Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ready or Not

I now have an eighteen year old.

I have an eighteen year old.

My son is eighteen years old.

It doesn't matter how I say it or how many times I repeat it, nothing about that sentence makes any sense to my brain.  But, it's happening.  Happened already.  He's eighteen years old.

One of hardest parts is facing the fact that I'm actually old enough to have an eighteen year old.  I vividly remember turning eighteen, being eighteen, loving eighteen.  Eighteen is when I spent two months in Peru, moved to college, met my husband, and started doing grown-up things like voting, buying my license plate tags, and eating salad.  It's the year my parents moved across the nation, and I had to find my own place to live when school let out.  The year I got a real job.  The year I looked into the face of a man who wasn't too much older than me and said yes when he held out a ring with hope in his eyes.

And all of those things are here, waiting for my own child who isn't a child any more.  All of those experiences, those decisions, those learning curves, they are all lined up like mile markers in front of him because he is eighteen years old.  My son is eighteen years old.  

And I know it's not like his life is just beginning.  It's not that he's at mile one.  He's had eighteen years worth of mile markers to prepare him for this.

The first step.  The first word.  The first french fry, which I distinctly remember celebrating.  The first day of school.  The day he decided to follow Jesus.  The first week-long youth camp.  The first time he knew more math than I did, which happened closer to the french fry than the youth camp.  The first crush.  The first time he pulled out of the driveway on his own. 

They all got us here, to eighteen.  And they all made him ready to move forward.  To vote, move to college, meet someone special, eat salad.

I'm just not sure they've done anything to make me ready.

And yet, it doesn't matter.  The eighteen year old mile markers are here if I'm ready or not.  And all I know to do is the one thing I know I've learned being a mom.  I pray.  

I pray that the God who walked me through my own mile markers will hold the hand of my son and lead him through every one of life's experiences that will start coming faster and faster in this new season.  

I pray he will have courage to make the tough choices in a way that honors the God he loves.

And I pray that the God who gave me this child to begin with will hold my heart when the man he has become walks away from me.  

I pray I will have the courage to cheer him on from a distance as he faces the mile markers that don't require me to be beside him anymore.

My son is eighteen years old.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Favorite Things

My daughter watched the Sound of Music last night.  She was telling me this morning her favorite part is when Maria sits on the pinecone.  So many memories, that movie holds for me, since I watched it at least once a week, it seemed, while I was growing up.


And I think my favorite part has always been the "Favorite Things" song.  I'm pretty sure if the rest of my family experienced anything at least once a week, it was me singing that at the top of my lungs from behind my closed bedroom door.  It may or may not also be the reason my bed broke when I was nine, since I also tended to act out all of the children jumping on it with Maria as they sang.


"When the storm strikes, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel.....(getting up to full out gusto here)...so baaaaaaaaa----aaaaaaaa-------dddddd!"


It's a lovely song.


And probably the reason I have always believed in having a lot of favorite things.  Because if you have hundreds of favorite things, you can't help but happen upon them every day.  The more you have, the better your odds.


Which is why last summer, when our family was trapped inside on a rainy day, we played the Favorite Things game.  If you've never heard of it, I'll teach it to you, and you don't even have to click a link to connect to Pinterest or buy it on Amazon.  Here it is:


You each sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and you have five minutes to write down all the favorite things you can think of.


Isn't that a brilliant game?  But the real fun comes in the sharing because when you're done writing, you go around the circle and share your favorite things.


I still have our lists because they are now some of my favorite things.  I mean it.  I treasure them.  Because in each list, I am allowed to peer into my husband and my children, into the deepest places of who they are and what makes them happy. 


And what I find there is that there aren't a lot of fancy cars or designer clothes on the list.  None actually.  Not any toys or technological gadgets, either.  What made the lists are just the simple things in life that all equal up to...us.  The hundreds of little things that are actually the great things.  The ordinary that is actually the sacred.


cheese and crackers
comfortable jeans
knowing the answer right away
making funny jokes
midnight cuddles because you're 5 and afraid of thunder
when the storm is over
chicks in a nest
grandparents
music
dessert
when mom is cooking macaroni
a baby's first word
honey and biscuits
father and son hikes
heaters in winter
victory
chickens that have feather pants
being pleasantly tired
learning another language
a sky full of stars
worshiping around a campfire
laughing at yourself
reading a good book
our dog's ears
gentle rain
oreos and milk
old friends
new friends
highlighted and underlined Bibles
worn quilts
fluffy towels
vacations
cherries
green grass
morning coffee
forgiveness


These are a few of our favorite things. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Grace Defined


Something hugely frightening happened to me recently. 


I shrunk my sweatshirt.


My sweatshirt.  The one that changed my life.  The one my husband gave me for Christmas that I had hardly taken off for three months.  The one I loved and the one that loved me unconditionally in return.


I had plans to only take it to the dry cleaner for the rest of my life.  But, I didn't pay attention and it ended up in the wash.  And then the dryer.  And then it shrunk.  And I came the closest I have ever come to a panic attack.


I discovered it late at night, right before bed, and Eric came running to answer the shrieks of pain from the laundry room. 


He then followed me to our room as I yelled, "No, no, no, no, no, no!" while I tore off my pajamas and put the sweatshirt on.  The sleeves were short.  The bottom hem didn't come to where it was supposed to.  The whole thing was off, wrong, ruined.


My husband watched from the bed as I mourned.  It was a slow process, this coming to terms with losing one of your best friends.  All five stages of grief played out in the microcosm of my closet.


And when I was finished, he told me to come lay my head on his chest.


I did, utterly spent.


And that's when he pulled out his phone and showed me that my new sweatshirt would be arriving in less than 48 hours.  A carbon copy of the one that would now fit my dachshund BEFORE its date with the dryer of death.  My new best friend.


We won't talk about how long my husband let me lament before he shared what he had just done (evidently I'm very entertaining when I'm upset), but let's take a moment to reflect on what he did do.


He gave me grace.


I had misused and mistreated his first gift.  And he offered me another, brand new and perfect, without a word of shame or reproach. 


He paid the price.  Twice.


So very much like my Jesus. 


The One who came after me after I walked away. 


The One who bought back what was already His. 


The One who loves to see me wearing His ring, His clothes, His name.  So much so that when I mess up, He offers me a brand new start, with nothing but love in His eyes.



Monday, February 9, 2015

Love Stories

I received something for Christmas this past year that I've always wanted.  In fact, I've spent my whole life searching for it, but could never quite find it. 


The perfect sweatshirt. 


And now I have it, thanks to my husband.  It's the perfect weight...light, but still warm.  It's the perfect color...the cozy gray that says "go ahead and stay home all day, you deserve it."  And it has the perfect sentiment written across it in large, black, block letters.


It says, "I LIKE TO PARTY.  AND BY PARTY, I MEAN READ BOOKS."


Oh yes.  I told you it was perfect for me.  It's everything I've ever wanted in a sweatshirt.  That's why it's the first thing I put on when I get home from work.  Every single day.  I have become the sweatshirt person.  But, I don't judge myself.  It's too perfect to permit judging.  I only regret I didn't own it sooner.


But, how did this man know me so well?  How did he know just what would make my introverted heart so exquisitely happy?


Well, besides the secret Pinterest board entitled "Things I'd Like To Own" that I created just for him, he probably knew because I read.  I read a lot.  It's the way I learn best, and it's the way I relax the best.


So, it makes sense that it's also the avenue that has taught me quite a bit about love.  When I read people's stories, either in works of fiction or non-fiction, it's what I'm always looking for.  The love story.  The relationship that redeemed the past and made things new.  The heart connection that turned everything around. 


And I know I'm not alone.  Our culture celebrates love stories, and I think it's because deep down, we're all searching for a love story. 


Whether we realize it or not, every heart yearns to hear the thread of narrative that echoes the truths of the greatest love story ever told.  The story that stretched from a far-away realm to our world, right here in all of its ordinariness.  The story of an epic battle between good and evil.  The story of a man who came searching for His bride, to redeem her and make her his. 


The story of Heaven, looking to make its home in us.


Author's Note:  As our culture celebrates love this week, I pray you will enjoy this collection of my favorite quotes from fiction that echo the happy ending we've all been offered.  And if you're looking for a sentiment to pen into a Valentine's card, you can't go wrong with any of these.  You just might also want to make sure the card is attached to the perfect sweatshirt, if you want it to be a holiday long remembered. 




"Was he willing to blend into the life of another human being for the rest of his days, and have hers blend into his? That, of course, was the Bible’s bottom line on marriage: one flesh. Not separate entities, not two autonomous beings merely coming together at dinnertime or brushing past one another in the hallway, holding on to their singleness, guarding against invasion. One flesh!" - Jan Karon, A Light in the Window


“Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person: having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them out. Just as they are—chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away." - Dinah Mariah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1826–1887”


"Love, in its truest form, is not the thing of starry-eyed or star-crossed lovers, it is far more organic, requiring nurturing and time to fully bloom, and, as such, seen best not in its callow youth but in its wrinkled maturity. Like all living things, love, too, struggles against hardship, and in the process sheds its fatuous skin to expose one composed of more than just a storm of emotion–one of loyalty and divine friendship. Agape. And though it may be temporarily blinded by adversity, it never gives in or up, holding tight to lofty ideals that transcend this earth and time–while its counterfeit simply concludes it was mistaken and quickly runs off to find the next real thing.”  - Richard Paul Evans, The Letter 


“I come here with no expectations, only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be yours.”   - Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility


"My love isn't a weapon, it's a lifeline, reach out and take hold, and don't let go!” - Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love


"I lived with visions for my company,
Instead of men and women, years ago,
And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know
A sweeter music than they played to me.
But soon their trailing purple was not free
Of this world's dust, — their lutes did silent grow,
And I myself grew faint and blind below
Their vanishing eyes. Then THOU didst come ... to be,
Belov├Ęd, what they seemed. Their shining fronts,
Their songs, their splendours, (better, yet the same,
As river-water hallowed into fonts)
Met in thee, and from out thee overcame
My soul with satisfaction of all wants —
Because God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame."
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese, 26

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Seeds

For the past couple of years, my husband and I have made it a priority to get a way during the month of December to spend some time together.  It's a hectic, crazy time of the year to try to carve out a couple of days, but we are discovering it's actually a wonderful time to do it. 

Because disconnecting from the noise at the end of the year makes it easier to start fresh in a new year.  We've had some late night talks, a romantic one by a fire and a humorous one by a space heater, where we've emptied our souls of the clutter and kindled some new dreams.  We've asked each other uncomfortable questions, laughed together, and prayed together.  And somehow, on the other side, we were ready.  Ready to plow into a new season, confident we're playing on the same team.

It's been a blessing to see the fruit of this simple act in my marriage, but I was even more surprised to discover that for the last couple of years, the same thing has been happening in my relationship with my God.  Somehow in the turning of the calendar page from one year to the next, He speaks.  And I have learned to treasure standing under the spigot of words that flows from His mouth.  Just as Mary "stored up all these things and pondered them in her heart," I want to take each word that comes from the Father and tuck them away in the storehouse of my soul, to take them out again and turn them over and over until they become more than words, but seeds.  Seeds for new things. 

Because the Lord loves new things.  He loves to take the tired and worn out, the cracked and broken, or even just the familiar and comfortable...and breathe life into them, turning them inside out, and calling forth a new work from an old vessel. 

And so my prayer is that I will not cling to the lifeless shell of last season's seed, but allow Him to bury within me a new one. 

And then for Him to do it again.

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  - Isaiah 43:19



Author's Note: If you are looking for some resources for the new year to deepen your time under the spigot of His voice, I would recommend these.  I have provided links for where they may be purchased online.  Have a blessed and fruit bearing 2015!

FOR WOMEN:
  • The "Quiet Times for the Heart" series by Catherine Martin.  There are several books in this series, but the one I have linked to at Amazon here addresses specifically how to grow in intimacy with the Lord.
  • "Road Signs" Bible Study, an 8 week DVD course that is written/produced by my friend Paige Allen (she was a guest speaker here for us last year).  Our ladies' lifegroup just completed this study, and it was a big blessing for many women.  The link will take you to the order page.  You can toggle to choose one book or one DVD/book.  (If money is tight for you, you can purchase just a book and borrow a DVD from me!)
 
FOR MEN:
 
 
FOR EITHER MEN OR WOMEN:

 
If this an area of needed growth, please don't delay in pressing in.  Whenever my time with the Lord grows a little distant, I find that being aggressive and, often, finding a new resource, will bring fresh life and clarity to my ability to hear from Him.  Don't let your love grow cold!  Invest in it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week Four


Author's Note:  This is last of a four part Advent devotional series for families here at Treasure the Ordinary.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!


Week 4 Advent Devotional - "Protection"

Opening Question: What trip have we taken as a family that you enjoyed that most

During our time together today, we are going to look a trip Jesus took with his parents when He was just a baby.  Mary and Joseph didn't have a car seat, or even a car, but they packed up their tiny baby and traveled over 300 miles for a very important reason.
 


READ:  Matthew 2:1-12
 
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 


After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”


When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” 


After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene."


[NOTE:  for very young children who may not be ready for a discussion about Herod's killing of children, parents may wish to not read the bold print aloud.]


Herod wanted to kill Jesus because he was afraid of another king taking his place.  He didn't realize that Jesus was not coming to sit on the throne in Jerusalem, but to save us from sin.  So, he wanted attack Jesus because he did not understand who Jesus was and what he was doing.  Herod did not feel secure and safe as a king, so he was jealous of anyone else who might be a better king than he was.


A lot of times when people hurt us our hurt our feelings, it's because they don't feel good about themselves. 


ASK:  [younger children]  When someone hurts our feelings, how can we pray for them?  (that they would understand they are important to God.)


ASK:  [older children] Have you ever hurt someone or hurt their feelings because you didn't feel good about YOU?  How can you make sure this does not become a pattern in your life?


God protected Jesus from Herod by sending Him to Egypt.  This was the very place God's people had been slaves hundreds of years before, until God called Moses to lead them out! 


ASK:  Why do you think God would send Jesus THERE?  (Younger children should be helped to arrive at the conclusion that no one would think to look for Him there, but older children can be helped to find the deeper truth that God was making a statement that Jesus had come to lead us all out of the slavery of sin.)


If God had not protected His son as a baby, Jesus would not have been able to die for us on the cross.  God could see the whole, big picture, and He knew just what to do.  When God protected Jesus, He protected US, too!


Closing Question:  What things does God want YOU to do in the future?  How is He protecting you even now so that you can do those things?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week Three

Author's Note:  This is part three of a four part Advent devotional series for families here at Treasure the Ordinary.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!


Week 3 Advent Devotional - "Provision"

Opening Question (Option 1): If you had a thousand dollars to spend on a present for someone, who would you buy for and what would you buy them

Opening Story (Option 2):  Parents, take a few minutes to tell each child about the day they were born.  Where was it?  What was happening that day?  How did you feel when you got to see them for the first time?

During our time together today, we are going to look at the place where Jesus was born.  If one of us was going to plan where Jesus would be born, we would have probably picked Jerusalem because it was the capital city  and the most important city in Israel.  But, that's not the city God chose.  Let's read a Scripture from the Old Testament that talks about what city God chose instead.
 
READ: “But you, Bethlehem, David’s country, the runt of the litter—From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel."  - Micah 5:2 (The Message Bible)



ASK:  [younger children] What does it mean to be the "runt of the litter"?  So what kind of city was Bethlehem?

ASK:  [older children] What message do you think God was sending when he chose a small, insignificant city like Bethlehem for Jesus to be born in? 

ASK:  When have YOU felt small and not important?

The enemy loves for us to feel too small for anyone to notice us.  He especially loves to tell us that we are too small for God to care about us.  But, that is not true.  Even the city that Jesus was born in is sending a message, that He came for all of us because He loves all of us, right down to the tiniest of us. 


He also knows every one of our needs, the big ones, and the tiny ones.  He saw Joseph and Mary every moment that they were traveling to Bethlehem, and He was already preparing a place for Jesus to be born.  It may have been just a dirty stable to some people, but to God, it was a safe place, away from the people who wanted to hurt baby Jesus (we're going to talk about that next week!), and it was exactly what Joseph and Mary needed.


ASK:  What is something you need right now in your life that we need to pray about?  It can be a physical need, or something your heart needs.

Close with prayer over your children.  Parents, this is a great opportunity to emphasize to your children that God sees each of them individually and knows every bit of their hear needs.  But, He still likes to hear our voices when we talk to Him.  And He also likes to speak to us in return.  Make sure you lead your kids in a time of listening as well as praying.  You may want to play a worship song at this time and encourage your children to write down what they hear God saying to them (younger children can draw a picture of what God is saying) so they learn to treasure His voice.  
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