Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I was very specific. I asked the Lord if we could please go on two camping trips this summer. But as Jamie and I looked over the calendar last month and compared work schedules and the kids' activity schedules, we realized that only one trip would be realistic. I tried not to grumble and instead put on my happy face when I made reservations for one camping trip in August.

But the Lord knows the desires (and motives!) of our hearts. Even more than that, He knows what we need. I'm so thankful that He does. This past week we were given notice that our street would be paved, and we'd need to park a little ways away in order to access our vehicles.

This is when "camping" trip number two began to materialize. We realized we could park . . . at my parents' house! Their home is delightfully situated on the border of a peaceful forest, and they happen to still be visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Slovenia. Bingo.

So we packed up for a two-night stay. I marveled at the Lord's timing. I had really wanted a trip in July, and here we were at the very end of the month. I also realized that this kind of packing was so much less stressful than packing a tent and a bazillion other provisions. (Jamie greatly appreciated this, too.)

I woke up one morning to discover that Aidan and Avery had successfully found the dress-up box.

Jamie still had to work, but we found the time to be incredibly peaceful and relaxing -- so much more so than if we had forced a camping trip. We even had a campfire one night with s'mores and everything (mosquitoes included). I planned an outdoor activity each day to make it feel sort of camp-like, too. One day we visited the Washington State Vancouver campus and strolled along their beautiful paths.

Cousin Evan joined us after we had dropped the big sisters off for Middle School camp!

Yesterday we meandered through the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, soaking in the quiet scenery, identifying herons and nutria and hawks.

Aidan designated himself as photographer.

If you look in the very center of the picture, sunning himself on a log is an algae-covered turtle.

He was very . . . thorough.

Why did the nutria cross the road?

But I think the most meaningful moments during our retreat were the quiet mornings on the deck. I pulled together my Bible, journal, and tea, curled up with a quilt on a lawn chair and simply lived. I sat and listened. I watched, I prayed, I delighted in God's goodness. Soon the children would join me, and we'd have brunch under the sheltering canopy of birches and maples. No schedule, no rush. Bare feet, deep breaths, peace.

At one point a house finch hopped across the railing, his vibrant orange feathers matching the geraniums exactly. They formed a perfect picture and I was suddenly overwhelmed by God's message to me: He is good, He is beautiful, He loves me and His will is perfect. This is all I need.

A sob caught in my throat. The finch took flight, and my heart soared, too.   

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

{When Blanket Gets Tired}

Lately I've enjoyed re-reading a collection of articles written by Doris Coffin Aldrich who, along with her husband, took part in the development of Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University). The articles were printed in booklet form in 1958, and my mom ended up with a copy during her Multnomah days. I've borrowed it from time to time . . . and for lengthy periods of time!

I first read through the stories as a young mom, and found them to be a delightful mixture of homey glimpses and gospel truth. Today as I read them I feel the same sense of nostalgia. Today I also have the blogging world as a part of my life, which I didn't have when I was tending to my toddlers. I find myself thinking, "This reads just like a blog!"

This afternoon during lunch, I read through a sweet article called "When Blanket Gets Tired." It resonated with my heart, a heart that has felt tired and weary lately. I know I'm not the only one, so I thought I'd share the article in full. May it bless you, my friend, as it has blessed me.

A Kiss for Baby Anne, Mary Cassatt

When Blanket Gets Tired

Bobbie, Mommie and Blanket climbed the back stairs at nap time. "Blanket to tie-ward," Bobbie explained. Mommie felt tired, too, and almost as limp as Blanket.

Bobbie's chubby legs were pink and delectable. Mommie enjoyed watching her as she puffed along up toward her bedroom. "Blanket too hea-by," she protested, stumbling over the blue satin corner of her beloved wool coverlet.

"Let Mommie help," and so saying, she gathered up Blanket and held him over the two-year-old's head, leaving one corner hanging down for her to "carry." And so they went up, Mommie carrying the weight of the burden, and Bobbie holding to the dangling corner, even being lifted by it.

"Today, dear Lord," said Mommie to herself, "Today I feel just like Bobbie. I'm too tie-ward and my burden is so hea-by."

And then in a flash the answer came, "But my beloved child, I'll carry the weight of it, the overwhelming load of it -- Do you not remember the word, 'cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee'?" (Psalm 55:22)

"I'll lift it high as we climb upward and the dangling corner you have hold of will only serve to keep you close to Me. The weight of it is mine, if you'll let it be."

Bobbie was soon snuggled down in bed with Blanket cuddled close to her, a burden turned to be a comfort.

Mommie went on down to continue her busy day, aware now and again of the dangling end of the burden, but so much more aware of the One carrying the weight of it for her.

Life Out of the Mixing Bowl
by Doris Coffin Aldrich

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Friday, July 19, 2013

{Slowing Down}

I'd forgotten how life is both slow and fast when little ones are in the home. Slow because everything with little people takes a long time, fast because you have to be so on the ball to make sure basic needs are met in a timely fashion.

This week I watched -- on two separate days -- my sister's and sister-in-law's kids for a bit. Both have toddler and/or pre-school age kiddos among their broods, and in both situations I was caring for them away from my own home. (Home just wasn't an option this week as they were paving our street!) This meant that I was able to focus totally on the kids and not be distracted by the things that needed to be done around my home.

I found myself walking through the park at a much more leisurely pace. I found myself putting together a 25 piece puzzle . . . for a long time. I helped little ones climb, I read stories in my best little bear or little deer voice (as necessary) and took it very seriously when I learned that the Cabbage Patch doll was called Boolah and the stuffed deer was named Window. 

I marveled at these little people, finding joy and delight in the slower pace. It felt good to sit on the floor and look at books (well, that is, until my back and knees started to complain), to watch chubby little legs clamber up the playground equipment, to clap when a little one zipped down the slide. It's been a while since I've clapped at the bottom of a slide.

Since then I've been thinking over two things. One is this: I know there are many of you reading this who are in the trenches right now. You have little ones and everything seems both slow and fast and you're not sure if you can stand reading that book (that you now have memorized) for the twenty-fourth time today. Your voice is sore, you have spit-up and snot on your shoulder, you know the dishes are waiting in the sink and you're not sure what's for dinner or whether or not you'll have time to take a shower.

But you are doing the right thing. Every time you look into your child's eyes, every time you sit down on the floor and roll a matchbox car across your child's leg and giggle together, you're doing the right thing. Every time you read another book, color another page, smile over another fistful of dandelions, wipe up another spill, you're doing the right thing. You will never regret slowing down for your child.

The other thing I've been thinking is this: For those of us no longer in this season, we would do well to remember it -- it doesn't keep. We would do well to remember how good it is to connect with our children in intentional ways. To seek out specific experiences that help maintain the bond that was forged long ago, when our days were filled with Goodnight Moon readings, Thomas the Tank Engine adventures and stuffed animals named Cake and Chair. Because this, too, is the right thing. This intentionality wherever we are, this slowing down and looking into our child's eyes -- even if the eyes happen to be on a body that is taller than our own.  

Because we will never regret slowing down for our children.

One good deed is worth more than a thousand brilliant theories. Let us not wait for large opportunities, or for a different kind of work, but do just the things we "find to do" day by day. We have no other time in which to live . . . we never shall have any time but time present.
C.H. Spurgeon 

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

{What "I Do" Really Means}

Forty years ago today my parents said, "I do." And they've continued to say it every single day of their married lives. Not always with those exact words, but always in their actions, always in their commitment to one another.

And every day of my own life, I've watched them live out their vows.

I've seen them grow closer as "in sickness and in health" meant everything from kids with the flu to the scary stuff like babies in the hospital and a journey through prostate cancer.

I've seen them grow closer as "for richer or for poorer" meant working extra odd jobs, sewing clothes, and sharpening old crayons for the new school year.

I've seen them grow closer as "for better or for worse" often included what felt like the worst. But they've always walked through it, hand in hand, and they've always come out the better for it.

This year my parents are celebrating their anniversary in Italy. It's a dream come true for them. But I believe the actual reason for them being overseas is even more special. My brother and sister-in-law are missionaries in Slovenia, and this past week they've hosted a camp for students in their Fusion ministry.

My parents have been able to take part, and, thanks to modern technology, I've been able to pretend like I'm a fly on the wall and see what's going on through videos, pictures and entertaining facebook updates. It's been a joy to see my dad and brother work alongside each other to build the risers for the choir . . . to see my dad take the drum students under his capable wings . . . to see my mom encourage the aspiring pianists in their midst . . . to hear my brother in the background speak Slovene as though it's second nature . . . to see my mom hold her granddaughter on her hip, a light in her eyes . . . to hear of my sister-in-law leading a young woman to Christ . . . and to know that this is what matters . . . this is what it's all about.

This is why we say "I do" to the sickness and health, the poverty and wealth. Because often God uses a team -- a couple -- to accomplish His eternal work and to mold us and shape us to be more like His own Son. As our pastor often reminds us, the purpose of marriage isn't to make us more happy, it's to make us more holy. And in His glorious goodness, God has allowed us to take part in the stuff that really matters, the stuff that really makes a difference on this holy journey.

I sat in front of the computer yesterday, eager to watch the Fusion concert from afar, and my eyes unexpectedly filled with tears as I saw first my dad and then my mom pass in front of the camera, wearing their team shirts, ready to do their work. There wasn't anything particularly amazing about what they were doing at that moment, but all the same, I could hear it. They were saying, "I do." Not necessarily with those words, but always with their actions. They were a team, just like they've always been.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

{From the Journal: For Good}

There are many things in this world that I just don't understand. Like calculus. And physics. And the appeal of bungee jumping. But I'm okay with not understanding such things.

Other things? Not so much. I don't understand why loved ones must hurt. Why mothers lose their babies. Why marriages fall apart. Why the young know all about cancer. Why parents must wait so long to have a baby or become "qualified" for adoption. Why those in their prime are called home. I don't understand. And it's happening all around me. To those I know and love.

It hits close to home, and when it does, my human instinct is to panic. I spin my wheels with clenched fists and wary eyes. And you know what? It does absolutely no good.

I'm realizing, however, that the more time I spend in God's Word, the less time I have to dwell on uncertainty. The less time I have to focus on fear. Because perfect love (which belongs to God) casts out fear. And sometimes, as He did this morning, the Lord comes right out and tells it to me straight, just in case I need a reminder:

In the days to come you will understand it clearly.
Jeremiah 23:20

One day I will understand. And clearly. But not today. I like Oswald Chambers' blunt reminder: "You have no business to find out where God is leading, the only thing God will explain to you is Himself."  

So what do I do with today? I learn more of God. I ask Him to "explain Himself" to me, and He delights to do so. He's an excellent Teacher. As I read, as I ask Him to teach me and to make my heart receptive to His Word, I learn. The scales fall from my eyes, my clenched fists relax, and His character, His purpose, His goodness is always revealed.

My eyes will watch over them for their good . . . I will give them 
a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.
Jeremiah 24:6 & 7

Just linger over those words for a minute, my friends. They are full of promise, full of hope. He watches over us . . . for our good. He changes our hearts, He grants us knowledge, He reveals Himself . . . all for good. And that's all that we need for today.

* * * * *

Lord, I thank You for the perfect promises in Your Word. They are all that I need. 
You watch over me, you desire good for me and you are able to change my heart 
so that it knows and understands Your love more and more each day.  
I don't need to know the future, Lord, I just need to know You. 
Teach me this day, O Lord. I'm ready to learn. 

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