Friday, December 9, 2016

Twelve

The tree is up, the lights are strung, the holiday anticipation is mounting... 

But first, Andrew.

Birthdays come 'round so quickly. Now he is twelve.


His special day fell on a busy weekday, so it was just the boys and me for dinner that night. We waited till Olivia was home from her night class at school and Jon from teaching his men's group at church to celebrate with song and cake.




His one birthday wish was a unicycle.


He has been quick to master it. He can now ride for a couple blocks to the local school, and he is even able to "free mount." I guarantee, riding a unicycle is harder than you'd think. I know 'cause I tried!


Andrew, being the guy that he is, studied up in the weeks leading to his birthday. He knew exactly what size and style he needed, and had watched countless videos on the best way to learn. I have no doubt he had mentally practiced, visualized, and dreamed about riding so that when the time came, he was ready to go. Calculation and preparation combined with unshakeable determination are characteristic of this boy. 

I think he has the materials he needs to ride pretty far in life....




This boy loves the beach, too, and there was no doubt that this was where he wanted to go. He told me he didn't want a party with lots of people, just one or two friends who like to play tackle football in the sand. He said he likes to go to parties, but doesn't like being the center one. Funny, I thought, how similar we are in this way. 






We practically had the beach to ourselves. Andrew and Jacob played with two of their friends till the sun set, at which point Jon and our older two joined us. After dark, the kids played Ghost in the Graveyard, and we grilled our food over some flames. Simple, easy, delightful.




If you have read past birthday posts, I'd have to say Andrew has remained about the same. He's just so consistent. He follows his routine, always has a plan in mind for the day, and is persistent in accomplishing his goals. He is orderly and focused.

He takes school work seriously, yet he is just as serious about getting it completed and out of the way so he can get on with his plans! He definitely has a mathematical mind, but confidently writes his weekly papers and maintained a perfect score thus far in his writing class. He enjoys serving the toddlers in our church nursery, experimenting with plants, catching lizards and salamanders, playing football, and body boarding. He is super dependable with chores around the kitchen and house. It is his job to keep the interior of my car clean: he takes out all the mats before using the shop vac, and wipes down all the surfaces... often without being asked!

What has been really neat to see recently is his sense of humor developing and, well, making me laugh at the unpredictable things he says. He has gained a tremendous amount of confidence, and this has been evident in his witty come-backs. He is also much more inclined to laugh at himself than he used to be, and this light-hearted approach within relationships is just so sweet to see.

I guess he is considered a pre-teen by age, but I'd say he is older in character and younger in boyish playfulness. With two teens ahead of him already, I know the changes will come swiftly and drastically. I'm committed to cherishing the last little while of his boyhood days. Sweet Andrew. What a special son he is!


~Katherine

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Downer Post? Not Really, Just Life.

How's that for a title? I never wanted this blog to be about proper form and perfection, so I'm going with it.



The Saturday after Thanksgiving was a perfect day for sitting on the beach while the boys played. I was tired from an eventful week of cooking and hosting (add to that an oven that stopped working), and the boys were eager to get out of doors. The sky was dark and moody as a storm moved eastward. I appreciated this change of scenery, too, as I rested all bundled up on the shore. I read and journaled, thought and prayed. I have sensed an uneasiness within as I've tried to sort through struggles and deep questions that I suppose only God can sort through with me. I am thankful He doesn't leave me to fix myself alone. I only wish the fixing would take place quicker, with less pain.





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A week later, I sat in the receding afternoon sunlight, my shoulders tense despite the warm balm of our California atmosphere surrounding me. Stealing away to the backyard was an option I should have taken sooner. Tears rolled into the fabric of my sweater, hot, round, and steady. Obligation, expectation, duty weighed heavy; exhaustion, inability, and disappointment constantly defined my days. And self-pity. Ugly, destructive self-pity that never, ever leads to good.

I strive to be a worshiper of God and a lover of people, with my heart set on eternity. I long for this posture of heart and disposition of the will to define my life. Despite that, again and again, I stray in one wrong direction or another. Yet, if there is ever any good that would come from repeated failure on my part and the sin of self-pity, it is that my constant need for my Savior is brought to the forefront once again... and then repentance and the restoration of a right spirit.

And really, is there a better time than the Christmas season to be stretched, humbled, and then broken again if the result is renewed humility, recognition of my desperate need of Christ, and gratefulness and praise for His humiliation and sacrifice on my behalf? Such great love for this unworthy recipient can only be understood by divine comprehension. Oh, but praise be to God!


“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
1 Timothy 1:15

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When the storms roll in and when life feels weighty, I look to the details and search for beauty of all sorts. Sometimes I don't need to look further than the kitchen window.

The novelty of droplets of water captured me...


And a flower brought to me by my man-sized boy.


Experimentation with light coming through and reflecting in the kitchen window continued to entertain me that night, and it broke up the monotony of a week spent on a few square feet of kitchen tile.  




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Christmas tradition:

Some have come sort of accidentally, while others have been more purposeful. Mostly, our traditions are simple things we do (or eat!) that are special to us and bring us together in anticipation each year, all the while forging familial bonds and making deposits of memories that communicate affection and intentionality long into the future. Or at least I hope for such a result.

However, tradition is just empty form and obligation if it distracts from loving God and loving others. If we become a sort of slave to tradition, and if our kids have a sense of entitlement, all good meaning goes awry and the purpose is defeated. I have sensed a need to de-prioritize tradition this year, maybe even let some go. I have already felt a freedom from the burden and distraction as a result of this decision.

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I sat in church today in our usual front row pew. I'm not a front-row-sitter by nature, but I sit there to be with my husband-pastor while he isn't behind the pulpit. I'd rather just blend in, unnoticed, somewhere in the middle. And I like to people watch, too, which I cannot do from the front row! Interestingly, I have found that front row sitting has done some good things for me over the years. It's a small way among many in which God has taught me that my life is not about my preferences, that sitting next to my husband in actual and figurative ways is good, and that my mind and heart are better able to worship without other people to look at. So I'm thankful for front row sitting.

But today... it was really tough. Distractions from within plagued me while we sang and prayed. My mind thought about all the things I needed to do this week, about persistent sadness and what-ifs, about an event we are hosting next weekend... the menu, the guests, the decorations, the rearranging of furniture... 

If only I could be free of my wandering mind. The freedom and ability to worship fully, sincerely, and undistracted is something I look forward to experiencing someday in glory.

>:<

If this post should end with some sort of summation (if I am going to bend to some sort of form after all), it is that I long for this Christmas season to be rich with meaning and authentic worship. In all the real and perceived obligation, expectation, and duty, I pray that I would be found drawing ever nearer to God in wonder and thanksgiving. I pray that in Him I would find my truest joy and rest, and that through His strength and by His grace I may sincerely love those around me with a love that reflects the love of Christ.


~Katherine




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Miscellany

A few thoughts, quotes, events, and pictures as we move out of this season and into the holidays....


Fall sunsets here are captivating. These pictures are from a spontaneous evening on the shore... just a few moments of play as the sun set.



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Tired of politics and all the nonsense it has caused within relationships? Instead of getting all up in arms with what's going on in our culture, consider this:

“The patriot, who hopes that schools and lyceums (or colleges), and the general diffusion of knowledge, will promote the good order and happiness of the community while family government is neglected, will find that he is attempting to purify the streams which are flowing from a corrupt fountain. It is maternal influence, after all, which must be the great agent, in the hands of God, in bringing back our guilty race to duty and happiness. O that mothers could feel this responsibility as they ought! …There is no combination of causes so powerful in promoting the happiness or the misery of our race, as the instruction of home. In a most peculiar sense God has constituted you the guardians and the controllers of the human family.” (The Mother at Home, John S.C. Abbott)

Think again if you feel that "moral" government, culture, schools, etc. will turn out a better generation. Get offline and live in reality, doing the work God has given you right in front of your face, whatever that means for you.  :)

My life will have the greatest impact now and for the generations to come if I faithfully raise up children that hope in God, equipping them to go into the world and be difference makers. We have an incredible opportunity and responsibility as moms. May we not get side-tracked. Stay kingdom-minded. Keep your eyes on Jesus!

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A good thought on accepting each of our days as they come (including the surrounding circumstances and trials):

“Mercifully, God does not leave us to choose our own curriculum. His wisdom is perfect, his knowledge embraces not only all worlds but the individual hearts and minds of each of His loved children. With intimate understanding of our deepest needs and individual capacities, He chooses our curriculum… An angry retort from someone may be just the occasion we need in which to learn not only longsuffering and forgiveness, but meekness and gentleness; fruits not born in us but borne only by the Spirit.” (Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot)


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I took pictures till it was too dark, then played with the rest.



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The truth is I’m still a complainer at times, but I’m working on it! Here's a good reminder regarding the goodness of God in all things:

“Everything about which we are tempted to complain may be the very instrument whereby the Potter intends to shape His clay into the image of His Son— a headache, an insult, a long line at the check-out, someone’s rudeness or failure to say thank you, misunderstanding, disappointment, interruption. [Seek] a peaceful and happy contentment in the assurance that goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives.” (Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot)

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What He Said:

“When I grow up, Mom, I want to be either a trash truck driver or a pastor.”

Um, I had no words. So many, many thoughts… but not a single word.

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Because of Romans 6, and other passages:

I thanked the Lord today— out loud as I was driving— because I am learning new things from His Word. They are things that I knew before, but hadn’t fully understood in a way that applied to my life practically. This is the difference between illumination and simple head knowledge. God’s Word is immensely practical, and it works in us in a way that changes us. I am learning in a deeper way what it means to LIVE… To have true LIFE... FREEDOM from the dominion of sin. With the work and help of the Holy Spirit, this is huge in my daily life and tremendously practical. It changes everything!

Oh, that I would increasingly take hold of this truth in such a way that my life continues to change, bearing fruit for His glory.

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I wasn't sure if I was going to post these pictures, but I asked the opinion of a special someone and now here they are. I ran my first half marathon this month...


It was a very early morning and the temps were quite a bit cooler than normal. I am not a morning runner. In fact, I am not a morning anything! 


A pre-race smooch. 


I should have been quicker about getting in the lineup because I had to run at a slower pace than I would have liked for the first mile or so. I learned a thing or two about strategy through my mistakes and through the observation of others in this race.


It was fun seeing my people just passed the start, then again midway. Cheers from my tiny crowd were the best!


While I ran, the others played in the cool fog...


I'm thankful for these pictures taken by Jon.



Half way-ish...

It was super special to be on the receiving end of cheers! Having never participated in team or competitive sports, this was a special experience for me.

I typically run my best after the first 5 miles, but in this case I had the worst ever cramps ever to fight through (ladies... you know the ones!). 


Waiting some more. I so appreciate their patience!


Then after I crossed the finish line...



This race was so good for me: training, perseverance in setbacks (shin splints), increased health, completion, new habits, increased motivation... I am thankful. I spent my 20s growing and feeding babies, and entered my 30s physically depleted. My health was not in the best standing for other reasons, and intense fatigue and musculoskeletal issues made me live in pain and exhaustion. The reality of an aging body came swiftly and intensely. Pain and fatigue meant that I wasn't active, and a loss of activity lead to a loss of strength and mobility.

But the Lord has been gracious. Though I entered my 30s more or less like an elderly lady, I hope to exit this decade strong and ready for more usefulness ahead. It has always been my desire to enjoy the activity of life with strength and energy. I want to be useful for the kingdom for as many years as the Lord gives me, and focused training and discipline in the area of health is an investment I am eager to make. Yes, I benefit in so many ways, but so do my husband, children, and others whom God places in my life.

On the other hand, if God chooses to take away the use of my legs (for example), I pray that I would recognize the fact that they were His to begin with. Ultimately, He is the one who enables me to use them; if He takes away ability, may I serve Him fully to whatever extent He gives me. I want to use whatever it is He blesses me with to the max for His glory.

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We are entering a season of back-to-back festivities, celebrations, and togetherness! It will be a 5-6 week period of increased hospitality, ministry, and energy and financial output. It is a special time to be sure, but I pray that I would never lose sight of who and what truly matters most.


~Katherine