My Fab Fam

My Fab Fam
Photo by Thousand Hills Photography. Click on photo to visit their site.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween (but not like you may think)

Today is October 31st.  For many people, this day is known as Halloween.  For my family it is...


Happy birthday, Nana!  (Your Rice Krispies Treat cupcakes will arrive in a little while.)

My girls will not be trick-or-treating tonight.  I know some of you already think I'm crazy for this (and various other reasons).  Some of you have even told me so.  =)  That's okay though because in my gut this is the right choice for our family for now.  I mean, I have struggled with the holiday.  On one hand, I think what's so bad about letting the kids dress up and go to some houses of people we know to get candy?  But, on the other hand there is the whole aspect of its pagan origins (read here for more history), the scary costumes and decorations, and the evil tricks some older kids are prone to play.  I'm still torn on the issue and haven't set any firm boundaries for the future, but for this year...nah.  But that's just my personal conviction, subject to change.  And, as we all know, there is freedom in Christ.  So, for those of you that feel the freedom to dress up in happy costumes and have a little innocent fun, party on.  Until my kids are no longer scared by the scream masks and witch costumes, we'll be staying in.  Dark and scary is not my idea of fun, or theirs.

Contrary to what some of you have told me you are thinking after reading my last few posts, I am normally light and happy!

Oh my goodness.  I do love you all!  After yesterday's post, I had SOOOO much feedback.  Everything from, "awesome," "love this," "a must-read," and even, "I am humbling myself now to admit that I am falling apart and need prayer," to, "I am worried about you."  Even as my heart aches to know of so many sisters that are in pain, I'm thankful for their willingness to open up, admit their struggles, and ask for prayer.  For those of you that were concerned, let me take a minute to reassure you.

I knew, even as I typed that post with tears in my eyes, some of you would not understand the struggle I conveyed.  Or at the very least, some of you would not understand such openness.  But I also knew there were some people out there who needed to know they are not the only ones that try to do it all themselves, trip, and sometimes fall, before remembering to lean on Jesus.  I created this blog to be transparent.  To admit that even as Christians, we can forget to rely on Jesus, and subsequently have terrible days.

Please, KNOW THIS:  I am well!  It is well with my soul.  I can share about the hopeless moments because I know Hope!  I can share about the darkness because I know Light!  I can share about the pain, because I know Joy!  I can share the unlovely, because I know Love!

And, as my sister so accurately explained, the written word can be a tricky thing.  It is powerful.  And, because the convo is one-sided, it can easily be misunderstood.  Because if the readers have any questions, they are left to guess at the answers.  And some of you surmised that my life is really dark.  Even though the message I hoped to convey is that, yes, life can be dark, but Jesus is Light, strength, and everything!  Every minute apart from Him is pain, but every second with Him is bliss!  I am convinced He allows us to feel pain to draw us to Him.  I don't want to miss one second of His loving presence, and yet somehow, that which I don't want to do, I do, and that which I do want to do, I don't do.  And so sometimes I miss Him, and I hurt.  And then I remember Him, and everything in me is filled to overflowing.

Some of you that have been reading for a while, or have known me for a while, know that I went through a dark valley when I was in college.  It was when I felt the deepest pain and the greatest emptiness...and I did not share anything with anyone.  I was searching but afraid to admit that I was searching.  I was joyless, but I plastered on a happy face.  I was completely overwhelmed by life, to the point that I slept through classes, failed to turn in assignments, slept through exams...and ultimately flunked out of college.  I literally could not do the things that were required of me at the time.  I literally failed.  And I believe God allowed me to do so just so He could show me my innate need for a Helper.

Sure, being a momma is overwhelming at times, okay a lot of times, but I have a Helper now that abides right inside of me:  the Holy Spirit.  He gives me everything I need to do this thing.  I may FEEL like I fail sometimes, but I DON'T.   That's the difference now.  God says I am holy and blameless,  and, through Christ, more than an overcomer!  Every time I am faced with a tough situation and plow through it, I overcome.  And, ultimately, the battle over my sins has been won; Jesus has robed me with righteousness.  The enemy may taunt me, but he has already lost.

We all have things in life that are overwhelming.  For one person it's their marriage.  For another, it's work.  For this one, it's their relationship with a parent.  For another, it's a child.  If we embrace these difficult relationships and situations, they will shape us into the people God intends us to be.  I think a lot about the verse, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."  People are placed in our lives to rub off the rough edges.  If we are intent on being the person God wants us to be, we are going to have to be refined.  And the refining process can be painful.  But the end result is GLORY!

And life is good.  No, life is beautiful.  Beautiful, I say.  Even in the midst of the struggles, those of us in Christ are looking for Him.  We see Him in our child's eyes and the sunshine.  We hear Him in laughter and music.  We sense Him in the winds and the storm.  He is faithfully with us, even in the worst tempest.  And, when the trial is over, the joy of overcoming is every bit as intense as the pain we felt during the trial.

As a friend just said to me, it seems that to the extent we experience pain, we are able to feel joy.  Amen, sister!  Though the sorrow may last for a night, His joy comes in the morning!

Rewind back to college.  I practiced this devastating philosophy of equanimity.  Basically it is some strange idea that we should have no extreme highs or lows, never too sad or too happy.  Listen, I am by nature an emotional person.  I am all up or all down.  And for probably two years I didn't cry.  Did. not. cry.  But, today, I praise Jesus that I cry sometimes!  And laugh hard.  And feel pain one moment and the next you may find me dancing and throwing my hands up in praise.  This is the crazy chaos that is me.  And I am thankful.

Thankful that God made me emotional.  Thankful that He saw fit to give me a man who is, by nature, the opposite of me.  (Can you imagine our household if we were both on emotional roller coasters?)  Thankful that God gave me friends and family that love me and check on me.  Thankful that He placed people in my life to challenge me and shape me and strengthen me.  Thankful that He gives me hard days that refine me into a stronger person.  Thankful that He speaks to me, loves me, and assures me of His presence.

Even this morning as I was driving home from dropping my big girl at preschool, I was reassured of God's presence.  I was praying for a young girl; although I have never met her, I know she is the daughter of an addict.  I was asking God to draw her to Him, to keep showing her the evidence of His love, to keep reassuring her of her value.  And then tossed up with a smile, "And I could use a few reminders too."  At that moment, I passed the corner of a two-story house and the sun shone right in my face.  And my whole body smiled.  Thank you, Lord, for immediate answers to prayer.

And that, dear friends, is why today, on a day that seems to emphasize darkness and scariness, I am celebrating Light and Joy.  That's a happy me that you see on this Halloween.

Now, everybody go think happy thoughts!  All works for GOOD for those of us who love and trust in the Risen Savior.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Great Humbling

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
     --Ephesians 6:12

There's this darkness.  It greets me every morning with a great resounding, "I can do this.  I can do better today."

And there's this light.

It whispers.  "Apart from me, you can do nothing."

The early morning light of the Son offers strength and I, instead, reach into the darkness and grab at the nothingness of self-confidence.  And with arms outstretched into the dark empty space, I pull myself out of bed.  And I gird myself with my own weakness and set about my day.  I hold my head high and I unwittingly step out in shifting sands.

I manage to get to the kitchen.  Granted, there's some thrashing about along the way.  I place my hope in the blackness as I drink it down.  One cup.  Two.  Will three give me the strength I need?  Doubtful, I begin fixing breakfast.  With eggs in hand, I falter.  I pause, a bit confused by the near-fall, steady myself, and move forward.  I serve breakfast, with a small helping of God, and move to the next task.

And there's this light, reaching down.  And it whispers, "Take my hand."  But it requires humility to reach out to it.  And there's self-confidence leading forward in darkness.

Moving from kitchen to bedroom to bathroom to car, I falter, shake my head in confusion, and with a bit more trepidation, keep moving forward.  Finally, we are all buckled safely into our car seats, and yet somehow I keep slipping.  Big girl reaches out for a good-bye hug, and I falter.  My weight nearly knocks us both down, and I, with mounting frustration, push her away to keep us both from falling.  I throw my chin up and keep moving, leaving big girl to navigate the shifting sands all by herself.

And there's this light.  And I shut my eyes tight.  Doesn't it know it's blinding me?  I put on my glasses and thank God for the darkness.

Back home now, baby girl wants me to hold her.  I reach down to pick her up and I fall.  Thanking God again that the couch is there to catch us.  We both just lie there.  Strength is in reach and yet I'm...what?  Too lazy?  Too tired?  No, too proud to reach for it.

There are more faltering steps and a couple of falls, but we make it through the morning.  And morning becomes afternoon.  And big girl is back home.  She wants me to play.  Baby girl wants me to hold her, yet again.  They stand by my legs, waiting.  My head hurts.  Supper needs to be made.  Toys are scattered around our feet.  I step forward, not really sure which need I'm answering.

And I'm surprised when I find myself in a crumpled heap, bearing down heavily on these sweet babes of mine.  We're all dirty and tear-stained and powerless to get back up.  And the tears flow until they nearly drown me.  And I simply cannot understand how a reborn child can be so weak and unsteady.  I cry.  And I cry out.

And there's this light.  And it reaches down from on high and takes hold of me and draws me out of deep waters.

And I'm powerless to do anything but let it lift me.  And the weight of my broken body is lifted off my little ones.  And they are lifted up too.  And I notice these hands that are holding me bear scars.  And I know the One to whom the hands belong is speaking; I can hear a Voice, but I can't understand it.  There's confusion.  And peace.  And I see a precipice below.  I try to stop the noise so I can hear the voice.  I try to hang onto the hands so I don't fall off the precipice, but I can't seem to keep my grip and that gaping chasm has me fixated.  It's so dark down there.  Is that where I came from?

I don't know why or how I finally manage to pull my eyes away from it, but I turn.  I lift up my eyes to the Place from where my help comes.  And I see Light.  It's blinding, but I don't turn away.  I squint my eyes, lean my head forward just a bit, and peer into it.  And I get just a glimpse of...what is it?  Love?  It lures me.  Yet I hesitate.  Is all that Love for me?  My heart hurts.  No, this is too much.  It is too bright.  And I'm all dirty.  Is the darkness of that chasm stuck to me?  It sure feels like it.

Can I come in...there?


But surely You don't want me...


But suddenly I notice these shackles.  Is that what has hindered me?  All those faltering steps.  All those falls.  Did I have these chains all that time and not even notice?  Now, in this bright light, they are so obvious.  And so heavy.  How am I supposed to move closer to the light with these?

And the One with the scarred hands begins to speak.  And the shackles fall off.  Just a Word and they fall off!  Who is this One that speaks?

Now free to move forward, my legs begin to shake.  Afraid of falling again, I remain where I am.  Until the scarred hands reach out.  This time I grasp them.  They draw me forward.  I am certain I am floating.  I haven't felt this light, this strong, in...years.

And, slowly something begins to come into focus.  I can't explain it exactly, but I sense it.  This must be Love.  Yes.  This is certainly Love.  Is this what I've been missing?  I am overwhelmed.  My eyes can't take in enough to satisfy all my longings because I fall prostrate.  And I feel those same strong hands lifting my head.  And I catch another glimpse before falling down to worship.

And this is the cycle I find myself in:  strong hands lift my head;  I get a glimpse of glorious Love; I fall down in worship.  I could live like this.

And I wake up.  And suddenly I realize I am faced with the same decision I faced yesterday morning.  There's light and there's darkness.  I lie there, pausing.  And there's a Voice.  Yes, I've heard that Voice before!  I close my eyes to listen.  There's a veil of darkness, and yet, my mind is flooded with visions of Light, with the Words of the One with the scarred hands.  "Apart from me you can do nothing, but through me, you can do all things."  I remember falling, crushing my girls, the chasm, the shackles.  I remember shaking in the presence of that great Light.  And I remember those hands.  The strength they offered and the Love they showed me.  And I reach out for them...


He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
Psalm 18:16

You are a shield around me O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
Psalm 3:3

She girds herself with strength...
Proverbs 31:17

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Psalm 121:1

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" and let him who hears say, "Come!"  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Revelation 22:17

Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away.
Nahum 1:13

For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrated even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

God is love.
1 John 4:8

Monday, October 29, 2012

Links and Chicken

Can someone out there please tell me how to link up with other blogs?  Why doesn't my button have an embedded link?  And why, when I copy another blogger's button, does it not copy the link too?  AAAACK!

I tried to put another blogger's button in one of my posts recently and I never could figure out how to do it.  I need a Blogging for Dummies book.  There should be a blog about how to blog.

Help please!  PLEASE!


On a completely unrelated note, I'm worn out with my current chicken recipes.  I have heard Priscilla Shirer talk about the struggles of finding yet another way to fix chicken and it always makes me laugh because I so totally relate.  But...Voila!  New recipes from friends and family to the rescue!  My chicken won't be bored this week.

Some friends had us over for dinner on Friday.  In addition to the awesomeness of new friends and rare adult interaction, we were treated to this yumminess...

Crockpot Chicken Taco Soup
Copying and pasting straight from...
{semi}homemade Mom
(I hope there isn't some internet/blog copyright law that I'm breaking here.  Again, Blogging for Dummies, I need you!)

This is a classic dump-and-set slow cooker recipe that will taste good every time. Doesn't get any easier than that, folks! This batch made a lot for the three of us and I actually put about half in a gallon ziploc bag and froze. This soup is on the thicker side so feel free to serve it with some salsa and tortilla chips for dipping. I had some leftover Grands biscuits and we all thought they went super yummy together, too. I could go for a hot bowl right now!

Chicken Taco Soup
adapted from Shugary Sweets

2 large chicken breasts
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can mexicorn, drained (or regular corn)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz jar picante sauce
32oz chicken stock
6oz tomato paste
4oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream

Place chicken on the bottom of greased slow cooker and sprinkle with taco seasoning. Dump corn, black beans, picante sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste on top and stir to combine. Cook on high for 3 hours. Shred chicken with fork and add cream cheese and sour cream. Give the cream cheese a few minutes to melt and stir to incorporate all ingredients. Serve with some shredded cheese on top.


And one more...

My sis made this recently.  She and her guest gave it a thumbs-up.

Chicken Piccata
2 boneless, skinless Chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise, to form 4 thin cutlets
1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
8 ounces Angel hair pasta
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Pour the bread crumbs in a shallow plate or dish. Pour the beaten egg in a seperate shallow dish. Take one chicken cutlet and dredge in the egg, and then in the breadcrumbs. Shake off any excess breadcrumbs and place on a plate. Repeat with all cutlets.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Place two of the coated chicken cutlets into the skillet. Cook on each side, for 4 minutes. Once thoroughly cooked, place on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Let butter melt and then cook the other two pieces of coated chicken, for 4 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and keep warm with other chicken.

Pour the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers into the warm skillet. Stir and scrape up any of the loose brown bits. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and let sauce simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook angel hair pasta according to package directions. Drain water and add 2 Tablespoons butter to pasta and 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Serve chicken with sauce and pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley and more grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My heart was squeezed...

...when I read this post by Ann Voskamp.

This was seriously the longest blog post I've ever read (and I'm certainly not the queen of brevity); it took me about an hour to get through it (because I had to take breaks here and there to remind baby girl that it was time to go to sleep), was worth the time.  Struck me to the core.  Grab a cup of something hot and prepare yourself to hear some fresh truth...

To learn more about Ann, click here.

Update:  Sorry, I had the links wrong before!  You all are very patient with me!


Attitude of Gratitude:

62.  time with sisters in Christ.  oh. so. good.
63.  Bible study with my man.  even. better.
64.  sweet long moments, staring into my baby's eyes while i rub her face and she rubs mine
65.  dark, quiet peace
66.  time to journal
67.  courage to be honest
68.  affirmation to say the hard things
69.  God's consistency in reiterating a lesson until i get it
70.  "i love you too, mommy."
71.  warm supper waiting for us when we got home from church (thank you, my man.)

(those were from wednesday, these are for today...)

72.  divinely appointed mentors
73.  cold, sunny days
74.  quiet Sabbaths
75.  the Lord's Supper
76.  an impromptu Bible lesson at lunch about a talking donkey
77.  long monologues from my four-going-on-fourteen year-old
78.  footed PJ's
79.  this face:

80.  and this one:

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Merry Heart Doeth Good...

Doeth good.  Doeth?  What would life be without a little KJV?  That word makes me laugh out loud.  Really.  And today I just need a good laugh.  I NEED one.

Yesterday, I got off to such a great start making my thanksgiving list with the girls, but by the end of the day, Satan had won most of the battles.  I crawled back in bed for the second time about 4 o'clock and had a good cry.  As tears soaked my pillow, my sweet babes laughed and played in the living room, ignorant of their momma's break-down.  Thankful for that.  (#61 on my list)

It all started with a nap.  I lay down with baby girl when it was time for her nap so she could play with my hair...and drifted off.  This left my big girl to fend for herself for over an hour.  When I finally woke up, the first thing big girl said to me was, "Mommy, when can we see Nana again?  Can we see her tonight?"

Really?  I haven't seen you all day.  First, you were at preschool, then I napped (ugh), and now you want to leave me and go to Nana's?

Well, of course.  She wanted to be with someone that would BE with her.  Not sleep.  This left me feeling like a failure of a mom.  It couldn't possibly reason that she just simply wanted to see Nana because she hadn't seen her recently.  No, it was definitely because I was a louse of a mom that slept through the afternoon--what should have been "our" time, big girl's and mine.

See the craziness that I fall for?

Then I looked around me.  Laundry on the couch waiting to be folded.  Laundry in the dryer.  Dishes all over the kitchen.  Papers to be sorted and filed and tossed.  Floors to be swept and vacuumed.  And then, it happened.  Baby girl had an accident.  Pee had filled her footed PJ's until running over and filling her leather church shoes that she was wearing for dress-up and, somehow overflowed her shoes, soiling the rug I had just washed and put in there only a few hours before.  Pee also covered the potty and the step stool.  I can not understand how one little gal can have so much pee in her!

I'm not proud to report what I did next.  I dissolved into disability.  I put baby girl in the tub, told her to take off her PJ's and walked out of the bathroom.  I flopped back onto the couch and half-heartedly asked God for help.  As I was asking my Father to help me, my baby was calling for her momma to come to her aid.  I couldn't.  I was defeated.

It was God that got me off that couch.  Baby girl called the second time and I rose.  And I washed.  And I dressed.  And I cleaned.  And all the while big girl was asking when she could see Nana.  And I crawled back in bed.  And I cried.

Why can the smallest things crush us?  Why can laundry, and dishes, and our baby's accidents strip us of all energy and determination?  How can our good intentions to be thankful and merry dissolve in such a few short hours into weakness and despair?

I sent my man a text:  the girls want to go to your moms.  It was loaded with emotion that could not have possibly been relayed through our cold, hard phones.  He did not mind, of course.  I, on the other hand, felt rejected.  I cried some more.

I laugh now at the irrationality of it all, but in the moment, our emotions can be powerful drivers.  I read somewhere recently that emotions are indicators, not dictators.  Are?  Or should be?  Because I'm quite certain mine dictate sometimes. I know they shouldn't, and I am the one giving them that power, but nonetheless...that statement should read:  Emotions should be indicators, not dictators.

I pulled myself together, called Nana, who readily agreed to the girls' suggestion of staying ALL NIGHT, and we put away toys and packed a suitcase with necessities, like blankets (because Nana has none at her house), pillows (Nana must sleep on a bare mattress), a Christmas movie (because it is always a good time for Christmas movies), PJ's (at my suggestion), and their Bible story book and prayer book (a genuinely good idea, girlies).

After dropping some happy girls at Nana's, I turned the radio up loud and headed for the store.  And I heard a woman saying something like this:

I used to wonder why my efforts to try harder weren't working.  Then I realized He wanted me to turn to Him sooner.

Why can't I remember that throughout the day?  It's not enough that I turn to Him in the morning.  It's not enough that we sing praise songs and dance around the living room when we're happy.  It's not enough that we read our devotionals, memorize Scripture, and pray before meals and bedtime.  It's not enough.  But He is enough.  I just need to turn to Him sooner.

When I wake up and Satan tells me I'm a louse for sleeping away time with my big girl, turn to Him.  ("Him" being God, of course.)  When the house work is daunting, turn to Him.  When baby girl says, "Mommy, I've peed," turn to Him.  When I'm about to part with my girls and my sad heart wants to proclaim, "Rejected!" turn to Him.

And praise Him THEN.  Not just when the sunshine falls on my face.  Not just when we are singing and dancing.  Not just when life is smoothly rolling by.  But, "in all things, give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."  Because, it is ALL grace.  And praise for the grace makes merry.  And merry doeth good like a medicine.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Battle is His...

...but the job of praising Him is mine!

And that is why, today, even though the battle rages as fiercely as ever, I will thank Him.  Because thanks will keep me on my feet.  Thanks will help me see His hand in my battles.  Thanks will make me whole.

My man had to go to work early this morn.  The girls crawled in bed with me when they woke and we started talking about all the things we are thankful for.  Here's a portion of our list:

51.  our comfy beds
52.  ceilings and walls that keep the rain/bugs out and the heat/air in
53.  comfy PJ's
54.  snakes (not sure where that came from, but...they, too, are grace)
55.  pillows
56.  covers
57.  preschool
58.  books
59.  sunshine
60.  that we woke up this morning

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's All Grace

So, I posted on Monday about extending grace to our families and loved ones--a post I had written two weeks ago.  Then, I immediately wanted to delete the post.  Why?  Because this grace thing is so hard for me.  I don't want anyone to think I've got it.  Or that I'm preaching.  I don't and I'm not.

It is the lesson that God seems to be reiterating most to me right now.  For example, at least three times in less than 24 hours, I had to seriously stop and think about grace.  And since that twenty-four hour time span, I have not been able to stop seeing everything as grace!

Sunday night:

I helped in AWANA and the young man I was helping had to answer this question:  What does it mean to you that Jesus is truth and grace?  We discussed this for some time.  I'm going to skip over the "truth" part for now just to keep on point.  (I know you're shocked.)  My new friend was seriously struggling to figure out how Jesus was grace.  So, I defined grace first:  a gift you don't deserve.  He still couldn't quite make the connection.  So, I tried to explain:  Jesus is the gift we don't deserve; God gave us Jesus, and Jesus gave His life so that He could save ours; we have life through Jesus.  I of course had to water this down to about a second-grade level, and expound each point more fully, but that's the skinny version.  (I'm just thinking of you today.)  The funny thing is that I had to think about how Jesus IS grace.  Teaching always teaches me more.

Monday morning:

I saw these words on Facebook, posted by Ann Voskamp:  It's all grace.  And I seriously couldn't stop wondering what in the world she meant.

Monday afternoon:

I prayed with my girls over our lunch of cheese, crackers, and grapes.  I prayed that God would help them understand His grace.  After I prayed, I asked my big girl if she knew what grace was?  She nodded her head yes, then hesitated, and changed the nodding to shaking.  No.  "What is it?"  It is a gift that you don't deserve.  And I used preschool as an example.  Every week the kids get to pick a treasure from the treasure box if they are good and haven't lost any stickers off the sticker board.  I gave a hypothetical situation:  Suppose Ms. Donna had to take away everyone's stickers because you all wouldn't listen and obey.  Suppose no one had earned a treasure from the treasure box.  But, suppose, Ms. Donna allowed all of you to get a treasure anyway.  That would be grace, a gift you didn't earn or deserve.

And I had come full circle.

It's all grace.  Because every single breathe and everything that fills it is a gift that's undeserved.  Concrete or abstract.  It's grace.  The earth, the planets, the perfectly balanced air we breathe.  The trees, the birds, the crickets that live in my grass, and yes, even the black widow spiders.  Because all of it creates a perfectly designed environment in which we can thrive.  My husband, our relationship, our families that God tied together before He even created us.  His job, our financial blessings, and even our limitations.  Grace.  Sleepless nights, the mundane tasks, criticism, physical pain, and horrific heartache.  All our trials, grace.  Because they are specially designed to make us into the image of Christ.  And the process itself is...amazing grace.

I'm asking God to show me His grace in all the unlikely places.  Like the lady in China who lost her parents, her husband, her son, an unborn child (the government forced her to have an abortion), and her freedom (she was imprisoned for telling others about Zhu Yesu, Lord Jesus).  Still, she managed to see God's grace.  Her cell mate that reported her illegal religious activity to the guards, until she came to the Lord and became her prayer partner.  Grace.  The guard who was her constant tormentor until he found Christ and became her brother.  Grace.  The suffering she endured in order to be an example of Christ to those around her.  Grace.

In what unlikely place have you found grace lurking?  What do you see today as grace?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Indescribably Sweet Imperfect Love

So, I wrote this post a few weeks ago and never posted it.  Sometimes I am so open that some of you all probably don't know how to take me.  Other times things are just so difficult and complicated that I'm not quite sure how to share them, or even if I should.  And I worry about what others will think if I do share them--in this case, my family.  But, here's the truth that I am reminded of over and over again:  there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9); no temptation has been thrown my way that isn't common to all men (1 Cor. 10:13); so, my feelings are, therefore, neither new nor uncommon.  So, why do we feel ashamed when we can't quite get our emotional footing?  Especially when our slip-ups tend to happen around family?  Why do we so desperately want family life to be smooth and easy?  And why do we pretend like it is even when it isn't?  Because, truth be told, I have yet to meet a single person who has the perfect family.  We're all sinners.  And when you throw a bunch of sinners together and tell them to get along for life, as God does with family, well, that's a lot of sin bouncing off each other.  It can be painful.  Thankfully, Christ offers a cushion:  grace.  It is our heart's protection.  And we have the awesome privilege of protecting the hearts of those we love by offering them that same grace.  How else will we ever survive?


My daughters and I visited my hometown this past weekend.  Since becoming a momma, trips have become more difficult for me.  No naps, or short naps, late nights, and just generally being out of our routine and comfort zone make this OCD momma stressed.  And that's an understatement.

I feel like I am just in survival mode when we are traveling, especially when visiting my childhood home.  Not a lot of time, or maybe not a lot of desire, to be snuggling, playing, and relishing my girls.  My focus is more or less on 1) the nearly impossible task of catching up with the 30-something people in my family while keeping one eye on my girls, 2) getting the girls in and out of their car seats about 20 times each day as we hop from house to park to house to restaurant to house to house to house, 3) hoping to get at least one bit of nutrition in their bodies among the chips, brownies, pizza, and candy, and 4) pulling restless sleepers back onto their pillows and moving pokey knees away from my back throughout the night (because we all share a queen-size bed when we are at my momma's).  My attitude throughout the duration of the trip is, what should I say, less than enthusiastic?

Not to mention the fact that family just reflects all the yuck in me.  And I know I'm not the only one that feels this way; I've heard too many people say the same thing, even just recently.  Our families know us, through and through.  They know our desires, but they also know how far we fall short of them.  They know every poor choice and wrong turn we've made (okay, maybe not every one--thank you, Lord--but certainly enough) and sometimes it is hard to ever move past those things with family.  Because, when we look into their eyes, we see ourselves as we were years ago before we all moved out and grew up (or moved up and grew out).  We see a reflection that doesn't quite match who we are today and it's terribly disconcerting.  But what's worse is what the reminder of our former selves does to us:  before we know it we start acting like our old selves too.  It's hard to change dynamics that have existed for 34, 44, or 50 years.  It's hard to ever become "new" around the people and places of old.  I see the reflection of me in my parents and all my siblings and it feels like I haven't made any progress since I moved out of that town 16 years ago.  It's like the new me looking into a mirror and seeing the old me.  Discouraging.  That old flesh just will not die.

"Behold, I make all things new."  I just keep clinging to the promises and looking for signs of their fulfillment.

So, when I get back to my now-home, it is like sweet peace.

Even among the bags of dirty laundry (not the family kind, but literally, dirty clothes) that sit by the front door, right where we dumped them when unloading the car, I feel lighter in spirit.  I'm a far cry from having it all together, notwithstanding having years of growth under my belt, but I feel so much stronger when I'm in my now-home.  There aren't reminders at every corner of every feat Satan has ever won in my life.  You know?

It reminds me of something I said to an old college friend when I unexpectedly ran into them a few years later.  I vividly remember saying, "I wish you hadn't met me back then."  Because I knew, at the time this person and I were friends, I held some beliefs that shaped my attitude and my behavior in ways that make me a little sad to reflect upon now.  I was sad to think that was the "me" this person will always remember.  And I fret that I may have encouraged anyone to live a life apart from Christ.  I have asked for forgiveness and I know I am forgiven.  But every once in while, Satan will throw those old memories at me again and whisper, "Do you really think you have changed?  Do you really think you can?"  And, inevitably, those questions are whispered in my ear every singe time I go "home," and I want to tell my family, "I really wish you hadn't met me back then."

Can we all just pretend like we don't know the junk from the past?

The junk makes me crabby.  I usually wind up praying throughout the entirety of my return trip, asking God to help me do better next time--be more patient, be less stressed, be relaxed, be in-the-moment, be encouraging, be kind...and on and on.

Okay, I completely detoured!  The real reason for this post was to document a sweet moment with my big girl.  Wow.  So...

We come home on Sunday.  We eat fast food because we just want to be together rather than spending our time cooking and cleaning afterwards.  After dinner, we (my man and I) stand in the kitchen, having one of those raw conversations about our childhood, families, and all the hurts and joys of this thing called life.

I feel like this is a good time for another detour.  My man and I met at the climax of my hedonistic life--or should I say nadir rather than climax?  Yet, by a miracle of God we do not see ugly reflections of ourselves in each other..  Both of us knew each other at our nadir and both of us still see each other as miraculous transformations.  Perhaps it's because we went through those transformations together.  I don't know.  I just know God has allowed us to move forward in a grace-filled relationship that blows my ever-lasting soul away!

So, while we are deep in conversation, the circle of life spins on, with our girls living their childhood, making memories, and establishing their own concepts of family.  They play with animals, read books, and chase each other up and down the hallway until we all move outside, where they ride their bikes until well past dark and my man shows me his newly rearranged workshop.  Afterwards, we resume our normal routine of baths, brushing teeth, bedtime stories, Bible stories, and prayers--things that don't always happen when we are away from home.  The girls fall asleep well before their normal bedtime and my man and I snuggle in close to watch a movie.  We all sleep hard and wake up late (it's fall break) and we take a while to get moving again, like a cold car on a winter morning.

During our breakfast conversation, the topic of naming our children comes up and I tell my big girl she was almost a Charlie, whether she came out a girl or a boy.  (My man's dad is Charles, his granddaddy was Charles, and I have a brother and uncle named Charles, both called Charlie.  Only hiccup:  I have two other brothers and two sisters too; we couldn't name our baby after everyone, so we didn't name her after anyone.)  She says, "I am [insert her name] because that's the way God planned it."  I agree and ask if she remembers what [her name] means.  (We've talked about this before.)  She shakes her head and I say, "Beloved, because you're loved."  We finish eating and big girl goes to wash her hands.  From the bathroom, I hear big girl talking to me; I can't hear what she's saying so I walk to the bathroom and ask her to say it again.  She's drying her hands. "You are [her name]," she says.  I slyly say, "No, I'm not; you are!"  She says, "You are!  Because you're loved."  And with that, she jumps off her step stool and runs into me, wrapping her arms around my legs.

She is so good for me.  One of God's perfect gifts.  "Every good and perfect gift is from above..."  (James 1:17).

I may be OCD and I might even frequently be OOC (out of control, not out of character) but my girls know they are loved and they continue to love their faltering parents, including their OCD/OOC momma.  I couldn't have been more grateful for anything in this world than the reminder that true love is steadfast.  That even in the midst of all our failures, love prevails.

In stressful grumpy the happy the nadir the bitter-sweet times of family grinding away our rough edges, as iron sharpens iron...we love...and we are loved.

Which brings me back in a round-about way to my detour on family...

If we are around people long enough they are going to see us fall sometimes.  Family for sure falls into this category.  We fail those we love and we hope they can forgive us.  The ones we love fail us and we learn to forgive.  We open ourselves to love and, it's true, we open ourselves to hurt.  But if we close our hearts to love, we become cold, unfeeling, and bitter.  And we die a little.  So, to live we keep on trying.  Bit by painful bit, our hurting hearts become whole as we push forward, choosing love and forgiveness over bitterness and doubt, especially self-doubt.

Family.  It's one of the few things on this earth that can be both indescribably sweet and inexplicably painful.  And it is therein that love is perfected.  Good times, tough times.  We keep loving and we know we are loved.  We keep moving forward in our human way, two steps forward, one step back.  Imperfectly progressing in this thing called love.

Thanks, family, for loving me.  Let me just say...

You are [insert big girl's name]!

(That is to are loved.)


A wise pastor I know once told me that we can not try to get into other people's minds to imagine what they may be thinking of us.  We've got to know who we are in Christ.  In Christ alone.  Whatever images we think are being reflected back to us in the eyes of those we know, first of all, may or may not be what they really see in us (in fact I think that we rarely know what people really think of us), and secondly, even if we are accurate in guessing their thoughts, does it matter?  Whose opinion matters apart from God's?

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I'm trying to please man, I am no longer a servant of Christ."  Galations 1:10


#35.  A great big family, dirty laundry and all...
#36.  A rare nap for my big girl that gave me a good hour of "momma" time...
#37.  A play date this morning, which gave me...
#38.  Two hours of adult conversation...
#39.  Fall...oh!  I love fall!
#40.  Fall break
#41.  Lazy mornings
#42.  Tea par-TEES
#43.  Nights when my man is home
#44.  Library books
#45.  My girls' laughter
#46.  Unexpected gifts
#47.  Real maple syrup
#48.  Long-sleeved t-shirts
#49.  An early wake-up call from my Father...
#50.  A sleepy companion during my morning quiet time...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Dash


That's my dash. I don't know the date that will mark the other end, but regardless of what that date may be, there is a space of time between my birth and my departure from this earth, and that is my dash.

Our MOPS mentor momma asked us yesterday, "What will you do with your dash?"

Remember all those needs I mentioned yesterday?  All of them just a speck of dust in the world's vast expanse of needs.  And we have this dash.  An expanse of time given just to us so we can make a difference in the space around us.

And, just in case I didn't listen to my mentor momma, God saw fit to reiterate the lesson last night through a friend's blog post.  In it she says this:

I have been blessed with 86,400 seconds each day - use it or lose it....  How will I use that precious gift of time in this very brief life I've been given?  

Each day's a gift.  Each second.  Why do I forget that?

As Beth Moore said one time, I don't want to get to heaven to have God show me the perfect, full, abundant life He had for me and say, "I missed THAT?!?!"

I'm fill my dash.


For those of you who want a little more reading (because I know I've left some of you, like my sister, wanting with this short post--ha) here is one of the best things I've read in a long time.  Painful and wonderful, convicting and releasing, all wrapped together in one blog post by Ann Voskamp:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's been a long time...

it's been 8 days since my last post.  why?  not because i haven't had anything to write about.  far from it.  my mind has been working overtime.  since declaring full-blown war on the enemy, he has been taunting me at every bend with the shackles i have worn so many times, waiting for me to fall and lie there so he can snap them back on.  not to say i haven't stumbled.  my journey forward is just a series of one stumbling step after another.  every time i get back up, the harder he presses down.  the beauty of life, the beauty of family, the beauty of love, has been opposed at every turn.  and i refuse to surrender.  "greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world."  i pray those verses i've been memorizing from ephesians--that i may don the full armor of God so that I can take my stand against the enemy's schemes, and, after i have done everything, to stand.

and i honestly haven't even been able to take my eyes off the battle long enough to write.  but now i find myself with a few minutes of peace and i look for something relaxing to do.  and my blog beckons because writing is like medicine for my soul.

and, much to my good friend's chagrin, i'm going to write in all smaller case letters because it feels good.  it feels relaxed.  and i'm trying to relax.

i went to MOPS today.  today's meeting was a community fair, of sorts.  we asked various organizations from our community to come and tell us a little bit about what they do and how we, as busy mommas, can help.  it was overwhelming.  i had tears in my eyes so very many times as i sat there listening to all the needs around me...

kids that stuff food in their pockets at lunch time so they have something to eat when they get home.  kids that come to school in shorts and a jacket, no shirt, on these 40 degree mornings.  a child whose soles of their shoes just fell off today at school.  a compassionate lady who gets the very great privilege of sending kids home with backpacks full of food, finding a shirt or shoes...providing pencils or shoeboxes or...whatever else a child comes and requests of her.

children in the court system who have been abused.  neglected.  parents that really don't know how to be a parent.  mommas on drugs.  advocates who give generously of their time to pore over thick files, preparing themselves to make an educated recommendation about the placement of those children.  advocates who go to court with the children, looking out for their best interest.  advocates who really try to see both sides of the issue--the perspective of a momma who wants her kiddos but can't seem to pull it together; the desires of a child who wants to be with their momma but needs more than she can give.

families that need pots and pans, blankets, heat.  families that need homes.  mothers that need vaccines so their children don't contract tetnus when the doctor cuts the umbilical cord.  mothers who are choosing between life and death for their fetus.  parents who are struggling with the aftermath of abortion.  on and on and on...

and i'm inundated with the needs of the world.  and i am but one.  so, i pray...what can i do?

what can we do?

and i think about what mother teresa said:  "Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you."

and i think about what Scriptures say:  i was hungry and you fed me, thirsty, and you gave me a drink, naked, and you clothed me.  (my paraphrase.)

and i think about what God told me recently:  do something.  something.  don't sit in your fears.  move.  there's a need, fill it.

and i am amazed that i get to do something.  fill a shoebox with gifts so a needy child has a present for Christmas.  give some food to a backpack program that ensures needy kids get to eat throughout the weekend.  swing a hammer or paint a wall so a family can have a safe and comfortable home.

just a little something.  and God blesses.  and big things happen.  and i'm overwhelmed just thinking of how He multiplies our efforts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin?

It is true.  For the first time in probably 10 years, I roasted a pumpkin.  I used to do this in college.  And I would make pumpkin muffins with cream cheese icing.  YUM!  But college kids have time for stuff like that.  When you actually need food for a family of four, you don't usually have the time to do these kinds of things.  One-pot and crock pot meals become the norm for dinner.  Dessert?  If you're lucky.

But then one day you start talking about pumpkin bread with a friend and you have an overwhelming craving for the yumminess of old.

So, I went to our local farm store and bought a pumpkin, roasted it, froze some, and set some out for muffins, toasted the seeds (and burned them beyond the point of being edible), and made muffins!  I even made the cream cheese icing.  It all sounds so much fancier than it is.

So, if any of you are interested, here's the what and how of my semi-home-made pumpkin muffins.

Roast the pumpkin:

Cut in half, set the halves on a cookie sheet, cover the tops with aluminum foil and roast at 400 for about an hour or until soft.

Freeze the pumpkin:

Scoop out the pumpkin.  (Toss skins in compost.)  Blend or process.  Measure into freezer baggies the amount you need for your fave recipes.  (I freeze 1 1/2 cups in each baggie.)  Label and freeze.

(Pumpkin should thaw in about an hour after removing it from freezer.)

Make the muffins:

Buy a box of Spice Cake mix.  Use the recipe on the side for Apple Spice Cake, subbing pumpkin for apples:

1 pkg. Spice Cake Mix
3 large eggs
[1 1/2 c.pureed pumpkin]
1/3 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. water [or less if your pumpkin is watery; I use 1/3 c.]
1 c. chopped nuts [I opt out]
1/2 tsp cinnamon [or more]

Pour all ingredients together and mix at medium speed for two mins.  Place liners in muffin cups.  Fill cups 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 until lightly brown and cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  [Approx 18 mins.]

Make the icing:


1 block of cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar

Slather the icing all over the baby cakes and...

Eat 'em up!  Yum, yum!

One of these days I'll get really ambitious and make the muffins from scratch.  For now this is all I can muster.  Please don't remind me of the hydrogenated oils, preservatives, xanthan gum, etc. in the mix.  I'm trying to eat in ignorant bliss...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Some Progress--Finally!

Just in case any of you get tired of hearing my woes, here is some super exciting and uplifting news:  I can see some progress in my memorization!  Can we all just get up now and turn a few cartwheels?!?!

I have heard so many people say (and I have been one of them), "I can't memorize things...I just can't."  Sister, if I can, ANYONE can.  But I am now convinced that we have to be passionate about what we are memorizing.  I was trying to work on James (and the book was beating me alive) and then Psalms, but I just wasn't feeling it.  It wasn't speaking to me, right now, where I'm at.  So, I sat down recently and wrote out some passages that spoke to my current struggles and a passage out of Ephesians 6 lit up like lightning.

I have been working on memorizing it and I thought I would just share how it's going, in case any of you are interested.  First, I prayed, "God, help me do this!"  Second, I wrote it down (every little bitty word), laminated it, and I pull it out and read it after my quiet time, over and over and over.  Thirdly, I have it bookmarked on my phone Bible app and I read it while I'm sitting in the car waiting in the pick-up line at preschool, sitting with the girls while they fall asleep, and sitting on the pot.  Sorry if that's TMI.  Fourthly, I try to recall it, all the time--walking around my house, eating breakfast, folding laundry, taking a shower.  Again, TMI?

And, though I don't have it all down just exactly right, here's what I have.  And I'm sharing because this is exciting stuff!  Seriously!  For months I worked on other passages and I never made it past chapter 1 of James.  In about two weeks, I have just about gotten these 9 verses.  I'm beyond excited.  I know for some of you, this may be a very small feat, but can you just go ahead and get excited for me anyway?  This is a big stinkin' deal for me.  And maybe for some others out there, 9 verses seems daunting.  More than anything, I'm hoping this may give someone who has been hesitant to dive into memorization to give it a try!

I think about the [horrible] movie The Book of Eli. Please hear me clearly:  I am not recommending this movie.  I could not watch more than a few minutes of it before realizing it was too intense and violent for me.  But my man watched it all--twice--and love the story line.  He can somehow look past all the beat 'em up, shoot 'em up, and kill 'em stuff.  I can't.  (Shudder)  But, he did give me a summary, and the super skinny version is this, (stolen straight from

A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.

A sacred book.  He is carrying the very last printed copy of the Bible.  But, somewhere along his journey, the Sacred Book is taken from him.  All hope seems lost.  But, when the man reaches the other side of America, where he is supposed to deliver the Book to someone who can save it and share it with everyone, he begins to recite the Book, from memory, in its entirety.

I say all that to say this:  I think we completely underestimate the power of our minds.  The ability of our minds.  The priests and prophets of old would have memorize every morsel of Divine Script, every single word that was available to them.  We can do it!  What if one day the printed Word is not available to us?  To our children?  Then it better be deep down in our hearts.

"Thy Word have I hidden in my heart..."  Let's do it!!!!  Spur each other on to lofty, and loftier, goals!!!

So, here is my first step in what I hope is a life-long process of deep memorization...

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you may take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the heavenly spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground.  And, after you have done everything, to stand!  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all sorts of prayers and requests.  And with this in mind, be alert, and always keep on praying for all the saints."

Ok, I know that probably has a lot of mistakes, one of which--heavenly--I realized was wrong as soon as I typed it; so, here's the real real passage, copied and pasted:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

Hmmm...not as bad as I thought!  I subbed a few synonyms here and there, but all in all, the meaning remained the same.  YIPEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!  He enables.

Are you memorizing something?  If so, I'd love to know!  Just for fun, share, share!  I think it's encouraging to hear what others are doing.  And He gets ALL the glory!!!

Thankful today for... 
#24. the God-given ability to stretch our minds!
#25.  some brilliant sunshine...
#26.  Christian fiction...
#27.  a good book that kept me up into the wee hours of the morning...
#28.  incomprehensible energy today, despite my less-than-four-hours of sleep (Yeah, I know that won't last, that's why I'm so thankful for it now.)...
#29.  comfy PJ's...
#30.  time to myself while my big girls is at school and my babe is playing with her cousin at Nana's house...
#31.  coffee...
#32.  my man getting up and making coffee nearly every day before I'm even out of bed (Have I told you lately how spoiled I am?)
#33.  a washer and dryer...
#34.  legs to get off this couch and go fold laundry...

May the Lord make His face to shine upon you today!