Thursday, March 27, 2008

In Him

Phil. 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I will say, rejoice!"

Through the years this verse has been light and inspiration. It tells me many things such as what to do, when to do it, and how.
  • what: rejoice
  • when: always
  • how: in the Lord

This morning as I read it once again, I was struck with an obvious thought: Is there any other way to rejoice "always" except in Him? There is not. Nothing else is cause for constant rejoicing. Any other object of affection and joy will fail us. We will be not only disappointed, but most likely devastated. Everything else is passing joy, fading with time, broken and tainted by sin.

As a young Christian my focus was rejoicing. I was not amiss in that aim. Truly this verse speaks most emphatically to that end. And it is right to make rejoicing your constant goal - "always".

But choose carefully the object of your rejoicing. Mere rejoicing will not cause you to be one that endures to the end. We must learn to rejoice in Him alone.

The question resounded in my mind and heart this morning: Is there any other source of joy that is constant, that can afford us continual rejoicing, that is "always"? Apart from Him there is no other way to find such joy.

Last night my weekly book club began reading First We Have Coffee by Margaret Jensen. It is the telling of her mother's story. Mama faced many hardships, but she had learned an important lesson - she never faced them alone, but looked to Him for grace in everything. He was a continuous fount of joy and strength in her life, taking her through suffering and difficulties with victory.

"Some travel the high road in the hills, from peak to peak, where light lingers longer. Some travel in the valleys where they walk in the darkness of their own shadow. Mama would choose to walk the high road with God. She would walk in the light of His grace."

May we rejoice in Him always,

And may our lives boast of His greatness to all generations. Amen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm Just Peachy!

More change coming my way!

A few weeks back, the old front parlor became the music room leaving the old music room free to accommodate a dining room table and chairs, allowing the previous dining space to become a sitting room. Whew.

Now the process of transforming the colors of said rooms has begun. No more lemon. Bring on the peach. And more importantly, lose that red!

The college boys are on vacation (that would be Jamie and Josh - Nathan went to Pittsburg for his break to visit family) and they are graciously (for the most part...) giving me their time and energy and muscles (not their opinions) to get this job done. We plan on tackling only the front room, but if it goes well and is done promptly, we may move on to the new dining room, too. Mom would love that.

Here's hoping!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Easter Gift

Isaiah 41.17,18
"The poor and needy seek water, but there is none,
Their tongues fail for thirst.
I, the Lord, will hear them;
I, the God of Israel will not forsake them."

Brokenness. Emptiness. Hurts. Disappointments. No comfort. I see these things everywhere.

My heart cries, "Oh, people, come to Him. Come, all who are weary. Come all who hunger for more. Come, all who are cast down and brokenhearted.
For He will give rest to the weary. He will fill the hungry. He will lift up those who are cast down and heal the brokenhearted.
Come to Him who freely does great and marvelous things."

As I tucked my little buddy in bed last night I reminded us both that one day we would all be in heaven together forever, nevermore to be parted, nevermore to know sorrow.

What a gift. What a perfect gift. Freedom from broken hearts, devastated souls, weary and downtrodden spirits, and hurting bodies - forever free!

All for you, all for me - from Him. An Easter gift to all peoples, to every age, to everyone everywhere!

"Free at last, free at last!
I thank God, I'm free at last!"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hurry! It's Almost Here!

At age 52, I've been around for plenty of Easter celebrations, but this one has to be the earliest one ever. It caught me unaware (just ask those church friends who heard me exclaim words of disbelief when our pastor announced Easter service as being next week - loud words of disbelief... I blurted out quite clearly for all to hear, "No, it's not next Sunday, is it?!!")

At any rate, I am running fast to catch up. Easter around here is traditionally a big deal. That's because it is a big deal. In fact, it's the biggest deal I know of. Why, without the reality of that first Easter morning my whole life would be a hoax, a sham, a pile of worthless hopes and dreams. But...

Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
Hallelujah! He is risen indeed!
On Easter morning those are the first phrases we speak to one another! What a glorious day, indeed - remembering the power, the victory, the hope and the fulfilled promise of that morning! Shout Hallelujah!
Yesterday was "let's get the clothes ready" day. No small task around here. Mom puts together outfits for all the resident kids - seven to date - plus parents. Nine outfits. And I was just starting. Yikes!
Last year there were completely new outfits for all, but the budget for 2008 was saying, "Nope, nothing doing." I had a new tie for one of the guys and that set the color scheme (we all match on Easter day) - blues. Liana searched closets and bins, finding a plethora of blue items. She also had a new coral sweater so that settled it: blue and orange would be the mix.
Here's what I did. Hold on to your seats; this may scare some of you. Needing to fill in some missing pieces would be tricky. There was no time for a shopping trip so I ordered hundreds of dollars of items from Old Navy and Target. Liana and I also hit up all the shops in Potsdam on Tuesday, finding a great orange sweater at Giant Tiger (that was all.) Yesterday I shopped the local mall with my daughter Brietta. More hundreds of dollars and bagfuls of clothing items later, I arrived home to begin the process of sorting, trying on, rejecting and adding. Several possible outfits were laid out on my bed when Liana took a peek. "Oh, Mom, we're all going to look great for Easter Sunday!" Success! That would be the point of all this!
"Whoa," you are saying, "what about that budget?!"
Here's what works for me. I shop only at places with great return policies. Instead of dragging everyone to the store, I drag the store home. Tomorrow my online items will arrive. I will put finishing touches on planned outfits (Camilla still needs a dress - she has grown so much that she has hardly anything to wear - and Carina had no blue so we're still working on that one) then everything else will be returned. I have shopped this way for years and it works for me. I love bringing it all home. You get to mix it with what you have, really take time trying it on, see it with shoes, have the next one in line try it if it doesn't fit the intended daughter, etc.
In a few days, I will have several bags of returns. (I won't give a final tally amount - some of you would pass out or call it heretical...but, don't worry - most of it will be returned.) We have a planned trip to Syracuse for a concert in early April - perfect! I'll do it all then.
Easter has always included nice clothes. It doesn't have to be expensive (don't forget - most of my hundreds will be returned - I just needed options in styles and sizes.) I found sweaters along with mens' shirts and pants and even a new pair of shoes all for $8.98 each at Steve and Barry's. J.C.Penney's Liz Claibourne collection at 50% off filled in my own missing items. TJMaxx supplied an assortment of orange hued sweaters and a funky tie in all the right shades for Jamie. A navy blue tank for $5 from Walmart works for me! And the dresses coming from Target and Old Navy were all reasonably priced ($20-$40) - not so bad!
It just took some time and energy; preparing meaningful celebrations does demand such things. But it is worth it. The remembrance, the emphasis, the reveling - food, traditions, clothes, songs - whatever it takes to make it special for you and yours.
But you better hurry! It will soon be Resurrection time! The Day of Great Rejoicing is at hand!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Midnight Call

I woke up in the night and, as I have finally learned to do, I begin to pray. (If I'm awake at that hour, there is probably a need, so whatever is on my heart is lifted to Him.)

Prayer for my husband comes to mind. I lift up his need for vision - vision for our home, our marriage, our children, the local church, his own ministry, people who look to him. In a split second of time, I am undone. I cry out for him, for this "burden" that is his as a man of God. It is much to bear.

In an equally brief moment of time, I am painfully reminded of my part to play.

"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." Hebrews 13:17

Cut to the core, I repent, knowing that cheerful obedience has not always been yielded to this man, this authority in my life. How I long to be a source of joy, not adding to his burden but aiding him in his call! Often I have failed. I have unnecessarily burdened him through resistance or lack of respect. So I pray.

"Lord, help me to be a blessing to this man today through instant and cheerful obedience. Let me support him, showing respect for the work he is called to and gratefulness for his place in my life. Help me strengthen him in his calling to lead me, mine, and most importantly, Yours. Amen and amen."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The All-Purpose Litmus Test

Sorting through arbitrary lists of "do's" and "do not's" is challenging.

Well, I suppose that sometimes we are actually comforted to see how someone does it so that we can fall happily in line behind them. There is a time and place for that. Paul said to "imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." So, okay. Make some lists.

But, if you haven't noticed, God is not the ultimate list maker. He has, however, given some pretty important principles, some hefty advice, if you will. Fortunately, it is simple - easy enough for a child to learn.

This morning's reading brought me once again to the simplicity laid down in the scriptures.

1 Tim.1:4 "Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith..."

When we are questioning our actions, our thoughts, we need to ask if we are fulfilling the purpose of His commandment: love. Am I motivated by and conveying His love? Plain and simple. That is the test.

Such simplicity is reiterated elsewhere.

Gal.5:14 "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

We wrestle over all kinds of things. We question what to wear, what to say, what to watch, what to drink. Could you imagine the lists we would need if that had been His approach? It would take a lifetime just to read them. Then I would need another lifetime to attempt application.

No, His was a simpler, kinder approach. When making your lists, debating your actions, just ask yourself one question: does this show love for all involved?

Am I loving my brothers in the Lord when I wear this? My parents, my husband?
Do the words I am about to speak edify as love does?
Will watching this movie show love to God and others?
Drinking this - who does my liberty bless?

Granted, a more thorough search of scripture and subsequent teaching regarding issues is always welcome and appropriate. But in the end it must always pass the litmus test: will this result in love - from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith?

It's simple. The word is love.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Just Talking At Y'all

Friday morning by 8:17 -

Mom has been up for 3 1/2 hours. I have been graced by the Lord in this season with a strong desire for quiet study time. Quiet in this house is rarely guaranteed apart from the early morning hours. Consequently, my alarm is set for 4:45am each day. For the most part I have had been able to pursue my vision for quality time in the Word and online study/writing. In order to accomplish this, I place the clock across the room, ensuring an upright, feet on the floor position in response. Unfortunately, this means it runs for a bit longer, disturbing hubby's sleep. In spite of the fact that I bury the clock underneath a pillow on the floor, he is still generally disturbed. But I think he is finally adjusting.

Around 7:00 my college-bound son's alarm goes off just overhead. His is a two-fold alarm system: it has a LOUD buzzer and it also vibrates. Intended to be placed under the pillow, he found that too disturbing, so it sits on his hardwood floor. The vibrator causes it to bounce around as well as buzz. It is quite interesting, and I have yet to understand how anyone up there sleeps through it (he shares a room with his 8 yr. old brother, Merrick, and Josh, a buddy who lives with us.) In a moment (sort of) he shuts it off and movement from the two oldest boys can be heard. Showered and dressed, they soon appear in the kitchen, where I have taken up my breakfast duties, to prepare their breakfast of eggs and toast (yeah, they're on their own for that one.) Out come the computers for last minute studies. Nathan pops up from the downstairs apartment (another college student who lives with us and is temporarily enjoying my Mom and Dad's separate space) to check in with them. Meanwhile...

Louissa, 20, enters, crosses to the kitchen sink, humidifier in hand. Her daily ritual is to fill the tank - she owns the beautiful baby grand that graces my front room, and dry air is anathema. Showered and ready for her day's duties of office work (she is an administrator at our church) and piano accompanying for the children's choirs (on Friday our church hosts CFA, a homeschool ministry for 150+ students - they participate in music, sports, art, Bible classes, speech, etc.), she empties her tank of water and now slices banana and toasts Italian bread for her own consumption. She is almost ready for the day.

Carina, our 23 yr. old business woman daughter, emerges, silently looking for coffee and eggs - the busyness is too much for her at this hour. She slips away unnoticed, back to her room for a bit of solitude before her day of scheduled appointments begins at her salon. Did she or didn't she have breakfast in her hand? This Mom failed to get that detail.

My school aged children are tight on time; they, too, participate in CFA and must be there for an 8:20am attendance check. Merrick could not find his required polo shirt last night, so I hunt one down in the off-season bin, only to find his long-sleeved version under his bed. Firm words regarding his lack of diligence in chores, promises of consequences upon arrival home, and soon he is dressing.

Camilla, 12, has already been down for breakfast, packed some lunch, and is also dressing. She has prepared a birthday gift for her friend who turns 13 today. Her sister comments positively on how together she is for a twelve year old. Yup. Mom agrees. And oh - Happy Birthday, Olivia!

Liana, 14, has not yet showered. She likes to sleep. She has her clothes ready, though, and is soon downstairs. Meanwhile, Mom quickly packs her lunch along with Merrick's. Toast and milk are his breakfast today - something easy!

Julia, 17, is folding laundry in the kitchen. She has a busy weekend ahead: a dress rehearsal for her band this afternoon with an early departure Saturday morning for Long Island where three concerts and ministry will happen. Between laundry loads, she is borrowing white pants from Josh before he heads out the door (it is departure time) for the bass player in the band. You see, she is planning white pants and red shirts - she prefers a bit of a "costumed" approach. She quickly e-mails said bass player to let him know the pants are located and then the guitar player to tell him that his pants have been ordered from Old Navy. "You do everything for us! We'll never learn to do it if you keep this up!" comes the reply. True, Julia, true. I told her that just yesterday.

8:15 arrives: last minute swigs of coffee, coats flung over shoulders, backpacks zipped, instruments collected (violin, guitar, and cello I think) and out they go. Dad drives four school kids and one pianist. The college boys are gone. Carina quietly continues her day's prep.


Mom puts in some more laundry (are you kidding - around here it is never caught up) and settles in to post on her blog. Soon my resident hairstylist saunters past with a good-bye on her lips. Then Dad calls for a ride home from the car shop where he dropped the van for some last minute work before we head out on Sunday to join Julia's band on Long Island. Hmmm. Pj's and robe - throw on the huge foam boots, grab Dad's leather jacket, and out the door I go. Where is The Sartorialist when you need him for that perfect fashion photo? (His is one blogspot I check daily - I'm an addict!)

Parting thought: Glad we don't do this everyday! I cannot imagine...

Monday, March 03, 2008

A Morning Song

God's faithfulness, His great faithfulness - and I mean great faithfulness - amazes me anew this morning.

Today I read in Nehemiah 9 the recounting of His choosing Abraham for the purpose of establishing a people on the earth. Why Abraham? Because He found him to have a faithful heart. But even in that finding, He foreknew this new nation's eventual betrayal. Their future mutiny was no surprise; He was well aware of the rebellion and faithlessness ahead.

But in spite of that foreknowledge, He made the covenant. He promised faithfulness. He would be their God, they would be His people. And so, He cared for them and provided abundantly.

And sure enough, in spite of that covenant and His proven faithfulness, when hard times hit, they questioned, they complained, they even sought to return to Egypt.

We may think we are above all of that. After all, we haven't exactly returned to Egypt, have we? Well, then again, neither had they - it was only a thought, a desire, a plan in the making. They weren't actually there. That might sound a bit more familiar, don't you think?

There are times when I've looked back. I've had moments of doubting, questioning my decision to live for Him, wondering what it might otherwise have been like. When I'm willing to really let deception have its way, I imagine all kinds of positive outcomes had I made a different decision. With rose-colored glasses in place, life looks pretty peachy. (How could rosy be peachy?)

But then I consider the bondages I've been freed from, the power over sin I've been given, the careful instruction of how to walk in Holy ways received, and I once again realize what I have and where I am compared to what and where I might have been. Where I might have been... hmm. That picture is a bit more disconcerting and a bit more in touch with reality. After all, Hollywood is wrong. Sin does damage; it does harm. It is wicked stuff.

This morning as I read of Israel's stiff-necked response, their lack of mindfulness of His wonders in their lives, and their rebellion - all of which were met with grace, mercy, kindness, and above all, faithfulness - for You did not forsake them - I remember that You have dealt with me in the same manner. I have been the recipient of immeasurable mercy and grace more than once, simply because I belong to Him.

When I received Christ, I became the beneficiary of a great covenant - I mean a great covenant. Now, even when I am untrue, He cannot be. He will remain faithful to His promise to me, forever and ever faithful.

My eyes are full of thankful tears.

And it makes my heart want to sing.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Today is the day. A new site for us:

Mom and Us
A mother and her seven daughters join together
to discuss what it means to be a Godly woman,
single or married,
in this day and hour.
Be sure to check it out regularly.

Opening Today
March 3
Check it out!
We felt we wanted to focus more concisely on issues of womanhood confronting us today. We will all maintain our personal blogs for random thoughts, newsy notes, prose and poetry - or whatever. will be more specific; a bit of a think tank, if you will. Well, that sounds a bit lofty. But hopefully some thought will be put into the posts, and hopefully it will benefit the readers, both those who participate in commenting and debating, and those who prefer the spectators' vantage point.
At least that is the current plan. We shall see where this ends up. But for now we are off and running. Come grow with us!