Come On Over

Sometimes I visit this space with a plethora of words and ideas that tumble over themselves as they escape my brain. Sometimes I sit down here to work through a knotty problem out loud. I talk to myself in real life too but there is something about being able to see my words and rearrange them, moving them to their proper place and finding the right order for my thoughts that satisfies.

Sometimes people read what I’ve written and agree or enjoy them and a conversation blooms. Other times a post I am particularly happy with does not get much traction. But the same thing happens with pictures so I don’t sweat it much. I realize I am not writing anything new or taking pictures of things that no one else has ever seen or taken a picture of before. There is a lack of pressure in that knowledge which allows me to slip in here as if we’re grabbing a cup of coffee and just visiting. Or maybe a better description in sitting down with a cup of coffee to read a letter from a friend.

The weather here this morning is pretty blah with a significant storm system moving through later. We took down my hanging plants and moved all my recently potted flowers onto the porch last night in preparation.

Did I tell you about my first experience with planting flowers here in my new lovely home state of Louisiana? About a month ago Rob and I took advantage of a local hardware store’s no tax weekend and bought lots of plants for me to put in the ground. Since my success with flowers and such last year I have been chomping at the bit for spring to arrive. Well, let me tell you…the ground here is nothing like the ground in Florida!

I dug and dug for about twenty minutes and barely scratched out three inches of earth. The ground is so hard here, especially it seems in the area of Carlyss where we live. I decided it would be messy to use the hose but I have rain boots so I could soften the ground with water and dig my holes.

😳

The ground is a dark hard clay that doesn’t absorb water the way the sandy soil in my old yard did. I ended up with a nice ol’ mud puddle for my trouble. Hence I now have about sixteen potted plants and Rob is going to have to get cracking on building me some raised beds.

The people we bought our home from are finally moving to Nashville and slowly but surely getting their stuff out of our pasture. Which means I am spending a lot of time day dreaming about the garden space Rob is letting me design and we are trying to figure out where to put the vegetable garden and a chicken house.

So many projects and plans! My beloved has to keep me reigned in because I can go shooting off in a dozen different directions at a time. My mind hops from flowers to looking at chicken coop plans to knocking down walls to reconfigure the apartment space for Sam now that Emily lives in Monroe. (That was a weird minute for me. Realizing that when she got back from her honeymoon she would not be coming here again. She doesn’t live with us anymore. I mean I was at the wedding. I knew this already. But it just sort of hit me.)

It’s been great having a space for friends to use when they’ve come to visit. I enjoy getting it ready and stocking the little mini fridge and having a tray of snacks ready.

We haven’t started renovating the space yet though so you can come for a visit if you like. We can sit down and have a cup of coffee and conversation in real life.

Of course my Louisiana people are welcome to stop by for a visit anytime. The door is open and the coffee is ready! Y’all can teach me how to grow things around here 😊

A Friday Favorite

Wasn’t yesterday simply glorious? The weather was so perfect! The only issue I had with it is that the perfect spring day really shouldn’t show itself in early January but what is there to do other than enjoy it?

The puppies had a great day and Rob worked on building them a sort of dog run/pen that will be great for them. It is amazing how quickly they are growing and running out of good space in the laundry room. (While I am somewhat sure they could safely be inside the main part of the house without accidents now they have no self control around the cats. We tried. We will not be doing that again anytime soon.) They love being outside though so the space Rob is making for them will be perfect. Plenty of sunshine but around a tree and safe from scooting under the big fence into the horse field behind us and eating things that ought not to be eaten by anyone.

I took advantage of the beautiful weather to repot some house plants I recently bought. Over the last five years or so I learned that I could actually keep plants alive but unfortunately when we made the move from Florida I didn’t have room to bring all of them with me. I brought a few of the ones I had had the longest and now I am working to add more to our home. I love having fresh flowers in the house but I also really enjoy nice green plants. They add such a touch of life to a home, don’t you think?

I rescued this little guy from the clearance section at Walmart a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure where I am going to put him yet but I am sure I will find the right spot.

Even though I have been working with houseplants for a few years I still consider myself a novice. Because of this if I am not careful I end up honing in on one or two types of plants and only using them but I really want to broaden my green thumb. I didn’t have one of these (Please don’t ask its name…I forgot to keep the little plastic thing that came with it with that information.) I choose it because of the variegated greens on the leaves. It’s so bright and lively.

It found a nice home in our entryway which is still a work in progress. Rob is going to paint it using the same color he put in our bedroom; and we are looking for just the right table or hall tree to be a focal point. Then a rug and stuff on the walls but we really don’t want to rush just to have something there so patience is called for. But until then I wanted something to make it look less empty and undone.

The last plant to be potted is one that I already have that does well. He adds just the right color and look to our fireplace ledge. Most of the time I stick with white pots but this little guy came with the additional turquoise~esque one and it ties in nicely with the couch pillows so I decided to use it.

I’m thinking there might still be a few things to tweak yet here but I like how things are right now so I am content to make changes only when the right thing shows itself. I’m learning the value in waiting even as I balance my nesting and the desire to have everything settled and done.

I think one of the reasons I love house plants so much is the simplicity but gentle vitality they add to a room. Someone once said that having a beautiful plant is like having a friend around the house. I like that thought, don’t you?

Made For This

The New Testament is filled with admonitions  to love one another and to bear one another’s burdens. Indeed, we’re told that first loving Christ and then our neighbor as our self fulfills the whole law. 

One of the things I wrote in the ‘about me’ section when I started this blog was about the desire I had to live a life that is fully in line in word and deed with all I said I believed about God…who He is and what He requires of His children.

I’ve become more and more convinced that what we say about forgiveness, about joining in another’s suffering, about life and death and resurrection must be lived out day-to-day in our relationships.

In May Rob and I will celebrate nineteen years of marriage. There is no doubt in my mind that I have been formed and fashioned by God to be his wife. I was made to love him.

I have been, and am being, fashioned to suit him in his sin. Not to share in it with him but to bear with him through it. To suffer the pain of it. But that also means I have been, and am being, fashioned and shaped to share in his repentance and restoration. Just as he is being fashioned and formed to share in my sin, my suffering, repentance, and restoration.

As a parent we experience the same thing with our children. Have you ever not felt the sorrow or pain that comes as a result of sin being brought to light when correcting your child? Proverbs tells us much happiness or much sorrow is bound up in our children and how they walk through life.

We’re also told in Proverbs 17 that a friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. We are made to walk the hard roads with each other.

We are called to the same fashioning and shaping to one another in every relationship we have to varying degrees of intimacy.

Be kind…tenderhearted…forgiving…

With all humility and gentleness…bearing with one another…

Sometimes the offense will seem too great. The hurt too deep. But God doesn’t have a sliding scale that He allows us to weigh and measure out the sins of others. The good news is that there isn’t one to weigh and measure out your sin either. Because while some sins seem to be bigger and worse than others the truth is that all sin seeks to destroy and all of our sins are an offense before the Righteous One.

Recently, I was present at the birth of my friend’s daughter. Her labor had been moving along when the midwife checked her and said it was time to start pushing. For a moment my friend panicked and said she couldn’t remember what she needed to do, how to push.

All I could do was remind her that she had been made for this. God had formed and fashioned her body to bear this child into the world. Feeling her weakest she was actually at her strongest leaning into the  pain and oh, the sweet sweet joy when baby Ruby arrived.

Forgive, even when it hurts beyond more than you think you can bear. Take up the suffering of your spouse, your child, your friend. Help carry their burden. Weep with the ones who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice.

Your soul was made for such.

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Where There Are No Oxen

Thursdays have become something of a refuge for me.

The three older kids have running practice and a sweet friend keeps Claire until it’s over.

And that, my friends, means that I don’t have to pick anyone up until 5:15 in the afternoon.

That is glorious is what that is.

Today was particularly productive. I got a ton of work done on a project I am helping the kindergarten class with and I mopped my floors.

Glorious, I tell ya.

I passed Rob coming home as I was going to pick up the kids and thrilled at the idea he was going to get home before all of us.

Before backpacks exploded on the kitchen table and in the living room.

Before there were landmines of sneakers and socks.

Before lunch boxes were haphazardly taken care of.

Before step stools were pulled out to block the pathway so that the whiteboard could be used for chronological order studying.

Before something got dropped or spilled on the newly cleaned floor as starving children descended as if they had not eaten in, oh, I don’t know, forever.

In short, he was going to walk into a quiet, peaceful home before our very own level four hurricane made land fall.

I was excited because he usually doesn’t get to see the fruit of my labor when it is at it’s stellar best. It’s usually visible under the aforementioned piles of child produced shrapnel.

And even though I was excited I remembered Proverbs 14:4 and chose to also be thrilled at the noise of my kids talking about boni libris and common place quotes as I scooted around the step stool, tidied up the kitchen from dinner and tripped over back packs and sneakers.

Life may be messy with the our level four hurricanes in residence but I wouldn’t trade it for a clean manger.

At least not for long anyway.

PS If anyone has a large cabinet that they no longer need and/or want and it would fit right there in that spot under our television just let us know! We’ve been looking for months and haven’t found one yet!

PPS Sarah still lives at home and does bump the hurricane category up to a level five with her college stuff but she is house sitting for some people so she isn’t pictured here. She’s doing it all week. My apology to my friends who have had children move away but I imagine this is a glimpse into how life will seem when she does move away and can I just say that I am not much of a fan of not seeing one of my kids everyday?

Quieter Love

I would be lying if I said we never argue.

He’s a man and I am a woman and that means we are both human beings which means we sin against each other with some regularity.

It truly is rare for us to do more than get cross eyed with each other though. I think the last time I was honestly angry with the man was when he neglected to tell me that a party we would be attending later that evening was a surprise party and, you guessed it, I ruined the surprise part by asking if I could bring anything when we came over. That was several years ago and I’m over it. (For the most part 😉

I say all of that to say that my beloved was out of town last week and oh, dear goodness I miss that man when we’re not together. It’s not just the physical extra set of hands to deal with the kids or an extra set of ears to hear all that the kids say or whatever.

We both know that we are better together than we are apart. I am a better mother because of him. A better friend, a better person because of our relationship. Whatever I do I am better at it because of his love for me. And I pray that he is a better father, friend and pastor because of my love for him.

Because this is what love should do. God’s love changes us…makes us better and something other than what we are on our own that is glorious and impossible apart from Him. That is the love we should share because he is a man and I am a woman and we are His…together, as one flesh.

CS Lewis put it this way, “It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God…’Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity; this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run. Being in love is the explosion that started it.”

Beauty From Ashes

I don’t photograph very many weddings. One, they are a lot of work. Two, they are pretty stressful because if you mess it up there is no do-over. That being said there is something fun and wonderful about being a part of that life changing event.

But never in my life have I been as moved and blessed to be a part of a wedding as I was shooting Lisa and Dave’s. From start to finish it was beautiful and humbling and so exciting to be a part of. Partly because I worked along side some incredibly talented friends who came together to create a dream of a wedding for a cherished friend and partly because in a very real way God was telling His story of redemption  and resurrection…of life coming after death…God’s way of turning mourning into joy…beauty from ashes. 
And pretty! My word was it a beautiful wedding! I don’t even know where to start. 
Wait, I take that back. I’ll start with Lisa because I have never seen a more radiant joyful bride.

Lisa’s boys walked her down the aisle and words cannot express how beautiful it was to see them delight in her happiness.

From start to finish the wedding told the Gospel story and everyone joined in singing praises.

After a hope filled homily and being pronounced husband and wife they invited everyone to stay and celebrate with them. And boy, do they know how to throw a party! I think I’ll have to share a part two post with pictures from the dance floor. 
I mentioned earlier about the talented people I worked beside during this wedding. These woman, all close dear friends with Lisa, are so very talented and shared every ounce of creativity they have to make this day stunning. From the flowers to the decor to the food it was simply beautiful.

Despite all the attention giving to details, all the extra sweet touches that made this wedding so lovely it was the atmosphere of joy that really set it apart from other weddings.
Dave and Lisa, your love for each other shines as only gold can after being through the Refiner’s fire. May you be a blessing to everyone around you as you live out a marriage that depicts living breathing grace.

Room For Forgiveness

Last year one of our children made a serious breach of one of our family rules. For most people the rule would seem ridiculous anyway and not realistic, but in our house it had always been thus and it wasn’t new or unconnected to our family way. We don’t have a ton of rules but the ones we do have are in place for very specific and thought out reasons.

It was a very big deal and the seriousness of the situation was not lost upon the child. To use my beloved’s phrase, there was a lot of “emotional intensity” that day and it was clear that trust had been broken and would have to be earned back.

But you know what I remember my husband doing next? He set aside his anger and the hurt that every parent feels when their child has grievously sinned, and he looked at our offspring and reassured them that they were loved and that while they had done wrong they had not committed the unpardonable sin. He made it clear that while our fellowship was broken because of their sin complete restoration was possible.

Basically he prepared the soil for their repentance to take root and bloom.

A few weeks ago I shared a post about how important it is that we do not forget the personhood of the one being corrected. It can be easy to so focus on wanting to eliminate the sin that we forget the sinner.

We have to go back to our reason for correction. We don’t want obedience simply for the sake of obedience. In Hebrews 12:11 we’re told that the reason for discipline is so that it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

How we respond to the one seeking repentance is pretty important. If our child’s desire for forgiveness had fallen onto the stony ground of, “Yeah, well you really buggered this up didn’t you?” the odds are that seeds of pride would have been sown instead of the blossom of forgiveness and restoration.

Are there consequences for sins? Yes. But the consequence is not a harsh pseudo forgiveness that comes with the crushing weight of judgment.

When true forgiveness is given there is a liberation. The imaginary of Hebrews 12:11 is the image of resurrection…life being born out of death. Sin is death and repentance is life.

Let us make sure that we cultivate a community that has fertile soil for the seeds of discipline to take root so that righteousness may grow. Let’s prepare the ground in such a way that it’s easy for our children or spouses or friends to seek forgiveness. There are no hoops for them to jump through and we don’t withhold restoration because it is within our power to do so, dangling it just out of their reach.

Christ doesn’t. In I John 1:9 we’re told that He is faithful to forgive us…may we be faithful to forgive each other.

Baby Wise

We’ve had a bunch of new babies born into our church family in the last several months. I’m talking one a month since September (and two in October!). And that’s just at our church, if you factor in school life there have been even more. It’s been a tremendous and beautiful blessing.

There is nothing quite like the joy a new baby brings. That precious bundle of life and hope and mercy and grace. But if we aren’t careful we can end up despising that gift.  This sort of despising is crafty and masquerades itself as true affection but in the end only leads to destruction. Since the beginning of time the cunning one has sought to distort a God-centered love, be it between husband and wife or parent and child.

As all of these little ones have come into our community I’ve had time to consider what it is to not despise the gift of life that God gives to us in our children. It’s advice that I’ve gleaned over the years by raising my own children but also from watching and heeding the wisdom of those who have gone this path ahead of me. I think it’s perfectly applicable for first time parents of newborns and also completely adaptable for parents of toddlers and older children.

Don’t be afraid to let your baby cry. They need to know that they are a big part of your world but not the center of your world, Christ is.

Expect obedience from the very beginning and teach it to them. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us but if they learn to obey in simple age appropriate matters they will continue to grow in their obedience to you and others and it will be easy for them to obey in the times when it is really important and possibly really difficult to do so.

Don’t be afraid to let them fall down and get the occasional boo boo. Kids need to be tough. If you teach your child from the very beginning that they are strong then they will grow up and be strong.

Don’t be afraid to let them get dirty. Often times hard work is dirty work and you want to raise good workers who aren’t put off by the hard work.

Resist the urge to always make life perfect for them. Real life is seldom perfect and they need to 1) be able to cope with that and 2) know how to think and figure out a different way when things aren’t going perfectly.

Give them chores and responsibilities at a young age. There is so much they can and will learn from these simple tasks. If nothing else it will teach them to appreciate and care for what they have.

From as early an age as possible teach them that they have nothing in their possession that is more important than the people in their life. “Special” toys and things are fine and not everything has to be communal property, but they should be encouraged to know and understand that more joy comes from sharing those special things then keeping it only for themselves.

Keep your word count low as you seek to teach or train your child. It’s very difficult to teach them to have a quiet heart and mind so they can listen if you are bombarding them with  an avalanche of words. What you expect from them should be clear and precise. So should your correction. Think about the book of Proverbs. God’s words to us are few and simple and to the point. Don’t over explain.

Know the difference between a teaching time and a correcting time. Sometimes they will just need to cease and desist whatever they are doing no questions asked or explanations given. Other times there will be an opportunity to teach them through why they need to stop what they are doing. It’s important that you know the difference.

There is a difference between teaching and training. You want to teach your child to sit quietly with you in church (that’s the concept) but you train them by practicing quiet time at home. Be deliberate in what you want to teach your children so that you can be very clear in how you train them.

Don’t hide your mistakes and failures from them. They need to know what it looks like to mess up and try again.

Don’t try to hide your sin either. They need to see what it looks like to be genuinely repentant. And let them be sinners. What I mean by this is you need to recognize that they are precious little adorable sinners. It’s not always the other kids fault and your child is not always “just tired.” Help him to own his sin so that he can honestly deal with his sin as an adult.

As much as possible remind them that everything they have is in some way given to them by their father. Whenever my kids thank me for some thing, be it a new pair of shoes or a trip through the drive thru, I always find a way to remind them to thank their Dad for it. Not just because in our case he has made the money that provided whatever it is but because in a small but very real and profound way it prepares their heart to recognize that all they have comes from the hand of their Heavenly Father.

You are not just raising hard working good adults. Want more for your child than his own happiness.

Raise them to protect the weak and care for the poor. Raise them to go out under the banner of Yahweh and wreak havoc on the enemy for, and in the name of, Christ.

Raise them to die to self and sin so that they can truly live.

Titus 2 Tuesday    Tending Home

A Garden of Yeses

Last week I had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of Douglas and Nancy Wilson at a family conference in Sandestin. It was beneficial for me in many ways, and on many different levels and I am really glad our family was finally able to participate in this annual event. One of the things I realized during the weekend was how differently I would want to parent if we were just starting our family. A different tone and coming from a different place, so to speak.

Since my world is currently overflowing with mamas and new babies I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and observations here. But first let me give a little back story on our early years as new parents. Basically, we were utterly clueless and winging it. We kind of had a vague sense of what we wanted but no idea how to go about it. We knew we wanted obedient children and to get them we knew we had to train them in obedience. Sounds like a good, noble, and holy goal, right? 
It becomes apparent very quickly though that we all want that good, noble and holy thing but there are about a gazillion ideas on how to get there. However, I think there are two broad categories that those gazillion of ideas fall into. There is a “training for obedience” and a “nurturing of obedience”. Please keep in mind that I say broad in a very sweeping generalized broad kind of way. This is not a judgement call on any particular methodology or practice but rather is a glimpse in how my own view has grown and shifted over time. 
To be sure, regardless of which category you fall into, there is training that must take place so my preference for one over the other has more to do with the how of the process. I’m sure in the grand scheme of things the difference between the two ways is not as large as it currently seems to me while it is all fresh in my head. But, being at this vantage point of my life, having raised up my children past those early years, and now seeing the fruit born out in the lives of the children who come from both categories (mine as well as those in my circle of living) I do see a notable difference in the sweetness of the fruit and it’s aroma.
In the beginning we fell firmly in the training for obedience camp. We were pretty tight in keeping the rules and we had plenty of them. Don’t get me wrong. Our home was still happy and loving but we were in training  mode all the time. Everything was a training in obedience opportunity. Honestly, there were a lot of no’s.  We didn’t move things out of reach from little hands, we trained them to not touch. Everything was out and a lot of it was off limits so consequently we spent a lot of time saying “No!” and “Don’t mess with that!”. Which really doesn’t sound that bad does it? Until you look at how God parents.
God created the heavens and the earth, made this fantastic garden and gave it to Adam and Eve as their home. Think about it. All of creation was at their fingertips, and there was exactly one no in the whole place. It was a garden full of yeses. That no was smack in the middle of the garden but it was the only one. Everything else was a yes. That fruit? Yes. Want to climb that tree? Yes. Go for a walk over there? Sure! Swimming in that pond? Absolutely! What? That tree over there? No child, not that one
I am in no way advocating letting your children run free and wild without any boundaries. I am advocating for the rules to be as simple and few as possible. Instead of having that fragile and sentimentally priceless knick knack on the coffee table where it can dazzle and catch their eye and be used as a training opportunity, why not move it out of reach? Instead of a house full of no’s why not a house full of yeses with the only rule be that you obey? Do we really think that without the boot camp obstacle course of off limit things that there will be no way of teaching obedience? I submit that there are plenty of ways and opportunities to train and teach our children obedience that nurtures that obedience in a way that becomes less about rule keeping and more about loving the rule giver.
And isn’t that what we want? To raise up children that not only keep the rules but they keep them because they love the Rule Giver? The great Rule Breaker wants us to believe that we need more rules, that life and freedom is found in keeping a bunch of rules. But the truth is that way back in the garden there was one rule and most of us think it was as simple as, “Don’t eat of that tree.” But the reality was that the rule was, “Obey God.”

What To Do With Rocks

When my second daughter was about a year old she picked up a dirty little rock and gave it to her grandmother. Now my sweet mother-in-law is crafty and quite sentimental about her grandchildren so she bought a little frame, cut a piece of pretty paper for a background, added a bow and glued the rock in place and as far as I know she still has that little memento on a shelf or end table somewhere.

Our youngest daughter has also had a fascination with rocks for as long as I can remember. Big ones, small ones, clean ones, dirty ones…she completely lacks discrimination as to which ones are pretty or ugly. She used to bring these little treasures to me until I had a box full and over flowing. She’d find them in the yard, the neighbors yard, sidewalks and parking lots. If there was the tiniest of stones loose and able to be picked up she was going to be reaching for it.

I came across that box of rocks recently and it got me to thinking. Life is full of rocks. The Dragon lobbed a hefty stone at Eve and she promptly tossed it to Adam who tried to return the volley when confronted by God for walking around with it. Not long after that Adam’s son picked up a rock and used it to smash in his brother’s head and then dropped the blood covered stone aside with a nonchalant, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

And you and I? We stumble over rocks with words like fear, unforgiveness, selfishness, and bitterness carved into them. Sometimes we pick them up and carry them around, their weight a strange security that we take solace in because it’s a familiar anchor that requires little from us. We use them to build walls to hide behind that allow us to stay in our mediocre comfort zone. It becomes our burdensome excuse that gives us a free pass to not move from the shadows into light that is a little too bright sometimes.

Because if we set those rocks down and move into the Light then the Light is going to show the other rocks in our lives.

You know the ones I’m talking about. It’s the boulders fired off at us by a deliberately hurtful husband or thrown with unerring accuracy by a bitter angry wife. The smaller rocks that come from a thoughtless friend or coworker and the pebbles from complete strangers that cut us off in traffic or clearly have way more than 20 items in the speedy checkout line. These are the ones that we swiftly pick up and use as our own weapons. Their smooth bulk a justification for the war we’re fighting, for the temper tantrum we’re having.

Life is full of rocks and whether or not we pick them up or have them thrown at us there is something we’re supposed to do with them. We stack them. We take the missile fired off by the husband or wife and we put it on the pile. And we resist the urge to toss the ones back that came from the friend or neighbor and we add it to the pile. We empty the load of rocks we’ve been carrying around for years covered in the buzzwords that we’re told should be important to us like low self esteem, me time, fulfillment, and learn to love yourself and we dump them on the pile.

And then we climb on top of the pile. And we die there because underneath all our petty stones is the stone that was rejected, that became our Cornerstone. That pile is where death can lead to life and bondage falls away.

That pile of stones becomes the alter where we boldly proclaim that the hand of the Lord is mighty.

That He can overcome anything and everything. It’s where marriages are healed and relationships are restored. There, on that alter, we learn that we need to love our self less and Christ more.  It’s where God triumphs over our past foolishness and dark hurts.

It’s where we learn that we ~ us, me and you ~ are the true stones; the living stones being formed and fashioned into a spiritual house for His name.