Monday, March 26, 2012

Multitude Monday, Take 240

Thanking God this week for...

2790. the news of my oldest friend's engagement, and her happiness
2791. Jude's newest word: "Ooooo-puh!" (open)
2792. gorgeous, gorgeous weather
2793. time outside to enjoy it before the bugs and the heat arrive
2794. Elijah's spontaneous declaration: "I LOVE my daddy. And Daddy loves ME!"

2795. painted toenails
2796. a dear friend giving up a night with her fiance to babysit my boys
2797. fantastic Thai food
2798. the stunningly gorgeous Schermerhorn Symphony Center
2799. brilliant, talented musicians who wrote and performed the music

2800. the astoundingly creative God who created the world and the people with the capacity for such music
2801. grace to fight against irritation and answer "Mom?" patiently four thousand times in 20 minutes
2802. hopscotch squares up to 30, Elijah eagerly jumping and requesting more
2803. boys taking long, simultaneous naps
2804. Steve asking provocative questions, stimulating theological discussions

2805. a long phone call with my best friend
2806. the work God is doing in her life
2807. a walk on the greenway with a friend
2808. the fact that we can afford high-quality carseats
2809. Kohl's generous return policy

2810. Elijah dressed up and handsome for a special date with Mama

2811. a free meal at IHOP
2812. $5 parking downtown
2813. tickets to Mary Poppins, a Christmas gift from my generous parents

2814. Elijah's enjoyment of the show

2815. a visit from my parents
2816. a visit from my brother and his girlfriend
2817. lively discussion with my family
2818. Mom surprising me with round two of birthday cake (with my favorite candy decorations :)
2819. the opportunity to see and worship with friends at Hope Community Church

2820. lunch with friends after church
2821. thoughtful conversations about important topics
2822. boys sleeping instead of whining on the way home, so Steve and I could continue talking
2823. Steve taking over with Jude when he was a wreck and my patience was shot
2824. being endlessly patient with me when I am so often a wreck

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Big 3-0


Mom, you're OLD!

My lack of a Multitude Monday post yesterday wasn't for lack of things to be thankful for! It was more like, "I had to use naptime to shower and attempt to make myself beautiful for a hot date" :) The date--dinner at a fabulous hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant and then the Nashville Symphony--wasn't originally intended to be a "birthday date"; friends invited us to the symphony back in January and this was just the date that we happened to be able to go. But on the day after my birthday, it was a delightful way to celebrate turning 30. 

Yes, I have officially left my 20s behind. I must say I'm excited. I don't feel like I want to be 29 forever...30 feels like crossing a threshold, like you're finally distancing yourself from that young-adult status. It's strange and a bit hard to believe, in some ways...but I have two kids and I've been out of college eight years, so it shouldn't be that hard to believe, I guess! 

My birthday weekend kicked off early Friday morning with a UTI. How awesome is that?! Thankful for modern medicine, indoor plumbing, etc. Saturday brought the wonderful treat of opening the mailbox to find all kinds of real mail and a package, so fun. My actual birthday, on Sunday, was uneventful but nice. After church we came home and relaxed...then these two handsome guys made pizza:

And this one just toddled around in a diaper looking adorable:
After dinner, Steve cleaned up the messes in the kitchen and we went for a lovely evening walk. Then I put Jude to bed while Steve made the frosting (which caused him to declare me "high-maintenance" was salted caramel buttercream) for my birthday cake. He and Elijah sang to me and I got to blow out candles and enjoy cake and ice cream with them. Then we put Elijah to bed and finished the first Harry Potter movie. Simple, but nice. I have learned the hard way to enjoy whatever comes on my birthday, large or small, as extravagant grace. I welcome my 30s with a smile and declare that I am blessed.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What He Desires, That He Does

“But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
What he desires, that he does.
For he will complete what he appoints for me,
and many such things are in his mind.”
Job 23:13-14

A rewording of that beloved Philippians promise: “he will complete what he appoints for me.” I typically think about Philippians 1:6 in a happy, positive light: Yay! God *will* finish the process of making me more like Jesus—He *will* rescue and redeem and save and keep me to the end.

But this verse from Job—maybe simply because it’s in Job?—has a different feel, a different tone. Yes, God will complete this good work He has begun in me—but I am not always going to like what that process looks like. It’s going to hurt sometimes.

Everything that comes into my life has been appointed. No accidents, no surprises to Him, no random chance or coincidence or “plan B.” What He desires gets done. Full stop.

“Many such things are in his mind,” far beyond my understanding. But in His mercy and kindness He has plainly revealed the driving purpose. He doesn’t always let me in on the whys and wherefores of the journey, but He has explained and defined the destination, crystal clear.

Do we realize He didn’t have to do that?

Because of the gospel, when the journey is dark and confusing and hard and hurts—when, as Ginny Owens sings in an old favorite song from college, “The pathway is broken / And the signs are unclear / And I don’t know the reason / Why You brought me here” –I can trust that these painful means are means to a GOOD end. His desire is to conform me to the image of His Son, to maximize my joy in Him. And “What He desires, that He does”! The death of Jesus secured my inheritance, secured the final outcome, ensured that all of the promises are YES.

I don’t know or understand the “many such things [that] are in his mind” concerning my life. I don’t always understand why He desires or appoints what He does. But I do know that what He desires is good and holy and beautiful. And I rest in the promise that He will complete it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Multitude Monday, Take 239

Thanking God this week for...

2762. the privilege of voting
2763. freedom to do so without fear
2764. the knowledge that the election will be fair and that its results, however hated, will be respected, not result in war or a military coup or riots
2765. sunny days spent at parks
2766. breakfast for dinner

2767. long conversations with friends
2768. back door decorated with window crayons
2769. pear trees blooming white everywhere
2770. yellow splashes of forsythia
2771. white and purple hyacinth

2772. Steve's gospel insights
2773. his picking little things up at the grocery on his way home from work
2774. our wise and caring pastor
2775. the look of excitement and pride on Elijah's face when he finally conquered a slide that scared him
2776. trips down the slide with Jude in my lap

2777. toilet paper
2778. a friend available to babysit after all
2779. clean baby toes
2780. old journals
2781. Elijah's joy in throwing rocks into the river

2782. Jude giggling at the splashes
2783. a long walk on the greenway with my guys
2784. boys gobbling up pasta with pesto
2785. a Sunday afternoon spent with new friends
2786. their hospitality, and our boys doing so well at their house without naps

2787. being bigger than even the most overwhelming problems
2788. His promises that are TRUE
2789. the gospel and the hope it provides in the midst of hopeless-looking situations

Friday, March 09, 2012

On Suffering and Asking Why

As I read through the Old Testament, I'm also reading through Mark Dever's immensely helpful book The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. He has written a chapter (adapted from a sermon) on each book of the Bible, providing a bird's-eye view of the main themes and how they all fit together.

His explanation of the book of Job emphasizes three simple truths: "We often suffer. We sometimes understand. We can always trust." I found the following two quotes especially insightful. When we suffer, we always want to understand why. But is that really best, let alone possible? Dever writes:
"Demanding that suffering have a reason and meaning that fits within the narrow scope of our human understanding prejudices the explanation that can be given. As humans, we must see that, given our limited understanding, there are only a few types of solutions that are available to us. When we fail to recognize our limitations, it's like deciding that because our own car radio is not picking up any radio broadcasts, then there must be no radio stations sending out a broadcast anywhere. But why assume that? Is that the only possible explanation? And why assume that we must understand what God intends through suffering?" 
"At times, God does graciously allow us to see how He has used a difficult situation for our good. And surely we should thank Him for the consolation such moments of understanding afford. But there is danger in assuming that He must give us such understanding. What will follow is a counterfeit trust, a trust in our own abilities to figure out all of God's purposes within any particular trial, rather than a trust in God and in His character as He has finally revealed it in Jesus Christ on the cross. A counterfeit trust in God might work for some things, but it will not finally work. The only one who is worthy of our trust is not ourselves; nor is it our own clever ability to figure out life's knotty questions; it is God Himself." 
--Mark Dever, "Job: Wisdom for Losers," The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Kept, p. 474/478 

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Thinking Biblically About Frustration (+ Great News from CCEF)

I am absolutely delighted to share with you that the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation has finally re-launched the Journal of Biblical Counseling. YES!

You can read all the articles for free online, but a Kindle download of the complete journal is only $3.99. I downloaded a sample, and within the first two or three screens found myself trying to highlight things (which is disabled on a sample). Obviously I just needed to buy it (I read so much more carefully and thoughtfully in real books, whether print or Kindle, than online). David Powlison's introductory editorial alone is worth the four bucks! This stuff isn't just for counselors--it's incredibly insightful for any Christian who desires to grow in her understanding of the human heart and the God who created and redeems us.

One of the articles is a personal application piece called "Stomping Among Lilies" by Chris Carter. The article is about husband-wife interactions, but I found it especially convicting and applicable when I read it in light of my relationship with my children. I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with anger or frustration toward their spouse or kids (which means, pretty much all of us who are married or parents, right?!). Here's a taste, with edits in brackets reflecting how I was thinking through it as a mother.
“I find a frustration within my heart at times…that strangles the grace from simple, unguarded moments [with my children]. It is impatient. It expects its own way. It doesn’t have time for the gospel. This frustration is especially destructive within the vulnerability and intimacy of [the parent-child relationship].

“…frustration deconstructs togetherness. Even when it is subtle on the outside, it is always destructive on the inside. Frustration is the experience of interpreting something or someone as an obstacle to one’s own desire, and wanting that obstacle removed or changed. When I feel this way toward my [son], I necessarily turn myself against [him] because [he] has become that obstacle. …Because I have turned on [him] in my heart, my [son] finds [him]self momentarily abandoned by [his parent, mentor, protector, coach, nurturer, teacher] and support.

“All of a sudden I dismiss [his] feelings because [he] seems [oblivious] to mine. All of a sudden I complain because I am unhappy that [he] needs me in an ‘untimely’ moment. All of a sudden I criticize [and yell at] [him] because [he] does not…meet my…expectations. Frustration within [parenting] always produces [disconnection and distance, a breach of trust] because, rather than fill the space between [parent and child] with constructive, tender, grace-oriented communication, it fills the space with destructive, divisive, self-oriented dissatisfaction.”
Ouch. Click over to the Journal to read the rest of the author's journey in working through frustration and turning, slowly but surely, toward Christ. And check out or download the other articles while you're there--I promise it will be WELL worth your time!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Lacking Nothing

"Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell" (Nehemiah 9:21).

This astounding account of the mercy and patience of God (please go back and read starting in verse 17!) ends with a startling line: They lacked nothing. 


From my perspective--and, I imagine, from theirs--they lacked an awful lot. Permanent, safe, settled homes in the Promised Land, for one (have you ever felt tired of living out of a suitcase? try wandering from place to place for forty years). Variety and interest in their diet (mmm...manna again). Loved ones: remember, during this period an entire generation of people were dying off. Don't let it remain abstract; picture every person in your extended family over age 40. Gone. These are not small things! I'd hardly describe this as "lacking nothing"!

And yet that's exactly how God describes it. And since His Word is Truth, His thoughts higher than mine, His wisdom perfect...I have to believe what He says is reality, rather than trust my own limited and skewed perception of reality.

He says they lacked NOTHING. They may not have had everything they wanted--but they had absolutely everything they needed, everything that was good for them.

If this was true then, before Christ--how much more can I trust this reality on this side of the cross?

I lack nothing. God has provided for my greatest, most profound need: He granted me a Savior. He has given me forgiveness for sins, a perfect record of obedience, a secure position as His beloved child, an eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--all of this at immeasurable cost to Himself. If He provided for this need, the need to be set free from sin and reconciled to my Creator and King, how much more can I trust that He will surely provide any other thing I truly need? "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

He says I lack NOTHING. I may not have everything I want--but I have absolutely everything I need, everything that is best for me.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Multitude Monday, Take 238

Thanking God this week for...

2729. our zoo membership, and the opportunity to renew it before prices went up
2730. a gorgeous day at the zoo with my boys
2731. revealing Himself to me as Creator
2732. brightly colored bandaids
2733. Steve's amazing skills at splinter removal without tears

2734. the satisfaction of finishing a beautifully written book
2735. finding out the author has another book I didn't know about
2736. discovering and enjoying Downton Abbey with Steve
2737. beautiful adoption stories and photos
2738. more "hard eucharisteo" - something exciting falling through

2739. art time with Elijah
2740. a chiropractic adjustment
2741. the relaunch of CCEF's Journal of Biblical Counseling
2742. dinner and prayer with friends
2743. Jude's three new molars, and respite from the constant whining

2744. the way Jude pretends everything is a phone, and holds it to the back of his neck instead of his ear
2745. our babysitter taking the boys to the park on another gorgeous day
2746. strange little seed pods from sweet gum trees
2747. the fact that I could type "spiky" in my Google Toolbar and get the option "spiky balls that fall from trees" and click immediately on a webpage that told me it was from a sweet gum tree. The internet is amazing.
2748. Vanilla Coke, which I thought was long ago discontinued

2749. Elijah pretending sticks are lightsabers, and dueling gently and carefully with Jude
2750. Jude toddling around outside, imitating big brother's play
2751. Steve telling me stories about work and making me laugh until my face hurts
2752. Elijah singing random songs we listen to during the day, complete with "da, dum, da, doo doo" instrumental interludes
2753. gummy smiles from our friends' daughter

2754. weather updates online
2755. a basement to go to in case of tornadoes
2756. His protection in Friday's storms
2757. the fact that He controls, directs and can calm all storms
2758. dinner and laughter and conversation and games with dear friends

2759. cheesecake on my grandmother's cut glass dessert plates
2760. times He breaks me down
2761. times He builds up

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Plug for Having a Plan

Perceptive readers of my blog may have noticed a certain tone in my posts over the last several weeks and wondered if there's "something going on." There has been. While I'm not at a place right now where I feel like publicly sharing the details, I will say that yes, January found me reeling from one set of circumstances, and then February threw me into a whole different trial altogether.

But I can also say that God has provided grace in the midst of those trials. And one of the most notable sources of that grace has been my Bible reading plan.

It sounds a bit odd--counter-intuitive, even. Lots of times we pit the two against each other, don't we: "having a rigid plan" vs. "letting the Spirit lead." But I am finding that in the wisdom and sovereignty of God, our plans for obedience can be used powerfully as means for God to comfort our souls.

Back in December, I shared some challenges from my pastor and other wise Christians on the importance of being intentional about reading Scripture. I ended up choosing to follow a modified version of this two-year reading plan--I simply began with the September 18 reading, since I wanted to start in Ezra instead of Genesis (based on what I had read/not read over the last couple of years and where I had most recently been studying).

I had no way of knowing what was coming in my life, or what Scriptures would be most appropriate to read in the midst of my trials. But God knew. He had me in the Psalms each day. He had me begin Job at the beginning of February. On the morning of the 14th, just hours before I would receive shocking and difficult news, He had me in Psalm 35, journaling about how He delights in my welfare.

I think a large part of why I am feeling as well emotionally right now as I am is because I have been in the Word consistently. And I attribute that to having a concrete plan to follow. Would I have turned to Scripture in my fear and my pain anyway, without having to complete a daily reading? Yes, I believe I would have, some of the time. But it would have been hit-or-miss, and haphazard at best--flipping listlessly through the pages, trying to think what to read that might be helpful, landing perhaps on a familiar passage. Of course there is comfort and value in favorite passages of Scripture, and I have turned to those, too. But there has been something beautiful to me about opening to my bookmark, reading the prescribed chapter for the day, and finding Christ right there, ready to apply the balm of His Word to my pain and my fears.

My plan isn't particularly ambitious. Most days I read just one or two chapters, plus a psalm. It has built in catch-up days. And I still fall behind sometimes. But I love the constant reminder and demonstration of God's sovereign care: He has ordained what I will read each day, and He has ordained what I will face each day. Again and again He meets me in these pre-planned selections. Is it little more than an item to check off a list, some days? Yes. But it is more than worth it to persevere through the less-exciting chapters and the readings that don't really grab me, when God meets me in the pages of His Word.

So--may I challenge you again to make a plan (or to get your plan back out and keep trying)? Who says January is the only time to begin? Let March 1 be your day to print off a schedule and start reading regularly. Pick something that works for you; go at your own pace. "Read the entire Bible in a year" certainly doesn't have to be the goal. The goal is to get ourselves in God's Word so that God's Word gets in us, and changes us. And that's not a one-shot, New-Year's-Resolution kind of goal. That's something He delights to do for you and in you any day of the year.

Plan to Read
God's Delight