April 30, 2014

Interrupted by Grace Giveaway Winner!

I took a spontaneous trip out to get the kids haircuts tonight after dinner, forgetting that you're all on the edge of your seats waiting to hear who won the goodie bag!

The winner is ...


Congrats!!
I'll be in touch to confirm your address.

Thanks to all who entered!

Interrupted by Grace {Day 30}: Song

Hey, hey, hey!  It's April 30th, which means this is the last post in the 2014 interrupted by grace series.  Thanks for joining in the fun of looking out for God at work in our lives.  I pray we can all continue the habit through the coming months!

You still have the work-day today to get your name in the running for the giveaway.  I can't wait to see who wins!

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The Lord tickled me pink yesterday morning with an early-in-the-day grace interruption.  I was doing my post shower routine, thinking about the many things I needed to do during the day when I hear Brian, my five year old, belt out from somewhere in the house, "HE'S GOT THE WHOLE WOOOOORLD, IN HIS HANDS!"

When I say belt, I mean BELT.  He was so loud that I heard Colin eventually say,"Okay, okay, Brian," to get him to lower the volume.

How perfect to be interrupted by grace, in the middle of a "review of the day's to-dos," by an exuberant, musical reminder that God has the whole world in His hands.



Oh LORD, our LORD,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

Psalm 8:1-2

April 29, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 29}: Anger

Since I went on a refreshing retreat this past weekend, I was overly kind and compassionate irritable with the kids yesterday.  Funny how it often works out that way.  I remember in high school coming home on retreat-high, only to be terribly rude to my family.  Mommy, Papa, you want to chime in with an "Amen!" on this?

Thankfully, I was reminded to worship rather than fear or worry about the myriad things to be done to both catch up from the weekend away and prepare for our upcoming trip.  Focus on the Lord always changes our perspective.  But those reminders didn't turn me completely around.  I had to choose to worship so. many. times. yesterday!  And to apologize to my kids.

Dear sinful nature, I am so over you.  Sincerely, Heather


Later in the day, we had some errands to run.  One was a stop at RiteAid to pick up the 4,000 bottles of pills we need to prepare us for malaria and such.  (Praise God, it was SO MUCH cheaper than we expected.  Woo-hoo!  But I digress....)  The kids love the blood pressure machine by the pharmacy, so I took my blood pressure for them so they could watch it work.  Man, that thing hurts your arm!  I finished and Brian put his hand in it as I pushed Katherine away in her stroller, Elizabeth walking by my side, to head off to our next stop.  A woman was approaching to take her blood pressure and I told Brian to step away so she could.  She was really unkind to him, rudely mumble-talking about how those machines aren't for kids and kids don't need to take their blood pressure.  Brian missed it, but Elizabeth certainly sensed the unkindness of the woman's tone.  Strange moment.  Most folks are kind to children; this experience made me glad for that.

When we were checking out, I learned it was not just that the woman disliked children. 

She was at the register next to us at the front, where I was paying for a few extra things.  The gentleman couldn't offer her the card discount on something to make it 59 cents rather than 99, because RiteAid doesn't do the courtesy card thing.  So she called him an idiot and left the store!

Woah.

I was interrupted by grace that God keeps me from giving full vent to my anger (Proverbs 29:11) and forgives me for my irritability and rudeness, which are no less offensive to Him and others than the behavior I observed at RiteAid.

 That was not the end the day's encounters with anger, though!  On our way home from all of our running around, we stopped at a crosswalk near campus to let some women cross the street.  The cars coming the other direction also stopped.  A pedestrian, coming from that side, decided to take the opportunity to cross between two cars rather than the crosswalk.  When the car was able to go, it couldn't because the fellow was still in front of him.  The driver honked.  The pedestrian swore at him.  They exchanged words and rude gestures for several seconds.

Anger, how quickly you flare!  Our pride is so easily provoked.

For the third time that day I was forced to think about how our anger hurts God, other people, and ourselves.  I was interrupted by grace that God can and does forgive all of that garbage that is in sinners who trust in Christ.  Among other things, all the anger - past, present, and future - was atoned for on the cross.  We can arise in new life, no longer defined by our sin, but by Christ's righteousness.

There's hope for mankind!

Friends, I really, desperately, fiercely want the end of dealing with my sin!  I long for heaven.  For the time being, I'll lean on Christ.  Won't you join me?  How good to repose at the foot of the cross, where justice and mercy meet!

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Don't forget about the giveaway!  I want to send YOU a treat!!  Leave a comment to let me know how many times I should put your name in the hat.


April 28, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Series Giveaway}

I  love to wrap up a series with a giveaway.  Until today, I have not had my act together enough to think about it for April 2014, but I did get to pick up a few little treats at the store this morning that I would like to send to YOU.  Yay!!


Interested in a new journal to record ways that God is interrupting you by grace, a nostalgic four-color clicky pen, a bag of delicious chocolates, and some minty tic-tacs?  Then, this giveaway is for you!  Imagine having your taste buds treated to a chocolate spa while you record moments of God's faithfulness in one of four classic colors: red, black, blue, or green.  This could be your future!

Alright, enough with the cheesiness.  Here's how to toss your name in the hat one more more times!

1. Leave an "I want in!" comment on this or another post from the series.
2. Share an interrupted by grace moment in your comment.
3. "Like" my facebook page for the first time, to get post updates in your news feed.
4. Follow me newly on Twitter.

WOW!  You could potentially get your name in there FOUR times.  Amazing!  hahaha

The deadline for entry is 5pm  EST, Wednesday, April 30.  (I will ship to anywhere.)  I'll announce the winner sometime that evening.


Thanks for reading and joining me in this month's interrupted by grace journey.
I appreciate you folks a whole bunch!



Interrupted by Grace {Day 28}: Worship

I do not where to begin to share about ways I was interrupted by grace this weekend, because I was on a retreat!  Better typed, a reTREAT!!

My dear friend from high school, Kim, invited me to join her for a retreat her mother-in-law was coordinating that was about equidistant between her home in Virginia and mine in Pennsylvania.  My in-laws were available and willing to help with the kids, since the husband is busy with end-of-semester responsibilities; our calendars had already been synced for the weekend over some plans that fell through.  Surely there's no coincidence there, pure providence.

We had a fantastic weekend.  As I read through my notes this morning I was wondering, What in the world should I share on the blog today?  There are so many things!

I'm going to give you the biggest thing, the interruption by grace that covered the whole weekend: a blanket of worship.  The women gathered - who came from a very different denominational background than I - worshiped God with vigor, joy, hope, thanksgiving, and sincerity, especially in their singing!  They gave the Lord their all.  Blessed be His name!

At this moment, I think of the verse, How good and pleasant it is when God's people dwell together in unity.  Psalm 133:1  We sang songs, many that I had never heard, but I knew the lyrics.  They came straight from Scripture.  So many minutes were spent this weekend speaking and singing to God what He has revealed about Himself in His Word.

So this morning I sit, thinking about how worthy God is of our worship and praise.  During one of our quiet prayer and reflection times this weekend I wrote in my journal,

No reason NOT to praise you!

I hope it's not presumptuous to include you in these statements with myself:  We get caught up in the details and derailments of life; we forget our Lord is always worthy of worship; we neglect praising Him and our souls languish.  But there is no reason NOT to praise the Lord.  He' is always worthy, despite our sin, circumstances, or satan trying to persuade us otherwise!

I experienced some personal interrupted by grace moments this weekend, but I need to share with you the message that is for all of us, one that will individually and corporately transform us.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100

May the Lord fill our hearts with praise today.


April 26, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 26}: Provision

Thursday I called back the doctor who had seen us on Wednesday, hoping she'd have some time available for me to bring the kids back for their vaccinations.  The receptionist said she couldn't schedule for me in the next week or so, because she had to schedule three full consecutive appointments and none were available.  Since we've already done the long consultation, I asked the woman on the phone if she could have the doctor call me.  (Anxiety rising - these seem to be the only people in the Pittsburgh area with the vaccine!)

I didn't hear from her that day.  She phoned yesterday morning and (praise the Lord!) is able to see the kids exactly ten days before we leave.  Now, because this is a private travel vaccination agency, it will cost us a fortune.   Financially speaking, the County Health Department is definitely the best way to go!  But, (again, praise God!) we got more than enough of a tax refund to cover the billions of dollars it will cost us to be ready to travel. hahaha.

Seriously though, spending money when I "could have" saved drives me bonkers.  One could argue I have a money idolatry problem, but that's fuel for a different post.  I also get really embarrassed when I find myself in situations like this because I didn't plan ahead enough.  One could argue I have an organization idol, too!  What a great growing experience this is, huh?

Anyway, I'm interrupted by grace that there is plenty of extra money to cover the cost of these vaccinations and that there is a place in Pittsburgh that has them.  I was starting to think we would need to drive to Cleveland!  No joke.

How graciously God provides.

Has the Lord interrupted you by grace lately with unexpected provision?  Do share!


April 25, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 25}: A Bit of a Vaccination Shortage

Our family will be traveling overseas soon to visit my parents.  One of the vaccinations we need is yellow fever.  Now, you would never think it, but there is a vaccination shortage.  Enough of the stuff is not being made to keep up with demand.  We heard that the health department would have more next week, but I scheduled appointments for Colin and me for this week with a private travel preparation doctor for Wednesday, so at least some of us would be done.  His life is not flexible enough at the moment to just pop into Pittsburgh whenever the vaccinations are available.  Also, we have to have them at least ten days before our trip.


Yesterday, I called the Health Department again and they changed the expected date from this coming Monday to "sometime in May."

Oh dear.


I have been feeling anxious about the situation.
You can't get into the country without your yellow fever vaccination.


I have been praying about it a lot when I feel the tension start to mount.


I have also noticed that Elizabeth gets anxious when she senses I'm anxious.
You can't knowingly do that to your kid.


Given those things, I am interrupted by grace at how the Lord was working - through what I know about Him and my daughter's emotions - to keep me calmer than I would be naturally.

In fact, perhaps the most peaceful moment yesterday was reading these verses, Psalm 25:1-2.
The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for He founded it up on the seas,
and established it upon the waters.

I think He's good handling a little "vaccination situation," don't you?

Yeah, me too.


April 24, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 24}: Paths

When I read Psalm 23 yesterday, the second part of verse three stood out to me:

He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.

Then I moved on to Proverbs 23 and was struck by a mention of paths in verse nineteen:

Listen my son, and be wise,
and keep your heart on the right path.

Comfort and security are found when one knows he is on the right path.  There is no second guessing, floundering, fear, or anxiety.  How much more so when the child of God be confident He is shepherding him along paths of righteousness.  I certainly rest easy when my heart is on the right path.  Makes me think of the Proverbs 31 woman, who can laugh at the days to come because she is so settled into living and doing business on the right path.

I was glad for the food for thought to start my day.  How remarkable later in the day then to hear my son talk about building a PATH out of cushions across the kitchen floor!  Yes, he used the word 'path.'  I couldn't believe my ears.  Talk about being interrupted by grace!  My mind quickly called up, He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.


Such a sweet reminder of God's ever-guiding presence in our lives.  I was delighted to share with the kids that I had been thinking about paths earlier in the day! (Though I'm not sure they appreciated the moment as much as I did.  hahaha)  Grace interruptions help us keep our hearts on the right path, don't they?


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Have you been on the look out for God at work this month?  Have you been amazed at God's kindness especially when you're not on the look out for Him?  I am praying for you, reader.  Lord, open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to believe - for Your name's sake.  Amen.


April 23, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 23}: Routine

Yesterday was a pretty routine day.  There was nothing pressing on the schedule, but plenty to keep us occupied: school work, chores, play, rest, an errand, and the library.  When I was putting Brian to bed he said, "Today went by quick!"  I agreed.




Nothing stands out about the day in its normalcy and routine.  Thinking about it now, I'm interrupted by the grace of the routines and rhythms that keep live balanced and predictable.  After holidays or other less fun disruptions, I love returning to the familiar patterns of day to day life that are comfortable for our family.

Sometimes the routine and predictable are the last thing we want.  Other times, it's just what our soul desires, and we're interrupted by grace right there in the blessed mundane.


April 22, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 22}: The Word

It appears we've hit the time in the month-long blog series where the days seem to be shorter than they were earlier in the month!  I'm feeling a little short on sleep, which leads to the need to be short on writing.  Or, we could chalk it up to me maybe learning that I have to prioritize some things over the blog, even though I'd love to spend more time pontificating here.  Whatever the reason, I gotta get this body into bed soon!

Tiredness definitely contributed to having a very emotional quiet time yesterday morning.  Sunday evening Colin and I had touched base about what we needed to be thinking about for our trip to Rwanda.  I woke up Monday short on sleep with that on my brain, lots of toys to step over on the floor, and only about three square inches of visible kitchen counter, just the right size to place a coffee cup for filling.  I love that morning coffee!

I sat with my cup, bible and journal, all cozied up in the corner of the couch, and let my soul pour out to the Lord.  Then the tears started.  Goodness, I was worried I was going to cry all day!  For a little while, praying about things made me feel more anxious than at peace, but slowly, like the lifting of morning fog, the tension began to lift.  Then as I often do when moving from prayer to Scripture reading, I asked the Lord to speak to me by his Word.

I had finished reading through a couple of the Gospels over Lent and wasn't sure what to read.  My inclination was to hit the Psalms and Proverbs for the day's date.  I got the date wrong and read Psalm 20 on the 21st, and was interrupted by grace.
1 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.2 May he send you help from the sanctuary    and grant you support from Zion.3 May he remember all your sacrifices    and accept your burnt offerings.4 May he give you the desire of your heart    and make all your plans succeed.5 May we shout for joy over your victory    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.May the Lord grant all your requests.6 Now this I know:    The Lord gives victory to his anointed.He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary    with the victorious power of his right hand.7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.8 They are brought to their knees and fall,    but we rise up and stand firm.9 Lord, give victory to the king!    Answer us when we call!

Woah!  Got the message loud and clear - God answers when we call.

As if to drive the message home, the Good Lord also provided time for Colin and me to talk before children descended upon us, a friend emailed some great words of encouragement, and Pandora sang me, I Surrender All.

Got the message Lord!  You love and care for me.  You want your children to cry out to You, to love You, and to love one another.  How sweet the taste of the Word in our world-wearied senses.  How tender God's mercies to us through His Word, especially when He so specifically addresses us for His glory!

Interrupted by grace yet again.  I never gets old.

April 21, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 21}: Forgiving

I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend!  Ours was full of activity, not all Easter-related, and I'm relieved to have an empty Monday to get my head back in the game.  Mostly that means, I'm trying to get my house back in order from the Easter entropy that descended upon it over the last three days.  I woke up feeling strangled by the mess, but I'm breathing a little easier now that I have a few rooms straightened and vacuumed.  Phew!

The mess, however, does tell the story of what a fun weekend it was.  We took Friday off of school to visit family in Pittsburgh, celebrated my nephew's birthday on Saturday by participating in the Pirates Charities 5k and Family Fun run, the kids sang in worship yesterday, and my in-laws were up for the day, a day Colin was able to take off, too!

Cousin fun!

In the hustle and bustle and fun, there were a couple of things that happened that got me feeling pretty angry and frustrated, because I felt misunderstood, embarrassed, and judged.  In the middle of my sulking about it, the Lord said to me, Forgive.  Oh, I tell ya, that is not what I wanted to do.  I didn't really want to engage or confront, but I did want to dwell on the situation and forge on in hardness of heart.  Maybe I could even tell others about it and get them on my "side"!

But God said, Forgive.

Well, doesn't He have some nerve, reminding me what Easter is all about on Easter weekend!  Humph.

But oh, He is so good.  So kind.  So gentle.  So right.  The best plan of attack is no attack at all, but rather to let myself be softened by His love, so I can extend it to others.

I still want to dwell on the situation that hurt my feelings.  I want to go back and say my piece, to be justified and hailed as the-one-in-the-right.

Christ calls me to forgive.

I was most certainly interrupted by grace when the Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to practice grace.  How appropriate, too, that this verse came up in my reading this morning:


It is to one's honor to avoid strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.
Proverbs 20:3


Lord, keep saving me from being a fool!  I need all the help I can get.


April 20, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 19}: Changed Plans

Happy Easter!

I missed out on posting yesterday, so I'll pound out a quick story this morning before the bustle of the day begins.

Friday we had plans to go into Pittsburgh to meet up with my mom and cousin, Joy, and head to the County Health Department to get our yellow fever shots.  We'll be traveling to Rwanda next month and need to have this one vaccine to enter the country.  Early that morning I thought, It seems unlikely they'd be closed, but maybe they are for Good Friday.  After speaking with my mom, she called to make sure they were open.

The were, but they didn't have any yellow fever vaccines!

I was glad to be spared the futile trip down to the office, but disappointed we couldn't get this important aspect of our travel plans squared away.  We still continued with our plan to head into Pittsburgh in the morning.  As we arrived at my parent's house, there was a tow truck driver working out getting my cousin's car out of their driveway.

She had gone to pull out of the drive the night before (just a day after arriving from DC) and the axle had snapped, just like that.  What a joyous praise that that did not happen on the highway!  We were all feeling quite thankful for that.  Everyone seemed a little less thankful about the amount of time that was taken up in dealing with getting the car towed and learning what was wrong with it.

I was interrupted by grace at God's protection of my cousin and the elimination of the vaccination visit from our schedule.  Once all was said and done, it would have been so very hectic, with our other plans in the day, to have needed to sit in the Health Department office that afternoon as well.

Would you pray two things when you think of it?  One, that we'd be able to get our vaccines when they come in in 10 days or so.  And two, that the Lord will provide just the right car for my cousin to drive home on Monday.  Thank you!

Have a very happy Easter!!





April 18, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 18}: Friendship

Yesterday afternoon we meet these three boys and their mama at the park.  Our children have a wonderful time together and so do we.  I was interrupted by grace as Julie and I talked and the kids ran around, because before we moved we prayed for good friends.  We like everyone we've met here in our new town, but I know for sure that their family was a very specific answer to our prayers.  Even the Bread Winners enjoy when they get to hang out!


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 7:11

Thank you, Lord for good gifts like new friends in a new home.



Keeping it short today, though there's more that could be said.  We're leaving for Pittsburgh in a few minutes to hang with family and celebrate my nephew's birthday.  I'll pop in tomorrow with a little story from our day!

Happy Easter weekend to you and yours.  Easter weekend is a GIANT grace interruption!


April 17, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 17}: Perspective

I am embarrassed any time a non family member gets on our car.  I don't want to give the impression that we live like pigs, but that is the only conclusion I think anyone could possibly reach after climbing over all of this


to find a seat in our van.

Yep, that photo is the contents I pulled off of our car floor yesterday morning before we left for co-op.  My mother-in-law, Gladys, was due to arrive in the afternoon, so I knew I'd have help with the kids so I could tackle the junk in the afternoon.  Pigs, right?

When Gladys saw the stack, however, her response was, "That's what winter does to a car.  It's too cold to clean it out, even if you want to."

She could not have said a kinder thing to me!  I felt so relieved.  I was interrupted by grace when given a different perspective, one so kind and generous.  Perhaps everyone doesn't think we're pigs, even if I think they should!

*      *      *

This week also gives us a fresh perspective in the middle of routine life, as we reflect on the events leading up to Jesus's death and then celebrate His resurrection.  Last night we attended a wonderful worship and communion service at church that provided new perspective on the thoughts of the disciples around the table with Jesus on the first Maundy Thursday.  Then this morning I was on track to read Mark 14, which is a description of that day in Jesus's life.  What a day to live through: anointing, betrayal, arrest, desertion, accusation, condemnation, beating and denial.  And all of that coming ahead of a cruel death on a cross.

How sweet and blessed that the Lord interrupts us by grace with His perspective on what we really need in the hustle and bustle of life this side of heaven - rescue from sin and death and new life.

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

April 16, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 16}: Irritability

Man, yesterday morning I was feeling the rub of all things that needed to be accomplished before the sun set.  When this happens I get really antsy and impatient, mostly with the kids.  My irritability in such situations makes it difficult for me to speak kindly to them, every word comes out with a sharp edge and every sentence ends with a sigh.

The reality, there was nothing wrong.  The worst that could have happened - and did - was that Elizabeth had to complete her work during her rest time and I would have to stay up a little later than I wanted.  Horrific, right?

Once school work was done and the kids watched their usual post-rest time cartoon, Katherine was awake and we headed to the grocery store.  The to-do list was slowly diminishing; I had been able to blog alongside Elizabeth while she worked and write a grocery list while they kids watched tv.  No disasters had occurred!  Remarkable, considering how my morning attitude indicated that the world was going to end or something!

In the middle of all my heart "hecticness", I sensed the Spirit several times telling me to chill out, take a deep breath, and speak kindly.  I was interrupted by grace that God was reminding me of His presence and His desire to mold me, even in the midst of my sin.

What a gracious God that while we were still sinners He died for us.  What a compassionate God that He doesn't spit spiteful speech out at us like daggers (like some mothers I know!), but gently nudges us in our hearts by His Spirit.

I'm floored by His mercy and loving-kindness.

I want to look more like Him.

It is a great week to meditate on such things!


April 15, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 15}: Parenting

I'm getting softer as a parent as we march along this journey with our kids.  For the most part, this is really good; I was not the most compassionate and kind mother when it was just Elizabeth.  Lately, however, I've found myself not wanting to bother with many training and discipline moments, because I feel maxed trying to keep up with the basics of family and home management. Some of my attitude is a reaction to having a highly active and assertive toddler in our home. And some of my response is old fashioned selfishness, I can't deal with a tantrum or whining right now, so I won't invite them in.


I don't know about you, but I am always wondering if I'm getting anything "right" as a parent.  I believe this comes from being a parent in an environment that gives the impression that we have to figure everything out, have a plan and system for every eventuality, and if you don't, your children are doomed.  Maybe that's just my interpretation, but I imagine some of you know what I'm talking about. I feel the pressure from both secular and Christian influences and can tie myself up in knots trying to sift through all the information and expert opinions. In the process, I completely miss out on enjoying family life.

How does this all relate to yesterday?

The house was a mess.  Tons of out-of-place toys, books, games, shoes, and clothes needed to be returned to their proper homes.  Often I find it easier to deal with the picking up myself, because it's faster and I don't have to listen to anyone potentially complain about helping.  I knew I needed to get the kids in on the action yesterday evening, however, for their good and mine.  Katherine was watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood; the window of opportunity was open.

I asked the kids to help.

They did!  Without complaining!

Elizabeth tackled the living room and wanted to do it on her own.  Brian helped me prepare pizza dough, then assisted me in picking up and vacuuming the kitchen while the dough rose.

I was interrupted by grace at how God helped me to get over myself and get my kids in on helping.  And I was interrupted by grace that they did with such vigor and enthusiasm, which I believe was God's way of assuring me that everything's gonna be okay.


April 14, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 14}: Connecting

My house is such a mess today, Monday.  I had a very fun weekend.  There is a causal relationship!

There was so much joy in this weekend, I'm not sure what to share with you.  I'm thankful for having opportunity to see my dad, (in person, not on Skype, yay!), the fun of celebrating a birthday with dear friends from our Pittsburgh church, having time Sunday afternoon to do some edifying reading, the jubilance (is that a word?) of Palm Sunday worship, and enjoying a stroll to the park with the kids.  Oh yeah, the weather was PERFECTION, too.  This weekend filled up my heart.



But I suppose I was most interrupted by grace when I got to have a conversation with a friend from our Cambridge, MA days who had contacted me about "'picking my brain" about blogging and speaking.  The Lord worked it out just right that she was free as we were driving into the city on Saturday morning.  As I talked with her I thought about two things:
  1. How neat it is to reconnect with people you never see, except on Facebook, and
  2. How neat it is that God guides our steps.
I did not have any life-changing wisdom to share with Rebecca, but it was so fun to connect with her and learn about how similar we are in thinking and interests.  It was a delight to be able to say, I'm gonna pray for you and your ministry desires and pursuits when you come to mind.  It was a comfort to affirm one another in our current work and ministry as mothers of young children.  My heart soared with joy after talking with her, knowing that as God has opened doors for me He will for her too.

Rebecca, thanks for initiating the opportunity to connect!

I hope your weekend, dear reader, had some life-giving elements to it and some moments where you had to pause and give thanks as God interrupted you by grace.

April 12, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 12}: Family

Yesterday was one of those strange days that is just fine but feels strange.  It was a Friday that felt like a Saturday.  I also ate too many cookies.

Thursday evening we'd had a water backup into our basement from our dish and clothes washers.  We had dealt with the immediate problem, the water, but needed to take care of getting the clog out of the pipes.  By 'we,' I mean that my husband needed to take care of getting the clog out of the pipes.

Friday, we had plans for my mom to come out to visit with my niece and nephew in the afternoon, so the kids and I were looking forward to that.  Colin, thankfully, only had morning commitments, so while we were visiting and playing upstairs, he spent the afternoon in the basement snaking pipes.  Lots was happening in the house, but nothing particularly scheduled, planned, or routine!




It was a family day.  Of course, it was not a family day like one spent at an amusement park, but rather one where family is loving and taking care of things and one another in the order and chaos of day-to-day life:  my mom had my sister's kids so she could attend a wedding; my husband was doing household maintenance so I could wash the growing piles of dishes and clothes asap; my kids were playing with their cousins, happily passing a rainy afternoon indoors; my mom and I talked so we can use the time she's here well and be prepared for our trip to Rwanda*; my mom also tended to a few things for me during nap so I could submit our taxes.


Looking back on the day, I am interrupted by the grace of how God knits families together and the many opportunities we have to love and care for one another.  These are the building blocks of trust upon which relationships are formed.  Family is a strange beast; we all know how annoyed we can get with our family members, don't we?  And we sure are able to offend and repel one another at times with skill, too, aren't we?  But within our families we also find a great training ground for learning to live with and love other people.



Not sure what your plans are for the weekend.  We've got more family time coming up today, since my dad heads back to Rwanda tomorrow.  These moments of reflection have been good for reminding me what a blessing it is to be sharing and making history together with the family God's given me.  I pray you to can enjoy some mundane but sweet family time this weekend too!



Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Colossians 3:12-14


*My parents currently live in Rwanda, where my dad is working for Carnegie Mellon University, directing their new masters program.  First class graduates this spring!  We will be visiting them in May; I'll post some pictures!!

April 11, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 11}: Opportunities

I'm sure you noticed that yesterday I had the opportunity of sharing a post at itakejoy, Sally Clarkson's blog home.  I was interrupted by grace to receive a brief, affirming note from her at the end of the day about my post.  What a gift.  You know, I get so nervous about how exposed I feel writing in someone else's space.  Often my prayers are for God to guide me in what to say.  He has answered those prayers.


I don't know that I have the brain power to tell the whole story about my connection to Sally and her ministry.  But boy, if it isn't so very obvious God intended for our paths to cross.  I learned about Clay and Sally Clarkson originally in a book I picked up about homeschooling from the shelf at the library in Cambridge, MA called Homeschooling Methods.  Nothing about the book's cover indicated it's Christian bent, which it decidedly had.  The final section of the book was about whole-hearted home education and had a piece by the Clarksons.

From there, the rest is history, I guess.  A combination of providential moments and opportunities grasped.  I had the immense privilege of attending a weekend intensive in Sally's home in Colorado in the summer of 2010.  I was still pretty new to the Clarkson's ministry, but learned so much that weekend and met so many lovely women who wanted to serve other women and their own families.

Since the intensive, I've had a few opportunities to speak or lead breakout sessions for some women's retreats.  Again, these have been things that God has dropped in my lap at very specific times.  I stand amazed every time I think about any of those experiences.

I'm humbled by opportunities God has provided for me since I first started to say out loud that I'd like to be a speaker/teacher for women.  I'm thankful to have those to look back on to remember to breathe deep and relax, while I keep reading and learning and growing where I'm planted right now.  He provides in the places where we dream; He is the real dream giver and dream fulfiller.

I was very surprised late last summer to be invited to contribute at itakejoy, surprised and thrilled!  With each opportunity offered, I take another step in the journey, find another place to learn and grow, and have another chance to pour out from what I've been given.  It's all of grace and I am so thankful.

Hopefully this is reasonably coherent, because I need to prioritize getting to bed over editing this evening.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

April 10, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 10}: Our New Co-op

Gonna have to be a quick post tonight.  We had a bit of a water problem this evening that took up our time.  Colin and I are just now sitting down to the things we wanted or needed to do tonight.  I also think Colin finally ate his dinner around nine.  Poor guy.

Anyway, yesterday I was interrupted by grace that it was a co-op day.  We moved here shortly before the school year began and I was looking for a homeschool co-op for our family.  Of the biggest groups in town, one was full and the other a little out of the way.  I was also not sure about how the timing of either would work for our current life stage, i.e. having a napper.


One day I was poking around online and found a note in a church bulletin announcing that a woman named Patty was trying to start up a new homeschool co-op to meet biweekly on Wednesday mornings.  Seemed ideal for us!  So in late August, I traipsed to a meeting with a couple of strangers to see how things would go.  Turns out they were hoping to have a fun, laid-back co-op environment, which is what we were used to and loved about the Pittsburgh group we left behind.

It has been a great year getting to know these two other families.  With only a few more sessions before the end of the year, yesterday I was feeling so grateful for God's provision of this group.  He hears our prayers and answers them, timing it all so perfectly.  Sometimes He even uses Google searches and just-coming-into-being groups!

Can you look back over the last six to twelve months and see the hand of God guiding your steps?

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

Say "Yes!"


Last I had the opportunity to share with you, I encouraged you wonderful ladies to hide God’s word in your heart by memorizing Scripture passages that you felt God wanted you to focus on.  At the time, I was memorizing the passage in I John 4 about love.  Loving others does not come naturally to me, (does it to anyone out there?!), so taking time to dwell on God as the definition of love and how He shows love was just what the Great Physician ordered.  And wouldn’t you know it, God used His Word to get me thinking not only about loving others in my church or neighborhood, but also my closest neighbors, the ones with bedrooms on the same hall as mine – my husband and kids.

You see, I often won’t hesitate to drop what I’m doing to help a neighbor or take a phone call from a friend.  But when one of my children needs me to stop for a few minutes and read them a story, come see their new Lego creation or simply listen to them share their latest out-of-this-world idea, my answer is often, “Not now.  Later.”  Or when my husband needs to talk at exactly the time I’m about to put my feet up and enjoy a little “me time” with a cup of tea and a book, my body language screams “leave me alone” while I pretend to listen and be interested.
I know the right, kind and loving thing to do: engage.
Like Jesus.
But I often don’t want to do the right, kind and loving thing! ...
- Find the rest of today's post over at itakejoy.com !

April 9, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 9}: Accident Avoided

Yesterday on our way to meet my mom for lunch, I almost caused an accident.  I'd say the cause was 25% impatience, 75% ignorance.  I had forgotten that just after the on-ramp near town, there was a change in the traffic pattern.  I don't drive it that often.  The two vehicles in front of me were slowing down getting onto the highway and I couldn't understand why, so as soon as I had the dotted line, I pulled out into the other lane to get up to highway speed.  I had not able to see anything, because the front vehicle was a big dump truck and there were no signs indicating a change in the traffic pattern.  Anyway, I was going along just fine for a few seconds, then realized that those two cars had their turn signals on to get into the same lane.  I panicked a little and then stopped to let the big truck in, as he slammed on his breaks to keep from hitting the lane-change markers.  Now that I think about it, I'm still confused about how it all happened and I know I should not have stopped.  But anyway, the truck guy just waited for me to keep going, honking at me as I headed on my way, of course.  I would have done the same.  Then about five minutes later when he passed me, he made sure to get in another honk.  (Thankfully, he got of the highway not long after so we didn't have to travel "together" any longer!)

I really felt bad.  I did not intend to make anyone angry or give them that heart attack feeling you get when you think you're about to have an accident.  But I couldn't apologize to the other drivers, I just hoped they would extend me some grace.

These kinds of experiences really throw me for a loop, because there's nothing I can do to redeem myself in a stranger's eyes, which reveals the good-reputation-idol in my heart.  I imagined that poor trucker telling stories about me for the rest of the day and me not being there to defend myself!  Often on days like this, I would be incapable of shaking that sinking feeling all day.  I was interrupted by grace by how the experience did not color my day.  The Lord helped me to share the experience with my mom briefly and move on.  And in the moments when my guilty fears crept up to the surface, He helped me to keep them in check

I'm also immensely thankful that the Good Lord saved me and the other drivers from an accident.  Accidents are so very inconvenient, aren't they?

Needless to say, when I get back on that highway as I have plans to for this coming Saturday, I'm going to take my good old time!


Have a great afternoon.  We've got some sunshine here that I'm hoping we can get out to enjoy!

April 8, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 8}: Doing the Taxes

Well friends, it's that time of the year again when we render unto Caesar or he renders back to us, depending upon how the numbers work out!  Usually my brave-hearted, knowledgeable husband takes care of preparing our taxes, but with his duties as a first-year professor, I knew it would be a great relief if I tackled the task.

I went into it feeling confident, believing the tax software could move mountains, if necessary. True to my assumptions, I found the federal tax process was fairly straight forward.  Then I started into the state process and about half way through I was no longer sure whether I understood English.  Honestly, Pennsylvania, do I need a PhD to understand your tax forms?  Good grief.

Since this month seems to be all about sharing my stellar character traits, I've got another one for you.  When I encounter something I don't understand or can't easily do, I get all hot and bothered and quit, because I'm embarrassed by how asking for help will reveal my ignorance and I pridefully think I should be able to do it.  This came out mid-PA taxes.  I could not figure out where to find a couple of pieces of information (some codes) and after texting Colin to see if he had a clue - so much for not bothering him - I left the office after a final, "Nevermind, I'll do this later," text.

After a few minutes of putzing around in the kitchen still feeling agitated, I was compelled to admit  to myself how my sin was getting in the way of making more progress on the taxes.  Timidly, I marched back toward the office, swung my legs over the baby gate, and got back down to business by making a phone call.


I don't like making phone calls.


But God was interrupting me by grace, helping me to face down my fear of others' perception of me and kick my pride to the curb.  I didn't feel chastised for my immature running away from my "problem," but I did feel a little sheepish about my behavior.  Just enough to get me back into that office and be a big girl!

Maybe this all sounds silly.  It is.  I was really worked up about something that had a solution, if I was willing to chill out and ask for help.  Undeserving as I was, there in my silliness the Lord met and helped me.


Jesus's Gentle Way

I've been struck this month by how Jesus is portrayed in the book of Mark, even being only five chapters in.  Yesterday I read chapter four which ends with the story of Jesus calming the storm.  You remember the story, I'm sure, about the frightened disciples waking Jesus with questions about whether or not He even cared about their lives.  First, He calms the storm.  Then He asks them, Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?

Often I have imagined Jesus asking those questions in an irritated or disgusted tone.  However, yesterday morning, several hours pre-PA tax exasperation, I had imagined Him inquiring with compassion.

Children, why are you so afraid?  Do you still - after seeing what I can do, hearing my teaching, and walking with me - have no faith?

And I imagine the disciples (who were, incidentally, then terrified by Jesus' power) thinking, Wow, Jesus is right.  Why are we afraid?  We're with HIM!


Yesterday afternoon, I got caught in a taxes storm, afraid and expressing zero measure of faith in anything but myself.  It was not working out well.  How profound that Jesus calms storms that rage around us then turns to us in compassion and says, Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?

Makes me wanna sing one of Katherine's favorites:

God is so good.
God is so good.
God is so good,
He's so good to me.

How was he good to you today?

April 7, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 7}: Talking About Growing Up


This weekend was a coming-together of thoughts and a release from fear that I owe to God, of course, but that He worked mostly through a friend's bold blog post called, Let's Talk About Sex.

We have an almost 10-year-old young lady in our home who lives in her own little innocent and beautiful world.  She doesn't ask many questions.  Lately, I've been feeling like I need to talk with her about being female and life changes that are coming up.  But I've also felt so petrified about how to get the conversation going when she's not inquiring!  In addition, I've been immensely confused about what she needs to know right now and what could be saved for a future date.

I read Ruthie's post on Saturday and felt inspired to get talking with Elizabeth from a Godly perspective.  So I sat first to talk with God on Sunday morning about "what to do."  He helped me work out the important things for our eldest to know now and what could be left for later.  He led me to Scripture (Genesis 1 and Psalm 139) that talks about how we're made: how wonderfully, how specifically, how intentionally.  And He whispered to my heart, There's no time like the present.  Brew some tea, get out some chocolates, and chat tonight.  I felt emboldened by that quiet time and at ease.

Nevertheless, because I'm pro at wimping out and not following through, I told Elizabeth that morning that  before bedtime we'd be having a special tea and chat about being a woman.

She was so excited about it!  Maybe it was the appeal of tea and chocolate, but whatever it was, my nervous mommy heart set even more at ease.

As we were getting tea ready that evening and picking out our chocolates, Elizabeth said to me, "You know what I think would be cool, mom?  Starting a mom and daughter Bible study where we read something from the Bible together and talk about it."

The Lord had used His Word to give me structure for talking with Elizabeth about growing and changing.  The Lord had also been working in Elizabeth's heart to give her a love for reading and knowing more about the Word.

Coincidence?

Nope, just another interrupted by grace moment brought to me by the Good Shepherd, my Heavenly Father.

By the way, our time together was super fun and natural and just right for where our big girl is at the moment.  Phew!  Praise the Lord.



How was your weekend?  Looking back, can you see a time or two that God interrupted you by grace?  I'd love to hear your stories, so don't hesitate to leave a comment!




April 5, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 5}: Forgiveness

Happy weekend!  I sure love Saturday mornings.  For us, it's the one morning a week that we don't have to rush to start into school work or be anywhere, most of the time.  Over the last couple of months we've used Saturdays mornings, after leisurely waking up, watching some cartoons, having breakfast, and getting ready for the day, to pick up the week's mess in our bedrooms.  That's pretty much the plan for this morning, too.

But, before anyone else comes downstairs, I've got this time to write and share with you about yesterday's interrupted by grace moment.

During Lent, I've been reading through Matthew and Mark.  This past week I finished Matthew and began Mark's account of Jesus's life.  Yesterday morning, cuddled in my bathrobe, sipping my coffee and listening to the birdsong outside, I read chapter three, which begins with the story of the paralytic who is brought to Jesus by his friends and lowered down in front of Him through the roof.  Verse five sounded in my heart like an alarm, waking me to truth,

"Son, your sins are forgiven."

Bam!

Five words and Jesus pronounced the paralytic washed clean.

The alarm in my heart rang with joy to my soul, Heather, it's no different for you.  Your sins are forgiven.  It's done.  And it's as marvelous as it feels.  Good news of great joy!

I finished reading the chapter, then grabbed an index card to write down the verse for hanging in the window above the kitchen sink.



I included the last thing Jesus said to the no-longer paralytic, because it reminded me that the Christian carries on in forgiveness after being forgiven.

Yesterday the day began with such hope as the Lord interrupted me by grace with the truth that when Christ says, "Your sins are forgiven," they are!  From that center, you and I can live life in joy and peace, by taking up the mat of sin that used to paralyze us and going home upright on the  strong, healthy legs of forgiveness.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Enjoy the rest of your weekend!  When I do a series, Sundays are non-writing days.  So I'll catch you on Monday.


April 4, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 4}: Work

Yesterday was a day at home taking it easy for the sick two, who were improved, but not yet 100%.  I don't know why it is, but I almost enjoy life more when it gives me permission to just "be" at home.  We could not make plans with friends and we couldn't go out to so anything, yet it was a lovely day.  The oddest reality of all was that I had a burst of desire to work hard and reap the benefits.  When the kids rested in the afternoon, I kept setting the timer for 10 minute intervals (Pomodoro style) to see how much I could accomplish.  Before I knew it, an hour was gone and the house had benefited.  When the older two came down from their rest for their usual post-rest date with Netflix, I was even able to write yesterday's post, on my clean, uncluttered kitchen table!

Since I let you in on the truth about my complaining spirit yesterday, today I'll let you in on another of my secrets.  Every single day I have to fight my laziness.  Man, I do not want to work!  Ever.  Then this week, coming off of our fun day at the zoo and into illness, well, I wanted to put on sweat pants for the next week and lounge about reading, checking Facebook, and watching tv.

I chose jeans, instead.

Often in my morning quiet times I confess my sloth to the Lord and get filled up with hope for the day ahead - all those future hours that could be used so well!  Then, after everyone's awake and I'm actually face-to-face with my responsibilities, I fall into my ingrained habits of ignoring or avoiding them.  Thus, yesterday I was interrupted by grace in God giving me the drive to tend to my work with joy and perseverance.

And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed,do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  ~Colossians 3:17

Speaking of, here's something I'll be needing to do while giving thanks this weekend!
At some point you have to stop just moving the stacks around, right?  :)



Praying that you've experienced God interrupting you by grace this week, dear reader, and that it is strengthening your faith.

See you tomorrow!
Heather

April 3, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 3}: When Illness Strikes

Yesterday started with fearful sobbing coming from Katherine's room, at 2:30am.  The smell when I opened the door told me there was laundry to put in the washer and a sick child to bathe.  Poor girl.  It was four before she was willing to be left again in her freshly sheeted crib.

I slept in till seven (should it even be legal to say that?), and the rest of the day was approached in a laid back fashion.  Brian started feeling sick late morning.  After school work was done, we played some Mall Madness, everyone took their usual afternoon rest time, and we watched a movie in the afternoon.  Brian crashed into bed before he could eat dinner and Katherine started throwing up about the same time - more laundry, another bath.  Really, the whole day was pretty strange, strange peaceful.  I even got to have a quick trip out with just Elizabeth after dinner to get a few necessaries.  She's good company, that girl.


As I processed the day while forcing myself to do chores before heading to bed, it hit me that I never needed a nap!  The Good Lord had sustained me through the day and not once did it occur to me to think about, let alone complain about, the interrupted sleep.  That was not what I expected when I had crawled back into bed at four a.m.

God interrupted me by grace in revealing Himself as my Sustainer!  Boy, was I grateful.

God also used the day to address how much I want to complain (I really like to complain, don't tell anyone) about how hectic life is with an active toddler and three talkative kids.  Forgive me, Lord.  A sick and sluggish Katherine is the saddest thing.  And a day with hardly a question from Brian about how the world works?  Awful.  I would much rather have floors littered with toys at the end of the day and have barely had a moment's mental peace, than see my kids in such helpless states as they were yesterday.  I'm thankful for the perspective a sick day provided.


God is good, even when the circumstances are not.

How has He been good to you in the last 24 hours?


April 2, 2014

Interrupted by Grace {Day 2}: That's Why it's Called Grace

For an intro to this series, click here.


On Monday, we had a super-duper fun day.  It was the last school day of the month, which we always reserve for a field trip, and the good Lord had given us prefect weather for a zoo visit with a bunch of friends.  It was also Opening Day of the baseball season, a big deal around here, because baseball is our family's sport.  I was happy from head to toe, decked out in my Pirates gear.  We had a great day seeing friends, being outside and observing the animals.


That evening, after the exhilarating day, I couldn't bring myself to do any chores.  So, Tuesday morning I woke up to dishes that needed washing and a to-do list too long for the day.  In my quiet time I talked with the Lord about my desire to use the day well, honor Him, enjoy the time with the kids learning, etc.  After that, my impatience mounted throughout the morning as I kept making that list the focus of my attention, Elizabeth took an eternity to complete a math page that she knew how to do quickly and I moved from messy room to messy room in my house feeling like a failure.

On top of all that, I knew that by the end of the day I had to write a blog post to start off a month of being on the look out for where God was interrupting me by grace.  The accuser started saying to my mind, Honestly, if those nice people who read your writing knew what you were really like, they'd think twice about taking your word on anything!  I started believing him.  He had a very good point.

But the evil one, as true as his accusations may be, does not have the final say.  In obedience, at lunchtime I asked my kids to forgive me for my impatient and unloving attitude toward them.  (I really, really hate when I have to apologize.  My pride is a beast, friends.)  Those precious little ones forgave this undeserving mom, and the rest of the day went of without a hitch - much of the list was completed and we got to the park to play for a little while.  Praise God!

Another thing happened throughout the afternoon, as I wondered how in the world I was going to get a blost* in before midnight!  My Father, the Good Shepherd, said to my heart, Dear one, you're about to embark on a month of writing about being interrupted by grace.  If you deserved it, it wouldn't be grace.

Gosh.  He was right.  I believed Him.  He had a better point than the accuser who was right about my guilt, but has no right to condemn a child of the King.  Be still my soul.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  ~ Colossians 3:1-3

*     *     *

For the sake of getting enough sleep this month, I'll be writing about the previous day.  I hope you don't mind.  :)  Do you have any good interrupted by grace stories to share from the beginning of your April?

Have a great day!  (We're in the throws of a stomach bug over here, but more on that tomorrow.  ha!)


*This is my condensed word for blog post.