Thursday, February 4, 2016

Winter and Storms

Tomorrow has a full line-up of activity and obligation, and I'm pretty certain I won't be able to tackle it all. Sometimes the reality of never completing everything by day's end weighs on me, and tonight I already feel defeated by tomorrow. I'm STILL learning that I just need to do the next thing faithfully, then the next, and the next. What's left at the end of a day wasn't mine to do. In reality, all the to-do items really don't matter if they are just checked off to satisfy my sense of accomplishment. God rewards faithfulness, not checked of items on a list. God looks at the heart, and that can't be measured by an external standard of accomplishment.

And so tomorrow I will wrestle against my natural tendency to do, and I will strive to be who God calls me to be, regardless of what I must do. Being faithful to him and walking in relationship with him will change the way I go about my doing.


Tonight I am up to  my eyeballs with Olivia's test results. She took several standardized tests over the course of recent months, and I'm trying to interpret what they all mean. She's a smart cookie. She's in 9th grade and already has college credit. We're in another stage of making decisions since she is wrapping up course work early (and must continue on with something new till the end of the year) and class registration for the new school year is starting soon. She can take a mix of independent study, online classes, high school classes, and community college next year, but determining the best mix seems tricky. We want to be good stewards of her time and talent. And yet school is not everything. It's often said that the world is run by C-students anyway. And just because she can manage an academically heavy load, doesn't mean she should.


I forced myself to interject some fun and relaxation into our weeks. Not only do I benefit, but so do the kids. I noticed the disposition of one my boys changed drastically over the Christmas holiday, and I'm pretty sure it was due to the absence of academic pressures. In fact, the thought crossed my mind more than once that it might be in his best interest to drop out of school! If only that were a good long-term option! Anyway, it impressed on me the importance of free time. I find this is best done if we can literally separate ourselves from the work at home, so we occasionally head out for a little walk through town, or a quick trip to the shore, or a bike ride around the block. It does the mind and body good! And it nurtures relationship, too.


We've had a couple good storms this season. I hesitate to call it "winter" because this is nothing like the definition of winter I grew up with. Overall, we've had more sunny days than not, and less rain than I had expected. This picture was from early last month after the Christmas holiday, when a storm was brewing and we wanted to see it rolling in. The boys and I left the school books behind and took off for the pier at around 11:00 am.

Jacob loves to pester the pelicans. They were unusually resistant to his games, determined to stay in their cozy position. They probably knew the rain was imminent because moments later we were running fast toward the car as the rain poured down hard. We were drenched right through. They boys loved it, and to me the memory it created was worth getting soaked. We went to Starbucks before heading home just to top off our "recess." {Again, thank you Carol!}

For the most part, though, January was pretty balmy. The talk at the Treader Joe's check out was about days getting longer and spring being on it's way. The chirping crickets in the evening reminded me of summer nights. At times I've felt uncomfortably hot during my afternoon runs. It's not hot by any means, and our nights can be cold, but this is nothing like the snowy winters I grew up with. I find it rather ironic that I get  to enjoy the type of winter so many people envy. Me, the girl who love the mountains and the snow.

I took my kids and a couple of the boys' friends for a hike to the beach one Friday after school. I guess this is an OK trade for the snowy ski hills! 

This is our winter.

The boys were disappointed the tide was out. They like to jump from this ledge into the waves when the tides are in. (The water is cold, though, and I don't imagine they would have actually jumped in anyway.)

Low tide makes for some pretty pictures...

My brother, David, would love it here. 

Little crabs

Heading back to the car before dark...

Good times for sure!

But good times don't last. Just like the storm that rolled in this past Sunday...

We came home sometime in the mid-afternoon. The coastal areas were apparently hit hard while we were at church. We pulled into our lane way and discovered that the upstairs doors had blown wide open. (I suspect I know who left them unlatched and unlocked!) The garage windows, too, had blown open resulting in broken window panes and shattered glass. Cold wind was sweeping through the house, creating an eery atmosphere and the feeling that someone had intruded. Outside, huge pieces of palm trees had come down, and something had fallen agains the house and turned on the garden hose.

At night the wind forced though every crack of this old house, under doors and through rattling windows. A small tree on the side of the house kept scratching up against the wall. I shuddered and wondered what it would be like if our house wasn't anchored to the ground, what it would be like to be tossed around out at sea. I wondered what it would be like to be on the verge of capsizing, and to have Jesus command, "Peace!" to the wind and waves, "Be still." Somewhere in the middle of the night and oppressive darkness, hail began to pound against the house.

But morning came, as it always does. In the distance we could see white caps, the waves still moving south in the same direction as the wind. On the way to school, there was debris everywhere: broken branches and some uprooted trees, broken signs and fences blown over, roof tiles.

There was also an undeniable new-ness, like a freshness of life that was not present prior to the storm. The sky was a crisp blue, the clouds an extra delicious shade of white, and all the green sparkled.

And such is life. God allows the storms to come. There is collateral damage to be sure, broken parts, pain, darkness and difficulty. Trials hurt bad sometimes. But then day comes-- as it always does-- and there is freshness of life not present before. God anchors the souls of his children, and he commands "Peace!" at just the right time.

What we see, I think, in the physical world is just a small picture of the more real spiritual world.


He waits to open His treasury

I read this at the start of the day and thought, "Yes!" I want all the Spirit's precious gifts in my life! I must have them to survive! But I also remember that prayer doesn't come naturally to the immature Christian. As I've done many times in my life, I have confessed to the Lord my lack to desire for prayer. I've asked him over and over again for relationship with him, true and personal. He is faithful: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)

"Prayer is the life-breath of a man's soul. Without it, we may have a name to live, and be counted Christians; but we are dead in the sight of God. The feeling that we must cry to God for mercy and peace is a mark of grace; and the habit of spreading before Him our soul's wants is an evidence that we have the spirit of adoption. And prayer is the appointed way to obtain the relief of our spiritual necessities. It opens the treasury, and sets the fountain flowing. If we have not, it is because we ask not.

"Prayer is the way to procure the outpouring of the Spirit upon our hearts. Jesus has promised the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. He is ready to come down with all His precious gifts, renewing, sanctifying, purifying, strengthening, cheering, encouraging, enlightening, teaching, directing, guiding into all truth. But then He waits to be entreated."

J.C. Ryle,  Thoughts for Young Men,  p. 56-57


Friday, January 29, 2016

End of the day notes

I don't shut down very well at the end of days jammed packed from end to end. It's like I have to go over the re-play in my head, over and over again. I find myself analyzing the numerous conversations-- things said and not said, things implied-- trying to pick out the most noteworthy. So many relationships and situations collided unexpectedly today, and at the end of it I guess I just feel thankful to be part of a community of people, connected in unexpected ways. I think it will be cool someday to see how the Lord purposefully "weaves" our stories together.

These are random pictures left from the end of last year.

A few thoughts at the end of the day, in no particular order:

  • Loving someone means accepting them for who God created them to be. It is not love if we withhold affection, approval, commitment, or whatever until that person becomes who we wish them to be. Love is not manipulative. It is not condemning of differences. In some relationships, differences can make us uncomfortable and we are prone to wishing the other person was more like ourselves. This is pride masquerading as love, and it will eventually drive away the one we wish to love.

  • Sometimes God sends us guidance and friendships from unlikely places when we pray for help. I spent some extended time with such a person today; tonight I think back over the year with gratitude for this unlikely friendship. One year ago today my life was about begin a severe shaking, and God was preparing to weave her story to mine. She continues to support me, and prays with me for two precious souls.

  • On a lighter note, keeping boys from making "bathroom jokes" is like trying to stop the wind! At least on some days it is. Today, for instance, the rumbling could be heard from the sidelines of the practice field. Something about running and doing drills... Way to get to know the new team. They are all friends now... no holding back.

  • Being a pastor's kid is probably not the easiest thing in the world for a kid. I try hard to help my kids see the benefits (there are many), and to protect them from situations and people that would set inappropriate and unfair standards/pressures on them. I remind them that our standard is God's Word, regardless of daddy's work. I also remind them that they are to honor their father, who is also a pastor. I hope to use the frustrations they occasionally feel to reveal areas in our lives (parents and children) that need change and growth. I hope they will look back one day with gratitude for how the Lord used the good and the difficult aspects to shape their character.

  • People who attend church don't necessarily know God.

  • Boys need to shower more often than they think they do.

  • Marriage and parenting are hard. I fail all the time. Today I was reminded once again of how important asking and granting forgiveness is to the survival of any meaningful relationship. With my kids, the last thing I want is for them to view me as a hypocritical, holier-than-thou Christian. I want them to see me as a fellow sinner, desperate for forgiveness and the transformative power of God in my life. I want them to know I must depend on the Lord daily, that I must run to him regularly. I don't want to point my kids to God, then become the stumbling block in their way.

  • Tonight I am thankful for my wise, hardworking husband. I'm thankful for his humility, and for the safety I feel because of him.

  • The weekend is almost here! Hooray!


Sunday, January 24, 2016


The north-west colors at the beach were striking a couple weeks ago, as the sun began to round the earth and settle in for the night. The tide was out and the sodden sand reflected the sky. Children pulled socks and shoes over wet, sandy feet; the impending darkness urged us to begin our upward hike.

The movements and vastness of the sky and the sea, the beauty of rising and setting sun, the moon and the wind, the force and the splendor of nature-- it all moves me to worship. The handiwork of the Creator is unmistakable.

Today we sang one of my favorite old hymns in church, and it's tune has stayed on my heart much of the day. I thought I'd post it here tonight as a prayer...

Abide With Me
Henry F. Lyte, 1847

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.


Friday, January 22, 2016

What if I had a peep-hole?

I'm sitting in a Starbucks for a short while before I pick up Michael from his writing class. This is a rare thing for me. I'm enjoying the sunlight streaming through the French window panes next to me, and, honestly, not being needed by anyone. Those years of being a mom to little ones has changed to be sure, but not as much as I expected in terms of always being needed by someone. It's not that I am resentful- not at all- it's just that I am fully aware of how much I need time alone. I suppose it's just the way we introverts recharge.

I've been going over picture files from the last several months, finalizing my organization and storage of those files for 2015. These two were taken on the 31st of December: Jacob was spying on our neighbors through a knothole in the fence with his telescope!

So often I see a lesson in the pictures I take. What I see through my lens often nudges my heart to think a little deeper. Apart from my little boy needing to learn a couple things about privacy and controlling his curiosity, faith and the sovereignty of God was brought to my attention.

Maybe it's because it was New Year's Eve day and my thoughts were naturally wondering about the new year and all that it would bring, or not bring. Maybe it was because I was considering how the events of this last year were so different than I had hoped. Maybe it was simply because God knew I needed to remember... to just simply and quietly trust Him.

What if I could have a glimpse across the fence, that dividing wall between the present and the future? What if I could have a peek at what would transpire in the near future? What if I could have a long range view with my telescope? Could I handle it?

Of course I could not.

It is likely that a full view into the future would be crippling because I could not handle knowing ALL of the trials I have yet to meet. The sum total would be crushing. God only gives us his refining doses of trials at intervals that are good for us, not all at once because they would destroy us.

What if I only knew a little bit of the future, a knothole-size view? I'd likely jump to conclusions about cause and effect, or panic at what I saw, or simply sigh in relief and settle into proud complacency. I'd likely allow myself to dwell in my limited perception of the future. I would miss out on the present and fall into the trap of trying to change the inevitable.

Most devastating would be the fact that I would lose my trust in the sovereign God. We are not meant to know tomorrow, or what lies beyond 1000 tomorrows. We are to walk in faith today, right now. He holds our future safely for us. Our triumphs and trials are all held with purpose and great love in the hands of our heavenly Father. I cannot handle more than today, more than the faith I need for the present. I am thankful my future is held safely out of my reach.

I read this to my kids earlier this week during our breakfast time devotions:

"Man's steps are ordained by the Lord,
How then can man understand his way?"

Proverbs 20:24

And so, what about yesterday? The thought comes to me that yesterday and tomorrow are more similar than different because I don't understand it all. So much of God's purposes are veiled to my understanding. I don't understand the reasons for some of the pain, some of the situations, and the disappointments of the past. I can't always see what God is doing, why his plan unfolds the way it does.

But God stand outside of time. He is trustworthy and his lovingkindness is sure.


Sunday, January 10, 2016


As of last month, we officially have another teenager in the house. He's so proud of it too, while I am just proud we all made it through his childhood! He is our Michael, the guy that is always ready for the next thing, even when he doesn't know what that entails. Adolescence is no exception, because he's been ready for a while.

His childhood has been interesting. For a long time he wanted to live in a cave and take care of bats and lizards; a few years later he wanted to run away and become like the boy in the book "My Side of the Mountain." If his desire to live on his own wasn't my concern, it was the accidents and jack knife cuts, walking too close to danger, or falling off high places (remember the fence at the high school, Michael?) that would get to me. He always had smashed up toes, and the hair on his legs was always worn down to a short prickle because he was so hard at play, or so serious in his outdoor exploration. I think most of his childhood was spent on his knees in the dirt finding bugs and mushrooms and reptiles. Now-a-day I have to keep an eye on the lighter and matches, the fire in the fireplace, and the propane torch. Maybe it would be more accurate to say I have to keep an eye on my son because a curious, over-confident boy + fire = trouble. Come to think of it, maybe I should save my pride till we  all make it through his teenage years! (Ha! Girls and cars could be more dangerous than matches, but thank the Lord he doesn't give us more than we can handle at any given point!)

Michael has always been a little man of sorts, kind of like a man that likes to act like a clown. We've recently laughed through videos of his serious antics as a pre-schooler. He was very serious about his beetles and lizards, serious that his soccer team should be called The Blue Battle Snakes, and serious about having a quiet birthday as a little boy. He's still the same now: extremely not-funny at times, and other times just so funny. Seriously funny.

When I took him to the doctor for his 3 year old check up, the doctor looked at me and said, "Yep, he's average in weight and height... for a 5 year old!" I should have known he was going to grow up fast. He passed me up at the age of twelve, right around the time when I discovered he needed a size 12 shoe!

Sure, I could lament the fact that he is growing up much too fast, but I'm loving this age very much! He's off to a good start as a teenager, and I think so simply because he still comes up to me at random and gives me a very boy-ish sideway hug, telling me, "I love you!" And he calls me things like "wombat" at random. For a boy his age, this is being affectionate!

There are a few fun changes at this age. Awkwardness and a changing voice are some of them, but we all have a blast calling that to attention! Testosterone, so far, has brought a whole lot of fun to our home! Actually, Olivia gave him this funny gift for his birthday. She'll be sure to tell him the instant she thinks the peach fuzz is getting too much!

This year, once again, we took the day off school and went skating during the day. He tells me he loves Canada, and if it weren't for his love of the ocean, I'd think he'd prefer to live in a cold climate. His first speech at school was "How to Build a Quinzhee" and he looks forward to having another chance to snowboard.

My birthday picture with him this year: It's not the best, but I like that I'm laughing! Too bad the picture didn't record what he said.

Mid-December birthdays can be a little tricky. Apart from it being a busy time of year, I've always felt a little awkward about having a party (and imposing another event and a gift on friends), but I really wanted to do something for him this year. He liked the idea of having a game night. We invited guys and girls, and they all played games together for several hours. The dads congregated in our living room when they came to pick up their kids, so the games just kept going. (I am learning that the secret to successful teen group activities is food and a plan!)

I didn't have any more pictures to choose from than these. Despite how it looks, Michael was having fun!

He agreed to come out with me one afternoon for some birthday pictures, but this year I knew I needed to let him express his own preferences for this little session more than in years past. I didn't insist on particular clothes, or locations, or facial expressions and poses. I just made simple recommendations that I thought would help him feel at ease, since this age can leave a boy feel awkward about posing and silly about toothy grins. How does a mom help her first-born son convey his masculinity and developing maturity? I'm learning to be a help and not a hindrance. 

We just hopped in the car and drove around our area, stopping whenever we saw something that interested him. We happened to spot several old cars, then he wanted to go down by the tracks, and over to the tiger mural. 

Wow, do I ever love this boy! And I am thankful for him in my life. I've always been in the position of learning with him-- about parenting, about praying in faith, about myself... about loving someone that seems so different from me in practice, yet so similar in essence. I am EXCITED to see what the Lord has in store for him! I have a feeling it won't be something regular.