Friday, August 23, 2013

{From the Journal: Showers of Blessing}

This month I've been trudging through Ezekiel. I say "trudging" because it's a rather bleak book. (My family plays a rhyming word game called "Hinkey-Pinkey." As I read Ezekiel, I find myself playing the game: "Bleak Zeke!") Full of judgment, idolatry, and lament, these passages make me feel like I'm climbing a rugged mountain with no rest in sight.

Too often I realize that part of this bleakness is because the words are painfully familiar. I read of the Israelites turning to idol worship and I begin to wag my finger and click my tongue, only to catch my reflection in the mirror and blush in shame. I find myself in Ezekiel 33:32 which reads, ". . . they hear your words but do not put them into practice . . ." and the blush on my cheeks deepens to scarlet.

Ernest Walbourn

I was further convicted as I read Ezekiel 34:2 this morning: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?" And I see myself as a mother, tempted to listen to the world, which tells me to look out for number one, to have it my way, to focus on myself . . . all to the detriment of my lambs.

I pause, discouraged. Why is this so hard?

Whenever I fill out the "occupation" line on various forms, I write homemaker. This morning I thought about this -- this making of a home. To make something requires vision, action, and dedication. As I "make" my home, I need to look ahead, to plan. I need to have a vision. But having a vision is not enough. Choosing a recipe for chocolate cake is not the same as making a chocolate cake. This is where the action comes in. Making requires effort. I need to pull out those ingredients and mix them together. And then the hard part: dedication. Of course it's easy with chocolate cake. I'm not likely to give up while my KitchenAid is spinning it's yumminess or to stop just short of putting it in the oven. I want to eat that cake. So I complete my work.

So it is with making a home. I must complete my work. I must be dedicated to the vision, which will be shown in my actions. (A friend of mine recently encouraged me to remember an important key when raising children: consistency!)

But when I'm discouraged, when I want to stop, this causes me to wonder if I'm starting to rely on my own strength. Have I sought the true Shepherd as I tend to my little flock? Is my vision His vision? Are my actions His actions? Is my dedication a dedication to Him . . . or to myself and my own plans?

And the Shepherd faithfully gathers His wayward lamb -- the lamb struggling on that cliff and bleating so pathetically -- and speaks in comforting tones:

I myself will search for my sheep and look after them . . . I will tend them in a good pasture . . . 
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays . . . I will bless them . . . I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.
Ezekiel 34: 11 - 26  

Not only does He do this for me, but He does this for my family, too. He is a Shepherd to the heart of my husband, and He is a Shepherd to the heart of my children.

Which means that I can totally handle this homemaking thing; the Shepherd has asked me to do it and He and He alone will provide the strength to see it through. And what's more? He's given me a beautiful promise: There will be showers of blessing. 

I pull my cake out of the oven, its aroma filling our home, and the bright-eyed children come running. 

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

{The Campout}

This past week has been marked off on our calendar all summer. We love camping, and this year Jamie suggested that we go to the beach instead of the woods. So we reserved a site at Cape Lookout near Tillamook, OR. After much preparation (camping is SO much work!) we finally headed out on Monday afternoon, two vehicles packed to the gills.

I wish I could relay every delightful (and not so delightful) detail of our trip, but my brain is still as foggy as the Oregon coast. So I'll let the pictures do most of the talking this time around. Although I might be convinced to divide the week into chapters. Okay, you convinced me. Here goes:

Chapter One: The Site

The weather was mild and sunny when we arrived, perfect for setting up camp. Although we do tent camp, we aren't so much into the "roughing it" part. In addition to air mattresses and a canopy, I bring an entire kitchen (including a tea kettle!). But more on the food later. The older the kids get, the more helpful they are in setting up. It's kinda nice.

Chapter Two: The Beach

It was lovely to be within walking distance of the beach. We spent time digging in the sand, exploring the coastline, flying kites and just sitting and listening. The ocean is good for that. I usually brought along my Bible or a book (Unexpected Treasure, a Goodwill discovery about a family's wildlife refuge -- perfect "outdoors" reading) and just burrowed down next to a large piece of driftwood, alternately reading a line here and there and delighting in the sounds of my family at play.

Chapter Three: The Trap

I always love to see how Aidan's brain works, especially when we're away from home. This week his brain decided to build a trap for the critters that visited our campsite. The spotted squirrels (different from the gray squirrels we're used to at home) and the chipmunks were bold as ever and had no trouble being lured by the goldfish crackers that Aidan placed around his trap. The plan required a few modifications along the way, but he realized that what he mostly needed was patience. ("A big part of this is patience, Mom.") He had that patience, and you know what? He actually (momentarily) caught a squirrel. 

Chapter Four: The Food

Jamie and I love the food part of camping. Meals are not events to be rushed through. Rather they are carefully planned in advance. The preparation, eating, and cleanup are all a part of the rhythms of the day, and everyone contributes. When I was growing up, one of the first things my mom used to ask us when we would return from a trip is, "So . . . what did you eat?" It helps to picture the event if you can almost taste and smell it, too. 

So I'll give you a little peek into our menu for the week. Our first dinner was rather gourmet for camping, but a lot of fun. We made individual chicken foil packets that were cooked over the fire. Each person made their own, including the seasonings and vegetables desired. Oh, they were yummy. Our other dinners were taco salad and the traditional hot dog roast with baked beans. (Only it wasn't so much a roast because it ended up raining that night. We relied solely on the Coleman for that meal.) After dinner treats included s'mores (obviously) and popcorn.    

Breakfast is cozy in the woods, whether gathered around the fire with hot cocoa in hand or lined up along the picnic table under the canopy if the weather isn't cooperating. Our first breakfast was blueberry pancakes, always a favorite. Jamie fried up some bacon, too, and we just lingered and smacked our happy little lips until our bellies were full. The next morning we had bacon, eggs, and muffins, and the kids chose cinnamon French toast and sausage for the last day. By that time it had rained the night before, so we were a bit wet, tired, and cranky. A warm and yummy breakfast was a good pick-me-up. (As was my daily cup of tea, complete with cream and sugar.) 

For lunch we simply did sandwiches with fruit, chips, and veggies on the side. And by "simply" I mean that we piled those puppies with meat, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese and every spread possible. (Did I mention that we like food?) Our last lunch took place after we had packed up. We headed toward Tillamook and found a quaint spot along the shoreline. The first building had us feeling somewhat skeptical, although there was a certain shabby charm to it, but we were quite satisfied when we found the actual restaurant and dined on huge, steaming bowls of clam chowder.

We finally piled back into the vehicles and meandered homeward through the coastal forest, listening to the playlist that Aidan had compiled (a rather eclectic assortment of Star Wars, Neil Diamond, Abba, Tobi Mac, Britt Nicole, The Lennon Sisters, Roger Miller and The Beach Boys).

We were eager to be home, yet thankful for the days we'd enjoyed together. The kids couldn't wait to see Maizy (our friend Andy house-and-dog sat for us and did a wonderful job -- what a blessing to come home to a clean house and a happy pooch!), and I couldn't wait to take a shower, start that laundry and (re)wash those dishes in a real dishwasher with plenty of hot water. Speaking of which, I have a few mountains to fold. So I'll be off now. Thanks for joining me, my friends. Have a lovely weekend!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

{Never Wasted}

This morning I had a long to-do list. I was tempted to jump out of bed and skip straight to the tasks at hand. I could meet with the Lord later. But He quietly guided my heart to reconsider -- not because there would be something sinful about waiting until the afternoon to spend time in His Word, but because today was somehow different. So I shifted the duties around in my mind and realized that it would all still happen. (It always does!) Besides, I knew for certain that time spent with the Lord is never wasted.

Frederick Daniel Hardy 1879

So instead of plowing ahead, I steeped my tea while unloading the dishwasher, and then headed back to my room, mug in hand. I read a bit of Ezekiel, penned some thoughts, then gathered my prayer notebook together. Among the many needs that I lifted to the Lord were two more urgent requests, so I prayed very specifically for them. I closed my books, gathered my things together, and the phone rang. My sister. It was stunning. Wasn't this just what I had prayed for? And then I hopped on the computer and immediately saw another report. My sister-in-law. Again I was stunned, this time to the point of tears. Wasn't this just what I had prayed for?

To think! I almost missed out on the joy of seeing God's hand at work! I know these situations would still have been blessed if I had rushed forward with my day; there wasn't something "magical" about my prayers being lifted at just that time. But I could have missed it! I could have plowed ahead and started my day without seeing firsthand that my God is at work. He is mighty to save, and He wants His people to take part in the thrill of seeing it happen! God doesn't need me to accomplish His mighty acts of love, power, and goodness. But He sure does love me. Enough to quietly say, "Daughter, I have something special for you and your loved ones this morning. Would you trust me and wait?" And when I say "Yes, Father," I never, ever regret it.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him.
Lamentations 3:24
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