Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oh, Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

We were zipping down 162nd, the kids chattering in the back of the van about how they'd like to decorate the tree. They were most excited about continuing the tradition that my husband's family began long ago: decorating the tree while eating fresh doughnuts and sipping homemade Hershey's hot chocolate.

Above the kid chatter and the TobyMac, I heard a portion of Avery's contribution to the conversation:

"But Mommy's allergic to colored lights!"

Silence. And then laughter. I caught my Sweetpea's eye to make sure that she was okay with us laughing. She was.

"Oh, Sweetie! Mommy was just teasing. I'm not really allergic to colored lights. I just prefer white lights on the tree." She smiled as she processed it all.

This is perhaps a good time to mention the fact that I teasingly told my children last year that I was allergic to colored lights and could only abide to have white lights on the tree. I said it with such drama, with such big, silly eyes, that I was sure everyone knew I was joking. But a four-year-old Little Miss Avery Kate took her mama's words very seriously. And she remembered them. For a year.

I'm thankful she remembered something funny and silly that was in no way detrimental. But I've been thinking about it for days. How many other words are tucked into my baby's subconscious? Am I speaking words that bring life, words that she'll remember next year? Or am I speaking words that bring . . . death? Oh, it makes me shudder.

When I was a kid, my parents gently suggested -- well, required -- that I memorize Ephesians 4:29. I had exhibited some sort of angry outburst, and this was their brilliant way of addressing the sin and tucking God's Word in my heart -- words that I can still quote today:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

I know that my words are heard by my children. I want them to be edifying, according to the need of the moment, but also according to the fact that they may very well be remembered a year from now. Perhaps longer.

Well, I've got some hot chocolate to make. The tree goes up tonight (with white lights, of course). The doughnuts are nestled safely in their box, and I pray that my words are nestled safely . . . in grace.

Last year's Little Miss Avery Kate
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Greater Joy

Sunday night, two of my children said, "Yes!" Before hundreds, they affirmed their belief in a risen Savior and joined the swelling ranks of those who have gone before. Through misty eyes, I tried to navigate my emotions. Joy, definitely, in seeing my children seek the Lord's will for their lives. Peace, too, in knowing that their future is in His hands.

And gratitude. Yes, much gratitude. Gratitude for the community of believers that took part in this joy-filled celebration. My bleary eyes scanned the faces. Dear family. Johnny and Brooke with little Kinsley, visiting from Slovenia. Amazing, the Lord's timing, to bring them here just in time for a baptism service. My sister and her family -- a sweet baby smiling from mama's arms -- the embraces, affirmations, and joyful cousins. My husband's family, with sister-in-law expecting number five at any moment, making the jaunt from north county, celebrating with more cousins. Our precious parents and siblings -- the kids' grandparents, aunts and uncles -- juggling various offspring, passing communion precariously through rows bursting with kids (guided by Aidan's helpful commentary, "Here comes the juice!").

My dear friends. Nodding smiles and attempts at silent conversation across the room (joy just makes a person talk, you know). My children's friends, being there to cheer them on, friends that have gone before and stepped into those waters, and friends that have yet to touch those waters yet surely will. My pastor. He who led me through my first job at the church office, he who led Jamie and me through our pre-marital counseling, he who led us through our vows and the dedication of children. He continuing to lead with wisdom and humility.

The faces brought joy and a glimpse of the holy, as eyes and spirits were alight with the warmth of some thirty believers saying "Yes!" to their King. The faces before me continued to bring joy as I witnessed the baptism of three young adults whom I once babysat. These beautiful, eloquent believers, no longer playing tea party and dress up with my sister and me (although I'm sure we all would if given the chance!). No -- they have grown. And they, too, are saying "Yes!"

And two more, most precious faces. My Bethie, smiling over at her Daddy who had "the best seat in the house" behind the video camera. And my Drew, thoughtful and serious, grasping the weight of this momentous occasion. Indeed, I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Photos by Donna Hafer
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

This Ambition

Let nothing ever set your heart beating so mightily as love to Him. Let this ambition fire your soul; be this the foundation of every enterprise upon which you enter, and this your sustaining motive whenever your zeal would grow chill; make God your only object.

C.H. Spurgeon

Just imagine what our lives might be like if we were to fully embrace this holy ambition!

"My Sweet Rose" by John Waterhouse
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Five Minute Timer -- It Works!

As a young bride, I had visions of keeping a perfect home for my family. Naturally, my goals began in the kitchen. The smell of freshly baked bread would always pervade this sanctuary. The sink would be scoured on a regular basis, the floor would be so clean that a child could scoot and toddle without the slightest smudge appearing on the knees or (perfectly white) socks. Pies with golden crusts would emerge from a remarkably shiny oven, and I would greet my husband at the door each evening with a fresh smile, starched apron and a perfectly timed dinner.

(Excuse me for a moment -- I'm snickering at my blissfully ignorant young self right now.)

So anyway, that's what I envisioned. I quickly realized, however, that simply donning the apron would not do the trick. It involved work. Lots of it. My first indication that I was not cut out for the Perfect Homemaker Award was when I realized that I couldn't even stand to unload the dishwasher. I'd come out in the morning, see that fateful green light, and shrink back in horror. All those dishes. Waiting. Just waiting. And I'd quickly turn around and find something else to do. Eventually those dishes got unloaded, but certainly not in a timely fashion.

One day, it occurred to me that I should just buckle down and do it. After all, it probably wouldn't take a super long time. I glanced at the clock, opened the dishwasher door and went at it with a vengeance. After the last glass had disappeared behind the cupboard door, I looked again at the clock. Huh. It only took five minutes. I started to laugh at myself. Five minutes? I've been running away from a green light and it could have been conquered in five minutes?

That five minute dishwasher challenge changed my approach to housekeeping. I realized that it was silly for me to dread a five minute task. In fact, I actually started to enjoy unloading the dishwasher. To think -- dishes neatly tucked away in just a few minutes! What an accomplishment! I vividly remember thinking, "Wow -- I used to dread this, but now I kind of like it. Maybe that's partly how we mature. I wonder what kinds of tasks I'll be embracing when I'm all grown up!"

And it got me excited to think about how many other five minute tasks were out there to be tackled. So I started to pay attention to the clock. Changing the sheets? Five minutes. Scouring the sink? Five. Toilet? Yep -- five.

Sometimes I'd divide larger tasks into smaller five minute tasks to make them feel more manageable, too. Cleaning the entire bathroom takes some time, but when I remind myself that the toilet can be done in five, and likewise the sink, then it's not nearly so bad.

I haven't yet figured out how to make bread in five minutes (although the bread machine certainly cuts back on labor), and it will take a miracle for me to enjoy scrubbing the shower. But finding little ways to ease the load can make a mama's work that much more rewarding. What five minute task might you seize today?
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just as I Am (Just as Soon as I'm Ready)

There are two especially cozy places in my home that are ideal for opening my Bible and communing with the Lord. One happens to be the school room. I tend to venture there when I feel like my life is a bit more put together. The books are lined obediently on the shelves, the clock ticks reliably in the corner, the sun slips warmly through the blinds, and the round, brown table offers to hold my journal, tea and Bible for a meeting with my Savior.

The other cozy place is in my bedroom. A big, squishy chair sits invitingly in the corner, draped with a throw that my Mama's friend gave me years ago. This is where I land when I feel like I need to escape. It's often gray and rainy when I choose this refuge. I don't bother with the tea. The children have most likely just finished bouncing off the walls, and I have most likely just finished banishing them to their rooms for a quiet time so that I can banish myself for the same purpose.

Lately, however, I've been neither put together nor fraught with despair. I've been just plain busy. The table in the school room has been piled with neglected stuff -- ungraded papers, yarn, stubby crayons, a cap-less glue stick, confiscated kitchenware -- stuff that just landed and stayed put. The cozy chair in my room has been piled with laundry, yarn (there's always yarn lying around -- it's uncanny), band-aid wrappers (another ubiquitous nuisance) and a dozen books.

Sometimes, it's too easy to pass my cozy places by. There's much to be done, and I'm not quite ready. Perhaps just as soon as I sort through this pile . . . .

Thankfully, I eventually stop in my tracks when this happens and realize the ludicrous pattern I've developed. Since when should I decide to share a quiet moment with the Lord only when my cozy spots are available?

This afternoon was one of those "stop in my tracks" days. I hadn't even put on my makeup yet and was feeling not at all put together. But the Lord gently reminded me that He wants me just as I am -- not just as soon as I'm ready.

Well, the school room was definitely out of the question. I headed upstairs (after banishing the wee peeps) and attempted to approach the squishy chair. I was sure it was there somewhere. After removing the laundry and several Dr. Seuss books, I found my refuge. Sinking into the welcome quiet, I thanked God for His persistence and faithfulness. He blessed me, as always, with encouragement, grace and unconditional love.

I went from that place veiled in peace. The rest of the afternoon was peaceful, the evening was peaceful. The children were no less bouncy, and the table was no less cluttered. But I had answered the Lord's call, and He had blessed me -- just as I am.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,

And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes,

Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less
Had half impair'd the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress

Or softly lightens o'er her face,

Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear th
eir dwelling-place.

And on that cheek and o'er that brow
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love i
s innocent.

Lord George Byron

This weekend, it was my honor to take part in watching women walk in beauty. Robed in white, these women floated down the runway for a unique fashion show -- a fashion show in which wedding gowns from the 50s to the present adorned their graceful forms.

The imagery has kept me stunned for days.

The theme for our church ladies' brunch was "Chosen for a Purpose." Each of these girls was chosen. (As in, I cried out to God, "Help! I need a bunch of models!" And He brought me just what I needed.) Each of the gowns was chosen. (As in, I cried out to God, "Help! I need a bunch of wedding gowns!" And He brought me just what I needed.)

The gowns and women, each chosen . . . for a purpose. Not chosen only for entertainment, and not chosen only for fellowship. But also chosen to provide a lasting image that might be treasured in our hearts: an image of one being clothed in brilliant, satiny white. An image of one being presented -- blameless, spotless -- before her Groom.

As I gazed upon the beauty swirling throughout that room, something caught in my throat. The beauty was tangible. I wanted to reach out and hold onto it. I wanted each and every woman in that room to know that she was beautiful, that she was chosen, and that she could approach her Groom clothed in brilliance because of what He had done for her.

Do you know this of yourself, dear one? You are loved. Oh, how you are loved. Christ desires to draw you unto Himself and clothe you in His radiant splendor. Will you accept the garment He's woven for you with His life? Wrap yourself in this incredible love, and rejoice.
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Tell Me All About It

Drew recently started taking a percussion class at a nearby music studio. It's definitely a "drop your kid off" kind of situation, so after his first lesson I was very eager to hear every single detail about the past hour.

As much as I wanted to know everything, however, I also wanted to respect his need for independence and let him have something that was separate from his mother. So I eased in with the general, "How did it go?" and "How many kids are in your class?" and so on -- all questions that could easily be answered with monosyllabic grunts. (And were.)

My mind wandered to my own childhood. I so vividly remembered my mom's eager questions following camps, retreats and missions trips. She wanted to share in the adventure with me, and I wanted to relive the experience, scooping her into the drama. So I eagerly gave every detail. It eventually became a scripted conversation beginning with Mom's predictable interrogation: "Tell me all about it. What you ate. Who you saw. What you did. How you felt."

We leaned forward, eyes sparkling, and the talking began. After describing every last cinnamon roll that I had consumed, every skit costume that I had donned or every Mexican child that I had piggy-backed, we let the conversation lag. Until she thought of another question. And the talking resumed. (More often than not, the trips also involved my sister. The talking among three women was substantial.)

My mind returned to the snare drum, and I wanted to hear more from Drew. So I ventured to ask more detailed questions. I felt like my mother. "Tell me all about it! What kinds of things did you work on? What is your teacher like? What is every single person's name?" The answers, too, became more detailed and (dare I add) even a tad . . . enthusiastic.

As I asked the questions, I mentally acknowledged that I probably could have figured out most of the answers on my own. I took band for years, and had a pretty good guess of what would be covered in the first day of a music class. But I still wanted to know. I wanted to hear it from his own perspective. I wanted to hear it
. . . from his own heart.

I've realized that I'm a tad like my Father that way. He wants to hear from me, even though He already knows the answers. He wants to hear it from my perspective, from my heart. When I remind myself of this truth, I'm more apt to converse regularly with my Savior. And when I do so, I remember another truth: only good can come of resting in the presence of the Almighty. This is what I want. I want His goodness, I want His presence. I want Him to draw me unto Himself, focus His gaze on mine and warmly invite, "Tell me all about it."
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