Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Next Room




Days like these, I wish I had been smart enough when my kids were smaller to buy one of those oversized rulers above that crafty people make out of reclaimed wood.

I wish I would have plunked down the money and ordered one or made one and recorded the progress of my sweet babies growing.

I wish I could have brought that thing with me and found a home for it in our new old farmhouse.

At the very least, I wish I would have thought to snap a photo of the small piece of wall that served as a measuring post in our former house.

Mostly I wish that time would freeze and let me catch my breath for a second.

This growing up stuff is wrecking havoc on the emotional well-being of this momma.

Tonight I watched my eldest daughter transform from a child to a full-fledged babysitter.

It was bound to happen someday.

I just can't believe someday is...now.

It happened as nonchalantly as the tule fog has been rolling in lately to surround our farmhouse.

I was chatting with a friend about an event coming up and she mentioned she had been thinking about asking my daughter to babysit. Coincidentally, my daughter had been asking me if she could start babysitting. My friend and I both started babysitting at her age, so it was a valid request. While I was processing through that, I started to reminisce with my friend about my inglorious first solo babysitting gig,

It was a disaster.

For the first time, I had to make food on my own for someone else. Box mac n' cheese. I ended up ruining the first batch because I put the powder in with the boiling noodles. And then the kids went psycho crazy. It's like they could sense my nervousness. I ended up calling my mom crying because the kids weren't listening to me and frankly, I was scared.

She came over and laid down some magic mom law and those kids shaped up and went to bed without a fuss.

Eventually, I figured it out. Things got easier.

But as I talked about that episode with my friend, I had a brilliant idea. What if we babysat together? What if we showed up together, got all the info, worked together to make dinner (and yes, we made Mac n' Cheese and yes I made sure she knew how to wait on the cheese powder), and then what if I left for an hour or so and let her do it on her own. I would be close by with my phone if she needed me, but far enough away for her to have some independence and gain some confidence?

So, that's what we did.

I left Hayden with the toddler happily finishing his dinner and her setting out art supplies to work on with his five-year-old sister. I gave her some pointers on when to start bath time and what should happen while I was gone.

And then I left.

And I drove to Starbucks, ordered a drink and read some stuff I had been meaning to read. I didn't worry. I didn't look at the time (too much). I just enjoyed some peace and quiet.

After about 45 minutes, I finished my drink, gathered my stuff and headed back.

My daughter was just finishing up bath time with the five-year-old and making silly faces at the toddler who was wearing a bowl on his head and playing peekaboo. Everything was calm. Everything was fine.

I jumped in to help transition one child out of the bath and another one into it. I resisted the urge to take over and tell her what to do (mostly). I watched her help get the five-year-old dressed in her pajamas, comb out her hair, help her brush her teeth, help feed her fish, help console her when they realized that one had died (so sad), and then get into bed.

I marveled at how she was able to take the toddler who has struggled with going to sleep, and get him down on her first try.

As we tidied up the house together (one of my tried and trues of being an awesome babysitter -- leaving the house cleaner than when you arrived), I watched her taking mental notes of things and even literally watched her do dishes as I sat on the couch and read (I could get used to this).

And I was proud. So momma proud of my little (big) girl.

However, there was a part (a tiny but loud part) of me that was sad. Because time is moving faster than I ever could have imagined when I held her in my arms over twelve years ago.

My girl who "had so much fun playing with the kids tonight" is still a kid in many ways herself. But she is almost as tall as me. She can wear my clothes. And she has her own Starbucks card which she used to reward herself for a job well done.

She sipped her coffee and announced, "I feel like a teenager. I earned my own money. I am drinking my own coffee. Soon...I'll be driving."

I choked a bit on my own drink at that.

It's the one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood that is tearing up a piece of a my heart.

But it's a rite of passage that is as important as time itself.

Our little ones grow into people who aren't so little. And while I may mourn the layer of childhood that Hayden shed tonight, I am more touched and excited to see what a wonderful nurturing young woman she has grown into. I was privileged to fast-forward a bit and have a glimpse into the future of her days as a mother herself.

And she will be so good at it.

"Don't worry about spilling your milk. It's okay. Everyone does it."

"Don't be sad about your fish dying. He's going to heaven. It will be okay."

"Don't be scared. Let's pray and ask God to be with you...and I'll be in the other room if you need me."

And maybe that's what makes it all a bit more okay in my momma heart tonight. She may go on to babysit without me. She may go away to college. She will undoubtedly have children of her own.

That's the way of things, I know.

But I also know that I will always be her mom. And as long as I have breath within me, I, too, will always and forever be in the "other room" if and when she needs me.

Hayden, age 12, babysitter extraordinaire

Friday, January 23, 2015

An Anchor for Our Soul



Recently during this month of Soul Dare, I blogged about yearning for more time to dig in deeper with God. I even mentioned that a week at a convent would be heaven right about now. In my mind, this would be the perfect answer to the stack of books that is calling my name and all of the deep thoughts that I have wanted to ponder,

Alas, convent life is not in the picture for me right now. I live smack dab in the middle of bustling life. And it's a good thing I do, or I would have missed a wonderful visit from a dear kindred this past weekend.

Lori and I have been friends for almost thirty years.

Wow.

How is it possible that much time has gone by?

Lori and I met one summer at conference for pastors in our denomination. As daughters of pastors, we got to go to a special class of our own and although the details are a bit hazy after so many years, we met each other and the rest is history.

Actually, it so easily might not have been history.

I  have met plenty of people in my life on an airplane, in a store, at camp, etc. And while we had a connection and shared conversation, that was the one and only time our paths intersected.

But not with Lori.

That spark of connection -- I believe it was a "deep calls to deep" thing really -- grew into something as over the years we exchanged letters (the snail mail way before email existed), traveled to each other's home towns without our parents (she on a Greyhound bus and me in a car with family friends headed her way), found each other at youth camps and conventions and hung out, and basically stayed in touch with each other.

For almost thirty years.

At this point in my life, I can count on one hand the number of friends I have had that long and still have an active friendship with -- let alone can say I can be transparent and go deep with.


So suffice it to say that I treasure Lori's friendship.

It would take another blog to talk about the ways that God has allowed us to intersect each other's lives during times when we really needed it and I believe, in a way that no one else could.

After all, who better to understand the unique challenges and joys of being a pastor's kids but another pastor's kid?

Lori has been that friend to me.

And recently, Lori has walked alongside of me through a time of waiting for God to answer a prayer and dream of ours to move to a bigger house in the country.

She has been a faithful friend and cheerleader reminding me of the goodness of God and His perfect timing. A writer herself (among many other talents), she posted something I had written during this time of waiting on her blog. She cried with me over it and when God finally answered that prayer, she rejoiced with me over it.

So when she messaged me and asked if I were free this weekend to hang out and that she would drive up six hours from Escondido to see the new place, I cleared the proverbial calendar. Okay...I literally cleared it. And I believe God helped me to make this weekend happen. I've never been able to reschedule something or find a replacement so easily.

So when Lori pulled up Friday afternoon, I rushed outside to save her from puppy kisses greet her. And when we met up on my charming wooden porch that I've blogged and rejoiced about before, Lori had tears in her eyes. We hugged and it was "a moment."

(Lori...thank you for those tears. They were precious to me.)

Later she told me that she had turned down my street and caught her first glimpse of the farmhouse when Be Thou My Vision started to play in her car and she remembered (amazingly) that it is one of my favorite hymns.

Cue tears of joy.

As we walked inside, I babbled on excitedly as I led her on a tour of the house and all the outbuildings and trees and probably a wealth of minutiae that she graciously allowed. After we had toured everything and were back inside the cozy kitchen, she remarked on a sign that is hanging in our bedroom and where I had gotten it, etc.

I told her about how I choked back tears one Sunday morning during worship as we sang, Cornerstone, that has the words of the wonderful hymn The Solid Rock within its melody and lyrics. And okay, I didn't choke back tears so much as spitting them out of my eyes furiously when we got to the stanza,

"In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil."

I shared with Lori how repeating that refrain, "my anchor holds within the veil" became a silent vow from that moment on as the tumultuous journey of selling our house and finding our dream property sputtered on.

I told her about how I had always assumed that this verse cited my anchor holding within the v-a-l-e (a meadow or dale with a stream running through it,....ah, peaceful vale), rather than in the V-E-I-L (that which signified entering the Holy of Holies).

When I thought that through, of my peace being anchored in relationship with Him, it rocked my world even further. So when we moved into our farmhouse, I asked a friend to make me a sign with those specific words on it.



We both had a moment with that thought and then it was dinner time. We ate, we talked, we reminisced. We laughed. We went to bed and got up and enjoyed coffee, biscuits and some delicious handmade jams she had brought. We got dressed and made a beeline for my favorite little shop that recently expanded to a bigger location. I knew Lori would love it and sure enough, she did. She ended up buying metal letters that spelled out HOPE -- a word of hers for this season. We browsed antique shops (we both love old things) and had lunch at the tea house.

We shared more about life and what was going on with us on a deeper level. And I got to hear more of a Grand Dream that Lori is dreaming -- one that I can now encourage her through and towards. I can't wait to see God continue to lay out all the details He has so lovingly ordained.

Shortly, we had a great time. We headed back to the farm and for some reason, I had this desire to make comfort food while she was here, so I was making flaky pie crusts for chicken pot pie and quiche for the next morning while she told me about essential oils (a new business venture for her and a new interest for me).

Quiche is my new favorite and this is a mini version of the pot pie I made

All too soon, it was time to go to bed. Lori would be leaving the next day, but we had planned a special morning. Sunday morning came early and I got out my grandmother's linens she bought in Paris in the 1950's. I selected one place setting of each of my glass snack tray and cup sets. Then I warmed the scones we had taken to go from the tea house, steeped the tea (aptly called "Breakfast in Paris", no less) and set the table.


Lori takes amazing photos and even takes it to the next level by using a fun photo app to add character to them. So we enjoyed our breakfast a la Paris, looking at the white wonderland of fog outside. At some point, my eldest daughter stumbled out of the bedroom and joined us for some tea and quiche. It struck me then that Lori and I were her age when we met and the enormity of all that has happened in our lives since then amazed me. We played snippets of White Heart songs and hummed some refrains from other artists we liked back then.

I packed up a dozen farm fresh eggs from our hens for Lori to take home and then we were off to church.

And then the crying began.

Have you ever had God just let loose with a stream of focused attention that leaves you breathless and awed before Him?


This is what happened to my beautiful, transparent friend.

From the very first song sung to the last, to the sermon topic and beyond, God quietly rocked Lori's world and I got to be there to watch it all go down.

It was almost too much.

The Kleenex flowed....and it was good.

One song in particular struck us both. Hope's Anthem which has been "my song" for awhile. I love it.

My hope is in you, Lord
I am steadfast, I will not be moved
An anchor, never changing
All my hope is in you...

It's a beautiful song. When we sat down, we compared notes about that song and I whispered to Lori that a scripture of this had come to my attention awhile back. We found it in Hebrews 6:19:

"This hope we have as anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil."


Now if you have been paying attention, you might see some words pop at you. The sight of them together in one verse brings tears to my eyes even now.

"This HOPE we have as ANCHOR of the SOUL, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the VEIL."

In short, God took my sign about the anchor of my soul holding within the veil, and put it together with Lori's word, HOPE.

Only He could do that.

Only He could orchestrate a weekend that we both desperately needed and put within it a farm, a virtual visit to Paris, a walk down memory lane, an anchor, a veil and Hope.

Only He could orchestrate two twelve-year-old pastor's kids from southern California meeting up in the middle of the United States and seeing in each other something deep that was calling.

And after all the laughter and tears and farewells and returns to our separate lives, only He could put this journal in my friend's path as she browsed in Target.


By the time she texted this photo to me, we were both laughing at the lengths God was going to in order to speak to Lori and yes, even to me.

I'm so thankful for a God who pursues us and comforts us in our sadness and confusion and the "not yet" for which we dream.

I'm thankful for that anchor I have in Him...steadfast and secure.

I'm also thankful for an almost-thirty-year friendship that has anchored me in a way that I'm not sure I was aware of until this weekend.

Which leads me to another scripture I clung to as I dreamed my BIG dream and waited for God to fulfill it. It's something I am passing on to Lori as she dreams her BIG dream. Here you go, my friend:

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory..." (Ephesians 3:20-21a)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Soul Dare: Day Whatever



 
 It was bound to happen at some point.

The practice of actually living life intersected my desire to blog every single day during this time of Soul Dare.

Part of me feels bad about this.

I wish I had the fortitude to set my alarm at a dark hour and rise up and complete my quiet time and then write about it for another hour.

I am actually a bit jealous of a friend who is able to survive and thrive on five hours of sleep each night. The things she can and does accomplish before the rest of the world awakens is astounding.

However, part of me understands that this is part of the tug of war I will always fight between my spirit and my physical body.

What I was able to do the last week before our enrichment classes started became infinitely harder once they began again. I intended to continue my quiet time and post later in the day or at night. But there was always something. Or I was just too mentally worn out to do it.

And while I'm a little sorry about it, I'm just glad that I have been able to (mostly) get up and do my quiet time every morning.

After all, this is what this Soul Dare is all about.


The dare to go dig deeper, go further, and love richer is all centered in carving out that quiet time with me and God. 



This is what is important.

Telling you what I feel is important...well, is less so.

Something that hasn't changed? Wishing I had more hours and time in the day to complete everything I want to read, write and meditate on.

I added in homework from our Tuesday Morning Bible Study. So now I'm also studying 1, 2 & 3 John. In addition, I seem to keep finding books I want to read like All In and The Best Yes and Own Your Life.

For the first time in my life, I wish I could check myself into a convent for a week and just dig deeper.

Alas, convent life is not in the picture for me right now. And so I will continue this war with my spirit and my flesh and an endless stack of books and devotional guides apparently. However, after so many years of not really even having the desire to have this quiet time (just being honest here), I am grateful for this struggle.

Here's where I am these days as we chug toward the station at the end of January.

I have been enjoying working on the January Joy Dare and adding to my 1000 Gifts.


I have been loving the prompts she has for each day for three gifts to jot down. It's added some much needed gratitude time in my morning quiet time.

I have also created a Prayer Journal out of a cheapo composition book and the remainder of the Duck tape that I used on my Daily Journal. The part of me that loves organization and uniformity was very pleased to have these two things that will always be a reminder of what God does in my heart in 2015.



I am using it to list prayer requests with a check box and the date and room to write how God answers each prayer and when He does.

I am also using it to write out prayers in the Psalms and the prayers of my own heart. I have to say that I am also thrilled that God inspired me yet again (the daily journal was last year) with another tool to draw closer to Him. It's like he wants me to spend time with him! (What will he show me NEXT year???)

And lest you think I'm only adding things to my own Soul Dare list, I'll be honest and admit that I am not doing everything I intended. While I love Ann Voskamp's Sanity Manifesto and Daily Planner, I have not got in the rhythm of using them.

I also decided to drop the liturgical readings in my Mosaic Bible since I realized that I am back where I started reading them last year. Since there is so much else to read, I decided to spend my time elsewhere.

Jesus Calling remains and My Utmost for His Highest remains. I might get to the point where I feel like I've circled around again and am reading something I've already read. But, I haven't gotten there yet. Especially when I get my socks knocked off by what I read today by Mr. Chambers.


Wow.

If you have been following the Daily Walk Bible plan, then you will have recently read The Sermon on the Mount and Jesus' other teachings in Matthew 5. And you will be amazed at how Mr. Chambers boils down that chapter to its essence

"The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is, in effect -- Narrow all our interests until the attitude of mind and heart and body is concentration on Jesus Christ.
'Look unto Me.' "
And this is the essence of Soul Dare 2015 -- the very same thing in fact. However, you determine to do it and whatever that looks like for you.

Look unto Him.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Soul Dare: Day 8


Bible Time 


Genesis 15-16, Psalm 6 and Matthew 6 


Today's scripture readings contain some of my favorite passages.

Genesis 15:1-6 - After the Lord promised Abram some pretty amazing (and seemingly far-fetched) things, Abram responds in a way that I would love to be said of me:

"And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith." (vs. 6)

As they continue conversing, Abram gets to a point where he has a hard time believing that some things God promises will come pass (v. 8). So God does something amazing and makes a covenant with Abram. I believe that this is he only other covenant made with an individual (the rainbow in the sky being for all humanity). What's more, he actually physically manifests Himself to pass through the blood of the carcasses to seal it (v.17)

This is a beautiful foreshadowing of the blood covenant He will one day make with the broken body of His son on the cross.

After reading this chapter so full of faith and promises, Chapter 16 is a hard pill to swallow reading about the story of Abram getting Sarai's maid, Hagar, pregnant to create the son God has promised. A lot has been said on the havoc this decision has wreaked on the world. It makes me wonder what happened in the time that has gone by between chapter 15 and 16 that would make Abram try to orchestrate His promise from God.

The remainder of Chapter 16 tells of Hagar's flight from Sarai's abuse and God meeting her in the desert of her desperation. One of my favorite scriptures of all times is found here in verse 13:

"You are the God who sees me."

--

Matthew 6 - Again, this is a well-known passage the contains that Lord's Prayers, instruction on fasting and prayer and an admonition to not worry over money or daily needs like food or clothing.What an amazing thing to read about fasting and prayer when I'm in that season.

However, what struck me the most today was what Jesus had to say about Money and Possessions in verses 19-34.

Even though I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world and I have more than one person or family could ever hope to need, I still find myself worrying about money and how our current squeaky budget will accommodate expenses that may come in the future.

So today it was great to read what Jesus had to say about this practice (nothing new under the sun here):

"That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-- whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing?" (vs. 25)...These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." (vs. 32-34)

I especially love that last line:

"Today's trouble is enough for today."

Isn't that the truth? I love how this goes along with the January Joy Dare to list three things I'm grateful for each day. This keeps my heart focused on what I do have and the joy and promise this day I'm living in holds. Thoughts of tomorrow just bring on anxiety and worry.

--

My reading in Jesus Calling today was wonderful. But this part stuck out to me the most:

"Hope is like a golden cord connection you to heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens...Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness."


It doesn't matter if it is Abram -- unsure of God's promise and covenant. It doesn't matter if it is Hagar, abused and scared hiding in the desert. It doesn't even matter if we are living a suburban life in the United States, or living on the edge of poverty in a third-world country.

God is the same God. He is the "God who sees" us -- no matter our circumstances. His exhortation to, "seek first His kingdom" and let Him provide the necessities rings true throughout the ages.

--

What has God been showing you as you dig deeper, go further and love richer during this Soul Dare? 


Also, please join me over on my Mosaic Momma Facebook page and share there or here what God is doing in your life

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Soul Dare: Day 7



Bible Time 


Genesis 13-14, Psalm 5 and Matthew 5 


Once again in today's reading in Genesis we pick up where we left off yesterday noting that Abram pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai. This morning he goes back to the same spot and pitches his tent once again and worships God.

It's from this place that he and Lot decide to separate camps since the land cannot support all of their livestock and people.

Genesis 13:8-13 - I always thought it was very generous of Abram to allow Lot to choose first. I'm assuming that as the patriarch, he probably deserved first pick. Yet, he steps aside and lets Lot have first draft pick. I guess it's no surprise that Lot choose what looked to be the best of the two choices. However, we find out later that although it looks lush and fertile on the surface, it belies the rot and decadence that is happening in this area. (vs. 13).

Perhaps this is a good warning that what looks good on the surface is not always the best choice. After all, we know that Canaan either is or becomes a beautiful piece of territory because it's where God sends his people after the Exodus from Egypt. It's known as "the land of milk and honey."

Without jumping ahead too far in the scriptures, we know what eventually happens to Sodom and Gomorrah. I think Abram got the far better deal here.

--

Psalm 5 - This entire Psalm is a beautiful prayer, but I especially love the blessing contained in the last few lines in verses 11-12:

"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sin joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
that all who love your name may be filled with joy.
For you bless the godly, O LORD;
you surround them with your shield of love."
--

Matthew 5 - I always enjoy reading the Sermon on the Mount and especially the Beatitudes and the Teaching about Salt and Light. However, this time, I got a little stuck on verse 17 and what followed after it:

"Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heave and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God's law will disappear until its purpose is achieved...unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!"

On first glance, I read this as Jesus saying all the same rules and regs apply as before, which was perplexing to me because I know that in many ways His birth as a man and then death on the cross was so that we could live without fear of not measuring up.

However, as I read a commentary about this passage and what Jesus is attempting to do as he gives specific examples of going beyond the law to love, I started to understand. The commentator wrote that what Jesus said could also be interpreted as this:

"I am not come to destroy the moral law, but to fulfill -- to establish, illustrate, and explain its highest meaning, both by my life and doctrine."

Again. I think Jesus was exposing our human tendency to try to tow the line and be a rule keeper so that we can feel good about ourselves and our place in Heaven. By talking about different Mosaic laws and teachings (Anger, Adultery, Divorce, Vows, Revenge and Hating/Loving Enemies) and showing how simply following the letter of the law is not enough, rather than following the spirit of the law.

Ultimately He is asking, "What would Love do in this situation?"

This is a good reminder for this girl who often takes a black or white view on things.  My willingness to love (or not) exposes my attitude and motivation.

Ouch.

--

My Utmost for His Highest snagged my attention in this passage:

"It is a joy to Jesus when a disciple takes time to step more intimately with Him. Fruit bearing is always mentioned as the manifestation of an intimate union with Jesus Christ."

Just like that, we are back to our familiar refrain: "Be fruitful and multiply." And then it all comes together. 

\In Matthew 5, Jesus was inviting the people to walk in relationship with Him and the Father -- not try to strictly follow some rule set as a way to gain favor and eternal life.

Somehow, in all the clamoring to trace lineage to Abraham and boasting about being his descendants, the Pharisees had missed the most important thing about being Abraham's heir. His legacy of worship and fellowship with God. 

What a wonderful reminder of our very great privilege to still have The Law to follow, but the close fellowship and discipleship of Jesus Christ and the Father to help us to not only keep that law, but to exceed it through a Loving Heart.

--

What has God been showing you as you dig deeper, go further and love richer during this Soul Dare? 


Also, please join me over on my Mosaic Momma Facebook page and share there or here what God is doing in your life




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Soul Dare: Day Six



Bible Time 


Genesis 11-12, Psalm 4 and Matthew 4 


This morning, my Bible Time took on a circular aspect that has me chuckling right now. It may seem a little convoluted, but stick with me.

Today we pick up where we left off yesterday keenly aware of the human condition of frailty and failings. It's no surprise that after a few years from the Great Flood and several rainstorms and rainbow later, that mankind wants to once again assert control and replace God's sovereignty. Thus we find ourselves at the Tower of Babel:


Genesis 11:4 - "This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world." (NLT)

Genesis 12:6 - "And the LORD said, 'Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.'" (KJV)

I honestly never really understood this story before. The NLT actually says, "after this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them." That word "impossible" always threw me because at first glance it looks like God is saying if that tower gets built, then they will have achieved God-status and they won't need Him anymore. However, knowing that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), I knew that He was not truly worried they would match His power.

So, what does it all mean? Today, I turned to a commentary for a bit of help and hear is what Matthew Henry had to say:

"God's purpose was, that mankind should form many nations, and people all lands."

So, the problem wasn't that God was worried that humanity might actually achieve diety-status. He was troubled by their motivation and their lack of obedience. Because what command has God given repeatedly over the past few days of scripture reading?"

"Be fruitful and multiply." 

Rather than spread out over the earth and have lots of children and build up clans and tribes, the people wanted to remain together in one place and form some sort of inbred collective.

And because they disobeyed and showed a strong aptitude to keep doing so, God "confused their language" and made it frustrating, impractical if not impossible to continue their cause.

Very interesting and intriguing for sure. So I closed Genesis and moved on to Psalm 4 and this verse was the one that caught my attention:

Psalm 4:5 - "Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust God."

Not especially "on point" but a good verse for me to mull over and memorize for today. And with that, I thumbed over to Matthew 4:

Matthew 4:1-11 - I find it very interesting that I am reading about Jesus fasting for 40 days and nights (wow!) when I just embarked upon a period of fasting myself. Of course, this caused me to read this passage a bit more closely. 


As I read, I can't help but notice that Satan does everything he can think of to get Jesus to assert His power and control -- which is pretty much the polar opposite of fasting, a discipline where we give over our control to God. It is something for me to consider as I walk through these next 20 days. 


In what areas might Satan encourage me to assert control or a sense of power?


-- 

The reading for Jesus Calling was once again spot on. The portion that grabbed my attention the most was:

"Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark."

After reading about Jesus being tempted during His time of fasting, the idea of waiting upon God in the dark place of our fear and confusion was comforting.

--

My Utmost for His Highest made it all come full circle for me this morning in two ways. Here is the first:


"If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded, God will never let you hold as spiritual thing for yourself; it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others."

Once again, this immediately brought to mind God's exhortation to "be fruitful and multiply." Because nothing we have been given or allowed to keep belongs to us for the sole purpose of ownership. We are meant to share it and thus see it given out yet to others. That's His heart.

The second thing I read took awhile to sink in:

"Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two."

Hmm...that sounded familiar. I looked at the top of the reading and saw that the reference was from Genesis 12:8 -- from today's assigned scripture reading!!!!! So, of course, I went back to Genesis and read that passage again (I completely glossed over it the first time).

"Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the LORD, and he worshiped the LORD."

Here is what else Oswald Chambers had to say about the location of where Abraham set up his altar for worship:

"The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him. Rush is wrong every time, there is always plenty of time to worship God. Quiet days with God many be a snare. We have to pitch our tents where we shall always have quite times with God, however, noisy our times with the world may be."

 After I finished My Utmost for His Highest, having gone back to where I started at Genesis 12. By now, I was shaking my head in wonderment at God's ability to put everything together. I couldn't have scripted it better if I had tried.

Even Psalm 4:5's encouragement to, "Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust God,"seemed to fit in perfectly with the concept of Attitude and Perspective being more important than Location.

As I move through these days of fasting and this month of Soul Dare every day won't be as quiet and uncluttered as that last few have been. We are jumping into our full crazy Spring schedule next week and I have been a bit apprehensive as to how it all will work. After all, I have gotten better, but I don't know if I can carve out 2 plus hours for my quiet time and blogging each morning.

But my job is not to worry. It's to pitch my tent of worship between perfect communion and total chaotic world immersion. There is a balance point in between.

--

What has God been showing you as you dig deeper, go further and love richer during this Soul Dare? 


Also, please join me over on my Mosaic Momma Facebook page and share there or here what God is doing in your life.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Soul Dare: Day 5



I woke up today with a sense of anticipation. I won't lie. I was pretty sleepy and not that keen to roll out of bed when my alarm first went off. But as the remembrance of this Soul Dare crept into my consciousness, I found it impossible to go back to sleep. I just had to get up and get started.

Today starts my church's 21 Day Prayer and Fasting. I am so excited that I can incorporate this time into the Soul Dare. It makes it all that much richer. For anyone who might want to join in, here is Week One of a Prayer Journal we received on Sunday.




I had to smile at the bottom of the page when I saw the suggestion to list gratitudes to encourage thankfulness -- especially after I looked at it AFTER I completed today's January Joy Dare and had listed several things already.


After a suggested list of gratitudes, there are suggested readings for the rest of this week and areas to focus on for each day. Not sure you understand full about fasting and how to fast? You can find a helpful handout on our church's Facebook page. Just scroll down until you see the yellow paper.

Everyone does fasting differently. In the past, I have fasted meals and replaced them with prayer and devotion. However, being a homeschool mom with the schedule we have makes this impractical. I might skip the meal, but I doubt that it would be replaced with prayer and as my pastor/father said yesterday, "a fast without prayer is simply a diet!"

So this time around, I'm fasting sugar (no cookies, cakes, spoonfuls of sugar into my coffee or tea and no yummy coffee drinks with sugary syrups either). This sounds simple, but for this Sugar Addict, it will be a challenge to remember. Also, since I had already decided to blog this Soul Dare and I also do some posting for our church, I need to be on Facebook some. However, I am going to limit it to twice a day for 15 minutes each time. No mindless browsing or lurking or clicking on external links. Often I will find myself on the app, without remembering opening my phone and pushing it.

All of this will hopefully focus my mind and heart more upon God and away from things that get me distracted. Also, passing up that cookie will give me a chance to breathe a prayer instead.

--

Bible Time 

Genesis 9-10, Psalm 3 and Matthew 3 


(I have to say that I'm loving reading my Bible with the Daily Walk plan. The weekends are "light" with only two chapters in the Old Testament rather than the addition of a Psalm and New Testament reading. With busy Saturdays and more time devoted to worship on Sunday, this makes sense.)

After reading Genesis 5-8 this weekend and the account of Noah and the Ark, it is interesting to me that Monday (a new day of the week) and the beginning of a time of fasting and prayer, would start with a new beginning for mankind.

Genesis 9:1 - This chapter starts with Noah and his family leaving the ark after being cooped up in that thing for a year and a familiar command from God that I blogged about on Day One


"Be fruitful and multiply." (verse 1 and verse 7)


I probably shouldn't be so surprised to see those words again, but truthfully I am. Why have I never made that link before? I'm just grateful that I am now.

Genesis 9:2-7 - For this "do-over" of mankind, God gives humanity a new set of rules. Again, I wonder if his heart was saddened to have to command these things which He didn't do (or need to do) the first time around when he created Adam and Eve.


Genesis 9:12 - It amazes me that the God of the universe would make a covenant with lowly man and especially after mankind had broken his heart and every promise and covenant we had made to Him. The fact that He would do that (surely knowing that any rainfall in the near future would probably strike fear into humanity) shows His compassionate heart for our frailty -- even though that frailty brought Him so much pain.


Matthew 3:8-10 - John the Baptist is warning the Pharisees that they cannot use their lineage and genealogy to avoid living a spiritual life of integrity. I love that John tells them that their boasts of being "safe, for we are the descendants of Abraham" means nothing to God -- because God could create "children of Abraham from these very stones." (vs. 9) Again, this reminded me of Day Two and what I read in Genesis 2: God isn't bound by the "natural order of things." When He wants to do something, He can command it to be in whatever way He wants. Because He is the Creator.


Matthew 3:10 - The theme of vegetation and seed-bearing plants comes back into play here:

"Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire."
Again...what is John the Baptist saying really? 

We need to be fruitful and multiply!

From Genesis and now into Matthew. This exhortation remains. I'm running out of superlatives to express how astonished I am by this continuity through my reading.

-- 

Jesus Calling for today was so good. I wish I could write it all down here. Actually, I'll snap a photo because the entire thing spoke to me.



Mankind is a failure....let's just be honest. Adam and Eve couldn't do it. Noah and his descendants couldn't do it either. Failure (sometimes fractionally but many times abysmally) follows us down the genealogical line to Jesus who was Perfect and who made a way for us to live a life of not perfection -- but restoration.

Maybe it's because failure is in my DNA. Maybe because I've tried so many times to do things right, only to have them go so, so wrong. But, maybe it's supposed to be that way. My very weakness creates a need and desire for His strength:

"It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me."

Wow.

My Utmost for His Highest carried this theme on:

"No matter what changes God has wrought in you, never rely on them; build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives. All our vows and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to carry them out. When we have come to the end of ourselves, not in imagination but really, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit."

This was so pivotal for me to read today when I'm all charged up about my resolutions for the new year. At the end of the day, I'm powerless to do these things if I don't build them on Jesus.

So, so good!

What insights did God give to you today? Also, please join me over on my Mosaic Momma Facebook page and share there or here what God is speaking to your heart!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Soul Dare: Day 2



It's day two of my Soul Dare and while I slept in a bit, I was excited to get up and get into God's word. I do see that I am going to have to start setting the alarm for earlier because the kids interrupted me enough that I lost my focus several times.

Also, I made my first error (knowing that there will be more since...well, newsflash..I'm human) by not realizing I needed to also read Genesis 2 yesterday. That made for three chapters today and while the reading didn't bother me, I am jealous of the space I have in each page in my new planner and sure enough, I had to cram it all in.

But that's a good problem to have, I suppose.

--

Bible Time


Once again, God's word came alive to me today as I read through my Daily Walk readings: Genesis 3 and 4 (with chapter 2 thrown in), Psalm 2 and Matthew 2.

Again, there is no hard and fast way to read and take notes. I have gotten in the habit of reading and noting anything that sticks out at me or any insights that God seems to whisper into my heart.

Here is what I noted down today:

Genesis 2:5-6: No rain? No problem. Even before there was such thing as rain falling from the sky, God caused springs to well up from the ground to water the plants (remember the seeds from yesterday?). When I read this, I felt like God was reminding me that he doesn't need anything I consider to be normal or natural. When He wants to do something, He can just command something entirely different to happen. For such a literal person, this blows my mind a bit. But it's also reassuring that He is not trapped by natural occurrences or what I think is natural.


Genesis 3:3-4: When Eve told the serpent that they could not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil or they would die, I thought she was exaggerating or worse, maybe God was exaggerating. After all, Eve and Adam ate the fruit and lived. But what I haven't realized until now is that Eve brought about her own demise. There was literally no such thing as death until she introduced it. Although it didn't happen for many hundred years, she and Adam eventually did age and die. I also have to wonder if Cain would have murdered Abel without the scourge of death and sin being introduced to their lives.


Genesis 3:6: Eve's motivation to eat the fruit? She wanted the wisdom it would give her. Basically, she wanted to be in the know and in control like God. She wanted to be like Him and not under his thumb. I wish I didn't understand this as much as I do.


Genesis 3:21: It says that God made Adam and Eve clothing. What would it have been like for Him to have to create something to cover his masterpiece and their shame? It wasn't how it was supposed to be. I'm sure it broke his fatherly heart.


Genesis 4:6, 13: Cain messed up. But God was kind to him and explained how Cain could make it right. Instead of submitting and trying again, Cain got crazy jealous and killed his brother. When God banished him, his pleas to not be separated from God's presence struck me. He wasn't thinking of this separation when he committed murder, but there are always consequences we can't see when we rebel against God.


--

I thought that Psalm 2 might be something totally different, but again, God brought things together for me. The psalm talks about people rebelling against him (Psalm 2:3), which is right in line with what Eve, Adam and Cain did. By now, it's become a sin condition of the human heart. This psalm lists what will happen when we don't submit to Him, but what happens when we do:
"...But what joy for all who take refuge in Him!"
Sign me up for joy please and I'll pass on being smashed like a clay pot (vs. 9).

--

Jesus Calling reminds me of this joy that comes from submitting to His gentle call to spend time with Him:

"The sacrifice of time pleases Me and strengthens you. Do not skimp on our time together. Resist the clamor of tasks waiting to be done."

And Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest focuses in on God's sovereignty and even thought he invites me to participate in life with Him, He is still ultimately in control.

"Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is...you have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God."

Again...wanting God to tell me what He is going to do reveals my desire for control. I just want to know. Simply put...I want to be like God as much as Eve. And as much as I struggle for it, it simply will never happen.

What He wants to give me is a revelation of Himself. And that only happens when I'm in His presence -- a privilege that Cain lost, but what Jesus Christ died for to restore back to mankind.

And the knowledge of this from today's devotional time is all kinds of amazing in my little human heart and brain.

--

Planning Time

Although it could really go up top with Quiet Time, I took out my Gratitude Journal and logged three gratitudes for today following Ann Voskamp's January Joy Dare.



Then, I took 10 minutes and wrote out what I'd like to accomplish today using Voskamp's daily planner. Today was my first day filling it out and I was amazed how it has already ordered my day. I'll put the clipboard in the kitchen and look at it throughout the day (at least that's the plan).



Finally, I looked over dear Ann's Sanity Manifesto and read through her challenge since I don't have each of the words/phrases memorized yet. But I hope to incorporate them throughout the day as well. 

All in all, I have to say that Day Two has been just as amazing as Day One!

Also, I'll be taking the weekend off from blogging (or will I....hmmmm), so if you are just joining us, you have plenty of time to buy your planner, pretty it up (or not) and print off anything you need for success.

What insights did God give to you today? Also, please join me over on my Mosaic Momma Facebook page and share there or here what God is speaking to your heart!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Soul Dare: My Resolution to Dig Deeper, Go Further and Love Richer





This year I'm starting 2015 off right by putting some contemplation into what I'd like to see God do in my spirit, mind, soul and body.

Part of that is following a plan to make the time for meeting with Him and achieving some of the other goals I have.

And one of those resolutions is to blog every weekday during the month of January as I follow that plan. It also goes along nicely with our church's month of fasting and prayer.

So without further ado, I bring you the first day of January's insights:

January 1


While I was working on some other things, I re-listened to Mike Whitford's sermon, Become, on Sunday and made some notes of his key points in my new planner:


  • Become a Giver
  • Become Excellent
  • Become Transformed by Looking to Jesus and Embracing the Holy Spirit

Such good stuff and it helped me as I worked on some goals and resolutions for 2015.

--

Then I picked up my Mosaic Bible and before reading scripture, I read today's reading following the Liturgy calendar entitled "Waiting Fulfilled," and read the following and had to jot it down because it's so true:

"Anything worth having is worth waiting for. But it's so hard to wait."

Then it was time for God's word. Today is the first day in many years that I would be following the Daily Walk Bible reading guide. This one is a bit different than the usual start at Genesis and end in Revelation approach. Each day, you read one portion of the Old Testament, one of the New Testament and one of Psalms or the other poetic books.

I'm already amazed at how the different components dovetail together. Today's readings were Genesis 1, Psalm 1 and Matthew 1. As I read through each one, I jotted down notes/ideas as they came to me.

Genesis 1

Although I've read this many times over my life, I tried to clear that away and read it afresh. I was astounded to focus on verses 11 and 12 that talked about seed-bearing plants. For some reason, it just stuck out at me like it was highlighted.

"Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-baring plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so.
The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good."

I love that it says "according to their various kinds."

To me, this is the ultimate grace card. I don't have to be Oswald Chambers, Francis Schaeffer or even Francis Chan.

I only have to be me.


And as I looked back over the chapter, I saw something I hadn't ever seen before. A pattern. A pattern of God's creation practices that apply to all His creation -- even me:


  • Day One: He brings Light to our lives through His salvation
  • Day Two: He brings a natural separation to things that need to be separated in order for us to live a full life
  • Day Three: He creates a fertile place in our Spirit where He can plant seeds that will grow into something soul-sustaining 
  • Day Four: He brings His ordained timeline into our consciousness. Because we have the light of His salvation, we are awakened to His Divine Plan.
  • Day Five & Six: He brings life along the way to both nourish us and companionship


And what are we to do with all of this bounty? One thing He tells us to do:

"Be fruitful and multiply." (vs. 28)

We are not to hoard it for ourselves. Rather we need to nurture those seedlings to produce fruit that will sustain us and provide nourishment to those around us.

Umm...wow.

--

If that weren't enough, I flipped over to Psalm 1 and the entire thing blew me away, but I homed in on verse 3:

"[The one who does not walk in step with the wicked]...is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and who leaf who does not wither -- whatever they do prospers."

I did a double take when I read verse 3. After all, I had just been focused on seed-bearing and what should I come across next, but well seed-bearing plants!

--

And finally, I turned over to Matthew 1 and read a lot of genealogy that I stifled a yawn over until it hit me....I was reading about seeds once again!

The very line of Jesus was started in the line of Jesse by one seed and was continued down the line to the conception of the Messiah.

And by then I felt like all three strands of reading came together in one braid.

Seeds matter. 


They are the very essence and existence of life.

I realized that what I am doing with this daily discipline of devotion time with Him is seed-planting. What I did last year has been seed-bearing in my very soul. And although it would be nice if we could plant a seed, add some water and have it bear fruit that same day, the truth is that seed-bearing takes time.

But when it happens and you have that ripe fruit, what you actually have as well is....seeds.

(My brain almost exploded at this point.)

--

With that revelation reverberating in my soul, I put my Bible away and picked up my devotionals. It would have been really cool if they continued on with the Seed Theme, but they were a breath of fresh air just the same.

Since I started late last year with My Utmost for His Highest, I haven't read the devotional for January 1st in forever. Here is the portion that stuck out to me today and that I wrote down in my planner:

"Paul says -- 'My determination is to be my utmost for His Highest.' 

When we consider what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He does not know what our obedience will mean. 
 
 
Keep to the point; He does know. Shut out every other consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only -- My Utmost for His Highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and for Him alone."

Likewise, I came to the daily reading of Jesus Calling late, so I am starting over today (as well as reading her forward as to how she was inspired to write the book). Here is what struck me, although the entire things was very New Year inspiring:

"Give yourself fully to the adventure of increasing attentiveness to My Presence."

--

See what I mean?

My small investment of time reaped huge blessings as I heard God speak to me about the importance of planting and tending seeds, being my very best for Him alone, and giving myself completely to focusing in on Him.

It's when I look back as I write this from the sermon I listened to, to the Liturgy reading about waiting, to the portion about seeds, to the devotional reading about giving God my best that I see how He wove together an amazing tapestry for me to hang on January 1 of 2015.

If today is this awesome, then I can't wait to see what January 2nd brings!

Come Join me over on my Mosaic Momma Facebook page and share there or here what God is speaking to your heart!

If It's Not Broke....Do It Again!



January 1st is arguably one of the best days of the year in my book.

When the clock's hand hits 12:00 a.m., my life's book flips to a new page. It's a free do-over. A chance to try to get it right (or righter?) this time. 

It's amazing how the change of one number can hold so much promise.


As I reflect upon 2014, there has been a great amount of change. Last year, I posted on the first day of year and titled my post, Be Resolute and then set about using some tools to help me make a plan to achieve some resolutions for the year. And with God's help, we achieved some good ones:

  • I finished up my Fab4D Year of turning 40 and crossed some things off of my list.
  • I embarked upon a journey to dig in deeper with God by being purposeful to meet him every morning and to record my thoughts and what He speaks 
  • God made it possible for us to move into our dream property after years of waiting on Him
However, there were some areas that I fell short in. And many of those areas are going back on my personal resolution list for this year.

No matter if I mark my list as a success or not, I am grateful that I took the time to think through goals and intentions and make an implementation plan. Not only did it make the successes possible, it should me that I *can* set goals and achieve them.

So, this year, the items that were not done are not considered as a "fail," but more of "haven't been completed yet." And I'm perfectly fine with that.


This morning, I woke up after sleeping in after a wedding/New Year's party bash the night before ready to greet 2015.

I was so excited to pick up my Devotional Journal/Calendar for this year. I had worked hard on getting it ready a few weeks ago and it was just aching for me to write in its blank pages. I prefer this Cambridge Daily Planner that I found at Walmart. 


Once again, I covered it with duct tape to make it purty

The one I used last year is on the left. I'm sad to see her go!

Last year, I ended up using the pages to record my progress of reading the Bible daily. I have realized that I am a tactile and visual learner. So the act of inscribing notes on the page helps to seal it into my brain better than merely just reading or thinking through an idea.

About a month in, I added in the reading for the day of Jesus Calling. A little later, I added in the weekly readings from the six seasons of the Liturgy from my Mosaic Bible. And finally to dig in even deeper, in May I added in the daily devotional from Oswald Chamber's, My Utmost for His Highest. (He always requires me to use my brain a bit more when reading his work.)

Each morning that I got up and read and wrote, I felt like my very soul connected with God in a way that had been lacking.

In March, I added in the discipline of doing "morning pages" from The Artist's Way and that provided a needed outlet for journaling and priming the pump for creative writing.

Also, since there is only half page for Saturday and Sunday, I used that page to frequently paste in the sermon notes from church for that week. Another win!

--

So this year, I am going to stick with what worked. After all, I didn't hit every day of Jesus Calling or My Utmost for His Highest. But I am going to keep my eye out for another daily devotional to perhaps replace Jesus Calling at some point (to keep things fresh).

Also, to get a fresh take on reading my Bible, I am going to follow the Daily Walk Bible reading schedule and read some of the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms/Poetic books together in one sitting this time around. Already today I feel like reading Genesis 1, Psalm 1 and Matthew 1 was insightful in bringing things together.

However, if you cannot buy the Bible, you can do it yourself by following along in this guide below. Simply click on the photo and print it off or save it to Pinterest.


Front Page (January - June)

Back Page (July - December)

In addition to being a great place to record my devotional map and thoughts (and yes, I have printed and pasted in the above reading guide), my planner is a great place to also...plan. With the month at a glance pages and additional pages in the back, I can pencil in my personal calendar as well as some other tools to keep me on track. 

Already pasted in the back is Ann Voskamp's free daily planner sheet guide that I scanned in and included below. (I couldn't get her template to save, so I wrote it in myself.) I hope to start each morning by filling one of these out to keep me on track and on target.




Also pasted in my planner in the back is Voskamp's Sanity Manifesto for the new year. I printed another out on cardstock and will hang it some place I will see often during the day.




I also intend to use her suggestions (in the link above) as to how to have more intentional peaceful moments during my day.

And while I am not necessarily going to log my physical goals in my planner, I did download the My Fitness Pal app and it is already showing me how I can tighten up my caloric intake by being more mindful of what I put in my mouth. Plus the barcode scanning feature makes it an easy peasy tool!

Likewise, getting our debt paid off and our finances under strict control is another goal for 2015 and these free templates a friend uses (and are awesome) will help.

I do recognize that my goals and processes will be different from yours, it has been so helpful to take the time to sit, reflect, plan and project for a new year. Last year I used another blogger's idea as a guide in separating out my goals in specific areas with specific ways to achieve those goals (a very important part of the equation). They include these five areas:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Financial
  • Relational (I added this one)
  • Fun/Adventuring

 After 2015 is 365 days long. Surely we can all afford half of one of those days to make it amazing.

Have a plan in place? I'd love to hear it if you would be so kind to share in the comments below. 

And if you want to follow my own personal Soul Dare to dig deeper, go further, and love richer this year, please follow me here on Facebook. (One of my goals is to post every something every weekday that correlates to what I read each morning for the month of January.)