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Monthly Archives: May 2010

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Vigilant Wives

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It’s Monday.

Memorial Day Monday.

For me, it marks the inception of summer.  And a moment to thank the families of the brave women and men who bravely gave up their lives so that I could live here in this free land called the U.S.A. 

It also means three straight days with my Honey home from work. 

So today, my Vigilant Wives Club post is short.  So I can enjoy my time with him.  With our family.  And with my hero dad who, although he did not give his life, gave so much for my freedom when he fought in the Vietnam War over 40 years ago. 

I hope you enjoy your day too…

**If you have a post you’d like to link up for today’s Vigilant Wives Club, please do so at the bottom of this post.  You’ll want to publish your post then click on the title.  Get the specifice url for that post.  Then copy and paste it into the McLinky thingy here.  Please don’t forget to link back to here in your post.

The Fax Machine Professor : a lesson in meekness

The lights were fairly bright, which made up for the fact that the room had no windows.  Only a small number of us interns were stationed there.  And it was big enough.  Big enough for our six cubicles.  And the fax machine.

We got used to sharing the space.  Learning together, even in our separate areas of ministry.  We were all working through a three-year seminary degree while working in the mega-church in which I grew up.  It was an amazingly effective way to learn vocational ministry.  Studying the books while using what we learned.  There was a lot of theology.  And Christian Education.  And there were ethics and practical ministry and surveys of Bible books and Old Testament and New Testament.  But perhaps the most memorable lesson I learned was from that blessed fax machine.

It lived directly next to my cubicle.  Within inches of the back of my chair, in fact.  And it was a very popular machine in that church in the late nineties.  Before e-mail was so prevalent.  It was an apparatus that many of the pastors who worked there did not know how to use.  A simple enough machine, however, that most of them would use it themselves rather than asking their assistants to do it.  And so began my lesson.

Everyday that I worked, at least one person would come looking to use the fax machine and not know how to do it.  So they would ask me for help.  Inevitably.  Because I was right there. 

It got kind of annoying.  Usually, my pride would gurgle up and want to ask, in a rather harsh manner, “Can you see that I’m working?”  Or, “Do I look like a fax machine specialist?”  But I would swallow it down and somewhat resentfully help them figure it out.

Well, apparently God saw that as a teachable moment, and reminded me of something that He’d taught me several years before in a Christian Education undergrad class.  It had to with a servant’s heart.  It involved the example of Jesus Christ as the very definition of true meekness.  As the Ultimate Servant, He never let others take advantage of Him.  For that is not meekness at all.  That is actually weakness.  Instead, He chose to serve and to give.  Willingly.  Humbly.  As the very Son of God.  Likewise, if I willingly choose to serve, then it is impossible for them to take advantage of me.  Because it is my choice to give.  In other words,  if I start looking to serve these people who don’t know how to use the fax machine then they won’t be keeping from my work at all.  Rather, they will be helping me fulfill part of my mission.  To serve just like Jesus. 

So I gave myself a tutorial on the fax machine in anticipation of the inevitable fax-machine illiterate who would continue to emerge.  And I started seeing my desk location an opportunity to be like Jesus.  A shot at living like He did by deliberately lending my service.  When I had something that required intense, uninterrupted attention, I would go to the church library, or take it home to work on.  Because I knew that my time at my desk was a time to serve in a different way.  A time to humbly accept my location and make the most of it.

I believe that is what Jesus meant when He said

“Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:5

Because being meek does not mean letting others take advantage of us.  It means making a choice to surrender to whatever God has for us.  Because God Himself is not a doormat.  While Jesus walked this planet, He did not let people walk all over Him.  He did not let others take advantage of Him.  He willingly gave.  He chose to serve.  And when He hung on that horrible, pain-filled cross with all of my sin on His shoulders, those soldiers did not take His life.  He gave it up.  He chose to give it. 
 
And He chose to put my desk right next to the fax machine. 

The next year, I was moved to an office space outside of my supervising pastor’s.  It was much quieter.  Much easier to get things done.  And, although I am certain there is a newer, more modern fax machine in its place today, I have no doubt that it still presents a lesson in servanthood much like its predecessor.  I can only hope that today’s intern is a faster learner than I was.

Peacefully Livable

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We had only been married a few months when I heard it.  We were at a friend’s wedding.  The pastor (who was also the groom’s dad) was talking to the bride.  He talked about all of the normal things one would expect to hear in the message before the repeating of the vows.  But I was struck with one I’d never really thought about.  The idea of providing a place of peace at home for her husband.  A refuge.

When I was in college before I met my husband, I dreamt often of what forever, marriage-covenant love would be like.  I remember passing by the tiniest little log home along the road and thinking, “We could live there.”  Home is what you make of where you live.  And this is the image that sticks in my heart even now as I remember that marriage ceremony.

Home is what you make of where you live.

I love the idea of having a refuge.  A safe place to go in any circumstance or storm.  So I dedicated myself to doing all that I could to make this of our home.  So that when my Honey got home from work, he could truly rest.  A place of peace. 

But I am an easily distracted woman of many interests.  Which means that I rarely stay on task.  Especially now that I am a mom.

So, as you might imagine, if you were to step foot into my home at any unannounced moment, you would likely find kitchen counters strewn with breakfast dishes and a dining room table buried in craft supplies and/or evidence that I’ve been working on writing that elusive article that will one day be published.

It can be hard to juggle that role in the realm of wifedom.  Providing a place of refuge, I mean.  Not putting too much emphasis on how things look, but keeping the space in which we live . . .  well, livable. I have found, however, that I enjoy my home so much more when it is not a mess.  And, frankly, so does my husband.

That’s why I’m committing this week to show my vigilance as his wife by keeping our home peacefully liveable.  And by peacefully liveable I mean that, while we will continue to use the dining room table for our crafts and writing endeavors, we will pick up the mess that we make when we’re done.  And, while I will not vacuum everyday or dust more than once, this week, I will do my best to make sure that when my husband gets home from work he doesn’t feel like he has to fight his way through the kitchen to get to the living room.  So he can feel peacefully at home.  And enjoy it.

Today is Vigilant Wives Club Monday.  I hope you will join us as we commit to show our vigilance as wives by loving and serving our husbands in new ways this week.

**If you don’t have a blog but want to join in, just leave a comment here at the bottom of this post letting us know how you plan to be vigilant as a wife this week.

**If this is your first time linking up, please read this first**
If you have a blog, first publish the post you’d like to add to the linky party.  Then get the permalink for that specific post.  Copy and paste that permalink from your browser window right into the mclinky at the bottom of this post.  (A permalink is the specific url for a post.  To get it, click on the title of the post itself.  The url in the browser window is the permalink.)  Please don’t forget to link back here.

Mommawhat???

Since the day I became a mom, my understanding of my very person has been called into question more times than I can count.  And every time I think I have it figured out, the season changes, and I am forced to ask the same question all over again.  Who am I as a mom?

Like the season (which lasted more than three years) that my oldest decided she would only wear dresses or skirts.  She was not yet two.  Being the ever-comfortable, jean-loving woman that I am, my understanding of myself as a mom was somehow called into question.  Do I force her to wear the adorable BabyGap jeans that make her diaper butt look so stinkin’ cute, or do I save my battles for something more important?

She did not wear pants for three years.

And here I am at the brink of summer vacation with my five- and fifteen eight-year-old daughters, facing the same question yet again.  Who am I as a mom?

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the kind of mom my children need.  For a very, very long time as a mother, I didn’t realize the truth that God chose me for my very children.  Often wracked with guilt, I struggle with how do this thing called motherhood.  Because I’m not qualified.  Because I only rarely have any kind of a clue as to what I’m doing.  And because I am so much better at dealing with the urgent in the moment than I am with setting my mind on what it truly important.  Like staying inside with the washing machine all day while they are outside dirtying it up.

I would love to be the mom whose home it is that all the kids flock to at summer break.  The fun mom who is always thinking up creative ways to experience and learn life.  I would love for my kids to remember their childhood as one in which I was at the center of all the fun memories.  What a fun mom I would be.

But the truth is that while it is important to help create fun memories for my children, who I am as a mom is not to be defined by that alone.  I mean, I’m fun.  But in a different way than that ideal mom is in my head.  The truth is that God knew exactly what kind of mom these two little girls need.  And as it turns out, I match the description perfectly.

That’s why I am so loving this blog that is dedicated to helping moms like me be better at our specific callings as moms.  A few weeks ago, several other women and I drafted personal mission statements in order to help us be more purposeful and intentional in our roles as moms.  My life mission statement, I believe, is to live so securely in the love of Jesus Christ and love Him so wholly that everything I do points to Him.  It follows, then, that my mission as a mom is to point my kids to Jesus by how I (1) follow Him and seek Him; (2) love them; and (3) train them in His ways.  In other words, if what I do as a mom does not somehow ultimately point my children to Almighty God Himself, then I am not fulfilling my purpose.  No matter how fun I am.

Remembering this focus helped me so much yesterday.  I was watching my eight-year-old bury my five-year-old in heaps of freshly cut grass.  (Can you say “itchy”?)  And as I sat on the porch, I called out the ever-so-familiar guilty feelings for the lies that they were.  Instead of beating myself up for not being out there with them, I decided to let them enjoy their friendship with each other.  The one that I prayed would develop even before my second one was born.  And I realized that sometimes getting the laundry clean is just as important as letting them dirty it up on their own.

Because I can point them to Jesus as I do their laundry just as I can point them to Jesus while I play tag with them.  I can point them to Jesus in my prayers for their friendship with each other and with others.  I can point them to Jesus. 

And I will filter our summer plans through this very purpose.

This week’s task is to come up with some kind of a summer schedule.  One that involves making fun memories and finding Jesus together.  It won’t be rigid.  Because that just wouldn’t be summer here at our home.  Rigid does not equal our family.  It will, however, be well thought-out.  Because the last thing I want is to waste three months worth of carefree summer days with my kids while they are kids.

How about you? How will your plans for this summer serve your specific purpose as a mom to your children?  Maybe your purpose is to teach your children true rest (in Love Himself).  Or maybe it’s something different.  I would love to hear some ideas…

Giving Up On Famous

I have this thorn in my flesh called Pride.  It’s been there for a long time.  So long, in fact, I think my body has adapted to it as if it’s a new appendage.  Which means it’s in there pretty deep.  So deep that only a doctor can remove it.  And there’s only One Whom I trust enough to dig that deep and pull it out.

At first I didn’t recognize it as a thorn.  I thought it was just an inevitable scratch from grabbing for the rose called Significance.  A battle wound of sorts.  But it started to infect the blood of my soul with diseases like wrong motives and critical attitudes.  That’s when The Doctor gave me the diagnosis.

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 6:1

I walked a 13.1 mile half-marathon seven months ago, and thought I smelled the rose.  That rose called Significance.  The one that tells me I matter.  Because I did it to raise money for kids whose parents sell them as slaves.  I did it so that they could be rescued.  And, as I walked for three and a half hours that Sunday, thousands of people cheered me on and congratulated me as I walked the course and crossed the finish line.  I even got a medal.  I thought that was part of the rose.

But I walked a 13.1 mile half-marathon three days ago, and I know I smelled the rose.  I’m pretty sure I even saw some of it’s beautiful petals.  This time, there weren’t very many spectators cheering me on.  Many of them didn’t even seem to know that walkers could be part of the race.  I found myself annoyed at having to slow down for the couple lolly-gagging across the street in front of me.  Right in the middle of the course.  And there’s that darn thorn again.  But that thorn couldn’t keep me from the real rose this time.  Because this time the same Doctor Who’s pulling out the thorn is the very One Who held it out for me to smell.  The rose, that is.  It smelled like my Father’s pleasure. 

image courtesy of www.downloadfreedesktopwallpaper.net/

The rose called Significance smelled like true importance.  The kind that never ever gets trampled on or dwindles away.  The kind that can only come from Perfect Love Himself.

I walked in obedience this time.  I walked because He asked me to help those kids.

And He walked with me.  Quietly sharing our hearts.  Me whining about the upcoming hill as it came into view.  And thanking Him for not asking me to do the whole marathon.  He reminding me how happy He is with me.  Even if I don’t finish.  Even though I’m not running, like I wanted to.  But pushing me on with His gentle strength.  And He held out the rose for me to smell.  The real one.  He let me breathe it in.

Because my significance does not lie in achieving something that others have not.  It does not come from doing things that others admire.  It doesn’t come from writing a blog that gets lots of traffic and comments.  Or from raising children who are amazing people.  My significance does not come from anything or anyone but the One Who created the very meaning of significance.  He alone holds the rose called Significance.  He’s The Gardner.  The One Who planted it.  Who sustains it.  Who prunes it and shares the beauty of its fruit with all who care to see it.  With all who stop to breathe it in.

holy experience

Intricacies

Have you ever noticed the veins in a leaf that fell many months ago?  Orange and crumbly, it nearly disintegrates as you pick it up to examine its intricacy.  I’m amazed at the strength of those veins.  Though not unbreakable, they hold firm until deliberate action is taken for their breakage.  Like the rotating blade of a mower.  Or the fast-moving shoe on a child playing hide-and-seek.  Or the curious hands of an intricacy-admirer.

Someone once told me about an experience they had in Nairobi, Kenya.  There were thousands upon thousands of people in view.  Overwhelmed, he realized that each will spend eternity somewhere.  Each pair of those beautifully dark eyes that have no doubt seen what no man or woman should have to see.  Each and every. single. one. has a soul and a heart and a mind.  Each was woven separately.  Intricately. 
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
~Psalm 139:13~
One of the cats who live in the barn next door had kittens.  What is it about baby anythings that elicits such heart-skipping adoration?  Why do my children’s voices immediately jump into that high-pitched, squeal of delight at the sight of anything baby?  Like the baby elephant at the zoo.  Or a friend’s newborn.  The miracle of life for sure.  But, even more, is the mere fact that anything in miniature seems to magnify the intricacies of its larger version.  Like a baby elephant’s ears.  And the kittens’ adorable little paws.  And a newborn baby’s teeny tiny toenails. 
I am inspired to wonder.  And to unwrap this gift that is simply not wrappable.  Because Creator-God constructed such elaborate design, how incomprehensibly amazing He Himself must be.
 
“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.

Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?

Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes.”  ~Romans 11:33-36

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Words for Vigilance

I’ve been thinking lately about the power of words.

I love words.  Words are why I write.  How I write.  I love playing with words.  But their power is not to be taken lightly.  They have the power to build up and encourage.  They have the power to tear down and destroy.

I wish I had the energy to write more words about words.  It would be fun, I think.  But for now, I will commit to use my words for only good in my marriage.  As I speak to my children about him, I will use only words that will build him up in front of them.  When I disagree with him or get annoyed with him, I will choose my words carefully and filter them through truth with love and grace and mercy.  And when I speak, I will speak words that build up my husband.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Ephesians 4:29
It’s my commitment to vigilance as a wife this week.  What’s yours?  I hope you’ll share it here…
Create your own banner at mybannermaker.com!**If this is your first time linking up, please read this first.**
If you have a blog, get your permalink for the post you’d like to share then paste it into the cool little McLinky thingy right here so other people can read and be encouraged by your vigilance. Don’t forget to link back here. (A permalink is the URL to a specific blog post. To get it, publish your post, then click on the title. Then copy the entire url from the address line at the top of your browser.)

Don’t have a blog? Awesome. Just post a comment here at the end of this post telling us about your commitment to be vigilant in your marriage this week.

Of Weeds and Vigilance

“I think I know why the weeds came back,” she declared from the backseat as we drove along the country roads that lead us into town.  “Because the sign got crooked from the wind, and the rain made it so you can’t see the words.”  I didn’t want to squelch her thoughtful invention or her belief that weeds would not only read her handmade “No Weeds Allowed” sign, but that they would also heed it.  So I agreed. 
She made the sign a few weeks ago after helping me rid the flower bed of the unwanted intruders that had tried to lay claim to the flower bed in front of our house.  And although she enjoyed our time together, my five-year-old does not enjoy repeating a task which has already been completed.  Thus, the sign.  It was all she could think of to do in order to ensure that our work had not been in vain.
Oh, if only it were that easy.  If only we could post a sign for our marriages that reads, “No weeds allowed,” and leave it at that.
But, a sign will not do the trick.  And, just as a sign won’t keep the weeds out of my flower beds, neither will it keep them from infringing on my marriage.  In fact, it takes vigilance to keep the weeds out of both flower beds and marriages alike.
Weeds like selfishness.  And pride.  Resentment.  Impatience.  Harsh words.  Prayerlessness.
That’s why I’m committed to being vigilant as a wife.  Because, even though weeds can sometimes be pretty at first, if left alone, they take over and leave no nutrients for the real flowers.  The ones that display true beauty.   And just like I want a healthy and beautiful flower bed, I also want a healthy and beautiful marriage, where God’s glory is displayed through and through.
And just as some weeds are more difficult to pull than others, some of my marriage weeds are really hard to get to the root of.  Especially selfishness.  The soil of my heart seems to really attract that one.  So I must stay vigilant.  By looking for ways to serve my husband.  By surrendering daily to God’s plan and His ways so that the soil of my heart stays soft and doesn’t get hard and crusty.
That, my friends, is what Mondays are all about here at andthensomore.  Vigilance.
You in?
Create your own banner at mybannermaker.com!**If this is your first time linking up, please read this first.**

If you have a blog, get your permalink for the post you’d like to share then paste it into the cool little McLinky thingy right here so other people can read and be encouraged by your vigilance. Don’t forget to link back here.  (A permalink is the URL to a specific blog post.  To get it, publish your post, then click on the title. Then copy the entire url from the address line at the top of your browser.)

Don’t have a blog?  Awesome.  Just post a comment here at the end of this post telling us about your commitment to be vigilant in your marriage this week.

Her Eyes

“Where did she get her beautiful blue eyes?”

People ask this about my daughters all of the time. I usually look at them (with MY OWN blue eyes) and say, “My mother-in-law has beautiful blue eyes too.” Then I smile and walk away. Sometimes laughing at myself. Sometimes laughing at the stupidity of the question. But always laughing. I have to admit it would be really fun to mess with someone the next time I hear that. Like, “Oh my gosh!!! How the HECK did that happen?!?” I mean, ask a stupid question…get a stupid answer.

Because eye-color is something you can’t get on your own. It’s inherited. And, even though I don’t understand genetics at all, I know that two brown-eyed parents don’t (usually) bear a blue-eyed child.

I didn’t get the color of my eyes from my mom. She’s got brown ones. But there are other things about her eyes that she gave to me.

Like her eye for finding a way to help others in times of need. While I was growing up, my mom was always making food for people who were in some kind of need. Whether it was having a new baby or a death in the family or someone recovering from surgery. She has always had a knack for finding a way to help. And she passed that on to me.

And, although I certainly did not inherit physical eye-characteristics from my mother-in-law, there are things in her eyes that I long to acquire.

Like the way she sees life. Differently. As if looking through the eyes of a child, she is always able to make up a fun new game to play. Or make special crafts out of recycled trash.

That’s why moms matter. Because not only do they (sometimes) give us our eye-color, they give us the tools we need in order to look through those eyes and see what we need to see. Life as they see it. By using their eyes, they teach us to use them too.

And now it’s my turn. To teach my two blue-eyed wonders how to look through the blue and see life.

Lord, help me to teach them to see as You see. Give me eyes to see what You do and the wisdom to show it to them.

Join me today in linking up with my awesome friend, Lisa-Jo at The Gypsy Mama.  She always has such beautiful thoughts on life and motherhood.  She’s asking the question “Why do moms matter?”  And, well, you guessed it.  I think one of the reasons moms matter is that they teach us how to see.

Now What?

My daughter graduated from preschool today.  Well, the equivalent of preschool graduation, anyway.  Her last day of school is actually Friday, but today was the celebration part of the end of school.  I imagine that last day will be the reality part.

She and I were both quiet on the drive home.  Odd for her, since lately her favorite phrase is, “So what should we talk about?”  I think we were both a little contemplative.

It’s strange how change does that to a person.  Or the anticipation of change, anyway.  I mean, in three very short months, both of our lives are going to change drastically.  She will join her older sister at school all day while I stay home and figure out how to do life as a stay home mom who no longer has any children to stay home with.  And, although neither one of us knows exactly what that will look like, we each look forward to it in our own unique way.  Trepidation and excitement all mixed up together into a great big ball of mixed emotion.

You know that part at the very end of Finding Nemo where all the fish have escaped the dentist’s office in plastic sandwich bags, having crossed the busy road, and end up in the ocean and Bloat says, “Now what?”  Yeah, that’s kind of how I feel.

I wonder if Moses felt like this at all after the Israelites finally escaped Pharaoh’s clutches and crossed the Red Sea.  “Now what?”  Because everything he’d done up until that point was for the freedom of his people.  He did as God said because he was God’s chosen man for the job.  “Now what?”  Because the other side of that Red Sea represented an entirely new season of life.  For him.  For his family.  For the entire nation of Israel.  And, after they sang songs of praise to the Lord, they traveled in the desert for three days before they even found water (Exodus 15:22).  I wonder if during those three days, Moses’ heart rang out the question, “Now what?”  Surely it did to some extent.  Because all he knew to do was to take the next step.  The one that God told him to take.

And that’s all I know to do.  Take this step.  It’s how marathons get finished.  It’s how life gets lived.  It’s how God leads His people.  But my nature wants to know… “Now what?”

For now, though, I will take this step.  The step that eases my youngest into kindergarten and enjoys summer vacation with my kids.  And I will do it wholeheartedly.  With gusto.  Because I don’t want to get to the other side of this road and realize that I’ve missed the scenery along the way.  The beautiful scenery of my girls growing up and being little girls.

Want to join me and a bunch of other women in a purpose-filled summer of making memories with our kids?  You should check out http://www.inspiredtoaction.com/.  It’s full of really great inspiration and very, very practical advice on fulfilling our purpose as moms.