It's all a matter of perspective...

We went for a train ride today.

This is the view from one side of the train...

this is the view from the other.
Which do you prefer?

If you were me, and your soul is refreshed being near water,
you'd favor the west side with the river running next to it.

But, if you're Bug, whose soul sings with a hint of anything train related,

you'd love the east side with its signals and sidings.

Same train, same journey.
Different views. Different viewpoints.

If I'd insisted we all sit on the west side and just look out at the river, it wouldn't have been nearly as fun for the boys. As lovely and calm and relaxing as the riverside view was, it really was kind of boring. When you want to relax, boring can be a good thing. But when you're 6 and 3, boring is just...boring.

One of the biggest things I've learned as a parent is that I benefit from seeing things from someone else's perspective. As the 'grown-up' I can easily push my agenda and we do what I want, when I want to do it (I grew up very much this way). But I think I get more from the journey when I take the time to see another point of view.

If I'd only looked at the river side, I would have missed this,
(the state capital)

and this
(the end of the Pony Express route)
And maybe even this...

Peace vs. Happiness

I know that look. I've seen it all too many times over the past couple of years. Deep-set eyes hidden even deeper under the furrowed brow. Jaw clenched, mouth set into a straight line. It's the "Honey, I've got bad news," look.

No matter how many times I see it, and no matter how many times things turn out alright in the end (although getting to 'the end' has often been difficult and painful), my heart stops for a moment and I forget to breathe for a bit.

So when the boys and I came home to that look a few days ago, my initial reaction wasn't at all unexpected. I ranted a bit about the unfairness of the situation and my perceptions of the factors that find us in the spot to begin with.

That's the human reaction. It's always the first kind. But when I get beyond the initial processing, there is always a place--maybe very deeply inside, but there nonetheless--where confidence in the Lord takes over. It's the place that can sing "it is well with my soul" even when it's not well with my circumstances.

And that's the difference between living in peace or happiness. At least for me, happiness is a superficial state dependent on circumstances, but peace can exist at the core despite them.

The "bad news" of this particular occasion could have really far-reaching effects. I'm so not on board with that. But at the same time, I know that God has never failed us, even in (all too frequent) times of similar stress in the past. I'd appreciate your prayers for peace in the midst of the uncertainty.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusts in thee." Isaiah 26:3


Bless this Mess

One of the mundane, daily, endless tasks that I just don't like doing is picking up stuff. We don't have a good system to get the boys to do it themselves, but even if we did, there'd still be plenty that would land on me.

So, in my continuing effort to find 'meaning in the mundane' I'm going to try something new. Instead of putting on the TV and trying to be mindlessly distracted while I work, I'm going to be mindful of what I'm doing.

I want to notice each thing I'm picking up and remember which person I love that it belongs to. And I want to be covering them in prayer while I do it. I think that's about as close as I can come to "turning the daily into devotion."

Wish me luck!

Ruby Tuesdays--Back to the Beginning...

Welcome to Ruby Tuesdays. For a few weeks we've been exploring different aspects of the Proverbs 31 woman from the perspective that there's a wealth of possibilities in this passage that often serves to discourage women. Today, we're going back to the beginning where I shared how I see her and why it's an encouraging example to me.

I'd love to hear your perspectives and whether this is an exploration you're interested in continuing.

Endless Possibilities

Do you remember those "Magic Eye" pictures? The ones where you'd kind of squint and let your eyes go blurry and you'd see an image hidden within the picture.

That's kind of how I look at "the Virtuous Woman" of Proverbs 31. Hidden in the picture of this role model of efficiency and accomplishment is another image that doesn't get discussed as often.

The thing that initially made me give this woman a second look was that she had "servant girls." She had household help! I like that idea. (Someday...) Beyond that though, she was a woman who made the most of her time and found activities in which she excelled.

She's the type of woman that a mother wants her son to marry—respected by the community, praised by her family, industrious, wise, resourceful, enterprising. And while we might resent if someone else holds us up to that seemingly impossible standard (and the implication that we're not really okay the way we are), we still make our own efforts to become just such a woman.

Let's face it; we want to be more attractive, more fit, more interesting, more accomplished. We buy magazines and books by the armload to try to "improve" ourselves. We stand in the checkout line with our basket full of good intentions, deciding whether this week we will take home instructions for "Foolproof Chocolate Cheesecake," "A Romantic Bedroom Makeover in a Weekend," or "10 Easy Steps to a Whole New You."

For many years, before marriage was even a faint possibility for me, I found myself frustrated by what I perceived to be a limited number of options for Christian women. It seemed like most of the descriptions of women in the Bible were about being a wife and mother. I was neither. What was I supposed to do with the gifts and abilities that God gave me? And was I ever going to actually be happy in a life of "cooking, cleaning and babysitting" as I unflatteringly referred to it?

Those feelings of limitation were transformed the first time I realized that Proverbs 31 is not a checklist of accomplishments or a yardstick by which to measure my own achievements. It is a portrayal of the endless possibilities of a woman's life; a poetic description of a life of creativity and career, caring and commitment. Here was a passage that spelled out what my heart had always known—life wouldn't begin on my wedding day or end the day my last child left home. Instead, married or unmarried, I have a lifetime to learn and grow and become the woman God created me to be.

I am so not a "woman of excellence" in many ways. I don't particularly like to shop or cook; I heartily dislike the "E" word (exercise) and didn't marry until I was in my 30's or have kids for several years after that.

So what do I find exciting about Proverbs 31? The possibilities.

I am excited and challenged by the idea that there's more to life as a Christian woman (and homemaker!) than that old cooking, cleaning and babysitting. And as much as I may have to learn, I am encouraged to know I've got time to work on it. In the same way we're allowed a lifetime to become Christ-like, we have all the time in the world to become creative, caring, committed women.

"...of this one thing I am certain, He who began a good work in you will perfect it." Phil 1:6

Is there something in your heart that you've longed to pursue, but you've been afraid it didn't fit the picture of a Godly woman? As you read Proverbs 31, take another look at your life and find a new way of viewing the endless possibilities God has given you.

When the answers lead to questions...

I've had a couple of conversations recently with friends who once knew they had the answers to faith. Raised in the church, dutiful, exemplary, and content with what they knew and how they lived.

As they've grown up though, life has turned some of the Sunday school answers to questions, and they're a bit shaken by that.

Maybe it's because the people around them won't entertain questions of the faith-sort. Maybe because having questions implies that they don't believe the answers they already know.

One of these friends asked me what do you do with those questions? I think she's wanting to know how to get past the questions and to a place of confident belief once again.

As I've pondered this for a while in search of something (hopefully) helpful to say, I've come to two realizations:

1) Questions don't equal doubt.
When we have questions about something we've been taught since we were "knee-high to a grasshopper," it doesn't mean we don't believe in God or His word. I believe God entertains our questions and our attempts to really understand the things that perplex us in the same way we as parents entertain our own children's questions.

And sometimes, when the child says (or shows by their actions) "I'm just not sure I believe that," He lets us find out by way of 'natural consequences' the same way we do with our own children.

YES, I'd so much rather spare them the pain of finding truth by unfortunate experience, but it doesn't mean I love them any less by standing by and being there to kiss the boo boo's when they inevitably come.

Bottom line--seeking is ok. Trying to understand is good. And God is no farther from the one who is still trying to figure out all the details than He is from the one whose steps never (seem) to falter.

2) The answer to the questions is going to be "God loves you and desires a deep, genuine relationship with you."

In my opinion, at the end of all the questions we won't find rules or commandments or guidelines. I believe all the questions lead back to God's infinite, patient, unfathomable love for us.

The rest is stuff that our human side seems to crave because we need a framework on which to hang that vast love. We try to shrink God into terms and concepts that we can understand; images and words that make Him seem tangible and finite.

But He is so much more than all of that. Getting to the end of our own understanding and being comfortable with a big, fat "I really don't get it all," can be the place of greatest confidence.

How do I know?

I was one of those kids. Had all the answers. No time or tolerance for questions or seeking. But at some point, when my examples didn't lead me to God any more (in fact, the opposite may have been true), and when the answers didn't bring me closer to God, I had to discover these things for myself.

The path for each of us is different. The experiences we have that raise the questions vary.

But I believe if we never get to the stage of wondering and evaluating and trying to find answers outside the Sunday school class, we are in danger of never really owning our faith and thus not having the type of personal, intimate relationship with God that He created us for. And I mean that in both senses--He created us so He could have a relationship with us as much as He created us to have a relationship with Him.

David is called "A man after God's own heart." The Psalms are filled with passages of David crying out to God, questioning all manner of things. It doesn't look like those questions harmed David's standing with God.

And I don't believe your questions harm your standing with Him either. As long as you're willing to see Him at the end of them all, you're on a noble quest that will leave you richer--both in this world and the next.

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Jer. 29:13

Ruby Tuesdays--If you don't have something nice to say...

"...And on her tongue is the law of kindness."
Proverbs 31:26b

I bet you never realized that the adage "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," was in the Bible, did you? Well, maybe not technically, but I think that's part of what this verse means though.

Growing up, it was not something practiced in my house often. I mentioned hearing frequently how "selfish" I was. Another consistent message was "I'm really disappointed in you." Usually served up alongside criticism of the latest chore I hadn't done perfectly--a streak of dust left on an end-table, some leaves remaining under the bushes after raking, a smudge on the car from not drying it properly.

Those messages are part of some of my earliest memories. My 'real' dad being "disappointed" in the two B's on a first-grade report card (out of about 26 A's!). Laying in bed, too excited to sleep the night before my eighth birthday and hearing him shout at my mom, "I'm ashamed of my wife, I'm ashamed of my daughters!" (I remember thinking what I could possibly have done at that age for him to be ashamed of me.)

After my parents divorced and my mom re-married, the messages continued. It honestly felt like there was nothing I could do to truly please my parents. Every effort fell short somehow.

I think I was 20-something before I could tell that my step-dad was genuinely proud of what I was doing (when I worked at the TV station). And that was only after months of his displeasure about the situation. He seemed to change his tune after he realized that other people were impressed by my job.

The up-side of all that was that I learned not to be overly concerned about other's opinions of me. If I gave something my best and was satisfied with the effort, that was good enough for me. And if I didn't give something my best but was content with the outcome, that was ok too.

I've always been pretty good at learning by observation. Often, learning what I don't want to be by seeing it played out by someone else. That might be most true in the area of parenting. I made deliberate choices long ago to help ensure that I wouldn't be that same kind of parent to my kids.

I DON'T always get it right, but I have always tried to be intentional not to say things about their character that will lead them to believe bad things about themselves. And I try to be just as intentional to reinforce when we catch them doing something right.

In the last week Bug has finally gotten the confidence to really take off on his bike. Within days of that achievement, he got the hang of doing the monkey bars on his own. It would be easy to take it lightly and let the moment pass as just another average childhood accomplishment. But he is so excited about it and so proud of himself, I want him to know that I share that with him.

So at the park the other day I called him over to me, looked him in the eyes and said, "Six has been such a big year for you! You're reading great, you can ride your bike and do the monkey bars. You're a good big brother to Boo. I want you to know I'm proud of you and I'm so glad you're my boy."

The critical comments of my childhood have become part of my DNA. Unfortunately, I'm sure that nature creeps out far more than I intend it to. I may not always say only the uplifting things, but I do make a conscious effort to let them out as often as I can--and hopefully the encouraging far outweighs the discouraging.

And I hope, when Bug looks back, he remembers his childhood far differently than I remember mine. I hope he'll always feel, as he said today, "Being a kid is FUN!"

What kind of message do your children get from you? Maybe you can join me this week in practicing "...the law of kindness"on (your) tongue.

If you blog about anything related to Proverbs 31 (gardening, home business, budgeting, frugal living...virtually any aspect of home-making) sometime during the week, you're welcome to use Mr Linky so others can see your post (please use the URL from the specific post itself, not just your blog URL).

You can also grab the Ruby Tuesdays button code and place it in your sidebar so more of your bloggy friends can come along. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesdays to discover more ways we can become the 'gems' God intends us to be.

A Step in the Direction of Obedience

We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps.
Proverbs 16:9 NLT

A number of years ago I was working at a television station and becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the 'fluff' of it all. I liked the work, but I didn't LOVE it.

At the same time I was working with the youth at our church, and that's where my heart really was. I found myself saving all my vacation time to counsel at camps or go on other activities. I'd begun praying about how I might be able to find a full time place in ministry--preferably youth ministry.

So when a guy in the college group approached me to meet with an evangelist who was wanting to start a Christian broadcasting ministry, I was less than enthusiastic.
  • I didn't want to be a missionary.
  • I didn't want to be working in broadcasting any more.
  • And if I were going to do either of those, South America wouldn't be my first (or second or...) choice place.

But, one of the important lessons I'd learned from my mom was that when God seems to be opening a door, we just need to keep taking steps until he either leads us through or closes it.

So I took several steps. I had an initial phone call with the evangelist to discuss my background and their plans. I made a trip to his home, 4 hours away, to be interviewed by several members of the team. All the while praying that if this was what God had for me, that he would make me willing. At that moment I wasn't willing to go; but I was willing to be made willing.

Talks continued until the next step was for me to take a 3-week trip over to see the ministry. The one obstacle was that I didn't have 3 weeks of vacation to take from the TV station. I couldn't afford to quit to take the trip, so we prayed that if this was something God wanted for me, He'd open my employer's heart to letting me go.

By this time God had been working in my heart and I was actually kind of excited about the prospect of going. It was scary to think of heading off to a country with a language I didn't speak, to take on the enormous job of helping them find locations and determine equipment needs so Christian programming could be broadcast to the millions of new converts for whom there was inadequate churches or pastors available.

No one was more surprised than I that I was actually somewhat disappointed when my 'fleece' prayer to be able to make the trip was answered with a 'no.'

There are no last-minute twists to this part of the story. I didn't go to Argentina. The ministry had to find someone else to take on the job.

But I was changed nonetheless. Taking those steps in the direction of obedience might not have led me to a far off land, but they did lead me closer to God.

And in the end, God granted the desire of my heart and those faltering steps led me to a full time ministry with students just a few months later. (And irony of all irony, though I was initially hired as a "girls dean" to work with the boarding students, guess what I ended up teaching for 3 classes each day? Broadcasting! With God, even the things that look like a useless detour to us are part of the overall journey with Him.)

In some ways I'm in that same place again.

God has never released me from pursuing writing, even though a few years ago I really thought I was done. He's been prompting me to take steps again, and I've been trying to be faithful to that.

Just this week He opened a big door that puts me back in the camp with serious writers. It's not going to be ok to just talk and think and dream about it. I have to actually do it. It's scary and humbling and exciting all at the same time. But I'm going to keep going, one step at a time.

Is God leading you along a path of obedience? Are you following willingly or reluctantly? Antique Mommy and her friend Jennifer are doing an online Bible study using Lysa Terkeurst's book "What Happens When Women Say 'Yes' to God." I'm almost afraid to join because I'm a little scared of ending up back on "The Road to Argentina" again. But I will if you will...see you there?

Ruby Tuesdays--Words of Wisdom

Welcome to Ruby Tuesdays. Each week we take a look at a characteristic of the Proverbs 31 woman and how she can inspire us on our journey to a fun, fulfilling, fully-faceted life.

"She opens her mouth with wisdom..." Proverbs 31:26

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I'd open up Ruby Tuesdays to discuss women who've influenced us with their wisdom. Maybe your actual mom, maybe a spiritual "mom" or mentor.

I know as I've grown up and grown into being a mom myself, I understand my own mom's struggles and efforts more than I did before. I know I didn't always appreciate her sacrifice for us, nor did I always value her "sermons" as she tried to keep my sister and me from learning things the hard way. Despite my resistance, some of her wisdom did seep in.

Some of the things I learned from my mom:
  • When God opens a door, go through it and keep going until it's clear he's sending you another direction (there's a long story that goes with this one that I'll share soon).

  • Always keep your commitments.

  • It's ok to say no. Sometimes roles or positions need to be left open so the right person will see the need and step up to fill it. If we take on everything ourselves someone else might miss the blessing of serving where they are called.
  • Things work out best if we live the way God designed, but He can redeem situations where we don't and turn them for the good in the end.
What about you? As you reflect on the women who've had an influence on you, who were they and what did they teach you? Are you passing any of those things on to your own next generation?

This week I'm expanding Ruby Tuesdays to include any post that references a woman in your life who shared her wisdom with you. Put the URL to your post in Mr. Linky and grab the code for the Ruby Tuesdays button so others can join in. (I'm not sure why Mr. Linky isn't working today--feel free to add a link in your comments and when it works again, I'll add it to Mr. Linky.)

Kids Inspiration--Zaccheus

Note: From time to time I'll be posting a RefreshMoments-type devotion intended to be shared with children. It includes a recipe or craft-type object lesson, a scripture passage and a short devotion to help communicate something about God.


"And He entered and was passing through Jericho. And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax-gatherer, and he was rich. And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. And he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house."

And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly. And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner."

And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."

And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." LUKE 19:1-10

Have you ever been to a parade? Isn't it hard to see when everyone in front is taller than you?

That's what happened to Zaccheus when Jesus came to town. Jesus was so well known that crowds gathered just to see him walk by. Zaccheus (we'll call him Zac for short), wanted to see Jesus, but it was like a parade when he got there, and Zac was too short to see much.

It was pretty smart of Zac to climb that tree, wasn't it? It was a good thing that he did too, since Jesus was looking for him.

Some people got mad that Jesus wanted to go home with Zac—he wasn't a very nice man. In those days, being a tax collector usually meant that the person took things that belonged to other people and kept them for himself. The crowd didn't see why Jesus would pick Zac to have supper with instead of a good person. The people didn't understand that Jesus is so good; He makes even very bad people want to be good too.

Jesus knew Zac's heart and that he wanted to change; that's why He told the people that He came to save the lost people--the bad people like Zac. And after meeting Jesus, he did change!

Zac went from being someone who took more than he deserved, to giving away half of all he had! Can you imagine giving half of all your clothes, toys and allowance to the poor? And Zac was even going to give back a dollar for every quarter that he took from someone that he shouldn't have.

Jesus still helps people change. He loves good people, but He loves bad people too. In fact, the Bible tells us that we're all bad sometimes, and we all need Jesus to forgive us and help us live like we should.

Think about it: How would it make you feel if Jesus came to visit the mean kid down the street? How do you treat people who don't behave nicely? Are you willing to share good things with them? Is there someone that you could tell about Jesus and how He wants to help them?

Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake

I'm thinking that "Shortcake" is a nickname kids might have called Zac. This springtime favorite can be a reminder that Jesus didn't just come for good people, but for people who aren't always good too.


Berry topping:
1 or 2 baskets of strawberries

Slice berries, place in bowl, sprinkle with two tablespoons of sugar. Stir gently to coat the berries with sugar. Set aside so they'll get juicy while you make the biscuits.

Your favorite biscuit recipe with a couple tablespoons of sugar added.
Or try one of these recipes:

My simple scones

Bake the shortcakes according to recipe. Cool on wire rack. Slice and put on plate. Cover bottom half with berries, cover with top half of shortcake, add more berries.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...