Spontaneous Stops and Cold Meat Sandwiches

We moved into temporary housing on Tuesday.  The housing company delivered most of the furniture.  On Wednesday, the rental company delivered the washer and dryer.  On Thursday, the plumber hooked them up.  On Friday, the housing company delivered the rest of the furniture.  Saturday we left for a five day family vacation.  Boxes are piled high, waiting to be unpacked, our internet was still not yet hooked up, and our homeschool books are waiting patiently for me to find my stride again so we can catch up.  Suffice to say, this was not a convenient time to take a family vacation.  In fact, it was a very inconvenient time to take a family vacation.  Turns out, it was a great time to take a family vacation.

The five days we spent on the road were filled with all the hallmarks of a great family vacation (or at least our family vacations)…audiobooks read by Jim Weiss, picnic lunches, small treats and activities to help distract children from long hours on the road.  John spent many hours planning our route, finding interesting places to stop,and making hotel reservations, and yet we found once again that some of the most delightful stops were completely unplanned.

To quote Dr. Suess, “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”  I am such a structured person, wanting to plan every detail ahead of time, and the planned stops were fun but the most delightful ones were spontaneous.  Even the picnic lunches were delightful (and as all my children know, Momma is not fond of cold meat sandwiches).  

It was a really, really inconvenient time to take a family vacation…John & I both have so much work to do at home, but for those five days on the road we were completely powerless to do anything about it.  I do not like being powerless.  I like being in control, but the time spent on the road was a gentle reminder to trust God because He is in control.  Long hours on the road gave me time to examine how much I really do trust Him.  Do I trust God so long as I get to retain control over all the details?  Or do I trust Him even when I am completely powerless?  

I don’t think I will ever be a go-with-the-flow kind of girl this side of heaven, but as we return home to our not-quite-home and face a lot of uncertainties I would rather not face, I think I am a little better prepared to relax and trust God and trust His timing.  He is in complete control and all His gifts are good.  After all, if he can make cold meat lunches enjoyable, He can do anything.  

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God at Work

On the afternoon of Tuesday, January  28 a fire began in the attic of our home.  By the time the fire trucks left at 8 p.m. our home was unlivable and our lives were turned upside down.  But in the midst of all of this, my crazy, control-freak, doesn’t-like-to-be-overstimulated heart remains calm.  When friends ask how we’re doing, all I want to do is tell them about all that God has been doing.  Our house burned.  We are so blessed.  These two statements should be incompatible but they are not.  Praise God, they are not.

 

Praising God for His Protection….

Nathan’s classes were cancelled for the day.  Since he was home, I asked him to help me rearrange the furniture in Emma’s room.  Because we were working upstairs, we were able to detect the fire much earlier in the middle of the afternoon.  The epicenter of the fire was right above Anna’s closet.  If the fire had gone undetected or had broken out at night, we might have lost one or both of our daughters.  We are all safe.  Everything else is just stuff.

 

Praising God for His Provision…

Before the fire trucks left our yard, my friend Lisa was texting me with an offer to stay in a house they had not yet sold while our home was being rebuilt.  She could only do this because months earlier, the Lord had laid it on her husband’s heart not to pursue selling the house because someone may have need of it.  It shouldn’t surprise me.  I believe and teach that God is omniscient—He knows everything and that God is eternal—to Him all moments are “now”.  But I have to admit, every time I think of it, my heart skips a beat to know that God was at work providing for my needs long before the first spark.

My brothers Justin and Jason were on the scene the next day to begin the process of clean up and demolition.  They are both highly competent men of integrity and God has gifted each of them with unique abilities that work well together.  It has been so comforting to me to have them at my side, not just because they are my brothers, but also because they are good at what they do and I know it will be done well.

 

Praising God for the Gift of Health…

While we wait to move into the rental house, we are staying with my parents, their dog Molly, and their five cats.  I am highly allergic to cats.  To be fair, four of them live in the basement waiting to be relocated in the spring; but as we learned the year we hatched baby chicks and kept rabbits in our basement, basements count when it comes to breathing.  I am very thankful for a warm place to stay while we are waiting, but by all rights my health should be a wreck.  To the contrary, I can count on one hand the number of times I have needed to take an OTC medicine.  I can only attribute this to God’s sustaining grace.

 

Praising God for The Body…

John and I have been overwhelmed by the love of God as expressed through His people toward us.  Our church, my mom’s church, our homeschool group, our community, saints near and far, we are a part of the Body of Christ and every meal, every card, every collection, every prayer, every hug, everyone who stops to ask “how are you?” is God saying “I love you…I love you…I love you…I love you,” and we have been so loved!   I think this is how the Body is supposed to work.  They have wept as we wept, they have rejoiced as we have rejoiced.  They have held us up in prayer, cared for our needs, and done good unto us.  We live in a time when the Church is ridiculed as being hypocritical and dysfunctional.  From my perspective there has been a sacredness in being part of the Church functioning exactly as it was designed to and to quote Eric Liddell, “I can feel God’s pleasure.”

 

Praising God for His work in our Lives…

“…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Ro. 5:3-5)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28)

“Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

“God always looks upon me and treats me with gracious favor, always working all things together for my ultimate and eternal good.  God’s grace abounds to me even through trials.  Because I am a justified one, He subjugates every trial and forces it to do good unto me.” (Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians, p.63)

I have to confess it is not my natural inclination to exult in this trial but I can exult in my God.  I do not know what God is doing in our lives, but I know that He is at work and that it is good.  I am confident of this because I know that He is faithful and His Word cannot fail.

I’m not sure where this quote came from. Maybe when we move back in our house, I can unpack my box of Bible studies and give the author proper credit; but in the margin of my Bible above James 1 are written these words, “When we endure trials by faith, with joy, it brings glory to God.”  That much I can do.  I don’t know what God is doing, but I know that He is at work to bring about my good and bring Himself glory.

 

Praising God for the Gift of Himself…

When we came back to my parents’ house the night of the fire, my youngest daughter asked me, “Why did this happen to us?”  That is a totally normal question and we talked about Job and how he never lost his love for God or his hope in God and how God restored all that Job had lost.  But for me, the question “Why me?” is very unsatisfying because the inevitable answer is “Why not me?”  As I have been reading the books Be Still, My Soul by Nancy Guthrie and Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian  (I highly recommend both of them), I have discovered a better question is “Who?”

“Thankfully, the good news of the gospel is not an exhortation from above to ‘hang on at all costs or ‘grin and bear it’ in the midst of hardship.  No the good news is that God is hanging on to you, and in the end, when all is said and done, the power of God will triumph over every pain and loss….(God) loves you; his chief concern is to be himself for you….we don’t need answers as much as we need God’s presence in and through the suffering itself.  For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true:  God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.”  (Glorious Ruin, p. 10-11)

This is a great and glorious gift and it is the one theme which keeps coming back to me over the past several years—that God is my Enough and my Enough is more than enough.

 

 

My Confession

I blew it.  I really, really blew it.  I can give you a thousand reasons why…I could try and make my defense…but in the end they are just excuses; the facts remain that I was guilty as charged.  My sweet little girl had brought me a beautiful turquoise necklace she had made and asked for my approval.  My words were harsh, critical…Why hadn’t she asked my permission before using my things?…It would be better if the beads were arranged in a more balanced arrangement…I didn’t even notice her face before rushing on to accomplish the tasks I thought were so important for the day.  The day was a demanding one.  I gave my full attention to the deadlines that were loudly demanding it, I gave very little to the sweet, sensitive spirit that asked very little of me.  As the day drew to a close, the Holy Spirit whispered words that were a slam-dunk conviction: “Those were her beads.”  In that instant, my vision was cleared.  Yes, my deadlines were important, but nothing was as important as finding my girl and making things right.  As we found a quiet corner, her face was full of concern.  “Is everything OK, Mommy?”  “Did I do something wrong, Mommy?”  Her words pricked my heart.  How often had I crushed her before this day?  I told her how wrong I was, how sorry I was, how I appreciated the artistic gifts God had given her; I praised her for taking the initiative to create something and be creative without anyone telling her to do it. She snuggled in closer to me. “It’s OK, Mommy.  I forgive you.”  Grace.  Priceless words offered to me.  As we begin our school year, let this grace be before all others.  If we learn math, writing, & science, but miss grace we walk away empty handed.  But this day holds another lesson for me.  Sin can be forgiven, but it always has a consequence.  She may have forgiven me and our relationship was restored, but as I climbed the stairs to attend to the next thing I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she picked up her necklace to work on it again, the way I had told her it should be.    Image

Christmas Opportunities

I’m blogging with a purpose here today. 

I think most of us are familiar with Salvation Army, Operation Christmas Child and Angel Tree (all of which are wonderful outreaches which I highly recommend), but I am wondering what other opportunities are you aware of to reach out to others at Christmastime?  I’m looking for opportunities to look beyond the consumer-driven mindset of buying “stuff” to invest my time and dollars in a way that invests in the lives of others and the Kingdom of God.

Here are a few that I really like that I’ve run across lately, but I am excited to learn what others have found:

1.  (LOVE this one)  Living Water International Gift Card:  your recipient enters the numbers from the gift card on their website, then gets to choose how that donation is spent.  He can choose to spend it all on one project or divide it up among several.  Also a bonus, LWI offers physical gift cards that they will mail to you or for the last minute shoppers they offer electronic gift cards.

2.  Voice of the Martyrs offers a Christmas Care pack for $25 which provides a Christmas Care Pack for a child who lives in an area where Christians are persecuted.  They also offer a Village Outreach Pack for $75 which supplies an evangelist with a small library of materials.  (I can look over my shoulder at a not-so-small library of materials which ministers to the village that lives inside my house and maybe my circle of friends…every member of my family has his or her own Bible and I am struck with the responsibility of such wealth.)

3.  I have recently become acquainted with Gospel for Asia.  This year, they are offering Gifts from the Stable, Gifts for the Poor, Gifts of Outreach, and Gifts for Missionaries.  You have got to go check them out.

4.  Kids Around the World is a local organization which ministers to children all over the world through building playgrounds, training children’s workers, and feeding children.  They have a few fun items for sale and each item specifies how many meals are provided with your purchase.

5.  For $35, you can provide one person with a lifetime of clean water through Persecution Project Foundation’s 100 Wells Project.  In return, you can choose either a T-shirt or a lovely blue bracelet for your gift recipient.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what ways your family has found to look beyond the “stuff” at Christmas.  I am excited to learn how we can keep it real this year!

Morning Gratitude

Is there any symphony as stirring as the one God plays for me each morning outside my window?  If I visited the great museums of the world, would I be surrounded with any more beauty than I am outside my door?  Could I visit any spa or take any vacation which would bring more peace than dwelling in the shadow of His wing?  Truly I am blessed beyond all measure and I sing with King David:

 “Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? …How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you.”  2 Samuel 7:18,22

 

The Palm Sunday Mistake…

From Matthew Ch. 21:

The Triumphal Entry

1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet : 5 “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David ; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD ; Hosanna in the highest !”

The Crowds shout “Hosanna!” and rightly cheer on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; but their eyes are still dim and their hearts are not yet given new life and by Friday these same Crowds who praise Him will scream with blood lust for His crucifixion.

“Hosanna” literally means “save now” and that is what the Crowds wanted.  They wanted a little-k-king to ride in on his war horse and deliver them from Roman rule.  What they missed was that Jesus was, is, and ever shall be the KING of KINGS who came to deliver them from their sins.

So as we enter this Holy Week 2011, I am pondering how often I make the Palm Sunday mistake and cry out “Hosanna!  Save Now!” begging, sometimes demanding, that God save me from my circumstances; when my real need is to be saved from my sins.  It is far less pleasant to think about, but far more needful.  Have your way in me Lord Jesus!

Musings on the Body….

From Ephesians Ch. 4:

1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called

Ah, yes, this is my great desire…to walk in a manner worthy of my calling…but what does that look like?  How is that done?

2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

Humility, gentleness, patience, love..all evidences of the Spirit at work, doing His good work in my life; but there is something here which especially catches this farm girl’s eye: Continue reading