Sunday, September 27, 2009

One of the Good Things

Some time in these past few crazy months I had a birthday. It was sorta a biggie--the 3-0. We celebrated over a weekend with Texas Sheet Cake, a steak dinner prepared by my hubby, and a beautiful pearl necklace from Rita Creech's Galleria.

My other birthday present was Jill Phillip's latest CD, The Good Things. Jill is a perennial favorite in our house; at least one of her albums is in a CD player in the house or car at all times. I was first introduced to her music through Andrew Peterson's project Behold the Lamb of God on which she sings the hauntingly beautiful "Labor of Love" and then hearing her in concert where we heard some of her own music. I was hooked.

From last Christmas until our road trip to Texas in May, Kingdom Come, an album of hymns, played nonstop in the minivan. "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" became our "good morning" song as we drove to school. I practically wept out "Have Thine Own Way Lord" each time it played as I struggled with our impending move and drastic change in our life. Sang with joyful smiles "Hosanna" and "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" around Easter.

I switched out Kingdom Come for Nobody's Got It All Together on the drive out to Houston and needed to remind myself of that very fact as I faced my insecurities in a new place, new neighborhood, and new church. I listened to Writing on the Wall and affirmed that no matter what came my way "Still Is My Soul." There was a song, a phrase, a melody for all the events in my life and thoughts in my mind. Her songs ring of truth worked out by a wrestling heart, just like mine.

Which brings me to The Good Things. This album, more than her others, is deeply personal. The conversational songs are written out of life experiences in friendships, marriage, and parenting. And the sound is a bit of a departure from her other more folky albums. There is a tension musically in many of the song that reflects the both the messiness and reality of the lyrics. While still highly crafted, complex, and interesting, the songs aren't neat or simple. There's a bit of roughness to them.

"I can’t explain how weak my conviction is/How I can make up my mind but it won’t make a difference/It’s like I am allergic to solutions that would make any sense/Just a moth around a fire
But You’re reaching out your arms of forgiveness/Its your usual response I’m afraid/After all the things I’ve done you love me anyways
I heard Jill sing "All the Good Things" in person at last winter's BTLOG concert, sitting in a row with friends who were walking their own rough roads and knowing that these were good things in our lives because these days are ordained by a good God who does all things for our good and His glory. Again and again, I come back to "Forgive me for my shortsighted look at this world/Where you keep proving that you know what you’re doing" and "I wouldn't have it any other way" from a song about the ups and downs of marriage. One of my favorite aspects of Jill Phillip's music is that she writes songs from and about a woman journeying with God through life, marriage, kids, work. Because, as she closes out the album, "If you look real close you’ll find you’re a lot like me." And those are the kind of songs I need.
And if that sounds at all like you, you'll want to listen to her music too.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The big #5

Boy, do I feel old(er) lately. Thirty was a big one. Five is a big one. She's so grown up looking, losing most of her chubby cheeks and talking (more) like a teenager. She can sure try us most days, but I also love her growing spiritual awareness and maturity, how she loves her family (when she wants to) and her friends, and her unbelievable mind.

We had a great birthday weekend. On Saturday we took our friends' advice and tried out the Children's Museum of Houston. For a reasonable admission price of $7, we spent nearly four hours exploring, running, creating, playing, and pretending. Kidopolis, the kiddie-sized city with everything from a police car to ATM to voting booth to HEB (a grocery store) was a big hit, especially the HEB apron she is modeling there. And the other favorite--the Lego center in the invention room. The three *ahem* kids poured over the Legos creating cars that would survive the test track.
I love this picture of Ben. Uncle Dave, this is a boy after your own heart. Can I send him to you for a while?
On Monday, her official birthday, we had a few girls from church come over to play and have lunch. The costumes were out, there was jewelry making, and lots and lots of giggling.
Good five-year-old fun.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The most wonderful of fairy tales

For the past few years, The Jesus Storybook Bible has been figuratively on our shelf. I say figuratively because it rarely stays on the shelf. It is a frequent choice at bedtime, a rotating staple in our family's devotions, and, now that R can read, a favorite of hers during rest time.

Though I grew up in church, as did David, and knew countless Bible stories and characters, Sally Lloyd-Jones' book helps connect the dots as I read to my children. While I might struggle with all the explanation and finding the right wording, her retelling, along with the great illustrations by Jago, bring it all together.

Lloyd-Jones uses the context of our culture's renewed fascination with fairy tales and heroes in her introduction: "It's like an adventure story about a young Hero who came from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne, everything to rescue the one he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that have come true in real life. You see, the best thing about this story is--it's true." With vivid word choice, Lloyd-Jones foreshadows or reflects upon or ties in the greater Shepherd, stronger Warrior, perfect Leader, and wonderful Rescuer. God's love is described as His "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love," a phrase she repeats several times. These stories are meant to be read aloud, with passion and excitement. They captivate young ears. I get goose bumps each time I'm reminded of my Rescuer. I get caught up in the poetry and beauty of God's one story. This "children's" book stirs my heart each time I read it.

(I'm not the only parent or adult to get caught up in these stories. You can hear Sara Groves' son read from the story of Gabriel's visit to Mary on her Christmas CD. Jason Gray's newest CD is entitled Everything Sad is Coming Untrue--one of Lloyd-Jones' phrases. And Andrew Peterson opened his Behold the Lamb of God concert this year with a reading from the book.)

In October, a new edition of The Jesus Storybook Bible will be released. This deluxe edition features the narration on three CDs for children--and their parents--to listen to. You can check out the new website at to hear an audio sample and see some of the illustrations. The Jesus Storybook Bible has been my favorite baby shower gift to give and I've encouraged parents and grandparents to give them to their children and grandchildren. And what a gift it is!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feathering our nest

Slowly, little bits at a time, we're making the house reflect us. I have to live with lots of unchangeables right now, especially the mauve on the walls of the entire downstairs, upstairs hallway, and gameroom. Which is good for me.

My Mother's Day present from my mom. Can you guess why she picked the green duck for Ben? They are now in a line across the mantle along with a few new accessories. I'm looking for lighter and more colorful pieces for the new house.

Ben's room is no longer Raspberry Regalia thanks to Mom and Dad's multiple coats of paint. They also painted over the burnt pumpkin in the laundry room and replaced the light so I can actually see if my laundry is clean. Ben's holding the color book I made for him--months ago! finally got around to finishing it and giving it to him. It's full of pictures of all his favorite things by color. "I lub dis book."I worked on our office/classroom. Erased the lilac, pink, and yellow from the walls with "Parchment Paper." Letters from Rebekah's old room on a border of dark brown. Number line on the line right now for Ben. It's good for hanging up finger paintings and our memory verses.

This half of the room, up two steps, is all kids. The other part is my desk, cabinets, and bookcases. A work in progress.

And my latest work, the dining room. Once mauve like the rest of the downstairs, it's now Benjamin Moore's Cinder. Awesome color. Makes everything else in the room look better. Still have to paint the molding and find a color for the ceiling. And I have some ideas for wall decor.

It's coming along.