Beautiful Day

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning from Little Children and the Word

"The LORD will fight for you and you have only to be silent."
--Exodus 14:14, ESV

This past weekend my Country Girls participated in the local contest of the National Bible Bee. It was an exciting and fun day to culminate a summer of intensive Bible study and Scripture memory. We enjoyed meeting weekly with others who were preparing for our local contest. Our wonderful hosts did a fabulous job motivating the children and making the learning fun.

I am so very proud of my girls' hard work. It amazes me how difficult the task of studying is, but how well they apply themselves to do the very best they can. I appreciated the inductive study of the book of 1 Peter alongside them. I learned so much and I'm not ready to be done with that aspect yet. But I could not keep pace AT ALL with the amount of Scripture memory work! This is a discipline I have been working on recovering some more. I don't quite seem to reach my goal, but I manage to do some which is generally more than I accomplish otherwise. I have wonderful memories of walking the beach one particular summer as a college student and spending so much time memorizing verses. Those verses have continued to stay with me! It is so worth it. But it is true (at least for me) that it's harder as you get older. So many more distractions, I suppose.

So as I participated with the girls in our local meetings each week, I often had the privilege of listening to various children recite verses. The verse I most often heard was Exodus 14:14. This was one of the shortest memory verses of the summer, so it tended to be one of the first ones the children learned and the youngest children could retain this one well. I don't know how many times I heard it this summer. And all of a sudden, it is resonating with me.

Our family has been going through Ray Vanderlaan's "That the World May Know" Faith Lessons once a week. It is a fascinating trip to Israel and the surrounding lands of the Bible via DVD. The lessons are so engaging and rich with meaning and the beauty of "seeing" the places where events of the Bible and the life of Jesus and his disciples took place. So we have recently been studying about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. At the conclusion of one of the volumes which left off at the parting of the Red Sea, we revisited the animated movie "The Prince of Egypt" with our children. This has been one we enjoy watching over again (a warning: as you can imagine with the biblical account, there are some parts that can be intense for young children so watch with discretion). Like all Hollywood movies, there are artistic liberties, but for the most part it seems to try to stay close to Scripture and I appreciate that. I also happen to think that it does a good job of engaging (me) in the sense of both the cry of the Israelites for deliverance over a very long period of time, and the sense of power in God's mighty works.

After hearing this verse repeated many times this summer, I decided to look up its context in Exodus (as I believe context is critical). I found myself drawn to this verse because as I approach childbirth I am finding myself somewhat anxious. So, like the Israelites, I am facing my own fears right now. One would think that having been through this more than a few times, it would be easier, right? But I find I am not alone in these feelings as I talk with other expectant mothers. There's something about knowing what's coming that heightens the anxiety. Yes, the ultimate result is glorious when that baby is born. But the journey there can be difficult and painful. I think it's one of the few experiences in life where you actually know you are going to walk through a trial in advance--a fairly short, but intense one.

So I was amazed upon my study to learn that God did indeed tell Moses that Pharoah's heart would again be hardened and that the Egyptians would pursue the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea. He said that He would do this to show Pharoah that He was the Lord. He also told Moses what the outcome would be--that the Egyptians would perish. So when the Israelites saw the Egyptian chariots in full pursuit, they were desperate and afraid and cried out to Moses and to God fearing the worst. Moses seems to calmly tell them not to fear, but to trust the LORD and watch as He again delivers them and sends the Egyptians into the sea. They have only to be silent. The Lord is fighting for them without the need for them to cry out for it! I find this a comforting thought and something I want to recall to mind often in the midst of labor. Moses tells them "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today." (Exodus 14:13. NKJV)

So I am hopeful that though it may be a challenge to "stand still" or even to "be silent" in the midst of birthing, that I will find comfort in knowing that He is my advocate. He is for me and is at work in the whole process. I have never liked the word "delivery" to describe a baby being born. It sounds too medical or sterile or something. But when I consider the word in this context it helps me see that there is a sort of deliverance that women walk through in the birthing process. If only we allow ourselves to be still, as it were, and allow Him to fight for us. I AM looking forward to that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Happy Solution for Menu Madness

I have a confession to make. I don't like snacktime. Oh, I like to eat snacks as much as the next person. I just don't like thinking about them. There's something about the energy it takes to get 3 square meals put together every day that leaves me annoyed when my children say, "What's for snack, Mommy?" Didn't we just eat breakfast? Do I already have to think about what to eat next? I'm still thinking about what needs to be done for dinner tonight!

Then there's the infamous question of the day for every mother: "What's for dinner, Mom?" I may have said it 5 minutes ago but it's inevitable that I'll get asked a minimum of four more times before we get to dinner.

Now I like to think of myself as an organized person--more organized than many, but not as organized as some. I used to be really good at planning the menu for a whole MONTH at a time! I loved how it directed my grocery shopping for the month and took away that need to expend extra energy in a day of thinking about what's for dinner! But somehow it has been hard to keep up. I don't seem to have the weekly slot in my schedule to sit down and plan this all out. If I find it, I end up wanting to do something else!

Contrary to how this may sound, I really LOVE to cook and bake for my family! I find great satisfaction in providing lovely and nourishing meals and I can even be known to get lost in some good cookbooks at the library (or in my bookshelf). I really enjoy this aspect of giving life to my family and those who enter our home.

I've blamed it on pregnancy and now I'll blame it on the heat, but I've just really been lacking motivation this summer to get meals thought-through and planned. So I considered it a gift from the Lord to find small motivation to get organized. First I found this idea--I thought the colors were adorable, but a menu written in chalk is not quite for me (I'm not a great fan of chalk--it reminds me of that inevitable fingernails-on-chalkboard-sound). And then I stumbled upon what seemed to be my perfect solution--the dry erase board menu! Now this isn't like your ordinary dry erase board. It is a dry erase board made out of a picture frame with some scrapbook paper underneath!

I found the frame at Goodwill and then raided my stash of Creative Memories scrapbook supplies for the paper and stickers to embellish. Mount the page under the glass and then write on top with dry erase markers! They wipe right off with a paper towel. I didn't know you could use dry erase markers on glass, but it works beautifully!

Now not only do I have some extra motivation to meal plan each week, but I think it's lovely to look at on the wall. So much nicer than filling up my house with white dry-erase boards (they have their place, but I don't like too many of them!)And when my children ask me what's to eat, I can just send them to the board to read it (except for those who aren't reading age yet).

A rather simple solution that has helped me restore some peace and even add a little beauty to the grand task of keeping everyone well-fed and satisfied each day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fixing Our Gaze on Him

"And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live."
--Numbers 21:8-9 (ESV)

I have been thinking lately about the nature of faith. This past Sunday at our church the sermon was specifically about faith and how we are in the very place God intends for us to be when we walk with a belief that cannot always be verified by our senses. Thomas wanted to touch the wounds of Jesus before believing that he was truly resurrected. Yet he had to have some kind of belief to act upon it by placing his hands on the nail scars. In the above passage from Numbers 21, God made a remedy for the snake-bitten, hardened, complaining, and even dying Israelites. And all they had to do was LOOK at the bronze serpent. He made it that easy for them. Jesus Christ is our serpent, our suffering symbol. So many, many times what I truly need is only to fix my gaze upon Him. Yet how often do I turn to my own resources or devices and try to fix my own problems instead? How often do I really demand to have a faith that is verified by my senses in some way? What does it look like to have the kind of faith of the centurion in Luke 7:2, who believed Jesus could heal his servant sight unseen (or touch unfelt)? Jesus commended such faith, saying, "I say to you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel!"

All of this fits very well with this summer's study of the book of 1 Peter:

"so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him.Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtainingthe outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:7-9 ESV)

I also saw John 3:16 with a new perspective. When we are believing, we are like those Israelites in Numbers 21--the snake-bitten and dying who LOOK UP. When we are believing, we are not condemned. This is a present-tense statement. I have always looked at John 3:16 as speaking only of future condemnation, salvation, and eternal life--and it is that! But I think it is so much more when you consider it in its context. I am not going to expound further at this point. This post is only intended to remind me and speak to you of a bit of what I have learned on the nature of faith.

For years I've heard the phrase from some of my favorite Bible teachers that we need to "preach the gospel to our self" on a daily basis. I think that is some of what this is about. How good the Father is to remind me in such varied and creative ways, yet all derived from His Word.

I don't think it is any coincidence that today's prayer on the "31 days of Prayer for Your Children" calendar was about faith. I do pray for a bold and living faith for each one of them. It is my hope that this sermon we heard has spoken to their hearts with yet another seed of the many facets of our Christian faith.

I couldn't help but recall a Michael Card song that really summarizes so much of what I learned. May you also experience a new "whole-ness" from fixing your gaze upon Christ today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Preparations (of the Sewing Variety)

This summer I have enjoyed a little extra time to be busy at my sewing machine. Sometimes being impatient for final results (or to check a project off my "to-do" list), I love the invention of the sewing machine! I really can't imagine the days of hand-sewing an entire dress. Though I enjoy handiwork types of projects, I can be very SLOW at them. I just don't have a lot of extra time on my hands (literally and figuratively). So I find sewing very satisfying. If I want to take the time to make something that takes extra effort, like the colonial dresses we wore to Williamsburg, I can do that.

And then I can go for those quick-to-do projects that give me the satisfaction of something DONE in a reasonable amount of time. Lately that has been practical things like nursing covers, flannel baby wipes, and hooded baby towels. The latter I like to keep a stash of for new-baby gifts.

Our Littlest Warrior is due to make his appearance quite soon. I like to make something of heirloom quality for each child. It usually ends up being more than one item. But I've had to adapt what exactly those items are as life has changed and I've gotten "older" and have more to manage at home. For example, I don't really cross-stitch anymore. I think I'll have the one done for Princess 2 by the time she is married if I'm lucky! I just don't have the patience and time for it that I once did. So I've changed to a more manageable project and one that helped me learn a skill I wanted to learn--a baby quilt! Now I am no expert quilter and if you looked closely at my work you would find that the actual quilting in the quilt is minimal. I still have MUCH to learn in that department. But I like these because they are small, very manageable, still creative, and personal (and don't require lots of quilting). So I just finished this one:

I really love it! Sort of a vintage patriotic Civil War theme.

And while we're talking about do-able projects on the sewing machine, I can't help but show you these sweet gifts from my very dear friend.

I think the gift bag is almost as sweet as the blankets!

So now that I have a few projects moved from my "to-do" list to the "done" list, I am feeling the need for preparations of the heart variety--a new school year, a new baby, a new season--just some of the occasions calling for some extended time to think, pray, plan and ponder.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anniversary Dinner

One of the ways we like to celebrate special occasions in our household is with special food. We did not go out to dinner for our anniversary, as we had a very nice getaway last month to celebrate and spent our dining dollars then. So we do believe it's important to preserve nice getaways as a couple (and I savored my days of not having to think about what to eat for dinner!). But we also think it's important for our children to know and see their heritage through the marriage of their mother and father and to have some tangible ways of seeing our love for one another. An anniversary can be a great time to impart vision of godly marriage to our children and to build upon the foundation of love and security that comes from knowing the depth of commitment a mother and father have for one another. And yes, even to see love and romance alive in the home.

So I commissioned my Country Girls to undertake a special operation. I thought it would be good training to prepare a meal and table for a special occasion. Even though we got to be the blessed recipients of such efforts, my intent was really just to teach an act of service that blesses others. I made it fairly easy for them by planning the menu (since it was kind of a short-notice operation). They did the preparation, and I did the grilling as this dinner was ALL cooked outside on the grill.

Didn't they make such a lovely table? The white roses were a gift from my husband, and they smell heavenly. The pink roses and rose petals distributed on the tablecloth came from our garden.

I didn't take a picture of the whole meal. But we did have some of these from our very own garden.

They were perfect alongside some grilled salmon!

After dinner we gathered around to watch a DVD slideshow I made of our first twenty years. Then came the part the children couldn't wait for:

Oh MY, is this EVER delicious!! We try to make it at least once every summer. One of those gems I collected from an Air Force cookbook in the days of our first assignment.

Just a small part of the celebration of our anniversary. It was a day of joy and blessing for which I am so grateful!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Twenty Amazing Years

I am celebrating today. My heart is filled with joy at the thought that I have been married to my beloved husband for twenty years! So, to celebrate, I am dedicating these songs to my Tender Warrior. This first tribute is especially fitting. I chuckled when I found this video. We have a bit of a love for "Little House on the Prairie" around here. I was searching for the most appropriate video for this song that I had already selected and this just makes me smile. So here's for the man who has been telling the funniest "Pa" stories to our children for years (ever since my Country Girls were small and first loved the "Little House" books and TV show). It's still a nightly ritual. So, enjoy the video, but it's truly the lyrics that speak to us as none other than Steven Curtis Chapman can do! (Even if we do have a soft spot for Charles and Caroline).

I wanted to add a song that is really "our song" over the past year. Unfortunately, there are no appropriate videos for it! There is only one and it is done to "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie scenes which COMPLETELY ruins it and does not do the song justice in the least! Oh well. Instead, I'll choose this one. It kind of dates us (it has been twenty years after all) but we are still Michael Card fans. Though we did not use this song at our wedding (I think it was released just after we were married), we had a few friends that did, and we did use some of the Scripture in our wedding. No video to watch here. Just lyrics to listen to.

Happy Anniversary to my best and dearest friend and love of my life! We have walked through so much life together and I pray the Lord will grant us a couple more "scores" of years together. I love you!. Thank you for indeed being my very Tender Warrior. Soli Deo Gloria!

"Welcome one another....for the glory of God." That is God's word for your marriage. Thank him for it; thank him for leading you thus far; ask him to establish your marriage, to confirm it, sanctify it, and preserve it. So your marriage will be "for the praise of his glory." Amen.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Letters and Papers from Prison, 32

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More Beauty....and Some Hard Work

Speaking of beauty....isn't this incredible??!!

We went on a visit to Mom's while my Tender Warrior was very busy running a long relay with his Guard team. That meant just over 20 miles of running in less than 24 hours with minimal sleep and lots of sitting and riding in between (we last did one of these together in Idaho quite a number of years ago, so I remember some of what it's like). In the days prior I enjoyed putting together food and supplies to keep him well-fueled and cared for--like protein bars and healthy jerky (as in no nitrates!), fruit, yogurt, banana bread, a couple of dinners, and Recharge to drink. Ahhhh....if only I knew about this kind of nutrition back in my running days (just ask me how many times my friends laughed, kindly of course, at my daily wheat bread and carrot sticks!)

The children and I had fun enjoying the acreage, taking walks, reading on the deck, riding in wagons, shooting BB guns, playing in Nana's hot tub, going to yet another county fair where our nephew's pig was on exhibit, visiting friends at a horse camp, and looking at those gorgeous mountain views all of the time. Every time I visit here I have to say one of my most poignant memories and the thing I anticipate is watching the sun set over the mountains to the point where they make those beautiful silhouettes. I think my next favorite thing is to sit in the porch swing, close my eyes, rock, and feel the summer breezes (it is usually breezy in the evenings). My Country Girls like to dabble in photography (kind of like me) and never could seem to snap enough different pictures of the mountains at various times of the day.

Warrior got to be the last runner, which meant he crossed the finish line for the team (they all joined him for the last 50 yds or so). We met him there to cheer him on and our Young Warrior ran out to meet him and cross the finish line with him. To me it was a picture of father-and-son discipleship. The son trains alongside his father to run the "race" of life for the glory of God. It's hard work. Someday that baton of faith will pass from father to son. And while the son carries on that mantle and that heritage throughout his life, someday they will meet at the finish line and cross over together.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Work of our Hands

Around here, creating is a big part of life. I love that God has made us in His image and that one of the greatest ways we are made reflections of His image is with the ability to create. And creating must also reflect His beauty and character if we are truly and accurately to represent His creativity. From my Tender Warrior who enjoys re-designing the function of our home or working the land outside, to my Country Girls who draw amazing pencil sketches from history or work wonders with food and fiber (or are learning to), to my Young Warrior building with Legos----creativity is everywhere. Though I am not any sort of artistic professional, I do believe I am an artist-at-heart. I've always loved creating works of beauty to the best of my ability. It truly is one of the greatest joys to bring life to my family by even the simplest means of arranging something beautiful.
Recently it was county fair time. What better way to motivate and inspire young ones to create? At least my children find it motivating to enter their creations in some friendly competition. It's always a last-minute rush to prepare all of the entries, but so worth seeing the children take pride in the work of their hands.
"And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands." (Psalm 90:17 NKJV)


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