Monday, June 28, 2010

A New Day

I like to listen to sermons when I am stretching at the gym before my workout. It centers me to hear God's word preached while stretching and breathing. It is a nice way to enter a workout, putting the distractions of the kids who are downstairs in the childcare out of my mind. It is another way that I can find time to spend with God. It is one of my favorite parts of my workout.

When we lived in the Bay area we attended Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC) which has some amazing teachers, including the senior pastor John Ortberg. MPPC was one of the high points of our lives in the Bay Area. It was hard to say goodbye to that church, though we were so happy to come home to our wonderful church here in the Pacific Northwest. But because of technology I can still hear the Sunday sermon each week on my iPod. If you have not heard John Ortberg or Scotty Scruggs teach, you really should listen. You can find them online or you can subscribe to the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church Sermon Cast in either audio or video podcasts at the iTunes store.

I write all this because I was listening last week to something Pastor John was teaching about prayer. It seems that prayer is all around me right now, as I am still working my way through the stack of prayer books I bought last fall and also our pastor just finished a series on prayer as well. Think God might be telling me something?

But what struck me as I was stretching and listening, was was not about prayer as much as it was about how we define a day. In Hebrew times, the Sabbath started at sundown. A new day began as the sun set, not as the sun rose as we often think today. This makes so much sense to me. As someone who is a night owl and doesn't like to go to bed early, I know that my day is often determined by how much sleep I got the night before, not how much sleep I am going to get tonight. My sleep, my meals, my quiet time at the end of the day is what really prepares me to face the next day. Any mom who is home all day with her kids will tell you that it feels like our day ends when Daddy walks in the door, or those kids are put to bed. That is when we are finally able to be ourselves for a few moments. That is when I feel like I am most alive. But then I am a night person.

I like this idea. If I thought of starting a new day as the sun set, would that change my perspective and possibly my behavior? If I thought of my day starting first with sleep would I better prepare myself for a good night's sleep? If I thought of the day starting with family time, rest, rejuvenation and then ending with my working hours, would that help me to see my priorities a little more clearly?

It was an interesting fact that I heard while listening to a sermon on my iPod while preparing to work out. It got me thinking. I saw my day in a different way. I thought about how God ordered the universe, how he set the world in order and how meant for us to order our days, our weeks and our lives. It got me thinking about ideas beyond myself. And that makes me feel alive.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Oh brothers

Yesterday I was reading through some Psalms on my reading plan and this verse at the beginning of Psalm 133 caught my eye.

"How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!"

This verse is so true! We can have so much fun as a family when the boys are being kind to one another. There are quiet mornings of playing Pokemon in their rooms that allow Mommy a few extra precious minutes of sleep. There are sweet sounds of them playing flying Flamingo and on the rarest of occasions one of the big boys can be found reading a book to Little One. These are the moments that make my heart full.

And then there is the bickering, the fighting, the competition and teasing. The mornings I am woken by screaming and tattling. The visions of hands slapping at each other in the back of the minivan. The meanness that reminds me that even my adorable children are sinful. Everyone talks about the innocence of children which is true in a worldly way, but children also demonstrate how ugly we can be to one another over our toys, our insecurities, our need for attention.

I wish I had the magic formula for creating peace and unity in my house among the brothers. But unfortunately I don't.

Instead I try to survive the battles and enjoy those fleeting moments of peace.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Sun Has Arrived

I don't know where it got misplaced this spring, but the sun has finally made a real appearance in the skies above which means that I am now in summer mode. I would love to stay focused, reading and writing consistently, but the truth is that once the sun comes out here, all intelligent thought leaves and we start hanging outside later, meeting friends at the park, and enjoying the freedom that comes with summer. I still have a pile of books I want to read and my one year Bible reading to do so hopefully that will jog some deeper thoughts to rise above the sun induced mist that keeps me in the moment and limits the flitting of ideas around my mind. My goal is that this not turn into just a wordy scrapbook of our summer (though I do want to record the fun we have when it might amuse or give someone a good idea) but that it will continue to be a place I can escape my real world and delve into those things that make me feel real, thoughts and ideas.

But right now I am actually having fun being a fun mom. I think the sun coming out has really improved my mood so it is easier for me to enjoy the kids. Also, summer means all sorts of grand adventures, for the big boys this week is day camp and for Little One and I, we are enjoying the park, time with friends and lunch dates together. Next week starts swim lesson for all three boys at the same time (I won the lottery apparently) and more freedom to our days. More trips to Baskin Robbins and picnics at the park. More opportunities to listen to my boys play together when they don't know I am listening. A recent conversation I heard after Hockey Boy must have accidently hit Little One with a ball while playing hockey in the garage. :

Hockey Boy: Little One are you tough?

Little One stops crying and starts to calm down.

Hockey Boy: You are tough. I'm sorry I hurt you. But remember we are tough.

More water squirters and sidewalk chalk. More good books and lazy afternoons reading. More water fountains and sandboxes. More crops to water for Middle Man. More bike riding and lego building.

More USA soccer wins in the World Cup.

I am loving summer so far. Check back in a few weeks. I may have a 3.5 year old for sale.

Friday, June 18, 2010

For the kids?

I took the boys strawberry picking this morning with a friend which was way more fun than I expected. On the way home we stopped at our (my) favorite hamburger place to grab some yummy cheeseburgers. I also decided to be extra nice and let each boy have their own kid's chocolate shake. Normally we split one between the three of them but since I am such a nice mommy I decided to splurge.

Guess who enjoyed all the leftovers.

Yes, that would be my night stand, next to the my bed, where I drank a whole lot of leftover chocolate shake. Yummy! Win-win yet again.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

School's Out for the Summer

We are a very happy family at our house. The boys had their last day of school yesterday and today began our laid back, relaxed summer vacation. So far, so good. I have visions of lazy mornings reading books in our pjs and sunny summer afternoons spent with friends at the park. I want to eat ice cream cones at Baskin Robbins and fill up water balloons and let the kids get soaking wet on a hot summer day. Of course we need summer to actually show up here which I am sure it will on July 5th as it does most years.

I also have plans to teach the older boys a few essential skills this summer. Tying shoes is high on my list because while they will spend most of the summer in crocs, I want them to be able to tie their own swimsuits. Also, folding laundry is on the list. It moved up a few spots in priority after Middle Man chastised me yesterday for not doing what I was supposed to, meaning I had not folded HIS clothes in a timely manner. Not 5 minutes later, when I mentioned summer chores, Hockey Boy informed me he was not a cleaning person. So learning to clean the toilets and sinks as well as sweep and mop the kitchen floor was put on his list of skills to learn. I also am hoping to have the older boys learn to type this summer. It is painful to watch them use the keyboard.

I have great dreams and plans for the summer. I am optimistic, but I am a realist as well and I know there will be many opportunities to learn to "follow your mother's directions the first time". There will be a lot of refereeing as well as simply ignoring the fighting going on upstairs. There will be tantrums and cases of the "I'm bored" and not just from the kids. But for today, our first day of summer I am going to hold on to the dream, the dream of no alarm clocks (even though we have an 8 am camp starting next week), the dream of picnic dinners in the park (oh those pesky bees), and wonderful family vacations to the grandparent's lake house (which does require a plane trip and a three hour drive to a town without a Starbucks).

I am sure that the countdown to school will begin soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God: "Because I Said So"

A thought had been swirling my brain the last few months, slowly taking a solid form. And it is this, God is God. A very simple equation. God is God. Nothing more, nothing less. As He Himself said, "I AM."

Seems like a simple concept to grasp and yet it has taken me this long to remove myself from the equation. I used to think God is a loving God. God cares for me. God wants what is best for me. God has a plan for my life. All of which are true statements but my definition of God was all tied up with me, me, me. I defined God by how He related to me. I was constantly trying to figure God out, make His seemingly inconsistent actions in the Bible, make sense. I wanted to understand God on my terms. I wanted to understand justice and grace in a way that worked for me, more importantly in a way that was comfortable for me.

But the truth is that God is God. This life, this earth, these 6 billion plus people are His creation. We, by our very creation, belong to Him. And what He decides is best is best, simply because He is God, He is the designer. He created a world that was so perfectly designed that the laws of physics are true. Not the other way around. He is not beholden to the laws of physics. We are His art, His design. We are the products of His hand. We like to think of God as at our disposal, as our comforter and our cheerleaders. And He does do those things as part of our relationship to Him but the truth is we are at His disposal. We were made to glorify Him, to praise Him.

I have recently stopped asking why so much. I spent years sounding like Little One with all my why? why? why? questions. I wanted to understand the world, I wanted to understand God. The truth is I can't. I can gain knowledge and wisdom everyday. I can read His word that tells me who He is. But I will not understand God until I am standing face to face with Him. And even then I may never understand. This used to frustrate me.

I always hated it when my parents answered my why question with the standard, "because I told you so." But as a parent, I know so much more than my kids. Sometimes I want to explain my decision making to them. Sometimes I don't. Maybe because I am tired, or more likely maybe because they would not understand even if I explained it. And sometimes because I am not ready for them to deal with the darkness of this world.

And so now I find peace in knowing that God is God. I don't have to understand it all. I may have to do things out of blind obedience when God's answer to me is 'because I said so."

I know that God is God. And that is enough now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How do you know when you are old?

When it comes to music, the saying goes, "If it's too loud, you're too old." I typically like my music loud, though I rarely listen to music unless I am driving or working out. Or when I am at church, singing during worship, at which point I like the music loud so I (and all my neighbors) cannot hear my voice. There was a moment recently though, while shopping at the Gap for some new tshirts that I found myself thinking the music was too loud. I grabbed that thought, threw a mini dress on it, and locked it up tight because I am not ready to be my mother.

I don't want to be old. Or more specifically I don't want to be past my time, out of touch, uncool. I like to think I can still hang with the cast of Real World but since I don't really like to stay up past 11pm it might be tough. And I find myself wanting to give the girls on the Hills motherly advice while putting a cardigan over that way too revealing top.

But it was while watching the MTV Movie Awards this week that I came to the realization that I am officially old. Yes, I just wrote that, I am a 30 something (getting awfully close to 40) year old woman and I was watching the MTV Movie Awards. I am cringing with shame just writing that but I am all about being real and the real me still wants my MTV. So there I am enjoying watching Team Edward v. Team Jacob winning all sorts of awards when two different things happened.

First, I saw the newest preview for the movie Eclipse. And as any sane, grown, mother of three, I felt an indescribable urge to rush out and stand in line for movie tickets. But then my older self reminded me that the movie was premiering at midnight. I think I might have to do the next best thing and see it with all the other people my age at the senior showing at 10:30 am.

And then, Christina Aguilera performed. I am old enough to remember her on the Mickey Mouse Club (M-I-C See you real soon...) I usually like her music and am pretty sure a song or two has made my iTunes playlist. I was okay with the sequined leotard and provocative moves, but then there was a song that horrified me and my usually pretty open and hip senses. It was so bad I actually turned it off.

Which was probably something I should have done a long time ago.

Thankfully Bravo is run by MTV graduates who bring us the Real Housewives of New York City.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Promises of God

I have been thinking a lot about the promises of God recently. I think part of this was provoked by a sermon series on the Good News and part was prompted by my reading through the Old Testament. There are so many promises God has given us in His word:

- And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

- And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20b

- Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

- The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

- Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

- All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

These are just a few of the thousands of promises that are written in the Bible, God's word for us. Truth we can hold onto in times of struggle, a foundation on which we can build our faith. Some of these promises are completely centered on God's actions, some require action on our part. But we can be sure that God will always keep His promises.

I thought I got it last week and was all excited to write a post about our need to know God's promises. Because when we know God's promises we can find comfort and strength in them. We can know for certain that God will hear us, protect us, guide us, redeem us and love us. Maybe by knowing God's promises we could let go of the stress we feel, the strange requirements we put on ourselves and the overbearing sense of being lost in a wilderness that we often feel as we traverse life. I thought I knew where to find the magic key we all seek.

And then I got reminded yet again, that I really don't get it. I was reading "With Christ in the School of Prayer" by Andrew Murray (as always because I am sooo, sooo slowly making my way through this book which I do highly recommend) last week when this sentence struck me to the core.

Learn to believe in God, hold on to God, and to let God take possession of our life. It will become easy to grasp the promise. Whoever knows and trusts God finds it easy to also trust the promise.
and later he writes
It was the revelation of God Himself that gave the promise its living power to enter the heart and cultivate faith. Because they knew God, these men of faith could not do anything but trust His promise.

And then to get to the root of my turning God's gifts into my idols, I read this sentence.
Jesus is teaching us a precious lesson today. We seek God's gifts, but God wants to give us Himself first.

I was going at it backwards, yet again. Learning God's promises, knowing His word, points us to God himself. These promises show us who God is. They are an extension of His very being, the pouring out of His heart into our world.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What is this bright ball of fire I keep hearing about?

Have you heard the rumors flying around Facebook and the blogging world? There are actually people in these United States of America that are hot right now. I am not sure how we can be United when those people are living crazy like in tshirts and sandals, putting their feet in sand and eating outdoors. So separate from us, their American brothers and sisters living in the safety of rainy days in the Pacific Northwest. I am at a loss. I cannot understand all this talk of swim suits, shorts and heat induced sweat, these rumors of being hot because of something that is called the sun. I am not sure what this sun thing is. I have a distant memory of something bright in the sky. I think it is a bit of a menace because it requires protective eye gear as well as some magic lotion to protect our skin. Thankfully I live somewhere that has prohibited this evil ball of heat from flying in our skies. Now how to save my Facebook and blogging friends from this horrible ball of fire in the sky? Maybe I should visit a few of these friends and investigate further this sun thing they talk of. Maybe I could negotiate some sort of treaty where the sun could visit our northwest skies as long as it promises to stay for just a few short days. Because who knows what would happen to all us natives if the sun showed up and stuck around a while. We might go crazy and actually go out without a raincoat.

Wait a minute, maybe we are all experiencing some sort of Stockholm syndrome brought on by our falling in "love" with our raincoats. Could this be a huge raincoat conspiracy? Are the rain boots and umbrellas in on it too?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I recently had a few discouraging weeks in a row when which I wrote about here and here and a few places in between. I don't like to be all sad and discouraged in my real life or on my blog but I also like to be real, because there is nothing more discouraging than to think you are alone in a world full of happy people all the time.

But after a few weeks of discouragement, I got a week full of little encouragements.

- When I wrote about blogging a few friends either commented or sent me emails to let me know that they think what I am doing is worthwhile. I don't want to be motivated by positive praise but sometimes it really helps to get an encouraging word from someone you trust.

- A few months back I took a risk and sent someone a Bible verse that I thought might be encouraging to them in a time of struggles. I was hesitant because you never know how that will be received, or at least that was my thought. Even after all these years and all my friends knowing I am a Christian I have a hard time sharing Bible verses with those around me. I don't want them to feel like I am trivializing their struggles with a "happy" verse about God's love. Last week I saw my friend and we started talking about what was going on in her life. She suddenly stopped me to run up and grab something to show me. It was a little framed copy of the verse I had sent her. A friend had given it to her as a gift a few weeks after I sent her the same verse. It now sits on her bedside table as a reminder of God's love and plan for her life. God was using me to share His word with her. What a blessing for me to be a part of God's work of comforting a friend in need.

- After I wrote my big dream of having all the women of my church read through the Bible in 2011, which felt very risky to say out loud, I was reading a book by a respected theologian. He also wrote that he thinks Christians should be reading through the Bible on a regular basis, affirming to me that my big dream was valid. Again, I should not need outside people to make me feel valid, but sometimes I really need to know that I am not alone in my thinking. Especially if I am calling others to action. I would so hate to think that I have the "right" answer and lead people off the trail into a barren wilderness.

- And to top it all off, the sun came out a few times this last week. Not enough to put away the pants and sweatshirts altogether, but enough to feel the sun on my face and know that summer is coming. There is hope!