Beautiful Day

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who Shall Deliver Me?

Now you might be thinking that perhaps my life is so put together and pretty, after the previous two posts on the joyful celebrations we've shared.  But it simply isn't true.  To be quite honest, there are days of deep struggle, conflict, and pain.  And those aren't so lovely or beautiful.  But as this place is where I write of how I look for the beauty that is in all things, yes, even the hard and ugly, I needed to write here today to collect my thoughts.  More than that, what I sincerely desire is to speak the Words of Gospel life into my heart in a way that truly impacts it.  Somehow going around just thinking thoughts to myself doesn't always feel very productive or helpful in achieving that goal--though I do believe it is right and necessary as well.  John Piper has said that writing helps us see things in a way we do not otherwise see.  I have always felt and understood this to be true in my own processing of what God is doing in my life.

This morning I came to my quiet reading desk where I spend time in Bible study and prayer.  The tears started flowing as soon as I read what I was "supposed" to be studying this morning.  A cloud of condemnation, waves of doubt, even a crisis of faith.

I came to the breakfast table a little while later and saw the Tabletalk magazine sitting there with the topic this month of "The Seven Deadly Fears."  I skimmed through what those fears were.  I landed on one, thinking it would speak most to where I was, but actually discovered it was another.  And in His Providence, every word of this article spoke directly to my present struggle.  I will likely spend a lot of time quoting because this is just the tool God used to direct me back to His Word this morning--and just what I needed to preach the gospel to my heart today.

God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.

All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.

I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?

If I could once lay down myself,
And start self-purged upon the race
That all must run ! Death runs apace.

If I could set aside myself,
And start with lightened heart upon
The road by all men overgone!

God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease and rest and joys

Myself, arch-traitor to myself ;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.

Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me
Break off the yoke and set me free
~Christina Rossetti
This poem is quite a depiction of the internal struggle with self and the condemnation that so often plagues, as Paul so aptly explains for us in Romans 7:24..  If you have not guessed, the fear that this article addresses is "Fear of Self."  Right away, after a brief analysis of this poem, the author of the article, Kris Lundgaard,  makes this statement.  And I find it perfect.
"The beauty of the Bible is that it never leaves us to think we are alone in our fears."
I've found that word I was looking for......BEAUTY.
What was Paul's response to his own desperate cry?  To start preaching to himself.
"I thank God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."  (Romans 7:25, NKJV)
Anyone else think it frustrating that we can imagine in our minds how obedient we'll be, and know what is the right thing to do, and be powerless to carry it out?
Then he continues on:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1, NKJV)
What I had not noticed before is that Paul models for us how to make this move--how to go from self-condemnation to self-proclamation of the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus.  And it is likely that Paul learned the same from the models given in Psalms, like in Psalms 42 and 43.

I have spent much time in these Psalms the past year or so, and have only begun to unpack what's here.  These laments show a pattern that encourages me in knowing just how to speak the Gospel into difficult situations.  First, the psalmist shows his thirst and longing for God, yet feels distant and perhaps separated from Him.  Can you relate?  He shows his sense of oppression, and the feeling of being overwhelmed by grief and trouble.  A very deep and troublesome groaning inside (I always think to Romans 8 when I find my spirit so deeply hurting; those groanings that words cannot express). 
But then...HOPE rises!  The psalmist begins to turn from his inward laments, his self, toward God. 
"Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance."
~Psalm 42:5, NKJV
The author of the article again says this well:
"As long as the heart searches inward--reckoning up past sins, rehearsing past failures, bemoaning hardships--it will only find reason for self-doubt, discouragement, and fear."
Been there.  Am there, perhaps.
He continues on:
"We must preach the gospel to ourselves.  This demands that we keep our noses in the Bible, listening for God's voice, founding our confidence on Him and His promises rather than on ourselves.  What we will find in the Word is that though 'our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything' (1 John 3:20).  That's right--He searches our hearts more piercingly than our own conscience can, and He knows that we are actually worse than we ever imagined."  (Kris Lundgaard, italics mine)
I saw those last words and immediately remembered the Sonship course we took over ten years ago, in which the author was very fond of saying something very close to, "Rejoice!  You are worse than you ever imagined.  But God's grace is greater than you ever imagined."  Somehow it's easier to remember the first statement than the last.  The last statement is where we shine the light of His truth and gospel into our dark places.
Preaching this truth to myself has really brought about a peace in my spirit that "rules" over the circumstance.  Perhaps another way we were designed to take dominion in the image of God.  I've never thought of it that way, but it makes sense.  I find that I do have to "rule over" my sinful flesh with the Word of His truth.  Not an easy task...but most essential.
"God is on our side--even against our hearts...In fact, the thought that God would turn against us after giving His Son for us, or that the Son would abandon us when He's the very one who died for us and who lives to pray for us--well, the thought beggars the imagination."
And that, dear friends, is our only hope for deliverance!
**Quotes, besides the poem by Christina Rossetti and the Bible, are taken from Kris Lundgaard in his article, "Fear of Self," Tabletalk magazine, October 2013.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Celebrations Continue

Another birthday and another occasion to celebrate!  This time we were off to a local pumpkin and harvest farm.  We really like this one, as there are no scary-themed decorations, and they do such a nice job with their activities and d├ęcor.  There is something for everyone, and Little Princess was delighted to share her birthday with friends and family here.
Fun hay slides

Tall vistas from which to look out over the farm (and more slides!)

John Deere tricycles for little ones (and yes, even bigger ones try their best to ride these).  This one was yet too big for Littlest Warrior.  His feet could not reach the pedals, so Mama and Daddy did some pushing, and he scooted the rest of the time.

Lots of pumpkins to behold.  We did not pick pumpkins.  We actually have a pumpkin patch in our home garden, so we didn't need any more.   And do you know?  We discovered the "secret of the pumpkin patch!"  Yes, the pumpkins are sometimes "planted" in the fields already full-grown!  We saw a semi-truck enter the farm loaded with pumpkins, and when we went on the hayride, the tractor driver informed us that "4000 people have come before us" so that they were re-stocking the field, and very carefully and intentionally I might add.  No need to tell little ones of that "secret."  Let's just keep that one to ourselves, shall we?

There was a special little birthday area, that we reserved for the occasion, for the cake and apple cider we would share in between the playing. 

Beautiful scenes to photograph for Adventure Girl, who is right in her element on the farm.

And of course, farm animals.  Country Girl especially liked this calf frolicking and jumping in the meadow.  And Adventure Girl had a knack for putting the piglet to sleep (by rubbing its belly)!
It was a very successful party and we were blessed by the Lord to have friends to share it with, and GORGEOUS fall weather! 
We returned home, all refreshed from the outdoor activity, and in time for our own birthday dinner celebrations.  At the end of gift time, we reserved a treasure hunt for Little Princess to find her one last birthday gift.  Adventure Girl wrote the clues (and Young Warrior begged, "Oh, I love these!  Can I PLEEEEAAAASE have one again for my birthday?") and she was off on the hunt. 

At the end?  Her very own violin, just her size!  Something she has been longing for for well over a year (especially since her older siblings all play). pictures of it yet.
And while this lovely weather was holding out, we took an impromptu trip to the coast for the day on the weekend!  It's true we have plenty of work to continue at home, but we hadn't gone together to the coast all summer, and it was high time.  One must celebrate beautiful weather while it remains!
It did prove to be a slight bit more windy than we had hoped by the forecast.  So after playing in the ocean (and even for those who didn't), there was the search for a shelter from the wind.  Tender Warrior thoughtfully brought along these reflective space-blanket-like things.  And this is what they proved useful for.

We did have a blast playing in the little sandy dunes, running, jumping, sliding, enjoying the warm sand on the feet, and getting exercise.  This little game after lunch was enjoyed by the younger ones.  I think it's called, "Catch Daddy if you want a cookie!"

After a little bit of drying off and warming up we were on the road again.  We stopped at some overlooks in hopes of seeing a whale, but we had just missed the one that was sighted for the day!  And with a little bit of salt water taffy in a bag, off we drove into the sunset toward HOME!
"What is a family meant to be?  Among other things, I personally have always felt it is meant to be a museum of memories---a collection of carefully preserved memories and a realization that day-to-day memories are being chosen for our museum.  Someone in the least one person needs to be conscious that memories are important, and that time can be made to have double value by recognizing that what is done today will be tomorrow's memory."
"Memories (not all of them, but some of them) should be planned with the same careful kind of planning one would give to designing a museum.  A family life in retrospect should be a museum of diverse and greatly varied memories, with a unity that makes the grouping of people involved share at least many if not all of the overlapping memories.  Memories don't need to be just a thing of chance collection, but can have some measure of planning."
~Edith Schaefer, What is a Family?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Season of Celebration Begins

I recognize that in most American households, the traditional "holiday season" begins at about Thanksgiving.  Since we have been blessed with several autumn birthdays, it feels to me as though our celebrations begin around the middle of September, and continue straight on through until New Year's!  It makes it both extra fun, and perhaps extra busy.  But busy in a wonderful way.  For autumn is my favorite season.  I think those babies born in the fall have something to do with that.  Add to this mix, preparations for National Bible Bee and a big family trip to get there, the "every-dailies" of life and school and well, it is a little bit nonstop this year.  We are truly enjoying the journey, though!

Littlest Warrior had the first birthday of the season.  I like to do at least one literature-based birthday theme in my each of my children's lives.  To say we love good books and reading is an understatement!  Over the years I have done "Madeline," "Winnie-the-Pooh," "Curious George," "Rainbow Fish," and "Goodnight Moon."  All of these were chosen because they were that child's favorite at the time.  This year we had an owl theme based on the book "Owl Babies."  He discovered this book from our library stack several months ago and his big sister read it to him so many times that she memorized it.  He developed his own word for the name of this story, which is a special "inside-family" memory.  This same word he uses whenever he sees an owl.  Even though he also knows how to say the word, "owl."  Toddler language simply melts my heart!

Here is my rendition, in birthday cake glory, of the cover of the storybook.  He knew exactly what it was and he was SO excited!! (I taught myself, through a correspondence course years ago in early married life, the basic art of cake decorating and it has been one of the most useful skills I've ever learned to bless my family, and others, with beauty and fun!)

We also made these cute little cookies that I found by the inspiration of Pinterest.

I have mentioned before how much I treasure making handmade gifts for my loved ones, and this birthday was no exception.  I started off with a chalkboard placemat on which I wrote a birthday message to greet him in the morning.

And I finally finished this adorable pumpkin hat, which I actually began a year ago!  I made some little adaptations along the way to be sure it would still fit, and I just love how it turned out.
And then there was this last-minute inspiration that I could not resist!  A most-adorable owl hat!  He wasn't too sure about wearing it at first.  But he likes to wear it most when someone reads him the story and if someone else will wear a hat at the same time.   My favorite is when Tender Warrior puts the pumpkin hat atop his own head, while Little One wears his owl hat.
Aside from the actual birthday and holiday celebrations, I always look forward to this season because it brings an extra enthusiasm for our read-aloud time.  Not that we aren't always enthusiastic about this very favorite time in our day, but some seasons and some books are more inspiring than others for both Mama and children.  I am sure that you can relate.
More celebrations to come soon! 


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