Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Year of Practice

I am going to copy Ann Voskamp.  I'm naming the new year.  2011.  I've never named a year before, though I have made countless New Year's declarations and resolutions.  I like the idea.

I always end up looking at my resolutions like some sort of check-off list.  While I like lists and they have a place in my life, a list of resolutions seems never to be able to get "checked-off".  So it bugs me and ends up feeling like failure... even if I've done a relatively good job of keeping a resolution.  Naming the year, now that is something I can live with peacefully.  When my dear Tobitha wrote Impact, I knew then what I would be naming 2011.

Practice.  The Year of Practice.

You see, I am one of those little people that like to flit from one thing to the next.  I am going on to the next thing before I have even begun to master the last one.  I'm not proud of this.  Some people think I have a wealth of knowledge on a variety of subjects.  It's not true.  In reality, I know a little bit about a lot of things.  In a way, I am a quintessential Jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none.  I'm a curious soul, interested in all sorts of things.  I don't stay on one road for too long.

But I wouldn't characterize myself as flaky.  :)

Anyway, I feel compelled by none other than the Holy Spirit Himself, to rest in the solid and un-shifting for awhile.  For me, it's a shift in from creating and pursuing to practicing.  Practicing what?  The stuff I already know.  This year is one for me to focus on God's perfecting work.

Lest anyone think I really am flaky, and have no clue as to how to actualize this grandiose idea, I will list some practical areas of practice:

remembering my many loved ones on their birthdays and anniversaries with cards and calls
choosing recipes from one of my many cook books as opposed to finding them from the internet
studying scripture
exercising my body daily but not legalistically or obsessively
making music in the way I know how
deep breathing
speaking sweetly
counting blessings

See, I know how to do these things.  I don't have to research how to do any of them.  I just need to practice them.  There is nothing wrong with books that challenge us in a new way, like Radical for instance.  But I don't need to read a book right now about how to arrange my life in a way that will prove what Jesus really means to me.  I know what Jesus means to me and I have at least 19 ways to show it everyday.  This is my basic training, my boot camp.  Anything beyond that is like special ops training, and I'm just a foot soldier.

So I probably won't be learning a new art form this next year.  To be sure, there were some creative endeavors I had in mind that are now on the back burner.   No self-help or how-to or sweeping, this-is-the-new-big-idea books.
There's too much old wisdom I have yet to crack.

I can learn to be faithful in the small and ordinary.

Productivity will be birthed through practice.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Counting 468-484

I had to chuckle yesterday.  At us.  It occurred  to me,  people are funny.  As smart as some of us are, we are still so very feeble minded.
How many times do we get the wrong answer on the test?
Take a wrong turn?
Miscommunicate with our words what our heads are thinking so clearly?

Often we can see a bookishly smart person who is socially inept or vice versa.

Yes, we are feeble minded, no matter the IQ.

And yet in all our creating and figuring and measuring and thinking and analyzing we can fool ourselves into thinking we are starting to figure IT out.

But I think she is asking a great question today.

How are you and the King enjoying each other today?

A question even the most simple of us can ponder.

Let me count some blessings,

a quiet house

the company of a sweet dutch girl
her sharing
me learning

comfort food
that I got to make it

children's cold medicine
snuggling in early morning hours with my girl

dog groomers

giving hearts

despite our best efforts... too many presents
realizing the blessing in that, and
making peace with it

Jesus, our Most Special Gift
being at peace with Him

Monday, December 6, 2010

Counting 434-467

My counting is inadequate.  It doesn't begin to define His grace and mercy and lovingkindness.

But it's good for me, and I hope it blesses Him.

friends that know you are there for them

an amazing story of God's grace in saving a marriage, and a soul

a freezer full of grass-fed, organic beef

a glass of wine and a late night spent with my love

him pulling me close in church

the grace given me from Him, and him and him and her

that our puppy didn't get sick after eating a whole stick of butter, wrapper and all

reuniting with my beautiful persian friend

making friends with a Dutch girl, and

having a Christmas guest

my god daughter praising Him

her sharing that with me

the promise of my oatmeal with apples and cinnamon

that on this cold, blustery day I have

the pup
warm clothes
a stove and oven
gas in the car
glasses with which to see
books to learn from
pencils and paper

and us....
my love and me
we and the kids
my friends and I
the gratitude community

Monday, November 29, 2010

Numbering the Multitude #412-433

"But godliness with contentment is great gain"
                                                            1 Tim 6:6

Ain't that the truth!?  Let's count....

my son, carrying big boxes of food for them in need
him growing up before my eyes
my eyes that get to see it

my daughter singing her heart out without a care, praises to Him who hears
the sound of "mama" from her lips
my ears that get to hear it

the scent of my lover wrapped up in sheets
the promise of his early morning kiss
the times I catch him noticing me

the willingness a child has to enter into the unknown
that they don't enter timidly, but rush in with wild, joyous, excitement
that I want to be more like that

a sister standing by her brother
she counts the cost
she does it anyway

that just because most people do it, doesn't mean we have to
that we find a better way
and we go it

them who learn to count their blessings
teaching me to see what I didn't see
recognizing what is in my cup

and it doesn't cost a dime

holy experience

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spit it out

Care to spit out your thoughts?

This is quite literally the challenge our worship pastor left us with as he closed his sermon yesterday morning.  He had placed little Dixie-type cups in the backs of the pews throughout the church and then asked us to hold them up.  As the congregants studied those little plastic cups in their hands, he explained:

Saliva.  Think about  how many times in the last hour you have swallowed down your own saliva.  You don't think about it at all.  What if instead of swallowing it, you spit it out in the cup?  Gross, right?  What if at the end of the hour I told you to drink up all the saliva you had collected in the cup?  Double gross.

Now what if instead of the cup holding our spit, it held our thoughts instead?
What if we examined our thoughts, like we would that saliva, and make a rational decision about whether or not they were fit for consumption?  What if instead of taking in the junk.... we toss it?

Pastor Steve talked about  how we examine ourselves each morning in the mirror and work on ourselves so we can look the way we want to.  We give a lot of self-care to our outer shells.  How often do we pay that kind of mind to our thought life.... to our perception of reality?

Romans 12:2 (NLT) says "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is."

He pointed out how this verse doesn't speak of transforming our emotions or our circumstances, but our minds.... the way we think.  It's amazing how much is at stake in just the way we choose to look at a thing.

For his final challenge, Pastor Steve's pointed to 2 Cor 10:5 (NIV), "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

So spit it out and see if it passes this test:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." Phil 4:8 (NIV)

And so in the interest of renewing my mind in this way, I continue to join Ann and the rest of the Gratitude Community in counting the blessings.


God's Word... oh how He speaks!
Holy Spirit making all things possible

new faces from far off places

how love can be comfortable and exciting at the same time

unexpected hugs

long-distance phone service


creativity of little people
creativity of big people
that there is no age limit on making cool stuff

a happy daddy

fallen golden leaves the size of your head

muddy, blackened-bare puppy feet romping through the woods

fog that softens twinkling city lights and blurs the moon
and makes me glad to be home

history making, touchdown-scoring Hail Mary 
this guy deflecting
this one being in the right place... at the right time

the work of the saints


southern drawl transported fiber-optically

my minds eye, and 
the vivid things i see

holy experience

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The sun was setting low over the houses across from ours.  The street lights would soon be on,  illuminating the thousands of tiny, flittering bugs that seemed to spawn from those lamps.  The air was thick, like it always was.  Hot and thick.

The evening meal was regular, maybe it was soup with ice berg lettuce and little pieces of chopped tomato served on paper plates.  He was there that night.  His presence always welcomed, yet always heavy like the air around us.  The rattan and metal chair balked at his shifting weight.  As his feet shuffled under the chair, positioning his legs just so, the pain would be better.  He would eat voraciously.  Every last bite of that iceberg lettuce gone.  He'd wipe at the corners of his mouth with napkin first.  Then came the handkerchief for his nose.  Then he would speak.

He bent at the waist, leaning over table.  Thick, rough fingers curved in rest a top the worn glass as if on piano keys.  His burnished skin shone in the dim light of candelabra bulbs.  As usual, his thick silver hair was not a strand out of place.  And in his dark, smiling eyes I saw something new.
I was still a girl really, but old, and old enough to know what the knowing looks like.

He recounts the story of the prodigal son from the Bible.  With lips pressing, then parting, his head tilts and his brow creases deeper.  His thick, brown fingers tap the glass with growing pressure as he is connecting the long ago story with something now,  recent and deeply hidden.  He struggles with the things he cannot put to words.  And never had I seen into his heart like this.

"He's chasing after us, like the father and that son.... the prodigal....  we run from Him and...   He   runs after   us."  he chokes it out with the first tears I can ever remember him shedding.

By some standards, he was already an old man, but I still a child.  I remember thinking my greatest prayer answered.

"Yes Daddy.  He does."

The twelve signal systems

Diane Moore spoke at our church recently.  She is the host of Parent Talk Radio here on the west coast.
She spoke of what she termed the 12 signal systems.... a term and idea she does not own and credited to someone else, though I sadly did not write the man's name down.  Google is failing me as well in endeavoring to credit this man.

The 12 signal systems are really 12 ways of communicating and they can be ranked from least to most effective, though all of them are powerful ways of communication.

Below the 12 are ranked from least effective (read here also 'believable') to most effective:

12.  Verbal (speech)
11.  Written (symbols representing speech)
10.  Numeric (numbers and number systems)
  9.  Pictoral (2-dimensional things)
  8.  Artifactual (3-dimensional things)
  7.  Audio (use of nonverbal sounds and silence)
  6.  Kinesic (having to do with movement)
  5.  Optical (light and color)
  4.  Tactile (touch, the sense of 'feel')
  3.  Spatial (having to do with space)
  2.  Temporal (utilization of time)
  1.  Olfactory (taste and smell)

 It is amazing the amount of communicating one does without ever opening her mouth or picking up a pen or typing on a keyboard for that matter!

It is an eye-opening thing to think about the bottom half of that list, and what am I saying with the touch, space, time and olfactory stimulation that I employ daily, hourly and even by the minute?

Frankly,  I am found wanting.

Oh Lord, may my touch be frequent, soft and calming.
Help me not to claim space but share it.  Bend my will, dear Lord, so that I might give my time more than I protect it.
May my words and speech be like the sweetest honeycomb and a fragrant aroma to You and to those You give me.  Even while I feed their spirits in this way, teach me too, to feed their bodies and senses with sweet, savory, and satisfying tastes and smells.
Help me know when to light a room and when to darken it.
Make me to move more slowly and more in sync with Your Spirit.
Temper my tone... may it too, be an expression of Your sweet love.
Make me wise in the things I keep... may they too, reflect the hold You have on me.
Teach me to keep picture records of Your goodness be they captured on canvas or film or....
Help me not to confuse little with least.
May Your value on a thing, be it's proper measure.


holy experience

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blessings #376-387

Coming out of a week where I did not accomplish all that I would have liked, and facing a week that is full to the brim with lots of extras and feeling the temptation to power through, get 'er done, just make it to Friday night.  And knowing that's not peace, that's not what He's called me to.  What do I have to lose in the rush?  Too much.

So I take a deep breath, a pause, a moment to thank my Abba Father and know that if I will but lean into Him, he will take me through each task and reveal to me much mysterious wonder along the way.

my pastor preaching God's hard truth in gentleness
that he let God's word speak... he didn't step on any toes.... he let the Holy Spirit do that.

the Lord's loving discipline

the butterflies starting to emerge
the wonder in the children's eyes

the innocence of these little ones

friends taking initiative
a body of believers starting to look like family

a new children's director and the journey it took to bring her here
the old children's director who served so faithfully, so lovingly for so much longer than what was beneficial to her

Sally's words about contentment in this book
receiving something I didn't know I needed

holy experience

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Blessings #349-375

The Lord is good.  All the time.  His grace is sure and His mercy is new each morning.


Once again, no pictures...... and oh how the pictures could tell the story so much better than my words, but....

my boy carving his pumpkin by himself
me getting to carve my girl's

the delight of children at such simple things

a puppy that growls in his dreams... sleep growls.... too cute

my girl's amazement at the metamorphosis of her caterpillars
her drawings and note-taking for her nature book
all of it, every bit of it, being her idea

walking on rain slickened streets
the most vibrant of yellows, oranges, reds and greens against a dark, pearl gray sky

learning about the 12 ways of communicating
learning that spoken word is the least effective of all the 12
the written word is the second least effective
realizing the energy I spend in communicating is often spent on the 2 least effective
eagerly wanting to develop the other end of that list, because.....
the Holy Spirit does His work

new friends
old friends

having been here long enough for some new friends to become old ones
our two families trick-or-treating together for this third consecutive year
watching my boy gently guide his little 5 year old princess friend down a steep, slippery drive

our little family going out to the movies on a Friday night
being able to relax and enjoy a great movie without having to cover little eyes and ears (Secretariat)
having popcorn, candy and soda to share

a clean mammogram for my sweet friend
her knowing how much He loves her

a clean house

love that is stronger than misunderstanding or miscommunication


holy experience

Monday, October 25, 2010

Parade of Blessing #328-348

wind and rain whipping through the trees at night
the roof that keeps us dry
the furnace the keeps us warm
the glow of candles
the scent of apple cider warming on the stove

being at home
feeling at home
realizing things that are hard to put into words

my love telling my children how it's easy to find Mama in Costco because 'she's the prettiest one'
kisses from and to him

a friend trusting us to help him stay the course

that in life we have many chances

my mother-in-love's 69 years on this earth

our puppy who was sick is well again
industrial strength carpet cleaner

brilliant fall colors on tree-lined streets

that this:

has spurred on.....

prayers of family peace
the calm of sweet, wonderful music playing in the background of our daily living
a desk and cabinets, pantry, and coat closet that have now been de-cluttered and washed down and......
the huge difference these simple things have made

and a few digital recordings of a beautiful life....

Oh the lavish blessings He has heaped upon me....

holy experience

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall Fun and blessings 303-327

Oh the graces and mercies He richly bestows on me and mine!  Here are just a few from the past few days.....

tree filtered sunlight speckling painted yellow walls
washed decking
yellow, amber and red colored mums in a big pot
fall wreathes

the rain holding off just a bit longer

my son researching and studying for lego robotics
figuring out a kid-free, dog-free space for him to work in
the chance to volunteer with my son at a lego event at the mall
being able to enter his world for a few hours.... uninterrupted

the way the morning sun floods the music room

the sound of my mother's voice

the praises of my sweet mother-in-law
a surgery gone well
a recovery on its way
a God that loves her so well she cannot mistake it
that she and I can share deep things of the heart with each other
that I cannot help but love her

I can see, talk and pray with my sweet Michelle in Korea each week

watching a dear friend get excited about ministry

welcoming new families into the church, and
the excitement of the possibilities....

grass fed cows
juicy dog bones

pumpkin patches with jumpy things and livestock

leaves in the backyard

holy experience

Monday, October 11, 2010

The counting continues #286-302

What a thankful heart I have as I remember the past week.  There were so many times I wished I had the camera, but it seemed more important to stay in the moment than to run and get it.  I prayed the memories would be etched in my mind.  I am not good about documenting our life in pictures or in words.  I know it would be such a treasure to my dear ones, so I need to work on that.  In the meantime.....

celebrating my love's birthday simple and relaxed 
knowing that the best present this year was to just 'be' with his kids, his wife, and his dog
the profound joy the kids and I experienced in finding simple ways to bless him
a friend unexpectedly asking to babysit, so we could have a date together the night of his birthday
her lovely demeanor when she arrived ready for duty

walking down a rain-soaked Portland street holding his hand
that at the same time, we both shared how we like this city

night-time stories with the whole family, puppy included, snuggled up on our big bed

an absolutely amazing, deeply penetrating sermon delivered in humility
gaining a new understanding of forgiveness, a life-changing one really

ten adults sharing heart thoughts in our family room
nine children playing well together downstairs
a puppy behaving so nicely even Cesar Millan would be proud

keeping to boundaries, and
the amazing satisfaction I am experiencing in caring for my family, because
the priorities are getting rightly ordered

Holy Spirit teaching us all things

holy experience

Thursday, October 7, 2010


It's this moment, this flash, this twinkling, this instant that I live
the folding my hands are doing, the smoothing of knitted fabric
my hand feeling the slick soft puppy tongue accepting the treat
holding the cool plate while the scent of the warm bacon rises
running my fingers through her hair, stopping and smiling at the tangle
hearing his 10 year old heart pray out loud
relaxing under the hot spray of water on my sleep-stiffened shoulders
counting the times I saw him smile last night
praying for peace at the sight of the candle's flicker
breathing in His Word written in her handwriting
tapping out the reality and hitting click to send
it's not what I did yesterday
it's not what I will do tomorrow
it's now

Monday, October 4, 2010

Picking back up with blessings #255-285

What a wonderful thing that Multitude Monday is on Monday!  For me, it's a great time for me to remember how I have so much to be thankful for!

In reality, I could have made it to 1,000 in the space of one day.  Here is just a record of a few that stand out from the past week:

that words arranged become art
the way my girl smiles at me

my boy watching football with his dad and me
the Jags beating the Colts, and giving us something fun to celebrate together

walking on top of fallen leaves
the sound of them crunching underfoot
the crisp autumn air
sunny, warm weekend days

the barely there mist as I walked Toby Sunday morning

a good sermon
meeting new people

the victories and frustrations of dog training and knowing we'll figure it out...
hopefully before he kills a certain little doggie he regards as a walking chew toy.

Dusting off my guitar and discovering

My love and me watching our smiling, happy children play
when he talks

that we live in the now
no past, no future, but right now.... right now I...

have Holy Spirit
have a sleeping boy and a snoring puppy
have a husband at work
a girl in the kitchen
a warm cup of coffee
great music playing
a pile of books we will read today
sun in the trees
wet curls clinging to my face
my girl's slippers on my feet
glasses on my face
my favorite jeans
a juvenile long sleeved T-shirt from the kids department, because
I can

holy experience

Here's a PS:
I have joined the Make your home a haven Fall challenge over at Women Living Well. Check it out.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What is music for anyway?

Believe it or not, I have struggled with the question above.  

When I was a child music was a call to dance, to dream, to escape to somewhere else for the duration of whatever album I (or my sisters) were listening to.  After Jesus found me, music became a way to adore Him.  I loved to sing about Him.  I learned to sing about Him in the youth choir at my church.  I learned about dynamics, tempo, and vibrato.  I learned that some people were very serious about music indeed.

Later, music became a way for me to communicate to Him... not only adoring Him by singing about Him, but realizing I could sing to Him.  This was an amazing discovery for me and a lesson that was unfortunately lost on me in my younger years.  Anyway, I became very passionate about singing to Him, about worshiping Him not only in voice and instrument but in any other way I could think of (or that someone else could think of!).  

I learned (sort of) to play the guitar.  I played and I sang and I taught and learned a lot about worship.  It didn't take very long to learn I wasn't a great musician.  Part of that comes from being surrounded by oh-so-very musical people.  People who are very skilled indeed in making music.  I tried to improve my musicality with lessons and seeking out various instruction.  In fact, my musicality did improve.  But I put away my guitar, and I didn't seek out opportunities to teach about worship so much anymore.  Instead I focused on my technique.... which, by-the-way, I was still convinced would assist me in doing great things for the Lord.... at some point.
I stopped singing songs with my children.

I did teach a worship class for our homeschool co-op, I sang on a worship team at church, but my guitar was collecting dust, and.... I didn't sing at home.  We didn't sing at home.  If you know me, that is a huge confession.

In thinking about it, I know now why that happened.  It's the same reason why I don't write as much as I would like to.  It's because I know that in someone's eyes..... whatever my expression is, is not going to measure up.  And maybe my own worst critic is me.

Now, how incredibly pathetic is that?  It's tragic and sad and a waste.

I wish not to be so wasteful.  Not that I am being wasteful of talent, for my talents are meager indeed, but I have wasted something far more precious.... worship.

By singing and writing and dancing and drawing and creating in anyway you can dream up, we are giving worship because we are doing what we were created to do.

 11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
       you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
 12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
       O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.  (Psalm 30)

 6 I will sing to the LORD,
       for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13)

 1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
       it is fitting for the upright to praise him. (Psalm 33)

 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
       sing praises to our King, sing praises. (Psalm 47)

4 All the earth bows down to you;
       they sing praise to you,
       they sing praise to your name."
       Selah  (Psalm 66)

 33 I will sing to the LORD all my life;
       I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  (Psalm 104)

19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,  (Ephesians 5)

16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3)

 13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
   "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
   be praise and honor and glory and power,
         for ever and ever!"  (Revelation 5)

I dusted off my guitar this morning.  As soon as I started strumming, the Audience of One drew in a congregation of three plus one puppy.  I couldn't remember all the chords and my rhythm was shaky at best.  Our voices didn't exactly come together as one heavenly choir.  Our pitch was iffy.  We sang about His awesomeness, we praised Him.  He was worshiped.

It was beautiful.  No one could convince me otherwise.

I learned an important lesson this morning, one I hope not to quickly forget....

and maybe that's what music is for.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The gifts #246-254

As my family and I seek to find our rhythm, as we have welcomed and bid farewell to many guests, as we have said 'yes' and are also learning how to say 'no',  as we learn what is too much and we see what is just we learn which reality to stretch our hope and strength, and faith around.....

I give thanks.

petting zoos

a child's discovery

the old man remembering his childhood

enduring friendship of these three....

                                                          and the memory of the one who has gone on...

the study of music

my little one's giving heart.... and that she wanted Grandma there

the odds and ends that make a life beautiful....

a heart that is heavy and full of hope....