Friday, December 30, 2011

a happiest of birthdays post

Maybe now that Christmas is over I can resume my normal haphazard schedule of blogging....  Christmastime ended up being quite the sprint!  Sometimes it takes a sister sharing their cold with you before you slow down... like in my case.  Such has forced me to be at home right now rather than with Mom and the sisters out celebrating Mom's birthday this afternoon (the aforementioned sister has not only shared her cold, but used up pretty much all the Kleenex in the house; so I have been elegantly toting around rolls of toilet paper... and Rudolph and I look like we could be first cousins)  Boo.  But, I am trying to make the most of it by indulging in my new Pinterest addiction, chatting with a few friends, reading, and resting.  And making black bean brownies (do not judge until you have tried them. besides, they are good for people with diet restrictions) in lieu of a birthday cake so that tonight we can party like homeschool rock stars for Mom's birthday (which of course will include dinner, brownies, and an old movie... a great way to spend any evening).

Speaking of Mom's birthday, I should very much like to take a few moments to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!, from my laptop to hers.  Mom is quite the special lady... I really appreciate that she takes time for the little things, like encouraging people, chatting with the cashier at the store, looking at the sunset, or any other small thing that is important.  Most importantly, she helps us all keep our priorities in order, remembering what's big and what's not in the light of eternity.  Mom was quite the artist, pre-homemaking days, and still is... but her art has shifted from pencil and paper to hearts and home, and I am blessed to be a beneficiary.  Most importantly, Mom loves Jesus, pure and simple.  And did I mentions she's my favorite coffee buddy?  'Cause she is.  I hope I can be the sort of mom she is one day... it's a high aspiration, but I'm blessed to know that I have her wise council and as a mentor, friend, and example all along the way.

~Mom and I, Christmas 2011~

I hope to write again soon because I wrote hardly anything of what I wanted to and now I have to go help with dinner.   Love to all, ~M

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I want to be like....

Oh for grace to be like Mary... who said, yes, Your will, Lord!  No hesitation to accept God's grace and mandate; no first protests for personal comfort, previous plans, or the opinions of others. 

Oh for grace to be like the shepherds... willing for their work to be inturrupted, ready to do the angel's bidding.  Living a life of humility and quietness... practicing the stillness nessesary to hear God's plan.  

Oh for grace to be like Simeon... filled with the Holy Spirit, alert, listening, watching, and bold. 

Oh for grace to be like Anna... faithful... constant... worshipful... prayerful and disciplined... waiting and watching, for the coming of the Redeemer.  The loss of her husband, and many many years as a widow did not make her bitter, selfish, or inward, but rather more faithful and devoted to worship, fasting, and prayer.  Anna knew God and so she recognized Him when He came... if ever we need a role model for what a Godly woman should be like when she is old, I believe it is found in Anna.

Oh that like all these characters, I would be found faithful, willing, quiet, flexible, prayerful, hopeful, worshipful, and alert... because He who came, is coming again. 

Before He left this old earth, He told us to wait for Him and to be found faithful, ready, and watching when He returns (Mat. 24:42, Mk. 13:33-37, Lk. 12:37-39, Lk. 21:34, 36, Rev. 3:1-3, 16:15).   The next time He comes it will be as the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Lion of Judah, the valiant Bridegroom returning for His own.

When He returns, I want to be found in the same state as these favorite Christmas story characters of mine... they didn't know God as Man (as baby, really) would be coming that day or that year... but I have a feeling it wouldn't have made much difference, had they known. They lived their daily lives this way because they feared and loved God... faithful in the hum-drum, always listening, willing, waiting, and watching. 

Jesus may or may not return in my lifetime.  But I want to be faithful in the hum-drum, always listening, willing, waiting, and watching.  Ready.  Prepared.  Obedient.  Filled with the Holy Spirit. 

I can hear the lessons from these faithful witnesses, or I can heed them.  Hope cannot be borrowed and preparation cannot be shared, I've heard it said.  I want to heed their wordless examples...   for He who came, is coming again.  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

of cool fronts and thanksgiving, comfort zones and fear...

It's raining here... a delicious cool front has come into town, and from the weather report says it will be staying all this new week.  A welcome visitor indeed.  Perhaps summer's warm temperatures have finally packed their bags once and for all?  But in Texas, there is no guarantee that they won't be back week after next.  That's just another great thing about living in Texas though: if you don't like the weather, just wait a few hours; it will probably change.  

We had a lovely Thanksgiving filled with joy, blessings, and the peace of God.  Lea and I brought our grandpa up on Tue and brought him back down yesterday.  It was a good five hour plus drive round trip both days, but how thankful we are for good roads and good company to enjoy on such trips.  Grandpa hadn't been up to visit us since my high school graduation... nearly nine years ago now, I guess!  

He's quite the interesting character... all German with sharp blue eyes, smart as a whip, amazing long term memory, sassy and stubborn, but yet kind and sensitive all at the same time.   Every once in a while he spouts off some off color something or another; the next, he's the perfect Southern gentleman of well bred manners and high standards... he was cut out of unconventional cloth, and quite the rebel.  No box will you stuff him into, by golly!  He'll see to that.

Grandpa moved down even further south to take care of his step-mother, but even after she died he's lived there alone for probably 10 years or so.  For all our prodding over the years to move up near us, his reply was always to laud the praises of low tax rates, no traffic, and a grocery store that has anything he could want.  

Now days, I do believe the companionship of a low tax rate has proven to be bad company and with his visit here this week, he's realized that he's missing out on the lives of his only family. 

It's taken 10 years and many missed memories to realize that change isn't always something to fear.  

When we picked him up on Tuesday, before we even got outside of the city limits of his little town he began remarking on how long it'd been since he'd seen various landmarks... the further we got from his gloomy little home and comfortable small town, the more alive I could feel him becoming.  During the few day visit, he was all things cheerful and social.

On the drive back yesterday I could almost feel him shrinking back at every mile that brought us closer to his home.  

He'd stepped into the light and warmth of family and love... of conversations over coffee and memories shared with his only daughter... of cheerful homes and granddaughters that bustled in the kitchen.  

Comfort zones and familiarity didn't seem quite so safe anymore.  It's not safe to miss out on the good things God might have in store for you, just because of fear.  Fear of anything, save the Lord, is bad company to keep.  

Lea and I drove up to his little house near the water... we walked him back in his dark bachelor-kept little living room... we prepared to travel back home... he broke up and started to cry and said he wished we didn't have to leave.  I wanted to cry and wished I didn't have to leave.  I felt like someone who'd let a butterfly from it's cocoon, and then after letting it soar a bit, stuffing it back in it's dark corner.  Offers to make a pot of coffee and stay for a bit was met with his over-riding concern about us getting home before dark.  Bless his heart.  

I think he will move here eventually.  Hopefully soon.  I think he's finally realized that comfort zones can be dangerous places and that fear is a bad companion.  A fresh and good reminder for me too. 

It forces me to examine my life... comfort zones I am clinging to and fears I am friending.  

Whenever Grandpa does move down, I know there will be growing pains.  Things to get used to.  Give and take.  That's life.  

This I'm learning: there's no life in clinging only to what you know because you're afraid of what you might get.  I must choose to open my heart and walk outside of my comfort zones.  There is always risk involved in both of those things... but to choose risk is to choose faith, and to choose faith is to choose the way of blessings.  

I want to choose the way of blessings.  I want to choose faith.  I want to say no to fear and no to perpetual comfort zones.  I want to say yes to Jesus.   Always.  Every time.   The Jesus way is always best. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

stuff and nonsense

I really haven't a foggy idea of what to write about, but I feel like I ought to anyway.  Write, that is.  The day just feels perfect for it.  It's been a knockout of a fall day... cold (for us), gorgeous, and windy. And sunny too.  There are two varieties of lovely fall days: the sunny blue sky sort, and the gray cloudy blustery sort.  Today was the former, but I'll take either and be just as delighted.  After tying up some business loose ends, Mom and I had a very nice jaunt into Small Town for a few errands.  I found little Christmas gifts for my Chinese girls and a new Christmas tree for my room (every since Lea and I stopped sharing a room, there has been a custody battle going on over our little shared tree.  Today, I found a BIGGER and BETTER one... bwahahaha. She can have the wee one footer... I found a FOUR FOOTER for an extremely reasonable price. ha.).  Fitting it in my room could prove to be interesting though.

My life these days is a series of twists and turns and everything up in the air.   Well, not everything everything, but too many for comfort.  But since when has God been concerned the most about my comfort?  He likes to make me uncomfortable, and I appreciate that.  Because the uncomfortableness is always prodding me on to new territory, more battles won, and a greater empathy for others. 

I'm learning to trust God with the unknowns, which is a lifelong lesson, I think.  At least in my life to date.  Not just the big unknowns (those can be easy sometimes), but the small ones... like if I put my name out there for as a piano teacher, will I actually get takers and will I be a good teacher?  And if I do, how will the schedule work out, and should I put my name out in three separate towns, and if I do what day should I do which and will it all work out?  It is confusing.  It is a practice in trusting God.  So that makes it good.

Other than that, the continual stretching of the soul and friendly sisterly battles over Christmas trees, not too terribly much has been going on.  Nothing truly interesting to report. 

I have rambled enough now and should go inside and make pumpkin bread to bring to a couple of neighbors.  Sounds like a pleasant and wise use of time, yes?  Soon all the family will be coming home and together for a warm and cozy dinner and then we'll watch the Republican presidential nominee debate.  We love watching those things so much, we clear the whole night's agenda for riveted debate watching.  Whatever needs to be done is always done either before or after the debate; never during. Only listening or the occasional talking-to-the-tv is allowed.  We're a family of political junkies.  Okay, I really am going to go make the pumpkin bread now.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

reminders of His great love

The other day I was sitting on my bed prinking (to prink:to pray and think interchangeably; to prayerfully think).

I looked up and happened to focus in on my little scripture card,
the sun clearly outlining the silhouette of my little cast iron knight standing behind the card, behind a clear promise...
that it is HE who will fight on my behalf.

{Sometimes women, girls, everyone really, needs to be reminded that they are not facing the battles alone.}

I need only to hold my peace and rest in Him. The Lord will fight for me.

Children of God walking in the Light are never alone, never without a loving Shield and Defender.

May the Lord be your Warrior and your Peace today. 
We need only to stand back and let Him.

"The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace"  ~Ex. 14:14

Friday, October 28, 2011

"How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet?" (Screwtape)

Early this week Mom and I were at Small Grocery Store in the wonderful world of Small Town.  We bought out about a third of their produce department (I exaggerate.  But it does seem like a lot.), where I covetously snagged the very last and only eggplant.  (how dare they run out of eggplant right as the Italians are rolling into town?!  Rude.)  Finally, we wandered over to the aisle of toiletries.  Unfortunately I have a weakness for lovely soap and nicely scented hand sanitizer.  I spotted a little bottle of "Vanilla Cream & Apple Blossoms" *pink* hand sanitizer!  Mom had the proper response (don't you hate it when you're shopping and your shopping buddy does not have the proper response to an indubitably cool item? because there is a proper way to respond to exciting shopping finds, and the words bland, monotone, or non-enthused, do not describe it.).  As a matter of fact, she went beyond a proper response and put two in the cart; one for me, and one for her.  What a pal.  I was excited.  "It's the little things in life that make the world go 'round,"  I contentedly sighed. 

And it is true.  It really is the little things that can be the big things in life.  The little kindnesses that give grace to life.  The little pleasures like a steamy mug of tea or coffee on a blustery day, or driving with the windows open on a beautiful one.  Or a good book that makes you laugh or think.  Or coming downstairs on a fall day smelling the fresh air mixed in with a cinnamon spice candle.  Or a leisurely walk.  Or a good family dinner.  Or music that makes your heart yearn for a deeper Beauty.  Or perfume that makes the day more special.  Or trying to dance like the kids in a Charlie Brown episode.  Or laughing until you cry.  Or a warm home to return to.   Or the homey sound of a gas burner lighting into a flame in a still early morning hour.  Or... you get the picture.  Simple Pleasures, all of them.  Straight from God's hands to ours.  I've been thinking about this, ever since I read from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  Maybe you'd like to read the quotes from it to?
"And now for your blunders.  On your own showing you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends.  In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there- a walk through country he really likes, and taken alone.  In other words, you allowed him two real positive Pleasures.  Where you so ignorant as to not see the danger of this?  The characteristics of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakeably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality.  Thus if you had been drying to damn your man by the Romantic method- by making him a kind of Childe Harold or Werther submerged in self-pity for for imaginary distresses- you would try to protect him at all costs from any real pain; because, of course, five minutes' genuine toothache would reveal the romantic sorrows for the nonsense they were and unmask your whole stratagem.  But you were trying to damn your patient by the World, that is by palming off vanity, bustle, irony and expensive tedium as pleasures.  How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet?  Didn't you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value?  And that sort of pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all?

"The deepest longings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, which which the Enemy has furnished him.  To get him away from those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human's own real likings and dis-likings.  I myself would carry this very far.  I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for country cricket or collecting stamps or drinking cocoa.  Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue in them; but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack.  You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the 'best' people, the 'right' food, the 'important' books.  I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions."

With Thanksgiving coming up, it's a lovely time to count our blessings... so many simple pleasures the Lord blesses us with.  So many blessings.  What a kind God we serve. He has filled His world full of simply beautiful every-day pleasures for us to enjoy.

"All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade.  Or only like foam on the seashore.  Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure.  He makes no secret out of it; at His right hand are 'pleasures forevermore'.  ... He has filled His world full of pleasures.  There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least....  Everything has to be twisted before it's any use to us."  (also from The Screwtape Letters by Lewis)

And now, I'm off on this blustery fall eve to the Chinese mission.  I'm getting the teenage boys combined in my class tonight.  This could be interesting.  But not to worry, I shall put on the most teacherly-air I possess and firmly but kindly convey that they must behave.  At least I'm going to try to, anyway... no guarantees as I have yet to perfect my own version of an 'evil eye' that would freeze a unruly teen into behaving.  Hopefully I will have no need to practice on them.

Blessings and simple pleasures to you all,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

early morning thoughts...

It's much to early to be up but I wasn't sleeping well and sometimes the best thing to do is just get up.   These wee hours find our kitten, Marilla, in a decidedly (and unusually, I should add) docile mood and snuggled up beside me.  Peppermint tea sits steaming from one of my favorite mugs.

I think back to last week, when for three seperate days I left the house early, when the autumn moon was still high above the tree line, for a long 2 hr plus drive not counting a good dose of big city traffic thrown in.  A dear friend of mine, and some of her sisters, teach itinerant (at the student's home) piano lessons, and since they were out of town, they asked if I could fill in, which I was delighted to do.  The Lord showed Himself so faithful to me during those three days in a lot of ways, but one of the most special was a Divine Appointment with "Nana".

One of families I taught I had five children in the family, four of whom take lessons.  The mother passed away unexpectedly this year, and their grandmother, "Nana", has been caring for and homeschooling them all since.  My heart went out to these children, and on my way out, I began chatting a bit with the grandmother.

"Oh, call me Nana, everybody does!" she insisted.  Then, I found out her husband had just died a year or two ago... her daughter this year, and now she as an older lady was playing the role of "mom" for a very active household.  It could wear a young person out.  I searched her face and voice for negative emotions... and found none.  Instead, this lady who's been through so much, was glowing with the joy and presence of the Lord.

"Jesus said He came that we might have life! and have it more abundantly!  and that our joy might be full!  We just have to call out that joy that Jesus said is in us through Him!" she excitedly and animatedly shared.

She went on to share about how precious her "hour of power" (time with the Lord in the morning) is, and how He gives her strenght even when she is most tired.  This lady is going through so much, but yet she is one of the most joyful people I've met in a long time.  What a blessing!

I needed to have this edifying conversation with this saintly lady, and I knew it.  Except... 15 mins passed... then 30.  Then almost 45. And we were still fellowshipping in the kitchen.  And I still had about four other families with multiple students on my route... and for an itinerant piano teacher, it's a domino effect if you get behind and it can be a disaster.  And I knew I was getting seriously behind and that this could be bad.  Real bad.  But, I knew I was supposed to be having that conversation, and I knew that I could trust the Lord to work out the rest of my schedule. 

After the last edifying word, promises to pray for each other, and a hug, I got in the car and called the next family on my route... they were fine with my being late.  I called the next person.... who wanted to know if it might be a double blessing to both of us to cancel their lesson for that day?  Would it!?!  That got me exactly back on track, and I was able to finish the day as planned.  Does God know what He is doing, or does He not?   I believe God wants us to walk by faith and not be sight, even in the small things, like a day's schedule.  Perhaps mostly in the small things, actually, because only when we learn the small things will get move on to bigger.

I drove home that night when the moon adorned the autumn sky again, and only the russet hues of the last whispers of sunset remained... and I praised God, Who does all things well.  We can trust Him today... even in the smallest things.  That's the beauty of being dependent.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

this & that

-I didn't mean to fall off the Blogger Bandwagon...  but we were out of town all last week, and I have spent the first part of this week since I've been back both playing CatchUp and being sick.  Today, I am not only feeling better, but I am nearly caught up, and I call that a very good thing.   Yay God.

-While I was out of town, I roamed several Flea Market stores, and one resale shop.  They were all the sort of shops with lots of dust, plenty of junk, but with treasures waiting to be sought out, with just a bit of hunting.  It's kind of like an Easter egg hunt.  A few of their treasures came home to Texas with me: an entire set of six CS Lewis books (including a few I've been wanting!) for seventy-five cents; two old hardback books with beautiful covers to make purses out of (yes, that's right, purses); and a retro sewing pattern from the 60s (I am currently making a dress from a retro 40s pattern... if that turns out to be wearable, why not try my hand at another?).  It's the little things in life, I tell ya. 

-We had a lovely time on our family vacation... we didn't do a lot of anything, except perhaps, wandering and roaming the sights and stores, and that was perfect for this year.  And I drank copious amounts of coffee and tea too.  That was also perfect. 

-Since returning, Becs and I have started a very strict diet regimen for abundant-health purposes (I am something of an Herb Nerd and Becs is always wanting to try some extreme new health pursuit, so we are a bit dangerous together).  We can have as much of we want of practically nothing.  Becs is like a little hawk, and if I so much as put the wrong sort of vegetable on my plate she gives the The Eye and fusses.  I do not exaggerate.  I hope I survive the next six weeks.  However, it is so so good to bring my flesh into submission in this way and exercise those muscles of discipline... it's good, every now and then, to do something your flesh really hates doing.  Somehow, the physical and the spiritual work together, and not only do I find my physical self-discipline strengthening, but then I find my spiritual discipline begins giving my spiritual muscles a new workout and that is always good.  It's one of the benefits of fasting too... My dad, for as long as I can remember, fasts one day a week (breakfast and lunch) for spiritual reasons, and some of us have followed that example in some way or another.  It helps builds spiritual stamina and helps keep your gaze steady on The Prize.  I love what the Apostle Paul says, 'Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Not they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.' (1 Cor. 9:24-27)  The Apostle Paul sure was smart. Christians should be some of the most disciplined people out there.

-I got some fall cleaning done today... this included cleaning windows.  I'm sure no one realizes how many windows their house has until it is time to clean them.

-These days I find myself praying about going to China next summer for three weeks.  My flesh doesn't much want to go, I do not know if I will go, but I think it's a possibility that the Lord might want me to go.  There is a need, and what are these single years for, but to serve the Lord with all that I am?  Whether it is this need or another one that I am supposed to step up to, is yet to be seen.   We shall see.

-This is all for now, I suppose.  I want to keep my seat on the Blogger Bandwagon for a longer period of time this round... you know, that discipline thing I was talking about?  ha!  Yes, it needs to extend to time management and making time for more than just the immediate-urgent tasks in front of me as well.

-I am thankful today for: music {it enriches life so much}... good family team-work... blustery days and afternoon showers... safe travels... trials that put steel in the backbone... enriching books... my own room...  happy faces... thoughtful and pondering faces... my favorite season being upon us...  Celestial Seasoning's seasonal Candy Cane Lane tea being back on the shelf!... the strong and mighty love of God...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation'

I... (sob) just... (sob) am so (sob) tired (sob) and I (sob) don't under(sob)stand (sob) and I don't (sob)  know (sob) what to (sob) do...  etc. etc. etc. etc.

I don't often sob and I don't often ask the Lord 'why?' and I don't often cry out vocally to the heavens.   But the proverbial straw had broken the proverbial camel's back and an avalanche of built up frustrations came tumbling as I sat out just under a giant oak tree and a sunny sky in the middle of the boondocks. I had hurriedly stuffed about six pieces of Kleenex into my pocket before heading out for a walk, and by the time I got to the back of the property, I had used most of them.  There I sat down and promptly flooded out the last two remaining tissues and unburdened my heart to the Lord.  It's a good time to get-a-grip when you realize you're on your last Kleenex, which I was, and so I did... and then finished my walk.

Life is so peculiar.  So confusing sometimes.  So full of question marks, you know?

I read this in my Streams in the Desert devotional (from this entry ) the next day:

"Friend, you do not have to understand all God’s ways with you. God does not expect you to understand them. You do not expect your child to understand, only believe. Some day you will see the glory of God in the things which you do not understand."

Balm for the soul, that's what.

The answers we can't see, the pain we can't understand, the way covered in obscurity, it's all okay.   Some day, we will see the glory of God in the things we do not understand.  Right now, we know enough: His heart is good and His plans are perfect and pain is good for us.

The circumstances and hurts which are the Potter's fingerprints at work, while sometimes not near difficult trials compared to others, are painful and meant to inflict pain.  A friend recently shared with me this concept that C.S. Lewis wrote about in The Problem Of Pain (next on my reading list!): we tend to say that our trials are nothing compared to the starving in Africa... While there is truth in that and such knowledge ought certainly to keep us from the pit of self-pity, pain is God's tool, and to attempt to brush it off as nothing is to diminish the good work that pain is meant to accomplish.  At least I believe that to be the concept, although someone who has read the book might need to correct me.  At any rate, I thought it was a good one and worth pondering.

In summary: while we shouldn't wallow in our pain to the point of self-pity, we should accept it and let it do it's perfect work in our souls. 

Amy Carmichael wrote a poem I love a lot, For in Acceptance Lieth Peace:

He said, "I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places,
They shall be filled again.
O voices moaning deep within me, cease."
But vain the word; vain, vain;
Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, "I will crowd action upon action,
The strife of faction
Shall stir me and sustain;
O tears that drown the fire of manhood, cease."
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in endeavor lieth peace.

He said, "I will withdraw me and be quiet,
Why meddle in life's riot?
Shut be my door to pain.
Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease."
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, "I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted
My life of its rich gain.
O futile murmurings, why will ye not cease?"
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, "I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow
Will to His son explain."
Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
Not in vain the word, not in vain;
For in Acceptance lieth peace.

 Acceptance of pain, acceptance of circumstances, of direction or lack thereof, is where peace is found.  But we can only accept these trials, if we realize that in our hand is a coin with two sides... on one side, pain... but on the other, promises.  Beautiful, true promises that we can bank on.  Promises that the Lord is at work even when we cannot see.  That what Satan means for evil, God means for good.  That He works out all things for our good and His glory.  That it will be okay in the end because, some day, we will see the glory of God in the things we do not understand.

That is all we need to know for now and it is enough for today.

"Cling to what is good... not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer."  (Rom. 12:9b,11,12)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

~Labor Day 2011~

It's been a wonderful holiday.  One of the best days I've had in a long time, and for no paticuliar reason... except that the Lord is really good to me.

We have the rare privilage of a cool front in early September, so the weather was beautiful outside.  A much welcome respite from all the triple digit temps.  I spent as much of it as I could out of doors... I trimmed rose bushes, helped till manure in garden beds, steered an invalid tractor that was being towed, and drove around and a healthy one...I made two pies and a lot of hummus, swung on the swing and felt the breeze brush my skin, sat around the table with my family and grandma and talked about nothing important, and I washed dishes.  Lots and lots of dishes (the person who gets dishes on holidays is always pitied; today it was me. but I am thankful for two hands and Chore Boy brand scrubbies.)  To top off the pie coffee, and walk, we watched half an old movie about the life of Will Rogers.  Who says I don't live an exciting life?

 I carried a camera around with me, some of the time, to capture the day. 

Becs (17) enjoying both the swing and the breeze with me this morning.

I saw this beautiful butterfly sipping from the lilacs.  Butterflies are special to me... they signify new life and new things.

Muppet (21), and Laf (28) in the kitchen working on our festive meal.  We were tired of traditional Labor Day food and went for something a bit more unique... Greek food.  Yum.

Dad and I tried to get things ready for a fall garden.  We're determined not to let the cows and deer get the best of us.

Dad held (and used!) my camera while I moved the tractor.  I really really love driving the tractor.  If I could learn how to work on them (and cars), I'd *really* be a delighted.

Becs made homemade pita bread... I made the hummus.  It was rather good, if we do say so ourselves.

Coconut cream pie and chocolate cream pie.  I have to say, I used this recipe for the coconut cream pie, and it's highly recommended!  (I used less sugar than called for and it was still good)

We sat outside to soak in the weather, and enjoy dinner music brought to us by the way of an ipod and speaker.

Mom and Muffie.  :)
This is my grandma (Mom's mom)... true to the Italian Rules, she talks with her hands.

Grandma and Muppet

Laf and I.

The Lord sure does fill my life with good things.

This verse has been running through my head all day:

"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."  (Mat. 11:28-30)

That is true rest... and all the things that make us so tired (not the good sort of tired, but the worn down sort), perhaps it's because it is not a part of His yoke for us at all... perhaps it is expectations that either we place on ourselves, or that we feel our culture and society expects of us... Perhaps, if we really will come to Him and cross-examine what it is that's making us tired, we really will find rest for our souls.  And we will, because He promises.  It has certainly proven true in my own heart and I am thankful.

Goodnight all.  I hope to catch up with everyone via comments and reading  real soon.   Life has been hectic but this week will hopefully be slower.  Please pray for Texas folks... we're in a very bad drought and families are losing their homes in all the wildfires (some not very far from where I live)...  pray that hearts are turned to the Lord through it all, and for rain.

May the Lord bless and keep you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sometimes you're just tired, and you don't know why.. and you feel your eye trying to twitch, both of them actually, and everyone seems to have everything together and you're still lost, and you just want to cry and you don't know why and you're not even normally 'a crier' and even a cup of coffee doesn't help.

And you realize how far you have to go and how uphill the fight and how you sometimes don't even know how to fight.  And you're not sure of anything much.

Except you know that your marching orders are to keep walking, keep marching, keep giving and keep receiving.  Orders to keep resting, depending, trusting, and keep on knowing that He is God.  One foot of faith in front of the other.  One deep breath of rest and trust after the next.  Every lie that says you are responsible to change anything or anyone by human strength, defeated with the simple truth that you and your circumstances are completely dependent on Him.

Then, the wretched neediness is a gift.  A gift because He promises to come in our neediness... it is not when we are full, but when we are empty that God-size miracles occur.  It wasn't until the Red Sea was an impasse that the Lord parted it, and it wasn't until they were out of water that it came from a rock and out of food that manna came from heaven.   

"Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
"Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?

"So He fed them according to the integrity of His heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of His hands."   (Psalm 78:19,20,72)

God can and will furnish a table in the wilderness, bring water from a rock, and manna from heaven... but only when we are needy and dependent.

Then grace comes... and beautiful testimonies like these put everything into perspective:  This Was Grace

And then the neediness is seen as what it is:  a showcase for God's great work and glory.

Monday, August 22, 2011

-I've been just itching to sit down and write about nothing in particular for the past few days.  But since I knew I was trying to get sick and had long days this weekend, I went to bed on time (sort of) like a good child.  It's Sunday, but I refuse to be a good child even it is the sabbath; I've have had a nap and that makes me feel justified for staying up a bit later tonight.  Besides, people are still talking downstairs and that doesn't help one fall asleep anyway.  (now that my conscience is soothed, I can finish my post,)

-We have an out of town visitor this week.  It's a good discipline for me not to idolize my privacy.  Introverts do so prize the comfort zone and privacy of home, I think.  Too much, sometimes, I'm sure. 

-Time to work on my lesson for the girls group again on Wed... I haven't the slightest inkling what the Lord wants me to share yet.  The answer will come some time before Wednesday afternoon, this much I know.

-We watched "A Man Called Peter" tonight... I love that movie.  I love the testimony of Peter Marshall's life.  The book is even better than the movie, of course, but the movie is good too. 

-So many Godly and brilliant men die young it seems... have you noticed?  Perhaps it's because their impact is most felt after they are gone...?   I don't know.  I always feel so sorry for their wives having lost them.  Of course, then it makes me worry... I want to marry a Godly and brilliant man (at least one who God thinks is Godly, and whom I think is brilliant), but does that mean he'd die young too?  Of course, lots of Godly and brilliant men haven't died young, and besides, at the rate I am going, I may never need to worry about such things anyway, so why borrow trouble?

-Speaking of singleness, my recently widowed grandmother who is 87 years old got asked out recently.  She says she is scared to go.  This is the same grandma who told me on the phone the other day, "Marianna!  Hi!  Anything going on?  Any boyfriend?"  "Oh, noo, just really busy!"  "Well, this too shall pass."  "Well, singleness is a gift, you know!"  "Nah... this too shall pass."  All this from a woman scared to go out on a date.  ha!  To my two dear Italian grandmas, I think there are two main things to fear in life:  being ugly and being single forever.  Of course I've always given them lots of scares on the former, and Lea and I continue to give them reason to knit their eyebrows together about the latter.  Is it awful to find it rather hilarious?   Because I do.  We've decided if we ever wanted to spite our grandmothers (not that we do, but if we did) we would just be spinsters forever. 

-I'll probably regret admitting all that tomorrow... but, I'll live dangerously and leave it.  ha.

-A Peter Marshall quote that stuck with me:  "Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned."  I hope to keep that at the forefront of my mind this week.  Methinks it would help cure some of the procrastination I find myself stumbling over so often. 

-I'm thankful for:  a new week that is one step closer to September...  a friend that confidently says "I know God will give direction." and for the fact that they're right...  for discernment and wisdom that are promised to us, when we ask... for physical freedom and for those who've given and give their lives to pay the cost... for Sunday afternoon naps... for grace for this new week; I'll need lots and lots of it... 

-Pray for this sister in Christ:   and sign the petition.   If you're not familiar with Voice of the Martyrs ( ), I highly recommend looking at their site.  These aren't just stories, these are sufferings of our own family, the Body of Christ.

-I read these wonderful words from Paul this morning, "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.  But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."  (Acts 20:22-24)  I have so much to learn...

-The wheels in my brain are grinding to a stop now and for good reason- it's late!  Grace, peace and goodnight... and thank you for reading my nonsense, if you got all the way through it. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What 'spikenard' is yours?

Most Friday nights I drive about an hour away to a Chinese ministry where I teach the class for tween and teen girls. I took over the class over a year ago when the former teacher had to leave for school.  In all honesty, it's a challenge sometimes.  It's very far... my brain usually starts winding down at the end of the day at the end of the week and I'm not always as sharp mentally as I'd like while teaching... it takes, like everything, preparation... and it's on Friday night.  Now, really by no standards would I be considered a "partier"... as a matter of fact, my idea of a fun Friday evening is really just having a family movie night at home with a well planned meal.  But, sometimes, social things do come up, there is a young adult Bible study my sister and I used to enjoy attending from time to time... now, I usually turn invitations down (if I can't miss it, I get a sub for my little class).  My baby sister says this is worse social suicide than when I was training for a marathon.  She's right in a way.

For whatever reason, it has been challenging for me to give up my right to how I spend "my" Friday nights.

"Most every Friday night you're out with Chinese families and girls, it's no wonder you're still single," satan has tried to whisper.   "You're tired, you've had a long week, this is hard," my flesh whines.

But these young ladies are precious.  I mean, really precious.  They have the distinct privilage of not being inoculated to Christ by over-exposure to American-Christiandom.  Many of them have come to Christ directly through this Chinese ministry, and many of their parents still are not saved.  Many of them are the only Christians they know of in their school.  They bless me, every time I see them.  I love the way they pray in simple English and simple faith.  I love the way an 11 year old girl shares that God has been showing her that when she doesn't read her Bible in the morning the day is all wrong.  I love the way they drink in Jesus.  I love the way they go back to China to visit their relatives, and they carry Christ with them.  I love the way the adults are learning about the Gospel while I teach their daughters.  I love the whole ministry and the other volunteers.  I even love the way the Chinese concept of matching clothes is so radically different than mine.

Yet, I don't attend these Friday night meetings for myself.  (This is a very good thing.)  I don't attend these Friday night meetings for the girls even, although I love them dearly.  I attend these meetings for Jesus.

I recently heard that the oil of spikenard that was poured on Jesus' feet by Mary of Bethany (Jn. 12:1-3) was likely her dowry.  She poured her dowry, her chance of getting married, at Jesus' feet.  That puts a whole other perspective on the story, besides an expensive bottle of perfume, I think.

When I heard that, I stopped and pondered what I had to pour out at Jesus' feet... my Friday nights... were they a worthy offering to pour out at Jesus' feet?  Some might consider my 'social suicide' part of my reason for not being married yet (my relatives would, I'm sure; but I learned a long time ago not to worry about what they think, because they are not a part of my Audience of One that I want to please)... But the reality is that where I spend my Friday nights has little to do with God's timing, yet the crux of the issue has everything to do with pouring out something that costs me, at the feet of Jesus.

Making the effort on Friday nights to make the trek into Big City cost me something (ie: rest, spending time doing something relaxing or recreational, etc).  A very small something*, but still a small something.  But isn't Jesus worthy of my all?  Would it be better to spend my Friday nights pleasing myself?  No, Jesus is worthy.  And when I think of it in light of this fact, it is an absolute privilege to have something that costs me, to pour out at the feet of Jesus.

Driving down the long dark country roads to home, I feel His pleasure, and the presence of my Prince of Peace fills my car, and there is no ache to the aloneness.  But even when there is, even the loneliness is a gift to be poured out at His feet.

One day I might be called to hand off the class, or get a teaching partner to trade off with, but the heart of the issue is that I keep my heart pure from having a "right" to "my" schedule.

Everything has value when it's poured out at Jesus' feet.

(we sang this in church this morning, and I just loved it)

Jesus is all the world to me,
And true to Him I’ll be;
Oh, how could I this Friend deny,
When He’s so true to me?
Following Him I know I’m right,
He watches o’er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when
Life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend,
Beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy,
He’s my Friend.

*really nothing in comparison to what so many persecuted Christians give up, I am almost embarrassed to mention my little trivial battle within myself about this... I only do it to help remind all of us that we all have something, great or small, to offer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

14DayChallenge: concluding with yet more late-night randomness.

-Today I swam in our new above ground pool with my sisters, and my grandma too.  Suddenly, we were all little girls again, splashing around out in the country in our above ground pool, just like we'd done so many times before, long time ago.  I behaved better, usually, back then... today I was a perfect terror, I admit; I teased, and splashed people, stuck my foot in a face or two just to annoy (it's really easy to do when you're floating around on a princess-print float), brought the pool ladder to the middle of the pool when a sister got out, so she had to climb the pool-wall to get back in, sang songs, and then teased some more.  I can only blame it on the fact that my disney princess float made me feel 10 years old again.  Really, it was very immature behavior (so a sister informed me).  Sometimes one of those outrageous moods come upon me, but it's usually after I've had too much coffee and not enough sleep... today, I think it was just because of the sheer joy of re-living memories.  It's good to be 10 years old again sometimes.  Really good.

-I have two books on time management that I would very much like to read.  If only I could find the time. I'm sure it would help me to get to the bottom of my to-do list more often.

-A favorite quote:  A few friends and I were talking about moisturizers recently (I'm realizing that those sorts of convos become more frequent when you're closer to 30 than not), and my dear single friend Mirren piped up and said, "Well, I just see it as a part of  obeying what the Bible says about 'loving you husband all the days of you life.'"   ha!

-This nightly writing has started to become a habit.  I've completed my write-every-day-for-two-weeks challenge as of today.  As I said yesterday, the few but favorite bloggers that have cheered me on have been simply peachy (my client told me I was peachy the other day and I took it as a great compliment- I hope you will do the same) as I've blogged about nearly anything and everything.

I used to blog.. a lot... back in the xanga days... I loved knitting words together into a post.  And then, life became a fast roller coaster ride for a two or three years, and then finally plunged me down to a place that I lost any gumption to even want to write.  I was exhausted on all levels and burnt out from doing too much; I'd lost my business I'd started and poured my life, money, blood, sweat, and tears into; then, a relationship I treasured was very painfully and abruptly removed, and then the same person did the proverbial 'knife twist' a couple of months later.  I was beyond tired and felt I had nothing worth writing about.  But the Lord has brought restoration to my heart, and I am more in love with Jesus than ever, which is I'm sure why He allowed it all to happen.  Not that I still don't have trials, or things that still sting about all that; I do... but I am so glad I went through it all.  There is more to say about my spiritual winter, but this is enough I think for now.  I have learned the great blessing and gift of trials. Anyway, that was a very long rabbit-trailish way of saying that this getting back into the writing-habit is good and long in coming.  I still think what I usually write about is random and ridiculous, but at least, I feel, unlike Facebook where you are bombarded with details of people's lives, whether you like it or not, people can choose to read or not to read, and I don't have to worry about feeling like I'm wasting their time by putting it in their face.  I can be boring in my own little corner of the world wide web and not worry about it.  ;)     (I'm sure I don't know why I wrote all that tonight, about my little trials... I hadn't planned to... perhaps, one day, someone will read this that is going through a very dark winter where the Lord seems to be absent... and perhaps they will be reminded that Jesus is with them, and has a purpose for it for He promised that He will be with you always.)

-I am thankful for:  .... the fact that the Lord puts up with so much from me!  really, He is so patient and longsuffering with me.  and I'm so slow to extend that same grace to others many times!  what a blessing...  nighttime stillness and quiet... sunshine... grace... stamina to run The Race...

-Tonight, may you "rest your hope fully on the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 1:13) Goodnight and until the next time...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday's Musings

-I'm sitting in my car waiting for Becs to get out of her ballet lesson.  The sun has set, now, and through my moon roof I see a navy satin sky with a three quarter moon.  It's beautiful.  I'm listening on the radio to "Méditation, from Massenet’s opera Thaïs, played by Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma" from Live at the Concert Hall in the Netherlands on our local NPR station.  I adore sentimental and/or melancholy violin music.  A lot.  It's amazing how music can change an atmosphere, in both good and bad ways.  I suppose that's one of the things I like most about music... that it sets a tone to whatever you're doing, and being the atmosphere-enthusiast that I am, I have a great appreciation for it.   For example, right now I am sitting outside of an average strip center in the city watching young girls dance inside, and drinking a cup of coffee from McDonalds (their coffee is rather good, actually).  Nothing especially wonderful about it, but listening to such gorgeous music and watching the moon and sky make it feel downright luxurious.  And it is luxury at it's finest... peace, music, coffee, and creation are great gifts from the Father of Lights. 

-I've ran errands this evening while she's been in class.  Actually, I shopped, although this spring I'd decided not to buy new clothes for a year, with a few exceptions: 1) that I buy something I've been thinking about needing for at least 2 weeks (in other words, no impulse buying because something is cute and on sale); 2) It really is something fabulous and I'd be crazy to pass it up (there have been a few of those); 3) It's maybe not something I've specifically thought about for two weeks, but I carefully think through it, and if I need it and a good price, then it's okay.   I did this so that 1) I will learn to live with less; 2) see what current clothes I really do and don't need; 3) learn to buy only things that I love or need.  Anyway, it's been a very good discipline for me and I've enjoyed it.  Tonight I bought only items I went in to look for, and that was good.

It's good to lose the weight of too much stuff, schedulewise, mentally, and materially...  I want to try to travel light, this journey.  It's a constant battle, but one worth fighting.  

-You know, my every-day-for-two-weeks writing challenge is up after tomorrow.  It's been an enjoyable discipline, and your comments along the way have cheered me very much.  I have written about many ridiculous things pertaining to my every-day life in an effort to just write, and you all have been very very kind and gracious about it.  Thank you. 

I'm thankful for:  blogger friends; many of my good friends I have met through blogging (we are not all 'creepy internet people')... good time spent with Becs this afternoon... a client who decided not to pursue a 'short sale' (thankYouthankYouthankYou)... feeling well enough to work out for the first time in over a month...  living near a Whole Foods store... a sound mind (generally speaking- I do have my moments where it could be questioned, but I've been thinking lately about those who suffer from mental illness... it is sad.)... music that stirs the soul... a sky that brightens the heart...  physical and spiritual protection... peace... hope...

Sunday, August 7, 2011


It's been quite the busy weekend... I'm low on sleep and brain power, but it's a good sort of low.  I think Monday will actually prove to me more restful than the weekend this time around.

-We four sisters went to church this morning (Dad and Mom were tuckered out).  Lea and I went out to lunch with a upstanding group of young people from the church.  It was so... well, good in all the sense of the word.  Just a good wholesome time of both edification and laughter.  It is rare that I get to fellowship with people very close to my age and in the same life season, plus with similar convictions!  The Lord has been providing that a bit more lately and it's a blessing.

-You know you have found a good friend when you feel free to sample each others respective entrees at the restaurant.

-I know so many older single young women around my sister Lea's and my age- ones who are Godly and love the Lord.  Young women that I'm proud to be associated with by friendship.  I've wondered before why the Lord has not sent them husbands yet... but, I note that most of these friends are involved in ministry to younger girls through various means.  And I thought further, that wouldn't it be neat if God, in all of His wisdom, seeing the whole scope of time, and not just our life span alone, is allowing longer single years for us so that we all might leave a 'carbon footprint' (for lack of a better term) in the generation of women behind us?!  That's an exciting thought!  I don't pretend to assume that my theory is true, or to know all the purposes behind God's will, but I love that we all share the bond of desiring to be Titus 2 women to those younger than us (we can always minister to someone younger than us, no matter how young we are (within reason, of course).  And I appreciate that we can all encourage each other in that...

-A lunch today, we had to divide up into smaller tables because the restaurant, Chili's, couldn't provide tables bigger than for six, apparently.  So, at our little table we had five girls to one guy (girls always seem to outnumber the guys).  About twenty minutes into the visit the poor chap stopped us and explained that we had several topics of conversation going on between the five of us, and we all switch intermittently between them with no problem, but that he couldn't keep up.  I would have felt sorry for him, but I was too busy being amused.  The poor nuclear engineer had no sisters, so he was rather unversed on the art of women's conversational mental gymnastics.. and all five of us girls were from all all-girl families, so we didn't even realize what we were doing.  ha!  I so appreciate the differences between the male and female brains!  Neither is better, just different.  :)  But it's always interesting to notice the differences.

-The sermon today was about being a witness, as Christians, to the watching world... living above reproach in the practical things... to the people who see our credit scores and to the waitress we tip, in the way we drive and the way we talk when we're displeased.  It's all in the stream of what I've already been learning: strive to be blameless; tighten up the areas that are loose. 

-You can tell a lot about someone by what entertains them and what makes them laugh.  

-I am thankful for the little gifts of today:   the good sort of tears...  encouragement from unlikely sources...  dear dear friends that I got to see today...  the every-day blessings like food, water, safety, and life... songs sung with the family... grace for today... a promise of grace for tomorrow...

-'You word is a lamp unto my feet and a Light to my path. ... The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.' ~Ps. 119:105, 130

The Response

Today my family and I attended The Response... it was both an event and an invitation issued by Governor Perry.  It was a corporate gathering with an invitation to respond to the need and scriptures calling for repentance, responding specifically to the promise that if God's people will turn from their wicked ways, He will heal their land.   Our nation is in crisis and I believe it's largely due to the state of the anemic American church.  Sin is running rampant and eating away our witness to a watching world, and most importantly, our right relationship with God.  30,000 people answered the call and gathered for day of prayer and fasting, many more at other locations.   Most of the event consisted of speakers, music, and corporate and individual prayer (I would have preferred more speakers and less music, and for that matter, a bit different music at times, but that's just my taste)... some of the people who prayed and spoke were Governors Perry (TX), Scott (FL), and Brownback (KS); Tony Evans, John Hagee,  Vonette Bright (widow of Bill Bright), David Barton, Dr. James and Shirley Dobson, Mr. and Mrs. Tim Wildmon, and many others.

I dearly love this country but I worry for it and I hate that the majority votes pocketbook before values.  We're in a bad spot to say the least.  A 'crisis' they called it today.  It's true.  Morally and financially... but the moral decline happened first.  And that's what must be remedied first.   If each of the 30,000 folks who call themselves Christians (assuming they all do) who were there today would go home and heed two words "Obey God", can you imagine the ripple affect it would have?  Oh my!!  I pray it starts with me and all of us there... I've been feeling strongly that it's time to tighten up the loose ends and be blemishless and ready for whatever Jesus brings us in these uncertain times. 

I have great expectations of what God can do... but our response beyond today is vital... one day of repentant words isn't enough... it's got to be like this: you're going on the freeway to destruction (sin); you exit (confession); you go over the overpass (God's mercy and grace); and you go the other way (repentance), as per Dr. Tony Evans who shared today.  (I liked it the analogy :) )   I hope most people will do that after today... but...   I wish I didn't feel jaded about it though...  Sometimes you see too much, know too much... I want to be discerning and wise, but not cynical, you know?

Anyway, it's been another very long day and another early morning.  I'm sure I don't know if any of these thoughts connect in a cogent manner in the least, but I'm too tired to care.

But, I am not too tired to give thanks... I'm thankful for:  a Governor who openly professes that Jesus is his Lord, and who called the nation to a day of prayer and fasting (despite all the attacks that are sure to come when you stand for anything)...  leaders who approach God at His terms, not their own...  for those older Christians who have fought  hard battles, yet not caved, and now lead by example, my parents being some of them... walking up the the stadium from the parking lot along with hoards of people and hearing the name of Jesus over the loud speaker (they were broadcasting what was being spoken on the inside at the event)- I almost lost all my mascara right then and there- it was just so precious to hear the name of Jesus being boldly proclaimed across a loud speaker while looking up at the sky that He's going to come through one day...  I am so thankful that I love the name of Jesus more than I did last year; He brought me to a low and hard place so that I could know and love Him more, and that's what it's all about...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

-We bought a new coffee maker today.  Exciting!!

-Some people and friends have suggested to my sister, Dad and I that real estate is a glamorous job.  They're wrong.  Showing unairconditioned homes in triple digit temps, climbing through the occasional window, working for free most of the time, getting double crossed by the general public often, getting asked to reduce your commission, contending with the stereotypes of "rich Realtor" when nothing could be further than the truth for most, and getting portrayed in movies as the 'used car salesman' type, and much much more.  But, still, the job has it's high points... at least that's what Dad always tells me.  He's practically a real estate reference book with legs... he's been in it for almost 30 years!  He is valiant, I have to say.

-Sometimes in real estate you meet some really wonderful and sweet people... like the couple I showed today.  The husband has an incurable kind of bone cancer and wants to get the wife settled in a home so she'll be secure.  They are so sweet and gracious- no self pity at all.  It puts things in perspective should one start complaining.

-Tonight I taught "my" Chinese girls at the Fri night meetings in downtown... I'd been out for about a month when I was sick; it was good to be back.  There were two girls there, cousins; one had been in the US six months, the other just got here yesterday.  They spoke hardly any English and neither know anything about Jesus (at all!! that I could tell).  It's a struggle for me to present the Gospel to people who don't even, perhaps, know the first thing about anything spiritual.  The 'Christianese' terms go out the window along with any religious jargon you know, and you grapple with trying to find the words to tell someone they are in desperate need of a Savior and that One came.  For them.  Pile on top of that, they don't even understand much English...  it's hard.  I need to study up on a way to present it more clearly and in extremely simple English. Thank God for the two girls who are Christians and knew Chinese to boot- they helped!

-"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.  And they realized that they had been with Jesus."  (Acts 4:13)  That has got to be one of my favorite verses.   I read it this morning.  Reading it again tonight gives me hope that maybe the just-in-from-China girls could tell that I had been with Jesus?  I pray so.

-Did you know there are a whole sect of Muslim Chinese in China?  They terrorize there too... but with machetes; suicide bombs are just getting introduced there.  You don't hear it in the news, but some of 'my' girls mothers hear about it from the Chinese news and friends.  I didn't know about that...

-I'm thankful for:  perfect songs that come on the radio when I'm driving home alone at night... cell phones...  GPSs... God's provision that is never too late.. nice people to work with... bobby pins... banks that stay open until 6pm... safety...

-I'm tired.  The secretary of my mind is complaining of too much overtime and is refusing to pull any more data for me.  I am going to stop before I say anything disgraceful.  Besides, I have to get up early in the morning. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

~thursday thoughts~

-I volunteered Lea and I to build a chicken coop tonight.  I don't know the first thing about building a chicken coop. Neither does she.  I'm not sure if this is going to be a volunteer project we'll be able to follow through with or not...

-I've always wanted a horse... I would like to get one still.  I should.  I just don't know much about keeping a horse, unfortunately.  I could learn though...of course, there are several other issues besides my ignorance that work against this idea.

-While I worked, I listened to an audio about keeping bees today; that seems like it'd be doable, with just a bit of guidance.  How nice would it be to have fresh raw honey from your own bees?!

-We made another batch of jam; strawberry-lime this time.  It's rather good, if I do say so myself, and they all sealed properly.  Canning salsa is going to be my next adventure.  This stuff is fun... you should try it sometimes.

-The fam and I watched Roy Rogers "My Pal Trigger" tonight.  Roy, Dale, and Trigger are all adorable.

-I long for a more wholesome era when people appreciated sweet entertainment... where little boys could pretend to be Roy and no one said they shouldn't be playing with toy guns, and more little girls aspired to be mothers when they grew up.

-My prayer lately is that each gift of a day might be a gift back to Him.   I'm trying to be intentional about it.

 -The world's noise and everything that calls for my attention is so loud... the invisible things are easily drowned out.  It's a constant battle. 

-I'm beginning to see more and more every day, with each new report of a Christian leader falling and setting a bad example how lethal compromise is.  It reminds me of the story I heard as a child about the the little dutch boy and the dyke... how he kept his finger in hole of the dyke to prevent sure flooding and destruction.  I see Christians walking away from their vigil so often; they're compromising in a small way first, but it ultimately leads to destruction to their testimony and often, I believe, their souls.  Jesus said, "keep watch".   {Lord, please send whatever it takes to keep me from compromise!}

-I am thankful for these gifts that filled my day:  ceiling fans... breezes on hot days... homemade peach pie and homemade ice cream... a pool that finally got put up (August is better than never)... a beautiful cup of coffee this morning... a fun family... time spent with said fun family... a bedrock of promises to on which to cast the anchor of my soul... because of that, I will rest peacefully tonight and wake up with joy in the morning...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Today was one of my girls group meetings, the one I meet with monthly.  It was a very small group today, lots out of town for summer.  They are such unique and precious girls... and they all seem to love the Lord very much.  God's grace was so sufficient, as always.  I felt scatter brained and not focused, but He was strong despite that weakness.

I hate it when I'm fixing to speak to a group and I feel unfocused.  I used to hate a lot of things about my ability to lead the monthly group I call Vessels of Honor (2 Tim 2:20-22);  I would study for the lesson and waves of inability would crash over me, over and over again and I'd feel the entire part of a failure even before I began.  Getting the bible study lesson, the home ec lesson, and the house ready was so overwhelming sometimes and my abilities were/are so small compared to the task.  Yet, I knew it was a task I was called to.  I expressed this in an email to a group of praying friends once, my friend Ryan replied with some invaluable advice  (Ryan just wrote two very good books, btw! ).  In a nutshell, he kindly but honestly told me that I shouldn't despise my weaknesses, but I should be thankful for them, because our weaknesses are opportunities for God's strength to be shown.  That was the beginning of a years long lesson about learning to be grateful for my shortcomings, inconveniences, and lack- all are an opportunity for grace to abound.  A new weakness to boast in, so God's strength might be showcased.  Abiding in Him is nothing more than total dependance (to a branch, abiding has the simple meaning of utter and complete dependance on the Vine- Jn. 15).  Dependance, that is one of the main roots of Christian life, perhaps the root.  Dependent on Christ in every weakness and in every trial.  Now, when I'm struggling with my lesson, a bad day, circumstances beyond my control, getting lost while driving (this happens to me a lot), (etc etc) or even the stubbornness of my own heart, I simply tell the Lord, it's so obvious that I can do nothing without You; You've promised to be strong in my weakness, so please be strong in this weakness.    And He always comes through.  Now I thank Him for my weakness or trouble, so He can be strong on my behalf; and besides, there is no room for pride in the heart of an utterly dependent person.  It's such a restful way to live. It really is 'tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.'

Now that I've rambled about that (unexpectedly), I'm sure I'll probably be tested severely in it this week.  Oh dear.  That's what always seems to happen. ha.  Oh well, no matter- more opportunities to see the Lord work, right?!  of course right!  ;)

Today I am thankful for:  grace for the meeting today, despite a brain that felt out of focus... beautiful clouds across the huge Texas blue sky... the fact that one day Jesus is going to come through the clouds!... an opportunity to share with the girls today about the invisible things that are most important...  a kitten asleep in my lap at this moment... one of "my" girls that I'd prayed so hard for, she's doing so so well with Jesus now...  those who are staying on the straight and narrow road; it seems more and more rare these days...  realizing that one of the hardest things you've dealt with in your life was one of the biggest blessings- not only because of the character building experience of trials, but that He was protecting through the severing...
 for this song:  it sums it all up so well...

now with patience in our suffering
perseverance in our prayers
with good reason this hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

...for good reason joy is in our hearts...

Yes, and amen.  Goodnight and may God's peace and joy be with you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's already August... how did that happen?  But it always seems to happen that way these adult years.  And by the time August roles around I am desperate for autumn to come chill the air and paint the trees.  Everything out of doors, and sometimes in, seems to be languishing under the triple digit temperatures we've been bearing all summer long now.  I'm thankful for air condition though... really really thankful. 

I have a Small Town Tale again... tonight, my grandmother wanted to take us sisters out to dinner; so kind of her.  Grandma wanted to go to Small Town, she hadn't been there in so so long.  Okay, great.  What do you want to eat?  Chinese?  Oh, well, there is "Hong Kong"... we'll try it.  

I knew Hong Kong was going to be an adventure when we drove up and saw, parked right in front so you couldn't miss it, a big truck (Texas is just overflowing with huge trucks) with "Hillbilly Deluxe" written on the front bumper.  Oh yes, this was going to be interesting.  And did I mention this place used to be an old gas station?  The car port that used to cover the gas pumps are still there and some cars take advantage of the shade and pull up underneath in lines around the concrete medians.  Perfectly normal and sensible, but of course.

Anyway, we walk in, and Mr. Hillbilly Deluxe Truck, living up to his name, is seated inside with Hillbilly family.  Hillbillies like Chinese food too, apparently.  Or at least this particular restaurant... here, the decor is quite... unique. There are no lights on yet, even though it is after 6pm, and it's noticeably warm inside.  All along the back wall are curtains.  Curious as to why the curtains were there, I saw that a silver handle stuck out of one of them: the curtains "hid" what used to be the refrigeration section of the convenience store.  Clever...?  Above the said curtains was a dead vine (apparently they forgot to water their potted ivy plant that it all trailed down to) stretched all the way across and above the line of curtains, held up by red yarn.  There were red velvet bows placed above some of the Asian pictures on the wall and here and there about the dead vine.  I would say they were decorating for Christmas in July, but I think they just forgot about them.  Country music played from a boom box behind the register.  On the wall was a poster board, bold sharpie letters indicating to please let them know if you're allergic to anything... with childrens stickers outlining the poster.   A lap top and printer sat at one of the booth tables; presumably that is there they conduct their bookwork. Our little waitress brought us each a blue plastic folder, all marked on the front with sharpie, "Hong Kong".  Inside was page protectors with printed pages of the menu, all held in, not by brads, but by various things, like yarn (they obviously adore the functionality of yarn), wire, and curly ribbon. 

After dinner, as we walked out, a couple-- the man with shaggy unkempt hair to his shoulders and baseball cap, and the woman sitting with her feet propped up on the opposite chair-- waited on their to-go order.  I tried not to notice their unique appearance, and I think they tried not to notice mine (I've decided that 'homeschool girl skirts' on young women aren't too popular in Small Town).

The food was decent though, and little Mexican lady who waited on us was kind; I think she may have been owner.  Between bites of eggroll, Michelle had whispered that she felt like she was on a mission trip- it was such a unique atmosphere.  But cultures are just so different as to what is considered acceptable, you know?  And we're dealing with two cultures at this little restaurant:  Mexican (who own a Chinese restaurant- ha!) and Hillbilly/Redneck (I assure you it is a culture in and of itself). And it's not that I think I'm better somehow because I would run a restaurant differently (although I certainly wouldn't charge for lemons!) I don't!  But you really just have to take joy and amusement from the differences.  It really was most amusing.   Red bows and rednecks, all in all, I really do like the town.  It's just so downright interesting and amusing whenever I visit there.

But still... you won't find me writing "Hillbilly Deluxe" on my littls car's front bumper.  It's kind of like, you gotta be in Redneckville, but not of, you know?  ;)

Monday, August 1, 2011

-This Monday morning started out stressful.  But the Lord was so gracious to reverse the trend after I asked.

-I worked from home until noon, and then again some this evening.  I got to tell someone the landlord would allow them to lease the home they wanted, despite bad credit; I adore being the bearer of such good news. It almost makes up for all the times I've had to be the bearer of the bad.   Almost.

-When I wasn't working from home, Mom and I took a jaunt to Small Town for some groceries.  It was such a great afternoon... in Small Town there is a slower pace of life; people are kinder and more humble.  Luxury cars don't line the parking lots like they do in Big City, the people have time to stop and chat.  It's relatively not far from Big City, but may as well be hundreds of miles away- a different world entirely.  Mom and I love running errands there, and during out shopping, I'd so often 'lose' my mother as we'd branch apart to get things faster, and I'd find her chatting with some clerk or fellow customer.  Fellowship time, right there standing next to the tortillas, or praise report time right there with the other ladies in the checkout line.  So great.  :)  That's one thing I so appreciate about my parents: they love to talk to strangers; they are always kind to whoever the Lord puts in their path, whether it be store clerk, waiter, or fellow shopper on the baking aisle.  Not only are they kind to them, but they are always quick to share about the Hope that is in them.  Just the other day I came driving down the driveway and Dad was standing there talking to the man who'd brought us our load of driveway-gravel.  When I got inside, I looked back outside through the window and saw both men clasping hands, heads down, praying, right out there in the driveway.  This is typical of both of my parents; I so appreciate that.  They are missionaries wherever they go.  Anyway, back to today, Mom and I spent longer than planned in Small Town running errands at the small Wal-Mart and old fashioned little grocery store, we were just having such a great time.  We always feel like we stick out a bit in Small Town, we don't really look like a local; we don't mind, as long as the stares aren't of the rude variety.  We even made a drink and snack stop at Sonic; behind Sonic is someone's yard where they keep a horse, and the biggest longhorn cow I've ever seen.  Seriously, he is mammoth.  Where else can you go and eat fast food and watch a ginormous long horn at the same time, I ask you?

-My favorite part of the trip was a dear little lady at the grocery store.  She was fixed up with her beaded necklace and blouse, but was so frail that during the time we were there I saw at least five people ask her if she needed help with something or another (to which she would so kindly and sweetly reply that she was fine, but she sure did appreciate the offer).  We too, asked her at one point, as she struggled to shut the freezer door and hang on to her cart at the same time, if she needed any help, and also asked her about her shoes.  You see, during the course of filling up a grocery cart high, right by the potatoes I'd seen a pair of black house slippers, abandoned, as if their owner had suddenly been raptured into thin air.  I'd assumed they were hers, and told Mom about it.  Mom told her, "Now, you know that your shoes are over there by the produce, right?" (said in the most warm southern way possible)  Oh yes, she replied, arthritis kicks in and it's just best to leave the durn things, she informed us.  She went on to say that she was not standing in the line of people asking the Lord to let them live to be 100.  She wanted to go to Heaven and rest.  Besides that, eating carrots and mashed potatoes wasn't her idea of living, no sir.  She likes spicy foods,  by golly.  This beautiful soul bore her physical trials with so much grace and so much joy; she just lit up the whole store hobbling around, clinging to her basket, smiling the whole time... all in tan little socks.  What a blessing in my day her joyful spirit was.

-Beyond these fun happenings, I did something tonight that I've been wanting to do for a long time.  Like for my whole 26 year career as a human being (practically). I made my very first batch of jam.  That's right, I CANNED SOMETHING.  AND THEY SEALED FIRST TRY.   I have always wanted the satisfaction of jars on the counter, filled with something I'd canned.  And tonight, after dinner, Becs and I set our hand to it, and we did it!  Five gorgeous jars of strawberry preserves now sit on the kitchen counter cooling downstairs, and my homemaking heart is happy and proud.  I make no apologies for getting excited about this, even if it does sounds oldmaidish.  I foresee many adventures ahead with this; so many recipes to try (all my friends will get a jar come Christmas- haha).

-Also today, I knocked on a door regarding a possible career change.  I'd been waiting months to do it, until I had perfect peace about it.  Today I did.  I sent the email, and now I'll wait to see what God does.

-This is a very long post, and I should stop now.  It's good to journal these every-day-joys-in-the-journey though... it's like showing off a gift to bring glory to the Giver.  All these things were some of the gifts of today.  The beauty in the ordinary-everyday... I don't want to let it go unnoticed or unappreciated.  Gifts of grace are worthy of lingering over.