Sunday, February 12, 2017

February Tidbits

A collection of moments from recent days, now in the last week...



At long last, Friday! It doesn’t actually make that much of a difference whether it’s a weekday or weekend (because the work just continues) but somehow the completion of another school week is a small accomplishment. Some weeks we survive, some weeks we thrive. I’m trying to figure out how to tip the balance into the thrive category more consistently, and I am often left wondering if thriving is mostly an illusion during this phase of life. Maybe mere survival is a feat I should simply be thankful for. 

I tell myself just to do the task at hand, and then the next, and the next thing after that… until the day closes and I remember that everything else was not meant for me to do. God doesn’t call me to accomplish certain things then deny me the time to do it. To say, "I don't have time," is a fallacy. We do have the time, but only to do certain things. It takes wisdom and discipline to figure out what it is I am called to do, and then to do those things at the neglect of other seemingly good things. We will each give an account for how we used our time and talent. It seems I have to learn and relearn that other people's thoughts and expectations on how I divide my time and energy will not matter when I stand before God. I am also reminded that Jesus pulled away from the vast and legitimate needs around him. He always did was was most important, not necessarily that which appeared most needful.

Incidentally, pulling away to a quiet place to pray was frequently most important, regardless of the very real and pressing human needs around him. May I learn to discern what is most needful and important, too.

Maybe learning to do this while not feeling guilty and defeated about all the rest is the secret to thriving…

>>:<<

I’ve sat down to blog a number of times this week, sort of as a mental break. Mostly those attempts have amounted to nothing, as interruptions and pressing needs require my attention. But that’s OK. My days have been so varied, it’s often hard for me to gather all the odd bits of time and journal something sensible. I don’t think I know how. These are just a few random tidbits of the week that have come to mind:

* Twister is a fun family game. OK, maybe it’s a highly inappropriate game for mixed company, and the conversations/responses it encourages is less than classy, but it has given us some time of family laughter. Everyone should play it. Maybe consider taking the game out again after your kids go to bed and play a round or two with just your husband… :)

* I’ve loved living by the ocean. I know, who wouldn’t, right? Ocean weather can be so interesting. We had a heavy fog covering yesterday while most other areas were basking in sunny rays. My kids and I enjoyed watching long, wispy ribbons of fog waft into our yard, over the palm trees, then up and over our house. My neighborhood was covered in a soft gray blanket by late afternoon, and droplets of water speckled my skin as I ran. I’m not sure why I mention it here, except to say that the fog was a particular beauty that captured our attention. Michael and Olivia enjoyed it, too, as they biked into town to complete some school at a coffee shop. 

* At the notary yesterday, I signed my name over and over again until it no longer looked like my signature. It was almost as if I was unable to sign normally no matter how much I tried, and my normal identifying mark become unfamiliar. It made me wonder how often the act of repeating mundane tasks in my everyday life can threaten to confuse my identity. May I remember who I am in Christ (my truest identity) no matter how mundane and repetitive life may feel.

* I pray for my children everyday. I pray with them everyday too, though I would like to pray together even more. Recently, as I asked for each of their requests, I was encouraged by their responses: to receive correction and instruction humbly, to grow in faith, to grow in patience towards a particular person, for wisdom in making some decisions….

* To hear my boy say, "Thanks for doing my laundry," without being prompted made me happy.


>>:<<

I have been sorting my computer files and preparing to transfer my 2016 pictures to an external hard drive. These are pictures from the end of the year.

Recently, someone asked how my kids feel about being preacher's kids. This is an interesting topic, and I'm looking forward to hearing my kids' thoughts a decade or two from now! We talk about it quite a bit, and I have spent many, many hours considering the issue from many perspectives. This is not the place/time to discuss this subject at length, but Jon and I have endeavored to point out the many benefits and privileges our kids receive despite the challenges. For one, we are upheld in prayer and support by far more people than those who are critical or who look for faults. We've also have the opportunity to build relationships with various types of people, some that would not normally be accessible to us. We are the recipients of many blessings and privileges to be sure.

These pictures are from one such experience. A sweet couple from church chose to treat our family with some sailing (and wale watching for wales that never showed). 



I sat bundled up in the corner, so my pictures are mostly at strange angles.



Olivia and Michael both were involved in steering and changing the direction of the sails-- such cool exposure for them.



Snow covered mountains in the distance





Six people was the max on the sailboat, so Olivia and I stayed behind while the younger boys took our place. We enjoyed a rare girls-only lunch with our hostess, just getting to know her better. I was intrigued by her story, and have thought many times about our encounter since then. To hear about her life and commitment to present responsibilities ministered to me in such a special way. Stories of our past are so important. They bring such color and meaning to the present, and can testify of God's mercy and grace in such a beautiful manner. Anyway, it was a sweet afternoon for which we are grateful.


>>:<<

Well, another week is underway. It is surely going to be a good one!


~Katherine



Monday, February 6, 2017

Crowns and Withering Grass

It was last Friday night when I hopped into the car and headed down to the train station to pick up Jon and Olivia from an overnight trip. I occasionally find myself amazed that I can just grab my bag and drive away alone. It wasn't very long ago, it seems, that I had to load and buckle in all my little companions every single place I went. With few exceptions, I was always accompanied by my little brood and everything took much more time and forethought. 

But now I drive places on my own quite frequently, and the ease of it is still remarkable. Being conscious of time and the ever practical person that I am, I try to redeem this time for good. I often listen to recordings, quote scripture, or pray. Knowing how undisciplined my mind can be, I frequently pray or quote scripture out loud. This has proven to be a huge benefit to me.

So on this drive to the station last Friday, I rounded our street and began quoting Psalm 103 to the best of my ability. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name..." I frequently pray those words and instruct my heart in the morning when I am weighed down by hurt and anxiety, or because my heart doesn't desire to bless but to curse the arrival of the morning. God is worthy of my praise regardless of how my fickle heart feels, so I quoted again as I drove in the dark. This time, however, the act of speaking out loud caused a single word to stand out like never before: "He CROWNS you with steadfast love and mercy..."

I am crowned by God. My thoughts lingered there a while. What does it mean to be crowned by steadfast love and mercy? Regardless of my understanding, it is an absolute, wonderful, and unchangeable fact!

Princesses wear crowns: I am a daughter of the King of kings!
Steadfast love means it is constant: God will never, ever turn away from loving me!
Mercy is my daily need: God sees my frailty and bestows upon me his compassion!

The world may see my "crown" only as one increasing in lines on my forehead and grey hairs on my head, but God sees me as precious and increasing in beauty as he conforms me to the image of Jesus!

"He crowns you with steadfast love and mercy"

>:<


Another portion of Psalm 103 says, "As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and it's place remembers it no more."

Here in Southern California, we know all about withering grass! We've had some rain, but we know the green grass and the flowers will soon be gone.


The days of our lives are fleeting. The days I have with my children are even shorter. I know this so well.

And yet I struggle. Our days are so very full. It is difficult to pull away from all the demands and busy schedules and savor our days together, nurture relationships, and enjoy this wonderful life and world around us. Sometimes it requires creativity, or scrapping the schedule and my ideas of how things ought to be.


I did just that last week. Olivia had accompanied Jon on a business trip (and got to see some beloved friends), so the boys and I postponed school work and took off for the green hills before practice.







Moss collecting again






Always with some sort of plan their heads...

My mind waves red flags when I see boys running to water, or stepping out onto floating logs!



Give a boy a high place and he will automatically crown himself the conqueror!



The trunk of my car is a picture of our day: Cleats for sports, a math book for formal education, collections from nature for informal education.

After practices, I took the boys out for burgers....


Friday afternoon, again, we pushed aside our school work till later and biked into town for a hot chocolate..






In closing, here is a comfort: Though man's days are like withering grass -- here today and gone tomorrow, and it's place remembering it no more -- God's love for those who belong to him is eternal!

"But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him."

If we belong to him, crowned as his children because of his great love and mercy toward those who fear him, then we are the objects of his love, which is from everlasting to everlasting! 


~Katherine



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What He Said (and A Few Boy Things)

I was going through some files on my computer, and I came across this little conversation Olivia had typed out for me several weeks ago. The exchange took place while she was shooting some hoops with Jacob, I think, and she thought I'd like to have it recorded. It made me remember the  "What He Said" posts I used to do. (HERE and HERE are some of my favorites. Click on the "What He Said" label on the right for more, but be mindful that some posts might require some scrolling to find the "What He Said" portion.)


Olivia: So, how many kids do you want when you grow up?

Jacob: Four. Two boys and two girls. And for my wife… I want her to be good at cooking—so I get good food. I want her to be able to discipline our kids—so, you know, they learn—and I also don’t want her to have big teeth.

Plain and simple. One way or another, I can't help but wonder what this says about me!

>>:<<

My boys... There's just always something going on. I can't imagine what it's like to mother multiple girls, and I'm certain those sweet moms have their own daily adventures to recount. No doubt their description of home life is quite different from mine. And their homes probably smell better, too!

There's always rough-housing around here. If it's not with another brother, it's with the house itself. Even as they sleep, I often hear someone smash hard against the wall. Usually that would be Jack. He is also the one who goes down the stairs face first, or somersault-style. Michael pretends to trip and fall almost daily, and with a body like his, this is loud and obtrusive. Andrew likes to wrestle pretty much anyone. In general, there's more physical interaction with each other than intelligible conversation. At least it feels like that to me by late afternoon.

The other night was just another night. Nothing unusual going on. But if you were in my kitchen as I prepared dinner, I had Michael crowding my workspace with his, um, curiosities. He was trying to cut through glass with burning cords dipped in various substances. He tried hand sanitizer, my nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, and who knows what else. I drew the line when he asked if he could use Jon's lighter fluid because, after all, I need a kitchen around here and I much prefer his face to have eye brows. His curiosity is not satisfied, and he still wants to learn how to get a clean cut along a glass bottle with fire.

Welcome to my life.

Plus, there are injuries. It's good for boys to get outside and do things, but along with that come injuries. Jack and Andrew collided hard the other night-- Jack was on the swivel board and Andrew was on his unicycle. Could it be that frequent falls help to make strong bones? I have a feeling that yes, the body strengthens itself against stress! I thought I'd be making a trip to the ER, but motion and feeling soon returned to Jack's arm and hand. The ordeal lasted just a few minutes, but his elbow and hand remain sort of "zingy" in the nerves days later. It's amazing to me we haven't been frequent visitors of the ER over the years.

And there's more from the week. Ever pray for a hamster? If you are a mom, you know you end up praying for the things that matter to the heart of your kids. I pray for a run-away hamster. Three separate times now. Three times I prayed that God would strengthen faith through answered prayers. And three times God answered...


Jacob and Andrew each got dwarf hamsters for Christmas, and they are well-loved.
Andrew's has escaped during the night by squeezing through the slats of the hamster cage.


For better or worse, they have provided endless entertainment.


As for the boys, I'd say the entertainment I get from them is for the better. I can't imagine life without them!


~Katherine




Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday

Well Hello Monday! You are living up to your reputation and I feel you bad.

It's hailing out. At least the window that Jon needs to replace is covered with tarp and no longer leaking down the beam and into buckets on the floor. It's cold inside and out. The only warm place is the hallway bathroom, but I have not yet resorted to sitting in there with my computer.

Life feels so very mundane on this Monday. There is work to do and little motivation for doing it. The vacuum and laundry wait for me, that round and round cycle of repetition. It's the ordinary and unremarkable hum-drum of my life today, and many other days just like it.

I was listening to a portion of a recorded message by Elisabeth Elliot this morning, and was struck by the faith and devotion to God exemplified in her life and others. Their's was a remarkable life and a remarkable faith. Enviable, even, until I was gently reminded by the Spirit that we are each called to our own work, each according to God's plan for us. My duty is simply to be faithful to him in it-- to be faithful and obedient in my own sphere of work. I have to believe that God can and will work in and through me, even in the undistinguished nature of my life and responsibility. No life is wasted in God's economy, as we are each created for his own glory. I have to believe that on days like today.

Really, the remarkable thing is that he has set his love on me-- unremarkable me! There's no pity party here, just a sort of awe and thankfulness! I'm not certain why God chooses ones like me, but he does! So for what little I feel I can contribute to the magnification of his glory, I want to do it by faith and obedience.

"She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle." In my case it is  the "vacuum handle and the scrub brush." Whatever God calls us to do, may we learn to do it with joy and thanksgiving, being fully assured that our life and our work is precious to him. Amen?


(This picture is from a couple months ago. Southern California isn't always golden. It's a good thing we get rain and hail and gloom every now and then. I like the change. Golden days every day, again and again, can become mundane too. Makes me thankful for the easy of an ordinary day like this because it would surely be missed if my home or health to work was taken away. So thank you, dear God!)

~Katherine



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Honestly Speaking

Sometime before the new year, I made it out for a hike with just my kids. I love our winter hikes. I obviously use the word "winter" loosely.

A "winter" flower, maybe?
It's the closest I may get to fluffy white.


We love the dark shadows of the forest best. It's where there are more mysteries to imagine or uncover...


We take the 5 mile loop, with a very long stretch of uphill climb. Olivia and I are always far ahead of the boys.


Little gentleman Jack insisted on carrying the pack for me.


The plan was to hike up far and away, then to find a place beneath the oak trees and settle in for a while. I had brought a few snacks, a light blanket, and my Bible and journal. The boys were planning on exploring, while Olivia probably had a book or her sketch pad. I was looking forward to this down time, this quiet, restful time that my mind imagines when it needs rest the most. But alas, boys take a long time just walking. They seem to stop every few steps, bending down to look, feel, discover. I know it's good for them in ways our modern culture overlooks, so I don't mind. Eventually I could feel the temperature begin to dip as the sun neared the mountain edges, and our sunlight began to fade. We had just enough time to complete our loop at a slow, take-your-time-to-smell-the roses kind of way. It was nearly as good as the original plan.



This tree is our favorite place to catch our breath after the climb. 
Some boys think outside the box and climb up the branches, others are interdependent and look to a brother for help. Both methods have their advantages. Actually, Michael hoisted me up too, because there's no such thing as being too old to climb a good tree.





I'm sure the boys covered more ground than the 5 mile distance of trail; their path criss-crossed back and forth over the footpath. 



Finding trapdoor spiders... 
(impressive little home-makers)


I spy with my little eyes... one girl having a snack.


Tender, fresh green growth makes its way up and out after the rains...
Kind of like sanctification.


Around here, "winter" comes sometime mid-December; spring apparently arrives later in the same month.


The boys carried home samples of various mosses for their ongoing experiments and plans. They were impressed with all the varieties we found.


Homebound. 


>>:<<

I’ve always desired for this little space of mine on the internet to be honest. Not that I have to write about every aspect of life, but honesty should characterize what I do share. That said, it’s perfectly honest to only write about the good stuff of life, perfectly honest to post a picture of something I find pretty even if the surrounding area is not, and perfectly honest to keep private the issues that affect others. ‘Honorable’ might be a better word for that last part, but the point is that I don’t owe anyone here the entirety of my thoughts, circumstances, or story. It is the responsibility of the reader, I think, to understand that people and situations and life in general is multifaceted and often complex. Obviously.

Blogging is so weird. You, dear readers, are a mysterious group to me! I have some indication of who you are among family and friends, but my stats show that thousands visit this space each month. With few comments, I have always been left wondering who you are. Interestingly, the occasional feedback I get from friends and strangers is often related to honesty, or at least about so-called “transparency” regarding the things I share.

So here’s something honest and very human. Despite the very real and true and honest fact that our holidays were sweet (as I have previously posted), I entered the new year with a fizzle. I rang in a NYC new year at 9 PM on December 31, with a tired, forced, and very difficult-to-muster type of smile.

The Lord has determined to bless me with a physical trial on a regular basis. This one started sometime in November and rapidly brought me down by the end of December and into January. I'll get to the blessing part of it in a moment (the honest good stuff), but the trial part is very real too (the honest difficult stuff). And it is a trial. This physical trial leaves me in a state where I am gasping for oxygen from the inside, but the real trial comes as I grasp and struggle to live well in every other sense. The feeling of inability, failure, and depression (gasp!) hangs like thick darkness.

It's more than "just tired."

I have spent an extended period of time in survival mode. I struggle to sleep because the arms and legs are freezing to the touch, despite extra clothes and mountains of blankets. I struggle to wake because I am always exhausted, my whole face hurts, and my limbs heavy. I am fragile in every way, especially beyond my physical state. I lay there each morning quoting Psalms, begging God to sustain and strengthen me, and asking for His supernatural assistance. And I thank Him for loving me enough to bring about that which He knows is for my good.

But I am highly vulnerable. Edgy. Severely and embarrassingly foggy-brained, light-headed, often assaulted by emotion, and keenly aware that I'm fighting a spiritual battle most of all.

Psalm 71 has been my standby scripture...

 "...forsake me not when my strength is spent" (v. 9)

"Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
    will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will bring me up again." (vv. 19-20)


But I fail. For instance, one misinterpreted/imagined sideway look from my husband at the late hour of 8AM, and I think he is looking down on me for laziness. My heart sinks further. Later, the boys and their jokes are loud and stupid to me and I snap. Too often I am in my head, partly by default and partly to protect myself from sinning with my words, but also at a cost to relationship with those around. I often succumb to emotion. Emotion, I have learned, is never a good controller.

It's a lonely place to be, but not hopeless. I have learned that my trials hold a promise of bearing fruit in due season, even if I don't feel it in the "winter." My ugly behavior horrifies me, so I learn to take my guilt back to God. I am humbled in my weaknesses and in my sins, but I remember that my righteousness was never, ever the result of any perceived goodness when life was easier. This humbled place -- though dark and painful -- reminds me of who I really am, and especially that I am a desperate sinner in need of a good and compassionate God. I am comforted to know these thoughts are simply and truly evidences of grace and the result of sanctification from past trials, and to know that it is through trial that I grow. Never do I feel my need to cling to God as desperately as I do when enduring trial, though the need at all time is very real.

He is my righteousness, and my hope. He is my salvation. His promises of deliverance are trustworthy, His character of compassion and steadfast love are sure.

And there is more goodness all around. There are simple joys and triumphs when I set myself to seeing. For instance, the ability to just leave the house and get out in nature with my kids for an afternoon hike, or a 30 minute bout of exercise, is reason for thankfulness. This does me such good, and controlling a tired body brings a small sense of accomplishment, rather than allowing how I feel to keep me cooped up only to rot some more! Also, the warm feeling of laying in a beam of sunlight on the carpet in the afternoon, or hearing the three boys talking together like great friends for an extended period of time soothes my bleak outlook. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I feel a small victory when I can offer help with sincerity to those around me. And then laying skin to skin in the night...

Oh, of course I can't forget the fact that help is on its way now that I've received two IV infusions of iron. When my appointments were set, I told Jon it felt like I was way out at sea in a tiny little dingy at night but the rescue ship was shining in the distance. So for this I am very thankful!

It has become trendy to enter the new year with a chosen key word or two. If I were to pick I think it would be the words brave humility.

Sometimes it takes bravery to stop trusting in our own devices, bravery to sincerely admit from the depth of our soul that we are in fact useless for righteousness without God. We walk around saying we believe this, but not truly living it from daily conviction. This is humility. It takes bravery sometimes to humble ourselves in repentance before people, and bravery to say to the outside world, "Hey, don't look to me 'cause I'm pretty messed up. I am what I am by the grace of God alone, so look to Him!" ...and then actually live it. It's takes bravery to raise kids this way, too. Humility is absolutely necessary to trust God's backward way of living when my flesh thinks, "I can do it myself!" with a toddler-like attitude.

I read these good words to the kids this morning, and as they come to mind again tonight I think of brave humility to simply trust God with my all...

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts."


So there. Cheers to brave humility despite the degree of happiness we feel in the coming year! Joy, satisfaction, and confidence in God will always beat a fleeting, fickle feeling of happiness!  xo


~Katherine