July 31, 2011

"That is Christianity."

We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself.  That is the formula.  That is Christianity.  That is what has to be believed.
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-5

I pray that God will meet you this morning as you worship, that you would have a fresh taste of His love and mercy.  Theology and doctrine are beautiful, necessary, and enhance our worship and understanding of our Lord; but the simplicity of the gospel - God saving wretches like you and me - can and must be embraced first.  And it's available to anyone.

Hallelujah! He has found me,
the one my heart so long has craved.
Jesus satisfies all my longings,
through His blood I now am saved.
(from the hymn, Satisfied)

July 30, 2011

My 2 Faves

So far, I have not gotten in the habit of reading any of the (what I call) "superstar" Christian mom or women's blogs, think A Holy Experience, Pioneer Woman, etc.  My favorites have a personal connection with the authors. Honestly, I can't come up with three.  Most of the blogs in my blogroll are friends; I sure do love their reflections on life, lists of thanksgiving, photos of their kids, craft and celebration ideas, etc.  But as for the blogs outside the friend category, the two on which I'm always anxious to see a new post are:

My Heart at Home1. My Heart At Home is the blog of a friend I made at the conference Sally Clarkson hosted in her home last year.  Kristen is a Christian and a homeschooling mother of 5 who lives in Canada.  Her posts get to the heart of many issues that mothers face from a Biblical perspective.  And they are the perfect length for moms who don't have a lot of time, but need a lot of encouragement!

Steadfast Joy
2. Steadfast Joy is the blog of the Johnson family, who we met while in Cambridge, MA and who now serve as missionaries with World Harvest Mission in Bundibugyo, Uganda.  Naturally, I love reading this blog to see pictures of the Johnsons and their children, but more so, I love how God uses this blog to remind me to pray, to remind me that the world needs Jesus, to remind me that my little comfortable world is an exception, not the rule.

Thanks to those (two of you, thanks Jodi and Heather!) who shared their favorites yesterday.  Feel free to share your favorites in the previous post or in the comments here.  I'd love to know what you read ... it may just lead me and others to a whole new world of blogging delights!

July 29, 2011

What If ...

... for some bizarre reason, you no longer could read whatever blogs you want and were told you could only read three.  What three would you read?

This is challenging, because I read a lot of family blogs, to keep up with my friends' lives and their growing children.  I don't want to have to choose between friends.  So to reduce the agony of having to choose from among those favorites, leave friend blogs out and pick your top three non-friend blogs that you read for encouragement, information, personal development, recipes, etc.  A blog you read for one of the later reasons may also be your friend, so it is okay to choose a friend's blog ... I just didn't want you to feel like you were in elementary school again having to rank your friends!

I'm curious what you read.  I find there are many blogs I might like to read, but I don't have the time.  And if articles on a blog are too long (speaking of text, not photos) I won't read them; I don't like reading on the computer screen very much.

I have to give this some thought too, so I'll post my top three tomorrow.  Post yours in the comments, and feel free to include reasons why you love them.  Maybe we can introduce each other to some cool blogs we didn't know about before!

July 28, 2011

Mere Christianity

Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on.  There is no other.  That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion.  God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.  There is no such thing.

Lewis's Mere Christianity (Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (Paperback - Feb. 6, 2001))I'm finally reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  For some reason, I always imagined it would be a complicated book, far above my understanding. A book for smart people.

I was wrong.

The book came out of a series of radio talks that Lewis gave to the British people during the Second World War.  Asked by the BBC to explain to his fellow Britons what Christians believe, C.S. Lewis proceeded with the task as if it were the simplest thing in the world, and the most important, says Kathleen Norris in the Forward.

As usual, I'm not finished with a book and I'm recommending it.  I'm only about 50 pages in, so if you join me now, we can read it together!  I'm reading a chapter a day.  The chapters are short, each a quick read, though the reader is left with plenty to ponder.

July 26, 2011

Accepting the Free Grace

I'm at 11 weeks today.  The kids and I will leave for my first midwife appointment in less than an hour.  How excited I am to hear a heartbeat!

This joy is coming on the heels of a day of many "mom fails" - ie lots of yelling and temper losing.  The challenge of raising children has brought me to my knees again, for forgiveness and for guidance.  Does this happen to you as often as it does to me?  I can see God at work in my heart, I think progress is being made in the direction of holiness.  But OH, sin is right there with me!

Perhaps this morning you too awaken with a need for cleansing, to be reminded that you are loved and that God does indeed keep on forgiving and will draw near to you.  That's the Good News!

In my heart of hearts, I know it's not "fair".  So, I want to do penance or prove myself (to God and man) by "doing better" today.  But I can't make up for it; Jesus already took the punishment.  I need to rest in the Good News.  You too, Christian, need to lie down in the arms of Grace this day.  You ARE forgiven; there is now NO condemnation.

I leave you with this chorus from an old hymn, as Corrie ten Boom once said (I paraphrase), there is no sin so great that God's grace is not greater still.

Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

July 24, 2011

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil:
my cup overflows.
surely goodness and love with follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

As you prepare for worship this morning or go about your day this afternoon, may your soul find rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd who guides, feeds, protects, and eternally loves His sheep.  If you belong to God, you are His beloved sheep.  It is good to be a sheep in the fold of God Almighty.

This is my favorite benediction, from Hebrews 13:20-21, and my prayer for you today.
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Have a blessed Sabbath, fellow sheep.

July 23, 2011

Northern Ireland: Belfast and (a little more) Bangor

Colin, the kids, and I popped into Belfast for a few hours one afternoon during our stay in Bangor.  Malcolm, my father-in-law, dropped us off and went away on his own to research the Ashe and Rogers family trees in the public records building.  All of his previous research came in quite handy in conjunction with the family reunion we had the following day (photos below); the family tree is coming together quite nicely with his hard work!

This was our first stop in Belfast.
You know your husband is a scientist when you go out of your way to get a photo of Lord Kelvin!
Appropriate homage was paid.

Last time we were in Belfast (that was 6 years ago, if you care), we passed St. George's Market when it wasn't open, all of the stalls were barren without a soul in sight.  I really wanted to see it bustling and got my chance this trip: stalls of fresh food, stalls of used goods for sale, lots of people.  We got some very delicious bread, "Belfast" loaves, and some fruit while we strolled around a bit taking it all in.  I'd describe it as European market meets Flea Market; it was worth the visit.


From there we made our way to the center of town toward Belfast City Hall and the main avenue, Donegal Place.  The tourist information center is just a few doors up Donegal Place from City Hall; they have lots of info and fun souvenirs.

Elizabeth was trying to take a picture and captured this fine fellow.

After we tired of being in Belfast, we took the train back to Bangor (I dozed for most of the trip ... I really enjoyed being in NI, but I was "knackered" for most of the trip - silly pregnancy), had a rest, and then spent some time down on the coast near Maurice and Mina's.  They live in such a fantastic location.


You've likely noticed from our attire that it has not been a particularly warm summer there this year.  The highs hung between 58 and 60 most of the time, with one or two warmer days.  Thankfully, we didn't really get much rain.  You can do most things when it's chilly, but not so much when it's pouring - and we only got one day like that.  The luck of the Irish was with us, I guess.

Perhaps you have figured it out, but the main reason we visited Northern Ireland is that it's my in-laws homeland ... and they foot the bill for our flights, yeah, that helped a lot.  (Thank you!)  Colin was born in the US, but their families are all still in Northern Ireland.  You'll get to "meet" some of Gladys' side of the family in the next post, because there was a family reunion!

Northern Ireland: Travel and Bangor

Our little world travelers with their pillow pet friends!

Meet Finn, he and our kids entertained each other while we waited in Newark during a 2.5 hour delay - making for a midnight departure to Belfast.  These photos were taken after arriving; the kids all slept quite well.

Aunt Winnie picked us up from the airport, fed us some food at her place, and then we headed to Bangor, a beautiful little coastal/resort town where Aunt Mina and Uncle Maurice (pronounced Morris) hosted us for a few quiet days while we worked through the jet lag.  They have a gorgeous garden and Bangor is such a wonderful town.  I could definitely summer there!

Colin photo bombing; he is not funny.

We went into Bangor for the afternoon.  It rained for a while, so we got fish 'n chips, chocolate, and poked around at some shops until we could get over to Pickie Park to ride the train and swan boats.  It cleared up just perfectly for us to enjoy some of the local fun.

I have never seen so many ride-on things in one mall as in Bangor.
This particular one was IN the grocery store!

Colin's just a little heaver than Brian.

Elizabeth was great help with the pedaling, and she even got the hang of the steering!

That's how we began our visit in Northern Ireland!
Stay tuned for more.

July 22, 2011

Unfailing Love

Wow did today start of badly.

I went to bed with a headache that I knew was a migraine in the making.  In the middle of the night I experienced some of the most intense head pain I've had (possibly) in my life - it even ran down into my neck.  Thankfully I was able to get back to sleep and in the morning it was "normal" (for me) migraine level pain.

But still, I was hoping I'd awake with no pain.

And, yeah, wake up time these days is 5am.  Jet lag + early pregnancy = I think I'm going to die sometimes.

But God is good.  I have not been able to do much more quiet time in the mornings lately, other than to squeeze out desperate prayers of please, help me make it through the day; I am so tired.  Bible reading in earnest has fallen by the wayside.  But God is always there.  I can talk with Him, give Him thanks, cry out in anguish, praise His Holy Name - any. moment. in. the. day.

Here's His provision for today:  as I struggled to imagine how I'd be able to make it through the day and care for the kids, let alone get dinner ready to have with my parents tonight, who leave tomorrow for Rwanda for a week, the kids started playing together.

And while I've allowed them several TV-show interludes, they have played SO WELL together this morning.  I just had to give thanks on the blog because I am, well, just so thankful!

(In fact, I'm even more thankful for their happy playing than I am that I currently feel back to normal, because they let me get so much rest.  Though I am very glad to feel better.)

The Good Lord has redeemed this day and given me joy, even in the midst of pain.  Awesome.

As I laid in bed knowing that eventually I would fell better, I thought of those who spend their days in pain and/or in a bed, who may have small children they wish they could be with.  Would you join me in praying for them today?

Here are a couple of teaser photos.  I promise that one of these days I'll get to the Northern Ireland and Scotland posts.

Anything you're particularly thankful for today?  Please share!

July 18, 2011

Returning Soon!

Good morning!

This is our final day in Northern Ireland, my in-laws homeland.  (If you're a bad at geography as I am, Northern Ireland is not simply the northern part of the Republic of Ireland, it's a separate country - part of the United Kingdom.  I didn't know this until I met Colin.  You may mock my lack of world knowledge; I can take it, because it's true.)

Anyway, we have had a wonderful time - good family visits and lots of sight seeing.  Posts will be forthcoming, once we're home, settled, and photos have been uploaded.  I intentionally didn't bring a laptop along this trip and have not looked at Facebook.  It's been wonderful!

That said, I'm looking forward to reconnecting with you all.  If you'd like to see some photos of our time in Scotland with Anne, click over to Homeschool on the Croft.  And if you're ever near the Isle of Lewis (this is supposed to be funny - look at the map), let her know you're coming; she and her family are fun to be with and lovely hosts ... and the island is beautiful!

My only international travel recommendation from this trip: if you're in your first trimester, stick to relaxing beach vacations on the Mediterranean or the French Riviera - this trip has nearly wiped me out!  

Till the next post, peace be yours.

July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

We've spent the 4th of July doing the usual to observe this most wonderful of holidays:

packing carry-ons and suitcases,

cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming,

 cleaning refrigerators. 

Is that not the way that you're spending your day?

Traveling across the ocean (ironically, to the land from which "we" sought our freedom in 1776!) the day after Independence Day means we won't be celebrating much in the usual way.  But Colin did suggest reading the Declaration of Independence - a serious vocabulary, as well as history, lesson.  And we just listened to the Adventures in Odyssey audio show The Day Independence Came.  (It's a good one, by the way; we got it a couple of years ago and listen to it each 4th.)

I hope you are having a fun time of relaxation and celebration wherever you are today!

July 3, 2011

The Hidden Art of Homemaking

Product Details
I've been running in circles where Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking is recommended reading.  I finally purchased a copy at the Women's Retreat in the beginning of April and have been reading through it slowly, one chapter at a time, though not daily.

I think I would summarize the book this way:  God is beautiful and creative; the people He created can and should reflect these attributes.  We can do so in our lives and our homes by tapping into the "hidden arts" with us, to the benefit of all who enter our homes and our lives,  and to the glory of God.

The first chapter is just wonderful, opening the reader's eyes to the beauty of God in his creativity and originality.  It's titled The First Artist and Schaeffer discusses God's creativity in ways I've never considered AND gently suggests that His image bearers need to express those aspects of God which are within us.  If you read no other chapter of the book, certainly read this one.

expressing a little hidden art
on our dining table
After that first chapter, Schaeffer explains what Hidden Art is in the second.  Her quote: I would define 'hidden art' as the art found in the ordinary areas of everyday life.  Each person has, I believe, some talent which is unfulfilled in some hidden area of his being - a talent which could be expressed and developed. (p. 31) The following chapters focus on specific areas of life and creativity - music, painting/sketching/sculpting, interior decoration, gardens/gardening, flower arranging, food, writing, drama, creative recreation, clothing, and integration - offering anecdotes and suggestions for expressing your own hidden art within them.

The final chapter is called Environment.  The content was different than what my 21 Centruy, "go green" mind  expected.  Rather than talking about taking care of the environment, she shares about the importance of taking care of you.  She says, we are an environment which is affecting people around us.  People who come across us or who walk into our presence, become involved. ... Whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are.  (p. 208)  It was a perfect end to the book, I closed it feeling inspired to be a blessing to those around me and to make my home place where people feel welcome and fed (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), because God has only given me my environment, namely me.  And I want to be a better steward.

My only criticism of this book is the title.  Formerly it was titled The Hidden Art.  Adding of Homemaking  led me to believe that it is a book only for women, and perhaps only women who are home all the time.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  She talks about roommates, singles, men, and women in her stories and suggestions.  So, if you're reading this and you are a person and you live somewhere, this book is for you!

Allow me to close with the last sentence of the book.  It goes without saying, too, that 'The Environment', which is you should be an environment which speaks of the wonder of the Creator who made you. (p. 214)

Blessings to you on this Sabbath day!