Friday, September 28, 2007

Tales From Suburbia

This evening I caught a glimpse of how spoiled we are these days.

Our lawn was growing insanely long what with the wet weather and another call a few weeks ago from the Army for Drew to be gone for 5 weeks again. He is typically the one who does the mowing, and when he’s gone a while, the grass keeps right on growing. Imagine that. I can’t get out and mow without help because I can’t leave Boo unattended, so my mother-in-law and father-in-law came over to help tonight. Often when Drew is away, my father-in-law will come over and mow for us, but our yard is big enough that it can take several hours to get it all done, and I feel immensely guilty letting him do it all every time. So, tonight I ordered pizza for all of us and together we and the boys harvested the yard while Gram played with Boo inside. Things were going just swimmingly in the backyard and J opened the gate for me to drive the mower on through to the front yard once we’d finished most of the back.

Drew’s parents have one of those old fashioned push mowers – not gasoline powered, but the old 25 pound manual push mower you hardly ever see anymore – because they have a tiny little yard and that’s all they needed. There it is over there to the right. Looks harmless enough. This is what the boys were using to help with the trimming and Drew’s dad was trying to get our finicky weed whacker to do the rest. I got through slightly more than half of the front when the riding mower made a funny noise and then I looked back and realized it was no longer cutting the grass. Turns out some part on our 35 year old mower is now broken. Sigh. I always seem to have trouble with things with engines when Drew is away. At least it wasn’t the car this time.

I am the kind of person who, though it may take me a little while to get motivated to start a project, once I’ve started I want it DONE. So, the back up plan was that I spent another long time tonight pushing that manual thing around the front yard in the heat and there is still a fairly big patch in the middle of the yard left to do tomorrow, and a job that should have been finished hours ago took much longer. At first it was kind of fun to push it around, and it wasn't really that hard. But with each lap, my heart was pounding harder, sweat was pouring off me and as I was growing tired, the thing grew heavier and heavier. I was beginning to have a whole new appreciation for the Amish people. But there was something extremely satisfying about watching that patch grow smaller and smaller as I pushed that mower around, and I could feel my arm muscles toning up with every lap.

I am going to be sore tomorrow. I can already feel it in my arms and back, but it’s a good sore….so they say, anyway. I’ve been saying how I had to give up going to the gym since they don’t have childcare and my mother-in-law went back to work so she can’t watch Boo like she had been on those mornings I would go to exercise. I think I got a pretty good work out tonight! Stay tuned for what I am just sure would be a run away best seller exercise plan – Fitness the Old Fashioned Way, Through YARD WORK

Honey, if you’re reading the blog, what do you think about researching one of those lawn services the neighbors use?

For now, since I’ve just finished soaking in a hot tub to try and soothe my aching back, I’m going to go watch the movie I rented earlier and not move very much at all. :^)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Vanity of Vanities

“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher;
‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’

What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.
The sun also rises, and the sun goes down.
And hastens to the place where it arose.
The wind goes toward the south,
And turns around to the north;
The wind whirls about continually,
And comes again on its circuit.
All the rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.
All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.”

So begins the book of Ecclesiastes. These words Solomon, the wisest man alive, wrote after looking to and fro and describing what he saw. That is how he began this book.

I imagine there is not one mother of young children who has not felt this sentiment, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” when looking with minor despair at her once again dirty house for the gazillionth time and realizing she cannot keep up with the mess. Well, I have that despair today, anyway. It seems that I no sooner get one room back to some semblance of tidiness than I turn around and the rest of the house has exploded (not literally, but you know what I mean). Perhaps the word despair is a bit strong, but if you’ve ever had the task of trying to keep the house clean along behind two little boys who have no idea what the purpose of the hamper actually is (not for lack of my telling them over and over again repeatedly, mind you), and who just this morning discovered the “give away” box and realized that the junk they haven’t even realized has been in there for the past several months is something they cannot live without, and who are seemingly incapable of even seeing the whirlwind mess in their room, or even if they do see it do not see the purpose of keeping it in some semblance of order, a baby girl who just recently and very cutely has discovered the plasticware cabinet and the pots and pans cabinet and is delighting in pulling every single piece out into the kitchen floor and crawling into the cabinet herself to get to that one last lid that has escaped her joy, and a dog who I fear is starting to show the affects of aging by having potty accidents on the freshly steam-cleaned carpet (or worse my bed, oh yes!), then you probably know that same feeling of the overwhelming sense of uselessness when you enter one of those dirty, messy rooms to try to contain the disorder. I know, I know, these are just the joys of motherhood, but for me, there are days when I feel overwhelmed with the relentless fruitlessness of it. That was just me being honest.

Last Sunday, at the church I was visiting, our Sunday school teacher mentioned that the book of Ecclesiastes is his favorite book of the Bible. I started laughing because I had just read it during my daily Bible reading and it seems like an odd pick for a favorite book. Kind of a downer, if you know what I mean. I wasn’t the only one laughing, by the way. Anyway, once he explained I got what he meant. He said that yes, apart from God, all is vanity. Apart from God, you just get up work, eat, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat in an endless cycle and all is vanity. One day you’ll die and years after things won’t have changed much. That is an effect of the Fall and the curse. BUT, look how Solomon ended the book. This is the end of Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.”

Though what I do day in and day out may be incredibly insignificant in the world’s eyes (vanity and chasing after the wind – and, believe me, in our increasingly child-unfriendly culture the stay home mom who sees this as her career, not just a temporary holding position until the kids are a little older and she can get back to her ‘real’ job, is sometimes seen as an oddity), when done as a sacrificial love offering to the Lord, it is very significant. Sure, there are days when all I can see are the mess, and despair can threaten and loom, but overall, this is my joyful service. Sure there are days when fears for our kids raise up in my mind and I wonder if we are making the right or best choices for them and teaching them well enough the things that matter and trying not to worry that my mistakes will be so many that they have a hard time learning those important lessons and internalizing them. Raising these kids to understand that the fear of God and loving His commandments is man’s all is by no means insignificant or vanity of vanities. And I know that they are really in God's hands. Though I want be faithful to teach them well, it is He I must trust to draw them to Himself and open their eyes and hearts and minds. Though my house may not always be the neatest, it isn’t beyond Him. I am making it my practice to start each day in prayer, praising God and petitioning Him for the will and the means to do the seemingly insignificant tasks well and with a joyful heart. I have a long way to go. But I want to do a better job of keeping our home tidy, orderly and peaceful, though while the kids are young it is probably unreasonable to expect it to ever stay as neat as I want it to be, so I’m trying to let some of that go and slow down and listen to the kids instead of getting frustrated because of the mess, because God sees the secret things. And they matter.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Boring Post

Seeing that I am at a low ebb for creativity the past few days, I have nothing to write on my blog. Plenty going on in my head that I'm thinking about, nothing I am ready to write here, though, sorry... I'm just feeling a bit of writer's block at the moment.

By the way, if you're reading along with "Our Covenant God," don't forget to stop by Everyday Mommy's place today. I should have mentioned that earlier today, but it's been a busy day. Part of why I'm having writer's block is it's just busy around here at the moment and I'm tired tonight.

Here's something fun if you want to see what season you are. These quizzes are goofy, aren't they? But this one actually kind of fit me, so I'm sharing it, seeing as it is actually fall. Not that you can tell by the weather and how hot it was chasing Boo around while waiting for M's football practice to be over tonight. Anyhoo....

You Belong in Fall

Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...
You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings
Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you
Kind of fitting, I think. And now I think I am finished blogging for the evening once I check in at Jules' place and visit our read-along group. Happy Wednesday!

Just Wondering....

Is it strange that this blog receives quite a few hits each week with “reasons I love my husband” in the Google search line? And is it wrong of me to find it somehow sad that so many people seem to find a need to Google that?

Monday, September 24, 2007


My eyesight has always been pretty good. I’ve never needed glasses or contacts, and my eyes have never bothered me all that much, for which I’ve been thankful. However, I noticed about two years ago that driving at night was getting a little bit more difficult and sometimes things were just a tad blurrier than they used to be when reading. It wasn’t real noticeable most of the time, just when I was tired or had been reading or on the computer a lot, so I was pretty sure it was just eye strain and tiredness. And driving at night had always been more difficult than during the day for me. Something about all the lights running together and my depth perception isn’t as clear, so I don’t like driving much when the sun goes down. I do it, but I don’t like it.

Anyway, after a few weeks of noticing the eye strain thing I made an appointment to have my eyes checked. Of course, the doctor kind of treated me like she couldn’t figure out why in the world I was in her office because my vision was fine. I hate that. Not that my vision was fine, but the way doctors tend to treat us when we go for preventative care. Not the point of this post, but it felt good to mention that little trivial fact. She did say that it was probably eye strain and that perhaps a very minor correction was needed, such that could be remedied with a pair of over-the-counter reading glasses to be used when reading and on the computer. So, I bought a pair and used them for a little while and then misplaced them and didn’t bother too much about remembering them for a longer while.

I turned 36 last May, and wrote at the time what a weird age that is for me. I’ve gotten used to the fact that every day is a step closer in the ever continuing march toward 40 and beyond, as long as the Lord wills. As a little aside, I don’t really know why it isn’t until our mid-30’s that we tend to get antsy about that little fact. If you think about it, we’re born dying, right? Our days are all numbered, and it’s good to remember Who knows the number of our days and to know and worship Him, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. What peace to know I am reconciled to God and do not have to fear the age of 40 or any other age, and also a good reminder to make the most of the days we have been given.

But, having reached the latter half of my 30’s (that’s still hard to wrap my brain around, by the way), I have begun to notice more eye strain again. I’ve heard that this is about the age when that begins to happen, and, here we are. I have noticed, especially since I took up blogging, that if I forget to wear reading glasses and spend too much time staring at the computer screen, my eyes do go a little blurry later in the day. Reading is just a little harder and my eyes feel tired. So, I got a new pair of reading glasses, and I am doing a better job of not losing them. Also, M had a homework assignment the other day to have a parent (me!) look at a nickel with him and help him to write who was on the heads side and what was on the tails side. Well, I remembered that Thomas Jefferson is the man and knew it was his house on the tails side but couldn’t remember the name of it. When I looked at the tails side, I could see there was a word there under the image of the building, but for all the squinting I could muster, I couldn’t read it. That is a first for me. Out came the reading glasses, and “Monticello” was clear as could be.

I’m not relating all this to complain. On the contrary, I realized something rather profound in thinking about this, actually. While it may be a normal fact of physical aging that leads our eyes to weaken and strain, it should not be a normal fact of physical aging for our spiritual eyes to dim. No matter what happens to our physical body, our spiritual eyes ought to be growing sharper and more focused, yes? The longer we walk with Jesus, and study His word and expose ourselves to good teaching of His word and to prayer, we should begin to have a sharper and deeper understanding of those truths He has revealed to us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit in those who are trusting Christ, we grow in understanding and wisdom and in knowing how to study His word well.

And with that sharper spiritual eyesight, we grow in our ability to serve and to teach others. We shouldn’t just be learning so we can soak in the beauty of the Word all for ourselves, but we have the incredible privilege to share the insights God is giving us with others who are newer to the faith, or to witness of the wonderful hope of the gospel to those who do not know Him. What a joy! Just as our physical eyes feast on the beauty of a rainbow or a sunset or the myriad wonderful beauties around us, so our spiritual eyes can feast on the beauty of Truth as we mine the depths of God’s word and spend time with Him in prayer. Just as our physical eyes help us to see dangers ahead on the road as we travel or help us to point out the beauties we behold to others, our spiritual eyes as we mature in understanding can help us do the same for people we meet who need to hear the gospel and for fellow believers who are longing to grow in the faith.

We women who have grown in the faith, and are continuing to grow, are charged to teach the younger women. What a privilege and a blessing this is. I pray that I will take that charge more seriously and seek to keep my spiritual eyes clear and focused on my Redeemer so that I may be prepared to teach and reach those He places in my sphere of influence, always ready to give an answer for the hope that is within me with gentleness and respect.

1 Corinthians 14:20
“Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.”

Friday, September 21, 2007

Some More of Those Thoughts You Don't Say Out Loud

*I had a version of this post up for a little while yesterday and then took it down again. These are things I'm thinking through, and they are hard thoughts, so I made some edits before putting it back up today. I'm still thinking through some of this, and probably will be for most of my life as I continue to grow in Christ, so I don't claim that this post is an exhaustive treatment of the topic by any means.

While Drew and I were looking at the promotional material for something called ‘The Truth Project’ put out by Focus on the Family, we came across a question that has stuck with me for the past month or so and I have been thinking about it. The question was this:

“Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?”

Think about it for a moment. I do. Believe that what I believe is really real, that is. But the obvious follow up question is, “Do I live like I do?” That one is a little harder to answer sometimes. I want to live it. Sanctification is a process, and the direction of my life should be towards the standards Christ laid out in the Sermon on the Mount. The direction of my life should be toward His righteousness and His holiness, ever growing in love for Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, God is pruning away those things in my life that are not right and He is producing the fruit of the Spirit in me. And I want to live like I really believe what I confess I believe.

So, that’s some of the thoughts I’ve been pondering since reading that question. And as I ponder, I’m beginning to apply those thoughts to areas of my life and to assumptions I find that I’m holding and to the way I think about things. And in the midst of those thoughts, I began reading, and have just finished reading the book Desiring God by John Piper, as I’ve mentioned on a few other posts. I don’t often recommend books on my blog, but I think this one is definitely one I would heartily recommend. In fact, I’m kind of reeling a little from some of the things this book has left me thinking about. Reeling in a good way, but it has shaken up my thinking on some things.

I’m about to talk about one of those topics we don’t like to discuss out loud very often. In fact, it’s a topic I have to honestly confess I am very, very uncomfortable with. It’s the idea of suffering as a Christian. The last chapter of Desiring God deals with this topic. The main discussion of that chapter isn’t so much natural suffering (like sickness, natural disasters, losing a loved one, that kind of thing), but really the focus is on suffering for the sake of the Gospel, though the other kind of suffering is mentioned, too. I have to tell you that this particular chapter shook me up, woke me up and helped me to realize something, and I confess that I am still quite uncomfortable with the things I’m thinking about and struggling to take them to heart. I’ll try to keep this post as short as I can, but I see a tie in to that question I quoted at the beginning if I can figure out how to put into words what I’m struggling to come to grips with here.

First of all, I want to back up and be extremely candid and say that one of the hardest things I had to come to grips with in truly understanding that God is absolutely sovereign is the idea that He does not owe me anything. I am not more special than anyone else to be granted a ‘free pass’ from suffering in my life. And that scared me. A lot. I first started really, really thinking that through when Drew was in Iraq two years ago and I was praying mightily for his safe return. And I realized that I needed to pray in faith for his protection and safe passage home to us, yes, but I also needed to pray that should that request not be granted that I would have the faith to persevere and trust my Savior even then. I did not like to think that way. Those are still difficult things to think about. But what I’m trying to come to grips with is that if I let anything, or anyone, be more important to me than Jesus Christ, then I have made that person or that thing my idol. Of course I do not want harm to come to my loved ones, but do I really, truly trust God enough to believe that His grace is sufficient….even then? I am not saying, however, that we are to live in fear of all the ‘what ifs’ in life. I do not go around saying, “What if this or that happens, will I still believe?” No, I do not live in that kind of worry. Jesus said for us not to worry about what tomorrow will bring.

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:34 And why should we not worry? The verse right before that is Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Paul found that to be true, for he said that God told him His grace is sufficient for him. And God's grace is sufficient for us, too. We've got to trust Him, in fact, our joy is found in trusting Him, seeking Him first.

But I do think there comes a time in every Christian’s life when we need to examine ourselves and pray for the persevering faith that we will not be moved.

Those are the kinds of thoughts that are difficult to say out loud, and difficult to express adequately. But, I just finished reading Job, also. He said in the beginning of the book that the worst had happened and he even wished he’d never been born. But, he did not lose hope in his Redeemer. He knew, with certainty, that his Redeemer lives. We can know that, too. At the end of the book, Job puts his hand over his mouth and confesses that when he had questioned God he was talking about things he did not comprehend, and he repented and acknowledged that He is God.

Since reading that chapter about suffering and since reading Job again, I have been hearing and reading a lot of pastors and bloggers and other sources talking about suffering in the Christian life and the role it plays. But, something else I have been thinking about is this: we are never told to pursue a life of ease and comfort. For people who would recoil at the word-faith, prosperity gospel type of teaching, I think it is wise to take a very careful look at our own selves. We believe that that kind of teaching is wrong. But I wonder if we ever seriously think that we have actually bought into some of it, on a smaller level. I complain and whine when my dishwasher breaks. How much complaining and whining do you see on blogs when someone just doesn’t like what a blogger has to say (“Why can’t you just be nice???”)? I tend to complain about a lot of things that aren’t even real hardships, just minor inconveniences, and even let them ruin my day, no less, at times.

But if you read missionary biographies about people who, for the joy of serving Christ and for the joy of sharing the gospel with unreached peoples have chosen to sacrifice many things, that really shines a light on how petty so many of our moanings really are. During our Wednesday morning Bible study, we are looking at the life of the apostle Paul. He did not choose a life of leisure. He poured out his life for the sake of the Gospel. He had a passion to see unreached people hear the words of life. He also lived such a life that if the hope he had in the resurrection were not true, he would be of all men most pitiable. Piper points this out in the chapter on suffering. The reason Paul could joyfully walk the hard road in this life was because of the hope of the much greater joy of eternal life with Jesus, and for the joy of serving Him here until he was called home.

So, I’m not exactly sure where I am going with these thoughts, except that I am beginning to realize that my view of joy has been too small, and too self-centered. We may not all be called to sacrifice in the same ways, but I do think we are all called to pursue our joy in God alone. We are called to hold lightly to the things of this world and not make anyone or anything into our idol. At the very least, I am asking myself if I really believe what I believe is really real, then shouldn’t I be willing to get out of my comfort zone and sacrifice time and comfort to not be such a hermit? This is where I am at the moment. I have been asking myself some hard and uncomfortable questions, and I have had to confess that I really am not yet where I want to be in the answers I am able to give. These are difficult things to grasp, but if I truly want to live what I believe and live for God’s glory, I think they are important things to think about. After all, since Jesus said we are to take up our cross and follow Him, and Paul said that we are to offer our lives as a living sacrifice to God, which is our reasonable service, it’s a good idea to be exploring what that really means. Crosses and sacrifices are hard things, not comfortable things.

But the joy in these hard thoughts is that God is not capricious with the sacrifices in this life that He asks of His children. He always has a purpose in it. He is good, and His plans for us are good and ultimately for His glory. So, for the joy of knowing and loving Him, I think it is good to think about these things, as difficult and uncomfortable as it may be.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blogging Pitfalls

I’ll be coming up on the first anniversary of my blogging adventure near the end of October. Though it’s been almost a year, I still find that there are things about blogging I need to be on my guard about, and there are tons of technical things that are just beyond me, but that’s another post. This post is to address some thoughts I’ve been mulling over about my own blogging habits, particularly regarding commenting and reading comments.

I have read and been told that bloggers need to develop a thick skin. At first I bristled against that because it seemed to me that the people saying that were really just using it as an excuse to be able to be as caustic as they wanted in commenting. And you do see a lot of that in the blogosphere, due in great part, I think, to the anonymous, yet strangely intimate nature of blogging. Though most of us who have formed blogging relationships don’t actually know each other in “real life,” it is tempting sometimes to assume that we might have a closer friendship than is actually possible in this format. That’s a danger sometimes, and can lead to hurt feelings or misinterpretations because we all come into a blog with our own biases and presuppositions. A good thing to remember is that you only know what a blogger has chosen to write about himself or herself. You don’t know the whole person strictly from reading her blog. This has been dealt with before by many bloggers, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about again.

On the other hand, also due to the anonymous nature of blogging and the internet, there can be a tendency to forget that the bloggers we interact with are real people. There is a real person sitting at their computer keyboard typing those words we read. A real person, who takes seriously what they write and who has real feelings. It would be good to remember that when we are tempted to write a scathing response or a demeaning blog post about anyone. Because of the detached nature of blogging it’s easy to forget that we aren’t just screen names, but real people. I think a good rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t say something to a person if I knew them face to face, I probably shouldn’t say it on a blog, either. I haven’t always been perfect at carrying out this rule of thumb, but I try to follow it. How we act matters. Though we may say things that are hard to hear at times, we can be civil in the way we say them, and I think we should aim for that, even in the somewhat detached world of the internet.

But, the thick skin caveat is valuable in protecting against something to which I am particularly susceptible. I tend to get a little defensive and even prickly over posts I write that deal with something close to my heart or that I’m am struggling to learn and take to heart. Because of this, at times I misinterpret comments and assume criticism when none was meant. This is a pitfall for me, and something I’m trying to guard against, but I do fall into it at times. I am trying to take to heart the teaching from 1 Corinthians 13 that love isn’t puffed up or easily provoked. That is something that I was convicted about some time back, that if I’m going to really learn to love people, I need to not always assume the worst, and learn to not let things get under my skin so easily, and to be able to graciously take criticism when needed. Though I believe this, there are lots of times I fail, and usually end up making a mess of things in the process.

I also deleted a few posts not too long ago. I realized that some of the issues I’m dealing with in my real life that are close to my heart and that I’m struggling in prayer over and trying to make wise decisions about are probably things best left off my blog. I started thinking especially about some things I had written that I would have been uncomfortable if someone from my “real, in person” life were reading. If what I’m writing is something I wouldn’t want to tell them or am not ready for them to know about, then the internet isn’t the place to hash out my thoughts on them. So, I searched the archives and took a few posts down.

I’m still growing as a blogger and as a woman who wants to honor Christ. I hope to continue to grow in grace and seek to honor Christ in how I interact with people, even on the internet. That’s one reason there are a lot of blogs I may read, but fewer that I’ll actually comment on. Some comment threads on a few I read can be rather lively and, while interesting to read, sometimes I think people on every side of the issues being discussed can get a little carried away, especially when the issues are near and dear to them, and once in a while things turn nasty. I’ve never really understood the degree of animosity that seems to accelerate on some comment threads I’ve read and how angry some people can be, but I do think a large reason for that is how limited blogging conversation actually is. Meeting face to face, some of the same discussions would be handled much differently than they are in cyberspace where it’s so much easier to flame out a response since you don’t really have to deal with the backlash of it as you would in person.

Besides that, there are days when I just spend too much time on the computer anyway. While I enjoy blogging and the edification I receive from many of the blogs I do read, I mustn’t let that take precious time away from the calling I have to be salt and light to my “real life” family and neighbors here where I am.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fall is Almost Here

I think of all the seasons, fall is my favorite. I love when the heat of summer breaks and the sauna-like blanket of humidity lifts and the air is crisp and dry and it is pleasant to be outside again. Yesterday evening, I had given Boo her bath, but she was cranky, cranky, cranky, and it was just too early for her to go to bed for the night yet, so I took her and J outside to play for a while. It was so nice out that we could actually enjoy being outside, and J and I played a little basketball, while Boo entertained herself walking her toy walker up and down the driveway. By the way, she’s finally walking! You may remember I was worried a few months back that she wasn’t walking. Well, at 16 months old, she’s finally decided it’s really fun to let go and walk across the room. She’s been ready for several months, but very cautious about letting go.

Anyway, we got out the sidewalk chalk and had a blast decorating the driveway. Then Drew came home with M from M’s flag football practice and they joined us. The boys now have an elaborate chalk mural on the driveway and M can’t wait to get back to it this afternoon. Boo just likes to be outside. You can see from the pictures that she pretty much undid any good the bath had done her earlier, but, oh, did she have fun sitting in that chalk picture.

Boo and I got to take a nice walk this morning, too, since the extreme heat of summer has fled. I love the breezy, fresh time of early fall!

Here are some of the things fall means to me:

Cloudless blue skies
Crisp, dry air as the humidity of summer finally lifts its heavy cloak off the marshland
College football, school colors and cheering for your team
Backpacks, homework and hectic afternoons
Screened windows and doors open to enjoy the fall air
Lower utility bills
A read-along at Jules’ place (check it out!)
The first brightly colored leaves
Pumpkins, scarecrows and hay bales
Hay rides and hot chocolate
A visit to the pumpkin patch
Pumpkin pie, cinnamon, sugar and spice
Spiced apple cider
My oldest son’s birthday – October will always be special
A time to remember and continue to be thankful
The smell of burning leaves
Roasted marshmallows

These are just a few of the things I love about fall. With the slightly cooler temperatures the past two days, though, I realized I need to get to the store and buy two of my kids new jackets. Won’t be long until we need them!

Friday, September 14, 2007

God is a Refuge For Us

Psalm 62:5-8
“My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.”

When I first decided to plunge in and read the book Desiring God by John Piper and saw the subtitle, Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, I made the decision to order and read this book because I’ve heard so many people I respect talk about what a good book it is. I have to confess, that, at first, I was a little nervous about this book because, well, it’s all about joy. Joy is something I don’t think I have understood very well. I’ve heard all the words about how joy is deeper than happiness, but, somehow, I still couldn’t get my mind around what it really means to be joyful, to count it all joy even when I may not feel happy. I’m getting there, but I’m still learning on this one, and I appreciate Piper’s desire to search the scriptures to understand joy. I can’t begin to define what John Piper means by the term “Christian Hedonist” in a short blog post, but I can say that I am really glad I picked up this book and am reading it. I’m beginning to understand a little better about joy and about finding it in my Savior and about what this means.

On Sunday we were singing the song, “At the Cross,” with the chorus that goes like this:

“At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day.”

I’m not criticizing this song, but this is where I was on Sunday. When we got to that last line, I thought, deep down where I wouldn’t have told anyone, “But I’m not happy all the day. In fact, today, I’m crying and feeling very blue over something I’m praying about and I don’t feel happy at all at this moment.” Positionally, I’m happy, because I know that I have been made right with God through the blood of Jesus shed for me, but experientially, I wasn’t feeling all that happy right then. I have a deep and abiding peace and joy to know that I belong to Him and that He is Lord over all, even the thing I was feeling blue about that Sunday, but even so I was feeling rather blue sitting there in the pew.

Then later, I read one of the most shocking things I think I have ever read in a Christian book, and it was this passage from Desiring God:
“Christian Hedonism is much aware that every day with Jesus is not ‘sweeter than the day before.’ Some days with Jesus our disposition is sour. Some days with Jesus, we are so sad we feel our heart will break open. Some days with Jesus, we are so depressed and discouraged that between the garage and the house we just want to sit down on the grass and cry.

Every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before. We know it from experience and we know it from Scripture. For David says in Psalm 19:7, ‘The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.’ If every day with Jesus were sweeter than the day before, if life were a steady ascent with no dips in our affection for God, we wouldn’t need to be re-vived.”
I can’t tell you how shocked I was when I read that first sentence of the quote. I had to read it again to be sure what he was saying was actually what I read. It’s one of those things you just don’t say out loud. We sing that song all the time, and all the time we’re reinforcing a false sense of what joy really is. It isn’t a sentimental thing that life is just peachy from here on out, but it is something to be cherished and sought after as a treasure. The reason we (I) get confused, I think, is that we often mistake momentary happiness for joy, and we often seek to find our deepest joy in our circumstances rather than learning to wait on God and to rest in Him in spite of our circumstances. God is the ultimate source of joy. To think we can be satisfied by anything less is to be far too easily satisfied and to settle for too little.

I’ve felt guilty for much of my life because I struggle with something of a melancholy personality. I slump into the blues sometimes and I tend to have a fairly serious disposition. Bet you couldn’t tell that if you’ve been reading for a while. (Smile) I have often felt that something must be wrong with my faith because I could never truly relate to the sentiment that every day is sweeter than the day before. Imagine my surprise to read this passage in a book that is all about joy – desiring it and finding it in God.

The very freeing thing I’m seeing here is that, though melancholy days may come, though trials may come, God is the restorer of my joy. He is the lifter of my head. Just the fact that I feel melancholy or even downright sad at times does not mean that my faith is weak. By faith I look to Christ and get into His Word and pray and fight for the joy that is in Him. And He restores my joy and lifts my head. And, you know, I have seen this in my own life. When those melancholy times come and when times come that leave me on my face in tears before the throne of God, whether by circumstances beyond my control or because of an awareness of the awfulness of my own sin and hypocrisy, there is joy in waiting on God and trusting that through Christ I shall not be moved and seeking Him as my refuge, and pouring out my heart before Him. Even through tears, there is a deep joy in knowing that He knows me and loves me because I am His. Because of Jesus and His blood shed for me, I belong to Him. Think about that for a minute. The Creator of the universe is not a far-away God. He knows your name!

And, you know, these are things that are fairly obvious to an observant reader of the Psalms. Many, many of the Psalms start out melancholy and end up by looking for the restoration of joy that comes from loving God, seeking Him and knowing Him, thirsting for Him as the deer pants for the water. In the midst of trials, in the midst of melancholy slumps, I shall not be moved. This one thing I seek, to know God and to dwell with Him forever. May God continue to grant me the hunger and thirst for His righteousness that I might find my joy in Him, my Savior and Redeemer, my Lord and my King. I pray I will remember these things and live them out in my day to day life, for His glory.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

In the Car This Afternoon

J: "The whole class had to sit at recess today."
Me: "The whole class? Why?"
J: "Mrs. L. said we embarrassed her by our bad behavior at lunch. But not everybody was acting bad, just almost everybody. There were two or three of us who weren't doing anything."
Me: "So, what did you all do to have to sit out recess?"
J: "I didn't do anything."
Me: "Oookaaaayyyy, what did everyone else do?"
J: "Well, T. was doing somersaults all over the place...."
Me: "In the lunchroom??"
J: "Yeah! And everybody else was just really loud and acting up."
Me: "Oh. But you weren't doing anything?"
J: No, me and a couple other people weren't."
Me: "But all of you had to sit, huh?"
J: "Yeah."

Okee dokee. Not quite sure about all that. I am pretty sure that they don't pay Mrs. L. enough. If we paid the good teachers what they are worth, we wouldn't be able to afford it. I don't think I'd make it as a third grade teacher, it takes a pretty special kind of person to deal with somersaults in the lunchroom, etc.......

By the way, I hated those entire class penalties when I was in school. Remind me later, I've got fodder for a post about that sometime....

And then there was this after we dropped J off at Daddy's work so he could take him to piano and I could come home and fix dinner:

M: "I know why the sharks are dying out."
Me: "Why's that?"
M: "Because a lot of people like to eat them. They like shark beef."
Me: (Trying not to let him hear me giggle about 'shark beef' and vaguely remembering J telling us about shark fin soup being a delicacy somewhere while he was going through his shark obsession phase) "Where did you hear that?"
M: "I don't know. I just think it should be true."

Don't confuse him with the facts, ma'am. He thinks it should be true, so there. We have a lot of work to do around here, I'm thinkin'....... :^)

The Mouse Died Yesterday

No, it wasn’t for lack of cheese. And, according to one of my oh-so-smart sons (I honestly cannot remember which one told me this at the moment), apparently cheese isn’t really a favorite of mice, anyway. Apparently it really makes them sick, so putting a little bit of cheese on your mouse trap wouldn’t work all that well. Who knew?

But, I digress. No, it wasn’t a real live mouse that found its demise, breathed its last, passed away, kicked the bucket at my house yesterday. It was our computer mouse. Apparently after months of suffering through Boo yanking on it thinking that everything in reach is her toy to explore, the wires finally gave out. I was in the middle of a rather thoughtful post that perhaps will be able to surface sometime soon and struggling mightily over a paragraph that I’m still not sure should even be in there, when, all of a sudden, the mouse would no longer respond at all. I was stuck. There was a draft in progress and my fingers were itching to get it finished, but no mouse. So, the post didn’t get finished, and I didn’t get to finish reading blogs yesterday, either, or check e-mail. I didn’t realize quite how serious my blogging addiction has become until I couldn’t blog for a bit. Ask my husband if I was grumpy about it last night. And, I got to spend some really quality time with Boo while he and the boys were at church last night. I stayed home because Boo had no good nap time yesterday and was already pretty cranky so we knew she’d need to go to bed soon. Anyway, we had a lot of fun playing, and, I’m ashamed to say that I probably would have squandered that fun time with her by dividing my attention between her and that post I wanted to finish if my mouse hadn’t died. Time to reset priorities again….

Anyway, I ran out this morning after dropping the boys off at school and bought a new mouse. I had to hurry, though, because we were having someone come clean the carpets today. I got home in plenty of time, my carpets are very clean (hooray!), Boo is trying to take a nap, and I can blog again. Maybe I’ll get back to that thoughtful post soon. I’ve already decided that all-day blogging is not the way for me to go (priorities, remember?), so it may take a little while, but I’ll get to it and finish it soon, I’m sure. In the meantime, no more cheese for the mouse….

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Read-Along at Everyday Mommy's Place

Everyday Mommy is hosting a read-along that will start September 26th. Please visit her blog for the details if you're interested in joining us in reading Our Covenant God by Kay Arthur. I've already ordered my copy of the book and will be reading along with the group. It sounds like a good book!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Finding the Right Time to Wash the Blankie Isn't Easy

What’s sadder than the favorite blanket being in the dryer when a baby’s eyes are heavy and needing a nap? Not much according to Boo. I’m cutting this post short so I can go rock her. Maybe she’ll settle for Mommy since the blankie is still sopping wet from the wash. Sorry, Sweet Pea, it had to be washed…..

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Good Morning

We were almost late to school this morning. Mornings have been a little hectic around here because the boys have been a bit sluggish when getting ready for school (moving like pond water, I’m sayin’). I told them they cannot have the TV on in the morning, which was actually how it should have been all along anyway. Today, while having a little devotional together over breakfast, the boys and I got into a really interesting discussion about how incredibly awesome God really is. I lost all track of time and then realized we had to hurry up and finish getting out the door to school. But they did get there on time, barely, and I’m very thankful for the time we had together. It was a real blessing and a joyous treat to get to see a little bit how God is working in their hearts and how they are thinking and processing what we’re learning.

J told me that he has a really hard time understanding how no one created God, He just is and always has been. I told him that’s a big thing to realize, and we talked about how the Bible says to fear the Lord. I said, “You know what you’re feeling and thinking right now? That’s a glimpse of what it means to fear God. Awesome respect.”

I’m still reading Desiring God and it’s not an easy read, but, oh, am I liking it! The other day, because of what I’m reading, I got to thinking about God’s eternality, too, and I finally came to a point where I was shaking. It is somewhat frightening and awe-inspiring thinking deeply on this thought. It is really awesome, and I mean that in its real sense not the slang one, to think about how holy and how immeasurably awesome God really is. We do not have the words to fully describe how great is our God, and my mind cannot comprehend these things completely. In fact, I think I got just a glimpse of what Isaiah meant when he saw the LORD and said, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” Not a thing to make light of, indeed. I think we very seldom really realize what an amazing, incredible gift grace truly is that we are allowed access to this holy, holy, holy God and that because of Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary, we, through faith in Him alone, are clean and righteous to stand before Him. Awesome, indeed. In fact, I am extremely humbled and sometimes feel very inadequate and even a little intimidated when I even think about discussing and writing about these very important kinds of things. The more I learn and study God’s word, the more responsibility I sense to handle it wisely and carefully, and I do try very hard to be careful when I write on this blog about the serious things or when we hold discussions in our Wednesday women’s Bible study, not that I don’t make mistakes ever, but I try very hard to handle the Word with care.

I also got to thinking about a lot of the conversations I hear and read on blog comment threads that seem almost like people are just playing around with spiritual conversation, kind of making a game of the conversation and trying to outdo each other with how erudite or complicated and intellectually brilliant they can be. It’s not a game, and some things are just not to be trifled with.

Anyway, then I told the boys about Deuteronomy 29:29 which says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The things about God that we can only glimpse but not fully comprehend belong in that first category of the secret things. Our minds are finite, and to comprehend completely the infinite and the fact that God is not bound by time as we are is really more than we can completely understand. That’s one of those truths I just accept on faith, because His ways and thoughts are too high, too wonderful, for me, but I hide in the shelter of His wings and trust Him even when I don’t understand. But He has given us what we need to know to be made right with Him and to live in holiness for His glory and to enjoy Him, and these things we need to learn and know and love. Praise God that He has given us His word and His Holy Spirit to instruct us as we study the Word and learn about Him as He has revealed Himself. That’s why I get so frustrated with the playing around kind of conversations. We tend to intentionally confuse the secret things with the revealed things, and that frustrates me. While there are things that we may not fully understand, we shouldn’t play around with the things that are revealed. These things we should study to show ourselves approved so that we can know our God as He has revealed Himself in His word and through His Son Jesus, the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15). We must not be careless with the things He has revealed and given to us and to our children.

Deep and weighty thoughts for a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old on this Monday morning. Deep and weighty thoughts for their mom, too.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thoughts While Reading Job

Job 2:11-13
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.”

I am reading through the book of Job as part of my daily Bible reading this month. I find it very interesting that when Job’s three friends heard of all the adversity that had befallen him, they came to mourn with him and comfort him. In fact, the Bible says they made an appointment together to do so. They agreed together to come and comfort their friend who had just lost so much and was suffering so terribly. They wept with him, tore their clothes, and they sat silently with him for seven days and nights.

Of course, after sitting silently, they eventually opened their mouths after Job finally spoke, but I was thinking about their original response to Job’s grief. I think that we are often afraid of grieving people. What I mean is, we don’t know the right thing to say, so we stay away. I know that I am very guilty of this. I am extremely awkward and uncomfortable with others’ grief. We are often overwhelmed by and afraid of the painfully raw emotion when someone is facing what Job described like this:

“For my sighing comes before I eat,
And my groanings pour out like water.
And what I dreaded has happened to me.
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, for trouble comes.” (Job 3:24-26)

I think there is a lot of compassion and wisdom in coming alongside a friend who is hurting and just crying with them. We don’t always have to know what to say. Sometimes, it’s best not to say much of substance at all. Sometimes, “I love you,” or “I care so much and I don’t know what to say,” or “I’m praying for you,” is so very meaningful, even when we feel so inadequate for saying them. At times of extreme grief, we don’t always need or want someone to try to explain or say much of anything. We want to know they care. The questions come later, I think. I suppose that may be a little simplistic, but my point is, we shouldn't stay away just because we don't know what to say. Being there and helping with practical needs matters at such times.

And when we do feel the need to speak, I hope we will be careful what we say. I have suffered three miscarriages in the past seven years. Some things were said along the way that were, frankly, quite hurtful, by very well-meaning people. Because I knew that people just didn’t know what to say, I chose to let things go and not be offended, even when deep down some of them did hurt. The most meaningful thing anyone did for me after my last one was a friend at church who, upon seeing me for the first time since hearing we had lost one more baby, just held out her arms and hugged me and let me cry. She didn’t even say anything. I hope I can use those experiences and be careful what I say when I try to comfort someone. I hope I have not been unthinkingly hurtful at times without ever meaning to be. Job’s friends thought they had it all figured out. They were just sure Job was suffering due to some sin he proudly wouldn’t confess. They were wrong. We are wrong, too, to rush to make those kinds of assumptions. God’s ways are higher than ours and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We do not know all there is to know in every situation. But, for those whose hope is in Christ, God’s grace is sufficient for us. When we are trusting in Christ, He is our peace. Those are not trite little phrases, but strong anchors packed with truth to steady us in the midst of the storms of life.

I don’t like to think about suffering. I don’t like to think I may be called to suffer. But we are not promised that our circumstances will always be easy. In fact, it seems that we are called to realize that we will suffer in some form or another in this life. I think it is important to determine ahead of time that submission to Christ is our response, to choose this day that we will serve the LORD. James tells us: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) I notice the “but” there that warns us to let patience have its work. This is so alien to me. It is hard to think about being joyful in trials. But I also know that Christ Jesus will complete His perfect work in me. He will make me to stand before His presence, blameless, and with great joy.

Joy in trials. This is a difficult concept. Especially for us in our materialistic, comfortable culture. But a heart of submission to and hope in Christ Jesus is so important. Even Job questioned his circumstances, but he didn’t lose his faith in God. We may not always understand God’s thoughts, but we can trust Him. He is working all things for our good and for His glory, even when we cannot see how this could be while in the midst of it. This is the joy. Joy even in tears. And when we can come alongside a friend who is hurting, we just might be the instrument God uses to share His love with them when we can speak a fitting word in season. When we can come alongside a fellow believer who is grieving or hurting, there is joy in the deep fellowship of knowing we are family through Jesus, who demonstrated His love so magnificently and, for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. What an amazing Savior.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Some People Just Don't Have Enough to Do

“Profanity is the common crutch of the conversational cripple." -David Keuck

So, apparently some drive by commenter took exception to my “Gators” post. Boo. Hoo. And flavored it with profanity. Grrrrrrr. First of all, I have no problem with good-natured school rivalry. That’s half the fun of it all. Wear your colors, cheer for your team, sing your fight song, enjoy! I don’t even mind if you want to say a friendly cheer for your favorite team in the comments under my post, I won’t delete it if it’s decent.

BUT, if you disagree with some of the coaching decisions made by the Gator coaching staff, and you feel the need to rant about it by trolling over here to my dippy little blog (that in itself is just too funny, if you only knew how little I actually cared about all that stuff) and then you further felt compelled to declare that all of your school fans, team, etc. have way more class than all Gator players, fans, etc.…’s probably not the wisest course of action to end your rant with a choice bit of profanity. Yeah, you’re classy. Sure thing. While I have no doubt many fans of your fine team are quite classy, you, however, have demonstrated that you are not one of them. You, Sir/Madam Potty-mouth, are just a sore loser.

Oh, wait, since you said that ugly, nasty thing in my comment box, I’ve changed my mind. Suddenly, I think your team is wonderful and I hate my school. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! Such is the power of profanity to influence your argument. I mentioned in my last post what I like about the whole college sports thing, and Mr./Ms. Potty-mouth has nicely demonstrated what I despise about it. Lighten up, people. It’s a only game. It’s just sports. Pheh.

Seriously, for my real and regular readers, as if anyone needed a reminder, I have a “G-Rated” blog. I delete profanity, and I don’t even listen to the arguments attached, so don’t bother. And, thankfully, none of my real readers (all five of you) ever have. I appreciate that very much.

Random Thoughts

It is really hard to sweep the floor when you’ve got a little 15-month-old crawling along trying to explore the nasty stuff you’ve just swept into a pile and are ready to attack with the Dust Buster. Then it is doubly hard to sweep when the broom was last used to sweep up some mysterious, very fine, black dusty substance which the broom now spreads across the kitchen floor. So, I chose to forego the sweeping and just took the Dust Buster around the kitchen. This is way easier than dragging the big vacuum over and changing all the attachments. Now I just have to wait until nap time (Boo’s, not mine) to mop.

Drew has started working on building a closet space in the attic access next to the boys’ bedroom. It’s looking really nice. My wonderful husband spent most of yesterday actively demonstrating love for his family by doing this in a space that heated up to 104 degrees by the afternoon. We were going to wait until the weather turned cooler, but he decided to go ahead and get it started, and we figure that once most of the area is insulated, the temperature won’t get quite as hot next summer when it’s all walled in. It really is going to be nice for the boys to actually have a closet. I am so proud of my man that he can do these kinds of home improvement jobs – and he’s nothing like Tim Taylor, either!

I’ve also got to clarify my last post, just in case anyone may think I’m more interested in football than I actually am. I don’t think it’s really the football itself, per se, that I like. It’s all the hooplah and team spirit hype and the music and the band and the colors - the fluff, if you will. It just reminds me of that first year of college when I lived in the dorm right across the street from the stadium and the basketball arena. Something about Fall on a college campus is just fun. Once football was over, though, going back for Spring Semester was sometimes a little dreary. Spring Semester was just long, and you had to go back while it was cold and miserable. Actually, one of the most fun semesters for me was the year I stayed on for summer session. Everybody was much more relaxed – even the professors, and the schedule was lighter so I could actually enjoy being there more. And, really, I don’t care all that much for the actual sports themselves. But without the sports, the camaraderie isn’t as thick, since it’s the sports that form the framework for the team spirit and what people keep coming back to see, and it’s the Athletic Association that brings in the big bucks. So, I guess you have to have the sports to have all the hooplah. But, I really just wrote that post more to celebrate the fun part of college sports. I used to care a whole lot about every game and whether we won or not, but, anymore, it’s purely nostalgia. Honestly, most of the time these days I couldn’t even tell you if we won or lost on any given weekend. My husband knows, and I enjoy it with him, but I don’t always even make it all the way through a game on TV. I kind of pop in and check every once in a while and sit with him during some of the game when he’s watching and then go on and do the other ten million things I need to do. I wouldn’t be crying if there were never another football game. I just have too many other things that are more important these days. But it is fun to keep up with my school and enjoy the times they win, and it was fun to find those videos and remember the hype of those days when I lived on campus many moons ago!

Okay. Got to get back to my real life, now. Not sure how much I’ll blog this week. I’m trying again to decaffinate myself. It didn’t last very long last time, but I’m really tired of the early afternoon crash that happens every day around 1 pm due to a raging caffeine addiction. So, this may be a week of headaches, and that may hinder how much blogging happens around here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I Know, I Know, I'm Taking a Break.....

But I needed to do this one post in light of it being the first day of college football, and all. I don't care anything about pro football, but I do like my Florida Gators! And, yes, I know football and sports in general aren't really all that important in the grand scheme of things, but, I spent 4 1/2 years as a Florida Gator student and lived in Gainesville for another year and a half after that. So, Go Gators!

Here's the fight song and "We Are the Boys of Old Florida." No third quarter is complete until we've all sung the song....

And, Mr. Two-Bits is just part of Florida legend. He's been making the rounds through The Swamp every home game for's the cheer...

Now, if I may have just a moment to enjoy last season since I'm not so sure it will be repeatable :(.....

And one more friendly little reminder that most teams today will be unwittingly enjoying some fruits of University of Florida science.....

Now I'm off to continue my blogging break. Happy college football! Go Gators!