Thursday, December 25, 2014

"...have you room for Him?"

'Well, says one, 'I have room for him, but I am not worthy that he should come to me.'
Ah! I did not ask about worthiness, have you room for Him?

'Oh! but I feel it is a place not at all fit for Christ!'
Nor was the manger a place fit for him, and yet there was he laid.

'Oh! but I have been such a sinner; I feel as if my heart had been a den of beast and devils!'
Well, the manger had been a place where beasts had fed. Have you room for him?

Never mind what the past has been; He can forget and FORGIVE. It matters not what even the present state may be if you mourn it. If you have but room for Christ he will come and be your guest.    _________________

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." Luke 2:7

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Traditions and Perspective.

Bee's first Christmas Cookie Creation!

"There's something about saying 'We always do this' which helps keep the years together...Tradition is a good gift intended to guard the best gifts".
- Edith Schaeffer

Christmas is almost here! I read that quote the other day in my Advent study and it gave me a new perspective on all the different holiday activities we enjoy. I vacillate between feeling guilty for loving the Christmas traditions more than the meaning sometimes, or feeling silly for over analyzing what is meant to just be fun.

She always has so much fun with her mama.
I heard my co-workers talking last week about how unprepared they feel for Christmas, and I felt like I was missing something because I really don't have anything left to do. It's so strange having no kids at home this much less hustle and bustle related to all the things we HAD to do before Christmas Eve.

Such a strange season of life. But nice.

Learning new things. 
I watch my daughter be busy- juggling her new job, dear little family and a toddler with a big opinion. I see her trying to squeeze in traditions and fun and Jesus and life into a short month, and it makes me thankful for all those moments we had. All the traditions that made her love Christmas. I am thankful for the blessing of those years of "bustle" that have led to this year of less "hustle". I think I would feel a sense of loss and loneliness without those years. I might not have appreciated this phase now if I didn't remember the insanity that was before.

Thankful for an idea online to make "Blessing Bags" for the homeless this year. Bee helped fill them up.
Yesterday as I prepared the "Cookie Decorating Factory" that would be my kitchen, I kept thinking about the memorial service that was happening for dearly loved grandparents of my husband. Steve was unable to attend and needed me at home, so we spent the morning celebrating two grand lives that changed so many. I have know these people for as long as I can remember and my favorite moments were hearing Grannie Anne's stories of the traditions that made up her life. And to think Anne and Earl spent 90+ years of Christmases here, loving and caring for whoever came across their path. It made me smile. And even more, that they were bound together in life for over 50 years, and left that earthly life within a month of one another- it pushed me to keep perspective.

Bee LOVES teasing! She KNEW it was one of each item, but man, did she get a kick out of trying to slip two in!

Perspective to embrace the season I am in, right where I am. To not wish for what someone else might have, or what I think I might want of this world, but to love whatever road God has drawn in front of me. This Christmas and every day, I can keep my heart and focus on the one thing that matters.

You couldn't be around Anne and Earl and not feel their satisfaction with a life well lived. I love thinking about them and the legacy they left behind. It makes my heart hurt to think I won't see them again here, but literally OVERJOYED to know that someday- we will be together again because we have all said yes to Jesus and His saving work.
Almost complete! Just need to add the bus fare to the rescue mission,  socks and rain poncho. Thanks for helping, little one.
It will be a strange Christmas of "firsts" this year. "Firsts" without some traditions and loved ones, but also "firsts" of new traditions and love and friendship. A Christmas to celebrate the One who makes it all worth it, the One who came to make it all right.

"The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a LIGHT has dawned." Isaiah 9:2
A very merry tradition with my girls has begun. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A very "Merry Christmas" life...

Love my people so much.
Christmas is almost here! So many things have changed over the 8 months since I last posted, and it's a comfort to know God has a purpose and a reason for all of it.

I have been enjoying the lights and traditions so much this year because I get to see it through the eyes of a precious toddler, and there just is no better way. There is something about the way a child views Christmas that makes it magical.

Bee has to kiss all her favorite ornaments when she comes to visit.
I am not talking specifically about the acts of Christmas time, or the presents and Santa, although those are pretty great too. I am talking about the feeling of festivity that surrounds this season for most Americans. Even in the hardest years we have had- lost loved ones or scandal or poverty- there is just SOMETHING about this time of year.

My mom always puts up the best Christmas lights, and only her great granddaughter can play with them!
In our bible study right now we are focusing on grace and the way it changes lives. One of my favorite paragraphs just keep resounding in my mind:
"Joy is at the HEART of God's plan for human beings. Joy is at the HEART of grace...The Bible speaks not just about our need for joy in general, but for that particular kind of joy which characterizes God. After teaching on the need for obedience, Jesus told His friends, "I have told you this so that MY joy may be in you and that your joy may be COMPLETE." (John 5:11) The problem with people, according to Jesus, is not that we are too happy for God's taste; it is that we are not happy enough." (Grace- An Invitation to a Way of Life pg 60; Zondervan by Willow Creek Association)

When I look at my grandie girl and all the beauty that makes up her little life, I realize that my tendency to over analyze or over criticize robs life of the sweet joy of simple obedience and perspective. Now, reality is- when she looks at the decorations and the Christmas tree, when she turns the pages of The Nativity book and bows her little head to pretend to pray...she's not the one who crawled around in the attic to find all those things, cut down the tree, decorated it or vacuums daily the pine needles that are never ending. But what could be my focus? Instead of the busy-ness and the effort, what could my heart rest upon?

"While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger...
There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were taking care of their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified. But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. It will bring great joy for all the people. TODAY in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said,
"May glory be given to God in the highest heaven!
And may peace be given to those He is pleased with on earth!" ...

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby. The baby was lying in the manger. After the shepherds had seen him, they told everyone...All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over. " - Luke 2:6-14, 17-19

Talk about someone who could have allowed the circumstances, the stress...the STRUGGLE of life rob her of the joy God has for us. Yet, she didn't. She pondered all that God was doing and would do..and it was a treasure for her heart.

Thank you, Father, for the constant reminder that if I do these things for YOUR glory and for my relationship with you and your people...there isn't a thing about the process of living, about the process of Christmas time, that can't be enjoyed. Thank you that you WANT me to overflow with joy, and you have commanded me to CELEBRATE. And more than anything, thank you for the birth of my Savior...for sending me Jesus, the Christ, the very best reason to have a joyful "party".

"Though the fig tree should not blossom
and there be no fruit on the vines...
the fields produce no food...
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will show great JOY in the God of my salvation. " -Habakkuk 3: 17-19
Jasmine's work Christmas party gave them a reason to dress up and look adorable. Red lipstick for the win. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"But this is your hour- when darkness reigns."

Tomorrow will be a day of celebrating and laughing, a time of family and friends and giving thanks for the ultimate gift of salvation. Some people won't think much of it, some will be brought to their knees in gratitude.

Easter Sunday. So important...but not by itself.

Without Good Friday, Easter Sunday would never have come. To have the city praising him and waving palm branches just a week ago, to Luke 22 and after...shame. That's what I feel. I know my fickleness could have lead me to be one of those in the crowd- a shouting, angry face.

We had the chance to attend a Good Friday Service this year, and as I listened to the accounts of Jesus' last earthly moments, the scripture reading and the medical accounts of His scourging and death, I kept thinking of something I read this week about grace. I have been doing a study by Kay Arthur, and she says throughout that when we are faced with our own sin, when we are ready to confess...we can choose to run to Mount Sinai, or we can run to Mount Calvary.

It's such a tangible idea, to run in one direction or the other. Both towards God, but with very different results.

The author said:
"Remember, it was at Calvary that God inaugurated the covenant of grace as He put to death His Son, the covenant Lamb.
Sinai was the mountain on which the Law was inaugurated as Moses "took the blood of the calves and the goats...saying "THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU TO KEEP". (Hebrews 9:19-20)
To run to Sinai is to try in some way to do penance for your sins, to do some sort of good deed to make up for failing God."

But grace..."grace is found at Calvary".(chapter 6 of "Lord, I Need Grace...")

Oh, how wonderful is that? We keep striving to BE better, to DO better, to try harder to stop being insufficient and weak...when, we will always be completely unable to satisfy the perfection God requires. Until we fall under the sacrifice and forgiveness of Jesus.

Wonderful, wonderful. This weekend is a sad time when you realize what it cost. But it is also the most freeing weekend of the year really, when we choose to embrace all that it stands for.

The pastor said at the beginning of the service to think on what the "Grave" means to us personally. The grave of Christ...and at the end He asked people to just shout out their thoughts. To hear older adults speaking of "grace" and "mercy", young little voices shouting out "forgiveness" and "joy".
I had thought of the word "love" when I pictured Jesus' grave, but as I was just impossible to see any one word or phrase that could possibly define it.

And that's what is so great about God's sacrifice- it's bigger, and better, and more complete than we can ever really understand. Thank you, Father. Thank you for being so much more than we can imagine.

Happy Easter, Friends. Enjoy your eggs and candy and family, while you lift your hands in praise to the One who gave you everything.
"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1John 1:8-9

If you need someone to celebrate Easter with and are local, Thomas Jefferson Middle School will be the place to be at 10 AM Sunday. Be there and worship with us!
3000 NW 119th St, Vancouver, WA 9868

(Pics are just for fun- the last few weeks have been full of landscaping and gardening, of love and friendship. Hard things that break our hearts, good things that remind us tomorrow is a new day, and Jesus with us through it all.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Don't be that guy."

As I was talking with my son the other day, I realized how often we have used the sentence, "Don't be that guy." over the years. For us, it's a catch phrase to represent "That Guy" we all recognize and don't particularly like.
"Don't be that guy"...who never keeps his word.
"Don't be that guy"...who views women as eye candy.
"Don't be that guy"...who takes more than he gives.
"Don't be that guy"...who is too lazy to find ways to help the people around him.
"Don't be that guy"...who wants to be first at all costs.
It's unspoken meaning that our family recognizes to be "That Guy"... who's behavior dishonors God.

But as we were talking, I kept coming back to the fact that I never once use the phrase "Don't be that girl". And so many times, it would have been appropriate.

Awhile ago I got to catch up with a sweet lady who I hardly see anymore and the topic came around to Facebook and how I wish she posted more often because seeing her happy little life made me smile.

Her response shocked me...and made me a little mad.

She said she really doesn't post anymore because a friend told her once that she didn't like to see how "perfect your life is" and it made this friend angry.

Seriously. This dear, sweet thing felt that she couldn't share all her praises and happiness because it was causing her friend to stumble. As tender and sweet as she is, this conversation spotlighted one of the saddest things about us. Comparison, coveting, whatever...
Her friend's own bitterness and ugly refusal to be joyful in HER circumstances caused her to steal joy from those around her.

"Don't be That Girl"...How often do we feel that twinge of jealousy as women, because we want what someone has. From the outside, we view another woman to BE more, HAVE more, fill in the blank, when all we need to do is look UP instead of around and we would be completely satisfied.

We can go to Philippians 4 and see what God's prescription for contentment really is- being satisfied in Him alone- but how many of us know that with our heads, but don't, or won't, work it out in our hearts? 

Please, sisters...make it a priority to WORK it out. Stop comparing and start praising God for what He is doing in your life, not what you wish He would do. Rejoice when your friends see blessings and help them along this rocky road of life.
Don't be That Girl...who can't be happy in what God is doing for others because you want it.
Don't be That Girl...who can't be satisfied because someone skinnier or prettier is in the room.
Don't be That Girl...who says catty things to another because her kids look better behaved than yours.
Don't be that girl...who's behavior dishonors God. 

Don't be that girl that YOU wouldn't want to be friends with.

We are in this boat together, and it's such a better ride when we use our "oars" for rowing in sync rather than as clubs to beat each other down.

"Who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who among the angels is like the Lord? God is highly respected ...He’s more wonderful than all those who are around him." Psalm 89:6-7

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sometimes...I am so sentimental, I make MYSELF sick.

What a month! Tuesday I gave the keys back to my little house. And now I sleep in a room that isn't my own, in a bed I don't recognize, and looking out windows that hold no familiarity. How silly to love the change, but struggle with it at the same time.
We had no intention of moving out of our little Felida house until we bought a place back out in the country, where we could have our horses and dogs and the seclusion we love. "Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house..." and all that. We struggled with how small our house was, the bigger our family got the more we felt the difficulties of not having a dining room, or enough seating in the living room for when the kids came over.

But it was perfect for just Steve and I, and I loved my yard. So many pretty little things I had planted and watched grow.
* I could sit and picture Danny's long legs swallowing up the driveway as he came to say hello- bursting through the screen door and full of fun conversation.
* Caitlyn and Jazz riding bikes to the country store and eating disgusting things...just because they could.
* Spencer zipping down the drive on his bike to get a glimpse of his "true love"...loving and hurting for him yet wanting to grab a broom and sweep him away at the same time. 
* My kids running and laughing and playing and crying. Ping Pong, basketball, and everything that defines being a teenager.
 * Long talks snuggled up in blankets on the porch, watching the sun go down.
* Water fights, babysitting cousins, Little House on the Prairie marathons that made us laugh and cry all at the same time. 
* TAG girls lounging on my sofa and telling me their hearts, loving them all the more because of what God was doing through them...and they sometimes didn't even know it. 
* Parties and family and friends and joy.
* Hard memories too, ones that still sting.
But even that was difficult to let go because it defined a time in our lives where God did amazing things and proved again how faithful and loving He is in spite of us.

I think Jordan said it best, the day we moved the beds in and he recognized what was missing. "Mom, how weird is it that there are only two beds now." My man child, seeing the emptiness that happens as we grow up and move on. We are such nomads, he has moved a million times so it's no big deal. But every other time, he has had his sister right there next to him. Laughing as they pack treasures that hold wonderful memories. Having Nerf wars as they unpack and explore the new hiding places. But this time, there's no bed in the room next to his. There's no laughter from a crazy, fun, baby sister running in to show you an old picture she found. There's just being grown up. And starting something new.

I felt it best when I heard a knock at the door and opened it to find my daughter standing there.
"Why on earth did you knock, love? You know you can come right in."
"I don't have a key, Mom. This isn't my house."
Oh, you can imagine the tears.
So sentimental. It's actually pathetic.

But when God opens a door, it's a good thing to walk through it. So here I sit, finally having a minute to breathe...away from cardboard boxes, cleaning and painting, loading and unloading. And as different and odd as I feel, I can choose to thank God for all the blessings.

We have had guests that aren't sitting on the floor. Baby Bee has her own playroom where she can explore, chat with her angel fish, and rock with me as we read stories and make up fairy tales. We use to call our house "A Hobbit Hole" because it was so dark and wet, but this house is filled with light and openness.
The moment that I finally stopped crying about what was, and looking forward to what is was on Wednesday. A dear, sweet girl who was in my high school group- now so beautiful and grown up- stopped by to say hello and shine light and love into my day. It blessed my heart so much and gave me hope.
She has no idea how much God used her to slap me straight.
It gave me hope in the NEW memories we would make. The new adventures we will have and the new ways we can serve God. My address is just address. Nothing else has changed.

It helped that she brought me double chocolate brownies with a chocolate chip cookie topping. She knows me.

Thank you, Lord for the way you move us and shake up our world. Thank you for teaching us to "hold all thing lightly, and nothing tightly". I love you. The sun is shining, and this yard is CALLING my name. Flowers and weeds and rocks and dirt, I'm coming for YOU.

" Never stop reading this... Day and night you must think about what it says. Make sure you do everything that is written in it. Then things will go well with you. And you will have great success. Here is what I am commanding you to do. Be strong and brave...Do not lose hope. I am the Lord your God. I will be with you everywhere you go.” Joshua 1:8-9
(One of my last memories of the old house, celebrating Bee and Spencer's birthdays. )

(No blog is complete without admiring this little cutie. She's ONE!)

Friday, February 21, 2014

A nice sabbatical...

(Pics are just for fun- little mini photo shoot Jazz wanted for Valentine's Day.)
After a little break from the blogging world, my son threw down on me and said "Please write a blog post, Mom"...and I have nothing to say.

Can you believe that? I always have something to say. I had decided to stop blogging this year due to my kids being "grown" and not wanting to embarrass them any more than I already do, so I have just been focusing on private journaling. But after they both said I had to write again and they missed it...I am not sure where to even begin.

My man child and his lady friend spent the evening reading through my blog book from 2008 (Blog to Print is a great site that will publish your blog in whatever format you design- I make them as keepsakes for my kids, the whole purpose to this blogging business originally) and it was so interesting to hear his take on it. He loved the post I wrote about him of course, "How do you tell your 13 year old son you LIKE him?" while others made him sad because he missed loved ones who aren't around anymore.

When I think about starting 2014, and all that has occurred I can't help but lift my hands up and say "Only You, God".
Only You, God, would think to make us sinful, crazy, loving, unique, and broken people into your special delight.
Only You, God, would beckon us to draw near to you through Jesus, the only one who truly has the RIGHT to be near you.
The grace and the kindness of the Lord is just too much sometimes.  I have no idea what this year is going to look like. I live in fear so much of the time- what next traumatic thing will happen, and other times I just don't give a rip. How can He put up with my fickleness and still WANT me to be near Him? Only You, God.

Reading through Galatians the last couple weeks just puts it beautifully:
"You are all children of God by believing in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ as if he were your clothes. There is no Jew or Greek. There is no slave or free person. There is no male or female. Because you belong to Christ Jesus, you are all one." Galatians 3:26-28

That's it. That simple. That AWESOME.
Only YOU, God, would make us One in such an amazing way. Thank you for that. 

This year bought a grandbaby who is now one years old. And it has me saying the same thing I did in 2008 when I looked at my 13 year old boy...Where did the time go?

Only by His grace can we live each day to smile, to cry, to love, to laugh. Only by His grace do we have any noteworthy moment, thought, or word. 

 I kind of love that. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013- what a year...

Doing a "Year in Review" has always been so much fun, and this year in particular surprised me nearly every month.

I keep a list of "God Stops" each month, little things that make me stop and say "There You are, God." And if a verse comes to mind to reinforce the learning, I jot it next to the moment.

Going through this last year's book had me laughing and crying- simply for how ridiculous I am to think I will ever understand fully the King of the Universe. His ways are not mine, and thank God for that- because His results are far better than mine would be.

More than anything, I look back at this year and thank Him. My children are all seeking after the Lord and growing, what more could I want. Steve and I are still married. That in itself is a miracle in this day and age, but happily married feels too good to be true. My grandie girl is the biggest surprise blessing I could ever ask for, and each day is filled with opportunities to serve and learn.

 Here's to 2013. I can only imagine what this next year will bring...

God provides just what you need. When you need it. 
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 
1 Thessalonians 5:10-11

You can never truly be prepared for how GOOD and GRACIOUS the Lord's gifts are. 
" But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." Psalm 86:15

In our broken repentance, there is a beauty that can take your breath away. 
 "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion." 
Isaiah 30:18

God loves a good story. 
" He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
                                                 he seals off the light of the stars. 
                                                 He alone stretches out the heavens
                                                 and treads on the waves of the sea."
Job 9:7-8

Age doesn't have to be our main defining characteristic. But our character and resilience can.  
 "I will meditate on your precept and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word." Psalm 119:15-16

Goals are important. And it's ok to dream a little. 
"Therefore...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..." Hebrews 12:1

Laughter is ALWAYS the best medicine. 
"A joyful heart is good medicine..." Proverbs 17:22a

Change brings grief, no matter how good it is. 
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..."
Ecclesiastes 3

There is always something new to learn. Some area we can grow in. 
"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her." Proverbs 8:10-11

We really do reap what we sow. So be sure the seeds you are spreading will bear fruit you will like. 
"Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing."
Proverbs 20:4

If you want to walk far, don't walk alone. 
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."
James 5:16

Family is what you make it. It changes and moves, so treasure them while you can. 
"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21

Happy New Year, friends. It was a year like no other, that's for sure. And I wouldn't change a thing.