Monday, December 26, 2011

watching joy...

I sat behind friends at our Christmas Eve service.  I watched them share joy.  I saw her lean into him.  He leaned toward her and she whispered in his ear.  Whatever she said... it was funny to them.  They quietly chuckled, shoulders shaking in silent laughter.   

All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
      Thank him to his face!
   He gets angry once in a while, but across
      a lifetime there is only love.
   The nights of crying your eyes out
      give way to days of laughter.
Psalm 30:4-5 (The Message)

I held their newborn baby in awe.  Their fifth-born child.  The fourth who lives upon this earth.  I gazed at this new life in awe of  a God who answers prayer and heals hearts.  In awe of the answered prayers... mine, their's and other's.  Prayers for grace... for healing... for joy.

I sat behind them as we came together to honor the Word that became flesh for us and I thanked Him... because it is by His stripes we are all healed and it is through Him we are given joy.

I like holding newborn babies and I love watching joy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas morning...

I slept in.

I can hardly believe I am saying this but it is 100% true!  And, it felt soooooo good!

I have had a life-long love affair with Christmas morning.  It started as a child.  My parents would let us wake them at 7 a.m. and my mom would hurry out to plug in the Christmas tree.  I even remember one Christmas when she woke us!  In college, I would make my younger siblings get out of bed... just because it was Christmas morning {I can still hear their moans of despair}.

I have carried this love affair for 42 years.  While I still love Christmas morning... 

...this year is different.  

We slept in.  I got up at 9:38 a.m. and have had a slow morning of enjoying my family and looking forward to friends coming to spend the rest of the day with us.  There is not a trace of wrapping paper on the floor nor are there gifts under the tree.  My kids, though, are enjoying new books and such.

Parenting is a journey of new discoveries.  Chad and I discovered one last night.  While playing Phase 10 with the kids at 10 p.m., one of the kids said "wouldn't it be great if we could open gifts as soon as it is Christmas... like at midnight?!"  Without many words but a great deal of unspoken communication, an agreement was made between the parents of this house... "why not?"

So we did... I think the greatest part was completely surprising our children... who think we say "NO!" to everything.

Today has been much talk of Jesus... His gift, our salvation.  We have talked about those who chose to live today in different ways and those who chose to honor the arrival of the newborn King differently.   We've had some great conversation and some quality time on this slow Christmas morning.

... perhaps a new tradition started when our 3 looked us at us dumbfounded when we said "why not?"

Friday, December 23, 2011

a few quiet thoughts...

Sitting here in the quiet of my living room... it's the first time I've been quiet in a few weeks... really, really quiet.  There is a stillness in my soul that feels oh-so-right and a peace in this moment.  

Sitting here in the quiet with the mancub... that one who is more man than cub every. single. day.  Took him, today, to ask about a job application that he turned in a couple of weeks ago.  I heard him say "I'm almost 15" and my heart skipped a beat.  Almost 15?  How?  When?  Where?  

This child of mine who is 6'2".   The one I carried heavy in my womb 15 Christmas' ago.  That one time in my life where I thought I could maybe understand a bit of Mary's journey as I felt him move and dwell deep within.  That one who came... finally!  3 inductions and 3o hours later.  He who turned my world upside down and inside out and left me aching for more children.

I look at him in wonder... and I wonder... what did Mary think?  I know the Word says "she pondered these things in her heart" (Luke 2:19).  I used to think she pondered the newborn son and the fact that a host of angels announced His birth.  I used to think it was a one time pondering of a mother holding her newborn... counting fingers and toes, watching a wee chest rise and fall... holding him close to her breast in awe that she sustained Him.

I now wonder... was Mary's pondering more than that?  Did she ponder for 33 years?  Did she look at her 5 year old Son and be in awe of His goodness?  Did she wonder where 15 years went?  Did she look at the young man that worked willingly by his father's side and wonder of the relationship that was father/son but not Father/Son?

As a mother, of a first-born son, I'm thinking Mary must have many quiet thoughts... pondered many things... many times... as she treasured all within her heart.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

favorite Christmas books...

this is my all-time favorite Christmas book!
it tells the story from beginning to end
of the need for the Messiah
who has come to save me
from myself and my sinfulness.

One Wintry Night
by Ruth Bell Graham
is my second all time favorite
Christmas book.
With incredible illustrations by
Richard Jesse Watson
Mrs. Graham 
tells the Christmas story
from the babe in the manger
to the Messiah on the cross.

tonight their father read 1 Samuel 3 
for our family's Bible time
and later
I read One Wintry Night
in our pj's
I received the gift of 
another year of snuggle time
and the joy
of sharing the best story ever
with them!


I've been fighting a migraine for about 30 hours now.  For half of that time, I was immobilized... under the covers in the cold room with no light, no sound... sleeping.  

Why do I tell you this four days before Christmas?  I'm not looking for your sympathy... honestly, I get so few migraines anymore that I really don't want to complain.  Instead, I'm sitting here in the quiet and dark of my house marveling in His glory.

See... sometimes He has to remove me... immobilize me... lest I think anything I do is for my glory.  I imagine Him on his heavenly throne removing me from a situation or location so that He can do His good work.  I think I tend to get in the way.  

All of the hard work last week cleaning, sorting and pricing toys culminates this week.  We do that HUGE toy sale (we had over 13,000 toys for sale) so that money can be raised to buy brand new toys to pass out to families who are struggling this Christmas season.  We pass out the toys so that we can tell them about the One who came to be man to die for their sins and ours.  We work hard for 8 days so that we can spend 2 days giving toys and Jesus.

Sometimes I tend to think He needs me to do this.  People say things like "You're so good to do this" or "Bless you for doing this".  It tends to go to my head.  I tend to think  more highly of myself than I ought. 

Have no fear, though.  He knows exactly how to deal with the likes of me.  He immobilizes me. 

I have only been there for about an hour today.  The migraine is winning and I left my children to do His good work and I came back home to the dark and quiet.  He doesn't need me to get in the way today.  

At the last count I heard, 1818 local children have received new toys this Christmas season and their parents or grandparents have heard the name of Jesus Christ. 

I've been immobilized and I am confident it is not a coincidence. It is all for His glory!

Monday, December 19, 2011

running over myself...

Each new year, I commit to doing less and being more.  I even drop out of things that are fun and good for the greater good of savoring the days that make up my life, my children's lives.   Each January I do this... and even though the days of each year look different, the years seem to be the same... crazy, chaotic and taxing.

I think I have good intentions... I just fail at the follow through.  So, because He knows me best, loves me most and can intervene at His will, He sometimes allows things to happen that purposely slllooooowwwwwww me down.  

For instance...

Bet you want to know about that one, huh? Let's just say, when one jumps out of one's vehicle in one's driveway to catch a run-away trash can, one should always put one's vehicle in park.  Especially, in case of one's belt loop catching on the door bolt and one not being able to reach the brake pedal.  One should do this always.  Every.single.time.

That scratch has been my reminder for a few days to sllloooooowwwwwwww down.  No, I was not speeding when that happened.  In fact, I'm not sure the truck was moving more than 10 mph.  It's just that my brain was moving in hyperdrive trying to remember all that things I needed to do, the places I need to be, all the things I wanted to accomplish on that day.  In my haste, I forgot basic survival skills... such as, always put your vehicle in park before you attempt to exit it.  Thankfully, He intervened before I ran myself over.

There are times in my haste in life that I do run myself over.  I run myself ragged trying to please Him, others, myself.  In my haste, I make waste.  I waste the moments that make up my days by spinning out of control.  I waste the days that He gives me by trying to do to do too much.  The amount of time I have wasted has added up to years of my life spent running for naught.

The amazing part?  Often what causes me to run myself over is good stuff.  This slight mishap happened last Thursday... just after helping to serve lunch to the faculty and staff at Emme's school... as I was going home to host Bible study... before I went back to the toy drive.  All good things.  Just too many of them.

Sometimes it's too much of good things that causes me to run over myself.  

Friday, December 16, 2011


Toy Time 2011
became this...
when over 100 volunteers
got together for 5 days
to clean, sort and price
13,400+ toys 
from 160+ donors

we even had a little fun...
with Ami,
our fearless leader

Monday, December 12, 2011

what if...

What if?  I think I know the answer...  I would be changed from the inside out.  Every. single. thing would take on a new luster and I would take on a new joy. 

I am quick to forget though.   He is faithful to remind me.  This morning this cartoon was on the wall of a facebook friend.  This is how I want to be every. single. day.

Continuing to count with the gratitude community on this Multitude Monday...

... a warm house
... love inside
... my big bathtub
... snuggling with a warm puppy
... a girl big enough to make her own teacher treats and clean up afterward

... coffee with Sweet Italian Cream
... smaller jeans
... learning to cast down idols
... forgiveness
... His faithfulness

... coming home to a rousing game of Monopoly
... the creativity of my friend Kari
... her servant's heart
... the sharing of her talent
... friendship

... family Bible time
... hearing the prayers of my children
... the glimpses of maturity I see
... Advent traditions
... that the almost 15 year old still participates

... learning to embrace more by living less each Advent
... the thrill of my 3 E's servant hearts this beginning day of Toy Time
... answered prayer
... upcoming Christmas break
... the promise of family coming

Saturday, December 10, 2011

on sharing a burden...

My sister and I have commented much lately on the liberties people take when talking about one another.  Seems to me, that when we were kids {you know... a 100 years ago... or at least in the 70s} people were more apt to mind their own business {or beeswax as we said in elementary school}.  There were certain subjects such as politics and religion that were considered off limits to gossip.   It was okay to disagree on those subjects without slandering each other.

What has happened in the past 30-40 years?  Especially in churches?  We act as if the world is entitled to our opinion.   More than that... we are quick to give our own opinion as the only opinion that is the right opinion.  We have become slanders, gossips and backbiters.  We say incredibly hurtful things as if we have an innate right to do so.   The worst part... it seems to be Christians who do this to one another.

This week, I read a news article and my heart was saddened.  Nine and half years ago, my husband, my son, my daughter, my parents and I buried our stillborn son.  I lost him at 16 weeks.  I was in my second trimester.  I found out when I went for a routine office appointment.  I laid on a gurney while the ultrasound showed our very still son whose heart no longer beat deep within me.  We named him Matthew Eli.  We buried him... complete with a memorial stone.  We grieved long and hard.   My heart has been saddened for the Duggar family.  I know that kind of pain.

My heart has also been saddened at the comments that I have heard Christians say concerning the Duggars and the recent miscarriage that Michelle has experienced.  I cannot believe the hurtful and ugly things that have been said.  Mostly, I cannot believe that other people have made this sad time in the Duggar family their own business.  I cannot believe that suffering through a miscarriage is not off limits to gossip.

Today I read Megan at Millions of Miles and my heart smiled.  If you have a moment, please read.  Her words articulate what I am trying to say.  She says it beautifully. 

More than anything, please pray for the Duggar family.

Friday, December 09, 2011

for me...

I shared in yesterday's post that I am often frozen in fear.  Of all the possible things to fear... I fear people most.  I am a certifiable people pleaser.  I want people to like me... to be pleased with me... to be my friend. 

Often, I take this need for acceptance to the extreme.  I will sacrifice myself for these other people.  In my warped and sinful way, the way I go about this is all backward... I sacrifice the least for the four who live with me and sacrifice the most for people I hardly know.  Please don't ask me why... my only answer is that I am a sinner saved by grace.

So, one of the things I have most prayed for myself in the last six months is that I would develop thicker skin.  I want to have skin like an alligator and a heart like a lamb.  I want to be loving and caring without being bothered by every negative word that is spoken to me, about me or around me.

I think this is part of God's answer to that plea...
do you notice that there are 3 swimmers and 3 lifeguards?

Do you see that tank in the background?  That is a 13'6" diving pool filled with warm water.  It has become my haven.  For a nominal fee, we come here 2-4 times a week.  I lower myself in that warm water and tread and do water aerobics for 45-75 minutes.  Often, there are moments when I am the only one in that pool.  

My kids go back and forth between the two pools.  They are all good swimmers and I trust the lifeguards and so I can swim and relax... and listen to the giggles and the "watch me, Mom!"

All five of us go...

though sometimes we don't all swim...

either way, this open swim time has become something I truly look forward to.  Last night I closed me eyes and felt the warm water, listen to the tiny waves splash over the filter edge and thanked Him for this gift.

I feel like this has been a gift... for me... a time to learn to say "no" to other things and to enjoy 90 minutes with my family.  I am slowly learning that it is okay to say "no" in order to say "yes" to the four I love the most.  It is okay to say "no" to say "yes" to a gift from Him.

In this I have developed thicker skin, without even realizing it.  There are those who have disagreed with me going to the pool instead of doing other things.  More spiritual things, they assume.  It's funny... I'm becoming less and less bothered by that and more and more comfortable doing my own thing.  

Though my family may disagree... I'm thinking God has provided this gift of open swim for me... time with Him... time to exercise... time to unwind... time to learn how to say "no".

Thursday, December 08, 2011

frozen in fear... and thawing out of it...

I've been frozen in fear for a while now... didn't realize it, though, until I heard Jennie Allen talk about being stuck in fear (I reviewed her Stuck Bible study here).  

Sometimes I find myself so stuck that the "what if... " questions become comfortable companions.  

What if I fail?
What if they don't like it?
What if I embarrass myself? loved ones?
What if someone hates it?
What if they reject me?
what if...
what if...
what if...

I live with those question and a thousand more and allow them to become close friends.  I allow them to fill my mind, my thoughts, my waking moments.  I spend all my time with them 24/7.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. 
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself 
up against the knowledge of God, 
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 
And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, 
once your obedience is complete.
2 Corinthians 10:4-6

Slowly... ever so slowly... I'm learning that way out of being frozen in fear is to surrender to the Son.  When I surrender my thoughts... those thoughts that have plagued me... I surrender to One greater than I who sees what I do not.  

Sometimes He calls me to surrender the fear to His care and walk away.  Other times, He calls me to surrender the fear to His care and trust Him as I face the very thing of which I am afraid.

...either way, the thaw comes from the warmth of the Son...
 and in His Light, I bloom where I am planted.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

His name is JESUS!

And she will bring forth a Son, 
and you shall call His name JESUS, 
for He will save His people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21 (NKJV)

All this took place to fulfill 
what the Lord had said through the prophet: 
 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, 
and they will call him Immanuel” 
(which means “God with us”)
Matthew 1:22-23 (NIV)

I need this Jesus... this one who came to save me from my sins.  I need Immanuel... I need God with me every single minute.  I need a Savior... a Prince of Peace.  I need HIM!

Only 15 minutes into today, I came face to face with my sinfulness.  It's not a pretty way to wake up.   It started with selfishness...and a little pride...

UGH!  Can't take Emme to school because someone hit the door lock
and locked my keys in the truck... that same truck that
is parked so nice and warm in my garage.  
Why?  Can't I just get my hands around
the neck that did this?
Now I can't go anywhere today
{my concern for my own freedom overshadowed
my concern of getting Emme to school on time...}

right behind it... pride mixed with a little self-righteousness sprinkled with anger....

He did it wrong.  I knew I should have said something
last night when I saw him doing it wrong.
He only gets mad at me when I point these things out;
but, if I don't, I'm the one that suffers.
He doesn't care if I use this phone or not
but now I can't because he did it wrong!

Flipping my shoes off by the basement door, I lean on the table that holds our advent tree.  That tree on which we place a different name of Jesus each night as we spent the weeks of advent refreshing our memory of Who He is.

I wish I could say it was then and there that I threw myself at the feet of Grace and asked for forgiveness.  I wish I would respond as one to whom much grace has been given.  I wish...

Instead, I stewed and fretted.  I called for a ride for Emme to school and barely said "thank you!!"  

It wasn't until after I bathed, dressed and surfed the web this morning that I finally woke up.  I need a Mighty God... I need Immanuel... God with me.  I need this One called Jesus and I need Him continually.  Without Him I am nothing but a selfish ornery brat who throws tantrums when she doesn't get her way.

I need Him and His name is JESUS~ He came to save me from my sins!

but I can't get it to work...

thankfully, for this one time,
I am not frustrated
that this is not going the way
I had planned.
Thank You JESUS!!

Monday, December 05, 2011

He came...

unseen... unknown... unrecognized... 
He came.  

Two knew... an angel and a girl {not much older than my own}.  They brought in a third... a young carpenter {perhaps just a few years older than my mancub} in love with that girl.  These three, and God Himself, knew of the seed growing deep within.

They were not asked... they were chosen.  Chosen for something hard... appointed before time began to do perhaps the hardest thing ever asked of human parents... rear the Christ Child.

In blind obedience they said YES! ... though not at the same time.  These two, young and wise, said YES! to God and YES! to immediate submission to a plan much greater than they could ever know.

He came!  In the form of an unborn babe swelling inside a virgin girl.  In the darkness and warmth, He developed and grew.  God and man together for the first and only time in the womb of the young girl.

He came!  The King of Kings arrived in a lowly, smelly, damp and dank stable after a long and arduous journey for His young earthly parents.  Ushered to earth by a chorus of Heavenly Beings all praising God for this miraculous event... witnessed only by some shepherds protecting their flocks... He came!

We sing...
O come O come Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to you O Israel

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse's stem, 
From ev'ry foe deliver them 
That trust your mighty pow'r to save; 
Bring them in vict'ry through the grave. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to you, O Israel!

...we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel in remembrance but do we remember that He came?  He came! 

Emmanuel... God With Us came and dwelt among us.  He came to set the captive free... to set me free.

Sitting in awe and with deep gratitude this rainy Monday...

for me, the gift of Emmanuel,
He came.

Friday, December 02, 2011

the most wonderful time of year..

December... my favorite time of year.  I love tradition and have built many family traditions around the month of December.  I love Advent and the counting down of days.  I love spending a whole month reading of the coming Messiah... my Savior.

We talk about the candles and we read through the scriptures.  We study the One who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and to offer grace for all.

We reacquaint ourselves with some of the names of Jesus found in Scripture.  He is the Lion of Judah, the Messiah, the Bright Morning Star.  The Word is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  The Holy One of Israel came to be the Light of the World.  I need the reminder of all that is I Am.

We schedule around the 10 days that we call Toy Time.  Ten days to give of our time, our energy, our stuff to serve others.  Ten days to stop in the madness of the Christmas rush and to give rather than receive.  Ten days to hand out toys and give away Jesus.

December is a month steeped in tradition.  Traditions that get harder to keep year after year.  The kids grow up.  More and more events pull and tug at us.  We can't do it all and sometimes we don't do any of it.  Other times, we do what we can and love on each other the best we can.  This year, we are late starting our Advent tree.  We haven't gotten our Christmas tree yet and our work at Toy Time will be sporadic around school schedules.

This December I don't want to wig out on what we don't do and how we haven't fulfilled every idea and tradition that I've created.  

Instead, I want to rest in awe of my Creator, my Messiah, my Savior, my LORD.  I want this most wonderful time of year to be all about the most wonderful gift of all... HIM!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Stuck... a BookSneeze review

I tend to have an obsession with Bible study.  I love following along someone's journey and flipping back and forth between the Old Testament and the New.  Seeing how it all fits together in a story of sin, grace and redemption thrills me.

When I saw Stuck by Jennie Allen up for review on BookSneeze, I jumped at the chance to review this DVD Bible study for small groups.  I asked four friends to join me and together we have met weekly to work through Jennie's study.

From Jennie...

This study began for me out of a deep struggle—a stuck place. It would serve better to call it something a tad more dramatic . . . it was a war. The kind of war that happens inside of you, the kind that nobody sees. God versus me and all my junk. It wasn’t something I could even put words to at the time. In fact, those close to me were oblivious to the chaos ensuing behind my gathered exterior.
But it was real and raging, and even though I couldn’t describe it, I was keenly aware of its presence and was exhausted by it.

I was stuck.

I experienced a sense of bondage I could not name and did not know how to escape. The outside of my life was bright and shiny, but inside I was a mess: anxious, lonely, afraid, and looking for significance.
This study exists because I know I am not alone in this. The more I am let into the deep crevasses of people’s hearts, the more I am convinced that every one of us is fighting something. Yet we look out from our secret wars and see people who smile peacefully and seem to be all right—and we smile back at them.

I’m done smiling.

God is about doing something on this planet. He is about doing something in me, and as long as I am privately fighting and losing inside, He is not getting a thing done through or in me. He has a plan for these spaces inside of us, the places we feel broken, but we have to go to Him.
Stuck is a journey to take an honest look at the fight going on inside, leading us to the God who has a plan to restore it, to restore us.


See. Eight short but deep videos provide a starting place for transparent conversations.
Study. The Study Guide uses projects, stories, and Bible study to engage the mind and heart.
Lead. The Leader's Guide prepares you to lead this study and encourages you along the way.
Ask. Conversation Cards offer questions for spontaneous and authentic discussion time.

A little of my heart:

Women are hurting. A lot of us feel stuck. This is not a novel perception- this is human. We are stuck trying to be perfect. Stuck in sadness. Stuck feeling numb. Stuck pursuing more stuff to make us happy. Stuck in something we can’t even name. And most of our stuck places are invisible to the world. Which keeps us from dealing with them.
When I wrote Stuck, I dreamt of creating things that took women to deep places- real places. I think we may have learned so much about God- that we missed actually knowing Him.
I want us to live truth- not just memorize it. And this takes encountering a supernatural God. I pray this study will push you up face to face with Jesus, and in the process you will grow closer to the women around you- going to war with stuck places. The trenches are a good birthplace for the deepest of friendships.
I don’t know that the goal is getting unstuck. Our stuck places are the very places that make us ache for God, leading us to Him and His freedom. God’s never been one to tie up our problems with little pretty bows and send us on our way. We wrestle and as we wrestle on this journey, we depend entirely on him. We are inadequate to fix our lives.... and we have a relationship building God who likes to move in and settle in holes within us that hurt.
I want us to band together as women and grow and live and experience God.

While, our group loved the 9 minute video clips of a very real Jennie sharing her heart, we {heart} the discussion questions each week.  We all agree this was the highlight of our group.  Each of us had a different question to read and any who wished could answer.  These questions prompted us to share our hearts and our struggles and it gave us a window into each other's soul.

Deep :: Short :: Real is how Jennie Allen has chosen to market this new study. I would definitely agree that it was short and real.  This study is not as deep as a Kay Arthur or Beth Moore study.  While I love doing studies by both of those authors, this study is less intimidating than theirs.   

Jennie Allen does not assume that a woman doing her study has accept Jesus as her Savior.  In the first week's homework, Jennie does an incredible job laying out the plan of salvation.  

This study would be a great study for a new believer, one who is searching or someone who desperately seeks to be in the word but lacks time to do a long study.  

***disclaimer... I received a copy of Stuck for my honest review as part of the BookSneeze blogger program.  I received no other compensation.