Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Church: New Blessings

[part 2 of 2--part 1 is here]

The process of finding a church home is not a fun one. I hate the idea of "church-shopping"; I don't at all want to have a consumer mindset of "what can this church do for me?" I know that every church has its flaws, and that if I were to find the perfect church, it would cease to be perfect once I joined. That said, I do think that certain churches can be "best for you"--that one church, while not "better" than another, may be a better fit for your strengths, weaknesses, gifts, etc.--the best place for you to serve and grow. That's what Steve and I sought.

After leaving the church that had been our home ever since we moved to Tennessee, we found a new body of believers that has been a wonderful blessing to us over the last six months. We began worshipping with Reformed Baptist Church of Nashville back in February, and though we don't love the long drive, we love many other things about it. A few distinctives we have come to appreciate--not in direct comparison to our former church or any other church, but simply notable things about this one:

~The preaching is gospel-centered. Our pastor is passionate, and he always seeks to keep the main thing the main thing. In his sermons, we don't get a list of moralistic principles for successful living; we don't get dry academic knowledge. We get a glimpse of the beauty of Christ and the glory of the gospel of grace. (Free downloads and a podcast are available online, too!)

~Sunday gatherings last about 4-5 hours. We have an hour of Sunday school, half an hour of fellowship time, two hours of worship service, and then a potluck every week. The congregation is pretty spread out geographically, so we gather for a longer period of time instead of coming back for an evening service. We thought it really seemed too hard at first with a toddler--but there are tons of other young families and everyone else seems to manage! Elijah has adjusted remarkably well (except for some separation anxiety we are dealing with lately as far as staying in the nursery).

~We read a lot of Scripture during the service.

~Membership is taken very seriously--and the members renew their covenant frequently. On the first Sunday of each month, all the members stand and read through the membership commitment they made, reminding themselves of their responsibilities to each other. It's a beautiful covenant to aspire to.

~Prayer meetings (on Wednesday nights) are kingdom-focused. I love that we pray BIG prayers and DEEP prayers. Every week a different family is featured, and they provide honest, eternally significant requests. We do pray for the basic, practical things, but we also pray regularly for things like (this is a direct quote from the prayer list):

  • the centrality of the gospel in our lives, particularly dealing with our idolatry
  • God's grace to enable us to live by faith in things not seen and in things hoped for
  • an increased desire for cultivating community among our church
  • an increased burden for the lost and for church planting

~Finally, pastoral oversight is provided. I have never seen this kind of shepherding before--but I think it sounds awesome. The church website explains:

We are deeply committed as a church to a biblical view of the care of God's flock through pastors. In many churches, a pastor is merely a public figure who ascends the pulpit once a week and delivers a message. We believe that the Bible's description of such men involves not only public teaching, but also more personal ministry of the Word of God.

We schedule to meet with all members about twice a year. During this time we ask questions in four categories: one's walk with God, relationships in the family, relationships and service in the church, and one's relationship in the world (i.e. vocation, witnessing, etc.) This visit can be likened to a regular "checkup" that one receives from a doctor or dentist. Its purpose is preventative, and seeks to find the spiritual health of the individual.

So...those are a few of the things we are loving about RBCN. It's not a perfect church, but I'm thankful that God has led us to this body of believers and I'm excited about what He has in store!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Church: Leaving Gracefully

[A couple of you have expressed interested in hearing about our current church situation--so here's the first of two posts to fill you in.]

Steve and I settled into a church fairly quickly after moving to Tennessee. We weren't at all interested in "church-shopping," and we were anxious to get connected. So when we found an incredibly warm and welcoming church with solid, biblical teaching, we jumped right in. We spent three and a half years serving with that body of believers, and we grew a lot during that time, especially in our understanding of the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace. And the people there were a blessing to us in many ways.

But after three years, it was well past time for us to become members. We are convinced of the importance of church membership...and after a lot of time spent praying, talking, and seeking wise counsel, we came to see that this particular church simply wasn't a good fit for us.

That said, we were desperate to leave gracefully. I think so often when people leave a church, it's messy and ugly--angry church splits, broken relationships, nasty gossip, etc. We so wanted to avoid all that. The truth was, nothing *happened* to drive us away; we didn't leave with any hard feelings toward anyone there. On the contrary, we love the wonderful people who have been part of our lives over these last few years, and we're still grateful for all we learned there.

We simply grew to believe that God, in His sovereignty and goodness, was leading us to move into a new season of life and to seek a new church home in which to grow and serve. The decision was incredibly difficult, but in the end, we both felt very confident that it was time to go. So in February, we said goodbye (though we still keep in touch with many of our friends there) and stepped out in faith that God would provide a place for us to settle.

(To be continued...)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 20

I kept the box from last week's harvest from my in-laws so I could put our CSA shares in it for a visual reference.

Kind of hard to tell from the angle, but it's definitely not as full (and banana peppers, which are taking up quite a bit of space, seem more "flavoring" than food--something you use almost as a condiment, not as a side dish or main ingredient). Keep in mind this is supposed to be--at least I assume so--a double share, since we didn't get any produce last week.

This week's bounty (by now you know I am using that term pretty loosely):

  • eight banana peppers
  • five small eggplant
  • about one pound of snap peas
  • three dozen(ish) cherry tomatoes
  • three small and one large tomato
  • one dozen farm-fresh eggs
  • four pounds grass-fed ground beef

Friday, September 25, 2009

Learning Perspective from Paul

[Did anyone take me up on last week's homework challenge? As promised, here's my reflection on the assignment. I wrote the following as a response to the "Paul and the Philippians" study I had to complete for my class a few weeks ago. It was a challenge to be so brief...I hope it is clear enough to be edifying even for those who did not do the study and are not familiar with the class material!]


In the trials Paul faced and the successes he enjoyed, he knew: God is using this for good. God (and I, in Him) will be victorious in the end. God is great, His glory is foremost, He is the ultimate Treasure—all else fades in His light. Paul had perspective.

In studying Philippians, I’ve seen how Paul’s perspective—his understanding of who God is and what He has done and promises to do—fueled his unnatural responses to difficult circumstances. Paul was able to trust God’s purpose in trials, cling to hope, work hard and love people well because Paul knew who he was and Whom he served.

So often in my life, although what I say I believe has been completely orthodox, functionally I’ve held false beliefs or outright unbelief.* I’ve misinterpreted reality, and my faulty perceptions of reality have fueled sinful and self-absorbed emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

Looking to Paul as an example, I must begin to interpret reality in light of God, rather than interpreting God in light of [my flawed perception of] reality. In faith I must choose to trust God's reality map, rather than creating my own.


When I try to make sense of life independently of God’s character and promises, I make nothing but a mess. My inner monologue is useless, even dangerous, because in reality I am not center stage, single spot, all eyes on me. My life is meant to be lived in dialogue with and worship of the One who alone fills the spotlight—who IS the Light—and I can only see what’s truly real when I see His light and see all of life by that light.

If I, like Paul, shift to a gospel-centered paradigm, beliefs rooted in who Christ is and what He has done, my perceptions of reality shift. I begin to draw conclusions about my circumstances based on who I know God to be and what I trust He has promised to do, rather than succumbing to lies about Him based on wrong interpretations of my circumstances. I begin to see and savor the eternal pleasure found in God, and the earthly pleasures I grab for lose their magnetism. And I begin not only to see light, but to reflect light—I shine like a star in the universe, holding out the Word of Life, displaying the beauty of my Savior so that others might undergo that same radical change of perspective.




*The concept of "functional beliefs" may be a foreign one to many of you...please say so in the comments if it's unclear/unfamiliar and you'd like me to try to post more about this. I don't know how well I'll be able to articulate it, but I'll be happy to try if it's necessary/helpful.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 133

Thanking God this week for...
  • the beautiful women whose paths He has crossed with mine only online, not yet in person
  • breaks in the rain long enough for walks
  • the fact that it rains all year round in Tennessee, not just for a "rainy season" of a couple of months like in other parts of the world
  • Elijah's sometimes unbearable cuteness
  • grace to make choices that honor Him
  • Ann Voskamp, whose beautiful writing points me to Him
  • time spent in prayer with Steve
  • using my blog to encourage people
  • prompting those people to encourage me by telling me so
  • remembering His promises, not my sins
  • the joy of opening a fresh new journal after filling up an old one
  • His faithfulness

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Way of Faithfulness

"I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me" (Psalm 119:30).

I'm stuck in Psalm 119 lately, ever since reading an illuminating article about it by--who else?--Dr. Powlison, for my class. Not long ago I was reminded of an unusual Bible-reading program: rather than the typical "read through the Bible in a year" plan, you read one book twenty times, until it's a part of you. I like the idea--and since Psalm 119 is longer than a lot of books, I figured it was as good a place as any to start.

I've been through it about seven times now, and I'm trying to journal about verses that stand out to me. John Piper once said:

I know not how the light is shed,
Nor understand this lens.
I only know that there are eyes
In pencils and in pens.

How true that proved to be this morning! As I reflected and wrote on verse 30, thinking I understood it sufficiently, new illumination came mid-sentence.

At first I'd seen the verse as a declaration of commitment: I choose to be faithful; I choose to follow God and walk in His way faithfully. Then I suddenly realized: The way of faithfulness is the way of the Faithful One. I must choose to pursue faithfulness, yes--but beyond that, I cast myself on the One who alone remains Faithful, even when I am faithless.

So when I choose the way of faithfulness, I am choosing to walk with the One who will not leave me or forsake me, whose steadfast love endures forever. I choose the way of Faithfulness.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Contagious

As you may have gathered from my answer to "I am reading..." in yesterday's post, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about parenting philosophies and discipline methods. It's more than a little overwhelming to me, and plenty confusing when people who love the Lord present very contradictory arguments for what is biblical and godly.

I'm having to constantly remind myself that God desires for me to honor Him in how I parent Elijah far more than I desire to honor Him. He promises that if I ask anything in accordance with His will, I can have confidence that He hears and will answer. And He promises to give wisdom to those who ask for it!

Meanwhile, this morning I've been pondering the old adage, "More is caught than taught." I desperately want to "teach, rebuke, correct and train" Elijah in ways that magnify Christ. But I know that far beyond what I say to my son, what I intentionally seek to teach him, he will be learning every moment from the way I act.

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, reflecting on the idea that "as Elijah grows up under my influence, he will be profoundly affected by what I love." Unfortunately, there's an ominous underside to that concept. I read an article for my class not long ago that expressed the danger in just five simple words:

"False gods are highly catching!"

In an article from the Journal of Biblical Counseling called "Idols of the Heart and Vanity Fair," David Powlison explained that the values and desires of people around us "provoke and persuade" us in various ways. Elijah may well be attracted to the Savior I treasure. Or...he may be tempted to fear, trust, crave or take refuge in the various idols his mama bows to.

So again, I beg for mercy, asking God to transform my heart. I want to treasure Him more. I want to forsake the empty, false gods I worship and instead look to the one true and living God. He alone is the source of lasting hope, the One who can be trusted, the Rock of refuge, the awesome and omnipotent Lord to be feared, the most precious Person in all the universe.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook - 9.21.09

Just wanted to get my thoughts flowing on a Monday morning...if you'd like to play along, visit The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Outside my window...
dreary. It rained all last week and rain is in the forecast every day until Sunday. I'm feeling convicted lately about complaining about the weather, though, and instead working to acknowledge God's sovereign grace by cultivating gratitude and keeping my mouth shut about what I don't enjoy :) Our back patio is nicely swept, thanks to Steve!

I am thinking...
about Dooce's latest post...about cutting all my hair off...about how much I need wisdom and grace from above for parenting...about how the clouds have parted and I am really enjoying this season of life.

I am thankful for...
the fact that Elijah is still in bed! He woke up and chattered for a while around 7, but I try to encourage him to sleep until 8, so I finally went upstairs and gave him a drink and told him to go back to sleep--never dreaming he'd still be up there and quiet over an hour later! Also thankful for an afternoon/evening of fellowship with a family from church yesterday--it was a blessing to have friends around the dinner table and spend time getting to know them.

From the kitchen...
I made chicken tortilla soup for dinner last night, and tried out Danielle's (friend's) recipe for black bean and mandarin orange salsa. The salsa was a huge hit--I'll definitely make it again!

I am wearing...
pajama pants and an Indiana Wesleyan t-shirt--I usually don't shower until after our morning walk.

I am creating...
not much of anything lately. I haven't made any cards or worked on scrapbooks in a long time (hoping to do that Thursday) and don't really have any other projects going. This week I hope to work on creating a more organized office (it is crazy-cluttered in here) and/or some writing projects.

Always, I must remind myself, I am creating a home: a haven where grace reigns, where Christ is treasured and celebrated, where Steve feels supported and respected and built up, where Elijah feels loved and safe and can learn and grow.

I am going...
to listen to the eighth(!) lecture for my class today. I am going to remind myself frequently, "Work before play is the rhythm of the day."

I am reading...
Pilgrim's Progress (John Bunyan), Seeing with New Eyes (David Powlison), Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp), Biblical Parenting (Crystal Lutton)

I am hoping...
to get in a walk every day this week, in spite of the rain...to have coffee soon with an old friend whom I haven't seen in ages...to say NO to the flesh and YES to Christ today more often than vice-versa.

I am hearing...
trucks going by (we live on a busy road) and the fake-running water sound of Elijah's white noise machine on the monitor. The house is blissfully quiet :)

Around the house...
my kitchen is possibly cleaner than it's EVER been (with the exception of breakfast dishes in the sink)! My in-laws gave us their old microwave last weekend, so we got to chuck our enormous, old, slow microwave (no joke, it was older than we are and took approx. 2:30 to heat a mug of milk for hot chocolate). Steve helped me completely rearrange everything on the kitchen counters--now everything is neat and tidy and I have way more workspace!

One of my favorite things...
the quiet of early mornings. I'm a night owl, so I really hate getting up early...but these early hours with Steve and by myself/with the Lord are so precious to me. It makes all the difference in my day to start it with the Word and prayer.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
another busy week with lots to anticipate. We may hit the library for story time this morning. Tomorrow we're going to a friend's house for a playdate/lunch, and we get to sit in on their homeschool morning, just because I think it will be fun to get a firsthand look at what that's like. Wednesday is our church playdate, and on Thursday, since Steve has to work late, I may be having a friend over.

Saturday is the day of the big plans: Mama's day out! Steve is watching Elijah all day long while I go to a Pampered Chef party in the morning, a huge used book sale after that, and then spend some time at Starbucks or Panera or somewhere having extended time alone with God. THEN, I get to have dinner with my friend Kathryn, whom I have not seen in four and a half years! I can't wait!

A picture thought I am sharing...
in honor of football season (yay!), here's a photo of my little man playing in his grandparents' backyard last weekend. I love how the expression on his face and the placement of his hand looks like he's concentrating really hard before making the winning touchdown pass :)


Have a blessed Monday, everyone!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Family and the County Fair

We had planned to go home for Labor Day weekend, but then realized that thanks to the flexibility of Steve's job, he could work Labor Day and take the following Monday off instead, and we could go home for the county fair. Yay! So last Friday, we packed up and headed to Ohio for a long (though it still flew by!) weekend.

Unfortunately, Elijah--who had been sick--was pretty grumpy all weekend and thus the fair wasn't quite the lovely family memory-making time I envisioned. This was the one and only picture I got, of Elijah petting a horse. We didn't even attempt any rides.
As it turned out, Steve's brother Chris and his family came home for the weekend too--so we got to see my adorable, photogenic niece...

...and celebrate her first birthday a couple of weeks late. Steve and I collaborated on this gift for her. He drew and cut the letters out with his new band saw, and I decoupaged them with scrapbook paper.
Saturday was the actual day of Chris's birthday, so we had a yummy family dinner and celebrated with the old man :)

Elijah enjoyed spending lots and lots of time outside at Grammy & Pops's house...

...and had a visit from his buddy Joel (while Joel's mama and I chatted). Good pictures of these two together, it seems, are impossible at this point.

Elijah also loved sitting on Grandma and Grandpa's porch swing with Uncle Duh, whom he likes just a little bit :) ("Ben" was one of the first names Elijah attempted to say, except for some reason it came out "Duh." So the name stuck, and Ben has been "Uncle Duh" ever since.)

It is always a blessing to get home and spend time with our families! Wish we didn't live so far away.

Friday, September 18, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 19

Our farmers are on vacation this week, so no share to pick up. I assume that means a double share next week.

But...we DID get fresh produce this week! While we were home (I should really blog about that soon), we raided my in-laws' garden. Their tomato plant is seriously out of control--I can't fathom having that many tomatoes. So before we left, they loaded us up with a box of vegetables.


THIS is more in line with the amount of produce I was expecting from our CSA. I totally shoudl have been taking pictures like this all summer, but I've been too lazy. Our produce comes in a big reusable grocery bag, not a box, and I haven't wanted to make the effort to arrange it nicely for a photo. Anyway, while the peppers are still tiny, the tomatoes are a lot nicer looking. Too bad they're mostly hidden by the squash in this photo.

This week's bounty (it really DOES feel bounteous):

  • three dozen cherry tomatoes
  • a dozen regular tomatoes of varying sizes
  • one butternut squash
  • one head of purple cabbage
  • three small bell peppers (two red, one green)
  • about seven large stalks of rhubarb (cut in half here):
Glorious, beautiful rhubarb. I made muffins on Tuesday night...YUM.

We've been putting the produce to good use. Last week's CSA produce went into eggplant caponata on Wednesday...which I do not recommend. Last night was fabulous bruschetta chicken, and tomato pie is on deck for tomorrow. Loving the cabbage in apple coleslaw: finely chopped cabbage and finely chopped apple in a Miracle-Whip-and-honey dressing.

Praise God for taste buds and the wide variety of tasty food we get to enjoy!

Remembered, Remembering

Today, after a night of failure, I'm mulling over a beautiful post by Ann Voskamp called "Of Brokenness, Memories and Fresh Starts." She reflects on the feast of trumpets--which starts at sundown tonight with Rosh Hashanah--and the idea of remembering:
"On the first of the seventh (lunar) month, God’s people remember the past year with its wrongs and sins committed. The memories bring us low in the dust. ...At the end of a lamenting day, I understand the response of the Israelites on another Day of Remembrance. Ezra had read to them the words of the law on that first day of the seventh month and “all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.” Knowing how far you fall short does that. Cuts you to the quick.

“Then he said to them…Do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10).

Remembering sins grieves, but doesn’t the joy of His covenantal, always, unwavering, right-to-the-end, love wipes away the tears? Our shortcomings cripple, but doesn’t the joy of the Lord strengthen these bent and weary bones?Our memories of who we've been, how we’ve fallen, may sting, smart… spill heart’s well. But this Day of Remembrance is about our mutual remembering. God has memories too… of a covenant written in blood, a promise etched on palms, a love that makes all things new. A love that makes us new.

For “God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant…” (Exodus 2:24). “Is Ephraim My most precious son or a delightful child, that whenever I speak of him, I remember him more and more?” (Jer. 31:20). Yes, God has memories too… memories of His covenant not to forget or give up on His broken ones.

What comes with this Day of Remembrance? A New Beginning. The first of the seventh month is the Jewish New Year. God remembers that we are but dust and He ushers in new, unsullied time.
How thankful I am that God does not remember my sins, but instead remembers His promises to love me, carry me, complete the work He began in me, keep me to the end. How thankful I am for mercies new this morning and every morning.

I'm also drawn more than ever to the idea of celebrating Old Testament holidays. They take on new layers of rich meaning when understood in the light of Jesus, and I love the concept of adding more family ceremonies and celebrations into the year, more ways to remember Christ.

Also, if you don't subscribe to Ann's blog, you really should...it is a priceless treasure trove of grace.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 132

Thanking God this week for...
  • safe travels to Ohio and back
  • a fun weekend with family and friends
  • donuts at the county fair
  • all the playing outside Elijah got to do at our parents' houses
  • our new microwave! handed down from my in-laws
  • all the counter space I gained from getting rid of our old, giant one
  • clean, sparkling counters free of clutter since we rearranged last night
  • grace to make good choices about how I spend my time
  • Elijah taking great naps after sleeping terribly last week and over the weekend
  • music
  • loving me just as I am, but loving me too much to leave me this way
  • sacrificing the comfort and glory of heaven to become Man and rescue us
  • choosing the hardest possible act--the cross--because of the joy set before Him

Passionate Homemaking Blog Giveaway

A few months ago, I ran across a gem of a blog called Passionate Homemaking. It's a wonderful resource on all kinds of topics related to natural living--overwhelming, really; the kind of site I can easily lose track of time on as I click one link after another and drown in information :)

Lindsay, the author, is celebrating the blog's second birthday this week by offering two great giveaways. The first is for an e-book that looks like it would be great for people like me: Healthy Homemaking: A 52 Week Journey of Baby Steps to Help you Move Towards More Natural, Nutritious and Sustainable Lifestyle. Lindsay's blog is the kind of place I go to be humbled and realize how very far I still have to go in learning about healthy eating and living--so this book would be great to help encourage you or me to work on one thing at a time.

The other giveaway is for a sampling of products from a company called NaturOli. The winner will receive six trial-size skin care products of her choice, plus a bar of soap made from soap nuts. I just browsed the company's website a bit and it's very attractive--I'd love to try out their natural cleansers and moisturizers, since health and beauty products are the area I have made almost NO steps toward changing.

Visit Passionate Homemaking to enter these two great giveaways--and browse or subscribe while you're there; you'll learn a lot!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 18

Our CSA farmer long ago stopped sending out a weekly newsletter, which means sometimes I am even less sure what it is that I have received. This week we received a glass bottle of what I assume is probably olive oil, with an herb that I'm pretty sure is sage floating in it. I have no idea what exactly I am supposed to do with this. I suppose I can just use it like regular olive oil in savory dishes, and I do use olive oil all the time.

I still have all the ingredients for mojitos, and we finally got some mint again, yet once again I don't think we're going to manage to make them before the mint gets slimy or dries up. Argh. I do think I'm going to make another tomato pie next week. The second recipe I tried, with corn and lemon mayo and a biscuit-y crust, was a disaster. We actually ended up dumping the last two pieces down the drain because neither of us wanted to force down the leftovers again! The flavors were all wrong and completely overpowered the tomatoes, and it merely left me craving the original tomato pie even more.

This week's "bounty":
  • two tiny eggplant
  • two tiny summer squash
  • six banana peppers
  • mint
  • tomatoes: one normal-sized, seven small, a dozen cherry
  • a bottle of oil with what looks like sage floating in it
  • six farm-fresh eggs
  • two pounds of grass-fed ground beef

Friday, September 11, 2009

Homework for You

Three years ago, when the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation first began offering my class, Dynamics of Biblical Change, as a distance education course, Dr. David Powlison (the lecturer) graciously allowed one of the assignments to be posted online. I actually printed off and began working through this Bible study, called "Paul and the Philippians," when it was published on Justin Taylor's blog back in 2006--so although I hadn't finished it, I had a great head start when the assignment was given for my class a few weeks ago!

I found this to be a wonderfully fruitful study. When I remembered it was available online, I thought I would post the link here for any self-motivated readers who'd like a taste of being a student again (or for anyone who's just looking for something new to do in their quiet time). The study builds off of the "Eight Questions," which are a basic framework we have learned for working through struggles. I am finding these to be incredibly rich and helpful in my life already!

After completing the questions, our assignment was to write a one-page reflection paper. I'll post my thoughts in a week or so, to give anyone interested time to think through the study on their own first.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 131

Thanking God this week for...
  • salad spinners--a brilliant invention, even if I did foolishly pay too much for mine
  • helpful, generous customer service from Snapfish
  • the fun of watching Elijah play outside
  • conviction from the Holy Spirit in the midst of my sinning
  • not treating me as my sins deserve
  • the sweet girl from church who babysat for us on Saturday so we could attend a wedding
  • the fact that Elijah did not get upset at all while we were gone
  • daily surprises and laughs at what Elijah knows and says
  • being able to pray intelligently for women at church after meaningful interactions on Sunday morning/afternoon
  • unexpected magnolia blossoms so late in the summer
  • crepe myrtles
  • the smell of bread baking
  • great conversations with a new friend on Tuesday
  • the ability to apply what I'm learning in my class
  • His grace and kindness to me in the gospel
  • teaching me to apply the gospel to my life very directly

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Counselors Everywhere

It's hard to believe, but this week I listened to the sixth of 12 lectures for my class--meaning we are nearing the halfway point. I'm still feeling really excited and blessed to be taking the class--I find the material endlessly fascinating, and I am learning SO much.

One of the things I'm learning is that everyone is a counselor: Everywhere I go, I encounter people and groups and institutions who interpret reality and invite me to respond a certain way. Four people, faced with the same exact set of facts, might interpret those facts very, very differently--and their responses either implicitly or explicitly call me to join them.

And I'm seeing that so often in my life, I have interpreted God in light of my flawed perception of reality, when faith means the exact opposite: interpreting reality in light of what I know to be true of God, His character and deeds and promises as revealed in Scripture.

"Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors" (Psalm 119:24).

So I come to Psalm 119:24, and I confess with the psalmist that I want to stop listening to my fickle emotions and all the competing interpretations of life that assault me daily. I want God's testimonies, His declarations of truth, to be my counselors. I want to go to His Word to help me rightly see and interpret reality.

Guide me in Your truth, O Lord--open my eyes, so that I can see and enjoy the wonderful, beautiful truths in Your Word. Increase my hunger for Your Word and enable me to keep it, to delight in You more and more.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Mmm...Monday: Summer Salads

I really enjoy a good salad--but sometimes I get stuck in a rut as to what goes on it. I've discovered two salads this summer that are deliciously different!

Caribbean Chicken Salad
This one has a really unique combination of flavors--several basic things I like but would never think to put in a salad, let alone to put *together* in a salad! The result is wonderfully spicy-sweet. It's not Steve's favorite, but I could eat it a LOT.

chicken breasts
teriyaki marinade*
homemade pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes, diced onion, minced jalapeno pepper--seeded if you don't want it too hot--and chopped fresh cilantro)
pineapple chunks
crushed tortilla chips
mixed greens
honey mustard vinaigrette:

1/4 c. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. + 1 T. honey
1 T. oil
1 1/2 T. cider vinegar
1 1/2 t. lime juice


*The original directions say to marinate the chicken in teriyaki and grill it, then chop and serve on the salad. We honestly didn't notice the teriyaki flavor when we did it that way. Plus, I usually have plain grilled chicken in the freezer. So last time, I just poured some teriyaki over the grilled chicken when I reheated it in the microwave. You could probably skip it altogether--there's enough going on in the salad that it kind of gets lost anyway.


Bruschetta Salad
This one was a new recipe for dinner tonight. Aside from the fact that my homemade croutons were too garlicky (and that's saying a lot, coming from us!), it was a hit. We love bruschetta in all forms, though--by itself; grilled bruschetta chicken; bruschetta pizza...so I'm not surprised :)

chopped tomatoes
chopped fresh basil
Balsamic vinaigrette dressing*
croutons
cooked chicken
shredded mozzarella cheese
romaine lettuce

*The original directions say to combine the tomatoes and basil with pre-made dressing, then mix all the salad ingredients together. My store-bought Balsamic vinaigrette is pretty sweet and I didn't think it would taste right in this--so I threw together Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh thyme and kosher salt to make a homemade dressing. I still mixed it with the tomatoes and basil ahead of time.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Giver of Life

"Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live...give me life according to your word! ...give me life in your ways. ...in your righteousness give me life! ...your promise gives me life. ...Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; ...In your steadfast love give me life...by [your precepts] you have given me life. ...give me life, O Lord, according to your word! ...Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live...give me understanding that I may live. ...O Lord, according to your justice give me life. ...give me life according to your rules. ...Give me life according to your steadfast love. ...Let my soul live and praise you..." (fifteen verses from Psalm 119)

Like everyone who has ever lived,
I want to live.
And not just live (survive, keep breathing)
but truly LIVE--
the abundant life You promise.

I know as surely as the air in my lungs
that You are the Giver of Life:
breath, food, water, working organs;
that You sustain life,
determine the quantity of my days.
Yet in my foolishness I look elsewhere
for the quality of my days,
forgetting that You are not simply Giver of Life,
but Giver of LIFE--
that You came to give me full, abundant LIFE.

I believe the seductive, age-old whisper
that LIFE is found in a bite:
the satisfying crunch of success,
the juicy sweetness of companionship,
the fullness of my belly.

I survive.

In Your mercy You bring to remembrance
that only He who makes the promise
can keep it.
You promised me LIFE,
and in Your Word I find it--
find You, Giver of LIFE.

“He’ll give you what you need to live on if you need him in order to live.”
(David Powlison, Seeing with New Eyes)

Friday, September 04, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 17

How do you handle confrontation?

I keep thinking about how disappointed I am with the way our CSA has turned out this summer, and the way several of you have indicated that my disappointment is understandable and that I should talk to the farmers.

I'm chicken. I don't like confrontation. I have no idea what to say in an email.

Pretty pathetic round of produce this week. Of course we get a watermelon the week when they're on sale at Kroger for $2.99. More cherry tomatoes, so we're going to enjoy another round of chicken, corn and tomato salad and perhaps give this soup a try (squash from last week is still in the fridge unused). We also got the second of two boxes of burgers--lots and lots of burgers. Thankfully my freezer had a little more wiggle room this time and the rearranging to make room for thirty hamburgers was not accompanied by the gnashing of teeth, unlike last time.

But, you know, I am disappointed, but I am thankful. I'm thankful that Steve was willing to give this CSA thing a try, and that we are growing in our awareness of where our food comes from and how to eat more naturally. I'm thankful that our financial position is stable so that the low yields from our investment are not breaking us. I'm thankful that our freezer is full of high-quality beef. I'm thankful that food is so readily available to us, that my child never goes hungry. In light of all these blessings, how can I complain?

This week's bounty:
  • one watermelon
  • four small tomatoes
  • two dozen-ish cherry tomatoes
  • parsley
  • banana, jalapeno and cayenne peppers
  • six farm-fresh eggs
  • 30 grass-fed ground beef patties

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Loving What I Love

I knew before I got pregnant that I wanted to do a gender-neutral nursery with a safari animals theme. For some reason, I love elephants and giraffes and lions—I think they’re beautiful animals, and I figured they would make perfect d├ęcor for a child's room.

What I didn’t anticipate was the way my son would love what I love.

We never worked very hard on sign language, but Elijah has learned a few signs, and one of his very first ones was "elephant." I'm guessing that's an unusual first word for a toddler, but I know why it happened. When I chose ten signs to start with (following this book’s philosophy), “elephant” was one of them. Every time we saw a picture of an elephant, I made a point to do the sign. After several months, I had all but given up—until one day, to my surprise, Elijah threw his arm up in the air, and I realized he was deliberately referring to an elephant.

Now that he’s talking more and more, Elijah is constantly surprising me with a new animal he knows--today it was zebra. For some animals, he says the name; for others, he makes the noise (or tries--Steve and I find his impersonation of a rooster endlessly funny). Lately his favorite thing to do has been to find a book with animals in it and bring it to wherever I am. He'll plop down in the middle of the kitchen floor, flip to a page with an animal he knows, and then repeat the word or the noise as many times as he has to until I acknowledge, "Yes, elephant! That's right!" It amazes me how he can recognize so many different pictures of elephants--from a photograph, to a Dr. Seuss cartoon, to a more abstract Eric Carle drawing.

Elijah's tastes may change—he’s only two. But I am struck by the realization that he is interested in what he has been exposed to. His attention is drawn to certain things because I have casually pointed them out to him for two years. He has seen lions and giraffes and elephants and zebras over and over, and so he talks about them. He gets excited about them.

It’s a sobering realization for me. I guess I never thought about the power I would have as a mother to shape my son’s interests so significantly. I know I cannot force him to enjoy what I enjoy—nor would I want to, in matters of personal taste or skills or gifts. I won’t be disappointed or offended if he determines in five or ten years that cars are much more fascinating than lions.

But I’ve been pondering the fact that as Elijah grows up under my influence, he will be profoundly affected by what I love. He will notice what I look for and focus on, what I read and talk about, what excites me. He will be curious about what interests me and brings me joy.

So what do I love? Not “what do I say I love?”, but what captures my attention? What do I talk about most? What makes me happy and energizes me?

I am praying that more and more, my heart will be captivated by “the glory of the happy God”--and that as my young son sees me delighting in, hoping in, trusting in, and loving Him, Elijah will himself be drawn to and excited about the Savior who so captivates me.

Thankful Thursday, Take 130

"Gratitude honors God. Gratitude is the echo of grace as it reverberates through the hollows of the human heart. Gratitude is the unashamed acceptance of a free gift and the heartfelt declaration that we cherish what we cannot buy. Therefore gratitude glorifies the free grace of God and signifies the humility of a needy and receptive heart."
(John Piper, "Proud People Don't Say Thanks")

This proud person is seeking to mortify pride by humbly thanking God for so many things she cannot buy, including:
  • kisses from Elijah
  • the delight of watching Elijah exuberantly greet Steve when he comes home from work
  • gorgeous late-summer weather
  • the privilege of interceding for others
  • millions of nerve endings on the skin
  • the blessing of sleeping through the night...I SO do not miss the newborn stage...
  • the fact that I do not serve an angry, capricious god; or a cold, aloof, indifferent god; or a morose and brooding, not-in-total-control god...but a HAPPY God who invites me to share in His joy!
  • giving John Piper that insight to write about, and giving me the ability to read and understand and celebrate it
  • mercifully receiving my dish-scrubbing and diaper-changing and blog-writing and laundry-folding and book-reading as spiritual acts of worship