Thursday, July 31, 2008

In Which I Demonstrate My Ignorance

There’s a reason I didn’t end up majoring in English in college. I think there is something deficient in my ‘critical’ literature understanding. I just don’t like a lot of the books that are the so-called ‘great books.’

Case in point: I have to admit that William Faulkner is just not one of my favorite authors. Good night, but that man liked words. I just finished wading through one of his novels, one that is hailed as one of the best ever written, and I didn’t enjoy it. I tried to. Truly, I did. But I just didn’t. I would get to the end of one of his impossibly long sentences and think, what did I just read? What was being said there? I have a rather developed vocabulary, but I found myself absolutely wading through pages of big words I just didn’t understand when all strung together the way they were in that book. I didn’t get it. I do think I may read another of his books, though, because I want to find out more about one of the characters and I’ve read that his story is the focus of another book, but, honestly, I don’t know if I care to wade through the words, words, words and the parenthetical asides that sometimes took up pages themselves and made it so hard to follow the thought of the original sentence. Okay, I tend to use a lot of parenthetical asides, too, so I don’t have much room to talk.

Another case in point: I checked out The Great Gatsby a while back because it is one I somehow managed to get through AP high school English and several college English courses without having read and have seen it on so very many book lists. I hated it. I got to the end and thought, “That’s it? What’s the big deal? Why is this a ‘great book’?”

I felt the same way about the movie, Citizen Kane. My husband and I rented it a while back because neither of us had ever seen it and so many people rave about it being, “THE BEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME!” We got to the end of that movie and looked at each other blankly, crickets chirping in the background as we blinked at each other in bewilderment. I think one of us said, “That’s it? Why is that on so many people’s top of the list? It’s a sled. Big whoopee.” I just don’t get it. Just so no one feels the need to explain, yes, I get the significance of the sled, I just don't get why so many people think this is the best movie ever.

So, I guess there’s something wrong with me. I just don’t get it for a lot of the ‘great books’ or ‘great movies.’ Maybe I’m just an unsophisticated bumpkin. Maybe I just don’t like to have to think all that much when I read a novel. Anyway, that’s probably more than I’ll wish I’d shared, and I’m not really asking to start any literary discussions here, but, there you are.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dealing With Unrighteous Anger

Having been a silent participant for the last bunch of chapters, I am going to make a short post (well, once again it didn’t end up being so short) on this chapter (Chapter 18) of The Excellent Wife. This one hit me hard. And I am thankful for the discipline, it is discipline I needed and have been praying for. I have been praying for a long time for wisdom to deal with how easily I find myself getting irritated sometimes. I think, for me, this one chapter is worth the cost of the book. I have found throughout this book that a lot of the underlying principles, while applying specifically as a wife, are also applicable in all areas of life as a Christian woman. Especially the subject of unrighteous anger.

I don't typically find that I struggle a lot with uncontrolled temper with my husband. Sometimes I do have to fight the slow burn, sulk and pout and cry kind of anger, however, which is just as wrong as an outburst, by the way, and have to confess that when I do, but I don’t tend to blow up with him too often. This shows me that I actually have more control over my tongue than I would have admitted a while back because as I look at how I interact with my children, I can see that I don’t always exercise as careful control with them. I do tend to snap at them or speak sarcastically when I’m frustrated and say things or use tones I regret later. I do know that when I am tired I need to guard my words more carefully, because I tend to be shorter and more irritable than I would like to be. I don’t want to be the kind of woman who is bristly, who my family has to say, “If Momma isn’t happy, no one’s happy.” I am growing in grace to learn to practice setting a better tone, and I’m thankful for the encouragement this book has given in that area.

I think the most convicting and encouraging thought from this chapter, for me, has been that man's anger does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:20) I need to keep rehearsing that to myself when I feel irritation beginning to rise.

Mrs. Peace’s four biblical steps to change character, starting on page 242 of Chapter 18 are an answer to prayer for me. Literally. I have begun to put these into practice and it is making such a difference in the daily things.

1. Teaching – I am working to memorize and think about scriptures that deal with wise use of the tongue and patience. The verses she listed (James 1:19-20, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Proverbs 16:32, and Proverbs 15:28) are very helpful, and as I am thinking on them, they do come to mind at opportune moments. I have a long way to go on this, though. The interesting thing is that I had already begun dealing with this, as I noted in an earlier post when I mentioned my conviction that I need to control my tongue better, and this chapter reinforced and encouraged that resolve.

2. Reproof – I am finding the suggestion to keep a journal and write out times I even feel frustrated or irritated, before I actually get angry or sulky, is immensely helpful. It is helping me to see where my thinking is wrong, to see the kinds of things that trigger frustration and to begin thinking through changes I need to make to avoid or better manage those things and to see where I handle things well and where I need to repent and change. This is just so helpful. Also, knowing I will be writing it down helps me to recognize frustration before it gets to the anger stage.

3. Correction – The encouragement to correct not only words but tone of voice was excellent. I’ve said before that this is where I am the worst. Often it isn’t so much the words I’m saying, but the way I’m saying them that is hurtful. Often the words need to be said, but I could say them in a gentler way, and this I am working on and learning to stop and confess when I realize I’m not doing right.

4. Training in righteousness – Practice what I know is right! I did not develop wrong habits for dealing with irritation or frustration in day, and it will take work to retrain my thinking. I was thinking the other day how it is easy to pull the top of a weed off, but harder to pull out the roots. I want to deal with the roots and understand the wrong thinking that leads to unrighteous irritations. Pray, pray, pray for the wisdom to obey, even when I don’t feel like it. I have been tired and stressed lately with Drew being gone so much, but that is no excuse for me to let feelings dictate my tone of voice. This is not easy, but it is so necessary to understand and practice. I want my attitude to glorify God

I think, ultimately, my giving in to either pouting or sarcastic irritation is usually rooted in selfishness. I have been really teaching myself to think about Philippians 2:3-4 and preferring others as more important than myself. I’ve been teaching it to the boys as a way to deal with the constant bickering, but as I’m teaching them, I’m teaching me, too.

For me, though the rest of this book has been very, very helpful, this was the most helpful chapter yet. I’m glad I’ve stuck with the reading, even though I haven’t been posting as much.

Oops! It's been so long since I've posted during this read-along that I forgot to link back to Leslie's post. Here you can see what she said about this chapter and what others are saying, too.

No Reason, I Just Like the Music

I cannot dance. At all. Not a step. But if I could dance, this is the kind of music I would want to dance to.....

Elle was discussing bucket lists in a recent post (she had not seen the movie, and neither have I, but the idea is to list things you'd like to do before you die....), and asked what we would put on a list were we to make one. I haven't thought through a real list yet, and I know I would have some important things on there if I do think it through, but one fun thing I know would be on there would be to take a dancing class with an extremely patient instructor. Getting Drew to go with me is probably totally wishful thinking, but, it is something I've secretly always wanted to do. If I could get over my insecurity, that is....Big if. Did you ever see the movie, "Shall We Dance?" And I really liked the first season of "Dancing With the Stars," but I was soooooo disappointed that 'Mr. Peterman' didn't win that I haven't watched later seasons. That and the fact that I don't watch much TV at all these days (except for LOST and maybe Monk or Psych, if you must know or are interested) and just hardly ever turn it on in the evening so just haven't bothered watching it anymore. Anyway. That's the kind of dancing I want to learn to do - not to enter the dance contest, just to be able to dance like that would be fun, I think. Enjoy the music. I'll be quiet now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We Make it Our Aim

So, in my last post I shared how I was sitting in church last night and feeling low, but singing anyway. One of the songs we sang was “Crown Him With Many Crowns”, a favorite hymn, personally, and I cried again when we sang,

“Crown Him the Lord of love,
Behold His hands and side,
Those wounds yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.”

That’s another song I cannot sing without crying, when I start thinking that He wears those wounds in His glorified body. His covenant to save those who are trusting in Him is strong and sure and He will save His people to the uttermost. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

A surefire attack on a case of the blahs is to focus on our Savior and the amazing gift of His grace toward us, amen?

On Wednesday nights our pastor has been going through a series teaching topics on basic Christian discipleship. Last night he began the topic of developing an eternal perspective and he talked about how our life is but a vapor in light of eternity and about living in such a way that we serve our Savior with that view of eternity in mind. It was very convicting, especially since I’d just been sitting there wallowing in thoughts that were pretty firmly rooted in temporary, temporal things.

At one point we read 2 Corinthians 5:6-11, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

The point the pastor was making is that, for the Christian, there is no condemnation. When we are in Christ, we belong to Him and will spend eternity with Him. That is settled and sure. But our works since salvation will be evaluated, whether they were good or whether they were worthless. I have been thinking: Do I do what I do each day with grumbling, or do I do it with gratitude? Do I walk in the Spirit each day, or am I walking in the flesh? Am I seeking His glory, even in the mundane and everyday things I do? I know that I do waste a lot of time.

I started thinking as we read that passage, “Can I truly, down in my heart of hearts say that it is my aim to be well pleasing to God?” I know that positionally I am righteous in Christ. He has taken care of my sin debt and applied Christ’s righteousness to me. I am His for eternity. Experientially, am I living righteously, daily? Do I love Him with all my heart? Is that my aim? Is that the direction I am consciously pointing my life, moment by moment, day by day? I want it to be! Do I live like this is my aim? I want to be training myself, renewing my mind, to think about this in the moments of the day and to repent when I need to.

I know that I will stand before God one day. I will spend eternity with Him because of the finished work of Christ and the salvation He has accomplished by His blood shed to redeem His people. This is my hope and my joy. I also know that our works since salvation will be evaluated, whether they be good or whether they be worthless. I want to be building on the foundation with gold, silver and precious stones, not with wood, hay and stubble. I don’t want to have only a pile of worthless ashes to offer as my service for Christ my King (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). By the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, I want to finish well. I want to find my joy is serving Him. May I be submitted to His word and be obedient to do all I do for the glory of God. Even cleaning the baseboards? Yes, even that.

One thing I have struggled with often in my Christian life is this tendency to compartmentalize my thinking into, this is a spiritual work, this is secular – with housecleaning being the latter. I have wondered often, is anything I do mattering for the Kingdom? Is anything I’m doing worth more than wood, hay, or stubble? I’m pretty sure a whole lot of the time I spend on the computer is probably going to be ashes one day. Probably not all of it, but I’m pretty sure those times when I use it to avoid things I need to be doing is big, fat wasted time. What BIG thing is there for me to do? I think what I’m finding is that I am to be obedient in the daily things I am called to do. I am to wait upon the Lord, and to obey Him each day. I am to change diapers, clean the house, love my husband and my children, to the glory of God. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I am to find my place of service in my local church and submit that service to my King, and serve out of love and gratitude to Him. You know, if I can’t be faithful in the little things, there is no big thing I could be faithful in. Faithfulness is a daily thing. Faithfulness is obeying in what I know I am to be doing today. Faithfulness is applying what I learn as I study God's word and pray to every part of life. Faithfulness is keeping my eyes open for opportunities to talk about Jesus and to worship Him in everything. That means in everything. Even in cleaning the baseboards, if that is what I know must be done today.

And as I submit to Him in all things, may my one desire be to glorify God.

Psalm 27:4
“One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.”

P.S. My friend Heather has a couple of beautiful posts about being content to live "a life of godly obedience and contentment." Check them out here and here.

Battling the Blahs

Last night as I sat with my boys in church, while we were singing wonderful worship music, I felt this heaviness in my heart. It hit me that I was feeling really low, and that I’d been feeling really low for several days but had been staying really, really busy cleaning the house to avoid it, and this was one of the first times I had had my hands still for long enough for the feeling to sink in. “Lord, I want to mean what I’m singing tonight,” I prayed. “But I’m just feeling so low at the moment. And there is no reason for it, please help me, Father.” At times like that, you know what I do? I keep on singing. Because it’s true no matter how I feel at the moment. My feelings are warped and lying when I’m tired, and I am tired, though I’m not going to whine here about all the little whys that sometimes add up to make one bigger why, but my God is faithful and true and worthy of praise.

I hesitate to share that. So many people I know are facing real struggles, and here I sat trying to fight a downward spiral into the darkness of the malaise that hits every once in a while out of nowhere. Not really depression, but something, anyway. I feel somewhat guilty admitting that I struggle with that malaise because there is nothing in my life that warrants a descent into the depths. Well, maybe not the depths, but the deeper than usual, perhaps. I know I really just needed to perk up and get on with things. I have to admit that I think I’ve been under some kind of spiritual attack recently. That’s the only thing I can figure that it is. There is no physical reason for the blahs that have come oozing in recently. There are days, though, that it is hard to just do what has to be done and to get my brain focused to write a blog post is just hard on those days. So, the blog has been quiet, and I feel like I should give some explanation. I won’t share the specifics of the doubts and fears that have tried to creep in unawares over the past few days as I have prayed through the darkness and looked to the Light. But I will tell you that the prayer I kept coming back to and will keep coming back to is this, “Lord Jesus, sanctify me in the truth. Your word is truth. I will take You at Your word and I will trust You. It doesn’t matter what I feel like today. I will remind myself of what Your word says on this and there I will stand, by Your grace and through faith in You alone. You are my sure foundation.”

There’s a song we sing at church sometimes that has become a comfort to me – especially the second verse. You all probably know it. Read these words and reflect on what a magnificent, merciful, gracious and powerful savior we serve:

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the Risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I Am,
The King of glory and of grace,
One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God,
With Christ my Savior and my God.

One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God,
With Christ my Savior and my God.

I have a great High Priest who is ever interceding on my behalf. I do not have to despair, no matter what thoughts the accuser of the brethren may fling at me. I look up and see Jesus, who made an end of all my sin. All of it. I cannot sing that song without crying. To think that God is pleased to look on Christ and pardon me is almost more than I can take in.

So, I’m still here, all is well, just haven’t been blogging much. Maybe in the next post I’ll actually get to what I meant to be writing about when I sat down and started this one, and I’ll share how what the pastor spoke on last night was exactly what I needed to hear. Isn’t God good?! (Smile.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Our dog sleeps. A lot. Wish he'd do it mostly at night, though. He’s getting older and tends to wander around at night and sleep in during the morning these days. Last night was annoying, by the way, since I had to get up at 2 AM and let him out, but that’s not the point of this post.

This morning, Oliver was sleeping soundly on the couch while the kids and I rushed around getting ready for church. (Drew is on the plane on his way home right now!) While the boys and I were eating breakfast, I happened to look over at the couch and started laughing. Boo was sitting next to Oliver, who was not moving more than an eyelash, and petting him with one hand and pointing the TV remote at him and pushing the ‘on’ button with the other.

I guess she figured since it works to turn on the TV, maybe it would help animate her sleepy dog, too.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thankful For......(Yesterday Afternoon Edition)

*roadside assistance through our insurance company

*A cell phone that works (remind me to keep that battery charged – thankfully, it was)

*In-laws who live close (and that my mother-in-law was home when I called yesterday afternoon) and could come and pick up the kids and the dog while I waited for someone to come change my flat tire (Drew was out of town again. Pretty much can count on these things happening when he’s not here, almost never when he is – that’s just the life of an Army wife, I think.)

*Boo falling asleep in her car seat and sleeping the whole time we waited for Drew’s mom to come and take the kids (and the dog) home while I waited with the car

*That we made it to the gas station on the island before we had to stop for the flat tire (boys had to go to the bathroom….)

*Clear skies for the duration of my flat tire experience (it’s been thunder storming most afternoons, and had been raining earlier in the day)

*Sonic unsweet peach tea (the kids and I had stopped for refreshment before we picked up Oliver from the groomer’s, from where we were in the process of returning home when the tire decided to flatten, which is why he got to enjoy the experience with us)

*Well-behaved children who actually did stop asking questions once I explained that I was trying very hard not to be stressed at the moment and I needed to make some phone calls

*Scrap paper and pen in my purse – I scribbled blog notes while waiting for help to come once the kids were safely on the way home (just so you know how obsessive the blogging impulse can be)

*A spare Bible in the car. I had just started reading when help arrived in the form of the automotive man my roadside assistance sent to help (covered by our insurance, hooray!)

*Time to pray in the gas station parking lot while I waited

*Drew is planning to be home tomorrow afternoon and will be able to deal with getting new tires. Yes, I said tires, plural. When the man changed the front one, he said the back one was going flat, too, and pointed out a defect in it. These are fairly new tires, hopefully still under warranty.

*Drew exercised restraint the other day and did not buy the laptop we’re looking at, deciding it was more of a ‘want’ than a ‘need’ at the moment, at least until our PC dies – which it probably will before long. But I’m glad we don’t have that extra expense now that we’re probably going to be buying two new tires (unless they’re still under warranty…..)

*Air conditioning. It was HOT in that parking lot.

Those are just a few of the things I was thankful for yesterday.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Not Funny

I saw this bumper sticker today:

“Men are idiots. And I married their king.”

NOT funny. SO not funny. My heart kind of sank when I saw that driving along in front of me today. You know what went through my head? “So, honey, why did you marry him if you think so little of your man? I doubt you were forced into this.”

You know, a huge part of respecting our husbands has to do with the kinds of thoughts we allow ourselves to think and ponder. And thinking things like that bumper sticker, even in jest, does not help to foster a respectful attitude. I do have a sense of humor. I know that sticker is meant to be funny. But, it just isn’t.

My husband and I determined early on in our marriage that we would not make jokes at each other’s expense, especially in public. We had seen a lot of couples we knew say mean things about each other in public settings and say them as jokes, but you could tell the words hurt anyway. We always kind of wondered if someone could joke like that and hurt their spouse in front of friends and acquaintances they didn’t know very well, if there might be deeper problems going on behind the laughs. I also am careful not to say things about my husband that would hurt him or what other people might think of him. Though I share a lot (sometimes too much) about myself on my blog or with friends, I try very hard not to share things about our relationship that should remain private. Like when discussing The Excellent Wife (which I’ve kind of slacked off on recently, I know) – I don’t think it appropriate to share a lot of specifics from our marriage, especially areas we may be working through (not that there are really all that many, but don’t we all have things we’re working on improving? There is no perfect wife or husband, after all, we're all sinners. Those of us who are in Christ are growing in sanctification, but none of us are perfected yet, so, if we're honest, we all have things we need to work on.) because that’s for him and me to work out between the two of us and the Lord, not to be aired on the blog or in a Sunday School class or any other public setting.

And here’s another thing. We live in a culture that increasingly insults men and acts like men are buffoons who either have to be rescued by the oh-so-sarcastically intelligent woman or just laughed at as idiots. Have you watched many sitcoms or commercials lately? If you ever watch TV, do this: start noticing how many of the male characters are portrayed as childish, foolish, idiotic, inept, stupid, sex-crazed, only interested in sports, etc. and then look to see how many examples of real, decent, wholesome, intelligent, capable, good fathers and good family men are portrayed in the TV shows you watch (especially those trying to be funny) or the commercials you see. A few years ago I read James Dobson’s book, Bringing Up Boys and attended a corresponding video study. It was pointed out during the course of that study what a warped picture is presented today for our boys of what it means to be a man. Ever since then I have become increasingly aware of how often the role models offered up for young men these days are boy-men who never grow up and the women are always rolling their eyes at them, lecturing them, showing the men no respect because they never seem to be mature, capable or worthy of respect. That’s what our boys are increasingly inundated with in our culture.

I, for one, am tired of it. I hate movies and TV shows that capitalize on idiotic male characters in order to garner a cheap laugh. As a mother of boys, I want them to learn how to be real men. I want them to learn that it is good that they are male, for one thing, not something to be somehow apologetic about, and to know that it is good that God created them to be leaders. I want them to learn to be biblical leaders, not wimpy, idiotic, effeminate, lazy, only interested in sports or beer or video games or TV or other empty and immature pursuits, or all the other false pictures our culture inundates boys and men with. I’m thankful for my husband who is a real man who our boys can look up to, and he is neither an idiot nor a boy-man, but he is a man I find it very easy to respect.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Taming the Tongue

Proverbs 14:1
“The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.”

Proverbs 15:1-2
“A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.”

Proverbs 15:7
“The lips of the wise disperse knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not do so.”

Have you ever noticed just how often the subjects of wise use of the tongue and the foolishness of a quick temper come up in Proverbs? I think often I am very prone to brush off careless speech or quick temper as something I do need to work on, but I can fool myself into thinking that it isn’t as big a problem as it actually is. It’s tempting to brush off an impatient, hasty attitude with the excuse that I just don’t have much patience with childishness. The frequency of the topic leads me to believe that I will be wise to take it a lot more seriously than I often do. Lately I am becoming increasingly aware and convicted that I am not patient enough with my sons in the way I talk to them. I am ashamed of how often I find that I’m having to stop in the middle of a sentence and rephrase or take a minute to tone down, when I realize how I must sound to the little ears hearing me. Usually it isn’t so much what I’m saying, but how I’m saying it that is not right. This is probably why those verses are hitting me so hard as I read Proverbs each day.

I have been praying for the past several days that God would put a guard on my tongue and that I would learn to measure and consider my speech before I give an answer. I’m too quick to answer impatiently, when it wouldn’t hurt me at all to slow down and give a reasonable, quiet, kind response. In fact, it would do much good to slow down and think first about the child asking the question and what it is they are truly asking than to quickly answer what I thought they were asking and have to apologize for hasty words later. Something I’ve had to do a lot over the past few days as I have become increasingly aware of my tendency to be too hasty with my words and not patient enough.

I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t enjoy my children. I really do. But there are days when I just don’t want to hear one more thing about Bionicles, etc.or have to stop one more silly, childish argument that breaks out between them. But it doesn’t matter if I’m feeling stressed or tired, what does matter is that every time I act unapproachable or snappy when they just want to talk, I’m sending a message I truly do not want to be sending. A lot of times the question itself isn’t really all that important, they just want to talk, and I miss that when I am distracted or distant when I need to be approachable and listen. I want these boys to know they really can talk to me about the things that interest them, especially as they grow older.

To invest in that, I’m going to have to spend a little time now listening to boring discussions about Bionicles, or whatever the obsession of the day happens to be, and showing them, in love, that, while Bionicles may be extremely boring to me, my sons are not boring at all. I want to build my house with patient and godly speech, not tear it down with impatient answers or quick temper or half-hearted attention and distracted listening. Because to downplay impatience by saying it’s just not my nature to be very patient with childishness won’t cut it. It is no excuse at all. Because, you see, love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I am no longer a slave to my sin nature, but I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, including retrain my sinful speech habits. To the glory of God, I must daily submit to the teaching of His word and obey what He is so graciously bringing to my remembrance as I read His word.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Miscellaneous Monday Musings

Strictly random fluff in this post.

I can see from Sitemeter that I get quite a few hits per week from people who are searching this: “dog driving me crazy” or “puppy driving me crazy.” I just have to laugh when I see that, because I know it comes from me writing about my neurotic dog driving me crazy. Here’s a little hint for those looking for what to do about a puppy crying at night, though. We used to put one of Drew’s old shirts in Oliver’s crate at night when we first brought him home. It seemed to help him to feel a little more secure. We only used to put him in the crate at night or when we weren’t home until he was house trained, since then he is a free ranging dog. Hope that’s helpful if anyone else runs across my blog with that search query again.

We were shopping at our local grocery store the other day. I picked up the store brand animal crackers, which I really like, only to see a little sticker on the front that proudly proclaimed, “New Recipe!” I started grumbling, I am ashamed to say. I hate it when they change the recipe of a favorite snack. It’s not that the new recipe is bad. The cookies actually taste pretty good, as my son continuously informed me once I made the mistake of voicing my dismay aloud. But they don’t taste like they did, and I liked how they tasted before. Now they are okay, but not the same. Why do they always think they need to “improve” on an already good thing? Or why can’t they make some with the new flavor, but still make some with the old flavor for those of us who happened to like the old flavor and really don’t like change all that much anyway? Showing my age here, but I felt the same way about “New Coke.” Remember that fiasco? Hated New Coke. Many of us much preferred plain ol’ Coca-Cola. In fact, "New Coke" was such a failure they brought out Coke Classic and tried to convince us they'd heard our complaints and given us what we wanted. However, the stuff they call Coke Classic these days, I hate to inform them, is not the same as original Coca-Cola. It’s just not as good. If you're much younger than I am, you probably don't even know what I'm talking about, but, trust me, Coke Classic is not as good as Coca-Cola used to be. Not that I drink that sugary stuff anymore, mind you – it’s pretty much diet or no soda at all these days, but when I want a Coke, I really wish it was the old stuff. Anyhoo….

I have become a coffee drinker. I used to hate coffee. Now I love it. Well, I love it when it is more a dessert than a drink – I take with Splenda and creamer – preferably hazelnut flavored, but never black. Ugh. I discovered the other day that if you put in a drop of almond extract and chocolate or pralines n’ cream flavored creamer it is really, really tasty. When I first started drinking coffee, one cup would literally make my hands shake and my heart race. Apparently there’s a lot more caffeine in a cup of coffee than there is in a Diet Coke. It doesn’t bother me anymore. That’s probably not a good thing.

I discovered Sugar Free Kool Aid the other day. It’s not bad. Shhhhhhh……The kids don’t have to know it is sugar free.

A conundrum: Empty boxes in the fridge/pantry. How hard is it, when someone uses the last item in a box, to take the box and throw it away? Is that something only moms can do? It must be, because the other day I found an empty Poptart box in the pantry, and yesterday I found an empty popsicle box in the freezer. I suppose someone thought we needed a cold empty cardboard box for some reason. I also found a popsicle wrapper in the living room floor. There are two boys in my house who either are not physically capable of seeing trash, or have not yet been able to learn the purpose of the big trashcan in the pantry area. It is not for lack of being told. Trust me. They have been told. Repeatedly. We do not live in a barn, I say. I’ve even tried an experiment to see how many times they will walk by a piece of trash they have dropped on the floor before noticing it and picking it up on their own initiative. It doesn’t happen. I still have to tell them to throw it in the trash can. Every single time. Do you think they’ll figure out what the trash can’s purpose is before they reach adulthood or I pull out my hair in frustration? I hope so.

By the way, I thought of some more books I could have mentioned in the last post. I enjoyed some of Beverly Lewis’ books with characters set among the Amish and Mennonite communities and I’m interested in reading more of them, and the kids and I also really enjoyed The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson – lots of funny moments in the book and fun to read aloud with the boys. Oh, and the Junie B. Jones books are fun to read aloud, too.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Elle at A Complete Thought tagged me for a meme a few days ago. I’m finally getting around to posting my answers. This was a fun one – I like books!

1. Do you remember how you developed a love of reading?
I remember my mom and dad reading to me when I was just little. And then I also remember my dad reading Huckleberry Finn and The Hobbit out loud to us as a family when we were older. My parents are both huge readers, so it came naturally to me, there being so many good books around the house and them talking about things they enjoyed reading so often. I also remember summer reading and puppet shows at the library as a kid and how much I loved being at the library. I discovered early on the joy of losing yourself in a good book and the way you feel kind of bittersweet when you come to the end of a particularly good and engaging story, especially a longer work or maybe a series – like you’re saying good-bye to old friends. To me that’s what makes a good book – when you hate to turn that last page and you actually miss the characters when you’re finished reading their story. I read a book once where one of the main characters died very unexpectedly and I was sad for days afterward. I kept telling myself it was just a fictional character, for crying out loud, but it was written so well I felt like they really could have been real people and I felt kind of silly for wanting to talk about it with someone else who “knew” her, but I didn’t know anyone else who’d read that book!

2. What are some books you loved as a child?
Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Watership Down, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hardy Boys books, Nancy Drew books, Dr. Seuss. Little Women, Caddie Woodlawn, retellings of Disney stories (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc.)

3. What is your favorite genre?
Hmmmmmm……I suppose mystery or detective or legal thriller fiction, though I like certain types of science fiction (not so much the stranger fantasy types but more along the Star Wars or Foundation Trilogy types). Well, certain types of fantasy – The Lord of the Rings comes to mind – epics, I suppose? I also really enjoyed Amy Tan’s books.

4. Do you have a favorite novel?
Just one? I don’t know that I can narrow it down. I like a lot of books. I’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings trilogy more than once……I also like To Kill a Mockingbird and A Separate Peace – those are two that I read more than once and that have stayed with me. I loved Stepping Heavenward, too. I just recently read Hood by Stephen Lawhead, which I’d heard about from Lisa at Lisa Writes and I liked it and really want to read the next book in the series now. I tend to like series. I know there are others I’ll wish I had included here, but my brain is shutting down for the evening and I can’t think of any more at the moment. If I think of others, I’ll write a future post and share….

5. Where do you usually read?
Anywhere I can. On the couch, in bed, in car line as I wait to pick up kids from school, in the kitchen as I stir or wait on pots to boil, in the bathtub, on the back porch, on the front porch, anywhere I can grab a few minutes.

6. When do you usually read?
Any free moment I can that won’t take away from something more important I need to be doing, but usually once the kids have gone to bed in the evening or during Boo’s nap time.

7. Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
Absolutely. Sometimes so many I can’t keep track. But usually only one novel and a few nonfictions at a time.

8. Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?
Non fiction takes more concentration, so it takes longer to get through a book if I want to really absorb what I’m reading. I usually read fiction quickly, not liking to put it down once I start, and will read several chapters in a sitting. Sometimes nonfiction will take me a while to get through just one chapter, and, like Elle, sometimes I read nonfiction out loud – somehow it’s easier to understand if it’s read aloud. This is true of my Bible reading, as well. I’ve found that I can understand the Bible much better when I read it out loud. I also will mark up nonfiction books with underlining or notes in the margin and will often take notes in a notebook as I read, too, none of which do I ever do with a fiction book.

9. Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?
Usually check them out of the library (fiction). Most of my nonfiction I buy.

10. Do you keep most of the books you buy?
Some yes, some no. Nonfiction, mostly yes - especially if they are books I marked in. Fiction – depends on how well I liked the book.

11. If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them?
I read A Little Princess with the boys a while back– they really liked it and got into the emotion of the story, which surprised me a lot. We also recently finished Treasure Island, obviously a hit with my pirate loving boys. We’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia together and I introduced J to The Hardy Boys, which he really enjoys. Right now we just finished reading Holes by Louis Sachar together tonight and we all enjoyed it – and I only found one or two small words I had to edit out as I read – a definite plus! M likes the Curious George books and Magic Treehouse books, and I’m glad he’s enjoying them like his big brother did. We also read and cried about Ol’ Yeller a while back. M likes Because of Winn Dixie, also, and got to take our copy in to school so his teacher could read it to the class last year.

12. What are you reading now?
The Children of Men by P.D. James, The Excellent Wife, Pilgrim’s Progress

13. Do you keep a To Be Read list?
Only an informal mental one. Occasionally I’ll write down the title of a book I want to remember to read if I see a review or hear something mentioned by a friend or fellow blogger that peaks my interest.

14. What’s next?
I checked out Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner from the library when I checked out the book I’m currently reading – thanks for the suggestion, Elle! Also, I’ll be starting Because the Time is Near by John MacArthur soon.

15. What books would you like to reread?
Watership Down – planning to read it with the boys, Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, Perelandra Trilogy by C.S. Lewis

16. Who are your favorite authors?
John MacArthur; Elizabeth Peters; Agatha Christie; Elizabeth George; Sharyn McCrumb; Tony Hillerman; Michael Connelly; Ruth Rendell; David Baldacci; C.S. Lewis; J.R.R. Tolkein; Michael Crichton; Pat Conroy is an excellent writer, and I love some of his earlier stuff, though I hated Prince of Tides; John Grisham; Charles Dickens

I have dropped the ball on the whole tagging thing the last several of these I’ve done. Maybe I should tag a few people this time. How about Heather, Leslie and Shawnda. If anyone else reading wants to share your answers, consider yourself tagged!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tell Your Children of It

I receive an e-mail devotional everyday from Alistair Begg's ministry. It is taken from a version of Charles Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening" that Pastor Begg has revised and updated. You can read today's devotional here. After reading that quote, I thought I'd write out some things I've thought about and have started to write about before.

As important as looking after our children’s physical needs is, and it is very important, even more important is making sure we teach them the gospel and give them every opportunity to learn and hear the truth. When I was a new mom, I remember all the baby magazines that inundated my home. I don’t know how all those magazines knew we had a new baby, but we had magazines in abundance with all kinds of conflicting advice and dictates about schedules and what’s best to feed the baby and breastfeeding vs. bottle and all kinds of other things pertaining to that first year. Probably the biggest guilt inducer for me was the insistence from some corners that breastfeeding is the only really best way to go, likening formula to something only slightly less offensive than putting poison into my precious baby. That is guilt inducing when you are someone like me who tried mightily to breastfeed all three of my kids, but it just never seemed to work well enough. They were hungry and never seemed satisfied until I began supplementing with formula. They needed more than I was able to give them, so, for us, formula was a huge blessing. But, to read some of the magazines, I was a failure as a mom.

It was always strange to me, also, how varied the advice would be from magazine to magazine. Some corners advocated never, ever, ever being apart from your child and sharing the same bed and playing Mozart continuously and all kinds of things. Others stressed ad nauseum the taking of much time for myself and how to look for daycare for my newborn. What I really wanted as a new mom was just some no-nonsense practical advice for loving and caring for my little one. It struck me often how very self-centered a lot of the advice was encouraging moms to be – with a pendulum swinging from one extreme of being so smothering of the child with every man-made strategy to ensure the smartest and most obnoxious kid ever (my opinion) to the other extreme of being so focused on making sure “my” needs were met that you started to wonder if some of the women writing these articles just saw children as a means to check off the accomplishment of “having a child” but didn’t really want to be bothered with the everyday stuff of motherhood they were so bent on finding ways to spend as much time as possible away from the baby, and lots of other muddled advice somewhere in the middle of those extremes.

By the time child number two and three came along, I’d learned not to put a whole lot of concern into what the secular magazines were telling me and just do what I knew was right for my own kids.

You know what? None of my kids are even going to remember whether they were breastfed or bottle fed. None of them know whether or not I played Mozart as they slept. None of them cared anything about the “educational” videos geared toward babies which were the most inane things I’d ever seen in my life. Gag me. In the long run of their lives, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I was there. I took care of their physical needs and they thrived. I spent time with them day in and day out, changed their diapers, fed them, loved them, talked to them all the time, sang to them.

For all the ink that was spent making me feel guilty that I was not the nursing success that the breast feeding Nazis advocates said we all were supposed to be, that time in a child’s life is really, really short.

Vastly more important is how well I teach my children on an ongoing, day to day, day in and day out basis. Much more important is whether I point them to the Savior. That is where the real focus truly needs to be. That has eternal consequences. There is no more important facet of parenting than to teach my children about Jesus and to point them to Him. It is so important that I be in the Word daily, because I cannot teach them what I don’t know and live out myself. As we rise up, as we sit down and as we walk along the way, I want to purposely be talking to them about God and His Word and His great gift of grace. They need to know that they are sinners. They need to know of Jesus’ sinless life, His death, His atonement for their sin and His glorious resurrection. They need to know the full counsel of God’s word. As parents, we have a responsibility to teach them these things. We also have a responsibility to have them in a church where these things we are teaching are reinforced, but we must not think that because we go to a great church that our responsibility ends with taking them to Sunday School. They need to see and hear what these truths mean to us and to see it lived day in and day out. And I want to be diligent to pray for them and entrust them to the One who put them in our home. This is a high calling. This is where our real focus needs to be.

Sure, it is intimidating when you are handed that little bundle and truly realize for the first time the immensity of the fact that you are responsible for this little person who is totally dependent on you. And sure, those first few years are physically demanding, and it is very important to care for their physical needs. We need good advice. But we need, even more, good advice and a teachable heart to think about the awesome responsibility we have to teach their minds and hearts, too, from the day they enter the world to the day they leave our home as adults. And even after they are grown to be available to mentor them as they mature and as they ask for advice. Being faithful to do that is a whole lot more important than where they get their milk that first year or what music was or wasn’t played or what preschool they did or did not attend. And it lasts a whole lot longer, too. And, as physically demanding as it is to be a parent, it is much more emotionally and spiritually demanding to be a good teacher and role model – consistently and day in and day out. This is a very high calling and wonderful privilege, indeed. I tremble sometimes when I think of the awesome responsibility we have as parents to make sure we teach these children well with our words and our actions. May we never grow weary or lazy in the race.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Checking In

Summer break seems to have sapped my blogging ability this year. I have a meme sitting on the back burner that I'll be getting to sometime (I haven't forgotten, Elle!) and I am trying to find the time to sit and think long enough to get back into the Excellent Wife discussion. I really want to post on last week's chapter, but just can't seem to get a moment to sit and work on it. I've been a silent reading group participant the past several weeks and I'm wanting to get back into posting again. Oh, and our computer monitor is dying a slow death, and that makes working at the computer....interesting. I'll be typing along and the screen will just go black and my train of thought derails as I smack the side of the screen to get it to come back to life again. So far that strategy is working, but I'm sure one of these days I will smack the screen and it will have finally blinked its last.

I seem to be going through another round of, "Should I just quit the blog?" I'm feeling kind of insecure again about my blogging. Besides that, I may have an idea for a post simmering all day, but when I finally get everyone settled for the night, my brain is just too tired to think about much of anything. Drew is still spending much of his time during the week away, and when he is home, it is hardly "excellent" of me to spend the few evenings we have together writing blog posts. I've had a running joke with Drew since I started reading The Excellent Wife that I'm really sorry he got a subpar wife instead of an excellent one. He informed me yesterday that in golf lingo, subpar is actually a good thing. He's such a good guy. So, then we started laughing that maybe what I meant to be saying was that I am sorry he got a "bogey" wife.

It was late. What can I say?

Seriously, though, I have found that I am thinking through a lot of what I'm reading in The Excellent Wife (despite my silence, I have been reading along), and I was thinking the other day how glad I am that I'm reading it because principles that we're studying do come to mind at very opportune times and I am glad for the reminders to apply what I'm learning, and I do very much want to apply those principles. So, hopefully I'll get to a post soon. Just letting you all know I haven't given up, and I'm hoping to get back to better blogging sometime.

And for now, I suppose I'm deciding to keep plugging along with the blog, and not get too antsy about not posting every day.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Yesterday was a good day. I am so thankful for a church where the Word is preached and taught faithfully and where we are encouraged to grow and apply God's word to our lives and to share the gospel. M has been telling us for a while now that he is ready to be baptized. He has trusted Jesus as His Savior, and now he is ready to express this publicly before the church. I told him that when he was ready we would either make an appointment to talk to the pastor first or he could go forward at the end of the service and then make an appointment. Yesterday during the invitation time, M told me he wanted to go forward right then, so Drew took him down front. M will be talking with the pastor soon. I am so thankful that God is working in my son's heart and that he is sensitive to the Lord's calling. So very thankful. I pray that Drew and I will be faithful to train these children well in the Lord.

Yesterday evening we had a church-wide picnic then a concert by The King's Brass. It was so good! We're ordering some CD's - I loved the music last night, and the fellowship with our church family was sweet, too. Even Boo enjoyed the music. She sat on my lap just soaking it in for the first hour. After that, she was done and we had to take turns walking her around the lobby, but I'm really glad we stayed and heard that good music. If you ever get a chance to hear them, take the opportunity. I love to hear brass bands, and this was top notch.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Recommended Reading

I recently finished reading A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur. I definitely recommend it. I am kind of wishing I had taken notes along the way as I read and could blog about it in a little more detail, but I didn’t. Maybe one day I’ll go back and do that. By the way, I am getting ready to start over with MacArthur’s Because the Time is Near, and I am planning to take notes as I read that one, and perhaps I’ll blog a little about it along the way. Back to A Tale of Two Sons, though, since reading it I have been doing an awful lot of thinking about God’s amazing grace and His joy over repentant sinners. It is a blessing to think about how God is not a reluctant Savior, but a joyful Savior who is extravagant in His forgiveness of the bankrupt sinner who realizes his inability to save himself. This is a joyful thing to think about and has really helped me to grow in my love for Jesus as I more fully appreciate His amazing grace toward even me.

As a result of reading this in depth look at the parable of the prodigal son, I have also done a lot of thinking about how much of myself I saw in his discussion of the Pharisees. That was difficult and uncomfortable, but necessary to think about. I found myself praying often, “Lord, please don’t let me be like the older brother, but let my heart be full of compassion and empty of pride.” I don’t want to be cold, unloving, unforgiving, full of pride and self-righteousness. I want to be poor in spirit, as Jesus told us to be. I want to love God with all my heart and live in the joy of gratitude for His gift of grace He has so lavishly granted to me, a sinner. He has been so merciful to me, even when I have not been fully aware of just how desperately needy I truly am and even when I have not had a deep enough grasp of the magnitude of the grace extended to me, nor of my utter undeservedness of it. I have more thoughts percolating on this, but I just couldn’t get them written down coherently today.

I do recommend this book. It helped me better understand the parable by looking at the culture of the listeners and how they would have perceived Jesus’ words as He told the story. At least read the parable of the prodigal son in the book of Luke and think hard about God’s amazing, amazing grace and the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ to atone for our sin while we were yet sinners. We love Him because He first loved us. And it helped me to recognize some things in my own heart that were uncomfortably like the older brother. May those things be pruned away, and may I love Jesus with a grateful heart, and may I yearn to share the gospel with those who need to hear it and rejoice with great joy with the Savior when lost sheep become found.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Practical Mom's Dictionary, Installment #5

Like lightning, Blink of an Eye: How fast a two-year-old is when your back is turned for one minute.

Gray hair: What I didn’t have until Boo came along. This third child is our most adventurous yet. I hope we all survive her toddlerhood.

The beach: Where we went today. We had a lovely time with some friends from church, by the way. It made all the hassle of getting there worth it. Despite the last post, there are definite things to like about living here, and the beach within reasonable driving distance and the friends I’ve met at our church are definite benefits for sure. Boo decided the seagulls were there to be chased by her. Off she went down the beach with me running after. Running and running, calling, “I see quack! I see quack!” Finally I was able to convince her to play in the sand for a while with her friends. J and M were wonderful playing with her in the shallow waves. Then, when they wanted to go out a little further to play with their body boards, Boo really wanted to go, too. As I waded with her, she kept trying to go deeper, no fear at all. She wanted to go deeper, but she pitched a fit if I held her, even though the water was up to her chest. I kept my hands on her arms anyway and lifted her up every time a wave came until we both got tired of that game and went back to the ankle deep water. She is so different from her brothers at this age. Both of them had a healthy fear of the waves. Not Boo. I have to watch this child like a hawk! The only way I will take her with me to the beach is if I do have Drew or some friends with me to help me keep eyes on her at every moment, because if I look away for a second, she beelines for the “pool,” as she calls the ocean. Whew. I’m tired this afternoon.

Baby-proofed: What I thought my house was well enough. I was wrong.

Frantic call to the pediatrician and poison control: The result of being wrong. I thought that I could take a quick shower to wash the beach off my body. The boys were still there with a friend who said they could stay later with her and her kids, but I brought Boo on home with me. She was puttering around in the bathroom, and I was pretty sure there was nothing she could get into that would hurt her, so I took a quick shower, thinking I could hear her and see her, and I wasn’t going to be long at all. When I got out, she had red wet stuff all over her face and I saw that while I was in the shower she got into some sore throat spray that had been under the sink. I don’t know why it was under the sink. Obviously it is not there any longer. Did you know that that an overdose of over-the-counter sore throat spray has some very scary potential side effects? I didn’t either until I called poison control right after this incident. But she seems to be doing just fine after a hasty bath and vigorous scrubbing to make sure I got it all off of her.

Did I mention how gray my hair is going to be before too long?

I am thanking the Lord for His great mercy that she is showing no symptoms and seems like her own little self this afternoon, and it’s been longer than the hour the poison control told me to wait for possible symptoms.