Monday Musings

Monday: Second day of the week
Musings: meditation; thoughtfully abstracted

Forgiveness is more than just dismissing someone from your life in much the same way as submission is more than just letting the other person have their way.

Mature community is considering and pursuing the good of the whole body.

“Nothing wrong with it” is not the same as declaring something good.

Love is our motivation and the means by which we are to do things.

Having grown children come home for a visit is the absolute best.

Doing a hard thing is well, hard. It is not an excuse to not do what needs doing though.

Learning something new, especially when it is replacing an old way of doing something, takes time and I can get impatient. Lightroom, I am looking at you 👀

Industrious: constantly, regularly, or habitually active or occupied
Seems like a good thing to aspire to be, yes? But someone can be constantly, regularly, and habitually active or occupied with things that are not necessarily profitable or godly. I like including an obsolete definition that also defines it as being skillful and ingenious but of course the same problem rears its head. I can be a skillful and ingenious cat burglar but that is not a good thing at all, is it?
The what of our industry is just as important as the actual being of it.

I think I am going to dwell on that last musing a lot this week.

In other news…

Hays helped walk me through using the drone I got for Christmas again while he was here this weekend and yesterday Rob and I got it out and played with it.
I may or may not have shared this publicly but the first time I tried to use it by myself back in January I crashed into the house and we had to send it back to the company to get fixed 😬 Thank goodness for good insurance and understanding husbands!
I’m going to keep taking my time and learning to use it when I have Rob with me as backup. I have a terrible sense of direction and get nervous with the controller (You are only supposed to use your thumbs, for heaven’s sake!) so he keeps me calm and able to focus.

My first two real drone shots ~

An aerial shot of our home.

I really love this shot. It does make me laugh though because I thought I had flown the drone straight across the street from our house but it seems I actually took a hard right and went down the street a ways 😂 I told you I have a terrible sense of direction! Someone has a lovely pond in their backyard, don’t they?

Happy Monday, y’all!


Being Fruitful

Quick! What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase, “…be fruitful and multiply”? For most of us we think of pregnant bellies and sweet squishy babies and obviously it is a right thing to think. After all, we know that is what God was saying to Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis and the word multiply literally means to grow in number. Here, Adam. I made this woman for you. And I have made you both in such a way that you can make more of you. Now go fill the earth with more of you and take dominion over everything.

I want to point out a couple of things on the baby having side first and then back track to look at something I think is often overlooked or overshadowed in that verse.

Firstly, in this day and age that is abundant in birth control options (some that are outright sinful and others that aren’t) I do think as a society, even among Christians, childbearing has seemingly become an option that one can exercise or not depending on how you might feel about it. But I think it is pretty clear that choosing to be willfully childless is not the way of God’s people. Anyone can have babies. But for Christians, why we have babies and how we raise them, should be vastly different from unbelievers. In reality this is true about everything. We christians do the same life things, the same activities, as people who do not know Christ as King. But because we do know Him as King it is supposed to look different in our lives. It is glorified…we reveal Christ in what we do because we do all things for His glory, to make Him known.

I do, however, believe there is a lot more theology behind “be fruitful and multiply” than just having babies and that brings me to a second thing. I do not believe this is a command to everyone to have all of the babies. We have five children. To some that is a lot. To others that is about half of a lot. But here’s the thing. God doesn’t prescribe a specific number of required offspring. To some couples He grants life for one child. For another He opens the womb for more. Sometimes someone may wish they had more. For others God seems to let them decide how many and for still others He closes the womb and opens their hearts to adoption. I certainly cannot fully grasp His providence in these matters but I know that He graciously invites us in and allows us to use wisdom and discernment in planning the size of our families so that we can faithfully tend the children we are given.

I realize a lot more can be said and teased out on this subject but I’m going to leave that part of the verse now and back up to what I have been thinking through this past week. It’s the phrase, “be fruitful” that has been tumbling around in my head.

You see, I think it is a mistake to lumb that in with the multiply part as if the whole thing is only talking about having babies. It would seem to me that if we do that we are condensing down the mandate to what is a relatively few short years out of our lives. At fifty-one my child bearing years are done so if the mission God gave humanity all the way back in the garden is just about having children what does that mean for the rest of my life? What did it mean for the years before I could have children?

A definition for the word fruitful is abundantly productive. If we are looking at it through the Genesis chapter one lens then we know we are made in God’s image. God, the Creator, is telling us to be creative, to produce something. But what? We are not all artist or musicians and what have you. Not everyone is a gardener or an accomplished cook. Are we exempt if we aren’t talented or skilled? I don’t think so. I think we may just need to think a little outside of the box in ways we can be produce fruit in our lives.

I find this quote by Edith Schaeffer very helpful in thinking creatively in how we can produce fruit in our lives ~

There are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact-that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us.” 

Can’t play an instrument? Cultivate an appreciation for music by listening to good music. The kind of beautiful music that has lasted for hundreds of years or at least four or five decades. Do the same with art. Expose your children to that sort of music and art. Read the classics to them and yourself. But I don’t think we should limit ourselves to just understanding and appreciating good art, music and books and not actually trying new things. We should challenge ourselves to do things that are difficult if even just slightly so. Go ahead and plant something in the dirt. Choose a new recipe to try. Learn to do a skill that you haven’t done before.

Create balance between those tangible and intangible ways that produce fruit in our life.

We create with more than clay and paint, or words or music notes, fabric or photographs. Everyday we create. And everyday we make choices to imitate what has already crafted by the Master.

We create homes that are a refuge the way He created an ark.

We create new culture when we resist the world’s culture, the world’s way of doing or being.

We create a world of reconciliation when we imitate the dark art of death in dying to ourselves that produces the kaleidoscope of color and light found in the resurrection.

We create peace when we turn the other cheek and offer the glorious poetry of forgiveness.

We create a symphony of mercy when we love and esteem others more than ourselves.

We create places of hospitality as we open our door and beckon in the poor and hungry.

We create a tapestry of grace when we weave longsuffering through our relationships with husband and wife, child and friend.

We all produce something. We all create. The question is whether it is worthy of presenting to our Creator.

In her book Loving The Little Years Rachel Jankovic makes the point that the more fruit we make the more of that fruit God will use.

“Some of those apples will fall to the ground and rot. But God uses rotten apples ~ to fertilize the ground, to start more apple trees after little animals plant them, and just to make the air smell sticky sweet. You cannot know the depth of His plan for your fruit. So throw it out there on the ground when you have no plan for its future. Waste it. Waste homemade pasta (and the mess it makes) on your family. Don’t save cloth napkins for company only ~ sew a dress your daughter doesn’t really need. Be bountiful with your fruit and free with it. The only thing you can know for certain is that God will use it.”

I don’t know about sewing a dress but I have spent some time over the last month buying up packs of fat quarters each week when I go to the grocery store. It’s probably been a dozen years since I tried to piece together a quilt and if I am honest my previous attempts, although well loved (it was a napping quilt for Claire when she started school) were less than lovely. We don’t really need another blanket either. But the fabric was so pretty and it caught my eye and on a whim I decided I wanted to do it again. It won’t be anything uber fancy but I want to work at it. I want to make sure my seams are straight this time and that my binding is even.

I’m going to use the new cake pan I got this weekend and make something pretty and delicious.

I’m going to keep taking pictures of anything and everything. I’m going to keep making cards and such with the pictures and putting them in my Etsy shop.

I’m going to keep stringing words together and blogging.

I’m going to drive Rob crazy picking out plants and flowers and designing garden beds.

I’m going to keep blowing bubbles for the puppies to chase and watch silly video clips with the girls and let Sam show me all the different bits and pieces to his latest LEGO creation.

I’m going to keep finding ways to produce truth, beauty, and goodness. And joy and laughter. And prayerfully it will also produce a deeper love and thankfulness for our great kind God who did it all first.

Join me, why don’t you? Tell me about the fruit of your hands.

What You Ought To Remember

You know what’s embarrassing? Slamming the toilet lid down in a public restroom because you forget that all toilet lids are not self closing like the ones at home.

You know what’s painful? Forgetting that you chopped jalapeños a few hours ago and rubbing your eye.

You know what is not embarrassing or painful? God’s forgiveness. The teaching of Scripture is that when we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us. Not just forgive either but to cleanse us from the dirt and mess of our sin. And if that were not enough, we are told He throws our sin away as far as the east is from the west.

You know what God doesn’t forget?

Us.

Me.

You.

He remembers our frame. He remembers that we are His people and He is our God.

He remembers His promises.

So many promises! But this morning I woke up thinking about forgiveness and Psalm 139. Such thoughts are, indeed, too wonderful.

You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Verses 5 & 6)

I hope you begin your week thinking of the promises God gives to His children. And may you walk in them.

Happy Monday y’all.

As Simple As Grapes and Cheese

I enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen.

I also enjoy having company and feeding people. Sometimes I find that I have made those two things more complicated that they should have been and I am able to enjoy neither one as much as I could have.

Recently we’ve discovered the joy that is purple grapes paired with white cheddar cheese. It is a culinary delight.

I try to keep both things on hand all of the time because it’s a simple but delicious way to be hospitable and welcome people into our home or just for us to enjoy.

fruit_white_cheddar_cheese

Have you seen that acronym?

KISS

Keep It Simple Stupid

I find it so funny but also helpful to remember.

It’s easy to fall into a place where good equals complicated.

Hard is be best.

If it’s difficult it’s worth more.

Sometimes that is true of course. If it is easily gotten sometimes that means it is of little value.

We shouldn’t shy away from the hard. Often times the struggle brings about the glory.

But I wonder if sometimes we make it too hard…complicate things unnecessarily?

A child believes and sometimes we complicate that with our unbelief. Surely they don’t really understand when really we are the ones who don’t understand. Their belief is full and complete but it seems too simple so it must be lacking.

There is therefore no condemnation…but we can’t completely let go of the guilt  or the person we were and the life we led so we make the new life hard by remembering and carrying the past into the now.

It’s wanting everything to be just right and perfect and sucking  the joy out of life in the process.

It’s opening the door to that little bit of doubt…not trusting…not believing…not clinging to Truth.

I wonder if sometimes we complicate things as an excuse. “I would but…”

To avoid the responsibility that comes with accepting and fully living in Truth.

But really life is better when we keep it simple. When we just believe and trust what He is doing and where He is leading us.

Simple, just like grapes and cheese.

fruit_and_cheese

In Every Thing Give Thanks

A recent study found that when completely healthy people discussed pain the part of the brain that copes with pain became very active. The conclusion that scientists came to is that talking about your pain can actually make things worse.

On Wednesday evenings Rob is teaching through the book of James and his homily this past week dealt with trials and suffering that we face and how we should deal with them.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”

It got me to thinking that I really don’t have much suffering going on in my life. My life is good…pleasant. I have a comfortable home, my basic needs are met and I get the occasional night of Chinese take out and a Lindt candy bar to enjoy. I’m in love with my husband and he with me, we have five great kids and a wonderful church family. We have a fantastic school that our children attend so we’re part of a great community there. We’ve got good friends and good health. Life really is sweet.

But because I’m human and we all live in a fallen world I do face trials of various kinds. Some are hard, others harder, and some only exist inside my imagination. Some of my trials are worse than what some others face and some of mine don’t even begin to compare to the genuine suffering that some people endure on a daily basis.

So what does it look like to suffer well? To, as James goes on to say, remain steadfast under trial? The more I have pondered the more I have come to see what it does not look like.

I have a sweet young friend with three children under the age of three. Her husband works from early morning until early evening and yet you never hear her complain. Now it would be utterly ridiculous to assume that because she doesn’t complain must mean that she has no struggles and her life is like some kind of Disney movie where she only communicates with her children via song and birds help fold her laundry.

She has three children under the age of three. Of course she has various trials and sufferings! How could she not? She’s a sinner, her husband is a sinner, and so are her sweet beautiful children. But her struggle is not lessened by complaining. Her burden is not made any lighter because she makes sure everyone knows that the struggle is real, y’all. This is, I think, the gentle and quiet spirit that God deems beautiful.

Another friend has four children of her own, yet without hesitation she took on the child care of a friend’s little one when it became an urgent need. It’s not surprising to see her with another friend’s three littles when a day shift has been scheduled either. She has a gift for helping others in this way no matter the extra work it may create for her and she uses it to serve others. 

Still another friend has suffered more than a few tragic miscarriages but I didn’t even know this for a long time. She doesn’t live in the pangs of the past constantly bringing up the horrible things she has gone through. But she does quietly use those hard and difficult experiences to minister to others when the time is right. This is how we comfort those with the comfort we ourselves have been given.

What I am getting at is that suffering well doesn’t look like complaining. If your circumstances are genuinely difficult you won’t need to constantly remind people…they’ll know. Suffering well doesn’t look like cutting yourself off from the outside world. It doesn’t shrink your world to what happens within the walls of your own home. Remaining steadfast under a trial means that you don’t hold onto and nurture the pain of the circumstances. And part of that is not constantly trying to prove that your suffering is worse than what someone else goes through. You know you’re not in some kind of competition and you can allow others to have their struggle without it invalidating yours or feeling the need to bring up your own hardships.

In Philippians we are told that suffering is a gift. And I think suffering well means that you accept the gift graciously seeking to glorify God through it. But that can be so hard to do! I know this. But God has told us how to do it.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.  ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give thanks. A grateful heart, one thankful even for the really hard stuff, the trials and the suffering is the key. Knowing that each and every moment we live is the will of God…how comforting and precious the thought!

Throughout Scripture the words thanksgiving and sacrifice can be found together. God doesn’t tell us that it will be easy but He does say,

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” ~ Psalm 50:23

My prayer is that God will use these simple words of mine to encourage you as you walk through your various trials and sufferings. May you bear your burdens well and in a manner that is worthy of the calling He has given you.

This blog post on Thanksgiving is part of a blog circle I participate in each month. As my fellow blogging friends add their links I will share them here so you can enjoy the goodness.

Julie    Connie

Walking The Hard Path

Yesterday I was sitting around my kitchen table sharing a meal with some women who have gone through some pretty difficult situations over the last year or so.  I was encouraged to hear their thoughts on the various struggles because I’d been thinking a lot lately about what it means to deal with difficult circumstances in our lives.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of difficulties that are no fault of our own.

Other times we may find ourselves in the middle of a hard situation and dealing with consequences that are a direct result of some bone headed decision we made. Or maybe not boneheaded  but still we find ourselves on a difficult path because we made choices, right ones even, that put us there.

What I’ve been thinking about is regardless of how we end up in that hard minute, the way we walk through it is what matters. The way we think and talk about the hard situation reveals what is truly inside of us.

If it is a constant complaining or venting of frustration then it is easy to see that we are filled with discontentment. If, no matter how many kindnesses are shown us, we can still only see how hard everything is, then we are quite possibly missing a lesson in learning to bear burdens with grace and dignity. It is quite easy to find ourselves throwing a rousing pity party and trying to get everyone we talk to to dance with us by playing our sad, sad song.

The hand of God and what flows from it to us is sometimes a thing not easily grasped. We are not a people to suffer well and those around us who do so are either somehow more spiritual than us (which we can easily resent) or they just don’t have it as bad as we do, which allows us to be even more of a victim.

But Scripture tells us that we are to handle adversity in a different way…one contrary to our nature. God calls us to rejoice in our sufferings because it will produce something in us.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings,
 knowing that suffering produces endurance, 
and endurance produces character, 
and character produces hope, 
and hope does not put us to shame, 
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts 
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5
That’s a pretty amazing list of things that will result from our suffering if we are willing to suffer with gladness. And if what it will produce in us isn’t beautiful enough just look at what we avoid when we rejoice in our suffering…we are not put to shame.
It would seem that our way of bearing burdens and walking through our hard minutes has some pretty serious results in our lives. May we walk worthy of the One who has called us no matter how hard the path or how we got there.

Not My Will But Thine

She came to me, blue eyes full of tears, the handmade card clutched in her hand.

She wanted me to reassure her that despite the crooked cutting and haphazard placement of artsy elements that it was still accepted…still deemed good.

In one of those seemingly rare insightful moments I knew what she was really asking. So I was truthful with her. I told her it was fine and she could give it to someone but

No, it wasn’t as nice as her sister’s.

Now before you think me a horrible mother let me share a couple of things.

First, if she was four or five years old her creative piece would have been praised and thoroughly accepted. But she’s eight going on nine and her skills are above what she was holding out to me. I know it and she knows it.

Second, the real issue was bigger…something more was going on in her little heart and mind.

She wanted to compare her creation with her big sister’s creation and she wanted the same final result but she wanted it on her terms. She didn’t want to take the time to do it the right way but she wanted the same acceptance.

The bigger issue was that she knew they weren’t equal but she wanted to insist that they were. She wanted to force her way to yield the same results. But they never would because her way was quick and easy and didn’t require the same work, patience, and attention that her sister’s way required.

So we talked about how we need to be willing to listen to instruction from someone wiser than us. To hear what someone has to say that has more experience obtaining the end result we want. To be patient and willing to put in the often times hard work required to yield a fruit that doesn’t exalt just us but brings honor and glory to God.

In the grand scheme of things this is a simple lesson. But it is one with profound application that she will use the rest of her life.

We relentlessly pursue relationships and happiness on our terms no matter the cost to ourselves or those around us, no matter the lack of success in the past using the same tactics, acting like the child demanding that the end result be deemed good just because we say so.

But God doesn’t do things our way. He says that the way to find life is to lay it down. The way to find love and happiness for ourselves is going to be found when we stop focusing on ourselves and choose instead to love others more than ourselves.

We are called to live life differently as those who belong to Christ. We are a peculiar people called to a peculiar way of being. May we take note of how we live our lives…how we be who we are…to ensure that we are indeed, peculiar to those around us who do not yet know of our King.

Linking up at Titus 2 Tuesday.

My Life For Yours

The way of the cross is a paradox…a call to death so that life may be found.

Recently, I read this article by Pastor Wilson. In it he makes the case that the way of the Gospel is “my life for yours” as opposed to “your life for mine” which is the way of the world.

Not many of us will have the opportunity to jump in front of a speeding car to save the life of a child that has wandered into the street or to take a bullet meant for someone else.

No, our way of giving up our lives looks a lot less heroic and has a lot less fanfare.

It looks like setting aside our own tiredness at the end of a long day to spend time with our children.

It looks an awful lot like forsaking our own much desired moments of solitude to have a conversation with a friend that is hurting or is weary so they can be encouraged.

It looks like laying down our own desires and wants so that they don’t become a burden to those around us.

It looks a whole lot like giving up of ourselves for the good of those around us.

Most of us know this though. We’ve been in church long enough that we understand the concept and even manage to do it upon occasion when the opportunity presents itself.

But here is what I am thinking. I am thinking that we aren’t supposed to wait for those moments to present themselves. I’m thinking we should be out hunting those moments down. To borrow a phrase from the old timers, we should be beating the bushes for ways to lay our lives down for the well being of those around us.

Because we are people of the cross we should look for the hard ways to love those around us. Because we follow the way of the Gospel we should seek out opportunity to live in such a way that it cost us something. Because we want to imitate Christ we live lives that declare, “My life for yours” in our homes, our work places, and our churches.

To Share Or Not To Share

That seems to be the question of the day since an article discussing the topic has been bouncing around facebook for the past week or so. Normally I don’t offer rebuttals to things I see or hear on the WWW, but I keep getting asked about this so here’s my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth.

To be fair, I agree to a certain extent with the author’s position that we aren’t doing our children any favors by teaching them that they can have something someone else has simply because they want it. But I think this becomes an issue because we’re focusing on something that really isn’t the point.

The point isn’t really whether or not we should be teaching our children to share. The point is are we raising children that value others over themselves?

Are we cultivating a heart that is learning from an early age to eagerly and joyfully seek the well being of others?

Are we training our children to know how and when they should choose someone else’s happiness and wants over their own?

I think there is a big difference between teaching them to share for the sake of sharing and teaching them to enjoy what they have but also be willing to let others have a turn enjoying it as well.

One reinforces the idea that my wants are priority, and one teaches the idea that our joy and delight is made fuller when we include others.

Is there ever a time when they don’t have to share? Maybe. Probably. I mean just getting the best ever gift for your birthday and having it for all of five seconds before having to let others share in the joy doesn’t seem right or all that fun.

So it would seem that wisdom would dictate whether a certain toy should be brought into group settings. Why put the child in a position to choose their stuff over their friends? Their wants and happiness over that of others? Why place other children in a position to covet what another has?

Our personal policy was no sharing no taking. Of course we also taught our kids that if a friend had something and wasn’t letting them play with it they needed to find something else to play with. Hardly seems fair unless of course they were playing in a community where everyone was teaching their child the same thing. And sometimes we were in a place full of like minded people and sometimes we weren’t. Valuable lessons were learned either way.

Is there a time when you should force your child to bring out the best ever birthday present and share it? Absolutely, you don’t want them to be hoarders or miserly.  But we made that happen in situations were there was less risk to the treasured toy being abused or broken.

Is there ever a time when you should teach your child to just be happy that a friend has been blessed with something wonderful? Yes, of course.  There are always going to be times in life where one person has and another has not and we want our children to rejoice sincerely in either of those times.

But these are lessons that aren’t learned in a vacuum apart from real life. They happen in community where, hopefully, they learn more than whether they should have to share or not. It’s a community that should be teaching them the value of another human being over material stuff. And that the feelings of others should be considered before their own.

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.