Monday, December 24, 2012

Closed for the Holidays

My kids have been home for a few days. My husband with a broken toe requiring surgery has been home a week. All that to say, there is neither peace nor quiet going on in my house. I am an introvert. I know that surprises people who know me because I am super talkative and rather social. But the truth is while I absolutely love spending time with people, I need quiet and alone time to think through big things, to process, to rest and recharge. And so with that in mind, I am closing shop for the holidays which in my household goes through January 6th.

But I will leave you with a few posts from the archives to read if you need.

For Christmas Week, as we remember baby Jesus...

What Seems Impossible
Our Bible study this year is focusing on encounters with Jesus in the book of Luke. I love Luke because he loves research and history and finding out what really happened like I do. 

Moving the Chess Pieces
When I consider my dreams, the things I hope for, the things I want to happen, the things I need to happen, it feels like a lot of different moving parts that have to come together at just the right moments. Daily chess pieces need to be moved about the board of my life often in moves I don't expect or couldn't even request.  

Jesus: Expected Part 1Part 2, Part 3
I broke into three blog posts the talk I gave at the mom's group at my church telling of Jesus, the Messiah expected. 

For the week after, home with the kids...

Lies Parents Tell Their Kids
My kids have taught me a lot of things but one of the most disturbing and yet handy is my improving skill at lying. I know that at the same time that I am teaching my kids to be honest and tell the truth, I am also actively engaged in the art of deception. Here are a few of my favorite lies parents tell kids:

I Feel Inadequate
I spend a lot of my days as a mom feeling inadequate. I don't know if I really am inadequate - I won't know that until my kids are grown up and talking to their therapists about their childhoods - but I feel it. I feel like a failure a lot of the time, broken only by small glimmers of getting it right for a moment in time.

Today I sat down next to Middle Man who was working on a special packet of work his teacher had created just for him. The worksheet he was doing involved hypothetical situations and Middle Man was supposed to figure out how he would handle the situation. 

I write all that to say that my parenting of late has felt like a #totalfail. Here are a few what would have been my recent #totalfail tweets, if I were the type to display my failure for the world to see:

The F Bomb
It started innocently enough, a little potty talk among boys. But then I heard it. 


What blog posts are you enjoying during the holiday break? 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jesus: Expected, Part 3

I taught at our church Mom's group Bible study last Tuesday and am posting my talk. You may want to go back and read Part 1 (The Messiah Predicted) and Part 2 (The Messiah confirmed) if you missed them last week.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting a conquering hero. A king which the prophets had proclaimed.  But it seems that many Jews had forgotten the rest of the prophesies. The writings of the suffering servant who would come to save the world.

Isaiah 53:3 - 5
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed. 
Lawrence O. Richards writes in The Teacher’s Commentary, “The Jews’ of Jesus’ day, looking for the coming glory, did not see the majesty of the suffering.” 
The Messiah, the servant king, the redeemer of all of God’s people, came into this world quietly. He lived most of years a small life. It was not until his few years of ministry did anyone even really pay attention to who he was said to be.

As I read though Isaiah, I saw the images put forth of the coming Messiah. I read of the one that would bring justice and turn away those who plundered his people. The savior, who will meet out God’s wrath on the oppressors.

When I think about the Pharisees, the keepers of the law, and wonder why they could not see Jesus was God’s son, I think about what they had been taught about the coming Messiah. I think about how much the expectations of a warrior king were blinding them to what God really intended. Prophesies 600 years old. Turned over and over in people’s minds. The words shifting in meaning over 6 centuries. The expectations of the Messiah changing as the words are passed down from generation to generation to generation. I imagine that as the Israelites scattered, as they lived under harsh rule of other nations, as they dreamed of the coming Messiah, their eyes focused on the passages of scripture that gave them hope of a coming king’s rescue. 

Many missed Jesus, when he was alive and walking the earth because he did not come as they anticipated. He did not meet their expectations of what the Messiah would be. His brutal death on the cross proof to many that he was not the coming one.

We do that too. We declare situations good or bad based on how we want things to be. A lost job is bad. A healthy baby is good. We give absolute value, either positive or negative to things with words like good and bad. What if we shifted our language. What if we used descriptive words such as painful, happy, joy filled, agonizing, depressing, encouraging when describing the events and conditions of our lives. What if we acknowledged that God shows up in all these things and that His being there is good? Not that the death, the loss, the broken relationship is good, no those things hurt and are scary and painful and heartbreaking. But God in them, He is good.

I wonder if we risk missing God altogether when we hold too tightly to how He should appear? 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jesus: Expected, Part 2

This is part 2 from the Bible study I taught at the moms group at my church. You can find Part 1 here.

One night long ago, a baby was born. A child unto us. The angels declared the good news to the shepherds who then ran to Bethlehem to find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. We know this story. And we know that later the wise men from the east visit bringing with them gold, frankincense and myrrh.

But there is a story in between, a story found in Luke 2.

Luke 2:22 - 35
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” 
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
We read here about Mary and Joseph following Jewish custom and taking baby Jesus to the temple to be dedicated. At the temple they are greeted by Simeon. He had studied the scriptures. He, like most Israelites, was waiting eagerly for the coming Messiah, the king that would raise up an army and throw the evil Roman empire off God’s promised land.

“For my eyes have seen your salvation,
 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
 and the glory of your people Israel.” Seeing baby Jesus, Simeon knows that he has seen God’s salvation for the Israelites, but not just for them alone but for the Gentiles as well. The very people that have held the Jews captive over the centuries.

He goes on to tell Mary that Jesus will cause many to fall and rise in Israel, that he will be rejected and spoken against and that her own soul will be pierced. Not exactly what a mother wants to hear on the day her first born son is dedicated at the temple. Not what she was probably expecting knowing that this baby was the Messiah. 

The story continues.

Luke 2:36 - 38
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna knows this is the Messiah. She declares this truth to all those who are awaiting the Messiah, the redeemer of Jerusalem.

First the angels appear and tell the shepherds of the birth of a savior, who they find exactly where the prophets said he would be born.

And then, at the temple, baby Jesus is confirmed as the Messiah by both Simeon and Anna. Two different people touched by the Holy Spirit who were waiting and waiting and waiting for the Messiah to come.

Jesus, this baby born in a manger, was and is the Messiah that the prophets had foreseen.

But was he the Messiah they were expecting? Was he going to be the King of the Jews they were all anticipating? Or was Jesus, like Simeon said, one that would cause people to fall? One that would bring pain to his mother’s soul? One that was for the Gentiles as well?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesus: Expected Part 1

Yesterday, I was given the awesome privilege of teaching Bible study at my church's moms group. We are spending the year studying "Encounters with Jesus in the Book of Luke." I taught from Jesus: Loves Me from Luke 15 in September. If you are interested you can find those posts here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Over the next few days, I will posting what I wrote for this week's teaching, Jesus: Expected. Here is Part 1.

It was Christmas time, three years ago. I was sitting in my friend’s living room with a small group of friends from church. We were in our Christmas pajamas, painting our toe nails read with white polka dots. The conversation drifted easily from topic to topic, our kids, our Christmas preparations, books we were reading or cookies we were making. The talk moved onto New Year’s resolutions. I half listened. I do not like New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I don’t like to fail.

But then someone said they wanted to read the whole Bible and everything stopped. That became our shared New Year’s resolution. We would read through the whole Bible, every word, in 2010. If you ever get a chance to do this with someone else, jump at it, because there is something extra special about reading God’s word together. Where each conversation is sprinkled with, “How’s your reading going?” and “Did you read....” My relationship with God was strengthened by spending massive amounts of time reading His word that year but so to were my relationships with those women. Mere acquaintances became dear friends as we read alone in our own homes, knowing we were doing it together.

I will admit though that reading the Bible in a year is a marathon full of sprints to get the daily reading done. I found myself in the fall rushing through the Old Testament prophet  books, my eyes catching the words but not having time to really understand what I was reading. I had no time to stop. No time to decipher its meaning. At the end of 2010, I had finished the whole Bible, and incidentally earned my ticket to a girls weekend with everyone who had finished the task.

It was a year later when I found myself lost. Lost spiritually and emotionally. Not confused or doubting. Not dejected. Just a bit lost, like I was walking through a new village without a map. I could see visual markers that guide me, a church steeple, a red cross on a hospital sign, but I was not sure where I was going - what my destination was. I needed my map, my Bible, but I could not decide where to start, what I was even looking for. And then I remembered. The books I read at warp speed, the ones I meant to go back and study in greater depth but had not. And so I turned to the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah was a prophet, a future teller. God used prophets to speak to His people, to tell them His will. Isaiah was full of warnings to turn away from pride, false worship and seeking protection in other nations instead of in God and if they did not, or more accurately, when they did not horrible things would happen. Isaiah tells of impending destruction and captivity for Israel. But he also tells of a coming savior. In the midst of all this pain and destruction, God will send a Messiah, a savior king. The Israelites, subjugated and held captive, dreamed of this one who would save them.

Isaiah 9:6 -7a
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
That was about 600 years before Jesus was born. After centuries of war and oppression and living under the crushing weight of the Roman Empire, the Jews of Jesus' day were eagerly awaiting this Messiah. The one born of the house of David in the town of Bethlehem. This Messiah would blot out injustice, rule as king and judge and fulfill the covenant promises. He would redeem Israel both politically and spiritually and free her from her oppressors. 

Are you eagerly awaiting a savior? An answer to prayer? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

From the Christmas Archives - No Rope

I posted this childhood story last year but I am posting it again for those who missed it last Christmas and for those who enjoyed it and want to read it again.

Did I ever tell you about the time we forgot to bring rope to the Christmas tree farm?

It is a favorite family story, at least for my family. I think it causes my husband anxiety.

The story begins with a van load of kids and two parents driving about a mile from our house to a nearby Christmas tree farm. Living in Oregon you end up passing multiple tree farms on a quick trip to Costco. It seems that any farm land left has trees growing on it. Most of these trees are actually cut down at the end of November and sent south, where Californians pay a crazy amount for a real live noble fir. I will be one of those crazy Californians this year.

Anyway, the family, including the six teenage foster kids that lived with us at the time were all walking through the muddy tree farm looking for the perfect tree. (There seems to be a theme to my Christmas tree stories.)

We looked at trees that looked perfect on one side but had a huge hole in the back. It always reminded me of a big civil war era hoop skirt tucked into a girl's pantaloons in the back.

We looked at trees that were too tall or too short. Someone started grumbling, most likely my dad. Someone started whining, probably me but since this is my blog I'll blame my little brother.

Finally the good enough tree was found and cut down. Again, there were people kneeling down on coats and a few choice phrases uttered as the handsaw got caught in the tree trunk. The wet needles flickering drops of water on everyone nearby as it is carried back to the car.

We, and by we I mean the grown ups and my big brother, finally get the tree on top of the van ready to be tied down.

But there is no rope.

And here is where my memory gets foggy because I would assume that the tree farm had string. The fancy tree farm we took our kids to when we lived in Oregon had string. They also let you preselect your tree in September before the California trees were harvested. And then they cut the tree down for you on the day you preselected for pick up. Maybe our childhood tree farm was not that fancy.

So we had the tree on top of the van but nothing to tie it down. And here is where my family becomes the Griswolds because the solution they found was to have my big brother lie on top of the tree, on top of van, holding on to the luggage rack, while my dad drove the van full of the rest of the family home.

Seriously. We drove a mile or so with a Christmas tree and my brother on top of the van.

We love this story. It is the essence of my family. Pragmatic and determined. Safety conscious...not so much.

I think the image of one of our boys on top of the van may be why my husband does not like that story.

Because truthfully, left  in the same situation, I might try it. Hockey Boy is pretty strong.

Update - (I posted this link on my Facebook page where my brother read it. He confirms the story except for me forgetting to mention the rain and cold. Longest mile of his life he wrote.)

Can you please help settle a debate between the kids who lived this story and the spouses who are slightly (or more) horrified by this story. Was this a horrible thing for my parents to do? Or a funny Griswold type moment? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Living Wonderstruck

Margaret Feinberg has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (releasing Christmas Day)—a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life.

I recently received the insider’s scoop about Margaret’s new book. I was able to read a few sneak peek chapters and cannot wait to get my hands on the whole book. I found a kindred spirit in Margaret. She recently did an interview for the insiders and I wanted to share a few of highlights from that interview.

Where did the inspiration for the Wonderstruck book and Bible study come from?

Have you ever had one of those seasons where everything goes wrong, and when you think it can’t get worse, it somehow finds a way? Most people who have worked in ministry have experienced those seasons—some may be in one right now.

My husband, Leif, and I had just gone through one of the roughest years of our lives. In the aftermath, as we processed the pain and loss, I had an unexplainable desire in my heart. I began praying for the wonder of God. In essence, I said, “God reveal yourself, your whole self to me. I want to know you as Wonderful. I want to know you as I’ve never known you before and see you in places I’ve never recognized you before.”

God did not disappoint.

What do you mean by “the wonder of God”?

Sometimes talking or writing about wonder feels like tying kite strings to clouds. It’s ethereal, and you can never quite get a grip on it. But if you look in the dictionary, the two main definitions of wonder are: “being filled with admiration, amazement, or awe” and “to think or speculate curiously.”

Those definitions come together beautifully in our relationship with God. That’s why I define the wonder of God as those moments of spiritual awakening that create a desire to know God more.

In other words, the wonder of God isn’t about an emotional experience or having some cool story to tell your friends, but the wonder of God makes us want more of God—to go deeper and further than we’ve ever been before.

I love how Margaret engages God and shares her love and learning with the world. You can follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog. You can learn more about this great book by visiting where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff.

Where have you been wonderstruck by God? Where do you need him to strike? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Becoming a Mother

This week we celebrate our eldest son's tenth birthday. Hard to believe that ten years ago I became a mom, though really it started nine months before his birth, when I had to change my life to take care of the little alien living inside of me. I was suddenly nauseous and vomiting all day long until finally I was given some medicine to keep me from becoming dehydrated. So thankful for really good insurance and the scientists that created Zofran. At the same time I was giving up caffeine and my daily trip to Starbucks because that was what pregnant women did back then before the rules changed.

To top it all off, my husband was offered an amazing overseas assignment which we jumped at, mostly because the offer actually came before we knew we were pregnant and had already said yes. After two years of infertility, we had stopped planning our life around the possibility of pregnancy. And so that summer, the one ten years ago, we moved to Santiago, Chile and I became essentially a stay at home mom even before the baby was born.

My entire identity was now defined by the person growing inside me because honestly it was the first thing you noticed about me. The heft I carried was staggering. And it was all consuming for me. Being pregnant.

I had way too much time on my hands, living in a new country where I did not speak the language. Too much time to research baby products and pour over message boards at Babycenter.

And each new friend I made, through the American Club and Bible study, knew me as a mom to be. They did not know the old me. The professional me. The intelligent woman who could actually think before pregnancy brain set in. They only knew the pregnant me.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVED living in Santiago. I had the most amazing time being an expat wife. It was through the American Club that I discovered how funny women in their 40s could be. Irreverent and comfortable in their skin. Having lived enough life and gained enough perspective to not take things too seriously and see the joy and humor in life. It was through the English speaking church that I found the unity of God's family. People from various denominations coming together to worship, serving wine and grape juice at communion, leaving denominational differences out of Bible study and focusing instead on the love of Jesus that unites us. Chile is where I fell in love with women's Bible study.

Hard to believe it was October ten years ago, that I had to say goodbye after only a short time together, when my husband's team was transferred home. Even harder to believe is that my eldest, my Hockey Boy, my darling boy was born ten years ago this week.

I could gush for days about what an amazing kid he is because he truly is. He taught me to love, to guide, to be comfortable with the word penis, and even to lie. He made me into a mom. And though there are days when I have considered giving one or all of them back, I love being a mom.

Not just a mom, but their mom because they are the reason I am the mom that I am. 

Happy 10th Birthday Hockey Boy!

What have your kids taught you? How have they shaped you as a parent?