My excitement was tempered by some of the news carried in those messages. My heart has been heavy as I realize that age and illness is catching up with my parents' generation. People I love are in failing health and I'm too far away to spend time with them.
Earlier this month I went "home" to attend the memorial service of one friend's father; two emails tonight informed me of similar losses for other friends.
Once upon a time I set out to get my counseling degree. I wanted to help others with burdened hearts. As I progressed through the program though, I realized that I lack a fundamental trait to do the job well--I'm not very good at detaching myself from others' issues. I wouldn't be very good at turning out the light at the end of the day and leaving what I'd been told on the desk. I don't just 'hear' the problems, I feel them and carry that feeling with me.
And so, I struggled with the news that arrived in my mailbox and my inbox. The admonition to "bear one another's burdens," weighs heavy.
Thankfully, I'm reminded that there is no burden I have to bear alone, "Give all your worries and cares to God, because he cares for you."
As I feel the weight of troubles--mine, those close to me...the world's--I am making a new effort to re-direct them to the Shoulders broader than mine and the Back stronger.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Friday, December 31, 2010
Mr. Estes was one of a kind. And I can't think of anyone for whom the title "Faithful Servant" is more apt.
I first knew Mr. Estes (Jim) as Brent's dad, but over the years he became dear to me for reasons all his own. Each person at the service had different, but connected memories of him: father, grandfather, uncle, brother, Boy Scout leader, church usher, electrician, mentor...faithful servant.
In my nearly 20 years at my home church, Mr. Estes was the most familiar face at the door. I was typically greeted with a teasing tap on his wristwatch and a winking-frown accompanying the familiar, "You're late," as I slipped into the sanctuary after the first song began.
His ex-Marine exterior came across as gruff, but he loved young people and dedicated more than 40 years serving the Boy Scouts organization in many capacities. He also served on the board of a nearby Christian conference center, working tirelessly to create and maintain a place where scores of children would come to learn of the Lord he served so faithfully. Even in a leadership capacity though, he never sought the limelight or accolades. He never gave an order for something that he wasn't willing to do right alongside.
A different side of Jim emerged as his wife of 55 years disappeared into the distance created by Alzheimer's disease. Jim greeted the staff on his daily visits to her care home with a smile, a tease and a treat. His tender care for Pat and his unending commitment to her touched everyone who observed it.
I saw him last when I went home in September for my class reunion. He was at his usual place by the entrance on Sunday morning. I got a smile and a hug while he slipped my son a mint.
I look forward to seeing him again one day, standing opposite St. Peter at the gates of heaven. I'm sure he'll tap on his wrist, smile and say, "You're right on time."
And I hope he slips me a mint with the hug.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Every year I get a little more excited about the month leading up to Christmas. I didn't grow up with any formal Advent observances. The churches I grew up in didn't have Advent readings or Advent candles. When we finally attended one that did, it seemed odd that in my solidly Christian upbringing, I'd completely missed out on such a long-standing tradition. It was so familiar within that church, that they didn't explain it for us newbies, so I still felt like I didn't "get it."
So I was happy to get to our church this morning and see that not only is Advent being observed on Sunday mornings, but they gave us tools to use within our own families. I'm looking forward to incorporating some of the traditional elements of Advent with the newer traditions we've created as a family.
I've shared a little about our family Advent traditions. I've already started getting the books and songs ready to begin on Wednesday evening. Although they're still a little focused on their Christmas lists, I can see that my boys are happily anticipating our Advent activities too.
I haven't always been so Christmas minded during the season. As I wrote this post for 5 Minutes for Faith I was reminded of one of the reasons these traditions are important to me; I have a tendency to get caught up in the details of making things special and I can miss the big picture, the real reason any of it matters.
There was one specific Christmas when (even though my name is Mary) I played the role of Martha to the hilt. Follow me over and let me know if you're more of a Mary or a Martha when it comes to Christmas.
(And then come back throughout December as I share a storybook and a song for our "25 Stories of Advent" tradition.)
Remember Joseph? The son of clan patriarch Jacob (who got the title of "oldest" son by tricking his father and brother), Joseph was clearly daddy's favorite. And he had no trouble reminding all his brothers of that fact.
He did work his way into a place of favor and when his family needed his help years later when faced with famine, he forgave them and took them in with the famous line "What you intended for evil, God intended for good."
It can be hard to imagine that some bad family dynamics can be used for good, but at least there's always that glimmer of hope. I know I've got a long list of ways my family was (and is) far from perfect. Some of those experiences taught me things to avoid in my own life; some give me better understanding of other people.
Maybe most important, I've learned that harboring grudges does nothing for me. Forgiveness isn't about setting my "hurter" free, it's about setting myself free from the bondage of the past.
A few years ago I was reminded that I've done my own share of hurting; Jesus went to the cross because of the wrong I've done. But my forgiveness is complete and He doesn't hold any of it against me.
May this Thanksgiving be just such a reminder for you.
Nutted Wild Rice
This is a recipe I created a number of years ago to go as a reminder of the forgiveness Joseph offered his brothers. The combination of the grains and fruits and nuts is symbolic of putting aside differences and coming together.
1 cup mixed long grain and wild rice
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teasp. curry powder (this isn't a curry dish, the curry powder just adds a nice depth)
1/3 cup diced, mixed dried fruit (peaches, apricots, apples, raisins, etc)
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/3 cup toasted pecan or walnut halves
3 tbsp butter (optional)
Bring chicken broth to rolling boil; add mixed rice and curry powder.
Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat.
Stir in fruit and nuts, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Add butter; fluff with fork before serving.
Once upon a time, things seemed clearer to me. When we were in college, or Hubs was in seminary, we pretty much knew where we were going and about when we'd get there. There were definitely bumps in the road or unexpected curves, but we didn't doubt or wonder where we were headed.
That hasn't been the case more recently...
I blogged about it today at 5 Minutes for Faith. Please stop by to see how God used getting lost on the way to church to remind me that a detour isn't always a step in the wrong direction.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
When my friend Lydia Harris was working on her book Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting, she asked me to tell her about my relationship with my grandparents. It was hard to know what to say because they weren’t the kind of grandparents I thought she’d want in her book. We didn’t spend the night with them or go on trips together. They didn’t even share my family’s faith, so they didn’t play a role in my faith formation.
But looking back, I can see how important they were nonetheless. Their acceptance of us contributed a lot to who and what my sister and I became...Come on over to Internet Cafe to join the conversation about what makes grandparents 'great.'
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Have you encountered a life-changing book? What was it? I'd love to know. In coming days I'll be sharing mine...
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I figured out quite a while ago that I'm inspired by scenery. I need something pretty to look at when I'm writing. Lovely music helps too. And often, creative thoughts of my own interrupt me when I'm reading excellent writing. (Of course, a good cup of tea doesn't hurt either!)
It took me longer to figure out that those are peripherals. Beautiful scenery or music only enhance the atmosphere for me; they aren't the source from which the words flow.
The concepts that can't be contained nearly always begin when I'm connected to God. I can't count how many book ideas, blog posts and devotions have come to me when I'm sitting in church or listening to the lecture during BSF or doing my Bible study prep.
So you'd think, since I know I need to be in the word to have any real inspiration, that I'd be more consistent in Bible study...
I'm posting today at 5 Minutes for Faith. Join me there to see why this "Back to School" season isn't just for kids.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Yeah, I know. I've been talking about a new look since Spring (and planning it for months before!).
I won't bore you with all the reasons why it's been held up (the list is ridiculously long!). I don't want it to sound like excuses or blame. The bottom line is I have the same old backdrop I've had for a year now and I'm sooo tired of looking at it!
There's probably a lesson in patience here. Or maybe one about not being concerned with outward appearances, it's the content that counts. (Hmmm...that just came to me; I might need to ponder that one a bit more.)
But, rumor has it my turn is coming soon.
And I'm still hoping that the new look will give me new motivation to hang out here--I hope it welcomes you in too! (I'm afraid I'm putting far too much into a relatively minor freshening-up!)
But hang in there with me and check back over the next few days. There'll be something to see, one way or another!
Friday, September 10, 2010
I think that's why my youngest son perplexes me. He's not one to hear a warning or see someone else's consequences and take heed. Good or bad, he wants to do everything "Bryself," as he's said since he could speak.
For example, he's been up close and personal with the wrong end of a curling iron more than once. I blogged about it over at Internet Cafe.
Are you the type to see trouble ahead and avoid it, or are you a "learn it the hard way" kind of person? What about your kids?
I'd love if you'd come over and share your insights or advice, or maybe learn from others (as I hope to).
Monday, August 23, 2010
"O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,
Who has displayed thy splendor above the heavens?" Psalm 8:1
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Last weekend I went to North Carolina for this conference. I'd never been to North Carolina before; I've heard it's beautiful.
But I wasn't really going to know.
In the interest of economy, I was taking the shuttle to and from the airport, so I wouldn't have any way to go exploring.
I checked in to the hotel the day before the conference started and went down to the restaurant for lunch. A couple of gals I met on the shuttle were just finishing, so after I few minutes I was sitting alone, reading my book.
Another woman came in and took a seat alone at another table. I figured she was part of the conference too, and asked if she wanted to join me. I understand the awkward feeling of knowing you're all part of the same group, but being alone in the midst of it.
She thanked me, but said she really just came in to have her lunch and read her book. After a few minutes she came over and told me she was local and had planned for a few days to come there for lunch. She didn't want to seem rude by declining my invitation.
As we talked, she asked if I wanted to have a tour of the area with her. So, putting aside everything my mother ever told me about not accepting rides from strangers, I went with her.
Even nicer than the tour though, was the fellowship found because we know the same Jesus. The same One who heard my heart's desire not to see only the hotel and the airport. The One who prompted me to invite a stranger to lunch and prompted the stranger to offer me a ride.
My heart was blessed more than once before the conference even started. The blessings continued throughout the weekend. I'll be sharing more about that as I find the words...
These days, it's because a lot of kid activities and services aren't exactly manicure friendly.
Case in point, these nails. Saturday evening I had a few hours after everyone was asleep to fiddle around with polish.
Two days later, I helped at VBS. And this is what an hour or so of opening pudding cups will do to relatively freshly painted nails.
Next week I'm going to a conference where "a basic manicure" is recommended for the speaker evaluation sessions. I wrestle with the concept because I don't want to add one more bit of pressure to my life. (And frankly, I'm not sure when I'm supposed to get them 'manicured' between preparing myself to go and preparing everyone else for me to be gone.)
But beyond that, it feels a little disingenuous to me to take on a "sharp" haircut and manicured nails when my days really pass in ponytails and unadorned nails. Where's the line between "good hygiene" and over-doing?
If I show up to speak at a MOPS group (where many women are glad to get out of the house in an outfit without spots of spit-up and their hair blow-dried instead of 'wash and wear') perfectly pressed, with every hair in place and my nails properly manicured, do I become a little less relatable?
For this conference, I'll probably comply and try to have my nails look nice for the occasion.
But as soon as I get home, I'll go back to naked nails. I don't want to be the kind of mom who doesn't want to open the pudding cups because it will mess up my manicure.
Friday, July 23, 2010
my face. (Although some might not think it a
Do you ever avoid spending time in a room in your home just because you're tired of how it looks? Rather than being inspiring and uplifting, it's de-motivating?
Sadly, that's how I've been feeling about my blog for a while. I think it's bordering on pitiful that I avoid coming here to post new thoughts in part because I just don't want to look at it.
So, I'm going to do something about that and spruce things up (hopefully very soon). I hope to end up with a space we all enjoying visiting more often.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
I wrote about it at 5 Minutes for Faith today. Stop by and see the beautiful re-design (and I promise, mine is coming here soon too!) and see what I learned about blooming where I'm not planted.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Now that we've officially passed the picnics and pyrotechnics of Independence Day, the whisper is turning to a full-fledged wail. And soon, if a plan isn't implemented, neighborhoods near and far will echo with one cry, "I'M BORED!!!"
But all is not lost. There is still time to redeem the summer and your sanity. I've got 15 tips to help you and your kids enjoy the rest of the summer rather than endure it. Follow me over to Internet Cafe today to check out my suggestions and share your own.
Together we can give our kids a summer they'll be proud to talk about this fall when they're asked to write their first, "What I Did on My Summer Vacation," essay.
Sunday, July 04, 2010
I followed my curiousity and asked him, "Do you want it to rain again or not?"
"I do," he replied.
"Why do you want it to rain?"
"I like the sound the cars make when they drive through the deep puddles."
I never would have guessed that would be the reason behind the question. It led to a nice discussion about missing the northwest.
It was a good reminder that it's important not to get so caught up in answering the question that I miss the real concern behind it.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
So where we'd normally have been "led" (or entertained) in song, people throughout the church rose to share a word that was meaningful to them this week by means of encouraging the body through their "Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." It was different, but it was a huge blessing.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
It was the only word the professor next to me wrote after I gave my first answer in the panel interview for admission to the graduate counseling program.
It shouldn't have surprised me (although it did, as it was far from how I saw myself).
I come from a long line of powerful women. From my 6-foot tall carpet-layer grandmother to my also-tall, rescue-ministering mom, there's not a shrinking violet in the bunch.
But all of our good traits can have an unattractive--even harmful--flip side.
In our case, the 'power' is often expressed verbally. Strong words, strong delivery. I come from a family of yell-ers.
I never start out yelling. I always ask/instruct 'normally' two or three times. But my boys' "mom-deafness" too often prompts me to raise my voice to a level where there's no denying I was heard.
I vowed I wouldn't be that way when I grew up. But family patterns are hard to break and often repeat themselves despite our best efforts to overcome them.
As my Bible study ended last month, someone asked what we plan to study while the group takes the summer off.
I didn't say so at the time, but I'm planning to study what it means to have a 'gentle spirit.'
"Powerful" has its place, I suppose. But in my day-to-day life, that's now how I want to live. And even elsewhere, it's not really the first impression I want to make.
Thirty years from now when someone asks my boys what I was like, I don't want them to say "powerful." I want them to say that I loved them and loved God. And I know that is much better demonstrated by being kind and gentle than being 'powerful.'
"What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?"
1 Corinthians 4:21
Friday, June 11, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
"Old Testament Survey" didn't seem too difficult, but there was no curriculum and I had to come up with it as we went. We spent the better part of the first semester on the Pentateuch--the first 5 books of the Bible. There's a LOT of territory covered in that section.
I remember as the year progressed that it seemed like we kept drawing the same conclusions about the Israelites.
They were the only people with God in their midst, but their faith wavered so much! "Lord, why are we in captivity? Free us!" "Lord, we're tired of manna! Could we have some meat?!"
In the midst of their grumbling, they made some bad choices. The kind of choices that added multiple years to their journey and ensured that those who originally left Egypt wouldn't actually get to enter the Promised Land.
Over and over it seemed like God would show them His will/plan for them and before you knew it, they were grumbling and disobeying again.
Recently, I think I've gotten a better idea of how they might have felt. The place we once were wasn't perfect, but it had become comfortable. Looking back, it seems like the better deal to what we've experienced recently.
I find myself sounding a lot like the Israelites, "Why did you bring us here? Three years, and no sign of the promised land ahead."
I'm trying to remember that I only see such a small part of the path, but God has our whole journey mapped out.
And it isn't even just about me or my family.
Every step we've been on has been part of His plan for the people around us too. Our fellow Israelites, also trying to reach their destination; even the "Philistines" and "Canaanites" who dwell all around us who God wants to reach as well.
And--probably the one that concerns me most--our children. I know God wants to lead to a Promised Land of their own. The journey we take them on can either set them on the right track or lead them to settle in a "hostile" territory of their own.
I'm grateful that God showed His people's failures for us to learn from. My heart so wants to remember the lessons from those who made bad choices and do better for myself.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
It was a nondescript, ordinary, drippy spring day. But as I turned the corner my breath was taken away by the biggest, clearest rainbow I've ever seen. Even my uncorrected myopic eyes could clearly see each distinct band, from violet to crimson.
Being a Sunday-school child from my earliest days, I can't see a rainbow without being reminded that it's a promise from God. I know it was given to commemorate a specific promise, so I don't go around invoking every rainbow as a specific commitment to me.
Here's how it came together for me:
- At MOPS, Boo did a project with the theme, "My God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in Christ Jesus." Considering our current circumstances, it was a nice reminder, but I didn't really take it to heart at that moment.
- We got home and I brought in the mail. In it was a lovely card encouraging Hubs and a kind gift for our family. Those gestures are always so unexpected and so appreciated. In these instances, it really is 'the thought that counts.'
- Later that evening, we received a message from another sweet saint who misses Hubs. She's talked to her son about finding a place for him with her sons' company. That may or may not pan out, but again, I can see God moving and right now that's what we really need.
- She called again not long after and mentioned they'd just spent 2 hours praying for him. When circumstances leave us depleted, this kind of encouragement and intercession fills us up like nothing else.
I am grateful for all the ways God shows us his care, and appreciate the rainbow He sent to make sure I wouldn't miss it.
Monday, April 12, 2010
"Light and bright," is a common--and desirable description for Portland-area real estate. When we moved back to California I would never have imagined that I could end up in a house that wasn't as bright as our Northwest home.
But living in the dark, surrounded by sunshine, taught me something important. Stop by 5 Minutes for Faith to see what!
Thursday, March 11, 2010
And if you're looking for another unique Valentine treat, drop by Exemplify Online and check out Love Notes.
I hope your weekend is filled with Love.
Valentine's Day is all about showing love to the people around us. Cards, candy, flowers...little tokens to say "I love you" to someone special.
The black page was a reminder of our sin-filled hearts; red represents the blood of Christ that washes our hearts "white as snow," the white page is our pure hearts, green represents spiritual growth as we read scripture and pray, and the gold is a symbol of our eternal life in heaven.
by Frances J. Roberts
The Bible tells us that God loves us so much that he sent his son to take the punishment for everything we've ever done or ever will do wrong so that we can live forever with God.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son. That whoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life." John 3:16There is no better Valentine than that!
Meringue Hearts with Raspberry Sauce
This dessert reminds me of the message of that 'wordless book;" the snowy white of the meringue a symbol of our hearts washed clean, the deep red of the sauce a picture of the blood spilled as Christ's heart broke for the world He died to save. (This is an easy recipe for children to help with.)
2 to 4 large egg whites, room temp.
1 to 2 cups extra-fine granulated sugar (about 1/2 cup sugar per egg white)
12 ounces fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries
3 tbsp sugar
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a clean glass or copper bowl (not plastic), beat egg whites with a wire whisk or an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gently add sugar and beat until stiff and glossy.
To form hearts, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make imprints on a piece of foil cut to line baking sheets. Using a metal spoon or pastry tube filled with meringue, draw heart shapes about 1/2 inch thick.
Place baking sheet into oven, allowing about 90 minutes for meringues to dry out. Be sure that they do not start to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before handling.
Sauce: Mix raspberries and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Press through fine mesh strainer or sieve to remove seeds. Squeeze lemon and strain the juice into raspberry sauce. Just before serving, fill well in center of plate with sauce, place meringue heart on top. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
Note: You could do this same devotion with a chocolate heart-shaped sugar cookie (to represent a heart dark with sin) a layer of raspberry or strawberry jam to represent being covered with the blood of Christ and topped with white icing or marshmallow cream as a symbol of being made clean.
Friday, February 12, 2010
"I know that!"
I hear that often from my 4 year old. If, in the course of a conversation, I happen to share a tidbit of knowledge that he's heard before, I get a teen-sounding, eye-rolling, "I KNOW that!" Frankly, after the first time (where it was surprising and amusing), I find it more than a little annoying.
They say we're most annoyed by traits in others that we also possess. I'm sure that over the course of my life various people have considered me a 'know-it-all.' They might not have said it out loud, but considering my own motives at various times, it must have been thought.
Please follow me to 5 Minutes for Faith for 'the rest of the story.'
Thursday, January 28, 2010
My parents left full time, regular employment to go into full time ministry. Not nice, neat church jobs. No, they went into full-time Rescue Mission work. Not glamorous. And definitely not well-paying.
And while we certainly went through our periods of insecurity, in reality we never lacked for food or shelter or anything else important. I even have lots of stories of God's specific provision--for big things, like houses, or little things, like the onion my mom prayed for that came in a bag of groceries delivered by some college girls from church.
It used to be easy to believe in that kind of provision. I went into full time ministry myself and followed His lead to new towns for new opportunities. Things weren't always easy, but I never felt alone or doubted that I'd be taken care of.
Philippians 4:19 could have been a theme verse for that period of my life: "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
But for some reason, now that I have a family and things aren't as we expected them to be, at times I find myself more dependent on my circumstances and the things I can see rather than relying on the Great Provider and trusting in what I can't see.
There are big uncertainties looming as we reach the end of the expected resources without new jobs or alternatives lined up.
And yet, when I stop looking for the 'big picture' (because it's a pointless exercise as I absolutely can't see it at the moment) and look at what's right in front of me today, I see God's provision, the same as it's always been there for me.
It's come from unexpected places--the proverbial 'check in the mail' that we've never experienced before. The gift of several months anonymously paid at a facility the whole family uses a great deal but is the kind of thing that's often the first to go during times of belt-tightening. The gifts themselves are so appreciated, but the affirmation they express and the confirmation of God's faithfulness that they communicate are even more significant to us.
There's a passage of scripture that tells us that those who are faithful in the little things can be trusted with greater things. I know that passage is meant to remind us to be faithful with everything God entrusts to us--big or small. But it keeps coming back to me in a different way; because I can see God looking after us in small ways, I know can trust Him with the big stuff too.
How about you? Do you find it easy to trust in little things or big things? What are you trusting Him for today?
Monday, January 25, 2010
This morning I shared the waiting room with a chatty elderly couple. I politely pretended not to hear their conversation, but soon it became more than time-passing rambling.
"Everything would be different if he hadn't fallen," she said. Her husband nodded in silent agreement.
"And Eleanor. If only she hadn't tried to put on her pants standing on one leg." The conversation continued, listing the various people she could name who would still be in good health (or still be around at all) if they hadn't fallen...
I'm blogging at 5 Minutes for Faith today...stop by to see what I learned...
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
After Christmas, everyone's thoughts turn to New Years. New resolve, new goals, new habits...and I just haven't been able to go there.
It's not that I don't want any of those things. I do. But even though it's proven that most New Years Resolutions are broken by mid-February, there's something in the making of them that takes into account the whole year.
And that's where I've gotten stuck.
I can't see much past the end of the month. We have far more unanswered questions about the future than we have answers. And somehow, I can't make decisions that are supposed to impact my whole year when I can barely see past tomorrow. So I can't make plans that I intend to carry me through to December.
I've learned that I'm a visual planner. Even if the vision is only in my mind's eye. I can plan how to rearrange a room because I can visualize where how everything fits before it moves an inch. And when it comes to my whole life, my minds eye just can't see much at the moment.
Even so, there are things I want to do differently/better this year.
- Eat more vegetables
- Exercise more
- Complete a couple writing projects
- Watch less TV
- Play more games with my boys
I do know I'll be a wife, a mom, a writer, a friend, a daughter, a sister...
And I finally figured out that I can do these things the same way I've been getting through this whole transition. By doing the best I can with what is right in front of me today. One day at a time. And really, isn't that the only way to accomplish anything?
Where do you stand on the whole "New Years Resolution" thing? Do you try? Do you ignore the whole concept? When you do realize you want to make life-changes, how do you go about it?