Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quick - To the Mom Cave!


I really think Batman was on to a good thing with his self-contained, state-of-the-art underground hideaway! To escape the demands of the world, he retreated to his solitary domain to rethink, regroup and recharge. I could certainly make great use of such a haven…(Note to Self: add 1 bat cave to Christmas wish list).
I can see it now: a mom-style retreat completely void of dirty socks, ironing boards or soap scum, certainly no mouthy teenagers and no “It’s okay. Mom will clean that up later” messes!
Wow – do you detect a bit of cabin fever here today???
Maybe I’m just getting old and stale in my thinking. OR, perhaps both peace and quiet have grown tired of waiting around for the “vacancy” sign to light up and have moved on to another house.
I write my blog posts in the little stolen moments between trips to the dryer, standing at the stove and picking up or dropping off half a dozen kids each day. However, this particular stolen moment is interrupted by the blender groaning and chugging out my son’s milk shake while my husband can’t seem to keep his finger off the Up arrow of the remote!
I think every hard-working mom out there deserves her very own mom cave, especially this time of year. A mom cave might come in handy when:
• You’re standing behind 26 people in line in the middle of the Christmas rush and person #8 is joined by 6 of her friends, arms loaded with purchases of their own!
• After many failed attempts at constructing a gingerbread house with the kids, you finally give in and break out the heavy-duty wall putty when the frosting fails to hold your walls in place.
• You’ve already endured the kids’ 2 ½ hour Christmas music performance when the teacher announces, “For our final number, won’t you please join us in singing ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.”
• Your son or daughter comes home from school and informs you that you’ve been “nominated” to bake cupcakes for the entire 3rd grade student body for their Christmas party….tomorrow!
Okay, in all fairness, I’d have to admit that such a mom cave would get pretty lonely after….I don’t know….maybe a week or two…
Seriously, be good to yourself this season. Grab those moments of awe and wonder when they stare you head on. Take time to reflect, to truly enjoy from the inside out, to laugh with your whole heart, to say “no” to some things and “yes” to others, and to celebrate the birth of our Lord with those who make your heart sing to the highest notes.
(And don’t forget to add that mom cave to your Christmas wish list!)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30) NIV

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Love the Reign


It started when the sun took its rest beyond the trees
That perfect, random rhythm on the roof that makes you stop and listen
You know it's nothing you've created - it's the work of the Lord
It's out of your control.
I've waited all day for the gentle song of peace that now feeds my soul.
I've spent a restless, uneasy day - shifting moods and stumbling around with the clouds
As if switching unsteady dance partners in a darkened room
But then, I hear the voice in the rain:
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10) NIV
He brings the sun and the stars, and the wind that grows my strength
It's the work of the Lord - it's out of my control
He gives vision to see more clearly the blessings that surround me
He brings the dark when the day is done that I may take refuge in Him
And he brings the sweet song of rain on my roof that I may simply stop....and remember
It's His reigning power over my life and my home that comforts me
It's the work of the Lord...and I'm so glad He is in control.
"And he who searches our hearts knows the mind
of the spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's
people in accordance with the will of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the
good of those who love him, who have been called
according to his purpose." (Romans 8:27-28) NIV

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Collecting Marbles


The images have clouded over the years, but sometimes the cotton-candy like fog clears and I'm that little girl again walking the fence line with Papo; one of my childhood super heroes.
Marbles grew out of the dirt in his back yard. I remember plucking them from the ground and filling my pockets...dirt and all. He and Mamo knew just how to calm the storm of a little girl caught in the middle of divorce - how it tugged and pulled and confused me. Yet those simple, sweet, quiet moments spent walking hand-in-hand in search of little shiny spots of hope are more precious now than before as I realize God's involvement - even then.
He gives us those shiny moments in the middle of our struggle. Sometimes they're a little more hidden beneath the dirt, but they're there. He carefully plants each one just like I imagine Papo out scattering those marbles along the fence hiding them just enough to be a mystery, yet exposing just enough to catch the light of day...and a granddaughter's smile.
Sometimes it's easy to build things up in our minds when we're hoping for the perfect outcome. The perfect situation. The perfect opportunity...the perfect holiday.
I'm praying God has scattered little rays of hope along your path; treasured moments in the midst of stress and trial that reflect the light of his love - shiny moments to tuck away in the pockets of your mind.

God Bless you, and may your Thanksgiving celebration
be full of shiny moments!

When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made the one as well as the other...
(Ecclesiastes 7:14) NIV

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Matters of the Heart



My hands worked over a mound of honey-colored dough kneading with my palms across a board awash in warm sunlight of a fall afternoon. The enticing aroma of focaccia hung heavy, and in the quiet hum of tradition I connected somehow with countless others who've smiled deep within their souls the same satisfaction of such a moment.
The traditions, the matters of the heart, are what bind us together in prayer and in praise...those who marvel at simple blessings.
I think of all the long-stemmed roses I've gathered throughout the years; those cleverly disguised as mothers, grandmothers, aunts and precious lady friends who have unfurled their strength of character and fragrance of love upon my life. They have exuded grace and humility in passing down traditions born of hard work, sacrifice, love of family and a desire to best equip those fortunate enough to have received the blessings of hearth and home.
Lord, thank you for holidays past that still bring a tear. Thank you for lessons learned from the tattered hem of every apron, and for the love that still remains in each memory. Thank you for the many hands at work this season preparing and nurturing...blessing those who gather with thankful hearts.
In Jesus' name. Amen.

"Likewise teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind; and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." (Titus 2:3-5) NIV

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Unchanging


The season put on quite a show out my window yesterday, pouring leaves on the wind and letting each one choose its own path toward the bronze heap below.
There’s change in the air – can you feel it? Everyone’s talking about the cooler, shorter days as nature begins her makeover from deep greens to comforting hues of fall.
We’ve a lot to learn from the trees as they throw back their covers. They know how to put the season to good use exposing themselves to God’s rejuvenating power. Having shed their foliage, they’re left to stand bare and vulnerable before him. I suppose it’s their way of bending the knee of their will to allow for new growth.
But the glory of the season is short-lived as leaves soon whither and fade away into the landscape. Excitement builds as we wonder what awaits us in this next chapter of time. We’re captivated by a moment. A memory made, savored and tucked away to retrieve another day. But above all that’s shifting and changing around us, I realize I’m more thankful for the stability in what remains constant.
It’s the strength we gain from that which remains UNCHANGING
that allows us to tolerate the change!
I’m so thankful that God does not fluctuate with the seasons. His love and faithfulness to his people will endure forever. His Word will always ring true, and the rest and peace he offers will forever be a haven, an indescribable refuge.
The warm ambers and golds splash across the blank canvas of each new day, but they only provide the backdrop for the sustaining power of the One who orchestrates the seasons.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
(Psalm 118:1) NIV

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Prayer For the Week Ahead


Lord Jesus,

Before we jump into this busy week; before solutions or challenges are revealed, I ask for your strength and protection on each and every person who passes through this little corner of my world. Let each one feel your embrace and sense your presence for decisions yet to be made; for options yet to be offered.
Be in our thoughts and words as we interact with others.
Be in our planning of coming events as we now find ourselves in the season of celebration; yet, let us also be sensitive toward those suffering a season less than festive.
Be in the reconciliation of loved ones, of family members separated by time and ill feelings that they may begin new relationships not built upon the crumbling foundation of past hurts, but upon the stable rock of your grace.
Be with those whose hearts have been shattered by recent tragedy and unthinkable pain. Be the comfort that holds them from deep within. Dry tears shed in the most private moments. Be the force that propels them forward and gives them purpose for each new day. Let those who wander a darkened, deceptive path hear your voice above the confusion and turn toward your light….and remain there once and for all.

“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) NIV

God Bless you!

Glimpsing Heaven




We walked, bundled against an icy breeze, through a maze of coats, scarves and tiny, honking cars.
The frigid air pierced through layers of wool and excitement but couldn’t hinder the awe and romance of a few precious days in paradise with my husband.

The grand Eiffel Tower stood half shrouded in a low fog that illuminated the glow of Christmas lights below.









There was no plan. No itinerary. We wandered and strolled beyond the bustling crowd and found ourselves deep in art and history, nose-to-nose with musical brilliance.






Once inside, the faint hum of applauses offered for past performances rehearsed and enjoyed hung thick in pristine marble halls.
How does one take in such grandeur with the human eye?



















We came upon a series of doors each with tiny round windows covered in velvet blocking a spectator’s view of a private rehearsal. We stood tip-toed with noses pressed to glass, and ears reaching hard through the barrier.

And there, through the parted curtains, a peek into another world - one meant for a more sophisticated, well-dressed audience later that evening. Yet, God somehow granted us a private showing at that moment on that freezing December afternoon a million miles away from all that was home to us.

Another reminder that we've only glimpsed the Heaven that awaits us in the pleasures and joys experienced here on Earth.
We've merely been given a taste of what lies just beyond the door.












Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Building a Platform



“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) NLT

From what writer/author-type gurus tell me, I’m supposed to build a platform. I’m supposed to have a “brand.” I’m supposed to pound away at this keyboard nonstop until someone in “the business” notices me. I’m supposed to write and submit, await a rejection, then write and submit again, in the hopes of receiving a word of praise or even an acceptance. I’m supposed to build up a base of publishing credits. I’m supposed to have 12 different pieces of my heart out there sharing prime real estate on editor’s desks, vulnerable to their harsh, red splashes. I’m supposed to fold the clothes as soon as the buzzer goes off. I’m supposed to water my house plants BEFORE they turn brown and curl up their leaves like defiant little children folding their arms in a tantrum. I’m supposed to remember where everyone left their shoes, who needs lunch money and who needs a ride.

I’m supposed to have a brand new post each and everyday, like clockwork, whether it’s God-breathed or hashed out of my own spinning head. I’m supposed to have bookshelves lined with all the latest best sellers of which I’ve gleaned loads of knowledge and now put to good use.

I’m supposed to make the phone calls to family members to somehow bridge the gap between the miles and the years. I’m supposed to keep dolling out love and affection for those who trample over my heart and good intentions. I’m supposed to do it all with a smile, keep it all together, blog about it, write about it, live it, submit it, keep all the plates spinning.

I’m supposed to go after my dream with diligence even on the days when my aching body fights against itself. There is no on/off valve. I can’t spit the words out on command. They bounce around in this rock tumbler that sits on my shoulders until they’re shining and showing off their many color patterns.

My blog is where I explore the hidden chasms of my mind – new and different voices eager for their chance at the microphone.

I haven’t been called to reach publishers with my blog. I didn’t set up this little piece of cyber space “for” them. This is where I offer examples of my writing style and a glimpse of my many moods. This is where I hope to give support and encouragement to those who stumble over here in search of it. This is where even I escape the demands of the day.

In so doing, I AM building a platform (she said, stomping her foot). A platform based on Love. Of fear. Of frustration. Of hurt. Of good days and bad – it all comes into play…right here. It’s in the sincerity of love in my husband’s eyes. That one look that blocks out the TV, the noise, the kids, the obligations and every other pull.

It’s the inner call that speaks above the smell of laundry soap, the dishes yet to be washed, the view from behind the ironing board, the ticking hands of the clock, time pressing me further on whether my thoughts are fully developed or not.

So really, aren’t we all building a platform?

Take a look at where you stand at the end of the day when all the words you’ve spoken are still aglow like fireflies in your mind; perhaps the answer is in what or whom you hold the closest.

True, my dream is to live the published author’s life, but God already knows that – He’s the one shedding light on it. I have to remain true to His calling, not the calling of a thousand published authors who’ve already turned the bend and have passed me by.

My dream. My goal. My pace. My calling.

Still, I have to ask: Who’s leading you in your dance? Are you stepping on your own toes or are you entangled in the hem of His garment?

Like the fast-moving clouds overhead shifting as if switching dance partners……we’ll each find our own way.

This is my platform.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Hope for Today


I hope the Son is in your eyes today…and everyday.
I hope He holds you close as the storm approaches, and you watch it fade away together.
I hope you reach for His hand when you dare strive for the high places.
I hope you hear Him whisper your name as you drift off to sleep.
I hope you grasp the gift of forgiveness, the mercy and limitless love; the beautifully-wrapped package bearing your name.
I hope you sense His sigh on the breeze and His gaze in every rose.
I hope you hold Him close whether your heart breaks...whether it overflows.
I hope you experience love beyond words.
Joy beyond your dreams.
Perfect rest in the Savior.

My salvation and my honor depend on God

; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. “Selah”

(Psalm 62:7-8) NIV



Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Renovation


We bought our first and current home nearly 16 years ago, back when the kids were two and brand new.

The vacant 2-story stood tall and depressing much like an old work boot tossed aside and forgotten. Completely void of character, the blank exterior offered very little in the way of curb appeal. In fact, the only appealing aspect was the opportunity to escape our cramped rental home and spread our wings a bit in 1,600 square feet of “potential,” as the realtor called it.

The house was quite the disaster inside and out. The poor thing seemed too tired to even whimper a distress call, but the need was clear. Regardless, we’d become proud home owners of the tall, lanky eye-soar/fixer-upper that nobody wanted. Yes, it was a mess, but it was OUR mess.

We tried our hand at home improvement in sporadic bursts over the years; random attempts made between diaper changes and nap time as well as a husband working his way up the career ladder.

The major work happened about 5 years ago; a massive overhaul that took six months to complete. Once the dust cleared and they hauled away the oh-so-attractive Port-O-Potty from my front yard, we ended up with a whole new everything downstairs and a prettied-up exterior.

Aahhh…..finally!

The quiet relief of our finished project sort of dulled the sting of many tears and fears spent getting from point A to DONE! We set out with a goal in mind; a finished, updated home with more wiggle room for a family of four, a couple dogs and the various winged creatures that occasionally take flight from one room to the next scouring the terrain below for easy prey.

If we’d purchased a home in move-in condition, there wouldn’t be any need for improvement, nor would we have the opportunity to make it ours by infusing our own personal stamp.

I see myself in that rough-around-the-edges "before" picture, a renovation greatly in need of God’s special touch. I’m His, flawed and imperfect, needing a little sprucing up inside and out. The potential may be there, but there’s so much yet to be done.

My paint is chipped. Not everything is in working order. Though my foundation may be intact, my floors sometimes creak and weaken beneath a heavy load. The wind howls and I may bend, but through my walk with the Lord over the years, my life has become strengthened, supported by the sturdy walls of God’s Word. Each day, the light of the Lord shines in through streaked windows sometimes casting light on a mess or two. But it’s His grace that reveals the areas still needing attention, and it’s His grace which strengthens me to fix them.

I too, am that awkward fixer-upper standing stark and plain; a blank canvas ready for the work of the Master Carpenter.


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation

has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

(2 Corinthians 5:17)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eclipse


You wouldn’t believe how happy I am to be back here at the CafĂ©. I’ve just come from the most exhausting day ever! Up at 4am to shower and ready myself to board the commuter train that would transport me (kicking and screaming) away from my comfortable little life to fulfill my civic obligation to serve as a juror in Federal Court…Whoa! The big house - and I couldn’t get out of it.
So there I went, off to spend one full day of my life breathing hot, heavy L.A. air thick and seething with exhaust fumes along with various other big city, industrial-type “aromas”.
This wide-eyed gal was definitely out of her element as the train deposited me to some unknown pit in the middle of Hades. I followed the crowd through an underground tunnel….mainly because it seemed the right thing to do at the time. However, since I’m completely allergic to chaotic situations that lead to sensory overload, I got lost, asked for directions numerous times, walked and walked some more before ultimately ending up in the right place 5 whole minutes early…glory to God!
As I went about my day in an unfamiliar world unsure, uncertain and clearly UNHAPPY with my demise, the one word that pounded away in my head above all the noise, all the chaos cluttering the air waves?
“Eclipse.” Over and over again it resonated, and I had no clue why.
Finally, I realized that was the Lord "resonating," trying to convey how easy it is to sort of lose focus and become hardened when tossed into a harsh environment. It’s pretty difficult for the light of Jesus to shine through when we allow anger, fear or frustration to cloud the way. When you’re physically and emotionally spent (and your feet have been throbbing for a mile and a half), how does one reflect the love of Jesus?
It’s simple, really…you ask Him.

Lord Jesus,
Even Christians get angry, lose our cool and maybe even harden our hearts in a harsh environment. I pray for Your Holy Spirit to intervene when people and situations threaten to get in the way of the light that wants so desperately to shine from within Your people. Bring about calm and peace when the things of this world attempt to eclipse the light of Your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Grace, Grace, God's Grace!


(As per reader request, this article is back for a repeat visit).

“Be a Proverbs 31 Woman”…really?
The web site heading flashed on the screen and I felt my forehead crease. I suppose it’s something to strive for, but to be quite honest, I must have hit a pot hole on the road to becoming “The Wife of Noble Character;” nor do my children arise and call me blessed! In reality, I’ve been stuck for years at Proverbs 14:1 instead, which reads, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
No problem. That just means some days I’m better at demo than construction!
Seriously, I’ll admit I probably contribute to the tearing down of my home when I nag, become frustrated, lose patience, nag, raise my voice, insist things be done a certain way “because I SAID so,” etc….did I mention “nag”?
Call it a weakness, but I naturally default to heightened emotions rather than take the slow, prayerful approach when my words sort of flutter through the air and land on deaf ears.
To make matters worse, I’m convinced that my kids, like so many other teenagers today, suffer from “got-it-all-figured-out syndrome,” which also translates to “oh, my gosh, Mom - are you for real?” It’s a well-known condition that takes years to develop until it reaches a feverish pitch in adolescence. Their teenage hormones collide with my pre-menopausal state, whereby instantly transforming my home into a pressure cooker with no release valve!
They bug. They perfect the art of annoyance. They argue back because now that they’ve achieved the abilities to drive, successfully combat an acne breakout and text while riding a skateboard, they feel confident that they now possess more knowledge than Mom!
This, of course, creates friction in the home; hence, a mother-sized melt down of staggering proportions!
So how do we, as moms, stand any chance of becoming the Godly women Proverbs 31:10 speaks of when the frustrations of life show no sign of letting up (or getting a job and moving out on their own)? How do we overcome reactions of hostility and frustration and learn to first reach within rather than lashing out at those we love?
Two words: God’s Grace!
When my own grace has been wrung out like a dirty dish rag, it’s God’s amazing grace I pray will somehow kick in. God’s limitless, boundless, abundant grace is available to us all if we simply ask for it. Sounds easy enough, right? But how in the world can God expect us to think beyond our own tempers to quiet ourselves before Him?
It helps me to remember that, even in the heat of the moment when I’m staring in the face of defiance that God loves and cares for that person even more than I do. While He’s offering His grace to me, He’s also loving my son, daughter, husband, or whomever so much more than I ever could.
As we grow and mature in our faith, so will our human reactions diminish allowing God to take the wheel. He can do a much better job of handling the rough seas than we ever could.
1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “ Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
It’s God alone who can and will prevent us from blowing the lid off that pressure cooker…..if we only ask.

Pray this: Lord Jesus, help me to be the woman you’ve called me to be. Help me to glorify You in all that I do and say. When frustration and anger overtake me and I’m tempted to speak hurtful things, I pray for Your intervention. Help me to first seek Your grace when I have none to give. Fill me and cleanse me. Make me completely Yours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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