May 31, 2012

Do You Smell? Yeah, You Do.

Come in a little closer and I'll let you in on a little secret: I don't always smell very good.  And I use a lot of products to try to mask or avoid this truth: deodorant, perfume, soap.

Okay, now you know, and it really takes a load off.  I do trust that you won't tell anyone.  I can trust you, right?  I thought so.

Did you know the Bible talks about us smelling, too?
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?  2 Corinthians 2:14-16

As a follower of Christ and a child of God, you smell.  God has doused you with His fragrance.  For some, taking in your aroma will be as pleasant as sharing an elevator with a woman who's spritzed herself with a divine perfume.  For others, you'll smell the way my garbage (with raw chicken I forgot to cook and then had to pitch) did last night when I set it out.  Either way, you smell.

Product DetailsA friend of mine (Hey Leslie!) who I worked with pre-kids, had a fall/winter fragrance and a spring/summer fragrance.  I stole this idea from her because I had two perfumes I liked but wasn't sure when to wear them.  Following Leslie's lead, I took to putting some on each day and switching on the first day of spring and the first day of autumn.  Being a girl is fun!

This week, these verses took smelling nice to another level for me.  I'm going to write them out and hang them on the inside of the medicine cabinet, where I keep my perfume and deodorant, as a reminder to daily be the aroma of Christ to my husband, my kids, my extended family, my friends, my neighbors, and even strangers.  For some, it will be like smelling roses, to others, rotting garbage.  But my main concern is to honor the Lord by spritzing myself with the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  The world needs that and we're blessed by God to share in the spreading of his scent!

Perhaps you too will consider hanging these verses near your perfume or deodorant as a reminder of Christ's work in you and His plan to work through you even today.  You smell!  And it's exactly the way God would have it.

May 28, 2012

The Romp

This morning Elizabeth and I ran in The Romp, an annual 5K in my hometown.  My brother started doing this with his son Wyatt (below with Elizabeth) when he was only 4 and invited us to join him last year.  Elizabeth was psyched to participate again this year.  Wyatt smoked her by two minutes; he is one determined and quick little runner!  But Elizabeth did trim six minutes off of last year's time trying to keep his pace.  We all had a great time.  It was hot, but tolerable, and it's always wonderful to hear about the current crop of students from my hometown and their successes in track and field; the proceeds from The Romp go to scholarships for graduating seniors who've excelled on and off the race track.

Here are some photos, mostly for my mom and dad since they couldn't be there this year!

And, for both grandmothers, (and other suckers for babies),
a gratuitous photo of  the baby girl all dolled up for Memorial Day!

In Increasing Measure, a Lifetime Endeavor

After finishing the previous post, I later thought that it would be helpful to expand a little on what I think Scripture has to say about possessing these qualities [faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love] in increasing measure.

The main thing I want you to take away from this post is:

Possessing these qualities in increasing measure
is a LIFETIME endeavor.

As a young person, I thought that once I was saved from my sins I then needed to work hard to "arrive", that if I just did all the right things the right way I'd be a "good" Christian.  Let me let you in on a secret: there's no such thing as a "good" Christian.  The only right way to be a Christian is believing in, clinging to, and following Christ each day.  Following Him is not about checking duties off of a checklist; it's about a deepening relationship that transforms us from the inside out.  (In many ways that's much more difficult than simply ticking off obedience to the 10 Commandments, isn't it?  Yet it's so much richer and more beautiful to be in relationship with the Lord!)

So, we need a relationship that develops over a lifetime in which the Lord is working into us in increasing measure these Christlike qualities.  What does that look like?  How does it happen?  You might be surprised to find out that there's no magic formula or magic tricks, just grace.  Which is amazing(!), but not magical.

1. Spend time with God: The word of God is living and active, as much as God Himself is.  Interacting with Him and His Word in Bible reading/study and prayer will instruct, train, and equip you for every good work.  In short, if you're talking seriously and honestly with God, and asking Him to open they eyes of your heart as you read His Word, it won't be long before you'll be noticing the Spirit's handiwork in your life: sin will bother you more, joy will grow in your heart, you'll see God at work because you're looking for Him and you know to whom the credit is due.
Yes, devoting time to getting to know God and letting Him know the real you (even though technically He already does!) will lead to possessing in increasing measure the character of Christ.

2. Spend time with God's people: Another wonderful source for growth and grace that God has given are His people.  Sometimes we can be quite the rag-tag bunch and very un-exemplary of the Christian life.  But the Bible speaks a LOT about our need for fellow believers, to meet together, pray together, speak truth to one another, encourage each other (Hebrews 10:24-25, Matthew 18:19-20, Ephesians 5:19-20, Colossians 3:15-17, to name a few.)  This can be done in formal settings, like worship; we must worship with God's people on Sundays!  You can also join a small group or meet up with a friend for regular prayer and accountability (I do this with a far-away friend over email, even!)
It is CHRIST at work in and among us that begins to change our hearts, toward Him and toward one another.  Yes, spending time with God's people - taking advantage of their gifts and sharing yours - does much to advance God's kingdom in the world ... and in your own heart.

3. Start practicing! This might sound unchristian to you, but it's not.  There are several places in the Epistles where you can find the phrase make every effort.  In fact, one is even in this I Peter passage!  Ask God to bring to mind what you're reading in the Word, that you might see more clearly how His living and active Word interacts with real life.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you - Christ in you, the hope of glory!  Col. 1:27 - and He will open your eyes to see where God is at work in and around you.  
The other day when I wrote about this passage I was given the opportunity, in a situation where I could have gotten quite angry and vindictive, to practice brotherly kindness, self-control, godliness, and love.  I KNEW it was Christ in me.  Yes, God will meet you, friends.  He will show you how He is working in you and you will only be able to boast in HIM.  Start practicing the things you want God to make come naturally to you, like faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  You will not look like Christ over-night, but you will see Him working in you.  There's nothing quite so amazing as seeing grace at work in that way!

Often we want spiritual growth to happen by magic and/or quickly.  It doesn't.  By consistently practicing the disciplines of the faith, we grow - there are no substitutes or shortcuts.  A plant, without food, water, and sunlight, will wither.  A Christian, without these, will whiter too.

Let's flourish by taking advantage of the good graces the Lord has provided for us: His Word, His people, prayer ... HIMSELF!

*    *    *

Have a lovely Memorial Day, friends!  And peace to you, if you are remembering loved ones who lost their lives serving their country and its people.  We are grateful.

May 24, 2012

I Peter 1:3-9

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your


and to goodness,

and to knowledge,

and to self-control,

and to perseverance,

and to godliness,

brotherly kindness;
and to brotherly kindness,


For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

What encouragement this passage is!  God has given us everything we need for life and godliness! And Peter urges us to pursue the things of God that we might be effective and productive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is remembering that we have been cleansed from our sins, by the power of the blood of that same Christ, that sustains us, transforms us, and cheers us as we pursue all of the good things listed above.

Today there are many things we need to do in our homes, our jobs, and our relationships.  They far exceed our abilities and capacity (if we're honest with ourselves.)  So rather than focus only on the tasks, let's pursue the tasks before us today with a little more faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

Would it not be a delight today, even in the mundane, to be effective and productive for Christ by pursuing the things He calls us to - which are much greater and lasting than any thing we check off our to-do lists?  I find in my line of work, that very little I do is lasting, but the change God works in me as I do those things is lasting.  Of greater value than gold or silver.

Yes, I want to posses these qualities in increasing measure to Christ's glory.  How about you?

May 20, 2012

Are You Clinging Today?

Life has been threatening to undo me.

My lists are too long, my expectations too high, my hormones too unstable, my brain too small, my body too weak.

My God, however is big.  So BIG.  There's nothing my God cannot do.

*     *     *

Yesterday morning I had to cling tightly to Jesus, intentionally, on purpose, with great determination.  Why?  Because what I wanted to do was hold worry's hand and let him lead me into despair's black hole.  I wanted to give in and give up; I look around at all of the piles and unfinished projects, how I'm not living up to my own expectations, how I'll never catch up.  Rather than fight, I wanted to flee.

But the Gospel tells me that my worth is not determined by how "on top of things" I am, by how I'm meeting my expectations, by how much or how little I accomplish in a day, a week, or a month.  To believe this, I need to cling to the cross, to my Jesus, my Savior, my Lord.  He alone can conquer the lies within me and lead me into the freedom to pursue (with joy!) whatever task I am able to do at a given moment.  He alone can remind me to lay things in His hands ... and enable me to do it.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34
That was God's word to my heart as I spoke with Him yesterday.  So, I chose the tasks that seemed most important, focused on them, and left the others aside.  I went to bed with a huge pile of dishes next to the sink, a family room floor littered with "life," and an impossible amount of things left on my mental list.  But the patio was weeded (special thanks to my husband for all the yard work he did this weekend!), the kids end-of-year photo album photos selected, cupcakes baked and iced for E's party today, and a friend visited at the place she's been interning this past year, to see her work.  Thanks be to God for redeeming the day with the reminder to concern myself only with the day before me!
Give us this day our daily bread.  Matthew 6:11
This morning I woke feeling rested.  Haaaa-lelujah!  And as I sat and chatted with God, He brought to mind the phrase my heart and my flesh may fail.  I knew that came from scripture somewhere, but could not remember the rest of it.  Biblegateway filled in the rest for me:
My heart and my flesh may fail, BUT GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:26
Yes and Amen!

*     *     *

Friend, what fears, doubts, or worries grip your heart today?  Look 'em in the eye, tell them they have no place there, and cling all the more tightly to Jesus and His promises.  Ask the Lord what word He has for you and let Him take you from there.  Your heart and your flesh will fail, but the Lord?  Well.  He doesn't.

May 15, 2012

The Necessary Messy

If you dropped by our place and I wasn't expecting you, you might be impressed by the messes you find!  Perhaps you're new here at Life in the Valley or don't know, but we homeschool.  Friends, that means that my kids are home all the time, which means there's never really a break from life's messes: meals to make and clear up, toys strewn across the floor, little clippings from a cutting project on the table, blanket forts that take up half the family room, school books and manipulatives littering the floor or desk or kitchen counter, or all of the above.

That's life, when we live in our homes, isn't it?  Messy.

Of course, part of training our children is teaching and reminding them (and sometimes reminding them and  then, ... reminding them) that one must pick up the mess he makes.  But as a mom, sometimes I want to wish the messes away. completely. eternally.  Can't my home stay organized and picked up FOREVER?  Pretty please, with a cherry on top?

The abiding reality:


Without the opportunity to explore their world, try things out, build, destroy, invent, cut, paste, draw, paint, climb and fall, there are so many things our children would never have the privilege of discovering.  Without food to nourish them (dishes to wash), clothes to keep them warm (laundry to do), and space made for play (floors and surfaces to tidy), their little brains and bodies would not be able to take advantage of these creative and shaping opportunities.

This morning, as I pondered this blog post, it occurred to me that God works in our lives the same way.  He lets us make messes and He also makes some messes for us.  Usually those places are significant spring boards of growth.

Shall we give thanks today for the messes and let them happen?  Shall we let they boy try, when he wants to pour his own drink or cut a piece of paper into a million little pieces for no apparent reason?  Shall we free the girl to climb a little higher than we'd like so she can see what she is and isn't capable of?

I wonder: what messes in your life have launched you to new levels of ability or maturity or grown your faith?

Praise God for the mess!

Yes, thank you, Lord, for the messes.
Change our hearts, so that even in and with the mess we give you praise.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

May 14, 2012

Mother's Day is for Sanctification, too!

We had company this weekend, a good friend of Colin's from high school and his (lovely) girlfriend.  They did Pittsburgh in mighty fashion and we were able to join them for some of it: dinner out on Friday, the Strip District and a church with cool murals Saturday morning, a Pirates game Saturday night, and Pamela's for Mother's Day breakfast.  Of course, getting to catch up with them was the best part of it all.  (Don't tell them we're rooting for them to move to Pittsburgh someday!  Surely they have no idea, right?)


As you know, it was also Mother's Day weekend.  I didn't think I had expectations once I knew the day was free.  We had company, so our Sunday plans were up in the air.  After breakfast yesterday, Colin strolled around Oakland with them a little while I shuffled off to church with the young trio that makes me a mother.  They behaved so well for me for the thirty minutes or so while I was solo with them; I was grateful!  I was also thankful that I wasn't annoyed at Colin deciding to come late (a work of the Spirit for sure); he wanted those last minutes with his friend.  I understood and it overruled my selfish desire to have help with the kids.

The rest of the day did not go so well in my heart and mind.

Katherine slept for 2/3 of the service and Colin offered to take her when she woke up.  Then, because the poor girl had had two consecutive truncated naps, she cried and cried.  Colin had her out of the service and I could still hear her.  Man.  I was all stressed by the end of worship.  Colin was kind of at his end too, I think.  I took Katherine with me to get Brian from the nursery, then we rushed out of there.  Not only was Katherine tired, but Colin and I had had two consecutive late nights and were pretty exhausted ourselves.

The rest of the afternoon I spent fighting the most rotten, self-pitying attitude.

I didn't have high expectations, but I did have some expectations.  They weren't entirely clear, but whatever they were, they were not being met.  I don't feel it would be helpful to post details of the day here, just be sure that I was not practicing a Christ-like attitude ... I'm such a model mother!

The moral of the story: we need forgiveness every day - to receive it and extend it.  I'm still not doing very well at the latter this morning, but Christ will get me there.  God is still in the business of sanctifying us, even on Mother's Day.  And somehow that's more important than getting flowers, a card, or an entire day off from regular duties.

The fact of the matter is that, even if Hallmark says so, not one single day is really about me.  Even without fanfare or even one happy moment in the day, I still have every reason in the world to worship, praise, adore, and love my God, my Savior, my King.  From that place, I think I can be ready for each day of service before me, because the Bible tells me so and the Spirit lives within me.

*     *     *

There were many highlights in the day, which really should have out-weighed any of my grumpiness.  But, hey, I'm not trying to pretend away my sinfulness (and need for the blood of Christ) here on this blog!

  • Our guests gave me a mother's day card - very sweet.
  • Elizabeth had spent sometime preparing a little gift, so I'm now the proud owner of a homemade pencil holder (materials used: construction paper and a pop bottle) and several unique pieces of origami.
  • During rest time the kids played well, were quiet, and at the end had a zoo set up in their room, complete with memberships for purchase (with paper money provided by the zookeepers.  Score!)
  • I Skyped with my mommy.
  • I got to snuggle on the couch with my two biggest littles and watch an IMAX show about beavers that I remember seeing years ago.
  • Katherine took some long naps in the afternoon and caught up on the missed sleep.
  • The day ended with knitting and finishing up an inspiring audio book.

Here's the crew!

Other highlights from the weekend:

May 10, 2012

Faith to Ski a Mountain

I skied a black diamond.


In high school

In dense fog.

I could not see the bottom, or more than five feet in front of my face, for that matter.  So down I went.  S l o w l y.  Back and forth. Unsure of what I would encounter.  But once I was on my way down, going back up was not an option!

Having skied only a handful of times, the only reason I got on that hill that dark, cold, winter night - instead of taking the longer trail that takes you to the bottom of the same lift - was because I couldn't see how long, steep, and dangerous it was!  Yet somehow I knew I could get to the bottom if I just started down.

We walk by faith like this, don't we?  The Lord calls us to follow Him, so we start off on the journey.  Sometimes we say that we'd like to know how it's all going to pan out between here and glory, but if we did, I wonder if we'd ever agree to follow and believe.  That mountain was steep.  If I could have seen the whole thing, there is no way I would have tried it that night.  But the fog gave me confidence.

Weird, isn't it?

On a much more dramatic and important scale, the Lord gives us confidence to follow.  He gives us hope and He gives us courage.  He gives us encouragement and He reminds us we're not home yet.  He doesn't show us the whole journey, but He journeys with us.  He gives us Himself.  He's our fog!

This song has been speaking to my heart lately.  It sure can seem like a Long Way Home, but friends, we're going home!

And in the meantime, God is with us as we ski our way there - sometimes flying like the wind downhill, sometimes painstakingly snowplowing from one side of the mountain to the other.  

It's good news, friends.

I pray today that you know He's there with you whether you're flying or snowplowing.  Either way, HE is the one who is seeing you through to the bottom of the mountain.

May 7, 2012

An Afternoon with Women

I learned of  WORD FM's Women in Ministry luncheon just a week before it was happening.  Intrigued, I read a little about it.  The speaker's topic was Comparisons, and I though to myself, I need to go to this thing!  Unfortunately, none of the women's ministry leaders from church were able to join me on such short notice.  But Colin offered to watch the kids, so I was free to go!

Women in Ministry Luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn,...

The night before, Colin asked if I wanted some kind of business card to give to people I met.  I'd never even thought of this time as a networking time.  So he whipped up a handful of them for me (complete with a QR code for my blog; I know, he's so cool!)

When I arrived at the event, the ballroom was not yet open, so the hallway was packed with women of all ages (I would guess mostly 30 and up), sponsors had tables you could visit for information or a free pen, and I wondered what the time would hold.  I stood in line waiting my turn to register.  When the women in front of my turned around, my brain said, People I know!  It was a group from the church we went to when I was in middle and high school.  And, as God would have it, they were short one person and invited me to sit at their table!  What a blessing and joy.  I found myself internally not only thanking God for familiar people to sit with (who all blessed my by taking turns holding Katherine) but by this history of people who have nurtured me spiritually throughout my life.

As I walked around the hall before the ballroom doors opened, I saw a poster with a woman's photo on it whom I'd only known through a mutual friend on Facebook.  I thought, Oh boy, Gladys is here.  I HAVE to find her today and make real contact!  So once the ballroom had opened and everyone filed into find a seat, I wandered a little until we made eye-contact and then hug-contact.  So fun!  She attends the church Colin and I went to in college and where we were married.  Again, I felt so thankful for the churches in Pittsburgh of which my family and I have been a part (going all the way back to when I was a child!)

Thanks to Colin, I had a card to give to these women and also had brief conversations about potential opportunities to share devotionals at upcoming women's events.  So cool.  God was so kind to me.  When I couldn't find any folks from our church to accompany me, I considered canning the idea.  But it just didn't seem right.  So before I went, I prayed that God would use the time to His end.  And so He did.

The speaker, Julie Slattery, was engaging and hilarious!  She spoke with us about our tendency to compare and judge (positively and negatively) and how we can move toward caring only about pleasing the Lord - through a change in our prayer and worship.  The room was full of women from all. over. Pittsburgh.  Hundreds of women.  All coming together because of what Christ has done in our lives and what we believe He can do to the lives of many others in our city!

Who's coming with me next year?!  As they said, it's not an event only for pastor's wives or leaders of women's ministries; if you're a woman, you love Jesus, and you have contact with other people, you're a woman in ministry.

Julie said during her talk: It's not about you, but what God does through you.  There are no great men and women.  Only a Great God!

God bless you today as you minister in your little circle of influence to His glory.

May 4, 2012


Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, 
and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, 
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities. 
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, 
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death, 
and was numbered with the transgressors. 
For he bore the sin of many, 
and made intercession for the transgressors.  
Isaiah 53:10-12 

It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.  Yes, what is written about me is reaching fulfillment. 
Luke 22:37 
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God.  And that is what we are!
I John 3:1a

Jesus, numbered with the transgressors, so that we could be numbered with the children of God.

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Luke 10:18-20

May 3, 2012

Give Us This Day

This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:9-13

I've been meditating on the second half of the Lord's Prayer of late.  Last year as I read through the New Testament a couple of times, I was struck by the simplicity of Jesus' call to follow Him: to repent and believe the Good News, to put our faith in Him alone.  In this age of (many wonderful) books and information pertaining to Christian living, one can get caught up - well, at least I can! - in the details of trying to "get it right" as a Christian.  Sometimes I'm so caught up, in fact, that I miss simply clinging to the cross and listening to the Holy Spirit's direction for a given day.

Jesus' instruction on prayer here, strikes me to be just as simple as His call.  He says, and I paraphrase, Worship God your Father and surrender to His will.  Then ask him for all you need, trusting Him to provide.

He offers three simple petitions:

  • provision of daily bread
  • forgiveness
  • deliverance from the evil one

I don't know about you, but when it comes right down to it, that's pretty much all I need from the Lord each day!

At this juncture, please note that by referring to Jesus' call to follow and instruction to pray this way as simple, I mean uncomplicated ... not necessarily easy.  We all have hearts that are slow to trust and obey.  With this prayer, I believe Jesus gave His followers a wonderful format for coming to God in prayer by faith, not only acknowledging His wondrous holiness, but also holding out needy hands as children to a loving father.

Are you feeling bogged down?  Overwhelmed?  Scared?  Defeated?  Complacent?  I encourage you to read this prayer Jesus gave us, then pray it for yourself for today's needs.  But don't just pray it the "church way," simply reciting it.  Rather, as you wrap up your evening tonight or start your day tomorrow, turn to the Lord using the prayer He gave and ask for real stuff.

Ask Him to provide your daily bread.
Ask Him to forgive your sins.
Ask Him to deliver you from the evil one.

He can.
He will.

God bless you this day as you lean into Him by faith.

May 1, 2012

Photo Assault!

Elizabeth just said this morning, "I'm so happy we get to have a baby in our family."
Me too, my dear.  Me too.

We recently created a school room in our house.
It's still under organization, but it has been wonderful to have a school space that is NOT the kitchen table.

The weather has been calling us outside more; I love spring!
You can hardly tell from these pictures that we live in the city, right?!  :)

We love being near Schenley Park; we even discovered a new path to our house on this Sunday outing.

More baby!

Yesterday we resumed our end of the month field trip routine for realz, spending 4 hours at the Children's Museum!
I've gotta take advantage of the few more months I have of this little one being able to nap here:

I feel all warm an fuzzy inside when I see anything Mr. Rogers.
There are pieces of his legacy all over the museum.

Andrea and Annabelle (new friends!) joined us for the outing.

Today as I drove along in my minivan, I thought to myself, I really love being a mother of three.  Little Katherine has only been with us 2.5 months, but none of us could imagine life without her.  Amazing how easily and naturally a new family member is assimilated, isn't it?