"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What do you see?

photo source
Sometimes it is simply a matter of how you look at it.

What is it I see and of what do I make note?

Today, I can look out the window and notice that the hydrangea plant isn't flowering much and isn't getting very full.  It seems to still be more green than red--will it ever be full of color?

Or, I can look at that same hydrangea plant and remark on the radiant deep red that colors the top half of the bush.   I can note how the colors combine and compliment each other reminding me that Christmas is coming---red and green!  It is simply a matter of how I see.

I can notice and complain about how the hydrangea bush seems to be growing at an odd and awkward angle ...  or, instead, I can declare the remarkable way it is growing outward and upward, stretching and straining toward the afternoon sun!  This plant will do anything, even a strange crick of it's neck, to drink in the sunlight.

What do I see when I look at that same-said plant?

Day-in-and-day-out we all have a choice.   I have the choice today.

I was exercising this morning to a work-out video.  In the video, the instructor says, "If you can do any of this work-out, you have reason to praise God!"  I was so deeply struck with her perspective.  In that moment, I was frustrated that I couldn't do this-and-that... that my stamina was so limited.  She was looking at the same-said workout with a different lens.  She reminded me that I have reason to praise God!  I can move and jump and all my limbs work today!  I can exercise.  And, that, in-and-of-itself, is reason to worship.

What will I see today?

Will I note those things that are undone?  Or can I notice and rejoice in those things that have been accomplished...

Will I note the lack of faith or the worry in my heart, or enter into those moments when I feel close and experience trust?

Sometimes it is just a matter of how I choose to look at it.

I want to see the deep red of the hydrangea and rejoice as it lifts it's head toward the light. I want to be thankful for breath in my lungs, feet that work and faith that resides deep in my heart.  I want to be watchful and aware today and see, in wonder, all the good and perfect gifts from God, my Father.   Give me eyes to see, Father.  

**funny postscript.  Just after writing and posting this blog, I walked into the school room with my son's corrected math homework. As I handed it to him, he asked, "How many did I get wrong?".  Son, I said, don't ask how many you got wrong... ask me, "How many did I get right!?"  He laughed at me and asked again, "Mom, how many did I get wrong?"
...we all have a choice.  Day in and day out.  How many things will I see aright today?  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Beauty of Death

The piercing wind and cold has come to this beautiful land.  We must use our fire each day to keep our house warm and a simple, quick walk to take out the trash leaves me deeply cold.  I must sit in front of the blazing wood fire, in order to take the chill off my back and keep it out of my bones.

Fall has come and winter is on it's heals fast here!

As I took my morning walk yesterday, out and into the fields around our house, I was struck with the beauty of death.

All around me the leaves are dying and falling.  They littered my path in browns, oranges and red.  What beauty to behold in this always-green place I live.  Color scattered!  They die and fall.  As they die the display such splendor.

Beauty in death.  As I walk and pray, I am reminded of the Scriptures that I have been directed to as of late:  "teach me to number my days rightly, that I may apply my heart to wisdom."  (Psalm 90:12) and "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  (Mark 8:34)

Not all death is beautiful, I know.  I know this deeply and watch other deaths around me every day with a profound, deep, lingering sadness.  Like seeing the once berry-full-bushes which gave me such joy as we ate our way through the fields only a month ago.  Now, they look horrid... withered, black, abandoned, and tired.  Will they ever produce again?  These remind me of ugly deaths.

But, some death can be beautiful.  Death can fall with color...

Thomas a Kempis reminds us, "My dear friends, abandon yourself, and you will find Me.  Give up your will and every title to yourself, and you will always come out ahead, for greater grace will be yours the moment you turn yourself over to Me once and for all."

Reuben Job reminds us, "Jesus always invites us to choose life by forsaking our way of life for his way of life."  

And, Henri Nouwen writes, "In the act of prayer, we undermine the illusion of control by divesting ourselves of all false belongings and by directing ourselves totally to the God who is the only one to whom we belong.  Prayer is the act of dying to all that we consider to be our own and of being born to a new existence which is not of this world.  Prayer is indeed a death to the world so that we can live for God".  

A greater grace.  Choosing life through death.  A new existence that is not of this world.  To live for God. To live in God... through God.  This can be a death that sparkles with color!

Would denying myself... my choice to die to me and choose life, real life--- His life in me... Could that death be colorful and beautiful?  I think so.  This is what I am pondering today.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  Galatians 2:20

re-post from October 2011

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shut Up!

 "Eve, don't listen to the liar!" by Paul Gauguin (Photo Source)
Sometimes I have to just tell her to "shut up".

Sometimes I need to say "Step back! Step-off! and Shut up!

Do you ever hear her or him... that inner critic, that judge and shame-dealer?

She pokes and prods and tells me how lame I am or what a failure I am.  She tells me to give-up and that it isn't worth it.  And, sometimes she tells me that I am unloved or unlovable.

When she "speaks", she is tenacious.   Always, she is a liar.  She is mean, unforgiving and ungraceful.

Today, she is plaguing me.  Like fingernails on a black chalk board, her "voice" is grating and shrill. It is time to tell her to "shut up".  Enough already.  Be quiet, in Jesus Name!

The Voice of Truth tells me a different story.  His Words are true and kind.  They are gentle, humble and dripping with grace.  And, with His voice,  all things can be calmed.

...even her ugly critiques.

So, this morning I say, "Enough is enough!"  In the name and power of Jesus, be still.  And, shut up!

I know that she's a liar when I look into her eyes
But I believe in every word she says
She's out to start a fire burning everything I have
I can't put it out 'cause it's all inside my head 
And then You sing
I hear You sing

You call me lovely
You call me friend
You call me out of death and let me try again
You call me beloved
You call me clean
Then you show me all the beauty that you see in me

I still hear her whisper and sometimes I hear her shout 
You're not good enough and you will never be 
But if I focus on Your singing I can start to tune her out
'Cause You came with a love to set me free

I know that You love me enough to die
And I will try to see the value that you place on me
And You say I'm worthy

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What God Actually Wants From Me

photo source
I have read it so many times before.

But in that moment of time, the words seemed to jump off the page and fill my mind and heart with such emotion.  His Word moved and shifted something deep within my very soul.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.  (Deuteronomy 6:5)  We read this verse together during a wonderful bible study I attended on Thursday night.

Thou shall love the Lord...

This!  I thought.

This is what our Almighty God asks of us---of me.  This is what He wants---what He really wants from His people.  His greatest command.  His greatest heart desire.  My God wants me to love him.

This is what He requires... love.

Love Me, He says.  Love Me with your whole life--with all you are.  

Love Me, Stephanie.  

In our home education studies of Ancient Civilizations, the kids and I have been studying the multitude of ancient religions.  From before written history, humanity has been worshiping and practicing religion. Most every culture has had gods... or even a god... that they worship.  But, besides the Jews, none...  absolutely none... are given such an intimate request and command:  Love Me.

Other "gods" need to be managed or feared or placated.  They need to be appeased and fed and avoided.  They want obedience or submission or worship.  For weeks as we have studied these other religions I have been moved and blessed by the fact that God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, My Father...  is so entirely different than any other "god".  His Word is so very unique.  He has always been unique and different.  He has always been set-apart.  And, He will always be.

He alone is God!

He reveals Himself as something totally "other" and He offers something that no other "god" can offer:  a love relationship.

What an invitation!  He offers us relationship and He asks one primary thing from us.. our love.

I am struck by the thought that when my husband asked me to marry him, he too was asking something from me.  He was telling me that he loved me, yes; but, he was asking one thing from me--- love me, Stephanie.
Can you love me... can you return my love?

This.  This is what my God, my Husband, is asking of me today.  Can you love Me, Stephanie?
Love Me with all you are...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Life Long Journey of Grace

photo source
It's a journey of grace, my sweet son.

Every day.  Needed grace...

My son has been reading a great book, Growing Up Christian by Mark Jacobsen.  In this book the author challenges students to take their faith in God seriously... to make it "there own".  He pokes a bit at the non-Christian student living in the home of Christian parents.  He wants his readers to think, to analyze, and to test their faith.  He writes in a winsome way, to be sure; but, my eleven year old son hears something different as he reads.  He has taken it to heart so seriously that he has been in tears a few times.

Confused.  Agitated.  Upset.  Am I even a real Christian, Mom?...  he has wondered and questioned out-loud.

It is journey of grace, my son.  A journey... one foot in front of the other.  

My son deeply loves God.  My son also struggles with the need to be perfect; or the desire to be "already done".  He struggles with frustration and defensiveness with his own weakness and sin.  He wants to be perfect today.  Yesterday would have been nice.

Hmmm...just like his Mamma.  Nature or nurture?  I don't know.  But, I heard his heart and knew his pain as he struggled through today's chapter on pride.  He questioned and felt angst!  I think he was even angry at the book.  I get it.

In this chapter, Mark Jacobsen is inviting the reader to a sweet adventure in humility.  He is pointing out the difficulty of pride in our lives.  He is offering suggestions and pathways to walk to becoming more humble. Very helpful, for sure.  But, to my son, he heard condemnation.  He grieved the fact that he isn't there yet.

I am so prideful, Mom!  

And, if I am honest (which Jacobsen encourages), I don't even really want to be humble at all!   All this was said with exasperation and frustration--- not with the author, exactly, but with himself.

His father's words were priceless... "Oh, buddy, don't worry... you will be struggling with your pride for years to come!"  We all laughed.

One foot in front of the other...

It is a journey of grace, my boy.  Every day.  All day.  Needed grace.  

I keep telling my son... and telling myself... that perfection is not for today and probably not tomorrow either. He chuckles when I say this.  So, do I.    Of course it isn't!?  We can laugh together at our insecurities and our quirks.

Perfection isn't for today; but, instead we have just grace.  Just simple, marvelous, unexplainable, incredible grace.

I remind him often that we have fresh mercy every day and we can fall into His unfailing love and faithfulness.  Just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, he will indeed sin or at the least he will want to sin.  And, just as sure as the sun will set tomorrow, God has grace for that too...

I need it today.  You?  I need that never-ending, abundant grace poured out from my loving Father.

Every day.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Made With Love

photo source
Things just taste better when they are made with joy and love!

These words popped out of my sweet girl's mouth this morning as our family delighted in the breakfast creation she and her brother made.

Mouth full of sticky, gooey goodness, she declared this truth:  When something is made with joy, it tastes so good going down.

I agree, sweet girl.  I agree.

I had made the recipe before:  "Apple Fritters".  It is a tasty recipe.  We all enjoyed it last time.  But this time, something was different.  They were astounding!  So very, very yum!

"Why?" I wondered.  "What did you guys do differently?"  I asked as I licked my fingers with delight.

"Things just taste better when they are made with joy and love!"

She isn't wrong...

She and her brother had planned this cooking extravaganza together days before.  They had anticipated the activity and been excited to do this special breakfast for me and my husband.  And, they had laughed, sang and worked with fun the whole time.

These doughnuts were fried-up with joy and sprinkled with love.

The cooking, the cleaning, the emails and the work I do every day...  what is it that makes the difference?  What, indeed, makes these things "taste" good--to me or to others?  What is that spoon-full-of-sugar that is available for every task and every job?

May I learn from my children, Lord.  May the work of my hands... the tasks of my day... be done with joy and with love.  May songs, laughter, and relationship flavor all that I do!  
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