Saturday, February 28, 2009

More on trusting

All this trusting stuff is quite timely! I think for a lot of us right now, with illnesses, family situations and economic concerns, trust is becoming a big issue. Sometimes you just have to learn lessons all over again.

I got this email from my friend Jennifer the other day, and she gave me permission to share it.

"Just thought I would pass this along. As you know, the last few days I've been discouraged. I've felt somewhat like I was just going in circles with no clear direction at all. But God is so good to show Himself to me when I ask. Yesterday at Bible study, Donna (our pastor's wife) was teaching on Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. I had never noticed before that the Spirit led him into the wilderness. Jesus had just come from being baptized in the Jordan. He was being obedient and doing everything right, but the Spirit led him into the wilderness anyway. I automatically think I did something wrong or was disobedient when something happens to upset my little world. Perhaps we should have taken this path instead. Maybe James should have done something differently. (note - Jennifer's husband James recently lost his position and is in the interview process right now - Paula). However, God showed me that our "wilderness" right now is a direct result of Him putting us here because He wanted us to learn to trust Him completely. In the wilderness, we have two choices. We can tempt him by worrying about the outcome. Or we can trust Him to provide in His time. Just like He did with Elijah. God didn't move Elijah until the brook was completely dry. And the amazing thing to me is that Elijah stayed there waiting. If it had been me I would have sat and watched that brook get lower and lower and worried the whole time trying to figure out a plan B. But God already had a plan in place for taking care of him. It was a widow woman and her child and a small amount of flour and oil. Amazing! Nothing happens in our lives that is a surprise to Him, and nothing happens in our lives that He cannot or will not use to conform us into His image. And best of all, nothing happens in our lives that is not a direct part of His plan or purpose in not only conforming us to His image, but in glorfying Himself.

And this is a devotional that she attached to the email:
What Is God Saying? Part 1

Sometimes it is good to take time to remember and reflect. I wrote the following in the year 2000 under the title "What God Has Been Saying To Me. " As I read back over it recently, it is amazing how timely this is for 2009. I said at the time that I did want to waste the lessons of the journey. So I am inviting you to join me and reflect on these core truths.

God is HUGE!
In the little glimpses he gives me as he draws back the veil, sometimes I am absolutely without words, speechless, dumbfounded, and overcome. He is so much bigger than we have ever experienced or can possibly conceive with our finite minds.

Stay low and stay close.
This attitude reflects a heart of humility before God and sensitivity to his gentlest whisper. This is the place of brokenness, repentance, and seeking God. It is meekness, bridled strength, the humility of wisdom, having no agenda but God's. It is surrender and devotion, essential for hearing God. The only desire is to please him. When we think we have the victory, beware! There is great danger in thinking we are standing tall and strong (1 Cor. 10:12). Pride goes before a fall. God is stripping us naked, allowing us no covering but himself. He will not allow us to walk in anything but him. Only his life bears life.
Another area of staying low and staying close is spiritual warfare. In time of war, a soldier doesn't move without the command of his commanding officer. One step of presumption will be disastrous.

God is radically changing the way we ! depend o n him. God has been saying, "Stay behind me." I protested, "But God, don't you always tell your friends what you are doing?" He said, "Yes, and I am telling you that you will not be able to know what I'm doing. You know nothing about trusting me. Stay behind me. And don't peek!" I did not want to accept this. My lack of trust had to be refined. Something in me had to know, to do, to see, to understand. God calls it unbelief. I like flying by "visual flight rules." God has called us to submit to "flying on instruments" when we can't see where we're going. We must be convinced in the deepest places that we can trust him. We will depend on him fully only when we come to the end of ourselves. We must learn to more quickly get to the cross with our dependence. Radical Love won't let any person or any thing on earth meet my needs but him, so I won't trust in them.

As important as my trusting God is, he wants to know that he can trust me.
Paul said, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). Our faithfulness to God in all things, great and small, matters to him. His truth and his righteousness are established in our lives practically and experientially, by being tested one obedience at a time, by learning and application, by training and discipline, in trial and warfare. He must keep my heart tuned to his, or I perish.

The bigger the vision, the deeper the death, but missing God costs more.
The cross of Jesus will sweeten any trial, difficulty, or roadblock. God knows what we need even when we don't (but think we do). We must learn to surrender our expectations of him that he perform according to our uncrucified agenda. The "new" requirement of God is the same as the old requirement: to come and die.

Bless and honor your authorities.
It has ne! ver been more important to bless and honor our authorities. The early church was told to trust God and honor the emperor (Matt. 17:25-27, Mark 12:14-17, Rom. 13:1-7). We honor the un-honorable because of their position, not their personality. If we take authority lightly, our prayers will be hindered. We reach for God on the other side of a closed heart and draw from him until he changes the heart. We rest in God's ability to deal redemptively with our authorities, and we get out of his way.

Now It's Your Turn

Take some time alone with God before your open Bible. Let him open up his heart to you in his Word, personally, between you and him. Prayerfully reflect on your life with him. What is he saying to you? Pause and let him review the traces of his hand in your life. Ask him for a word of direction or promise.

Taken from Prayer Essentials for Living in His Presence, Vol 1, page 19-21. © 2000 by Sylvia Gunter.

Available at An archive of past devotionals is available on the website.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Loving and Trusting

One of my goals this year (I don't like the word "resolutions" - overdone)is to love people more. To judge them less, to open myself up to them, to love them.

Okay, I'm trying.

My ongoing life struggle has also been trusting God. Hence, the title of this blog. It is also my username on Sonlight Forum. It is my lifelong walk, always learning more to trust in Him.

And where is this going, you ask?

Well, I just finished a great book last night (okay, you saw that one coming, right?) titled "Why The Sky Is Blue" by Susan Meissner, who is fast becoming one of my favorite writers.

I'm not going to give you a synopsis, I'll be posting a review of what I read this month sometime soon. But here are a couple passages from the book that have stirred my heart.

"I want to learn how to look deep to see what people are really like. I want to be the kind of person who plunges past the surface and seeks to know the inner thougths of the people I am around. I want to see beauty in people like Cleo from the moment I meet them."

"I must be willing to meet God alone under His vast canopy of stars and see where the level of my trust starts and where it stops. If I am going to love people completely and at the heart of who they are, I am going to need to trust that God will watch over them the way He sees as best. Because loving people will cost me, and I need to be able to meet that price with trust so that I can enjoy love's best moments and endure the worst."

Where I am right now.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Getting rid of things......

I have been on a mission of late to "clean off" my bookshelves. If I just got rid of the ones I've actually READ I'd still have hundreds. So, some I posted on paperbackswap and bookmooch, others I have taken to Books Galore for credit (for more books, I know, I know........). A few I've given to my church for their library.

But I always have some I want to keep - usually a whole set of something. Like the Anne of Green Gables books, or Little House, or all the James Herriott novels. I like to collect some, like Pearl S. Buck novels.

And then there are the Diana Gabaldon books.

Confession time here. They are great, fabulous, engaging stories of time travel and romance. I started reading them a few years ago when I was introduced to them on the Sonlight Forums (Christian homeschool curriculum). I mean, these are the sort of books where you start reading (most are at least 700 pages) and you don't stop until you are done and you feed your family frozen pizza that week.

One problem. They are dirty. Bordering on pornographic in some parts. They are small parts, but there you go.

In the past, I have been convicted on things I have watched on tv, and I quit. When Friends got to be too much, it went off. We started off watching The Sopranos but that did not last long. I used to read lots of gory murder mysteries (Kiss the Girls, Kay Scarpetta, etc.)but reached a point where I could no longer read them. I have been very careful about what my boys read - even more than what they see on tv - because I remember books I read (when Mom wasn't looking) in junior high and younger, and those images have stayed with me all my life. You can go back and read the same page over and over, you know.

So anyway, by the time I got to high school I was pretty much done with the bodice-rippers historical romance stuff. And I haven't read much of it since. Just not interested.

But then you get to Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. And I want to scream that it is SUCH a good story - WHY did she have to make it so smutty! And all these other Christian women are reading them, and discussing them. Joke - I asked one woman online how come we can read and talk about these books when we would NEVER recommend (or even mention them) to a lady at church? And she said it is because we don't have to see each other on Sunday morning.

Wow. Okay, this conversation was two years ago, and then I laughed. And now I am How true. It is because we have no accountability.

Now, I am not such a prude that I will not read a book because it has some profanity. Life has some profanity. Sometimes reality is ugly and hard, and some of the great books have that. I can overlook some things for a really good story. Things that I don't think affect me. Hey, I've heard cussing before, reading some of it is not going to be an issue.

I haven't read the Diana Gabaldon books in a few years. They are just sitting on my shelf. I thought I'd read them again when the next one comes out. But they are on the top shelf of my bookcase, where the aren't bothering anyone. My mind right now is likening them to scorpions. We live in a very rocky area, and we get little (someimes big!) scorpions in the house, just like some folks get spiders. They hide, and generally, unless you turn on a light suddenly, or stick your hand somewhere without looking, you don't have to worry. Like shaking your shoes before you put them on if they've been left outside. You know. So, are those books, up on the shelf, sort of like scorpions?

The other night, my mind went to them, and suddenly a heard in my head (God?) saying, "If you consider those books to be pornographic, why do you have them in your house?"

Well, I really don't have a good answer for that, do I?

They are not on the shelf anymore. I listed them on paperbackswap and they got snapped up right away. So I've now spent about $15 on postage (I'm telling you, these are some THICK books!) to send them away. But, now I have credit to select new books.

So, I know this time of year, after we get all our Christmas goodies, and we are trying to make room for things, and we are stuck in the house, a lot of us turn to "de-cluttering". Especially we homeschoolers, who are in a rut and really looking forward to the NEW stuff we'll be getting at homeschool conferences this summer! But as we think about the things to get rid of, maybe there are other questions besides, "Do I use it - need it?" Maybe sometimes we should look at things as in, "What does God want me to have?"

Just some thoughts.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Still being flexible...

What a week. We have been doing art all week, and really enjoying it. We did paintings in the Impressionist style, and today Picasso-type drawings. Lots of fun. Studying about the early French settlers in Missouri (my family). As soon as it warms up the big guys and I are taking a field trip to Ste. Genevieve (Anita, do I hear you volunteering your day if I spring for lunch?).

Wednesday Henry was lighting matches in the bathtub. I did manage to get the yellow marks out of the tub.

Today Henry cut a big chunk of his hair off. Thank goodness it was in back.

Lest you think I am not paying enough attention to Henry......both times I was working with the older boys and THOUGHT he was well-entertained! And apparently he was, just not on the projects I had planned out. Never to young to start school I guess........(sigh).

Tonight Tony had practice with his Awana Bible Quiz team. He had a really good time - pizza fellowship with the other kids. He's at the age now where things are going on that don't require "Mom" to sit in. This was his first thing to do on his own, outside of church, where he didn't even have Ben. Sounds like it went great. It is amazing to watch them grow up. He will be eleven soon, and he is 5'1" and wears a size 7 shoe. And he is turning into a very nice, mature young man. I am so proud of him.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Being Flexible

A very typical day, in that my mantra is "In all things - be flexible!"

Around 3 a.m. Joey came in and woke me up to tell me Henry was sick. Henry was crouping, so I just picked him up and took him in the bathroom and turned on the shower. It only took about 10 minutes in the steam. But - nothing cures the croup - the only thing I've ever found that helps is oral steroids. For which you need a prescription. And a pediatrician visit. So......we did school this morning and got quite a bit done, and this afternoon I am taking Henry to the doctor. The other boys are going to my moms' house, and they have a little bit of art to finish. Then back home, quick dinner and out the door again to my homeschool meeting.

I'll tell you what - I love my family desperately, but there are days when I am counting the minutes until I can get with a group of my lady friends. Yesterday was one of them. We got home from church and I was so exhausted (Henry didn't want to go to the nursery, I had to teach our kindergarten SS class, and I was tired!) that all I could do was think about getting some work done and then heading out to take the boys to Awana and go to my Bible study. I came home last night feeling so refreshed, I could take on anything.

Even a steam bath with Henry at 3 a.m.

It is good for the pores, you know.....!

And tonight - meeting with the ladies for a time of sharing, prayers, learning, laughing, and then on to Steak and Shake for the "meeting after the meeting". Only once a month, and I do look forward to it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More Valentine's......

And then I opened the refrigerator to pour milk for breakfast and there sat a big box of chocolate covered strawberries and two slices of chocolate covered cheesecake with strawberries.

Is this guy great or what?

Happy Valentine's Day!

We don't usually do a "big" celebration for Valentine's Day. The boys make Valentine cards every year for all their "girl relatives" - grandmas, aunts, cousins, great aunts, etc. This year we made foam hearts and decorated them with foam conversation hearts that said things like, "Faith", "Trust God", "Jesus Saves", "God Loves You", etc. So much nicer for Grandma to get that than one that says, "Hey Hottie!".

Nevin left for work about 5:30 this morning (is this guy dedicated, or what) and along our kitchen counter I found a vase with red miniature tulips and a card for me, and individual candies and boxes of conversation hearts for each of the boys. What a sweetheart I have married.

This afternoon I am going to make a Lemon Sponge Pie from a recipe that I found in Cook's Country, and we will have venison tenderloin for dinner, and maybe green bean casserole (homemade, not with a can of soup) and maybe baked potato. After the pie and venison the rest is sort of up in the air.

Isn't it interesting how all holidays somehow become about the food?????

So, anyway, my morning is off to a great start!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Planning for a dignified retirement

I post on a homeschool forum. Earlier this week, a thread was started regarding "dignified" retirement. The thread started off with a planner telling the couple they needed $2 million in savings. It developed into a discussion of how to save money, what methods for saving, etc.

Thinking that I am funnier than I usually am, I said that at this stage, my retirement plans were having four sons and spending three months of the year with each of them. Hopefully, at least one will live somewhere warm for me and Dad to visit!

I explained my vision of multi-generational family, that my parents or inlaws are ALWAYS welcome to live with us, any time they want. I really admire how the Amish care for their families. And I would hope that my children, having seen how their great-grandmas have been cared for, and will see us care for their grandparents, will consider that a part of life. Not that I would be a bum - I expect Nevin and I will work till we give out. I'd like to be available to help my sons and daughter-in-laws with my grandchildren, with their homes- however they need.

I got socked back and told that I was not scriptural in my approach - not like the ant in Proverbs, and leaving an inheritance for my children you know!

Once I cooled down, here was my response:

"I honor my parents, and am training up my children to do the same. There are a whole lot of scripture on supporting the poor, the work of the church, spreading the gospel - and we gave away a big chunk of our gross last year to our church, pregnancy care center and various missionaries and local ministries. That's they stuff I have paperwork for, and does not include all the times we "pass the hat" in church to help someone out. And doggone it, it is just plain exciting when they make an announcement in church of a need and to be able to reach in my wallet and pull out some cash and KNOW that I am providing for someone else's need out of my surplus - as God would provide for mine out of someone elses' if need be. And you never know, that could happen.

As far as saving goes, I try to save 10% of our income for emergencies (and family fun) and have a slowly growing "chunk" in investments. My husband and I own our own business and work dilligently.

I am not a fool who throws money out the window. However - having had a chunk of (inherited) money in the past and gone to being plain broke and in debt, and to have rebuilt, but still recognizing that being self-employed some months we are rich and some months hey! at least we get to keep the house....I no longer put my trust in money, myself, what I can save, the stock market, the government.........I can build a big barn to store all I have, like that farmer, to sit back and enjoy my days, and have it all disappear in an instant, and my life be forfeit this very night.

I KNOW I have children with needs now - I KNOW there is God's work to be done now - I DON'T know what the future holds - I plan the best I can but I refuse to worry and I have lots of kids.

My mother-in-law and mother have left me an inheritance in that I saw both of them take care of their mothers, and I got to help take care of Grandma. My boys got to see my mother-in-law take care of her mother. I will leave that inheritance to my children - they will see us care for their grandparents. If there is any money left, that is an added bonus.

My grandmother left a sizeable financial inheritance to my mom, but the last 15 years of her life all she did was worry about money. I will not live that way. My mom is financially comfortable and while we make jokes about her spending my inheritance, I hope she does. She does good with her money, she puts some aside for my kids' college, and she HAS FUN and hopefully does not worry. And she knows that she ALWAYS has a place in my home.

So, will we be ready for a dignified retirement?

That is going to depend on your definition of dignified retirement. I don't know that we will ever be really retired - I think we may just change occupations (didn't someone mention Wal-Mart greeter a few posts back?).

How we prepare for anything is going to be colored by our past experiences. And we all have different experiences. I don't believe there is a wrong or right way that fits everyone. I think most folks are just doing their best every day."

And another lady posted this:

"There are many scriptures about careful planning----and many scriptures about making God your primary focus and forgetting the rest.

We have to find a balance between the two, and how that looks is going to be different for every individual."

I think she said that beautifully, and with much fewer words than I used!

Another mom posted this, and I think this truly sums it up for me:

"Let me just say that I will have a dignified retirement, should God grant me the plethora of years to reach it, by being a faithful loving devoted woman of God, rising up and lying down with His will in my heart and mind, putting my hands, back, mind and mouth to His use with every ounce of my being.

Whether or not I have a fat pocketbook by which to meet any financial need, or to pay off things for others, I will not presume to worry, as I am living 'today', serving 'today'."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

I just read one of the best books I've read in a long time - Still Alice, by Lisa Genova.

Alice is 50 years old, and a psychology professor at Harvard University. She is well-respected, has published over 100 articles and co-authored a textbook, is an in-demand speaker at conferences all over the world. She has three grown children (a doctor, a lawyer, an aspiring actress) and a cancer research scientist husband.

And she is forgetting things. Misplacing things. Getting lost less than a mile from her home. Alice has early onset Alzheimer's.

The story is told from Alice's point of view. It is absolutely incredible. I read it in about a day and a half. The characters are so real - flawed and wonderful at the same time.

From the book jacket:
"As the inevitable descent into dementia strips away her sense of self, fiercely independent Alice struggles to live in the moment. While she once placed her worth and identity in her celebrated and resepected academic life, now she must reevaluate her relationships with her husband, a respected scientist; and her ideas about herself and her place in the world."

I am at a loss for words to describe how much this book moved me. I would recommend it to everyone. There are a few instances of bad language, but other than that, nothing I found objectionable. It is just a story of real people in an increasingly familiar situation.