Sunday, June 29, 2008

"D" is for a Dynamite Daddy-Daughter Date

Saturday was D-day with Daddy.

Lunch at Steak 'n' Shake.

Then her first movie theater movie--"Horton Hears a Who" at the dollar theater, complete with popcorn.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

F is for Finding Flowers and for "ish"

I was given permission to stray from the alphabetical order for our Summer A to Z. Seriously, I voiced my concern out loud about whether I could skip D and E, move on to F, and come back to them later. ("D" will be this weekend, "E" I'm stuck on. So, LL, suggestions please.)

For "F", I got the kiddos in the car and after dropping off the dry cleaning and getting R to guess as many things that begin with "F" that we could do, we stopped by Green Acres Nursery which the Diva had previously blogged about. It was a great, non-big-box store nursery, family owned, rustic. The young kids of the owners were racing around on their four-wheelers, several rusted Radio Flyers are available for your shopping, and the coo-coos of doves resonated around the yard. There's even a rescued baby opossum.

R was less than enthusiastic, to say the least, since this outing involved being outside with dirt and bugs. I'm admiring a beautiful butterfly that's rested on a dark pink penta and she's slapping at the bugs that are in the vicinity but not actually on her. Oh, I did I mention that I had a scavenger hunt type list of a flowers to find like "find a flower with 3 petals," "find a flower that smells good," "find something you could eat." Here she is standing next to "find a flower taller than you." Can't you see the excitement on her face? Gotta love that kid.

She did think the peppermint plant was pretty cool so for $2 I let her buy that. I think I'll get a few more sweet smelling plants like chocolate mint and bee balm and make a planter for her.

And since we were so close to the Diva, we popped in for a visit and to drop off a carrot cupcake from the previous night's Bible study. We ended up staying for Monkey Munch/Puppy Chow/Muddy Buddies--whatever that delectable concoction of cereal, peanut butter, chocolate and powered sugar--and a bit of catching up. Then after lunch at CFA and a quick trip to Home Depot it was home again, home again.

I sat B up on his changing table to take his sandals off and he folded himself over and rested his head on the changing pad. Tuckered out! But speaking of the boy, we may have a breakthrough in his lack of speaking. A day or two ago, R was reciting the "when I wish to wish for fish..." bit from Red Fish, Blue Fish. B actually started saying "ish"! We got him to say it a couple more times throughout the day and even when we pointed to a fish in a book. So "F" is for "ishes" too!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Week 2 - Be Tolerant/Intolerant

This chapter dealt with being tolerant of people and circumstances in our lives and being intolerant of sin, specifically gossip (and I added complaining and criticizing as additional sins of the tongue), self-focus, fear, and mediocrity.

We looked first at the lessons that Naomi, a widow, and Ruth, a barren woman, teach the church--men and women, young and old, Bethlehem and Central Florida. I loved this part of James's book and it reinforces our study of the hard things God calls EVERY woman to do. The universality of these concepts comes back again and again.

Naomi and Ruth offer a few lessons for us as they lived with, even tolerated, difficult circumstances.
  • We never have all the answers and nothing balances out right.
  • God meets us in our pain. (I loved this quote from John Wolterstorff after the death of his son: "I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.")
  • We understand our impotence and our inability to do anything without God.
  • We share in His sufferings and thus are able to reflect His image.
  • We are changed by through prayer in our sufferings. Rarely do our circumstances just, poof, change!

As we moved into our discussion about tolerance of people, it was amazing (a total God-thing) how much of what else we've been reading or listening to intersected. The sermon on Sunday on self-righteousness. An excerpt from Blue Like Jazz about the need to ask God for His love for others--moving beyond tolerance to love. Our self-focus and selfish motivation. The concept that our tolerace is based on what motivates you was a concept that stuck out to me. All coming back to grace--our need for it, our call to extend it to others. Grace changes how we see ourselves and others.

I liked the authors analogy of lactose intolerance and our sin. What would our lives look like if we truly tried to reject sin and be unable to digest it? If we hated sin as much as our holy God does? If we didn't "put up with it" and "accept" it, to use some of our definitions of tolerance. What do we simply tolerate in our lives that we really need to look at with God's perspective? Should I be tolerating this?

We observed that the four areas the author mentions, areas of sin that tend to slip by unnoticed, have connections. We are self-focused with a healthy dose of self-pity and that can often lead to fear and tolerance of the status quo resulting in mediocrity. Our tongues, whether through gossiping, complaining, or criticizing, tear others down and whine about our situations. So much trouble in that one little tongue. "Your tongue, when unregulated, is a natural disaster" (52).

For me, the section with the most impact was on being intolerant of mediocrity. I can so easily play it safe, be content with the status quo in my faith, my marriage, my parenting, my witness. I don't want to rock the boat and I'm certainly not about to get out of the boat. But being tolerant of mediocrity can stifle us. God has so much more for us in store.

In our class on parenting a few months ago, Carl Smith left us with an observation that has chilled me. He said (as best I can remember), "I have never seen a deeply committed, sold-out Christian kid come from nominal Christian parents." Nominal. I don't want my kids to be nominal Christians. But that means I can't be nominal either.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Silence and Sara Groves

So I did manage about an hour of silence--no music, TV, talking--that afternoon. Just the voices in my head.

And the refrain from an old (well, the 90's) Susan Ashton song, "You don't have to suffer, suffer in silence." HA!

But I did listen to what my heart and head get a chance to say when there is no other input coming in. And that head talk can be frightening so it gave me a chance to think through why those were the thoughts that day and maybe, just maybe, deal with them a bit.

I've been trying to be better about not having to have something on, especially when I get a chance to pick what I want or I'm actually able to hear it over the chatterbox and the grunter.

But, ironically, R saw a pile of CD's out that I had been going through with a friend and insisted on playing her favorites. At least that includes Jill Phillips, Caedmon's, and, again, ironically, Sara Grove's Conversations.

That CD was the one that sold me on her voice and her lyrics and I hadn't listened to it in a while, having played her more recent material as she released them. Her honesty and vulnerability connect with me. If you ever get a chance to see her in concert (or watch the footage from the What I Know extras) you know that what you hear on a CD is her life. Her liner notes even reference what she was reading or inspired by that generated the songs. And the CD became the soundtrack to what I've been contemplating during this book study and preparation.

So, get the CD if you don't have it already (I also highly recommend Jill Phillips for the same reasons--beautiful voice, honest lyrics) and here's a sample of some of the lines that impacted me this week.

Conversations: "I don't claim to have found the truth, but I know it has found me. The only thing that isn't meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way he set me free. This is all that I have. This is all that I am.

Painting Pictures of Egypt: "It's not about losing faith, it's not about trust, it's all about comfortable when you move so much...I've been painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacked. The future feels so hard and I want to go back. But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the thing I've learned, and those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned."

Hello Lord: Right now I don't hear so well and I was wondering if you could speak up. I know that you tore the veil so I could sit with you in person and hear what you're saying, but right now, I just can't hear you. I don't doubt your sovereignty, I doubt my own ability to hear what you're saying and to do the right thing, and I desperately want to do the right thing. Somewhere in the back of my mind I think you are telling me to wait, and though patience has never been mine, Lord I will wait to hear from you."

This Journey is My Own: When I stand before the Lord, I'll be standing alone. This journey is my own. Still I want man's advice, and I need man's approval. This journey is my own. So much of what I do is to make a good impression. This journey is my own. So much of what I say is to make myself look better. This journey is my own. Why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price? What would it mean to gain the world, only to lose my life?

How is It Between Us: "When I wake up I am on my way, reinventing the wheel and saving the day. I have learned this lesson a thousand time, I am the branch and you are the vine. Apart from you we are mice and men, with our fancy dreams of grandeur and no way to get there. Oh I can think about you now and then, or I can make a mark on eternity. Lord, first of all, how is it between you and me?"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do - Week 1

I'm going to post a bit of a recap and reflection on our summer Tuesday evening study each week. With vacations and just life interruptions, I know people will be in and out and this is one way we can stay connected.

I want to echo Patti's great observation that while this is a pretty simple book it is universal and practical--this is for every woman at every stage and gets to the core of our daily walk. Thus, the exemplary lives of Ruth and Naomi as the thread that will run throughout this "book study" fits despite the differences in culture, ages, situations as we examine how they answer God's call to do these hard things. And as we observed last night, we have more in common with them than we might think.

They endured a relativistic, immoral culture under often weak leadership, economic struggles, and the inability to provide for their family. They suffered the tragedies of women--widowhood, single parenting, death of children, barrenness.

This week, the reading dealt with having a single focus and I saw anew that theme in the lives of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi, in her pain, never loses sight of the sovereignty of God. She acknowledges his right in her life to give and take away. She says his hand has gone against her but that he has also "visited his people" by giving them bread. Her decision to go back to Bethlehem testifies to her belief in God's sovereign hand.

Ruth's decision on the road to Bethlehem is a radical one as she places her only hope in God--a God she knows only by the witness of Naomi and her family. Her decision to go to Bethlehem (where almost certain widowhood awaits for a Moabite woman without a father) is less about loyalty to Naomi or family responsibilities than a faith in the one, true God. Unlike her sister-in-law Orpah, she doesn't return to her people and her gods. She turns, redirects her heart, and never looks back. Carolyn James in The Gospel of Ruth sees this as the legacy of Ruth:
“This is the gospel of Ruth—a shaft of light across the empty blackness of a broken life—a woman’s radial faith that refuses to say, “So much for your God.” Ruth’s brand of faith is not some free-floating optimism or a Cinderella belief in a “happily ever after” that awaits…Ruth’s faith is grounded in the God who created her and who reveals himself in creation, in history, and in his people…Ruth is a powerful reminder that the most important thing in all of life—the purpose for which we were all created—is to know the God who made us and to walk through life as his child, no matter what is costs us.”

As we turned to the week's reading, here are some of the questions we discussed:
  • What responsibilities, activities, distractions, or attention-absorbers make it most difficult for you to consistently focus on him?
  • What do you do to refocus on Jesus (see pg. 19)?
  • He is focused on us. He is El Roi, the God Who Sees, the name Hagar called Him from the desert. How does knowing that affect you?
  • "Our spiritual multi-tasking list is really a "to be" list (page 23). How does that shift in thinking--from "to do" to "to be"--impact how we view our call?
  • Looking at the "to be" list, which comes more easily to you? Which is more difficult?
  • Has God brought to your mind other important characteristics that you want him to manifest in your life?
  • How are our single-focus and our multi-tasking "to be" list related? What is the danger of only attempting one or the other?
We talked a bit about some of the practical ways we get our focus back or remind ourselves to be content or gracious. One comment that has particularly stayed with me is our discussion of silence. I'm challenging myself--and anyone who will take it up with me--to seek out silence this week. Of course, I'm listening to Andrew Peterson as I write this! But I'm about to do some repetitive, kinda manual labor for the next hour of naptime and I will attempt to do so in quiet. As soon as this song is over....

I welcome your comments, those who were there last night and those who couldn't make it!

See you all next week!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Vacation Bible School

I totally cheated and made "B" for Bible school!

R went to her first VBS this past week. She loved it, had a great time. It was a bit weird though handing her off to someone for five mornings. I guess it gears us up for school. She would come home and start singing all the song she had learned that day and I'm like, "When did you learn that? You know that?"

Friday evening was a little closing program and ice cream social. R didn't freak out on stage but as you can see from the video, didn't do much else. She's on the right, in the pink headband. She spent most of the time watching the girl behind her and we could only see her profile or the back of her head. But trust us, she knew all the songs.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blog Tour: With Endless Sight by Allison Pittman

Summary from the publishers:
Belleville, Illinois and Wyoming Territories, 1861

Born into a life of privilege, fourteen-year-old Belinda never questions her security, even as she leaves Illinois with her family to discover new adventures in the Oregon Territory. But when disaster falls, Belinda is left wounded, weak, and alone. Her faith in God gives her the only strength she knows in a harsh new world.Belinda’s journey takes her to a snow-covered mining camp and a red-roofed brothel in the Wyoming mountains, but not before she must spend a lonely winter with the man who took away the life she knew. Throughout the grief and hope of a strange land, Belinda must decide if her faith is big enough to allow her to forgive.The satisfying conclusion to the Crossroads of Grace series, With Endless Sight offers a rich story of family, new beginnings, and the freedom that grace can bring.

I chose to review this novel since I have been curious to see what's out there in the world of Christian fiction lately. This was about what I expected, but with a few pleasant surprises. Pittman, who grew up watching Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty (the prostitute with a heart of gold), explores this Western archetype in her Crossroads of Grace series, three distinct novels with some overlapping characters. At times, I did feel the plot toyed with convention and cliche and too much romantic goo, I can appreciate her perspective on the emptiness of the women in her tales. And I may read the two previous novels in the series which focus more on women trying to get out of the "profession" they're in. It's the story of everyone--longing for worth and acceptance and only finding it in a Savior.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A is for Art; B is for Book Club

I read about a mom who designed a summer full of activities for every letter of the alphabet. And since I'm notoriously a "Martha" (Biblical or Stewart-al) I thought that would be a fun way to work through the summer. (Can't you just see the scrapbook now?)

So this morning we took advantage of the Orlando Museum of Art's 1st Saturday family fun day with some good friends. The exhibit this summer is William Joyce, the children's author illustrator, who wrote Rollie Pollie Ollie, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, and today's featured book Dinosaur Bob. For the fifth summer, OMA has had picture book illustrators featured in special exhibits. The art is hung low on the wall, there are books everywhere, and the whole space is kid friendly. On the first Saturday of the month there are art projects, hands on activities and storytimes featuring the current exhibit. Well, at least for two more months there will be until budget cuts take this away.

R is still bit shy and less than willing to participate in much. At the pretend digging for dinosaur bones, she swept up the sand that fell out. At one art table she sharpened the colored pencils and made sure all pencils were out of the crayon container. But she loved the music room, preferring to play her triangle the whole time and did finally do the dinosaur march around the room. We made dinosaur hats too which she only wore once we got home. But she said she had a good time and she's tuckered out tonight.

I'll keep you posted on how our Summer A to Z adventure continues.

Last night, however, was book club, the final meeting with dear Sebby D. She was an original member and the first time I came to book club was at her house. We read Memiors of a Geisha. It's a good thing that I sorta already knew her since the one who invited me--ahem, KS--ended up not making at the last minute. Debby always says she doesn't have much insight to these books and even if she was correct we would still want her since she's just plain fun no matter what. We'll just have to keep reading together through Good Reads now.

The book we discussed was one I've been trying to read for such a long time but couldn't seem to get my hands on a copy. Same Kind of Different as Me tells the true story of Denver Moore, a Louisiana sharecropper, Ron Hall, a wealthy international art dealer, and Debbie Hall, the fiesty, determined woman who brought them together at a Dallas homeless shelter. Their incredible friendship is one I haven't seen in fiction or reality and the way God works through empty vessals to accomplish his work is amazing. I won't give away any details because you'll love seeing them connect and grow. I read it all in one sitting and bawled my eyes out (sleep deprivation probably had some influence as well). I also appreciated the way the story is told in each man's voice with honesty and authenticity. And I closed the book wanting to be that kind of servant, wife and mother.

Next book club read: All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot