, taking them apart, exploring the idols of my heart, turning to the living God and pursuing change.

It's discouraging. I'm not seeing the kind of total transformation I long for. But this week, Dr. Powlison reminded us that one of our goals is simply to deal well with failure. Perfection isn't a reasonable goal this side of heaven. We need to strive for victory, yes--but we need to learn to find grace when we fail.

One sign of grace we can celebrate is incremental change. Put your guilt in context, he instructed us. "It's not what it should be, true. But it's better than it was." Recognizing even the slightest bit of progress should encourage us and challenge us to take the next step forward.

So that's why, when I am tempted to despair, I may need to look backwards. Yes, Paul tells us to forget what is behind and strain toward what's ahead. But there's also value in seeing how far we have come. I want to recognize and celebrate every small victory God gives. Every baby step I take is a testimony--not of my willpower or self-control, but of God's mercy and empowering grace.

Of course, ultimately I look backwards not a week or six months or ten years, but two millennia. I look to the cross, where my righteousness was purchased, where my identity as God's beloved daughter was secured. I look to Jesus, whose obedience was flawless and whose death covers my sins. And I rest in the promise that one day, I will be completely transformed to reflect His beauty!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 135

Thanking God this week for...
  • a golden moon, hanging large and low in an inky sky last night
  • flowers from Steve, just because!
  • challenging and convicting sermons from Josh Harris on laziness and self-control
  • getting to have a marathon phone conversation with a friend I only know online
  • using me and my words, flawed and broken vessel that I am
  • provocative, challenging quotes from older, wiser, godly people
  • dinner with a couple from church on Saturday night
  • trees just starting to turn, the barest glimpse of beauty to come
  • my favorite cream-colored fuzzy cardigan sweater
  • the scent of warm cinnamon
  • keeping His promises
  • the fact that I have meaning, purpose and hope because I am in Christ

Gutsy Guilt

It is right and good for me to mourn my sin, to feel guilty when I have stumbled. But that guilt so easily moves to hopeless despair: I'll never get this right. I'm so tired of struggling with this. I'll never be free from this.

In the face of failure and the temptation to discouragement, I ask the Lord to teach me Micah's "gutsy guilt"*:

"But as for me, I will look to the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy!
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication."

--Micah 7:7-9 (emphasis mine)

I have sinned against the Lord in specific, heinous ways. I need to confess these offenses, name my wrongs, acknowledge the grief I have brought upon my Savior. I have fallen far, far short of His glory; because of the ugliness of my heart, I am not worthy to stand before Him now or in eternity.

BUT. I will look to Him! I will press on. I will wait for Him to save me from the presence of sin, just as He has already saved me from the penalty of sin! I will pray in confidence that because of His Son, He hears me and answers me!

Don't celebrate over my failures, satan! I fall again and again, yes. But I will rise every time. When the darkness of sin and guilt oppresses me, my Creator and Savior and King will say, "Let there be light!"

Although I may have to bear the burden of knowing I have grieved my Father, I never, ever have to bear the full weight of His wrath. Jesus absorbed every drop that should have fallen on me and would have consumed me! I have sinned against Him. But Jesus, who stood in my place condemned, now stands before Him and pleads my case. He has executed judgment FOR me, not against me! He WILL bring me out into His glorious light--I will look upon His perfect righteousness; I will glory in the cross.

*I first learned the phrase "gutsy guilt" from John Piper in his book When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. The chapter from that book about this passage in Micah has stuck with me for several years--and God graciously brought it to my mind this week, prompting me to worship.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Process is Slow

"But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me."
(Psalm 131:2)

“To gain composure is to go through a weaning process.
Something that once meant everything comes to mean nothing.”
--David Powlison, Seeing with New Eyes

Elijah eats regular meals now. He's got an appetite for fruit of all kinds, for squash and broccoli, for pizza and cheese...and oh, does that boy love his bread. But how did we get here? He hasn't always liked solid foods; in fact, for the first year of his life, he hardly ate any solids at all, instead nursing 8-10 times a day.

Weaning was a process. It didn't happen immediately, cold-turkey. (FYI...with rare exceptions, it usually doesn't. Abrupt refusal to nurse is generally a sign of a nursing strike, not baby-led weaning. [/lactivism]) Anyway, once he turned one, we dropped a feeding, then another, and another. For quite some time he nursed about four times a day. Eventually it dwindled to two...then it was one for a long time...then he'd skip days here and there. It was seven months later until he was completely finished nursing.

So for me to have a mature soul, a gentle and quiet spirit, a calm heart, is a PROCESS. Not an overnight revelation, not something I pray for and am instantly zapped with. The idols that have captivated my foolish, wayward heart for so long will not go quietly, without a fight.

A lifelong perfectionist, I am so easily frustrated and discouraged by the sl-o-o-o-ow process of change in my heart. The movement in the right direction seems nearly imperceptible; often times it feels like I am going nowhere at all--or worse, crawling backwards.

I can wallow in despair. Or I can try to regain perspective:

"God seems content to work on a scale of centuries within the church, and a scale of decades with individuals.”
--David Powlison, Dynamics of Biblical Change class syllabus

"Whenever you discover that you're feeling impatient,
just ask yourself what it is that you would rather be doing
than running toward your heavenly Father."
--Elyse Fitzpatrick, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat

Where Were You Ten Years Ago?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 21

Nothing witty or interesting to say about this week's is what it is. I don't think I ever mentioned that Steve ended up pickling lots of the banana peppers we've been getting the last couple of months. I'll be curious to see how that turns out. STILL haven't managed to try mojitos with our mint...ACK!

This week's bounty:
  • mint
  • parsley
  • lettuce
  • unidentified greens with thick white stems...maybe bok choy?
  • peppers--six banana, one tiny green bell, several cayenne and jalapeno
  • three dozen-ish cherry tomatoes
  • six farm-fresh eggs
  • two pounds grass-fed ground beef

Friday, October 02, 2009

Wanting What's Best

"Many people seem to embrace the good news without embracing God. There is no sure evidence that we have a new heart just because we want to escape hell. That's a perfectly natural desire, not a supernatural one. It doesn't take a new heart to want the psychological relief of forgiveness, or the removal of God's wrath, or the inheritance of God's world. All these things are understandable without any spiritual change. You don't need to be born again to want these things. The devils want them.

"It is not wrong to want them. Indeed it is folly not to. But the evidence that we have been changed is that we want these things because they bring us to the enjoyment of God. This is the greatest thing Christ died for. This is the greatest good in the good news. Why is that? Because we were made to experience full and lasting happiness from seeing and savoring the glory of God. If our best joy comes from something less, we are idolaters and God is dishonored. He created us in such a way that his glory is displayed through our joy in it. The gospel of Christ is the good news that at the cost of his Son's life, God has done everything necessary to enthrall us with what will make us eternally and ever-increasingly happy--namely, himself."

--John Piper, God is the Gospel

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 134

Thanking God this week for...
  • time with dear friends last Friday night
  • the AMAZING dinner they cooked for us--surf & turf! soooooo good.
  • the fact that Elijah did great at their house until almost 11 PM(!!)
  • Steve's willingness to watch Elijah while I took some time away on Saturday
  • University School of Nashville's Fall Book Frenzy
  • hours spent reading, praying, journaling at Panera
  • dinner with Kathryn, after not having seen her for over four years!
  • the absolutely gorgeous weather we're having this week
  • Nutiva coconut oil
  • no cavities for Elijah
  • coffee with an old friend on Tuesday--two years' worth of catching up
  • a fun playdate in a fabulous backyard yesterday, and conversations with other mamas
  • the fact that God does not expect perfection from me--instead He wants progress and gives me His Son's perfection
  • joy and peace in Him
  • stories of His faithfulness and grace to tell