An attempt to declare the Glory of God for what He has chosen to do with our lives. A legacy to leave to my children in the telling of it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spurgeon


I stumbled across this video of an old Spurgeon sermon on YouTube. Oh my, here's a man of God preaching the word of God. It spoke volumes to my heart. Hope it does to yours, too.

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{My notes while listening, then the video link follows.}

God intended His trials to be felt.

It is feeling a trial that makes it a trial. The essence of the trial lies in the feeling of it.  God's blows fall just where He intends us to feel them the most. He smites us where we are sure to be affected. Trials which are not felt are unprofitable trails. If there be no crying out then there will be no emptying out of our depravity. It is just so much as we feel that we are profited. A trial unfelt must be a trial unsanctified. We are only blessed by feeling it under God's agent, the Holy Spirit. Though He slay me yet I will trust Him. For God sent the trouble that we might feel it. Not excessively that we would murmur against God, but that we may feel the rod; that we may kiss the rod.

Let the smoke {trials} come - they reveal our hearts. Trials till the soil of our heart. They make us know our blackness. We feel worthless, good for nothing, useless. How empty we become in trials. All our hope is gone, we feel empty, we need a full Savior to save us. In trials we are capable of being affected.

Christians, though they have trouble and feel their troubles, they do not forget God's statutes. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one word of Scripture. All Christians must carry the words of Christ, all must take up their cross and follow Him. His statutes are statutes of promise, as faithful as the God who uttered them. Hold fast to God's statutes. Our trials are only the smoke, not the fire. They might smoke, but they do not destroy us. There is nothing that will burn the Christian. Smoke might blur our vision, but it does not destroy us. There is no cause why we should forget our God in the midst of our trials.

We are washed on the shores of Christ by our trouble. Remember that Jesus is in the smoke with us. God's statutes are in the furnace with us, too. God's word is subject to the trial and it will come out shining brighter in the end. The more flame there is, the better we will be able to see our Master in the smoke with us. And if my sufferings may augment Thy praise, behold me well content, let sorrow well attend.

God's statutes are in our soul, where trials cannot steal. Christ and grace are unaffected by the smoke of trials. The outward man decays, but the inward man is being renewed day by day. Hold fast by God's word. If under our trial and troubles we hold fast to God's word, we can take assurance that we are children of God.

Guilty, weak and helpless I may be, but there, in God's arms, unshaken, will I rest until this vial body dies. If you can stand a little smoke, then you may believe yourself a child of God. Fair-weather birds are good for nothing. God loves those who can move in the storm, those who can make the wind their chariot. "I  know whom I have believed."  If you do not swerve from your post when the trials come, then you are verily a child of Heaven. Constancy, endurance and perseverance are the true marks of a hero of the cross and are the invincible warriors of the Lord. Know that every man is expected to do his duty.

Those who overcome will receive a crown of glory. Be refined by your trials. Do not consume {triumph by yourself in} your own trial. Let God consume you in them. Suffering Christians might be pitied now, but our light trials are working for us an exceeding glory. Our temporary trials are allowing us an escape from an eternal trial of punishment.

If thou art not a sinner, I have no salvation for thee. If thou art a Pharisee and knows not thy sins, I have no Christ for thee. But if thou art a real sinner, I have this for thee: Jesus Christ.

Listen to the sermon - Charles Spurgeon: Heaven and Hell

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Monster

Grief is such of a monster.

There is no better way to describe it on this cold, snowy morning. The holiday season was spent in a blissful numb. Several times I would attempt to take a mental temperature and try to gauge just what it was that I was feeling, expecting the pain to overtake rather than the ability to enjoy the events. Numb is okay, as Alexis reminded me. None of us minds Novocain while sitting in the dentist's chair after all. Another Christmas spent without your firstborn son and a little numb is just fine.

But like the fuzzy lip, it doesn't last long. It's reminiscent to the feeling after the first anniversary. Being all pepped up to do it well, face it all, go through the motions at least. Then it hits ... hard. Coupled with the fact that I've been on a marathon picture sorting, collage making frenzy doesn't make it easier. In grief, I have found,  you do what you can do and you do what you think you have to do, even if it might seem irrational to everybody else. I have gotten it into my head that I have to have all of my pictures sorted and printed into book format before we hope to move in the Spring. I have gotten through two and a half years, nearly 1,000 collages. Which brings me to 2011. And we all know what happened in 2011.

As my mom said the other day, I'm living in three realms: the past, the present, and the future. When I first started the project I couldn't convince my brain again that Trent really wasn't here. As if he had just been hiding in the woods for the past three years, like in the pictures. I almost called him in for supper a couple of times.

Then there is the jolting present. Shutting off the computer and seeing the empty chair and bed. No Ken-doll locks, no giggle, no smacking kisses goodnight.

But then there is the future, the glorious future. To keep my eyes trained there often times becomes difficult. It's reality seems unreal, lately. As if God has asked too much. I force my heart to repeat the promises. Clinging to the hope in them. Battling for victory.

Victory.

The victory to overcome this deceitful heart of mine. Victory over unbelief. Victory over thinking that it would be better to have Trent here. Victory to live victoriously.

I felt strong enough to venture into the February 2011 pictures today. I figured I better do it while I thought I could. I realized again the depth of my weakness. A son in a coffin three years later is harder than it was that day. I see the people again, the ones who were here with us. I see the bewilderment, and even the lost-ness, on so many of their faces.

Then I look at my face in the pictures. I can almost see the grace of God being poured out. I wonder where that it is now. I wonder why God lets it get so hard. Not blasphemously wondering, just wondering at His good plans that includes our total weakness. I wonder if at the foot of Jesus' cross it was the same. Mary, looking at her son... fully trusting God, but wondering... how is this the good plan? I envision Jesus at Gethsemane, asking if there wasn't another way. Accepting that this was the wisest way.

Somehow glory is only seen through the impossible. Our faith is only proven through the impossible. To make it to the end, longing for God alone, only happens through the impossible.

The pictures that were taken the days, even months and years, before the accident were so worldly. To see my heart three years later, and what it desires now, is enough of a reason to praise God that His ways are higher than mine. His love baffles me. Why me? Why grant this suffering to me? The other option would have been to let me go on living only for here and now, indulging even more into my kingdom rather than His. There is no appropriate description for how deep my longing runs for Christ, to see His face, to bow at His feet, to know His glory.

Would I trade that desire for a lifetime of a son, when it would mean trading an eternity of being satisfied in God? No.

The perspective helps. This blip of a life is kept in check. I try to remember to look up from the grief once in a while. For as debilitating as it is, it drives me nearer to God.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Cards


I wish thee no greater good than that God break in upon thy careless heart,
and shake thee out of thy false peace, and make thee lie down at the feet of Christ. 
~Richard Baxter, The Saints Everlasting Rest

I seriously considered inscribing our Christmas cards with that line this year. But then I thought otherwise. My smiling, polite genetics got the best of me and I went for a safe, happy, NIV, non-eternal verse: "Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again - Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) I made it through the picture taking this Summer, made it through the collage process this Fall, and have even started a list with the intention of really sending them out before the blessed holiday is over.

And then the kids who were brave enough to venture out into the below zero weather to trek through the snow banks to the mailbox started bringing me Christmas cards. Safe, happy, NIV, non-eternal versed Christmas tidings with pretty covers and well wishes for a happy holiday. I handled it well to start with. I made it through the first few. And then I cried. Cried because everybody else gets to send out happy cards this year. Cards with all their children smiling in goofy poses. Cards about how big Johnny has grown, and how sister got a new car and brother is getting straight A's.

While I pondered my past year, and considered what I would write for a cheery holiday letter, I thought of the many mornings waking up to fight the battle just to get out of bed, fighting for God's glory to reign, fighting to say "thank you" for my son being in Heaven with the next words from my lips being a plea for the salvation of my children who are still here; the constant weight of their eternities laying on my heart like a rock.

Or watching my daughter cry her eyes out, focusing on grieving not as those without hope, and trying to come up with the perfect answer to the barrage of people who think her greatest achievement this past year should have been getting a driver's license rather than a deeper walk with the Lord, that time spent behind a wheel would have been better spent than time behind a Bible.

And, rather than my husband getting a promotion, how I've watched him work two jobs to support a family in this hard economic time, how I've watched him battle for victory to lead us well in the midst of his own pain, how I've watched his desire for God to reign over his desire for the world, how I've watched his strong hold to Scripture win over his flesh.

I could write about letting it all go, giving up our kingdom of a farm and material possessions in attempted obedience to what we hope will be a life of being poured out for God's kingdom. But somehow it seemed wrong to report those growths, as if I would be destroying the façade of everybody else's joy at this time of year.

Then I remembered that God loves me. He really, really loves me. Loves me enough to "wish [me] no greater good than that [He] break in upon  [my] careless heart, and shake [me] out of [my] false peace, and make [me] lie down at the feet of Christ."

Then it struck me how sad I was. Not so much in being sad that Trent isn't here, though I miss him like crazy, but sad because in my own power I cannot change one single person, especially the ones that I love the most, to value God's glory and "break in upon [their] careless heart, and shake [them] out of [their] false peace, and make [them] lie down at the feet of Christ." Instead I watch so many professing believers walking around careless, with peace, not lying down at the feet of Christ. As Casting Crowns puts it (Spirit Wind), "Believers leading carnal lives... wonder what they're fighting for."

Along with all this, John Piper's book, The Pleasures of God, has my head swirling with his chapter on God's glory in bruising the Son on the Cross. He talks about God's delight in His own glory, and how the suffering of Jesus to take on the curse of sin in obedience to the Father was a measure of Jesus' love for God's glory. It's as if Jesus and God are battling to prove their love for each other, round and round, one-upping the other in proving it. Which all causes me to look fresh at my own suffering and how I view God in it.

If, like Jesus, the measure of my own suffering is meant to reveal God's glory and will result in God, and myself, delighting even more so in His glory, then I am right where He wants me. If suffering weighs out our truest affection, and if one of God's greatest delights is His glory, and if He allows His children to suffer to prove their greatest desire (all the while acknowledging that the ability that it would be His glory that rises to the top ultimately comes from Him), then what a joy it will be to see the measuring rod on that day that I enter God's presence and He says, "Well done good and faithful servant. You loved me this much and trusted me to portray my glory through you while you suffered this much." 

It is not the suffering that is rejoiced in, but what is accomplished by God via that suffering: the revealing of His glory that works out even our own salvation. To come to an end of ourselves just may be God's greatest mercy. To be sure, salvation only comes about by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, but God continues to prove it by increasing our longing for Him throughout our lives.

Which brings me back to the Christmas cards. And how much easier it would be to have five children posing, but how much greater is the work that is being done to only have four. So all that rambling to wish you this holiday season:

No greater good than that God break in upon thy careless heart,
and shake thee out of thy false peace, and make thee lie down at the feet of Christ.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Puppy Love

 



Another blessed event of new life has occurred on our farm. Probably for the last time, making it all the more cherished, Lady our lab dog delivered six beautiful little pups. She even made it super convenient for us and had them in the middle of the day when we had no other scheduled plans rather than in the middle of the night. Four girls and two boys, including the bonus chocolate babe. It's all I can do to not give in to Micah's pleas to keep just one. Aahh, puppy love.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Warning

 
Don't read John Piper for an hour immediately before going to bed lest you wake up with thoughts like these swirling in your brain in all out attempt to connect the dots, before the coffee is even done brewing, and causing you to wonder ceaselessly, yet again, just who this God is that has chosen you to have a sneak peak at the unfathomable beauty of His glory to come:

* One of God's greatest pleasures is His delight in His good plans for His children.

* God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

* So, when I am satisfied in God's good plans for me, I will be most satisfied in Him.

* To be most satisfied in God I must be most satisfied in God, not other things.

* When I pray and long for God to be glorified in me, it means that I must be most satisfied in God.

* For God to answer that prayer He must first make me delight in what He delights in, namely His glory.

* To prove that I delight in Him, as a Christian's desire would be, he removes what I do delight in to reveal what my greatest delight really is.

* The pain comes when it is discovered that it is not God, or His good plans, who is my greatest delight.

* God takes away what I desire more than Him for my own good, for my eternal good, to prepare me to delight in Him above all else for an eternity in His presence. He makes Himself my greatest desire so that I can say as Paul did in Philippians 3:8, "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."

* Nothing else will satisfy me like God will. Attempts to be satisfied elsewhere will graciously fail if God is going to be glorified in me.

* When I am fully satisfied in God, my delight in Him will overflow.

* God is like a mountain spring, never ending, never needing filling, freely offering my thirsty soul to fill on Him alone to be satisfied so that I will be able to run down the mountainside and share with others, knowing that there will always be enough grace and He will never run dry which means that I can be filled yet again.

* God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

~My thoughts from the book by John Piper, The Pleasures of God
 

Friday, December 13, 2013

And the Winner is....

And the winner of the camera giveaway is ...

Paige!

First of all, thank you to all those who shared the giveaway, and to those who didn't enter:) Thanks for allowing the camera to bless somebody who was truly in need of it. I wish I could give one to each person who entered. The stories behind the need were so beautiful and deserving. Paige, I know what a joy it will be for your family to have this long awaited gift, and I will be excited to see the pictures that you take with it. Watch your mail, a package will be arriving soon!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Mother's Prayer


I had to repent yet again the other day. As I was driving along, by myself, which was probably why the complete thought occurred, I realized that my greatest desire for my children is still that they would thrive in this world. That they would be comfortable, successful, loved and praised here. That they would look for, and find, their joy now rather than seeking and longing for it in eternity.

The humbling had come a few days after a conversation with Alexis where she accidentally mentioned a wound she had been given quite some time ago. Her nosy mother pressed her for details and got upset enough for the both of us, then I proceeded to go into momma-bear mode in order to protect her from every mean teen-age girl in the universe. My pride swelled for this daughter that I adore so much that I hardly noticed her godly approach to the matter that had already been forgiven and dealt with by her.

 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18

A few days later God used that verse to align my soul back to reality. If the world hates Alexis, keep in mind that it hated Jesus first. Keep in mind that it reveals my daughter's allegiance to her King. Keep in mind that it hates her because she shines Light. Keep in mind that the world will not be her friend and will continue to hate her as long as Christ keeps her faithfully bearing witness for Him.

As I was praying this morning, sending up my petitions to the Almighty for my children (salvation, character, bold witnesses, love for Scripture) I revisited this little incident as I got to Alexis' name. Praying for her future, my thoughts went immediately to happy scenes: a happy college experience, followed by a happy missions experience, followed by a happy marriage and child raising experience, followed by a happy death in her sleep at ninety-two where upon she faces God with little to nothing to have to give account to for trusting Him because her life was so simple and indulgent that she never needed Him. Amen.

Tears came because, on the surface, that is what I want for my daughter. I know the alternative: pain, hurt and brokenness which would result in a desperate need for her Savior. My flesh wants the easy path for her, while at the same time I know which road will lead her closer to Christ. As scary as it was to pray, I handed her over again to this God whose ways are higher than mine, as far as the heavens are from the sky, and trusted His plans for my daughter. Attempting to see into eternity, I prayed for more than what this world has to offer her. I prayed for that hurt, that brokenness, that desperate need for God. If it keeps her soul awake to eternity, I would rather have her uncomfortable here.

Now I'm going to start praying that God would give her mother the strength to watch Him work His glory in her life.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Poor Momma's Camera Give Away


As I've been sorting through my pictures in an all out attempt to organize them and eventually print them into book format, I have been so saddened by the many months that I only had a cheap digital camera. I don't say that whining, because at the time a $30 Dollar Store camera was wonderful. But as grateful as I am to have all those fuzzy memories, and as much as I realize we couldn't financially justify a nicer camera at the time, it still makes me sad to have hundreds of blurry pictures of my children. So, in the spirit of the giving season, I am glad to be able to host:

The Poor Momma's Camera Give Away

I realize that there must be other Momma's out there in the same position that I was in a few years ago, that, for whatever reason, you find yourself with no digital camera in this age of digital everything. So, I am offering to the lucky winner a Canon Black PowerShot SX160 IS 16MP 16x Optical Zoom Digital Camera, with a 8GB memory card and 2 year warranty from WalMart.

Canon Black PowerShot SX160 IS 16MP 16x Optical Zoom Digital Camera

The rules are simple: just leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.

The details: I'll close the contest in one week, December 11, 2013 at midnight, and pick a winner soon after so you can hopefully get the camera in time for taking Christmas pictures. Shipping only to the lower United States. Please, only enter if you are truly in need. It doesn't have to be dire straights, but let's give somebody deserving a camera the chance to win. You don't have to technically be a Momma to enter, just somebody in need. This contest is hosted by MoreGloryMinistries. Feel free to share this post on your blogs, etc, etc. Let the praise go to God!

Good luck!

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Just a sappy side note to all you Momma's who don't need a camera but have taken the time to comment anyway~ I love ya all! So glad to have you as bloggy friends:)
 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Like This Guy

 
 
Rob has gotten us hooked on YouTube music videos lately. I am much more of a reader than a visual person, but I have to admit, torturing the kids with oldie-but-goodies music videos from the seventies and eighties has been pretty entertaining on these cold, dark nights. Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Straight, Kenny Rogers, Patsy Cline ~ we're calling it history. But I also discovered some awesome preachers on YouTube. Francis Chan and John Piper being at the top of the list, but I recently stumbled across David Platt and, from what I've heard so far, I really like this guy. Check it out...
 
 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Smiling Through Thanksgiving


I admit, the beginning of the holiday season last week did not thrill me. Turkey Day loomed on the horizon, but the Blaze Orange Holiday of Wisconsin deer hunting was the toughest to anticipate. I ignored it all as long as I could, stayed busy, and resisted making any definite plans until hard pressed. The baton of our long standing hostess position was offered up to my sister. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be so, when they ended up with what was first thought to be a child with the flu that eventually would up being an emergency room visit and a trip to the big city for an overnight stay in the Children's Hospital. An eye opener to all about what we are truly celebrating on this gluttonous day. Needless to say, we never did make it to their house, but instead disappointed all of the cousins and will have to plan for a Christmas sleepover.

My well laid out plans to ignore the week morphed into being one of the best holidays that we've enjoyed for years. This humble farmhouse became a revolving door as we welcomed old friends that we haven't seen for many months as well as friends and family that we see regularly, a couple of nights of sleep overs, and an unexpected visit from relatives on Thursday. There was no turkey in sight, but instead authentic Indian chicken curry, home grown steaks on the grill, and too many pieces of Éclair cake and cream cheese pumpkin pie.

Some of the highlights that found us smiling:

*A house overflowing with loud, laughing kids.

*Familiar faces who have made up Thanksgivings past and present so memorable.

*Friends who sent emails, little knowing the power of their simple words.

*Frosting turkey cookies.

*Cranking the grinder to make cranberry salad.
 
*Paper plates.

*Playing tag in the dark.
 
*House movers who found time to move a house during this festive week.

*Tears for friends who have new babies welcomed into the world and at the same time other friends who have said good-bye to their mother; an ushering in and out of this little blip of time in the midst of eternity.

*The overwhelming knowledge that God would continue to use this broken vessel for His glory.

The crash seems to come afterward. When all the people have gone home, and the sugar rush is winding down and there isn't enough to do except wait for eternity to begin. When again the extra chair is empty and the days are long. How I desire for the work of God to overwhelm me so as to pass this time quicker. How I need a place to invest for His sake. Ministering, cooking, serving, encouraging, challenging, hugging, loving, even driving to pick up a momma and her son curbside at the ER makes this doable. I smiled through the Holiday. I thought of and prayed for so many of you, hoping that you were able to smile as well.


OurCrazyFarm


One of the best parts about not moving immediately is the time to linger through the packing process. We have been at the farm for six years, which culminates in a lot of stuff and a lot of memories. A majority of the clean out was done over the summer when we sold off the machinery, farm equipment and animals. In anticipation of hoping to move right away I even did a pretty major clearing out of closets and rooms. Pictures came off the walls, kitchen cupboards were sorted, and the outbuildings cleaned.

Now that I have nothing to do but wait six months until I can physically move anything else, I have been overwhelmed to close this chapter on our lives by recording it in both written and photographic form. I bought my first cheap digital camera shortly after we purchased the farm and proceeded to capture nearly every experience of our kids' childhood, so, luckily I have the {literally} thousands of pictures taken since we moved here. Unfortunately, they are all un-sorted on the old computer instead of the newer laptop, which meant that Grace had to teach me how to use a flash drive to move them and now I get the fun job of sorting and printing them.

I've also been writing a family memoir, called (what else?), OurCrazyFarm~ The Book. It was actually begun the summer of 2011 after Trent's accident when I could still recall how it was when life was normal. I've relished living in both the book and the photos. Easier to be there than look around some days; easier to stay there than to live now.

I'm hoping to have both projects done by Christmas. Hah! I'll be lucky to have it done by next Christmas, but since I work best under pressure, Christmas is what I'm telling my brain. Even Christmas presents, to surprise the children, you know.

It will be good to have something physical to look back on, but at the same time, I am anxious for what the future holds. It feels easier to live a new life at the other place. Hope seems easier there, rather than surrounded here by choking memories. I want them to stay where they are happy memories, not crying ones. The book has done that so far. Laughter is the tone of it, because there was much laughter back then. Death did not loom. The photos reveal the change. Innocent faces were all that was seen prior to 2011. The recent photos reveal too much contained pain; too much knowing of grief.

I have been praying for and anticipating what God has in store as we move on. Thoughts of ministry in India has left Rob speechless, but knowing that we will be entering a stage of our lives where we expect to have an abundance of money and time, something that we really have no experience with, has me wanting to proceed with caution. I've been asking the big question: what do I want to do with the rest of my life?

Above it all is the hope of the "renewal of all things (Matthew 19:28)." We begin this next chapter with the thought of eternity. What will matter then? How do we live it out now? What is of utmost importance?

For now, I keep plucking away at the keyboard, forcing my brain to live five years ago, five kids ago. Smiling, laughing, enjoying innocence and not feeling too guilty to let the kids cook as we can always call it Home-Ec.



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Woman Can Hope


The fact that we have over a dozen chickens left on the homestead, and have not collected one single egg in over a month, must be living proof that we have made the right decision to leave the farm life behind. The old biddies have a good excuse to have slowed down on their production, after all, a chicken can only be expected to lay for so long. Lucky for them they are grandfathered in due to their good looks, but the new pullets are dangerously close to being labeled as free loaders. Six month old egg machines that don't lay eggs have begun to raise this retired farming wife's suspicions. Our hope is to bring the flock (preferably an egg laying flock), chicken coop and all, to the new place next Spring. Until then, it looks like fake, white store bought eggs for all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Different Plans

 
"You of little faith," Jesus said, "why did you doubt?"
Matthew 14:31

I have selfishly attributed the warm Fall weather as a gift from God especially to our family. I'm sure that many others are benefiting from it and enjoying soaking up the forty degree sunshine in November, but to me it came again as a reminder that God gives to His children before they even know what to ask for. His pre-ordained plans are perfect and come at His perfect timing, never before and never too late even if we are tempted to think otherwise as we watch life unfold around us with what sometimes only appears to be chaos.

This warm weather is very untypical, the cement contractor told Rob, and we couldn't have asked for a better scenario to pour a foundation so late in the year. Earlier this Fall, after giving up the house dream for the time being and committing ourselves to let God be God and move mountains if that was His plan, He did. Almost literally as we let go, God swooped in and gave us something better than we had been pushing for.

As much as we loved that old farmhouse that we wanted to move to the new lake view property, we see now how ill-suited it would have been for us and how it quickly had morphed into not fulfilling our desire for leaving the farm. With its lure of an attic writers loft and the great big front porch to tempt us, realistically it would have been four stories and a large mortgage after the moving expense, plus several thousands more to fix it up. Yes, we would have done it, but now we're so glad that God took it away.

Instead He transformed my heart, to which the family is still commenting. "No trailer house," were my exact words when we started this. I am a bit biased, and I have a fetish for old farm houses. But a trailer house that we could pay cash for, and that was a double wide that pleased the town ordinance, and that had three bedrooms, two living rooms, two bathrooms (one with a Jacuzzi tub), a den, skylights, and nearly every upgrade imaginable changed my mind. Yep, that'll work.

The plan of no mortgage in a very short time. Check.

Freedom to invest our energy and finances into Kingdom work. Check.

A reminder of our temporary status and a greater longing for our eternal home. Check.

A big enough place to easily entertain (angels, perhaps? Hebrews 13:2) and minister. Check.

Little maintenance or upkeep. Check.

The green room that the boys wanted and a purple room that the girls wanted. Check.

In a whirlwind of finding house movers, slab contractors, and personally transporting nearly seven-hundred cement blocks ourselves, we now await the final transportation of the house to the land. While it's too late to put in the sewer and water this year, we will bunker down at the farm for some much needed rest and focus on homeschool until the weather warms up again.

And to top it all off, the serious lookers at our house hope to be ready with their down payment and a purchase agreement at the same time that we would hope to be moving. So we have officially taken the farm off of the Craigslist market and won't have to worry about showing it for several months.

We all feel like we can almost breathe again.

I'm going to head out and soak up some of that concrete drying sunshine and enjoy the blessing of it  before the snow decides to come.

And that verse at the top:

"You of little faith," Jesus said, "why did you doubt?"
Matthew 14:31

I find great encouragement in it today not only for these temporary things, but for the day when I stand before God, standing next to my son. Yes, me of little faith, why do I doubt? Committing the big things as well as the little things to the One who promised to carry them all.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Morning

 
It's Monday again. How the days go by so fast, I don't know. This chilly morning brings with it extra kids snuggled double in a bed, cousins excited for doughnut day at Aunt Terri's house (click here for the recipe if you, too, find the desire to add an extra five pounds to your hips). The noise level is a bit higher in this old farmhouse, and the boy energy has been flowing since before eight o'clock. I make my face smile, squeeze extra tight with the hugs, and clench my coffee cup as I push the dog off the recliner while seeking a quiet corner to right my heart before my Savior.

The conviction of luke-warmness, with a dollop of bubbling anger, has boiled to the top lately. I now wake up without immediate thoughts of a son in Heaven. I wonder how the funeral predictions could actually be coming true that eventually you do go on and begin to survive without the ever-pressing force of grief. The normalcy of life without Trent is forcing its way in. Still not a day goes by without tears, or a fervent missing and crying out to God, but they are going by with less intensity.

As appealing as that sounds, I fear for the lack of impact it has on my soul. The expectation of eternity has waned, the realization of this mist of a life has dwindled and is being replaced by thoughts of paint colors and decorating schemes.

...anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37a-38

That verse may not challenge anybody else, as my dear {young teen age daughter with no children} daughter pointed out that she doesn't have any problems with it or loving Jesus the most. But this old mother was convicted to the core. I imagine standing before the throne of God on that day that my name is called to give an accounting for my life, especially for this time that I was granted the privilege of suffering in order for God to do "his will, and work in me what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever" (Hebrews 13:21).

I've realized, recently, how unwillingly I have taken up this cross to follow in the path of Jesus. How quickly I would take back my easy life, pre-child death, and live contently until the ripe old age of ninety-two without a care or thought of eternity. The outcome would be not seeking Jesus this way. Not counting the cost. Not being forced to look the powerful truth of Scripture square in the eye. Not having to acknowledge who I love the most, Jesus or fill in my own blank. Not knowing if I would be found worthy.

Not being tested means never realizing the worth or validity of your faith. Not being tested means not seeing God's power revealed. Not being tested means remaining stagnant. Not being tested means risking your eternity.

And what do you do with that?

I plead with God to right my motives and make my days count. Somehow pursuing eternity, investing here only as much as is absolutely necessary, and making sure my salvation. I ponder how to store up those treasures there, where moth and rust will not destroy, while treading this earth and needing it's resources to physically live. I pray and trust that my children will not be warped as we refuse to indulge them with the goods this life has to offer, but would instead constantly find their joy in and turn their attention to an unseen Judge and Savior.

As Rob read Scripture to the kids the other night, pondering in the book of Acts about Jesus ascending to Heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God, I sensed a precipice of sorts. I recalled, not so long ago, five young children squirming on the couch listening to their father proclaim the promises of life ever after. Now one child is living the reality of the words while the rest of us try to imagine it; try to live our lives expecting it.

I wonder how to lay out the importance of it to the rest of them. Failing on my own, and instead relying on prayer and God's grace. Longing to impress upon their young souls the foundation of loving God the most, assuring them that it is easier to start serving Him young rather than when the stubbornness of age has established it's rugged path in their daily lives.

Sigh.

The reality of how to live out these Biblical truths reveals itself in the smiling faces before me. Investment into those whom God brings into our lives. Being where He calls us, faithfully serving where He leads us. Counting the minor things as major.

The houseful of children get nervous when I finally rise from that old, worn out chair, two cups of coffee later, with an opera song rolling sweetly {annoyingly?} from my lips as I dance with the smiling blonde girl. It's time for doughnuts, kiddos. I'm sure the extra sugar will make this Monday all the sweeter.



Monday, November 4, 2013

Micah's Secret Pumpkin Bar Recipe

 
Well, it's not technically a secret because it originally came from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, but to an eight year old is has the power to hold something above his older siblings to be the only kid in the family who knows how to make our favorite pumpkin bars. It's our special secret that only he is allowed to mix for whatever reason that it happened to be him who initially mixed up a batch. Yet, Micah never fails to remind us that Trent was better at making pumpkin bars than he is, so when he gets to Heaven Trent will still be the best pumpkin bar maker, other than God of course. How God blessed us with this sweet little boy from half way around the world! But I digress, the recipe, with no further ado (tweaked just a little to use our own homegrown pureed pumpkin):
 
4 beaten eggs
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups pumpkin
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
 
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
 
Cream cheese frosting
 
Mix all ingredients as listed, spread into an ungreased, deep cookie sheet (also works well for cupcakes). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Let cool and frost with cream cheese frosting. Yummy!

The Widow's List


No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she ...
has been faithful to her husband,
and is well known for her good deeds,
such as bringing up children,
showing hospitality,
washing the feet of the Lord’s people,
helping those in trouble
and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
1 Timothy 5:9

I have been playing a bit of Bible Bingo lately. With some busy schedules lately to goof up my lounging with a cup of coffee on the old recliner, plus having finished up my regular reading, I have just been quickly flipping through Scripture at random the past few mornings. I find myself mostly camped out near the end of the New Testament seeking out Paul's words and longing for some much needed encouragement and hope.

This verse in First Timothy has stuck with me, rolling through my brain and guiding my actions. After Trent's death the never ending question has been, "What do I do now?" Trying to balance what has to be done just to keep on living, with what has eternal purpose. The little bit of left over energy and emotion that remains after grief has ruled for the day needs to be channeled in the right direction lest the pity party claims it again. Battling to live truth as declared in Scripture sometimes goes no further than the brain, but there is a rumbling deep inside that refuses to be quieted lately and somehow the old energy is coming back to put some of it into motion. I still barely get a start before the tears come, threatening to paralyze me again. More days than not, though, lately I have been able to get past them quicker, or at least think I can get past them.

So then, what to do? What really matters? What does God say matters?

Richard Baxter, in The Saints' Everlasting Rest (Free book download here), admonishes the believer to set their minds more on Heaven and eternity, to believe as if it is reality, and therefor to live it out in our daily actions.

"O, that we would mind our inheritance and value it but half as it doth deserve! There is nothing else [greater than Heaven] that is worth setting our hearts on... I would not advise thee to make experiments (living our lives other than as if Heaven and God were reality) at such dear rates, as all those do that seek after happiness below, lest, when the substance is lost, thou find too late that thou didst catch but at a shadow; lest thou be like those men that will needs search out the philosopher's stone, though none could effect it that went before them; and so buy their experience with the loss of their own estates and time which they might have had at a cheaper rate, if they would have taken up with the experience of their predecessors. So I would wish thee not to disquiet thyself looking for that which is not on earth, lest thou learn by they experience with the loss of thy soul, which thou mightiest have learned by easier terms, even by the warnings of God in his Word, and loss of thousands of souls before thee.
 
Indeed, so far as duty and necessity requires it, we must be content to mind the things below; but who is he that contains himself within the compass of those limits?
 
 And yet if we bound our cares and thoughts as diligently as ever we can, we shall find the least to be bitter and burdensome, even as the least wasp hath a sting, and the smallest serpent hath his poison. . . . The like may I say of our earthly cares; it is their property to be hard and troublesome, and so they will be when they are the least. . . . We, the citizens and inhabitants of heaven, are bound by solemn and frequent covenants, not to have our hearts enticed or entangled with any foreign honours or delights, but only with those of our own country. If thy thoughts should, like the laborious bee, go over the world from flower to flower, from creature to creature, they would bring thee no honey or sweetness home, save what they gathered from their relations to eternity. . . ."

Along with those thoughts I look at Paul's list again:

  . . . faithful to her husband and well known for her good deeds,
such as bringing up children,
showing hospitality,
washing the feet of the Lord’s people,
helping those in trouble
and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
 

And then I look at my life from the perspective of eternity. I look at all the possessions that I am hoarding and striving for here and see how their value pales in light of what matters to God. I look around at my junque, and consider that knowing Christ is of greater value than the treasures of this world. I see all the material stuff that I will have to give account for one day, and then seek out ways to make them glorify God. I remind myself to invest in what truly matters: souls.

There is the overlooked simplicity of being a faithful wife; faithful with my mouth and words, faithful with my thoughts and prayers, faithful to build my husband up to be who God is making him to be.

Good deeds, often times the simple things like being the one to get up and let the dog in. Will that be glorifying in the presence of the King, to battle the selfishness in my own heart that would rather refuse to rise in order to give my family comfort?

Bringing up godly children, showing them a broken vessel who is desperate for God. Living out absolute dependence on a Savior who said He loves and redeems the vilest offender. Pointing them to what matters: not this temporary world, or indulging in what it offers, but where our souls are with our Creator.

Hospitality, even if it means an impromptu meal of hot dogs and baked beans served in the old pot on mismatched plates while sitting around the scratched dining room table talking about what really matters.

Washing the feet of the Lord's people. My heart has a long way to go on this one. What humbleness that is still so far out of my reach to stoop that far. To forgive and love like Christ did. To draw that near to other sinners who have offended my shallow feelings and not edified my ego.

To help those in trouble. So often I don't see beyond my own front door to even see them. So often I am consumed here at home, where I should be for this time, that I don't even know that there is trouble. Could I not stretch myself a bit more to see it, though? To put myself where I can see it? A hug is so simple, an email, a card, and a heartfelt prayer means so much to those in trouble and is such a simple offering.

Devoting myself to all kinds of good deeds, good God deeds through His power. Balancing what is my strength and what is God's strength, God's callings or my ideas, has been rumbling around my thoughts lately. How many things do I futilely do on my own instead of listening for God's clear voice? How many plates do I attempt to spin until God knocks them all off so I will finally look to Him alone and live out what He is asking and what glorifies Him? What in my life will matter for eternity? What will be on my widow's list?


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Temporary Insanity

The pendulum seems to swing full force in my life. Either I am huddled up in the fetal position under the covers, or the throttle is set at full bore and we all go along for the ride. I prefer full bore. I prefer having too many things to do for the Kingdom with a chaos of people surrounding me while doing it.

Lately that hasn't been the case. It's been quiet. And lonely. Grief seems to have a power of its own to close you in to a painful shell of yourself. After a while you get exhausted by trying to figure out what to do with the outside world of well meaning people who don't know what to do with you, either. There are the handful of brave ones who don't skirt the subject of your dead son, but most are skittish.

It's a strange place, wondering if you should venture in to deeper waters or stay on the shallows talking about the weather. Mostly it's the weather. Which brings the barrage of "why don't they say anything, why don't I say anything, fine I'll hole myself up in my house and never come out again."

Whoosh goes the pendulum.

Holed up in my house on purpose is where I've found myself lately. And that's okay. The kids are getting cabin fever already in October, but I've cocooned myself into a little quilting world and would be happy to not emerge until the snow melts next Spring. Lucky for them Aunt Traci came and whisked them away to the outside world for a day of swimming earlier in the week. I stayed home. And told myself I wouldn't cry. But it didn't work very well. If I could just let it all come out maybe I'd get on with life. But I'm so tired of crying and I can't seem to conjure up much joy lately.

"Sometimes it's just hard," were Traci's wise words. "There doesn't have to be an excuse. It's just hard." And lately it's just been hard.

Hard to go to friend's houses where other Aunts mistakenly use Trent's name. I don't mind. I mind the tiptoeing around us more. But then it's hard when somebody does talk about Trent. Hard to fathom that kind of love. Hard to believe that's what it is supposed to really be like; that other people carry this burden with me and all these whispers of the enemy aren't true. Hard to hear that people don't know how to help their children grieve. And even wonder at the concept that they should. Hard to hear that a young man was bawling into his pillow the night his friend died and that his dad sat on the couch next to him and watched a movie. Hard to hear someone be amazed at how strong you were only to know how truly weak you are.

Our weakness portrays our dependency for God. I keep trying to remind myself of that. Keep trying to force what is reality to overrule what I only thought was reality. It's been a losing game lately. Until God answered my never ending prayer to remind me again of the reality of eternity. Remind me to stay awake. Remind me that this is not a game we're all playing.

That reminder was through another child's death. Through another way that God used Trent's story for His glory. Another battle fought through folded hands and tears poured out over a girl and her family that we never knew. Prayers of a husband so tender that I am both convicted and ashamed at my own brutal heart. Tears wept because their day probably started out naively just like our day had over two years ago, and now they are in the midst of preparing for a funeral. Tears because we know what that feels like and know what is ahead of them. Know the ache that never leaves even when it feels like everyone else has.

Tears because we long for them to not walk the walk alone but to fight, brawl, battle and conquer over all to know the goodness of God in every detail of the rest of their lives until they, too, meet God face to face. Tears because these precious ones have gone before us and know what we only long to know. Tears because we know these are the easy days for them. Tears because we are so humbled by God saving our son by His Son and allowing us to share in their sorrow even if they never know it. God knows it. God hears. God cares.

So I dig deeper into the material cupboard. I look for more to do. I busy my restless hands as I wait for eternity to begin. Because it's either that or crawl back under the covers.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Over Heated Goat's Milk Soap


So... I thought I knew how to make goat's milk soap. After many years of experience, teaching numerous classes and successfully creating umpteen hundred beautiful slices of bubbly luxuriance (with our very own goat milk which happened to be milked by my very own hands, I might add) I was really beginning to pat myself on the back and thought I had become Mrs. Soapmaker.  A good humbling, although painful, was obviously in order. Fifty-six ruined bars in one night has pretty much deflated that over zealous ego of mine.

Yes, fifty-six ruined bars.
 
In. One. Single. Night.
 
That must beat a record at least.


My long standing recipe has failed me and I'm left with not much more than an oily mess to clean up. I am going with the Google guess and blaming it on overheating since the scary teeth resemble all the other pictures that popped up from the many other frustrated soapers across the globe.


The funny thing is that three batches using the same exact recipe, even the one with a new scent and another with a usually fussy scent, made on the same day turned out beautiful. Tomorrow I'm dropping my temps and trying it again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

God's Word Today


"I will settle them in their homes,"
declares the Lord.
Hosea 11:11
 
And after reading that direct message this morning via a powerful God way, I hereby repent of my doubting and officially commit to quit whining and worrying about this house situation. I get the message, God. You've got this all figured out. 
 


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To Let Go

 
Unless the Lord builds the house, 
the builders labor in vain.
Psalm 127:1

God is sovereign. It is clear all over Scripture that He has everything under control. What's supposed to happen when it is supposed to happen will happen. He hasn't asked me for any advice yet on running His universe, and I don't suspect that He will be any time soon. So, armed with that knowledge, our family has chosen to take our hands off the big house move that we hoped would have happened by now. No more messages, no more interrogating phone calls asking the same questions over and over again, no more tracking this guy down and that guy down, no more anxiety of next week, next week. Just hands off and let God do it if He's going to. I think the Bible calls it faith.

Due to electric companies taking weeks to hash out a route to move the house through the back roads of Wisconsin, then coming back (not once, but twice) with an exorbitant price, then because of their delay losing the basement contractor which has all but given the well guy spasms over his anxiety of drilling after the ground freezes and didn't-we-know-winter-was-coming (?!), and then the new bid of five digits with too many zeroes for tree removal, and then the bank's flub of forgetting to answer the appraiser's questions so she could finish the appraisal . . . somewhere along the line started to get the hint that maybe this isn't supposed to happen just yet.

We've held out for a miracle, but with snow already on the ground we're praying now instead for trust. Our little lake view acreage with its anticipation of rest, and our dream farmhouse, are in God's hands. It's so strange to be doing nothing but waiting on God. The calling to let go of the farm remains clear as we wait for God's leading of where He is taking us, yet I still find myself clinging to my wishes as I mouth His sovereignty and complete ability to move mountains if He wants them moved. I have discovered a whole nother level of my own demanding heart. I really do just want what I want, when I want it, but at the same time I try to stamp God's name on it and say that it was all His doing. Yeesh! I have so far to go.

What an interesting place to be: to just let God lead, to let God be the builder instead of me, to have a front row seat to watch Him work.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Horses

 
... As it is, you do not belong to the world,
but I have chosen you out of the world...
from John 15:19
 
The last of the horses have gone on to their temporary home to await the big move to their permanent home. Of all the animals, these two were the hardest to let go. Lightning has been a part of my life for over eighteen years, and really, going all the way back to my childhood when we owned her mother. For all her orneriness and issues I loved her and enjoyed many, many pleasurable hours on her back. Sassy was with us for over ten years, teaching numerous children how to ride, being used in fun shows and even a home-made movie, patiently plodding along with whoever was on her back. Many giggles and tears were experienced from atop her red 12-hand gait.
 
I haven't categorized the emotion yet of not having them here. My brain is still trying to figure it out. Really, it's been heading this direction for a couple of years, so overall peace dominates the sadness. It's as if even a lifelong love of horses was taken when Trent left us. What we loved then is so hard to love now. The old desires bring too much pain with them, and our eyes have been refocused heavenward. These earthly treasures and delights don't demand our attention like they used to, our satisfaction and joy is sought elsewhere. We walk along now, after having tasted of glory and eternities nearness, refusing to be comforted by anything short of God Himself. It's a strange place to be, to live in this world as if we don't belong here, strangers and aliens waiting to go home.
 
The freedom of no chores is so strange, too. For my whole life I have been surrounded by critters that demanded attention. Now we're down to the last of the barn cats and the dog, and I normally don't even feed them as it is one of the kids' chore. Pretty soon somebody is going to notice that I have worked myself out of a job and I'll be put back on the dish-dawg schedule again.
 
I am feeling the need to fill the gap, seeking something to consume the empty time and desire that the animals brought. Waiting {im}patiently for God to reveal what He is up to, longing to be faithful as we go through this "quiet" time of transition. Hoping and praying that He will choose to use our lives in a glorious way to advance His kingdom.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making the Connection

There is something powerful about sharing God's word. Think I'm kidding? Go share the gospel. Hold out that glorious promise of Jesus to forgive sinners, offer hope to the hopeless, hand out Scriptural truth like it was candy at a Fourth of July parade. See what happens when you live like heaven is a reality and this life really is a mist. I guarantee you two things: God will uphold you as He refines you through His designated fire and Satan will use every wily trick to defeat you. The enemy knows our weaknesses better than we do. He'll attempt to fool us with the same schemes over and over again. And we'll fall for it nearly every time.

I should see the connection already, but things come slower these days. I have begun to realize that my impatient ways are not God's ways and I try to wait for His timing and leading to act. I'm not sure how to justify that I know when it is His timing, but it all works out to happen exactly when He wants for so many unknown reasons that we may never know.

And then, when the time comes to reach out with the truth, so do the attacks. The defeat. The mornings of crying over socks and preferring bauling in bed rather than rejoicing for a son in heaven. Just as I get to the verge of considering minutely that God could have done things differently (dare I whisper better?) the Holy Spirit reigns my thoughts back to the words of Scripture. Somehow I force my feet to the floor lest I wallow all day in my pity party. I cry before I get to the door. Cry as I walk past the boy's bedroom. Cry as I start the coffee pot, all the while sinking deeper into despair with every step. Such a low that hasn't been felt for quite a while. It slams me: hurt, hurt, hurt. I turn in to it rather than clinging to the words of truth. I start to believe it rather than believing the promises of a Sovereign God.

I read about Richard Baxter (author of The Saint's Everlasting Rest) the other day that he believed like a Calvinist but lived like an Armenian. Meaning, he lived believing that God was sovereign and all powerful, but lived like his salvation (and the salvation of those around him) depended solely on his efforts. One of my weak spots is doubt. What if God isn't real? What if Heaven isn't real? What if eternity isn't real?

But, as I consider my son and the truths of the Bible, I turn it around and ask: What if it is? What if God is sovereign but somehow my salvation and the salvation of those He brings into my life does depend on my efforts? What if that accounting of my life really happens? What if the ones who have been given more (more truth, more access to Scripture, more opening of the eyes, more awakening of the soul, more passion, more knowledge) will be held to a higher standard? What if my ignoring and my apathy really have serious consequences in somebody else's eternity?

What if...

So I bolster through the morning. I finally quit my griping. I finally bend my knees and my heart in prayer, focus my eyes on God's word, and commit my life for the thousandth time to His ways and His plans. Then I dig out a card and ask for words to write to a mother whose twelve year old son died in an accident one short month ago. I try not to let my own tears fall on the page as I force myself to realize why I have this ministry in the first place. Why I am privileged to know what she is going through. Why my heart breaks so deeply for a woman I've never met. Why it matters so much if she starts out the hard process of grieving her son with praising her Savior. I package up two books along with prayers and search for an address, reading the details of her son's death again through my internet search. How morbid it feels to look up children's obituaries and hunt down their living parent's addresses.

Then I click on my emails and find that somebody in Indonesia is requesting a book. Indonesia. I dig into the box for another and tell Trent, "We're going to Indonesia. God's taking you to Indonesia." My prayers for my son's life to be used in a mighty way are going to Indonesia. Alexis gets worried over her mother talking to her dead brother, she may be the one who finally ends up committing me to that insane asylum. It's okay, Lex, I know he can't answer me.

But ... Indonesia.

Can you fathom the ways of God? Would you have ever thought we could bring the gospel to Indonesia? So I tuck in an extra couple of copies. As the dust of the rejoicing over God's work starts to settle another request for books pops up from a sweet Grandmother who wonders about printing her own story. The humbling begins and I catch a glimpse of eternity when the glory to come is going to be incomparable to these temporary trials. I begin to realize that God does know what He's doing and His plans are more glorious than I could ever imagine and that I really don't want to face Him knowing that I fussed about every little thing that He did.

And then the light bulb goes off: this always happens when God uses the story of Trent's life for his glory. Defeat, whining, doubt then a tiny revealing of His work to encourage me of little faith. So I wrap up the books, say another prayer, and vow to myself that I'll see it coming a bit quicker next time rather than going through the same pathetic motions of fussing and doubting God's good plans.

Just Write


It feels like there is a large wad of immovable Play-Doh in my head. I'm sure that one line alone will provide some unending ammunition for certain grown men in my life. Maybe it's an aneurism. Maybe I'll be seeing Glory before I know it. Probably it's just my bodies protection against going totally insane through the hard process of grief. Nothing more glamorous than the Alzheimer's symptoms that I've read about that happen after a traumatic accident. Either way, its there. Interrupting any inspiration, forcing my brain to trek around it to simply finish a complete thought, making me forget words and rendering myself an incompetent fool most times when I open my mouth. Words keep chasing each other around, but the connection gets lost. And then the tears start. Either because of the lost words or simply because the realities of them are too powerful to try to comprehend.

Writing is easier.

That handy little gadget on my Libre Office program even makes helpful word suggestions once in a while when my brain gets stuck. Staring at a blinking curser allows more time to put thoughts together than standing before a live human body who is waiting for you to speak. But I even quit writing a while ago. That mother guilt kicked in and I thought I would do everybody more justice to not sit at the computer and write so much, so I stopped. And instead, just sat and stared at the computer for several months. Very therapeutic. I figured I was being a better mother to not be so selfish. But, after forty years, it finally dawned on me that I am a writer. I write. It's what I do. My father was a talker. My mother is a talker. My sister is a talker. I write. I always have. Duh. So I've made a commitment to myself to write. Ignore the laundry, wake up early or stay up late, whatever it takes. Make another pot of coffee and write.

I have two books in the works. One a fun book for the family about our time here on the farm and the other a first hand experience devotional that goes deeper into the theology of God and suffering than I should be qualified to write, but is instead a truth that I am learning the hard way. They accuse me, too, those two half done books. Defeat rules some days telling me to find something better to do. Writing is wasting time. Sitting in a chair is wasting time. Other days the writing just plain scares me. Both for the typos involved and the truth that comes through. I wonder sometimes what it is that I am really scared of. Being known? Being real? Or having to be known and having to be real.

Writing takes me to real.

When I write that blob in my head smooths out and I can make sense of thoughts. I can see the end. I can remember eternity and the God who holds it in His hands. Even this moment. Even the tears. Even a son who is no longer here. The insane is not so insane through written words. So I will attempt to write everyday: a grocery list, a Menards list, a blog post, a note to my children, a love letter to my husband, a love letter to my God. Then I'll throw in a load of laundry. The minor stuff can wait.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

No News is Maybe Good News



No news is maybe good news when it comes to the umpteenth round of waiting for electric companies to come up with a bid to get the house moved. We're on week three of hoping that Friday will actually be the day that we know our fate of whether or not we can move the new/old farmhouse to the lake view property. All our hopes and dreams are hinging on a couple of men deciding how to forge a trail through the back roads of Wisconsin to avoid phase three lines. Well, those two men and God. I'm counting on God more than them, but the rollercoaster is getting tiring and I'm ready for somebody to stop the ride. So, maybe Friday. Maybe today. Maybe next Spring. Or maybe I'll be doomed to that Craigslist trailer house or we'll decide to move to Timbuktu instead. Either way, by this time next year we'll all know.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Richard Baxter


It's weird having your picture taken. It's weird to look at pictures of yourself. It's weird to post pictures of yourself on your own blog. As a camera fanatic, I am much more comfortable with the gadget in my hands rather than pointed at my face. But, like I keep telling the children, you'll need some photos for my funeral one day. I'm doing my best to ensure that there are shots without the double chin or sagging arms. Use this one, kiddos. Somebody blow it up and put it right on top of my casket. Let it be what you remember of me. May it be what I strive to live like before you, rather than the sulky mother that I've been.

Don't think I'm going suicidal, I'm not. I've just been reading a book by a man who has been in heaven for over three hundred years. (Three hundred years. Just let that concept sink in for three seconds.) He shares about his longing for that eternal rest, his desire to know God perfectly, spirit to spirit. He thought he was going to die so figured he should start thinking about such things. Turns out he didn't pass as quickly as he figured and ended up writing more than just his own funeral sermon but a four volume essay on heaven and the saints' desire to be there. Every turn of the page brings tears. Then conviction. Then that deep sighing that has been present for so long. That unsatisfied longing for God.

He writes:

"Can any soul that hath made God his portion, and chosen him for his only happiness and rest, find rest in so vast a distance from him?"

The universal longing of a Christian's soul to be in God's presence struck me last night at the supper table. Poor Rob, he gets all of my out-of-the-blue, unsorted, confusing blurps, "God revealed the same thing to Richard Baxter as He has been revealing to us: the longing for God's presence when He will dwell with His people." A foreign concept to the world, one only fools would believe in and bank on. If that's the case, then call me the biggest fool of all because I'm waiting for the good stuff, folks. I'm setting my sights on Heaven. I'm waiting impatiently for it and this book isn't helping.

Richard Baxter, The Saints' Everlasting Rest. It's good stuff.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Chosen

But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises of Him
who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9
 
 
Life has been a whirlwind of cross country meets, orthodontic appointments, replying to Craigslist adds and home school lessons. The impending threat of cold weather on the horizon has us living in limbo between hoping that we might actually be able to get the house moved and enjoy a lake view before snow flies, or being content to settle in for another long winter at the farm. That wouldn't be so bad either as this old farmhouse is well insulated and has a wood stove to boot. Compared to a the new/old farmhouse we're looking at, with probably next to no insulation, we might appreciate being here come January.
 
But our hearts are already at the new place, stolen by the peace that envelops us every time we visit. Alexis reminds me that it probably has more to do with not having a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes rather than the place itself fulfilling us. Yes, my wise young lady, probably so. All we have to do at the new property is to lounge on the discarded lawn chairs and gaze at the lake view.
 
We've never had to wake up there to the realization that has become our life for the past two and a half years. The battle has not had to be conquered yet on that soil to call God's ways right and perfect, to call death a lie, to force truth to reign over emotions. The enemy has not prowled there, seeking to destroy with the thousand-and-one reminders of a son whom we long to be where he used to be. The woods hold no memories that cause a flood of tears, no overgrown trails that are too painful to walk. There is no dining room table to recall where salvation took place, no empty desk full of school books that were intended to be finished, no empty wall where a near-teen-age boy used to lie in his bed waiting for a kiss good night.
 
I allow the thoughts to twist with their torturous pain, ripping through my heart. Wallowing in them. Knowing the hurt on an intimate level. Knowing there is nowhere to escape it. It consumes as it threatens to choke out any hope.
 
"But you are a chosen people," Peter wrote so long ago. "A royal priesthood, belonging to God, to declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (From 1 Peter 2:9-10)
 
My mind wrestles with the chosen part. Going back to the beginning of First Peter, the apostle says that we are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. A God whose ways are higher than mine, higher than the heavens are from the earth.
 
Chosen, then, to suffer. Chosen to endure grief. Chosen to extol the glory of God through a trial I cannot endure on my own. Chosen to be refined by the fire. Chosen to sort where my affections really lie. Chosen to have my eyes pointed heavenward. Chosen to lose all in this life for the hope of the next. Chosen to be poured out. Chosen to reveal absolute weakness for Christ's incomparable strength to shine through. Chosen to know a taste of God's agony, to know what it is to give up a son. Chosen by a God who is faithful and true.
 
Chosen, so that above all, I would be granted the power to be able to declare the praises of Him who called me out of darkness into His wonderful light.
 
 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oswald Chambers



Oswald Chambers says, "Paul’s words have to do with our being made servants of Jesus Christ, and our permission is never asked as to what we will do or where we will go. God makes us as broken bread and poured-out wine to please Himself. To be 'separated to the gospel' means being able to hear the call of God. Once someone begins to hear that call, a suffering worthy of the name of Christ is produced. Suddenly, every ambition, every desire of life, and every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. Only one thing remains — 'separated to the gospel.' Woe be to the soul who tries to head in any other direction once that call has come to him."

Quoted here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Daring to Draw Near



Again on our home school schedule, right at the top, is the daily requirement of Bible and prayer. It has been there as long as there has been a school schedule in our unscheduled lives. But this year I have chosen to torture the children and really require that they pray. Not just crossing it off the list, or quick praying before we eat, or passing the prayer basket, but to dive deep into conversations with the Almighty. To make it worse, they have to do it sitting next to their brothers and sisters. And, harder yet, most of them aren't saved.

The pull came out of a personal desire, a need for an accounting in my own prayer life which has leaned more towards the Jonah side: fleeing from God rather than drawing near. Numbness is easier than the constant tears, so I've chosen that route rather than bowing before my Creator; traded wooden floors and humbleness for a comfortable recliner and cup of coffee. Mornings are hard enough. Conquering the flesh, getting to gratitude for a son in Heaven before my feet hit the old wooden floor has been something that I've too easily passed over. And, because of that choice, find myself heading straight towards apathy. Holding God at arm's length rather than daring to draw near.

Personal prayer with God alone is powerful, but as Scripture says, where two or more are gathered Christ is there as well (Matthew 18:20). Corporate prayer breaks down walls that we easily hide behind when our eyes are wide open, and especially when we live together twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with no escape from each other than the occasional cross country practice. Our battle weapons get dull when we don't refuel with honesty and by drawing deep from God's well. My greatest desire is to see God glorified through my children, and that will only happen when my children are truly satisfied in Him, so I have set off on a determined effort to train them up and give them the daily habit of authenticity before their maker.

Have you been there? Real, raw, spiritually naked before God?

Lately I find myself not even needing to tell God my heart, not faking the hurt, because He knows. The searcher of hearts knows. My sister reminds me that I am right where He wants me. Right now I don't like where He wants me and He knows it, so there is no point of denying it. Not in anger pointed at God, but honest, lay it all out on the alter, sort it out, hash it out for the ten-thousandth time until joy in God's plans becomes my honest joy. But the majority of that starts with prayer. And prayer is hard work.

After the giggles around the kitchen island, God lead the kids and I to begin our prayer session with acknowledgement of who He is. As children who have been raised in church events their whole lives my kiddos know how to start and end prayer. "Thank you God for this, and heal so-and-so, amen." How pathetic. They know they're not saved and God knows that they're not saved. We think we fool Him. We think those piddly prayers honor Him. But He says that He hears the prayers of the righteous, that honesty is what He desires, that only those with faith please Him (James 5:16; 1 Chronicles 29:17; Acts 17:11).

So we started at the beginning: Who is God?

We all thought we knew. But when our answers are only based on what Scripture says about who God is, it starts to put things into perspective. Eyes closed, five voices getting solemner by the moment, claiming the claims of Jesus Himself. Rather than starting prayer with "thank you" we started with acknowledgement. How hard that proved to be, to break our own rote prayer style that has been acceptable to our lazy selves for so long.

That prayer session revealed much- our doubts as well as our own self righteousness. Pride boiled near the top, but sweet voices longing for eternity were mingled in as well. Prayers spanning between an eight year old boy to a forty year old tired mother revealed where our hearts really are.

Day two brought the discovery of a book on the shelf of our home library by John White called Daring to Draw Near. It is full of insights on prayers that are recorded in Scripture and how God is revealed through them. Not a how-to-pray book, but a peek-at-God-through-prayer book. What an amazing concept: to turn prayer into being about God rather than about us!

If my children can get past the torture concept, past the giggles, and God chooses to reveal Himself to them as they dare to draw near His throne I will give them all A's. And God, Lord willing, will have created a few more powerful warriors for His kingdom.