April 29, 2011

April School Field Trip

Last school-day of each month we have special breakfast and go on a field trip to one of the many Pittsburgh attractions.  Today it was scones on china and the zoo.

April 27, 2011

Becoming a Reader, as an Adult

When I was young, I read.

And read.

And read.

What a delight it was to complete the Anne of Green Gables series as a twelve year old!

Shortly after that, school got more intense and required large chunks of study and reading time. Reading for pleasure fell by the wayside as athletics, homework, and friends took over.

In college I read a little more, but my studies demanded so much reading, I was rarely interested in MORE reading in my free time.  But post-college I was able to rediscover the fun in reading!  Reading opens doors into new worlds and ideas to which we don't have access without literacy.  On our honeymoon (which was not long after graduation) I started Tolstoy's Anna Karenina; nothing like starting small, eh?  I've been reading ever since.  I even completed some books by reading while nursing Elizabeth in the dark hours of the night.

This morning as I chatted with some friends, I thought perhaps it would be helpful to share on the blog how it is I keep reading.  Life is not less busy with a husband and children.  How can we continue to read when life already seems so full?

Several years ago, I made a new year's resolution to read a chapter of a book every day.  If you're reading books with thirty chapters (give or take), that's twelve books a year.  That's quite a few books.  I have not kept up with this intentionally, but by the end of that year, the reading habit was ingrained!

This afternoon I began a book that is 252 pages.  The chapters are really long, so I can't do a chapter a day.  But if I commit to 10 pages a day, I'll wrap that book up before May is out.

See how easy it is to start a regular reading habit?

The other thing you have to do to develop your reading addiction habit, is decide that it's worth it to take that time to read, rather than something else.  You can easily read a chapter of a book in the time it takes to watch a sitcom in the evening.  Or you'd be amazed at how recharged you feel after reading a bit with a tasty beverage - I take mine caffeinated - in the middle of the afternoon; make the kids rest and you sit for a spell too!  You'll all be better for it.  The mornings might work better for you, so perhaps getting up 15 minutes ahead of schedule will allow you the indulgence of a good book.

In summary, to read more you need to do two things:
  1. Decide how much you'd like to be reading
  2. Choose a regular time for reading

I'm a non-fiction junkie, particularly Christian living or Bible teaching books.  You can see some of my recommendations in the Deepen Your Roots tab at the top or click on book/review tabs over in the column on the right.

April 25, 2011


Last Monday I was thinking about Mondays, and their bad wrap as the worst day of the week.  Unfortunately, the day ended before I got to posting.  And it seemed strange to post about Monday on Tuesday.

This Monday, we're coming off of the celebration of the glorious, world-changing resurrection of Jesus by God the Father and looking forward to the observance of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out.  AND we're also back to work, back to school, back to the daily grind.

How should we approach this Easter Monday?  How should we approach any Monday, since each Sunday we remember the resurrection when we gather for worship?

Yesterday our pastor preached on John 21 when Jesus reinstates Peter.  He pointed out Jesus breaking in with grace in Peter's life (after HUGE failure) by forgiving, calling, and sustaining him.  That same forgiveness, calling, and sustaining is ours as well when we lean on Christ.  Christ is merciful and He is present; we can have hope!

Should Monday, then, not be one of our best days?  Each week it follows a day of worship and rest, time spent reflecting on God's faithfulness and His mighty works, singing His praises, repenting of our sins, receiving God's forgiveness, hearing the word preached, participating in sacraments.  We reenter the real world aware of His promised forgiveness, calling, and sustaining.

Monday may be hard.  It is a day of reentry after a day of rest.  Okay, yes, Monday is USUALLY hard.  Our hearts surely long for that eternal rest when we've received our inheritance in full, as expounded in Hebrews 4.  But remember that verse from my previous post: In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines His steps.  The day may hold challenges, frustrations, unexpected troubles.  Or perhaps it holds expected troubles, difficult relationships, daunting circumstances.  The day may also include sweet moments of delight.  God only knows, and His plan is right and trustworthy as He determines our steps.

Whatever may come, don't forget that the Lord we worshiped yesterday is the same Lord today, tomorrow ... and every Monday!  He is near.  Call to Him in the troubles.  Ask Him to show you what He's up to in molding you to look more like Himself - often that happens most effectively in the "Mondays" of our lives.

May the joy of Easter ring louder in our hearts and minds than any of today's distractions.

He is STILL risen!


April 23, 2011

Our Friday

We had plans yesterday, and we got to most of them.  But I've been impressed recently by this verse from Proverbs, In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines His steps. (16:9)  We planned a course, God added a little excitement to it and gave us the blessing of seeing how He's grown us up and has changed us, enabling us to handle an unexpected and challenging situation with grace and peace.

Here's how the day went down:

Phipps Conservatory and Target were on the morning agenda, with some lunch at Chick-fil-A in there too.  We were right on schedule!  But as I pulled into a parking space at the Conservatory, this happened:

Side note: I wrecked my parent's car right after I got my license when I was 16.  But that time I hit a wall.  This was my first "real" accident with another vehicle.  We did the whole info exchange thing and then decided, since the car was still functional, we'd try parking (again!) and continue with our morning as planned.

We strolled through Phipps.

We had lunch at Chick-fil-A.

We took care of business at Target: returns, intended purchases, unintended purchases.

I got a new purse, (unintended purchase.)

Home for rest time we came.  Brian was already out in the car, so Colin got him to bed.  Elizabeth and I wrapped some birthday gifts before she rested.  Colin and I were going to settle in for a show to unwind; we've been watching Psych through from the fist season on Netflicks.  Does anyone else like this show?  It's hilarious.

Instead we got into filing a claim online, watched a little of the episode, then I got a call from the insurance agency.  I'm so thankful there were people working on Good Friday; God bless 'em!

I was able to get the car to the shop; the door was so bent there was a crack at the top and it was predicted the weekend would be rainy.  The fellow at the shop was kind enough to let me bring it in for a weekend stay and lent us one of his cars for the duration.  We'll find out Monday what the insurance appraiser decides.

After dropping off the van, I learned that friends got an (I-cannot-exaggerate-how-long) LONG-AWAITED job!  This was a BIG highlight in the day; we had been praying and praying for them.  Shouts of joy!!

We never got around to the eggs, but our day ended with a worship service full of scripture and hymns.  We left in the dark after singing these lyrics:

Were the whole realm of nature mine
that were an offering far too small
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all


April 22, 2011

The Good-est Friday There Ever Was

It was not a good Friday for our Lord.
He suffered:
mockery, flogging, cross, nails.
God the Father looked away.
Jesus died.

Love drove Him there;
love kept Him there.
Greater than love for you and me,
Jesus loved His Father,
desiring to please Him alone.

God's wrath was satisfied
on that tree.
The sin of all mankind atoned for,
by the One who was called and obeyed.

Blood and water spilled out,
a final cry,
it IS finished.
The curtain torn in two.
Good Friday!

You see, at  just the right time,
when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:6

April 20, 2011

Four Corners

A friend of mine expressed her frustration today at the futility of housework.  We clean up one day, it's a disaster the next ... or perhaps even before the sun dips behind the horizon.  This same friend - God bless her - has my elder child over for a playdate right now and the younger is sleeping.

Here is the photographic evidence that our family room was clean at one point today (not just picked up, also dusted and vacuumed!)  One photo from each corner of the room:

 Enjoy it folks; it won't last long!

But you know what?

A messy house is a lived in house; I don't think I want it any other way.

How about you?

April 19, 2011

Holy Week

This week sneaked up on me.  Holy Week.  A week to remember the via dolorosa walked by our Lord as he moved toward fulfilling His mission, in love and obedience to the Father.  Years ago I was struck by the verse early in Matthew - our pastor was preaching through the book - when the angel says to Joseph, you will give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

Jesus came to die.

And I as I mentioned to the ladies at the retreat last weekend, not only did He come to die, but He chose to.  It's almost too wonderful for words.

I was wondering what we could do this week in our home to (at the very least) acknowledge that it's a special week for followers of Jesus.  I found these readings online; they're all from the book of Hebrews. Just last week I finished up reading through Hebrews and I'm excited to have another reason to be in it.  Good stuff, friends.  Oh what Christ has done!  How faithful is our God!

Have a blessed week!  May God allow you moments of reflection on His love and faithfulness and opportunities to repent and believe you are forgiven and called from darkness into light, even in the midst of your day-to-day duties at home and work and play.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death -
even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:8   

April 17, 2011

Psalm 104:1-4

Praise the LORD, O my soul.
   O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendour and majesty.
  He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent
   and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.
    He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.
Have a blessed Sunday! 

April 16, 2011

A Week at Home

I anticipated taking it easy this week, after a weekend away involving lots of activity, late bedtimes, and new scenery.  Thus, I was prepared to move slowly and ease back in.  To accommodate the plan, both kids got sick.  I had the privilege of serving both of them by cleaning vomit, pee, and poop out of the carpet, (fortunately only one time for each bodily emission!)

Elizabeth was only sick for a day.  Do you kids have sickness patterns?  Mine do.  Elizabeth is usually laid out for a full day and back to normal the next.  Brian's my fever boy; that's how his body fights illnesses.  He's on fever day three, but appears to be on the mend.

I did not teach her to do this, but she is related to me;
sorting m&ms by color could be hereditary.

This boy LOVES mazes!  I got this wipe-off book at Target and he does them repeatedly.
Elizabeth taught him to do each maze with his finger before doing it with a marker.

We did get to some school work, played in the back yard, tilled up some soil, and had a picnic on the porch.  I sneaked out for separate trips (alone!) to the grocery store, Target, and the hairdressers.  Much TV has been watched, as well!  Honestly, I enjoyed having an empty, quiet week.  I got a little "spring cleaning fever" myself and have been trying to get some things organized around here.  I came back from the retreat with renewed vigor to make our home beautiful, and though I have no natural ability at this, I'm going to give Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking a read and go from there!

How was your week?

April 14, 2011

A Blessed Home

We moved into our new home in January.  With the beginnings of spring, we're getting outside more and have discovered a couple of things in the flower bed.

Inside the house we've found many miniature statues of Jesus, angels, and saints, in addition to many Sacred Heart Auto League stickers on windows.  This home was at the very least inhabited by someone religious, if not a devout follower of Jesus, and I like to think she prayed for the next family that would live in her long-time home.  In a way, I feel connected to that spry old woman who I may never meet.  God binds us together in that way, doesn't he?

It's a lovely spring day here today.  We're seeing the first sunshine we've seen since I returned from Boston.  All the rain brought on a lot of GREEN; the grass and plants are looking so lush.  It's beautiful!

This is what our back patio looks like (imagine the panorama.)

We're getting a few things started:
lettuce, carrots, zinnias.

 Some final signs of spring to share with you before signing off:

The windows are open!
The yard is in use!
Elizabeth's wearing capris!

I do hope the sun is shining in your neck of the woods, city, country, or suburb today!  We're feeling ultra thankful for it here.

April 12, 2011

A Pencil and Paper Post ... Almost

If it weren't so sloppy, I'd take a good photograph and let you read what I wrote while on the plane.  But for the sake of legibility, here it is typed.

April 11, 2011 - in flight between Boston and Pittsburgh

My first ever laptop-of-my-very-own shipped today, so here I sit on the plane home from Boston with paper and pencil to "write out" the time there.

I can sum it all up with one word, one feeling: GRATITUDE.

I just finished another chapter in The Call about the necessity of thanks-giving.  Guiness says that calling is a reminder for followers of Christ that nothing in life should ever be taken for granted; everything in life must be received with gratitude. p. 206

I finished the chapter just prior to take-off, slipped into some prayer for the ladies who attended the retreat and were back into normal life again today, just wrapping up the nine-to-five.  As the plane took off, the tears came.  Now, mind you, I'm sappy and cried plenty this weekend.  Emotion can overcome me too quickly for my taste!  But, we're fearfully and wonderfully made, aren't we?  God wants me this way.

What brought the tears this time?  A deep mix of joy and sorrow: joy that God has been directing and overseeing my way, sovereignly orchestrating personal decisions and external events and circumstances to draw me nearer to Him and His people; joy that I got to see so many dear people this weekend; joy at the memories past and present that fill my mind and heart.

But I am sad.  I'm sad to leave these friends and our history behind.  I'm sad there wasn't just. a little. more time. to be together.  I'm sad that, for now, our sovereign God sees fit that we live in Pittsburgh.

But oh how we can give thanks in such joys and sorrows!  Were it not for our years in Cambridge, under the teaching at Christ the King, I would not have been there this weekend.  The spiritual growth in that place and opportunities to learn and to lead have been for me a training ground and a launching pad.  At the same time, I'm also thankful that we are near our families in Pittsburgh and have found a new church home where we're being taught, fed, and challenged.

Praise the Lord!

I was overwhelmingly humbled to stand before that room full of wonderful women and speak the gospel into their ears and hearts.

I'm awed by God's faithfulness to me as I have considered His call to more intentionally develop and use my gifts to serve the Church.  There are really not enough ways to give Him thanks.

I'm baffled that God uses us as vessels of compassion, mercy, and grace even as we struggle against our own deep-seated sins and transgressions.

I'm thankful the gospel is true.  Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.  Hallelujah!

Sweet, blog-reading friends, will you join me and give thanks today?  Look around you.  Look back. Look ahead.  Consider God's faithfulness.  Consider His call.  Open your lips to praise Him.  We improve at giving thanks as we practice giving thanks.  We're changed when we give thanks; and God gets more of the glory that He deserves.

Exalt the LORD our God
   and worship at his holy mountain,
   for the LORD our God is holy.
Psalm 99:9

There and Back Again

The weekend in photos, to be followed by a more reflective post that I wrote with pencil and paper on the plane as we were flying out.

McDonald's hotcakes at the airport and schoolwork on the airplane.

Reunion with friends at the end of their school day!
You can see Bjarney's excited little face in the window.

 Elizabeth spent the weekend with Martina and Bjarney and their parents.  I'm so thankful they were willing to have her; the girls had indescribable fun together!  Elizabeth was devastated when we had to leave.

I spent the weekend here,
doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that,
in addition to catching up with so many wonderful women over meals and other activities!*

 My friend Kit gave us some great reflection tips.
(click on the photo to read the list)

We spent the remainder of the time at the McFadden's.

Frankie and Elizabeth got to catch up;
they had not seen each other since June.

 Their dog, Maisy, knows how to chill.

We met up with the Carters to play a little too!

What a blessing the whole weekend was: seeing so many people who we dearly love, getting to use some gifts to edify the body, eating lots of delicious food, engaging in such good conversations, meditating on the gospel and service, repenting and believing the good news.  Phew, it nearly knocked me out; my sappiness was fully engaged this weekend!

Praise be to God!

*Thanks to Jenny for taking the retreat photos.