Monday, August 23, 2010

Hidden In Our Hearts

There are some moments that take years of waiting to arrive. I'm not talking about wedding days or graduation ceremonies; and not the monuments of first steps or your first home. These moments are far simpler and more of a home-baked bread variety. When that spark of reading lights up within your child, or they look up at the sky and express the same marvel you have, or you stand by as they experience the pride of placing a meal made from scratch upon the table. You probably have your own list, those are just a few that thrill this particular heart.

A special one of mine is reading The Hiding Place. This is my fourth excavation of this treasure, but I have waited for years to be able to enter into it with my girls. The first time I read it was in high school with my sister, Lana. The second time was to my boys, a bit over ten years ago. The third time was on my own, in my room, away from everything and everyone else. And now I am getting to share Corrie, and Father, and Betsie, and Pickwick, and Eusie, and all of them, with my girls. I've always identified Lan and I with Betsie and Corrie, respectively, which lends a tender sweetness to the book. I have been brought to tears on this occasion of visiting the story within more than any other, I am sure. All good and right and as it should be.

I have delighted in taking the girls through a mental tour of the Beje and all its endearing oddities, introducing them to the the Tantes and the individual ways that familial love and challenges stretch them, one and all. When we read the news that Father had died, they mourned with Corrie as well. In one of my favorite chapters, The Lieutenant, I felt my girls in the small hut with the Ten Boom "children," extending their joy, their sorrow, their very inheritance, and most especially their prayers to include the searching man who had brought them all together for a stolen moment.

Tonight, A and L raced to get their showers done so that we could read one more chapter before bed. We are flying through and almost done! I smiled in delight as they ran up the stairs, hurrying. I love this. I hope they miss the Ten Booms as much as I do when the last page is read and the book is placed back upon the shelf, but that it remains alive in their hearts and memories as well - like all the best books do.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Because I Said So

They say parenting is one of those things that doesn't come with an instruction manual. While this is true, what we do come to this monumental task with is the example our own parents were to us. Speaking personally, there were a great number of things that both my husband and I appreciated and respected about our parents - especially the older we grew - and greatly desired to emulate in our own roles as the Mama and the Papa.

Our parents ingrained within us certain values - that of hard work, respect for your elders, looking out for those less fortunate than yourself, looking the other person in the eye when you're talking, hold high standards but leave room for flexibility, and a sense of humor is gold. Concerning our own worth we knew we were special to someone, we could make a difference, we were capable, we had gifts and talents and weaknesses, and throughout all of that we were deeply loved. We have always desired to impart these practices and understandings to our own children.

Ultimately, however, we take the examples we were given and venture out beyond them, making our own mistakes and stretching ourselves in ways unfamiliar. Today's sermon was on Amos 8 and as Pastor Giorgio led us into a delving of its depths, a familiar parental refrain rang in my mind. "Because I said so." My parents were the kind who would respond to our countless questions and queries of "Why?" with this ambiguous and enigmatic sentence. I have not been. I come from a later generation who believe deeply in investing the time to explain so that our children might fully understand the reasons behind why we do what we do and expect them to as well. Perhaps latent frustration remains from childhood years of running into that stonewall sentence, serving to fuel the compulsion to give an explanation to our children's every, "how come?"

The funny thing is, the longer I am a parent, the more I see the practicality of, "Because I said so." This is not to say that I believe in abandoning the years of unfolding and diagramming with our kids. In order that our children might grasp that there is consideration and thoughtfulness behind our directions and orders, it is a gift we give both to them and ourselves. But after a time, enough of a foundation is laid so that we can begin to expect more of them. The trust we have sought to establish within our relationship is tested. "Because I said so," is an invitation for them to do the thinking through on their own now. Will they obey in response to all we have striven to show them? Will they respond to our faith in them with a reciprocal faith in us? Will they simply trust and obey?

With today's sermon (which I invite you to listen to) a further validity has been added. There is a God who offers numerous elucidations as to why He expects us to live as He calls us to, countless re-visitations to the blackboard of illustration for our consideration, diverse and sundry occasions for us to grapple with and own our responsibilities and opportunities. When we pause and pull away with our children to gently chronicle the whys and wherefores of wise decision making, we are modeling His grace - which He lovingly bestows upon us all. But when we are brief and offer only a clear-cut choice of obedience or not, we are modeling who He also is to us, the God of justice. And it is no less loving for us to make certain our children have practice in this realization as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sometimes... Weekends Are For Cooking And Cooking And Cooking

How do you wind up with a freezer full of Shiny Happy Sticky Hoison Pork Chops, Creole Roast, Bourbon Beef Tenderloin, Beef Bone Broth, Grilled Beef Heart Kabobs, Rump Roast Au Jus, Barbecue Pot Roast, Eye of Round Roast, Navy Beans with Smoked Ham, Grilled Chicken Breasts, London Broils, and Strip Skirt Steak, Eight lbs of Browned Up Ground Beef, Five dozen frozen muffins, a Blueberry Pie, a Peach Cobbler, Lemony Thai Shrimp, Spaghetti Sauce for your upcoming potluck, and your first attempt at a Pressure-Cooked Roast within a matter of 2 days? One of your children leaves the freezer open overnight.

We still have Beef Liver, Chicken Fried Steak, more smoked ham to use, some fruit smoothies and maybe some more muffins to bake up if we are not to lose the rest of the food. I and my girls are exhausted and about ready to cry "Uncle!"

My husband, although initially very upset over this, wound up considering this quite a boon and grew increasingly excited over all the cooking going on. Anyone else married to a man like this? ;D The house was filled to overflowing with the savory smells of a dozen meals at once.

While this was an unexpected and exhausting use of our weekend, no doubt we will appreciate it in the weeks to come - especially as we begin the school year. I think my honey and I are going to get away for a pre-birthday (mine!) weekend and the kids are grateful for all we have left them with.

And we give thanks.

Friday, August 13, 2010

You Had Me At Creme Brulee....

You always do.....

Actually, I was looking for a recipe to help me cook up a bunch of pork chops. Everyone has their comfort foods and one of mine is pork chops with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. However, since I took two packages out of the freezer I was thinking I'd cook up one the way I like it, and experiment with the other - freezing it for later. I was thinking something with hoisin sauce.

That's always how it starts, isn't it? Perused a few pages and blogs... when suddenly I came across Dinner With Julie. Her Hoison Lettuce Wrap recipe isn't even there anymore, but it took me two read-throughs before that even registered. With a line-up of:

Day 98: Hoisin Pork Lettuce Wraps, Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls with Peanut Sauce, Thai Coconut Soup with Lemongrass and Chicken/Shrimp, Pork Potstickers, Teriyaki Beef Satay, Curried Peanut Orange Shrimp and Green Tea Crème Brulée

I could only sit there in captured silence, savoring each dish in my taste buds of anticipation.

And it all ends with........ Creme Brulee. The words are said with delicate reverence and sweet delight.

I don't know that my family and I need all of this food in one sitting, but I will be whipping up some of these goodies, as well as others on Julie's blog. I invite you to walk through her delicacies, you'll leave hungry and inspired.

นี้ เป็น ที่วิเศษ .....

(In Thai: This is heavenly.....)

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Capricious Servant

In my morning reading, I covered Proverbs 29 today. One verse, in particular, has lingered with me throughout the hours since then. Some verses in Proverbs are quite succinct, some delightfully blunt, others challenge you to wrestle with them. And some, like verse 19 from this chapter, invite reflection. The Lord says, "A servant cannot be corrected by mere words; though he understands, he will not respond."

Some years ago, I overheard a conversation between a Sunday School teacher and a little girl. The child was reporting back on completion of a task and shared something else she'd done as well. "That's wonderful," the teacher replied, adding, "what a beautiful servant you are." I was struck. I'd never heard such words. We are complimented for being smart, witty, wise, or beautiful - but for having the heart of a servant? And I knew then that I had just witnessed one soul being used as an instrument of God to point another to the narrow way whereby we follow the Savior. I don't know if that child remembers that little exchange with her teacher today, but this soul does.

All over the bible we read stories and sentences that deal with this issue of servanthood - and clearly there are two different kinds. In one camp we find wicked and foolish ones, to phrase it without any sort of embellishment or delicacy. In the other are the faithful and obedient ones. This morning's verse speaks specifically to one who should be serving, isn't, is corrected verbally, understands, but refuses to obey. In fact, it says he cannot be corrected with mere words.

It appears something more is needed. How I wish it weren't!

Why can't we just want to obey? Why must we struggle to walk rightly before this awesome, unfathomable, lover of our souls? Why do we fight identifying in action with the One who came to serve?

A book I have been reading of late has given me greater pause as I approach the throne in prayer. Not to stop and cower in dread, but to rightly acknowledge the One who invites me to this relationship as I am. All my pride gets distilled and placed into a thimble, I fall back on my butt in sensibility of His majesty, and I recognize myself as a Less Than. I am! So much less than I need to be, than I want to be, than I know I must be if I am to live as He calls me to. And in realization of myself as a Less Than, I acquire a deeper understanding of how much I need Him to be The Greater Than. And He is!

So dear Lord, please do what only You can do in my life, in the lives of those I love, and in the world. Help us, when we get it all turned around and backward. Give us eyes and hearts and ears to see and listen and understand what we need to. And when we foolishly won't listen, do what is necessary, but do not leave us to our lives of Less Than.

Please, do not do that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

For This You Were Created, My Brothers

Dear Brothers,

Many times I have listened to other women telling their story, one that is familiar to me from years ago. They have young children. Their husband is climbing the corporate ladder or just trying to establish some financial security for them; she feels they are living separate lives, going in different directions. Talking never seems to get anywhere, and the cries of her heart may have even degenerated to being considered simple nagging. Raising the kids seems to have become a one parent job, and she doesn't feel like she's doing it in any way that brings real joy and accord to their home. This is not what either of them had thought it was going to be like.

I encourage her to be faithful to the call the Lord has placed on her life. I pray that He would equip her to be the help-meet that she was designed to be. I look to praise the things she is doing well, to rejoice in the love she has for her children, and advise her to continue to try to talk with her husband. Inside, I pray for an overflowing of perseverance to flood her soul as she tries to get through these tough years.

And I feel at a loss. Because what can really help? What can truly change this season? It's just plain hard, isn't it?

Last night, I mulled this over with my own husband. He understands this time as well. These years very nearly ended with our marriage ripped apart and a statistical casualty.

Recently, I heard a radio interview with the singer of Sanctus Real. He was sharing his story - and it was the same one. This same familiar marital-family struggle. But he didn't resign himself to acceptance; he didn't just say 'this is hard' and leave it at that; he didn't bail out and swallow the bitter pill of life as it is without even trying; he responded differently because he realized that this was no different than any other season. God's power was meant to be brought to bear in him even now. For him, it meant pulling back from his work schedule and taking his family with him at times. It probably consisted of more, and brought about hoped for and unexpected changes to them all. What he seemed to realized was that now was the time. A re-prioritizing of his life in keeping with God's design was called for this day, in the here and now.

In my attempts to not paint you, my brothers, so dark, I was avoiding speaking out loud what is in all actuality the truth. It begins with you. The submission, the change, the responsibility - it all starts with you. But the strength, the gifting, the glorifying - it all enters though you as well. The desire for family unity, for God's peace within your walls, for a Christ-like lived-out-love that your wife is imperfectly reaching for, He has designed you to be the initiator of all this within your home. And if you will follow His lead, He will establish it.

My sincere and deep prayers are for families this morning, for husbands to lead, wives to follow, and children to take this Godly example to heart.

Amen, so may it be.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Study In Brown

Recently, a dear friend and I were sharing blog reviews - ones we both read, and a few the other had not heard of. One she shared with me is, in fact, closed. It was called Study In Brown. I was captivated by the name, being drawn to the imagery of color. (into the box of empty pretties it goes!) I love the earthy realness of brown. The expression a brown study came to mean a state of thinking deeply about something, but has fallen into obsolescence. I think I'll lead the effort to bring it back into use again - it's a good expression, don't you think?

Intrigued, I had to go look at what was left at this blog's final adieu. It was not unlike visiting a gravesite, of a kind back when tombstones were carved so as to elicit emotion from even the unknown passers-by. She has left us with this thought provoking quote:

Sometimes the very desire for action leads to the neglect of action. Looking for some wonderful opportunity to give oneself, to devote oneself, one forgets the humble brother close at hand who is waiting for a word of comfort, a saving gesture.
Let us not linger in contemplation of the road ahead; let us follow the narrow path. Let us not look too far or too high, but right in front of ourselves, right next to ourselves. The good to be done is perhaps there.
~ Elisabeth Leseur

It is August. In our country this is one of those occasions within our cycles of regularity when we begin fresh pages, with school beginning again quite soon for students and teachers alike. Miss Brown Study's quote suits my own frame of mind as I methodically deliberate and prepare for what lies ahead of us in the coming months.

Yesterday's sermon on Amos. You'd either have to have been sitting with your fingers in your ears or had an absolutely inpenetrable heart to have not been convicted. M and I kept coming back to it throughout the day. As homeschoolers, we truly have an overflowing abundance of choices from which we can choose. Our variety basket has become as full as most any public or private school. From having others teach our children everything from those core subjects we are weak in to foreign languages, archery, horseback riding, swimming, cooking classes, lacrosse, band, karate, public speaking, football, debate, soccer, chess, art, design, fencing, sailing, music lessons, dance, and on and on and on. We have it all, don't we? The pressure to join something is quite a ponderous weight.

Of course it all comes at a price, and with more than one child, you can multiply that several times over financially. This says nothing of other intangible costs that can be tallied up and taken before you even knew what the total bill was. I used to tell my sons when they were much younger, "I don't care if you grow up stupid, so long as you grow up to be Godly men." Of course, that was a gross exaggeration said with an enormous tongue in cheek, but it was in the ridiculous that I was driving home the point of why we do everything we do - including our education.

Within the confines of the next week or so, I will be weighing our finances, our values, our goals, our priorities, and looking for what is an honest fit of stewardship and significance. One thing I can be pretty certain of, the road we take from here will be a recognizeable shade of humble dust - and upon it I would earnestly seek His blessing.