Monday, July 25, 2011

a picture of joy

Three guesses to describe what’s happening in this picture.  






Give up?

Women, at a wedding I attended recently, competing in 4 “teams” for which part of the table does the most beautiful “hand-dancing”.   (The winning team - ours - received a bottle of vodka as our prize!)    
The whole time I was waving my hands and twirling my fingers, looking down that long beautiful table, I was thinking...
“Wouldn’t it be thrilling if they were all dancing their hands in praise to Jesus?”

* * * * * 

Something to ponder…

Describe the clearest visual image of joy you’ve seen recently!
(feel free to share in the comments so we can all enjoy it with you!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

William's song:

{May we all overflow with spontaneous songs of childlike joy today!}

* * * * *

[William, in a high-pitched falsetto sing-song]:
If Jesus made me all day,
He will come into my heart, if I ask Him to...
And the clouds and the birds and my heart...
[Top of the lungs, still sing-song]:

If you like to hug me, Benjamin, because I love you, and I like to give you a cuddle 
(accompanied by actions)
and I want to give you a kiss
[Clap clap clapclapclap, clap clap clap!]
* * * * * 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Multitudes on Monday: Simple Home Blessings

#366-402 of His simple treasures

366. The sunflower smiling from my kitchen table, which grew from a seed my son planted.

367. Elizabeth Goudge to curl up with at naptime.
368. The Dean’s Watch, its beautiful colors, living characters and deep truths.

369. "Bells" (on my phone!) calling me to prayer three times a day.

370. A fan in my kitchen.
371. A generator (to work the fan!)
372. Apricot jam, made with fruit from our “future trees”.
373. A stove to boil water with.
374. Water to boil.
375. A breezy, cool day after scorching heat.
376. Jam jars lined up, waiting to be washed and filled.

377. Two good naps from two sweet boys.
378. The way their room smells sweetly of sleep after they wake up.
379. A pile of clean, dry laundry waiting to be folded.
380. The person who invented rubber gloves.
381. Rubber gloves (for dealing with messy cloth diapers).
382. Free cloth diapers from this friend.

383. The pleasure of putting away clean dishes.
384. A brand-new flowered kitchen tablecloth.
385. A whole jar of honey.
386. The movement of the breeze billowing the lace curtain across our front door.
387. The pleasurable feeling of putting down the dish I’m washing when the bell rings, picking up a book of prayer, turning to the hour’s page, and (like wiping away steam on a mirror) becoming freshly aware of Jesus’ presence…

388. The interruption of my conscientious eldest running to tell me my youngest is in the wading pool, all alone, and with all his clothes on!
389. The surge of maternal adrenaline through my whole body as I race to fish him out, discipline him, and change his clothes, and the wisdom to dump the water out of the pool. (duh!)

390. (back to prayer) The overwhelming power of the words of these prayers, written so many years ago, to awaken my heart to Scripture, fill me with longing for heaven, and unite my spirit to Christ’s, here, in this present moment!  
391. My renewed heavenward vision as I go back to washing dishes!

392. The laughter of my boys outside, learning how to play together.
393. The cool scent of long-awaited rain.
394. Packaged chicken breast from the city stocking my freezer.
395. Daddy coming home.
396. Dinner ready on the stove.
397. Changing into his favorite shirt on purpose, and how much that changes my mood and outlook.
398. The belly-giggles of two small boys being chased by a roaring Daddy-lion.
399. Apricot jam “jamming” on the stove.
400. Bare feet in the rain.
401. An unsolicited kiss from my youngest, his sweet moist face pressed against mine, sheer joy radiating from his eyes.  

401. The pleasure of being a Mom.

Friday, July 15, 2011

let's make pie!

I made my first pie ever (EVER!) yesterday.  I was in the ridiculous position of finding frozen fruit from last summer left in my freezer, with this summer's raspberries about to arrive any day!  So, I girded up my - er, apron - and decided to tackle pie-making, with two willing helpers standing by.  

Very helpful in the cleaning-up process, as you can see.  

Have you guessed what flavor pie yet?


It was delicious.  

(And so was Ben's face!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

entering the Valley of Vision

Stop and refresh your soul here a moment: Sovereign Grace Music - How Deep

I’ve had this book, Valley of Vision, a Collection of Puritan Prayers since my Dad blessed me with it while I was in college… but I haven’t pulled it off the shelf in several years.  It felt so right to pick it up again, and begin to add another element to this “Year of Here:” the discipline of “hard stops”. It’s something Ann talks about a lot, but I just didn’t know how to make it happen… 

...but after reading this post, I decided to try again.  Being given something rich, intimate, and convicting to say to Jesus every three hours made such a difference to my motivation to keep my hard-stop trysts with Him.  

I did the 9am one, finding a little island of quiet by my kitchen counter as I prayed the words softly to Him under my breath, feeling my heart slow down and everything else recede away momentarily.  

I did the 12noon one too, looking forward to seeing what prayer came next, delighting in the feel of the words in my mouth, sensing the pricks of conviction in my heart at various phrases.  

I set my alarm and ended my nap at 3:00 (well, 3:10 - I hit the snooze once!), and found such pleasure in meeting Jesus at the kitchen table before the boys woke up (instead of greedily sleeping until they wake me up and then feeling grouchy, like most days)… and when they arrived tousled and damp, I could welcome them with a smile and a composed, gracious spirit.  
So, Day 1 of this new journey completed successfully, rich blessings received… the challenge will be to take the book with me on our outing tomorrow, and keep myself focused on Him with these hard stops even while not at home… 

{post-script - I did it!  I slipped the book in my bag and followed the prompts, if a bit late... and each time I re-entered my activities with renewed joy and focus.  It's really working!}
I think this must be why monks have set times of prayer - because Practicing His Presence is so challenging for the distractable human heart, we need bells or alarms, or something to call us to remember Him at regular intervals.  

  1. Begin with the book
  2. Print out this "Walking Through the Valley" guide “an organized approach to working through The Valley of Vision prayer book in 13 weeks using 3 daily “appointments” scheduled at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm Monday through Friday.”
  3. Set the alarm on your phone, or have email reminders sent at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm Monday through Friday, to bring you to His throne in prayer. Prayer is our delight as He is our Joy — may yours go deeper as you spend time with Him who never leaves us...

Something to ponder...

When was the last time you stopped everything you were doing, 
and focused completely on communing with Jesus, 
even just for one 60-second minute?

How did it feel?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

learning how to raise grateful kids

Even a 3.5-yr-old and a 1.5-yr-old can express gratitude, with a little help.  
Starting now, early, writing down gifts together
that they may treasure the Giver of all good gifts from their youth… 
and that I may learn and grow up with them in this grace of gratitude-giving

#350-365 of the continual river of gifts:
Neon post-its of gifts stuck on our windows

Kids learning early how to count gifts

Colossians repetition of gratitude: Ch. 1 “giving joyful thanks”, Ch. 2 “overflowing with thanksgiving”, Ch. 3 “and be thankful...”

A new day with its own brand-new mercies sufficient for everything it will hold

A morning walk, filled with birds and birdsong

Boys quietly playing together

No squabbles!

An orange Dr. Seuss-esque watering can

The fall of fresh water on plants

Little hands held out to catch the droplets

Shrieks of delight

The blessing of running water.  Full stop.  (I will never take it for granted again!)

Jesus, the River of Living Water; Jesus, the River-Maker

Him, the River-Maker, living in my soul-garden

Never soul-thirsting again!

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 

'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' " 

John 7:37-38

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Grateful...

{Grateful to join up here with Lisa-Jo and write for 5 unedited minutes about such a soul-healthy Five Minute Friday prompt…}


Grateful for all the little things that make up a life.  For our four open sunflowers in our garden, and the blue-winged bumblebee I caught on camera sucking nectar.  Grateful for little green tomatoes growing plumper every day.  
Grateful for the sweep and curve of my eldest’s eyebrows, for the little word-sounding noises coming out of my youngest’s mouth, for his communication triumphs.  Grateful for roses opening, for colors and scents of creation.  Grateful for family, for home (these things aren’t so small anymore!), for all the familiar things that are portable and can be transferred no matter the geographical location.  
Grateful for the words of Scripture rolling around in my mind, for mp3 players and words posted above my sink, for constant listening and reviewing Colossians 1 & 2 in two different languages until it sinks into my soul.
Grateful for politeness from my eldest, even on a day when language learning was less than a joy, for his learning that being polite and greeting well and giving hugs are all a way to show Jesus to our neighbors, even on tired, grumpy days.
Grateful for sticky post-its all over my window, for 3.5 and 1.5-yr-old gratitude, bits of their loved things in their hearts said Thank You to Jesus and stuck up in a collection of neon praise.  Grateful for teaching them while they are young to praise irrespective of mood, and for how it’s teaching me to do the same thing.  Grateful for the blessing and discipline of gratitude, and the sheer joy welling up more and more daily.  Grateful for…  {the list continues!}
(Words in brackets written after the timer dinged, links added in afterwards)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

for when you feel thwarted

Tonight I felt absolutely thwarted.  I simply could not get our little blue USB Internet plug-in set-up to work (I can’t get on my blog via our dial-up connection; for some Central Asian reason, Blogger is blocked in our country of residence… don’t ask.)  I haven’t blogged in about a month, although I conscientiously have 3 solid posts including pictures waiting in the line-up… and I’m really desiring to get on a roll more with my blog, write more intentionally, hone my skills, link more, etc… 
On top of all this, I couldn’t even get dial-up to download the 80+ emails waiting for me after a week away… ::big sigh::
Thwarted.  Another part of the sadness-rootFeeling thwarted in the areas I most want to be growing: music (especially writing and recording), and writing (especially my blog).  Why would God call me to further these things and hone my skills, and then thwart my efforts?  Why does everything have to be an uphill battle?  
I stormed to the kitchen and began sloshing things around, slamming greasy dishes in the sink, resenting the fact that I had to clean up dinner as well as cook it.  Then I remembered phrases from a post Lisa-Jo wrote, about her best prayer time happening while washing dishes… so in desperation I grabbed my Colossians-in-a-Year verse cards and stuck them in front of my nose while I scrubbed chicken fat out of my baking pan.

They have lost connection with the head
from whom the whole body, 
supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, 
grows as God causes it to grow.”
Colossians 2:19

lost connection with the Head,”  Yep, that would be me….  Definitely not practicing the presence of God today; that explains a few things.
“grows as God causes it to grow.”  I paused and mulled that one over a while, scrubbing silverware under the hot water… could it be that God is actually growing me?  Even though it feels like I’m sliding backwards instead of stepping forwards?  Even when I feel like I’m constantly revisiting the same besetting sins and never growing more thankful, or patient, or gracious, or self-controlled, or joyful?  Could he actually be growing me?  
And then that middle part: “the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews...”  Am I trying to do this growing thing on my own?  Am I being vulnerable with the bits of the Body closest to me?  My wonderful patient husband, for example - am I shutting him out?  And what about my workmates here?  I have a chance tomorrow morning at my weekly prayer time with the mom closest to me geographically - a chance to be vulnerable and honest, or to put on a mask and pretend everything’s fine.  What would “support and hold us together like ligaments and sinews”?  What will I choose to do? 

What would you do?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Multitudes on Monday

Today I am thankful for the fruit of the Spirit...

I had a wonderful half hour alone with God this morning before the boys got up (my first in several weeks!), and the image He brought to mind was of a beautiful tree growing in my heart-garden, bearing all the Fruit of the Spirit:

For love, a bunch of sweet purple grapes.

For joy, citrus fruits of all kinds.

For peace, honeydew melon.

For patience, apples.

For kindness, apricots.

For gentleness, pears.

For faithfulness, figs.

For self-control, pomegranates.

Fanciful, maybe, but already this morning, with squeals and whines over trains and who's getting what to play with, I had to take out a patience-apple and take a big bite before answering... and it worked!


Something to ponder...

What comes to mind when you imagine 
the Fruit of the Spirit growing in your heart?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

for when you feel inadequate

That mysterious sadness I mentioned in my last post?  (Tears welling up at the kitchen table without knowing why?)
I found part of the root: Feeling utterly inadequate.

I would love to be perfect.  

In fact, I spend a large amount of time and energy perfecting as many things in my life as I can… 
  • catching typos (and priding myself on catching them) 
  • fixing my hair and make-up (ok, maybe not so much now that I’m the mom of 2 toddlers, but I still like to look cute)
  • matching :)
  • choosing not to do anything I can’t do well almost at once (and so not building much of a work ethic)
  • tidying up (my desk, my bedroom, my shelves, my kitchen - yes, I wipe my counters compulsively)
  • perfecting my spiritual image so I look (deceptively) like I have it all together
I also love to feel competent and adequate.  I love the feeling of a day running like clockwork, well-planned, well-executed, in control… 
Um, those last two words?  Those are the important ones.  Immediately as I feel I’m losing control, I fall apart.  Cranky.  Snappy.  Critical.  Impatient.  Huffy.  Sulky.  Ridiculously childish.  
Don’t get my nap?  I’m annoyed at the world, and especially at the two adorable little faces who are trying to wake me up.  Poor guys.  
Get interrupted from a project?  I’m snappish, un-gracious, put-out.  
Want to know what you’re really made of?  How deeply the love of Jesus has really penetrated into your heart?  Just note how you respond when “suddenly jolted”.  I have not been scoring well lately.  
And I can’t just resort to “I’m tired” - that simply doesn’t cut it, especially not with my ultra-patient, ultra-honest, ultra-loving husband, who called me on that excuse this morning… not only called me on it, but pointed out that my bad attitude (which I was giving myself permission to indulge in on the basis of being tired) was affecting the entire family: the boys were following my example and whining and complaining too, and even though my man had gotten up feeling great about the day, my moodiness meant he was leaving for work in a frustrated mood.  Talk about convicting. 
So, I’m feeling inadequate, and definitely not perfect… as a mom.  As a wife.  As a teammate, team leader, accountability partner, friend.  As a minister of the gospel.  As a Scripture-memorizer, a Scripture-reader, a God-dweller.  As a human being.  The nothingness and smallness of my not-perfectness welling up ugly within me… and I’ve been forgetting to turn my eyes on Jesus, not wanting to feel shame as He loves me just as I am.  
Tonight after dinner, I finished washing the dishes, and slipped outside into the cool of the evening.  The sky was a deepening blue, all my new potted plants were shadowy in the dusk.  I wandered into the backyard, the yard that’s only “ours” for two more months, and sat on our swing, feeling an ache in my heart and a lump in my throat.  
Found: another part of my sadness-root.  In two months, we’re leaving this house that we love.  I sat there and swung and grieved the losing of our backyard, our garden, that particular piece of sky above the fruit and walnut trees, the swallows’ nest, the boys’ sandpit… 
Afterwards I got up to go in, but then I had to sit down slumped on the stump by the clotheslines and cry a little more, calling out over and over the first phrases that came to mind: “My soul finds rest in God alone; He only is my hope and my salvation” until my tears quieted down.  
I found myself repeating, “I have no home but You, I have no home but You over and over until I felt the weight of truth settle in the bottom of my heart.
I could feel this need to grieve pushing in my heart, like a jammed door through which I have to walk in order to discover and enjoy the beautiful things about our next home.  {They are already there, stacking up in my mind like little jewels: a quieter street, more friends for the boys, neighbors I already know, a grape arbor, an orchard, a wide sunny back porch, better furniture, a cellar to store my jars…} I just can’t enjoy them yet while I’m still loving this old house.  
And while I grieved, I sensed the love of Jesus washing over me.  Inadequate though I feel, wretched in my own un-perfectness, I am nevertheless completely lovedCompletelyLoved.  And somehow there is exquisite relief in just giving up, admitting my own nothingness, and acknowledging that He is God and I am not.  I just can’t do it!  I can’t do any of this on my own.  
I’m not enough. 

But He is. 

More than that, He delights to be enough, and more than enough.  

When I desperately need His enough-ness, I bring Him glory.

And after all, isn’t it to bring Him glory that I exist in the first place?
For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form,
And in Christ you have been brought to fullness.
Colossians 2:9-10
{Oh, that these words would take root and spring up alive in me!}


Something to ponder…

When was the last time you felt inadequate?

Where did you take refuge?