Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Year

I've been missing-in-(way too much) action these last weeks as you may have noticed.  If you haven't noticed, please don't tell me!  We have had family here and there, friends coming and going, the last vestiges of the Advent season to mark, and of course the great celebration of the birth of our Lord.  It's been a full time.  There has been much to be grateful for, some things to grieve over, and some great excitement for me as I look to the New Year.  It is true that His mercies are new every morning and every new day is a fresh start, but there is something special about a clean new year.  Some of you may understand my love of an unused notebook to write in, a brand new pencil to sharpen, projects to start, a planner to fill.  I love new beginnings!

My husband preached a sermon on Sunday about how meeting Jesus in the Christmas season should motivate our desire to change.  We cannot be the same after the Christ child has come into the world and we have seen Him.  We have a whole new beginning and there is much to do!  I wish I could say that I've spent a lot of time praying about these "resolutions," but for now I will write them down and pray that God would bless the ones that He, too, would see me accomplish.  And so, with God's help I resolve this year to:
1) Reach 1000 blessings in my thanksgiving list,
2) Finish a quilt,
3) Have one ladies tea a month to encourage and teach the women of my congregration.

I would love your prayers as I seek to fulfill these resolutions.  Pray that God would be glorified through them all and that I would see Him at work in my life, too.

Oh, and here are Monday's thanksgivings!
122.  Christmas!
123.  My parents buying groceries while they are visiting
124.  Listening to my brother playing his guitar
125.  God taking those babies that mothers have chosen not to let live
126.  Nicholas
127.  Ian playing with his Grandma Kate

128.  A new camera
129.  A new sweater
130.  Christmas goose, mmmm....
131.  Laughing until I cry
132.  Playing cards with family (see #131)
133.  Beautiful Christmas Eve service
134.  My husband's grace in accepting so few people at the Christmas Day service
135.  A visit from dear friends
136.  Their sweet little girl
137.  A delicious salad (prepared by my mother)
138.  My mother preparing #137 so that Rob and I could visit with our friends

May God go with you into this new year.  May He give you a fresh start, a fresh outlook on his plan for you, and a fresh urging to take the light of the Christ child to all the world.  For we can never be the same again.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Odd Thanks

My thanksgivings are odd this week.  Even to me.  It has been an incredibly full week and when that happens, invariably, some parts are less pleasant than others.  This week that has included sick children, a funeral for a long time member of our congregation, panicked cleaning before parties, along with a host of regular frustrations and challenges. (Read: Ian won't nap.)  My great praise in all this, however, is that many of these frustrations have actually shown up on my thanksgiving list!  I have been encouraged to praise no matter when and it seems to be working.  So, while some of these may seem strange to you, my first praise is:

99.  God is still doing the work of sanctification (growing me up!) in my life
100.  Seam rippers (multiple sewing mistakes)
101.  My generally healthy children
102.  Only three of the four kids got sick
103.  Someone else's very sick child reminding me to cherish my own
104.  Delicious bean soup given by a new friend
105.  Story hour at the library
106.  Sewing my first dress since I was a child (see #100)
107.  David announcing during a song, "You just got to got to dance to this!"
108.  My young adult group as we studied...
109.  Mary, Jesus' mother
110.  Snowshoeing in 10 degrees Fahrenheit
111.  Hot drinks
112.  Someone cleaning the house before our parties
113.  A clean house!
114.  Ian's poopy diapers (Don't ask me to explain this one.  It was a random joy moment.)
115.  The Holy Spirit working in people
116.  Church Christmas play
117.  My sewing machine
118.  Seeing my first dead body
119.  The girls wrapping their own Christmas gifts this year
120.  Truffles from one of my young adults.  So tasty!!
121.  The kids so excited during our Jesse tree devotions today because Jesus is coming soon!!!!

Thanks for sharing these blessings with me today.  Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pop Quiz

"So," my husband asks, "where do you find Hanukkah in the Bible?"  We're in a warm inviting kitchen, sharing latkes with a few new friends, including one from Israel.  No one answers, everyone thinking.  All of us there know the story, of course, but is it even in the Bible?  A few hesitant guesses and finally he says, "John."  There is a moment of confusion.  John?  As in, the New Testament John?  It's true!  In John 10:22 we find Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication, the translation of Hanukkah.  How strange for some people to find Jesus in Hanukkah!

Not so strange for my husband who grew up knowing he is Jewish and that Jesus is his Jewish messiah.  Nor for me who was raised knowing that my Christian faith is both founded on and informed by the Jewish traditions that Jesus would have celebrated.  And so my children grow knowing that they are both Jewish and followers of Jesus.  They celebrate Easter and Passover, Lent and Shavuot, Purim, Advent, Christmas and Hanukkah.  What a blessing to find Jesus in so many places!  

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Continued Thanksgiving

It's been a busy, busy week.  Four parties and a play.  Christmas shopping and tree decorating.  A sick child.  And all the regular stuff, too.  I'm grateful for my regular times of thanksgiving and prayer to keep things centered.

89.  Holy Spirit reminders of what I need to do
90.  Husband's hand not broken, only sprained
91.  The internet working even in the snow
92.  Snow play timing (the snow plow arrived just AFTER we had a brilliant time in the parking lot)
93.  Just enough flour
94.  Emma asking for Uncle Daniel for Christmas
95.  Hanukkah celebrations with new friends
96.  My finger not needing stitches, only a bandaid (hmm...seems familiar)
97.  A sweet time with my husband and my little lady Emma at the high school play
98.  Katie taking care of her sick sister

Almost one hundred blessings to give thanks for!  Praise the Lord!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Preparing for Christmas

We have several traditions in our family preparing for Christmas.  Last week I shared our Advent package tradition.  We also gather as a family every night (yes, even when my sweet husband is in the Urgent Care clinic) to do devotions.  We use a devotional that my family has used since 1982.  I particularly enjoy it because of all the memories associated with it.  Memories of frantic (in this time of intentional stillness) lighting of the candles as we get closer to Christmas.  (Can you light all four candles while saying these phrases without burning your fingers?)  It's hard to sing "O Come, O Come Immanuel" anymore without giggling as I remember my mother making faces at my father's seriousness.  How to keep it together when everyone starts on a different note?  (That was my family then, too!)  What a blessing it is to light those candles - Peace, Hope, Joy, Love - and say the words that I've spoken, almost since I could speak.  I'd like to share those phrases with you so you, too, can meditate on them as you light your candles this Advent.  I pray that your family would have memories of their own to cherish as these traditions are passed on.

"This candle represents 'peace.'  As the shepherds of old, we wait in expectation for the fulfillment of God's promise of peace on earth."

"This candle represents 'hope.'  As long ago people hoped for a Saviour, so we wait in hope for his return in glory."

"This candle represents 'joy.'  Because of Christ we can truly say, 'Joy to the world, the Lord is come!'"

"This candle represents 'love.'  For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, that whosever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Happy Advent!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

That Time of the Month

My husband told me early on in our marriage that he would not let me get away with saying anything to the effect of, "Don't worry about it, it's just that time of the month."  It's true, he would say, that hormones seem to exacerbate things in our lives, but they are never the only cause of them.  So, as I look at my thanksgiving list this afternoon and it seems shriveled, my first thought is that I haven't been as grateful this week because I think it's "just that time."  But he's right.  If I haven't been particularly noticing God's blessings this week then I need to know what the real cause of it is.  I've obviously allowed myself to get distracted from His good gifts.  After some thought, I don't know why.  I guess that's okay, too, not to know.  It's time to get back on track.  To look out for his thousands of blessings, beginning with:

78.  Good books.  This one may repeat regularly!
79.  A friend's joy
80.  Snow!!!
81.  Frost designs
82.  Faithful parents
83.  Chicken coop is finished (not in this picture)
84.  Doorknobs on most of our doors
85.  A beautiful Lessons and Carols service at the local Episcopal church
86.  Moses
87.  God's work in the Passover story
88.  Christmas lights

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Christmas Tradition

Memory is a funny thing.  As my husband and I discussed one of my family's holiday traditions, he expressed uncertainty about the amount of work we were putting in to it.  Growing up, my mother had put together Advent packages for several families we knew.  She would wrap one small present for each day of Advent, label it with a number, and then put a corresponding clue from Scripture on a separate sheet of paper.  A verse about God creating the birds of the air and the fish of the sea from Genesis might be the clue for a package of Goldfish crackers.  With twenty-some days in Advent and multiple families (she did 15 this year!), this project could quickly become both time- and money-intensive.  But she did it almost every year for as long as I can remember.  And I remember why.  This might be the only time that a family gathered around the Bible together all year.  What an opportunity to share these words of life with those who had never heard!  The Gospel light shining in this Advent season!

With that explanation, any doubts my husband had were gone.  We looked forward to gifting our friends, both with the little wrapped packages and with an opportunity to read this book we hold so dearly.  Packages wrapped, a party held, our friends grateful for their gifts, and two days later talking to my mother on the phone:

Me:  Mom, thanks again for this wonderful tradition.  I hope that our friends will enjoy opening the presents and that the Scriptures will encourage them.  Most of them don't read the Bible or go to church usually.

Mom:  What?  We never gave Advent packages to people outside the church.  We made them to encourage our church friends during the Advent season so that they would feel equipped to share with others.

Me:  Funny, I don't remember it that way at all.

True purpose aside, obviously my family's tradition encouraged me to share this Book and this season with those who might not otherwise not meet with them.  May you, too, be encouraged in this season of coming to gather together around the Word as we prepare for His adventus, His coming.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Post

So, in this week set aside for Thanksgiving, there was so much to be thankful for!  As Katie said, "Thank you, Lord, for thanksgiving!" 

Perhaps my greatest thanks was that I kept forgetting to write down my blessings.  A strange thing to be thankful for, certainly.  I realized that giving thanks all day has become so natural that I'm forgetting to write it down.  I am grateful for this spiritual discipline which is becoming habit in my life.  I still want to make these altars to God's goodness (and so I am grateful for my husband who gently reminds me to write down what I voice out loud) for myself for the future and to encourage others along the way. 

60.  Christmas cards that turned out perfectly and were cheap! (Sam's Club: 30 cards w/envelopes for $10)
61.  A romantic night with Rob
62.  No TV for two weeks!
63.  Eggs dropped off anonymously in our kitchen
64.  New glasses for Rob and I
65.  Artichokes for $1 a piece!  Yummy!
66-69.  Three perfect Thanksgiving pies and a perfect Thanksgiving turkey
70.  Safe arrival of Dad and Ben Rose
71.  Movie date with Rob (We highly recommend the 3D IMAX A Christmas Carol.)
72.  Fresh (as in 5 minutes old) eggnog from the local creamery
73.  Creamery ice cream
74.  The Holy Spirit prompting me to remember Ian's doctor's appointment!
75.  Ian is healthy
76.  The Word of God going out in Advent packages
77.  Waking up to breakfast in bed this morning, prepared by my six and four year olds

May your week be full of blessings, too!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Busy Times

Family visits always throw everything into chaos.  I have barely had time to write today and as it is, it will be a short blog.  It has been a blessing to continue those disciplines that I've been working on during the last few weeks.  Praying on the hour, tithing baked goods, practicing gratitude, brushing teeth.  All these keep me centered on God's goodness and solidness during these busy times.

I pray that your set aside time of Thanksgiving tomorrow is a blessing to all who gather in your home.

"Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King.  His love endures forever."

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Monday, November 23, 2009

I Did Not Come for Only You

My list of thanks is long this week, a praise in and of itself! But this morning I need to start with a thanksgiving for a difficult relationship. I have had a love/hate relationship with this woman all my life. There are times when she is encouraging, uplifting, challenging, spurring me on to be my best. But she brings out the worst in me, too. She is petty and arrogant and self-centered. She claims to follow the Lord Jesus, but often just wants the world to pay attention to her. I would leave her even though she's family. What brings me back every time is the Lord's own love for her. She is, in fact, his bride. He gave his very life for her and I know that I, too, if I love Him, must love her. I want to love her. Pray for me this week, would you? As a pastor's wife, all too often I see that ugly underbelly of the beautiful bride. Pray that I would see God's church as He sees her, a pure and spotless bride. Pray for her that she (and we) would be all that God created us for.

Giving thanks for:

43. Homemade Chinese food
44. An hour of reading with the kids
45. Early morning frost
46. A hard conversation with a friend
47. Rob's leadership at Session
48. At home banking
49. Dental care insurance
50. No cavities for three out of five of us!
51. Hot showers
52. Wrassling with the kids - twice!
53. Intricate frost designs
54. Ian falling asleep on me
55. Building the chicken coop
56. David whispers, "I love you in the whole wide world."
57. Mom Rose coming
58. The little part of me that won't turn from God even when I want to
59. No glasses needed for Katie

God is so good.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Spiritual Discipline of Toothbrushing?

We've just returned from a morning-long trip to the dentist.  I am trying so hard to just give thanks for having dental insurance, a good dentist, and three out of five of us with no cavities.  But...

But it's only three out of five.  My entire life I have struggled with poor dental hygiene.  It is certainly a sin-area for me.  I dread going to the dentist because I know that I'm going to be scolded for the condition of my teeth and gums.  For several years I just refused to go.  No one likes to see the fruit of their sin scraped onto a sterile pad.  But then my sweet children came along with their perfect start-from-scratch teeth and I knew that for their sakes it was time to clean up my act.  Or at least my teeth.  Last year I spent more time and money at the dentist's office than I even want to admit to, but I felt like I had made a life change.  Brushing my teeth as worship unto the Lord!

Today, at the office, I knew that I had slipped in the past month.  I dreaded going.  I feared the worst.  As it turned out, I didn't even know what the worst could be.  My teeth are fine.  No cavities.  (Insert a weak, I-don't-deserve-it "Praise the Lord.")  But two of my precious little ones have cavities in those perfect, fresh start teeth.  And I know that it's my fault.  Because while I have worked at my own hygiene, I haven't been faithful with theirs.  Too often, I let them go to bed without brushing or with a passing swipe at those precious pearls.  Too often, I give in to the cry of "I can do it myself," and don't insist on taking a closer look.  And now my babies have to endure what is perhaps my own greatest fear: dental work.  And it's all my fault.

I have spent the last few minutes searching in vain for the verse which talks about the sins of the parents being visited on their children.  I'm sure it's in there.  But the only verses I can find speak only of grace.  "The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son." (Ezek. 18:20)  I am sick to think of the consequences that my children now face, but I give thanks today that they are not being punished for my lack of discipline. 

My sweet husband has encouraged me that we will now do what needs to be done.  Like every new day, we will begin again to do (as my wise aunt puts it) "the next right thing."  May God give us grace and strength to do so, and may you all be encouraged today to accept it when it is given.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Honeymoon's Over

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I think that the honeymoon is over.  The last few weeks of keeping track of the many blessings in my life has been exciting, even easy.  I've given thanks at the beginning of each hour as my watch beeps and it's been easy.  Maybe too easy.  Yesterday, my watch beeped and I thought, "Not right now."  (Gasp!)  I went several days without writing down something to be thankful for.  (The horror!)  This happens with many things in my life.  I'm filled with early enthusiasm and then life happens.  It's hard to be thankful when all four of your children have fevers on Sunday morning.  It's hard to finish crochet projects when cats and children undo half of the finished stitches.  It's sometimes hard to be married after the honeymoon and life happens.

This, then, is when the hard work of the soul happens.  This is when the discipline begins.  And when the most growth happens.  When life happens.

Today I am grateful for
31.  Our local WIC office
32.  Other women in my life encouraging me
33.  My husband still so in love with me after eight years of marriage and four kids
34.  An indescribable sunset that prompted my six-year-old to exclaim, "No person could have made that!"
35.  The service of the men and women in our military (including my grandfathers, father, and husband)
36.  An understanding waitress (four small, hungry children in a noisy restaurant on a holiday night!)
37.  The powerful simplicity of the Gospel message presented to an arena full of youth
38.  Witnessing some of those young men and women respond to that message for the first time
39.  Rainy days with good books
40.  My four beautiful children sleeping peacefully
41.  The picture of bounty that is leftover turkey simmering to make stock
42.  Fevers down and children growing healthy again

For these and many more, I give thanks!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Memorizing Scripture

      I wish I could say that I've been really on top of memorizing Scriptures that are particularly meaningful to me this week, but I've been mostly relying on what my children are memorizing.  Ironically, their verse is instructive to me in this area:  "But these words are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in Him."  I do want that "life in Him."  Guess I should work on knowing and believing the words.

      I also wanted to write this week about our particular Wednesday discipline.  I've mentioned before that Wednesday is Baking Day here.  We've been talking to the girls about the concept of giving our first fruits to God and in that spirit we've been "tithing" on what we bake.  The girls figure out what a tenth (or so) of our batch of cookies or bread is and then they choose the best (hard to do when you know you're giving it away) and decide who needs some extra love this week.  So far they've chosen people from church and neighbours to share with.  It's teaching all of us to hold loosely what we have, to be grateful for what we keep, and to think of others.  It's an excellent practice, one I hope to continue into our summer garden. 
     Thank you, Lord, for your great bounty!

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Monday, November 9, 2009

"Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone."  Genesis 35:3

I pray that this will be an altar and a testimony to what God has done in my life.

Thank you, Lord, today, for:
21.  Children cleaning rooms with good attitudes.
22.  Rob home safely from drill weekend.
23.  Coming home after a long day out.
24.  Rob taking Ian for an errand so I can have a moment alone.
25.  Dr. Dan willing to see us on short notice and taking such good care of our family.
26.  Alone time with Emma.  So sweet.
27.  Money for groceries.
28.  Young adults in our home on Sundays.
29.  Big sisters with their little brothers.
30.  Random gifts.

I pray that your week has been filled with blessings and that you've been able to take some time to set up altars of remembrance for them.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Discipline Interrupted

I'm almost too full to write today.  It's one of those "curl up and hide in bed" days which are so opposed to discipline.  I've been pretty faithful to pray on the hour and do those things that I know I need to do to stay spiritually healthy, but today was hard.  Ian is teething and fussy.  David won't stay down for his nap.  Rob needed the computer when I wanted to post this and even now the girls are pouring flour and baking soda all over the counter in their attempt to bake by themselves.

Even so, we are doing Baking Day, something I'm realizing is a discipline for me.  It requires me to slow down, have the cooking space cleared and spend some time with my lovely girls.  I almost didn't do it today.  Putting them down for a nap would have been so much easier, and at six and four years old, they wouldn't even have remembered.  But I would have.  And I would have missed that time.

I even found myself at one point praying that my hourly watch chime would sound soon.  Silly, I know, and I quickly realized that I didn't have to wait for the top of the hour.  Giving thanks that He hears me all the time in any place, I stopped to pray.  Rob has taken Ian to get butter (amazingly, we're out) and I give thanks again for my sweet and sensitive husband.

My few disciplines that I cultivate haven't come easily today, but I'm giving thanks for grace and struggling on.  Thanks for your prayers today especially and I am praying that you my find grace and strength to carry on.
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, Monday...

So, I have my list in front of me, the list I've been keeping all week to remember what I'm thankful for.  And I can't, for the life of me, decide how to start this post.  I'm not feeling very thankful right at this moment.  I guess this is why it's a spiritual discipline.  You do this whether you feel like it or not.  Kind of like love.  That actually leads me to the first thing that I'm thankful for:

11.  My husband's willingness to work on our marriage, even when he doesn't think that anything's the matter.
12.  Fresh-baked goods, particularly the pumpkin scones my daughters made.

13.  The baby saying, "Mama" for the first time.
 14.  Ian feeding himself.
15.  Emma's incredible abilities at gymnastics.
16.  David's bully leaving gymnastics class.  (Thank you, Lord, for that answer to prayer.)
17.  Fresh milk from the creamery.
18.  Story time at our library and the sweet friends we're making there.
19.  Ian making us laugh.  On purpose.
20.  Baking Day with my girls.

21.  Shoes on my children's feet.

22.  Learning a new language.
23.  And finally, a moment alone. 

I find that I have many things to be grateful for, not the least of which is my ability to be grateful.  Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Walk With Him Wednesdays

So, this is another idea from Ann Voskamp that I'm hoping to use. I realized this morning as I tried to think of those spiritual disciplines that I cultivate in my life that there just aren't that many. I wonder why my spiritual life seems dry, but the fact is that I'm not watering it very much. It's not that there is nothing that I do to deepen my relationship with God. It just seems to be that I do as little as possible. I'm like Katie trying to do just enough to not get into trouble. But we've both missed the spirit and the intention of family, of relationship.
I'm hoping that by beginning this intentional gratitude exercise my heart will begin to be tuned in the direction of focusing on the God who so wants to be a part of my life. More than that, to be my life. I'm excited to post next Monday's thanksgiving list already, so I can't wait to see what will happen even further down the road. Pray for me, and for yourself, that God would begin to stir our hearts to be close or closer to Him.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

A Fresh Leaf

About every two weeks I determine to turn over a new leaf. There is always something in my life that I've decided is time to bring back under control. Usually, my control. I have been encouraged lately to stop trying to be in control. Last night, as I shared with the three delightful young women who meet with me to study God's Word, I asked them to find things to be thankful for in an effort to keep our hearts from the insidiousness of discontent. Today on Ann Voskamp's blog I discovered the Gratitude Community and the idea of looking for one thousand blessings. I want to join this community, and to start with, this blog will be a record of the many blessings in my life.

I would love to hear from anyone about how God is blessing them, also, but mainly this is a record - an altar, if you will - for myself. A place to lay down control of my life. And be thankful.

1. Emma's curls
2. Peaceful piano music
3. Good books
4. My husband's hard work
5. Ian's smiles
6. Dance parties in the kitchen
7. Our more-than-enough home
8. Neighbours who send (or leave on our table) goodies, just because
9. Chances to start over
10. A touch of the melancholy that spurs me to action


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One Thousand Gifts

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