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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Introducing...Less is More - 31 Days towards living with less

Less is More.  31 Days towards living with less.

We just finished Christmas.  I clearly hear a collective sigh of relief.  At least until the bills come in!  Most of us probably received a lot of "stuff" that we don't need, "stuff" that purposes to derail our attempts to declutter our homes...and lives.  And many of us gave some stuff that creates the same chaos in someone else's home!

January is such a great time to focus our attention and energy on a new start.  Lose weight, exercise regularly, clean up messes, get organized.  These are good ideas but resolutions aren't what I have in mind for us this month.  Instead, let's look at specific ways to get rid of our excess (in lots of different areas) , loosen the stranglehold that materialism has on our hearts, and set the example of contentment with less instead of more. 

Each day, I will post an idea of living with less.  Getting rid of clutter.  Recipes.  Tips on money and time management.  Thoughts on encouraging contentment in our kids.  I hope this will be an exchange of ideas - in other words, please share yours with me! 

We probably won't solve world hunger by January 31.  We may not even solve the hunger for more in our own hearts.  But, maybe we'll take a step in the right direction.  Maybe February will see us with less.  Less of what isn't necessary.  And more of what makes life worthwhile!

Oh, and if you want to get these daily, you need to subscribe.  I won't be posting daily tips on facebook.

Notes to the Living Letters, sequel

I had a long shower today so I was able to ponder some more things I want to be sure to tell the children.  Maybe this will be exhaustive.  But I doubt it...I will have things to tell them until I die.  And even then, I will probably leave some written instructions!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Come and drink

I was a nursing Mom.  Loved those sweet times.  Snuggling close.  Exclusive intimacy.  Meeting the need for nourishment.  Or comfort.  Lifeline.  A couple of my babies never even touched a bottle - it was all just Mommy. (My husband was amazingly supportive of breast-feeding.  Imagine that.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Spirit of Christmas

I know what some of you are anticipating.  A post about how Christmas no longer feels like Christmas.  How it has become so commercialized.  That this time of year is no longer about the One whose birthday we celebrate and rather about stress and spending and going and stuff.  I know.  You are right.  The Christmas season has a lot of trappings that I don't like.  And, to be perfectly honest, I heave a sigh of relief on December 26 when we are "done".  (I used to say "when things return to normal" but now I know that 'normal' is just a setting on my dryer).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

God's Choices

I was thinking about Mary today.  Not MY Mary, the other famous one - you know, the one that birthed baby Jesus.  Thinking about how God choose a young girl (she was most likely 14 or 15 years old!).  From a not-famous-or wealthy-or influential family.  About to marry a young boy (Joseph might have been 16 or 17).  Also from a not-famous-or-wealthy-or-influential family.  From an insignificant little town.  Traipsing to an obscure little village.  9 months' pregnant.  (Moms, pause for just a moment and ponder riding on the back of a donkey on dirt and gravel roads for 69 miles.  Hours away from delivery.  Uh, right.  Lots of loving communication for "couple time", I am sure) Then birthing a baby, apparently without a midwife (certainly without an ob/gyn staff that she had months to become attached to and trust with her very life) in a stable.  With animals around.  So much for freaking out over dropping a pacifier on the floor and handing it to baby without first sterilizing it. Then He announced the World's Greatest News to a bunch of shepherds.  Dirty, smelly, uneducated shepherds. That came to look at Mary's newborn.  Most of us shudder.  (or maybe scream at poor Joseph.  surely this is all his fault??)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

For Heaven's Sake

A few years ago, I wrote and taught  a Bible study about Heaven.  About God's glorious plan - from Eternity Past to Eternity Future.  I don't claim in any way to present an exhaustive exegesis on the place and purpose of God, but it's my attempt to help us live this life with an Eternal perspective.  I taught the study again earlier this year.  If you want to take a listen, follow the link to the right.  It will take you to the webpage of Watkinsville First Baptist Church and to the place where you can find 10 weeks of audio.  (If you do choose to listen and my Southern drawl drives you crazy, just be glad it's not a video feed - I wave my hands around like a wild woman and take my shoes off to teach!!!)  Also, I have included a file of the workbook I wrote to accompany the study.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the study.  Preparing this study changed my life.  I hope you feel the same.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Response to Evil

Recent events inevitably evoke the question of "why".  How could this have happened.  Why did it happen.  Where was God?

People far greater than I have addressed that question.  Some have answered it well.  Others have not, in my opinion.  I certainly do not have answers that are sufficient to heal the pain being felt in Connecticut.  Or Aurora.  Or Virginia Tech.  Or Columbine.  Or any of those other places where senseless tragedy has occurred.  But I have some thoughts to share in hopes that I can offer some hope and peace to us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Word became flesh

The Gospel of John tells us that THE WORD became flesh and dwelt among us.  THE WORD.  In the beginning, THE WORD was with God.  And THE WORD was God. THE WORD that spoke the universe into existence.  THE WORD that breathed life into man.  THE WORD that was and is and always shall be.  THE  INFINITE WORD poured itself into a finite mold and became human. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Katie!

Twenty-four years ago tomorrow, I pushed my way into the sacred land of Motherhood.  Literally.  Water broke at midnight and 12 looooooooong hours later - including 4 hours of pushing (given the malpractice landscape of obstetrics today, that would no longer be an option!) - the world became a better place.Katie Alice Chambers was born.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

January blog-theme....

Merry Christmas!!  I hope you are having some wonderful times, celebrating this holiday!  I pray that you have times when you can reflect on the reason for the season, times to enjoy family and friends, time to worship and celebrate and love!

I'll bet your family is like mine and you have busy schedules.  Colds and maybe flu.  (Oh, I hope not!) Meals to plan.  Gifts to buy.  Events to attend.  Gifts to buy.  Schedules to coordinate.  Gifts to buy.  People to visit.  Gifts to buy.  Needs to meet.  Gifts to buy.  Get my drift?  All this gift-buying!!  Whew!!  Now, don't write me off as Scrooge.  I LOVE to give gifts!  But, honestly, I think we in America have fallen off our own fiscal cliff - that of gift-buying.  We buy things we can't afford to give to folks that don't need them.  So that we can feel like we are celebrating Christmas!!  I wish there were a way to unplug this Christmas machine!!  Well, maybe we'll tackle that next year.  Say, in July.  But for January, we are going to look at 31 ways to have less. Ways to reduce our expenses.  Ways to increase our contentment!  Ways to make do with less.   And I believe "less" will bring "more".  More health, more peace, more sanity, more fiscal responsibility.  31 ideas of recipes, de-cluttering, meaningful gifts, family times, etc.  I have a few ideas and I'd like you to share yours.  Beginning January 1.  31 days of Less is more.

Get your ideas ready to share!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ebe- who?

I love hymns.  The tunes are beautiful (especially the re-mixes that are vogue now).  But mostly I love the truths that are imparted through the rhyming lines.  Deep insight. Doctrine of the faith.  Meaningful encouragment.  Frankly, few songs of today can do the same.  Love those hymns.

I was listening to one of my favorites the other day and pondered a line that I thought you might wonder about, too.  Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing sung by David Crowder band.  I think I favor it because it's one of the few hymns I can still bang out on the piano!  But this time I began to pay close attention to the words.  "Ebenezer" caught my ear.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wednesday's Word coming tomorrow

Just a reminder to sign up to receive Wednesday's Word.  A short devotional thought to get our hearts and minds focused on The Living Word.  You can sign up by the link on the right.  Hope to meet with you tomorrow morning!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Helping Mommy....or whistle-blower?

One of my dear "young Mom -friends" asked me for some advice on the tattling issue.  Although I am far from a parenting expert, just by virtue of having walked this path a few steps sooner than my friend, I did have some stuff to share.  Some other folks asked me to repost it so I am getting it out via this blog instead of my timeline.  I'd love to hear your input, too.  What are some ways you have handled the tattle game?

Here's pretty much what I said....

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thankful thought 30

The end of the month. The end of "Thankful Thought" posts. Hopefully not the end of thankfulness. I want to practice not just "Thanksgiving"  but especially "Thanks-living".  For all God has done, for all He is doing....and for all He will do in the future.

Today's Thankful Thought....Heaven.  Heaven is as real to me as Athens, GA.  I look forward to my new home there.  To the folks I love who have gone on before me.  To the folks I know OF but don't know personally - giants in the faith, like Corrie Tin Boom.  Peter the Apostle.  Ruth Graham.  John the Revelator.  Moses's Mom.  To the treasure I have sent on ahead.  To the rewards Jesus promised to those who love Him and look for His appearing. 

I am excited about Life in Heaven.  God promises pleasures forever.  Think about that.  We relentlessly pursue temporary pleasures here.  But there - it will be permanent pleasures.  We will scarcely be able to contain our joy!  We will have sweet fellowship with friends and family.  We will be free from pain and disease and sin.  Oh, glory!

That will be so fantastic that we can hardly imagine it.  I long for Heaven.All that it will bring.  For me and mine.

But most of  all, I will love seeing Jesus.  I wonder if I will laugh or cry or sing or dance or fall on my face or stand in silent amazement before Him. All of the above.  I just want to hug Him. And hear Him say...."Welcome Home".

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thankful thought 29

Huge thanks today - for God's promise that He is completing His work in me.  It's HIS work.  And HE promises that HE is completing it.  I am thankful.

My prayer is that I won't make His job so hard....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent idea

Thanksgiving is done but I hope we are not done with giving thanks!  Especially as the season of celebrating Jesus is upon us. 

As a Mom, I wrestle each year with wanting Christmas to really be about CHRIST and not about shopping and wish lists and where to spend what with whom and why.  I love the trappings of the season (well, not all of them) but my heart would really rather unplug the Christmas machine and just focus on Jesus.  I have tried various things through the years to keep my family's eyes on the REASON for the SEASON.  Some have worked.  Such as limiting gifts, sticking to a budget, reading the Christmas story, having traditions that are family centered, directing our attention to service projects, and trying to manage our schedule so that we eat and sleep well enough to stay healthy. Other ideas didn't stick around long enough for anybody to recall them.  'Nough said.

This year, I am excited about how we plan to observe Advent. Our family has done a few different things in years gone by, but this year we will have a new idea.  I came to the Advent observation later in life, as we didn't focus on this season in my growing up church.  Not that I grew up deprived and need to go on the Jerry Springer show to air my disadvantage but I do think I missed out.  This is a beautiful season of preparation for Christmas...the real meaning of Christmas.  There are certainly as many different ways to observe advent as there are hearts to be prepared but I want to share what we will do, beginning on the first Sunday in December.  The Jesse Tree.

The Jesse Tree gets its name from the prophecy about the coming Savior in Isaiah 11:1 - "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit."  Here, the prophet Isaiah gave God's people the news that their Savior would be from the line of David, the son of Jesse. It represents the genealogy of Christ.  The stem, the branch, the Jesse Tree. 

Each day during Advent, the story of Christ and God's plan of salvation are traced from Genesis all the way to His birth, showing the Scarlet Thread that runs all the way through Scripture.  Reminding us that Calvary was not God's "Plan B" but rather His divine and merciful intention from the beginning of time.  An ornament, representing each particular Scripture, is placed on a tree branch, secured ( somehow!) in a pot, each day, culminating with the baby in the manger on Christmas Day.  A short devotional reading explains what the ornament symbolizes and demonstates the plan of salvation, the promise of the Messiah, all the way through the Old Testament.

Since I am not an advertiser, I won't provide any certain links but you can google it and find several different helps if you decide you want your crew to do something similar.  A group of women whom are very significant in my life joined forces this past Spring and we made each of ourselves a set of these ornaments for our own Jesse Trees.  As my ornaments are placed on my Jesse Tree this year, they will hold special meaning times two....reminding me not only of God's gift of Jesus, but also His gift to me of these treasured women.  He surely is good to me.

Merry Christmas!

Thankful thought 28

Yesterday, I gave thanks for friends and family that make me laugh.  Today, I want to express thanks for friends that cry with me.  Sometimes a laugh won't work.  Only a good cry.  There are really very few folks that we will let cry with us.  It's more of a private thing.  But I am blessed to have folks in my live that cry with me.  And I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thankful thought 27

I am thankful that I have lots of people in my life that make me laugh.  Foremost, my family.  They are just downright funny.  Every single one of them.  They make me laugh on a regular basis.  On purpose.  I am thankful for that.

A merry heart is good medicine.  And it is available without a prescription.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thankful thought 26

Today I am thankful for trips to the beach.  Not that I have any planned any time soon.  But I love the beach.  Sunrises over the water.  Walks in the tide.  Building castles in the sand.  Breathing salt air.  I am thankful that I get to visit the beach sometimes. 

Don't fret - I slather sunscreen everywhere!!!!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful thought 25

I am very thankful that God places mentors in the lives of my children. Some of the greatest folks ever to walk this earth are valuable contributors to my children.  They have coached them in sports, instructed them in manners, taught them in Sunday School and AWANA,  shared their love of music, been their friend,  and just "done life" with them.  The imprint of their influence on my children is indelible.  And I am thankful.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thankful thought 24

For the past 19 years, I have had the unspeakable privilege of being the main instructor for my children.  I am forever thankful for the opportunity to homeschool.  Although it's not always (uh, ever!) easy, it has always been worth it.

Not sure what I am going to do when Betsy graduates.....

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful thought 23

I have several friends who have become my heroes because of their battle against cancer. What an awful war, one that requires so very much of its soldiers.  The physical, emotional, and mental costs are staggering.  So is the collateral damage. 

So, I am thankful for these brave friends.  They are fighting because they love life and their families. And, in my opinion, the very fact that they fight makes them victors.

As you celebrate your thankful thought today, please join me in praying for all our friends that are fighting this war they didn't choose.  Thanks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful thought 22

Today is the apex of the Thanksgiving season so today, I give thanks for Jesus.  He is my source of Life, my best friend, my counselor, and my Redeemer.  I love Him because He first loved me.  Before I was born, before I was capable of anything, He loved me and chose me and paid the price that I couldn't pay so that I could be His Bride.

I thank God for Jesus and the amazing love that conceived this plan and brought it forth.  Praise His name!

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Watching it work

I don't think I could ever single out just one verse to declare it my favorite but I Thessalonians 2:13 certainly has to be ONE of my favorites.  "And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."

That one little phrase "performs its work in you who believe" is what makes it a treasure to me.  The Greek word for "performs its work" is "energeo", meaning active and energetic, accomplishing action, proving strong.  We get our word "energy" from it.  This is what God's Word does in us - it is active (living and active,  Hebrews 4:12 tells us) in our lives, not static.  It is always at work in us, accomplishing what God wants to do in us.  God calls the process "sanctification".  Making saints out of sinners :)  Transforming us.  Working our salvation out from our spirit to our behavior.  Changing how we think, how we act, how we feel, who we are.

So, how do we tap into this energy?  This active and accomplishing power?  Can we just "claim" a few lines from the Bible each day and expect God to work His magic?  Recite a bunch of verses from time to time and watch ourselves turn into superheroes? Not.  That's where the remainder of the phrase comes in.  "in you who believe" .  God's Word does indeed perform its you who believe. 

What is belief?  Faith.  And what is faith? Mental assent?   God says  "By faith, Abraham...obeyed"  in Hebrews 11:8.  So,  "you who believe" means "you who obey".  Because if we believe what God's Word says, we will obey it. And when we obey it, we are demonstrating faith.  And faith pleases God.  In fact, without it, it is impossible to please God.  And it is His pleasure that works in us to transform us.

If I want to see more of God's energy, power, transformation in my life, I need to get His Word in me.  To read it regularly.  To meditate on it.  Memorize it.  Treasure it.  And then I need to believe it.  Obey it.  Live by it.  Arrange my life  around it. 

And watch it perform its work. 

Thankful thought 21

As thankful as I am for the internet and email, today I give thanks for snail mail letters.  There is just nothing like a handwritten note.  Makes my day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful thought 20

I am thankful for the internet.  I love being able to connect with friends all over the world, obtain answers to obscure questions, and shop in my pj's at 2 AM.  I know the internet also brings potential hazards but I think it is like any other tool - just matters whose hands it is in.  And I love the internet.  Whomever it is that invented it :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful thought 19

The Bible.  I am thankful for God's Word.  That it is infallible, living, active, transforming, and redemptive.  I LOVE God's Word. Love to read it, teach it, and, yes, I love to obey it!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thankful thought 18

I am thankful EVERY DAY for my grandson, Jonathan.  Now I know you are shocked that I am a grandmother - of course I am not old enough to be one!  But Jonathan's mother has always done everything early (Ok, except maybe getting ready for church.  yeah, maybe not that one.  at least when she was riding with me....).  So she got married and wasted no time in making me a Grandmother.  Since I am clearly not old enough to be one, I don't have a "grandmotherly" name.  I am Suzie.  Jonathan's Suzie.

And I am thankful for him.  He is perfect.  Truly.  Just ask Cap'n.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thankful thought 17

Being thankful is contagious!  I am catching it from myself - the exercise of expressing these "thankful thoughts" is spreading throughout my day.  I am thankful for being thankful!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankful thought 16

Today, I praise God for the gift of forgiveness.  First, from Him.  That He would be willing to forgive is nothing short of amazing and incredible.  I don't deserve His mercy.  None of us do.

Because of His forgiveness to us, we are empowered...and extend it to others.  Again, amazing and incredible.  I am grateful for the forgiveness I have received from others and for that which I have been able, by His grace, to extend to others.  Amazing grace.  How sweet the sound.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful thought 15

From the time I was in college, God has graciously granted to me the privilege of rubbing shoulders with girls a few seasons behind me in the calendar of life. Even though I didn't birth them, they have become "my girls" to me.  That first group of middle schoolers at PABC...years at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta...Hickory Grove Baptist in Charlotte...Westover friends in GSO...on to groups here in the Athens/Watkinsville area.  Doing life with these gals has been a high privilege for me.  They are treasures to me. 

Today, I give thanks for "my girls".

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Did you see that?

Sometimes Betsy will be practicing handstands for me to watch.  Invariably, she will do a perfect one...just as my head is turned.  The cry goes out "Mom, you missed it!  You didn't see it!" 

I know how she feels.  Don't you?  How many times have we done the right thing, remained strong against the odds or faithful against the pressure, and it felt like nobody even noticed?  Much less cared...Makes it hard to keep it up, to hang in there.

Other times, we might be hurting and it feels like we are so alone.  Our plight is made worse because there seems to be no one to acknowledge, or validate, our pain.

At times like these, remember that there is one who sees.  El Roi is one of the names used in the Old Testament that helps explain this aspect of God's character - "the strong one who sees".  What an encouragement to know that our hard work, our good deeds, our faithful hearts are indeed noticed by the God of the Universe.  And He doesn't merely glance our way when we master the perfect handstand; no, He sees us.  Drinks us in.  Smiles in pleasure.  He sees.
What a comfort when we are suffering, when our hearts are in agony, to know that we are not ignored.  El Roi sees.  And moves to act in His power on our behalf.  El Roi - the strong one who sees.

He sees.  And He cares. 

Thankful thought 14

I am thankful for problems.  For the trials and inconveniences and irritations in my life.  I think that's all  I have to say about that.  See Wednesday's Word from last week for an exposition.

Thankful in all things.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thankful thought 13

I give thanks for sports.  Not to  sports, mind you, but for sports.  Lest you think I am of the athletic sort, think again.  Not athletic at all.  (Thankfully, my husband overcompensated in his contribution of sports genes to the DNA of our offspring so each of them is very nicely gifted, athletically.  Whew.  At least I was smart enough to pick someone that would offset my lack.) 

No, I am not athletic but I do enjoy sports.  Watching them, that is.  I love how my family enjoys all things Georgia.  How we unite over W's...and L's.  Bonding over rankings and referees.  Cheering for one another in the pool or on the court.

And I love the "life lesson opportunities" that sports provide.  Although not always enjoyable, I appreciate the chances we get to learn how to be a good sport, how to press through adversity, and how to practice joy, regardless of circumstances.

I am thankful for sports!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankful thought 12

I am thankful that places like Mercy Health Center exist, delivering not only free healthcare but also the love of Christ to the poor in our community.

May God bless the staff and the board and the volunteers and the donors of Mercy Health Center.  Forever.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thankful thought 11

I am not the greatest animal lover in the world.  I won't even let our animals live inside with us.  (I told my kids that you have to be listed on our tax form in order to sleep indoors.  They think it is a law.  They are really mad at the IRS...please don't tell them any different)

But I do love our dog, Shadow, and our cat, Ninja.  And I love the ones that have gone on to their reward - Gray, Jasmine, Hershey, Quincy, Tiger, Dandelion (our kids name the pets - or is that a restatement of the obvious?) and even the fish that lived long enough to have names but not long enough for me to remember them....except for "God" and "Cinqo" it's really obvious that the names came from my kids....

I had cats and dogs growing up and I am thankful that our family has them, too.

I just don't want them inside.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thankful thought 10

Today marks Day 10 of Thankful Thoughts.  So today I give thanks for my husband.  Cuz he is a "10" for me! 

He provides for his family well.He works very hard and does very well.  I am thankful for that.  And thankful that I can respect him in his career.  That means alot to me.

He is fun...and funny.  Even though our kids claim he is corny :), I think he is funny.  They just don't know all our inside jokes!  (And it drives them crazy!!  Which makes us laugh more!!)

He is trustworthy.  If he tells you something, you can take it to the bank.  He is a man of integrity.  I don't take that lightly.  That makes me feel very secure.  More secure than the bank account.

He is a great dad.  A really great dad.  A really great Dad.

Maybe he's not perfect but he's a perfect 10 for me and for our family. 

Plus, he's tall, dark, and handsome and that pretty much compensates for anything that's not perfect!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thankful thought 9

I am thankful for my churches.  Not that I belong to more than one. At least not at the same time! 

I am grateful for the churches that I have been connected to throughout my life.  Woodbury Baptist Church.  Prince Avenue Baptist Church.  Eastside Baptist Church.  Hickory Grove Baptist Church.  Westover Church.  Watkinsville First Baptist.  From cradle roll to youth group to college department to singles and then young marrieds and then, well, we stayed in young marrieds.  Offered to teach there so we could stay. 

All these churches have been significant in shaping my  life.  Most of my dearerst friends and mentors come from my connection to one of these churches.  I have been blessed. 

I know churches aren't perfect.  You might have had some painful experiences through church.  I understand.  Someone once told me "there ain't no hurt like church hurt".  Amen.  But in spite of that, my feelings about church are overwhelmingly positive.  Churches aren't perfect because they are made up of people that aren't perfect.  I can't think of a better place for us imperfect people to be.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful thought 8

I am thankful for flowers.  Love them.  In bouquets, on my table, in the yard, along the road.  Love them.  Maybe it's because I am so blooming crazy but I love seeing things in bloom.  Probably it's because I am the poster child for the   No Green Thumb Club that I appreciate things that bloom. 

Did you ever think about the fact that God could have made this world blah and dreary?  We never would have known the difference!  I mean, really, what would we have compared it to??? I am thankful that He splashes  His creativity all over the place...and I also am grateful that He gifted some of His creatures (as in the human kind) to successfully nurture the plants He designed.

I am happy to be one of His creatures that gets to enjoy His gifts.  My favorite is the daffodil.  I think that's why He planned my birth to be in March.  Every year, in preparation for my birthday, His world is awash in those gorgeous yellow flowers.  My Mom told me it was just for me so don't dare spoil my joy. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Giving all things?

It is the season of giving thanks.  And many of us are practicing that very thing, all month long, expressing gratitude for various things.  As I take a look at what I am thankful for, it's all "good stuff".  Nothing wrong with that.  But Christ-followers are instructed in I Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks...but not just to "give thanks".  Scripture tells us to give thanks in all things. 

I can easily understand and deliver on the command when things are "good"...aka, the way I want things to turn out.  But what about those things that we interpret as "bad"?  Those things that make our life uncomfortable or painful or downright tragic.  Surely God has an exception clause that permits us to skip the thanksgiving in those things!

Not at all.  He is very clear about the in all things part.  Give thanks.  Whoa.  How can He expect us to do that?  When that red light makes us late for an appointment?  Or the promotion goes to someone else? Or we are betrayed, mistreated, persecuted?  Or we realize that our dream of parenthood is never going to come true?  Or someone we love with all our heart is gone? Or all of the above?

Maybe we could choke out the thanks easier if we thought "these things just happen."  If we cut God some slack, so to speak, and that we have to accept that " this is life"  and we have to take our lumps like everybody else.  That wouldn't be easy but it seems like we could learn to accept bad things if we viewed them as an unfortunate twist of fate. Then we could make the best of it.

But God clearly doesn't want to leave that as an option.  He tells us not only the "what" and the "when"  but also the "why."  Give thanks.  In all things....for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Stops us in our tracks, doesn't it?  Those things that are not what we prayed for.  Those things that complicate our lives, that hurt us, that inconvenience us, that seem to go against all we would consider good and blessed and right.  He wants us to thank Him for those things because they are from Him.

Wait!  No!  Surely I don't mean that cancer and infertility and divorce and tragedies are from God!  Well, while He is not the author of evil and He only gives good gifts, He alone is sovereign.  He has the power to stop or remove any and everything from our lives.  So if something comes into the life of a Christian, it only got there after being filtered through His hands.  His loving, sovereign, omnipotent hands.

Not only allowed through His hands, but especially designed for my benefit and for His glory.  Gulp. That's hard.  But that's where faith comes in.  And the giving of thanks in all things.  He wants me to trust Him and His word.  He tells me that all things work together for my good and His glory.  He assures me that all His ways are loving and faithful.  And He promises that He doesn't withhold anything good from those that walk in Him.

So, that's how I can thank Him.  No matter what it looks like from my perspective.  I can trust His perspective.  And thank Him.  Because He is always working for my good and His glory.  No matter what it looks like to me.

In all things, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Thankful thought 7

I guess it naturally follows that, after being thankful for my kids, my thoughts would turn to my own parents.  I surely do give thanks for them!  And TO them.  I wish you all could know them.  They are the best.  Really.

But, in a bigger picture, I am thankful for my raisin'.  Now that's not "raisins", as in what tastes great in oatmeal cookies.  It's "raisin'" in how I was raised.  If you were raised in the South, (then stop and count your blessings), then you know what I mean by raisin'.  Rearin'. 

I was raised in a small town.  And while I may not agree with all that's in Hillary's book, I do agree with the principle "it takes a village".  (I just don't consider the government part of that village but that's another post...) I was free to roam around, ride bikes to town, and hang around with friends w/o needing to check in with my Mom every hour.  I was not only safe but I was also in an environment where everybody treated all the kids like their own.  If you were at our house when it was time for dinner (or breakfast or lunch), then you helped us set the table and you pulled up a chair.  If I was at my friend's house and we were about to be up to no good, then their Mama stopped us both. 

Yep, everybody was in your business.  In a good way.  Once when Willy, the policeman pulled me over for coasting through a red light, my Mama knew it before I got home.  (We only had two red lights so it was pretty easy for everybody to see what was going on!) And when somebody needed help, other folks pitched in and helped out til things got taken care of. 

People were nice in the town where I was raised.  Kind and polite and helpful. I mean, after all, you knew you weren't just going to see them in the hardware store - you would also see them at the school's parent meeting, the bank, and at church on Sunday night.  So, I guess we were motivated to treat folks nice!

I am sure the adults in my growing up years were realistic enough to see another side of the town where I was raised. But for me, it was great.  And I am thankful.  For all the folks that helped my Mama and Daddy raise me. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thankful thought 6

Previously, I gave thanks for getting to be a Mom.  Today, I give thanks for each of my kids.  Even though 2 are grown, they are still my "kids".  I will spare you the sappy sentiments of a Mother, unabashedly biased, and not extol the virtues of each one.  But those feelings and thoughts do burst forth in my conversations with my Heavenly Father.  And, for the record, He wholeheartedly agrees with me.  After all, He's their Dad, too. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thankful thought 5

Today I give thanks that I get to be a Mom.  This is different than being thankful for my children (which, by the way,  I am!). I cherish this role, the experiences it brings, the rewards, the duties, even the toll it takes...on mind, body, and spirit!

I love that I got to know each of my little munchkins in a way no one else did....or could...I carried them.  Right up under my heart.  Then, at birth,  they moved from that location - right into the center of my heart.  And there they shall remain.  Forever.

I treasure the experience of breast-feeding.  Two of mine never even took a bottle (not b/c I am superwoman or even a martyr.  Nope. It's cuz that breast pump thing made me queasy. I am odd that way.)  I loved the fact that I continued to nourish them, sustain them. (My husband was most supportive of my desire to exclusively breastfeed.  Isn't that interesting.) And what a delight to find out that one of the names for God, El Shaddai, is rooted in the Hebrew word for breast!  Conveying the idea of providing comfort and sustenance and intimacy for us.  Reminding us that it takes both male and female to display the glory of God.  In His Image, He made them, male and female.

I love the role of Mom.  Cheerleader.  Teacher.  Comforter.  And, yes, corrector, sometimes.  Confidante. Encourager. Believer.  Pray-er.  Those are eternal...and divinely appointed...assignments.  Sometimes it's hard.  Most always it stretches me.  God whispers that parenting is as much about what He wants to do in me as through me.

I am thankful I get to be a Mom. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thankful thought 4

Today is my big brother's birthday.  Ok, so it's my only brother's birthday - I just wanted to establish that he is older than I am. 

So today I am thankful for him.  Actually, I am thankful for him everyday.  (And thankful that he doesn't read this blog...he's still figuring out all things cyber...struggling physician that he is...) I don't know if my Mom put contraband in our breakfast cereal and that messed with our minds growing up,  but I have always been thankful for him.  Always thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread (or at least, greatest thing since me with contact lenses).  I have heard he's been known to drive a few nurses to tears but I am here to tell you that I think he is pretty much perfect.  And I am forever grateful that I get to be his little sister.  For as long as I can remember, he's always encouraged and protected and loved me unconditionally. 

So if you see him today, you call tell him Happy Birthday.  But that's about all you need to say, I suppose.    I have always taken it upon myself to keep him humble.  Being that he's pretty much perfect and all. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thankful thought 3

Just a short one today.  I am thankful for contact lenses.  You should be, too, in the interest of public welfare.  At least the public that has to view moi.  I began wearing glasses in 4th grade, and, while I was amazed at what I could see (as in leaves on trees instead of blurry masses of green), I myself was not an amazing sight to behold. Think Coke bottle bottoms.  On steroids.  They probably weighed more than I the time, that wasn't saying much.

When I got contact lenses in 7th grade, I was pretty sure I was the coolest kid in Junior High.  (If there is anyone reading this blog that knew me then, restrain yourself from brutal comments, please).  Think relative, OK?  Anything was bound to be an improvement.

I know glasses have come a long way but I am still thankful for contact lenses.  As in waaaaaay thankful.  You should be, too.  Just sayin.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Marriage Memos

In an earlier post, I told you about sharing with that group of young women some thoughts on marriage.  From the perspective of 26 years.  My thoughts.  Paul's thoughts.  They wanted to know what we have done well....and not so well.  We answered their questions.  The time was treasured. 

Here's what we told them.

The purpose of marriage is to glorify God by showing the world a picture of God's covenant relationship with His people.  It's not to make the husband and wife happy.  It's not to raise great kids.  It's not to fulfill dreams.  It's to give the world a glimpse of God's love and faithfulness to us and our love and devotion to Him.

Embracing that makes all the difference.  Permanence.  Selflessness.  Commitment to the highest good of another.  When we get the purpose, happiness and fulfillment usually follow.  But they are not the goal. 

What have we done right?  I could summarize it all by saying that what we have done right is to accept and enjoy God's amazing grace.  That two stubborn, prideful, self-seeking 20 somethings could forge a life together that has brought love and joy and the adventure of a lifetime is nothing short of amazing.  And, oh, how we have been changed in the process!

My list of rights and wrongs focus on the wife-side.  Cuz I am one.  And that's the only side I am qualified to assess.  Here are my thoughts on what we have done right -(more than 3 because I am combining my list and Paul's)
1.  Made time most every day to talk.  Maybe just 15 minutes but nearly every evening after dinner, we excuse the children from the table and we stay there and talk.  The only interruptions allowed are, in this order, if they are bleeding from the head or the house is on fire.  Otherwise, they have to wait to talk to us until we are through.
2.  Didn't get in financial trouble.  Period.  Didn't strike it rich ,and we have walked by faith many many times when there was more month at the end of the money but we didn't get into debt.  And we learned  better and better ways to handle the financial allotment that God entrusted us with.
3.  Didn't depend on in-laws.  Financially or emotionally.  We really believed that "leave and cleave" stuff.  That doesn't mean that I never called my Mom about how to cook a roast or if the stress at work was making me cry.  Nor does it mean that Paul refused to let me accept a new dress from his Mom.  But we were very careful to be separate.  And we never ever ever spoke a critical word about each other to a parent.  Never.
4.  Paul says I put him first.  Before work, kids, parents, friends, ministry, self. 
5.  And he says I have always been supportive of his career.  (That's been easy, actually.  I am very proud of him and I love to watch him shine in his job.)
6.  We understand and appreciate the perks of marriage.  You get my drift.

Here's some of my mistakes.  Remember, my husband is very kind and diplomatic.  Really, we could go on and on and on listing errors.  But here are some that stand out.  (And, for the record, Paul stressed that these were mistakes early on, not now.  Yeah, I am practically perfect these days.  Uh-huh)
1.  Failure to show respect.  Busted.  Guilty as charged.  I took a long time to understand that I needed love but he needed respect.  And my tone of voice or choice of words could be lethal.
2.  Over-reaction.  I could make a mountain range out of a grain of sand.  Hyperbole is my spiritual gift.  Not a good one.  I am sure it made him withdraw and become reluctant to share anything with me.
3.  Not patient with him.  He didn't give specifics but I am sure he remembers times I wanted him to think faster, talk faster, act faster, and decide faster.  He processes things carefully whereas I just move.  As though speed makes up for accuracy.  Many many times, my haste made for waste.  But he says I am much more patient now.  (I think I'm probably just more tired but I'll take the compliment!)
4.  It took me a long time to learn to be a good daughter-in-law.  I am very grateful for the patience and prayers of extended family.  Very grateful.  And praying that I will not reap all that I have sown.

I Peter 3:1-6 has some great counsel for wives.  Especially vs. 6.  You can look it up.  Particularly poignant when you learn that the word "lord" in vs. 6 doesn't refer to a position of diety.  Rather, that Greek word means "agent for good".  Scripture tells us wives that God will use our husbands as an agent of good in our lives.  Remember that.  God will employ your marriage to bring good to your life, as you obey and trust Him.  That's great news. 

Thankful thought 2

I have a really great set of in-laws. From my husband's parents to his siblings and sibling-spouses and cousins and cousin-spouses to my only brother's wife. And my first son-in-law! They are the best.   They should be called "in-loves" instead of "in-laws" because that is a more apt description of our relationships. 

I am fully aware that not everybody enjoys the same blessing.  Guess that explains all those jokes that tear down and erode these affiliations.  That makes me sad.  Families get enough attacks from the outside; we don't need to be destroyed from within, too.

I am thankful for all my in-laws.  If any of you are reading this, know that I give thanks to God for each one of you individually.  You inspire me to be the best in-law that I can be so that I can bless you back.

And, if you don't have great in-laws, then how 'bout you decide to be the very best one YOU can be, just to upstage 'em! :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bribing kids

In my opinion, bribing kids is perfectly acceptable.  We do it to adults all the time.  I mean, really, would you go to work if your employer didn't pay you, just for the fun of it, every day???

So just figure out how to bribe them appropriately. 

Here's an idea that worked wonders for me when my kids were little.  Book bucks.  I wanted them to love to read.  For a lifetime.  So I needed a way to establish that habit.  I knew that if they read enough good books long enough, they would love it forever.  Just needed to get them to that point.  Modeling it myself didn't seem to be working.  Nor did lectures on how good it would be for them.  So I resorted to bribery.  And proud of it.

Here's the deal -
I made a list of a whole bunch of things I wanted them to read.  (Consult Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt for ideas.  or online lists like 100 books every child should read) Then assign point values to them, based on age appropriate-ness and difficulty.  You are in charge and you can make the point value whatever you want it to be.  Personally, I was pretty generous because my goal was to reward the desired behavior.  Quickly.
I printed up "book bucks" to hand out upon completion of each book and I provided each child with the list of books and assigned points. 
Finally, I came up with levels of rewards.  5 points might get  you out of kitchen duty one night, 50 points might be a new Beanie Baby and 100 could be an ice cream date with Dad.

It worked.  The kids read like crazy. Before too long, they each became an avid reader. And the bribing tapered off because they read just for the love of it.

  We still have a closet full of Beanie Babies.  And ice cream dates with Dad continue to be a sought after prize...reading or not.

Thankful Thought 1

Exactly four weeks from today, we will sit down to calorie overload.  Not sure where we'll ring in the holiday or with whom but it will be scrumptious and marvelous. 

Today I am thankful for taste buds.  I praise God that, in His generous creativity, He gave us taste buds.  He could have, ya know, just made food functional.  He didn't have to make it taste good.  Nor was He obligated to give us so many different things that taste so good.

Taste buds.  Thank you, Lord!

How 'bout you?  What are you thankful for today?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Clean floors make me smile

Clean floors make me smile. I love it when my carpets are well-vaccumed, my bathrooms floors are free of gunk, and my treasured pine floors are conditioned.  I feel like they are smiling at me so I smile right back.

Now, you gotta understand something about me and cleanliness.  I'll own up to disliking clutter and messiness but I am not the poster child for household management.  My motto regarding housework is"Lower your expectations".  Good enough is good enough for me.  Cleanliness?  Well, isn't that why we keep up to date on tetanus shots?    I have friends whom I dearly admire (ok, and secretly envy) whose homes rival the surgical floor of ARMC.  It is a delight to drop in on them and appreciate their dust-free ceiling fans and cobweb-less chandeliers. Heck, their silverware drawers probably don't even have crumbs in them!  Really!

Lower standards work for me.  I can happily use a windfall of free time reading a book or baking granola or calling my Mom - the splatters on the microwave don't make me feel one bit guilty.  (Speaking of Mom, she will clean those splatters when she visits anyhow.  This way, I give her something to do.  Actually, when I think about it, I am not lazy at all.  Instead, I am really being thoughtful,  Kind. To make my Mom feel so appreciated.  I am glad about this.  Told you this worked for me).

Also, not having high expectations means I am perfectly happy to delegate.  Yes, the infamous chore chart.  Kids do the work.  All in the name of child-training, you understand.  And I am happy with fairly mediocre performance.  (None of my kids follow this blog so I think I can get away with that...)

All that said, clean floors make me smile. I don't know what it is about a clean floor that makes me happy.  (Good thing that's not the only source of my joy...)  And I had been frowning for quite some time at the floor in the kids' bathroom.  It didn't even meet my low expectations.  Been this way for, well, I am not secure enough to admit how many different kids have been assigned this bathroom and for how long, so just know that the floor was really bad.  They all insisted they had scrubbed and scrubbed and this was the best it could look.  Well, tonight I had a windfall of free time, no current book to read, trying not to eat so much granola and had already talked to my Mom...soooooooooo I took a stab at it.

Turns out the kids were right.  I used every cleaner in my arsenal and untold amounts of elbow grease and not much progress showed.  Oh well.  Default to the low expectations. Rejoicing that my self-esteem didn't take a hit from the green nail polish on that floor, I went on about my business.

Short while later, my knight in shining armor came through with something he called solvent (???) and said Betsy told him I couldn't get the floor clean so he thought he'd try this.

You can now turn as green as that nail polish, envying not only my clean bathroom floor but also that tall,dark and handsome man that lets me share his name.....and knows what "solvent" is.

I am just smiling.  At my floors.  And at him.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Challenge

November is peeking around the corner.  I have no idea how because it was February just last week.  I haven't even adjusted to writing 2012 when I note the date.  I will get it down pat just about the time I have to change to 2013.  Sigh.  Life is really hard.

Nonetheless, November is here and with it, comes Thanksgiving.  Of all the holidays, this one is the best.  (Now, don't jump all over me for not choosing Jesus's birthday.  December 25 isn't even His birthday and it doesn't feel like we are celebrating Him that month anyway.  But that's another post).

Thanksgiving is about just what it says - giving thanks.  I want to celebrate ThanksLIVING.  I want my posture to always be one of thankfulness. I want my children to live like that and I want to model it.   Gratitude.  To God.  And to others. Authentically.

In past years, I have taken each day of November to post on Facebook something I am thankful for.  This year, I am going to aim to blog it. 

I challenge you to do the same.  I'd love it if you would post on here.  Thankfulness needs to be public in order to be thanksgiving.  But share it somewhere.  On here.  On Facebook.  Twitter.  Better yet, in person.  But each day of November, let's all name something we give thanks for. 

And we might like it so much that we live that way December-October, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Laundry, Load 2

A week from tomorrow night, I get to meet with that group of fabulous young women that I told you about several days ago.  You remember - the ones I promised to share my life disclose my 3 biggest failures and 3 biggest successes wrt marriage. 

This time, they want some parenting scoop. 

For marriage, I solicited input from my better half.  This time, I am pulling in the offspring.  I told 'em - Gloves are off.  Anything they want to share about what their Dad and I did wrong...and right :) 
I will compile their info - unabridged - and share it with these gals I do life with.  Feels a little like I am doing laundry in the buff. 

Before any input from my favorite tax deductions, I think the main thing I would tell them that makes for a successful parent is "Grandmothers who pray."  Seriously.  I am eternally in debt to the women in my lineage.  The ones I call Mama and Mimi. And the ones who have already graduated to their reward, some of whom I never even knew.  But they prayed for me, for all those who come after them. Only Heaven will reveal how their prayers have borne fruit, provided protection, supplied wisdom and grace and strength.  Truly, I think that's the main thing.  Pray.  And get as many other people as possible to do the same,

I amxiously await the responses of my kids.  I promise to share it.  As well as some thoughts of my own.  Dirty laundry.  Clean laundry.  Stuff that requires dry clean only treatment.  Stay tuned.

Oh, that reminds me.  When I did the first laundry post, I offered to share my marriage bests and worsts.  Anybody want to hear 'em?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sharing an idea on growing kids

My husband is the sentimental kind.  He is always doing something romantic or heartwarming or meaningfully symbolic. Plus he is very imaginative.  (I, on the other hand, believe deeply that creativity is the art of concealing your sources!)  But I digress.  I am about to share one of his great ideas and you can borrow it.  He made it up but it's not patented or copyrighted or anything so feel free to plagiarize.

When we brought Katie, our firstborn, home from the hospital, Paul made a trip to the nursery.  But not upstairs to her room - he went to the  other  kind, you know, where you get trees. He bought a little sapling of his most favorite kind of tree - sugar maple - and cut it to the exact length that Katie measured on the day she made her entrance at Piedmont Hospital.  (Actually, he bought TWO of them because he knew I would suffer a fit of apoplexy if the tree died.  So we had "the Katie Tree"....and backup....he is a very wise husband...just sayin...)

Three years later, Paul made another nursery trip to purchase a Mary tree (OK, he got two of them again.  I still haven't changed.)  We loved those trees.  We made pictures of the girls on their birthdays  beside the trees, watching all of them grow.

And then we had to leave the Katie and Mary trees.  The phone company wanted Paul in NC and he felt that would be too long a commute.  I thought we should uproot those maples and take them with us but he felt they should stay. Sort of our contribution to the ecosystem, I guess.  A group of very loving and amazingly thoughtful friends from church supplied us with a gift certificate to a nursery in buy new Katie and Mary trees.  And that's exactly what we did.

After a couple of years of watering and fertilizing, the phone company wanted us to leave those trees in Charlotte so we planted new Katie and Mary trees....and added a Chip tree in Greensboro, NC.  And kept making pictures.  Kept watching all of them grow. 

One day, the phone company wanted to plant trees in Georgia so we relocated to Watkinsville.  The Katie and Mary and Chip trees are growing strong.  We've even added a Betsy tree.  When I pull into my driveway, especially this time of year, I see each of those gorgeous maples and thank God...for those trees....for those kids.....for that sentimental husband.

Those trees keep growing.  (Pretty funny that the Chip tree has outgrown the other three!)  And as they grow, they need our nurturing less and less.  But we get to keep enjoying them.  Admiring their beauty.  Watching them change.  And eventually, they'll be big enough to give us some good shade.  Trees.  Parenting.

Oh, and for the record, I hope the phone company doesn't want us to plant trees anywhere else.  These maples would really miss me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday's Word - What to do about this election

Anyone who has a pulse knows that we are in Presidential election season.  In a few days, we will peaceably go to the polls and participate in the privilege of choosing a man to lead our country.  Sometimes we are so focused on the intensity of our opinion on who that should be that the value of that privilege is eclipsed.  As Americans, we can tend to forget that our right to select our leaders is a rare one.  And one that we shouldn't take for granted.  Nor should we neglect it by not voting. (And if you should happen NOT to vote, then don't breathe a word of complaint for the next four years!)

As Chrstians, however,  there is an even greater privilege and responsibility. The focus God expects of us is less on the front-end of the election....and more on the follow-up.  I Timothy 2:1-4 is not a suggestion.  We are exhorted by the Apostle Paul, not to be a card-carrying Republican or Democrat, but rather to pray for whomever is elected. 

Campaign all you want.  Put up yard signs. Attend the rallies. Be informed on the issues. And, certainly, cast your vote. It is your right and responsibility as an American.  But don't dare neglect to pray.  That is your duty as a Christian.

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

(This is the first of Wednesday's Word.  If you'd like to receive these weekly words, sign up via the link on the right. Thanks!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Introducing....Wednesday's Word

Letters make up words.  And the Bible is the Living Word.  So I am begining a new feature of  Living Letters --- Wednesday's Word. Not based on  my words but rather on God's.  Just a few thoughts mid-week to help us focus on His Words, His Way, His Will.  Starting tomorrow morning.  That's the plan.  If you want to join me, sign up via the link on the right. Towards the bottom -  Follow by email or subscribe to Living Letters.  (honestly, I don't know what the difference is). 

His Word is living and active and powerfully transforming.  I want it to permeate my life. I hope you do, too.   I hope you'll come alongside me for Wednesday's Word!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Laundry Letters

I have the  privilege for a few weeks to hang out with some really great gals once a week in my home.  To me, they are my close and precious friends, but, Biblically speaking, I suppose they are the "younger women" and I am, ummm, the "older woman."  Supposedly, I teach them how to love their husbands and children but, in reality, iron sharpens iron.  I am the one that gets the blessing.

We've been discussing some weighty topics.  Our purpose as women.  (It's not to have a great marriage, raise well-behaved kids, and vote conservative, by the way).  Then an entire evening on emotions.  That one was really good.....and heartily endorsed by our husbands, I think!  We're about to do an evening or so on marriage.  I am looking forward to that - I love being married!  After 26 years, I still love being married!

One of these precious women asked me to share our 3 greatest mistakes as well as 3 things we have done right.  Game on!  I am up for the challenge....and transparency... I think......Actually, it would be a lot easier....a lot share "3 steps to a great marriage".  But that's not how I teach.  I really love these gals, and I think the best way for them to learn...and me to to share my life.  The Apostle Paul put it this way "Having thus a fond affectoin for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God, but also our very own lives, because you had become very dear to us." (I Thessalonians 2:8)

  I asked my husband for his perspective and invited him to share MY greatest mistakes with me so that I can share them with these women.  Since I am not instructing husbands, I don't think it would be helpful to know where husbands have gone wrong :)  Just a wife.  Gulp.  I am grateful that he is kind.  And diplomatic.  But I want to share the truth.  Maybe someone else can avoid a field trip to learn a lesson.  Maybe a lecture will suffice.

So this Sunday night, I will air my dirty laundry, as my husband likes to say.  And some clean laundry as well.  Greatest failures.  Greatest successes. Laundry.  Living letters.

I'll keep you posted. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Measure of a Champion

So let 'er rip, Cowboy!  And hang on tight,
Go for the prize with all your might!
But the measure of a champion ain't how long you hang on,

It's what you do.........when you get thrown.

Words from one of my favorite Mike Dekle songs.  Love the story in the song, the life lesson it proclaims.  The measure of a champion....what you do when you get thrown.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meet Amy

The papers are full of stories about teens and young adults that are ruining their lives....and the lives of those around them.  It can be so disheartening to read about their bad choices and the consequences that ripple through the world. 

That's why I want you to meet my friend Amy.  She is causing some ripples of her own...for good.  Amy would tell you that she's just an ordinary gal.  I don't know about that.  I've known her half her life  and she's always been beautiful and winsome and passionate. She loves people.  And she's a doer.  .

 I read a book once about helping others that said "Don't do nothing just because you can't do everything."  Maybe Amy can't do everything but she  is doing something.  Alot.  She is changing the world, two lives at a time.

Go to this site.  Read her story.  And I hope you'll be compelled to share in what she's doing..

Blessed bedtimes

For our kiddos, Daddy did the end of the bedtime routine most of the time - the tucking in, reading stories, prayers.  (Yeah, he got the good part.  As drill sargent, I supervised teeth brushing, potty trips, and room quick-cleans. I guess since I'd been with them all day it was only fair to give him the good stuff. sigh)  He would tell the most amazing stories ("Moe and Joe", remember, Katie and Mary?) The tales always had a lesson to teach.  And most of them ended with an admonition to always tell the truth.  No matter what happened in the tale, he always stressed "lying made it worse".  I was flabbergasted that he could come up with such great stories, impromptu!  Maybe he spent most of his workday thinking them up.  Yes, I am sure that's it.

Then he did the sweetest thing.  Still does with 10 year old Betsy.  He blessed them.  He would pray over them and then touch their faces, pronouncing blessings over each part.  He'd thank God for their good mind, strong body, kind lips, pure heart.  And as he kissed them, he always closed with "Mommy and Daddy and Jesus love you very very much." 

What a treasured ending to their day!  Some days were great - chores were completed cheerfully, schoolwork was done with excellence, and sibling squabbles were minimal. But other days needed some cardiac repair.   Feelings got hurt. And bottoms.  Unkind things were spoken.  Self-doubt and deprecation took up residence.  And I thank God that those things were not the final thoughts and feelings in their heart.  The tender words of their earthly Dad, invoking the blessings of their Heavenly Dad, spoken over their little souls, closed out their days.  Powerful. 

What was I doing while Paul was on bedtime detail?  Well, sometimes I needed  cold Tab or a hot bath and I went straight to the appropriate locations to replenish myself.  (Some days called for both.  Simultaneously. Some of you understand exactly what I mean!) Some days I was just glad we were DONE. Blessed bedtime, indeed!  But most nights, as Dad was by their beds, I lay down in the hall outside their rooms.  Face down on the carpet.  Before the Throne of my Heavenly Father, thanking Him for this incredible privilege.  And crying out to Him for grace and strength to complete the task. Reminding Him of His promise to me, found in Isaiah 59:21 - "And as for Me, this is my covenant with you, says the Lord:  My Spirit which is upon you and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring, says the Lord, from now and forever." Amen. I am counting on His faithfulness to that promise. I am confident of it.

 They may not remember those times specifically but I surely do hope they do.  And even if they don't recall the details of the tales, I am confident that the impression left on their hearts is indelible.   I was with my oldest last week and was reminded of these sweet times their Daddy created for them. As my little grandson was being put to bed,  his Mom and Dad read to him, prayed over him, and tucked him in together. I think I am seeing God's answers in action.  I am thankful. 

And many nights you will still find me in the hall outside their rooms.  On my face.  Thanking Him.  Petitioning Him.  Reminding Him.  With a cold Tab beside me, no less!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dandelion Bouquets

My Mary made me a CD with some of her favorite songs.  I listen to it over and over and over, especially Chuck Wick's "Stealing Cinderella".  Don't know why I love that song - it makes me cry, every time. 

Why are all those sappy "little girl grows up and gets married" songs from the Dad's perspective?  Moms feel the same way about their little girls!!  But that's not the subject of this post.

I want someone to write a song about how Moms feel when their sons get married.  I still have mine at home but from time to time I contemplate what it will be like when some gal wins his heart.  (Not sure there are any perfect girls out there, but I am speaking hypothetically)

Wow. It's gonna be a strange feeling to watch him confer his allegiance to another female.  I hope I will feel like I have gained an ally in loving him.  But I am bound to question if she will strive to nurture and protect the vulnerability he will hand her....his heart.  I don't want to forever be his main confidante and champion but I am sure I will wonder if she will understand how to interpret that grin - the one that he tries unsuccessfully to hide when he has achieved something he's dying to share...but doesn't want to boast.  And is she going to know what that grimace means?  The one that clouds his face when he is trying to hide some pain?  Is she going to know how to tell if the pain is from his throwing shoulder....or his heart?  And can she cook oatmeal scones and cinnamon rolls and medium rare eye of round roast sliced really thin?

When she looks at him, she won't be able to see the 4 year old that clasped his arms around my neck and vowed to "always love you bestest, Mom".  She won't know about the scores of dandelion bouquets that graced my kitchen table. Or the time he decked his sister because she told him he couldn't marry me.   Or all the sweaty socks I washed...and cried over when they became the same size as his dad's. She will not have logged untold hours in the stands watching ball games and praying for things like double-doubles or a first win.  She can't have the perspective of a view that changed from looking down into his eyes, to one that now looks way up.  She won't realize that the strong, lean hand that she now grasps used to be a chubby grip on my finger.

One day some really lucky gal will get to stand beside my son and vow to arrange her life around him forever.  And I'll step aside and cheer her on. And I will honestly want him to prefer her to me.  But those memories and insights and position  are uniquely mine to treasure.

I hope she'll ask me for my recipe for oatmeal scones.  He always gets those for breakfast on his birthday.

Parenting when they hurt

After nearly 24 years of parenting, I can confirm what I suspected as a 2-day-old Mommy watching her newborn get that infamous heel prick :  the hardest part of parenting is seeing your child hurt.  The source might be physical - immunizations or scrapes from not quite mastering the two-wheeler.  Or it might be emotional - being left out of a group....again, or disloyalty from a friend. And even more devestating from a consequential standpoint - bone marrow transplants or betrayal by a spouse.  Parenting doesn't stop when they graduate from high school.  When they hurt, we hurt. Whether they are 4 or 40.

And I don't like it.  I don't want them to hurt and I don't want to hurt while they hurt.  I want to fix it.  Fast. Having to stand by, helplessly is torturous.   I want to spare my children the suffering from stresses, from poor decisions, and especially from mean-spirited people. (Although I am certainly not unstirred by physical pain, it's their emotional discomfort that sends me to poke the voodoo dolls under my bed. )

Don't chide me.  I know the truth - growth and change and good come from the painful experiences of life.  The sting of the vaccination needle is necessary to protect from fatal diseases.  The scrapes on the knees are the stones with which the road to proficiency is paved.  The stresses from the demands of life can serve to strengthen and mature.  And the heartbreaks.....well, hmmmmmm.  I'd really rather poke those dolls but I'll concede that even heartbreaks can be used to bring growth and insure tenderness in one's own heart. 

I can embrace the truth of what the Apostle James says in chapter 1, that exhortation to consider it pure joy when we encounter trials.  I can embrace vs. 2 because I believe verses 3 and 4 with all my heart, that God uses pain and suffering to produce endurance and that endurance brings about maturity, completing His work in me.  Yes, I cling to that truth desperately.....for my own life.  But it's harder to do when I am observing God's chisel in the lives of my children.  It's then that I turn to a truth supplied by Timothy (1 Timothy 2:15).  Although this verse is often misunderstood, I believe it is telling us that, if we are parents, then childbearing  is what God uses to sanctify us. Relying on His grace for strength and mercy and patience.  Choosing to trust Him when they hurt, knowing that He is completing the work He began in them...and me.   To "work out our salvation" is one way Paul puts it in Philippians - His saving grace working its way through my soul, my mind, my will, my emotions.  So while I need to rejoice over the trials in my own life, I must also do so when those same maturing agents of suffering are present in the lives of my children.  Not only for their sake, but also for mine.  Watching them grow through pain is God's sanctification process for me, too. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Little socks in the laundry

There is something so stinkin' cute about little socks in the laundry.  While I am here in Albany, nursing baby Jonathan back to health, I decided to wash a few clothes.  Not cuz his Mommy needed help with anything (good grief - the gal already has her Christmas photo cards here, ready for December!!!).  Nope, I did some laundry cuz I like to look at his little clothes.  Specially the socks.  I didn't always ponder the adorable-ness of little socks.  I was pretty busy attacking Mount Washmore so I didn't think much about how cute those little socks were.  More often than not, I recall being irked that the dryer seemed to eat every other sock so that  I had no matching pairs.  (Finally figured out a solution to that one - only buy one kind of socks!!).  Then all of a sudden, I was sorting the clothes and had trouble telling the difference between my husband's Tshirts and my son's. What in the world happened to the little socks?

I hope I get to wash some more Jonathan clothes tomorrow.  And when his socks blend in with his Daddy's, I hope Katie and Mary and Chip and Betsy have more little socks that I get to wash. 

Do you love yourself?

Disclaimer:  I am neither a psychologist nor a trained counselor.  I have no professional expertise in this subject.  (That has never been an impediment to my having an opinion on a matter.  Just sayin...) But I have some lines I'd like to pen in hopes that others will embrace what I confidently believe is true.  Read on.

"Learn to love yourself" has become adamantly popular dogma.  This advice is dispensed as the cure for all sorts of ills - burnout, insecurity, wrong choices, deception, even addictions. Experts and not-so-experts prescribe this sweet-tasting medicine freely and confidently, assuring the afflicted one that loving oneself is learned behavior and that once they master this art, their problems will dissipate.

I want to conduct an intervention!  This counsel is not only not a harmless placebo; it is actually toxic!  The problem is not that we don't love ourselves - we do!  We love ourselves so much that we want to spare ourselves any pain or discomfort.  We want someone or something to fix us so that we are happy and satisified and comfortable.  We do love ourselves -  I promise we do.  Nearly everything we do has a root that can be traced back to the tree of "self".  Very little of our behavior is truly done with thought of only pleasing another person.(But oh, how easily deceived we are into thinking we are only thinking of others!)  Even "selfless" acts for others are often done with hopes of some return.....even if it is as small as hoping for affirmation or accolade.  We do love ourselves.  Really we do.  And unfortunately,  trying to please ourselves does not achieve the desired result.  We might experience some short-lived pleasure but after the buzz of self-indulgence wears off, the affliction that needed repair to begin with, remains. We continue to be insecure or jealous or overcommitted or enslaved to something.

Instead, what we need is to know that we are loved by someone OTHER than ourselves.  That's why Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus to KNOW the love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:19)  He wasn't praying for them to come to Christ - they were already following Him.  But he prayed that they - and we - would KNOW that love.  "Know" in the Biblical sense means to experience that love, to be intimately acquainted with that love, established.. 

Think about how different we will be if we KNOW the love of Christ. Joyful.  Confident.  Secure.  Free to love others without thought of gain.  Free to to fail without fear.  To know the love of Christ, that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:19.

That is my prayer for my children.  And for me.  Not to love ourselves (nor to hate ourselves) but to KNOW the love of Christ.  So we can be filled.  With all the fullness of God.

I have more to pen about what we do in our quest for love.  But that will come later.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sharing my Betsy's blog

Cat Care: I GOT AWARDED!!: Hey guys!! I got awarded by Samantha Trice @ , now I probably won't be doing a ton of awards, because I wan...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Confessions of a Juicebox

I am a juicebox.  This is not a manifestation of all the years of picnics with my children.  Nor an illustration of the squishiness of my abs. It's my life.  I think most women are juiceboxes.  We want to provide sips of encouragement, affirmation, merriment, counsel, hope to refresh those around us. 

Sometimes I can become depleted.   I can feel like there are 12 straws sticking in me, all sucking voraciously!  I get empty.  Or worse, filled with juice that tastes horrible when it comes through the straw.

I don't want to squirt nasty juice nor do I want to refuse those straws.  I find joy in dispensing a laugh or a hug or a splash of care to those lives that come my way.  Psalm 11:25b says "And he who waters will himself be watered."  Amen.  I have surely found this to be true.  Whenever I have given a sip of replenishment to another, my own soul has been refreshed.

The challenge is to keep my juicebox filled with sweet juice.  So that when it's squeezed, that's what comes out.  Connection to the Source of Living Water,  abiding in the One who turned water into wine, is what it takes.  Drinking continuously of the Water that He gives fills up the juicebox so that the juicebox not only can share sips with others but also so that the juicebox feels filled.  Joy.  Satisfaction.  Flowing through to others but also satiating my own thirst.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cookies and kitchen counters

Just finished wiping up the kitchen counters.  Betsy, my 10 year old, made chocolate chip cookies tonight.  One of her signature dishes, requested often by her sibs.  The kid really is a good cook - apple dumplings, chocolate sheet cake, chocolate chip cookies, from-scratch pancakes.  (Hmmmmmm, as I list her culinary repertoire, it occurs to me that they all belong to one food group. Not to worry- we have plenty of pharmacists in the fam to  keep us out of diabetic comas.  Cook on, Betsy, cook on!) 

Love the food but gotta work on cleanup detail.  I often find sticky remains of her expertise on the faucet, the fridge handles, the floor, not to mention the kitchen counters.  Often I call her back in to take care of her own messes but tonight I didn't.  After the cookie dough was complete, I was wiping around the counters and she reminded me that Daddy wants" to be sure we wipe off the faucet. " (Thanks, Love).  She said "Y'all always tell me to clean stuff up but you don't notice when I do."  Gulp.  Busted. How many times do I overlook the good things and instead pull out my referee whistle to call out what didn't get done?  Not just with Betsy, either.  Each of my kids could very likely recite numerous times I have focused on the sticky kitchen counters in their lives and overlooked the chocolate chip cookies.

It's not that I don't notice the good stuff.  Honestly, I think that I think I am helping.  Moving them from one achievement to the next.  But, as I squirt some cleaner on the counter, I ponder.  That's not how my Heavenly Father deals with me.  He says "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox." (Proverbs 14:4)  In other words, when you make chocolate chip cookies, the counters are gonna get sticky.  Literally and figuratively.  We are all works in process and we are gonna make a mess of things sometimes.  When we are busy getting transformed, there will be some messes to clean up.  But God doesn't focus on the dirty manger - He encourages us about the strength of the ox. 

And when He does point out that we need to clean that mess up, His words leave us hopeful.  Encouraged.  Not condemned.  Not feeling that our chocolate chip cookies are overshadowed by the sticky counters.  The difference is in the sweetness of His speech and the pleasantness of His Words.

My counters are clean now.  But I'm focusing on those cookies..............


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Language of Love

A number of years ago, a book about "love languages" became widely popular.  The book explained how people give love, as well as feel loved, differently.  Some folks express love to others with acts of service while some of us employ words of affirmation, gifts, spending quality time together, or meaningful touch to convey love.  Great read - I recommend you check it out.

As good as the book is, however,  it leaves out the primary love language of my family.  In my family of origin, my husband's family, and our own little brood, we speak "LOVE" with "F-O-O-D".  No doubt about it. You might prefer flowers or perfume but we give and receive love with something good to eat.   Often you hear mention of "comfort food"but this is way bigger than that!  I am talking about the ability to channel affection, affirmation, appreciation, ardor, or adulation with chocolate cookies!

Maybe it's a Southern thing but my family speaks "LOVE" with food. When a friend has a new baby, we take food. ( For the Mom and Dad - we figure they can feed the baby.)  When someone has a tough week, I bake my chocolate chip pie. If you move in to my neighborhood, you might get chicken and dumplings or a big pot of homemade chili. In December, a small group of cherished friends get my Chambers Christmas Jam and yeast rolls.  Birthdays at my house call for the celebrant's favs which might be oatmeal scones, cheese grits or homemade Cheerio bars for breakfast.  Reuben sandwiches (or Barberitos!) for lunch.  And dinner of steak or shrimp or corn spoon bread.  Candles have been stuck in ice cream sandwich cakes, coconut sheet cakes, or chocolate chip cookies. Even the crews that have been doing some work on my house lately have been treated to cinnamon rolls, caramel popcorn, and lots of cookies.   Whatever tastes like love.

Now I not only dispense love via food, I receive it, too.  When I go home (as in "where Mama and Daddy live"), my Mama makes fried chicken and creamed corn and sausage balls and fudge.  And "The Mix" - which is her own secret dish for her grandchildren.  When she comes to vist, she brings goodies that are specific to each person's individual palette.  Sure feels like love when she remembers that Mary likes ramen noodles, Chip wants sausage balls, Betsy craves PopTarts (cuz her own Mom won't buy them!) and Katie loves chocolate chip cookies dough. 

This language of love is such an integral part of my emotional DNA that I married a man whose family speaks (or tastes!) the same way.  My dear Mother-in-Love makes oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate cookies that I know will be served in Heaven.  In fact, my term for them is "righteousness" - the more you eat, the more you want!  And for my husband's birthday or when we gather at her house for holidays or just when she wants to love on us, we are treated to a great big batch of these goodies.  (I have been known to hide them from the rest of my family but that is probably an issue for another blog.  Or a counseling session.)

I don't see it as an expanding waistline - I just feel loved.  When a friend showed up with chicken tetrazzini the day I had some above average demands on me, I felt loved.  When my BFF brought dinner the day we brought my grandson home from the hospital, I felt loved. When some amazing and precious friends offered to make food for Katie's wedding reception, you can bet I felt loved.  One of 'em even DESIGNED the Groom's cake to reflect the drug-dealin' Bride and Groom!!!!  When my dear friend (and pastor's wife!) delivers a loaf of homemade bread to me, I feel loved.  When my 10 year old makes her chocolate sheet cake, we ALL feel loved! 

I want to hear from you all.  What makes YOU feel loved?  (And if it's food, feel free to share a recipe or two!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Where to write?

Do you have to be a Mom to write Living Letters?  Absolutely not!  The Apostle Paul began the idea of "Living Letters" in his letter to the Corinthians.  He was a prolific writer, leaving indelible ink on the hearts of Christ-followers all over Asia Minor some 2000 years ago.  And on the hearts of Christ-followers today. (2 Corinthians 3:2-5)

Same for you and me.  Certainly as a Mom, it is my primary focus to write into the lives of my children.  It is on those pages that I have the most opportunities.  I am intentional about what I am writing in the lives of Katie and Mary and Chip and Betsy.  I purpose to write messages of love and hope and joy.  Of how to treat others and how to handle adversity. Of Eternity and loving God and obeying His Word.  Of how to deny oneself, to prefer others, to strive for excellence. Some posts are intentional....others are not. From time to time, I change instruments.  Sometimes in pencil and sometimes in ink.  Some posts need erasing....others need white-out.  Those kinds of mistakes will merit their own separate blogpost sometime!

 But should I expect to only write into the lives of those under my own roof?  A resounding NO!  My heart longs to ink lines onto the hearts of lots of women, even an occasional man, if the situation merits it.  Now let the record show that I do not consider myself a spiritual Pulitzer Prize author.  Not even a Newberry Award winner!I don't have noteworthy things to say or mind-boggling truths to impart.  I just love people!  And I want to leave a little imprint of love on their hearts.  I want those folks that I come in contact with to feel just a little bit happier, a little bit more encouraged, a little bit more loved just because we connected.  I want my life not only to touch others but also to leave an imprint.  Most every morning, I ask the Lord to help me write well.  It is great joy to me when the Lord lets me see that imprint in another's life. 

One final thought.  Be sure that you know that I know this - the ink that lasts is His.  When the imprint of love remains, it is He who has done the writing.  He just allows me the privilege of being one of His quills. 

I challenge you to be a vessel of His ink.  Begin writing on purpose.  And, I'd really love to hear your story.  Tell me.