Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Ten Years Strong: Choose Well

Year 10: from the shores of the junction between the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, Kingston.  

I write from the Canadian Thousand Islands today, from a beautiful little cottage on Landons Bay near Gananoque.  My husband and I traveled here, just the two of us, to celebrate a beautiful little milestone--ten years of marriage--and like a decade of marriage, we've never done anything quite like this before.  My parents have our boys (thank you!), we don't have much to be responsible for this week, and we haven't felt this serene in...probably ever.  Even on our honeymoon, we were learning how to be actually together for the first time ever, so "serene" only described bits and pieces of our three-week road trip.  

We have had a good ten years, but you know what's interesting?  It is only in this past year that I feel like I'm beginning to understand how this thing--this life of marriage and parenting and loving Jesus by loving people--I'm only just beginning to understand how this thing works.  And in a lot of ways, prayer for example, I'm still taking baby steps.  

When I think of it this way, fifty or seventy-five years of life and learning alongside this man doesn't seem improbable or boring.  I'm beginning to understand that with Jesus and the good man He gave me, fifty or seventy-five years of life and learning really is a thrill, really is an adventure worth committing to, really is very beautiful.  

And do you know how it happened?  The gist of it is that I CHOSE WELL.  There is a long version to the story, one that involves a couple of decades of the Lord setting me up well.  But through those decades there were plenty of opportunities for me to choose poorly.  Sometimes I did, and the Holy Spirit allowed me to experience the consequences but was faithful to work all things together for my good, because I love God and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  But despite temptations of various kinds, when it came down to it, I chose the important things well.  I chose to give Christ charge over my life, and later I chose to say yes to an important question asked by a very, very good young man.  

This does not mean I am always "happy" about my circumstances.  There are plenty of opportunities for me to realize what a selfish old grump I am, and the Holy Spirit allows me to experience the consequences.  But as I continue toward Him, continue choosing the important things well, He is always faithful to work all things together for my good.  He is worth everything, and so is my husband, and so is my family.  

"Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well with me."



Our wedding day: July 4, 2007.

Year 1: We reenacted our first date, hiking up Giant Mountain in the Adirondack High Peaks.

Year 2: A windy, rainy boat cruise on Raquette Lake.

Year 3: We welcomed our first son two weeks beforehand, and our pictures didn't usually focus on the two of us.

Year 4: I was office manager at Beaver Camp, and finally got a picture of our family near the end of the summer during teen camp Coffee House.

Year 5: Office manager again, teen camp Coffee House again.  Two babies this time.

Year 6: 4th of July celebration with friends.

Year 7: A quick anniversary picture in the field while visiting my parents.

Year 8: Joining in the 4th of July Boat Parade on Pleasant Lake, visiting Andy's dad.  Pregnant with baby #3.

Year 9: We periodically shouted things like "Hey, that guy over there is awesome!" while hosting our California cousins.  We were in the thick of "doing life."




Thursday, March 16, 2017

It's Not You, It's Me

I so often have a hard time enjoying my children.  "Often" as in, pretty much daily.  

I love my children, and literally for as long as I can remember I have looked forward to being a mama.  I practiced on my little brother from the time I was five.  Then I was everybody's favorite and most reliable babysitter (if I do say so myself...).  Then I had "favorite little kids" that I would invest myself in as a young adult.  I've always loved children.  

So it is with a bewildered heart that I find myself, over and over again, feeling put out and put upon, annoyed, overwhelmed, distracted, frustrated, like my plans are being held up because of my children.  I have my own agenda, and over and over again, because of them, I feel foiled again!    

These are real feelings.  

Regularly, I see Facebook posts from friends who seem to just adore everything about being mamas, getting Warm Fuzzies all the time as they look at and interact with their children.  These girls all just seem to embody "mother" in all the best ways.  To lay their lives down for the sakes of their children is one of their greatest joys.  

And I'm over here like, "What is this?  Why don't my kids get it that they're supposed to be perfect already?  I want to love being their mama, but they're messing it up for me!"  

Remember, I love my children.  But these are ugly, real feelings.  

Talk about my own worst enemy.  

I am so, so selfish.  And I wrestle with my own selfishness all the time, because when I go ahead and get around to acknowledging it's there and a Big Problem, I still just want things my way.  I'm having an argument in my head between the proverbial angel and demon, all the while knowing the right thing to do, and just stubbornly sticking with the demon.  

I remember almost eight years ago, a pastor praying prophetically over Andy and me, assuring us both that these (yet unborn) kids of ours would follow the Lord all the days of their lives--but that it would NOT be easy--we could not just sit back and say "we got a word from the Lord (about this)"--it would be HARD WORK training our children in the paths of righteousness.  

It IS hard work.  But I have always thought of it as hard physical work, directed toward shaping my children.  

It didn't occur to me that the hardest work might be primarily spiritual, and primarily within myself.  

Sanctification is Hard Work.  But if I don't deal with myself more than anybody else, I'm not only a hypocrite who doesn't actually grasp unconditional love and grace--but my kids know it.  They are perceptive little buggers.  

"Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you." James 4:8b-10

"Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me, and know my thoughts!  See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"  Psalm 139:23-24

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 36:25-26

Oh, and there's a happy paradox: it is through all the (genuine, heart-wrenching) wretchedness that Undivided Joy is born.  

I am (very, very slowly) learning.  Jesus, bring me from head knowledge to a heart of flesh.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Morning Promises

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things
Out of the dust...
Out of us.

Father, when things happen like Andy's preaching last Sunday, when he gushed about how wonderful I am and that he still has so much to learn even after ten years of knowing me and that he's excited about that--when that sort of thing happens

it is a good feeling
of assurance

but it also makes me feel so undeserving of that praise.  I know how cruddy I can be.  I know how

grumpy
lazy
disillusioned and disappointed
bitter

I can be on the inside, and I know a lot of it leaks out.  

I get frustrated and overwhelmed, impatient and irritated, sad, full of pity for myself, fed up with serving ungrateful people, selfish.  I am tired.  

And yet that is me without You.

The You in me
is different.

The You in me
can look at the bigger picture 
and appreciate the story
at least trust that 
You always write good stories.
The You in me
sees the poetry in life.

Through You I am 
more than a conqueror
Through You I can
scale a wall
Through You I am 
a new creation
Through You I can 
do all things
Through You I have
a heart of flesh, 
not a heart of stone
Through You I carry 
the light of life.

And it's a beautiful thing.

You always make beautiful things
Beauty out of ashes.
You rejoice over me
with singing
And because I have breath
(because You gave me breath)
I will praise the Lord!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Paradox

On March 31, I realized that I had written twice in January, thrice in February, four times in March...and I thought, "Wow! Wouldn't it be awesome if I continued that pattern all the way through December, so that by then I'd be writing basically every other day?!"  

And then I never wrote again.  C'est la vie.

I have been mentally struggling with a lot of paradoxes lately.  Things like:


I am an adult, but I feel like a child.
I am young, but I feel the aging happening.
I love quiet, but am surrounded by noise.
I want to live slowly, but I have to live hurriedly.  
I want to pare down our possessions, but we're always acquiring.
I can't help but dive into projects, but am overwhelmed by what's on my plate.
I need to be more healthy, but what's another day of bad food choices?
I desire to be content and joyful, but usually I am wanting and grumpy.  
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.
This is an awful lot of "I" statements.  We can get into a lot of trouble with "I" statements.  There is nothing inherently wrong with my feeling all these things and more.  But what I choose to dwell on shapes me, and then shapes the people around me.  So yes, Lydia, go ahead and look in, take stock, process.  Then look out at the people around me (especially the little ones that are daily affected by me).  And look up.  All paradoxes have their answer in Him that is equally engaged with the stars and our cells.

"And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Philippians 1:6 




  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Heard You That Time!

God spoke two little, wonderful things to me earlier this week.  

One evening I browsed through last season's Joyce Meyer magazine and did a double-take.  There in plain print was a typo, the wrong reference assigned to a verse: "Romans 8:35-37 says, 'The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).'"  

I thought, "No it doesn't.  That's the part of Romans that says, 'For I am convinced that neither height, nor depth, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things in heaven, nor on earth, nor below the earth--nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God...This verse about the thief and abundant life, that's John 10:10.  How'd they mix those up?"  (I do realize that what I almost-quoted is actually Romans 8:38-39, but you get the gist.)  

And then I thought--"WOW!  Seriously?!  I just recognized a SCRIPTURE REFERENCE TYPO, and not only knew the correct reference, but also the verse of the incorrect reference!  ME?!  WOW!"  And it was just so edifying.  Scripture references are not my forte, nor indeed is scripture memorization.  And my internal dialogue regarding scripture includes this attitude too often.  But guess what: it's in me more than I realize, written on my heart.  There is LOTS of room for improvement, but I am not a hopeless case, doomed to a lifetime of "I know how I underlined it, and where it is on the page...some page...probably Old Testament...about such-and-such a topic..."  Spend time in scripture.  It's worth it.  

The second God-talking-to-me thought came the next morning.  I had slept in a little, wasn't feeling great, dove right into the day, and I decided to sneak into my bedroom after putting the baby down for First Nap to have my own quiet time with Jesus.  Commence the thoughts, "You're being lazy.  You should be processing laundry, or playing with Lewis, or at least making this bed."  And I recognized those lies and decided I'd better start praying.  Out loud, so I wouldn't get distracted immediately.  

You know what that prayer turned into?  "Martha, Martha, you are distracted my many things.  But Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her."  

Jesus said that.  Martha was annoyed that her sister curled up to listen to Jesus while she was left to get dinner on the table all by herself.  But the ONE THING that is more important than anything else, even dinner for company?  Listening to Him, loving Him.  (See Luke 10 for the full story.)

And that prayer also reminded me that my spending time with Him, my prioritizing quiet time--in that God commands a blessing.  Deuteronomy 28 is a chapter full of blessings or curses that will be born out among the Israelites, and the long list of really, really good blessings hinges on "if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.…" (Dt 28:9b).  

Anybody remember the greatest commandment?  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." Heart (time spent with Him) comes before strength (good stewardship of your household).  Both are important, but one is more important.  

Cheers to spiritual ears and the gift of hearing the heart of the Father.  May I ever improve!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

10 Plagues Puppets for Jesus Storybook Bible

Based on these puppets from Amazon.  But I made a few changes (plague of tigers?), and utilized my store of paper bags and construction paper instead of paying $12.  Here they are all together, and then individually.  I wanted to be able to zoom in on the puppets in the Amazon picture, and just couldn't.  So I solved my problem for you.  



First plague: water turned to blood


Second plague: frogs. Everywhere.


Third plague: gnats out of the dust


Fourth plague: swarms of flies


Fifth plague: Egyptian livestock die


Sixth plague: boils


Seventh plague: hail


Eighth plague: locusts (big ol' HUNGRY grasshoppers)


Ninth plague: utter darkness


Tenth plague: death of the firstborn

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Run in Early March

Studying the clouds, imagining the ships and transformers and running sheep, the blindfolded man smelling a pot of steamy stew.

People mucking about in the mud, itching for Spring to hurry: an old man with a ball glove, a boy and his bike trying to conquer a plywood ramp up an old snowbank, a young man with his skateboard, a group of teenagers laughing.

Shelves and kettles and micro-crevasses in the heaped-up snow, all the scars of old winter telling tales of the critters gone by.  

Honks!  Somewhere, geese are flying!  I twist my head all around, swerving over the pavement, until I see the pair overhead, circling back, looking for a free-flowing landing pad on the river.  Geese!

And moments later, I smile to recognize the "Cheer! Cheer!" of a cardinal, and then hear him calling to a mate.  I smile for the waking-up world, but also because the song of a cardinal?  I've never known it before--but I read in a book that "Cheer! Cheer!" was its call, and to hear it in real life--it's unmistakeable.  Beautiful.