Friday Fun – Up to the Mountain

Isn't it lovely?

I’m leaving this afternoon to go to a special place with my kids and another family. When I was 14 and 15, I spent my summers “working” at a camp for underprivileged children. We were supposed to be leading these children to God but I spent a lot of time flirting with boys and getting in trouble. This weekend I will definitely not be flirting (my husband won’t be there to flirt with) and hopefully I won’t be getting into trouble.

I hope I will be soaking in the last of the leaves in a way that restores my soul. Christians have moved away from worshiping in nature, as if nature belongs to the New Age. This keeps us from the place that God can show us Himself in intricate detail or in majestic grandeur. I’m up for both.

kit kat smores. now we're talkin'

We have heat, a kitchen and bathrooms, so we are not roughing it. One of my goals is to teach my homeschooled kids how to play kickball. I know, I know…parenting fail, but I’m working on it. I might not even write anything while I’m there. I will just see where the time, and my kids, take me. Many forces have come against me, trying to prevent this trip. I have a strong sense that we need this time so I have persisted. God has a plan and He will be there with us. What s’more, um …more could we ask for?

I think of this song often and more often as I get ready to go. This is one of my all-time favorites and if you are my Facebook friend, you have no doubt seen it before. The words, by Patty Griffin and the raw vocal by Kelly Clarkson, get me every time. Add the guitar lead by Jeff Beck and it is a performance that can’t be remade or captured again. Thanks to youtube, I can share it with you. Have a great weekend!

Advice for Writing and for Living

Now that I am trying to write more often, I have read more about rules for better writing. One little list I found was so helpful, I made it into a little sticky note on my laptop screen. I have looked at it everyday for a while now and I’ve started to notice it has good advice for writing and for living.

  • Omit needless words –  I could probably write a whole post about this bit of advice. Maybe I should wait until I get some mastery over it. I am a nervous talker and a dead-air filler. Most of my words are needless. If  I could only get good at sorting the needed ones from the needless ones.
  • Use active voice –  Being passive in this life is at the root of more problems than we realize. The difference between active and passive is found in the person who says, “I messed up” rather than, “It got messed up.” It’s about taking responsibility, taking action, or taking control of a situation.
  • Be concrete and specific – Being vague is safe and tempting. Not having a preference seems like being nice. Wishy-washy is one of the worst ways to go through life. If you don’t know what you think, find out. How was that for being concrete and specific?
  • Be yourself – In writing and life, it is important to find your voice. So many of us grew up where we were not allowed to have or use ours. Getting it back is a part of growing up. I have been going through this process. It is a delicate balance between speaking up and remembering to omit those needless words.
  • Let the readers do their part – Good writers don’t fill in the blanks every time. I could tell you something incredible such as: Kids in the 1950’s played with chemistry sets that contained little bits or uranium and radium to set off their toy Geiger counters. There is no need for me to go on to say how dangerous, stupid, or crazy that was. You know that on your own. I don’t need to control or manipulate your reaction to what I write on the page or do in my life. I should just write what I write, or do what I do, and let the chips fall.
  • Get the perspective of others – This one practically writes itself, so I will follow the advice above and let you think about the dual nature of that advice.
  • Focus your work around a key question – This advice makes all the other points possible. How do you let the chips fall with trying to control everything? How do you find your voice and be yourself? All the previous points rely on your ability to focus on your message. For me, that message should be the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the same message the God of the universe wants the world to receive. When you are doing your work for the glory of God, all the other lessons can come into place. He can control the outcome when we can’t. He can help you find the voice He gave you before the foundations of the world! He can even help you sort out the needless words from the needed ones. He is the main idea , the thesis, the message.

1 Cor 10:13 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, (or write) or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.

Having it All: a repost

the baby's face says it all

I have been informed by my husband that I have no time to blog right now. I would put up a fuss if he wasn’t right. People here have not stopped needing to eat, bathe, or wear clothes. Some of them want these clothes to be washed first. They feel the same way about their dishes. Because of my new addiction to Pinterest, these chores are backing up. This site shows me a thousand things I want to try, and one hundred recipes I would love to make. It feels overwhelming to see all the things that others accomplish while I’m just clicking through pictures of what they have accomplished.

When I start to feel that I need to do everything, right now and perfectly, it does me good to re-read the post I wrote about my mom. She had more to do and tougher circumstances. So for any of you who feel overwhelmed by your load of work and wonder if what you dream of doing will ever find a place in your life, read the link to an old post of mine that cheers me and gives me perspective. It is not a quit-your-whining-your life-is easy kind of speech. It is an overview of a life that helps me remember the big picture and take the long view. I hope it helps you too.

Soothing our Fears with Blame

A young man of 17 died a few days ago at our local State Park. He crossed a barrier he shouldn’t have and ended up being swept down the falls. This is a heartbreak for his family and for the church group he was with. I can not imagine what his family and his church are going through right now.

 My family goes to this park frequently and my daughter was just there with our youth group. These common factors are scary to me and they are usually soothed in a terrible but common way. I quickly tell myself, “I am not them, my daughter is not this boy. She would never do what he did. We would never take our eyes off her.” These are the things make me feel safe again and that is just plain wrong. Very wrong.
I have seen others resort to this coping mechanism in the comments on news stories when children are hurt. People are quick to fuss and judge and be outraged at the adults involved. This is not only because there are evil, heartless people in this world. It is because we are soothed from our initial fears by analyzing and criticizing. This is an attempt to remove ourselves from the group of people that tragedy can happen to. Since the beginning of time, blame has made us feel better.
Of course it is only God’s sovereignty that separates the victims from the blamers. Most of us would not dare rage against Him so we rage elsewhere, hurting people who are in need of our support. We can not even say, “But for the grace of God…” because so many of those who have suffered this kind of loss will tell you, God’s grace is still somehow, beyond reason, at work.

Who sinned?

While discussing this, my younger, but often wiser sister reminded me of the disciples doing this. In  John 9:2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They too wanted to believe that something or someone was to blame for this tragedy. Jesus responds to them that the man was born blind so that God may be glorified. Then the healing of the blind man takes place.

I don’t understand why some people get divine intervention that stops tragedy and some don’t. I have been the grateful receiver of many interventions that have saved those I love from harm. This is one of life’s great questions and it most definitely will not be solved by me. I do hope, however, that I will be able to stop trying to assign blame or separate myself from these hurting people and start praying for their healing and God’s will.

There is a delicate balance between being a responsible parent and letting your child go into God’s care. The more tragic stories you know, the harder it can be to relax in His care. Since we know better than to take credit for the blessing of safe and healthy children, let’s be sure  to withhold blame from mere humans when they are trying , like all of us, to be stewards of His child.

Your Growing,Thriving Women’s Ministry

I have always been intrigued by the idea of women’s ministry. What a privilege it would be to hear from God and speak into the lives of women everywhere. I would love to speak that one sentence or write that one paragraph that helps the lightbulb glow for a woman I have never met. To do what Beth Moore or Larry Crabb or Henry Cloud have done for me would be the greatest work in my imagination.
I am often reminded, by helpful articles, books or friends, that my family is my great ministry now and I absolutely agree. Even though I believe it, it has always felt like some sort of consolation job til the dream job comes along. Right now I’m paying my dues in the grunt work of life. Until I typed it, I didn’t realize how awful that sounds, how awful it is to think that way.
So to remind myself, and you too if you feel like you are just biding your time, here are some of the many ways I was honored to serve God in my life for the past few weeks.

Beth Moore getting into it, as always

My family worked together to help a man who fell in the road beside our house. We are one of the few families that are at home during the day. This made it possible for us to help this older gentleman by calling an ambulance and staying with him. The sad thing is, we found he lived only three doors down and we had never met him or his wife. We know them now.

I talked to a mom about homeschooling. She was ready to give up. I have seen this time and time again; moms new to homeschooling who feel so inadequate to do the job God designed them for. She really wants to home school . All she needed is to believe she could. Any of you homeschooling moms out there have this pep talk to give. Don’t hesitate to give it.

I talked to my daughter about anger and forgiveness. God has been showing me so much on this subject through my small group. I’m so thankful I had the words to give when she needed to hear them. 

 I have been able to spend time with my very busy 17-year-old who is about to graduate. She hurt her knee while hiking so we have been to doctor’s appointments  and I have helped her at her job. I got to see how hard she works.

By now you get the idea. To be clear, I am not bragging on how busy and important my life is. Quite the opposite. My life is laid-back and very quiet. Still all these encounters come my way. Add to the above: advising my husband on heart matters, teaching Kindergarten Sunday School, being called on to help a little girl who was showing signs of a problem, teaching my ten-year-old about the formal apology, talking a really mad friend down off an angry ledge, talking through a big misunderstanding with another friend, consulting a newly pregnant young woman on the importance of protein during morning sickness, discussing career plans with my 17-year-old, and talking with my 6-year-old about lying, again.

Women do these things and more every day. We all have a growing, thriving women’s ministry. As women we routinely do things that have eternal impact on the lives of others. God has been calling my attention to each interaction for the past few weeks because He knows I was discouraged. Now I want you to think of your list of tasks you have been blessed to do for the Almighty God and be encouraged as well. Be an encouragement to others and share your lists in the comments section below.

Like I was Saying….

I have just passed the 21 year mark of parenting.  It took most of those years for me to start appreciating the irony of some of the things I say to my kids – things God is always having to say to me, over and over again. Continue reading