Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sometimes I Wonder...

Sometimes I wonder, as I sigh in exasperation, and ask the child, "How many times have I told you not to do that?!"

Is this how my Father feels?

Sometimes I wonder, as I hear the howling for the umpteenth time in a day, "Will we ever get through a whole day without someone crying??"

Is this how my Father feels?

Sometimes I wonder, as I search for wisdom and tell the child to say "I'm sorry" yet again,

Is this how my Father feels?

Sometimes I wonder, when I've given an order and I hear the familiar "But moooooooom!"

Is this how my Father feels?

Sometimes I wonder, when I've labored in the kitchen and the sight of green beans on the table prompts a frowning face,

Is this how my Father feels?

Sometimes I wonder, when it seems all that I'm trying to teach is falling on deaf ears and is it really worth it?

Is this how my Father feels?

And then He reminds me.........

"8. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
9. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever.
10. He hath not dealt with me after my sins; nor rewarded me according to my iniquities.
11. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed my transgressions from me.
13. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
14. For he knoweth my frame; he remembereth that I am dust." Psalm 103:8-14

Ahh. What a Father I have!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Four Years

Four years ago today I was finishing up last minute details. I was going to bed with a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart. I was facing a very unknown future with a lot of fear and a tiny thread of faith. In the morning, we were moving to Ohio.

Sometimes I wonder if this can possibly be the same person who said those goodbyes and packed up those belongings and wondered if God knew what He was doing.

Four years later, I would have to say, "Yes. God knew what He was doing."

Four years. It seems like much, much longer. I look at my children and it's hard to remember how young they were! My 11 year old, who is nearly as tall as me, is this the same child who cried heartbrokenly at the thought of leaving all her friends and going to a new school? My soon-to-be first grader, is this the same baby who I laid in her crib for the last time and wiped away tears at the thought that she had no idea what we were doing? This growing little second grader the same child who declared with sobs, "But I don't want new friends in Ohio!"?

God is good. I knew it then; I know it now.

It is good to look back and see how God's bridges have held. Held through change and uncertainty; held through hard days and stretching circumstances. "In memory, the shape of God's yesterday-heart emerges and assures of God's now-heart and reassures of His sure beat tomorrow." ~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Sometimes, in the middle of the darkness, it's hard to tell whether God's bridges are holding or not? Sometimes they sway and crack and I wonder if my next step will find any bridge beneath it or whether I'll be plunged into the dreadful unknown below. Sometimes doubt obscures the steady, solid bridge my Father is urging me onto. I feel like a tight rope walker, with no railing and no sure place to set my feet.

Pausing from the safety of today to look back and see that, yes. His bridges have held, sure and true. And allowing that knowledge to up my confidence in the bridge builder and His course for the next four years!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Love of a Father

Discouragement is --

*The layer of cobwebs along every ceiling in the house and knowing they can only be the sign of a terrible truth: I am a failure at housekeeping.

*The whiny children who also seem to constantly be bickering with each other and knowing it can only mean one thing: I am a failure as a mom.

*The everlasting 5 p.m. dilemma of "What's for supper?" And knowing I should plan ahead: I am a failure at cooking.

*The husband who has been feeling neglected and ignored and knowing this surely means: I am a failure as a wife.

*The long list of birthdays I have failed to send cards for and knowing that even here: I am a failure as a friend.

Encouragement is --

*Sitting in a Sunday school class and hearing other ladies echo the needs you are feeling and knowing you are not alone. You are not crazy or losing your mind.

*Listening to an inspiring message and realizing my Father is my Lover and He really does meet me where I am. He knows the needs of my heart and He answers those pleas for His help.

*Tears trickling down my face as I realize this world is not my home, I am just passing through...

Satan loves to get me to believe his lies. He loves to convince me to live out of my feelings of failure. Feelings that are only that; feelings. Not truth. But my Father's love is stronger than satan's evil intentions. Oh, to have Him pour His truth into my heart! This week may I be wooed by His love; may my eyes be open to see His truth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Our first night at The House On The Hill

I grew up in a house with no a/c. In Arkansas the summers were generally very warm and our upstairs bedrooms would be sweltering. My mom had the perfect answer for a miserable night spent with a fan that only blew the warm air around: sleep outside!

Mom loved to sleep outside. In a hammock, on the picnic table, on the roof - it didn't matter where, just so you could enjoy the cool breeze and listen to the night sounds. It was not uncommon to slip out the tiny upstairs window onto the flat part of the roof, unroll a sleeping bag and enjoy the cooler air and spectacular stars. It was also not uncommon to sneak back in through the tiny window in the middle of the night when a fan blowing warm air seemed like a better option than a hard-as-a-rock sleeping surface, but it sure made good memories!

We were not a camping out family but I remember numerous girl's sleepovers on the concrete slab behind our church across the road. You have to understand that had we slept in the much softer grass, we would have run the risk of numerous itch inducing insects - ticks and chiggers being the main culprits.

I'm saying all this so you will understand why, when I saw the nice, flat surface of the upper story of our new house all nicely nailed in place, it was only natural for the thought to enter my mind: "We should sleep up here some night!"

Most of our children had no idea what it's like to sleep outside and they were immediately all over my idea. They certainly weren't going to let me forget that I had mentioned it nor let me get out of doing it!

Well, it's been rainy season around here, so we waited and we waited. Finally, last Thursday night promised to be a clear night. We couldn't wait much longer than that, because plans were to put the rafters and plywood up come Saturday and then we wouldn't be able to see the stars. So Thursday it was.

In typical Bethany fashion, I really wasn't sure anymore that this was such a great idea but there was no turning back now. So, I gathered the paraphernalia and we set out for the New House (as Charles calls it) soon after 9. We dragged our gear up the rickety ladder and set up camp. Me being me, I had opted to take stacks of blankets rather than borrow sleeping bags. I'll just be honest: I didn't want to explain what we were doing.

Chris and Isaac stayed at home in their comfy beds. I really didn't blame them. They needed to get up early to get things ready for the work day at the house on Saturday.

We set up our blankets and pillows and roasted marshmallows over candles and squished them between shortbread cookies. We read stories about Uncle Mark's recent trip and played "I'm thinking of somebody". I told all about sleeping outside when I was growing up and before we blew the candles out I did my best "Crooked Mouth Family" rendition. They were duly impressed.

The clouds were covering all the beautiful stars we'd hoped to see, and Ohio doesn't have nearly the after dark chorus of insects that Arkansas has but it was still fun to crawl under our blankets and settle down for the night in the great outdoors.

I hadn't reckoned with several problems with my great idea. #1. Ohio summer nights are much chillier than Arkansas summer nights. #2. My bones are a good bit older than they used to be. #3. Ohio has very heavy dew.

I probably dozed off for awhile but it wasn't a very long slumber til I woke up and made some discoveries. #1. My feet were FREEZING. #2. Plywood is Hard. Really Hard. Especially when you're heading for 40. #3. Everything was soaking wet.

The one redeeming discovery was that the clouds had cleared and the stars were absolutely amazing. So I looked at them for awhile. Then I gazed around at my house to be and tried to decide what kind of curtains I should put at the windows and which furniture might go where. When that finally lost it's charm, I gave in and checked the time: 2:30. Oh brother.

I tucked my head under the blankets and tried to forget that my feet were FREEZING. Then I turned my bones the other direction to see if plywood felt any softer on my left side. I contemplated the effort it would take to get everybody down that rickety ladder in the dark. I considered the idea of moving my old bones to the soft seat of the van.

Shall I cut the suspense and make a long story short?

Eventually, I had Jasmine awake with me and about 4:30 we decided the effort of trundling everybody down the ladder in the dark was worth a couple hours of sleep in a soft, warm, dry bed. So we got up and we came home.

And that was our first night at The House On The Hill.

To tell you the truth, I would probably do it again.Those stars were really beautiful, and I have some great ideas for curtains for my windows! :)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dear Mom

The sharp pangs of missing you don't hit as often, Mom, but sometimes that feeling shows up out of nowhere and startles me with it's intensity. A random thought or incident or story or memory will suddenly bring to my consciousness the painful reality that you are gone. Gone.

Just yesterday a silly "bunny trail" thought process led to thoughts of you, Mom, and the way you would have responded was so real in my mind it made me catch my breath and remind myself that I'll never hear you say that again! The usual sadness of never being able to talk to you again followed. So many things I would love to tell you all about, Mom.

We did a tiny little garden spot again this year, Mom, for fun. A row of your marigolds went in along the back, then tomato plants on one end and cucumbers on the other and Jennifer's ten precious green bean seeds given by her first grade teacher along the front. It was really too much for the tiny space but I couldn't say no to the green beans, so we crammed it all in.

You would love to see our little plot, Mom. Jennifer's teacher had told her these green beans need a fence to climb on, and the minute they popped out of the ground she couldn't stop reminding me of that fact! So, one day when I was at The House On The Hill, I went into the woods and gathered myself a nice stack of sticks. Back at home we fashioned a little fence for the beans and a teepee for the cucumbers. Jennifer was so pleased!

We've had such fun watching our plants flourish, Mom. It has rained and rained and our plants are lush and green. The tomato plants have taken over their alloted space and then some. The marigolds are growing taller by the day, making a living fence along the back edge. The cucumbers have lagged behind a bit and not all the seeds came up, I don't believe. The beans? Those things actually did climb. Right up our makeshift fence and on off the tops of our sticks!

We've had a few unwanted visitors in our patch. When the beans and cukes were small, some curious critter with pointy hooves decided the tender leaves should be sampled. The plucky little plants bravely grew on and were climbing beautifully until just last week somebody came back for another meal. In spite of that, there's fruit on the vines! Every discovery of tiny veggies growing brings excited smiles and bright eyes. And we've used your mothball strategy and hung some around to (hopefully) keep away future pests.

It's because of you, Mom, that I'm doing this. You modeled a love for growing things and I do it for the fun and the opportunity to pass on the love, not for the handful of green beans that we might get from ten small seeds. I treasure those summers spent hoeing and planting and weeding and harvesting. And if those cucumbers and tomatoes survive? Yum. I can taste them already!

Love you, Mom.
You are still missed...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ordinary Days

It's easy to talk about out of the ordinary things, like a day spent doing green beans, or a treat of blackberry smoothies or a sister here for several days and how she sent us off on a date and made supper for the kiddos....

Most of life is made up of very ordinary things. I think I should make a point of taking pictures of just ordinary things for a day or a week. You would see lots of laundry piles, scattered toys, bedrooms that look like tornados struck, dirty floors, dirtier feet, and grimy bathrooms....with spiders in the corners. Oh, and spider webs. I'm sure I could win some sort of prize on spider webs in a house!

Or maybe I should do video clips: "Mo-om!! I had it first and she just grabbed it right out of my hand!" "Booo hooo hooo! He hurt my finger on *Purpose*" "What are we having for supper? Do we have to have green beans???" "But if I can't do that there's nooothing else to do! It's so boring." "She always gets to sit beside you!" "Why do we have to clean up the living room AGAIN?!"

On second thought, no videos. Then you'd hear me too.

There's lots of happy ordinary things too: little girl conversations as they play that crack me up constantly! Imaginations that use tree branches and grass and what have you to have hours of fun outside. Older siblings making the little guy giggle or helping a younger one with a drink or a game or a project. Little bodies snuggled against mine for story time. Shining eyes when they've surprised me by doing a job without me asking.

Every once in awhile I find myself needing to stop and thank God for the ordinary. There's a lot of people who would be so happy to have ordinary!

Tell me something ordinary about your day that you're thankful for.....

Monday, July 13, 2015

What Have We Done to Our Men?

It was late, and I was indulging in my (slightly) bad habit of savoring some alone time after everyone else was asleep. I wasn't thinking about blog posts, for sure not planning to write one, when a minion quote suddenly jolted me to attention: "Husbands are the best people to share secrets with. They won't tell anyone, because they're not even listening."

It may not have gotten as much of my attention if I hadn't just spent an evening with my husband several nights ago. We were browsing around in a Kitchen Collection store when we got started reading the sayings on some refrigerator magnets. "The views expressed by the males in this house are not necessarily shared by the management." said one, and we smiled a little but then Chris pointed something out that made me think.

"We can say that about a man, and it's funny. But try taking that and switching it around to be about a woman and sticking it on a magnet and that's not going to go over well at all!" I had to admit he was right.

Ever since reading the book Love and Respect and realizing how society has stripped men of the respect that they long for with its feminist movement and cries for equality, I've been more sensitive to this kind of thing. Still, it's easy to think it's all "out there" and kind of shrug it off as not really being that bad.

After reading the minion quote and shaking my head and thinking, "Really? Really. You're going to comment on that and 'like' it and act like it's hilarious? We seriously have a problem", I decided to do a little searching.

I pulled up trusty old google and typed in "quotes about men". What did I find? Twenty out of twenty of the quotes about men made them out to be the dummies. So, I googled "quotes about women". Out of twenty quotes about women, two were demeaning and two others were slightly so. I wasn't quite sure that had been a fair search, so I googled "funny quotes about women". Out of 100 quotes maybe 10 - 15% put women down but here's the really startling thing: a good 50% of those "funny quotes about women" made MEN look like the idiots.

People! What is wrong with this picture? What have we done to our men? What are we doing?

I went to bed after that but my mind was in high gear. I felt sick inside and I wondered how we could have strayed so far from God's plan for the man and woman as He created them?

The truth is, we Christians aren't so very different from the rest of the world in this area. We might be a few steps behind our society but we've accepted a lot more of the feminist attitude than we want to admit. We're pretty careful not to step on the women's toes but we pretty regularly portray the attitude that on the opposite side it's no big deal, the men can handle it!

What's my point? Just this, I guess: As Christians let's open our eyes and beware! Let's be honest and admit that we have this problem more than we think we do. Let's not join the crowd chortling at silly, demeaning quotes. Let's show the world that we respect our men!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What Makes It A Gift?

Sometimes when people gush over something I've written, I want to growl. Don't get me wrong, I also want to swell with pride and blush modestly and mumble my thanks and try to act like it was nothing all at the same time. It's just... this writing thing doesn't always feel like a gift.

I've always been able to express myself much better in writing than talking. I would 1,000 times rather text someone or write them a note or email than pick up the phone or talk to them in person! Chris soon learned that if he really wanted to know how his bride was feeling, the best thing to do was to sneak a peek in her journal. To this day if we've had a disagreement or a misunderstanding, he can almost certainly count on a text or an email or a hand written note to show up after the conversation has ended with me going silent. I will say, 14 years of marriage have taught me a lot about talking but written words are still my first choice of communication.

The problem with all of this, of course, is that people don't generally go around carrying clipboards and letting the people who express themselves better in writing carry on their conversations on paper, it just doesn't work that way! And that's why, when people exclaim over something I've written, I find myself wanting to explain to them that writing doesn't always feel like a gift.

The fact is, I suppose we all have those things - qualities that look like gifts to others but to us they feel, at best, like weaknesses and at worst like more of a curse. God's gifts aren't always wrapped in the fancy paper that I expect them to be and the plain, brown paper or rumpled Walmart bag doesn't make the gift any less a gift when accepted gratefully from the hand of the Giver. I know all that, but I still catch myself expecting the gifts to be in fancy paper with a big bow on top and come away from Sunday school class chastising myself thoroughly for sitting there silently Sunday after Sunday or berate my ineptness at spontanious hospitality and friendly chit chat.

By now you may be wondering what my point is. "Is she trying to get us to say how wonderful her writing is and please don't stop and yes, it is a gift??" No, that's not my point.

It's just this: It's so easy to look at the people around me and see the prettily wrapped gifts I wish were mine. And so easy to see only plain brown paper and rumpled Walmart bags in my own selection of gifts.

Sometimes it does us good to remember that what looks like a shiny gift to me may be the very thing that feels like plain brown paper to her. And those rumpled Walmart bags that are all I have to offer? Well, it could very well be that those might look like shiny paper and big fancy bows to her!

"But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." Isaiah 64:8

Sunday, July 5, 2015

What Feeds A Woman's Soul?

What feeds a woman's soul...

News? Sports? Politics? Doctrine? Debates?

I wonder what your answer would be?

There are many answers, to be sure, one answer not more right than another necessarily.

I sat in a circle of women today. We came in our Sunday best with our Bibles in hand and our bulletins with the alloted "lesson" printed inside. We gathered to study the Word; to listen to someone expound; to nod and possibly share some insight of our own. Our intentions were a good thing -- the Word will certainly feed our soul.

We took our chairs and arranged our skirts and situated our Bibles and diaper bags. We smiled at our neighbor and surreptitiously checked the bulletin to see where to open our Bibles. And then, honesty struck. You see, our teacher wasn't there and several of us confessed that we hadn't looked at the lesson at all! Oh well, that was ok. We would see how it went.

So, how did it go? Let me tell you...

First a prayer request was shared, then a "How is your back?" for the lady who's back kept her standing the last time we gathered. Then an inquiry to another lady who's joints are paining her and we shared our sympathy as she shared her tears and frustration. On it went - this one sharing her journey of losing her grandma, this one unburdening the struggles of her heart, that one sharing how the Lord has provided exciting answers to prayer and another sharing the frustrations of daily life. There were tears and laughter, words of encouragement and understanding, and lots of love and care passed freely among us. There was laying on of hands and prayer. The bell rang before we were through, and our Bibles still lay untouched in our laps.

I told my husband about our class and he just smiled. "Women need that," I said, a bit defensively. "They do??" he teased, as if he had no idea.

I left that circle with the clear realization that the Word is not the only thing that feeds and fills and nourishes. We need the Word, yes. Most certainly! But the sharing of needs and the hands of compassion and encouragement and love held out in return can fill one's soul to the brim. At least a woman's soul; I will let the men speak for themselves.....

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tid Bits of Summer in Pictures

#1. The House On The Hill......
Work continues sporadically and I'm beginning to understand why one person who commented on my earlier post about house building said it will be interesting to hear all the lessons we learn while building a house (or something of that nature).

#2. It now looks like this....

#3. And we look like this....
I wish I had better pictures of that day. It was HOT and some people had almost as much black, tar-y paint on them as the basement walls did!

#4. All hands on deck! Need any walls put up? We can handle it!

#5. Then there was Mud and Stuck Skid Loaders...

# 6 and 7. But life is not all about building Houses On Hills. We had a day at the Columbus Zoo.... a Cold Day. Have you ever been cold at a zoo??? According to some people it's better than being hot at the zoo....

#8. What you do with your picnic tablecloth when you are Cold at the Zoo....

#9. Then we had cozy times on the floor...

#10. And stacks of library books...

#11. And object lessons for story at Summer Bible School (Meet Envious Emily, Angry Andy and Carl Christian. They can help you understand how what is inside of you will come out!)

#12. And last (but not at least) thanks to tedious scavangering of bushes and banks and braving tall weeds and briars, we have wild raspberry pie!

All in all Summer has been quite good to us.