Monday, November 24, 2014

To be Known and Loved

It's strange to think how quickly this season is passing, with fall and the start of school turning into the holiday season, and then a new year just around the corner. In a way it seems like we were just getting started. Still, I am looking forward to a fresh start. I like the anticipation of a new beginning.

We are now officially finished with sports for the season, and now we transition to the indoors, to food with friends and family, to memory making, and to a season of various festivities. Our Thanksgiving guest list is still coming together, but I've started planning and cooking for Thursday. Even now as I type here at the table, I am surrounded by open cookbooks and multiple lists.  It's a fun (and sometimes overwhelming) challenge: Not only am I still learning to be at ease in the hosting department, but my kitchen has a number of limitations. After many years of working with tiny or dysfunctional ovens in rental homes, I at least have a functional standard size oven to be thankful for (although two would be nice on certain days of the year!), but now I only have two small burners to work with. If my pot or pan is large-- and they usually are-- I can only use one burner at a time. So, the challenge comes in being creative and well prepared!

But the rewards are good, too. I sincerely hope they go beyond what is known and felt by me.


The kids and I spent one afternoon in town this past week. I got a nice hot coffee and tiny treats for the kids, then Olivia and I oohed and awed at some really fun, girly things in one of the shops. From the corner of my eye, I caught Michael purchasing something he saw as I was looking through the racks on the other end of the store. I guess he has started his Christmas shopping. Sweet guy. I had to convince him I didn't see what he bought.

We then took a stroll through a little antique store. It's full of small items that the kids like to look through, and they enjoy talking to the gentleman-owner. I imagined what I could do with a dish full of old chandelier crystals, and now I think I may go back and buy them for Christmas tree or garland decorations. They would look classy, I think, and they were less than the price of an average Christmas ball. 

After our shop perusing, we made a bee-line for the beach before the sun set. Oh, how we are still so very thankful we get to live here!

Kisses from the boys, all at once!

The wind was so still that evening. Olivia and I just sat and looked, mesmerized, while the boys ran and had their fun.


We went to a wedding yesterday. It was one that Jon did not officiate, so it was nice to sit by him for a change. In fact, I feel the same way sitting in church when he is not preaching, though I don't think the overall experience of going to church as a family is ever the same as it would be if Jon was not the pastor. It's hard to explain, I guess, unless you already know what I mean! If you are married to a pastor, you know that he is always "on" in church, always aware of a myriad of details unknown to others, always available to the needs of congregants and visitors.

I suppose it OK to say this, too: At home, the thoughts and emotions of a pastor are often diverted or affected by all the details and situations of people's lives, not to mention the mental work of preparing multiple messages each week. I love that Jon has the desire and ability for the relentless work of full-time ministry. I am thankful to be his quiet cheerleader, a partner that tries to free him up and support him in some small way.

But truthfully, it isn't always easy.

I typically shy away from talking about being a pastor's wife. There are many reasons for this, but suffice it to say that it has been both a wonderful experience and a very difficult one, too.

Throughout the years, Jon's position has been a huge challenge for me personally. It would often seem that the skills and personal disposition required of me are the ones I possess the least! Marriage to a pastor has pushed, and pulled, and pressed me in so many ways. I hope I have learned more because of it, and that my character has been refine in the process!

The thing is, I don't really like to think of myself as the "pastor's wife," because there can be such a bizarre identity and list of expectations associated with that title. Rather, I think of myself more in terms of the "wife of Jon, who is a pastor." My biblical requirements are the same as any other Christian woman, that is to be a godly wife and mother, living above reproach and unstained by the world. It's not that I resent the role, it's just that I won't elevate it above my other duties. The bible has plenty to say about wives and mothers, but the term 'pastor's wife' does not exist.

The fact remains, though, that Jon's ministry affects nearly every aspect of our life. I'll even say that it has been a huge test of our marriage, and an impetus to fight hard for each other and for our relationship.

On one hand, the visibility of our life and the expectations to be and do have been pressures I've had difficulty with on occasion. There's this pressure (internal and external) to be and to do what is not comfortable or natural for me.

On the other hand, it has sometimes been a lonely experience. To some degree, a comparison could be made to having children. Whenever there is constant and significant competition for emotional, mental, and physical energies, the other spouse can often feel that there's hardly anything left over for them. We can be completely spent by the duties of our day, then we expect our spouse to understand and be patient with our role. However, this sort of patience and understanding in the long term eventually comes at the expense of closeness and unity in a relationship. Over time, we can begin to feel/ cause our spouse to feel over-looked, unappreciated, and unloved. Over time, the relationship can begin to erode. In deed, it's a difficult thing to meet the constant pressing needs of others (whether in the home or in the church), and still keep the best of ourselves for our spouse in the midst of it. It just is.

Some decide it's too hard and they pour themselves into their work/children instead (the visible, more pressing needs), and live in a fragile marriage of silent survival. Some leave the ministry, some get divorced, some wait till retirement before admitting that the relationship is so terribly fractured. Don't we all know how common this scenario is in our extended family and friends, and in the church? I'd venture to say all married individuals experience some sort of neglect (being neglectful or being neglected) at some point. I am certainly guilty of being and doing things wrong, and of causing harm.

Probably every marriage has it's hardships, it's fiery tests. Your tests, I am sure, are different from mine. I trust God knows what each of us needs, and lovingly ordains our story. And so with this understanding, we know that God intends trials and difficulties to purify and strengthen us, and we look to Him for the grace to obey in spirit and in truth, not in a manufactured, robotic type of obedience. I trust Him with the method in which He chooses to sanctify me.

I came across this quote a while back, and the gist of it was recently brought to my memory as I worked through my own feelings:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”   Timothy Keller

We have this basic need for love. At least I do. I want to be known at the deepest level-- my quirks, faults, and insecurities included-- and still loved. I need to know that I'd still be chosen given the choice again.

It makes me think of the beauty of God's love, because He really does know me perfectly and still loves me unconditionally. In fact, He didn't choose me on the basis of my own worthiness or loveliness, but He chose me despite my wretchedness and based only on the righteousness of Christ. What a thought and a comfort!

So we press on in our pursuit and love for each other, each striving to obey as we are conformed to the image of God. There's no one I'd rather do life with than my husband Jon (who is a pastor)!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Still Here...

It has been a while, but we're still here! Occasionally in recent weeks I have journaled in my head hoping to find a time to transfer thoughts into type, but then the opportunity or the energy seemed never to come. I keep telling myself not to give up on this journal, just to write about the present and not feel obligated to fill in all the blanks.

But now there is a moment, at least to get started. I am watching over the kids as they play in our cold pool. They have wetsuits on and are cruising around on an unusable inflatable mattress before we throw it out. The boys are having a grand time; Olivia is frowning because she wishes they would just sit still and relax.

The seasons are changing, but we've had some hot days nonetheless. Marine fog has been rolling in at night, and our mornings have been blanketed under a tick duvet of white. It makes the atmosphere quiet, cozy, and relaxed. I'm thankful for this weather change, thankful for the atmosphere it brings. I think we all are appreciating it.

I have felt on the verge of burn out more than once this fall, like I'm tinkering on the edge of determined "I can do this," and fear of "I'm going to snap!" It does no good to rehash all the circumstances but it would seem that many areas of my life (spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, ministerial) have been under attack or strain. I feel weak, weary, and tired. Today there was something new, another unexpected trouble, right in the middle of the morning. Sometimes, though, there comes a point when it seems almost laughable because of the irony!

I had a little melt down several weeks ago. Maybe it was more like a tantrum. Sometimes I think the Lord needs to bring me to the end of myself so that I see my need for help. I have needed help but didn't want to admit it. I prefer to think of myself as capable, and the giver of help rather than the receiver. Then there's my husband, the perfect mate for me. He is so understanding. Maybe not in a way that says he gets me, but definitely in a way that says he loves me. More than once I have thought of the verse in Ecclesiastes 4 that says, "Two are better than one... For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow." He has made sacrifices for me that say he loves me, and I am so grateful for him and for the way he leads us.

The Lord always know just what we need and when we need it, so He also sent me my mom. She braved air travel in America where the English is harder for her to understand and she came to spend a week with me. She did not know how I had been doing or that I was needing help, and her visit (which are quite rare) providentially came at the very best time. She came and she served. She just lived with us in the midst of our normal chaos, helping out where it was needed. She ironed a heap of clothes, cleaned off shelves, helped prepare meals, managed the kitchen each night after dinner, and cheered me on with her encouragement. I finally felt like I was able to climb up and out.

So these are good things from God: humility, a loving husband, a serving mother. I can't help but so say that I am thankful.

There has been plenty of good in other ways. We hosted a game night for the youth group of our church last Friday night, and the whole evening was such a good time. There were kids everywhere in my house! I have committed to helping out with youth events - something that is so good on so many levels. A few weeks ago I helped to organize a beach night, and next month it will be a Christmas party. I've had fun doing it, our family enjoys those occasions, and Olivia has been so appreciative that I'm enabling relationships and social time for her. Besides serving the church, I hope to foster good friendships and to promote an environment within our family where my growing kids know their friends are welcomed in our home, and that we (their parents) are invested in the relationships they have with others. The youth leaders are pretty rad, too, and I enjoy getting to know them.

We have a few more weeks of sports left, but already things are wrapping up. Olivia's soccer team won their last play-off game last weekend. It was such a good season for her. She has come out of her shell a bit since the beginning of the season-- for her, girls are harder to play with/against than boys!

In other news from this week, Jacob swallowed his loose tooth at lunch time, and I pulled an old thorn out of his scalp. He wasn't surprised at all when I found it, and casually said, "Hmph. No wonder my head hurt." His head is such a attraction for injury: His nose and both brows are scarred, his head is recovering from a bad fall on the cement several months ago that left him with a temporary bald spot, and his eyeball was nearly shot with Andrew's arrow (it got the lower lash line-- imagine my fright when he came in with what looked like a bleeding eyeball). Some boys are like that. Injury finds them.

Also, Andrew's braces have recently come off. I'm still not used to his new smile, and his cuteness makes me laugh each time he does. He is finally getting over the awkwardness of flashing his new teeth. Now it he can only manage to not loose or break his retainer...

Most of the time my mom visited, one or both of our vehicles were in the shop. It meant there wasn't much opportunity for going out, but we did manage to make it to some tide pools and into the historic part of the city.

It's a boys' paradise.

Olivia's painting from an afternoon not too long ago. It reminds me of my home province, Qu├ębec.

I read this the other morning in a little devotional...

“ ‘Only trust,’ is Jesus’ word. ‘This is all I ask of thee, the utmost thing I require at thy hand. I demand no costly sacrifice, no wearisome pilgrimage, no personal worthiness, no strength, wisdom, or endeavors of your own. Only trust me. Only believe that I wait to answer prayer, that I am gracious, that I have all power at my command, that I have your interest at heart, there is no good thing I am willing to withhold, that I, and I alone, can guide your present steps, can unravel the web of your difficulties, guide your perplexities, extricate you form the snares that have woven their net-work around your feet, and bring you through fire and through water into a wealthy place. Only trust me!’ ”

Octavius Winslow

Morning Thoughts, 539

And to that I say a hearty, "Yes!" Life is wonderfully simple for those who belong to Him.


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.