Preparing and Pondering...the Coming School Year

This is our last *plain jane* day of summer break. The holiday weekend begins when Billy gets home tonight, and our new school year starts Tuesday, complete with new schedules, new books, and new school supplies. I don't know when any of us have been so excited about starting a new school year!

And yet I'm already feeling stressed. My end-of-summer-planning-for-the-new-year has not gone as planned. I'm just a wee bit panicky about not even being able to get the plan planned! A little voice inside is saying, "How in the world are you going to be able to stay on track with school if you can't even stay on track with planning school??"

At our end-of-summer playdate/lunch yesterday, in between dealing with a pint-sized play-place bully (*not* one of ours!), a friend and I spent quite a while discussing our concerns, convictions, and commitments for the coming school year. One of the things we talked about was our growing realization that it is so easy to get focused on "getting school done" that we overlook the things we are teaching our children in the way we get school done. That conversation stayed on my mind the rest of the day yesterday as I thought about the goals God has given us for educating and training our children...and the changes I need to make in our school year this year to move back into line with those goals. As I told my friend yesterday...we have been terribly derailed in our schooling the last few years due to circumstances that have been largely beyond our control...but I have also allowed those circumstances to become an excuse for slacking in areas that could have been much better controlled.

We already have things looming on the horizon this year that could...may...will be huge interruptions to our year. I'm really convicted that if I am faithful and disciplined to do what I can do to "keep on keeping on", then God will enable us to meet His goals for our schooling even as we have to adjust in various areas.

I've been reminded again over the past couple of days of one of those things that I know, but which always seems to get lost in the shuffle of just trying to "get it done"...that the most important factor in our school year is not the curriculum we use, the organization of our school room, or even the lesson planning that I do...it is the daily preparation of my heart and the minute-by-minute dependence on God for the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that will enable me to be the wife, mom, teacher, and person God wants me to be, so that I can nurture and train my children as He would have me to.

It is imperative this year that we stay on track and get everything done in a timely manner; however, it is just as imperative that I don't get so caught up in "staying on schedule" that I become rigid and impatient, and miss opportunities for life lessons that God allows through what I usually see as "interruptions". It is also imperative that my priorities are my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my children, and their relationships with God and with others...not just getting "schoolwork" done. Learning has to flow through and out of all of that...schoolwork cannot be allowed to bypass it.

This morning as I was pondering all these thoughts, I read a couple of blog posts that really encouraged me and challenged me in this area, one by my friend Julie, and another that she linked to by Ann Voskamp. I love this quote from Ann Voskamp...

"I need to pattern my lessons plans after the Planner of these little people."
What a great reminder that this is all about His plan, not my plans!

I'm so thankful for a husband who is committed to homeschooling, despite the sacrifices it requires. I'm thankful for friends who encourage and challenge (and listen to me vent!). Most of all, I'm thankful to God for allowing us this privilege, and for sending much-needed reminders of the responsibility and blessing involved.

And now I'm off to "press on" in planning...



We were in the van this morning taking Billy to work, and the girls were discussing an adult friend who is going back to college. I asked Bayley what she was going back to school to do, to which she answered "I don't know." Emlyn immediately piped up with, "Homework!"


Billy then reminded us of the time when Emlyn was *very* small, back when Bro. Phil was still our pastor, and he said, during a sermon, "God will deliver us..." Without missing a beat, Emlyn added (and not especially quietly...:-*)) "Pizza??"

That brought to mind our conversation last night. Our children are very proud of their Italian heritage (through my no-doubt-about-it Italian mother-in-law :)). I realized last night that perhaps Billy's told a few too many "mob" stories, though. We were talking about going out to lunch today with Kathy, Kaitlyn, and Joshua, for our "end-of-summer celebration". Em, the shyest and quietest of my children, put her hands on her hips, stuck out her chin, and said, "Well, I'll tell you this right now: If Joshie kisses me tomorrow, I'm going to take out his *whole* family!"

Ack! :-O Guess I need to warn Kathy about that one. ;-) (And yes, there is a history there!)

Never a dull moment!


Simple Woman's Daybook...a day late :)

August 26, 2008

Outside My Window...
Sunshine, and "school has definitely started" morning stillness.

I am thinking...
that I need to get my thoughts in order! This is one of those days when my thoughts are a jumble. This is our last *quiet week* of vacation, staying home, a relaxed schedule...and the *list* to get ready for the coming weeks is a mile long!!

Trying to "forget what is behind, and press on toward the mark", and "RWYK" this week.

Pondering again the need to "Give it up, Let it go, Throw it down..." in some areas (from our "Moses" music experience Sunday).

I am thankful for...
my husband, who truly demonstrates the selflessness of Christ to me...
and that we are past the "first date fruits and vegetables" stage!
(Don't panic if you don't get that...it was one of those "you just have to be th
ere" things ;-))

my children, and the desires I am seeing in the older ones to grow in Christ
(and Ammah Grace's constantly keeping us in stitches, even as she is wearing us completely out! ;-) :-D ),

my parents, who sacrificed much for their children,

our church, which is truly a family,

friends God has given who make the journey so much more bearable and fun!

creative outlets,

and the blessing of being able to homeschool my children.

From the kitchen...
We're on a *no-bake cookie* kick...which will last until the humidity (or whatever gremlin it is that causes some percentage of my no-bake batches *not* to set) strikes again and we have a batch of my infamous no-bake soup. ;-)

I'm thinking of making some banana bread and maybe a chocolate pie later
in the week.

Saloon Beef sandwiches on the menu tonight, *if* I get the meat in the crock pot on time. :)

I am wearing...
denim capris and a red and white shirt, with my dawn-to-dusk summer footwear, my black jeweled flip flops.

I am creating...
school and schedule plans for the year!
Life learning notebooks for my children,
and still working my way through scrapbooking projects much more slowly than I should be!

I am going...
I'm actually going to go see my MIL tonight...she's been here all weekend and I haven't seen her yet! I'm probably also going to get beaten by everyone in the family on the Wii. ;-)

We're *actually* planning to take Billy to work (for one of the first times all summer) this Thursday and go to lunch with Kathy, Kaitlyn, and Josh. Kaitlyn (the *planner* of the group:)) said to her mom, "We need to go to Chick-Fil-A one last time before we all start school and you start this new *MOTH schedule* thing!" :-D So we are!

Other than running some errands while we're out that day, I'm planning on a low-key week. The last couple have been busier than we're used to these days, and I need to recupe
rate! (Especially since next week we have the holiday, the start of our school year, and the GK Sale...ack!)

I am reading...
lots of school planning stuff. :)
Hidden Art, by Edith Schaeffer (I'm supposed to be doing a book club discussion on this, and I need to get on it! I promise I haven't forgotten, Julie!))
Faithlift and Treasures of Heaven in the Stuff of Earth, both by Babbie Mason. I'm so excited about these!
Need to finish A Bend in the Road, by David Jeremiah, this week, as well as the biography of Charles Spurgeon.

I am hoping...
For a peaceful, productive week,
and for another phone call to come quickly!

I am hearing...
the fan behind me,
our *new* 12-year-old Beagle (that we inherited from my in-laws a few weeks ago) snoring as she sleeps beside my desk. :)

my children in their rooms trying to pretend they aren't awake (they had a *very* late night last night because Nonna is in town! :))

Around the house...
I *must* finish organizing the books this week!
I *must* catch up on the mountain of laundry again this week!

One of my favorite things...
Seeing my children working hard to please God and mom and dad...even when it is a real struggle sometimes.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Prepare for school,
Prepare for the Growing Kids Sale (ack!),
Finalize plans for the weekend,

and finalize plans for "what to do next with my hair" (it's in severe need of an overhaul, after being up in a ponytail all summer...the ponytail has got to go, and some sort of *style* must take its place. :))

Here is picture thought I am sharing...
Silly Glamour Girls at the GA sleepover. They had a blast, and I discovered that you are never *really* too old for a sleepover. :)
(Facebook friends...more sleepover pics on my FB page:))

Hop over to Peggy's to see what others are doing this week!


Forgetting What Lies Behind...

Much of my life seems to be about "old things". Old furniture, old houses (although 11 years in this one has about changed my tune on that! ;-)), old family stories, family heirlooms, old books, my antique family Bible collection...and even my favorite hobby-turned-tiny-business is all about preserving memories and remembering the past.

Remembering can be a good thing. We are told, in fact, to remember. The Israelites erected "standing stones" to commemorate God's promises and supernatural acts. God gave the rainbow as a reminder of His promise never again to destroy the earth by flood. We are told to celebrate the Lord's Supper "In Remembrance of Me", to remember Jesus' sacrifice for us.

We are told in 1 Chron. 16:12 to remember...

"Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced"

And Psalm 111:4 says,

"He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and compassionate."

Failure to remember what God has taught us and the miracles He has done brings about disaster. Neh. 9:17 is just one example of God's people forgetting His works and becoming "stiff-necked" and rebellious:

"They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery."

Sometimes, though, we get stuck in our remembering. Our looking back at the "good old days" can cause us to be discontent with the "here and now" where God has us, and even cause bitterness about the changes He has brought about and expectations that have not been met.

I actually meant to post this Wednesday. I woke up Wednesday morning with this song running through my head:

This One Thing

The things we have are nothing, compared to knowing Christ,
He's surpassing great and wonderf'lly true.
As we run the race to Heaven, rejoicing as we go,
Til the day we reach our goal, this one thing we do:

We forget the things behind us
and press onward to the prize,
For as citizens of Heaven living here,
We do eagerly await Him, Jesus Christ who is our life;
We press onward til our Savior shall appear.

The things which once were profit, we now consider loss,
For the righteousness of Christ has made us new.
To share His pow'r and suffering, to die and then arise,
As we seek to reach the goal, this one thing we do:

We forget the things behind us,
and press onward to the prize,
For as citizens of Heaven living here,
We do eagerly await Him, Jesus Christ who is our life;
We press onward til our Savior shall appear.

Let us run the race with patience, for we know not when
He will change us to His glory,
When He comes again.

We forget the things behind us,
and press onward to the prize,
For as citizens of Heaven living here,
We do eagerly await Him, Jesus Christ who is our life;
We press onward til our Savior shall appear.
~Karen Kuehmann and Dan Forrest, Jr.

The past few weeks I've struggled with *looking back* in a very discontented way...wanting to go back to the "good old days", or wishing that I (or others) had done certain things differently. I have so needed to be reminded to "press on". I ran across this video on Wednesday when I was pondering the song above and the verses from which it is taken (Philippians 3:13-14):

I've also struggled this week with *not* remembering things I *need* to be remembering...God's promises and His mighty works in the past. God has taught me so much recently about the perfection of His timing...and yet, once again, I found myself yesterday doing anything *but* "waiting patiently on the Lord". Agitation and just a general feeling of being "down in the dumps" left no room for peace, joy, or trust.

I'm so thankful for God's faithfulness not to leave me wallowing in disobedience in those times! I'm so thankful for a husband and friends who pray for me, both when I ask them, and when I don't. I'm thankful for friends who remind me to get in the Word even when I don't feel like it...and who read it, quote it, or send it to me when needed. Most of all, I am thankful that His Word is quick, powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword, and for the songs that He gives in the night.

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
~Philippians 3:13-14

"I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago."
~Psalm 77:11

ETA: I had planned to include another quote that has been running through my head often lately, especially as I've pondered the things in this post. My friend Kecia's dad used to remind us *often* to "RWYK...Remember What You Know." I can hear his voice and see the twinkle in his eye as he said it even now *years* later as I type this. I realized earlier that in all the interruptions I had while typing this post, I had left that part out...and before I got back to add it, my friend Tauna had posted it in the comments. :) What a blessing "Mr. Tom" was and how he is loved and missed! He left quite a legacy, and I'm thankful for the memories I have of his encouragement, and teaching.

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Emlyn's Birthday!!

I can't believe I am just now getting Emlyn's birthday post up...two days late! Ugh. I woke up not feeling well on her birthday, and managed to get through all the birthday preparations and festivities that day, but didn't get much else done that day and have been behind ever since!

Here are a few photos of the big day and our newly-turned-seven-year-old:

Birthday Banner...
Peter decorated this wrapping for her, with help from Bay...:-)
Birthday Girl!!
The new seven-year-old...
She *loved* her penguin from Mrs. Jodie...
Silly girl!
Puzzle from Peter and Bay...
She was very excited about this...
...Because of these!!
(For those who don't know, Em's nickname is Princess Penguin, which stems from Peter dubbing her Mr. Penguin before we knew if she was going to be a boy or a girl, and she collects all things penguin. :-))

Birthday girl's breakfast of choice...
She has wanted this *forever*!! (Many thanks to Mrs. Jodie who saved Mom's life by finding this after mom had been all over town looking only to find them *gone* everywhere I looked. :)) In case you can't tell...there is a teeny, tiny Polly Pocket penguin in there...
At her birthday dinner...at her favorite Chinese restaurant. (She inherited her mom's love of Chinese food!:))
Birthday girl with Daddy...
Necklace from Mamoe...
Peter and Gracie...

In spite of a few bumps in the road, she had a great birthday. Happy Birthday, Princess Penguin!!


We need to change the question...

Excellent video clip from Voddie Baucham...yet another voice saying we've got the *question* all wrong when we ask "Why do Bad Things Happen?". (*Love* the part about college philosophy classes...maybe someday I'll take a trip down memory lane and tell my "semester of philosophy" story here. ;-))


A while back I posted some thoughts on a article written by Babbie Mason, one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I actually located a *brand new* used copy of her book, FaithLift, for under a dollar. I love those deals! :-) The combination of Babbie's heart and writing skill in her music made me anxious to read this book as well.

I'm just getting started on the book, but I've not been disappointed. I'm sure I'll be posting thoughts from the book itself soon. But before I ever got to Babbie's actual writing, I was struck by the forward to the book, which says this:

"We want breadth. Numbers. More people saved! And so does God. But He has another work He wants to do within the church that will cause us to be far more effectively used for breadth. It's called depth. Specifically, a depth of sanctification and a depth of faith. The combination invites God to do the inconceivable like no other."

As I read those words, it was like a light bulb suddenly popped up over my head. Several of us have been talking lately about how everyone in our circle of friends right now is facing some huge storm. And not only that, but it's been going on for a *long* time. Either new storms coming, one after another, before the last one is completely gone, or long-term intense storms...or both. I've seen the same thing in online friends facing huge giants. It can get very overwhelming very quickly.

But the other thing that I've seen in that is that over and over and over again, both with IRL friends and online ones, people are sharing things that God is showing them about Himself that are totally amazing. Deep things. Things that could only be learned in the school of suffering. A new awareness of and awe for the sovereignty of God. A new assurance of His goodness, even when circumstances are far from good. A deeper realization of His incredible love. A renewed love for His word, and even in some cases a drive to dig into the previously-seen-as-dry-and-not-so-relevant-to-life-right-now subject of "doctrine".

I've been seeing those things, experiencing them, and marveling about them for a while, as anyone who reads much here knows. But I hadn't really put them together with the term "revival" until Beth's words. She continues with these:

"The good news is that faith--the authentic New Testament kind--is beginning to come back in style.
I'm not talking about name-it-and-claim-it theology. I'm talking about simply believing God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. I'm talking about learning to abide in Christ and letting His words abide in us so that our petitions begin to reflect His heart and mind. (John 15:7-8)
The result is a God-glorifying harvest that bears witness to a lost world that Christ is alive and powerful. Ultimately, the harvest will be one of souls. I am convinced that breadth revival will follow closely on the heels of a depth revival."

Is the suffering that seems to be mushrooming around me part of that very thing? A "depth revival"? What a thought. And what a perspective-changer to begin to look at those storms through "revival-colored glasses."

LORD, I have heard the report about You;
LORD, I stand in awe of Your deeds.
Revive Your work in these years;
make it known in these years.
In Your wrath remember mercy!
~Habakkuk 3:2


More birthday....:-)

We always let the kids open one present when they get up on their birthday, and then they have to wait until Dad gets home from work to open the rest. (It's always exciting when a birthday falls on the weekend so they don't have to wait!) Bay had waited anxiously *all* day for Daddy to come home so she could open this gift...

And it was worth the wait! Her Hobby Lobby gift card for scrapbook supplies, and a pink "padfolio" because she has wanted one for ages. (She may not *look* like me, but her wish lists sure look like mine! Notebooks and paper and crafty stuff...;-))
Another highlight of her day. Long-standing birthday tradition around here is Mr. John singing "Birthday" by the Beatles (aka "Mr. John's Crazy Birthday Song" :-D) He didn't get to come eat last night, but his call was a very fun surprise. I think her face says it all...

Bayley and Kaitlyn weren't happy about having their picture taken *again*.
Silly boys!
Em wasn't in a picture-taking mood, either.
Poor Mrs. Kathy learned a valuable lesson last night...never take menu suggestions from an Italian child. My children all tolerate spicy food at young ages (unlike their mother...:)), and Bayley's recommendation of the Jalapeno chips had Kathy breathing smoke!
Josh, of course, kept us all in stitches, between his dancing (they should have advertised the live entertainment!) and his ever-present verbal wit.
Bayley said it was a *great* birthday...:-D


Happy Birthday Bayley!!!

The long, long, LONG-awaited 9th birthday has finally arrived!!

The birthday banner...(pardon our not-quite-yet-primed-and-painted walls..ack!)
One of the highlights of the day...*finally* getting to change earrings after having her ears pierced 6 weeks ago. She has waited and waited to wear her new Minnie earrings...an early, early birthday present from one of her favorite people. :)
The other highlight of the day...getting to go have a *girls-only* lunch with Mrs. Kathy and Kaitlyn. They went to Sweet Bay and had a wonderful time, and Kaitlyn gave her adorable monkey earrings...:-D
More pictures later....Happy Birthday, Bay!!!


"A Whole Lot More for Sure..."

This morning a friend and I were talking about the *bigness* of God...and how comforting it is that our God is Sovereign, All-Powerful, and All-Knowing. I've blogged before about the lessons God is teaching me about His sovereignty, His goodness, and His love. I shared with my friend this morning that I really related to a comment by Steven Curtis Chapman last week on "Larry King Live". He was talking about the accident a few months ago in which his teenage son, Will Franklin, accidentally ran over his 5 year old daughter, Maria Sue, and how God has worked in His life through it:

"I know a lot less about God, but the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more for sure."
~Steven Curtis Chapman

That summed up how I feel about the things God has been teaching us the past few years. I've realized more than ever what a *BIG* God we serve. I've realized more than ever that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. I have realized more than ever that He is *WAY* beyond our understanding. I've realized more than ever that we are "filthy worms", deserving *nothing* from Him. I've realized more than ever that there are things about God's character and His plan that I will *never* be able to understand or explain.

And I've realized that that is okay. Because I don't *want* a God that my feeble, finite mind can understand or explain completely. I am thankful for the little glimpses He gives of who He is and what He is doing. And I'm thankful that in the mountains and the valleys and the deserts of the past few years, "the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more for sure." The glimpses He has given, He has made so much more real than I would ever have imagined possible.

This video is the sixth of six parts of the Chapman family's interview on Larry King Live last week. I'm posting it here because it is the section that contains the above quote. The rest of the segments are linked here. The entire interview is well worth watching, as is the Good Morning America interview which is also linked on that page. What an amazing testimony to God's glory in the midst of incredible suffering. Their story even had quite an impact on Larry King, as seen in this video clip of Larry King reflecting on the interview.

"As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:9

For August 11, 2008

Outside My Window...
Rain!! Cooler temperatures (Yay!!). Things starting to turn green again. A boy walking barefoot in the rain.

I am thinking...
all kinds of thoughts swirling in my mind...I'm in a thoughtful mood today.
Birthday thoughts, thankful thoughts, a sad thought or two, and thoughts about the *bigness* of God.

I am thankful for...
a van sold.
a sink fixed.
a garage (almost) completely gone.
a husband who has worked hard on all of the above and more!!
(and friends who've helped with the sink and the garage :))
cooler weather!!
Working AC at church!!
a chance to cuddle our sweet baby niece for a little while yesterday.
Girls with birthdays in the next week!!! :-)

From the kitchen...
Hopefully a bit more exciting fare this week, as it is cooler and I hope to take advantage of the opportunity to actually *cook*!!
(I'm thinking cherry cobbler for starters today...:))

I am wearing...
black shorts and a red flowered shirt

I am creating...
long overdue scrapbook projects,
birthday surprises,
*pockets of beauty* in our home.

I am going...
Shopping for some birthday girls tonight!
Shopping *with* a birthday girl later this week! :-)

I am reading...
Still working through my list from last week. :-)

I am hoping...
It really stays as cool as they are predicting this week.
For wonderful birthday memories for my girls.

I am hearing...
the whirr of the fan behind me,
children chattering,
occasional rain patters.

Around the house...
More sorting, organizing, and decluttering!

One of my favorite things...
Encouragement from my sweet husband when I am down...even when he says things I know are a bit (or a lot :)) biased. :)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Celebrating *9* with Bayley tomorrow!
Preparing for Emlyn's birthday next Monday.
A few errands here and there.
Diligent work on the house, school prep, and creative projects.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Ammah Grace brought home a flower hair clip from VBS a few weeks ago. The girls asked me one morning to make some for them with some flowers in our *stash*. I said we would try to do it that afternoon. Peter piped up and said, "May I do it for them, Mom? I know how..." So out came the glue gun and Peter made each girl a beautiful flowered hair clip. The girls loved them, and Mom was very proud of her "crafty boy" who is even willing to make "girl stuff" for his sisters!

Thanks To Peggy for hosting the Simple Woman's Daybook each week!


"It is Well"...the Story Behind the Song

I've never attempted to post a video before, but this one was just too good not to share. I grew up hearing this story from my dad (from whom I got my love of hymn stories, and who never made it through this one without tears :))....this was one of his favorite hymns, and it has always been one of mine as well.

A friend posted this yesterday and I started not to watch it, thinking "I've heard that story a million times...", but I am *so* glad I did. It is beautifully done, and a very touching and timely reminder right now..


"Lay It Down"

It's such a wonderful thing when we are going through difficult times and God showers us with encouragement. By Wednesday of last week, I was really discouraged about several things, and God began to pour out encouragement in all kinds of ways.

But God doesn't always work in our lives today the same way He did yesterday. Again this Wednesday (seems to be becoming a pattern), I was really struggling. I didn't want to go to church, and when I got there I still didn't want to be there. I didn't feel like making small talk, and I fought tears more than once. Fortunately, at a couple of the worst spots, the antics of crazy friends made me laugh, getting me *over the hump* and keeping the threatening tears at bay.

I thought seriously of not staying for choir rehearsal. I wasn't in the mood, didn't feel good, and still had to take four tired children by the store on the way home. But I knew the kids would be disappointed if they didn't get to stay for choir kids (most of them, anyway :)), and I reminded myself of all the times before when I haven't felt like staying for choir, but I did, and God blessed and encouraged and uplifted me through it.

So, I stayed.

I kept waiting to feel better. I kept waiting for some song to really encourage and comfort. I kept waiting for that sense of the cares of the world fading into oblivion as I got caught up in the music, the words, the work of learning parts and rhythms, and just the plain old love of singing. I kept waiting for my usual Wednesday night *break*.

It didn't happen.

As we sang, I just kept feeling antsy and anxious. I missed notes and rests and rhythms one after another. And the more the expected encouragement and peace and joy *didn't* come, the worse I felt.

We're working on a 20-page piece right now...Ken Medema's "Moses", arranged for choir. I've heard it done as a solo before, but never done it as a choir piece. It is challenging (which I usually love :)), irritating (WHO in their right mind expects an *alto* to hit a *high F*, for goodness sakes???), but also fun in spots. :-D

We've been working it for weeks, a section at a time, and until last night hadn't seen the end of the song since our initial sight-read. (Which always, btw, drives me batty, despite the fact that I know the reasons behind it. :)) I knew we were nearing the end of rehearsal, and I kept waiting for that "I knew it would be worth it to stay for choir" jolt of encouragement.

It never came. No jolt. No warm fuzzy feeling. No mountaintop glimpse of glory.

What I got instead was a prick. A prod. A poke that felt more like a jab. Conviction.


The song is based on the story of Moses. God calls Moses. Moses questions God. God answers Moses's objections with promises and miraculous signs. Moses whines. "Send someone else, Lord, please?"

God turns Moses's rod into a snake, then tells Moses to pick it up by the tail. He does, and God turns it back into a rod. The song says,

"Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I'm trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!

With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;
With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharoah dead;
With the rod of God, you can set the people free.

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up...Give it up...
Let it go...Let it go...
Throw it down."

Those last few lines hit hard. God has brought me in recent weeks to a place of incredible surrender, in areas I've held tight to for a long time. That surrender, while painful, felt good in the end. I have to constantly work not to take it back off the altar, but I have felt a real peace about it. I felt like I was doing really well in the area of surrender right now.

While we were singing those words last night, I was hit with the realization that while the areas in which God has brought me to surrender in the past few weeks were the *big areas*, they weren't necessarily the most painful. Difficult, terribly. And yes, definitely painful. But there were...are...other areas still to come that are like splinters in the sole of your foot...not so big, but excruciatingly painful.

I am a relationship person. Ask me to prioritize a list of things and relationships will come out on top every time. Sometimes...too much so. I can get focused on relationship issues to the point that I don't keep up with the rest of life at times. It's easy for me to put people before God. I don't care about large groups of friends, but the small circle of *really important people* in my life is of utmost importance. And when something is out of whack there, it paralyzes me. Nothing can send me tumbling into the pit faster than an off-kilter relationship with a family member or friend.

I know that God made me that way. He made me a *people person*. Not in the sense of an outgoing, life of the party person...I am far from that! But a person to whom a small circle of people, their feelings, and our relationships are vital.

God has blessed me in giving me those deep, special relationships...in our family, with a handful of close friendships over the years, and in the churches we've been part of. I am so thankful, always, for those relationships. For my parents, my brother, my grandparents, and a few aunts, uncles, and assorted second cousins as I was growing up...for my husband and children now...for the friends He has provided in different seasons of life...and the mentors who have invested in me in so many ways over the years.

The down side of those wonderful relationships, and of their importance in my life, is that I don't deal with relationship changes well. Whether it is a relationship ending due to death, a move, or just life changes; or a relationship shifting in a new direction for whatever reason...I don't handle it well.

I started to say I've been working on these things in recent years...but actually, God has been working on them. It's been a slow process. Realizing, first of all, that I am in danger, often, of putting relationships ahead of God. Realizing that I tend to lean way too much on my friends at times. Realizing that I tend to push more than I should, that I want to fix everything and make it all better...for my family and my friends...to an extreme that isn't good for anyone.

Lately there have been some major shifts in some long term, deeply important, relationships in my life. Actually, some of those shifts have been in progress for a year or more, but God is now making me face those changes and begin to accept and deal with them.

I don't want to.

Even where those relationships are causing a great deal of pain at the moment, the the changes I see coming are even more painful. In some cases, I'm realizing the relationship may actually end. In some, I just see them changing in ways that I so do not desire. For some, there is a possibility of restoration; for others, it would take a miracle I have ceased to expect. I am painfully aware of the precise reasons behind the shifts in some situations; in others, there are unanswered questions, best guesses, and bits of confusion.

Last night as we sang, I realized that God was speaking these words to me about the relationships I am struggling with right now:

"What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up...Give it up...
Let it go...Let it go...
Throw it down."

My first reaction is, "I don't want to!" Like Moses, I find myself saying, "Are you sure, Lord?" There is a tiny ray of hope saying, "If you lay them down...if you surrender them...God will restore them." And yet...I know that for surrender to be complete, it has to be without strings or expectations. If...when...I lay them down, it must be with no expectations, truly being willing for God to work in them as He wills, realizing that the end result will be what is best for all involved.

I am so thankful for the relationships that God has given that *are* stable, that have, if anything, grown deeper during this time. I am so thankful for those who have been faithful to love me even when I am at my least lovable, to put up with me even when I am driving them crazy, to pick me up when I have fallen down. But the other changes on the horizon are still frightening and painful.

Yesterday, God reminded me that He is "Unchanging". I am so thankful that no matter how much life...and relationships...change, He is unchanging and sure.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
Hebrews 13:8

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
Deuteronomy 31:8


For Today...
August 4, 2008

Outside my Window...
Sunny Skies heading toward record high temps again. Not a hint of a breeze. Dried up grass and asphalt streets you could fry an egg on. :)

I am thinking...
I wish I had a laptop so that I could be online and in the room with AC at the same time. :)

I am thankful for...
the cool air we *do* have, even though it would be nice to have more. :)

a husband and friends who put up with me even when I am not at my m
ost lovable.

children with sensitive, tender hearts.

songs in the night.

From the kitchen...
a menu centered around "whatever we can eat that doesn't require the use of the oven or stove between the hours of 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. :) I have completely revamped menu and schedule until the current heat wave ends!
(See my Menu Plan Monday post for details.)

I am wearing...
navy shorts and a tangerine shirt with my "wear everywhere" black jeweled flip flops. :)

I am reading...
a whole stack of books, as usual!

In addition to books I was already working my way through (A Bend in the Road, Hidden Art, When All Hell Breaks Loose, and The Dangerous Duty of Delight), I'm starting a few more this week...

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus, by one of my favorite authors, Anne Ortlund. I've had this book forever and pull it out periodically...I needed it this weekend!!

Meet Me at the Well, by Virelle Kidder, an author I had never encountered before. This is on loan from a friend and was one of those "just what I needed just when I needed it" books. I'm looking forward to reading more of it.

And a biography of Charles Spurgeon I checked out at the library.

I am hoping...
that the phone call I'm waiting on comes sooner rather than later.

I am hearing...
a quieter than usual Monday morning, as the children are all busy with quiet things. :)

Around the house...
I need to *finish* sorting and organizing books!

Cleaning and decluttering in short spurts in the "coole
r" hours of the day.

Otherwise, lots of plans on deck for activities that can be done from the recliner or the sofa in the cool air of the living room window unit (school planning, reading with the kids, scrapbooking projects, letter writing, Bible study, etc.)...too hot to do much else here this week!

A few of my favorite things...
a rare Sunday afternoon nap. :)

an unexpected card from a friend.

"girls night out" dinner with a friend, or "family night" dinner with another family...time to talk and laugh and be encouraged and even be a bit (or sometimes a lot) silly. :)

coming home from the store to find my wonderful hubby has done the dishes for me!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Staying as cool as possible in triple-digit temps.

Getting up earlier to take advantage of cooler time in the early morning, and adding an afternoon nap later in the day.

Getting caught up on my "around the house" list above. :)

Planning the girls birthdays!! (next week and the week after. :))

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...A serious Monopoly match with the kids a while back. :) I just realized this morning I haven't taken a picture all week! *That* is almost unheard of. Guess I need to get snapping. ;-)

Thanks to Peggy for hosting the Simple Woman's Daybook each week!


Trust His Heart, Revisited

About a month ago, I blogged about a song that has been a favorite of mine for years. Babbie Mason's "Trust His Heart" has been on my mind often in the weeks since.

Tonight I noticed on my stat counter that someone had visited my blog as a result of a Google search on "story behind Trust His Heart, Babbie Mason". I decided perhaps I should search that myself, since the song has meant so much to me recently...in fact, I was a bit surprised that I hadn't thought of it before, as I love to know "the story behind the song".

That search led to this article by Babbie Mason. Don't you just love it when something that seems quite *random*, such as an unplanned online rabbit trail, leads you to something you *know* God put there just for you at that moment?

Babbie Mason has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters since college. Not only does she have an incredible voice...an alto's dream voice :)...but her lyrics are so often the perfect mix between exactly what I am feeling, and exactly what I need to hear.

The article's theme is one most of us have heard before...an analogy between faith and flying, describing the "spiritual vertigo" that can occur when we allow feelings to push their way past the truth of the Word . And once again, Babbie hit me right where I am this very moment.

This weekend has been "hugely" emotional for me. Actually, the emotions began to hit full force Wednesday...particularly with some conversations that were encouraging, but very, very intense emotionally. Thursday was a really *up* day. God knew I needed an oasis of laughter and "girl talk" and encouragement, and He provided it abundantly Thursday night. Friday started out rough, but ended on an incredible mountaintop seeing agonizing long-term prayers being answered in amazing ways. But like OT stories of the children of Israel, I went straight from witnessing the awesome power of God to falling flat on my face, a mere 24 hours later. Saturday night found me crashing in a swirling sea of doubt and despair.

As I read this article, I felt like the author had been eavesdropping on my heart. She says,

"Has this ever happened to you? One moment you believe God for the impossible. The next, you are drowning in a sea of doubt, controlled by your feelings."

That's been the constant cycle of my life for the past 25 months. As has this:

"How many times have you been in a valley of decision where your faith was telling you to do one thing and your feelings were telling you to do another?"

How about 2 years straight and counting?

Through that time, we have been living the truth of these words as well:

"If we are disobedient, our actions will cause reactions. First our disobedience will affect us. Then it will affect those who are closest to us, our family and other loved ones.
Sin has a ripple effect. Before long, one act of disobedience can affect countless lives."

So many times recently, I have reminded my children, "Don't ever believe that some sin is okay because 'it isn't affecting anyone but me...what I do in my own private life is no one else's business.' It does, and it is. One "tiny little personal (bad) decision" can ruin not only *your* life, but the lives of everyone around you."

This is so true:

"We don't live in a perfect world. Far from it. Sometimes things won't go as you think they should. That is when trusting in God's sovereignty is essential."

And I love this:

"A very wise woman once told me, 'When you can't feel God with your feelings, feel Him with your faith.' "

Songs like "Trust His Heart" are wonderful reminders to do that very thing. Oh, and the story behind the song I was looking for? I didn't find a lot of particulars, but I loved what I did find. Over the past few years, I have developed a real appreciation for the writing/preaching of Charles Spurgeon. I actually checked out a biography of him at the library this week. This is what Babbie says about her inspiration for the song "Trust His Heart":

"Charles H. Spurgeon, a great author and theologian of the church, once wrote some words that inspired me to compose a song titled 'Trust His Heart.' I think his words say it best: 'God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind. And when you can't trace His hand, trust His heart.' "

How neat to discover that one of my favorite songs was inspired by a quote from one of my favorite great preachers! And what a blessing to be reminded of these thoughts right now as I am trying once again to move back from the shaky ground of "feelings" to the firm foundation of "faith".

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