Monday, February 29, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - Wounding to Heal

Stick with me here. Explore this concept with me. My grasp on it is slippery, but I share only what I know to be true.

If there were statistics on prayer, I wonder what percentage of prayer would be for healing? Of course we pray when someone is ill or injured, but the words I'm reading about healing today are more of the spiritual sense.

Perhaps part of the reason why God allows us to be wounded in our human condition is so He can heal us. At first this seems cruel ... why wouldn't He want us to remain untouched instead?


As a parent I THINK I've started to understand this a bit better. We live in a fallen world where we all get hurt. Like God, we do our best to teach our children what will hurt them. But sometimes, unless they are about to utterly destroy themselves, we have to stop pulling them away. We remind them and we are ready to comfort them when the wretched thing happens.


I tell my daughters not to play in fire ant beds. We teach them what fire ant beds look like. We run like the wind when we see them wandering towards a mound almost as tall as they are. But at some point I stop following them around the yard yanking them away from anything that might be an ant mound.

Trust me! I don't stand and watch my sweet girls stick their hand into an ant bed. But when I stop circling like a hawk over them they eventually get bitten. I hate it! Tearful toddlers are scooped up and medicines and oils and bandaids applied with kisses and attention. And they know now what I was trying to warn them about. I pray they will be more quick to listen when I say something may hurt them because they trust I'm not just trying to keep them away from the fun piles of dirt.


God is the perfect parent. I do not mean to imply He is ever not paying attention as we wander through life towards pitfalls and sharp-toothed traps. As the omnipotent and omnipresent Father He knows which wounds will lead to our seeking Him for healing. Or that we may never seek Him for healing no matter how many consequences we wrack up ... shoving our free will through life like a leper; a trail of tattered limbs behind us that we didn't know we lost.


If we haven't been wounded we can't be healed. How often is it pain that leads to repentance? Pain and sorrow over the realization that we have wronged Him, heartsick and in need of the healing only He can provide. Or mired in the consequences of our sins and needing flat out rescue and recuperation.


Maybe ... because He allows us free will ... He allows us to be touched so that we will ask Him to touch us.

I won't pretend I understand the mystery of how God works: but I know He does; I know He is light and love and everything good and nothing evil. So I trust. And know that my wounds were not meant for nothing. And take heart in who He uses them to make me. I know my wounds have shown me His faithfulness and made me love and trust Him more.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Growing Up

Wednesday Shelby randomly started singing the entire ABC song, and getting most of it right! We were in the car, and it gave me a flashback to another time.

Shelby in Tyler ~8 months old
When you have a baby (if not before) everyone tells you how fast they are going to grow up. They tell you beautiful things like "The days are long but the years are short." I'll never forget the first time I heard that, at a dear friend and mentor's funeral as something she had just shared with a MOPs group that week.

Of course it is true. We all know it, and if a mother (or father for that matter) is complaining they probably just need to vent. You see it when you try to put on their shoes that fit yesterday and can't get their foot in. Or when their pajama pants that needed to be rolled up so they didn't trip on them are high-waters when they get up the next morning.

They go from ooh and aahing you with momma and dada to telling on their big sister in such a way that between broken English, names, and gestures you know what went down before they finish pulling you down the hall by the hand.

But the full realization of how fast they are growing up hits you in flashes of stark contrast. That sense of Deja Vu where your three year old does something and suddenly you see them just a few months old. You want to laugh at how different they were, how different you were, and you want to cry because they've changed so much. And it is wonderful.

So Shelby singing the alphabet song in the car gave me one of those flashbacks. Her car seat was still rear facing back then. Tim was working and we had gone up to visit GiGi and Dude (my parents). Usually we would get in the car and she'd fuss a bit and fall asleep. Most trips she slept the entire three hour drive, or maybe woke up once to nurse. She was starting to babble some:


This particular trip was the longest drive I have ever taken. She cried all. The. Way. Home. I probably stopped at every rest stop between Cameron Texas and Bullard Texas. I thought she might stop breathing. Or at the least burst a blood vessel. Or perhaps finally collapse into a well-earned slumber.

February 21, 2013 - Taken during one of our many stops
At every stop I'd pull her from the seat and take her, red faced and salty with tears, to get some fresh air. She wasn't hungry, her diaper was clean. She would smile at me and babble. So after a little break I'd put her back in that big car seat facing nowhere. I even tried to reason with her ... We'll never get home if we just stop!

My hand was numb from twisting my shoulder and elbow to impossible angles to try to hold her hand while I continued to drive. I would sing and sing and sing. For some reason the alphabet song is the one I remember singing. The thought even crossed my mind that I would traumatize her little psyche and she'd NEVER learn her letters because I sang them to her so many times while her world was falling apart.


Eventually we obviously did make it home, both hoarse and exhausted. My dad reassured me she was exercising her lungs and I'm sure GiGi, Dude, and Tim uttered many prayers during my nerve wracking trip. Tori never went through it quite as badly because she had big sister to hold her hand and entertain her.

Feburary 21, 2016 - Just a few days ago, ready for church
Some of the drives are long and feel like you will never reach your destination. But you will, and you'll look back on these things you thought y'all wouldn't make it through and just laugh. Or sigh nostalgic. Maybe both. And she'll grow up and learn the alphabet song and how to read and write and one day I will miss her and the text message or email (or who knows how we'll communicate by then) that she sends using that alphabet will be the highlight of my day.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Repairer, Restorer

Isaiah 58 loosens something in my heart. Perhaps something very American that cries "YES, FREEDOM!" Rather than the sad commercials evoking pity ... trickle your coffee money down so I can simply have something to eat ... I want to beat my chest and stand arm in arm with the oppressed. Do not bend to shame! Straighten your back, jut out your jaw, and stand firm knowing that God hears you and He sent me and others like me.

But the other side of the American spirit is much like the Israelites Isaiah 58 is speaking to ... living out the letter of a fast while not accomplishing what God intended the fast to accomplish. I don't want to pat myself on the back for following the "rules" ... I want God to guide my heart to allow what He intended obedience to Him to bring about.

"Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression And to the house of Jacob their sins. "Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. 'Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?' Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. "Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
Isaiah 58:1-4 NASB


Oh how I want to do that. I feel like God is stirring something up in my but I'm not yet sure what. At the moment it is like a swirling whirlwind, a spinning top, and images flash by of the oppressed. He knows the reality of my season of life. I will wait and trust Him to stoke the fire in me and show me what His plan is.

The precipice of adventure. I feel like I'm standing at the trailhead of a hike into the wilderness. Only instead of a pack full of a week's worth of provisions and a tent, I have His word. Instead of hoisting a canoe over my shoulders, I have two very young girls.


The temptation is to congratulate us on raising them on His Word and say that is my work for now. It is! But I will not use it as an excuse. God would not call me to something He won't give me the strength to do. So instead of saying that I will do something in the future, when they are older, or say that I just can't right now ... I will open my hands and my heart to Him and say that though I don't see how I can I know that He has a plan for that too. In fact, on Sunday mornings we have been studying Pete Wilson's "What Keeps You Up at Night: How to Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams" and I have been praying as he suggested on page 65:

"Ask Him to give you something so God-sized - something so big that if He isn't in it, it's destined to fail."

As American as the cry in my soul for freedom feels, doing anything destined to fail is not very American. We are accustomed to having plan A, plan B, plan C, and insurance to cover worst case scenarios. My American experience has been to have no knowledge of the pain and unfairness inflicted on someone else so I can enjoy the lifestyle that I have. But when I know better I want to do better:

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” - Maya Angelou



I don't want to turn a blind eye and pat myself on the back for what I am doing. Lord please open my eyes to the oppressed all around me. Then show me what to do. Make me a repairer of the breach and a restorer of the streets.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What Shelby ... er, Victoria Said Wednesday - Tatow

OThough I'm sure Shelby had some words like these ... she self-corrected them and I no longer remember them. Well, that's not entirely true. I don't think I'll ever forget Noni; her name for every Disney princess. Ariel? Noni. Belle? Noni. Aurora? Noni. Victoria does that same thing, except her special name is Selsa. I'm sure most anyone reading this has an idea where that one came from. Elsa? Selsa. Anna? Selsa. Ariel? Selsa. Sometimes Shelby is even Selsa.



This week "What Shelby Said" is "What Tori Said" because Victoria has created this fantastic "multi-use" word.

Tatow.

"I wan Tatow!" accompanied by pointing to the pantry can be interpreted as "I want a cracker."

"I Tatow?" while pointing at the table (or a special drawer in our island cabinet) is a request to color. I think it actually means "Crayon" because she has been known to point at a blue (or any other color) paper-wrapped wax art tool that has rolled onto the floor and say it as well.

"A Tatow!" in response to conversations about the green, flippered reptiles in a book or on her animal alphabet placemat ...

"Tatow" with a sly little grin and a shy ducking of the head means "I can't stand it ... Tickle me again!"

I'm going to miss Tatow when it goes the way of all things toddler ... Those things 3 year olds develop amnesia to. For now .... Off to Tatow the girls while they'll still let me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Clean Eating Cheesecake

Today I'm sharing a recipe that isn't one I came up with, but it was delicious!

Clean Eating ... 21 Day Fix Friendly ... CHEESECAKE.



This is a lifestyle, not a diet. And my lifestyle sometimes requires something sweet.

Something sweet that counts as a red container (protein serving) or two? Even better!

Obviously this cheesecake doesn't have a crust, so if that is your favorite part you may have to look elsewhere. But if you're like me and love the bread that makes a Kolache a Kolache, but are even more so a sucker for the cheesecake/cheese Danish filling ... you might enjoy this as much as I did.

The original recipe can be found at this blog: http://healthyfeelshappy.com/2014/07/31/21-day-fix-approved-cheesecake/

I cooked mine in two ramekins so it came to 1.5 red containers each. Yes, you can eat the WHOLE THING.

Note: The second time I made this I used a duck egg and had to substitute 1/2 a cup of ricotta for some of the cottage cheese because I was low (in other words, 1 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup ricotta). It was still delicious BUT it somehow filled four ramekins instead of two!

Ingredients:

- 1.5 cups cottage cheese (two red containers)
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (1/2 a red container)
- 1 egg (1/2 a red container)
- Stevia (to taste) or 2 teaspoons honey (the original recipe called for 2.5 TBSP white sugar, but that's a lot of sugar - I thought the honey was great myself)
- 1.5 TBSP flour (I think it might not brown well without this? I didn't count it because it is so little)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of one lemon (reserve some for garnish)*
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon flavor*

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. My ramekins are the Corelle ones? They were maybe a little on the "too full" size hence the way it fell. I did not grease them at all. I suppose you could but since we ate them directly from the ramekins I did not want to use any of my teaspoons of oil!
3. Combine cottage cheese and yogurt in a blender and process until very smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until combined. Pour into ramekins.
4. Bake for 30 minutes and begin checking for doneness (cake pulling away from the pan and beginning to turn a beautiful tan color). It may jiggle but should not be soupy anymore.
5. Garnish with reserved lemon zest. Allow to cool completely and then refrigerate until cold (several hours or overnight).

* I think you could leave out the lemon flavor and zest if you'd like. It wasn't overpowering though. Next time I make it I'm going to also put berries on top. And the NEXT time I make it I'm going to leave out the lemon and zest and make a chocolate Shakeology sauce ... yes, this recipe is a keeper!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - HELP

Right now I am studying James with the help of Beth Moore's study "Mercy Triumphs." This week in my homework (page 81 if you are curious) she posed a question that made us think of a time when an act of obedience could only have been a move of the Spirit.


My thoughts flew to times I have let go of white-knuckling my will in a storm-tossed attempt to sail away from temptation and instead asked Him for help. Sometimes something in me doesn't want to ask for help because I know it will come swiftly, washing over me like a flood. Like a riptide suddenly carrying me away from the wicked shore of destruction. Cool, calming, cleansing water rushing over me and speeding me from the unnatural and uncomfortable gaiety calling on the sands of "Pleasure Island."


I have confidence His help will come, yet something in me is drawn like a moth to the flame that will burn my wings and leave me a dried, tattered husk sinking in hot wax. Everything in me knows that giving in will only lead to pain and emptiness yet ... we call these things temptation for a reason. The siren's song calls to that part of us that makes us human rather than divine. Our free will says "perhaps THIS defiance is true freedom" yet we know we will come away filled with heartache; a soul hungover with regret at our indulgence.


The only strength I need is not to steer my ship into the gale, fighting with screams of fury against the stinking wind that would bash me on the shore ... but to utter, even if in a whisper ... Help. HELP. Hurry Lord, I need help so badly I don't even want it!


He is my rescue and my relief. He washes away the shame I feel at even being tempted. He is my conquerer. When I am on the brink of the temptation being too much all I have to do is speak and angel armies break loose on my behalf.


When deep down I know that obedience is best I delight in knowing His Law, knowing that this temptation isn't right and knowing I can call on Him to help me. Never have I regretted the rescue. Experience and His Law reassure me that His way is best.


Temptation is a given. Holiness and righteousness are not achieved by not being tempted or Jesus would never have experienced it. We share in His Holiness and Righteousness when we ask for His help and are overcome by His strength, His power, His healing to scoop our feeble minds and battered hearts from the waves.


Thank you, Lord, for being my help. For hastening to me when I call. In sickness your glory may not be to come quickly but You have never been far from my side when the help I so desire is from the diseased idols attempting to draw me away from You. Hasten to help us.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Behind Great Women

I'm guessing anyone old enough to be reading this has heard the quote "Behind every great man, there is a great woman" in its countless (and sometimes sarcastic) variations.



In the past couple of months, I've become reacquainted with hymns. I grew up with hymns but as a youth found them tiresome and even boring. Now their familiarity is a comfort and with 20 years more of life behind me I hear the truth, the profundity of their carefully crafted lyrics.

This week I gave in and let myself get Joey + Rory's album "Hymns That Are Important To Us." Listening to it in the car and thinking of their story had tears trecking down my face. Part joy, part heartbreak. If you don't know their story, I suggest you get acquainted

Album cover art from Amazon.com
Knowing their story you can hear in her sweet voice the sincerity of one close to Home. It is beautiful. Beautiful like when the sunrise is so breathtaking that a train horn blows and you catch yourself wondering if it is the trumpet's call and is that light breaking in the East the sun, or the Son?

While I won't attempt to relate their whole story, Rory does an excellent job of that, it is clear that he was captivated by her beauty and talent and wants to see her shine. Not just for him, but for God's glory for anyone who would listen. He didn't see who she is and want to keep her all to himself. He has even shared the heartache with a strength that could only come from God.

Then there is America's new favorite pastime ... OK, perhaps not but with lines outside their store STILL; several months after they moved to a larger location it's no secret their witty banter and easy style have made many of us fall in love with them.
Photo from Country Living
While I've never met Joanna Gaines or her husband Chip in person, I've met someone who knows them and says they are the same sweet people you see portrayed on television. Whew! But have you ever heard their story? Like, before Fixer Upper?

Chip heard Joanna's dreams and he has helped her make them happen. You can see it all over his face anytime they are talking about a project together. He's like ... You're crazy. It's wonderful. Let's do it! He helps her blossom. I'm telling you, watch him on a few episode or in an interview. It's like he gives her the little push to fly and then watches adoringly. I love it.

While these amazing women are my examples of what a great husband does to a woman ... There's another commonality here. All four of them have God's glory in mind in everything they do. In the end they give Him all the credit for their successes, their talent, and their relationships. Behind many great women there may or may not be a great man ... but there's a great God behind them both.

Now, I'm by no means a great woman, but if you've hung with me this far you must get something out of these thoughts God gives me to share. The only reason you are seeing them is because Tim encourages me to put them out there. Almost every Sunday, one way or another, he gives me some responsibility free time alone with God to really dig into those creative zones and really listen in the quiet and solitude. He keeps after me. Those periods of blog-silence? He wasn't. My biggest fan was always letting me know he missed me.

My handsome husband on our wedding day! Photo by SixFourteen Photography
Dear sweet bright daughters. God is the only "man" you need behind you. And if you ever meet a man who applauds your attributes but wants to lock them up for himself, run. Run my darlings. Don't be flattered by such attention. Fall for the man who holds you with open hands, with God's strength in his arms, not his own. The man who, with God given wisdom, well help polish you to shine His light for the world to see.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - He Knows Me

And He loves me anyway.


How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
Psalms 139:17-18 NASB

Earlier this week Tim sent me this verse and said he'd like to know my thoughts. How precious are Your thoughts to me ... I haven't asked any commentators or pastors if this means the Psalmist is saying he loves God's thoughts as a whole, or if he is saying God's thoughts of him are precious.

But after much prayer and meditation I think it is both. The Psalmist is David, who loved God's law. He sought God with all that was in him.

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Psalms 119:97 NASB

David loved God's thoughts. Oh to be as in tune with them as he was. If it was attainable by David, merely human, then it is by us as well. I want to deepen my relationship with God to the point that I feel I am privy to many of His countless thoughts. One of the things I often ask Tim is "What are you thinking about?" I should be even more hungry to know the thoughts of my Lord and Savior.

The rest of the Psalm, however, also indicates a two-way intimacy being described. David also knew God thought of him.


God doesn't simply know what we did and where we went today. He is intimately acquainted with where we went, what we did, even the reasons we did. Never forget that God knows your heart. Your soul is familiar to Him - probably more so than it is to you.


He is omniscient and omnipresent. No, I don't understand it. But He has provided the comfort of evidence to my forensic mind. Perhaps not scientific evidence I could present to you and convince you of His existence and His excellence, but proof enough to me that I find His presence, His knowledge of me, comforting. He knows what I will say before I say it, and I pray for strength and wisdom from Him for those to be the best things.


I can't always understand. I love how David puts it ... It is too wonderful. It isn't that it is confusing or confounding ... His thoughts are Holy. Pure. Overarching this tapestry we traverse in ways our finite minds can't wrap themselves around.

He knows me. He knows my motivations. He knows the outcomes. And He loves me. Enough to send His Son to die for me so He in His wonderful, incomprehensible Holiness, can have a relationship with me. He washes me clean so that I can share His thoughts.

He knows it all, and I am grateful. I am not afraid. I do not feel exposed ... No! Like Gomer I feel covered. Loved. His thoughts to me and of me are precious indeed.

"I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.
Hosea 2:19-20 NASB

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Do I Look OK?

Shelby had a rough weekend.

Saturday afternoon, after a morning spent with Daddy all to herself, we were having lunch on our front porch.



In a seemingly unfair turn of events, Shelby took a fall sweetly trying to avoid plowing over baby sister Victoria.

She landed face first on a (stupid, poorly designed, misplaced, I-mean-who-puts-planters-by-the-front-door?) pot. I'm not going to describe the sound.

There were blood and tears. Calm directions from former-paramedic Daddy to frantic scrambling Mommy. Phone calls to retired Air Force dentist/prothsodontist Grandpa (praise God right next door).

Eventually calm returned and Tylenol was administered with plans to visit the pediatric dentist (did I ever tell you? We've been there before - Victoria cracked a tooth on our concrete floor and had to have it pulled a few months after her first birthday last year) on Monday morning. Shelby went down to a delayed nap.

When she woke up, she asked Tim: "Do I look ok?"

Oh my heart. We've tried not to let our focus be on looks. We know the day and age our dearest daughters were born into. We haven't gone as far as to never tell them how pretty they are, but we try to outdo our adoration of hair and eyes with calling their attention to their beautiful hearts. Their sweet spirits. Their intelligence. The funny ways they entertain their families and themselves and the way they twinkle all over when they laugh.

We haven't gone as far as to take the advice to never tell them they are pretty, because some day some BOY will come along. I don't want them to fall head over heals for the first person willing to point that fact out to them in so many words. They need to hear that from us; especially their Daddy.

The fact is no matter how much we have tried to protect her, there it is. How do I look? Am I damaged? She was sneaking glances in the mirror and even covered her mouth the first few times she smiled afterward.

Sweet Shelby, never ever every cover that smile! You can't contain it because it is real. It is genuine and I pray nothing takes it away.

We did go to the dentist Monday and they took an X-Ray ... We go back in a month to make sure the teeth are making their way back down but there were no breaks or cracks and no permanent teeth were harmed! Praise God! She's already healing, the swelling is all but gone and her teeth are even looking more normal. Amazing. It's like He designed kids to be able to absorb a few accidents.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - How to Cheat

So, if what I'm doing with portion control and nutrition isn't a D.I.E.T. ... how on Earth do I plan to maintain this momentum?


First off, I focus on what I am choosing to have. By eating clean I have found that I don't feel bloated. I don't get those wild swings in weight from water retention ... even at "that time" (if you know what I mean ladies). I don't have as many crazy sugar cravings. Notice I said as many. My new habits mean I don't hide in the pantry eating sweets or stuff my face as soon as the girls go down to nap. It doesn't mean I'm appalled and sickened at the thought of chocolate. No my friends, I think God knew many of us would have an affinity for this little taste of heaven when He created it.

It is a choice. There is nothing I "can't" have; Autumn Calabrese is not in my kitchen with a gun to my head telling me what to eat. I CAN eat whatever I want. These are the choices I'm making. Ah, that's better already isn't it? As soon as you tell yourself you can't have something, what you "can't" is - can't stop thinking about it!!

Another way to make this my lifestyle is sometimes I allow myself cheats. This weekend was Valentine's Day, and we had reservations for a wonderful home cooked style dinner which I thoroughly enjoyed. I planned for it. I saved my naughtiest containers. I ate slowly and enjoyed my husband's company and I savored every bite.



If you plan a cheat and the food is anything less than stellar ... STOP! Put down the fork! If it isn't worth it, don't eat it! Don't let disappointment drive you to eat a cheat that doesn't feel like a cheat. Or to keep cheating because your cheat left you feeling cheated. That's like eating a 3000 calorie salad, then finding out the burger you really wanted would have been less calories. Then you can't stop thinking about that burger you COULD have had. To heck with it, this is where I often threw in the towel.

Yikes, let's stay off that crazy train. I've been there too many times. A lot of other coaches have talked about the 80/20 rule ... Eat well 80% of the time and don't worry about that 20%. Or there is a meme out there somewhere ... One bad meal won't make you fat (or wreck your health and fitness goals) any more than one salad won't make you skinny (or one workout won't make you fit).

Much like a fast, there are times for dead on committment. Break your weight loss phase into chunks like this, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. I don't think I could have lost the 25 pounds I have so far by never having a dessert again.

AND - find new ways to have the nutrititious rationally portioned food you are eating on a daily basis. Shakeology is a delicious way to get in a protein and super-dense nutrition on a daily basis, for example. Next week I'm planning to share a recipe from another blog I made for a protein rich, crust-less, 21 Day Fix approved CHEESECAKE.


Play tricks on your cravings. And here and there, plan a time to CHEAT. And stop feeling guilty about it. (Your meals that is, this philosophy does NOT work nor do I recommend it for most other areas in your life!). And when you think about an unplanned cheat ... look at your results! Find that balance between cutting yourself some slack and cutting loose altogether of what's working for you.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - God Hears

There are many promises in the Bible. But they don't come as entitlements. God is Holy and we are in possession of a sinful nature and He does not owe us a single thing.

I sat down today to write about how God hears our prayers. I have watched Him answer prayers time and again. And sometimes He doesn't. Why wouldn't a loving God answer our prayers?

Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes what we would rather prevent is the very thing that can bring Him the most glory. Jesus, who was without sin (I'll tell you why I point this out in a moment), had at least one request that God said no, there is no other way.

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."
Matthew 26:39 NASB

Jesus. On His face. On the even of His crucifixion begging God to find another way. God told His Son, His perfect, sinless, loving, giving, Son "No." Because there was no other way.

Sometimes God hears. And His answer is no.

Other times, the answer is wait. We don't like to wait. Ask anyone under the age of four or five to wait and see what our human nature does. NOW. Crying and wailing and thrashing. "It's my money and I want it NOW!" Mom I see that you are currently cleaning my cup to get me some nice fresh milk in a nice clean cup but I want to be drinking that milk right now. I don't care that the cup I want to drink it from is all soapy.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse to many:

For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

But just one verse before, the prophet tells Israel they will be exiled for 70 years as a consequence of their disobedience.

"For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.
Jeremiah 29:10 NASB

Sometimes wait just means the time isn't here yet for that prayer to be answered. Israel prayed for centuries for their Messiah and God sent Him when the time was just right.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:6 NASB

Then, the thing I don't want to tell you. The thing I did not sit down to say today, but deep down knew to be true. But I know some of you will NOT like the sound of it. Please understand that God is Holy. His is Good and Loving and Gracious ... but above all He is HOLY. He cannot have a relationship with sin.

Sometimes, God DOES NOT hear us because we are entertaining sin.
Yes. God will not listen to you when you are willfully living in sin with no plans to stop. He knows your heart. If you seek Him without humility. If you choose out of stubborn selfishness not to obey, then don't expect God to hear. He doesn't owe it to you to listen. Quite the contrary, we owe everything to Him and we owe it to Him (and quite frankly ourselves) to be obedient.



But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
Isaiah 59:2 NASB

We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.
John 9:31 NASB

And there it is. The promise. If we fear God. If we do His will. Just OBEY, He will HEAR you. I know, I know ... to your average red blooded rebel of an American this does NOT sound appealing. I dare you. TRY it. Don't test God ... but what would it hurt to try to get to know Him? Find out what it means to obey, do it, then try talking to Him. With humility.

Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you," declares the LORD.
2 Chronicles 34:27 NASB

I can't tell you how many times this has proven true in my life. One example, just one. I had given up on the "the church." The "church" had hurt me. I don't need this kind of negativity in my life! said I; and off I went. Directionless. Selfish. I finally found myself at a loss. Wanting to return to Texas, but facing a future in a cold and lonely place. "Thank you for your interest but we've chosen another candidate."

One night I got down on my knees. God I don't know where I'm going, but when I get there I know you want me in fellowship with other believers. I will find a church and I will get involved and I will start reading your Word again.

The very next morning. I was still in my big comfy robe. I got an unexpected phone call. The candidate had backed out and I was being offered my dream job back in my home state. You better believe as soon as I got to Austin I found a church.

But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.
Psalms 66:19 NASB

Now I know that I can approach His throne with confidence. I have no doubt that He hears my prayers.

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
Micah 7:7 NASB

Friday, February 12, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Broken


I'm not a huge fan of knick-knacks, especially with two children under the age of four in the house. But, I do have a few and the ones that I've chosen to keep around obviously are meaningful to me.


The other day I was cleaning the windowsill above my kitchen sink, probably the largest collection of such useless items in the house, and I noticed that the flower on one such figurine was loose. Not really that surprising, since the poor thing has been glued back together close to half a dozen times.


Two of the items I've determined to be "worth dusting for" are ceramic birds that belonged to my Grandmother Jensen. Their origin is a mystery to me, but they resided on a three-legged, tiered occasional table in her formal living room. The Jensen farmhouse was not a large house, but it had a formal living room where we often took family pictures and where we kids were not supposed to play. I remember running full tilt through the circuitous routes that could be taken through that home, our feet pounding on the the floor the way that can only be done in a pier-and-beam home ... but we always slowed to a walk to pass through the formal living room.


On occasion, rules were forgotten (I don't recall ever deliberately disobeying them) and we ended up playing in the forbidden room. Three-legged tables just aren't stable, and these two birds ended up in pieces. Several times. If Grandma Jensen was ever upset by this, we sure never knew it. I can still picture my dad on more than one occasion, seated at the dining table, meticulously gluing the poor figurines back together.


To me, these two little cracked and chipped figurines are filled with memories. Memories of gentle scolding, grace, and care. When we care about something that is broken, we take the trouble to put it back together. When a marriage is attacked and cracked, you work together to put back the pieces. When a rebellious child takes off and leaves a trail of hurt and broken places, you mend them and pray for them to return when they themselves are ready for healing.

And sometimes the glue is stronger than the original piece, and sometimes it keeps cracking along the same fault.

And sometimes things are so broken that they can't be repaired. Not long ago Tim went out with a chainsaw to work on cutting up the two huge oak trees that fell in a storm last May. Shelby said that he was going to put them back up and fix them. As best I could, I explained to her that when trees fall over their roots can't get what they need and they die. Now their skeletal remains are a hazard in our yard so they need to be removed from our lives as much as we loved them.


Relationships get cracked or broken and you have to determine ... is this one worth repairing? Broken beyond repair? Or is trying to repair it too dangerous? Do you need help to repair it?

More often than not, we become even more protective of something we've repaired than we were when it looked like new. I doubt these birds would have meant anything to me had they never gotten broken. There is a rugged beauty to cracks and scars. We say that a piece has "character" when it isn't perfect. The scuffs and scrapes on our furniture, our walls, our floors ... often they hold a memory. I don't look at the stretch marks on my stomach and scoff and moan, they remind me that these two amazing little people living in our house ... I got to carry them. Share their heartbeat for a little while. Protect them and feel their every move; every little hiccup a delight.

Perhaps the most poignant illustration of a broken beauty is Christ. He was beaten and whipped beyond recognition. His skin hung in tatters; inhuman. His hands and feet were run through with iron, his side with a spear, his skull pounded with thorns. And just when it seemed He was conquered He rose again. Bearing those marks God could have erased. Reassuring Thomas. Through His brokenness, we can be made whole.

God can make the broken beautiful.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - You Are an Original


I don't often read the Message translation of the Bible, but this passage came up in my current Bible study (Mercy Triumphs - James - by Beth Moore) and I thought the Message put it much more pointedly than my usual NASB, here is the entire verse:

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

So what is going on here? Why did Paul need to remind us that we are each an original? And how beautiful is that. You - you are an original. And so am I. How wonderful that our creator was so creative as to make us so different! We should celebrate and glorify Him for our [non--sinful] differences rather than picking one another apart.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Jewish Christians in the early church were arguing that Greek (Gentile, non-Jew) Christians should be circumcised to be in alignment with the Law. Paul is teaching that if adherence to the Law is what saves us then the cross was unnecessary.

This is the same chapter where the fruit of the Spirit is listed. These are the things that set us apart as believers, as children of God filled with the Holy Spirit. We have freedom in Christ. But not to do whatever our sinful natures want, I've been down that road and I admonish you not to go there either:

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

But freedom to worship, serve, and love in the unique way God made you.

Have you experienced the comparison trap? Likely you've either jailed the creativity and outpouring of the Spirit through your heart for fear that you won't measure up to someone else (or had someone try to do that for you). Or, you've judged someone else because they were serving, worshiping, giving, and loving differently than how you yourself have been called and gifted.

Imagine for a moment where the body of Christ was filled only with people like yourself. Ugh! I don't know about you, but that doesn't make for a very harmonious picture in my mind. So many gaps, so many needs unmet, so many turned away from the Gospel of Christ because my particular flavor is bitter or obnoxious to them.

I've written about comparison before (The Joy Thief), but here it is again. Previously I wrote about it stealing our joy ... and here God is showing me how it locks us up and roots us to the spot. I am learning more about freedom in Christ every day. I have abused that freedom in the past and have over corrected trying to bring myself back around. Instead of continuing to careen across the lanes of life until I lose control and spin out, rollover, and wind up in the ditch ... I'm asking Jesus to take the wheel by searching what God's word says. He shows me where the boundaries are, makes the lane I need to be in light up like freshly painted lines on pavement reflecting in the dark. Looking at the other cars doesn't tell me where I need to be.

The traffic illustration is oversimplified. But really - do you drive down the road looking at other vehicles to determine how to drive? Hopefully we put the key in the ignition with a pretty good idea of how this driving thing works. Unless we have the authority to do so usually we aren't telling others how to drive either. And if we are ... has that been effective? Think about that for a moment.

You are an original. I am an original. Our creative, loving Father made us all unique. Go do that interesting thing He has made you and called you to do.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - What Time It Is?



Lately Shelby has shown an increasing interest in time. She looks at her "watch" and asks "What time it is?" Which is interesting because neither Tim nor myself wear a watch. Usually she announces it is "45" and time to do something.

She projects her plans in a timeline, listing what she is going to do in amazingly accurate order. Sometimes spanning several days. Though sometimes the things that she thinks fit into a day aren't really feasible. I'm sure when she suggested she and Daddy go hiking in the Boundary Waters after gymnastics, she just didn't realize how long it takes to drive from a far southern state to one of our northernmost territories. "Far far away" is GiGi and Dude's home in East Texas.

The other day she complained that her hand was red and hurt. When Daddy asked her what happened, she explained that she had "done knuckles" [I miss when she called it "pickles"] with the wall but that "three hours ago" it didn't hurt and wasn't red. "But now the wall scraped it and it hurts."

She couldn't tell us what she and the wall were celebrating. And I have no idea where three hours came from but there it is.

Just yesterday she was on the play-phone and eavesdropping I heard "30 HOURS? Ok, ok Mom. That's a LONG time. You just listen to me like that."

After she hung up, I asked who she was talking to and she said Daddy. Uh oh, Mommy might have been a bad example of how to talk on the phone to Daddy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Quick One Bowl Frittata

Even though I stay home with the girls, breakfast can be a crazy time. I like to get in some protein and veggies at the beginning of the day though. It helps curb hunger and - let's face it, the green containers are not my favorites (though I have learned to appreciate them more).

Last week I whipped this up and I must say, I like everything about it except the use of the microwave. While I believe the microwave robs food of some of its nutrients, this is still a healthier way to get a quick breakfast than a pop-tart or throwing some cereal in a bowl as I may or may not have been known to do in the past. But microwave = quick.

Nutrient thievery aside, this is easy to clean up (you can do it in one bowl) ... you can knock out a red, a green, and 1/2 blue first thing in the morning so it is packed with nutrition ... and I found it to be surprising delicious!

"Chef Amanda" presents the Quick One Bowl Frittata.



Ingredients:
Two eggs
1 cup veggies (my trial run was with mushrooms)
1/2 blue of cheese (I used blue cheese. Like it was blue before it was in the blue container ...)
Seasoning (in this case, Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle) to taste
Dehydrated onions (a shake or two)

Instructions:
Crack your eggs into the bowl and scramble them (I wish I had done this that first time, it was hard to scramble after everything was together in the bowl).
Add seasoning and dehydrated onions and scramble a bit more to disperse evenly.
Add cheese. Scramble again to distribute.
Add veggies and stir until they are coated.
Cover with plastic wrap (it makes a nice steamy bubble and keeps anything from getting completely nuked dry).
Microwave for ~2 minutes and check for done news by poking a fork or knife into the center. Keep adding time by 10-15 seconds until it comes out clean. (It took me 2.5 minutes total).

Enjoy! I later tried a variation with baby kale and grape tomatoes instead of mushrooms - I should have chopped it up first, but it was still quite tasty if not a little awkward. The possibilities are endless!


Monday, February 8, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - Obey

Something in me still recoils at the word "obey" even as we tried to teach our daughters to do so. I don't often ask it out loud, but especially when it comes to rules I want to know "why?" Something more substantial than "because I said so."

When asked by the religious leaders and avid practitioners of the Law what was the greatest commandment (their exchange can be found , Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 (their exchange can be found in Matthew 22, Mark 12, or Luke 10):



"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."

Israel was then commanded to keep this law in their hearts, to teach it to their children, to talk about it day and night, to write it all over their homes. This law was to be their practice is daily life ... All day, every day. And Jesus said this is the greatest commandment.

So how do we love God? What does that look like? Do we volunteer more? Attend church more? Pray more? Read our Bible more?

Fortunately the Bible has given us very clear instructions on how to love God.

"If you love me you will keep My commandments." - John 14:15

"And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments." - 2 John 1:6a

So we show our love to God by obeying Him. Even if it doesn't make sense. Even if it is uncomfortable. Even if others call it restrictive. Even if it offends someone. Even if it causes us to give something up. In fact, perhaps especially then.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." - 1 John 5:3

Why isn't obedience a burden? Because we can trust Him. Because He loved us first ("But God demonstrates His own love toward us, that that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8). Because he is working our lives out in ways that we cannot comprehend ("And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28).

We are like little children. We don't know what is to come - we don't always know what the outcomes and consequences of our actions will be. If I tell my child not to touch something, I want them to trust there is a reason! I need to trust God just the way I want Victoria to trust me. I may be protected her from a burn when I tell her not to touch the hot stove. God's commandments were designed to protect us from harm. I want to love Him by trusting who He is and knowing the to obey Him is the only "safe" way to live my life. Even if it may seem painful at the time.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Hey Girl

Valentine's Day is coming, and I was kinda surprised that in nearly eight years of (infrequent) blogging I've never touched the subject. Perhaps because I was single for part of the time? It seemed like such a LONG time at the time.

I was going to attempt to write about dating my husband ... But honestly I think a lot of bloggers are probably writing about that right now, and I'd be better off reading HOW to date your spouse (with two kids under four in a rural setting) than writing about it. My sneaky plan is to give him a list of questions to answer that I can add to my "knowledge of Tim" that will help me serve and love him better.

It wouldn't be very sneaky to talk about them here because he is my biggest fan! Hi honey!

I say "girl" so many times I thought a "hey girl" meme was just begging to go here

In looking back to see if I had written about V-day, I did find a post about the Joys of Singlehood. Since I don't want to be "that married girl with kids" who piles on to someone who is single (I have BEEN there) instead perhaps I can be a breath of fresh air and maybe a laugh or two for anyone as Cupid stocks his quiver.

We'll see if I would have told my past forcedly-happy-single-self to change a few things...



While I hope not to always be single ... Hey girl. You won't be. If you are in relationship with God and are serving Him and seeking Him first, and you have peace but a desire to be something other than single, chances are you won't be remaining single. I know you've heard it 1000 times but I'm here to say it is true - HIS TIMING IS PERFECT. I met Tim when I was 30! I made a lot of mistakes first!

Singing and Dancing ... If anything you are going to do more of it. Hey girl, you thought head banging and singing Metallica was bad? Wait till you and your husband sing a non-musical book to your daughter together because you have read it so. Many. Times. And when a sweet little three year old asks to dance, you're going to dance like you've never danced before.

My responsibility is pretty much to God ... as it should be, and will continue to be. He's the only one we answer to - hey girl, not even yourself. You will call on Him more than you knew was possible. Get ready to find out just how weak you are.

Ten years ago if you asked how I’d feel about not having kids at 30 and not planning on having any – I’d say that couldn’t possibly be me. But here I am – and ever so thankful for it. Don’t get me wrong – I love kids. And I honestly love the fact that this way I can impact more than 2 or 3. I can be the awesome aunt, or the cool (if not slightly weird) adult that isn’t someone’s parent, I have the freedom to be open to God touching so many more lives than if I were raising a family of my own. Sure … kids will keep you young … but nobody ever said they had to be my own. And frankly – not feeding anyone, being woken up 10 times every night, not putting them to bed, or arguing with them about their text messaging habits – rocks. God will take care of the nursing home issue I’m sure.

That one kinda makes me sad. I was trying really hard to be happy. Not being woken up in the middle of the night? I probably should have relished that (and sleeping in) a little more but it does not make up for kids. I would rather be woken up than not have my sweet girls. It has rarely been 10 times a night anyways, even with two. And you can still touch other kids lives once you have your own. Hey girl, having kids rocks too.

Without “family” (husband, kids, etc) I can go to God with [my time] and ask how He’d like to see it sliced. I still have to do it that way. And I find I'm a LOT more efficient with my time than I was in my single days. I wasn't exactly lazy then either. Hey girl, you should have written more. And read more. Time for those is harder to come by these days.

As a single woman – I get to be emotional almost anytime the mood hits me... Ha ha! Apparently I thought I was in control of my emotions. I'm still emotional, probably more so. I have so many more reasons to be emotional. So many more people who can hurt me, make me laugh, make my eyes fill 10 times a day with tears of joy. Hey girl, you are still on that uphill *click* *click* *click* part of the roller coaster.

I don’t have to talk to anyone before that first cup of coffee when I get up on the wrong side of the bed …  If you only knew ... Hey girl, your husband MAKES YOUR COFFEE. You had no idea! If you said to him "I'm so grouchy" he would say "What can I do?"

I get to eat when I feel like it... Well, yeah. Hey girl, that part was kinda nice.

The remote control. It is mine... Yeah, um. I mostly use the remote control to start my workouts (yeah, I do that more now than you ever did single-Amanda) and start Disney movies for the girls. You and Tim are like 3-4 seasons behind on the show you like to watch. It's TV. It isn't a big deal. If it is it probably won't continue to be. You will one day make a "date" of getting to sit down and watch a show. Hey girl, want to watch an episode of Downton Abby will make you as giddy as being asked to prom.

The air conditioner … I get to pick the temperature... Good for you I guess? Hey girl, the only time I worry about the heat and AC is when the filters need changed. It takes more than the temperature to get my back up these days.

A lot of these things … if I’m not compromising or settling … I’m not going to have to give them up even if/when my single status changes. Sure, I’ll have to be more considerate, and being in a relationship takes work … but that doesn’t mean I can’t do a little step-vault-change across the kitchen as I wipe down the countertop while singing Metallica to the sink, or that I have to stop sleeping with a nameless stuffed octopus under one arm.

Hey girl, you have no idea where that octopus is ... Your husband Tim is what you want under your arm these days. You still randomly grapevine and sing rock songs. You are still sadly obsessed with cleaning and have created two little OCD monsters. It's kinda cute how they always want their hands clean and how Shelby calls Victoria "the messy one." But yes, you didn't compromise and that is probably the best advice you gave.

Hey girls. Love God and be yourself.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Trust


Who do you trust?

Perhaps you would list your spouse, your siblings, your best friend ... Or no one?

But in reality, all of the wonderful people God has given us in our lives have one thing in common. They are all human - fallible, sinners, weak, incapable of perfectly keeping their word all the time.

"Not me!" you may cry "The person I most trust is my rock! They are solid in the storm!" But we all have our weaknesses, our breaking point. An illness keeps us from keeping our committment to be somewhere, we forget, we hurt one another. And we forgive one another!

And we may trust one another to varying degrees. But placing our hope on a human ... a spouse, a political candidate ... or the devices of a human ... a law, an insurance policy ... is eventually going to lead to disappointments.

When Tim and I were getting more serious, we gave one another rings that say "trust in Me" in Hebrew.

בטח בי

To remind us to trust in God, not one another. We weren't high school sweethearts when we met; we had known disappointments in life and we knew we would disappoint each other.

In reality, placing our trust in God instead of one another has actually taken some of the pressure off. It is much easier to forgive when I don't expect my husband to be 100% reliable all the time, and if he fails in that to think it means he doesn't love me.

Sometimes people (Shelby and Victoria these days) have needs in the middle of the night, and sometimes I'm what we call a "sleep jerk" in the middle of the night. That meanness that comes from an incoherent, not fully awake human that they seem to have selective amnesia about the next morning. God doesn't sleep. He is never too tired to comprehend what we need and apply compassion and mercy.

2 Corinthians 1:9 even says we can't trust ourselves:
"we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead..." (NASB)

That can be difficult for strong willed, independent minded people. Bootstrap Americans, prepped for the apacolypse and self-sufficient in a growing number of ways. Being a good Boy Scout isn't wrong by any means! But in the end, trust in God. He will not fail.

"For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you ..." Deuteronomy 4:31a (NASB)

Our girls depend on us. I want to earn their trust - I want them to know that Mommy and Daddy will be there for them, do the best we can for them, and love them the best we are capable of. But at the end of the day I want them to know that we will fail. There are no perfect parents. Nor will they find a perfect friend, a perfect husband, and they won't be perfect women. We want to direct their hope and trust to the only one who will be called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). If their affirmation comes from Him all their relationships will flourish under the freedom that comes from releasing them from the bonds of misplaced trust.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Talking to Each Other



Shelby has the greatest imagination. Most of the time I don't even correct her because it is beautiful. In fact, we try to encourage it. She is going to be one creative little lady. We recently had this conversation at lunch.

Shelby: "My carrots are talking to each other. In my tummy."

Mommy: "OH really? What are they saying?"



Shelby: "Aaaaaah, mommy help me! I eat the mommy carrot. And the daddy carrot. And a baby carrot. And a little girl."



She finished with a proud smile and went back to eating her lunch.