Thursday, February 15, 2018

Miscellany (of Murals and Journals)

Time passes, my days are full, and journaling happens in short segments of time. Mostly there is no time for journaling, but if my mind could transcribe words instead of silent thoughts there would be so much more content to this blog. In my mind I am nearly always carrying on a conversation of sorts, either with myself of with someone not present, or with God. For someone who is frequently described as quiet and reserved, people would be amazed at the noise in my brain. It's a party in there, and a novel, essays, and rants. Maybe it's borderline crazy.

None of my pictures have been transferred from my camera to my computer since our trip over the New Year's holiday, so I've decided to use some of the pictures I've collected with my younger boys during the autumn months. We've decided we enjoy searching out murals together, and we have spent several afternoons zipping around to take pictures at local spots. Sometimes this is planned, other times it is in passing.

So this installment of a "Miscellany" post is for making blogging doable for me. It is just an assortment of thoughts and silly pictures.

"Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye." 
-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, and some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people” 
― Edgar Degas


A few thoughts with Valentine's Day in mind...

First thought: I saw a t-shirt recently that said something to the effect: "Love me like Chip Gaines loves Joanna."

Can I just say that's retarded? Really? Please don't bring other people's relationship into your marriage as a base of comparison. How unfair! How small-minded. The Gaines have a cute (maybe even exemplary) relationship that has been refreshing to see, but don't ever be duped into thinking that any one's life or relationship is perfect. No one is free of difficulty, no relationship is void of pain, and no one should be asked to meet a standard that is based on the perception of someone's life.

What you see on screen is always edited. You are shown a snapshot, a slice of reality, a small piece of viewing material that is intended to depict something specific. Most of the real stuff of life is not on display, whether the person is publicly recognized or not. Most of what you see in public is also "edited" because few truly live without inhibition. That cute couple in church, that person you follow in a blog or on Instagram, the author of that Christian book on your nightstand... all horribly imperfect.

And that will show up in their relationships somewhere.

Sorry if you are a fan of the Gaines. I like them, too, just not the false ideal some people then turn around and expect their husband to live up to. I'm not a fan of recipes for failure.

Second thought: One of my favorite quotes comes to mind this Valentine's Day~

“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.”
Tim Keller

To be fully known and truly loved is the ultimate goal. It is Christ-like love, by the power of the Spirit, through forgiveness and grace. Human relationships are messy and loving another despite what we find is a beautiful choice. Make this kind of love your life-long goal in loving your spouse, even if arriving at that goal will be impossible. And know that it will be just as impossible for your spouse to perfectly do in loving you. Embrace the difficulty of marriage together, and press into a truer and more intimate knowing of each other that adds depth and sincerity to your love. 

And let the perfect love of Christ be the example.


"It's easy to fool the eye but it's hard to fool the heart." 

“Ouvrir les yeux est un antidote au d├ęsespoir.” 
-Sylvain Tesson


Summer weather smack in the middle of winter is not so bad and I've been enjoying it immensely.

I realized something once again, though, as I was running by the beach this week, and it has unraveled something far bigger than a simple realization...

I care far too much about what other people think of me. That's nothing new, but the degree to which it plays out surprises me at times. This has been stated here before, but unfortunately I am a slow learner.

If I enjoy something, or if the Lord has blessed me in a certain way, I'm frequently afraid to draw attention to the gift because I fear the thoughts and jealousy of others. Instead of affirming the goodness of God out loud or publicly, I savor it quietly and avoid drawing attention to it lest I cause someone to jealously think I am boasting. Instead of praising God for the gift (God focused), I cower in fear of disapproval and jealousy from others (self-focused). My concern of how others might feel if they choose to compare their situation with mine is not a spiritual maturity, but rather a refusal to simply worship God in praise and thanksgiving. We all have things in our lives worthy of praise, gifts that the Giver wisely gives to some and withholds from others. We will only be further blessed through our praise and thanksgiving, and I don't want to miss out on that!

So stating something as plain as the beautiful weather I've enjoyed, the beach, the sunsets, the ability to run, to create, to bring order, or accomplish... or whatever... these are viewed by me as undeserved blessing. Just saying.

Yes, some people are smack in the middle of a cold, dark winter and they are battling seasonal  depression. I feel for them. I battle depression for other reasons at times, but the fact remains that there is beauty and wonder all around me and in me. These remind me of God's goodness and care for me; they are his works. It's undeserved and worthy of praise. We all have these blessings if we look, even though they aren't the same. I invite you to look; be intentional to see what you can find, like gifts that need to be unwrapped and acknowledged.


“You were born an original work of art. Stay original.” 


If I could turn back time I would. I'd love to go back to when my kids were little. I frequently picture each of them during the younger years and reminisce those sweet days.... softer hair, smaller bodies, lots of time for affection and cuddles. Life was busy, but it somehow seemed slower and much simpler. Things were different, but seasons of life are not meant to last forever. Each season has something new for us to experience and discover.

If I could go back in time, I'd also appreciate my own smoother, more supple skin in a way I never did before... but that's another story.

Anyway, new seasons to enjoy are here, and enjoy them I will do! I noted a few fun things this afternoon: 

1. Increased maturity- Michael went straight to doing his homework after I picked him up from school today. No orders or even suggestions by me needed. After youth group tonight, he will continue till the late hours.

2. Increased independence- I went for an 8 mile run this afternoon and passed Andrew on the way out. He was heading home on his unicycle from his secret "moss place" with new mosses for his terrarium.

3. Relationship by choice- On my way home from my run, I passed by Olivia and Jacob on a sibling date. She was taking him out for tacos at the local stand. Sweet, eh? Makes me happy.


"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall." 
-Ray Bradbury


On smoother, more supple skin:

There's no such thing as magic in a bottle, but coconut oil is pretty rad. I use it to remove make up and to moisturize my whole body. Coconut oil has amazing health benefits and I try to incorporate it whenever I can in the kitchen, too. I've used it on my skin for a couple years now, and I'm never going back. Also, YAY for no chemicals being absorbed and for affordability!

My routine is to dry brush, shower, and massage in coconut oil. It may be the closest thing to youthful, smooth, supple skin...



On exercise:

I run because I can. I don't claim to be good, but it's doing good things for me.

I'm nearing the end of another training cycle in preparation for another race. I run to finish, and to improve my personal strength and endurance. I sign up for races to push me to train. I train because doing hard things is satisfying, and it tells me I have fight left in me. When I feel like giving up, simply knowing that I have quiet FIGHT to persevere is huge for me. Whether I'm running miles on the road far from home, or running this race called life, I'm always in need of stubborn fight.

My 8 miles was the second of three medium length runs this week, then I have a long run this weekend. My shins and feet are holding up excellently this training period, and I'm feeling stronger than ever before. I am super thankful. I clearly remember life with extreme, chronic anemia and whole-body effects of painful lower back scoliosis. I may never be free from those issues, but God has graciously granted relief. Yes, he gave me trials and he gave me fight. Both are a mercy.

Along with endurance, I'm also working on flexibility, strength, and balance. I am a slow but steady work in progress. It is a daily occurrence for me to think how physical endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance are also needed in the emotional, mental, and spiritual realms.


“Everyone has to scratch on walls somewhere or they go crazy” 
― Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion

“Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.” 
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride


On aging:

It is inevitable. Try to like it. Try to embrace reality.

I'm trying hard. My 40th is coming this year, and I'm not really embracing the idea. How? How did that happen? Forty is not how I feel. I felt more like 40 when I was 30, so maybe better health and vitality is what I should celebrate?

It didn't help when someone recently told me I could be a grandma in just a few years. Nor did it help when Olivia agreed, very matter-of-factly.

Do people see me as almost a grandma?! Is it only in my head that I'm aging fairly gracefully, and feeling more youthful than the numbers 4-0 appear?

My vision has been a bit blurry recently. Sigh.



Life has been hard recently. Just saying. I called up a friend I don't see often and we got together. I don't meet up with friends often, or make SOS type calls for emergency meet-ups. We sat together and exposed our vulnerabilities, pains, and discouragements. And we shared a few tears.

Life was never meant to be easy.

A few days ago I needed an escape-- not from anything or anyone surrounding me at the moment, but just a place to exhale. A quiet place where no one needed me or something I could give, where no one could find me.

The car was my place, parked in the darkened garage. I sat there with an amber bottle of kombucha, feeling guilty for taking a bottle all to myself and remembering the days when I'd hide from my littles in the pantry with a square of chocolate. But kombucha is expensive even on sale and I didn't have enough to go around, so I wasn't planning on getting caught. My sense of guilt can easily get the best of me.

Anyway, there I was feeling defeated and sorry for myself. I was looking for relief, for something more satisfying than my present state.

We look for satisfaction in lots of wrong places, don't we? Even in a darkened car and a bottle of something.

In the quiet dark, I thought about these things. My coconut lime kombucha was really nice, but certainly not magic in a bottle. Satisfaction found in anything the world has to offer is fickle at best, and elusive in the long term. I daily look for it in wrong places.

Ministry is hard. Seeing my husband bear the weight daily and feeling the effects on myself and our family is super hard much of the time. Should anyone be surprised? I am always surprised that some people think it is some sort of party of friendship and support. No. It is often a relentless battle with much opposition, discouragement, criticism, and loneliness. We are grateful for those who battle with us, but no, ministry is not easy.

The devil loves for nothing more than to soil the relationship that Christ has with his church in the eyes of the world. Jon and I are acutely aware that our marriage will always be threatened in ministry, because marriage is a picture of Christ's love for his church. And the never-ending needs and work/expectations of ministry, along with certain people in the church, are like wedges in a marriage if allowed. The demands and expectations could threaten to jack-hammer us apart.

This is not unique to us, or a statement against our local body. Not at all.

But our satisfaction will not be found in this work, nor will it be found in a perfect marriage (even if that were a real thing). Satisfaction isn't in being loved and appreciate by people, whether in ministry or not. My joy cannot be tied to people's evaluations of how we are meeting needs, because there is no way any human being can fully meet all needs.

We look for satisfaction in all the wrong place. Do we perhaps have an sinful expectation of our church body to meet our needs? Do you, if you are honest? Is this why many people are so dissatisfied with their church? Everywhere I go, I here it said. People are dissatisfied with church.

But here's the thing: If a perfect church could be found, it would still not meet all your needs.

Only Christ can do that. Only relationship with Christ can bring true satisfaction.

Don't look to the church to be your savior. This is idolatry.

Our church and fellowship with believers are not replacements for relationship with God. If you feel that your church hasn't met your "needs," consider that maybe you are expecting what only God can give. Let's not make an idol out of our church, then turn around in anger and complaint when fellow heirs of grace cannot satisfy.

Give what you expect to receive from others. Be the first to engage in meaningful conversation. Be the first to extend an invitation, or a visit, or a word of encouragement. Don't expect others to do what you are unwilling to do. And serve; use your gifts instead of complaining you aren't being served. Church is not a consumer oriented enterprise. Love others the way you want to be loved; our standard of love is not how we presently feel loved.

Then through all the giving, I promise you will receive something in return.

But... know that you won't receive everything that you need; only relationship with Christ can satisfy.


"I did not know how to paint a mural. I did not know how to prepare the surface. There was nobody from the Renaissance around who could advise me, and I did the best I could."
-Maurice Sendak


A note for you:

Sister, you are loved. Know that.

Because you are loved by the author of love himself. 

God IS love, and Love has sought you and sacrificed for you. You don't need to earn it from God, so you don't need to earn it from others.

Stop chasing perfect love and bask in the knowledge that you already have it.

Go live to give love in return. Freely. Live free, giving freely.



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