April 30, 2013

{Day 30} Interrupted by 'God Loves You' (And Give Away Results!)

You're dying to know who won the goodie bag, aren't you?  If I were you, I'd scroll to the bottom to find out and then read today's story.  But, I'm sure you have more self control than I do.  :)

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Today as I drove our little trio to homeschool co-op I was thinking about all of the options we have in this life, particularly thinking about curriculum choices for homeschoolers and how overwhelming it all can be: wanting to do well by your children, not wanting to be judged for your choices, having too many good options, etc.  (I just placed an order yesterday to take advantage of some sales, so it's on my mind!)  I was also reflecting on my insecurities as I observe others who seem to have it all together - imagining, falsely, that their little world is always roses and sunshine - when I glanced over at a run-down, weary looking house across the road.  There in the second story window, which was almost at eye-level because the house entry sits below street-level, was a picture of a cross and a homemade sign that read, GOD LOVES YOU.

In that split second, rounding the curve, I was interrupted by grace.

What a comfort to be reminded, by a sign I've never noticed in a house I've passed twice every Tuesday for the last two academic years, that God loves me.  Normally, to be embarrassingly honest, I find signs and bumper stickers like that to be cheesy.  Imagine God using such a thing to interrupt me today!  Classic move on His part, to challenge my judgments while reminding me of His love.

Short reflection on that reminded me that it is security in God's love that frees us to love others, to let go of idols, to confess our sins, and to set aside our doubts and fears.  It is His love, extended to us by grace, that frees and transforms us.

That's cool.  And amazing.

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Now, on to the moment you've all been waiting for (or that you jumped ahead for)!

Drum roll please!!

This month's winner is

Thanks to all of you who threw your names into the running.
I hope to have another sometime later this year.

And so this April's interrupted by grace series comes to a close.  I pray God has used my reflections to draw you closer to Himself and to remind you that He is at work in and around you every day.

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

April 29, 2013

{Day 29} Interrupted by (a little more) Freedom

Oh no!  What's happening to me?  Here we are, nearing the end of the series, and I don't feel like I have any dramatically interesting stories to tell.  (Wow, Heather, way to make your readers want to read on!)


Mom went back to
Africa today.  <tear>
This year, I've been thinking about this idea of breaking free, meaning no longer being bound and paralyzed by the world's standards or the standards I create for myself.  I desire to live free in God's grace.  Having lived so long, however, in bondage to what I think people of think of me, my fears of failure, and my pride, I know this will not be an instantaneous transformation.  I'm a black and white kind of girl.  I want to know what to do and do it.  I hate grey areas.  I want to be sure that "I'm good."  (It's a pride thing, not a righteousness thing, by the way.)

Life and the Word are teaching me that most of life is lived in grey areas.  Scripture tells us to do (or not do) certain things, but how those things play out in day-to-day life can look very different from person to person and family to family.  And that is OK!

For instance, specific to my situation: homeschooling.  There are almost as many ways to homeschool as there are families that do.  This is beautiful.  But for me it is also uncomfortable, because I want to know that I'm doing it "right."  When I feel like I'm not measuring up, very quickly I become overwhelmed by all the options, dissatisfied with everything we're doing, unable to rejoice in and appreciate what others are doing, and all of life gets very tense.

Part of breaking free for me involves the process of becoming more flexible. Like a stiff reed that needs a  soaking to be useful, I need the Lord to soften me up every time I start to dry out and tighten up in my doubts, fears, plans, and programs.

Graciously, He comes along side and nudges me to trust Him.  For much of this month, I've been nudged a lot.  Schedules have been disrupted for various reasons, today by taking my mom to the airport during "school time."  But the build up to today brought me to a place that was okay with getting some work done in the car and other things later in the afternoon, without fear of disaster striking or us not being able to get to everything, because we were doing a better thing in the grand scheme of life.  (We got our work done before dinner, too!)

Reflecting on all of this I'm interrupted by grace.  God calls us to things by His grace for certain purposes.  We wander here and there around them sometimes, but He always graciously, gently, and compassionately takes our heads in His hands, so to speak, turning them to refocus on Him and the path He's clearing for us, that we may entrust to Him the unknowns, the uncontrolables, even the unbelief.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  ~Galatians 5:1

Praise be to God!

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REMINDER: Get your name in the running for this month's little interrupted by grace gift bag!!  Tomorrow is the last day in this April series because, well, it's the last day of April!  Click on this link to leave a comment letting me know you'd like me to put your name in the jar.  Make sure to get on it before 5pm EST tomorrow evening.  Thanks for hanging out with me here in my little corner of the internet this month!

April 27, 2013

{Day 27} Interrupted by Busy

Here I sit down to write, and I can't think of any specific grace interruption to share.  Today flew by like this:

  • 5am wake-up call from Katherine - for me, not her.  She fell asleep after a short snuggle.  I was awake for the day.
  • A quick visit to read and write at Starbucks where my friend works at such a crazy hour on Saturday mornings.
  • Home by 7am to be with the family and do Saturday morning family things like breakfast, chores, play, etc.
  • 10:30 trip to pick up bridesmaid dresses with friends and see the Bride at her fitting.  (We got there late, so she just saw us in our dresses.  They're cute as can be.)
  • Got home at 1:30 to shove lunch in my face (I was so hungry, because I forgot to eat a snack.  Silly.) and relieve Colin to do a little work.
  • At 2:30 we set up a little lemonade stand for an hour down on the corner, something really important to Elizabeth today.  It was a perfect day for it.

  • We left at 3:45 to get to our nephew's birthday party that was at least 40 minutes away and started at 4.  Oops.  (Today's theme-word: late.)
  • We partied and had a great time out in the great outdoors with family, friends, and yummy food.  But as we were leaving my eyes started to itch and puff.  I'm looking pretty awesome; Colin had to do the driving home.
  • Naturally we arrived home at (or after) everyone's bedtimes, and Katherine still needed to eat something substantial, since she didn't really at the party.  Thankfully the older two got ready for bed and helped with other things as needed, so the total chaotic pandemonium I was expecting did not come to pass.  Yay!
  • A little after 8pm we read a chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and called it a night.  Those kids fell asleep real quick!

And now, to breathe!  Ahhhhhhh.

I suppose one thing I could say is that God has interrupted me by grace in the midst of a very busy month by saving me and our family from caving in, especially through how gracious Colin has been toward me being away doing things so frequently, (particularly on the weekends).  Such a blessing.

That said, I am relieved to look at May and see more white space in the calendar!

Have a great Sunday and don't forget to get your name in for the give away.
Make sure to leave a comment letting me know how many entries to put you in for.

April 26, 2013

{Day 26} Interrupted by a Phone Call ~ And It's Give Away Time!

This morning's interruption came early.  A friend called to ask me to join her in prayer throughout the day for her son's day at school.  He'd had rough start and was feeling anxious and emotional when she dropped him off.

Is it not a great gift of grace that we can pray for one another?

I was interrupted by grace each time I looked at his name scribbled on the back of my hand (my you-must-not-forget-this! spot for notes) and said a little prayer for him.

It's wonderful that we can pray for one another.  It is amazing that God wants to hear from us.

Interrupted by grace, indeed.  God's good and great grace.

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Now, for something fun!
I love to end each month-long series with a give away.
Here's what's up this time around:

The lucky winner will receive a pocket journal, a bar of one of my favorite chocolates, some new pens, a small tube of lotion, and a mini candle called "days end." I thought that candle name was perfect for this series; at "days end" you can pause and take a moment (or more!) to think about how God interrupted you by grace.  In addition, you can savor a piece of chocolate while you savor memories of His mercy that day!

Here's how you can get your name in the running
For one entry: Comment on this post and say "I want in!"
For another entry: Share a story in your comment about how God interrupted you by grace sometime recently.
For another entry: Share my blog with a friend. (honor system, just let me know!)
For another entry: Share my Facebook page on your wall, only if you think it worthy of sharing, of course!
For another entry: Like my Facebook page for the first time!  (Some of you just did that today - welcome!)
You can jump in on this if you've been reading for years or just started today.  Don't be shy!  I will ship anywhere, so if you want it, get in on it!!  :) 

Get your entries in by 5pm EST on April 30, when the kids and I will choose the winner using our highly sophisticated names-on-slips-of-paper-in-a-bowl method.  I'll include the winner's name in the final post of the Interrupted by Grace April series.

Have a lovely evening!

April 25, 2013

{Day 25} Interrupted by a Language Arts Lesson

This morning crazy-mama did not pop in for a visit.  That was nice!  Before we got to school start time, we'd gotten through morning chores and gotten the kids' room cleaned up in preparation for our monthly fellowship time with church friends this afternoon.  The kids even had some time to play together before nine.  We were on the ball this morning, baby!  (One must celebrate these rare occurrences, no?)

After we read a Bible story and did today's catechism reading, Elizabeth got settled with her math and Brian and I did his reading lesson.  Katherine napped - good girl!  Then Brian got settled with some independent activities and Elizabeth and I worked on her Language Arts lesson.  Her dictation passage was a couple of sentences from a book about a girl who's frustrated with her little sister and how her parents tell her that siblings are forever friends (my paraphrase).  The middle of the lesson involved looking up the definition of a friend, making a list of what she thinks a friend is, and talking with me about friendship.  It was fun!  Then came the final activity.  Elizabeth had to make a chart with her siblings' names and spaces for each day for one week, and every day for the next seven days she can get a star or sticker for doing something special for Brian and Katherine to be a good friend to them.  I thought this was a wonderful idea.  So we all made charts!

What struck me most about this little activity was the simplicity of helping the kids to think of each other as friends.  I think they already do, but that may not always be the case.  I was interrupted by grace as I realized that the Lord guides and directs us as we raise our kids.  We don't need to over-complicate, buy a special program, or read a million books.  We can think about character we want to instill in them, talk with them about these things, model them, and maybe do a fun little activity now and then to be more intentional.

My natural inclination is to seek out a formula - for everything!  But life and relationships do not run on formulas, they run on time spent living and learning together.  I'm thankful for the reminder to take a deep breath, relax, and live this life one day at a time, seeking the Lord for wisdom and asking the Spirit to guide my words and actions. That's all I really need.  That's all any of us need.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

April 24, 2013

{Day 24} Interrupted by a Do Over

I was tired when I woke up this morning.  I find that to be one of life's most frustrating things, waking up tired when there seems to be no reason for it.  Humph!  After one round with the snooze button, I dragged myself out of bed to brew the day's coffee, check the cell for messages, and settle into my cozy morning quiet time chair.  With a pillow on my lap, topped by my notebook and Bible, I scribbled out some prayers, pausing occasionally to rest my tired eyes, wishing deep in my soul that I could fall asleep there and that the kids would snooze till noon.  I got those lids to stay open long enough to finish my prayer thoughts and read through a Psalm and Proverb.  God's Word is so good for the soul, even the sleepy one.

Still tired, but feeling hopeful, I forced my body out of the chair and up to get started with the day's "stuff."  My little bundle of boy came down at "seven, zero, zero" on the nose; he's always up at least thirty minutes before he's allowed to leave his room!  We talked briefly then went to get Katherine, who was making her morning coos and squeals.  (Seriously, listening to her in the morning on the monitor is one of my favorite things!)  Afterward, Brian went to try to wake Colin and Elizabeth so we could have breakfast together.

The morning was going just fine.

During breakfast, however, I was distracted by a million things and the kids wanted to talk to me (why?!) and kept annoying each other, and Katherine, well, she just makes lots of noise sometimes.  After eating, Elizabeth started her morning chore of emptying the dishwasher and I was transforming into nagging-mom-of-the-year, getting more and more annoyed with her inability to keep working while talking with me.  In the background Katherine was just plain obnoxious, incapable of entertaining herself and whining.  What is she, a toddler or something?  Ah!  I was going to explode!!

I don't remember all of it, but at some point I came downstairs, (I think by this time the older two were upstairs taking care of their morning chart duties) and Colin said, "I think mom needs a vacation from the kids."


He wasn't exactly right, but he was on the right track.  I needed something.  That something was a deep breath, an attitude change, and to apologize to my children.

The truth about what a lunatic selfish brat I was being stung, but that was how I was interrupted by grace.  Grace said to me, Hey girl, let's not let this attitude dictate how the rest of this day is going to go.  With me, there is forgiveness and a fresh start.  A do over.

So when the kids came down, I apologized to Elizabeth, because she had born the brunt of nagging-mama.  We started over and the day went far better than it had begun.  I'm thankful for do overs today, and for these three children and how the Lord uses them to shape me every day.

Holding my babies all at once!

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24 

April 23, 2013

{Day 23} Interrupted by a Bathroom Break

Tuesdays are our busy afternoons.  We go to our homeschool co-op and then take Elizabeth straight to choir.  On other afternoons, we have lunch then rest time before doing anything later in the day.  Our bodies are used to that routine, so Tuesdays wear us out, especially Elizabeth.

Tuesdays also involve quite a bit of driving back and forth to these activities; the group we're a part of is about twenty-five minutes away.  Today the kids were extra tired on our way home from co-op and I had space to think.

I was thinking about the strange ebb and flow of life as human beings, particularly with regard to sin and forgiveness.  We kinda float back and forth between these two things throughout our days.  Sometimes we give ourselves and others the benefit of the doubt or simply extend kindness, and sin is unable to grow and expand in our interactions.  Other times, we're feeling cantankerous and encounter another in the same state, and "all hell breaks loose."  (That seems like  good phrase when talking about our sin, eh?)

Today I was feeling really tired and tense at the beginning of our co-op time.  No reason really, other than the tired getting to me I suppose.  On top of that, our little preschool class was a bit antsy.  I was not feeling all that gracious.  But when the sweet little one who I was finding most difficult to corral, and who is not yet potty-trained, asked me to take her to the bathroom, operation soften-Heather's-heart was put in motion.  In the midst of my frustration with her more difficult than usual day, I was given the opportunity to encourage her in her potty usage and left the bathroom feeling more at ease.  I had to speak kind words to her.  Being put in that position was exactly what I needed at that moment.

I was interrupted by grace as I drove around thinking about that situation and my own need for grace and encouragement when I'm having a less-than-cooperative kind of day with the Lord.  He's so patient and kind, and He's committed to the covenant He made with His children.  Reminds me of some verses I read this morning that jumped off of the page at me:
Many times he delivered them,
    but they were bent on rebellion
    and they wasted away in their sin.
Yet he took note of their distress
    when he heard their cry;
for their sake he remembered his covenant
    and out of his great love he relented.

Psalm 106:43-46
We're bent on rebellion, wasting away in our sins.  God hears our cry and sees our distress.  We forget (that's what most of the Psalm is about, Israel forgetting God.)  We forget.  But God remembers His covenant and relents out of love.

 And so we find ourselves interrupted by grace.

*     *     *

Tomorrow we enter the final week of the series.  Crazy how fast this month has gone by!  Do you have any stories to tell?  Have you shared them with anyone?  Let's not be like Israel, forgetting and not telling about the wonderful things God had done!

April 22, 2013

{Day 22} Interrupted by God's Provision through my Mommy

Hi!  How was your Sunday?  Ours was pretty restful, but I did have a couple of unnecessary I-feel-overwhelmed moments about things like when I would be able to get groceries and how I would ever "catch up."  Nothing a little run couldn't fix; some mid-afternoon exercise was just the trick to chase away my agitation.  Then, we ended the day at Eat 'n Park with Colin's parents: good food, good company.  Sundays are good for the soul.

Today was a wonderful interruption of routine life!  My mom is in Pittsburgh from Rwanda this month and today she spent the whole day with us.  She helped me by watching the kids while I grocery shopped, hanging out at the house with baby-child while I took the older two to the dentist, playing with the kids, talking and working with me, shopping with us for some outdoor plants to springify the place a little, and treating us to dinner at the dive down the street.  And, oh yeah, she brought pastries with her when she came this morning. (I hope I can be a great mom to my grown kids someday, just like her.)

The whole day was full of grace interruptions that made me shake my head at yesterday's anxious, antsy moments.  So silly, because today God provided the means to deal with all of the sources of stress.  What kindness!  How many times does God need to provide before I will finally expect Him to always do so, in one way or another?  Oh ye of little faith.

I am so happy that, in this case, getting to hang with my mom was the way He provided today.  Pretty cool.

How was your Monday?  Did God interrupt you by grace in any specific ways?  I hope you caught Him  red-handed being kind to you today, too!

April 20, 2013

{Day 20} Interrupted by a Schedule Change

A person's steps are directed by the LORD.
How then can anyone understand their own way?
Proverbs 20:24

About a month ago, I made arrangements to spend most of today with the women of Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church at their women's retreat, leading a couple of elective sessions on prayer.  My cool brother had recommended me to the retreat leader, and I didn't want to pass up the opportunity, him having "promoted" me and all.  (Thanks, Rob!)  My understanding was that I would join them around nine, participate in the morning activities, and lead the prayer discussions in the hours preceding and following lunch.  I would be home by four, at the latest.

Over the last few days there was talk of trying to do some things after I got home, like visiting with a woman my mom knows who runs a children's home in Rwanda and just happens to be here in Pittsburgh right now!  Unfortunately, none of those plans panned out.  It just seemed like too much to add more into the day with me arriving back so late in the afternoon.

Everything was perfectly arranged.  I had all of my materials packed and was ready to go on time.  The kids were excited to spend their day with dad.  Dad had a fresh pot of coffee!  The ride up to the camp was  pleasant and uneventful (though it did include a little snow).  We had a nice morning session together and the first prayer meeting was delightful, such sweet women with whom to look into the Word.  Afterward we enjoyed a cozy lunch together and I got to know a few of the women over the meal.  Then Cathie went over the afternoon schedule.

Rather than directly after lunch, the second elective session was not scheduled until just before dinner at 5.

I was able to find one short strip of sidewalk where I got cell coverage and phoned Colin.  I felt terrible that I was going to be home three hours later than expected.  But the situation was what it was.  Thankfully there was no pressing reason for me to be home by four and the kids were in dad's good and capable hands.  I had the treat of a relaxing afternoon and extra time to visit with the FCPC ladies.  The second prayer discussion was as fun as the first.  And it was great to get back with the family after almost 12 hours away.

I was interrupted by grace as I recalled the above verse from Provebs that I had read this morning.  I thought I was on top of the day and "understood my way," but God had a slightly different plan.

A person's steps are directed by the LORD.
How then can anyone understand their own way?
Proverbs 20:24

Have a great Sunday!  See you on Monday.

April 19, 2013

{Day 19} Interrupted by 19

I'm sure you've heard the news today coming out of Cambridge and Watertown, MA.  I was shocked to pop onto Facebook this morning and see so many posts about MIT's campus, a dead police officer, and the bombing suspects wreaking havoc on an area we called home for many years.


What caught my attention the most was the age of the suspect on the run.  Nineteen.

19 years old.

Does that seem crazy young to anyone else?

At the moment the word is that this teenager is holed up in a boat on some stranger's property and is surrounded police and various other law enforcement folk.

19 years old.

As I thought about this throughout the day, I found myself wondering about what happens in a person's life to make them willing to participate in crimes like bombings and murder at such a young age.  (Okay, obviously, I wonder about this for anyone of any age who murders, but this is what's on my mind today.)  Then I thought about my own children and sending them out into the world around nineteen years of age and the deep responsibility we have to sow righteousness in their lives, to be careful how I speak to them (tone and content), to teach them to hate what is evil and cling to what is good.  Romans 12:9b

I was interrupted by the grace of a personal history that is so full of joy, kindness, love, and hope.  I am extra thankful for that today.

I've just heard that this young man is alive and in custody.  Lord, have mercy; he's only 19 years old.*

*For the record, I don't believe his age should get him off the hook in any way if he is found guilty.  This is simply a reflection on his youth and how it startled me today.  What happened at the marathon and in the last 24 hours, all the death and injury is evil and wrong and so, so, so sad and awful.  Just want to make sure you don't misinterpret this post!

April 18, 2013

{Day 18} Interrupted by Missing the Middle

We had and 85 degree day here today.  Beautiful!  But beautiful days can really wear you out, all that sunshine and running around at the park!  I'm tired tonight.

I was interrupted by grace pretty early this morning, during my shower, in fact, when I realized we're already more than halfway through this month.  I missed the mid-month mile marker!  Only after I committed to writing every day this month did I realize what a crazy-full month it was.  I was a little scared.  Maybe you remember the {Day 2} "What if I fail?" post?

Well, so far, the Lord has given plenty of opportunities for reflection on His grace in my day-to-day.  He has been faithful.  That is cool.  I'm glad He interrupted my shower today to encourage me with a little, Hey, I told you so.

I like when He gives gentle reminders.  They keep me going.  You too?


April 17, 2013

{Day 17} Interrupted by What I Want, and Don't Want

My life is very comfortable.

I find my heart often pricked with compassion when I think about how many around me cannot say the same.  The Spirit makes me squirm when I read verses about caring for the poor, needy, orphaned, or widowed.  Engaging in those things is not regular activity for me.

My life is very comfortable, and I like it that way.

But I have found the Good Lord convicting me of late that my comfort is not His end goal for me.

I don't even realize how much I love (read: cling to, adore, idolize) my comfortable little life, until the suggestion is made that I rock the boat by getting involved in something that might make me need to (gasp!) trust the Lord to work, to trust the Lord for wisdom, to trust the Lord for my all.

As I read God's Word, think about what He cares about, and let myself wonder what He might have for me, I can't maintain the status quo and also live a life of integrity, let alone say I love God.  And so we come to today's interruption.  It all started the day before yesterday, when I ignored God's direction.  

I've had this off and on relationship with a neighbor woman very different from me in life experience, socioeconomic status, and relational stability.  In the fall, it got to be too much for me, so I pulled back.  I've felt awful about it, but didn't do anything about it.  Coward much?  Yes, yes I do.  Anyway, the day before yesterday, I saw her walking in the neighborhood with her son.  Twice.  I did not stop.  Either.  Time.  I made excuses in my head and set aside the urging in my heart.

Yesterday, I could do so no longer.  So I breathed deep and sent her a text.

She did not get back to me until late in the evening.  She was needy.  I arranged to see her this morning.  So here I am back in the web of a nothing-like-my-other-relationships friendship, desperately wanting to share Jesus with her so she can know real life and peace.  The cry of my heart to engage with the people of my city is being answered in a real, practical way.  Yet already I think I've had enough, would like to take it all back, and run the other direction.  It's all so far beyond me.

None of it is beyond God, though.

As I inscribed a New Testament for her today, I was interrupted by grace as I considered that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God: those with comfortable lives and those without.  My friend and I are equals at the foot of the cross and there is Good News to share with her, a Good News that I need just as much as she does.

So here I am, caught between what I want for God's sake and what I want to run away from for my sake.  Would you join me in praying for my friend when you think of her?  Thanks!

How have you been interrupted by grace these days?!  I'd love to hear your stories too.  It can get boring only hearing my own.  ;)

April 16, 2013

{Day 16} Interrupted by a Prayer for Our Enemies

I sported my Red Sox tee today, the only Boston gear that I own that was proper for today's warmth.

I wanted to do something to stand in solidarity with those who are grieving, wondering, hurting, and/or angry in the hospitals, homes, streets, and subway cars of a city that is near and dear to my heart.  I caught up a little on the news stories throughout the day, particularly about little Martin Richards and his family.  Lump. In. My. Throat.  Elizabeth is eight.  And that dear husband and father, going from the high of completing the marathon, to grieving the loss of his son, wondering if his wife will make it, and needing to help his little daughter navigate life without one of her legs.  It's almost too much.

So I've prayed for them, for other families and victims, and for wisdom and guidance for law enforcement officials as they track down the culprits.

Yeah, I wore my Red Sox shirt.

Until the end of the day, no one seemed to notice.  At choir pick up, the father of Elizabeth's best choir friend did.  We had a brief exchange about "the incident" - his five (almost 6!) year old son was sitting with us, so we used discretion.  And here's where I found myself interrupted by grace.

He said his prayer in all of this senselessness is that God will work to soften the hearts of people who may be contemplating doing something like this in the future, to prevent them from doing so.  Talk about praying for enemies and those who persecute you!  What a beautiful prayer, expressing such a dependence on God to move, for God to be our rescuer, for God to do His great work of heart changing.

Yep, that interrupted me in the midst of my sorrow and anger at the situation.

Lord, we trust in you to change hearts.  It is a wonder of mercy that you changed mine.  We rest on Thee, our shield and our defender.  Amen.

April 15, 2013

{Day 15} Interrupted by Bombs

This afternoon little Katherine woke up early from her nap, giving us time to scoot out of the city an hour earlier than expected, avoiding rush hour traffic on the way to the airport to pick up Elizabeth and my mom who were returning from Orlando.  We used the extra time to stop at the mall on the way and play at the children's play area.  That was fun!

After about an hour of play, we made our way to the airport, parked, and went into wait at the baggage claim.  It was so good to see those two again!  Naturally, Brian annoyed his sister the majority of the way home.  (He really missed her!)

Part of the way home, I got a text from my sister that read, "I hope all of your Boston friends are okay :("  Since I was driving I called her to find out what was going on.  She filled me in briefly on the bombing situation.  :( , indeed.  Horrific.

2008 Boston Marathon
Popping across the river to see it was a yearly tradition!

It's disturbing (interrupting!), isn't it, how we can be going about our days in one part of the world and life is all joy, while in another place, (maybe even next door) great suffering and tragedy have taken over?

A few days back I was struck by verse ten of Psalm 97:
Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones 
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

I reflected briefly on it in my journal, the general idea being that I don't know how to interact with evil - how to react to evil when I encounter it - especially in remote situations, everything from exploitation of the poor to dramatic one-time occurrences like what happened in Boston today.

Today reminds me that the only place of real safety is in the arms of Christ.  And I can trust Him, as well, to help me process the evil I see around me and the evil I find inside of me.  He's well aware of it; rescuing His people from it is what took Him to the cross.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33
That grace always interrupts me, even more so in the middle of disturbing interruptions in normal life, like today's.

Thinking of the people of Boston and the wider running community tonight.  We're waiting for you, Lord.

April 13, 2013

{Day 13} Interrupted by Feeling at Home

How has your Saturday been?

Mine was people-full.  Very lovely.  But wow, have I felt drained this evening!  This girl is somewhat introverted, believe it or not, and I have a cold that is not completely interested in departing my being yet.  In fact, I spoke this morning at our annual women's brunch and was slightly concerned that my voice would not make it to the end.  I sound pretty funny today, especially when I try to laugh or sing.  Thankfully, my voice made it through the talk and the rest of the day.  I'm glad I can type this, though, giving my throat a much-needed rest.

Given my currently depleted energy, I'll be brief tonight.  Oh yeah, I'll also be brief because I don't have any  riveting interrupted by grace moments to share.

But since I *have* to write something, I'll say this: as I spent time with people today, I felt really comfortable.  Most of the folks I was with today were church folk, at the brunch this morning and a birthday party this afternoon.  I love all those people!  But it was not always that way.  In June, we'll observe the three year anniversary of our move back to Pittsburgh.  The transition was long and hard.  My identity was shaken when I was uprooted from so many comfortable and familiar relationships and roles.  My insecurities ran rampant and impeded potential relationships; I spent so much time comparing, judging, not being free to be me and let others do the same.  It was hard. It was lame and silly, too.  I know.

So being able to rejoice today at being comfortable is a testimony to God chilling me out and settling me a little more into His mercy.  And as we think about a move this summer to a new town and new people, I'm thankful for the recent memory of how-to-do-a-transition-wrong.  It gives me hope that maybe I will be able to dive into this change with more grace and faith.

I fear I'm losing my ability to be coherent.  So tonight, that's it.  Time to finish up this hot, soothing tea and get to bed.

Have a blessed Sunday!  Let's meet up here again on Monday.

April 12, 2013

{Day 12} Interrupted by Past/Present/Future

Around the birth of our first child, my mother-in-law and I hit a very rocky place in our relationship.  There are various reasons why this particular time proved to be extra challenging.  But even knowing that, it took many years to come to a place of forgiveness and peace for both of us.

A lot of the hurt and difficulty sprung from assumptions made by each of us that led to unloving or unkind actions and reactions.  It can be difficult in relationships for these cycles to be broken, can it not?  Our case was exacerbated, too, by living far away.  So when we were physically in the same place, emotions were naturally high, because there was this sense that the time needed to be used well.  I think, (Gladys, you can correct me if I'm wrong for your part), that often those visits really wore us out and sometimes made things worse.

I'm really bad at emotional conversations.  Really bad.  So it took Gladys reaching out to me and asking forgiveness for things to get the ball rolling toward something better in our relationship and to soften my heart.  Even today she shared something with me, about a situation that I'd forgotten, that she needed to share and get out there in the open.  I learned that we're probably more alike than I ever thought, in our insecurity and self-doubt.

I still stink at emotional conversations and at asking forgiveness; ask my husband.  I mumble my apologies a little louder than I used to, don't I, Colin?  But Gladys has been an excellent example to me (even if I'm still scared to follow it!) of what it means to just be honest and work things out, because the Gospel is true, freeing us to do so, and because relationships are worth it.

So today - as uncomfortable as I get with "feelings" conversations or chats that involve remembering how horrible I was in the past - I was interrupted by the grace as I processed our conversation, realizing how good God is to extend reconciliation not only to Himself, but providing reconciliation among brothers, or sisters, as the case may be.  Our poor choices and unwillingness to love in the past do not have to determine our choices and willingness in the present.  In Christ we can forgive and grow together, leaving the past in the past and moving on to a stronger future.

I think that's amazing.  And I hope I can be as bold and free in my faith as Gladys has shown me I can.  I'm just so darn proud most of the time.

Have a good evening!

April 11, 2013

{Day 11} Interrupted by "Ease in Preparation"

In a couple of Saturdays, I'll be joining the women of Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church for part of their women's retreat and offering a couple of breakout sessions on prayer.  I don't feel overly qualified to lead such a discussion.  Prayer is this big can of worms, isn't it?  At times one's eyes are open to seeing God answering prayer all over the place.  Other times prayer seems mysterious, confusing, or even futile.  Nevertheless, God has moved in my life to make prayer a more natural part of it than it used tor be and I am delighted to have the opportunity to spend some time with ladies I don't know, hearing their thoughts on prayer, and sharing from Scripture about what prayer is and how we can engage with the Lord through it.

I wasn't sure where to start, though.

So I filled up my backpack with books, my Bible and laptop, and some paper, left the kids with my weekly sitter, and headed to Starbucks to think, read, and write.

After only an hour and a half, I realized there was more than enough to fill the time, I had a list of "suggested resources," and I wasn't simply going to spend the hour quoting someone else's book on the subject - aside from reading Bible passages, of course.  My heart was just plain encouraged!

You know why?

Because things came together.  Things came together!

I'm not ready to lead the discussion tomorrow; the content still needs a bit of organization.  But there is content, and that encouraged me immensely.  I'm pretty new to this whole writing and speaking thing, but it is a deep, God-given desire of my heart to be doing it.  Sometimes I wonder if it's realistic, though, given how many hours it can take to put talks together.  Today I was interrupted by grace when I could "see" these last years of study, reading, writing, thinking, and praying coalesce, allowing for a never-before-experienced ease in preparation.

God is good.  Of course, He's good even if my preparations had been awful this afternoon, but He's a generous and gracious Father who gives His children moments of delight and joy.  I'm thankful to have had one of those interruptions today.

One passage I read today connects well at this point:
‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!    Matthew 7:7-11

*     *     *

Related to this discussion of prayer, would you be willing to answer a couple of questions for me either via email or in the comments?  Just a short informal survey, three questions:

1. What do you find most challenging about prayer?
2. What is the best thing you've ever read/heard that has helped your prayer life?
3. What prayer practices/methods/routines have you found most helpful personally?

Thanks in advance!

April 10, 2013

{Day 10} Interrupted by a Theme

I don't know what this may mean for you or even for me today.  Every once and a while, I find a theme emerge during my time reading the Bible in the morning.  Currently I'm reading a Psalm and a Proverb every day, and in preparation for participating in a retreat, I'm also reading a chapter or two of Henri Nouwen's book The Return of the Prodigal Son.  Today's theme appears to be JOY.

Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, "My foot is slipping,"
your love, O Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought joy to my soul.

~Psalm 94:17-19 
The prospect of the righteous is joy,
but the hopes of the wicked some to nothing.

~Proverbs 10:28 
Gratitude, however, goes beyond the "mine" and "thine" and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift.  In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline.  The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
~Nowen, p. 85

Because of who GOD is, joy can be the drumbeat of the life of the Christian.  We begin by trusting Him, we continue trusting Him, we involve ourselves in the discipline of gratitude, and our hearts begin to change.

Our pastor in Cambridge was fond of saying, I'm not what I ought to be, but I'm not what I used to be either.  The quotes above are convicting, because they remind me how often I let resentment and discontent rule my life, rather than joy.  But the hope I find here is that God frees me, in Him, to choose joy and gives me myriad reasons to do so.  The other glimmer of hope is knowing that I do choose joy more often than I used to.  That is the Spirit at work in my heart.  That is the Spirit at work in your heart.  How marvelous that God takes our complaining, grumbling, whining hearts and transforms them, when we deserve to be left in our misery!

 Interrupted by grace in the Word this morning and just had to share it with you.

JOY, my friends!

Perhaps you could leave a comment sharing how God is working joy into your heart these days?  I'd love to hear about it.

April 9, 2013

{Day 9} Interrupted by a Really Great Day

Today was just plain peaceful.  The sun was shining.  The kids wore summer clothes.  School was conducted outdoors.  Katherine took a long morning nap.  Homeschool Co-op gym was held outside.  We got some Rita's Italian ice to celebrate the summery spring day.  And spaz-mom didn't make any appearances.  

Days like these are as common as I would like, with all of life's responsibilities and demands.  Do you find that to be true?  At this moment I will not take for granted that God interrupted us by grace in giving us such a gift.  I am thankful.  And that is all for this evening, folks.

How was your day?

April 8, 2013

{Day 8} Interrupted by My Best Laid Plans

I love Mondays.  For us the are generally unscheduled, quiet home days.

Today was different.

Two things rocked our Monday-boat.  The first was taking Katherine to the doctor during walk-in hours to have her little ears checked for infection.  (My mom, who is in town for most of the month - yay! -  told me to take her, and I knew that every time she saw Katherine with a snotty nose she'd say, "Have you taken her to the doctor yet?"  So I took her.)  She had not infection, thankfully.  Nevertheless, that jaunt up the hill to the doc's set our school start back about an hour.

The second blip on the screen was a trip I had planned  into our lessons, to the Museum of Natural History for Elizabeth to stroll through the Native American exhibit noting on a map what regions of the United States different tribes were from.  I was so excited about having come up with a not-another-novel-to-read history activity for her, so despite our late start, we were going to go for it!  Well, we learned something together on our trip to the museum.

It's not open on Monday.

The best laid plans of mice and men, as they say.

The Bible says
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.  
Proverbs 16:9

In the middle of our morning, I'd had a couple of what I'll call spaz-mom moments, just a couple more occasions of unnecessary loss of patience with the kids due to my own lack of self-control.  Yep, a little of that.  Again.  >Sigh.<

Apologies extended, I was determined to get to that Museum and redeem the day, even though our outing would extend well into Katherine's normal naptime.  But the Good Lord had a different idea for redeeming our day: getting us outside in long-awaited gorgeous weather, in an unexpected place, at an unanticipated time.  And so He interrupted me by grace.

To take advantage of the parking we'd paid for, we set to strolling around.  The museum abuts the University of Pittsburgh's campus and many people were out: having their lunches, going to class, running, or just sitting, obviously thankful to be free to be outside.  Finally!  We made our way to a few different landmarks, enjoying the freedom of no schedule, beyond getting back to the car by 1:46pm!  I learned how many states Elizabeth can identify on a blank U.S. map.  Brian ran around and around a large fountain.  Katherine attracted many admirers.  I took it all in, quite thankful that silly museum is closed on Mondays, especially given I certainly did not deserve such a gift, (being spaz-mom and all).

God is good.  Is He not?

A very kind Pitt student offered to take our photo,
but Brian bolted before he could press the button.
I love this photo!

*     *     *

How did the Lord interrupt you by His grace today?

April 7, 2013

{Day 7} Sabbath Rest


Sundays are off days during blogging series, and with Blogger I can schedule this ahead of time to post today.  Neat, huh?

May God bless you as you gather for worship in your corner of the world.

See you tomorrow!

April 6, 2013

{Day 6} Interrupted by a Bridal Shower

I dunno about you and how your week was, but I'm so glad to have my feet up at the moment!  With hot tea and an m&m cookie at my side and some sniffles in my nose, I'm ready to share with you, then bid this week adieu and Sabbath it up tomorrow.

Today, my friend, Jenna, and I hosted a bridal shower for our friend Carolyn who will marry this June.  I would summarize our time together with one word: FUN!  How delightful to gather together to laugh, tell stories, open gifts, play games, and celebrate a friend and her upcoming marriage!  FUN!!

First thing this morning, because my sluggish and sleepy brain could do little else, I prepared Carolyn's gift.  The gift consisted of two parts: serious and slinky.  I'm sure you can guess what the latter was, >wink<.  The former was a book I really appreciated reading early in our marriage called, For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men.  As I inscribed it, I thought about what my own husband means to me and how I've grown and changed throughout our ten and a half married years, which prompted me to include something like these sentences:
You're about to marry your forever friend and ally.  But sometimes he'll feel like neither or just be confusing.  Love him for who he is, just as Christ loves you.

You know, I sure don't always love my husband as Christ has loved me.  (Right, Colin?!)  But I am thankful for how weddings remind me of work God has done in our lives, of how much there is to appreciate about Colin, and how much happiness and growth there can be in our future days and years together.

I was interrupted by writing that little inscription.  God has been very gracious to me in providing the husband He did and using our relationship to shape both of us.  There ain't no such thing as "Mr. Right," but I sure do think Colin is "Mr. Just-Right-For-Me!"  Interruptions like these help me to keep our relationship in perspective, and I am thankful to God for that.


April 5, 2013

{Day 5} Interrupted by Pure Joy

Whew!  This has been some week, I tell ya.  Nothing dramatic, just a week's-worth of nights of interrupted sleep that culminated in a (fortunately not severe) migraine today.  I'm really tired.

Having a migraine today was particularly "painful" because I needed energy to get some things done for co-throwing a Bridal Shower tomorrow morning and because the weather was glorious.  So much sunshine!

The kids also seem to be under the weather with something respiratory, two of them having just come off of something gastrointestinal.  Such a bummer for their little selves!

I sighed a lot today.

Finally in the late afternoon, I had the energy to get our stuff together to make some quick stops at Target and Trader Joe's for final supplies.  I decided to tag on a quick trip to the park for the kids, because it seemed so wrong not to spend any time outside today, colds or not.

As I prepared to go out, taking some things out to the car before Katherine was awake from her nap, Elizabeth followed me out the front door.  I had to cross to the other side of the car, and in that time got the most beautiful view of joy and freedom.  Elizabeth was frolicking and twirling in the sunshine on our front sidewalk - arms out, head back, a giant smile on her face.

She was greeting the spring weather with proper gusto!

That was my little grace interruption today, in the midst of the pain and the busy: witnessing such a carefree expression of joy.

I'd like to practice such expressions a little more in my life.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!
Psalm 126:3

April 4, 2013

{Day 4} Interrupted by the Word

Oh friends, I am really tired tonight.  A weeknight baseball game followed by blogging and then a baby who had a restless night are working their sleepy-time magic on me at the moment.  So I will be brief, but hopefully coherent.  :)

This morning as I was praying, confessing my sins and also sharing with God my heart's concerns of late, which have mostly revolved around wondering what I "should" be doing for school, with our family, etc., He graciously brought this verse to mind:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33
Okay, I'm hearing you, Lord.  I get all tied up in knots about things and, while I may say I trust you, I'm setting You aside in exchange for worry.

I thought for a little while about how this verse might influence how I think about current concerns.  Then some other verses popped into my head as I thought about resting in God:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, inviting the weary and burdened to come to Him and find rest.  Boy I needed that this morning!  And to return to the thought several times throughout the day.  It particularly influenced how we started our day.  The kids were sluggish, having gone to bed late and being awakened early by the garbage truck - a Thursday morning tradition!  My natural inclination would have been to stick to the schedule and "get things done."  But reading of this tenderness of Jesus influenced me to move in that direction in relating to the kids.  We took our time, put a little "home" back into our homeschool, and still got our work done.  Hallelujah!

Today I'm thankful that God was so gracious to interrupt my "usually scheduled program" of prayer and Bible reading with some additional words that were just right.  God is so kind to us, is He not, when He gives us the "just right" right when we need it?

With that, I say to you, g'night!