Warm Wednesday Words: Willpower – An Unsung Hero

I canWillpower is much more then it’s often cracked up to be.  Whether it’s willpower to eat healthy, get fit, quit smoking, only drink in moderation, control anger, be humble, not gossip, resist hidden sins, etc, willpower leads to victory.  For those of us who know the Lord, calling on Him to help us packs a powerful punch to our enemy, the devil, who would sabotage our goals.  “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  (Isa. 40:29-31a)  When we are wise enough to acknowledge that God’s Word has the absolute truths that may be distorted by our own perspective, we can add more power to our prayers by praying and believing, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”

Look to the Lord's strengthDiet is probably the most trivial example to use; however, in many social settings successful dieting and fitness is, by example, a colossal failure.  If someone really wants to lose weight, then that must become the focus and most jokes of food indulgence and no time for exercise need to bite the dust in favor of  long term genuine effort.  Just replace any other more serious matter (admittedly by culture’s standards) and insert the efforts, excuses and failures that we laugh about with diet and fitness, and you will agree it is an area whose successful example potential is largely a loss to offering any kind of real example to the harder areas such as serious addictions, hidden sins, etc.  In most social settings, we acclaim the one laden with food dripping with grease and loaded with carbs rather than the one with any kind of dietary willpower.

find a wayI belong to some online social support systems for the food lifestyle we have adopted (Trim Healthy Mama).  On these sites, as on other similar food lifestyles, members are encouraged to post prayer requests, pictures of progress, etc.  The comment strands of encouragement are usually too long to read them all.  The support I have gained in other  online Christian women support groups is also amazing.  We are lifetime friends and constantly lend each other strength with our prayers and words.  There are many other noteworthy types of support groups (both online and otherwise) that lend strength and foster willpower, such as for homeschooling, sports, writing,  marriage, parenting, debt reduction, recovering alcoholics, grief support, widow groups, and on and on.   Some of these support systems can be found within churches or church small groups as well.

someone believes in youAs believers, we have an added boost to will power (or perhaps the other way around) in our conscience.  Oswald Chambers said in his 5/13 Utmost devotional, “God always educates us down to the scruple.  Is my ear so keen to hear the tiniest whisper of the Spirit that I know what I should do?…The one thing that keeps the conscience sensitive to Him is the continual habit of being open to Him on the inside.  When there is any debate, quit.”  If it seems we can’t find our way, we can pray about what, if any, counsel God would have us seek.  When we are truly seeking counsel for our own selves and not using the seeking of counsel as a cover up for gossip; and in fact, are refraining entirely from gossip, then our efforts will be blessed.  “Where there is no guidance a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  (Prov. 11:14)  C.S. Lewis said, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”  Hopefully, we will have ample opportunity to offer good counsel, not just receive it.  “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked lead them astray.” (Prov. 12:26)

build upTo have supportive friends who help strengthen you with their words and prayers is good.  Even better is to have a friend or a few friends who are close enough in proximity to put action to their words and hang in there with you through a period of your life when you need strength.   “And Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’  But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’  So they went down to Bethel.”

true friendshipWhat areas of your life do you need strength and willpower in to make it through?  What support are you seeking for that?  Are you listening for the tiniest whisper of the Spirit?  Who around you needs to lean on your strength for a season and are you able to give it?  Are you able to inconvenience your own plans in support of a friend?

 

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Warm Wednesday Words: Despising the Shame

scandalDictionary.com – *Shame – 1. The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.  4. A fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret.

*Shame  launches us into a sort of sacred suffering that gives us tools, otherwise illusive, that can actually save us.  It can originate in our own conscience, or it can be “assigned” to us by others who are more then willing to serve it up and offer seconds.  Constructively, it can provoke remorse and change, or when felt on behalf of others, comfort, grace and prayer.  Yet it also can circle over our heads with landing gear down, powerless to make its mark, if we aren’t willing to humbly inspect our hearts.

Jesus was no stranger to shame.  He didn’t turn from it, but conquered the sting of it for the joy that came from making a way to save us.  Hebrews 12:2, “Who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame…”  Shame can be a stalker and a haunter, especially if we’re prideful, but when we follow Jesus example and despise it, we shrink it to its rightful place and role and amazing things can happen.

When I worked at a local daycare, we often sang action songs including a favorite “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”.  Within the lyrics, there is a great message, “we’re coming to a wide river, and there’s no bridge going over it, no tunnel going under it, it’s just plain old water, and we’re gonna have to swim…I’m not afraid.  Are you?”

We’re often put in circumstances just like that.  There’s no way around, under, or over.  We just gotta go through and get thicker skin while the elements pelt us.  The ultimate example is Christ on the cross.  John Piper wrote an excellent post on what it means to despise the shame.  He concluded Jesus “despising the shame” was like saying, ‘Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me?  Compared to that, you are less then nothing…You think you have power.  Compared to the joy before me, you have none…. You think you can distract me.  I won’t even look at you….You are a fool.  Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.’  There was once a man who over the course of his lifetime had experienced devastating parenting failures with dire consequences, committed adultery, and set up a murder to cover his own mistake.  Yet because he loved God and repented of his sins, he was able to say, “Those who look to Him are radiant with joy.  Their faces will never be ashamed.”  (Ps. 34:10)  If you guessed David, you’re right.  I love reading the Psalms, and am thankful he despised the shame and told his story.

So yeah, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and so can you.  That includes the boldness to be honest and humble for Christ’s sake, no pun intended.  Some would rather avoid the power tools that can be earned in trials and shame, then admit anything shameful touched them or their families.  Ann Voskamp said in a recent post “the worst grief is a grief that cannot speak…..Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.”  The Bible is rife with examples of the type of guarantee that things are going to get tough, and that there’s no way around but through.   There are no guarantees of turbulent free friendships, marriages, parenting, businesses, health, reputations, etc; only of a Savior who will walk beside us triumphantly through the turbulence and “keep” that which we’ve committed to Him, ultimately souls.  He may allow some deep plunges, shame, grief, or heartache in order to refine and use what is of high value to Him.

For us, the hope and promise is that we have a Savior who showed us how to despise the shame and find joy.   Have the filthy hands of shame and despair propelled you toward a destiny?  Are you willing to share what might be useful to encourage someone?

Despise the Shame

*For the purpose of this post I chose not to split hairs over shame vs. guilt.

Warm Wednesday Words: Acres of Hope

IMG_9703As another Mother’s Day approaches I am leaning into hope and steering clear of man’s conclusions as I prod through my valleys.  I  refuse to compare myself to Mother Theresa, Susanna Wesley, Michelle Dugger, nor any young and idealistic mother full of preconceived notions about life and parenting, though I’m happy for all of them.  But for myself, I’m madly in love with my kids and grandkids no matter what.  Every single one.   The sweetest celebration of my motherhood is not on any one particular day, or in reveling in any one of my children’s successes, though I do that.  It is in the thoughtfulness of each one of them throughout the year.  And then another year and another and another.  It is in cards, calls, visits, and laughter.  For the ones with children (my sweet grands), it is in the effort they put into guiding the grandkids to gift us with sweet indulgences of artwork, notes, hugs and chats.  For seasons when there has been too much gap between visits or too much silence in the conversation, (on either end) it is in the celebration of a God who mends and heals in our lack, our uncertainty, and yes, even in our sin.

If I have ever doubted the lavishness of my God, and I don’t generally, I have only to feast my eyes on an azalea bush in May to settle the matter.

IMG_9723For my friends who have yearned to have children, but could not, I am sorry.  Truly sorry.  My heart aches for you.  I am also sorry for those who have loved and held a child who passed away.  There are no words to say I understand, because I don’t and can’t.  Your hope for reunion is literally an eternity away.  Then there are heart holes for those who have had to give up a child, parent a child without the parenthood “title” or for those of us who have miscarried without ever holding that child.  As Ann Voskamp said in a recent post, “Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.”  She went on to explain that God is the ultimate grief converter because He promises to invade our grief with joy and pour lavish comfort on us in our circumstances.

IMG_9735I hope that God fills your heart with hope in abundance this Mother’s Day…hope that you know how much love God has for you.  If you are a believer in Christ as your Savior who died for you, that makes you a daughter of the King, and a joint heir with Christ.  In other words, you are royalty!    Since God has all the traits that were divided in Adam when He created Eve, He longs to love us and our children with a motherly type love, as well as a fatherly love, and of course, His agape love (which is not based on feelings).  “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” from Luke 13:34.

This Mother’s Day I once again am thankful that God indulgently  allows us to be a miracle in the middle of our circumstances.   Our compass is always pointed to hope, as is beautifully expressed in a song about Christ and the church, “And though you’re in the dark here call me friend…not safe but worth it, so worth it…As you lead us away to valleys low, to acres of hope, acres of hope.”

Do you realize the miracle that He has allowed you to be and the acres of hope that He is leading you in from your “unsafe” valley?

Warm Wednesday Words: Kinsley Turns Nine

nothing like a grandchild Being into the grandma (or “Marme”) season of my life is sweet and fulfilling.  Tony and I love being grandparents and pray together for our growing family most every night.  It is hard to believe nine years have gone by since Kinsley Abigail made her debut into the world!  She has already grown into an incredibly thoughtful and creative young lady with the guidance and prayers of her parents, Candace and Dan.  She stays busy with her schoolwork, being a sweet big sister, skillfully writes fascinating stories and often takes part in plays with Fine Linen Drama.  She tells about herself below:

IMG_0252My favorite food is: Shrimp and Pasta. My favorite game to play is: Capture the flag.

My favorite book is: The Lord of The Rings and The Adventures of Ulysses.

I think the coolest person on earth is: Uncle Jacob.

My favorite thing to learn about is: Greek Mythology.

The thing I am most awesome at is: Imagining things.

If I could go anywhere in the world I would go: Exploring in the woods.

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My favorite color is: Green, yellow and blue.

When I grow up I want to become: A mom who studies the Liberal Arts.

My current favorite song is: Silent Night. 

Three words I feel best describe me are: Adventurish, Bookworm, Weird

IMG_0481When I was little I used to: Write my name on everything. Including one time on Grandad’s car that he was trying to sell. With a rock.

My favorite season is: All of them!

The absolute best thing about camping is: Sleeping in a sea of sleeping bags.

The snack I like the best is: Nutella on Graham crackers.

One food that I really dislike is: Tomatoes.
My best friend is: One of my imaginary friends named Jacob.
If I had one wish it would be: Three more wishes.
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My favorite movie is: The Lord of The Rings.
My favorite outfit is: I don’t have a favorite outfit, but I love my neon green ankle socks.
My favorite thing to do: Read.
Kinsley's sketch
A favorite memory of mine is: Playing with my puppy, Ignacio, on our trampoline.
My favorite animal is: Dogs, cats, and birds.
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Have you entered the grandparenting season of life yet?  How do you connect?  If you don’t and maybe won’t have “natural” grandchildren, there are plenty out there to “nurture” through organizations such as Compassion International, World Vision, Awana Clubs and Operation Christmas Child to name a few.
love my grandkids

Warm Wednesday Words: Wilderness Manna

gentle terrain

As a believer in Christ for many years, I have covered a wide range of life’s “terrains”, including lush pastures, gentle streams, raging waters, wilderness and desert.  During some seasons I walked a fairly easy trail, other than typical ups and downs.  God lets the young see His splendor, even more than the seasoned ones.  As newlyweds, my husband and I saw it often, especially in the young marrieds class we were heavily involved in at church.  So many stories of “God in Action” with exciting outcomes for both our friends and for us as a couple, as we birthed six beautiful, healthy babies over the years and added an adopted child, too.  A house full of kids and a little farm with extended family nearby had to be somewhat like heaven on earth.  There were also a few times I may have subconsciously stolen a little of God’s glory, too.  It’s so easy to do that when everything is fairly simple, going well and seemingly in my control.  As Oswald says in the May 7 devotional, “Is God going to detect in His searching fire that we have built on the foundation of Jesus some enterprise of our own?”

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kids and the floodcandace's wedding

I wasn’t alone in the   young Christian trap of taking notice of the scriptures that seemed to fit into the “God is about me or what I can do for Him” paradigm.  In her book “Extravagant Grace”, Barbara Duguid says “the baby Christian gravitates toward those Scriptures that tell him what to do, and there are many…the baby Christian is experienced primarily in the realm of feelings…his faith is weak, but his heart is warm.  He tends to mistake the nature of these gifts from God and think they are his…that he will always have them.  He believes he is right and strong because he has them, and he is prone to feeling superior to believers that don’t…He thinks that there is nothing left now but to walk through life with the victorious hand of God on his side, and then to enter heaven forever.  He doesn’t yet know that, like Israel, there is a huge desert to cross before entering the Promised Land.  The desert he has yet to see and grapple with properly is the wilderness of his own sinful heart.”  At the parting of the Red Sea, and the subsequent praise dance, the Israelites could not have seen the 40 year trek in the desert just ahead, where many of them died off before entering the Promised Land.

desert

Maturity in Christ, for me, has meant some desert or wilderness times, in which I am stretched beyond what I ever dreamed.  In order to get a drink of the Living Water in these seasons, it is critical that I deepen my roots even more into Christ, my Savior, sometimes for even the next thought and breath.  “My” thinking and “good works” is something to despise more than to purport.  Difficult “terrain” requires much time in the Word, in worship, in prayer, in meditation and in seeking good Christian counsel, which God is faithful to supply.  It is also an important season to be consistent in a journal in order to remember His answers, see the desert or wilderness experience from His perspective and to record this and any particularly encouraging words offered by friends and acquaintances along with scripture promises to stand on in faith.  God’s perspective on my experiences often doesn’t look anything like how others may see it; nor how I see theirs.  That’s because, unless we are interceding and seeking God’s perspective for others,  it’s not our business.

wilderness

The unbeliever may or may not experience overwhelming hardships in life.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  (Matt. 5:45) As believers, however, we can count on them, but by our loving God and for glorious purposes.

If I can only hang onto the “invisible” perspective of God during stretching experiences, then I can walk above heartbreaks and disappointments while in the wilderness, and so can you.  In Him I live and move and have my being.  My clay feet sometimes step down into the waves of the storm, or get tired in the wilderness and my vision can get obscured there; however this is usually not an issue of backsliding, but a need for encouragement.  We question Peter’s faith (as Christ, rightfully did) when he struggled, but Peter was the only one who even tried to walk on the waves!

Peter on water

Duguid again offers that, “the greatest heroes of Scripture are deeply flawed throughout their lives.”  And speaking of her women’s Bible study ministry she says, “It is a common occurrence to have someone confess their struggle and weakness in a certain area, only to be rebuked and censured by a younger sister in Christ, who eagerly shares the three easy ways they can overcome the problem….Simplistic answers to complex problems can be discouraging to weary strugglers….We should, therefore, practice great caution in evaluating the spiritual maturity of people around us.”  questions by google

I’ve been guilty of judging (at least silently) with my idea of God’s standards, rather then just watching for fruit, praying, encouraging and leaving the rest to God no matter how different the progress may be in someone else.  Anyone honest would have to admit this also, at some time or another.   After all, it’s too easy to default and compare to each other, but it’s a tendency to kick out, not adopt.   God will carry His work to completion in each of us in His time and through whatever means He chooses, and in the end, there will be fruit in those who are His.  I hope to be an encourager to those along the path near me, especially those who are going through a trial of some sort, and I am blessed more than I can say by those He uses to give me manna in my wilderness journeys.

say what is helpfulWhat kind of terrain are you on right now in your life?  It will likely not be the same in a few years.  Have you found encouragement if your path is rough?  Have you purposed to encourage someone else?  If you’re in “lush pastures” right now, write down all that God has favored you with and remember it for dryer seasons.  No matter the terrain, the “God actions” are there, even if the wilderness obscures your view of them.

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Warm Wednesday Words: Who Inspires You?

I love being inspired by others.  Here is the definition of “inspired” from the “thefreedictionary.com”:

v.tr.

1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.
2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion: hymns that inspire the congregation; an artist who was inspired by Impressionism.

3.

a. To stimulate to action; motivate: a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus.
b. To affect or touch: The falling leaves inspired her with sadness.
4. To draw forth; elicit or arouse: a teacher who inspired admiration and respect.
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about: an invention that inspired many imitations.
6. To draw in (air) by inhaling.

7. Archaic

a. To breathe on.
b. To breathe life into.

v.intr.

1. To stimulate energies, ideals, or reverence: a leader who inspires by example.
2. To inhale.

First, I am inspired by my God, who rescued me from sin and is always at work in my life and that of my family.   I am inspired from His inerrant Word and from the words of spiritual leaders and friends He has placed around me in the local church and elsewhere, including our pastor and some amazingly supportive women in the (in)courage online groups.   I also am inspired by the Lifeway Sunday School literature commentators and many great authors and bloggers including C.S. Lewis, Jack Graham, James MacDonald, Stormie O’Martian, Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp and Holley Gerth.

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I am inspired by my devoted and faithful husband who works with grit, determination and tenacity.  He does his best to walk in Godly wisdom and high principles in our family and marriage.   He is a behind the scenes kind of guy, whose influence is not lost on those who are discerning.  When I look back over the years, I am amazed at all the frightening stresses God has helped us through to land us in the place we are now, which is happy, indeed.  Though stresses still loom here and there, they don’t cripple us.  They are refining fires and maybe because of that, I can emphatically say we are best friends.

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I am inspired by my parents.  Besides loving their entire family as best they could (which was usually by giving and serving), they were the most hard working, giving and helpful couple I know.   They were often volunteering to drive someone to the hospital either an hour or two hours away, sharing from their garden, visiting people in the nursing home or in prison (my dad, who is no longer with us, did the latter), and involved in various church responsibilities.  At any family get together Mom is usually trying to do more than her share of work.

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I am inspired by a friend and mentor who lives out her faith in God and in others lives, including mine.  She is a bit further down the path I’m on, and a sweet blessing to me.  She sends scripture verses for me to ponder by email or texts, hands me books to read and has spent much time in prayer for me and my family.  She “speaks life” to me once every week or two, usually over a cup of coffee.   She does not hesitate to gently and humbly exhort, nor does she hesitate to pass on encouragement and compliments when she sees something good in me, whether I see it or not.  Since we are doing the same dated devotional journal, occasional texts have been know to begin, “look at day…”.mentoring, inspiringhttps://www.etsy.com/listing/77823945/teach-teacher-art-print-school-gift

I am inspired by many prayer partners, both online and in real life.  One, in particular, meets with me regularly.  We  spend considerable time in prayer for our families, our churches, current events, persecuted Christians and missionaries (the latter two greatly inspire me as well).  She has taught me to hang in there in prayer and we have been blessed to see God at work in many of the things we pray about.

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I am inspired by my children.  Each one is a blessing to us and has something unique.  Some of the traits that inspire me most among them are:  gentleness, graciousness, a sense of humor, humility, compassion, goodwill, helpfulness and cheerful enthusiasm.

brother's muscles

girls

I am inspired by Augustine’s mother, Monica.  She prayed fervently and persistently for her entire family, and at length for her wayward son.  She enlisted others in praying for him, also.  After 17 years of Augustine cruelly putting her off and breaking her heart while indulging in much sin, he converted to the faith of his childhood.  Shortly after his conversion and during a family discussion on the subject, Monica said her life hope and purpose had been fulfilled.  Within five days she came down with a fever and on the ninth day died in Augustine’s arms (A.D. 387) at the age of 56.

Augustine & his mother, MonicaTo be inspired is to be enlivened, stimulated, and energized by divine influence.  Who inspires you?

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Warm Wednesday Words – What Brings You Joy

joy

Have you ever stopped to think about what brings you joy?  My greatest joy comes from being in a relationship with a God who will never let me go, who is my Savior, and my constant friend, counselor and comforter.  He rewards me as I grow in faith and trust.  His joy in me empowers me to find joy in life whether or not life is going the way I would want it to.  Even as I write, He is thinking of me (and you) and preparing that place in eternity for those who love and obey Him.

He is a rewarder of those who seek Him

My number one people relationship joy giver is my husband.  He is faithful, dependable, hard working, courageous, lives wisely and Godly, a great listener,  has my best interests at heart and makes my life more fun.

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An awesome source of happiness and fun times is family.  I have entrusted them to God and am thankful that He woos, guides, disciplines, keeps and sanctifies them (just as He does me and all who are His).  My deep joy for my children is not about the circumstances they are in or where they are at.  It is about the state of their hearts.  I want them in eternity with me, more than I care about their “success” in this life.  “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)

big family at lake

Peronas

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hannah

Friendship is a huge source of pleasure and joy, whether in my church, online or in my community.  C. S. Lewis says, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”    That pretty much sums it up.

friends on a limb

Maintaining good habits can foster joy.   Starting my day with a workout and spending a few minutes or more in Bible readings and a devotional get my day off to the best start.  Expressing love and art to my family  via a scent, a meal, a craft, or home making effort brings joy to home life.   Ministering to others outside the family on occasion also brings me joy.

he who refreshes others

What about you?   What brings you joy?

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The Ways I Like Coffee

I need to set the record straight about how I like coffee.  The other day a friend and mentor sweetly informed me that she had studied up on lattes, so that when I come by to see her she could indulge us in my favorite drink.   After doing some research she had found a recipe for lattes to make with her Vita-mix.  This was after our first meeting at our local coffee shop, where I think I must’ve taken her by surprise with my  coffee choice.   While it seems natural to me to choose a latte with no flavorings, (though sometimes I indulge in half the regular flavoring amount), skim milk and slightly less hot than normal temperature, it was a new thing to her, to order beyond a simple cup of “joe”.  So while I have fun with a love of coffee and have even blogged about methods (check out this post if you’re interested), here’s the REAL scoop on my coffee habits.  My favorite thing really isn’t about the coffee, it’s about what that cup of joe, latte, tea, juice, water or whatever the drink is, really speaks.

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My favorite way to have coffee is with a Bible nearby on the arm of my recliner.  It may be accompanied by a devotional book, a Bible study book, Sunday School literature, and definitely a highlighter and ink pen.   Though I put this at the top, it often gets put off until afternoon, due to blurry morning vision.

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This coffee method ranks right up near the top, and occurs when Tony has picked up his FedEx load and comes back through right past our house on the way to his route.  It is a blessing of enormous magnitude to have a few minutes together over a cup of coffee before we embark on our separate daytime roles.  That stern look is only to belie the fact that he spoils me with great breakfast eggs before he rushes on.   It also may be expressing how he feels about me having Hannah take this picture.

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This is another lovely way to drink coffee.  In a chair beside my teens who wish to remain obscure after stumbling out of bed to the couch while they try to make their eyes open for the day by way of a cup of coffee.  This is that time of day that I enjoy bugging my children with conversation.  Sometimes they actually wake up and converse coherently and pleasantly back with me.  And that makes my day.

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This is a great way to enjoy an occasional sip of coffee.  I love to sit on the back deck and enjoy the view while I sing hymns or practice choir or ensemble songs.   Not only does it afford a great view, but it makes my kids happy when I take this part of my day outdoors.  Buck, my Boston, often joins me, and, when I have to hit the high notes, he accompanies me with howling.  I’m not quite sure how to take that, but it’s camaraderie with the dog and worship time together.

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Here is another enjoyable way to have coffee.  Sitting at the computer writing, blogging, or connecting with friends.  Yes, I’ve enjoyed many a cyber cup of coffee.  If the drink cools, which I am not really focusing on, anyway, I may add a splash of  hot coffee from the pot.   If I can connect with friends in person, that’s all the better.

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This is the “siesta” cup of coffee.  Not long after lunch, I often gravitate to a cozy sitting position on the bed with pillows of every shape and variety to support my neck, which often needs a rest.  I love having a lamp on, a Scentsy warmer wafting some favorite or seasonal scent, and a stack of books beside me.   I may even read a chapter or two if my eyelids allow it.  There is usually a prayer list tucked inside the books for this “coffee” time.   The rest of my day may be on  autopilot, unless I get this little break.  During the days of all (or most) of the kids at home and doing their school, I often unintentionally took this little break in a living room chair “while” reading History to them.  They hated it when I began slurring words and nodding and jerking my head.  It is the time of day that may be beyond the reach of a cup of coffee.  Sometimes it’s just better to take a 5-20 minute time out!

Though it may seem like I drink coffee, espresso and precision lattes all day long, that is only a little bit true.  I just like to have a cup of something nearby, even if it has the original morning coffee in the bottom of it and I’ve just refilled it once or twice.  So, please, don’t think I am truly a coffee snob.  I mainly just like all the pleasant habits that I associate with it.  And for that friend who is investing in me, mentoring me, encouraging me, and/or allowing me the privilege of mutual friendship, I don’t even need a drink at all!  It’s just an added nicety any old way you serve it!

Emptying Nest

This month marks the beginning of the end of my homeschooling mom/teacher/superintendent role of over 25 years.  Not to discount my husband’s role of buying enough books over the years to make a library, loading school on the computer for countless years, whisking me away from the mad house on occasion, etc.  However, the emotional changes ahead loom most heavily on me.  While I look forward to some changes, I also hold a little tightly onto a few last times of this or that…chatting with my teens, coffee cups in hand, looking at their art, talking about a book, bugging them with computer techy questions.   They may not like me saying so, but they are my last “chicks in the nest”.   Our cozy times together…well, I want them to linger.

It is hard to believe seven kids have grown up and five have made their way out of the nest.  Here’s to memories of our family nest.   Dedicated to……. Anna (who, before we adopted, started out in her own nest with her dad, two brothers and Olga, and then spent two years with half- sister Carrie) & husband, Matt, and kids,  Julia, Joy, Kristina, Rachel, Maddie, Bethany, Jennaleigh, Alaina; Candace & husband, Dan & kids, Kinsley, Sophie, Trux, Gilly; Caleb & fiance, Daisy, and her kids, Cassie, Ethan & Rilee; Jared & wife, Amber;  Zion,  Jacob, Hannah

Just a few more months of Candace being the one and only little “chick”.

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Family nest growing in Columbia

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Good times in the Rolla house, where Jared joined us.

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I will never forget that moment when Anna left the nest for her honeymoon.  First one out!  Bittersweet, indeed.

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                       Mom and Daddy, Anna, Matt & Julia join us to visit Grandma Brand.  Jacob is a few months from birth!

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Fourth son has joined the gang.  St. Louis zoo wanted to keep some of you guys, but we just couldn’t do it.

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On the ferry in Canada.  Oh yeah, a new chickie in the nest, and it’s a girl!

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With Mom English and  Grandma DeWitt in Michigan

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 Fun times in Bourbon, MO, with nieces, nephews, Julia, etc.

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With Brittany at Mom and Daddy’s house

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Samson, Caleb and Jared at the  Bourbon place with THE granddaddy Maple in the back ground that no one wanted to leave and the playhouse that Dad built for you all

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With Grandpa Williams and Goldie in Ellington

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Fun in Branson

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Kids, dogs and Snowmen at Pine Valley Farm

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Siblings, Cousins and Friends Cellar Meetup

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More family times at Mom and Daddy’s Keysville house with Julia, Candace, Kelsey

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Caleb leaves for the army from Pine Valley Farm.  Second one to leave the nest.  Still not used to this.

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I said you were part Cherokee, so you took the matter into your own hands!

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My rock stars in Wyoming

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Third “chick” out of the nest.  Not sure if it gets any easier.

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But fun times with Dan and Candace eases the newest transition!

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Caleb is on leave from the army and comes home to Pine Valley

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Dad and four kids all driving madly in go carts!

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A very relaxing train ride from Branson into Arkansas

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Sons – Never a dull moment

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Caleb with friends, Chris and Player

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Zion’s high school passions

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POST SPELUNKING – Back:  Jared & Nathan; Front:  Zion, Gabby, Jacob, Hannah, Kara, Courtney, Jesse

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Seriously, sons? At the time of this photo three out of four boys and a total of five kids have flown the coop!

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Lovely Daughters inside and out

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And daughter-in-laws, too!  (Get to update this pic to 5 gals in a week!)

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Some of you have made beautiful nests of your own!

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We love being grandparents!

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Some have flown far from the nest, but are now closer!  Yay!

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Some of you are still across the world.  Can’t wait to see you again!

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Some of you are making your mark in life and still call this home your nest from afar.

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The last little chicks in the nest, who aren’t so little!  Only one left in school.

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And the baby, who will never escape that title (said and meant with all endearment).

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A Series of Blunders and Grace

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My kids love the book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events“.  I had one of those days recently that just began a series of unfortunate events, amidst some good times, too.   I had an early appointment; i.e. a long coffee chat with a friend at Art and Joe’s, and that was a wonderful time.  Then I got home in time to throw in some laundry, grab lunch, spiff up the house and settle down into a prayer date with another friend who came over.   We spent a couple hours together and after she left,  I was in BAD need of a nap.  Have you ever felt like there is no other option?  I completely empathize with toddlers who can fall asleep with all kinds of activity around them.  That is completely where I was, and exactly what I did.  Our driveway alarm has days of getting overzealous and loudly alarming us every time a car goes down our busy highway.  Then the Bostons start barking.  Today was one of those days.  Did it wake me?  Yes.  Probably a half dozen or more times.  I kept dreaming I should go shut it off, but then kept going back to sleep.  Just…too…tired.

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After waking one more time to the loud alarm and dogs barking, I decided to resume my day like a normal adult, though by now it was 5:00 p.m.   I went to the kitchen to begin dinner preparations with the small package of salmon I had thawed that morning and absentmindedly wondered when the 10th of the month would fall, because I knew I was due to have a meal to a mom in our church with new twin babies on that day.  I had  acquired all the ingredients well in advance to make a chicken enchilada casserole for her.  I glanced at the date on my phone  and  was shocked to realize it was today and the meal was due to her home in exactly one hour!

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Determined, to conquer a day that was quickly seeming out of my control, I did the only thing I could think of to salvage the situation and ordered the Casey’s Pizza special, which happened to be Taco Pizza.   Scratch the salmon.  Hubby will be thrilled with a pizza splurge, anyway.   Meantime, I threw together a  garden salad, and grabbed some of the home made butterfingers my teen daughter had made the other day and froze.   Voilà.   Sides ready and pizza nearly ready for pickup.  Amazingly, I had money in my account, which is usually down to nearly zero, so I could splurge on pizzas with my debit card.

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I would have just enough time to pick up the pizzas, shove a couple pieces down, have my daughter meet me to run the meal out and see the babies, send open pizza box back home with her for my family, while I went on to community choir practice, which was 7-9pm.  Feeling satisfied that I had rescued a spiraling day, my daughter and I made the  meal drop off (well…a few minutes late due to an odd house number situation), enjoyed a short visit with tired parents (who were grateful for pizza), and I headed off to choir, without the work pages done because the printer wouldn’t work today.   But, the songs and fellowship were fun and worship is always like a medicine to me.

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However, I  forgot my pencil that had been supplied in our notebooks.  Still being in the “learn and mark the music” phase, I had to constantly take turns using the pencil of a friend sitting next to me, until she kindly found one for me during the break.  Thankfully, she was  happy to help and was familiar with where to find things since it was her own church hosting us.  I still was feeling hopelessly scatter brained.

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Despite all the setbacks, I headed home satisfied that my husband would have enjoyed his pizza and we would watch one of our favorite shows to unwind and head to bed.  He did not tell me until the next day that he had not eaten any of the pizza because he hates Taco Pizza.  Oh, yeah, I knew that.  Why can’t I remember things that matter to others?

The next day I got an email saying my eagerly anticipated card order from “Heart Connection Club” had been canceled because of a payment problem.  Ergh!   THAT’s why I had money in my account.  Oh well, it went for a better purpose.

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Then I discovered the washing machine had something wrong with it and was leaking all over the floor.  Meantime, my husband and I were on the second or third day of some sort of tension that I didn’t even get (he would probably say the same thing).  Some days are just good to remind us that there are better days.  Ann Voskamp said in her devotional, “Music is made in stress…As the string bends, as the string arches in stress and then releases, it vibrates – and there is the offering…The resonance is in the surrender.”   Sometimes the surrender is in trusting God to give and cause grace to flow down and cover all our mistakes.  There are some things we can’t fix.  We just have to trust God!  And there IS grace.  But I did take the chicken enchilada meal a couple days later.

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And my husband and I enjoyed an evening of flowing grace and starting fresh.

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How has grace covered you lately?