Pressing on.

Saturday mornings are a great time for reflecting back over the week. For me this happens with coffee and in fragmented pieces while I take care of my babies. (See my Stolen Moments post) This morning I was writing out a kind of review on how the week was. In some parts my review wasn’t great. It was one of “those” weeks where I never entirely got on top of my laundry or getting my house clean. Sigh.

 I brought these things to Jesus for review. He’s so good to me. As I lamented over the ways I’d missed it this week He reminded me of something. When I face a weakness or a failure in myself I often find myself overwhelmed by it and feeling hopeless to change.
What He showed me this morning is that the those thoughts stem from a lie. The enemy wants me to believe that weaknesses and faults are just a part of who I am. When I believe that I indeed feel hopeless to change! The truth is that Jesus has freed me from the power of sin and has given me new life. This is hope to me.

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will live with him…
So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 
Romans 6:6-7, 11
 So I press on. We press on. What has the enemy been telling you that you are? Who are you in Christ today? Lets choose to live today in the truth of who God calls us to be. We are His precious children, redeemed, pure, anointed, and called to live and walk with Him today.
*Also, in case you were wondering how my Extreme Commitment is going – so far so good! God’s Word is so cool. I’ll keep you posted. One thing I am loving is that since Troy and are reading the same thing everyday we are having great discussions.

Extreme commitment

Troy and I got a two-for-one coupon to Pick up Stix and packed up the babies for a post Easter Monday lunch date yesterday. Over rice and chicken I excitedly explained to him my latest great idea.

Ever heard of Professor Horner’s Bible reading plan? It’s a system of reading the Bible where you read 10 chapters a day, in ten different areas of the Bible. Cool right?  You read through the Bible in 8 months!

As I talked I could see Troy’s eyes glaze over. And then came my husband’s feet-planted-on-the-ground wisdom. “Are you really going to do this? Do you have time? What if you get behind? Is this really the season to undertake this?” and finally “you really like extreme commitments don’t you?…”

uhmmm… yes. I do. For some reason I REALLY like seeing something huge and looking it in the face and saying yes. This isn’t always a great quality because it can lead to unfinished projects and biting off more than I can chew. I have found though, if you have people to walk with, people to tackle things with, its amazing what you can accomplish. Running a marathon, spending time in Afghanistan, these are things I did while partnering with some amazing people.

As I talked this latest idea through with Troy we decided to give this system 30 days – and that we would both do it. We will reevaluate on May 10th and see if it’s working.

Here’s how it works. This morning I read Matthew 1, Genesis 1, Romans 1, 1 Thessalonians 1, Job 1, Psalm 1, Proverbs 1, Joshua 1, Isaiah 1, and Acts 1. All of these books are the first books on ten different lists. Tomorrow I will read the 2nd chapter of each of those books and so on. If I follow this, in one year I will have read through the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times, OT wisdom literature 6 times, the Psalms twice, Proverbs and Acts twelve times and OT History and the Prophetic books about 1 1/2 times.

Here is what I am aiming for: Word saturation. I need so much to have God’s word pouring over my life. I want it imprinted on my heart and coming out of my mouth over my children. I am especially excited about this system because of the broad covering of scripture you get on a daily basis.

To answer Troy’s questions.  

“Am I really going to do this?” Yes. At least for 30 days. He talked me down from vowing to do it for the rest of my life.

“Do I have time?” Yes. I believe I do. This morning it took me about 40 minutes total to finish my reading. Honestly, a little less facebook, a little less tv and a little more commitment: voila. What better way to spend my time?

“What if I get behind?” I’m keeping my goal at Word saturation. Even if I read two or three chapters a day that’s a win. If I miss a day I won’t play catch up, I will just continue the next day.

“Is this really the season for this?” Yes. If ever I needed God’s Word it’s as I learn to parent these precious little people that are my children. Now is the time.

One of the problems I have had in the past with a Bible reading system is that quiet times can get  to feel like a chore that I need to cross off my list instead of a living relationship with Jesus. As I undertake these 30 days I want to make it a priority to not just read, but to listen to what He is saying.

A few things people have recommended that use this plan:

  • Use one Bible, an actual hard copy. You will get to know your Bible inside and out
  • Read quickly not stopping to look up cross references etc.

So I’m off. If you want to join us do! Or if you have a system you have found that works for you, leave a comment and let us know.

Wild Hope

She stepped out into the cold predawn air. The horizon held the promise of a soon coming sun but Mary didn’t notice. Eyes to the ground, aching heart, compelled to be near what was left of her Savior. She quickly made her way to the tomb replaying memories in her mind. 
Life before Jesus held only darkness. Tormented by demons, Jesus had set her gloriously free. With Him her life had become a beautiful cadence of light and peace. Then it all got so crazy. Mary shivered as she remembered standing near the cross watching.
Jesus had come to her in her suffering and delivered her. Now she stood by watching him suffer. She could do nothing but offer her presence. She had hoped beyond hope that something would happen, that He wouldn’t take that dying breath – that some how He would be saved from this horrible death. But there seemed to be no help, no salvation.

Tears streamed down her face, heart crumbling as they laid him in a tomb. All hope was gone.

As Mary neared the tomb she saw the stone rolled away and felt her heart sink further. Someone had taken His body away, taking all she had left of Him. Mary stood there weeping. Tears of despair, tears of loss, tears of longing. 

John 20:14-18
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”“Mary!” Jesus said.She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”)

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
This Easter, as I reflect back, I echo Mary’s words “I have seen the Lord!”. I rejoice with wild hope in the mighty ressurection of Jesus. Truly He is the hope of the world! It means that when I have to try to explain death to Ellie I will do it with tears of joy. Yes, death is hard, yet beyond lies such victory!

Even yesterday as she was eating dinner we were having a conversation about the fact that mama has a mama who lives with Jesus. (We’ve been talking a lot about Jesus… that’s a whole other post) and she looked at me with her big brown eyes and asked “Are they coming?”… my throat tightened and quick tears came but my resounding response was “Yes!”.

Someday my precious girl. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus and His crushing of death you will get to meet your Grandma. Because of Him you can live a life in freedom and joy. Because of Him you are loved more then you can imagine. It makes Mama’s heart so full of joy.

My gifts.

I had Judah in Ellie’s highchair today while I sat at the table working. He played with his toys, crashing them around. I happened to glance up and noticed his toes. Oh these toes. I’m mesmerized by them. I’m also a little amazed at the cankles leading into the feet leading into the toes. Sweet chubby baby feet. I can’t help but wonder where they will go, what roads they will travel. I hold this precious baby boy close and breathe prayers that he will deeply know Jesus. That he will live out the truth that he is mightily loved and that he will choose to mightily love in return. I pray that he will be a warrior in God’s Kingdom. 
Judah Ray
I came around the corner yesterday and this was my view.  She was watching her tub fill up and adding her toys. She’s been telling us lately that she is a princess. We whole heartedly agree and when she says those words I echo them in a prayer that she will know her true worth and value. That she will be a lover of truth, and that Jesus will be her unending pursuit.
These are my children. Gifts from my Jesus that I treasure and cherish. 
Ellie Sue
They are teaching me about how loved and treasured we are by God. I get echoes of His heart as my heart dreams over my children and longs for their good. He whispers of His goodness to me.
“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. 
He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Mom’s Oatmeal Bread

One of my favorite things about my childhood is that my Mom made bread every week. There was nothing like coming home from school to a house filled with the warm homey smell of fresh bread. Mom would cut it in thick slices and top it with butter. It spoke of comfort and security to me. She even had a little loaf pan that she would let me bake a mini loaf in as a special treat.

I have funny memories of the weekly bread ritual such as running to the store with mom while the bread was rising and coming home to dough overflowing onto the counter. Mom would laugh and gather it all up and quickly make it into loaves.

When I came home as a 23 year old to take care of her while she was battling cancer she taught me how to make bread myself. As she taught me how to form the dough into loaves we laughed and laughed as she tried to put to words something that she had done expertly for decades. My loaves were lumpy and lopsided and hers were perfect.

After Mom passed away I continued to make bread while I was at home with my Dad and Ben for the following year. It was a piece of her that I could hold onto somehow and fill our home with the memory of her labor of love. Years passed and life filled with a full time job, ministry, marriage, a baby, a move to Southern California, a house, another baby.

Last year I started making bread again. My trusty Kitchen Aid growled and rumbled through the kneading process but would get so hot that every time I made bread I worried it would die. I began praying for a Bosch. A Bosch is the coolest bread mixer around town. It effortlessly kneads a 6 loaf batch of bread. When December rolled around I opened a big box and tears of joy rolled down my face. A shiny Bosch! I have been making bread ever since. Sometimes Ellie helps. I love it. I love letting Mom’s bread making legacy live on.

If you have shied away making bread in the past because it seemed overwhelming and complicated let me encourage you to try it. You don’t have to have a fancy mixer or a bread maker. You can knead by hand or if you have kids old enough let them knead it. It is such a fun experience for kids and truly does fill your house with the smell of homey goodness!

Mom’s Oatmeal Bread

6 Cups boiling water
2 Cups Oats
2 Tbsp Yeast
1 1/2 Cups Honey
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Oil
1 Tbsp Salt (heaping)
15-16 Cups Flour (I do half white, half whole wheat)

Yields 6 loaves

Please note. I usually make 3 loaves which is a simple half of this recipe. I also am by no means a bread expert and am learning as I go. The following is just how I make bread currently and its working for me.

This is the Bosch-ola. I love her.
I start by getting the boiling water and oats soaking. When the temperature cools to warm but not hot (comfortable for the finger to touch) I add the honey and the yeast.
Honey is what activates the yeast and you will start to notice bubbles forming as the yeast does its thing. Then I add the eggs, olive oil and salt, switch to a dough hook and start adding flour.

I know have added enough flour when the dough cleans the sides of bowl. I like my dough on the sticky side (it seems to make for a moister loaf) so I stop adding flour usually around cup 15.

Then I set my Bosch for 10 minutes and let it knead away. 

Once kneaded I dump the dough out on the counter and get to work making loaves.
Once I have my loaves shaped and into pans (that have been oiled) I put them in an oven that I pre-heated to the lowest temp possible and then turned off. I let them rise for 20-40 minutes in there.
Then I take my risen loaves out of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 and cook those babies for 30 minutes.
 Also, you probably noticed that I only let my bread rise once. Typically after you add all the flour, and knead for while, you let your dough rise before punching it down and making it into loaves. I started skipping this step after I got my Bosch. The Bosch kneads the bread so well you don’t have to apparently? I’m a fan of that! It stream lines the process and makes my bread project last a few hours instead of all day. We found our Bosch on craigslist and I have heard stories of people getting them for super cheap at garage sales.

Rend Collective Experiment – album review

One of the perks of being a worship pastor’s wife is having access to great worship music. And I do love great worship music. I’m afraid I’m more guided by my heart when it comes to evaluating music – not as much guided by great production or musical perfection. I more look for truth and faith and a response in my heart. Troy popped Rend Collective Experiment in the car a few months ago and I listened to it over and over. And over.

I didn’t love it in the beginning – it was so different than anything I had heard before. The lyrics are raw and almost conversational. I finally dug out the album insert to actually find out who this band was and what on earth they were about besides cheerful folksy worship. I loved what I found. The album title is “homemade worship by handmade people”.  The whole album was recorded in different homes around Ireland and the world. (they just got so cool right there – didn’t they?) In their own words “we refused to make an album in a studio separate from our normal lives. Humanity and the divine are what we are celebrating here, not with polish and perfection, but with authenticity.”

Lyrically they are spot on and so real. I’m married to a gifted song writer and I see him in action on a daily basis. He’s always singing to Ellie and Judah. Troy’s songs for the kids are about what they are currently doing and I’m constantly amazed at his ability to put words together, on the fly, that make sense and sound right. A few days ago he was in the living room with Ellie and she was dancing and he was singing. Each time she did a new move he incorporated it into his song. This is what this album reminds me of lyrically. It’s about living life with God in the daily and the raw. I love it. They also threw a hymn in there that is a beautifully redone version of “Be Thou my Vision”.

Here is a sample of one of my favorites:

Christ Has Set Me Free

You open horizons in my life/ Of limitless /And cloudless hope
You defy the gravity in me/ And give wings to / My flightlessness
Christ has set me free / From negativity / From impossibility
Christ has set me free / All hope has been released / O Christ has set me free
You have taught my future how to shine / All the colours of / Eternity
You’ve given my soul the space to breathe / And discover what / It is to simply be

Listen to Christ Has Set Me Free

Check out the Rend Collective website here.

There’s a hair headed my way. (chaetophobia)

Ellie has of late developed a peculiar fear of hairs. I first noticed it one day when she was in the tub and started shrieking for help. When I was able to filter through the panic and get to the issue she was saying “There’s a hair headed my way!”. Sure enough. One lone hair floating in the tub, heading her way. This new fear is a little unfortunate since I (with long hair) am at an all time shedding high after having Judah. She finds hair everywhere.

I find myself chuckling frequently at this latest development. But then I got to thinking. Ellie’s fear of hair is ridiculous right? Yet in the past year I have experienced more fear than I have known in my whole previous 32 years. In my mind my fear is much more legitimate and realistic than Ellie’s fear. Yet as I hear Ellie’s cries for help in the bathtub – I KNOW that she is okay. I know that the hair headed her way will cause her no harm.  In my grown up world I feel my fears are for real. I have experienced a little bit of tragedy in my life and I have feared the idea that more could be “heading my way”. Yet my Jesus is never alarmed by my cries from the bathtub. He knows the beginning and the end and He knows I am safe. His Presence is with me. Always. The road may hold challenges and pain but there is victory in Him. And ultimately eternity healed and whole. This brings my heart peace and makes my fear recede. I recently read a verse that shall be my mantra for the next few whiles.

“Put your hope in the LORD. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed.” Psalm 37:34  

This says to me: Look expectantly to Jesus for good, confidently move forward, He rewards faith, you WILL have victory. 

Stolen moments….

Once of the biggest changes I have experienced since becoming a mom is the change in my morning routine. My Dad instilled in me early the value of early morning quiet and God’s Presence. My favorite way to wake up was to pad down to the coffee pot in the early hours, curl up on the couch with a large array of Bible, study books, notepads, planners and pens. And my coffee. And a blanket if it was cold. I loved those moments of study, of contemplative journaling and of listening for His voice. They were my rock and refuge.

Now I have two beautiful babies. Age 2 and 5 1/2 months. My mornings look a little different these days. I’m usually awakened from a slightly comatose feeling sleep by one of my little lovelies. Judah (the little man beast that he is) has a routine of filling his drawers to maximum capacity at 6:30 everyday. So accordingly we deal with that. I still pad down to the coffee pot, and find my way to the couch, and I still have my paraphernalia of quiet time accessories but now I have “Go Diego Go” playing in the background and a little snuggle buffin curled up next to me. I’m usually up and down at least 5-6 times during this half an hour stretch of time. Fetching snacks, taking the Snuggle Buffin potty, etc.
All of this interuptedness leads to a very fragmented “time with Jesus” and I felt some guilt and frustration with this. Until one day as I made my way back to the couch to pick up the 2 chapter of Mark – I had this impression of Jesus sitting with me and smiling with joy at my situation. Caring for my babes, scrambling to get moments with Him. He reminded me of the truth that He is present with me all day and that I am truly learning to share life with Him. Perhaps before I banked a little too heavily on my “Quiet Time” and felt like I had given Him enough of my time for the day and moved on. Now I am forced to find Him in the moments of my day. I am learning to listen to His Spirit as I go. How I love Him. I am learning Him in a new way in this season and it is so real and raw. I laugh in delight with Him over the things Ellie says, and ask Him for help as I do potty training laundry.
I do long for my old hours of quiet somedays, but am reminded they will return sooner then I know. For now I am so thankful for my stolen moments with Jesus and for His gracious Presence in all my days. He is so good to me!

Yummy ice cream.

Parenting has taught me so much about God’s heart for His children. It has also taught me about why Jesus talks about having faith like children. In Ellie’s world things are so simple and straight forward. If I say we are going to the store she collects her snacks and heads to the garage with great excitement. (we should probably get out more) What her mom and dad say is fact and truth in her mind and she acts accordingly. It reminds me to step forward confidently in God’s promises as He is a much better parent then I and simply cannot lie or mislead. Parenting has taught me about the unconditional love that God has for me and about the grace that pours from His heart over my life. I am so aware of the failure in my life and know that God is even more aware of it then I am and I feel shame. But when I look at Ellie – even on her worst day of naughtiness – I am filled with love and grace – and hope for what is to come in her. When I remember that my human heart is a pale reflection of my Father God’s heart i am broken by His love.

Parenting has also taught me that as a child of God my perspective is often flawed. Yesterday Ellie was having her morning bath as I was getting ready and I heard an urgent “Whats that??!!!” and I knew. Sure enough. Ellie had pooped in the tub. I whisked her out and drained the tub so I could disinfect it and run another bath for Sweet Pea. She stood there watching the water drain and the floaters swirl around. She looked at me and pointed to the offensive matter and said with great enthusiasm “yummy ice cream!!!”. I was so grossed out by this observation (which was repeated many times) and yet also amused. After cleaning up and rebathing my daughter I got to thinking about how wrong Ellie’s perception was in this situation. It caused me to consider how not true my ideas are sometimes. What things are there in my life that I am identifying as “yummy ice cream” that are actually so not good for me?…

A hundred million kisses

I find myself telling each of my children at least once a day that I am going to give them a hundred million kisses. Somewhere deep inside I want them to know that I could never kiss them too many times, could never hug them too much, could never really put words to how much I love them. Today holding Ellie in my lap she wanted to be tickled so I complied and savored every second of the peels of laughter and the rosy cheeks and the sparkly brown eyes. Judah giggled today for the first time and what could be more precious honestly? His fat baby chins that responded to mama’s “tickle tickle” and mama’s ridiculous cooing noises. I’m savoring these moments with joy and with a bit of pain too. I wish so much I could tell my mom how much i love her – I don’t doubt she knew i just want to tell her again and again how precious she is to me. How thankful i am for her unconditional love and patience. How thankful i am for her example of what a wife and mother should be. There is pain in knowing that others have said goodbye to their babies long before the natural time. This pain makes me squeeze my babies tighter. It makes me put down the laundry that I am folding and take the sticky hand beckoning me “c’mon mama – outside!”. I love my children. They are gifts from my Jesus to be cherished and treasured… and yet to always know they are His and that He loves and cherishes them more then I ever could. I love knowing that He has good things ahead for them! He is so good to me to love my babies the way He does. I think really He is the ultimate source of a hundred million kisses.