"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, April 30, 2012

Real Victory

It’s that time of year again. Baseball time. With two sons in two different leagues, our family is at the baseball field at least four times a week. It’s fun spending time with other parents and watching my sons improve upon last year. And shame on me, but it’s also fun to win.

Recently I found myself getting too caught up in the game. My older son’s team won their first three games and we already had our eyes on an unbeatable season. He’d made some good hits and a few outs. I was a proud Mama. Maybe he could help his team on their way to victory.

To victory? Someone please set me straight! As my thoughts came screeching to a stop, I had to wonder: how would winning every single game benefit my son—my son who has a very hard time losing at the card game, UNO?

I started to ponder what was really important. What, of true value, do I want my sons (and myself) to learn this baseball season?

1) To win honorably.
2) To lose gracefully.
3) To work with others toward a common goal.
4) To be disciplined and committed enough to show up, even when the desire is not there.
5)To have a good attitude.
6) To persevere in the face of difficulty, to give their best to their commitments.
7) To encourage others and build each other up.
8) To support and cheer on other members of their family (their brother).
9) To turn to their Creator at all times, even in the middle of a baseball game.
10) To give glory to Jesus always. To know true victory is found only in Him.

Even as I doubt if baseball can teach us all these things, I hope and trust and pray that God will.

Can you think of anything to add to this list? Do you have any bad losers in your house? If so, what do you do to prod their little (or big) hearts to grace-filled change?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Short and Sweet Friday: FRIEND

Why is Jesus your friend? What has He done to warrant such a label? I’m not asking what you have done. No, that matters not. What did Jesus do that long ago Friday, that long ago glorious Sunday morning, that makes it possible for us to call Him friend?

As we think on this, let us take our eyes off ourselves and our works this week. For as Ann Spangler writes, “None of us will ever be attractive enough, good enough, or successful enough to warrant his [Jesus’] friendship. Paradoxically, it is only by exposing the brokenness inside us that we can be admitted to his friendship.”

When things are going well it’s tough to know that brokenness of which Ann writes. But more than anything I want to be Jesus’ friend.

So here I am, Lord.

Break me for your purposes. Break me for your graceBreak me for your friendship.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Mission For My Family

A mission trip, that is.

Last week, my family embarked on our first official short-term mission trip. We traveled three hours north to His Mansion in Deerfield, New Hampshire. We first heard about His Mansion through our church, and more recently from a friend who’s been greatly helped by their services. The facility offers Christian counseling and residential care for those with addiction and substance abuse problems.

The property is 360 gorgeous acres, and the campus itself is a farm complete with pigs, cows, and chickens. We were there to work.

We planted potatoes, pruned and edged a raspberry patch, and sifted soil. Lots and lots of soil. The kids worked their fair share, and played more than their fair share. We had wheelbarrows (literally) of fun, but best of all we had the opportunity to talk and work with those who have been helped by the program, and those currently in the program. We ate together. We worshiped together. We prayed together.

Our family glimpsed only a small portion of the amazing work God had done with this piece of land, with His faithful followers. But I’m thankful we could help, even if it was only for a few days.

Next family mission? That is yet to be seen, but I’m hoping that our family will travel to Haiti when the boys are a few years older.

We (or maybe just I) tend to think of a mission trip as going somewhere far away to minister to others. But a mission trip can be simpler. I’m going to try to think of every day as a mission trip—a time to show God’s love to others, a time to point others to Jesus. Whether it’s at home with my family, at the grocery store with a bunch of strangers, or in Haiti with a group of orphans, God has given me a mission. I pray I’ll be faithful.

What is your definition of a mission trip? Have you ever gone on a mission trip? 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Short and Sweet Friday: Are We There Yet?

Our family just returned from our first short-term mission trip. We drove three hours to His Mansion, located in New Hampshire. We do not have a television (that works) in our car and although my boys are definitely in the minority, they do not own a Nintendo DS. So they read. Ate. Looked out the window. Teased one another. And asked plenty of times "Are we there yet?"

My youngest, Noah, even busied himself by imitating a GPS voice. We pulled over for an ice cream break after only an hour of driving and he said, with all seriousness, "Arriving at destination."

What does your family do on long car trips?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anatomy of a Brother

As a grown woman who grew up with one sister, I find myself in awe of my two sons and how they relate. It’s an entirely new experience for me. The complexity of their relationship is deeply layered; I can’t even begin to understand the half of it. Yet I thought it might be fun to try.

Anatomy of a Brother

Eyes…to watch what my brother does and do likewise, only better and faster.

Nose…to smell Mommy’s perfume and alert my brother that “She’s coming!” and we better stop filling the gas tank in the lawnmower engine with dirt.

Mouth…to sneak a few jellybeans from our freshly-filled Easter baskets at 3 a.m.—something I would never do without my brother’s encouragement.

Muscles…to tackle my brother to the ground when A)I’m bored, or B)my brother started it!

Lungs…for hyperventilating with excitement with my brother at the prospect of building a go-kart from a lawnmower engine.

Foot…to prod my brother to try things first, like the highest diving board or the scariest rope swing.

Stomach…a tough one that can take the sometimes ugly truth about my attitude from the lips of—you guessed it—my brother.

Lips and Throat…for sharing smiles, laughter, and jokes after lights out.

Hands…for never letting my brother stray too far, for realizing he is my constant companion and best friend, the only one who can protect me from the swamp monster behind our tree house.

Heart…to love my brother. For no one else knows where I’m coming from like him. No one can relate to me better. No one loves exactly like a brother.

And for any mother’s with boys out there, here is a terrific blog I often enjoy.

For a fun post on what my sons have taught me, visit here.

How about you? Do you have a brother? One or more sons? What are some things you’ve noticed about your/their relationship?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Short and Sweet Friday: LORD

Lord. A power higher than any other. The Ultimate, Eternal, Never-ending Almighty. This week, I and many others are grieving the death of a member of our church family. As we go through this time, I am comforted by the fact that Jesus is Lord over both life and death.

Ann Spangler writes, “Think over the last week. How well did you do at letting Jesus be Lord of all your days? Were you primarily looking out for his interests or for your own?”

I admit that I’m often weak in this area. But I pray for the faith to know that where I am weak, He is strong. I’m choosing to trust God to give me the grace to relinquish my own will, my own agenda, my own need for control all to Him. Because He is Lord, the Almighty. And not only that, my Lord, my powerful Creator, loves little old me. I pray this fact embeds itself in your heart this day, and forevermore.

Happy weekend!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Nature's Testimony

This is a post I wrote about a year ago, but I think it's very relevant to our celebrations yesterday. I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!

Holy Week is upon us and as I continue to meditate on what this season means, I can't help but look to the living testimony that surrounds me--God's creation. In New England, where the seasons are so vivid, I especially see this witness in the changes of the year.

Autumn--growth stops, insects cease their persistent buzzing, the leaves begin to change to brilliant hues of reds, oranges, and yellows as their life ebbs away. They are dying...and yet it is beautiful, most definitely something to behold. Is that not also true of Jesus' death?

I imagine the first disciples. Sad. Hopeless. Winter was upon them, bleak and barren. And yet there was something truly beautiful in what Jesus had done. Peter, James, John, Thomas, Andrew...none truly comprehend it and I confess that I too also feel lacking in understanding at times. Yet I know this: He died because He loves us--and that is indeed a thing of marvelous beauty. I often imagine how the disciples felt after their dear friend died. He made promises. He performed miracles. They loved Him, and He left them. The bleak snows of winter settled in. No life. Sometimes hopeless. Would joy ever be known again? 

Oh yes. Do not despair. Joy is near. For my favorite season--spring--was (and is) around the corner. He is not dead. He has risen! My hope, my Savior, He is alive today. And I feel God speaking to me this truth through the crocuses, the daffodils, the budding leaves, the warm sunlight on my face, the robins on the green grass. Is it coincidence we celebrate Easter this time of year? I don't believe so. Yes, He is alive. And He's speaking to us in something we witness every day, every year. Death and rebirth. Life.

They are truly a living testimony to His life, His death, and His resurrection. I think God really knew what He was doing when He created nature. My prayer is that His presence will be found alive in both me and you this Holy Season and forevermore.

photos by flickr

Friday, April 6, 2012

Short and Sweet Friday: PRIEST

What a perfect week to meditate on this name of Jesus. Ann Spangler writes that Jesus is “the One who faithfully bears us into God’s presence by virtue of his self-sacrifice.”

In Old Testament times, the role of priest was to bring the people before the Lord and offer sacrifices to atone for their sins. Much preparation went into this event and only one high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies (God’s dwelling place) one day of the year (Day of Atonement).

But the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the world was torn in two on the day Jesus died. There is no need for separation. There is no need for sacrifices.

There is only need for Jesus.

May He fill your heart this Easter weekend!

Praying for a dear friend of mine, undergoing a surgery on her brain today. Please lift her up! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stone Walls and Church Balconies

 I thought I knew my history. At least the very basics.

But as I dove into my latest research of 18th century New England I found I was wrong.

I stumbled on a most startling fact. Maybe it won’t surprise you. Maybe you know your history better than I do. Or maybe, like me, you grew up with history books saturated with stories of the North fighting for the freedom of African slaves, as if the North never had anything to do with the entire nasty business. (I wonder if this is the view of those of you from the South?)

Here are some facts I unburied:

        * Many families of New England held slaves in the eighteenth century, but the amount was significantly fewer than the prominent plantations of the south. An upper class family of New England would often have one African slave for household duties. They may have one or two others for outside work at a family business or farm. If work was in short supply, the slaves were rented out.

      *  By the mid-eighteen century, Rhode Island had become the very center of the American slave trade.

       * One of the largest slave trading families in U.S. history, the DeWolfes, lived only fifteen minutes away from my home.

       *  Much of New England is filled with stone walls. You can’t get away from them! I have one in front of my house (above) that runs down the street. They often go for miles. Many of these walls were built by African slaves. The slaves were required to till the fields of undesirable stones and then build the walls that served as boundaries.

         * Before churches were segregated, slaves would attend church with the family that owned them. The congregations were seated according to prominence. The wealthiest families sat closest to the pulpit, the poorer in the rear. Church balconies were reserved for the colored slaves. I attend one of those old New England white-steeple churches (which I adore!). I spent two years up on its balcony, shushing and pacifying my babies through service. My church was established in 1772. The actual church was built in 1796. It’s quite possible that I quieted my babies in the same spot as an African slave woman quieted hers.

These facts tugged at my heart. Maybe the stone wall in front of my home wasn’t built by African slaves. Maybe a slave woman never sat in my pew at church, but the history is there, and I can’t help but wondering why it was left out of my history books. Or did I, subconsciously, not face the truth somewhere along the way? Perhaps shame hid it.

Let’s talk. What do you remember learning about this period in history? If you have older children, what are they learning? Were African slaves once an active part of where you live?