Silent Homage

The other weekend, I attended a funeral of a man who was a very dear father, husband, and friend to many.  Everyone who knew him respected him as a man who was wise, gentle, kind, and led his family with loving leadership.  As I followed the funeral procession for this godly man, my heart was touched by the tradition of allowing a funeral procession to pass while traffic waits.  I thought it was special to see the respectful acknowledgment that society gives to the ending of an earthly life.  It was a silent homage.  The internment was also respectful quietness, except for a short but nice “message.”

As I drove through the cemetery, I beheld the beauty.  Barren branches hung above brown grass of winter.  Shadows stretched from stately tombstones.  Clouds blew overhead.  Nearby, life moved along.  People went about their day, shopping, eating, playing, working…  Here, in the cemetery, I was one of the few who had not driven away yet, contemplating the stillness.

This earthly life of mine too shall end.  Transient.  Evanescent.  I paused.  Saw beauty even here at a cemetery.  Felt the sun’s warmth, as its rays broke through the clouds.  Eyes looked up, following rays.  Pondered that this life isn’t my final destination.  The season was winter, and the grass was brown.  The trees were barren.  Yet, unseen to the naked eye were stirrings of life beneath the hard soil.    Spring is coming, and with it will be new life.

The body of a godly man had entered a season of “rest”.  Yet, for such a Christian man, death is only the passageway from this earthly life to a fuller Heavenly life.  Here, we think we know life.  We breathe air, and it is life.  We touch the velvet petal of a flower, and there is life.  We hear the trickling of rain on the roof, and there is life.  We smell the pungent odor of wet soil, and there is life.  We taste the tangy nectar of a Clementine, and there is life.  We see life here.  Yet, what we see here, what we experience is perhaps more a shadow.  C.S. Lewis once called this the “Shadowlands”.  I am inclined to believe he was quite right in his analysis.

One of my favorite books, One Thousand Gifts, says the following: “All beauty is only reflection.  And whether I am conscious of it or not, any created thing of which I am amazed, it is the glimpse of His face to which I bow down.  Do I have eyes to see it’s Him and not the thing?  Satan came in the scales that gleamed, a thing of beauty, and he lured the first woman and she was deceived.  Beauty, the disguise, can slide dangerous.  True, authentic Beauty requires of us, lays claim to us, and it is this, the knees bent, the body offered in obedience. …Do I have eyes to see His face in all things so I’m not merely dazzled by the trinket, glitzy bauble dangling for the ogling, till it flakes and breaks and I strain for more to lie prostrate before?”  The book says in just a few pages before, “How I want to see the weight of glory break my thick scales, the weight of glory smash the chains of desperate materialism, split the numbing shell of deadening entertainment, bust up the ice of catatonic hearts.  I want to see God, who pulls on the coat of my skin and doesn’t leave me alone in this withering body of mortality…”  And again, “What is this that I feel sitting here, coursing through me relentless, hot, ardent?  I have to see God beauty.  Because isn’t my internal circuitry wired to see out something worthy of worship?  Every moment I live, I live bowed to something.  And if I don’t see God, I’ll bow down before something else .. nature is not God but God revealing the weight of Himself, all His glory, through the looking glass of nature. .. How we behold determines if we hold joy.  Behold glory and be held by God.  How we look determines how we live … if we live … Faith is in the gaze of the soul.  Faith is the seeing soul’s eyes upon a saving God … Faith is the seeing of eyes that find the gauze to heaven torn through; that slow to witness the silent weight, feel the gold glory bar heavy in palm…”  Still more, “The only place we have to come before we die is the place of seeing God.”  Pages before: “Dusk and all the arching dome and the field and the great-bellied moon, it all heaves, heavy with the glory.  I heave to breathe: The whole earth is full of His glory.  Sky, land, and sea, heavy and saturated with God.”

Perhaps, this explains more the connection between the “shadows” and the reality: “Isn’t this the crux of the gospel?  The good news that all those living in the land of the shadow of death have been birthed into new life, that the transfiguration of a suffering world has already begun.  That suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart — and mourning and dancing are movements in His unfinished symphony of beauty.  Can I believe the gospel, that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son? …Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things — take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. … All is grace only because all can transfigure.”  Another quote from the same source, “Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life … It is dark suffering’s umbilical cord that alone can untether new life.”

I have left the cemetery with its reminders of death and life.  I write upon another page of my own life.  Fingers still.  Thoughts quiet.  I ponder.  I worship before the Creator of Life.

I Want To Be A Palm Tree

I was recently reading in my devotions from this passage of Scripture: “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.  They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.”  I loved what Our Daily Bread said in reference to this: “Palms are symbols of towering beauty and cedars of unbending strength.  These are the characteristics of those who have been ‘planted in the house of the Lord.’  Their roots go down into the soil of God’s unquenchable love … rooted and grounded in Christ, drinking in His love and faithfulness.

Palm trees are an interesting analogy, considering what they endure and how they are designed.  Palm trees grow in tropical climates, along sea shores.  They grow in these areas because they are designed to resist/endure fierce tropical storms, such as hurricanes.  The flexibility of their trunks allow them to bend with fierce winds without snapping and braking off.  Their root systems are unique in that they don’t swell and thus push up sidewalks.  Their roots are also quite extensive and cover the area below ground that the plant covers above ground.

Palm trees were designed to endure difficulties.  Their lives are not immune from challenges.  They are prepared for them.  It’s so easy to desire the peaceful, joyful life.  Sounds nice!  We all want the comfortable home, well-behaved children, beautiful body, healthy body, well-running vehicles, nice yards, pleasant neighbors, nice job with a good paycheck, supportive friends, gourmet meals, fashionable clothes, intelligent children, etc…  We want it all!

Plants that endure few hardships develop shallow root systems.  When a drought hits, they are unprepared and shrivel.  When a storm hits, without the roots or flexibility of a palm tree, they snap and crash.

We can seek peace and joy in our homes.  We can try to create as pleasant of an environment as possible, and this is all good.  Yet, we also need to be prepared to endure trials.  They will come at some point.  How deep are our roots?  From where do we draw our strength?  Do we draw it from something deeper than ourselves?  From something deeper than mere circumstances or pleasing environments? 

I love the analogy that my roots are to be pulling my nourishment from God’s grace and love!  I am not going to do this perfectly, but my goal/my desire/my “roots” should be headed or growing in that direction.

The characteristic of flexibility is also quite interesting.  I need to be flexible in dealing with my children, giving in areas where I can minister to their hearts/their needs. It’s easy to just say “No” to their desires.  Sometimes, I have to when their desires are wrong or dangerous.  The times when I can say “Yes” though, do I?

Today, I had that opportunity (in a small way).  I really don’t like messes, but I remembered how gracious my mom was and how much I enjoyed messy activities such as transforming the living room into a tent.  As I watched my children struggle to make a tent, I offered to make them a better one.  I grabbed a stack of sheets, rubber-bands, and pulled a bunch of chairs.  I then showed them how to make a tent with little sheet dividers for walls.  I allowed them to make beds, “sofas”, and put a little table in their tent house.  I chose to overlook the mess and to appreciate the enjoyment my children would receive.  I heard lots of “thank you’s” and that this was their best tent ever.  I even finished our school today in the tent by doing all of our read-aloud in the tent.  And, I gave them snacks to eat in their tent — even though it would mean crumbs on my rug and blankets.

I am able to demonstrate flexibility in simple areas when I am “rooted” in love — when I recall all that God has done for me!  I think I should plant a whole hedge of palm trees to remind me of these important lessons.

Not The Only One

Have you ever felt like you had to put on a “mask” because no one really wanted to hear how you were feeling and/or you couldn’t be totally honest because surely no one else has such an imperfect life?  I am guessing and fairly confident that I am not the only one.

I am not the only one who has forgotten to brush her kids’ teeth before sending them to bed.

I am not the only one who has had moments when she felt that she didn’t like certain children at the time.

I am not the only one who has left a counter full of dirty dishes before wearily falling onto her bed.

I am not the only one whose children threw a hysterical fit at the doctor’s office.

I am not the only one who has tried almost every discipline suggestion for certain behavioral issues, but none of them worked.

I am not the only one who has been so touched, bumped, fought over by kids, that she doesn’t want any more physical contact for the rest of the day.

I am not the only one who has worn pajamas past lunch time (when I had two little ones under 18 months and for a short time).

I am not the only one who has dust bunnies that seem to procreate as often as their animal equivalents or maybe more.

I am not the only one who would be totally embarrassed on some days if you showed up unexpectedly because the house is really that messy!

I am not the only one who considers a true vacation to be one that doesn’t involve cooking, cleaning, or laundry.

I am not the only one who has to apologize to her children many times for speaking too harshly.

I am not the only one who has to start her day with much prayer in order to live as she ought.

I am not the only one whose child has run away from her in a public setting.

I am not the only one who isn’t sure if she is making the right decision when it comes to vaccinations, diet, health, etc…

I am not the only one who struggles with balancing compassion with firmness.

I am not the only one who has greeted her husband at the door with no supper and none in the works.

I am not the only one who has thought that tears were a weakness, and it’s better to hold it all together.  When in reality, I am bottling frustrations inside, and it would be better if I cried instead.

I am not the only one who wishes she could take a “sick day” at times too.

I am not the only one who doesn’t enjoy crafts.

I am not the only one who wishes she was more creative and could make more things from scratch.

I am not the only one who struggles with feelings of being a failure as a mom at times.

I am not the only one who has threatened to send her children to public school instead of homeschooling them (not that public school is all bad — just not our choice for the present for our children).

I am not the only one who has felt overwhelmed.

I am not the only one who doesn’t have all the answers to her children.

I am not the only one who has felt like someone else could do a much better job raising her children.

I am not the only one who has been shown that in all the messiness of life and real living … in all it’s imperfection, grace — so much abundant grace has been given!

I am not the only one who laughs with delight to watch her children play at the park, who takes joy in making a meal that the whole family liked, who remembered to walk in that grace before speaking a harsh word.

I am not the only who sees my own unworthiness, but sees that the greater the need, the greater is the opportunity for God’s grace to be revealed!

Sometimes, it’s nice to know we are not alone.  Turning our eyes off ourselves helps us to see that there are so many others just like us, searching and seeking hope and grace.

Because of God’s grace, we are not alone!

“Christ asks you for nothing

Come just as you are;

Come sinful, come guilty,

Come give Him your heart.”

— Anon

Is There Truth?

I recently read Nietzsche’s quote: “There is no truth, there is only interpretation.”  I thought his quote provided for interesting dialogue on the matter of truth — if there is truth and what does that mean.  So, if you can tolerate my verbosity, I thought I would share some thoughts with you:

I find this statement by Nietzsche a contradiction in itself. How can Nietzsche make a definite statement if there is no truth? If we can only interpret, then his statement may or may not have credibility. We just have to interpret it how we wish. 🙂 Interpretations can get a little sketchy.

In another language, depending on how I translate, I could be asking someone if they are fat instead of full. Of course, you may be interpreting his statement to mean something totally different than anyone else because afterall there is no truth just interpretation. I guess that means we agree with others if they interpret things the way we do. We disagree if their interpretation is different. Then again, if there is no truth to our interpretations, our interpretations themselves are subjective. Phrases become random and incoherent at this point. But wait, we interpret based on the way we perceive truth or the definition of something to be. In that case, interpretation is how we define truth to be for that object, situation. The question then arises on what do we define truth? What is our criteria for our interpretations? Are they random? Based on whim? Based on opinions? Based on preferences? Based on our personality? Based on our life experiences? Based on what’s popular? Based on beliefs?

If we say based on beliefs? Then we are adhering to a form of what we consider truth. Beliefs are based on what we have defined/decided is truth. To believe a quote to be true means that we do adhere to a certain measurement of truth. The question is are we honest in our perception of truth, or are we trying to put our own interpretations upon truth? Do we seek truth, or do we seek interpretations for life? What is most meaningful and helpful?

I think what has to be established here is the difference between what is a matter of truth and error and what is merely a matter of preference.  For example, one might say they like mushrooms and another might argue that they don’t.  In this case, neither is right or wrong in liking or disliking mushrooms.  But, what if the one was arguing that they liked a certain type of mushroom, and another was arguing they shouldn’t like that mushroom because it is poisonous.  The first person might insist that liking the mushroom is fine, and then proceed to eat it.  Within a short time, that person dies from liver malfunction due to the toxicity of the mushroom.  In this case, it was wrong for the first person to like the mushroom.  The key is determining whether our likes are merely preferences or whether they have encroached upon that which is now dangerous to our well-being due to the “wrongness” of it. 

I believe you would agree that there are absolutes — absolutes in every area of life.  There are absolutes in science, physics, chemistry, engineering, architectural engineering, languages, math, and so on.  If we don’t adhere to these absolutes, we would have chemical compounds exploding, people being poisoned (pharmacist not mixing compounds correctly), buildings collapsing, electrical fires…  If there are absolutes in every area of life, does it not make sense that there would be absolutes in beliefs and morals as well? 

If we are establishing our own definitions of truth/defining our own truth, how do we prevent our definition from encroaching on another’s?  What happens when one’s opinions are different from another’s?  Another may decide that truth for them is that their actions are not an injustice.  If we establish our own truth, we do whatever we feel like, believe whatever we feel like.  If truth can be decided by each individual, why is rape, human trafficking, genocide, child molestation wrong?  Have not the perpetrators of these crimes decided that they are not obligated to adhere to any solid form of truth — that they have no responsibility to it?  Social injustice means nothing if there isn’t a standard that defines what injustice is.  To call something wrong, we have to acknowledge there is an established standard to define it.  Otherwise, my wrong isn’t wrong because it might not agree with your wrong.  There can be no offense — no evil — if there is no truth.  Why have police?  Why have a judicial system if there are no truths and therefore no errors in conduct?  By denying that there is truth, we feed into the very lies that perpetrate error as truth and thereby permit such evil.

People misinterpret truth – claim an evil to be truth.  Truth hasn’t changed; instead, a person’s interpretation veered from truth and became error.  Interpretation was the error – not truth.

How are laws for social justice established?  By the majority?  Does the majority decide truth?  What happens when the majority goes wrong?  What happens is the Holocaust, slavery, genocides, etc…   If we can each decide on our own definitions of truth — if that is what we really mean when we say we choose our own truth — we are becoming our own gods.  This leads to selfishness and pride.

What if the source of truth comes outside of one’s self?  I would argue that truth is true to itself – not to a person or a person’s own definition.  Otherwise, there is no truth – only people’s own opinions and whims.

We may decide that the fruit we hold in our hand is a strawberry.  Someone else may decide it’s a Crabapple.  What we decide to call/define it does not change the nature of the object.

What defines who we are?  Our names.  Our finger prints.  Our DNA.  Our birth-dates.  Our social security #’s.  Our personalities.  Someone may try to say we are someone else, but their preference does not affect who we really are.  Truth defines itself.  That is how we have security.  That is how we can speak with authority – by knowing there are absolutes.

Apathy and complacency are the results of an arbitrary line of truth.  A society that establishes its own varieties of truth breeds apathy.  There is no remorse where there is no recognition of wrong-doing – a truth established outside of oneself.

The question is do we seek to find what is truth — apart from ourselves and anyone else?  If truth is outside of ourselves, then we have a responsibility to discern and heed it. 

“Freeze Frames of Thanks”

I recently read a quote that I just love in one of my favorite books, One Thousand Gifts: “…unfolding of a chronicle of grace, our life story in freeze frames of thanks.”  I loved the metaphor!

Just as a camera zooms and then focuses in on a moment of life and then captures it to preserve for future remembrance, so we too can train our hearts to focus in on each detail of life/those moments of grace and then capture them in “freeze frames of thanks.”

How do we capture these moments when life seems so fleeting?  How do we treasure and “freeze” these moments of grace to recall in future remembrance?

How do we even stop to savor, to touch, to breathe, to listen?

Another quote from the same book I previously referenced said, “…the busyness of your life leaving little room for the source of your life … God gives us time.  And who has time for God? …Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me.  I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry.  But a thousand broken and missed things … lie in the wake of all the rushing…  I thought I was making up time.  It turns out I was throwing it away … in our rushing … we break our own lives.  Haste makes waste … The hurry makes us hurt.  And maybe it is the hurt that drives us on?  …The longer I keep running, the longer the gash, and I drain, bleed away.  Hurry always empties the soul. …The real problem of life is never a lack of time.  The real problem of life — in my life — is lack of thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks — take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks — and He miraculously makes it more than enough. …I am mother-tired, but when my soul doth magnify, my time doth magnify. …when I swell with thanks and weigh the moment down … it’s giving thanks to God… that multiplies the moments, time made enough.  I am thank-full.   I am time-full.”

So in these moments of real life, I seek to capture/to focus on each picture of grace — moments of grace that only a heart of thanksgiving can fully see.  It is this focus that captures, that magnifies the grace and then helps me to see its Source. 

What about all the pain too?  What about the sin?  What about my own sin?  Do I gloss over the pain, the tragedies, the darkness in my heart?  Again, the book I am reading wrote, “Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living. … in the vein and the visceral: life is loss.”  It’s true, isn’t it?!  The more my senses are amplified, the more I see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.  Life isn’t just a “Pollyanna moment.”  It’s pregnant with both joy and pain.  Yet, this life is still a gift.  It is a measurement of my heart.  It is the only legacy I will “write.”

How do I reconcile the pain with the joy? 

Does the joy negate the pain?  No.  I believe the pain though can be the dark lines that contrast the beauty of the lighter colors.  In photography, it takes the perfect balance of light and darkness/contrasts to produce a replica of a moment in all its fullest beauty.  I feel the pain.  I see the pain.  Yet, to fully live, to fully love, I also see the joy and feel the joy.  I learn to “zoom in” on the minutest details of each moment of grace with a mind-set/heart-set of thanksgiving. 

With the “lens” of grace, I pause/I “weigh down” life’s moments with thanksgiving and feel the joy.  Here are just a few of those moments from me over the past few days:

103. Baby sleeping 8 hours straight

104. Husband letting me sleep in

105. Breakfast in bed

106.  Pattering of little feet across the floor below

107. Warm shower

108.  Baby kisses

109. Laundry tumbling in wash machine

113.  Fellowship with friends

120. Bills paid

125. Jonathan’s love note

127. Playing games with my boys

130. Pristine snow… freshly falling, blanketing the earth

143. Footprints in the snow

157. Warm, tapioca fluff

186. Heart-shaped Dunkin’ Donuts for everyone

191. My kids allowing me to sleep in

196. Dancing and singing with my kids in the driveway last night … doing the unexpected

198. Boys who still ask me to sit with them on Wednesday night song times

199. Boys who jostle me, trying to fit on my lap while I read stories

200. With laughter, watching my boys pull their sister around on a toy truck

202. Playing Checkers with Will

203. Personalized Valentine card from Husband

204. The little ways he romances me, like taking a straw wrapper to form my name

205. Newly-framed pictures of my family on walls

I am learning…  still learning, but this “heart-set” is helping me to see how each breath I take is full of grace!

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Taken By Surprise!

If you had asked me 12 years ago where I would be today, I don’t think I would have given you an answer that looks anything like what my life is like.  I had dreams, but life is often so very different than what we imagine.

I did dream of marriage and motherhood so I am not too far off those hopes.  I don’t think that I ever imagined having such busy boys and more boys than girls.  I didn’t picture how difficult it would be to be the loving, patient, wise mother I saw in my dreams.

I also imagined myself married to a type-A personality man and just different…  I still remember the time though when I first met my husband.  I did notice his bright blue eyes.  I also noticed his politeness.  I still remember the first time we really talked.  I remember how he had a gift of getting others to talk, quietly asking questions and getting them to talk about themselves.  I remember noticing his hands: strong, long, clean — perfect for wiping away tears, cradling a baby, cupping a cheek, brushing hair…  I remember prior to meeting him, my momma told me to be open to God’s leading, to not limit myself to specific outward trappings.  “Sure, Mom.”  I really didn’t think it would happen — that I would meet my future spouse.

I still remember how he called me right after that weekend, how we talked for more than an hour.  I remember the respect he showed me and glimpses into the heart of a man that was starting to become God’s man.

I still remember when that man proposed to me, how tears filled his eyes.  I remember how excited and yet nervous I was.  It was such a huge commitment, and I knew my man was human.

I remember our wedding day.  The flowers were so beautiful.  The music.  The guests.  The tulle.  The ribbons.  The carriage.  It was all such a dream.  I remember my dad reaching up to hold my hand, to walk me down the aisle.  “Are you ready?”  Was I really ready?  Could one totally be ready?

Then there were those vows.  His were personally written.  So tender.  So protective.  So mature.  So reverent.  He got down on one knee.  Those azure blue eyes gazed at me so full of love and tears.  He paused, voice clogged with tears.  He continued to recite some of the most beautiful wedding vows to ever be written.  Many from the audience would talk about them for years to come.

Then, there was the kiss.  It was our first kiss, saved ’til we truly were man and wife.  With such tenderness, he gently cupped my face in his hands … those hands I had known earlier would be perfect for this.  With exquisite gentleness and almost reverence our lips melded.  When he finally drew back, I felt bereft and melted into him.  Sensing my vulnerability, he was gentle but strong.  That night, he showed me the depths of what it means to give in love rather than take.  I was his rare gift, and he let me know it.  I was his princess.  He was my knight.

We loved with joyous abandon.  There were no regrets, only delight!  No comparisons… Only discovery.  The months passed, and challenges came our way.  I questioned at times.  The years passed.  My man continued to grow in maturity and godliness.  I began to fall in love all over again… watching him hold our babies, his selflessness, his gentleness, his leadership, his serving…  He wasn’t afraid to hold my hair back as I threw up in the toilet.  He wasn’t afraid to help me get a shower right after giving birth to a baby.  He wasn’t afraid to clean up the bloody mess from giving birth.  He wasn’t afraid to love me when I was grumpy.

I am so blessed to have found the right kind of man and to have learned what true love is!   Such love exceeds the boundaries of words in describing it.  Such love is exquisite in its tenderness, in its beauty, in its vulnerability, in its service, in its selflessness, in its humility, in its kindness, in its transparency, in its oneness. True loves transcends past the passion to the promises that are wrapped up in the gifts of living our love every day.  …Beauty in its rarest form! How amazing this thing called love is!

Those hands that I have always loved have caught me by surprise!  As they wiped a dirty bottom, swept a floor, washed dishes, held my hands while encouraging me during agonizing contractions, cradled my face, wiped my tears, swung me around in his arms, carried our babies, chased our boys … in those hands, my heart has been captured … true love has taken me by surprise!  True love is not a confining/controlling thing — rather it is freedom … exhilarating when offered with joyous abandon!

So My Kids Are Incredibly Creative

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I just love how creative kids can be!  I give them a lot of freedom to play, create, and craft as they like.  I am surprised sometimes at how much the boys love crafts.  I think it’s adorable how they love to make gifts, cards, games, etc… for the other members of the family.  They then love for us to go on a hunt and to find their creations.

This afternoon, Drew made a maze game for everyone.  He made little paper people and then rules for the game.  His rules were “Take turns.”  So cute!

Will made a game too that has a whole list of rules.  I loved all the funny spellings, but I could understand what he was trying to say.

Luke decided to make a dinosaur from a styrofoam bowl.  I was very impressed by how he decided to create his dinosaur.  If you look at the picture I am going to include, you will see the beginnings of his dinosaur.  I think his creativity is impressive!

Tonight, the boys had us go on a hunt to find all the Valentines they had created for us.  We found their gifts in the microwave, freezer, fridge, behind the fish tank, etc…  Each of their gifts were exclaimed over and received with great joy.  I love how the boys are learning to give generously and by using their own creativity.

We recently had friends over, and I was impressed at how the boys went through their toys and found books, stuffed animals, and other toys to give to their friends.  One of my sons even gave away a Christmas present we had given to him to his uncle at Christmas.  My eyes were a bit misty when I recognized this desire to share their very best with others.  Sometimes, they are so generous I have to reign them in a bit, or they’ll give away things we need.  🙂

Watching my children use their imaginations reminds me of those happy care-free days of my own childhood.  I can still remember vividly how real our play seemed.  It was almost as if we could taste the salty breeze and feel the wind whipping sails on our imaginary journeys.  I am so glad that my kids will have their own memories of imaginative play to recall.  How precious these “short” years are when my boys are still so little and my baby is still cradled in my arms!

Today’s Moments of Grace

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Here are all the moments of grace that I recorded for today:

1.  Plump pillows

2. Warm blankets

3. Soft mattress

4. Smiling baby, happy to see me

5. Milk to fill her tummy … the ability to nurse, to nourish

6. Cuddling kids

7. Children dressed for the day and beds made — without my reminders

8. Breakfast prepared by loving, little hands

9. Peaceful mornings

10. A floor freshly mopped last night

11. Soft words dispelling disagreements

12. Husbands’ fleece hoodie, pulled on for warmth

13. A child who asks for a verse on anger to memorize

14. Smooth wooden table … the grain beautifully seen

15. Clean counters

16. Freshly washed window panes

17. Eyes, the color of the skies, gazing out the window in infant innocence as I rock her

18. Rocking chair, cradling my baby and I

19. Boys quietly working on school papers

20. Surrounded by my boys as I read several books to them

21. Hearing the words “please” , unprompted

22. A 7-month old who looks up from her play to wave in delight at me

23. A mug of creamy ice cream … mint and chocolate brownie

24. Beautiful bindings of books to read, filling library shelves

25. Rice cereal smeared on Baby’s face

26. A big brother lovingly feeding her

27. Five hours of uninterrupted sleep

28. Quiet contentment

29. School completed for the day

30. Children cheerful and playing kindly

31. Flag waving in the breeze

32. Patches of blue sky through the puffy clouds

33. Parks for my rambunctious boys to play

34. Soft leather of my journal that my fingers gently caress as I open its pages

35. Words replete with meaning … the ability to write

36. Boys with strong legs that propel them across the playground and up the ladders of the slides

37. An invitation to chase my son

38. Fluffy towels to dry off after my shower

39. Silky conditioner, fragrant wash, creamy shampoo, pampering me

40. Boys with great imaginations, designing Star Wars characters and snowmen from styrofoam cups

41. The wind blowing, speaking of things unseen yet present

42. Tulips and daffodils poking their leafy stalks from the confines of Earth … reminders that life always follows death to self

43. Laughter and squeals of delight as I race up the ladders and down the slides with my kids … child-like joy and abandonment of adult cares

44. Sleeping baby resting in her warm car-seat

45. Strong arms to twirl my children in the air

46. The pounding of feet across mulch as the chase is on

47. Cold children with rosy cheeks and noses

48. Creative children, imagining they’re pirates or fighting them … the beginnings of manhood — this desire to conquer, to succeed, to protect, to explore, to create

49. Cold children returning to their Mama for warmth and comfort

50. Cups of hot tea, warming my insides and steaming my windows

51. Hard, cold kernels heated and popped open.  Fluffy, white insides revealed, warmed with drizzled butter … a tasty treat on a cold afternoon

52. Little toy cars flying across my kitchen floor, reminding me that there is life here — young life

53. Crimson, velvet petals … sweet fragrance … roses reposing on my table … gift from my husband just because, a few days ago

54. Husband arrives home from work … greeted with a kiss

55. Kiss … full lips, soft, firm, pliant, receptive, cherished!

56. Aromas of homemade garlic Alfredo sauce, simmering on my stove … tender pasta, shrimp, vegetables

57. Baby giggles as Daddy holds her while chasing older brothers around the house … wild squeals of delight

58. Classical music serenading … preparing for dinner … soothing music for our digestion, preparing my soul to receive its own nourishment

59. Matches waiting to strike … candles waiting to be lit

60. Warm glow of candle-light … that which was hard and dark now alight, glowing, melting, flickering, warming … Set me aflame as well, Lord, with your presence, melting warming, alighting that which was not

61. Table set by a little boy’s hands, helping, loving

62. Valentines designed by creative sons … their own initiative … paper hearts representing hearts beating with life … representatives and manifestations of love — God’s love, pulsating with love and joy in beholding life: that which comes from Him

63. Four children snuggled around us while Daddy reads God’s Word, a devotional book, and a story

64. Soft, pink boots held in Baby’s pudgy hands … a gift from Daddy to daughter

65. Children tucked under covers

66. Husband studying late into the evening

67. House quiet … only sounds within are from radiators, pouring forth their heat

68. Full glass of water, sparkling, awaiting my parched lips to take a sip … reminding me of another kind of water offered to quench my spiritual thirst, to loose the dried up/empty parts of my soul and to restore and reinvigorate them.  This glass of water, this taste of Divine refreshment, this fountain of joy … none other than grace … flowing from His presence, nourishing, replenishing my soul … restoring joy to that which was parched but is now re-energized/refreshed!

My Right-Hand Men

This past week, I have washed very few dishes, unloaded only a few dishes from the dishwasher, folded only a few items of laundry, set very few tables, and cleaned very few tables.  My little “right-hand” men have done it all!  It’s been great to see them unload my dishwasher, set the table, clear the table, fold laundry, and load the dishwasher.  For the most part, the attitudes have all been good too.

Before you think my kids are too angelic, let me say that we gave them extra chore lists since we have been struggling with a certain behavioral issue.  The chore lists were part of their punishment.  Until the jobs on their lists are all completed, there is no Wii or movies.  The boys haven’t seemed to miss the T.V. too much (movies and Wii), and my work is getting done a lot faster.  I kind of like this!  In fact, I like it so much, my husband and I decided that once their punishment lists are completed, we are going to assign them some more regular chores and then bonus chores.  The boys have to finish their regular chores before attempting the bonus chores.  They can then get paid a set amount for the bonus chores.  I want the boys to learn that we don’t get paid for everything and for serving one another.  But, I also want them to have opportunity to learn the value of work, to be able to earn money, and to be able to save.  I think they’ll really like the idea.  Now, we just need to get them past the punishment charts.  If not, my house is staying a little neater, and I am getting to bed a little earlier than previously.