Friday, February 26, 2010

Getting All my Ducks in a Row

I have been trying to get all my ducks in a row over here at the old homestead. I am ready for spring to be upon us and would love to have a home that is decluttered and awaiting fresh air to come through the windows. My mother in law has helped a ton, but when she isn't here, I have tried to tackle small things, one at a time so I don't lose my mind. The closets have been decluttered along with the kitchen paper monster along with the bathroom cabinets. Slowly, but surely, this home will once again be a welcome respite. I have to say I love freecycle. You would be amazed at the number of people that want to come get your leftover toiletry and cosmetic items.

On a different "ducks in a row" theme, I took these pics at a pond recently and love the colors! This first one blows my mind. Is it even physically possible to have such a large upper body mass attached to such small leggish appendages? It seems like the duck should wobble and sway like a bobble head doll. God is some kind of creator!

Ahhh, the color. It was as if God took a paintbrush to the feathers. He is cool like that.

Have a great weekend, blog friends!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My fresh garlic hissy fit.

I have wanted to try fresh garlic like my whole married existence. That is like 12 years. Almost. It takes me awhile to work up some nerve for the big things in life.

I already had a garlic press, passed down from someone who either didn't use it or didn't like it. And, so I separated all my cloves, spent 19.2 minutes peeling off the fine layers of covering on each clove, and began to press.

I got like nothing.

Hardly anything.

I went through 4 cloves, which is what my recipe called for, and I didn't even have 1/4 of a tsp. worth. When I buy already chopped and bottled up garlic, it says to use about 1/2 tsp to equal one clove of garlic.

That is when I had my fresh garlic hissy fit. I threw my garlic press into the sink and dug through the fridge to locate my beloved already chopped up and bottled garlic.

I would like to use fresh garlic. I think it will be instrumental in me getting my own cooking show on Food Network some day. :) Let me rethink that. That would require me talking in front of people, wouldn't it. OK, never mind.

But, what is the problem? Is it my press? Can I expect not to get a lot of garlic out of each clove?

Do you use fresh garlic? If so, please enlighten this girl who doesn't want to have another fresh garlic hissy fit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is that the best you could come up with, really??

Gosh, I love American Idol. But the boys this year are not good. at. all. In fact, the majority of them remind me of a karaoke night gone awry.

Is that really the best they could come up with? Out of ALL those guys that tried out this year? Is that really the cream of the crop? Wow. amazing.

I think we just need to skip down to about three guys that might stand a chance against some of the girls: Lee Dewyze, Casey James, and Andrew Garcia.

My top three girls are Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, and either Katelyn, Lilly, or Paige. Well, that sounds like an undecided top three to me!

Who are your faves this far?

Dreams...what to make of them?!

I love it in the Bible when God speaks clearly to people in their dreams. We see it happen to Joseph and Daniel and probably others I can't drum up at the moment.

God doesn't ever speak to me that way. And if He does, I guess I don't remember it in the morning!

With that said, that God doesn't speak to me in my dreams, I thought you would get a kick out of my dream from last night:

All of the Stuart know, Herb, Barbara, Grandmother, Lee and Kelli and kids, Eric, myself and kids, and Zach and his girlfriend...were in a huge room, like a conference room together.

In one part of the room, a wedding ceremony was taking place between Zach and his girlfriend, Chelcie.

In the other part of the room, Kelli was giving birth to sextuplets. (That is 6 babes at one time!!) She was cool and collected. After they were all born, I couldn't decide if I was supposed to be talking to the groom and bride or Kelli and her um, 9 (6 plus 3)kids. I didn't see them all be born, so I asked Kelli how many boys were born and how many girls. She just looked at me with a hazardous look and said, "I don't know, I guess I will just figure it out when we get home."

And, then I was appalled at the number of infant carseats that were being carried out of the conference room. 6 you all, 6. And, the infants all looked like Landon. Which, isn't a bad thing, because he is a cootie-patootie.

I just kept thinking that maybe I should move in with them and help them. I mean 6 babies! Plus 3 kids. Makes one insane Mom.

And then, I woke up and laughed my head off. Thought you might like that dream, Kelli!

What is it with dreams? Michelle dreamed earlier this week that we had a 4th boy and named him Lilly. Apparently, I was persistent in naming him that and Eric thought I had gone off my rocker.

I don't know what is worse, having 6 babies at one time or naming your son Lilly!?!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Shiny Friend

Sunday was an interesting day, for sure! Thinking it would be "springish" outside, I donned my elbow sleeved top. Realizing that is was indeed, still freezing outside, I decided this may have not been the best decision. I felt even dumber when the downpour of 2010 hit.

While on stage getting ready to start the second service, a huge "boom" echoed through the sanctuary. I instantly saw the intense flash of light coming from the doors to the right of me. I may or may not have let a choice word fall from my mouth. Let's just say that I was glad my mic wasn't on yet! When pieces from the overhead projector start falling towards you, well, it is scary. And, I happen to have a favorite word I say when I am scared out of my wits.

Services started, and I noticed my row of friends was all the sudden gone. And, then our preacher made the announcement that my friend, Erica, had possibly been hit by the flash of lightening on her way into the church building. Her husband, Andy had rushed her to the ER.

My 24 year old friend who is in our community group and doesn't settle for any less than sharing the depths of our hearts. She has been stretching us for sure, but a God-send.

My friend who bakes for the pure love of it and then shares the goodies with those around her.

My friend who had been asking us to pray that her witness would be "shiny" around her non-believing physical therapy student friends.

Well, I had been praying that she would be shiny, but I thought this was a little much!

It was a struggle to keep singing, not knowing the exact details of what went down. I sang as my friend Anna sat on the front row with her eyes closed in prayer, tears leaking out the sides.

Some things are just surreal, and this moment was one of those.

After church, I rushed to the ER, only to be invited to a waiting party. They had run some tests and were waiting for the results. After awhile, they finally discharged her. One of the first things she said was, "I'm starving, where are we going to go eat?" Love that girl.

From what I understand, Erica was carrying the umbrella, and well, lightening has a love affair with umbrellas. After the secondary graze hit her, she instantly put her hand to her head and brought it down, expecting to see blood. I guess it felt like her head had exploded.

Lord, I just can't tell you how grateful I am for saving her from something just awful. Erica is a ray of sunshine to all she meets.

Let's just say she is shiny.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guest Writer Monday!

Eric's turn! I love what he wrote about today...I hope it encourages you as it did me.

Abba’s Delight

Ever have “thinker’s block”? It is similar to writer’s block. However, in reality it proceeds writer’s block in that you have to be thinking of something in order to write. Otherwise, you ramble with no meaning, searching and hoping that as you type some thoughts come to mind. Often this can lead to blog articles that appear idiotic and amateurish in nature, kind of like how this is starting…..

For those who know me, the idea that I am not thinking about anything is probably a shock. I seem to always be in thought, but here lately, I found my thinking has been removed – and for me that is a scary thing. I feel totally naked and vulnerable, because honestly, I have placed a great deal of pride in my ability to think and think quickly for that matter.

It has been so bad lately that Beck told me a week ago Friday, “Hun, you are my guest writer for February 15th. Are you ready?” My response, “can I have another week?” Well as of Sunday, February 21, 2010, 8:15 pm here I sit and I got nothing.

Being stripped of identity is really quite difficult. I have a friend that uses the phrase “peeling back the layers of an onion” quite often as we discuss business projects. He is referring to how you have to keep pulling layers off to eventually get to the heart or reality of the matter. What I find ironic is that it seems the Lord does the very same thing. It is additionally ironic that as you actually peel an onion it brings tears to your eyes. Have you found the stripping of the onion layers of your life to be accompanied by tears?

Deviating from the narcissistic nature of the first four paragraphs, I would like to share with you a story from my favorite book, Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. If I could describe the book in a simple phrase it would be: discovering and living in the reality of our true identity – we are Abba’s child.

In Chapter four, Manning is laying out his premise and argument that we are Abba’s child, and he starts with the theme of tenderness. That God is tender towards us. Manning states, “Tenderness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone.” He then goes on to build this point with the following story:

“Years ago, I related a story about a priest from Detroit named Edward Farrell who went on his two week summer vacation to Ireland. His one living uncle was about to celebrate his eightieth birthday. On the great day, the priest and his uncle got up before dawn and dressed in silence. They took a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney and stopped to watch the sunrise. Standing side by side with not a word exchanged and staring straight at the rising sun. Suddenly the uncle turned and went skipping down the road. He was radiant, beaming, smiling from ear to ear.

His nephew said, “Uncle Seamus, you really look happy.”

“I am, lad.”

“Want to tell me why?”

His eighty year old uncle replied, “Yes, you see, my Abba is very fond of me.”

If I could leave you with an encouraging thought, it would be this. Take heart and rest in the truth that your Abba is very fond of you. He delights in you. He sings over you. He weeps when we are distant and stands looking on the horizon for our return. He seeks to be with you. He pursues you, longing for you to experience His tenderness as his child. Where the world’s system requires you to be something you can never be, your Abba’s way is living in the present truth that you are His beloved child.

If you have never encountered the One who has redeemed and restored us to our Abba, please let me or someone else know, so that we might share with you the Great Story of Jesus Christ!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spring Line In!

Thanks for the helpful comments yesterday! Jena, the comment about the mouse traps had Eric is stitches. He said there is no way we could try that because HE would be the one to sit on them! Ha!
I decided that if you can't beat the attack of "stuff" on your house, then just add to it! Just kidding, but it was time for Rhea Lana's spring consignment sale and I laughed when my Mom asked me where I was going to put the boys' new spring line at!
I always avoid the sale until half price day and then stock up! I bought 18 items for $67 which averages $3.73 per item. Not too bad! I shop the racks of sizes ranging from 5-12 and figure that if a piece doesn't fit one of the boys, it is bound to fit another!
So, here is to spring! (And another sack in my garage until I switch out their clothes!)
If you are a local, the half price sale is going on today til 7 pm and tomorrow from 9-2 at the old Goody's. Some of the sizes are pretty picked over, but I still found some deals.
Have you ever consigned there? Do you actually make money? Do you enjoy the process? I thought about signing up for the fall sale.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gettin' the Spray Nozzle...

Do you ever want to attack your house with a garden hose? You know, the kind that has a powerful spray nozzle attached to the end of it? I am talking about the inside here, folks. Do you ever want to power wash the inside of your home? Good, I am glad I am not alone.

I feel like I am in a "can't-keep-my-house-looking-nice" rut and it is driving me crazy. I try, I promise! But, sometimes, I feel like my home is creeping in on me and that at any moment, I will be suffocated with junk.

It usually starts in the kitchen. The counters become a catch-all for mail, homework, and well, junk. I try to cook and can barely enjoy myself for fear of being attacked by the looming paper monsters that are at each corner.

It then bleeds over to the desk. Being book lovers, we tend to allow our desk to house our books. But it doesn't stop there, we also let the desk hold our bibles, various studies, magazines, camera stuff, calendars, and other paper junk that escaped from the kitchen. It never looks nice.

Next, we have the living room. I actually love my living room. It is a sunroom where the walls consist of large windows instead of plaster. On sunny days like today, it is a source of joy and warmth. But, the problem is our 70 pound dog who loves to lay on the furniture. Despite the discipline, we can't keep her off of it, especially when we are away from the house. So, the big red couch incessantly has a quilt on it (usually a nice shade of brown thanks to the muddy snowed a lot, ya'll.) Our nice black leather chair usually houses the ottoman, upside down, so that Savannah will stay off of it as well. This room is my favorite, and it usually just makes me want to cry.

I would tell you that our dining room table is almost always clear, but it is currently housing the boys' Valentine sacks of goodies.

Moving right along...we enter the boys' rooms. Cade is me made up in a 9 year old boy's body, so his room is usually straight. He even loves to have the covers in perfect order when he sleeps, but that is a different story.

Next, we have the little boys' room. It houses ALL the toys in the house, bunk beds, and a small TV and movie station. They also share a closet, which is getting trickier as their clothes get bigger in size and take up more space. Eli is the most random sleeper. One night, he will be sideways and the next, he will be at the opposite end. So, you can imagine his top bunk and what a pain it is to keep it made up. Since this room serves as the playroom as well, it is hard to keep it picked up all the time.

Next, enter the master getaway. I love my bedspread. I think I have had it for 3 or 4 years, and I still love it! I am usually happy about this room, after all, it houses my bed, and as my Mom previously said, I liked to sleep when I was 18 months old and that trend has definitely continued. This room isn't hard to keep picked up, especially when Eric makes the bed in the morning! :)

Lastly, we have the laundry room. I have the BEST laundry room in the far as size goes. Aside from washer, dryer, set up ironing board, etc., it houses a makeshift pantry, huge shelves that hold the kids games and our extra books, photography props, and the dog's stuff. This room is so large that it tends to become a catch-all where, if I am not careful, in a week's time, I can't even see the floor.

Here is my dilemma, I think: I know you are supposed to have a place for everything...and to keep it in that place. My dilemma is that I don't have a place for everything because I don't have room for everything. Do I downsize our stuff in order to create space? I am a pretty "throw it away" kind of gal, so I don't really have a lot of unnecessary things, but I need to breathe here!!

If you have any suggestions for any of the rooms, or anything in general, then please share.

And, thanks for letting me vent a little! :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don't Disencourage

This morning while getting ready, Eli proceeded to try and put his shoes on the shortcut way. You, know, without even untying them. But, his shoes didn't even have laces, just velcro. The boy was really trying to take a shortcut.

I told him that he should always untie/unvelcro his shoes to put them on. And he proceeded with telling me: "Don't disencourage me!" Of course, he said this with a huge dimpled grin, and I had to laugh.

Funny as it was, it was a good reminder that we shouldn't disencourage one another. Maybe the Holy Spirit will help me to encourage those I am around today. Maybe he will help me give hope, comfort, courage, or confidence to someone today.

Lord, remove preconceived notions of things that may prevent me from encouraging others:
*thinking the other person may not deserve it
*don't know what to say or how to say it

Romans 15:4 "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Who around us needs hope today?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest Writer Monday! Meet Debbie!

Meet Debbie, AKA my Mom. I look at her sweet face and tears brim to the surface as I realize God's grace in giving me such a mother. She is obviously beautiful, but the beauty of her heart goes so much deeper. My Mom has a gentle and quiet spirit, a gorgeous soprano voice, and a true knowledge of not only the Word, but God's heart. As her daughter, it has grieved me to see what she has had to endure these past two years, but her faith has been a constant source of refreshment. A woman with true humility who really cares nothing about being in the spotlight, I am proud of her for listening to the still small voice and sharing with us today. Leave her some comment love. (Or I will hunt you down.) kidding

God Gives A Song

I love music. When I was a girl my parents took me to good ole gospel "sangins" (that's singings with a country twang.) The harmony was beautiful, the bass singers could make the floors vibrate, and the words of the songs resonated with truth that touched the strings of my young heart and convicted me of sins I didn't know I even had.

I sat in church every Sunday and revivals were held several times a year. You didn't miss a night of revival. And tho the preaching did minister to me, it was the songs that reached deep inside of me and made Jesus real to me.

God blessed me with the ability to sing a little myself. I was always in the choir and often asked to sing solos. I even belonged to a Trio. I absolutely loved singing in that trio. I loved how our voices blended. I loved the songs we sang. I loved how the Holy Spirit moved on us when we were rehearsing. I loved watching the people's faces as we sang. You would see many moved to tears. I knew the Holy Spirit was using "song" to speak to them as He did to me.

When Becke', my sweet first born daughter, was around 18 months old I was blessed with time. Our oldest son was in school and Becke' was a wonderful sleeper! So, I would get all of my household chores done and when she went down for her nap, I would dig into the Word. I had a good three hours before it was time to go get my son from school. And I was hungry for everything God had to show me. I read, referenced, and cross referenced. I learned, I was fed and I was excited.

One night, I was really tired, so I went to bed early. The kids were down for the night and my husband was still up watching TV. I stretched out on my bed, got into my "go to sleep position" said a quick prayer and prepared for blissful slumber. Didn't happen. I heard a song start playing in my mind. A song I had never heard before. I tried to ignore it. It would not stop. So, then I paid attention. I started really listening to the song playing in my mind. And all of a sudden it hit me! God was giving me a song!

You must understand, I don't read music, I sing by ear. And I sure never thought of writing songs! I decided I had better get up and sing this song onto a tape recorder so I would not forget it. So, I the laundry room, so as not to disturb anyone. The next day I wrote the words down on a piece of paper, the melody was still fresh in my mind. Hmmmm, what do you want me to do with this Lord? That night, another song...the night after, another. God gave me four songs in four consecutive nights.

Our Pastor's wife could play anything on the piano. She was so gifted. So, I sang her my songs from God. Without any notes, she played melody and harmony to each of my songs. They were beautiful to me. I was able to sing my songs before the church because God had put her in my life to play them for me. God had given me a miracle. God had proved himself real to me in a way I never could never have imagined.

The past two years have been bleak. Full of grief, sorrow, and questions I will never know the answers to this side of heaven. But, still, God gives me songs. Not songs for me to write, but words to songs from the radio or a movie. Lyrics to lift my spirit and remind me that He knows my pain, he feels my sorrow, he hears my prayers.

One day at work out of the clear blue the song from Titanic, "My Heart Will Go On" started playing in my mind:

Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on.

Thank you God, for telling me my daughter goes on..

Don't be mad if I cry
It just hurts so bad sometimes
'Cause everyday it's sinking in
And I have to say goodbye all over again
You know I bet it feels good to have the weight of this world off your shoulders now
I'm dreaming of the day when I'm finally there with you
I have asked the question why
But I guess the answer's for another time
So instead I'll pray with every tear
And be thankful for the time I had you here
And I wanna live my life just like you did
Make the most of my time just like you did
And I wanna make my home up in the sky
Just like you did
Oh, but until I get there
Until I get there

Save a place for me.

Matthew West's, "Save A Place For Me"

No explanation needed for the words to that song, but God brought it to my mind one day just when I needed it.
Becke' asked me to be a guest writer on her blog. I have balked at the idea. Then this morning, while I was getting ready for work, this old hymn started playing in my mind. I knew instantly what God was telling me to do. Write this all down as a guest writer on Becke's blog. Give Him glory!
"There's within my heart a melody Jesus whispers sweet and low.
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still, in all of life's ebb and flow.
Though sometimes he leads through waters deep, trials fall across the way,
though sometimes the path seems rough and steep, see his footprints all the way.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know, fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go."

Thank you God, you ARE the song of my heart.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

He Will Cover You With His Feathers

Two years. What do you say?

At first, I was just going to repost what happened last year when I visited Kiley's grave. It is a remarkable story of God's active and loving presence in our lives. I think it points to His glory in a beautiful way, and you can read it here.

But, just like a year ago, God had his own agenda.

One year later, I found myself in the same place after that meeting with God. It was even a Thursday afternoon again. I hadn't planned this meeting either. In fact, I hadn't even planned on going to the grave site by myself. I was just going to wait and go with my parents in the next day or so. But, while driving to town, I guess God had other plans.

When I pulled up to her spot, this first picture is what I saw. I didn't know what to make of it, except that it seemed peaceful and gave me some comfort. The marker with the white cross is Kiley's burial site. It looked like the Canadian Geese were headed straight for her place. It seemed odd to me that I didn't see any other Canadian Geese anywhere on the grounds.

As I got to her site, the geese walked away. I once again found myself on my haunches. Last year, because the ground was wet. This year, because snow was everywhere. The bitter chill was a fitting reminder of my heart's loss and ache. Trying to balance the heavy camera around my neck and the Bible on my legs was a site. It was almost even funny. I couldn't decide which would be worse...getting my camera wet, the Bible wet, or my rear end wet. Thankfully, God blessed this "LuLu" with a little balance in those moments, and all were saved.

I wanted a profound word from God, but He pointed me to something familiar instead.

Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Sometimes I know a verse so well in my mind that it is hard for it to speak to my heart anymore. I often read the Message version at that point in order to see if God can speak something fresh to me.

"Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."

God was reminding me of His faithfulness these past two years. But, He was also speaking to my heart that has been wrestling with fear these past few weeks. Fear of financial drought, fear of photography, fear of singing, fear of having nothing to offer my Savior, and fear of losing another loved one to death.

I know better than to say that nothing bad will ever happen again. But, I was reminded in that moment, that I can make it through anything in the One. The Compassionate One. The Gracious One. The Healing One.

I waited as long as possible to see if God had anything else to say, then left. The next couple of days with family was a special time for me and well needed. We later added some bright and cheery Gerber daisies to Kiley's site, hoping the splash of color would bleed over into our hearts, as well.

After returning home, I decided to edit some pictures. It was here that God decided to reveal what He wanted me to see concerning the geese over Kiley's grave. I was actually editing a picture of a duck's feathers when it hit me upside the head.

"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear..." (Psalm 91:4-5a)

In the picture below, the geese's feathers are directly over her place of rest. In Heaven, Kiley is perfectly safe under her Father's outstretched arm.

I know that God wants me to see that the same is true for me. I can find a refuge from fear under his wings because his faithfulness is a shield.

Our hearts are like broken pitchers, Kiley. But, we are trusting Jesus to put the pieces back together in His timing. We miss you and daily cling to the four letter word we have come to know as hope.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's the Small Things

It's the small things I miss. Being a first time Mom with Cade, I was a bit protective and guarded in what I allowed as Momma bear. So, 9 1/2 years ago, when Kiley started shoving the chocolate filling (of my Nana's chocolate pie) into 5 month old Cade's mouth, I about had a heart attack. (That isn't me smiling in the is my Mom laughing and encouraging her wild antics!)

What about made me pass out then makes me laugh out loud today. Kiley sometimes pushed buttons to get a response, but she was good ol' fun. It's the small things I miss these days.

She's been in her new home for almost 2 years and I promise you, in a way, it feels like no time has passed at all. (I wonder if she feels the same since she doesn't have time up there??)

I wear a lot of her clothes. Have been for two years. Some things are starting to look ratty. After I noticed a snag in one shirt, I just broke down into sobs. What will I have left once her wardrobe has died as well? I know they are just clothes, but it is all I have that is left of her.

Should I trade her garments for a garment of praise?

These are hard days.

Lord, please give us a song of joy to sing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meet Marty

Meet Marty! He is our family snowman. What perfect snowman making weather we have had! It has been fun to drive around and see all the variations of "Frosty." For some reason, Marty looks a little sad. Maybe it is because he lost two "teeth," wears a seashell as a hat, and has a heart made out of stone. We love him, though!
Our neighbor's pine limbs decided to hop on over to our yard.
Then our pine tree limbs decided to make an appearance on our other neighbor's roof. We are sharing neighbors like that.
I dub this picture "frozen alligator on a stick." It sounds like something they sell at Toad Suck Daze.

It amazes me that these camellias survive in these temperatures.

I think God just knew we might need a little color when everything else tends to look bleak.

The beauty of God is all around, but sometimes we have to be more intentional about seeing it.

I keep thinking they are insane for cancelling school again tomorrow. I mean, the main roads are totally clear and dry. I guess there must be some side roads that are pretty bad.

An Image Reflected: The Catch

Have you ever found yourself in a place where God tells you to do something you have already been doing for what seems like forever? I think this is where the disciples found themselves when Jesus hopped into their boat, preached a little to the crowd on the shore, and then told them to "pull out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch." I totally resonate with Simon Peter's response: "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets." (Luke chapter 5)

I love it! They were fishermen by trade. It was part of what God had created them to do: catch fish so they would later understand the parallel of catching men for Christ. It wasn't as if they were trying to build a house or plant a garden. They were in the line of work God had called them to, and yet there was no blessing until Jesus himself was in the boat with them.

That is humbling. No matter how good we are at something, we can't even catch a minnow unless his very presence goes with us. Reminds me of Moses's statement to Yahweh, "If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" (Exodus 33:15-16)

Lord, we beg you to get into the boat with us and show us where to let out our nets. We will give you all the glory for the abundant catch. All we need is your participating presence.

Psalm 65:11 takes on new meaning after this story..."You crown the year with your good blessings and you leave abundance in your wake."

Perhaps the best part of the story is the response of Simon Peter's heart after Jesus performs the miracle and reveals such glory. He fell on his knees near Jesus and begs for him to leave, for he is a sinner and can't handle such holiness.

Jesus does the same thing that he does to the disciple John in the book of Revelation. When John beholds Christ in all his glory, he falls at his feet as though dead. Jesus bends down and tells him to not be afraid, just as he did to Simon Peter. Isn't it interesting that the same John was there that day of the miraculous catch. He was astonished that day and later on in the book of Revelation.

Lord, may your glory continue to astonish us and knock us off our feet.

Here is Spurgeon's take on Luke 5:4-6:

"We learn from this narrative, the necessity of human agency. The draught of fishes was miraculous, yet neither the fisherman nor his boat, nor his fishing tackle were ignored; but all were used to take the fishes. So in the saving of souls, God worketh by means; and while the present economy of grace shall stand, God will be pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

When God worketh without instruments, doubtless He is glorified; but He hath Himself selected the plan of instrumentality as being that by which He is most magnified in the earth. Means of themselves are utterly unavailing. "Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing."

What was the reason of this? Were they not fishermen plying their special calling? Verily, they were no raw hands; they understood the work. Had they gone about the toil unskillfully? No. Had they lacked industry? No, they had toiled. Had they lacked perseverance? No, they had toiled all the night. Was there a deficiency of fish in the sea? Certainly not, for as soon as the Master came, they swam to the net in shoals.

What, then, is the reason? Is it because there is no power in the means of themselves apart from the presence of Jesus? "Without Him we can do nothing." But with Christ we can do all things.

Christ's presence confers success. Jesus sat in Peter's boat, and His will, by a mysterious influence, drew the fish to the net. When Jesus is lifted up in His Church, His presence is the Church's power--the shout of a king is in the midst of her. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Let us go out this morning on our work of soul fishing, looking up in faith, and around us in solemn anxiety. Let us toil till night comes, and we shall not labour in vain, for He who bids us let down the net, will fill it with fishes."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Guest Writer Monday: Marvin!

You guys ready for Guest Writer Monday?! Meet Marvin! When God had Marvin in mind, he decided to show off a little. The man is so talented, I don't even know where to begin. Marvin carries a song in his heart that always brings others refreshment and joy. He has the ability to write music, cook, and play "farkle" as if God Himself were throwing down the dice. His latest discovered gift is the gift of "concoction" or the ability to create yummy punches. I am just glad he shares. :) Enjoy his gift of writing. Read slowly and savor God's glory!

God’s Glory

It makes God impressive. It makes Him worthy of praise.
It’s too heavy to be weighed and too dangerous to be taken by man.
God’s Glory

I see it in the clouds. I hear it in the wind. I feel it in the rain.
I’ve heard it in thunder, seen it flash in the sky and felt it in a fierce breeze.
I’ve known it when I have been recognized, honored, awarded and rewarded.
God’s glory

I’ve seen it in the delivery room. I’ve heard it in the baby’s cry.
I’ve seen it in their first steps and heard it in their first words.
I’ve heard it in laughter, seen it in teardrops and heard it in solitude.
God’s glory

I’ve seen it in His creation, ideas, inventions and power.
I felt it when comforted, when embraced and touched by love.
I’ve smelled it the fragrance of a rose, gardenia and magnolia.
God’s Glory

I’ve felt it in times of loss and sorrow, when surrounded by grief and pain.
I’ve witnessed it in sickness, whether His remedy was healing or grace.
I’ve seen it at weddings and when saints were laid to rest.
God’s Glory

It can be seen in the brightness of primary colors.
You can also see it in the soft pastels.
It can even be seen in the richness of black, grays and browns.
God’s Glory

I’ve seen it in the seed that germinates and then sprouts.
It’s been tasted in fruit, so sweet.
My feet have been dampened by the dew covered grass,
after I’ve rested and dreamed during a peaceful sleep.
God’s Glory

It’s seen in starry nights and in a golden sunrise.
It’s seen in rainbows, snow and sleet.
DNA, fingerprints, body systems and functions and every heartbeat screams
God’s Glory

It makes God impressive. It makes Him worthy of praise.
It’s too heavy to be weighed and to dangerous to be taken by man.
God’s Glory

Notice it! Appreciate it! Photograph it! Film it! Write about it! Record it! Remember it! Sing it! Shout because of it! Thank Him when you experience it! Acknowledge it! Don’t ignore it! Don’t take it for granted! Don’t take credit for it! Mention it! Enjoy it! Spread it! Tell about it!
Thank Him for His Glory

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Best Buddy is in town

Best Buddy, AKA Uncle Kirby made it to town yesterday for some big boy ball games! As I was putting Sam to bed for a nap, I told him that Kirby was coming. Mistake! That boy got so excited that he couldn't sleep. He shouted with glee: "My FRIEND is coming? My only FRIEND is coming to see me!"

The boys love them some Uncle Kirby. They love to wrestle with him, shoot hoops with him, and watch sports with him. I just love having him around...well, because he is my brother!

Kirby is a youth pastor. After telling Cade that he sometimes gets to stay up all night with his youth at things like lock-ins, Cade shouted with anticipation: "I am going to be a youth pastor someday!" As if staying up all night would be just the coolest job ever.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An Image Reflected: Scarlet for Snow

When the prophet Isaiah arrives on the scene, the Israelites are in a bad place. They are rebellious to the core. God says that even the ox knows who is boss and the mule knows who feeds him, but His very children don't know up from down. They have forgotten not only their Creator, but their Redeemer. They are full of corruption and God wonders why on earth he keeps dealing with them. I am sure that it is for one primary reason: They are his NAME sake.

He was in covenant with them, and he couldn't go against what He initiated. He had no choice but to be faithful to His name, so he offers them this:

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (in Isaiah 1:18)

He tells them to have a seat so that they can argue this out. If they are willing and obedient, he will purify them. If they resist his offer, then they will be devoured by the sword.

I am learning that when God uses imagery, it is always for a purpose. It is never just thrown out there, like some fancy-smancy poetry line. It has meaning.

In those times, the color "scarlet" was the most "fast" color. It couldn't be bleached out. It held to everything. The Hebrew word for scarlet means double dyed. You are gonna love this little revelation! Matthew Henry said it is like this: "First dyed in the wool of original corruption, and afterwards in the many threads of actual transgression." In other words, we've been double dipped in the scarlet stain of sin. First, because we are born with a sin nature. And second, because we personally sin.

What can wash away my sins?

Somehow, in God's color wheel, red plus red equals white. Our double dipped scarlet selves are covered in the blood of the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus, and voila, we are white as snow. Seems like a trade off that I can't even grasp, much less ever be able to repay. His grace removes the permanency of the stain.

What can wash away my sins?

Nothing But the BLOOD of Jesus!

Sometimes it is fun to see if a word is located in other parts of the helps with understanding the imagery that God is using. The words snow and wool are repeated in a few other places and a couple of them reference the glory of God and Christ!

Daniel 7:9 "As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze."

Revelation 1:14 "His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire."

Do you see it? At regeneration, God works holiness into us and we become righteous as Christ is righteous. At adoption, we suddenly resemble the Father and the Son.

John 17:22 "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one." (Jesus talking to His Father)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy 4th Bday Tia Rose!

Well, happy birthday to my niece! I love your nail polish in this last shot. You will have to ask Sam about all the advantages to being 4 years old. You are a cutie-patootie and we just love you.
On a side note, I got to shoot the sweetest newborn today. (With my camera, of course.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Guest Writer Monday...Here is Sam!

Guest Writer Monday! Let me introduce you to Sam! Sam is at the UofA finishing up her creative writing degree. We met at church and my boys always loved it when she was available to babysit. Sam has a zest for enjoying the small things in life. She is fun, uber-smart, and constantly wearing a grin. Savor her words and leave her some love!

"From the Fish Bowl"

Recently, my roommate and her best friend bought fish that both live in a large glass bowl on our kitchen table. One of them is a calico goldfish, and the other is a black bug-eyed goldfish. I think the bug-eyed one is my favorite, simply because he is so ugly and he makes me laugh. It’s funny how entertained we have become by these fish! We all sat down to eat dinner one night, and we were not speaking to each other for a good two or three minutes because we were just staring at the fish. With the way the bowl is shaped, when a fish is swimming around on the other side, he looks four times as large as he actually is (and therefore my bug-eyed friend has even bigger eyes and looks like a hammerhead from the rear).

The fish are funny because they will sometimes swim to the side of the bowl and just stare out at us. Calico had a staring contest with one of my friends for a good forty-five seconds. As they stare at our world, though, I wonder how much of it they can actually see. What would our kitchen look like from the inside of a fish bowl? Can these fish comprehend the fact that there is a big wide world outside their sphere of swimming?

Have you ever considered that we might be living in a fish bowl of sorts?

First Corinthians 13.10, 12 says, “but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (ESV)

So often, I find my perspective is focused on the here and now. My worries consist of doing schoolwork, budgeting my limited finances, figuring out after-college plans, wondering whether or not I will get married, and so on. I strive to have a good reputation among my peers, and I wonder what other people think of me. I work to achieve happiness here in this life, and my energies go towards various forms of success.

Not that these are terrible things to engage in – if I didn’t worry about schoolwork, I wouldn’t be motivated to get it done and I would lose my scholarship, which would then lead to losing any type of income I have. I have been given earthly blessings that I want to be a good steward of. These things are important in a sense, but I am continually convicted that they should not be my primary concerns.

The Word says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4.18, NIV). When I think about what I focus most of my attention on, I find that the majority of it is temporary. The ancient Egyptians buried royalty with their treasured possessions and expensive jewels and even with servants, all because they thought they could take those things into their next life. You can go to those tombs today, though, and all of those things are still there, rotting and disintegrating. There are temporal things that are definitely important in my life, but I want most of my time to be invested in the things that are going to last much longer. My perspective of life needs to go much farther than what I see inside my little sphere of the world I live in. I am reminded even more of where I belong when I think of Philippians 3.20, which tells us that “our citizenship is in heaven.” I can’t necessarily image what that will look like, but I want to shift my perspective so that I am living for eternal rewards, not earthly ones. Matthew 6.19-20 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (NIV).

One last passage I want to throw your way: 2 Corinthians 5.1-2: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (NIV). This always convicts me; inwardly, do I really desire to be in heaven with Jesus? Or is my perspective so limited that the only value I see is the here and now?

If this metaphor of our lives as being lived in a fish bowl holds true, then think of the world of the eternal that we are currently unable to see and experience! One day, dear friends, we will stand together at the throne of our Lord and truly experience all of the riches He has in store for us, and we will be able to see beyond our fish bowl.