Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Give Me A Break

Yesterday my parents were in town and gave me the day off.  I repeat, the day off.  It was glorious.  I left and did a couple things I had to do and then a couple things just for fun!  I took advantage of verbs I haven't seen since 2007; I lollygagged and meandered and browsed!  Lunch by myself was bizarrely quiet; nobody spilled anything, nobody stole my food, I didn't have to take anybody to the bathroom and then I didn't have to take anybody else to the bathroom.  It was truly heavenly.

We moms need a break now and then, yes?  Those tiny little kiddos are precious and lovable, but come on.  We're only human!  Last year somebody laminated this verse for me and it sits by my kitchen where I see it whenever I'm doing dishes, grabbing a washcloth to wipe a sticky kid down, or dumping curdled milk from a bottle that's been missing for two months.  Thanks to this little laminated verse my kids have been spared many an unnecessary scolding:

He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young. 
Isaiah 40:11

I especially love that bit about God gently leading those that have young.  It's music to my ears, and a spiritual break for my soul.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

God's Guidance

What a busy couple days!  Yesterday we celebrated my baby's second birthday.  I think she had a nice day.  The only thing in the world she wanted was a cupcake and I was able to make that happen, so... success!  Charlotte is your typical busy two year old.  Today she had a potty training accident on a paperback book, dumped the dog's food into her full water dish, squirted my stovetop cleaner all over herself and my floor, pulled all her clothes out of her dresser, and fell off a barstool.  That was the first half hour she was awake.  I spend a lot of time following her around and gently (or not) reminding her, "That's not for babies!" "No, no." "Charlotte, be gentle!" "Be careful! That will hurt you."  Often I have to pick her up and remove her (yank her) from whatever it is she's "exploring."

Our God is so good to give us free will.  It must take all kinds of supernatural restraint to watch us move closer and closer to making a huge mess, and not just take the stovetop cleaner away from us (or whatever- you know what I mean).  He may need to lovingly correct us with a holy tap on our misbehaving bottoms every now and then, but he gives us the free will and the responsibility to make our own decisions.  It may not always seem awesome, but we know in our heart of hearts that we couldn't have it any other way. 

I could not be further from perfect.  I make so many mistakes and poor decisions every day!  But with God's help, I'm hoping to take some baby steps.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

Are parties fun, or what?  There is nothing I love more than inviting my favorite people over for some food and fun.  But I hate pre-party prep.  The vacuuming, the dusting, the window cleaning, the stressing about food (is it enough? is it yummy? is anyone allergic? is anyone vegan?), it goes on and on!  Sometimes my husband threatens to not let me have people over anymore because HE claims I get crabby!  Moi?  Crabby? 

Yes.  Very, very crabby. A big crab with a clean house.

Do you feel this way?  Are you torn between wanting the fun of friends and fellowship and the dread of doing copious amounts of cleaning beforehand?  If so, welcome to Club Martha.  Dear Martha.  It's stressful enough having visitors, but the King of kings?  Yes, I imagine she was a bit flustered and wanting all to be right.  I love Jesus' line: " 'Martha, Martha' [he says her name twice! Does he do that anywhere else in Scripture? I don't know, but I love it.] the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one'...." (Luke 10: 41-42).

Is it just me, or do you sort of feel like Jesus himself is giving us permission to skip the pre-company stove cleaning?!  I'm sure that wasn't exactly his point, but maybe it was just a little.  Fellowship is important.  Old friends are important, new friends are important, opening our Christian homes to people is important.  Total disinfection not necessary. 

So swing by!  Come on over!  Embrace my messy and chaotic home.  I can't promise gourmet food or that you won't step on a Polly Pocket, but I can guarantee pretzels, Diet Coke, and bad puns.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Wish For A Fish

I am not a good fisherman.  For one thing, I don't like slimy things, so touching worms and fish are out.  Secondly, if the water is wavy, I'll probably puke.  Lastly, it's supposed to be a quiet sport and I am not quiet.  My husband loves fishing; he can get over my slime-aversion and even my puking, but he can't tolerate my scaring the fish away with constant chatter.  Consequently, he's always claiming "there's not enough room in the boat" for me.  It could be a cruise ship with his shadow as his only fishing buddy and there would just not be enough room.

My point is, I'm not a good at fishing for fish and that's ok.  Sadly, I'm also not great at fishing for men as Jesus instructed us to do, and that's not ok.  Case in point, last Saturday I had this conversation with the grocery store cashier:

Cashier: "What are you up to this weekend?"
Me: "Oh, just the usual, church tomorrow and then taking my daughter to hockey practice."
Cashier: "Church, huh? I gave up on that when I was twelve.  My parents always took me to weird churches with creepy people."
Me: "That's so sad!  I love my church." (Eeeeeek!  What do I say?!  How do I not freak this guy out?!  How do I not freak out?!  How many people are in line behind me?!  Did he remember to scan my coupons?!)
Cashier: "I work Sundays anyway."
Me: "Oh. Welllll, our church has a Monday service." (Am I being pushy?  Am I being pushy?!?!)
Cashier: "Really?  I thought church was just a Sunday thing."
Me: "I think lots of churches know how hectic weekends can be and are starting to offer services during the week too." (I have never successfully talked a person into coming to church!  Is this it?  My first fish?!  If he were a real fish, what kind would he be? A trout? Salmon?  Focus! Focus!)
Cashier: "That'll be $125.47."

I paid up and took off.  Without even mentioning my church's name.  Duh.  He was circling my worm and I just reeled in, or dropped my pole, or whatever best fits this little metaphor.  Obviously, I have enlisted a team of women who shop at this grocery store A LOT and they'll be on the lookout for him.  He's going to be so confused when all these SAHMs start coming in and laying hands on him!  Just kidding.  They're way better at fishing for men than I.

I guess I'll just keep trolling and hope I eventually get a bite.  In any event, this involves much less slime and vomit, but lots of chatter!  And that?  I can do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Soul Surfer

Monday in mid-Michigan was a cold, rainy day.  Perfect for watching a movie with my little girls.  We pulled our softest blankets out, put on comfy clothes, and snuggled in for a relaxing afternoon... of watching a girl lose her arm and nearly bleed out and die from a shark attack.  It's the stuff little girls' dreams are made of, right?!  Actually, we were watching Soul Surfer, the Bethany Hamilton story, and I make it sound way more graphic than it was. 

My girls were enraptured.  We haven't stopped talking about sharks, surfing, amputations, or tourniquets for two days.  Bethany Hamilton was only thirteen when she lost her arm in a shark attack, but her story is amazing.  She handled the situation with more bravery and grace than most adults would; her testimony is outstanding.  This darling girl used the publicity from the attack to spread the love of Christ, and she took the Word all over the world.  Someday Bethany Hamilton is going to surf on a gold plated surfboard with Jesus himself hanging ten next to her, I just know it.

Watch it with your family! (I checked it out at our library.)  But if you're watching with your kids, be ready to Google "blood transfusions" and the like for days after.
 This inexplicably makes me want to take up surfing.

Picture credit:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I love love love when Jesus talks about the little children.  I love Jesus all the time, but it's times like Matthew 18:2 when I like him best.  He seems softer to me in these moments, (yes, even as he speaks about gouging out eyes) and so... approachable.  This is my Jesus.  This is my guy.  Then he gives me a totally doable tip: "...change and become like little children..." 

What?!  Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy!  I'm so childish it would blow your mind!  Silly rhymes?  Check.  Laughing at inappropriate noises?  Check.  Wanting my Mommy?  Double check.  Let the grown-ups have their weird sushi, I'll take a grilled cheese!  Why play Bunco when Candyland is available?!  I watched Wizards of Waverly Place into my 30s for crying out loud!! 

Hm?  What?  That's not exactly what Jesus meant?  That's not at all what he meant?  Well.  I'll keep working on my childlike skills, but in the meantime I'm going to continue to cling to Christ's gentle words from Matthew: "Beware that you don't look down upon a single one of these little children.  For I tell you in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father." (Matt. 18:10)  I love it.  And I believe with all my heart the angels are enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich with our Maker.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Big "If"

If you know me in real life you've probably heard me say I need a prayer thesaurus.  If God were less godly, he would want to smack me with a holy frying pan every time I rev up for a prayer.  Because I use the same phrases, terms, and general vocabulary every time I pray.  And one of my regular faux pas is highlighted in Mark 9 when a boy's father is asks Jesus to drive out a demon.  Verse 22 reads, "... But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

If you can do anything?  Puh-lease.  That guy may not have known the extent of Jesus' power, but I have no such excuse!  My prayers for pity and mercy usually go something like, "if you could blah, blah, blah... wait! Wait! Sorry, there I go again!  Of COURSE you can!  Aughhh!  You know what I meant right?!  Let me try again...."

Do you ever pray like that?  Say something so inane to God?  On  the other hand, I'm not lamely offering to burn down a Samaritan village, James and John!  (Just kidding boys, you did good work here.)

I hope your Monday was lovely and your evening is full of eloquent prayers!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Confessional

Can you imagine if the  name of my whole blog was "The Confessional"?  I bet I'd get a lot more traffic!
Actually, I’m about to confess to you that I can be a not-so-great human being.  Sometimes I don’t like a person.  And instead of trying to like them?  Instead of finding qualities that I could just love in them? I let myself sink deeper and deeper into dislike.  Sometimes, you guys, I look for more reasons not to like them.  Until one day I’m stranded and this person comes along to help and I don’t accept AND am angry at him for being in a position to help me. 

I know.  For shame. 

My point is, the rabbis and Pharisees should have been thanking their lucky stars.  They’ve dedicated their lives to becoming holy men, following some very fancy, complicated laws to a tee in order to achieve rabbi or Pharisee status.  But it’s worth it, because when you’re a rabbi or Pharisee in Israel you get crazy awesome accolades.  But then a young, hip rabbi (Jesus) comes in on his longboard (well, that part isn’t in the Bible, actually) and says all their rule following and suffering through bacon-less meals is for nothing!  And Jesus being Jesus gave them what should have been the loveliest of outs:  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30).

But these gentlemen were looking for any excuse to hate Jesus.  Instead of taking this opportunity to make their lives much easier, they chose to condemn Jesus.  For lots of reasons, like small-mindedness, pride, jealousy…. All kinds of ugly things stopped them from seeing our Jesus for what he was- a Savior.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Suddenly I Seed

Let’s hear it for the seedy parables!  As a Sunday School teacher to four year olds, I hear about seeds a lot.  Often, these little kiddos leave our classroom and I’m certain nothing more than glitter and feathers stuck to them- not our Bible verse, and definitely not the talking points I give them to discuss with their parents.  So I really, really depend on the truth of the seed parables. Because if I’m not planting seeds in these precious little preschoolers than what the heck?  For the sake of my sanity I can’t believe it’s all for naught!
And on this I’m right.  It’s not for nothing, Sunday School teachers! Parents! Seed planters everywhere!  Rejoice!  Jesus Christ backs us up!  History backs us up!  Jesus explains, "… like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”  (Mark 4:31-32)  Our seeds will become mighty oaks!  Lovely fields of mustard!  And if His words aren’t enough, look to your own experience.  I remember specific people planting seeds in me, don’t you?  And look how awesome you turned out!
Kids aren’t the only ones who need seeds, as you know.  New believers and non-believers and life-long Christians all need a seed.  We are commissioned to plant seeds in others and cultivate the ones planted in us.  We need seed!
A teeny, tiny mustard seed.

A massive mustard field that is beautiful and productive.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Words of Wisdom

Happy Sunday!  It could not have been a more beautiful fall day here!  We celebrated by going to church, making pumpkin pies, playing outside, and visiting neighbors.  I read my Bible passage aloud to my four year old while we snuggled on the couch, as my baby yelled from her crib and fought her nap.  It was almost ideal.  I hope your Sunday was just as lovely.

My pastor spoke a great word today (you can hear it here); he briefly mentioned getting to know a seemingly unlikeable person better and better until... surprise!  You actually like him!  My mom quotes Abraham Lincoln all the time, "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better."  In high school it was so annoying because, "Ugh!  Mom!  Are you even listening?  It's a SHE!  Totally different.  You don't get it at all!" (door slam)  I'm reminded of my mom's wisdom (oh, and Abraham Lincoln's) when I read these words from the wisest one of all:

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that? (Matt. 5:46-47)

It's so much more fun to hang with people we love... and important too!  I'm certainly not about to ditch my besties!  It's so hard to love people who don't seem to appreciate our efforts!  And even harder to love people who are downright nasty!  But it turns out Honest Abe was on to something (and you too, Mama).  Usually if I spend a little time with a person?  I end up liking her in spite of myself.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Now What?

I'm starting a new Bible study and I'm equally excited and terrified about it!  My church is doing Unfinished by Richard Stearns, who you may know as the CEO of World Vision.  I wasn't going to do it because I'm already doing a study (on Deuteronomy, with Beth Moore).  But the truth is, I suffer from severe FOBLO.  You know, Fear Of Being Left Out.  I couldn't stand that the whole church would be in on this action and I'd be clueless.  I'm sure that's the right motivation for starting a study, right?  And I saved a dollar if I bought TWO study guides, so now my husband is doing it with me! (Are you reading, Sweetie? Surprise!)

Plus, Unfinished sounds awesome.  There are snazzy posters plastered around the church reading, "So, you believe in God.  Now what?"  That's a good question that I would like answered, in fact.  As long as the "now what" isn't something too far out of my comfort zone.  Haha.  Something tells me that's not the way it's going to work.

If you are interested in doing the study, or just reading the book here it is:

Have you read Unfinished and/or done the study?  What am I in for?!  What was your "now what?" 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Merlot Down on Jesus' First Miracle

Isn't it frustrating when our kids don't perform on demand?  Do yours do this?  For instance, when your baby (let's pretend it's your first, so it's extra exciting) says, "Mama" loud and clear.  Or "Dada."  Or takes his first tiny step.  Of course you (I) call all the relatives, friends, neighbors, and not-so-close-acquaintances over to see your talented munchkin in action!  And nothing.  Not even a gurgle or coo that could be mistaken for "Mama." No steps.  Nada "Dada." 

And it's all, "Sweetheart, just say it!  Who am I?  What's my name?" and, "Seriously.  She took a step.  She must have some stage fright."  Now with clenched teeth, "Pumpkin?  Baby?  Come to Mama!"  And the door slams as the last guest leaves and baby yells, "Mama!" and runs into your arms.  You know this scenario, right?

I'm just imagining Mary at the wedding with Jesus.  I never really picked up on the... dare I say, tension? going on in this story.  She's reasoning, "Hey, they're low on wine.  Whadda you say we do them a solid?"  And Jesus doesn't want to!  How did I never know that part? "'Woman, why do you involve me?' Jesus replied.  'My hour has not yet come.'" (John 2:4)  And Mary knows what He's capable of and how awesome He is and she can't bear the world not knowing about Him for one second longer!  She just goes for it! "His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'" (John 2:5)

I love how human and motherly she is here.  She knows (at least a piece of) his potential and just can't help herself.  She outs Him and celebrates with a glass of fine, miraculous wine.  Cheers Mary!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

All You Can Eat God

The other day I drove past a local restaurant that had a sign out front: "All you can eat GOD."  Just kidding.  It was actually, "All you can eat COD." But before reason caught up with my eyesight, I thought it was the former!  Wouldn't the Gospel make the most magical buffet?  It's all you can eat, and every time you go for more the dishes are the same, but constantly fresh and sometimes containing a yummy new flavor.

This analogy is making me hungry, so let me make my point.  I've read the Gospel lots of times before, but I still learn something new every time I crack it open.  In my last post I mentioned John the Baptist making straight the way for the Lord- that bit wasn't a blip on my radar in the past!  Jesus' wine-making miracle at the wedding isn't at all what I remember!  I forgot Matthew was originally Levi and how very much I love that he was a tax collector turned full-time disciple.  In fact, his conversion leads to one of my favorite verses: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17). 

This works both ways.  Every now and then I come across a verse I underlined before and stare at it wondering why it's important.  I don't ink up my Bible willy-nilly, so I know these words were critical to me at one time in my life, they just aren't quite as relevant right now.  No doubt I'll come back to those underlined verses one day and they'll bring me to my knees.

New stuff every time.  Delicious, filling, fresh, can't-find-it-anywhere-else food for the soul.  And we can gobble it up without ever having to unbutton our pants.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Make Straight the Way

Reading the Gospel chronologically is so cool because it makes it easy to compare and contrast the experiences of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  It brings to light some things I've never noticed.  This phrase for instance:

"Make straight the way for the Lord."

John the Baptist uses these words (or some variation of them) to describe his job in each book of the Gospel.  That is a hard task!  The exact same task we were given!  But think how much harder John had it.  He did not have the power and support of a church behind him; he didn't have the benefit of Jesus already gracing the Earth and rising from the dead.  He didn't have Twitter for pity's sake!


If John the Baptist can spread the word about Jesus, we can do it.  With all the resources the church provides and the support of millions of Christians?  Plus, the historic evidence of Jesus' existence?  We have so much going for us!  We can make straight the way for the Lord!  And we don't even have to dress in camel hair to do it.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Biblical Sunday

It's hard for me to blog about the Bible right now.  I'm a little distracted by a commercial for a new show: "Vanilla Ice Goes Amish."  I am not making this up.  I very much wish I were.  It reminds me though, that Jen Hatmaker is going to have a show on HGTV and that is good news.  If you don't follow Jen Hatmaker on Twitter you are missing out in a big way.  She is a very, very funny Christian (my favorite kind!).

May I also recommend following on Twitter?  But only if you want your Sunday Twitter feed to be flooded with rocking Bible verses.  I look forward to it every Sunday.

This Sunday I had something else to look forward to: it was Bible Sunday at our church!  The 1st, 3rd, and 7th graders received a Bible and they were all so precious standing up there receiving God's Word.  Our pastor* reminded us that our kids will treat their Bible the same way their parents do.  If we use ours only when we need to set our camera on something for a family portrait (what?! We've all done it!) then of course our sons and daughters will also only view it as a prop.  Likewise, if they see us with our face in the Bible every day, they are sure to follow suit.  And suddenly, I realize I should not wait until my girls are asleep to crack mine open...

Here is my first grader with her new Bible.

I hope your Sunday was just as exciting!

*October is Pastor Appreciation Month, by the way! :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hail Mary

Moms, could you just freak out for Mary?  She's only a child herself.  Fifteenish?  I still hope to be cradling my girls on my lap when they're fifteen (did you just mutter "delusional" under your breath?!) and here she's giving birth to Jesus blessed Christ. 

When my oldest was about thirty seconds old I asked the nurse, "Isn't she the most perfect baby you've ever seen?"  "Isn't she the smartest, healthiest, prettiest little thing you've ever seen in this hospital?"  She politely lied (and also may have muttered delusional under her breath come to think of it....), but my point is we have such giant wishes for our newborns- can you imagine looking into their squished, blotchy, minute-old face and believing it to be the Christ-child? 

As if dealing with lactation and wild hormones isn't enough, tiny Jesus is almost immediately a wanted man (er, baby).  Now Mary and Joseph have to keep this little guy alive so you know, he can do that save humanity thing.  And then well-meaning Simeon comes along spouting off things like, "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)  Well, if that's not just an encouraging word to a first-time mom I don't know what is!

Mary.  Brave, dear, Mary.  I think we can all agree, she deserves a "hail."  And not just during Monday Night Football.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Turning Over A New (Testament) Leaf

October, you have never been lovelier.  Yes, the weather is perfection, pumpkin pie is in season, the leaves are vibrant and gorgeous, but it's more than that...


Bring on the Jesus!  Let's hear it for the Christian church!  Yay heaven!  No offense, Old Testament.  Truly, you are full of wonder and I have a whole new respect for you.  But let me be totally honest here.  You lack some Jesus.  You know it and I know it.  The Old Testament taught me and informed me, but the New Testament warms me.  The New Testament encourages me; it gets me.  Jesus gets me. 

Life is good in October.  Life is awesome in Jesus!