Friday, June 24, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Mirrors (a poem)

This weekend in our adult Sunday school class, someone mentioned how the Bible is a true mirror. When we assess ourselves we aren't getting "the whole picture" but the Bible pierces into the heart and can show us who we really are ... if we let it.


I actually used to write a lot of poetry. In researching yesterday's post I came across a song written by Moses. Obviously David was a bit of a poet himself. And it reminded me that is also a tool that God sometimes uses. I always enjoyed writing poetry - sometimes it comes out structured, sometimes a glimpse of chaos frozen in the form of written words.

So. Now you know. Maybe I'll start sharing some more often.


Mirrors

I looked into the chrome-shine face
Examined what I saw ...
How many hours lay in waste
While judgement there was brought?

I looked on glittering lives of friends
And held mine alongside.
How many tears have found their end
When measurement was short?

I looked upon His written word
And invited Him to speak.
Giving over all "consume me!" ... tipping in like Alice's glass
In reflecting Glory not my own can peace be made at last.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - God Loves You ... But ...

God loves us ... all of us. He is the very definition of love. But ...

Lately the girls have been quite taken with Prince of Egypt and the music from it. We listen to the soundtrack in the car a lot. One of their favorite pieces is "The Plagues." It is powerful. Overwhelming really. And it got me to thinking. The movie takes some poetic license, and I wondered if so many "I send" statements in the song did as well.

It turns out, they did not.


Pharaoh, his heart hardened, defies God. He denies His authority. He disrepects His commands.

Sound familiar?


Babylon did the same thing. In Jeremiah she is recorded as "engaged in conflict with the Lord." If history has taught us anything, let it be that any nation who rears its head with the audacity to oppose a Holy God will taste utter defeat.


God is love, but He is also power. Might. Most High. Just. Only His love withholds His hand from wiping us out and starting afresh. Or not starting at all.


How is it love to say I have not slain you just so my power will be made known? The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. When we know who He is, what Holy means, what true justice is, and how sinful we are how can we do anything other than respect Him, trust Him, and come to know Him? Isn't the opportunity to know and trust Him worth the show of force?


For a long time, especially lately, I've seen the bad things in the world as something God allowed, but didn't cause. How could a loving God cause such suffering, right? Job is an example - God permits Satan to torment Job. The Lord Himself causes Job no harm.

Not so with Egypt. I poured over the story of the plagues the last few days looking for any indication that the Lord had allowed the plagues. I grew up thinking that He had sent the angel of death, or Michael, someone, to enact the final horror on the Egyptian people.

What I've found instead is when one is in explicit disobedience to God, He will, Himself, strike. I will pass over. I will strike. Not I will allow them to be struck. And I think my beloved America is approaching that level of insubordination. We, as a country, are not only wallowing in sin ... we are starting to scoop it up, call it good, and call God's Word restrictive, hateful, incomplete, and untrue.


But the Lord is GOOD and He is LOVE and so there is always a way out. The blood of the first Passover lambs was the sign to Him. A sign of obedience. Of course He could have recognized His children's homes and passed over ... but the blood required a sacrifice and an act of obedience. If there were any Israelites who did not obey, I couldn't find it. After seeing God's power unleashed on the Egyptians I'm certain their faith was pretty strong in that moment.


He does listen to our prayers, and often when all hope seems lost, intercession can turn His wrath. These same people leaving through their bloodied door posts late at night later incite God's anger against themselves in the desert. Moses intercedes for them and the tide is turned. He is also merciful. 

If you aren't interceding for our country, now would be the time to start.


God is love, but He won't be disrespected. God is good, and He punishes evil. There is nowhere to hide from Him. And He hides His children, those who know Him and obey His statutes, under His wings.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - What Victoria Said - NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Last month Victoria turned two.


And she is two, and everything that comes with it. I don't know that she is more "terrible two" than Shelby was, or if it is just amplified by higher volume and more of a temper. When she isn't in the throes of a tantrum she is the sweetest little girl, smart and expressive and a tease.

But woe to those who dare not "be nice me" (being nice being defined as doing exactly what she wants, how she wants it done, and when she wants it done - which is usually NOW).

Mealtime:

Mommy: Victoria are you all done?

Victoria: NO! My food! My plate!

Mommy: OH! I'm sorry, I thought you were done!

Victoria: NO! All done! *flailing, threatening to throw her plate*

Bedtime:

Mommy: And here's your blanket...

Victoria: NO! Blanket OFF! NO! Nonononono!!!!!! *kicking blanket, swatting at the air with an arm*

Mommy: OK, goodnight! See you in the morning!

Victoria: My blanket on! *in the saddest, why-are-you-neglecting-me? voice*

Playtime:

Shelby: Here do you want some sweet tea?

Victoria: NO ... yesh!

After a tantrum:

Mommy: Victoria are you two?

Victoria: NO!!!!!!

Oh yes, yes she is. And we love her.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - For the Ladies ...

Ok really, if you are a guy this really doesn't pertain to you and I'd suggest you move on. Sorry; it's an X-chromosome, hormone thing.

Ladies. Oh ladies. Since 2009 I've been charting my cycles. It has been crazy, because at least a couple of years of that time I've been either pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding.

But most of the time my cycles are pretty regular. Short (25 days on average) but regular.

And in that time I've observed some things.

When I was "being good" on my own, eating mostly the right things, but with out-of-control portions, I'd lose about three pounds every month.

Then in one week I'd gain it back. What? Why? Which week, you may ask? I bet you can guess. PMS week. I always blamed it on bloating, and I'm sure that was some of it. But why did I then have to turn around and lose those SAME three pounds the other three or so weeks I had left???

Now that I'm also paying more attention to my fitness and nutrition, I've observed some things.

During that week ... I struggle to eat. I actually feel almost as nauseated as I did during the first trimester of pregnancy. Especially my proteins, which I usually look forward to. Instead ... what little I do want to eat ... is carbs.

What does this tell me? I may have actually been eating less calories, but the ones I was eating were low-nutrition, easily digestible (easily stored) calories. And since low-prep carbs are more appealing than something closer to raw ... I was probably eating a lot of processed foods and all the lovely sodium and preservatives that come with it.

So what have I observed lately? The cravings are similar, and I may not get all my protein in and might be more likely to cheat ... but I don't seem to get the bloating anymore. And I keep losing weight (or at least not gaining) throughout my cycle.

It is a lot tougher to get motivated to do my workouts, and I struggle more through them ... but I also know that week is coming when I feel on FIRE and like I could do all six Chisel workouts in one day. So I think about what that day is going to feel like instead of focusing on how exhausted I am and how gross being sweaty feels.

And I've kept plugging away ... and now during "that week" instead of breaking out the stretchy pants and thinking even they feel more snug than I'd like ... I find that even my elastic waisted yoga pants are loose around the middle.



All these things that have affected you your whole life (or at least, in this case, since puberty) are something you can overcome ... or at the very least learn to work with. If you are interested in learning more, or want to share your struggles with me, I'd love to chat with you.

If you'd like to learn more about your hormones and how they relate to fitness and nutrition, this is an informative article that I found to be not only fascinating but helped explained a lot of what makes me feel the way I do during the different phases of my cycles.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday: Rooted

Last week I wrote about nature ... and beyond the fact that God created nature, my mind began blooming with examples of how God uses nature to illustrate His love for us, His plan for us, and what He expects from us.

For the next several Mondays, I'm going to explore this idea in a series I'm calling "Rooted: Plant Analogies in the Bible."

I'm a would-be gardener. I have an area of our yard picked out, but since we don't have a fence yet and we do have a menagerie of wildlife that frequent the area (gophers, rabbits, deer, possums, coons, wild hogs ...) it is most prudent for me to wait. But I love the idea of putting in the care of protecting tender sprouts, hacking at weeds, and patiently awaiting the harvest a home garden can provide (especially given how much produce I seem to buy).

In both Song of Solomon and Isaiah God paints a picture of a vineyard in need of protection. The young lovers of Song of Solomon have foxes to catch before they strip the vines of blossoms before they can even set fruit. And in Isaiah the Lord predicts the fall of Isarael after He strips away their hedges and their walls.


From the time a grapevine flowers, it is almost four months until mature fruit is ready to be picked. In the Song of Solomon there is a need to keep those blossoms on the vines. The lovers don't express the need for a taller fence or a thicker hedge, but rather a need to catch the foxes.

The first thing I take from this verse is that we have something fragile and desirable that needs to be protected. In its time this vineyard will yield fruit. But we aren't able to built walls large enough to keep every imposition from threatening the fruitfulness of the vineyard come harvest time. We can't just put up all wall and distance ourselves from the world. We have to stay diligent and watchful. When temptations and sources of harm that can keep us from bearing fruit sneak into our lives we have to catch them. We don't simply observe them and hope that they won't have an impact on us, our families.

We can teach our daughters to have healthy boundaries, but we also must teach them how to catch those things which get past the boundaries. Perhaps they are stealthy, or perhaps they look cute and innocent in the beginning. They may seem small and of little harm, but if they snatch too many blossoms there will be no fruit. They can't be dealt with later. If allowed to scamper freely through the vineyard it may become too late to rescue a bountiful harvest.


But in Isaiah we see that there still is a need for a wall. In verses that read like a beautiful song with a sad end, God shows that without His protection, when He removes His walls and His hedges, the vineyard is consumed and trampled. Wasted. Uncared for. There can be no fruit when it is choked with thorns and brambles ... and no fruit without rain. Grapevines actually have very specific needs for well-timed rains when putting on fruit.


We have some mustang grapes growing along an old fence behind our house. Every year in the spring the hardened, bare, dormant vines suddenly spring to live with fresh green leaves. Blossoms peek shyly and become hard round promises of fruit to come. The vines grow incredibly fast during the rainy season.


And almost as quickly, when the temperatures climb and the rain ceases, the leaves become paper-thin and wilt. What fruit hasn't been spotted by damage, eaten by the various birds and beasts that may be able to tolerate the acidic fruit (these aren't your grape jelly and wine variety grapes, I hear you should wear gloves even to pick them!) become shriveled and unappetizing.


On the opposite side of the fence, thorny vines have all but overtaken the fence line and grow nearly to chest-height on myself. They grow quickly, and I never see any grapevines on that side of the fence.

Next week I will share why it is so important to protect the fruit-bearing capabilities of your "plant" as illustrated in the Bible ... which will also partly answer why God removed the hedges and barriers around Israel and let her vineyard be overtaken.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Repurposed

I love repurposed things, especially when they already belong to either myself or my family. For example, our vent-hood cover is off an old creep feeder that was on the land our house sits on.

Even though we live in the country, I get a little nervous about the fact that our master bedroom windows aren't covered. Especially on nights when I hear ATVs zipping around; probably hog hunting, but what if it is someone who doesn't realize our unmarked driveway actually leads to a house someone is living in?

Plus, being an off-limits, East facing room that is closed off all morning ... it frankly gets kinda warm. I thought doing something to the windows might block a little of the morning sun and soften the edges of the room a bit in addition to giving some privacy.

Anyways, I decided to do something about it, but I didn't want to lose our views of the sunrise and the pond. And I didn't want to spend money.

My first thought was just to do what I had already done in the bathroom and make a short curtain of burlap with a tension rod and some quick sewing. I still had a good bit of burlap left over for our wedding ... but when I started measuring ... it just wasn't enough for three windows.

Then I remember we ALSO had natural (unbleached) cotton bunting from the wedding, which we used to soften the tables everyone sat at for dinner. I love our wedding. It was in my parents' backyard ... my Mom really did most of the work. I had a dream that I was getting married in their backyard before I even met Tim. Unbeknownst to me (and pre-Pinterest) Mom had started collecting ideas and the items needed to do them without telling me.



Everything was rustic; tin tubs for drinks, old tables, Mason jars ... I even fashioned the floral arrangements out of dried flowers and fresh Mother's Day bouquets (taken apart and grouped by color) bunched to look like the wildflowers you picked for your momma as a little girl and she put in a jar of water to admire. I love being able to take our girls to the arbor we stood under and tell them THIS is where Mommy and Daddy got married.






I fashioned curtains to hang high enough I felt covered were anyone to be outside, but low enough I can simply walk up to them and look out. To keep the look complete, I had them come to the same height from the floor on all three windows even though the windows are completely different sizes.

I'm not going to attempt to tell you how to sew them other than I cut the bunting to a size to allow for seams on the sides and bottom, but only sewed a rod pocket on the burlap and left the edges raw. Then I just sewed the two pieces together with a zigzag stitch lest the burlap threaten to unravel.

Oh! And you can see one of our repurposed hymnal holders on the wall in the corner too ...
It really made our room feel more soft and cozy, but still with a rustic feel. And I just love the nostalgia of being surrounded by things from our wedding.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday: Nature

Sometimes I wonder what would have become of me if I hadn't been raised in a Christian home and going to church. Since being outside feeling the wind or the heat, watching the weather change before my eyes, listening to the calls of wild things communicating with one another and the night, wondering at the deafening cacophony than can echo off as small a pond as the one in front of our house ... I think I know my answer.

Though I fight logic tooth and nail like a true creative, I am a scientist. I like to study things. I find a certain enjoyment in natural order. Explanations, especially those that are unexpected, fascinate me. The inner workings of a single cell are like a world within a world, a delicate ballet that our bodies manage to duplicate millions, billions of times over without even a thought from us.


I'm fairly certain I would worship science and nature. I would see them as gods of their own, reasons for everything. Most of you who know me know I'm not much of a tree hugger ... but that's only because I know that this world is also subjected to the fall of man. Death wasn't just the penalty for Adam and Eve but for all of creation with them. We should be good stewards but I know we can't save the planet anymore than we can effect world peace.


But I was raised knowing that God created all these things I found so fascinating. And so I worship Him when I observe them. A hike through the woods alone is like a walk with God in the garden, or at least as close as I can imagine. Looking through a microscope at the order ... the intricacy ... the art of the things around us brings me to my knees before Him.

And I am thankful. Because I know worshiping nature would lead to worshiping self. Look how wonderful I am. Look at these instincts I can rely on. My DNA made me who I am and I free myself to be that.


But I know that is the way that leads to death. Live and let live ... I'll be me and you be you ... it sounds so altruistic, so tolerant. It is what the world around us clamors for every day.

We cannot put God in a box and tell Him how we want Him to be. We can't blame Him for the nature within us that is at war with His Law. His Law is greater than the laws of nature. He gave us a soul and when we ignore that and live by the flesh we are against Him.

He isn't a cruel God. He has given us a way out, a Helper. He wants to help us overcome all of our brokenness, if only we will recognize that us and everything around us is broken. Bad things don't happen because God is indifferent ... they happen because sin smashed into our world and wrecked a perfect design which is now only a dying echo of what He made. God is good because He has a rescue plan. We, and this world, WILL be whole again. Trust Him.