Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ode to Melody

You know an "ode" should rhyme and be put in verses.Like this:

Oh April how we admire
Thy hard and honest work
How relentlessy you toil
To make all the lists without a quirk
Your hands were greatly needed
As we cut chicken from the bone
As we toiled hard with labored brows
And got the work all done
It would have been far simpler
If you could have been around
But in your absence food still got made
Recipes pound after pound
Next month maybe you'll have the chance
To work alongside once again
But until then we will have to listen
To Kris say everynow and then...
"If April were here you would seecooking at its best.
Alas till then you will haveto settle with slicing chicken breast"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cooking Day and Ode to April

Cooking Day is over and as I reflect on the toiling, planning, details, shopping and thinking required, I have to give due honor to my dear friend, April. (You thought this was going to be about spring, didn't you?)
Usually she is the backbone of our once a month cooking days, but this month she needed to bow out. Her daughter's prom, graduation, Spring planting and a sister's 5oth birthday party all landing at about the same time made it just not possible. April usually sends out the preliminary menu list, crunches the numbers, plans the shopping list, and hauls everything to my house for cooking day. Once there, she is very on top of things. She is very knowledgeable, and an excellent cook. I have learned a lot from her and have a new appreciation for her attention to details.
It turned out just fine, but I have taken for granted all the hard work she does without complaint. Here is what I realized yesterday...
April is the workhorse.
I am the whiner.
Forgive me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another Late Night

I am working nights, you know how I love 'em. Anyway, I really can't be witty, funny, or profound. I just want to sleeeeeeep. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

2 hours to go.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I was reading Matthew ch. 4 Thursday morning and I had one of those great revelations. I love those moments that God chooses to reveal something about Himself that I hadn't known before. Anyway, let me take it apart and show what I saw.
Matthew 4 begins with the temptation of Jesus which occurs right after His baptism (imagine that!). vs.1 Then Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Ok, now the first thing that jumps out at me is that Satan didn't even bother to approach Him until after He had fasted forty days and nights and was hungry. That is the first difference between Jesus and I. I am thinking about food as soon as I get out of bed, or at least coffee! It doesn't take much suffering to bring me to a place of weakness. It was much different for Jesus. After 40 days, He is now weak enough that Satan, who had been prowling around Him the whole time like a lion after the weak or injured, thought the time would be right to try to lead Him astray. Waiting, watching, planning. Jesus now feels physical hunger and no doubt, weakness. Satan moves in for the attack.
vs. 3 The tempter came to Him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Satan is soooo good at what he does. He's been at it a long time, but if you'll look closely at these verses, you'll see his tactics haven't changed much since Eve ate the fruit. First off, he challenges Jesus on who He is. "Are you the Son of God? Prove it!" "Do you really know who you are (in God)? " Or, how about this, "If you're hungry, just eat! It won't matter. If you want it, just take it. It's good food!" Ever heard that before?
His first attack is on Jesus' physical need and desire for nourishment and immediate fulfillment of genuine hunger and weakness. I love how Jesus responds.
vs. 4 Jesus answered, " It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
Bam! Take that Satan! Jesus first defensive action is to use the Word. Satan had no response. He recoiled, regrouped, then tried a new manuever.
vs. 5 then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
Whoa. There's a lot in these two verses. His attack on physical wants and needs failed. How about His security with His relationship with the Father? "If you really are a child of God, then He will rescue you. But, He might not love you as much as you thought..." Maybe God really doesn't care about you..." Except Satan always masquerades in the first person, getting us to believe these doubts are our own original thoughts. Some are, but most are his firey darts of doubt shot at us in our moments of weakness. So in reality, it goes more like this, "Maybe God doesn't love me as much as ____" or "I just don't have as strong of faith as____ so my prayer probably won't get answered" or how about this one "I'm not that important"?
I think it's interesting that Satan, the Father of All Lies, is constantly trying to get us to believe that God is a liar, and Satan is telling the truth. He did it to Eve, He did it to Jesus and He does it to us. Jesus had just been baptized in the passage before. Heaven opened and an audible voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matt. 3:17
I don't think the Father could have stated it any clearer. AND there were witnesses. Lots of them. Yet, I find it interesting that Satan tries to plant the seed of doubt that God won't really be there for Him. He won't rescue Him, or that He should prove it to be true.
Jesus response the the second attack is simple, yet very powerful.
vs.7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
I love that line. You see, Satan knows the Word of God. He's been studying it for thousands of years. He knows how to twist truth, take things out of context and get us off on so many rabbit trails. He is trying to draw Jesus away from focussing on the Father and using God's own Word to do it. Very effective. However, Jesus (my hero :-) knows the context of the whole Word. He was present at creation. He was there when Satan was evicted from heaven. He did not take the bait.
Jesus had something I think most, probably all of us lack. He had complete confidence in who He was in relationship to the Father. He knew the immense love of the one who IS Love. He knew how deep, how wide, how high is the Father's love. He had that revelation. He was unshakable in His faith and position. He knew the perfect love that casts out all fear. he knew the love that goes beyond all understanding. We cannot grasp it completely, but Jesus did. Here is a human like none other. I am wondering what Satan was thinking at this point. Most of us wouldn't have made it past the bread! What Satan didn't do was respond to the truth. When Jesus responded with the word, he had nothing to say. Hmmmm....
Satan again recoils, regroups, and moves in again. Notice it is all offensive action. He has no defense against the Word.
vs. 8 Again the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
What? Are you kidding me? I struggle with how Satan could possible think this was a temptation. We have already established that Jesus knew who He was in relationship to the Father. He had to know that He was God, sent to restore His kingdom. To take back what the enemy has stolen. Maybe he was offering the kingdom to Jesus in a way that He wouldn't have to die. I don't know. If He bowed down to Satan, he would then avoid the cross? Someone once told me that what Satan was offering Jesus was to be the antichrist. If anyone has more insight on those verses, please share! What I do know is that my hero again didn't fall for it. Not for a second.
vs.10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord you God, and serve Him only.' "
Satan tried as a last ditch effort, to tempt Him with power. "All of this can be yours, if you just___." Sounds like a telemarketing scheme, too good to be true. In addition to trying to tempt Him with power, I'm now wondering if he was also trying to tempt Him with avoidance of pain, suffering, and death. Through this time of testing, Jesus did not lose focus on His mission and purpose. He used the Word of God to fight against the enemy and it worked.
vs. 11 Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.
The Bible says, "resist the devil and he will flee from you". I picture the devil fleeing from Jesus at that point. Running scared. He had met his match. There is truly none like Him, matchless is every way. Wow. Not only did overcome the temptation of Satan, He gave us His Spirit and Word so that we can overcome temptation as well. We cannot defeat Satan on our own, we are no match for him, he will eat our lunch and give us the whoopin' of our lives if we try to take him on apart from salvation in Christ. Not only do we need salvation, we need training. Young men do not join the Army, then go home and sit on the couch until there is a war. We shouldn't either!
From these verses, I noticed four things about Jesus that gave Him the ability to overcome the temptation of Satan.
1. Know the Word.
Jesus' defense was always scripture and is meant to be ours as well. that is why it is given to us.
2. Know the Father's love.
There are countless verses that come to my mind when I think of His love for me. Learn them, pray them, sing them, know them. Meditate on them day and night! Get them into your heart so when you are attacked by the enemy, you can recognize the lies.
3. Know who you are in relationship to the Father.
What is God's mission for your life? If you don't know, ask Him to reveal it to you. I still am seeking His vision for my life. If we know what our mission is, we are not as easily drawn down the paths of so many seemingly good things that aren't necessarily God's will. I take on too many good things that take time away from God. If I know clearly what my commanding officer wants me to do, I won't waste time on things that don't matter. Better time management!
4. Know your place.
Jesus was humble before the Father. He submitted to His perfect will, even unto death. Not just any death, but death on the cross. He is God, I am not. His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. Sometimes I forget that and doubt His wisdom. "Are you sure you know what you're doing, God?" is the essence of my thoughts.
Thank you, Father, for your Word. It is 100% true and reliable. It has the power to set captives free and bring light into darkness. Wash me with your word, purify me, cleanse me, make me like You. Increase my faith that I would not doubt you, or your love for me. I submit my life and my will to yours. You know better than I and I will trust you, even when I do not understand.
In Jesus name,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Prayer Request

Michael's mom, Eileen, had a TIA this morning. (Like a small stroke). She is fine now, all the symptoms have resolved and we are now sitting in the clinic as she is having tests done. After she has a cardiac echo today, she will return to Potter Ridge (her apartment/assisted living). She will be on Lovenox (blood thinner injections) for five days. we will be tag teaming the shots among family members and she will also need to go back on Coumadin.
Please pray that she has no further TIA's or a real stroke. Also that whatever is the cause will be resolved without incident or deficit.
Thank you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What the Experts Don't Tell You

It's 11pm, Josh is still WIDE awake. It seems like he's just getting into his stride, too. Let's see... he's helped me brush my teeth, wash my face, wash the counter, sink and floor. Then he talked about going potty, but really just wanted to dump very expensive mineral powder foundation all over his potty chair. Obviously he had too long of a nap and is not tired, so I thought I would just read in bed and let him play next to me while he winds down... I look up to him very quietly applying foot cream in globs (to his feet, at least). He and Daddy just left to go play some music. The banjo usually puts him to sleep. What's really funny about this is that just one hour ago, Iwas thinking, "Wouldn't a baby be nice?" There is no better birth control than a two year old! Did I really say that out loud? Well, yes. Now you know our secret. Opposite ends of the house.

Monday, April 20, 2009

God in Grapefruit

I was just finishing supper this evening and having some peeled grapefruit for a healthy dessert when I started thinking that everything in nature must point to the Creator. I was staring at my grapefruit and looking at its design. Think of how much juice is held in one grapefruit. Then peel off the outer layer. Beneath there are sections. Peel the sections apart, then peel off their outer covering. Inside are "little bags of juice", for lack of the scientific names right now. That amazes me. Grapefruit juice is triple-wrapped for freshness and protection. How could this possibly happen by chance and billions of years? We have a Creator who delights in giving us good things! Isn't He simply amazing?

Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
Their words to the ends of the world.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Welcome to the Garden Party

Yesterday as we were working in the yard and cleaning the barn, I had this small revelation about parenting. I say small, because it is yet unfolding. I was thinking about how spring is such hard work. The barn gets very wet as the snow melts on the hillside, so the chicken room is an awful, mucky mess. We can't clean it out until the snow is all gone and the frost is out of the ground or it just seems to get wetter. The spring thaw also reveals what the wind has blown into our yard. Garbage, sticks, toys left out, sleds that got lost in the snow. There is so much work to do and it seems like such little time to get it done before summer is here.

This is the first year that we could do spring yard/barn work with the kids and they could actually get real work done. Matthew is getting taller, stronger, and more responsible. With demonstration, instruction, and healthy doses of encouragement, he cleaned the chicken coop mostly by himself. He is now strong enough to pitch manure and unload almost like a man. Prior to this year, he would work alongside us, but when we were not with him, he would quickly wander from his task. We would get angry, rebuke, set him back at it. Not bad parenting, really. They do need to learn to work, but now I can see that he just wasn't ready for real work. Not just physically, but mentally as well.

Hannah also has matured tremendously. She is naturally attracted to young children. She has said that when she grows up, she wants to work with children. She already does. There are many chores that she cannot accomplish due to her age, size, and lack of experience. However, she is a natural with little ones. She plays games with John and Josh (our dynamic duo), sings to them, takes them for walks, feeds them snacks, and reads to them. This allows Michael and I to do the things that the younger ones can't.

I'm beginning to see family in much more depth as our kids grow older, yet we still have little ones. There are so many analogies in the Bible to gardens and appropriately so. We both love them and hate them. They are a lot of work, but in the end, there is fruit. We love the fruit part, but hate the toil, pain, struggle, and sorrow in obtaining it.

I look back at our 19+ years of "gardening" together and I get teary-eyed. When we first planted our garden (marriage), we had no idea what we wanted to grow. We just knew we wanted to garden together. We loved each other, we were attracted to one another, and being together brought mutual feelings of pleasure. We had no idea what the other wanted, liked, believed, or that the other might have a completely different idea of what our garden would look like.

I, obviously, had more wisdom in gardening, having come from a large family. Also, my extended family was all very close, so there was more collective gardening experience at my disposal. Therefore, Michael deferred to my "better" judgement most, if not all of the time. I wanted everything right away. I wanted to plant a huge garden with every kind of fruit and thought nothing of who would take care of it. As a result, I chased after a lot of dreams that were my own and not God's. I got us into a boat-load of debt, and heaped the burden of weeding this garden on the shoulders of my husband, who rather than being my partner and having authority over me, became the groundskeeper of my massive estate. I wanted a house, so we bought a house. I got sick of my job, so I quit. I wanted to go back to school, so I did. I wanted to quit school, so I did. I wanted a child, so we did foster care (Iwas unable to have children the first 7 yrs of our marriage) then adopted, then the adoption fell apart. This remains the greatest heartache of my life. I wanted to move to the country, we did. I wanted a big house, we built it. I wanted a new car, we bought it. I wanted a new anything, I got it. Self, self, self. Yuck.

It was God's divine timing that we did not have children right away. I was way too immature at the time. However, I didn't start to mature until the children came into our lives.

When I became pregnant with Matthew, we were completely surprised. We had tried for years to have a baby, including fertility drugs, with no success. Then out of the blue...morning sickness. Shortly after finding out I was pregnant I had an ultrasound, then a phone call. There was no baby, no heatbeat. I was told that it was a blighted ovum and should schedule a D&C if I did not miscarry soon. I remember crying out to God the same sort of prayer as the Shunnamite woman in 2 Kings 4:8-37. "Why would you give me this pregnancy and then take this baby from me? Is this a cruel joke? Why? I don't understand! I had given up hope of a baby of my own!"

After a couple days of sorrow, fighting God over my situation, I surrendered it to Him. "I trust you. I don't understand, but I choose to love you anyway."

I remembered feeling very vulnerable, but for the first time in my faith, when the pressure was on, I turned to Him instead of away from Him. I asked if I could have another ultrasound just hoping what they saw would be different. I remembered laying there on the cart looking at the wall, completely surrendered to whatever the outcome was. Michael sat on the floor with his head in his hands when I heard the radiologist say, "here's the heartbeat..." I said, "What did you say?" He repeated himself and I couldn't believe it! I think I passed my first test. When we were picking out baby names, we knew that if it was a boy, his name would be Matthew, which means, "gift from God".

I remember our first night at home with Matthew. I held him in our bedroom looking him in the eyes and this intense emotion washed over me. It was one of unfolding of a great, eternal mystery before my eyes. I sobbed as I thought to myself, "I get it. I get it. THIS is what is ALL about. Life, giving of our lives into this one. Then thinking of all the lives that have been passed into each one of us, and where it all came from. God, the everlasting father of all creation who designed and knit this little life in my arms. I thought I understood so much in that moment, but I didn't. It was just our first, teeny harvest of two apples on weak, baby tree.

Matthew grew to a toddler and then the weeding begins. Discpline, teaching, reading, loving, enjoying, changing life to accomodate this new one. Seeing him watch me and copy me. Recognizing errors in my life and many of my flaws. Thinking how much I want him to be different than me, knowing I need to be real. Realizing I can't be fake, I need for God to change me because it never lasts apart from him.

Then Hannah came. Now I have a daughter. A beautiful girl with dimples and huge blue eyes. She never complained, rarely cried and was always content. I realized how malcontent I was. Always wanting what I didn't have. Here was this little girl that no matter where she was or what she had, or didn't have, she was happy. "Be content in all circumstances..." is the scripture written on this girl's heart from birth. Through raising Hannah, God showed me how envious and greedy I had become. Another weed I couldn't remove from my heart no matter how hard I tried. I needed Jesus to change me.

When Hannah was three, we had everything we wanted. Our careers were taking off. I was thinking of grad school, she was potty trained, we were planning our dream house in the country, and wondering if we were done having kids. According to the world we were on the "right track". We were having difficulty selling our house in town due to zoning and were told it was not sellable. Basically it's value was $0. Then I found out I was pregnant. When I told Michael, he cried. It couldn't have happened at a worse time in our eyes. We now owned two properties, but couldn't afford to keep that up and a baby on the way. Can you see God in this? He loves it when the odds are stacked against His people as He will be victorious in every situation we submit to Him.

I started praying. I called the prayer chain about our house situation, Michael became an expert in zoning and we fought hard with the help of lots of friends to get the zoning changed. All the while, my Dad would say, "I don't know what you are so worried about. God's got it under control. It's going to be fine." I had no idea that those would be the last words He spoke to me. May 13th, 2003, he died suddenly. I was 12 weeks pregnant with John. We broke ground on faith that our house would sell in July. In August, Michael's father died suddenly as well. The sources of wisdom were taken from our lives. We had no idea what we were doing and were in over our heads with the house, the baby, our jobs, and dealing with intense grief. I turned to God the Father and repented of not trusting Him. I sought the help of my earthly father first, then the counsel of other Chirstians. I had never sought my heavenly Father for wisdom or direction, only help. "Rescue me!" Again and again...

God's grace was on me that year. He held me through that pregnancy and I gave birth to John on December 1st 2003. It was a 40 minute labor that was without pain. I was overcome with his grace that night. I wondered if that was what Mary's labor was like. Peaceful, tranquil, knowing that what I was going through was God's will. Surrendered. I remembered thinking that Mary "stored up all these things and pondered them in her heart". I had a taste of that the night John was born. I could not explain what I felt to anyone who would understand. It was a moment between God and I.

Having John that December was God's perfect timing. Everyone was grieving that Christmas, but here was this new life, John Thomas, named after those we lost that year. He brought joy to not only Michael and I, but the whole extended family and neighborhood that Christmas. He was the perfect gift. The child we thought was coming at the worst time came at the perfect time. I confessed again of not trusting Him and thanked Him for the wonderful gift of life.

After John was born, God began turning my heart toward my husband. Praying for him, learning to submit to him. Loving him, but mostly respecting him. I began learning to be a wife, not just a co-parent, sharer of the household duties. REading the Bible, seeking God for wisdom, learning about Him through the word. Humbling myself before Him, recognizing sin in my life and confessing it. Desiring more of Him than me. Wanting to be close to Him no matter how good my life is. You see, for me, the challenge of faith is being close to Him in times of prosperity. I prayed that He would increase my faith that I wouldn't swing back and forth on the pendulum anymore.

He is doing that in me. I love it!

Our fourth child, Joshua Caleb, was born in a time of blessing. We had been homeschooling for two years ( I don't know if that's relevant, just a different path we were on), our whole family was excited for this new life. He was born at home (I never thought I would do that either!) and was so content. Our family has grown closer to each other and the Lord. We would pray together as a family and worship on our own time, not just at church. Our kids would pray for us and each other. My favorite baby picture of Joshua is one with Hannah and John's hands on his back, praying for him. Fruit! I love it!

You see, when we started gardening together, we had no plan. Our lives were random and subject to whatever storm came our way. We spent very little time weeding, and didn't research gardening much. We just kept throwing handfuls of seeds in the ground, hoping for a good crop, spending time weeding and cultivating when we had to, or the mood struck us. Yet, we kept at it. Eventually, we figured out a better way of gardening. Research gardening, through reading the Word of the master gardener. Weed the garden through repentance of our own sin and disciplining our children for theirs. Cultivate and fertilize through obedience. Model a life of faith to our children so they can have more fruitful gardens than ours.

I struggled recently with reflecting on my past failures as a Christian, wife, and mother and wondered how I could give anyone advice on marriage and mothering. I told this to my friend Penny, whose response was exactly what I needed to hear, "Wisdom gained through failure is still wisdom! You changed because of it! That is of great value to the Lord!" Wow. My failures have value. God uses it all, He wastes nothing.

Lord, I pray that my life would bring glory to you. I have not always sought you first, but I am seeking you now. I offer you it all, the good and the bad to be used for your kingdom. You have been so good to me, especially when I was walking away from you. You have gently led me back on the path and pointed me in the direction I must go. I pray, Lord that I would never forget the darkest times in my life apart from you, the depths you have lifted me from. You have given me a messy, noisy house full of children. I thank you Lord, that you have given me a husband who loves me and placed children in my arms. I have not deserved any of it. Your love and kindness overwhelm me. Thank you, Lord.