Monday, August 29, 2011

Joy. Here.

Friday afternoon found me sitting outside, massaging my temples, willing myself to choose gratitude over resentment, truth over emotions. Despite the blessings of our trip, let's just say it had been a long week on the road with my boys (1100 miles, three beds in four nights, no Daddy).

As I sat on our back patio thanking God for bugs chirping and wind blowing through leafy branches and sunlight creating patterns and shadows on the ground, I tried to preach truth to myself. My mind went to a familiar favorite, Psalm 16, as I reminded myself that "the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance" (v. 6). Then I thought about the last verse:

" your presence there is fullness of joy..." (Psalm 16:11)

If there is fullness of joy in His presence...and He is present everywhere, inescapable, never leaving or forsaking me...then there is joy HERE.

I think I've always read this verse as a hopeful Heaven promise. You know, on That Day, when every tear is wiped away, and sin and satan are forever destroyed, when we stand in the presence of God, *that's* where fullness of joy is. Here, today? Not so much.

But Friday afternoon, as I sat breathing deeply and willing Steve to pull in the driveway, it occurred to me that I have limited the scope of joy. It may be hiding. It is not all sunshine and rainbows; it may not look like I expect or think I prefer. I will have to fight to choose it. But I am in His presence here. That means there is joy here.

On days like today, I am not honestly sure how. But over and over and over again, God is trying to teach me to believe Him and fight for joy and choose to praise Him here, now. In His presence there is fullness of joy and He is *here* and joy is here. I will tell myself until I know it to be true.


Multitude Monday, Take 218

After a long week on the road with my boys (hence the lack of posting last week), I'm thankful to be home again and for the many blessings of our trip, including...

2086. safe travels over more than 1,000 miles
2087. not feeling sleepy while I drove all of it myself
2088. boys traveling SO well overall
2089. Jude's blowout diaper happening at the very end, when I had a bathtub to stick him in and an extra pair of hands to help
2090. time to talk with my parents

2091. drumsticks from Dietsch's
2092. opportunities to spend one-on-one time with my grandmother
2093. her delight in seeing my boys
2094. Elijah pushing her wheelchair
2095. gorgeous, gorgeous weather up in Ohio

2096. looking at old pictures with my mom and my aunt
2097. lunch with Steve's family
2098. reminders that "stuff" rots and fades and becomes worthless trash
2099. the Word of the Lord stands forever
2100. our Treasure cannot decay or be destroyed

2101. Elijah asking to snuggle with Pops and then Grammy
2102. best corn on the cob yet this summer
2103. a summer evening walk
2104. Jude sitting in the grass, eating it
2105. Panera's Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

2106. my brother making pancakes and bacon for breakfast
2107. Elijah playing fetch with my brother's dog
2108. dry pants and well-timed poop
2109. singing in the car
2110. reunion with Steve after five days apart

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekend Wanderings 8.20.11

I've come across lots of interesting things in the tubes recently...someday I want to link my Delicious bookmarks to my blog, but until I get around to that, I'll have to do it manually through these posts, when I think of it or feel like it :)

If women feel more comfortable nursing in public under a big cover, more power to them. But there are good reasons *not* to, and this article presents one of the most compelling and fascinating I've ever heard. Read the whole article for a bicycle metaphor and a heartwarming story about a gorilla! See also:

@Sorta Crunchy: "Ultimately, we have collectively swallowed our culture's poisoned message that declares breasts to be singularly sexual, therefore breastfeeding is something to be covered. ...To agree with our culture's corrupted view of breasts and breastfeeding is to deny God's beautiful, exquisite design. According to His perfect plan, breasts are dual-purposed wonders of creation, perfect evidence of a holy blend of function and form. Oh, how it must grieve the heart of God to see what we - even we! Those called according to His Name! - have allowed our thinking to become regarding His incredible design."

I have a hard time getting on a three four(!) year old level and playing. I'm not very good at thinking of fun things to do. So I am definitely printing and referring to this list of ideas, especially as the weather cools and being outside becomes bearable again!

Rachel Jankovic @Femina: "These are the kind of days when my husband tells me that I was being fruitful, even if it doesn’t look productive. A fruit tree doesn’t move things from an in-basket to an out-basket all day. It is not in the business of ticking off boxes on a to-do list. Sometimes the business of being fruitful is standing in the rain, holding on to your branches in a wind storm, or simply providing shade. Every day is not an apple harvest day. Every day is part of a process, part of a journey towards fruit. Your whole life is part of a fruit bearing work, but today was just a wind storm."

Nancy Wilson @Femina: "I was trying to be encouraging and helpful, so I said something like, 'Don’t worry! God will never give you [more than you can handle].' On my way home I realized that I had said something very stupid and untrue. ...Our God is much better and greater and kinder than that!"

@Joe Thorn: "There is more in God’s word than the gospel. God has given us his law to show us the way, uncover our corruption and condemnation, and point us to our need of redemption. There are commands to be obeyed, there is wisdom to learn and practice, and affections to feel and be moved by. But, the law itself is unable to create within us new hearts, or empower us to obey its demands. So let me say it this way: The gospel is the main thing, it is not the only thing. However, it is the only thing that brings life, power, and transformation. The gospel isn’t everything, but it does connect to everything, and preachers and teachers in the church must be able to show that connection lest we allow the church to drift (or even be lead) into various kinds of hopeless, powerless legalism."

@Desiring God: "We must fight the temptation to boast in or covet children. How gifted or successful or even holy they become is no sure evidence of God’s blessing on us. Neither are disabled or disobedient children evidence of God’s disfavor.God’s blessing rests on the one who 'hear[s] the word of God and keeps it.' Belief is the evidence of blessing."

@The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: "How did Libertarian Ron Paul become the 13th floor in a hotel?!" This video is hilarious. And maddening.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 8.16.11

It has been a long morning. Now that both boys are down for naps, I am needing to breathe for a few minutes before I go scrub toilets. Enter The Simple Woman's Daybook...

Outside my window...
gorgeous, gorgeous weather. And mosquitoes.

I am thinking...
that my life revolves around poop these days. Who's pooping, who's not pooping, where they are pooping, what it looks like, what they are eating to produce said're jealous, aren't you.

I am thankful for...
the fact that my boys' digestive systems work, however erratically...the fact that they both find comfort in being near me, even when I am a terrible excuse for an impatient and harsh mother...and a husband who serves and serves and serves and serves some more.

From the kitchen...
last night was a new tomato recipe that was just "meh." I'm not saving it. Tonight I think we're having bruschetta pizza, one of my favorite things to do with summer tomatoes: a homemade whole-wheat crust, topped with cheese and sausage, then taken out of the oven and finished with a mix of tomatoes, fresh basil--oops, we don't have any fresh basil, I just realized--garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I'm also test-driving quiche recipes from Smitten Kitchen this week, in preparation for a baby shower I'm hosting on Saturday.

I am wearing...
black knit gauchos and a pink tank top. Why no, I haven't showered today, why do you ask?

I am creating...
giant tissue paper flowers, I hope, for the baby shower.

I am going...
to blog about Elijah turning four soon.

I am reading...
mostly The Poisonwood Bible. That's got me so absorbed that most other books have been temporarily cast aside. I mean, it's depressing and maddening and awful, but also brilliant and engaging. Before that, I recently finished Uncle Tom's Cabin and From Fear to Freedom: Living as Sons and Daughters of God. The former was marvelous; the latter, only so-so. When I finish the novel I'll go back to the other various books I have started: Give Them Grace, Redemption, The Gospel for Christians, Choosing Gratitude. Maybe one of these days, ironically, I'll get back to Getting Things Done.

Bible-wise, I am in Proverbs, 2 Chronicles and Mark.

I am hoping...
to have all this poop nonsense behind me soon.

I am hearing...
sounds of rustling over Jude's monitor, meaning he is quite likely awake after only 30 minutes or so of naptime. OY.

Around the house...
cleaning and organizing in preparation for Saturday's baby shower. I'm going to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 ladies here for brunch, so I've got some work to do. I'm reminding myself that the goal is to bless, not impress, and that they will remember the atmosphere of my home long after they will remember my living room decor (or pitiful lack thereof).

One of my favorite things...
crepe myrtles in bloom, shades of pink all over the place.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
a dear friend is coming over tomorrow morning to catch up and bringing donuts from the Donut Palace--fun times! Then we'll have our usual Wednesday night dinner and prayer with friends. Thursday morning I am headed to Nashville to meet a friend and check out the new Paper Source store and have lunch. And then Saturday is the baby shower for a sweet friend from church who's expecting her first baby in October.

A picture thought I am sharing...
two, actually: my little cowboy, and my little mess. It's important to remember adorable moments like these when real life is less than adorable, as it is this week with all the pooping and not pooping and not napping.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 217

"I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine OR I can worship! And I can't worship without giving thanks. It just isn't possible." --Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude

"I know this seems painfully obvious, but when our children are fussing, the antidote for them is gratitude. But how are we showing them that when we start getting huffy and snippy? Are you modeling thankfulness by being thankful for your fussy children...?" --Rachel Jankovic, Loving the Little Years

Trying to curb the whining with worship this week as I thank God for...

2049. two-year-old friend's pink painted toenails
2050. chickens free-ranging, and all still living

2051. loved ones learning to trust God
2052. His mercy
2053. a last-minute zoo trip to celebrate Elijah's birthday

2054. homemade birthday cards from his little friends
2055. ice cream cones for everyone
2056. four years of being Elijah's mama
2057. a lunch date with him at IHOP
2058. pancakes and bacon! for lunch! that's crazy!

2059. homemade carrot cake with perfect, delectable cream-cheese icing
2060. Elijah helping me grind up the carrots and mix the cake
2061. friends helping us celebrate over tomato pie and cake + ice cream
2062. grace to see my son as the gift he is
2063. boys swinging together at the park

2064. my tiny camera, easy to have on hand and get out frequently
2065. new adorable photos of my nephew in the mail
2066. cooler temperatures
2067. Jude loving grilled salmon
2068. Steve's generous and humble heart

2069. the way our parents set us up for financial success so generously
2070. flaxseed hidden in oatmeal
2071. Elijah still wanting to sit in my lap after I've been a total jerk
2072. grace to whisper/breathe deep/answer calmly *some* of the time
2073. a new book about the gospel for only $0.99 on my Kindle

2074. photos finally sorted, edited, uploaded and shared
2075. pizza and playtime with Daddy at the park
2076. not making me a single parent
2077. newly organized bookshelves
2078. organic tomatoes for $1/lb

2079. peaches from a roadside stand
2080. opportunity to bless as we have been blessed
2081. a sweet girl at church taking Jude during the half hour snack/fellowship time
2082. Steve's willingness to be a guinea pig for new recipes
2083. an evening walk with my guys

2084. The Valley of Vision for when I don't have words to pray
2085. Monday mornings, fresh starts, mercies new

Monday, August 08, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 216

"As British pastor John Henry Jowett once said, 'Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.' True gratitude is not an incidental ingredient. Nor is it a stand-alone product, something that never actually intersects with life, safely denying reality out on its own little happy island somewhere. No, gratitude has a big job to do in us and in our hearts. And it is one of the chief ways that God infuses joy and resilience into the daily struggle of life." --Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude

Thanking God this week for...

2021. pretty summer flowers: marigolds, hydrangea, zinnias
2022. the digital photography age = thousands of photos of my kids and our life
2023. the fact that slavery was abolished long ago
2024. glasses I'm not embarrassed to wear in public
2025. being able to wear contact lenses 99% of the time

2026. Jude's first real, big bath with Elijah
2027. bathroom floor covered in water from all the splashing
2028. Elijah: "I don't wanna do hiccups, Mom! I can't do hiccups!"
2029. the way parenting forces me to go to the cross even when I don't want to
2030. reminders of Christ's servanthood and the call to serve

2031. new pens with perfect tips
2032. several wonderful hours of conversation with a friend
2033. her humble wisdom and pursuit of God
2034. freedom to speak candidly with her
2035. time away that left me feeling energized and motivated and refreshed

2036. opportunities to serve a family in need
2037. dishwasher
2038. garbage disposal
2039. the fact that Elijah didn't completely flip out and panic when he locked himself in our bedroom
2040. Steve's ability to come home early and get him out after my attempts failed

2041. piles of clean dishes
2042. ice cream on a hot afternoon
2043. boys mesmerized by video clips of themselves
2044. Elijah no longer just "helping" but actually helping
2045. Jude SO proud of himself pulling up to furniture

2046. a long, quiet evening reading an amazing book (Uncle Tom's Cabin)
2047. Steve and Elijah roughhousing and laughing
2048. making Him who knew no sin to be sin for me, so that in Him I could become righteous

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Some of the best things I read on the internet come from other bloggers' links--so I thought I would throw out some posts I've found helpful or interesting lately, for your weekend reading...

He Loves Me, He Really Loves Me - Tim Challies
"...when Dad gets together with his friends, these things are not at the front of his mind. He loves his children, he is proud of his children, and he wants to tell others about them. I thought about this a short time ago when I was considering how God feels about us, how He feels about me, and how He feels about all of His children."

When She Speaks - Chatting at the Sky
Wise words for a small-time blogger like me: "what if you don’t have 2,000 readers? Maybe you have 30 readers. Do you roll your eyes at those 30 readers? Do you think of your work as valuable even if only 30 people read it? Consider this: what if 30 women showed up in a room to hear you speak. Would you see it differently?"

If You Want Your Child to Love God, Don't Go By the Rules - Sally Clarkson
I love Sally Clarkson. She often has such wise, encouraging, gentle yet powerful words for mothers.

Titus 2 Is Not Just a Woman's To-Do List - The Resurgence
"The first few verses have been sliced, diced, and examined from every angle to comprehend what it is that a godly woman looks like. How should she act? What does she do? After years of honing in on the beginning of this chapter as my 'godly guide for women,' I actually took the time to finish reading the chapter and my eyes were opened to the fullness of truth that left me encouraged and equipped to actually live out the call of the opening verses."

Little Horses and Big Cliffs - Life with Littles
Have I mentioned this blog here yet? I know I've linked on Facebook. It's one of my new favorites--such rich, encouraging gospel truths for struggling and inadequate moms like me:
"Grace is scary like that. It makes you cringe and wish that you had a way out. It makes you doubt yourself because if you aren't going to 'do' something then who is? That is the beauty of it. There's nothing for us to add yet everything for us to gain."

Friday, August 05, 2011

Something Better

On Monday I was supposed to take the boys to a friend's house for a playdate. I was SO looking forward to it, as this is a relatively new friend, and it seems we never can get enough time to talk. So you can imagine my dismay when I woke up early Monday morning with crusty, ouchy eyes. Pinkeye. AWESOME.

My first thought, in my grouchy six a.m. fog, was to be angry. I felt disappointed and resentful. I think it would be slightly melodramatic to be all "Why, God?" on the level of a response to a cancer diagnosis...but I'm not gonna lie, I was exhibiting a milder (and perhaps uglier) "Seriously, Lord? Seriously?"

My next thought was hopeful: Maybe God is making this fall through because He has something better in mind. I don't have my regular Tuesday night prayer with friends tomorrow, so maybe my friend and I can meet for coffee tomorrow night instead (we'd done that on a Tuesday night once before). That would be way better than a playdate today anyway, because we'd get a couple of hours for *uninterrupted* conversation, rather than trying to talk and also parent five small children!

I called my friend, and she agreed that she didn't really want me and my pinkeye at her house. And, as it turned out, we were in fact able to get together on Tuesday night instead. Toward the end of our time together, after about three wonderful hours of really great heart-level conversation on various topics, I was sharing all the above. My main question was, "Why am I so quick to assume the worst of God? Why am I so quick to assign negative intent, to jump to the conclusion that He is stingy, that He doesn't want to give me good gifts, etc.?"

But my friend nailed me with a more fundamental issue. As I replayed the scene of Monday morning, expressing my thought, "Maybe God has something better in store," she interrupted me: "He did."

No "maybe" about it. "He did, definitely, have something better in mind." For a split second, I assumed she was referring to the time we'd just shared that had proven the fact, thinking as I was: "He *did* have something better in store, because here we sit and tonight has been such a blessing!" But she pressed: "He definitely did have something better in mind--EVEN IF this hadn't worked out. What He brings is always best."

My reaction in the moment of being denied something I wanted revealed my heart. Sadly, it exposed unbelief and idolatry there: "God doesn't really love me, isn't really good, doesn't really want to give me good things." The original lie.

Worse, my idolatrous heart thought that the answer to that lie was God's providing what I wanted. He was vindicated in my mind when He gave me something that clearly, from my perspective, was better--a coffee date instead of a playdate. He is kind and gentle to do this sometimes in spite of me--but my friend's admonition was needed. His love and His goodness, the gospel truths that He is for me and gives me all things pertaining to life and godliness, mean that what He gives is best. However it looks to my limited perspective, these circumstances are best. If my plans fall through, it is always, always because He has something better in mind.

Funny thing, in the middle of writing this post I got distracted and popped over to look at Twitter. Scotty Smith's most recent tweet pretty well sums it up:

Related ("Other Times I Have Preached This Same Truth to Myself"):

Monday, August 01, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 215

"...gratitude truly is my life preserver. Even in the most turbulent waters, choosing gratitude rescues me from myself and my runaway emotions. It buoys me on the grace of God and keeps me from drowning in what otherwise would be my natural bent toward doubt, negativity, discouragement, and anxiety. Over time, choosing gratitude means choosing joy. But that choice doesn't come without effort and intentionality."
--Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude

Thanking God this week for...

1993. new salmon recipes
1994. lemonade
1995. unprompted kisses and hugs
1996. a foam sword at Target's Dollar Spot
1997. friends' coming over to play in the kiddy pool with us

1998. "Two Elijahs in the pool!"
1999. splashing and laughter
2000. Elijah's interest in sitting through a chapter book--our first!
2001. a phone conversation with my oldest friend
2002. a walk around the block, in spite of the heat

2003. a friend's humility in expressing her fear and need
2004. the opportunity to go help her
2005. friends' patient and gentle care for my boys
2006. a peach milkshake from Chick-Fil-A
2007. date night in

2008. new cloth diapers in the mail
2009. Elijah's asking to make bread with me
2010. friends who help me see things from a different perspective
2011. adopting me as His child
2012. the riches of His glorious inheritance

2013. fresh, local, wholesome produce from the farmers' market
2014. Steve's spending Saturday fixing various things
2015. lime lip balm finally found after months missing
2016. friends' anniversary, and God's preservation of their marriage through tough times
2017. friends here for dinner

2018. first bruschetta chicken of the summer
2019. kids giggling and loud
2020. the glorious truths of Romans, especially chapters 5 and 8