Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sneak Peek

Friday marked one month since I started this blog. I've liked blogging more than I thought I would. It's been fun. I've learned some things and I've posted every day so far. But like I've mentioned before, I probably won't keep doing that. I really need to work on my manuscript and I've only looked at it once or twice. I've got my work cut our for me.
If I can do it without giving too much away and still making sense, I'll try to share pieces of the story with you as I go. Here's just a tiny peek. If you're a member of my page on Facebook "Amie's Book in Progress" you may have read it before, but here's a new one
So don't give up on me, okay? Knowing you might want to know more about Meg will keep me accountable. I'll finish no matter what, but I'm grateful for the people who remind me that I'm not alone. Thanks for checking in. 


Just a quick one today. I wanted to update you on the dubious progress we're making on cleaning up the bedroom we've been using for storage.You can read the first post here. I took a picture, but I'm too embarrassed to show you until I have an "after" picture to put next to it. I realize this means I might never show it to anyone because, like I said before, it might never happen.
This is one of those things where it gets worse before it gets better. We've made progress,but you can't tell by looking at the room. (I can tell by how wiped out I am) I still don't know what I'm going to do with all the stuff that's in there and I'm reaching a point where I'm not going to be able to do it all on my own.
Sounds like a lot of things in life, doesn't it? Sometimes progress is almost invisible, we don't know how things will turn out and asking for help is a big key to overcoming challenges.
You might be thinking about how dumb all of this sounds but I bet there are a few who get it. And I guess there's another parallel here. The end result is really important to me so I'm willing to put in the effort it takes to achieve it.
Stay tuned! I hope to have something happy to share before too long.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Malicious Sneaky Product Placement

I've told you about how I'm trying to clean up the messiest room in my house. Yesterday Sam and I took another swing at it and we made some progress but it's still pretty bad. I still hold out tenuous hope that it will someday, before my boys graduate, be a cute little library type room.
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So this morning as I was running errands I thought I'd look at some rugs. I'm considering the one on the left in the picture. But as I was standing there browsing I noticed something out of place. In between the rugs and some cleaning supplies sat a tall shelf of toys. They have whole aisles for toys so why in the world would there need to be a random shelf of them in the corner by the rugs?
Of course, we already know why. I was alone this morning as I was browsing, but I could hear the echo of my children's voices in my head. If they had been with me they would have noticed them. Noticed and wanted them. I would not have browsed in peace.
Maybe it was a simple coincidence but I doubt it. They weren't sitting next to the deodorant where you grab the kind you like and move on. Nope. Right there on a big 'ol shelf where Mom has to linger a while to make up her mind. Even if it is a mistake, it's an irritating one.
I have a point to all this ranting. I'm not just talking about toy placement to whine about something that didn't really affect me at all.I really like shopping there and the people are always nice, that's why I'm only showing the cute rugs. So here's what I'm getting at.
It reminded me of how the enemy works. The devil knows how to push our buttons and he will try to make something we don't really want look exceedingly attractive.
But I want to talk about the good news. The good news is that God promises us that if we resist the devil he as to flee. Flee! Not amble away but run. I imagine a cartoon character kicking up dust as he zooms away appearing and disappearing over the hills.
And more good news. Sometimes the product placement isn't sneaky or malicious because it was God's idea in the first place. He uses trials to refine us all the time. I remember something my pastor said once in a sermon. "God is more interested in your character than your comfort."
We're going to see toys in the rug aisle at lot in life. Whether it's something God has allowed the enemy to do or it was His own idea for our best interest, the answer is still the same. If we lean on Him, He will help us. He promises that the temptation will not be impossible to resist and He promises to be with us every step of the way.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

God the Mother

Don't freak out on me, I haven't adopted any pagan ideas about Gaia or whatever I just want to talk about some attributes of God. It's because of the library book that got lost in our house for about a month.
Jesse checked out a book at school, I think we read it one time and then it evaporated. To make a long story short, I found it yesterday in the "cold room" hidden in a stack of coloring books I had removed from the kitchen while I was cleaning.
After I found it I posted a comment on facebook: "I found it because I'm the Mama."
You've seen that one quote. "Nothing is really lost until your mom can't find it." Finding is one of those things that is special about moms.
Last week Keith and I were watching this sermon by Rich Wilkerson Jr. It's really good so check it out. He talks about Jesus and lost things. He points out that we are the ones who title one of His parables "The Prodigal Son" but Jesus called it a story about two brothers. Both brothers were lost.
Moms are known for finding lost things and God is, too. God is The Father, but He also loves us like a mother. Check out this passage from the 18th Psalm:

6 In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.7 The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.8 Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth,burning coals blazed out of it.9 He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.10 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning. 13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,with great bolts of lightning he routed them.15 The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,from my foes, who were too strong for me.18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

That sounds like a mother to me. I mean, if  you want to feel a woman's wrath just mess with her kid. It makes me think of a bear defending her cubs. God hears our distress and the result is smoke and lighting and hailstones and burning coals. Whoa. 
And then at the end He swoops in and comforts us. My boys adore my husband. There are, no question about it, times they want him and not me. But when they're hurt or distressed they will run past their dad to dive into my arms. 
God is Abba. Daddy. He does all the things that good daddies do. 
But He loves us like a Mama, too.
He's the one we run to when we fall and scrape up our hands and knees. I asked Him to help me find the book and He did. Just like a Mama, He's known for finding what's lost.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I'm going to be totally real with you right now: I'm feeling like a failure this morning. A friend told me last night that someone went to Amazon to get a copy of my novel and there aren't any there. My book has been backlisted. I knew that already, but it was no fun to see the word "unavailable" there next to the picture of my book. This is not unusual. It happens to lots of authors. I still have copies of my novel and it hasn't just disappeared from the world, but it still stings. I'm working hard not to take it personally.
I'm warring with myself this morning. This is one of those times when I want to sit in the road and quit. The roadblock is steep and rocky. I can't see the other side. My metaphorical feet hurt and I'm tempted to give up.
But I won't.
I see lots of work ahead. A bunch of places to go, all of them outside of my cozy little comfort zone. So here I go. I'm pretty sure that if I had to do it on my own I wouldn't be able to. I'm not going to claim that I can just grit my teeth and pick myself up and keep trying. Not without Him anyway.
But Jesus has already acknowledged my bruises and promised to help me up out of the dust.
Just a few minutes ago Beth Moore sent out these two tweets:

This is how this earthly thing tends to go: we don't turn out to be as awesome as we hoped & Jesus turns out to be better than we believed.
Personal crisis: looking our un-awesomeness in the eye. If we can deal, we're set for some wild and woolly Jesus-awesomeness.

So I'm trying be excited about what's coming because I know He has a plan. It's going to take work. It's going to take work just to choose not to sit in the road and cry for one minute longer than I should. 
I would  not have chosen this roadblock if I were mapping my path. But I'm not that kind of Author. I know He knows best and with His help I'll put my shoes back on my tired feet and start climbing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

All My Friends Are Gorgeous

I don't think I ever even learned the girl's name. Not sure if it was the camp where I was visiting my friend Debi or one of the places we visited for my Models of Youth Ministry class, but I remember the beautiful girl.
She was frowning. Mopping up a wet kid who had encountered some sort of mishap. I can't remember that either, what happened to the boy to get him wet, I mean. What I do remember are her words as she reprimanded the others who were laughing at him. "It's not cool to make other people feel embarrassed." Such simple words but so powerful. So heroic. She was a nice-looking girl anyway, but in that moment she was absolutely beautiful.
Then there was the time that the VBS teacher went around the room to every kid in the class to make a personal connection with them. She asked each of them their name. It sounded something like this: "Hannah? My granddaughter's name is Hannah. Ben? My son's name is Ben! Mary? That's my name." No kidding. She found a personal connection with each and every child because of their names. It was beautiful.
Another time it was one of my roommates. I walked though the front door of our apartment and they could tell by the look on my face that I had just had my heart broken. She wasn't the cuddly type. Not sappy like me. But she just looked at me and then said four words. "Come sit by me." She put her arm around me and let me cry. Beautiful.
But you went to high school with the other kind of girl, too, didn't you? Cute as a button and mean as a snake? I wonder if the government issues them to each school along with their state standards.
They seem to be everywhere we go.

Proverbs 31:30 says "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

You've heard that verse before, I know, but let's look closely. Charm is deceitful. Attractiveness, lure, glamour, all pretty easily manufactured and therefore nothing but hot air. Sure some people are charming because they're genuinely endearing, but there's no way of knowing if it's real without looking deeper than mere personality.
And beauty is even less reliable as a signifier of what someone is really like. For the most part we don't get to choose what we look like. We all age. Youth is temporary. That girl you went to high school with had golden flowing locks and sparkly eyes but her cruelty cancelled it out, didn't it? She may have gotten attention but I bet you felt sorry for her just like I did.
Because pretty is as pretty does. Beautiful comes from the inside out. Like the ladies I just mentioned. They were luminous with Christ's love.
My photographer friend who called me one morning because I was having a bad day. My writer friend who when I read her work, I feel like she's sitting right by me cradling her coffee and speaking healing right to the hearts of her readers. Another writer friend who amazes me with how she breathes life into her stories. My friend who always treats everyone with kindness and the one who seems to greet every day with patient, assured strength. All of them are stunning. Not because of what they look like, though they are beautiful, but because they use their gifts to bless others. Their beauty will never fade because it radiates from the inside out.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Pretty Pie Plans

Yesterday I told you about the peach cream pies I made and the plans I made about them.
Sunday is a big day for planning, isn't it? I always seem to have so many things to remember. We were going to have lunch at Grandma's after church. I was in charge of bringing the pie.
But one of my boys woke up not feeling very well. He laid on the couch all pale and droopy.So we stayed home.
He's much better now, running around outside enjoying the out-of-season winter sunshine.
I'm glad he's feeling better. I'm also sorry we missed church today, but I was reminded that our plans are not the ultimate authority. Not even good plans.
Today my boys stayed home and painted a wooden truck that Keith made for them. I had word fun with my Wreck this Journal (you can see some of the finished pages here) while Keith watched someone on TV install a beautiful hardwood floor.
I'm okay with our plans not working about because I know I'm not the One in charge.
And in case you were wondering, the pie is delicious.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pretty Pie Pride

I decided to make not one, but two peach cream pies. I know. Yum.
I was going to make one for Sunday dessert, but today is Saturday and I felt bad. Right this minute my kitchen is filling up with the smell of pastry and cinnamon.
So I decided to make two. One for today and one to share at Grandma's house after church tomorrow. I'm not very good at judging "how much" so when I tried to divide the dough for the pie crust in half I don't think I got it exactly even. As I was rolling out the crust(s) I suspected that one of the pies might be a little prettier than the other. Should I take the nicer one to Grandma's where people are going to see that one? Or maybe the right thing to do would be giving my husband and my boys the best one.
Why shouldn't I? Why did I want to take the better one (if there is a better one, I don't know because they're still in the oven) somewhere and give the people who live in my house second best?
I'm sorry to say the answer is pride. Whether to keep from being criticized that "something's not quite right" about it, or because I want to maximize the possibility of praise because "oh, what a pretty pie!", really I'd be thinking of myself.
The timer will go off soon and out they'll come. Maybe they'll be identical and it won't matter. Maybe Keith will even suggest that I take the "better" one, if there is a better one.
All I know is I felt a little check in my spirit this afternoon. I really don't think there's anything wrong with taking a nicer-looking pie to a carry-in or family gathering. But keeping back our best for the wrong reason is displeasing to God. One of the very first recorded sins!

Proverbs 3:9-10 says, "9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,with the firstfruits of all your crops;10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."

He never takes more than He gives. He will always bless us when we give our best.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hope and Home

This morning at breakfast while discussing possible plans for the day I made a bold statement. "I think I might try and clean up the cold room today."
We call it the cold room because we only use it for extra storage so we don't have the heat on in there. It gets chilly in the winter. I've cleaned it before, but like in all catch-all areas the clutter multiplies.
So far this morning I've accomplished sorting through the boys' clothes. Until today we've been using the closet in that room for their clothes. If you know my boys you understand why. We'll see how it goes.
Anyway, It feels good to get organized.I'd really like to have it a little more usable. Maybe a chair and a desk and a quiet place to read or write with a cup of tea.  I still have a long way to go before it's "done". Every time I complete an organization project like this one I tell Keith the same thing.
"When I organize a part of our house like that I feel like I'm un-cluttering a part of my brain."
I think women especially feel a soulful connection with their homes. I believe we're all created with a longing for something this world cannot satisfy. Like a phantom pain we remember that there's something more. There are things that hint at it. Just little whispers of heaven. Like when the four of us have been in four different locations during the day, but then we're all sitting around the table together at suppertime. Just a taste of the completeness we'll experience in heaven.
I am looking forward to having a nice room to enjoy. But the truth is, it might not happen. Even if I do find a place to arrange all the mess, I don't know if I'll have the necessary odds and ends to bring about my little sanctuary room. I hope, but I don't know.
What I do know is that while I may never get my temporary home to be anything like what I wish it would be, I have an unimaginably better realer home waiting for me in heaven. Only that home is eternal. It won't have any messy closets or dust-bunnies.

Jesus knew better than anyone what it was like to be homesick. He knew we would sometimes feel bereft. So He made a promise.

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

I don't just hope it happens I know it will. So much better than a chair and a cup of tea.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Self Portrait

Amie the Writer

I've really hoped to post here every day. I might not, though, because I really need to finish my manuscript. But anyway I started this blog almost a month ago and so far I've posted every day since. Usually I've had a devotional-type thought. I probably won't do that all the time though.
Today I'd like to share a little about what it's like to be a writer. For me, anyway.
You probably know that we writers people-watch. We live in fear that someone will see our search history and think we're sociopaths because we Google weird stuff. You've surely noticed we're strange.
We're also really apprehensive about letting you read our work.
A writer friend asked me one evening, "Don't you feel a little like Voldemort? With pieces of your soul just floating around out there?"
Yes. That's just what if feels like.
Writing is vulnerable. In these posts I have allowed you glimpses into my mind. If you've read and paid attention you're aware of some of my weaknesses and heartaches. You know what I believe and what I don't. An enemy could use these things as weapons if they wanted to. I do not take that lightly. The alternative is to keep silent, but I've promised God not to hide the gift He's given me under a bushel (I'm not saying I've been blessed with something like Dickensian genius, but a gift is a gift and I don't want to squander it.)
It's humbling to share my words with you. You may not agree. You might find mistakes. You are completely free to judge me any way you choose and whether your conclusions are accurate or not, there's nothing I can do about it.
Sometimes I'm really scattered. My ideas don't always align in a pretty outline in my mind so that I can happily just fill in the blanks as I go. In fact I don't think that's ever happened. I have ideas I like, or thoughts I want to communicate, and I try to find a way to intelligibly weave them together. It's not always elegant and sometimes I tie myself up because I think of something else to add, but I've composed my thoughts into tight transitions and there's nowhere for the new idea to go.
It feels messy. I'm a child with scissors and paste, clumsily patting words into a satisfactory arrangement. At my touch, the phrases slide around in the gluey mess and it doesn't look the way I imagined it would. My hands come away sticky and paper flecked, the project jagged-edged and jumbled. I think about it later in the day, finding bits of colored paper still plastered to my fingers and I wonder about the completed work. I wonder if it's the kind you'll stick to your refrigerator with your favorite heart-shaped magnet or if you'll pitch it when I'm not looking. It's scary. Because every Popsicle-stick creation and every clumsy, glitter-covered work of art is a self-portrait.
  Jon Acuff says "Your art is not your identity. Your work is not who you are, it's a byproduct of knowing who you are." And he's right. But it's very, very hard not to take criticisms bone-deep personally. It's just the way it is for a writer.
I'm not asking you for partiality. You don't have to like my writing or anybody else's. Just the other day I read a tiny bit of a popular series. It was an author far more "successful" than I. I won't tell you which series was because, I'm sorry, I thought the writing was stinkySo I do understand. Really. Please don't think of today's post as a plea for sensitivity because it's not. It's just another glimpse. Not all writers have the same measure of talent or discipline. Writers write. I don't think all writers are good. I do think all writers are brave.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Darkness and Light

I'll never understand why people create conflict. We all have those people in our lives who don't want things to go smoothly. People who create tension, awkwardness, and strife. I'm not saying that I'm perfect because I am very flawed, but that I just don't get. 
You've heard the saying: Blowing out someone's candle won't make yours shine any brighter.
And it's true.  Happy people don't go around trying to cut other people down. I don't think I've ever been jealous of someone just because they wanted me to be jealous of them. I feel too sad for them that they think they need to blow out candles. The thing about bragging is that it always sounds like bragging. Nobody has a perfect life. No one is without problems and disappointment. Whether it's because someone works hard at projecting an attractive but phony image or we look at them through rose-colored glasses, the result is the same: It's a farce.
 Who was it who first explained the idea that darkness doesn't exist?  Have you heard that before? You can't make darkness, you can only hide from the light. You can cover all the widows to keep the light away but you can't bring darkness. 
So someone might try to emphasize their candle by snuffing out yours, but it's a cheap, ineffective trick. 
There are people in my life who make me think "Oh I wish I could be more like her!" But those people aren't focusing on gaining followers, they're interested in being a follower.  People who look like Jesus. I think of my mentor. She has a gentle spirit and if your candle is sputtering she'll be the first to share hers. If you were to praise her beautiful character, she would hand the credit right over to Jesus.
How wonderful it would be if we would all just rest in His arms. If we would all focus on trying to have His perspective instead of trying to force other people to see us from the false perspective we want them to have? 
Bragging always looks like bragging. 
Jesus, help me to look more like You.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

God and Grandchildren


Have you ever heard the saying "God doesn't have grandchildren"? I remember hearing that when I was younger and, though I understood and agreed, something about it made me a little sad. I think it was because I knew what it was to be treasured and loved by a grandparent. Grandmas and Grandpas love in a way that no one else does. I mean, is there a more selfless, patient love than the love of a grandparent? I got the point of it, but a little part of me sighed.
And then I became a parent and it made a lot more sense.
One of the main things I know people mean when they say that God doesn't have grandchildren is that we don't belong to Him by proxy. Just because our parents are believers, and take us to church every week, and pray for us, and teach us what they know, doesn't mean that we have our own relationship with Him. If our relationship with Him isn't personal it's meaningless.
But there's something else, too. A parent's role is different that a grandparent's. A child's main care, upbringing and provision should come from his parents. A grandparent should be able to supplement nurturing while still being able to fawn over and spoil a child in a way that parents cannot. The love of a grandparent differs from that of a parent perhaps not in degree but in kind.
I'm really not trying to make a point about family dynamics as much as I am about  relationships with God. God does not want to be removed from us in a way that keeps Him out of major (or even minor) decisions. Parents name their children, decide which bedroom is theirs, and are responsible for the majority of disciplinary decisions.
Now when I think about God not having grandchildren I think about closeness. And not just the sweet-cuddly kind. The wake-up-with-you-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind. The pay-for-your-braces kind, The take-care-of-you when-you're-sick kind. The I-love-you-too-much-to-allow-that-behavior kind. He wants to be The Source. Not a resource.
I'm not saying that being a grandparent is a worry-free sunshine and lollipops walk in the park, and I know that lots of grandparents have stepped into a role of raising their grandchildren. My opinion about the love of a grandparent has not changed. My boys' grandparents love them so fiercely there's no way it doesn't reflect the love of God and I can't tell you how thankful I am for them.
What I am saying is that God wants all of us. He wants to be the one signing our permission slips and helping us with our homework every night. But unlike earthly parents He doesn't get tired and His patience is infinitely stronger. That's why He's God the Father. He wants you in His house under His specific care. He doesn't want you to be His kid's kid. He wants you for His own.

P.S. If you're interested in more of this topic,here.
Ken Ham has already expanded on it

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

You're So Young

This one is for young people. Teens and early twenties. All I ask is that you hear me out, because I'm hoping to clear some things up. I know you hate it when older people remind you of your age. "You're so young. You have plenty of time. Don't get so serious about that relationship. Just enjoy being a kid" And I can see why you don't like it. I really can. But let me explain what we mean (and what we don't mean) when we say it.

What We DON'T Mean:

- That your feelings are childish, or somehow less "real" than that of someone older than you. We know that if you have feelings for someone it may not be a silly crush or "just puppy love". We've been there remember? And we know exactly how it it felt. We remember how scary or overwhelming or wonderful or painful it was. 

- That you're a child and therefore unintelligent.
Being misinformed is not the same thing as being stupid. It's not possible for you to have all the knowledge that comes with experience. That doesn't mean you're an idiot.

- That you're incapable.
 Sometimes it's just about timing, not your capabilities. 

What We DO Mean:
- That you still have a lot of transitions ahead of you.
 If you are just leaving high school then you have TONS of changes ahead and change is usually difficult. Your relationships are important to you. They are strong and meaningful and real. But your friends and significant others also have a lot of transitions ahead and it's likely that theirs are different than yours.

      Think of it as a bride on her wedding day. She has lots to do. She goes to the salon to get her hair done, She gets a manicure, has lunch with her bridesmaids, takes care of last minute details and she does most of those things before she puts on her dress. If she wore that dress (probably the most significant dress of her life) at the beginning of the day, through all those transitions, it would probably get damaged. She saves it for when it's the right time, to protect it for it's purpose.

     In my opinion, one of the most difficult stages of life was the teens and early twenties. So many new experiences and feelings. So many uncertainties. I hope you can read these things with an open mind. Being able to consider an idea that's different than yours, especially one that's difficult to hear, is a sign of maturity. Younger people shouldn't be surprised if older people think they're childish when they can't stand to even consider their instruction. Reflect on something King Solomon said:

1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; 3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,  knowledge and discretion to the young— 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—6 for understanding proverbs and parables,the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9 They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
 Proverbs 1: 1-9


Monday, February 15, 2016

The Time I Stole Bob's Coat

One morning I was awakened, earlier than necessary, by one of my boys. He came into our room to tell me about his childish mishap. Though it turned out to be not as bad as I was expecting, I immediately allowed a twinge of resentment. I knew that the problem would be mine to deal with. My husband could lie there blissful and carefree, unburdened by the waiting problem. It would fall on my shoulders. But then, right away, I felt convicted. How many times has a problem come up and there was no doubt at all that it would fall on his shoulders? Leaky faucet? Keith's job. Heavy thing to carry? Keith's job. Mouse or spider or any other icky crawly thing? Keith will take care of it and we both know it. It's nice that he is able to relax knowing that there are a lot of things that I'm going to take care of, no question. But I'm a lucky girl because I can count on him, too.
It's easy to feel resentful about our responsibilities. We can fool ourselves into thinking that our loads are heavier than they should be. We think it's not fair. That sort of self-centered thinking can lead to a lot of heartache. In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus set us straight about fairness. 

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth'. 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." 
                                                                                                                      Matthew 5:38-42

I stole Bob's coat once. It was an accident.  It happened one Sunday after church. I had put a coat onto one of my boys and then he ran off. I yanked a black coat off of its hanger and ran after my son. As I called his name and demanded he return to me, I put the coat on and tried to button it. I believe I said something like "Jesse! Jesse! Get back over he- this is not my coat!"
It was Pastor Bob's coat. It was way too big, and had my kid not distracted me, I probably wouldn't have taken it. I went back to where the coats were hanging and Bob was standing there looking politely confused. 
 I confessed. He laughed. He graciously said, "I just figured someone needed it more than me."
Even though someone took something that belonged to him, he didn't act as if his rights had been violated. He didn't talk about fairness. Now, of course, it was only a few seconds that I had Bob's coat in my possession, but he still handled the mistake with grace. 
In the everyday-ness of life it's hard not to feel resentful sometimes. It's hard not to fret about things not being fair. But what I need to remember is that I am so richly blessed in so many ways. And I don't deserve it. I'll try to remind myself of that when I fall into the trap of thinking about "fairness". There are many, many times when something isn't fair in my favor. If everything was fair I would be utterly lost. It wasn't fair when Jesus took my place on the cross. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Just for Fun II

I recently posted an interview with Sam. Jesse was at school when we did that, so I thought it was time to have the same conversation with him. Again his answers are in green.

1.What is something I always say to you?
Um, you love me. 
2. What makes me happy?
3. What makes me sad?
Being bad.
4. How do I make you laugh?
Like when Sam falls down on the couch.
5. What was I like as a child?
You had buncha hair.
6. How old am I?
7. How tall am I?
 Nine. (He didn't say nine what, while in the meantime Sam has upgraded me to twelve)
8. What is my favorite thing to do? 
Play with me.
9. What do I do when you're not around? 
Uh, make a scavenger hunt? (really should do that more often)
10. What am I really good at?
Uhm, making Fredrickson's house. (He wants me to draw it so he can color it. )
11. What am I not very good at?
Build my toy truck. (His project with Daddy)
12. What do I do for a job?
Do dishes?
13. What is my favorite favorite food?
14. What do you enjoy doing with me?
Finding scavenger hunt. (Ok, I really need to do that more often)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

It's Not What it Looks Like

I have a small scrape on the heel of my right hand. It's tiny. If I showed it to you and told you that it hurt, you would look at me like I was crazy and think that I'm a whiner. You would think I was just exaggerating unless I explained to you how I got the little mark on my hand.
A week ago I was trying to smash some trash down into the trashcan when I felt a biting pain. Earlier that day my husband had been doing some work in the hallway and thrown out the mess in the trash. I had pressed my hand down right onto a nail. The tiny mark on my hand is not a scrape, it's a puncture.
What looks like a tiny mark was a very painful wound. My whole hand hurt. Even now, it's almost healed on the surface, but really it's still very tender.You can't tell just by looking that it goes deeper.
And it makes me think about assumptions we make. A few days ago I wrote about judgement. I stand by what I said before, people use the "don't judge me" excuse to justify their bad decisions. That "don't judge me because I sin differently than you" statement I see all the time really rubs me the wrong way. Another way of saying that, in my opinion, is "I know I'm being foolish but I don't want anyone to think less of me for it. Other people are foolish too!"  We can't expect people not to lose respect for us if we admittedly do what we know is wrong.
But today I'm talking about something a little different. Sometimes people judge each other, not about right actions and wrong actions, but on the superficial. I'm talking about compassion.
 That clingy child was tiresome, but it turns out she was in foster care and was starving for affection. That girl who keeps to herself that everyone thought was a conceited snob is actually painfully shy. The person behind the counter seemed rude but really he's still stinging because his boss just yelled at him.
We just can't always know what someone else is going though. So let's be guided by what Paul said in his letter to the Galatians:

  1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Galatians 6:1-6

All kinds of good stuff in there. Notice that he advises us to get over ourselves and help each other out? At first it may seem contradictory that he says we should carry each other's burdens but everyone has to shoulder their own load.
My pastor explained it in a really great sermon once: A burden is more than one person can handle on their own. Something that's too much for one person. We should pitch in and help. A load is someone's personal responsibility. Something like a backpack. Even children have their own loads that they should be able to take on without help.
If we're too focused on our own loads we won't notice when someone is being crushed by a burden.
We should all go around wearing compassion colored glasses.
Check out this short video made by Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock Arkansas.  It's a powerful representation of seeing others with empathy and compassion instead of selfishness. Because sometimes what looks like a scrape is really a puncture. Sometimes we have to ask to find out that what looks like a load is really a burden.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Big Lie

  One morning in Sunday School we talked about heaven. We read through several scriptures that tell us a little about what heaven will be like.  Although we can't really imagine how beautiful and happy and holy it will be, there's one thing that we can be certain of . Heaven will not be boring. But, this is a cultural thing we've seen over and over. Just sitting on clouds, playing harps, wearing robes. Sure the scenery will be eye-pleasing but on the whole, it's a big yawn-fest. Didn't Mark Twain say, "Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company."?  How sad.  What a huge, horrible, ugly lie. And it isn't just limited to what heaven and hell are like. We're surrounded by this sort of thing all the time. There's this great big lie that people fall for all day every day. The idea that the devil is all about pleasure and God is all about self-denial.
 It just isn't true.
 C.S. Lewis talks about this at length in his book "The Screwtape Letters". I've posted an excerpt here about how God is the one who loves when we find bliss in His creation. Screwtape and Wormwood are sickened by it.

“He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore.’
Ugh! I don’t think He has the least inkling of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the Miserific Vision. He’s vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures.
There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least– sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.”
    The enemy wants you to believe that he's the ultimate party-planner, free-spirit and God is a massive wet blanket Who h a t e s it when we have any fun at all, but that's malarkey. If the devil could get us to make bad decisions without offering any sort of pleasure he would do it. The little bit of good-feeling that we get out of doing something we shouldn't? I imagine the devil resents it. Pleasure was God's invention. His idea. This idea that the devil likes it when we indulge ourselves? That he's the one who thinks of ways for us to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy? Wrong.
 He thinks of ways for us to destroy ourselves. He takes great big soul-killing decisions and paints them with the thinnest possible layer of gratification. We would never fall for it otherwise. If he told families to hate and disrespect one another they would close ranks and defend their loved ones. But take a popular sitcom, make the kids smarter than their lame parents, throw in a hefty dose of glamorized bad choices, sprinkle it with some cynical zingers and wrap it all up in laughter and it's an insidious poison. Poison that makes it seem like a good idea to disrespect your family. Poison that tastes like comedy. See the lie? Laughter is God's idea. Laughter is a very good thing. And it is used ALL THE TIME to help us ingest garbage.
The examples go on and on. Everything from gossip to lying to sexual sin, Underneath the destructive act is something that God created for our pleasure and His glory. We do it to feel better about ourselves? Self-worth is a good thing that God wants for us. We do it because we want others to accept us? Fellowship is a good thing that God encourages. But the devil wants us to go about getting these things in a sinful, empty, way. He wants us to choose the parody over the gift.
If the devil could get away with it, he would have us turn our backs on God completely without us getting any enjoyment out of it all. But God is honored when we hear birds sing and our spirits are lifted. When we sigh with contentment to rest after a trying day? God is glorified. There's not much the devil can do about how our awareness of God is impacted by His creation. The devil knows that pleasure belongs to God and I think he uses it against us begrudgingly. But it's a very useful weapon. The devil would not use pleasure if he didn't have to, but if it gets people to worship the created instead of the Creator, he'll do it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Expecting Unicorns

Sometimes things don't turn out the way we expect. In fact usually they don't. Sometimes it's a disappointment.  We loved the book and counted the days until the movie came out but we're all mad because they changed the ending and cast a short blonde instead of a tall brunette and cut our favorite scene. Sometimes the unexpected is a good thing. How many times is waiting for an unpleasant event much, much worse than actually doing the thing? Sometimes we think something is going to be a trial, but instead it's a joy. And sometimes things turn out neither better nor worse than we expected just different

But what I'm thinking about right now is the kind of expectation that ties in invisibly with our wishes.
I wonder how I would have felt if, when I was little, someone had told me that someday I'd have a unicorn. I would kept an eye out every single day waiting for her to show up. I would have fantasized about all the things we would do together. I would brush her glorious mane and ride her around wearing my flowing dresses. We would sit in green meadows looking picturesque and princessy. In fact I would probably get an honorary crown because how could  a girl own unicorn and not be the princess of something?
Eunice the Unicorn
But, as you might have guessed, no one ever told me I would be getting a unicorn, so I wasn't disappointed but amused when Eunice came along. I wasn't expecting her so I had no dreams of princessing around to be crushed by her blatant goatiness. She didn't have a mane to brush and if I don't have any flowing unicorn-riding dresses anyway.
But there have been times when I have expected unicorns. I thought a unicorn was coming, and it came, but in the form of a one-horned goat. 
It's so hard not to be disappointed. Especially when I allow the ugly joy-stealer of comparison to have an opinion about it. But while I was thinking about Eunice and her unconventional unicorn ways, I wondered what the Bible had to say about expectation.  
There are lots of quotes and quips lurking around that talk about expectation. Shakespeare said "Expectation is the root of all heartache." Someone else said "What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be." 
There are some truth in those statements and others like them, but it seems rather bleak, doesn't it? So what does the Bible say?
The Bible doesn't talk about expectation as much as it does about hope

      Psalm 62:5  For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

      Philippians 1:20 As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed,       but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life       or by death.

       Proverbs 24:14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

       Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And I am reminded of something.  That if we delight ourselves in The Lord He will give us the desires of our hearts. If my delight is in Him then my hope submits to His perfect plan. My expectations  can take a backseat to hope.  When God blesses us with a one-horned goat instead of mythical beauty, we can serve up our displaced expectation, or even our disappointment, as worship. We can be thankful that, whatever the outcome, He has our best interest at heart. Even when we don't understand. Even when it's different than what He's done for others. He never lets us down. Every single thing that He allows, gives, takes away, or prevents comes from his inestimable love. Even, and maybe especially, when it's not what we expected. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Just for Fun

       Interview with Sam

       So if you’ve been reading these posts for the past few days, you may have sensed that I’ve been a little stressed lately. For a little change of pace, I thought I’d share an interview I had with my four-year-old. I didn’t come up with these questions so they might be familiar to you. 
   His answers are in green, I’ve tried to communicate them as accurately as possible. I needed a little lightheartedness today so I thought maybe you did, too.  Hope it makes you smile. You can see Jesse's interview here.

1.What is something I always say to you?
No. (ouch)
2. What makes me happy?
When I get the eggs and frow the scraps out and Jesse's does the Dewey food. (Dewey is our dog)
3. What makes me sad?
When you cry?
4. How do I make you laugh?
When you do that BITING GAME! (It’s basically tickling him, please don’t send nasty emails)
5. What was I like as a child?
You were little
6. How old am I?
Very old 
7. How tall am I?
(trailing his hand from my feet to my head as I sit in a chair) Like, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9! Nine tall.
8. What is my favorite thing to do? 
Uh, do the eggs?
9. What do I do when you're not around? 
You go home
10. What am I really good at?
Doing the ice game? You’re good at that. (Pretty sure this is referring to that “Don’t Break the Ice” game they got for Christmas. They need me to set it up so they can knock the pieces out)
11. What am I not very good at?
Those circle things? That circle came? Cause you keep cheating me and I keep cheating you. (Not entirely sure about this one. He must not like the spinner game as well.)
12. What do I do for a job?
Uh, do the plants? When it’s summertime?
13. What is my favorite favorite food?
Chicken and rice?
14. What do you enjoy doing with me?
Uh..cuddle up with you (That’s one of my favorite things, too!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Just Breathe

  There's so much to do each and every day. So many things tugging on us, wanting our attention and our precious time. I did a lot of things today. I got a haircut, ran errands, prepared meals, helped with homework, made phone calls, filled out forms, read bedtime stories and more. I didn't have a lot of time to think about what I wanted to say here, so this one will be a little short. 
   A couple of days ago I sent out a tweet that said "I want to be productive today. Even if I am I know I'll feel bad about the stuff I DIDN'T do". 
   I'm pretty sure you can relate. 
   So even though I accomplished a lot today, I still felt like I was lagging behind when I finally sat down to think of something to share here. I was scrolling along when I came across this quote.

   I did a lot more today than breathe, but I was reminded of something we all already know. That life is more than our to-do lists. That it's more important to do what's important than to do a lot of ...whatever. In fact not only did I read a really excellent blog post about "being still" today, the sermon at church on Sunday morning was about this very thing I'm writing about now, so shame on me anyway for not seeing it sooner. (I wish there was a way to share that message, too, because it was really good)
    But if you're a little stressed out too, take a deep breath. Just breathe. Don't let busyness get in the way of what Jesus might have on your to-do list today.

Monday, February 8, 2016


I do not think it means what you think it means

you can buy this snarky bag here
     Is it just me or is our culture obsessed with judgement?  Apparently, one of the worst things a person can possibly be is judgmental. It's everywhere. Did you catch it in the Disney movie "Frozen" while your kids were watching it a zillion times? Kristoff sees a whole castle made of ice and confesses he might cry. What does Anna say? "Go ahead. I won't judge".  
    So maybe we shouldn't make fun of people for their preferences,  but it's gone way beyond that. We've gotten to the place where any sort of disagreement at all is categorized as disapproval, arrogance, or even hate. Many who like to throw around the word judge often do so by citing the Bible. Sort of. 
    "Whoever is without sin can cast the first stone. Don't judge." 
    Yep. Jesus did say that. The stone throwing part, anyway. But let's back up and look at the actual passage because context is everything. 

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

When Jesus told them they couldn't throw stones unless they were sinless He was talking about actual rocks they were going to literally throw at her actual head. Jesus didn't tell them not to say she had done something wrong.  He wasn't being metaphorical when He was talking about throwing stones.  He wasn't talking about hurting the woman's feelings. He didn't say they were hateful for disagreeing with her choices.  He reminded them that they were all sinners, too, and were not qualified to have the authority to decide her fate. Jesus told her He didn't condemn her (though He was and is without sin) and then He said something that I believe our culture would call judgmental: "Go now and leave your life of sin." 
When He tells us not to condemn it does not mean that we shouldn't ever deem someone's actions unwise, it means that we are not to set ourselves up in superiority over them. Those two things are just not the same. It comes down to a heart issue. 
Jesus also said in Matthew chapter 7 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." So I'm not saying it's okay to think we're superior to someone because we think we're "less bad" by comparison.  But when Jesus tells us not to judge He's not giving anyone a get-out-of-jail-free card. It does mean we need to be patient with one another, but it does not mean there's no such thing as accountability.