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.

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.


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?