Thursday, May 23, 2019

Never Alone

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, 
because he trusts in you."
Is. 26:3

It's a guess to assume I'm not the only one who struggles to lay aside weighty thoughts and the cares of life to focus on Christ during Sunday morning worship, but I will try not to assume and speak only for myself. My thoughts and feelings can plague and severely distract me even when my sincere desire is to meditate on the One who rescues and redeems me from it all. The tape plays. Emotional tidal waves come in hard. My thoughts drift.

Here's what I'm learning again. It's not my duty to lay my troubles aside during worship, as if they don't matter or are unimportant. God is in fact the giver of my circumstances, my trials, the important work, and the people to care for; he also created me to respond with emotion to all the difficulties and joys of life. He gives it all to me, ordained it, knows it completely. So it's not my junk to hide from him or to shove aside for a short time. It is only mine to carry to him. I am to cast all my anxieties on Him because he cares for me (1 Pet. 5:7). This may be a better act of worship on such Sunday mornings, far better than mechanically moving my lips to words on the screen. He only beckons us to come wholly as we are, only trusting and obeying, and expecting his divine love and care.

I actually did sing on Sunday - with sincerity, too. In the midst of the struggle, he is far greater. May we know his eternal majesty and lovingkindness to always surpass our earthly, temporary struggles.

These lyrics were helpful in turning my attention to worship because his power and promises are mine to tangibly experience.

O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer
Strong defender of my weary heart
My sword to fight the cruel deceiver
And my shield against his hateful darts
My song when enemies surround me
My hope when tides of sorrow rise
My joy when trials are abounding
Your faithfulness, my refuge in the night

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Phil. 4:6

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matt. 11:28

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Eph. 6:13

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Rom. 8:28

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.  Ps. 62:2

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  James 1:2-3

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  Heb. 12:3

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.  Heb. 13:15

A friend mentioned an article to me tonight regarding the pastor's wife. I could have written something similar, maybe with a few slight additions, omissions, and some different nuances. This article just sort of gives a glimpse into the life I lead. Just a small glimpse. I could add humor in some shocking things people say, believe, and expect. I could also add ways in which my life is immeasurably enriched.

If you care to know your pastor's wife a bit more, have a read. 
If you are a pastor's wife, you are certainly not alone.

Images from Joshua Tree National Park, spring bloom

They thought I was taking a picture of the small scorpion, when in actually it was their hands together that I found captivating. Jon and Michael


Monday, May 13, 2019

Prom 2019

I raced home from Jacob's lacrosse game on Saturday to help Olivia get ready for prom. The needle on my gas gauge was below the empty mark as I battled rainy-day weekend traffic on the Interstate. I shot up a flare prayer. There was no time for stopping because she "needed" me to help with her hair before meeting up with her girlfriends for makeup. I didn't want to miss out on the moment. I looked over at Jacob, all sweaty and very crusted with mud from his game, and took mental note. I love this life I get to live right alongside my kids.

My sweet girl. So many thoughts, so much I could say. I will have to wait for another time or another place.

Senior Prom 2019

She was nominated to prom court this year, along with one of Michael's best friends.
I was so grateful to be able to take pictures with a few other proud parents. This is such a special moment in life, one that will be long remembered.

This last shot is somewhat symbolic to me...
It's bittersweet, but I join her in the joy of arriving to this point on the road of life and anticipate much good as she transitions into adulthood. I am so incredibly thankful to God for who she has become, blessed by her friendship, and proud of her accomplishments.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Song in the Night

There is a songbird that resides in a treetop near my bedroom. He sings a midnight song when the world is dark and still. Possibly he is in desperate search for a mate, but his melody seems peaceful to me. He even maintains his tune through rainy nights. Though some might find him irritating, he's been my favorite songbird this season and I don't mind my sleep interrupted.

Portions of Ecclesiastes 3 read:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up;
a time to breakdown, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak...

The time to speak has come, but to do it with (much) restraint. It is the time to shake off fear of naysayers, slanders, gossipers, and those who desire our downfall. I've spent weeks wondering if I should ever post again, wondering if the likelihood of willful misalignment is worth this freedom.

Funny how a little bird can be a picture of courage to proclaim what is worthy of praise in the midst of darkness and downpour.

I realize this blog has been risky business for years. There have been some who come to pick apart, to judge, and to criticize with less than friendly intent. Despite this, it has never been my goal to present a perfect life that is free of areas needing growth or fixing. My goal has always been to be just a small voice doing my small part of proclaiming the goodness of God despite the facts of my life and my many failures.

I have been reading through the book of James recently as a source of godly wisdom during difficult times. The wisdom contained is priceless; without learning from it I might have been too hasty or undisciplined with my words here. I have suppressed the urge to defend those I love and respect or to lash out in anger and resentment. I do believe in divine judgment, so to suffer quietly is far safer in the grand scheme! 

Chapter three of James speaks of a great forest set ablaze by just a small spark. In the same way, the tongue, though small in size, has the power to execute immense destruction. Words spoken behind closed doors, words written and distributed, and words taken in and repeated have all proven to be like sparks to kindling. The consequences should be no surprise. Words have set aflame a community and a congregation; the destruction has been profound, and the inferno is not easily contained.

Words have immense power whether intended or not. To the fullest degree, they have the power of life and death. When some have mounted a full-out smear campaign, we choose not to play the game in return. I've watched my husband absorb repeated false accusations and misalignment. I have kept silent as the credibility and reputation of my family has been dragged through the mud. I have wept with my kids in disbelief. I have turned numb as friends turn their backs.

It brings us to a pause; it is a forced opportunity to evaluate ourselves and question where our hope and joy reside. The outworking of recent turmoil is newfound resolution. Come what may, our hope is in the Lord. He will accomplish his intended purposes and we trust that our loving Father is always good. Day by day, he promises new mercies and grace to endure.

I took these pictures early in the month of March, when a trial that would eventually feel like a hell on earth was just beginning. Jon came home from a lengthy meeting late in the evening, and he needed to be in L.A. early the next morning. I jumped in the car with an overnight bag in hand, knowing that our time together and opportunity to talk would be extremely limited. We arrived at a little Airbnb bachelor pad in the Hollywood hills somewhere near midnight.

There's something ironic about trials: They always bring what is good. Even then, as it was just beginning, our trial brought deeper connectivity in communication, earnest companionship, excitement at what God was doing, and the wonders of physicality, too. With renewed hope, we were up with the Los Angeles sunrise. God's mercies are new every morning, only some mornings that mercy seems extra evident.

We took a short hike in the hills as the sun continued to rise in the sky, savoring our relationship and the short moments we had together. I'd marry my husband all over again in a heartbeat.

A shot of our Airbnb~
Our little pad was the upper left-hand corner, with perfect skyline and sunrise views.

I took the nine o'clock train out, completing our 9-hour getaway. From my seat I snapped pictures through yellow-tinted train windows, and journaled and listed thoughts from the prior days~

March 5, 2019
Shock and Sorrow

The words 'shock and sorrow' keep ringing in my head as the only words that describe what is transpiring. These words seem like opposite extremes, but intertwined together they become correct expressions of the sentiment.

Sunday night Olivia and I lingered late in the living room, exhausted by emotional drain. We talked candidly of the shock and of the sorrow. Trial has a way of maturing a young heart quickly. She was already born an old-soul type of girl, and I can see this trial forming her into a pillar of strength and a portrait of gentle beauty. She just doesn't know it yet. One thing I've learned in life is that the strongest of people are born through heartache and difficulty. 

My sons, though not all as emotional or communicative, have also learned lessons of character. They are learning the lessons of acting "gentle as doves, but wise as serpents." This will serve them well.

My children have seen their father wholeheartedly submit himself to the elders, to humbly receive accusations, and to entrust himself to his God. They have heard him thank the Lord for trial, and even to rejoice in it because God promises it for our good always. He has reminded us that personal reputation is not what we live for; it is not the prize of our lives, but Christ is. We have prayed together then lifted our heads knowing that God will never fail. We wait to see his handiwork.

In a way, these moments have been a tender grace of God in our family life. I do believe this time in our lives will one day bear fruit in the lives of our kids, and for this I wait in eager expectation.

What ought to be our response in trial?

1. Trust in God explicitly
2. Entrust your well-being to God's sovereignty and his unfailing love
3. Understand that trial is for our good and his glory
4. Walk humbly, finding comfort and companionship in the Savior
5. Endeavor to learn; repent when necessary
6. Remember that in a time of testing, we must be doers of the Word

When we are betrayed...

1. Don't regret having displayed love and kindness; no matter the outcome, it wasn't a waste
2. Keep a tender heart; resist fear of committing to relationship again
3. If appropriate, recommitment to former relationships will take increased wisdom and caution
4. Trust in God's timing and method of sanctifying his children (ourselves and others)
5. Remember that God executes perfect judgment or perfect forgiveness
6. Acknowledge pain, but commit to doing good and loving with hope
7. Understand that trust isn't wed to forgiveness
8. Don't expect apology or acknowledgement of any sort
9. Be thankful for the exposure of people's character and the nature of relationships. Nothing has changed, only now it is exposed. This new knowledge will be a protection.


Much has transpired in two months. More shock and sorrow, yes, but also more hope, more evidences of grace, more growth. Seasons in relationship have changed, some for better, some not. Much has been learned, and much more has been ingrained in our character as God gives us the ability to persevere. And help comes in many ways: comrades in the faith carry the load with us; truth from the Word is understood and wisdom is gained for its application; a biblical lens helps to interpret people, events, and responses; and the Spirit guides in unmistakable ways.

One thing remains: the love of God that never fails. Because of his love, we can temporarily enter into his sufferings with the hope of sharing the eternal glory. Through shock and sorrow, joy will emerge like a song in the night.


Monday, March 11, 2019

From the Files of 2010

I was gifted a Nikon D3000 in the spring of 2010 by Jon. I started my blog in the fall of the same year partly as motivation to push myself to learn that camera and kit lens. I never expected to still be blogging all these years later, nor to have learned far more than that starter dslr through it.

I sorted through my 2010 image files yesterday afternoon during some down time, and decided to pull these pictures to post. Most of these are prior to the beginning of my blog, while some are images I was embarrassed to publish, and others just mean more to me now than they did at the time.

March 2010
Shadow Hills, CA (Our rental home)

March/April 2010
Sarasota, FL (Vacation spot with Rourke family during 3-year immigration and permanent residency process.)

April 2010

Jacob and his dreamy morning eyes. He was always the first to join me each day, always ready for a breakfast banana.

Olivia outside our front door. I remember struggling to get the focus right.

May 2010

Antelope Valley, CA
My hiking days with packs of kids goes way back.

Monkeys ❤❤❤

Evidently, before and after a haircut. I always did prefer shaggy hair.
Those lips! Those eyes! That boy.

Three of my loves...
Ages 3, 5, 7

Ear piercing with a sweet friend. Always twinning back then.
Olivia, age 9

My little chick, Clementine. We each had a chicken during our time in an urban farmhouse.

Age 31

Baby teeth. Sigh.

June 2010

Michael, our ecologist, ranger, and collector of artifacts.

Sept. 2010

Jacob's 4th Birthday

Loving on a poor lizard, the way all my boys did.

Stink bug on Andrew's head. Normal stuff.

Soccer Saturdays on the sidelines.

Andrew's first loose tooth. Jon was going to "help" while the family took pictures. This one cracks me up: Michael video-ing in his underwear, Andrew looking terrified and probably trying to convince his dad to wait on the surgery. The tooth did wait, in the end.

My bookworm girl. Still is.

Serious kindergarten business.

Oct. 2010

Breakfast time in the Word with my captive audience.

The chickens, all grown up. Olivia was their mother.

The kitchen help. Jack is wearing an apron that was made for me when I was about 4-5 years old. My grandkids will wear it someday while we make muffins together. 

Oct. 2010
Ottawa, Canada

Jon's childhood motorbike.

Nov. 2010
Shadow Hills, CA

You could say our chickens were pampered a little...

More daily life. Thanksgiving morning prep work...

Outdoor  Thanksgiving meal with our sweet neighbors

The house we called home for a while. Maybe the hotrod was Thanksgiving day entertainment? I don't remember...

Jon's morning welcome after a long international trip.

Happy days.

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