February 28, 2011

God's Faithfulness: Meeting Dr. Mary Poplin

Who is like our God?

Here's the back story:

In college, I was involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF).  Sidenote: Met Colin there, yup!  The first two years, Tom Grosh was our staff worker.  He trained us well in Bible study and alway encouraged us to seek the Lord, get to know the Word, step out in faith.  I learned a lot from Tom.

We've maintained a connection over the years through prayer/support emails for him and his family and seeing each other a few times.  This past summer, now that we're back in Pittsburgh, we were able to visit with the Groshes at a small bbq with other supporters and old IVCF friends.  I mentioned to Tom my desire to grow as a speaker and writer.  And, God bless him, he's taken my comment to heart and is offering me opportunities to develop through reading good literature and (maybe - it's in the prayer phase) doing some writing for the Emerging Scholar's Network blog.

With the retreat coming up in April, I asked Tom if I could borrow a book.  As God would have it, Tom was coming to town the following weekend, was able to stay a night with us, and

brought me FOUR books.

I started by reading one that I had not requested, but seemed to fit well with the retreat topic: service.  The book?  Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service by Mary Poplin.

I was so taken with the writing, Mother Teresa, and the challenging questions Mary posited throughout the book.  I was half way through before the middle of the following week.

And Mary Poplin was going to be in Pittsburgh that Friday!

Unfortunately, I was not going to be able to attend her talk at the CMU Veritas Forum.  But, Tom knew Mary's schedule, and arranged for her to come to our home for a brief interview.  If you're my friend on Facebook, you know I was just a little excited!

Wow, an author and scholar in my kitchen!  And what a lovely Christian woman.  You can read the story of her conversion (in her forties!) here.

I planned to share some of that interview with you here, but it will have to wait for the next post.  For now, I'll leave you with these thoughts:

  • Praise God for the body of Christ, the Chruch, and how He uses us to sharpen, encourage, and spur one another on!  Meeting Mary would not have happened if Tom had not taken in interest in this young lady's heart's desire.  And, of course, there was Mary willingness to come to a strange girl's house for a chat.  I'm so grateful!
  • It's been less than two years since I decided to try pursuing a dream, and God has been SO FAITHFUL in giving me experiences and speaking through His word into my life.  What do you dream about, how can you step out and develop and use your gifts starting TODAY, trusting that God will prove Himself faithful?
Stay tuned for a post about my conversation with Mary.  Until then:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upong you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

February 24, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Evergreen Wood

The kids and I are enjoying this wonderful book:

It is an adaptation of The Pilgrim's Progress for kids.  The story and illustrations are lovely for children and I like that I understand it better than the real Pilgrim's Progress!  Brian, at two and a half, is not really engaging with it; Elizabeth, at six, is completely captivated and always asks to read just one more chapter.  Save this one for first grade or older.

I learned about The Evergreen Wood from this book:

Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families

Sarah Clarkson's collection of book suggestions from many literary genres is invaluable!  If you do not own this book, you want to read quality literature to your kids, and you don't know where to go beyond what you enjoyed as a child, start here!  I've found Sarah's age suggestions for each book to be most helpful as I pick picture and chapter books to read with the kids.  I have yet to be disappointed by one of her recommendations!

February 23, 2011

When I Look Back ... Calling on God for the Impossible.

Sometimes I used to make my mom come into my room at night, after I should have been asleep, to scratch my back.  I hated when she'd rub it.  It had to be scratched.

She would.

Now I know she was surely feeling the pressure of household tasks or simply the draw of crawling into her own bed.  But she took the time to scratch my back.

*   *   *

I spent a lot of yesterday barking orders at my children, getting frustrated at myself for not knowing what to do with their disobedience, then feeling worse because I always resort to yelling.  Yelling "works" especially well with Brian.  But I should be able to come up with something better than that. Right?  And oh, the rage that wells up within me when I'm defied.  Boy oh boy!

We also got out to do some sledding, had dinner at my sister's cozy home with her family, and I wrapped up the day with individual cuddle and reading time with each of my sweet ones (eventually falling asleep for a while in Elizabeth's bed with her.)  How precious!  And the icing on the cake: getting to be with my husband and hear about his algorithm troubles before finally succumbing to sleep for good.

That's life, isn't it?  The ugly mixed with the beauty.  The rotten stink of sin intermingled with the fragrant aroma of the true, right, noble, and praiseworthy.

It got me to thinking about what I want to remember about the years I had at home with my children.  I want them to be "back scratching" memories!  But right now I imagine they will guilt-filled memories, seeing only the times I blew it.  That will be horrible and it is NOT the way I want to remember.

A friend (thanks, Tom) asked this question on a facebook post today:

Are you calling upon the Father for the impossible today? 

I'm glad I read this before sitting down with my notebook and the Word.  What fuel for prayer!

What's the impossible in my life?  To stop being a yeller?  To be more kind and gentle?  To feel less guilty?


But, no.

The impossible in my life is that I could live every moment, do every task, engage in every conversation to the glory of God.

Last night, my fear of the future, when I look back at my young mommy years, was all based on ME.


The Lord is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.  He wants us to fear Him, serve Him, love Him - with all our heart, soul, and mind.  And I'm pretty sure He's the only one that can bring this kind of transformation in my life!  (yours, too.)

Furthermore, as He changes us into true worshipers, I firmly believe that that nasty guilt, the ugly yelling, the habitual sins will lose their power.

Will you call on the Father for the impossible today?  My prayer is that God will make me one who lives for His glory.  How about you?  With the crazy self-love in my heart, it seems impossible.  But as Jesus said:

What is impossible with man is possible with God.

And Augustus Toplady in 'Rock of Ages':

Not the labor of my hands,
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save and Thou alone. 

February 21, 2011

Type-A Has Children, Starts Homeschooling, and Relaxes ... a Little

It started snowing this afternoon.  According to the "chatter" on Facebook, none of us knew this was a possibility.  As I type, we've got at least 4" on the ground, could get up to 8, according to one report.

A friend recommended (on Facebook, seriously what did I do with my time before Facebook?) to get out and shovel because the snow was wet and heavy.  I took her advice and found it to be the first "real" snow we've had this winter.  For any readers who live in snowless lands, there are many types of snow, few are actually good for common winter activities like snowball fights and building snowmen.  It has to be what we call packing snow.  Tonight, we had ourselves some packing snow!

At 7:00, this mama declared that we would be going outside to build a snowman.  Brian usually heads to bed around 7:30.  When Elizabeth was two, I never would have relaxed bedtime for winter fun.  I love who I'm becoming!  (And I love that homeschooling allows us to fudge bedtime without morning-rush consequences.)


But, praise be to God, it was even more than fun family time.  A neighbor that just moved in came up to ask about borrowing our shovel.  After he finished we got to talking.  Friends, wonders will never cease, because they are the third Christian couple to move onto our street this year!  (And um, yeah, he also knows my mom.)

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9

What's a Girl to Do?

It's come to my attention recently, that I have some deeply ingrained sins that need to be confronted: a judgmental mind, a grumbling spirit, an unteachable heart.


What's a girl to do?

When you are made ware of sin in your life - by God's Word, the Spirit within, or others - what happens?  I tend to go in one of two directions: try to explain it away - it's not that bad - or hang my head in shame and defeat - I can never change.

Neither of these responses is right or helpful.  The first proudly denies that sin is a problem, to which Scripture says "foolishness!"  The second miserably denies that Jesus' death on the cross was of any value.

What is a girl to do?!

This verse comes to mind when I think about sin:

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation
and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

What does this look like in practice?  From this verse we read that Godly sorrow leads to repentance - acknowledging or sin to God.  That can be a pretty big step, sometimes feels like swallowing pride as big as an elephant.  My name is Heather and I have a judgmental mind, a grumbling spirit, and an unteachable heart.  (Makes me seem like a real peach, huh?!)

Beyond simply acknowledging the sin, we have to confess our dependency on God to both be forgiven and be changed.  This is the part that leads to salvation rather than death.  Jesus death and resurrection are sufficient for any sin you throw at God's feet - ANY - whether a one-time heinous crime or a sin pattern that's been a companion from childhood.  We are left with no regret because when we confess faith in Jesus, not only does He take our sin, but he gives us His righteousness - that perfect record he maintained while living as a man!

There is now no condemnation ... Good news, indeed!

We can confess our sin, repent and believe, because that Godly sorrow is given to us to bring life.  The Spirit convicts us of sin that we may draw nearer to God, cling more tightly to the cross, give greater thanks, all to God's glory.

There is no other God like Him.

Over the last week, even in the midst of greater awareness of my sin, God's giving me hope:
  • Though I'm not what I ought to be, I'm not what I used to be;
  • He's changed me in very specific ways in the past, so I can trust Him with these.

What a loving Father we have!

My prayer for you today:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

February 20, 2011

Morning Run in My City

The moon's business is done
as the sun rises to the sound of birds chirping,
coloring the sky with soft, cotton candy pastels.
Friends gather to run,
the exercise jarring bodies awake
before the day's duties begin.
The path is clear,
the air crisp,
the chatter constant,
as feet pound the pavement and breaths quicken.

We cross a river in this city of bridges;
from below, geese honk out commands in formation.
The glassy waters speaks peace,
the previous days' wild winds forgotten
in her clear reflection
of the shore's trees and structures.
An endless train clickety-clacks to its destination,
the rhythms of city life continuing
around the clock.
Skyscrapers in the distance reflect the sunlight
in metallic splendor,
the bridge before them a faithful sentinel.

Barges remind of the time this city was dominated by
steel, smoke, and smog.
Shores previously lined with filthy factories
now replaced
by sleek office buildings,
popular restaurants,
lovely walking trails.
Nature and industry dancing through history
in this city I called home,
this beautiful city I call home.

February 19, 2011

Just Some Days, Just Some Ordinary Days

Here are some things that have been going on around here.  Sorry I have been slow in delivering posts.  It's not 'cause I'm not thinking!

My "little" brother had a birthday.  Can you guess his age?
Happy Birthday, Rob!

Elizabeth got an easel from Grammy and Grampy for Valentine's Day.  She's so excited about it.  "Fish" was her first painting ... for Dad. She's also been learning to knit.

 The weather has been LOVELY!  So we've been at parks a lot.  Brian's bigger and braver.  It's exciting to think about his 3-year-old summer and how awesome it's going to be!

 He's also been doing a little gaming on the DS.  And (poor child) I even sometimes give him little things to do while sister is doing school work.  Any creative ideas you want to share?  The "just go and play" thing rarely works!

As for me, would you pray for my preparations to speak at a women's retreat the weekend of April 8-10?  I'd really appreciate it!  I started working on it last night; at moments I was quite overwhelmed with the task - I have so much to read and learn.  I feel a little like E in the picture at the right.  Thanks for your prayers.

February 15, 2011

Tuesday, Before Dinner

The hum of rush hour above me
tuned out
I hear birds
my children
quick footsteps
as they run

I see houses around
some crumbling
others kept
the empty church
a car passing
home time
a pint and sustenance
at Big Jim's

I feel warm
no hat
a gift
in February
at the playground
heart swelling
to the Giver

Valentines Day 2011!

flowers from mom
cake cooling and craft ready
what we've been memorizing around here;
I still don't have it down!
the design for the cake

decorating the cake

Brian was in charge of sprinkles
a man who knows that sometimes, you have to stop and smell the roses

planting in our love gardens and putting yucky things into our poison can
they both REALLY got into this - thanks Mountain Mama!

our dinner table
set with LOVE!

this cake was SWEET!

Got some nice time with the husband after the kids were in bed too.  In the middle of the day he sent me an MP3 album of Frank Sinatra songs.  Isn't that cute?!  It was $5.  A man who knows what I love: romantic and cheap.  It doesn't have to cost a lot to fill up someone's love tank!

Hope you had a good day too.

February 14, 2011

Wove, Twue Wove.

It's Valentines Day!  A day to express your love to your mate.  But if you do it wrong you're in the doghouse.  You better "go to Jared's," or at least spend a lot.  The surprise must be good and it must make him or her feel like a million bucks.

Tomorrow's February 15th.  On that day, life returns to normal.  You may still love to look at the flowers on your table.  But they will die.  The enthusiasm for new things wears off quickly, so whatever the gift, eventually it's just another thing you own.

Oh boy, this is cynical!  I simply feel bad for people who feel this pressure to perform on Valentines Day just because Hallmark says so and for women, in particular, who will be disappointed when they're not as filled up as their expectations demand.  Or worse, those who don't "have a Valentine" and feel like there must be something wrong with them!

I want to be loved and cherished.  Don't we all?  I would be thrilled if my husband came home with a little surprise treat for me.  If he doesn't, however, I'm sure that he loves me because of many, many other things that he does during the other 364 days of the year.  (Thanks, Colin.  I love you, too!)

Here's the truth, looking to our spouse, fiance, or boyfriend to consistently and completely fill us up will. never. satisfy.

I speak from experience.

It's a waste of time.

This morning, I read these words of Jesus in John 6:35,
"I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Jesus knows that we're looking to be filled up, and He told His listeners that He's it!  How many times throughout our days do we turn to other sources: food, exercise, organizing something, music, activities, ... other people?  None of those things are wrong in and of themselves.  They are all wonderful gifts and some quite necessary for life.  My pastor in Boston once described an idol as a good thing that we take and make the ultimate thing.

Isn't that the temptation on Valentines Day?  To demand of an earthy lover something he or she can never provide?

We can have rich, satisfying, intimate relationships with them.  But those need to flow out of our relationship with our Heavenly Lover.  He alone can handle the depth of our need; our marriages reflect Christ's relationship with His Church.

So today, don't ask your love to be more than he or she can be.  Go to your Heavenly Lover's feet, be fed by the bread of life, then go and pour into the sweet earthly lover God has given you.  Start in the right place and you may just have a very love-ly Valentine's Day!

February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Craft

The kids and I have been memorizing I Corinthians 13:4-8a, the famous "Love is patient, love kind." passage.  It's not because Valentines Day is coming, because I'm not that together.  But it is coinciding quite nicely!

Here's a cool craft I came across via the blog of a friend, that uses the I Corinthians passage as it's base.

I'll post some pictures of our results on Monday, but wanted to pass it along in case you were looking for something to do with your little ones.

February 9, 2011


I'll be speaking at an up-coming women's retreat for our former church Cambridge.  The topic is service - thinking along the lines of what it meant for Jesus to take on the form a servant (Philippians 2:6), what we're called to as Jesus followers, and how God equips us to serve.

I spent some time early this week studying that Philippians 2 passage and it's really been messing with me.

In a good way.

But messing with me, nonetheless.

Exhibit A
Here's the thing that's getting to me.  I don't mind serving people.  Really.  If you've ever read Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages, acts of service is pretty high for me (along with gift giving ... and receiving!)  But it has come to my attention that I have service "conditions" that apply boundaries to my willingness.

For example, I might be willing to serve my children all day (that's a stretch, but for the sake of illustration...), but if it's after 8pm.  Forget it.  They should be asleep - see Exhibit A to the right - and I reserve the right to yell at them and speak impatiently (read: meanly) and slam doors in frustration, because they are not holding up their end of the bargain.

Or, I might be willing to make a meal for a needy family at church, but if another opportunity comes up too, it's certainly justifiable not to make two meals in one week.  No one would fault me that, right?

Dare I even get into the conditions I put on serving my husband?

I won't.

You've got the gist.

Lord, I'm willing to serve up to a certain point.  But you certainly understand if this thing is just beyond what I think you should expect of me.  I'm no longer responsible if I'm too tired, to stretched, or too whatever.

Then I look to the Savior who
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but took on the form of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance like a man,
he humbled himself,
and was obedient unto death -
even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:6-8

I don't have to die for anyone's sins.  Neither do you.  But if we call on this Savior, if He is the Lord of our life, there are no bounds to what He might ask us to do.  Will we be willing?  Will we say 'yes' and watch Christ be strong in our weakness?  Will we die a little more to self today and let Christ increase?

These are the questions I'm asking myself.  I thought I'd share, in case you wanted to think about them to.

This is about faithfulness and trust in relationship with God, not guilt, so I'll close with this encouragement:  God does not call us to anything He will not equip us to do.  Forget not that He is a loving Father, who wants us to share in His holiness. And further, that Christ sent the Spirit,  the very Spirit that lives in us if we've put our trust in Jesus, the Son, who gave Himself as a ransom for many.  It's good news, friends, good news that frees us to love and serve, just as our Master did!

His peace to you today.

February 5, 2011

Sabbath Preparations: inside and out

another work day
home improvement
messes from the week
running errands
lesson plans
meal plans
in addition to
the usual day-to-day

tomorrow is different
no work
can I trust
will I let go
He asks me to obey
I must let go
what is not done
on lists for Monday

my Father cares for me
my Father loves me
no condemnation
no abandonment
no fear


February 4, 2011

Psalm 119:11 - Music and Memory

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

I want my children to know and love God's word: to get to know and love God, to know how He loves them, to know how to please Him, to learn to choose wisdom over foolishness, to be changed by the life-giving words.

I don't want them to think that knowing the Bible is about making sure you know more than others, quoting lots of Bible verses to impress people, or simply a way to find out how to live a "good" life.

I want the Word to be their food, for man does not live by bread alone. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

The truth is, however, that I don't always turn to God's Word or obey it.  (Can I get an 'Amen!' on this point, or am I the only one?!)  I might be more grown up and further along, but we're learning together and any exposure we can have is worth it!  (As long as we're not pressuring with guilt and condemnation.)  I've come to find it delightful to memorize verses with the kids and see how God draws those things into our daily life.  The Holy Spirit is always with His children, ready to spur us on, comfort us, guide us.
One way that we have "accidentally" memorized many verses is with music.  My friend, Meda, recommended Steve Green's Hide 'Em In Your Heart cds several years back.  Many a time, I (yes me, not my kids!) have been gently reminded to "Do everything without complaining, do everything without arguing!" when God brings to mind that light-hearted song in times of grumbling.  Thanks, Meda!

Recently, my friend, Sarah, sent us the Seeds Family Worship: Encouragement cd which is in the same vein as the Steve Green discs.  We love it!  Now you may find one of us wandering around the house singing, "Take heart, take heart, I have overcome, overcome the world!  Take heart, take heart!"  We'll be getting more from the series for sure.  These songs all include the Scripture reference, so not only are we getting the verse, but where it came from.  Let me also add that these are good for kids for all ages, where Green's are more geared toward a child crowd.  Thanks, Sarah!

This morning Brian was singing Philippians 4:8.  Even as young as two, our children can be hiding the word in their hearts.  Their heads may have no idea what's being sung or quoted, but the good Lord will not let his word return to Him empty! (Isaiah 55:11)

I grew up in a home where we listened to lots of kids Bible music.  I've been thankful to have that as part of my legacy; you don't forget the songs of your youth (whether it's "I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy" or "Ice, Ice Baby" - just sayin'.)  Thanks, Mommy and Papa!

How do you hide God's word in your hearts at your house?

February 3, 2011

He's a Clever One

I was working on this blanket for a friend.  (Steelers colors, yes, but also of the Penguins and the Pirates; three cheers for a town whose pro sports teams all have the same colors!)

It's knit on the diagonal, so you spend the first half of the blanket increasing a stitch each row, then you decrease one stitch each row on the second half.  You can find the pattern here; it's super easy - if you knit - and a fun baby gift.  (I've never done it with the hood.)

My witty husband was keeping me company as I worked, and came up with a novelty t-shirt idea based on the verse "He must increase; I must decrease." John 3:30, where John the Baptist speaks of Jesus.  Picture it: the name Jesus above an illustration of increasing a stitch in knitting, next to the word I with an illustration of decreasing a stitch, with the Scripture reference below.

So nerdy.

But right up my humor alley.

Anyone want to design it ...

... for the three people that might buy it?

February 2, 2011

The Pittsburgh Zoo in the Cold

We went to the zoo for our January end-of-the-month field trip.*

It was freezing.

I bundled the kids in their snow gear, slathered their faces with Aquaphor, and we had a great time!

parking wasn't a problem

pacing tiger, waiting for something

he kindly walked by this window, even rubbing his giant head against it,
like he wanted us to pet him

the elephants indoors


got to see the polar bear dive in for a swim;
he too graciously swam near to say hello

the three baby tigers were out by the time we left!

The monkey house was CRAZY!

I think the animals are more fun when it's cold; my brother had mentioned this to me a while ago.  There aren't as many of them, but they're certainly more active than in the summer.  The Pittsburgh Zoo is really a lovely place.  If you come to visit, we'll take you along!

*A new school tradition we established this year is to take a field trip the last day of the month, preceded by a "fun" breakfast (ie: better than cereal).  It keeps me using our memberships and it's good to just have fun; school can sometimes get to be a little monotonous.