Friday, January 31, 2014


Last week I was visiting with a friend and, after she had shared some recent struggles with me, she asked how I was doing. I paused briefly. I was actually doing just fine. Was it callous to say so after hearing of her hardships? I spoke truthfully, that I was doing well, and that I was thankful for a quiet season to listen to the Lord and to focus on relationships in our home.

My brother caught me in the cathedral last fall . . .

This week, again, I noticed the sun in the sky, the melody in my heart, the hope in my spirit, and it struck me. This is when I need to be on my knees. When I feel strong, I need to pour that strength before the throne of God and ask Him to show His grace and mercy among those who are feeling so very weak right now. Because if I'm strong at all, it's only the Spirit's power working through me.

I have dear friends who are struggling right now. Friends in the hospital, friends saying impossible goodbyes, friends facing diagnoses and questions and hurts and fears. When I awaken in the night, their names come my way. When I'm elbow deep in bubbles, scrubbing the dinner dishes, their faces comes to mind. When I pull out a book to read, my mind strays to the struggles. And I pray.

Friends, if you're having a good day, pray. Use that strength to praise the Lord and to uphold those who cannot stand. Ask Him for the names, ask Him to show the need. And He will.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

{The Perfect Day}

There's something so very marvelous about answered prayer. Often, when I've asked the Lord to bless a certain situation or provide for a certain need, it's such a small or seemingly insignificant request that when the answer arrives -- fully, abundantly, and all its glory -- I'm at a loss for words. I feel so very humbled that the Savior would meet my little need, and tears come to my eyes in place of the words I want to say. (But maybe, for now, that just might be enough?)

The winter months -- especially January -- often feel bleak and dreary to me. But this year, I've sought to quietly give my mornings to the Lord, and, when I do, the shift in my outlook is noticeable.

The first hour of waking is the rudder that guides the whole day. 
Henry Ward Beecher

The morning hour, with my cup of tea and God's Word before me, have grown more precious, and the darkness outside serves only to heighten the vividness of the Light I am learning to discern within.

I open my prayer journal and jot a few notes, add some thoughts, requests, praises, and I come to my children. I'm struck by Lamentations, which reminds me to "Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children . . . ." I don't have extremely pressing needs or urgent requests for them at this season, but I pray for each one and ask the Lord to teach me how to pray when I'm not able to form the words.

Lately I've been asking the Lord to provide creativity in relating to a Certain Little Someone in our home. Our personalities often clash, and more often than not it takes every single ounce of patience in my being to make it to the end of the day without pulling my hair out. Of course it's usually at the end of the day when I most need this blessed patience! Well, in our morning tea conversations, the Lord gently reminded me to treasure those times, and to savor rather than rush the bedtime hour. This is tricky. But as I've done so, I've been given precious little glimpses into my child's heart and needs.

The other night, as I sat on the edge of her bed, I thought of a fun, conversation-promoting question to ask. I leaned into her face, stroked her hair and said, "If you could have a perfect day, what would it look like?" She thought for a moment and, after I had clarified that, for this question, her answer had to be realistic (i.e. we're not going to Disneyland or Slovenia) she came up with her "perfect" day. I guided her to list every particular, like what time she would wake up, what she would eat, where she would go and what she would do.

It turned out to be such a fun exercise, that I asked the same of Aidan the next day. Apparently Little Miss thought it was fun, too, because I later noticed that she had created a poster entitled, "A Very Good Day." On it she had listed (in picture form) the order of events, complete with doughnuts for breakfast, a trip to the library in the afternoon (bless her heart), a movie in the evening, the painting of her bedroom (man, I really need to get on that) and books at bedtime. Which would be 9:30. (She also wanted to go to the store for a minute, but she wasn't quite sure why. Likely the reason would make itself known when she was walking down the aisles.)

Sweet dear. Such a simple little question, and it unleashed her little mind and creativity in a way that I hadn't expected. It also gave me a glimpse into how important that bedtime ritual can be. Surely an answer to prayer. Not huge or drastic, but simple and, well, perfect. For a perfect kind of day.

* * * * * * *

I know if I could orchestrate my perfect day, it would certainly include a good read! Often, at the beginning of the year, I look ahead, wondering what I will read. This year, I thought it would be fun to create a system (yes, I can be OC like that) to guide me in my book choices. In an effort to embrace simplicity and contentedness, my first guideline was that I would focus mainly on the unread books that I already have on my bookshelves. But from there, well, see if you can guess what my system is! So far I've enjoyed:

Emma by Jane Austen
National Velvet by Enid Badnold
Glengarry School Days by Ralph Connor

And up next on the shelf? 

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

(Can you figure it out?)

And if you're up for an inspiring or challenging read, but find that your time is limited, let me invite you to soak in a few words on the web. They've done me good this week:

Because questions are a gift: The Questions that will Save Your Relationships 

Because sometimes we forget to get off the island: Sometimes I'm an Island 

Because we don't always know what to say: 5 Can't-Miss Lessons for Walking With People in Pain 

Because sometimes we need to be inspired (take time to watch the video with your kiddos, too!): How to Find Time and Space for the Life You Want

And because sometimes we need to remember that less is more: 10 Unconventional Habits to Live Distraction-less.

Have a blessedly "perfect-in-Him" evening, friends!
How to Find Time & Space for the Life You Want

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

{A Tea and a Teen}

Every year for Christmas, the kids pair off with their cousins and exchange gifts. Avery, who "got Clara," knew right away what she wanted to do, and started to ransack her room in preparation. Princess attire and tea accoutrements flew hither and yon and were eventually stuffed into an old french fries box. I suggested that she might also purchase a gift, and she eagerly added a new tiara and princess shoes to the box.

And then she got out the computer. Her fingers flew, her mind raced, and she created a schedule. For not only would Clara get to dress up like a princess and sip tea as her Christmas gift, she would also get to have a sleepover. Complete with a schedule of events.

One of the most dear things to me about this undertaking was that Avery was eagerly recreating the type of gift that my mom does for the kids every year -- a package of goodies that represents an experience-to-come of some sort . . . and a sleepover.

Well, the gift was very well received, and last weekend Avery's planning and Clara's hopes came to fruition. Little Clara, in all her pink cuteness, walked in our front door, ready for a very special weekend. She hoped that it would include pink tea. It did.

We had our tea party right away, because, well, who wants to delay pink tea?

And then Avery moved on to the next item on her agenda: stories. She had prepared a stack of princess books, and the girls (after applying makeup), snuggled on The Big Chair for all of them. Avery read, and read, and read . . . and read. She read with inflection and a unique assortment of voices, and Clara listened, and listened, and listened. It was the sweetest thing ever.

After dinner, a princess movie, and more stories, they were tucked into bed. Bethie eventually joined them, and I kissed and blessed three precious pink brows before they slipped into dreamland.

The next morning we scurried off to church, where I promptly realized that I probably should have prepared a little bag of diversions for the girls, since they had asked to sit in the service with us. I needn't have worried. They were content to blow their noses (my Kleenex ran out), swing their feet back and forth, follow my pen as I attempted to scribble notes ("Are you writing down what that man is saying?" -- I'm pretty sure I didn't get all four sermon points . . .), and run a little blue rubber worm up and down the chairs. And then they became thirsty. But, thankfully, they were content to sweetly wait until after the service, all the while swinging their legs in anticipation. Dear girls.

After church we enjoyed our traditional Sunday brunch (they chose pink tea, of course), followed by a nap. I lingered next to the room with my book and tea, just in case I was needed, but the little princess was exhausted and fell asleep almost immediately.

Avery, starting to experience that floundering feeling, asked if we could wake Clara up. (The "sleep" part of a "sleepover" isn't so thrilling, you know). The afternoon was getting away from us, and it would soon be time to get her home, so I eventually gave Avery the okay. Clara's cheeks glowed with rosy sleep as she shuffled out of the bedroom, and her eyes were still heavy -- but not too heavy for some more pink tea. I poured out. She sipped and sipped, sweetness personified, until it was time to go.

When we returned home, the memory of it lingered, Avery glowed with pride and satisfaction, and I smiled longingly over the lone cup still sitting on the table. There's something so very dear about having a small child in the home. Especially if that small child happens to be Clara.

* * * * * * *

This weekend, the excitement mounted as not one girl but thirteen gathered for another kind of celebration: Bethie's 13th birthday. The girls trickled in, giggling and blushing, eager to gather for the sweetness that young teens have a way of creating when they come together.

They played games, enjoyed a book exchange, and feasted on fondue. (The bacon dipped in chocolate was quite a hit.) Bethie blushingly pulled out her guitar at her friends' request, and she played a song or two. You can imagine my joy and delight as the songs veered toward worship and the girls all began to raise their sweet voices together: "Here I am to worship . . . ." Oh, my heart.

As I look at my teenage daughter -- I look up now, mind you -- I'm reminded of the words that I pray for her so often. I pray that in her love for people she would have opportunities to draw them to the love of Jesus, that her warmth would cause others to warm toward His open arms, and that her joy would point back to the joy of knowing the Lord. And that always and forever her heart would resonate with the beauty of surrender, "Here I am to worship . . . ."  

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