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


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A New Day

The downstairs floors have needed a good cleaning for a long time now. Earlier this week I finally completed that nagging job at mid-night, the time when yesterday becomes a new day. Long after everyone had gone to bed and when the night was quiet and still, I stood there thinking of the next morning when life and responsibility and situations would assault me again, and I remembered God's promise.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Mercies are new everyday. In the morning I had a fresh beginning-- like a fresh start to go with my clean floors. 

But don't be deluded, because it's not like everything is all clean and shiny in my life (or in my house). In fact, everything is certainly not clean and shiny in the book of Lamentations from where the above verses are found. This wouldn't be a promise of hope and encouragement unless there was a whole pile of suffering and hardship and desperate ugly to go along with it. Just read Lamentations and be amazed at the horrible situation. But if there was hope in that situation, there is hope in mine too.

A few more excerpts from Lamentations 3:

It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
    the yoke in his youth.  
Let him sit alone in silence
    when it is laid on him;
 let him put his mouth in the dust—
    there may yet be hope;
 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
    and let him be filled with insults.

I'm not sure why God has chosen things to be as they are. Verse 38 says, "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?"

I don't know, but here is this trial in my life and it brings me sadness and fear daily. It is here. Could it be that God is laying it on me "in my youth" so that I can relate, help, and encourage someone else later on in my life? I don't know. I have no doubt that God is using it to humble me, to change me, and to draw me closer to Him. I don't know if the situation will change, but for the glory of God and for my love of another, I sure pray for a miracle. I wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. God is in the business of doing miracles, so to Him I plead.

For the Lord will not
    cast off forever,
 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love...

I called on your name, O Lord,
    from the depths of the pit;
you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
    your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on you;
    you said, ‘Do not fear!’
 “You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
    you have redeemed my life.

God has a purpose in all this.

There is hope for us in the ugly; the beauty of hope shines in darkness and pain.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday, At Long Last!

The school week finally came to a close. What a relief! That makes for one less thing to think about.

It has been hot and sticky here, with the forecast only promising it to get worse. September is feeling like summer more than July and August did, and by the afternoon I'm pretty much melted and deplete of energy. But Fridays seem to call for something a little special and I've learned that if I have even the smallest desire to do something fun with my kids, I'm best to run with it. I asked them if they wanted to hop on our bikes and head to the beach. Because of the heat, the boys nearly chose to play Legos instead and Olivia would have been content to lounge on the sofa with a book. We almost didn't go, but we are all glad we did. Swim suits, water bottles, and camera were our basic gear.

The water was wonderfully warm, and we stayed as long as we could. We had a late dinner of oatmeal with fruit and nuts in exchange for more time at the beach, since Jon wasn't going to be home till later in the evening. One of my boys said it was the best beach trip ever. I'm not sure about that, but it certainly was lovely.

Tomorrow morning we'll be at the soccer field at 7am, so everyone is tucked in and the car is loaded. I am much more of a night person, but it's probably best if I call it a day.

Good night and happy weekend!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Mid-Week Moment

It's a quiet moment here, thanks to Jon. He is running errands with Michael while Olivia is at soccer practice. The little boys are listening to an audio book in their room with a little bowls of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate chips. I had some too. My feet hurt and it feels good to sit down.

The fans are all whirling at full speed. It's been uncomfortably hot this week, with humidity and still air making it all the worse. Jon slept on top of the blankets last night, and I slept with one leg in and one leg out. This morning I have mosquito bites on one leg on one foot, thanks to open windows with no screens. It doesn't feel like fall is anywhere near coming but I'm looking forward to mornings in my jeans, hands cradling a cup of coffee. A good, loud thunderstorm would be nice too.

School is whooping me this week. I'm not into it at all, and the days have been long and grueling. It seems that every day is hard in some way, no day sticking out as being a really good one. I think that's just part of the curse, this hardship of pressing on in and through the mundane incessantly. Over and over is the cycle of doing and doing again, working only to repeat, dealing with sin and replaying it yet again. I am weary today.

But it's OK. God tells us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us. My heart stills and I remember Him and His promises of comfort and help. I am not defeated and I continue to lean on Him regardless of the difficulty. Sometimes I forget and act on my own, but my heart returns and I find hope in Him once again.

Jon and I get to go out later tonight. Date nights can be such a refreshment, and this one comes at the perfect time. I'm not sure what we'll do or where we'll go-- typically Jon has some ideas up his sleeve-- but I am certain it will be wonderful. I am thankful for this husband of mine and more in love with him as the years go by.

The little boys have moved to the backyard. I think they are playing with the bow and arrows Andrew made. I feel the first breeze of the day wafting in, and it's now time to start dinner for the kids and getting my undone self ready to go out. These quiet moments, no matter how brief, always do me such good.

A song for the day: Lord, I Need You.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Adventures of the less-than-desirable variety

"Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually."
1 Chron. 16:11

A new school year and new mercies. We're in week two and I'd say it's shaping up to be a pretty good year.

New mercies. Yes, I need them every day and in every way. I am thankful because when things take an unexpected turn and when work and fatigue increase, God is faithful still. His strength and His presence carries me through another day.

As each new school year approaches, I wonder how I will be able to fulfill all of my household responsibilities AND school my children. I make lists and schedules, I work hard to establish good routines, and I strive to train my kids to pitch in wherever needed. This all helps, but I still wonder how the addition of several hours of schooling each day will actually fit in. As the first few days unfold, it gets a little crazy and I wonder about my decisions; then soon the dust settles as things begin to fall into place. Compared to the summer, there begins to be a new rhythm, a faster beat, and greater accomplishment by the end of each day.

But just as my confidence begins to build, the unexpected happens. It's the kind of thing that broadsides you and leaves you in utter disbelief.


We joked that his itching was lice, then for good measure I called my son over to the kitchen sink to have a look. He leaned over our white sink as I searched the back of his head and he yells, "Look! A bug just dropped!" I bend over intently looking into the sink to see the tiniest of insects. Panicked, I begin searching his scalp only to confirm an infestation.

It's what every parent does not want to find. I gave myself a couple moments to collect my thoughts, suddenly beginning to feel like bugs are crawling in my own hair. I checked the others, but no one else had any signs of lice.

Lice! The word itself is still such a shock.

I instructed the kids to stay away from each other, I stripped the beds and gathered towels and clothes. Let me just say that my poor machines have been workhorses. After consulting Google, the infested boy and I jumped in the car and went straight to the store for poison shampoo because now was not time to experiment with healthier alternatives. There was no time to waste...

As I rounded the corner leaving our neighborhood, a calming thought came. It was a new mercy from God.

"You know," I said, "God only gives good things to those He loves. God is sending us these lice because He knows this is good and needful for us right now. I don't know how this is a good thing yet, but I trust He knows best."

"Yeah," he answered in a tone that expressed greater-than-expected agreement. It was a new lesson about the sovereignty of God right there in the middle of our day, and an unexpected mercy that it was brought to my mind and received by my boy.

Even though I have grumbled and complained at times, there were mercies throughout all of this drama. These were evidences that there's goodness all around me for which to be thankful, and reminders that God is working in me to change me. I have been thankful for Jon bringing home dinner on a couple nights, for a reliable washer and dryer, and thankful for closeness and conversation with my kids while I nit-picked (I have a new understanding of that phrase now!) or checked for bugs. I have been humbled, too: Aren't dirty people the ones who have lice?! I was encouraged in ways I may not have been otherwise, through middle of the night embraces and thankful words whispered in the dark.

A week later now, and we seem to have it beat. In addition to the poison shampoo, my boy did his school work with his head basting in olive oil under a shower cap, I did about 1000 loads of laundry, repeatedly vacuumed, filled our freezer space with straw hats and hair ties, boiled brushes and combs, and nit picked for hours! No one else contracted the lice, which is amazing given the physical closeness of my family, and my one affected boy has been free bugs and nits for several day now. What a relief! Just in case, though, we are taking precautions and acting like they could still be present. I'm combing through his head daily, checking the others, and postponing Jacob's sleepover b-day party to a later date. (Jacob is happy because now he gets two birthdays! Not a bad deal for him.)


Enough of that. Really, I've had enough! Moving on...

I think this will be a good school year. For once my kids were at least somewhat eager to get started on a new year, and it seems each of them are motivated to see progress. I have two boys that have decided they enjoy reading now, one that is going crazy-long on his writing assignments, and another that seems to have figured out the benefit of learning his lessons. Olivia has always been an eager learner, and this year will stretch her in new ways and she is up for the challenge. Me? I don't know. I just go along for the ride and try to learn with them and cheer them on as best I can.

A few recent pictures:

A little family get-away down town before school started. Thank you, Jon!

Out for an afternoon walk

Making slime-- a summer favorite

Andrew's completed Popsicle stick house

The roof flips open on one side, revealing an attic bedroom with bed, side table and lamp, desk and chair.

The interior rooms can be seen when the second floor is removed

Cozy dining room with chandelier 

Another bedroom

A place to study

Fireplace and chairs, ladder/stairs to the attic

Olivia was his trusty helper and companion during construction. Here, Andrew's reaction after she planted his cheek with a kiss...

The school day is over, and my kids are still up in the school room coloring medieval art and listening to a supplementary history curriculum on audio (with an "after school snack").

Always some sort of  project on the go

The boys found the binoculars in the school cabinet

A helpful tool for me this week. If you ever find yourself in my predicament, this is your best bet.

A helpful reminder stuck on someones school record book for me to see daily this week: "SEEK the Lord and His strength; SEEK His presence continually." I am not to be passive in this, but rather I must continually go to Him again and again...

This recent event has been a reminder that life is not about me. When unpleasant, inconvenient, or disastrous things happen, how I respond will show others if I believe the world revolves around me or if I strive to live for God. My response to a disrupted schedule, ruined plans, or dashed dreams will prove what I believe, whether life is about my glory or God's. My kids especially will see through what I say if I am not careful to keep my attitude in check. And it's not easy. So everyday and in every way, I need God's strength and His presence continually.

Another mercy: I have laid down late at night with a contentment that did not come from me. Who would be content in the fight against lice? Who would wish to spend her days combing through hair and wondering if her own hair was infested? I sure would not volunteer for that. But there was a contentment in knowing that this very thing was my work given to me by God. There was no question about it, it seemed so very clear. I found fulfillment in doing His work to my exhaustion, knowing that my days were not squandered. It seems strange, I know. But it tells me God is at work in me.