Thursday, May 31, 2007

Living For Today

Paul writes:
I am torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live. I am convinced of this, so I will continue with you so that you will grow and experience the joy of your faith. Then when I return to you, you will have even more reason to boast about what Christ Jesus has done for me. Philippians 1: 23-26

There is much to reflect upon when reading this passage, but the thing that has filled my meditations in the recent few days is the concept of why we live here and now. If anyone is wondering about a purpose for living today - these very 24 hours - then look no further.

We are living for the benefit of others and their faith. It is all about them - those people around you, those people in your pathway, those people God has put in your world today.

Knowing that affects the choices I make today. I will consider my actions and plans with others in mind.

I am a passionate person. I love passionately. I live passionately. In the past, when full of youthful zeal and optimism, life itself, with all of its new adventures, held much charm. But through the years I have found that life in this world does not provide constant enamorment. There is brokenness, pain, sorrow. I have known disappointment and grief. Sin has encroached upon the perfection of this world. We are foolish to expect total happiness or fulfillment here.

Our purpose in living today is not to be personal fulfillment or self-discovery. ("Be all that you can be, join the Navy" - or it that the Army? At any rate, that is not the ultimate goal.) Will we discover talents along the way? Will we experience fulfillment? Undoubtedly. At least that is my testimony. But if we think that is the whole point, we will ultimately be disappointed, despairing of life itself.

I am a mother of nine. Raising children has provided great delight. But what about the sorrow that also comes? Our children, in the course of their lives, will all suffer many things. Some will live far away. They will make mistakes. As mothers, we will know devastation if our goal is a wrong one. We must keep this in mind: we exist for them, not vice versa.

And for those who married, similar questions arise. Isn't marriage meant to be a haven? Why then is it so much work? Why does sin interfere with happiness? How come he doesn't measure up to my expectations (we won't mention it now, but have you calculated how much you have failed him as well? Just a reminder...) Focus instead on this: we exist for him, not vice versa.

Of course we must consider the local church family. We mistakenly anticipate unending peace, constant joy, boundless friendship; think again. Sin and failures exist, even within the body of Christ. When you are disappointed try this: look up, longing for heaven where there is no sin present, where perfection abounds. Then determine once again - while here on earth, we exist for them, not vice versa.

And so our prayer becomes this.
"Lord, let it be better for them that I live. Make me a blessing in their world today. Let me exist for them and the growth of their faith, and not for my own selfish purposes. Amen."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Garden Gleanings

If anyone saw my gardens earlier this spring you would understand my great delight in the progress we've made in reclaiming them as flower beds. I was pretty non-optimistic (I can't quite bring myself to call it pessimism...)

But after several l-o-n-g afternoons of labor I am starting to renew hope. They actually look like planned, cared for gardens. A few more afternoons and we will have things pretty well under control. And even pretty, period.

Amazing and a bit sad. I have lost several of my more delicate plants -- gone, just plain vanished. Couldn't handle the crowding, couldn't get enough water, food, and sunshine. Certain others are just barely making an appearance now that weeds and grass have been removed. One more year of neglect and they would have been choked out as well. Meanwhile the more aggressive perennials are everywhere present. So as well as digging out sod galore, I have been removing bee balm, evening primrose, spring phlox, ferns, and wild day lilies by the bushel-full. Literally. The wheel barrow has been loaded and reloaded numerous times each day.

Every time I work in the garden, the spiritual parallels are clear and enlightening. For instance, there have been times when I've dug up a wild variety of perennial from the roadside to plant with great excitement in my garden, only to regret my decision. Within two years it invades every corner, threatening to choke out the more reserved, less hardy varieties - those delicate species that need more care and special attention. Or I decide to leave just a small portion of an aggressive plant, thinking that I will be able to manage such invasive tendencies, only to find once again, that it is getting ahead of me, smothering the more rare and beautiful flowers.

Last summer my beds were taken over by grass and weeds. Removing sod and such firmly rooted invaders has not been easy. But I know this -- if I don't get the roots, I might as well plan on doing it all over again in a few weeks, maybe even days. Get it all, or it will be back again, soon. Another obvious spiritual lesson to be learned.

So the lessons go like this:
1.) Think twice about what you put in your garden. Make sure you know how it will grow and what it will demand.
2.) Think three times about what effect a certain plant will have on the truly valuable blooms. Don't let something grow, even if it is pretty, if it will bring harm or steal valuable nutrition and growth space from something more important.
3.) Think four times before you decide to just lackadaisically pull the tops off those weeds without taking the time or effort to remove the whole root system. Last time I checked, in many cases, that is a practice that actually increases the root system and encourages spreading.

Thinking things through pays off in the end. Even two, three, and four times.

Happy blooming to you all!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stress-free Living

Be anxious for nothing. Period. (Well, sort of. There is more to the verse, but the instruction to cease from anxiety is clear. That is my point.)

Phil.4:6. It's in the Bible.

I love that verse. It always brings freedom to me. When I read those words, a big sigh emanates from my inner being.

I don't have to worry. In fact, I am not supposed to worry. Whew. I personally like that. However, I do need reminding from time to time - that's where reading the same verse over and over again through the years gains merit.

Don't fret. Period. There is no place for stressing out in the kingdom of God. It doesn't reflect well on His promised care. So great is His promise to us, so faithful His hand of protection, and so abundant His provision, that we have no need for concern, no excuse for worry.

I like that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stuff, But Not Nonsense

** We've begun again in earnest. Chore charts hanging on the kitchen wall are newly planned, the "spin-wheel" chart being of particular interest to the young guy in the house. I have a fresh determination to see kids rising on time, arriving to the table promptly, participating in daily devotions (personal and family), and getting work done thoroughly. I also have a determination to make routine last longer than two weeks. By prayer and supplication that end is possible! ;)

** Today Rick and I drive Ryan to the Ottawa airport where he will board a plane alone, leaving Danica and Jameson in our care until he calls for them. Meanwhile he will settle in at his office space, search for apartments, and make new acquaintances. A new chapter opens in their lives.

** Louissa is visiting Liz Skoglund, a North Country native who now lives in Italy. She will be there a few days before heading back to Germany. This coming weekend her music team will participate in a Christian summer music fest. Then back to Bodenseehof to minister once again to the future generation of Germany as her team disciples the Konfi kids sent to them for classes. Germany is in desperate need of Godly seed, truly desperate. I pray fervently that the Gospel shared with these young teens will take root and bring forth much fruit - thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. Please pray for Louissa and her fellow workers as they labor in this field. The average German teen in these groups is 14-15 years old. A vast majority of them already know incredible brokenness: alcoholic parents, divorced parents, abuse of all kinds, immorality from a young age, and drugs. And these are the "churched" kids. May they come to know the freedom and help that is in the true Gospel. May they shine in their generation and bring the promise of liberty and eternal hope to the nation of Germany. May they become established in the Word of God, building their lives on the one true foundation. Oh, may they be blessed in Him, bringing change and help to their nation.

** The summer schedule is beginning for the college boys. Josh and Jamie will be heading in regularly for 8:00am jobs. Jason Morris is here for the summer. He will be taking summer courses in Spanish; he is hoping to secure a part time job as well. Mom and the kids will press into finishing school -- the musical always puts us well behind. Two of said kids will also head to Spain for a missions outreach. Five of us will participate in CPS summer musical theater productions. We will help Brietta as much as possible and do what we can to get Danica to California and settled.

So goes the summer, along with hopes for a new roof installation and even some painted clapboard (hey, one can hope, can't one?)

For now, coffee is waiting, kids need stirring, and a car is in need of drivers going to an airport. Bon voyage, Ryan. We will sorely miss your trips over for ice cream and AI. It's been fun...

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Model T" - One More Time

The older kids just finished singing a few highlights from High Button Shoes (the musical production we did a few weeks ago) at the closing concert of our homeschool semester. What absolute fun and delight it was. The songs are tuneful and memorable. I will miss the melodies and the fun characters from what I now consider a favorite music theater piece. It is a really entertaining show!

Of course, the fact that the kids are a fabulous, totally great crew helps add to the enjoyment. I love them sincerely and revel in every moment invested. The dividends are inestimable. I give to them; they return the giving fifty-fold. Now that's what you call a good return!

They are my kids - every one of them. And do you think I'm proud of them? You bet I am!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

'Tis The Season... be birthday-ing!

Two cakes on Sunday for two fine sons. Lots of presents, too!

One cake today, another tomorrow for a special number 7 child (she gets two because it is a "special party" year for her - which equals eight young ladies for an overnight tomorrow after family party time tonight!)

Add one more cake for a celebration on Memorial Day - number 6 child's birthday. And she truly is Memorable!

In the meantime there are all those other special events like Mother's Day, Memorial Day, weddings, friends' birthdays, CFA end-of-the year programs...

And somehow, school continues. Actually, we are finally getting something accomplished. I always like that. You know, the feeling that something worthwhile is happening and that you are on top of things. I also know that it is only momentary, but, as Steve Wilbur once said, "My soul feels good today. I think I will enjoy it!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Young At Heart?

Youth is eager to explore, ready for discovery, ambitious to learn new things.

Matthew 15.6b
Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

The young at heart is willing to search out the heart of God at risk of being challenged to change. The young at heart is that new wineskin our Lord spoke about, able to take in new wine, adaptable for growth and movement.

Even at the ripe old age of fifty-one I find that I must maintain a young heart if I want to continue to experience the movement of the Holy Spirit. Sons of God are led by the Spirit of God and I want to continue to walk with Him, sensing His promptings, doing great exploits. Will the time come for sitting on the shelf? It didn't for Caleb. It won't for those who wait upon the Lord thus finding their strength renewed.

So I desire today to set aside crustiness, weariness, stubbornness, and pride. Have I discovered things in the past? Learned something and applied it? Searched out His heart and adapted to change? Yes.

Does that mean I have arrived? No.

Must I be prepared today to set aside something more? Change for Him if He asks? Accept that one of my traditions may have missed the mark? Yes.

I like my traditions. But they may not wholly honor Him. Let go of the comfortable and familiar and find out His ways. They are so much higher and often unfamiliar. Let's be those who discover them.

Oh, to continue learning and growing.

Oh, to be young at heart -- even at the ripe old age of fifty-one.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spiritual Barometer

The readings on my barometer aren't looking so promising these days. There is little zeal in my every day efforts to improve home management, although I embrace that responsibility readily. Passion for my calling in marriage and motherhood is dwindling, yet I am wanting to invest wholeheartedly. I find myself lacking in positive input for those closest to me, even though they are truly dear to my heart.

Why? Because I am running on empty, as she so aptly communicated. Like her, I need to fill my lamp, stop fooling myself, cut out the charade, and get serious about investing in my relationship with Him. A snack in the morning is hardly enough. This quick-stop mentality has sucked me in and it's time to get off the merry-go-round.

The things that are important to me act as a barometer. My inability to perform as I would like indicates that change has happened, and the downward trend will continue unless I do something. You can't give out good bread if you have no nutrition yourself.

And I, for one, want to bless my husband. I hope to do him good all the days of my life.

I, for one, want to give my children good things. I hope to nurture them in the Lord's ways.

I, for one, want to establish my home. I hope to build my house, not tear it down.

And apart from Him, I can do no good thing.

So it's time to set my affection on things above, seek Him earnestly, and find Him to be a present help in trouble.

Great is His faithfulness! And that my soul knows very well.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Is This Really Happening Already? Who's Kidding Who? It's Been The Story of My Life...

I forgot my son's first T-ball practice.

Seems simple enough, I know. But all week long I had been remembering. All day long I had been rehearsing to friends the detail of the time of the practice and how excited he was about this new adventure.

Just a couple of hours before the designated time of arrival I told Mike Tomford about the scheduled event. So when Judy (his wife) called him to say that she and I had overstayed our coffee-talk causing me to miss bringing Merrick to practice, he incredulously asked how I could have forgotten. After all, I had just told him -- with enthusiasm, no less -- all about it. How could I so quickly forget?

That's what we all keep wondering these days.


Poor Rick. That poor, poor man...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dandelion Days

My seven year old son, soon to be eight, bounced down the side yard. I called to him from the kitchen window as he passed through the back gate leading to the playhouse. "What's my buddy doing?"

"Carolyn is playing with me."

I noticed the long-stemmed flower of choice of all young boys gripped in his little hand. "Oh," I thought to myself, "they are playing house and he is the daddy."

"I love you, little buddy!" I called, delighting in his joy.

"I love you, too, Mom," was his voluntary reply.

I smiled as I continued to watch his happy bounce. He returned to the path, but two steps later he stopped and whirled back around. "Hmm. I wonder if he's bringing that flower to me? He's such an affectionate little guy."

Returning to kitchen duties, I wondered some more. Soon I heard the telltale creak of the back door as it turned on its hinges. Up the steps trod two little feet. I determined to not cry at his presentation, not wanting to cause too big a stir. As he proudly handed me my reward, I drew him into a mama-sized hug and told him again that he was my "favorite little boy in the whole world." A big kiss was added to my yellow flower trophy along with a reminder that "it needs water" as he turned to rejoin his great big world of make-believe full of busy agendas and plans. (Trust me, he has plans.)

He had taken time out for me -- because he loves me. Because I am special enough to him to deserve a little boy's flower of choice.

I am going to treasure it. After all, there may not be many more dandelions presented to me in such a fetching fashion.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Making Your Home a Greenhouse

Training children in the art of establishing and nurturing healthy relationships is not easy. But it is a primary function of a Godly home. This is the stuff that success in real life is dependent upon. Teach them now and their future will be brighter, easier, and more fruitful.

Your home is like a greenhouse of newly-forming relationships. Your children relate to you, to your husband, to each other - all right within your four walls. So consider these simple steps that they must master:

1. They need to plant good seed. Learning to share kind words, practice generosity, and esteem one another's strengths and talents all are top-grade seed that will bear an abundant harvest of good fruit in years to come. This is a process since we don't seem to automatically plant good seed only - we plant all kinds of weeds if we are not careful. But with practice, we can readily discern good seed from bad seed. You will become seed experts and so will they!

2. Regular weeding is essential for optimum growth because there will be some bad seed planted, not only by them but by others. There will be daily lessons of repentance and forgiveness. Opportunities abound (unless my home is radically different from yours) for practicing Biblical principles related to offenses - both the giving and receiving of offenses. Learning how to humble themselves and seek the Lord for change is a prerequisite for success in any relationship. Now is the time to put those principles into place, before the weeds are deep-rooted. If you've done any gardening, you know that spring weeding is a whole lot better than mid-summer weeding! So get to it now.

3. Watering and nurturing is fundamental to growth of young plants; investing time and energy is fundamental to relationships. Teach them to invest in one another by attending a sibling's music performance or athletic competition, sharing words of appreciation at a birthday gathering, making a card just to say "You are special because...", or just spending an evening together playing a game or watching a movie. A relationship that started with good seed and was carefully weeded will not survive the drought season without ongoing nurturing.

Family relationships are intended to be life-long. Friends will come and go, but a sibling is a brother or sister for life. They are the ones with whom we share weddings and birth celebrations; they weep with us in times of loss. Holidays often find us together, telling stories and recalling happy days gone by. What a treasure these relationships should be!

So invest now, mom. Take time to instruct, train, and discipline. The fruit will remain for years to come.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Here We Go Again!

Mrs. Paroo, anyone?

Yup - you guessed it! That's me this summer in the CPS production of Music Man. So I'll be brushin' up me Irish brogue!

Wish my little buddy was playin' Winthrop, though. And that a red-headed girl I know was going to play Marion. But that would have been a bit too real to call pretend...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A "That Girl" Moment

I often find myself shopping at one of those economy grocery stores with food stacked in packing boxes rather than on display shelves. At the checkout register, no bags are provided; you either pile the food in carts or forage through the empty boxes to find one that may accommodate your items - or you bring your own bags. Unfortunately for me, I typically have good intentions regarding this last option but never quite succeed in doing it.

But today was different. For a change I actually remembered to bring that well known "bag of bags"; mine hangs on a nail in my laundry room, specifically for such a purpose.

Upon checking out I headed to the van, pressing into the wet morning wind with my food-laden cart, happy to know that my bags were stowed in the vehicle. A feeling of pleasure stole upon me as I pulled out the first of many of the small plastic holders. But as I began to open it, the capricious wind snatched it from my hand. A sideways glance revealed it drifting away so I relinquished possession to the wayward breeze. I turned to the remaining stash of bags just in time to see the wind whisk those away as well. One more gust sent them tumbling, one after another, across the wet pavement.

I leapt forward, determined to gather them once more. They were within arm's reach, but as I bent forward another mischievous blast catapulted them headlong across the driving lane. With little time for deliberation I must decide: should I chase after them when the wind was so inconsiderate and showed no signs of changing her nasty attitude, or should I succumb to her unkind whims?

The thought of dozens of miscellaneous food items being tossed into my van was not pleasant. But it was not impetus enough to inspire the pursuit of my windblown bags. However, as I watched the trail of white plastic balls tumbling across the blacktop, my conscience was pricked with another thought: the irresponsibility of such littering.

That proved to be the necessary inspiration; pursuit began in earnest. I ran through the busy parking lot, splashing through puddles. Every time I was within reach, the teasing wind blew upon them once more. With one final gale, they were tossed readily across the open road beyond the parking lot entrance. A sigh, followed by a quick glance, and I bolted across the highway. On the other side they tumbled down a small hill where they at last came to rest, hidden away from the wind's grasp.

Rushing down the grassy slope, I found myself in a soggy mess. As I paused to collect my truant belongings my lips slipped into an upward curve. "This would have made a pretty good stunt for an episode of That Girl," I thought. (I just dated myself terribly, I know...)

Pondering the difficulty of staging such a filming project and wondering how to get the timing just right (don't forget I just finished staging a Keystone cops comedy segment for our show - and "slapstick comedy is all about timing" was a phrase my students heard repeatedly,) I quickly crossed the road back to the parking lot. As I passed the front door of the aforementioned grocery establishment an older gentleman stepped out. With a smile on his face he applauding my performance, laughing and calling out his compliments on my successful mission. I laughed with him and made some sort of reply which I cannot recall...

...because mostly I was thinking that I was right. An audience had enjoyed my comedy. And it was free, too. Now, what would Actors Equity think of that?