Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Down Time

So I am a wife, a mother, a PTO board member and classroom volunteer, our church's part-time secretary and the bookkeeper for my husband's small business. These things generally keep me pretty busy but there are usually few moments midday when my 3 year old is napping and the boys are at school when I can take a deep breath and do something that allows my mind and body to relax. Something that accomplishes nothing for any of my roles or responsibilities. A little down time, if you will.

This last week has all but obliterated these little pockets of time in my day- what with all the Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, Christmas concert watching, class party attending. And losing my down time has taken its toll. I have been pretty short-tempered with the kids these days. The mental and physical stress has taken its toll. While I am trying to maintain a peaceful and meditative composure as we approach Christmas, all the little things that are still undone creep in and wreak havoc with my emotions from time to time.

All this has reinforced my recent decision to be more thoughtful and careful with the commitments I make. At the beginning of this school year, I decided not to take on the class mother role for either of the boys' class and had stepped down from teaching in our church's Sunday School last spring in attempt to lighten my load. As much as I struggled with those decisions, I am grateful for having made them. I have learned I need to reserve my energy for my family and if I am stretched to the max with outside commitments, they get my leftovers, which are often not too tasty.

If I am going to be an effective and godly wife, mother, worker and volunteer, I know I need to allow myself time each day to put all those things on hold, slow down and relax. I know I need to continue to seek the Lord as I make decisions about my commitments. I have learned much about how He made me in these past year and about how to honor the way I was made. I recognize that this down time one of the things I need to fulfill my God-given potential and to rob myself of it is to disrespect God's plan for me and eventually opens the door for sinful patterns of behavior that I have been working to overcome!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


My boys have daily chores and one of them is to empty the clean dishwasher in the mornings before school. It is actually a big help to me- most of the time :) The fruit of their labor often makes me laugh out loud, too!

Here's where I found the clean and empty ice tray

Here's where I found the collander we use to hold our grapes

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Judging Not

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" Matthew 7: 1-2

My husband and I grew up a denomination that is authoritarian in structure with a set hierarchy and unbending rules and traditions. After we were married and had had our first child, we began to question some of the teachings and traditions of this denomination and began seeking a greater knowledge of and intimacy with the Lord than we had known. Through a series of events, God-incidents, if you will, we were led to our church. We've been there for over eight years now. It is a small, non-denominational, Christian church in which the Word of God is taught simply and without apology, where God is glorified through worship and prayer and the body of Christ is bound together in love and friendship. T. and I have been blessed to serve in ministry in many capacities here and are happy to be raising our children in this place.

As I shared in an earlier post, our children attend a Christian school. This school is run by a church in a mainstream Protestant denomination. We love the school. Our children are getting a first-rate academic education in a warm, nurturing, Christian environment where the Word of God is freely shared, prayers are offered up and communal worship takes place each week. However, there are times when I am somewhat disappointed in decisions that are made because it seems to me that tradition trumps the freedom we have in Christ or because ecumenicism dilutes the Gospel. It is at those times when I am tempted to (and I'm ashamed to admit often do) fall into judgment and cynicism against the school, the denomination, the church and/or its leadership. It's at those times that I am tempted to (and again ashamed to admit I often do) believe that the school and church are dead spiritually, despite the Gospel they preach. Then I begin to fret about whether we have our children in the right school and about whether we are exposing them to dead religion and what the ramifications of that could be.

It's at those times that God is always faithful to enter the scene. Take this evening for an example. Tonight we decided to attend Lessons and Carols service at the church that is affiliated with our school. The school's Select (audition only) Choir was singing at the service and we had never seen them sing. I wanted to the opportunity to slow down and meditate on the Lord and His birth. The kids wanted to hear carols sung. We arrived early and got a great seat in the second row. As I began to peruse the program for the evening, I felt the familiar feelings of judgment creeping in. As the program began, I began to wonder if we should have gone out on this very cold night. Then God began speaking to me through the words of the beautiful, though completely unfamiliar carols, being sung by the angelic voices of children. And He whispered to me through the words He had spoken to Moses and the prophets and the apostles that were read by the pastors and teachers. He reminded me, "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

It's in these moments that He removes my fret and frees me to worship Him in spirit and in truth no matter where I am, who is there and what is being sung. He gently convicts me, as only He can, and reminds me that is not my place to judge. He quickly forgives and restores me when I confess. He reminds me that He can take my breath away, make my heart burst with joy and fill my eyes with tears of gratitude no matter where I am or what form the service is taking, if only I allow myself to set my mind upon Him. Oh, and that gives me such peace not only for me in the moment but also each morning as I send my children off to school! I know He will meet them there, too, as long as they seek Him!

It turned out to be a beautiful evening, well worth braving the cold and keeping the kids up past their bedtime. I was happy to support the children in the choir and the choir director, who is also our school's music teacher. I was blessed to watch our five year old son's eyes flutter and close as he was lulled to sleep by the sounds of the choir, the organ, the flute and the trumpet. But most of all, I was thrilled to have spent time with my Savior and to remember how He came to this Earth as promised!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Loosening the Grip

My husband and I recently decided to allow our eight year old son to begin reading the Harry Potter series of books; something he has been asking about for a few weeks now. We researched the series and read what some Christians had to say about the themes and decided to give it a try. We told him last night that he could read the first book and we would be reading it, too. Today he came home from school with the first book in the series. We explained to him the warnings the Bible gives against sorcery and witchcraft and pointed out that this is a fictional series. We even showed him a snippet from an interview with the author in which she clearly states that she does not believe in magic and does not want her young readers to view this series as anything but fiction.

My son's personality was also a factor in our decision. You have to know T- he is bright, serious, intense and often quite challenging. He is also quite the little man of God. He loves the Lord, has more of the Scripture committed to memory than I do and has a deep faith for an eight year old. Still, all day today, I felt a little uneasy about it. And when he jumped in the car and cracked open the book before the minivan door had time to close, I thought, "I hope we made the right decision!"

The thing is we do live in this world. And he is an eight year old boy who wants to be able to participate in the lunch room discussions of this popular book series with his friends. And this is the first of many decisions we will have to help him make about the culture and how to be in it but not of it. I pray we have not made a misstep but I also know that if we have, it won't be irreversible.

This post helped me think through this topic today. I have no idea if she would agree with our decision but her musings and conclusions certainly resonated with mine.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Launch Out Into the Deep: A Mediation on Luke 5:1-11

On the shore of the lake, he left his boat.
The morning sun began to warm his back.
As he washed his nets, his mind began to wander.
As he pulled seaweed and broken shells from the squares, he allowed his heart to despair.
His earthly worries brought to the surface by the sight of the empty baskets meant for the fish he set out to catch.

Then the Master enters
with the invitation to launch out into the deep.
Leave your earthly demons behind
And do what I ask of you.
And if, by faith, one does launch out and follow Him with abandon
The promise is abundant life that is also everlasting.

At the stove in the kitchen of her comfortable home, she begins to make a meal for her family.
The noisy din of young children fills the air.
As she stirs the pot, her mind begins to wander
As she sets each one's place at the table, she allows her heart to despair
Her earthly shame brought to the surface by the sounds of her children speaking to one another with the harsh tones she has used with them.

Then the Master enters
with the invitation to launch out into the deep.
Leave your earthly demons behind
And do what I ask of you.
And if, by faith, one does launch out and follow Him with abandon
The promise is abundant life that is also everlasting.

At the desk in his private office of his own company, he begins the twelfth hour of his work day.
The lonely hum of the computer fills the air.
As he works on the latest project, his mind begins to wander.
As he thinks about the demands of this venture, he allows his heart to despair.
His earthly anxieties brought to the surface by the oppressive weight of responsibility he feels to provide for his family.

Then the Master enters
with the invitation to launch out into the deep.
Leave your earthly demons behind
And do what I ask of you.
And if, by faith, one does launch out and follow Him with abandon
The promise is abundant life that is also everlasting.

Lord, that I would launch out into the deep with You, leaving behind my worry, shame and fear and taking hold of Your power and love!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Blind Side

My husband and I went to dinner and a movie on Saturday night. T. had received a gift certificate to our favorite local restaurant for his birthday so we went out for a great meal and then headed to the theater to see The Blind Side. If you have not seen this movie, RUN don't walk to your local theater. And don't finish reading this post, so I don't spoil anything for you :)

I must say that I knew I was going to love this film before the opening credits began to roll because it had all the elements of a great movie in my book: a strong, intelligent woman, her loving husband and family, an underdog and an uplifting storyline of redemption and love. I am sure most know the basic premise of this true story by now- a homeless, African-American teenager from a crack addicted, absent mother is taken in by an upper-class, white Christian family and the lives of everyone involved are changed forever. (Now, because this is a true story, there is a scene or two that contains profanity, violence and alcohol use, but it certainly NOT gratuitous and is central to the story.)

There were many things I loved about The Blind Side but what impacted me the most was how Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy did not set out to change a boy's life. They had no long-term plan, even after they brought Michael home that cold night to sleep on the couch. They simply did the right thing as each situation presented itself. When they realized he had no other place to stay, they set up a room for him in their home and he became a member of the family. When he needed clothes, they shopped for him. When he needed help on the football field, Leigh Ann went toe to toe with the coach to be sure Michael was understood. When he needed to get his grades up, they hired an oustanding teacher to tutor him. When Leigh Ann's friends raised their poorly veiled "concerns" about Michael living in their home, she put them in their place with haste and class. The Tuohys were, by no means, perfect all the time. In fact, the climactic events of the film are brought about by their missteps along the way.

Throughout the film, I felt quite convicted about the divide in our society between the poor and the rest of us. I felt hopeless about the plight of the millions of children stuck in situations like Michael's, who seem destined for a life of gangs, drugs, prison, and untimely and violent deaths. I felt sorry that we, as a family, are not doing more for the least of these. Don't misunderstand me, the movie has a very happy ending as Michael does, in fact, attend (and gradute on Dean's list) college on a football scholarship and is drafted, in 2009, to the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. So I left the theater with a cheesy grin plastered on my face. However, as we drove home, T. and I spent the time talking about the things I mentioned above and I must say I was feeling increasingly guilty about not doing enough.

As I have thought about these things over the past few days and as I write this post though, I believe God has spoken to me. The message, for me, has been that God is looking for our obedience in our daily lives. He can, and does, do extraordinary things through ordinary people who are simply willing to do the right thing when He presents opportunities. He is looking for vessels through which He can pour out His love and mercy on a perishing world. Sometimes, He will work in extraordinary ways like He did through the Tuohy family and like He does through large ministries and individual missionaries. Other times, He works in everday ways through our simple acts of service to our husbands, our children, our church family. He pours out His love and mercy through us when we care for the sometimes overwhemling needs of our little ones, when we forgive an insult or perceived injustice from our husbands, when we bring a meal to a sick or exhausted brother or sister. One can never know when obedience in one of these simple acts will open a door for another series of simple acts of love and mercy that wind up in an extraordinary outcome. In fact, we should probably expect that!

And that reminds me of this, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Romans 8:28-30

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Counting My Blessings

Here are some things that have reminded me of God's goodness and made me smile over the last few days:
  • Cheering on my third grader's basketball team (I never knew how much I LOVE basketball!)
  • Stealing a few moments ALONE to get my hair done
  • Seeing my husband's reaction to the new "do"
  • Having dinner with a dear friend who is home from the UK, where she and her family relocated
  • Spending a morning with other moms from our kids' school, who gathered to talk about faith, and getting the opportunity to share the truth in love with them
  • Helping my third grader with his Native American longhouse project (Phew, this sure makes the OCD in me come out!)
  • Listening to my three children recite the scriptures they have been memorizing for Awana
  • Sending my children to a school where Jesus is proclaimed and their teachers have a genuine love for the children and passion for their work
  • Listening to Christmas carols as often as I can
  • Decorating our home for Christmas
  • Reading Jotham's Journey at bedtime with the kids

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I am beginning this blog without a plan but not without a purpose. You should know that doing anything without a plan, much less something that can be seen and judged by others , is simply NOT the way I usually operate. And that truth brings me to the purpose of this blog- to have a place to try out new thoughts and patterns of behavior- to stretch myself, if you will. You see, for too long, I am realizing, I have done what I thought I should do based often, I am ashamed to admit, on the fear of failure and the fear of man's opinions of me. But this year has been one of great growth in the Lord for me; one in which He has revealed to me, with gentleness and grace, of course, just who He created me to be. A year in which I have learned that I have not been honoring that unique bent He gave me. I would love to say I have learned this without pain, but that would not be true. It took a season of despair and turmoil, that has not yet completely passed, to get my attention. But He has it now and I know that I need to be stretched, to look inward and begin to operate on God's opinion of me and to begin to honor the way He made me. This blog is one way I am doing that.


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