March 28, 2012

Resurrection Eggs!

It's 12 days before Easter.  In our house that means it's time to get out the Resurrection Eggs!

I made these little guys several years ago, and despite their simplicity, Elizabeth looks forward to this tradition every year!  Inside each egg is a Bible verse and a small item that relates to it: bread, thorns, nails, a bit of sponge, etc.  I don't have time to write more at the moment, but you can learn more about putting together your own set here.

March 27, 2012

An April Blog Series. Will You Join Me?

A few weeks after Katherine was born, I was texting with a friend who inquired about how I was doing.  I mentioned to her that I was amazed at how often I'd been interrupted by grace in the transition.  So many moments that could have led to despair - the extra days in the hospital, the challenge of a three year old with a new baby,  the messiness of my house, and my old fashioned sinfulness - were eclipsed by Spirit-whispers of forgiveness, hope, and grace.  The breath of life blowing away the stink of death.

A few mornings ago I thought, Hey, I should invite my readers to join me during the month of April in sharing stories of how God is interrupting their lives with grace!  I have this sneaking suspicion that the Lord is often doing this in our lives; He loves His children and wants to draw near to them.  But I wonder how often we miss His whispers because we're not listening for them.

My goal this April is to post an anecdote each day of a moment in which life was interrupted by grace.  Would you like to join me in giving testimony to God's work, to His love?

Bloggers, you'll be able to do this by linking up to a post on April first.  I've never done this before, so I'm sure we'll have some kinks to work out as we get started, but I would love to have you join me.  You don't have to post every day, but I do pray that as you apply yourself to hearing God's voice you find that you could have posted every day if you'd wanted to.

If you're not a blogger, I pray that by reading along with me and others, you'll be encouraged to seek and find moments in your days when God interrupts you with grace.  Perhaps you'll be able to share a story in the comments or, better, with a friend for their edification.

Wanna join in?  I sure hope you will!

Let's get interrupted by grace and see where God takes us!

March 25, 2012

Heart Softeners

Last night I found myself in a "mood."  You know what I mean?  The kind of mood that comes with He never thoughts about my husband and I always thoughts about myself that, if allowed to take root, grow faster than the vines on the Pittsburgh hills.

So, there I was at the fork in the road.  Would I follow the signs to Obedience passing through Repentance and Faith?  Or would I take the high-horse road to Disobedience making long stops in Self-righteousness and Unforgiveness?

About this time, a dear friend texted to see if I wanted to join her for a Sunday morning walk before church.  And I found myself at another point of decision.  Would I "get real" and let her in on how I was really doing at that very moment?  Or would I stick to making arrangements for our walk?

By God's grace, I chose to let her in on my dirty little secret: I'm a big 'ole sinner.  She knows, of course, but my pride wanted to keep me from revealing the depth of my weakness.  But God doesn't want us to stay there, to hide from Him or others, to pretend and remain hard-hearted.

The text exchange went like this:
Me: I'm grumpy pants at the moment; fighing the bad attitude when I want to give into it and let the sin snowball.  Tell me something to stay strong or something else encouraging......
Friend: You can do it, mama!  Pray continually ... God will soften your heart if you cry out to him!
Me: Dang ... Now I have to do that instead of acting like a toddler.  Thank you, friend; good counsel!
Friend: I love you.  See you tomorrow, trailhead by your house, 7:45.

*     *     *

As I sat in Sunday School and church this morning, I got to thinking about the built in "heart softeners" that come with following Christ, the means God gives us to press deeper into intimacy with Him and with fellow believers.  Hearing the message of grace spoken in Sunday School got me thinking about the foolishness of my annoyance with my husband the night before (it really was foolish people, childish silliness); I wanted to run to him and beg his forgiveness.  Grace melts the heart, softening it to seek and receive the mercy offered in the Gospel, then opening it to extend the same mercy to others.

In the middle of our self-love, high-horse, me-me-me moments, however, remembering that grace that saved a wretch like me can be nearly is impossible to do on our own.  BUT GOD has provided us with close and accessible "heart softeners" to rescue us in our time of need: the church, worship, and the Holy Spirit.

The Church: By this I am not referring to worship services or specific buildings, but rather the Bible's definition of the church - God's people.  When we find ourselves in moments of weakness, God has given us fellow believers with whom to pray, from whom to seek guidance, on whom we can lean, and to whom we can turn to be reminded of the Gospel.  The question we have to ask ourselves here is, Will I be honest, so that I can be changed?
Worship: When we "go to church," referring here to worship, if our leaders are doing their job, we are led to encounter God through Scripture readings, singing songs, hearing the word preached, confessing our sins, praying prayers of adoration & supplication, and participating in the sacraments.  In worship we're told who God is, who we are, and the lengths God went to, even in His awesome holiness, to rescue us and reconcile us to Himself.  (Hallelujah!)  The question we have to ask ourselves here is, Will I surrender, so I can be changed?
The Holy Spirit: This is the very, most, awesomest and best "heart softener!"  He is a Person, dwelling in us, pointing us to Christ, who then points us to the Father.  That conviction you feel?  That's Him!  That joy you experience in Christ?  That's Him!  That desire to be reconciled?  That's Him, again!  Without His presence, our hearts would remain the hard rocks that we inherited from Adam.  Praise be to God for the heart softening work He does in us through the Spirit!  The question here, then, is this, Will I listen to His whispers, so I can be changed?

Here's to a week of heart softening, my friends.  Ain't no one who can do it but the Almighty God ... and He is willing, giving us the means to have our hard hearts softened and to be instruments of change in others' lives as well.  Go forth in grace; it's the best way to go!


March 23, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

I have many friends in the midst of deciding where to send their children to school next year.  It can feel like so much rides on the decision and so much can go awry if we make the wrong choice.

In January, my friend Misty* wrote a marvelous little post entitled Disappointment at Home: But What If They *Don't*It's written primarily to homeschoolers (specifically the moms) who are banking on certain results from that educational choice, but the overall gist of the post is for all parents and can apply to various situations in our lives.  Misty closes the post this way:

If you are homeschoooling or discipling your children a certain way because you’re expecting a guaranteed result, it might be a good idea to spend some time in prayer about that.  Because there are no guarantees but one: if you are educating and discipling and training your children at home because God told you to, then when you stand before Him, you can say “I educated and discipled and trained my children at home, because You told me to.”  And He will say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”
And that will be enough.

If you're one of those in the midst of school decisions.  Seek the Lord.  If He's given you many options and it's not completely clear which is "right," choose one ... and commit to loving and serving God there, whether you keep your kids home or send them to school.  The Sovereign Lord will see your children (and you!) through school, wherever they are, and has so much more in mind for them than I'm sure we can even imagine!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart  
   and lean not on your own understanding;  
in all your ways acknowledge him,  
   and he will make your paths straight.

Let me know if I can pray for you as you decide.  It would be a privilege.

*Misty and I met in Colorado at a training conference in the home of Sally Clarkson two summers ago.  She has a heart for moms and families and writes to encourage those involved in that sometimes delightful, sometimes messy business.  You can learn more about her on her blog!

March 15, 2012

Got Joy?

This afternoon I'm thinking about this: 
We start school again on Monday.  As I reviewed what we would be doing, (feeling thankful that I had a few extra weeks planned that we didn't get to before Katherine was born) I thought to myself, It is such a pleasure to teach our children.

Then that led to this thought: Pursue that calling with joy ... even the repetitive or difficult parts.

My life is not always far too infrequently marked by joy, but it could be.  What a gift that would be to my children, to my husband, and what a blessing it would be to my Heavenly Father who's given me every reason to be full of joy.

The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with JOY.
Psalm 126:3

A few great things the Lord has done for me that are on my mind today:
  • used circumstances to get me homeschooling when I never would have otherwise
  • sustained our marriage for almost 10 years
  • given me great in-laws who watch my kids so I can have time to myself (like today!)
  • opened my heart up to the gospel, giving me the opportunity to experience real joy

What's on your list?

March 12, 2012

4 Weeks!

Tomorrow, Katherine celebrates 4 weeks of life!  I gave an update a little while back about how things were  going.  All told, life continues to become more manageable with each passing day.  I do still wonder how it is that the time goes by so quickly between feedings.  Seriously.  But I'm guessing it has something to do with having other children and a household to manage.  C'est la vie.  (And if I'm honest, I do really love my vie and wouldn't trade it for anything else.)

Having provided that brief introduction, I will now assault you with photos!

Brian took this one for us.

Still LOVING his baby sister; she's very lucky.

A week ago we had a little snow.

 The Trio!

Thanks for the hat, Jan!

Snuggle time!


Yeah, he loves her.

Getting acquainted with a pillow pet.

Little by little we're getting back into normal activities;
I'm even thinking school will resume next week!

Yesterday the weather was gorgeous, so we hit the park for a little while.
Elizabeth moved to fast to get any photos of her.

March 11, 2012

Psalms & Psundays*

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Resources for Changing Lives)
I'm slowly making my way through Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul Tripp for a Sunday school class that I can no longer attend because baby girl nurses right at that hour.  But I will persevere and read it because, well, it's incredible reading material.  Can you see the subtitle?  People in Need of Change, Helping People in Need of Change.  Our pastor commented that the book is worth it just for that phrase.  At some point, when I've finished it (thanks for giving me accountability, readers!) I'll write more specifically about the book, but today as I read a chapter about loving people, I came across a paragraph worth sharing.  So, here you go; at this point in the chapter, Tripp is addressing the need to point a person in the midst of struggle to the God who is there and understands the trouble.

The Psalms are particularly helpful here.  I think the Psalms are in the Bible to keep us honest.  They remind us that living by faith is not easy.  The life of the believer is a daily war fought in our hearts, and the battles are dramatically depicted in the Psalms.  Again and again, the Psalms put words to the struggles of the people God sends my way.  But the Psalms do more.  They are not only dyed with human struggle, they are dyed with the presence of the Lord.  Again and again the remind us that we have hope, not because we are able and wise, or because circumstances are easy, but because God is our Father.  (p.130, emphasis mine)

As I thought about this paragraph, it occurred to me that Sunday does the same thing for me.  Sunday morning worship consists of many elements: praise & adoration through Scripture and song, confession, thanksgiving, & supplication through prayer, learning and challenge through the preached word, etc.  In the midst of worship with the people of God I'm reminded of both the human struggle and the presence of the Lord.  As with reading the Psalms, gathering with the people of God on Sunday morning for worship keeps me honest.  Worship certainly reminds me EVERY WEEK that I [only] have hope ... because God is my Father.


How did God use worship this morning to remind you that you have hope because God is your Father?  I pray that He did and that throughout this week the Spirit reminds you of that hope, especially in moments where you find yourself tempted to despair.

*Please forgive my for this ridiculous post title.  I just couldn't resist.  And those of you who know me well know that, well, I just. really. couldn't.  :)

March 6, 2012

Guest Post: Misty from Encouraging Hearts at Home

Here's another post that made me laugh nervously and nod in agreement because I've. totally. been. there.

Click What Not To Read, wives, engaged women, or women who would like to be married some day, for a post just for you!

My list is not the same as Misty's, yours won't be either, but my heart resonated with the sentiments shared.  Let's read the books written for us, beginning with the Scriptures.  I think meditating on I Corinthians 13 and asking the Lord to show us how it applies to YOU (in my case, ME) is a good place to start.  God will change you ... and just might transform your marriage in the process.

God bless you as you walk as one flesh with the spouse He's given you.  May the kingdom grow as a result of your unique union!

March 4, 2012

The Year-Long Month

When Elizabeth was born, my mother told me, "Heather, the first month feels like a year."  She was right.  And it holds true for subsequent children as well.  On Tuesday, we'll be three quarters of the way through, and man, I've been feeling the year-long-ness of it in the last few days.  So many fleeting moments where I wonder, Will my house ever be picked up again?  Will my kitchen eternally look like this?

Then I remind myself that Katherine is only 3 weeks old and, no, my house will not be a disaster forever, we're in a period of transition and right now resting and relating are more important than order and organization.

Speaking of relating, my mom left for Rwanda on Thursday.  She arrived safe and sound; thanks if you said a prayer for her!  Before she left, we had a family dinner together last Sunday afternoon and she had little gift bags for each of the grandkids that contained stuffed animals they could cuddle when they miss her and my dad.  All of the kids loved their little treats!

Katherine has a great routine, (thanks Baby Wise!)  But despite the fact that she only eats every 3 hours, I've hit the point where I kinda groan when it's time to feed her.  Seriously, again?!  I think feeding is certainly a big part of why the first month feels like a year.  Currently, I spend one sixth of each day (24 hours) feeding this sweet little thing.  This is not complaining, just the reality of life with a newborn that will probably pass too quickly and then I'll miss it.  No.  I'll miss some aspects of it, like those displayed in the photos below:



This morning as I got ready for church, my heart swelled with joy at the thought that Katherine is now part of that community with us.  We get to take her to worship to introduce her to God and His people.  One day, I pray that God calls her to be His own and that she will be captivated by grace and never look back!

March 2, 2012

Guest Post: Gretchen from Real Life Motherhood of 4

I had to share this post with you because it resonated so much with me.  It's called

and it is written my my life-long friend, Gretchen.  We met when we were very small and though life has separated us for periods (moves, college, etc.) it's connected us again.  She began blogging not too long ago and has endless energy and enthusiasm for mothering her children well.  I'm sure you'll enjoy any of her posts about crafts, outings, recipes, reflections, and her kids.  '3 Things' really made me laugh and nod in agreement.  I hope you enjoy it, too!  Thanks for letting me share, Gretchen.

I'm not sure what 3 things I would put on my list; Gretchen may have nailed them better than I ever could.  What would you add?