Thursday, October 23, 2014

Out to Play

It has been a full work day for me here. Some days I just have to move from one thing to the next, knowing full well that I can't possibly get to the bottom of the list. God doesn't expect me to do any more than I can, just to be faithful with my time and energy. I just finished scrubbing a shower and bathroom, and changing out ANOTHER load of laundry.

Life is not just about the work though! Good thing! I think a break now and then will only help me push forward later on. So this is it, a short break here at the computer for just a while.

(I doubt it will be uninterrupted though. Already I've had to help settle an issue between brothers, and stop one of their activities and redirect to another. I gave Michael an old modem to take apart, and he keeps coming in from the garage to show me the long strands of copper, or the tiny lights, or to explain to me how the pieces are soldered together. He says things like, "Mom! I just made an awesome discovery!" We now have a nice supply of copper for his science experiments. The little boys are now squealing as they run around in their swimsuits outside, throwing a wet ball at each other, and I wonder how our neighbors feel about us! Andrew came in to tell me I've got some pretty roses in bloom, and I went out to collect them for the kitchen island. Now where was I...?)

Some days I need a longer break, other days I sense my kids could benefit from a break from the usual. Now and then I think running around outdoors can be the best use of our time, regardless how much work awaits. This typically rubs agains my grain, against the way I'm wired. I have the tendency to want everything to be done before I can relax and have fun.

Anyway, this is what we did on Monday. It was just a spur of the moment outing. We remember these outings more than we remember dusted shelves and folded laundry.

Above: I failed at getting our start-of-the-year picture, a little tradition at the beginning of a new school year. I guess this will be it.

It's mostly a boy-world around here, but she and I band together. Actually, we're both probably more comfortable doing the boy stuff than we are with girly things.

My new hair cut. Kinda, sorta. It has already been a month since it was cut, and this is two-day old hair! Talk about not having everything done before heading out the door!

Michael had carved a little wood arrowhead, and he wanted to know my opinion. Olivia kept taking pictures...

Running free, making discoveries...

Funny mushrooms.

 Jacob looking at his brother, amazed (perplexed?) at the things he finds to do.

A little bun, held together by a stick.

Leave it to Olivia to find a tree swing!

And leave it to Michael to test it out first...

Oh, the joy!

I'm the trusty holder of treasures...

Puckering up when I made an exception and allowed the walking stick to come home. There are endless "special" sticks with my boys!

Oh, that I would not be overcome with my work and forget to enjoy my husband and children! I'm working at letting them know I enjoy them!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Miscellany of Journals

(Winter sunsets are on their way back.)

Thursday night, Oct. 16~

I'm pretty sure a cup of coffee at 8pm is going to be a bad idea for me later on, but right now it feels so nice! Then again, it's probably going to be another late night so I may as well enjoy it and be thankful for the little kick of wakefulness it will give me in just a little while. Olivia's team has a late practice tonight, so the activity around our house will also run later than usual. Then it will be time for all the stuff I do after the kids are in bed and the house is still.

It was another late night yesterday. Jon and I took off for a late walk after the kids were in bed. We had a wonderful time. We drove up the coast for a bit, parked, and continued to walk north. after turning around and heading back south, we continued till we were close to home. I'm sure I could have continued on most of the night. I LOVE walking; I especially love to walk while having a lively conversation. And we've had lots to discuss, Jon and I, with lots of potential misunderstandings we both preferred to avoid. In previous days the words weren't coming, the freedom to talk and to just be was stifled. Good marriages don't just happen, and there are road blocks and threats everywhere. I think the devil is particularly interested in destroying or otherwise soiling Christian marriages because they are to reflect Christ's love for His bride, the church. He loves to ruin that image in the eyes of the world. So we fight for closeness and pray for unity, we strive hard to love and serve each other selflessly. We want to actually know each other - our particular gifts and abilities, struggles and weakness - as we are and not as we wish the other to be. We want to compliment each other. We are different, yes, but we go together. We have to keep reminding us of that fact because we could more easily see the differences.

I joke with Jon that he's the oil, I'm the vinegar; he's the salt, I'm the pepper. In a number of ways, this analogy fits so well!

Ah, but communication! It makes all the difference. Open and honest. I am certain I am not as mature and loving as Jon is, but I felt loved and understood by him last night as we walked and talked. I hope to reciprocate this and support him the way he does for me.


Friday afternoon, Oct.17~

School was a real bear today. The city is doing some work on our lot-- taking out sidewalk and part of our lane because of root damage-- and the activity has been too much for my boys to ignore. The bob cat with pneumatic jack hammer, trucks, guys in hardhats... it was noisy and so very interesting to the boys. A couple times I had to go out and talk with the workers, and well, I kind of like being around construction, too. And I would never say this to my kids, but I even liked the smell of their cigarettes! My grandma smoked when I was little, and the smell of sweet tobacco is associated with good memories and a very elegant lady.

But it's Friday afternoon now and time for school to be behind us for a few days. Enough was accomplished in the end. The city workers should be done by dinner time, and we get to enjoy several thousand dollars worth of work free of charge to us. That's nothing to grumble about!


Late Monday night, Oct. 20~

It's no secret this has been a harder season for me. My energy level is low and I have been tired beyond the normal variety of tired. I get a little unsettled, too, just thinking about the amount of energy output needed over the next several months. I am reminded that the timing of this drop is not accidental by God, and that there are things for me to learn in this season. I've had Zechariah 4:6 in my head for several weeks now, and since Jon also mentioned it in church yesterday, I went ahead a wrote it out on my chalkboard today as further reminder.

It's what I need to learn and to remember in the busyness and in the mundane. It's what I need to practice over and over again. It is my prayer...

I know by experience that I don't have what it takes to live life victorious on my own. So I pray for God to fill me and lead me, to keep me steady (especially to be responsive and not reactive in my emotions), to give me wisdom, and to enable me to glorify Him in my work of loving others. I pray for relationship with Him, and for a moment by moment knowledge of His presence within me.

My strength and my power fail, but His is unfailing and mighty beyond the powers of this world.


Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 21~

Sibling rivalry. I think I could write a whole lot on this topic, but I'm afraid I'm still not qualified to do so. Truth be known, I deal with it every single day here in our home. I wish it were not so; I wish we had a better handle on it by now. But here's the thing: Though it is completely normal (and because of the sin nature, rivalry is completely expected), it is still not acceptable. If you understand the sin nature, you will understand the fact that our children are born under the bondage of sin. Though it is still shocking and rather unsettling when your baby starts to defy you, you shouldn't be completely surprised at the sin. We know our kids will sin in many ways, just as we have done the same ourselves. Sibling rivalry is an outpouring of that sinful nature, but too often parents feel that it is beyond their jurisdiction. Let me compare sibling rivalry to lying: When a child lies, it is obvious that it must be dealt with. In the same manner, when children fight, it must be dealt with as a serious matter. Sin must be addressed and exposed: This has to be the work of the parent. Parents must expose the root of this sin (primarily pride and selfishness- James 4:1-2) to their children, and they must not give up on training their children to love and serve one another.

It seems that the prevailing opinion on sibling rivalry is that it is part of growing up, and that children will outgrow it eventually. The same is often said of disrespect toward parents. This is not biblical, or even sensible. Children need to understand the controlling forces of sin, and they need learn to master themselves. They need to learn selflessness and obedience, that the world doesn't revolve around their preferences and comfort. Ultimately, they need to know that repentance, forgiveness, and life in Christ is FREEDOM from the indwelling power of sin, and that victory over sin comes by the power of the Spirit residing within the believer.

If a home-life is ruined by children's fighting and contention, it is largely because the parents have allowed it to be so. I have had to seek forgiveness on this matter many times before. It seems that a little laziness on my part quickly allows the problem to snowball; sinful patterns on my part lead to sinful patterns on my children's part.

Here's another thought: If children learn the discipline of living in unity with one another, under the submission of their parents, how much easier will it be for them later in life? Think about their relationship with their spouse, or with co-workers, or within the church. There is potential for conflict everywhere, and the tools against fighting, contention, and disunity are essential for building and maintaining God-honoring relationships.

Finally, we ought to consider our own example. Do we fight with our family members and friends? Do we fight with our spouse? Do we yell, or give the silent treatment? Do we constantly find ourselves in sticky relationships with people at church? How do we respond to an unreasonable customer service rep? We can't underestimate the power of example.

Ultimately, the question is really this:  Am I living a life worthy of the gospel and walking in relationship with my Savior? I can't expect anything from my kids without first living it out.

The fight against sin feels relentless, no?! Praise God that the battle has already been won and our hope in Him is not in vain!

(Michael's latest.)


Tuesday evening, Oct. 21~

This has been a concept worth understanding:

Just because I have a dream or believe with all my heart that I've been called to something, doesn't mean I'll get what I hope and pray for.

I may earnestly desire and pray for something, even something God says is beautiful in His sight and fully believe He is leading me and preparing the way, only to discover it is not His desire for my life.

The Bible says God fulfills our desires (Ps. 37:4). Sometimes He gives us the actual desire, placing something in our heart that clearly wasn't of our own; other times He simply grants the wishes of His children as a gracious act from a loving Father.

I am learning that my desires, even the godly ones that are for Him, must be held in my hand wide open. If my life is His, then so are my hopes and dreams. I cannot clutch onto anything or anyone with a sense of entitlement.

Maybe the journey in preparing my heart for a desire He gave me was the very purpose God intended. Maybe the outcome was a transformed heart, and a new willingness to obey. Maybe sanctification was the goal, and not the fruition of a dream or desire.

This would still be precious in His sight.


Late Tuesday evening, Oct. 21~

Chocolate cookies are good now and then. I haven't cut out sugar entirely, nor do I intend to do so. I made a bunch of Ina Garten's chocolate chunk cookies tonight, just for the fun of it. It was a terribly good bedtime snack for the kids.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Saturday Evening Post

It's the end of another week. These weeks seem to fly by, don't they? I guess that's a good sign because it is said that, "Time flies when you're having fun." Indeed it has been a good week.

For one thing, Jon has returned from an overseas trip. Of course we are thankful for a productive ministry time and for his safety, but I'm just super glad he is back. It's always a sweet thing to be reunited as a family. During his time away Jacob would say things like, "I just don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight without Dad tucking me in." The boys and I picked Jon up from the airport during Olivia's soccer practice, them we all went out for a bite to eat. By the time we returned home, the excitement escalated because the kids knew Jon had brought back a little something for them. They all sat in a neat row on the sofa, grinning with anticipation. Our kids are always so happy for the simplest of things. Anything that says, "I thought of you while I was away," is meaningful. Sometimes, depending on the trip, it's just a few foreign coins and some airline or hotel amenities. But not this trip. Somehow Jon managed to pack his carry-on bag in Mary Poppins style and the gifts just kept coming. There were little toys, snacks, leather bound journals, personalized items, jewelry, clothing, and of course, international amenities.

Jon happened to return on a special little anniversary he and I have. It is the anniversary of our first date, and this year marked the 20th year! (Yeah, we feel old.) These trips apart are never our preference, but somehow they do us a little good. You see, Jon and I can both be dangerously independent: He doesn't lean on me like many husbands do, and I do just fine wearing the "pants" when he's away. Sometimes it takes being apart-- and especially being reunited-- to remind us that we really are so much better together. I still have such a big crush on him all these 20 years later!

But tonight I'm down here in the living room and he's upstairs in his study. He's still fighting jet lag, and he's teaching/preaching three times tomorrow. Saturdays through Sundays are not at all the days when he and I hang out! I've become used to that-- the structure of our lives are a little different from most people because of his work as a pastor. Fortunately we had some good, undistracted time together during the week.

Today was full, as are most Saturdays, with practices and games for everyone from morning till mid-afternoon. It was nice to have Jon tag-team with me this morning since Olivia's game was in one city and the boys' games were in another city, all starting at the same time. Olivia is now at a birthday party sleep-over, and I had a nice day with the boys. It has been interesting to watch my boys. Their teams didn't work out the way we had hoped, and I was prepared for a tough season. Michael and Andrew are on the same team, which is convenient in one sense, but I worried that those two were just not the right combo. I expected too much brotherly competition/rivalry. I worried and strategized how I would instruct their character throughout this season. Apparently I misjudged them. They have been awesome brother-teammates, high five-ing and patting each other on the back. I've watched them work together and encourage each other after failures and successes. It has been a nice surprise for me to observe.

On the way home there was traffic and the sun beat down hard. We had some fun music playing kind of loudly, the sunroof open, and the back windows down. I looked in my rearview mirror and I could see my three boys all leaning in together, laughing. Those are the types of images that stay in my mind.

Later in the afternoon I opened up my little lawn salon and trimmed Jacob's and Andrew's hair. Then they all spent some time in the jacuzzi, Michael mowed the lawn, the other two did odd little jobs, then showers and dinner. Jon read from Proverbs, reminding us how to live wisely. Our evening wrapped up with the boys helping me with the dinner dishes and vacuuming, then they listened to audiobooks while Jacob and I wrapped a gift for a baby shower I will attend tomorrow afternoon.

Well I'm not sure where I have gone with this post! I don't know-- I guess it's just a Saturday evening wrap up that got typed up here for future memories.


Pictures from last week, when I was very tired (still am!) but also responsible for providing something wholesome for my children to do:

I set up a little resting/reading spot for myself and told my kids to go and explore...

I'm going to have to return there soon (or somewhere similar) because I've got to make things right with Andrew. I accidentally broke his super cute and very effective bow. He had made it himself and stored it in his room to keep it from getting damaged (he even made a leather quiver to go with it). Then I came along with my vacuum cleaner one night and I managed to carelessly break it. He kept saying, "It's OK, Mom. It's OK," as he fought back tears of disappointment. I felt terrible. Now I get to go along with him in search of a new stick. Hopefully we will find one just as good as the first.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

September and a Belated Birthday

(A post started last Friday night...)

September was a doozy for me. I'm glad it's over, but I have the feeling the business will just carry over into October.

Dinners have been in the eight o'clock hour pretty consistently this week because of practices and games. I've been doing some kid swaps today, too, and most likely will continue into the weekend. It's one mom helping the other and making our schedules possible-- Yay for mom-friends! Right now Michael is at a birthday party sleepover, and I've got Olivia's friend/teammate spending the night here. They had a soccer game tonight and tomorrow's game has us back on the field at 7am, followed by the boys' practices and games later in the morning and afternoon. I pulled into the garage late tonight with groceries and kids, my game plan playing out in my head as I went over all the details that needed to take place... showers, lunches to be packed, laundry for clothes in the morning, team snacks, football cleats... From the driver's seat I popped the trunk for the kids to help bring in empty water bottles and grocery bags. Then CRASH! Paper bags, which were piled on top of lawn chairs, had shifted on the way home and now came tumbling out. Broken eggs, a smashed glass bottle of steak sauce, and yogurt all lay in a puddle of mess.

I've been painting this week, too. I work at my project bit by bit late at night when the kids are in bed, or during time when school ends and practices start. I painted some furniture and a wall in an upstairs room. It's been hot and the sand paper has done a number on my otherwise dry hands. I bought a pretty little dresser off of Craig's List, and I have a few items to sell soon. Hopefully I will make a small profit. The progress I'm making has been a long time in coming, and it feels good.

September was a long month. I just couldn't seem to get in sync with the schedule and the demands. I've wondered if it's just too much, if I need to scale back on a few things, or rethink how we do school.  I even got a good five or so inches cut off my hair in an attempt to simplify. My work is all day, everyday. I move fast from one thing to the next, multitasking to the max. I feel like a drill sergeant. We have to run through Target, divide the list in Trader Joe's, speed on the freeway, arrive at lessons panting for breath. I'm the mom that says, "Eat faster!" and not, "Chew your food." I wake up knowing that there's more to do than is humanly possible; I go to bed completely fried, knowing that the late night of work is only going to make the next morning all the harder.

And my doctor called to say that my recent blood test measured my hemoglobin at 7.0 along with a low blood count.

I'm not complaining about it all, just saying it as it is. This is just a quick and very limited picture of my life this fall. Really, most of the activity are simply evidences of God's abundant provision and of all the privileges and opportunities we get to enjoy. So I am thankful; I wouldn't trade for another life!

But here's the thing: I have not always handled it all very well. No, in fact I have found myself filled with angst. All month I've been edgy, my inner turmoil bubbling out. It's not good. So not good.

The other night as I painted, perched high on my ladder very late at night, I listened to two messages. One was on worship, the other was on worship through prayer. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I was convicted and filled with hope. My errors were made clear: I had been avoiding God and filling up on the "narcotic" of busyness. A few things I was reminded of:

~I was created to worship God. Nothing else will satisfy. Everything else leaves my soul parched, yearning and weary.

~I need to learn to worship in the middle of the chaos. Busyness may define my days now, but worship is still vital.

~Busyness is what the devil loves because it so easily distracts and crowds out my relationship with God.

~Prayer is our highest form of worship. I must use scripture to inform my mind and heart to pray.

~I must be honest before God. Naked and raw. He knows it all, and I ought not cower before Him. Confess honestly. If I am sad, angry, frustrated, confused, or hurt, I can tell Him every detail. Same goes for desires and petitions. Even complaining to Him is good and right (Ps. 142:2). He wants to have relationship with me. He is already there, I am the one who needs to draw near.

~Worship must be a priority because it is our communion with God. It is essential to our peace and joy. Time devoted to worship will not cause every other need to crumble. When our heart is right with God and when our focus is on Him and His glory, the day just rolls so much smoother. The angst begins to dissipate, and we become tools for His purposes.

Getting my priority back in order has been sweet. If you find yourself in the same place as me, get back in the Word and on your knees. Stay there. Go back again and again. If you find it hard, or if your soul can't even concentrate, tell it to God and ask Him for help. He is our Father and deeply desires to hear us speak honestly, and He delights in hearing our petitions. He delights in His children.

I don't want to live a rat race. I want to run, yes, but not in circles. I want to run for that prize waiting in the Kingdom of God. I want my life to be purposeful, and filled with the joy that comes by the Spirit. I want to know my Savior and to be known by Him, laying up treasures in heaven as I live out my days.

So I am telling it to God and asking Him to show me the way.


September is also for Jacob's birthday. It was a month ago already, but I can't let that keep me from posting a few things. Now He is 8...

Our initial plans for his birthday had to be readjusted because of the lice issue (it's still hard for me to say it! Yuck!). We took off for the wide open, post-Labor Day beach. His request.

I love his face and posture in the pictures below. He is ready for that wave...

...standing firm...

...and determined.

Then the thrill of conquering!

The last couple months have been really special in the life of my boy. He has been really interested in the things of God, in knowing Him, and praying to Him. He frequently talks to me about these things, and consistently asks that I read him the Bible. He says he wants to learn to read well so he can read Scripture himself, and he asked for the Bible on audio. 

On his birthday, he and I took a long walk along this shoreline. We talked about a variety of thing as he ran about the waves and jumped off rocks. At one point he said something like, "I'm so glad God gives us life. He makes us breathe and makes our body alive. He made everything! And even better, He gives us life forever! Well, except if you don't go to heaven it's like death forever." Then he went on to tell me how he prays to God every day. "Just randomly I think about God and about all the verses I know and I just pray. I tell Him stuff and I say thank you."

Last night, as I helped Jacob brush his teeth, he told me he remembers me reading to all the kids one morning, and a verse I read caused him to decide he wanted to know God, that he wanted to be a Christian. He remembers the incident, but not the verse.

Nothing would bring me more joy than if he persevered in His love for the Lord. It's what I desire most for each of my kids. I don't want to jump to premature conclusions, but I praise God for working in my boy. I encourage him along the way, and pray that the Lord would continue to draw Jacob to Himself. 

Just for fun, my beach girl...

And just for more fun, Michael was impersonating models we occasionally see being photographed at our beach spots!

Even though we celebrated on the beach, I still owed Jacob a birthday party. We were unable to find a weekend when we could reschedule his sleepover party, but I was able to have a Sunday afternoon pool party with his three best buddies. It was a simple affair, yet he was so appreciative. 

They played a frozen t-shirt game. It lasted way longer than I expected, and they had to get creative.

The most creative move was this...

And our winner...

Ice cream cake before heading back in for the evening service.

I usually try to get in a picture with my birthday kid. This one was a quick one before heading into church that morning (and before I got my hair chopped). 


"One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple."

"Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, "Seek My face," my heart said to You,
"Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.""

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD."

Ps. 27