Monday, July 14, 2014

The Road We're Traveling On

While my amazing husband was dealing with toddler bedtime last night, I was attempting to relax and listen to music (I may have been obsessively working on the Golden Gate Bridge in a “Dot-to-Dot for Grownups” book…with a ruler). I ended up listening to the 1981 Simon & Garfunkel reunion concert, which I LOVE even though I was less than a year old when it happened. One of my favorite songs on it is Simon’s “American Tune”.

I think the melody is beautiful, and it’s one I can sing halfway decently in my limited range. But in my melancholy mood last night, it was the lyrics that really grabbed my attention. Here are the first two verses:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

I don’t think it ever hit me before, the hopelessness of the words. As the Wikipedia author notes, “the lyrics offer a perspective on the American experience; there are references to struggle, weariness, hard work, confusion, and homesickness. The bridge conveys a dream of death and of the Statue of Liberty ‘sailing away to sea.’ The song ends with an assertion that ‘you can't be forever blessed’ before the lyrics return to the idea of work, tiredness, and resignation.”

Work. Confusion. Tiredness. Resignation. This dismal perspective makes life seem unbearable, even pointless. Yet I know so many of us feel exactly this way much of the time. Whether someone is a Christian or not, we’re all still human. We all feel at times the burden of work, the sting of an imperfect or even broken relationship, the weight of our inadequacies and failures. I struggle with mine daily.

What I need to remind myself of is that this is not how the human experience was designed, and this is not how it has to be. As I recently read in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

In sharp contrast to the bleak and hopeless outlook of trying to live life on our own and failing, in Jesus we know the words justified, peace, grace, rejoice, endurance and hope. At times I am mistaken and confused. God never makes mistakes, and He chose me. I’ve often felt forsaken after putting my trust and sense of worth in others and how they perceive me. God sees me as beautiful and perfect through Christ, and He will never leave me. Trying to be the perfect wife, mom and friend under my own strength makes me weary to my bones. Understanding that I don’t have to be those things in order to gain acceptance from the Creator of the universe can set me free and give me rest.

How I pray that I will be able to fully embrace the freedom and rest that come from a life under His grace. And I pray that for you too. If you don’t yet know Him, or if you do but are struggling with trying to do life on your own at the moment…I love you and I’m there with you. And more importantly, as I’ve been reminded several times lately, He loves you and wants to be with you.

No offense to Paul Simon, but he’s wrong here. We most certainly can be forever blessed. We deserve eternity in hell apart from God, but we can receive an eternity of perfect peace, joy and love with our sweet, sweet Savior. I can’t think of a greater blessing than that. I’m far from having all of the answers, but I’d love to search the depths of this perfect love together.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Love One Another Deeply

I started taking notes during the sermon one Sunday when I was in high school after we had gotten back from a trip late the night before. I did it to stay awake. I found that it really helped me to focus, so I kept taking notes for years...until I had babies and suddenly found myself with a crazy amount of stuff (and stress) that we had to take with us everywhere, and the notebook no longer made it to church. I need to start taking notes again; I have the tendency to zone in and out a lot during the sermon. Never the speaker's fault; I usually just have so much on my mind that it's hard to turn it off and pay attention.

I recently started reading 1 Peter (on the few occasions each week that I actually read my Bible), and for pretty much the first time ever, I went back to review sermon notes on the passages. Our first pastor at the Oaks, Kevin Jamison, went through the book starting in the fall of 2008. I have greatly appreciated the wisdom of our pastors over the last several years, and I've loved going back through this series. His sermon on 1 Peter 1:22-2:3 was one of the first (if not the first) I'd ever heard on gospel-centered community, and reading the notes was a great reminder for me to be more intentional in relationships, so I just thought I'd share - in case anyone else could benefit as well:

*The gospel has social implications as well as eternal implications.

1 Peter 1:22-2:3
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
"All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever."
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation - if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

I. Sin keeps us from community.
       -Sin has corrupted every social relationship we've had.
       -Our sins can play off of each other.
       -We are all self-centered, making it difficult to love others above ourselves.

II. The Gospel purifies us for community.
       -One of the greatest horizontal implications of the gospel is for us to love one another.
       -We are now all different as a result of God's mercy and grace - we should recognize a sense of community from mutual understanding of where we were before and who we are now in Christ.
       -We must remove malice, deceit, hypocrisy (masking evil with false righteousness), envy, slander.
       -These are community-destroying sins.

III. Our faith must be nourished for and by community.
       -We should be cross-centered: claiming worth and value in the cross and cherishing it.
       -We should be grace-driven: recognizing God's unmerited favor and seeking to direct others to Christ.
       -We should be intentionally intrusive: out of love, when we see sin destroying relationships.
       -We should be redemptive: we want to see God redeem people and relationships, to see everyone made perfect in Christ.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ahh, Monday.

A run down of my non-stop day:

Eva told me first thing this morning that she didn't want any breakfast. I thought that was unusual, but figured she was just anxious to go downstairs and start playing with her toys. While she was playing, I was up in the kitchen giving Elsie breakfast. Eva started crying and said her tummy hurt. I thought she had just hurt herself on something and didn't think much of it.

Girls were both sluggish and took awhile to get going, but we pretty much had to get groceries this morning; we were out of a ton of stuff. Finished at the store around 11:30, hit Wendy's drive through for lunch. Went home and got the girls settled in with food while I put away the groceries, trying to do it quickly because I had scheduled a plumber to come between 12 and 1 (kitchen sink was clogged yesterday due to butternut squash peelings in the garbage disposal - lesson learned). Immediately after lunch, they both had horrifying diaper messes. I was sure the plumber would get here while I was in the middle of changing one of them. He actually didn't come until a little after 1 though.

Read books with the girls so they wouldn't bug the nice plumber while he cleaned out the sink. He got done pretty quickly. Put Elsie down for a nap at 2 (an hour late). Let Eva watch a show in the kitchen while I tackled cleaning up in there now that we had a working sink. Eva had been telling me off and on during the day that her tummy still hurt.

Hung out with Eva until Elsie woke up a little after 4. I had planned on taking them to pick out pumpkins after that, since we were just heating up leftover soup for dinner. Elsie was really clingy and whiny after her nap, clearly not feeling well. She did not want to get in the car, so I decided to stay home.

Glad I made that decision. 10-15 minutes later, we were sitting on the couch looking at books when Eva suddenly jumped down and got a weird look on her face a split second before she puked on the couch. She took a step back and projectile vomited on the living room rug, twice. I paused in shock for a second before collecting myself, comforting her and directing her toward the bathroom. We got as far as the doorway before she let go a couple more times, all. over. the. bathroom. 

I looked at the mess in the bathroom and the mess in the living room. My immediate thought was that Wendy's had been a mistake. I briefly wanted to run away and buy a different house. Instead, I did the only thing I knew of that would contain them both while I dealt with it - stripped them down, started a bath and tossed them in (not literally). Called Damon; he said he would rent a carpet scrubber on the way home from work.

Cleaned up puke. Cleaned up puke. Cleaned up puke. Wanted to die a little bit.

Washed their hair and got their wrinkled booties out of the tub. Almost 6 by this time. Damon got home with the scrubber. He hung out with the girls downstairs while I heated up soup for myself, then he ate. All the girls wanted was plain bread. Eva had an empty trash can with her the rest of the night just in case.

Damon watched them some more while I scrubbed the rug and hallway/bedroom carpet (we got the scrubber - why not?). Time to get them ready for bed, but not before Elsie had one more nasty diaper.

Took Elsie upstairs, read Snowmen at Night (her current obsession - she has to sleep with the stuffed snowman that came with it), turned on the star projector she's been loving lately, watched her amazing face as she looked at the stars in wonder. She flopped her head down on me while I sang to her. I laid her down. She stood back up for two more kisses and then laid down on her own, hugging her pillow and snowman.

Came downstairs, brushed Eva's teeth, she laid on the couch (we've been having sleeping issues; she doesn't want to be upstairs). Put a blanket on her, read her a book. She asked me to sing Roseville Fair. While I was singing, I thought about how that was the first song I ever sang to her, in the hospital, and tried to picture her as a baby. She was almost asleep by the time I was done. She popped her head up long enough to say "mommy, will you sit with me a couple minutes?" I said yes and she immediately passed out. 

I watched her sleep for a few minutes and thought about how amazing these two little people are and how blessed I am to have them in my life. Then I got up to go disinfect the bathroom floor one more time.

It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Nap Time (Sort Of)

Today's fun nap time:

12:40 - lay Elsie down. She's quiet for a few minutes, then starts screaming.

1:00 - tell Eva we have to turn off the movie so she can take a nap. Screaming.

Get Eva upstairs, Elsie still screaming. Read to them both.

Leave Eva in their room, sing to Elsie, put her back down in the pack n play in our room.

Come downstairs.

Elsie screaming.

Go back up, feed her, lay her back down.

Come downstairs, prep meat loaf for tonight, start Ramen noodles for myself (sore throat).

Eva informs me over the monitor that she pooped.

Go get Eva, bring her downstairs, change her pants.

Elsie screaming.

Take Eva back up, discover that Elsie pooped.

Everyone comes back downstairs so I can change Elsie without Eva having a meltdown because she wanted to come too. Turn off stove on Ramen that I forgot about.

Take them back up. Both upset because they thought they were going to get out of nap time.

Leave them in their respective beds, come back down, drain and eat over cooked noodles.

2:10 - Elsie quiet, Eva whining softly.

2:30 - both crying. Mommy gives up.

No naps even though we have community group tonight and they'll be up late. I guess I should be thankful this isn't the way it goes every day. :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Receive with Meekness

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:16-21

I read these verses one day last week and keep coming back to them. I see a lot of potential application for me, especially in the area of parenting. I want to keep in mind that my beautiful girls are a good gift from God, even when days are difficult. I want to remember to be quick to listen to Eva (and Elsie as she gets older), and slow to anger when I'm tempted to just react and snap at her impatiently when she's defiant. Damon is also an amazing gift from God and I need to treat him more as such. I don't feel that I've been very loving toward him lately and I want to work on that.

"No variation or shadow due to change". I may fail (and do, often), and my situation/mood/children/spouse/friends may change on me, but God is the same perfect, good, just, loving, gracious and righteous Father that he has always been and will always be. I think there would be a great deal more peace and joy in my life if I reflect on that much more often than I do.

Also, I just love love love the image of God as "the Father of lights". How beautiful.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cornbread Taco Bake

This is one of those "church potluck" recipes that makes my former chef husband chuckle. You know the ones...some sort of everything-mixed-together-casserole-something with Ritz cracker crumbs on top. Or french fried onions, which is what we have here. I tried this one for the first time tonight and I kinda love it. Could be partly because I've been sick all week (started getting a fever/dizzy on Monday and it's still not really much better - now my throat is sore - strep test negative), and this was really the first day that I managed to work up the energy to cook anything. And I'm glad I did. It really hit the spot. Kind of a comfort food thing. Damon said he liked it too. ;)


Recipe came you can't guess...a church cookbook. Specifically, from a lady named Doris Beals at the church my family attended when I was in high school. I vaguely remember her but unfortunately, I don't remember much about her. The recipe is yummy and pretty easy. If I can make it when I'm sick and exhausted, I'm pretty sure a normal person could knock it out of the park.

Notes: if I make it again, I will probably double the amount of cornbread batter and cover the whole dish. I don't really understand just spooning it around the outside edge. Wouldn't you want cornbread on all of it? Of course you would. Also, it says to use an 11x13 baking dish. I don't have that size (do they actually come in that size?); 9x13 worked great. Also, I may have sprinkled more cheese on top than the recipe calls for. Cheese makes everything better.

Cornbread Taco Bake

2 lbs. ground beef
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1/2 c. water
1 (12 oz) can yellow corn, drained
1/2 c. chopped red or green pepper
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 can french fried onions
1 c. grated cheese
1 pkg. corn muffin mix (or make your own)

Brown meat; drain. stir in taco seasoning, water, corn, pepper and tomato sauce. Pour in 11x13 baking dish. In separate bowl, prepare cornbread batter according to package directions; add 1/2 can onions to mix. Spoon mix around outer edge of casserole. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven. Top cornbread with cheese and remaining onions. Bake 2-3 minutes longer, until cheese melts.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

God is so, so good.

Since I've only written 28 posts since I started this almost exactly two years ago (most of those are recipes I think), and this is the first one since September, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not a blogger. I don't usually have anything profound to say anyway, so I just read the blogs of people who do.

I am excited about what's been going on in my house recently though and thought I'd write out my thoughts. If no one else reads it, that's okay. A little over a week ago, Elsie was still waking up every couple of hours at night and I was completely exhausted. I felt barely able to function during the day after too many months of too little sleep. I was still treating her like a newborn, letting her fall asleep while eating and then trying to put her down already asleep. Of course she kept waking up because she wanted me. Then during the day I would let her fall asleep on me all the time, but she woke up whenever I had to put her down or because Eva was making noise. She almost never got a good nap. It hit me all of a sudden last week that she is six months old and should be able to sleep on her own. I think I knew this in my head; it was just easier (or so I thought) to keep doing what we were doing. We started letting her cry it out, and she adjusted almost immediately! She now sleeps 10-12 straight at night and takes three solid naps during the day, in her crib. She's such a happy baby now, and Mommy gets to sleep all night too. Thank you God.

This new schedule has given me another amazing blessing also, one I didn't expect or realize I needed: a restored relationship with Eva. For the first two years of her life, I was the person who cared for her most of the time, and we had a super close bond. She was my baby. Immediately after Elsie was born, I had to depend on other people (namely Damon and our parents) to take care of Eva while I was dealing with Elsie and recovering from the c-section. While I was so thankful for the help, those first couple of weeks were extremely difficult for me emotionally (I'm sure the hormones didn't help). I felt like I couldn't be there for her, that I didn't have anything to do with her. I love her so much and oh how I missed her.

In the months since then, she has gotten into the "terrible twos" like crazy and has generally misbehaved more when I've had to pay attention to Elsie. I felt like my entire day was spent telling her no and disciplining her while trying to get Elsie to sleep. I was exasperated to the point of tears much of the time because she was so defiant. She usually acted like a perfect angel for Damon, of course. To my amazement, since Elsie started taking naps in her crib, I've noticed a huge change in Eva. I can have one-on-one time with her again, and we actually have fun together, rather than just a power struggle. Though she still has her sinful moments, of course...I feel like I have my sweet baby girl back.

Here's my sweetie, mid-hysterical laughter:

Getting Elsie to sleep on her own has also given me more opportunities to spend time alone with God and with Damon, time I had also been greatly missing, more than I even realized. I am so thankful for God's grace and blessing in the past week. I often try to depend only on my own strength to get through each day and look to find my worth in my own abilities as a mom rather than in Christ, and this has been a wonderful reminder that God does provide and that peace and rest come from trusting in Him and not in myself.