Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Devotions 3/31

Fine Art Print of Sunday in the Backwoods by Thomas Faed
Sunday in the Backwoods
Thomas Faed

My Saturday devotions: Colossians 3

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 

Let us not get too busy for family and personal devotions this weekend. They help focus our hearts, our minds, on all things Christ. Let us not forget what we were saved for. We receive vertical love and grace from our Father, and we are then called to distribute that love horizontally, to those around us. Let us not forget the poor and needy, who need us to represent their causes. Can we write a letter to our sponsored children this weekend, and send them a colored picture for their walls? Can we bring food to a local food pantry? Can we go through the kids' piggy banks and help them count out 10% to give to the church? Can we get our own tithe written ahead of time, ready to give in church tomorrow? Can we get our prayer journals/jars/records in order, ready to work for us? 

What can we do to pursue your kingdom and your righteousness this weekend, Father?

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 

Let us pray, "Lord, search my heart. What impurity is in me, what greed or evil desire? Help me identify it and put it to death Lord, through your strength."

7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 

"Search my heart, Lord. Am I angry with someone, or with you? Have I spoken ill of someone? Have I used language that is displeasing to you? Help me, Lord. Cleanse me." 

9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

"Have I been dishonest, Lord? With you, with myself, with my friends or loved ones? Create in me a clean heart, help me to see myself as I really am."

 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

"Have I made time to properly love those around me, Lord? Have I taken the time to show compassion, kindness, gentleness? Have I been humble in heart? Help me choose and do what is pleasing to you, Lord."

 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

"Have I had a thankful heart this week, Father? Show me my ingratitude. Help me repent and start anew, counting my blessings. Help me to remember your faithfulness, and give you all the praise and glory." 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Right Living is Now Living

Fine Art Print of Widowed and Fatherless, 1888 by Thomas Benjamin Kennington

Widowed and Fatherless, 1888
Thomas Benjamin Kennington

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Peter, Paul, and Mary, they ride bikes, play basketball, enjoy the sunshine, cold though it is. I pick Beth up and place her on her bike, hoping it will loosen up her legs. It's noon and she hasn't stood or walked yet. 

A flare they call it. We're ten days into one and today is the worst day. Did seasonal allergies trigger it, I wonder? Tree pollen is out and her allergy shiners are back. 

They don't really know why flares occur.

She turns the wheels of the bike with effort. Halfway down the driveway, she stops and rests. Then, making it back to the house, she gets off the bike and crawls to a chair. She asks for Goldish and eats them while she watches her siblings play. I'm grateful she asked for food, but inside I'm hurting at the reality before me. 

Sometimes, she's an invalid.

Despair washes over me as I watch her watching them. What am I supposed to do with this, God?

One sentence enters my mind:  This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

What does that really mean? Why did it come to me just now?

Regardless of what today is, it is still His day. He created and ordered this day. It's not mine. It's not Beth's. We can hope for what we want, pray for it even, but the Author is in control. 

But this truth remains: Everything God gives is a gift, albeit sometimes disguised.

She's sleeping now. She wakes up needy, crying, every time now. It's been that way for months, apparently because the inactivity of sleep causes the joint pain to worsen. Yet I can't pull her nap; she needs it more than ever. 

My conclusions today, maybe they can help you. 

We aren't promised tomorrow. We aren't promised happiness. We aren't promised that our children will be healthy, that they'll outlive us, that our spouses will survive their next day at work.

There's so much we take for granted, until something really sad happens. 

It's in the sadness, and in the trying to crawl out of it, that we really learn how to live

The two verses that came to me today, they teach us right living.

God's will for us in Christ Jesus is to give thanks in all things. If your husband has an accident and can no longer work, give thanks. If your child is sometimes an invalid, give thanks. If your best friend gets breast cancer, give thanks.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Rejoice and be glad? How? 

We do this by living in the moment.

Right now I can rejoice that Beth fits perfectly in my lap. I can rejoice that when she sleeps, her beautiful face, with long eyelashes resting on perfect skin, it's a joy to behold. The peaceful rhythm of her breathing, it fills me with gratitude for my daughters, given to me, an old girl, at ages 40 and 42. 

In this moment, right now, there is blessing. I challenge you to prove this false. 

Friend, it is truth. You will always be able to find something about this moment, that is beautiful. Call it grace. The grace of the moment.

The wrong way to live is to wish for a different story. To worry about tomorrow. To wonder how you'll get through. To wonder why others have it easier. 

Right living is now living. Thanks-living.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blessings on Thursday 3/29

It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. 

Charles Spurgeon

Fine Art Print of The end of a happy day by Thomas Faed
The end of a happy day
by Thomas Faed
~ Temps under 30 haven't affected the few tulips in bloom. More will bloom in the next couple of days, with more low temps on the way. We'll be praying!

~ Peter falling in love with historical fiction

~ Sarah, Plain and Tall, a short, easy, but moving Newbery Medal read by Patricia MacLachlan, intrigued both my boys this year. I doubted they would enjoy it, but I pulled it off the shelf anyway, sensing they were fans of 19th century historical literature. We also happened to have one of the sequels, More Perfect Than The Moon. What a hit! I decided to order the other sequels, which should arrive any day now. We love new reads!

1 Sarah, Plain and Tall
2 Skylark
3 Caleb's Story
4 More Perfect than the Moon
5 Grandfather's Dance

~ A certain little three-year-old cozy in my lap, making my heart sing.

~  Waking up a 3 AM and deciding to sweep, mop, put away puzzles, and fold clothes, rather than fight insomnia. Great way to sneak in chores so the day goes smoother. But I don't recommend you doing it. Roll over and go back to're not 46 yet. 

~ Peter having a better week.

~ I enjoy talking with Beth's physical therapist every Wednesday, during Beth's fifty-minute session. She is European, maybe German, but I can easily understand her even with her accent. We don't actually talk the whole time, since we're both working with Beth, but we manage to visit a little each session. She is very nice, sweet, and gentle. She wanted a girl badly but she has two boys, 8 and 14 years old. Miss Beth charms, with her face always full of expression, and her spontaneous giggles and songs. It does Bea, the therapist, good to be with a little girl. 

She knows we go to church, but that's all I've said thus far. I sense the relationship will slowly develop into one of mutual trust and respect, and maybe then God will put life-giving words in my mouth? Talking about Jesus to a person with whom we have real relationship, is very effective evangelism, particularly for adults. Most people who know the Lord come to faith before 18 years old. The odds aren't great for coming to faith after that, which is why building relationship is so important.. I'm living proof, having been saved at age 31 because of a relationship a fellow first-grade teacher built with me. The topic, the need, will come up eventually, for God puts Christian and non-Christian together for a purpose. It was no accident that my daughter developed arthritis, requiring her to see the same few practitioners for many years.

~ Morning cuddles

~ A relative may be here on Saturday to help my husband change out at least one toilet, maybe two. 

~ Grass greening all over the township, tulips and daffodils up everywhere.

~ Peter, at age 10, still letting me kiss his cheek, though he dislikes hugs.

~ Making a good dent in the spring clothing switch.

~ I get to hold babies in the nursery soon.

~ Paul coming into the bedroom this morning, asking, "Is it time to cuddle yet?"

~ "Henry Bussy, put that thing down!" A line from Mary's current favorite movie. I like to say it because it comes from an ornery, neat-freak mother in this classic movie (adapted from a classic book). I can stand just like her, too, with my hands on my hips. Makes the kids giggle. 

Can you guess the movie? (Jess, I think you should be disqualified from the guessing for obvious reasons. But the reasons have nothing to do with you being ornery. Or being a neat freak. Although you may be both of those things. Only Margie would know for sure.)

~ Two boys and two girls. Oh, the messes and the laundry! But they bless my soul, so.

~ Children painting sea scenes today.

~ Mary telling me a few weeks ago: "Mommy, I don't think I'm going to let my kids go outside. Then I won't have so much laundry."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Prayer Warrior Life: Revising Your System

An updated note on prayer jars

Each family member here had their own prayer jar for a time. The first person done with dinner would start on their jar, praying each prayer aloud, and then the second person done with dinner would do theirs, and on it went around the table. Husband and I helped the three- and five-year-old, neither of whom read independently yet.

Peter, always the first one done eating, had trouble listening politely by the time the girls started praying. The whole process tortured him, rather than blessed him--ants in the pants, so to speak.

Also, the jars took up too much room in the center of the table, which is also home to pencil, crayon, eraser, and napkin containers.

And lastly, we tended to wait too long to throw away or file old prayers, and the jars become quite packed, making the process take too long.

So this week we revised the system.

Now we have just three prayer jars in the middle of the table--a breakfast, lunch, and dinner jar. Daddy is only with us for the dinner prayer jar, but that's okay. It still works out better to have a shorter process, three times a day.

Some prayers, such as those for our Compassion children, and health prayers for our friends and ourselves, are in all three jars so we can pray them three times a day.

It works like a charm this way, except that each child wants a turn to pray. I solved that by having Paul pray the breakfast-jar prayers, Peter the lunch prayers, and the girls share the dinner jar prayers, when Daddy is here to help me with everything that goes on at the table.

My husband and I follow up with impromptu prayers, which are not in the jars.

Praying for Internet Friends:

Most of my friends are online friends. Since moving to Ohio nearly seven years ago, I've added two more children and homeschooling to my schedule. We avoid over-scheduling, so we're not a busy family in the running-around sense. But the care of children? That keeps us hopping, leaving little time for anything else! Even if I had a friend here, I don't know how I'd connect with her, except through e-mail.

Hint: When the cell phone rings I head for the bathroom or go outside the door, praying it's a short call. Being on the phone is so hard, with little ones around!

Meeting people is difficult through church because we've either been in a mega-church, or in smaller churches that don't schedule many potlucks or other mixers. Small-group Bible studies are the main thing nowadays in the church set, but husband's schedule makes those impossible to manage.

All that to say, I cherish my online friends, probably more than most people.

Some I've grown to love because we've shared joys and sorrows and read each other's blogs or e-mails for a few years now, and others I've come to love because our stories are so similar, that true understanding exists between us.

Some online friends drift away, like in real life. But praise God, new friends come along here too, once in a while! Thank you!

On a weekly basis at least, new prayer requests come in from the online world. Some are direct appeals for prayer, and others are prayers the Holy Spirit prompts me to pray. Nursing a child at least three times a day makes it fairly easy to remember these requests, but lately the volume increased.

So my new method is to keep a piece of paper taped to the computer and a pen handy at the desk here. Some of the online-friend prayers get transferred to our prayer jars at the table, and others, more private, are transferred to my personal prayer journal.

Taking the time to really make prayer happen for you? It's priceless. Prayer truly changes things. Not only for your friends, but also for you.

Prayer teaches love. It gives birth to love. It is love. Giving of yourself always = love.

For other posts on prayer--there are a lot of them--find my label prayer series on the sidebar.

photo credit

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In Which You Analyze My Menus and Grocery List

Good day to you, dear reader. Can you help me out with something? I need some analysis of my grocery choices. I currently spend $600 month on groceries for 6 people in northeast Ohio. Please peruse my list and tell me how I can do better, if you have the time? Others will benefit from your comments as well. Thank you! 

No, of course I'm not going to ask you how much you spend on groceries! Are you crazy? I would never do such a thing!  Besides, Kristen Welsh already asked that a few months ago. She spends $550 per month for a family of five residing in Texas. Her readers answered her spending question in her comments section, regarding their own grocery bills. Apparently, teenagers eat a lot. I'm glad I don't have one yet!

Everything is purchased at Super Walmart, except for spices. Other area grocery stores include Giant Eagle and Acme, which are too expensive. There's also an Aldi Discount market about 25 minutes away. And a Save-A-Lot market 15 minutes away. It's hard enough to just get to Walmart once a week, but if you have stories of high savings at alternate markets, I'm all ears (or eyes, rather). I don't use coupons because we don't get a paper. Also, coupons seem to be produced by manufacturers to advertise packaged-type foods, and I prefer mainly whole foods. I could use them for Cheerios maybe, but not much else.

I should tell you up front that my kitchen appliances do not allow for homemade pasta and chip making, in case you were going to suggest that. I own a hand mixer for baking cookies. That completes my kitchen appliance list. But I'll still take your suggestions and look at garage sales for the appliances you mention! Thank you!

I bought a breadmaker at a garage sale without a manufacturer's brochure, but the bread was hard to slice for lunch-time peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which is our main use for bread. I used a basic whole wheat recipe. Any suggestions for breadmaker bread that is easier to slice?

One other detail: We buy 1 hot n' ready Little Caesar's pizza a week, at $5.50, for Daddy and the kids to eat while I go grocery shopping on Friday night. Other than that, all meals are prepared and consumed at home. My husband takes leftovers for his lunches every day. Since he's gone 12 hours total, his lunch needs to include a good amount of calories. Sandwiches don't cut it for him.

My husband doesn't get home until 7:00 PM, so making dinner while also supervising my four children means that prep must be simple. Here are our usual dinner meals, on a ten-day rotation:

Ten-Day Rotation Main Dish Menu
2 pasta meals (spaghetti and baked ziti)

1 pancake meal (with one pound lean turkey sausage for the main protein, although whole wheat pancakes paired with milk makes a complete protein. My husband prefers meat every night, unfortunately. The kids eat the leftover pancakes for breakfast the next morning)

1 turkey burger meal

1 taco/burrito meal 

1 baked chicken meal, followed by 1 homemade chicken noodle soup meal (On hold until I find another store who carries large whole chickens without solutions or hormones. Walmart switched to another brand, Tyson, which has injected solutions. We don't make soup in the summer. We bake the chicken in the oven in cold weather, and put it in the crockpot in hot weather)

1 large shepherd's pie or 1 large taco bake 

1 turkey black bean chili

1 Sloppy Joe meal

If my husband buys propane for the grill this summer, we will use individually-frozen chicken breasts for 1 grilled meal a week in the summer and early fall, replacing the chicken noodle soup meal. I used to make turkey meatloaf, but the only child who liked it was Peter, so I dropped it for now. 

I am currently looking for ground-meat or crockpot meals to replace the shepherd's pie and taco bake, since they require the oven to be on for 25 minutes and that doesn't work well in summer.

I find turkey to be the cheapest meat in our neck of the woods, as well as whole chickens. I'm sure chicken legs and thighs are cheap too, but I hate dark-meat chicken. My husband loves them and gets them once a week when I prepare a whole baked chicken.

Beth has a hard time in the mornings due to her arthritis, so putting ingredients in the crockpot in the morning, other than a whole chicken, is difficult right now, but I still want to know how you save money with your crockpot. Please? I could possibly do it at night.

My grocery list is featured below (all are purchased weekly, unless noted otherwise). I try to buy items before we run out of them.

Master Grocery List

6-7 packages of meat a week 
- 4 to 5 (18-20-ounce packages) 7% lean ground turkey
- 1 (one-pound) package lean turkey sausage for pasta
- 1 (one-pound) roll of leaner turkey breakfast sausage to go with one homemade pancake dinner a week
- 1 whole chicken (when I find one we like again).
- 12 eggs (for pancakes and baking, and cheesy omelets)

Whole Grains
 4-5 loaves/week of Nature's Pride all natural 100% whole wheat bread (about $1.88 loaf)
- 1 package taco shells
- 1 package whole-wheat tortillas 
- 1 package wheat hamburger buns (Walmart doesn't carry 100% whole wheat buns)
- 1 large bag Mini-Spooners shredded wheat cereal
- 1 large box Cheerios, every other week
- 1 container Walmart brand whole oats, every 2 weeks 
- 1 package penne whole grain, high-protein pasta
- 1 package whole grain, high-protein angel hair spaghetti
- 1 package 100% whole wheat flour (every 3 weeks)
- 1 small package corn meal (every 5-6 weeks, to make corn bread to go with chili & soup)
- 1 package albino wheat flour (100% whole wheat white, for baking, every 3 weeks)
- 1 small package flaxseed every 4-5 weeks. I use 1/2 cup in each doubled pancake recipe. (2.5 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup flaxseed per batch)

2  lb. of Colby Jack cheese a week (or 1 pound part-skim mozzarella for baked ziti) Walmart brand 
- 8 Activia strawberry yogurts (for Beth, who is particularly hard to feed at breakfast when her joints hurt the most, and for Peter, who gets up earlier than I do and needs a snack right away)
- 3 gallons skim milk (All milk is Walmart brand. My husband drinks a ton of milk. I drink 3 glasses a day.)
- 3 gallons lowfat milk, 1 gallon whole milk (2 of my kids are too skinny)

- 2 bags frozen steamer California veggies (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower) for microwave steaming (Walmart brand)
- 1 bag frozen steamer green beans (Walmart brand)
- 2 bags frozen steamer corn(Walmart brand)
- 1 medium bag russet potatoes every 2 weeks
- 3-4 sweet potatoes
- 1 small bag fresh carrots 
- 1 bag frozen mixed berries to top the pancake meal (Walmart brand)
- 1 large bag mixed frozen fruit (pineapple, purple grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe, Walmart brand, summer only)
- 1 bag apples every 2 weeks; every week in winter
- 2-3 small bunches bananas
- 1 bag oranges (Only when clementines are available, usually)
- 1-2 packages of in-season fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries)

We've switched to only eating salad when we have guests. My husband and I are so busy with the children at meal time, we never had time to eat our salads!

- 2 medium cans black beans, Walmart brand
- 2 large cans all natural tomato sauce, Walmart brand
- 1 medium can all natural tomato sauce, Walmart brand
- 2 medium cans diced tomatoes (all natural, no-salt added), Walmart brand 
- 1 large can Bush's Boston baked beans

For Baking
- 2 packages Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips (one for eating, one for baking)
- 1 package white sugar, Walmart brand every 3-4 weeks, depending on how many batches of cookies we make
- 1 package brown sugar, Walmart brand, every 2-3 weeks (for oatmeal mornings, and for baking) 
- 1 bottle canola oil, Walmart brand (as needed for pancake recipe, chocolate cake recipe)
- 1 pound Walmart-brand butter (for baking) every 2 weeks
- 1 can baking powder, Walmart brand, as needed
- 1 box baking soda, Walmart brand, as needed
- 1 large canister cocoa powder, purchased at Save-A-Lot every 4 weeks  
- 1 large bag powdered sugar, Walmart brand, as needed for cake/cookie frosting

Condiments & Misc.
- 1 small jar peanut butter (no high fructose corn syrup, Walmart brand, doesn't come in large)
- 1 bottle all natural, no high fructose corn syrup grape jelly (major brand to get no corn syrup) 
- 1 large jar Walmart brand, no-sugar added applesauce (for putting Peter's medicine in)
- 1 container no high-fructose-corn syrup pancake syrup every 3 weeks 
- 1 medium bottle ketchup no high-fructose-corn-syrup every 3 weeks
- 1 large bottle barbecue sauce every 4 weeks (I can't find one without the corn syrup)
- 1 large tub margarine every 6-7 weeks (for morning toast a couple days/wk) 
- 1 large canister Nestle chocolate milk powder every 4 weeks (because Paul hates white milk and we never forced the issue, and a couple of the kids need the extra calories) 
- lemon pepper and garlic pepper as needed for whole chicken, major brand

Junk Food/Snacks
- 2 small containers Walmart brand ice cream (2 of my kids are too skinny)
- 1 large package Lime-flavored tortilla chips every 2 weeks (for taco bake or snacking)
- 1 large container Goldfish every 4 weeks
- 1 package Sunchips every 2 weeks
- 1 (8-bag) package popcorn, every two weeks during the cold months
- 1 large Walmart-brand container cashews every 2 weeks (because my husband is thin too and needs the extra fat) 

- 1 24-pack Mountain Dew every 2 weeks (For my husband. Caffeine helps my husband's ADHD symptoms--something which has actually been proven. He doesn't like coffee or tea)

- 1 large canister Country Time Lemonade for the kids (every 2-4 weeks, depending on the heat and humidity)

- 1 box hot chocolate packets every 2-3 weeks in cold months 

- 1 24-pack, 20-ounce/per bottle Walmart brand bottled water. To keep the washer from shaking too forcefully when it's on spin cycle. I kid you not. When the previous owners turned the porch into a formal dining room/sun room, they moved the laundry area to one end of it, and the floor is just uneven enough there to cause the washer to shimmy too much. The washer was in the one-car garage, but they made that into a family room (our play room). And I drink the bottles, too, because our water is terrible. We badly need a filter. But the water just really works to keep that washer behaving. Yes, we need a handyman around here.

Spices -  All purchased at Save-A-Lot market, as needed.
- baking powder
- baking soda 
- oregano
- basil
- onion powder
- cumin
- garlic powder
- garlic salt
- chili powder
- vanilla extract 
(and others as needed for holidays)

Thank you for your time and input!

photo credit

Monday, March 26, 2012

post script

Post Script on last post:

My son has been a jewel today! Only misbehaved once before noon. Praise God!

Upside Down Blessing List

My front flower bed, beautifully arranged years ago by the previous owners, has its flaws now. Wide splits advertise the wood frame's age. Wayward grass peaks out from among the daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth. Last fall's crunchy, curled leaves cling to the grass and weeds, unwilling to blow the way of the wind.

But still each year, bloom delights us. Beauty shines through the messy.

Mulch, much needed, runs high in price for large amounts. I need food for the family more than I need a perfect flower bed. 

As I stare at this bed now, I think of my life. I'm grateful for my children and my husband. They're like the blooms. Their beauty strikes me daily. Each one so unique. Each one special in some way. 

But there's something else about this life

It's messy too

Sin exists here, within the wood frame of our home, like the weeds, grass, and leaves in the flower bed. Disease and disorder visit here daily. People complain about the food. They want something different, something better, something more. They don't want to clean and straighten, wash and fold, sweep and mop. They want their own way, not His. They want it easy, not hard. Smooth, not bumpy. 

Soon, we'll kneel down and pull the weeds and the grass, disengaging the leaves, putting it all in the trash bin. 

Similarly, we'll say about our wayward hearts...we're going to do better.

But within days of the purging, sin and weeds will return, taking root. As hard as we try here, we can't get just the blooms. We want the beauty without the messy. 

Even though God takes care of the blooms, allowing them to grace us year after year, we forget about His faithfulness. 

We worry about the lack of mulch, the decaying wood. We worry about frost and flooding. 

We fret about lack of clothes, lack of healthcare, lack of savings, lack of decent vehicles, lack of repair money, lack of fun money. We fret about lack, itself.

And yet, what does Jesus say about lack? Does He regard it as something to worry about?

Luke 6:20-26

Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
24“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

What does Jesus consider as blessings? Being poor (spiritually poor, specifically), being hungry, being hated.

What does Jesus consider as woes? Being full, being well liked, being one who laughs.

It's so hard to disengage from this world, with its vacations, gourmet food, and abundance, and see with new eyes. See with Jesus' eyes

We can't properly take care of ourselves and our children. The numbers on paper? They just don't add up in our favor. And the lack steals our peace. 

When we let it. When we're stuck in this world.

When we choose to focus on the weeds, instead of the blooms. When we focus on the wait, instead of on His faithfulness.

Jesus makes us some soothing promises, delivered if we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matt 6:25-34).

It's all upside down, his kingdom and his righteousness: a woe is a blessing, and a blessing a woe; too hard is good, too easy is bad.

When we count our blessings today, shall we count them the way Jesus does? The upside-down way?

My Upside Down Blessing List:

~ There's no money for mulch. I'm blessed.

~ Paul went to church in an old, faded shirt. At the thrift store today, I could only find one decent spring church shirt for him. I'm blessed.

~ The toilets still aren't fixed. I'm blessed.

~ The kitchen faucet leaks. I'm blessed.

~ The yard needs weed killer that we can't afford. I'm blessed.

~ The back door needs to be refurbished. I'm blessed 

~ There's ground turkey for dinner. Again. I'm blessed.

~ I'd like a bike so I can ride with my kids, but there's no money. I'm blessed.

~ My son will wake up tomorrow and annoy us many times before noon. I'm blessed.

~ My daughter might not be able to walk tomorrow when she gets out of bed. I'm blessed.

For really, if I had all these things taken care of, would I need Jesus as much as I do? Would I cling just as tightly? Would I seek His kingdom? And His righteousness? 

Or would I be distracted by my abundance and my choices? Would I run around from place to place, adventure to adventure, seeking fun and laughter, instead of seeking Him?

I know the answer. Yes, I would

Blessed are those who know lack in an abundant world, for they need Jesus to survive, both physically and spiritually. His Truth, they know.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thanking and Praising Him

Exodus 15:11
Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders? 

The diseases and disorders around here, they overwhelm me, the caregiver, this week. Compassion fatigue it's called, suffered by people who provide care for a special-needs population whose suffering "is continuous and unresolvable".

Yes, that describes Peter and Beth, who are in flares this week. 

Added to these chronic problems are Mary's fear issues--she's awakened three times per night over the last three nights, due to dreams and fears. And my Paul, who has a pervasive fear of throwing up. 

My husband and I, we don't know what normal is anymore, but we wish normal resided here, at least once in a while.

What to do? 

Katie (Kisses From Katie) writes from Uganda this week:

Sometimes my 16 passenger van and I clamor down the driveway and I think that I will get out and life will be easy. That 14 daughters will greet me laughingly at the gate and there will the smell of fresh wheat bread baking in the oven and a long run at nap time and clean laundry on the line and 14 bodies pressed close against mine on the couch before bed.
 It was once.
 Except today life is messy. And there are 14 girls at the gate but they are fighting with each other and one comes with a grouchy birth mother who lives in my guest room and there are burn victims in the yard who need their infected skin scrubbed out and a ten pound three year old abandoned little girl on the couch and my baby has pneumonia and life is busy so cuddling on the couch gets postponed until tomorrow because today I just want to go to sleep and wake up when some of the mess is over.
I park. Turn the keys in the ignition, close my eyes, open my hands and just sit. And He fills up my spirit with just one word, enough.
 Jesus bent and carrying my burden. Jesus with nails in His hands and water, living water flowing from His side. And even when I think that I have learned this already, He teaches me AGAIN.
Katie doesn't title her blog posts, so I can't give a specific link to the above excerpt, but it's from her March 22, 2010 entry. 

I read her words and I know their truth. Jesus is enough

And through Him, I can do this. I can rise above the fray of the moments and know Peace...a Person.

Instead of wanting normal, I can find beauty and give thanks for messy. His graces are new every day:

~ Tulips in bloom

~ Bird nests all over

~ Children helping mommy

~ A husband's loving arms

~ A husband who endures and believes

~ 80-degree weather with skies all blue 

~ After an unspeakably unpleasant verbal bullying incident, one of the consequences is for Peter to write 20 loving things about Paul. And the list of 20? It's beautiful.

~ A Holy Spirit who reminds me that ADHD children? They always feel unloved because they displease others so frequently. Keep up the fair consequences, He tells me, but don't forget the love. He must feel loved.

~ I worry about Peter's future but He reminds me: The future is His. Being faithful in the small things of right now? That's my job. Read the Bible. Love. Pray. Give thanks. Disciple.

~ I make mistakes and He redeems them.

~ Food prices scare me. We're already living on lean ground turkey, and Walmart quit selling their large family whole chickens--the ones without the hormones and solutions. What to do? He interrupts my anxious thoughts, reminding me that...He owns the earth and everything in it!

~ Peter took the camera outside to capture spring for me. Included are some pics of the children celebrating the eggy and bunny part of Easter (last weekend).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Passing Him Out

Miss Beth awoke at 11:00 PM and as I soothed her, I too fell asleep. That is, until 2:30 AM when insomnia started. No disaster precipitated the insomnia, other than perhaps peri-menopause? I haven't known insomnia like this since the first trimester of all my pregnancies.

One of my downward-spiral thoughts: What am I doing spilling my heart on the Internet? I should look into printing this off and then hit "delete blog".

The story of the soldier who snapped in Afghanistan weighs heavily on my mind lately. Never before has the toll of war hit me so hard. Am I off base in thinking we simply don't have enough soldiers to fulfill our commitments? More than one or two combat tours is unacceptable. The scars run too deep and affect too many people intimately. Recent evidence indicates that soldiers' combat-related disorders aren't given enough weight by superiors, and often a disability classification is denied, despite the soldiers struggling to make a living with their deeply-felt physical and emotional scars.

If we send them to defend us, shouldn't we take care of them upon their return? Shouldn't we deeply appreciate them and their families, regardless of our political feelings about war?

This soldier's wife, she spilled her heart on the Internet in her own family-adventures blog. After major newspaper outlets began delving into every aspect of their lives, a few sentences from her blog were published, which have since been taken down. I can't even imagine what this wife is going through, knowing her husband will either be put to death or spend his life in prison. How will she explain it to her children and how will she make a living? What if they show her face, and her two children's faces, in the newspapers? Will they dare do that, these news outlets with the low ethics standards? This family is surely at risk for assassination.

While I don't anticipate any of us being fodder for a news outlet, I'm still taking a risk with my words here, even with fictitious names.

I tossed and turned about this, and about the number of people I know who are struggling to make a living. Some skill sets have become obsolete, and many more are in less demand because of outsourcing and the state of the economy. My eyes roll back thinking what the cost of education has become, compared to wages. My $26,000 in student loans borrowed for an undergraduate degree followed by a teaching credential back in 1984-1990, has risen to between $60,000 -  $72,000 for a comparative education and credential.

There are no guarantees for anyone and how do we deal with that reality? How do we live a life with no earthly securities? Savings accounts, investments, and college degrees aren't guarantees, as we've seen in the last several years.

And what will I do for a living after my husband, eight years my senior, retires? His work keeps him in the best physical shape possible, but still, that doesn't mean he won't suffer from a disease or injury. Last week I renewed my California teaching credential for another five years; it's easier to get a credential in another state if you have a valid one somewhere else.'s sweet, isn't it?

But the blessings around every corner, they don't always outnumber the hardships.

In the wee hours, the answer came to me. This is why I write brave. Because our stories matter. Our stories point the way for those coming after us, and for those in the trenches right now. Definitely when my children venture into the world, I'll print off the best of this blog and then hit "delete blog". My grandchildren won't know me long before I die, but they'll have this accounting of my heart.

Will it matter? Will this picture of my life, with all its nuances and sorrows and joys, help them move forward bravely in the face of hardship and after loss? Will they learn to give thanks, to weep at His feet, to love sacrificially?

My words here, the pagan world will twist them, painting me a religious lunatic who woefully misled her children. This remote thought scares and saddens me, but the other side is this:

When I read brave stories telling of real life--sorrowful, complicated, messy life--I'm changed. 

Those stories help me move forward in many difficult areas. They remind me I don't suffer alone. They remind me to rejoice with those who rejoice, and suffer with those who suffer. They remind me that joy is there for the taking, even when my impulsive ADHD son kills his new pond fish by scooping them up with the net far too frequently, to study them. Or when he scribbles with ink on the table basket I keep the napkins in, or on the decorative baskets I keep the crayons and pencils in.

Brave stories help me to love, to forgive, to see my own depravity. They compel me to give my fellow man room to make mistakes, to be human, to be aggrieved descendants of Adam and Eve.

When we water down life with protective words, we don't spill wisdom. We aren't changed through the catharsis of expressing sorrow to arrive at Truth.

My words here are my worship, my listening-to-the-Holy-Spirit time. I could write privately in a journal, but I need the connection with other hearts. That connection is one of His graces.

I need every grace he offers to navigate this most uncertain journey, with adjustments around every turn, like wrinkles, insomnia, and mood swings...all things I can't will away but must embrace.

Rejecting God's story for us leads to bitterness; embracing and giving thanks lead to joy.

I want that soldier's wife to know this right now. I want you, my heart friends, to know. And I want to keep preaching it to myself and to my grandchildren over and over.

Embracing brings surrender and in surrendering we die to ourselves to inherit His vertical love.

And then when our hearts are so full they're bursting, we can pass Him out horizontally.

This is the meaning of life as I know it...

...becoming engorged with Him and passing our abundance along.