Friday, August 1, 2014

Beautiful Living

(photo from internet source, not mine)


Alexandra Stoddard said, "Single days experienced fully add up to a lifetime lived deeply and well." It is good advice. So many times I save up real living for later or for special occasions and trudge through daily life in the meantime. How much better to make ordinary days special as well?

It can be something as simple as drinking my morning tea or coffee in a beautiful china teacup sometimes instead of a utilitarian mug. I can light a favorite scented candle just because as I dust furniture or wash dishes instead of saving it for when company comes. I remember several years ago when I bought some white carnations, trimmed the stems short and put them in a small white ceramic pitcher placed on the bathroom counter top. My kids kept asking if we were going to have company. They were used to seeing flowers on the kitchen table from time to time but never in the bathroom. The carnations were a grace note to a room where routine rituals happen every day without anyone thinking much about it. Something as simple as a bouquet of flowers turned them into something special and I kept wondering why I never thought of it before.

Making the smallest of details something special can change the tone of the whole day and helps us realize that depriving ourselves of an enriched life also deprives of moments of joy that can be easily achieved no matter what else is going on. One doesn't have to be rich to experience richness. When we can introduce small but beautiful details into daily life perhaps we won't be as tempted to dwell on what we don't have.

The question then becomes, how do I want to live? What small things can I do to bring pleasure to an otherwise ordinary routine? When I seek to live each day deeply and well, there are fewer regrets in the end.


***

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." - Philippians 4:8


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Oswald Chambers: Becoming Entirely His

"Many of us appear to be all right in general, but there are still some areas in which we are careless and lazy; it is not a matter of sin, but the remnants of our carnal life that tend to make us careless. Carelessness is an insult to the Holy Spirit. We should have no carelessness about us either in the way we worship God, or even in the way we eat and drink.

Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the outward expression of that relationship must also be right. Ultimately, God will allow nothing to escape; every detail of our lives is under His scrutiny. God will bring us back in countless ways to the same point over and over again. And He never tires of bringing us back to that one point until we learn the lesson, because His purpose is to produce the finished product. It may be a problem arising from our impulsive nature, but again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to that one particular point. Or the problem may be our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest. Through this process, God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives.

We have been having a wonderful time in our studies over the revealed truth of God’s redemption, and our hearts are perfect toward Him. And His wonderful work in us makes us know that overall we are right with Him. “Let patience have its perfect work . . . .” The Holy Spirit speaking through James said, “Now let your patience become a finished product.” Beware of becoming careless over the small details of life and saying, “Oh, that will have to do for now.” Whatever it may be, God will point it out with persistence until we become entirely His."

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Monday, July 21, 2014

Am I Grace or Karma?

Karma is a term people use to say that what goes around, comes around and that what we reap, we will sow. Reaping what we sow is actually a biblical concept and in God's way of doing things that principle is always filtered through grace. The consequences are often unavoidable when we do bad things but God helps those who are repentant through it and works it out for good in the end.

But left up to me, grace doesn't always come easily and my knee-jerk reaction when someone does something wrong is to insist that things be made right, hoping "karma" comes back and bites the person who was a jerk (or worse). Those kinds of feelings rise when I watch the news, see the bad behavior of celebrities, with our President's arrogant mishandling of so many things (that's a whole other post!), when another driver takes the parking space I was waiting for or cuts me off in traffic, when someone makes a hurtful comment. I confess at times like those, for an unguarded moment, I want Miss Karma to do her best with them all.

I always have to be on guard and ask myself if my idea of what I think people deserve represents who I am in Christ or if it instead becomes a passive-aggressive way to stick it to someone with my brand of justice whether it be sighing impatiently when the person ahead of me in the check-out takes too long, or deciding to ignore people who have offended me instead of resolving the issue and acknowledging maybe I am the offending party.

The idea of karma is a concept everyone understands but the biblical principle of returning good for evil is different. And harder. It doesn't mean I can't value justice - scripture is clear that it is important to God - but while I grasp that in one hand I need to grasp His grace in the other. And I must never, ever forget that His grace has been extended to me abundantly and without it I would not survive what I deserve.

One of my favorite scriptures is this: "...He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:8. God asks me to live with justice but through the filters of mercy and humbleness in my treatment of others. It shows me that I need to strive to show grace to others because God is gracious. He asks me to be patient, kind, and merciful because that's who He is and that's what He extends to me no matter how badly I behave.

Scripture is clear that we do reap what we sow. That's why grace is always the better seed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook


My own version of the Simple Woman's Daybook for today:

Outside my window...
It feels like fall. The temps will only get in the 60's today but I love it. The sun is shining and the birds don't seem to mind the coolness at all.

I am thinking...
It's sad that I hardly write letters anymore. I'm down to just a few regular pen friends as the rest rely on Facebook or emailing. I'm still friends with the former pen pals but now I track their lives through snippet posts on Facebook or an occasional email. I suppose the positive side of this is that with postage going up every year, I'll save money by not writing so many letters.

I am thankful for...
The more I watch the news, the more I'm thankful for the freedoms we enjoy here in America. It really is a grace note to be able to go about my daily life without fear of violence. Yes, bad things still happen and can happen at any given moment or place, but most of us are able to live without that being foremost in our minds.

From the kitchen...
I've neglected keeping it tidy. I don't like a messy kitchen but sometimes life just gets busy and the dishes accumulate in the sink, especially over the weekend. I'll take care of it today.

I am reading...
Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn Dingman.

I am creating...
A cute set of felt dolls for Tilly. She's too young for them right now so I'll save them for later.

Around the house...
Dear son's things have begun to spill over into other living areas outside of his room. I'll have to do a little nagging today.

On my MP3 player this week...
Matt Redman

One of my favorite things...
Over-easy eggs on crisp toast.

One of my least favorite things...
Political correctness and being judged a hater or intolerant when of the opinion that if God says something is sin in scripture, it means just that.

A Simple Grace Note...
Last week we woke up to discover the refrigerator wasn't as cold as it should be. It is ninteen years old but buying a new one right now isn't really in our budget. Fortunately I'm married to a man who knows a lot about things like this and he was able to discover what was wrong and fixed it. It's running good as new now.

My simple devotion...
"Being God's dwelling place means your worth isn't tied up in what people think about you. ...You're never going to be perfect, but you don't have to be. A temple that's a little broken down or faded on the outside is still a temple, if God's presence is there. His presence in you is what matters most. Just be sure the curtain is down, that there is nothng partitioning God's presence from other parts of your life. Remember, the torn curtain in the temple didn't erase God's holiness; it let his holiness out. He wants to do the same thing in your life. He desires to remove whatever comes between you and him. He longs to dwell in you and make your whole life holy." - Drew Dyck, Yawning at Tigers

Pictures to Share: Our sweetie Matilda at four months old showing one of her many fun expressions, and a photo of the birth sampler I finally finished for her, ready to be framed.





Friday, July 4, 2014

Do You Know All the Verses of The Star Spangled Banner?


The Star Spangled Banner

In 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem, Defense of Fort McHenry. The poem was later put to the tune of (John Stafford Smith's song) The Anacreontic Song, modified somewhat, and retitled The Star Spangled Banner. Congress proclaimed The Star Spangled Banner the U.S. National Anthem in 1931.

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner:
O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Remember...

In my Bible study these days a thought keeps resonating: Remember.

It's a significant theme that appears many times in scripture as we are instructed to remember days, events, places, people, and teachings that speak to God's holiness, power, character, and sovereignty.

Without remembrance, we are in danger of listening to other voices that tickle our ears with promises of another Jesus who is more politically correct and gives us a pass on sin, a salvation where "love wins" and the cross doesn't matter, and special revelations and mystical experiences that aren't biblical no matter how spiritual they seem. Before we know it we have forgotten who God is, what He has done for us, and what He promises with protection and blessing when we obey...and dire consequences when we choose our own way over His.

He is a jealous God who will not share our affections for other things more than Him. He is a holy God who will not overlook our deciding to ride the fence on issues that He has declared sin. And He will not tolerate being mocked when we we ascribe to Him through the Holy Spirit words and manifestations He did not say or do.

But ultimately, I think what what we are in danger of forgetting is that the whole of scripture is one huge love story with the bright scarlet thread of redemption woven into the drab fabric of our fall from grace, leading to His perfect plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. I think that is what He wants us to remember most of all and it is the message being lost in the church.

Remember the cross and the empty tomb and why we need a Savior. Remember who you are in Christ. Remember what God has done and will do. Remember His holiness.

Remember.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Simple Truth

"It may sound boring or out-of-date, but it just happens to be true: the way to grow in your relationship with Jesus is to pray, read your Bible, and go to a church where you'll get good preaching, good fellowship, and receive the sacraments. I'm not suggesting Christianity can be boiled down to a few external requirements. I'm not saying that at all. I'm arguing that if you want to be Christlike you need to have communion with Christ, and if you want communion with Christ you need to do it on his terms with the channels of grace he's provided. And that means the only way to extraordinary holiness is through ordinary means." - Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Wake-Up Call

Sometimes for change to happen we need a jolt, a kick in the behind, a wake-up call to spur us into action. I got mine last week.

I was mostly concerned about what might be going on with my thyroid so I arranged to have some blood work done and thought I may as well have the lab do the general metabolic and lipid (cholesterol) screenings too since it had been quite a while since I last had them.

It's always disturbing to get the results with certain things flagged with "high" printed in red ink. I have some serious work to do to improve these health issues (high cholesterol, including high triglicerides and the bad LDL; high blood glucose, and high liver enzymes indicating poor liver function due to a condition called "fatty liver" - nice name, huh?).

The good news is that the five thyroid tests were all normal but as for the rest, it's sobering and scary, but it is also the wake-up call I need. Appearance is a plus with losing weight but is no longer the main priority. I want to be around for many years to come for my family and especially grandchildren, and I want that life to be one of quality.

No amount of remorse for past choices will change what is already done but I can change my future as much as it is in my power to do so with the choices I make from this point on. I can treat this one body I have better and give it what it needs to heal and function as the Lord intended it to.

The challenge will be shifting my thinking from feeling deprived because there are certain foods I will have to avoid, to focusing on all the good foods I can have; a shift from seeing exercise as a chore to something fun that I can look forward to. The exercise thing will take some doing because I'm not naturally drawn to physical movement and would rather do something quiet like reading or crafts.

Wake-up calls are not pleasant but sometimes they are necessary for change to happen.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Significance of God's Affection



"Don't lose sight of God's holiness and power. Those very qualities make his love significant. Without a healthy respect for God's greatness, his affection loses value. ...The affection of a familiar, buddy deity is one thing; the love of the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who dwells in unapproachable light, is something else entirely. As Francis Chan wrote, 'The fact that a holy, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, merciful, fair, and just God loves you is nothing short of astonishing.'" - Drew Dyck, Yawning at Tigers

Sunday, June 8, 2014

36 Years and Counting...

A few weeks ago we had photos taken for our new church directory and it happened to coincide with our 36th wedding anniversary so here's our "now" and "then". He's still my best friend...


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Gifts From Mom


We ended up with lots of things from my mother-in-law's belongings after clearing out her house first, then her assisted living apartment. I wasn't sure what to do with it at first but this is what our front entry looks like now, including an original watercolor by a local artist (cattail picture) and her kitchen table with one of the four chairs. The pillow case was among other embroidered linens she or her mother had done and I like the whimsical touch it adds. Everything seen is from her except for the framed photos and basket of flowers on the table, and is a pleasant way to remember her each day.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tilly at Three Months

Our little sweetheart is three months old already! Here are some photos taken by her mom.

I think this is my favorite.




Tilly's so done with this photo session!



These show Tilly's wide-eyed signature expression and it cracks me up every time I see it.


This is what sweetness looks like. We all love those tiny eyelashes and kissable cheeks.