Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MANNA

In a previous blog post - Praying for Open Hands - I wrote:

"One of the first things I pray each morning is for God to give me the wisdom to know what to do and what to leave undone. I ask him to help me choose wisely what things to make a priority. I also ask him for grace to let go of things I will not be able to accomplish.

"As I pray, I picture an open hand, palm up. My prayer is for God to put into my open hand the tasks He wants me to work on, and for Him to remove from my hand those things that are not his will for me that day. I also pray that I will not be tight-fisted - that I will not insist on MY ToDo list while neglecting God's priorities for me."

But this particular morning - today - as I lay considering the day ahead, I felt so blegh. Oh, I have plenty of things I should do today - household chores, writing assignments, yard work, etc. - but I lacked the desire or motivation to climb out of bed and do any of them.

I looked at my open hand, empty palm held out for God to place in it or to remove from it whatever He wanted, and I sighed. "Nah. Just plain empty sounds fine to me...I don't really feeling like doing anything at all."

And then, as I lay there contemplating blowing the entire day in being unproductive, I thought about manna.

I thought about how God instructed his people to go out and gather this gift each morning before the sun melted it all away.

"Then the LORD said to Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not." - Exodus 16:4

God didn't tell the people, "You folks stay snuggled up in your tents while I rain down my blessing of manna all around you." No, He told them to "go out and gather."

The people were completely dependent upon God for each day's provision. They could not, however, enjoy the blessing of God's provision by sitting passively in their tents - they had to get up, grab a basket, go outside, and get to work. God sent the manna. In obedience, the people went out and gathered it.

"Okay! Okay!" I grumbled. "I get the message!" I climbed out from under the blankets in the gray light of predawn, half-heartedly repeating my "open hands" prayer as I shuffled to the bathroom.

After coffee and breakfast and conversation with the college crowd before they left for school, I sat down at the computer to work.

Blegh.

Blegh. Blegh. Blech.

My mind was blank, my eyes already glazed. Not a great way to start a day of writing!

"God, I am up and dressed and ready to work. I am struggling to be obedient, Lord, but mentally, emotionally, I've got nothing. Help me, Lord!"

I blinked at the computer screen like a stoned owl.

Beep!

I picked up my phone.

A message from a friend.

Two short verses she read this morning and wanted to share:

"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

The dam broke. The thick concrete in my head crumbled.

And now...

I am ready to write.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

SIGNS OF SPRING

Time flies! The fifth-grader in this post - my last homeschool student - graduates from high school in three weeks!

SIGNS OF SPRING
(from March 5, 2010)

While taking the dogs for their "long" walk Sunday afternoon, we stopped at the Robin Hood Tree so that three of the kids could practice their climbing. The Robin Hood Tree is a HUGE sycamore with great spreading branches perfectly spaced for climbing halfway to heaven. While Steve and I rested in the sunshine, I noticed unopened buds at the ends of the sycamore twigs. Buds! I mentioned The Greening in an earlier blog - but there are other signs that "Aslan is on the move" and winter is finally melting into spring. At our house, I've noticed....

Egg production is up in the henhouse. Ben's hens are laying over twice as many eggs as they were laying just a month ago. Egg salad sandwiches for lunch today - yum!

Everything with fur is shedding. The dogs are shedding all over the house - yuck. Martha says when she brushes Little John, she has to pause often to clean wads of winter hair out of the bristles.

Green things are poking out of the ground! I've found little green bumps at the base of last summer's dead hydrangea stems, and the irises and daylilies are pushing shoots up toward the sun.

The neighbor's bull was in our field again this morning. Have you ever heard an amorous bull, stalking the neighboring bull's herd? It sounds something like the low, rolling, prolonged thunder of a lion roaring out on the savanna. Scary, really, if you didn't know what it was. That's what I woke up to this morning. In the Bible, the phrase "it was the time of year when men went to war" is used to refer to spring. On the farm, we could say, "It was the time of year when bulls jump/knock down fences."

We are counting down lessons in our school work, racing to the back cover of the book. My fifth-grader has taped a poster to the wall showing the number of math lessons left in her book, and every day she marks a square off. This is more fun than watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve!

The countdown to turkey season has also started - poor Nate, I don't think he's shot anything in over a month. Ben is working on a paper mache turkey decoy, which now occupies one corner of the living room, and various other turkey gear is beginning to appear around the house.

I'm hearing more and more talk about possible summer jobs - funny how teenagers seem to be so interested in making money.

I have a growing urge to go outside and dig in the dirt.

Flip flops in Wal-Mart!

What about you? Any signs of spring in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

WELCOME TO ADULTHOOD

My youngest explained to her older brother last week that she was faced with a mountain of work she simply did not want to do. She was struggling to find the motivation to tackle tasks she needed to complete. "I guess I just have to push ahead and do the next thing," she sighed, "whether I feel like doing it or not."

Her brother's response? "Welcome to adulthood!"

I have been a mom - nonstop, 24/7 - for almost three decades. Have I ever had days when I thought, "You know, I just really don't want to do the mom thing today?" Yes, indeedy. But then, I did the mom thing anyway.

You can't really skip work when your job is The Mom. Kids have to be fed and clothed and nurtured, whether Mom is having a good day on the job or not. Kids are such great motivators!

If you are a mom or a teacher or a cashier at WalMart, being an adult means taking responsibility for the things you need to do, whether you're psyched about doing them or not.

Adulting 101: Doing things you don't particularly want to do - because they need to be done and it's your job to do them.

Sometimes, I take on more responsibilities than I ought. Sometimes, I say "Yes" too many times - and then feel overwhelmed by the number of things that must be done. My problem is not that I have so much work to do, but that I need to learn to say "No."

Again.

Saying "No" is a lesson in which I frequently need a refresher course.

Adulting 102: Learning to say No - how to have reasonable expectations and to limit your workload to something that vaguely resembles what is actually humanly possible.

You work hard, right? So, you know what? You deserve a break.

We all need time to relax, do something fun, and recharge our batteries. Yeah...but maybe not today. Maybe today, what I really need is to knock out those writing assignments, so that tomorrow I can enjoy some play time.

Adulting 103: Delaying gratification - rest is much more restful when it is free from the stress of a looming deadline or an unfinished assignment.

I don't know about you, but for me, as a parent, I want my children to grow into mature adults. Yes, I want them to be happy and to enjoy life - but the truth is, life isn't always going to be - isn't always going to feel like - a Saturday picnic in the park.

Will they (will I?) have the discipline to do what needs to be done, whether they feel like it or not? Will they have the wisdom to limit themselves to making realistic commitments? Will they appreciate the value of delayed gratification?

I don't want my kids to content themselves with some kind of weak, whiny, perpetual childhood. I want them to aspire to vigorous adulthood.

Adulting 104 - What would YOU add to the above list? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

THANK YOU, MATT THE TECH GUY

Nobody calls the plumber because they are having a good day.

"Hey, Sam! Just called to let you know the plumbing at my house is working great today! Toilets all flush, no faucets are dripping, no clogged drains...man, I have no plumbing worries what-so-ever! It's fantastic!"

Nope. That phone call doesn't happen.

People only call the plumber when they have a problem. They are already stressed - if not outright angry - before the plumber even picks up the call.

This evening, I am supposed to give a presentation about home education for a group meeting at the Obion County Public Library in Union City, Tennessee.
Because it is waaaay past time for me to get off the Dino Train and learn to embrace a greater diversity of technology, this evening - drumroll, please! - I will have visuals with my presentation.

Getting visuals off my laptop and onto the screen at the front of the meeting room - the thought scares the willies out of me.

Thankfully, there is Matt.

Matt is the tech coordinator at the library. Matt and I worked together at WalMart, way back in the day. So, yeah, we have that in common - we're both members of prestigious Brotherhood of Former WalMart Employees. Simpatico.

Matt is tech savvy. And he's patient. And although I am shamefully ignorant when it comes to computer-related technology, Matt doesn't make me feel stupid. Matt may be rolling his eyes inside his mind, but I don't see a hint of eye rolling when I look up and ask him yet another silly question. "Now, where did you say this cord goes?" "Whoa, what happened to my image?! Why did it just disappear like that?!" "Does this thing have a reverse gear?"

Technology - as in computers and projectors and interwebs and clicky mouse thingys - technology is rather like plumbing: it's one of those things that's easy to take for granted, until it doesn't do what you expect it to do. Then suddenly, a happy stroll through a slide show turns into a code red emergency, complete with wailing sirens and strobe lights (at least that's what it feels/looks like inside my freaked out brain).

So...

Today's post is simply to say...

THANK YOU, MATT. Thank you, Matt the Tech Guy, for all the tedious, behind-the-scenes work you do to make the magic of technology work beautifully for tech-challenged people like me.

Thanks to you, Matt, I am going into this evening's presentation with no worries what-so-ever, and it feels fantastic!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

ANOTHER KIND OF BIRTHDAY

The mother of a dear friend died recently, and I was blessed to attend this woman's funeral. Blessed, because it is always a blessing to be gathered with the saints, even in times of grief and mourning. Blessed, because even in the face of loss, it is so good to be reminded of the riches we possess eternally in Christ.

The young man who preached the service made this statement during his sermon: "The more glimpses we have of Christ in this life, the more we long to see Him face-to-face in Glory." I looked around at those gathered in the sanctuary and saw so very many "glimpses" of Christ, reflected in the faces of His precious sons and daughters. And yes, seeing those glimpses of Christ did make me long all the more to see my Saviour in Glory. The reflection of Christ radiating in believers is beautiful - how much more beautiful must be the true source and substance!

Steve has said before that I have a weird way of looking at funerals. They are sad times of tears and brokenness, certainly. But funerals are bittersweet for believers, because the sorrow is tinged with an inexpressible joy and a heart-rending longing. Death for Christians is the crossing over. The worm, on this side, has retreated into its cocoon. But, beyond earthly view, the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis into the radiant beauty of heaven, into the presence of Jesus. We call it death. I wonder if the angels in Glory call it a birthday.

At Saturday's funeral, I was reminded of a favorite poem by the 19th-century poet Christina Rossetti. Does this not make you long to see your Beloved in Glory?!

A BIRTHDAY
by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.


Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

(I originally posted this on Wednesday, June 9, 2010...wanted to re-share today as I approach the anniversary of the "birthday" of a dear friend whom I miss greatly.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

YOUNG WOMAN

Dear Young Woman,

You say you need a new boyfriend. After a string of disappointing relationships, you feel "less than," insecure, like maybe there is something wrong with you that keeps all the "good" guys away. You question your worth and your self-confidence is shaken. You tell me, "If I could just find a really nice young man to date, and if he genuinely cared about me and treated me well, I would feel so much better about myself."

You are probably right. If a truly admirable young man asked you out, and if he treated you with courtesy and respect, you probably would feel better about yourself.

Probably.

But, can I skip the probably-s and share with you something absolutely certain? Something that does not depend upon IF or upon the men who do or do not demonstrate an interest in you?

Young woman, you are an Image Bearer. You carry within you the imprint of the Holy, the thumbprint of the Creator of the Universe. You have value - inestimable value - not because some young man notices you, but because God himself has declared that you are precious in his eyes.

You are special, whether you feel like it or not, because you are His.

I want to challenge you...

Young woman, you do not need a new boyfriend. No, you need to remember who you are and whose you are, and you need to believe and to walk in the truth. (It is okay, dear one, to pray like the father in Mark 9: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" God will hear and answer your prayer.)

Do not rely on relationships with men to provide that which has already been given to you by your heavenly Father.

Stop sitting in the shadows and cinders, pining for some elusive Prince Charming to come along and give you a sense of worth.

You are already a Princess.

You are a beloved daughter of the Most High King.

Stand up straight, Princess, and walk in the light.

Love,
Your older sister

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

PRONE TO WANDER


O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be;
let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wand'ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it - prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.
- from "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," by Robert Robinson

I am prone to wander...

I am prone to flirt with temptation and to "wander" into sin, especially - for me - into the sins of doubt, ingratitude, and fear.

I am prone to wander in more subtle ways, too. I am prone to distraction and to busyness - MY LIFE IS SO BUSY! I am prone to get so wrapped up in the good gifts God gives me that forget that the Giver of those gifts should be my greatest delight. I forget my complete dependence upon God, and I focus my time and energy on a thousand good things while forgetting that my greatest need - indeed, the reason for which I was created - is to worship Him.

Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it - 

I feel it in the wanderlust toward sin and in the wanderlust toward every good thing besides my God.

Today, my prayer is that in the midst of God's blessings, that even while I enjoy much goodness at His hand, that God will take my heart and seal it...

* * *

Jesus said..."Do you want to go away as well?"

"Lord, to whom shall [I] go? You have the words of eternal life..."
(from John 6:67-68)

* * *

My heart wants to run away. It wants to pursue joy and worth and security that are grounded in myself and in what I accomplish instead of in God and in what He accomplishes for me and through me.

Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it, for you - you, O Lord! - are my life.