Friday, November 30, 2012

into the wind

I sang an impromptu duet with my husband the other night.  Let me mention that this is not something I go around doing, this singing in front of others business.  But there I was up in front of 75 people at our church’s annual Holiday Dinner. This is a dress-up affair where actual musicians play music, and people pay to eat yummy food, and this year they also heard me sing a verse of my favorite Christmas carol.  Only love could cause me to do such a thing.  Love, and that quiet voice of His…

My singing wasn’t part of the initial plan.  We stood in our kitchen, old hymnal held between us, singing, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” I was supposed to simply read a verse of the hymn in the Holiday Dinner program, but somehow instead of reading it we were singing, and my husband, struck by an old memory, turned to me and said, “Will you sing this with me tonight?  Instead of reading it?  I know we don’t have a lot of time to practice, but don’t you remember our first anniversary?  Leading worship together? Tonight doesn’t have to be perfect, but I would love for us to do this together.” 

In the question posed by my husband, I heard the quieter voice of my Savior asking me to step out and set aside my fear of what others would think of our vocal offering.  I knew clearly that my husband would be blessed by my choosing to sing with him.

And so I sang. Later, as we lay in bed, I felt conflicted.  On one hand, I felt the good feeling of obeying the leading of the Lord and seeing the sparkle in my husband’s eyes as we sat down afterward at our table and he leaned over, kissed my lips, looked into my eyes, whispered, “Thanks.”

But I just felt so VULNERABLE.  I had stood in front of all those people and really, I didn’t do a very good job at all.  My breathing was all off and I was nervous and choppy and I wasn’t miraculously given the gift of being an amazing singer.  I was just me. 

I wondered in my heart of hearts if I should have done the safe thing, what I know I could do well, which was just read the hymn, NOT sing it.

And then I remembered, I felt similarly this Spring when some of our college student friends asked me to speak at a women’s conference for a local Christian group.  My first reaction was, NO WAY!!  I don’t do things like that.  I don’t stand up in front of people and give talks.  But after praying and listening, I felt I wanted to do it and SHOULD do it.  So I did.

I did an OK job on the talk, but not great.  I certainly didn’t hit the ball out of the park. 

And the duet I sang with my husband?  No ball hit out of park there either. 

Yet, in both instances I knew clearly that I should do the things God was putting before me.  I admit to secretly hoping that God would work a miracle and make me a riveting public speaker or an angelically good singer. 

But He didn’t.

 After listening to me try and explain my conflicted feelings, my husband sweetly said, “I know I should compliment you on your voice or something, but I don’t think that is the point.” 

“No!  I am not telling you how I feel so I can garner a compliment," I said, “On one hand, I know it was a faithful and right thing to do.  I really felt like doing so was following Jesus.  But on the other hand, in both instances it felt like I had stripped naked and then gone to stand out in the wind.  Here I am!  Naked!  In the wind!  Ok then, now I will go inside and get dressed…whew!!”

We laughed, and then my laughter quickly turned to tears as my husband said, “By doing these things, you show others that the most important thing to do is to follow Jesus, no matter if you look like a fool, no matter if he asks you to do hard things you are not good at, things that make you feel vulnerable and scared.  You just need to keep following Him.”

What if Jesus asks us to do something we are not good at and to do it in front of others?  What if we step up and say OK to His leading but we also hope he'll do something spiritually to fill in the gaps so that we won’t simply be mediocre, but really, really good? And what if He does show up and He gives us the courage to stand up and do the thing, and the miracle isn't the excellence we imagined but simply the standing?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Daybook on a dark November evening

A snapshot of life right now..

:: Outside my window...
it is dark, 8:30pm on a Wednesday night.  The girls are at a friends’ house and my husband and son are at scouts.  They will all return together in about 20 minutes.  I am savoring the quiet…

::I am thinking...
about those I know and love who are suffering through physical trials right now.

::I am thankful...
for my church family and the opportunity to be a part of what God is doing in our midst.

::In the kitchen...
the swish, swish of the dishwasher.  All is tidy after a filling and warm dinner of cream of broccoli soup and grilled cheese sandwiches before sending the boys off to scouts.

::I am wearing...
my current favorite black cardigan, old Lands’ End jeans, gray long-sleeved t-shirt and my turquoise scarf.

:I am creating...
an accurate address list to send out our first Christmas cards in YEARS, and a half-page letter to include with our card.

::I am going...
to the gym in the morning for abs and spinning (cycling class). 

::I am wondering...
how I can slow this precious month to savor all the beauty, wonder and truth.

::I am reading...
Emma for our next Jane Austen book club.  I am liking her a LOT less than Elizabeth Bennett!

::I am hoping...
to get that phone call soon

::I am looking forward to...
my son’s first band concert in a couple of weeks.  My family coming home tonight!

::A favorite quote for today...
Romans 4: 17 – 20, Msg
“…because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing.  When everything was hopless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do…”

Saturday, November 24, 2012

now I'm ready...

 Driving up highway on our way to the high desert on Tuesday, I couldn’t believe that we were actually coming to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving?  Already?  I didn’t feel ready to make the turkey and all that jazz.  My heart had not kept up with the calendar this year.

We did make turkey, a bit, beautiful 23 pounder.  And stuffing and mashed potatoes and the family blue cheese green bean recipe and my special cranberry sauce. Somehow between that long drive up the 395 and this morning, where I sit in my jammies in the morning-still house, my perspective has changed.   Coming away from the to-do list at home helped.  Cooking (and eating!) the traditional Thanksgiving dishes helped.  Being with family definitely helped.

I am ready to drive home and spend an evening with my side of the family.  Ready to trim the tree, hang the lights and pull out my large stash of Christmas socks.  Ready to turn our new family pictures into rockin’ Christmas cards.  And really, really ready to find time each day to still ourselves, light a candle, and remember Who we are celebrating. 

My heart is overflowing with thankfulness for my hard-working, loving and generous in-laws who spoiled us, sent my husband and I out on a fancy date one night, played games with the kids, treated all us girls to pedicures and helped each one of us to relax in this set-aside time.  I think we are all a bit more prepared for this season that is upon us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

high desert thanks

I type these words in the beauty and spaciousness of my in-laws’ home up in the high desert of southern California.  The house I am in is as old as my marriage, my in-laws- having finished building it and moving in a month before my husband and I were married.  The 2.5 hour drive from our home is familiar, and the last bit up the dirt road always full of the happy anticipation of seeing Grandy and Grandpa. 

They live on the outskirts of a small desert town.  Our activity list for this visit includes riding the dune buggy here on their property and a shooting outing with Dad and Grandpa, good and proper desert activities.

Blackout shades and the quiet of desert mornings encourage us all to sleep long and well.  The kids love the basement, which is full of toys and space to hold all their creative energetic play.

The sound of a Monopoly game in full swing rises and falls in the living room, cranberry relish simmers on the stove, and my heart is full of the simple gifts of family and tradition, which we will celebrate with turkey and all the fixins tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Stay

Five Minute Fridays make me happy!  Joining in with, as Lisa-Jo calls it, this flash mob of writers is inspiring, encouraging and just plain awesome!  Here are the rules of participation:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Today's prompt: Stay

We came to this inland southern California town with absolutely no intention of staying.  In fact, as I paced our tiny box of a house in the scorching heat, I told my husband in no uncertain terms that I didn’t WANT to stay after he graduated and could we PLEASE move anywhere else, thank you very much! 

Four years later my husband graduated and we took a year-long position in what I thought of as a dream place to live: San Diego.  Beaches and museums and cool summers, oh my! 

But when we would make the hour and a half drive up to our old inland city, I would sit in our little church there, tears running down my cheeks, missing what now felt clearly in my heart like home.

We cast the job-search net wide the following year.  I was praying/rooting for a Midwest job.  We got hired at a university 35 miles from that inland city my husband did his doctorate.

So we moved back to that place I had scorned and longed to leave and it felt like slipping on a well-worn tee shirt, that fits just right and feels so good.

That was seven years ago.  There have been job searches every year since.  We are always willing to go, to follow God’s direction to some far-flung place.

But God has said, for now, that we should stay.
Time's up!  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

on the team

I’ve tucked myself away, down the hall in my bedroom with my laptop and the thought that has been niggling away at my mind all day long.   Kids are each busy with their own pursuits, happy and not hungry, at least for now.  I glance at the clock.  OK, I’ll give myself 15 minutes.  I slowly sink into the quiet of the room and begin to type…

An hour later, the kids come in wondering about dinner and I tear my mind and heart away from the words to smile into their faces and say, yes, I’ll get right on that dinner thing, all the while marveling that an hour just slipped by like sand through my fingers.

Since finishing the 31 day series, I have been wondering, should I keep doing this?   Does writing really have a place on my daily to do list?  In order to write daily in October, I slipped my writing in the cracks of my days, taking my laptop to horse lessons and tapping away in the car while the girls rode, slipping back to my room during a spot of quiet for a short writing session, putting thoughts into words while my husband slept beside me.

Is this what the bloggers I love to read do?  Or perhaps they have set hours, writing time, an office and a desk and no interruptions.  I am sure there are as many ways to do this writing thing as there are people who do it.

I have still been writing some since October, and like I told my husband, when I write time just FLIES. It feels a bit like being “in the zone” as a runner, where the rhythm and strength of my body makes me feel like I could literally run forever.  My heart and my brain are fully engaged in the process of painting word pictures, taking moments of my day and looking carefully at them because as I do that, I am more apt to see the fingerprints of God more clearly, to hear Him in the quiet of the tapping keys whispering the lessons that He has for me here in my every day, ordinary life.

In this place of wondering about my writing and whether or not I should keep doing it, I read Holley Gerth’s blog (reading her blog over the years has been one thing God has used to encourage me that I have a story from Him to tell) and followed her link to (in)courage where I read about the God-Sized Dreams Team that she is creating.  My heart raced as I read and like a diver who pushes aside the fear and wondering and just jumps off that high dive, I filled out the application.  What can it hurt?  I thought.  It is alright if I am not chosen.  Just filling out the application was a huge step, and really, right then, my thumping heart and clammy hands told me it was enough. 

Writing this, the lesson rises up clearly before me. What do I feel God calling me to do right now, this minute?  I need to do it.  Read a book to my girls.  Yes.  Make dinner for friends.  Yes.  Invite the international student over for a meal.  Yes.  I often spend time jumping far ahead of the step in front of me, “seeing” things that may never be, letting the stress of might be’s and what if’s override the moment when all I am responsible for is taking the next step.  He says He will give me the grace and strength and power to do that thing He has for me to do.  What I DON’T have to do is to see to the end of the six months of being on the God-Sized Dreams Team and how it will impact my life, or what scary things may be in store along the way because that is God’s department, not mine.  And wherever these next steps take me, He will be there.

Did you catch that?  I got an email this morning and it looks like, contrary to what happened every week in junior high pe class, I am on the team. 

Cool, huh?

Monday, November 12, 2012

a spot of grace

Sometimes you can just tell, in the set of the jaw, the sparks in the eyes, the slowness of the limbs, it is not going to be an easy morning. 

The breakfast was wrong and though our cupboards and refrigerator are full, there was nothing to eat and these kinds of conversations can make my heart go cold, my anger rise hot.  I settle in for a day full of skirmishes and misunderstandings.

The morning moves tentatively along as I make my way into the bathroom to help clean newly pierced ears.  I remember cookies baked yesterday and tea-pots waiting in the hutch.  Maybe there is a different path through this day than the one we first set out on. 

“As a break from school this morning, what do you say to a cookie tea party?”

Softened eyes meet mine in the bathroom mirror, and Peace makes His way in through kindness and understanding, mending the frayed edges of our hearts.

Once math is well on its way, I put the kettle on to boil.  At its whistle, we stop to spread a cloth on one end of the table the other end a jumble of math and handwriting books.

The air fills with the sweet and spicy scent of the steeping Good Earth tea.  Cookies are piled on a china plate.  I pluck three leaves from our thanks giving tree.  While our tea cools, we read verses and talk over gifts: food, a bigger bed for the girls, a break from school with a treat.  We write them on the leaves and hang them back up. 

Chatter turns to their writing class and how to write a narrative.  We sip our tea. 

Pouring a second cup, I feel the hope in this spot of quiet and sweetness, sister-chatter and Truth words.

We step back into the current of the day, filled, ready to work.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Five Minute Fridays: quiet

Playing along with Five Minute Fridays at Lisa-Jo's today.  Here are my five minutes on quiet:

It is early morning quiet here, with one noise maker off at school and the other two still cocooned in their bed.  I can hear the promise of the day to come, small comforting noises of coffee brewing, keyboard tapping, pages turning, dishwasher swishing.

There is another kind of quiet, the kind where your kids are playing elsewhere in the house and you are suddenly aware that it is too quiet, how long since you heard the happy noise of kids at play?  I remember hearing that particular kind of quiet once, and then my daughters came downstairs looking unfamiliar, with hair that had been “barbered” by their friends. 

The quiet of this moment may hold surprises, my day may come downstairs looking much different than I originally intended.  

That's OK.

I will rest in the still quiet of now, and leave those possible noisy surprises to God...

Monday, November 5, 2012

at the close of day

Cups of water by the bed, a bandaid over a scrape from the day, the lovey retrieved from a far corner of the house.  We make the nightly trips, bringing things to ease the transition from the presence of the day to the rest of the night.

Each of you lie drowsy and warm, tucked in your beds, waiting for us to make our way one last time down the darkened hall.  We stand beside your bed, whispering goodnight and a prayer over you.  That prayer, like the blanket tucked up close under the chin, smoothes out the rough places of the day and lays soft over the length of you.  It gives a gentle weight of presence bringing the whirling hours of the day to a close.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

gift after gift

Our daughters have been sharing the bottom twin bed of a set of bunk beds for about 9 months.  They started sharing when we had the bunk beds separated into two twin beds.  Every night, we would tuck them into their separate beds, and every morning I would find them snuggled up together in one twin bed.  In order to give their growing bodies a bit more room, we made the switch from bunk beds to a full-sized bed, which we had in storage.

This was a huge project because their room is 10’ x 10’ and the bigger bed takes up serious floor space.   We had to go through everything making decisions about what to keep and what to give away.  At one point I asked my 9 -year old daughter, in reference to a pile of things on the floor, “Which of these things do you need?”

She looked at me, a bit overwhelmed because I had asked her that question one too many times, “Mom, I don’t NEED any of this to survive!  But I LIKE all of it and want to keep it!”

...more of His generous bounty...

:: food for the body (soup, bread, popcorn) AND food for the soul (studying 1 Samuel) at our college    Bible study
:: my girls now sleeping on a bed that both my Mom and I slept on as girls
:: vinyl wall clings for turning the girls' room from lady bugs to a horse theme, lickety-split!
:: tidy house after an afternoon of cleaning
:: successful Boy Scout fundraiser this afternoon
:: freshly washed cars
:: finding book treasures at a yard sale down the street
:: family time with Skipbo, Apples to Apples and an hour of reading aloud
:: three sleepy kids wrapped in blankets listening to Daddy reading
:: all A’s on his first report card after his transition from homeschooling to public school
:: his courage to audition for Advanced Band...and he made it!
:: having our small group here for dinner, with the adults out numbered and all of us happily close in our little house
:: an extra hour of quiet here this morning

Making this gift list a part of my Sunday morning routine, looking back to the week just past, and forward to the week coming, inspired by Ann and her One Thousand Gifts...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Daybook on a Saturday morning

A snapshot of life right now..

:: Outside my window...

It is warmer than I would like it to be in November, sunny and bright. I can hear the washer and dryer working hard, and the giggly voices of my girls as they play on the driveway.

::I am thinking...

That I love Saturdays where I can make my own agenda. After writing, I will make a good long list. Then I will cross things off, one by one.

::I am thankful...

For health; for a house that gets messy because of the six precious lives held inside; for hot coffee; for yard sales where I met a neighbor and scored three Rosamunde Pilcher books!

::In the kitchen...

Ummm….it’s a bit of a mess and will definitely be on my list for today!

::I am wearing...

The clothes I wore to the gym this morning. I am not showering until I get some things crossed off said list…I do confess to being a bit stinky!

:I am creating...

Order in my home today. And hopefully some weed-free flower beds.

::I am going...

To my in-laws house for Thanksgiving and I can’t wait! Their home is definitely one of my happy places.

::I am wondering...
What to get my daughters for Christmas?  Already scored an awesome gift for my son!

::I am reading...

Emma by Jane Austen

::I am hoping...

That phone will ring…

::I am looking forward to...

A book club meeting on Pride and Prejudice that I am hosting next Saturday.

::A favorite quote for today...

  I read this in the comments of Sweetwater’s last 31-Day post (her series on abiding is POWERFUL…check it out!)

“A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill one drop of bitter, no matter how suddenly jarred.”
 - Amy Carmichael

Friday, November 2, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Roots

I saw this prompt early this morning, but time has been like water through my fingers today, and I only had time to sit down for my five minutes now at 8:00pm.  

So here is my Five Minute Friday contribution on Roots:

The divorce of my parents when I was six separated the roots of our little family like a gardener dividing unruly plants.  It can be hard for a small girl living between two households, two worlds, to find her way in the world.

My skinny third grade self climbed onto the bus in the darkness, with the loud driver who would hurtle too fast over the bumps to rattle happy kids, and bang the ceiling of the bus and shout if we got too rowdy.  I found a seat, pressed against the side of the bus and looked out the window as we rolled toward First Baptist, and their Awana club meeting.

It was there, in the midst of the games and snacks and Bible verses memorized, that my roots began to tentatively sink into a soil that could truly nourish…the Word of God.  Every week I braved that frightening bus ride, knowing deep down that I had found a firm place where I could stand.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

you're my favorite

My favorite thing about getting up before the sun for my morning workout is stepping back into our warm house, seeing you sitting at the computer preparing for our college bible study tonight, kissing you as I pass by, grabbing my favorite mug from the cupboard and filling it with the hot, belly-warming liquid you so thoughtfully made.

I know that's technically more than one favorite thing, but you are there in the middle of that list, and you are my very, very favorite thing to come home to.