Three things I learned in Louisville

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Almost a month ago we left our temporary home in Louisville, Kentucky and settled back into Idaho.  When we moved to Louisville about three years ago I knew exactly two people in the whole city and I didn’t know them well.  We moved here with no money, no job and two adorable little girls who were expecting to be fed and cared for.  But even in the midst of these struggles we enjoyed the city so much.  There were so many fun things to do and I really feel like we only scratched the surface of all it has to offer.   It was challenging and pushed us to trust in ways that we didn’t want to learn.  Moving is always a definite way to see a chapter of your life closing, and as it does here are three things the Lord kept teaching us over the last chapter that I do not want to forget.

 1. God often provides for our material needs in ways that we don’t expect.  In Matthew 17 Jesus is asked to pay taxes.  He sends his disciples fishing and tells them they will find money in the mouth of a fish to pay for the tax.  The last three years have been a financial roller coaster to say the least and The Lord has provided for us over and over again in ways that we were not even looking for.  He has shown us that He loves to provide surprise gifts when we least expect it.  He is not stingy when you put your trust in Him and go fishing.

2. The Holy Spirit comes to us in friends.  Jesus tells us that He has left behind a Helper for us, which is the Spirit.  I often think of the Holy Spirit as acting strictly in a spiritual sense to comfort and encourage our hearts.  While this is something that He does, we are also told that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  This means that other people’s bodies are also temples, and it is often within other people that we find the greatest help from the Spirit.  The Lord brought amazing people into our lives in Louisville and many times when we prayed for encouragement, babysitters, a car, food, clothing, wisdom, it was those friends who have the Spirit of God living in them that became the greatest instrument of God’s blessing to us.

3. God’s love transcends denominations. I have always known that despite various theological differences, there are strong believers in just about every denomination.  But in the last few years we have been very blessed to see it first hand.  Louisville has hundreds of strong, thriving churches where people are gathering multiple times a week and the word of God is being preached and lived out.  We spent our first year attending a large Baptist church, and while we differ on some theological points, we heard many encouraging and life changing sermons.  The last two years in Louisville, we attended a wonderful PCA church.  At both churches we met countless servants of Christ and beautiful families who are raising their little ones to love The Lord.  Maybe God is using all these different denominations to reach different groups of people throughout the world. I don’t know His reasons, but I do know that none of us have it 100% right.  I have enjoyed getting to know so many people from so many backgrounds that all love Christ and believe Him.  The Holy Spirit is strong and moving and working mightily throughout that city.  What a blessing to be able to be a small part of it.

 

Beginning Contentment

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It is harsh advice for a suffering soul to be told to be content, to be happy, to be delighting in the rough circumstances.  Is Christian contentment something we should automatically have as a result of being in Christ?  Is it something we do?  Is it an action or is it an emotion?

Psalm 19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble”

Contentment is fearing the Lord.  It is the absence of other fears.

Philippians 4:11-13 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength”

Contentment is the strength of Jesus living in us that we might have the power to be rejoicing in every circumstance.

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.””

Contentment is being satisfied with Christ and the absence of obsession over money.

1 Timothy 6:6 “ But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Contentment is understanding what we are, that we are from dust and returning to dust, that we have nothing apart from our Savior.

For the person who is in deep distress, making contentment a commandment misses what contentment is.  We just can’t look at terrifying circumstances like chronic pain or loss of life or financial devastation and say “Be content!”.  David and Paul both give us sweet promises to cling to that will help us find contentment: He gives us strength, He will never leave us or forsake us.

Contentment is the result of allowing our deep trust in a good God to seep into all our patterns of thought.  Contentment comes when we know fully that we are loved, that we have nothing to fear, that we have the strength of Jesus filling us daily, that the Lord provides for all our physical needs, both in life and in death.  It comes when we see Christ as the fulfillment of all things.

To experience the peace and joy that is real contentment we have to have a biblical understanding of trials, we have to have the perspective that Paul had on various afflictions and sufferings.  We have to become un-American and stop seeing trial as an interruption in our fulfillment of a good life.  We have to stop questioning God’s love for us just because we have a bumpy road to walk.  When we see ourselves as characters in a beautiful story that God is writing, we can see more clearly what He is doing.  Everything evil that we face is ultimately anti-God: death, sickness, slander, pain, etc.  He hates all those things. They are part of a bigger story in which they are being defeated.  The hardships are ultimately nailed to the cross and taken from us through Jesus.  All our losses are ultimately restored.  The trials are valleys that lead to higher mountains, evils that prepare us for greater goodness, pain that makes us ready for the weight of glory we are promised.  When we are truly able to see these things as part of God’s story, as a good part of God’s story that He is working for us and through us, we are able to have open hearts to be content.  Only then are we ready to believe that He will never leave us or forsake us.  Only then can we stop being afraid.  Only then are we able to be content with all the things He is doing in our lives, both the painful things and the lovely things.

 

Motherhood Mathematics

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Another day has passed and I have not used anything I learned in Algebra.  I have actually come to a point in life where it seems like math is doing more bad than good.  I’m sure I’ll find all those algorithms buried somewhere in my brain when my kids are struggling through high school arithmetic.  But what I really wish I could unlearn is the basics, I wish I could forget how to count.

I need to be especially bad at math during this phase of life.  My middle child has had trouble sleeping , and my oldest wakes me up to tell me.  As soon as I lay down again, my youngest is wailing.  I glance at my phone through bleary eyes.  That’s 120 minutes of sleep that I did not get.  My quick math is really stumbling me from greeting this day with joy.

The baby is learning about how many things he can reach and how high he can climb and how fun it is to splash in toilet water.  I leave dinner bubbling on the stove to run and rescue him from drinking from the toilet, for the fifth time in sixty minutes.  My simple addition, counting the times I have rescued him,  is causing a problem in my attitude.

My five year old grows faster than anyone in the family.  It seems like I am always shopping for shoes.  My credit card statement comes and I use easy multiplication to figure out how much I can spent on shoes in the last few months.  I cringe.  My math skills are impeding me from giving freely.

Mothers need to be bad at counting sacrifices. I need to stop counting the loaves and the fishes and comparing it to the five thousand mouths that need food.  I need to stop counting the number of times I was up in the night, the number of corrections I have given, the number of minutes the toddler napped, the number of loads of laundry, the number of handprints on the walls, the cost of food, the amount of alone time, the inefficiency.  I need to freely give, to generously lavish late night story times and consistent discipline and clothes and snacks and clean sheets.  I need to forget the number of times I had to cancel an evening with friends because of a sick child, to forget how to add up minutes when we are trying to get out the door, to overlook the high utility bill that resulted in a warm home and clean water for five.  I need to stop counting, stop adding, stop calculating the cost.  I need to open my hands and give every day and pray that I would learn to be bad at this kind of math.

Christmas Stress

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When I was growing up, Christmas was by far my favorite time of year.  Decorations came out, music played, it was the only time we ever had candles burning.  My minimalistic mother even had a throw on the couch, and the decor loving domestic seven year old in me just felt all warm inside.  As I have moved on into a life of being the one to make Christmas happen, I have always tried my best to make it as big and as festive as my budget would allow.  We have had big parties, progressive dinners, presents for all the siblings and spouses, and as our children have joined us in life our celebration has shifted to them.  We don’t have big parties as often now, but we love to go on lots of Starbucks dates and drive around looking at lights after dark and build ginger bread houses and cook together and decorate cookies and partake in all forms of sugar.  We fill the kids stockings until they are bursting and we buy as many gifts as we can afford.  We watch all the Christmas movies with mint Oreos and candy canes and I find myself scrubbing my couch for days.  We want Christmas to be fun, the most fun.
But somehow in all that mix, Christmas has become less fun for me.  I am often so busy trying to make it fun for everyone else that I don’t have many moments feel fun.  I enjoy seeing everyone else enjoy it.  I love watching their concentration as they decorate sugar cookies and watching their excitement build on Christmas Eve and listening to them recite the story of Jesus to me.  I enjoy all those moments, but to be honest I enjoy them while I am still hoping for a nap and halfway remembering all the things I need to do and running through the budget in the back of my mind.

I found myself alone the other day, sitting in the dusk living room with a glass of wine, staring at the sparkling tree and the pile of presents next to it.  I couldn’t find a pen so I had stopped making lists for a few minutes.  I wanted to recreate the sentimentality of Christmas, to feel the excited fuzziness that I did when I was a child, to have all the joy and none of the stress.  I guess what I really wanted was a Hollywood Christmas, not the real one.

The real Christmas involved a woman who found out she was pregnant while still unmarried, whose fiancé was suspicious of her purity and didn’t want to marry her at first, who had to travel while nine months pregnant to obey a census law, who had to give birth on a bed of hay and somehow figure out how to cut the cord (I guess…I have no idea how they did these things then, but I imagine it was messy).  The real Christmas story involved Herod issuing a decree to slaughter all the baby boys.  Can you even imagine what it would be like if military officers were breaking into our homes and killing our baby sons?  That is certainly much more stressful than anything in my life.  But in the midst of the all the crazy stress, angels filled the sky on Christmas and they sang a song of hope and peace.

Even though in the story of Christmas there was great turmoil and a birth in a stable and babies being killed, heaven rejoices.  I want to echo what the angels say, I want to look to the hosts of heaven and see what they see.  They saw the joy shining through stronger than the trials.  I want to cling to the joy of the shepherds and the angels, singing because the world was being redeemed, the course of history was changing.  While I work so hard and so tired to make a great celebration and a fun and joyful time for my family, I should not be discouraged that I bear stress.  The angels  said not to look at the stress of the world, but to rejoice, rejoice greatly!  Even if I feel tired and overwhelmed, that’s ok.  I am in the weary world.  It is part of the story, and it always has been.  But heaven is not weary.  Heaven is full of joy, heaven sees the whole picture.  I want to see the whole picture, rejoicing even in the midst of the tired.

 

 

Who Is My Neighbor?

When I was expecting my first child, an older woman gave me the best nugget of parenting wisdom that I have.  She told me to always remember that my child is my sister-in-Christ before she is my daughter.  I have clung to these words in so many situations as I am learning to be a mother, and found this to be an extremely helpful perspective to have even when my children are young.

For this season, the Lord has handed me the authority to teach and train these people.  But this season is temporary, and ultimately these children belong to Him.  Their lives are a story that He is writing, not me.  As much as it feels like they are just part of me, they are not.  They are God’s, and they are my neighbors.

Many confusing moments in parenting can be solved with remembering to treat my children like they are my neighbor.  It is not my responsibility to make sure that my children are perfect.  I gave them to the Lord, and He has them in His hands.  He told me to train them, to teach them, and to love them, but their personalities and their characteristics are created for His purpose.  This perspective influences my decisions, my words, and my attitudes.

When my children are continuing to disobey after many corrections, I am called to be patient, just like I would with any brother or sister in Christ.  Instead of sharing embarrassing stories or sins that my children have fallen into, I am called to kindness.  I am called to be self-less, to consider them more important than myself.  I am called to protect them, to hope in them, to persevere with them, to believe in them, to love them.  I have witnessed many parents being more kind to strangers than they are to their own children; yelling at their children, but speaking kindly to everyone at church; giving time and resources to others, but being stingy with their children; giving encouragement to friends, but criticizing their own children on every front; showing compassion and understanding to other children more than to their own.

I recently read an article entitled “The 10 Most Annoying Things About Kids”  The list was something like this…

  1. They are always there
  2. They never stop asking questions
  3. They are sticky
  4. They never listen
  5. They are loud
  6. They are always whining
  7. They are perpetually covered in snot
  8. They are filthy
  9. They are the kings and queens of inconsistency
  10. They are clumsy

Maybe this is why parents have such a hard time treating their children with the love they would show to a friend.  But isn’t this what I have been called to in Christ?  To love the unlovely?  To take a snotty-nosed, whining, loud, clumsy person and show them love?  To wash them and feed them and fix their hair and buy them pretty clothes and teach them patiently and correct them kindly?  When Christ was asked “Who is my Neighbor?” He answered by giving a story about a mess of a man who was cared for by a kind Samaritan.  When my children are throwing fits and refusing to swallow bites of meat and annoying each other, when they are generally just a big mess that is getting in the way of my quiet, clean life, can I take them up and care for them with limitless generosity like that Samaritan?

Obedience has a funny way of carving the path of our perspective.  The more I obey, the more I love, and the more I pour myself out for these people, the more my perspective changes.  I don’t see them as snotty-nosed, whining, loud, sticky, clumsy, selfish people.  I see them as princesses and princes of our King, the King we both serve.  When I obey, I see them as my sisters and my brothers in our Lord.  Although they are helpless, when I am kind to them, the annoyances of caring for them quickly melts away.  And what is left?  Gratitude for the years we have together, and with gratitude, love.

Enjoy these years, they go too fast

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I think we have all heard it, maybe from an aunt or from a sweet lady at the grocery store.  “Enjoy these years, they go too fast.”  When I was leaving my last job one of my coworkers sent me a note that said, “Enjoy your days at home.  The days feel long, but the years go fast.”  How right he was!  I am so thankful for these pieces of wisdom.  Every time I take the kids out to run errands with me, I get so many sweet comments.  Most of them are from elderly men and women.  Just today a very old man stopped me in Kroger to tell me that he thought I was so brave for having children “in this day, with everything being so expensive.”  He said he had 5 boys in 7 years before he turned 30, and he has no regrets.  He enjoyed all those years.  Last week in Costco, a middle aged woman stopped me to tell me about her 3 children, two girls and a boy, just like mine, and how she missed the little years so much.  She just wanted to chat with the girls for a few minutes.  I am always so amazed at how encouraging and kind people are when they see me with my three children and a pile of groceries.  I always make a point to assure them that I am enjoying these years!

But if any of you have experience as a stay-at-home-mom, it is easy to forget to enjoy it.  We can quickly loose our joy by listening to our own stresses and worries.  We can also loose our joy by letting our children define the atmosphere.  I can’t even count how many times my kids wake up in the morning and the first thing out of their mouth is a complaint.  Am I going to let that define how the morning will go?  Nope. I am going to encourage them to dwell on the things they are thankful for, and we will move on to joy.  We have many days where it seems like at least one person is crying at every point of the day.  Will I let this define the atmosphere?  Nope.  We figure out the problem, turn on cheerful music, and move on to joy.  We have to be actively trying to enjoy these years!  And there really are so many fun moments in our life!  I have to choose to dwell on the wonderful things about these years, and let the hard things slip out of my mind in order to enjoy every day.  And lots and lots and lots of days that have been enjoyed turns into years that have not been wasted.

In an effort to enjoy each day more, I have been writing down funny and cute things my kids say.  One of my favorite things about social media (maybe my only favorite thing) is watching other parents enjoy their kids by sharing funny things they do.  I love to see people dwelling on those moments instead of the stressful moments.  Here are a few of my favorite cute moments from the last couple of weeks…

Darcy, talking to Jon, “Papa, we must keep our house on the path of life. If we swerve into ugliness and selfishness we will fall into a pit of snakes and spiders! As big as me!”
Jon, “ok, are these really spiders and snakes or just metaphors?”
Darcy, “Ha of course they are real! But they are in your heart.”

Darcy, on the subject of romantic love, “You know how you make a woman fall in love with you?
First, you make her feel like you love her by showing her your muscles, and then you have to say she is very pretty and that you love her, and then when she blinks, you find bad guy and hurt him really bad.  Then she will be in love with you.”  (I did not teacher her that)

Darcy, on finding a husband, “I just want a man who loves Jesus and has a job and a ton of money. When I was a kid we had plenty of food, but no money.”

June, “I feel sad”
Darcy, “Look, June, look at this.  Do you see that pretty color? Whenever I am sad I just look at pretty colors and think of things to be thankful for.”
June, “oh yeah! Okay! Sure!”

In the nursery during Sunday School last week June was standing in the middle of the room, clearing her throat until all eyes were on her, and then performing ballet for everyone.

I put the kids to bed and was walking away from their room when I heard a tiny voice say “Mom! Mom! Can you hear me? It’s me…June! No one has give me a hug.

And then there is the regular occurrence of June running through the kitchen yelling ” Robin Hood, Robin Hood! Save me! Save me!  The bad guys!  Mom, you are Robin Hood.”

Or Darcy walking into the kitchen with an open book and a basket in the crook of her elbow and saying “Bonjour, Gaston.  Now, mom, you have to say ‘but there aren’t any pictures’ and throw my book in the mud.  Ok?  Start over.  Bonjour, Gaston.”

Calvinism 101

The hay was wet and heavy. Waves of rain where on the horizon, swooning like a black impenetrable swarm of bees. “Yes” My mind suggested, “I can get the day off..”But instead, in spite of equipment failure and afoot of mud as far as the eye could see this black wave of rain and force was not meant to provide “a day off.”

To stay and help for this particular adventure was going to be more in the line of what my grandfather called most of my friends growing up- “pockets” – They just stood around with their hands in their pockets.  I was to be “pockets” for a day I guess. Now see, I was an aggressive employee, and standing around was so hard. Don’t worry I am lazy, but I might as well be warm and sleeping.  This man who I was to “stay and help” was not my grandfather. He was my “boss”.

The swather had gathered what we called in the haying and bailing business a “slug”. So huge was this waded soaked grass and mud that it had a depth of about 7 feet deep and at least 2.5’ thick, and about a 7’ wide span.  I had not been paying attention while a huge storm came up and dumped its guts, causing my inexperience of trying to keep on trying and the wet grass to be a “perfect storm” for a perfect “slug.”

I grabbed the thermos and poured a cup of coffee for my  boss and passed it to him in a water bottle cut in half with sludgy coffee-not hot.  He sipped on it and stared at the mess. I also had tried to “fix” this by running a tow rope in and out of the grass, by chipping and cutting holes in this slug to pull bits and pieces of it off. It did not look as clever as it might sound.

“Why ..!!  Do things like this happen!” He shouted. The canyons being too wet and cold to echo back.  “Well” I ventured.. “um well things happen I guess because God has a better pla..”  He looked at me as he started to dump the coffee on the teeth of the swather. “Things like this happen because.. your head is so far up your …  that’s why.”  He was spot on.

I took my hands out my pockets and got to work helping.

Joy Like Cake

Cancer is a slow cooker. It is a refinery for emotions and relationships.  My mother has been battling Cancer for almost 10 years. Its stress by far was and is one of the greatest trials and tribulation of my family’s life.

Growth in this trial was not voluntary. This was not a green pasture we wanted lay down in.  However, my mother’s and father’s gift from God was faithfulness, which has produced a joy. As of late there has been a joy at the home which was always there but this current joy contains a weight. There is joy that is light like frosting and then there is a joy heavy like cake.

My youngest sister was wedded this summer. My wife and I had our second daughter. My sister and husband had their third child- the first grandson. We have moved, my sister’s have moved, my brothers have moved, and my mother and father have stayed.

My mother and my father are not alone for there still stays a joy. This joy I am sure will continue to build and create over the next ten years another joy. A heavier joy. I look forward to what is cooking.

Settling into a Car’s Seat, and Being Blessed.

We are settling as one who settles into a fantastic seat of a car. We love it, the stereo is great, the ride is sweet, but we know we have to get out sooner or later.  The Lord is opening doors, and continues to lead us in wonderful ways. That said we are reminded that we are not who we are or who we will be apart from the body of family and friends.  I was reading some Wendell Berry this morning that made me miss people in my past, but also made me thankful for their gifts and  how those gifts are being used in our lives in ways that I take for granted.  To Moscow we say – ‘we left we are blessed’.

Kentucky River Junction

by Wendell Berry

to Ken Kesey & Ken Babbs

Clumsy at first, fitting together
the years we have been apart,
and the ways.

But as the night
passed and the day came, the first
fine morning of April,

it came clear:
the world that has tried us
and showed us its joy

was our bond
when we said nothing.
And we allowed it to be

with us, the new green
shining.

          *

Our lives, half gone,
stay full of laughter.

Free-hearted men
have the world for words.

Though we have been
apart, we have been together.

          *

Trying to sleep, I cannot
take my mind away.
The bright day

shines in my head
like a coin
on the bed of a stream.

          *

You left
your welcome.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16604#sthash.bMm3Ek1J.dpuf

Fenley Flat

After 3,000 miles of bumps, potholes and gentle swerves from freeway idiots our furniture made it here in many pieces. Which is perfectly fine, for if we had lifted the back and found all our furniture as one whole piece we would have never gotten it out.

Thank you Ethan Atwood, Johnathan Peterson for driving.

Thank you Kilners and Dunns for putting us up. Thank you Jonathan Anderson, Chris(the down stairs neighbor), Bill Smith and his crew for unloading our over stuffed truck, up a flight of stairs and re-stuffing it into a space which seems not much larger than the truck. 

Over the past few day Lindsey has worked her magic transforming closets like coffins into infinite storage space, boring poorly painted walls into mosaics of color, and scuffed wood floors into old friends.

Thanks be to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost for a wonderful family, a safe trip, friends who blessed us and this our flat on Fenley Avenue.