Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Good List 2-29-12

10. A monkey wrestling a dog. Awesome.

9. Albany airport. It's uncomplicated and easy to get around, rarely very busy, AND it's one of the few airports that still has free wifi. Thanks, Albany!
8. My new Ninja blender/chopper. (Happy Birthday to me!) Personal smoothies in less than a minute each. YUM!
7. A Tale of Two Cities. Somehow simultaneously sweet and devastating, beautiful and horrific. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . ."  Indeed.
6. Burning 30% more calories on my elliptical than I used to on my treadmill (in the same amount of time.) Nice!
5. The big box of fun and yumminess our wonderful hosts from ReaLife Church left in our hotel room Sunday night. What a sweet surprise!

4. The talent of Josh Cassidy. Watching art happen is so fascinating to me.

3. Being *slightly* inconvenienced during our travels earlier this week INSTEAD OF being on the plane that had to land on its belly and shut down Newark Airport for awhile. THANK YOU, JESUS for inconvenience! (Also, THANK YOU, JESUS that everyone on that plane was safe despite the scary landing.)
2. When Betsy, who is possibly the sweetest lady on the planet and is married to Pastor Emeritus Roland (who preceded Jared as the pastor of our current church) calls to talk to Jared and says, "Is *my* pastor there?" Warms my heart all the way up! :-D
1. ReaLife Church in Philadelphia, Pastor Rob Burns, and everyone we met this week who is involved in their ministry there. Quality folks for sure. Grateful to have spent time with them.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Minor (but significant I think) Clarification

It occurred to me this morning that I have misrepresented God in a phrase that I have used over and over in my life. I can't count how many times I've said something along the lines of "God speaks to me more clearly _____________", and I've filled in that blank with all sorts of different phrases. Most of them relate to our new life here in Vermont. For so many reasons, I am less distracted and much more focused here than I have been at any other point in my adult life (though I still have far to go). Not only that, but I am daily surrounded by sensory delights that remind me quickly and easily of God and his attributes. 

Mountains instantly shift my thinking to majesty, and my family's home, church and school are surrounded by mountains.

Snow reminds me of grace, and I see MUCH more of it here than I did in any other place I've ever lived.

Lush, beautiful gardens prompt me to consider God's provision, and there's one on every corner up here.

The list could easily go on, but that isn't really the point of this post.

The point is that even though all of these things lead me to a better focus on God, his majesty, his creation, etc., that doesn't mean that he *wasn't* speaking clearly before I moved here. God does not struggle with His communication skills. Ever.

So with all of that in mind, I am adopting the new phrase, "I listen better __________," and then I can fill in that blank with all of my preferred phrases. "When there's a blanket of peaceful snow covering the landscape." God's grace. "When I've hiked to the top of the nearest mountain to be alone with God." God's majesty. "When I'm digging in the garden and picking fresh peppers and tomatoes." God's provision.

And so on. I listen better. God has always spoken clearly, but I'm learning to listen better.

I'm not sure what prompted me to share that little bit of my sanctification process, but for what it's worth, there you have it. :-D

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How's your Blood Pressure?

Macy (my 10 year old) will be happy to check it for you. :-D

She has been "studying" medical issues for as long as she has been able to read and has developed a keen admiration for Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor. She emails my oldest sister (who is a nurse) all the time with all sorts of questions and observations about her studies, and Vick is always very patient to respond very thoroughly and with great encouragement. This year for Christmas, she brought Macy a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope and taught her how to check blood pressure.

With that in mind, I wonder if you can guess Macy's topic for her upcoming health fair. ;-)

She is tracking her sister and 2 of her cousins for 5 days. Her plan is to take their BP 3 times each day--once under "normal" circumstances, once after a "stressful" activity, and once after she has relaxed them with spa treatments/massages. It's a pretty impressive and well-thought-out experiment, and so far the results are proving her hypothesis (that BP rises with stress and lowers with relaxation), but I never expected the process to be so entertaining (at least for me).

The "stressful" activities are particularly funny. Grace decided that one of the things that stresses her out is when her room is a mess, so Macy made a bit of a mess in there and then followed her around while she cleaned it up, undoing her progress as she went. So for instance, there was a pencil holder dumped over on the floor. Grace picked it all up, and then Macy knocked it over again. And on and on. Of course, Grace was in on the plan, so she knew why Macy was doing it, but she was OVER IT pretty quickly. (I'm pretty sure I heard Grace growl a few times.) And sure enough, her blood pressure was up by about 7 points when Macy checked it against her normal. I couldn't help but chuckle. . .

Funny little munchkins.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

OH, That We Would Cling to Christ!

When Monday morning comes way too quickly and we're already exhausted before the week begins, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When our spouse pulls away from our touch and hasn't made eye contact in weeks, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When the bills keep coming, but the work and paycheck do not, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When all is well and we're tempted to trust in our own strength, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When our children are running from God and family, and we have no answers, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When the doctor says "cancer," OH that we would cling to Christ!

When we feel trapped and crushed by our workload with no relief in sight, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When we're tempted to neglect selfless service for activities that might bring us glory, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When our prayers seem unanswered and confusion torments our thoughts, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When the health of loved ones is declining, and we're too far away to help, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When success after success falls right into place and we begin to feel entitled, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When we've barely closed our eyes in the middle of the night, and the baby cries yet again, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When our friends hurt so desperately, and we are woefully helpless to relieve them, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When Scripture doesn't seem helpful and we've become uninterested in prayer and the Bible, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When hopelessness abounds, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When surgery after surgery has been performed and the problem still isn't solved, OH that we would cling to Christ!

When there is no relief for the pain, whether it is physical or emotional, OH that we would cling to Christ!

In every circumstance, in all stages of life, with full understanding that apart from him we are nothing and that he is the only true source of joy, OH that we would cling to Christ!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Good List 2-22-12

Today's list is brought to you by our recent trip to Navasota, TX where Jared taught a Gospel Wakefulness conference for St. John the Divine's parish retreat.

10. Having Tex-Mex for the first time in quite awhile. You just can't get that kind of food in New England.
9. Camp Allen in Navasota, TX. Great facility for a retreat. 
8. Feeling immediately at home in a room full of people we had never met. Because of Christ.
7. St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in Houston. It is a stunningly gorgeous facility, but even more important, it is filled with people who love Jesus and long to represent Him well within their community, their diocese, and far beyond.
6. Kemper Crabb and the entire praise band. LOVED spending time with them personally and in worship with them. Awesome. (And ROCKIN'! :-D)
5. Hangin' out with Matt Fenlon. Quality dude for sure. And we couldn't believe it when he started talking about his dear friends Gabe and Amanda, a missionary couple in Burlington that our church supports (and we adore!) I love how God creates community all across the globe through these kinds of connection points. So fun.
4. Raegan and Stephanie Cocke, our host and hostess for the weekend. Truly fabulous. We stayed in their home Thursday night before going to the retreat center. That alone I could go on about for days. It is so wonderfully vibrant and colorful and gorgeous. I wanted to steal most of their paintings and furniture. ;-) And the decor matched their personalities well. They were great fun and wonderful hosts. We enjoyed our fellowship with them throughout the entire weekend. (Also, they have a dog that Jared wanted to smuggle into his carry on bag. She was pretty awesome.)
3. Getting to see Mom, Vick and Anna, who showed up for the last session on Sunday morning and then took us back to the airport so we would have time to chat and giggle before we left. Always good to get an extra, unexpected hug from Mom, Big Sis, and a sweet niece.
2. Returning home to my sweet, sweet girls, who had so much fun at JoJo's, they hardly remembered to miss me. Such a blessing to have family close by for the first time in their lives.
1. Jared, who teaches me more about Jesus, grace, and true love every single day. He spoke 5 times last weekend (about things I've heard many times before), and STILL I enjoyed every single second of it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Just some tiny little bites of goodness that I'm chewing on at the moment. Thought they might taste good to others as well. . .

"Jesus, our head, is already in heaven; and if the head be above water, the body cannot drown." --John Flavel

"Christian mothers, your child may be far away from the sheltering home, voyaging on the stormy sea, or dwelling in some distant climate beyond your voice. But he is still within the reach of the mightiest power a mother can wield – the power of prayer! And although you cannot throw around him your maternal arms to shield him from the evil of the world, you can invest him with your wrestling believing petitions, and secure on his behalf the Arm which encircles the globe, and is mighty to save. Oh that the Church of God may be filled with such praying mothers!"  --Octavius Winslow

"God is in the wait, not just in the answer." --Tara-Leigh Cobble

"Why is it easier to earn love than simply accept it?"  --Ann VosKamp

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." --C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Good List 2-15-12

10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. It won't win any awards for the acting, but it was a fun movie to watch with the family.
9. Drinking my water from a margarita glass with crushed ice and a splash of lemon or lime. This way, each glass is like its own little celebration. :-D

8. Eye contact. Sometimes I fear that the ongoing increase in non-face-to-face communication will make it a thing of the past, but I hope to do my part to make sure my family values its importance and keeps it alive.
7. Watching Gracie break. it. down. in the empty theater before the movie started. She was more entertaining than the movie (and it was a really fun movie!)
6. When these beauties are actually affordable. Love having this gorgeousness on the menu.

5. Planning happy surprises for people I like to watch smile. I'm cooking up a couple things now. . . ;-)
4. This song. Marvelous. "Why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart. His wounds have paid my ransom." OH, Thank God!

3. We're on our way to Navasota, TX for Jared's 3rd (my 2nd) Gospel Wakefulness conference. Praying that much will be made of Jesus all weekend.
2. My favorite 2 little Valentines on the entire planet. (And their Dad is my favorite big Valentine :-D)

1. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. The Gospel. Of FIRST importance. Not a side note. Not the thing you get to if you have time. Not something you graduate from and then move on. Of FIRST importance. Always.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine Prayer

This morning I find myself surrounded by my 3 most favorite people in the entire world. We've all exchanged hugs and smiles, and my heart is full with the way they all love me and I them. They are all brilliant reflections of God's love for me, and for that I am so thankful.

But my thoughts keep turning to those who don't share a similar reality with me. Those who are unhappily single. The childless couples who have been trying and don't understand why they still haven't held a baby in their arms. The children who not only didn't get a Valentine this morning, but who have never heard the words "I love you," at least not directed at them. My heart breaks for each of these and for the void they feel this morning, but my prayer is that the love of Christ so rich and free would fill those voids in ways that no human being ever could. 


Father, this morning there are those all over the world who for various reasons don't find any joy in Valentine's Day.

The single young woman who thought she would be married years ago but still finds herself wondering if it will ever happen. 

The man who can't feel his wife's arms around him, because her body now rests in the ground.

The newly divorced woman who has been betrayed and abandoned and left feeling unworthy.

The man who cares for an ailing wife who hasn't remembered his name in years.

The childless couple who has prayed and fasted and maybe even begged that you might bless them with a child, yet their arms remain empty.

The children--OH GOD, THE CHILDREN--who have never seen love in the eyes of another human being. Father, these precious babies and toddlers and kids of all ages who have never been embraced or kissed or cuddled, who have never heard the words "I love you", and who have no idea what GRACE looks like.

Every variation of a broken heart or broken relationship-- too many to mention each one individually.

Lord, would you fill their hearts with the soothing balm of the gospel of Christ this morning? Father, penetrate their very souls not just with a warm fuzzy feeling, but with the POWER of your Spirit. Give them fresh HOPE, redeeming LOVE, unsurpassable PEACE in the midst of difficult circumstances. Speak to them tenderly in ways that the words of another human being could never fulfill, and ignite their passions toward YOU in such a way that emptiness is filled, pain is comforted, and all of the questions are replaced by knowledge of your love for them and your true desire to give only what YOU know is best for them. Father, love them generously. Love them personally. Love them powerfully as only you can. And do so in such a way that brings all glory back to you where it belongs.

Praying in the name of JESUS CHRIST, the ultimate perfect and holy picture of LOVE on this Valentine's Day and every day.


Won't you pray this prayer with me this morning (or a similar/more eloquent one of your own)? And please feel free to add your requests in the comments section below. Comments on this post will not be published publicly for the sake of those concerned with privacy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What's in a Name?

Familiarity. Interaction. An indication of being known. These are some of the things that a name symbolizes. 

I love the names of God. There are so many, because He is so much. I haven't learned them all. Who knows if I ever will? I'd like to try. But for now, these are some of the names that I am gratefully attached to, because I have interacted with these names in life-changing ways. I *know* God by these names, and that changes everything.

ELOHIM (Gen 1:1, Psalm 19:1): Strong Creator

I know ELOHIM, because I see Him surrounding me every day. Through the sunrise. Through the mountains. Through snowflakes in the winter and blooms in the spring. Through my children and the beauty he crafted in them. I can't open my eyes without seeing evidence of my Strong Creator. He is everywhere I look.

JEHOVAH-MACCADDESHEM (Exodus 31:13): The Lord thy Sanctifier

I know JEHOVAH-MACCADDESHEM, because I know the changes in my heart that its sinful wickedness is incapable of achieving on its own. I can boast of nothing but Christ in me. He is the only good in my heart, and I'm grateful for His presence there and His ongoing work in sanctifying me.

JEHOVAH-JIREH (Genesis 22:13-14): The Lord Will Provide

I know JEHOVAH-JIREH, because we still own a home in Nashville and rent a home in Vermont, yet somehow on a pastor's salary from a small (but ever so epic) church in rural Vermont, all of our needs are met. The Lord has provided. The Lord provides. The Lord will provide.

EL-SHADDAI (Psalm 91:1): God of the Mountains; God Almighty

I know EL-SHADDAI, because He has brought me to the mountains where he speaks to my heart so much more clearly than I have ever heard Him before. I feel His might and majesty so significantly here. I know he speaks differently to others, but I am grateful to dwell in the shadow of the mountains where I sense God Almighty through my surroundings every single day.

JEHOVAH-ROHI (Psalm 23:1): Great Shepherd

I know JEHOVAH-ROHI, because I have followed Him down unknown path after unknown path without fear or worry. This is not because of my personality or my natural ability to put fear and worry aside (I don't have that ability). It is because I know that my Great Shepherd has gone before me to ensure my safety.

JEHOVAH-SHALOM (Judges 6:24): The Lord is Peace

I know JEHOVAH-SHALOM, because I have known a sweet calm and stillness in my soul in the midst of circumstances that were quite the opposite of calm and still. The Lord gives peace because He is Peace.

JEHOVAH-RAPHA (Exodus 15:26): Healer

I know JEHOVAH-RAPHA, because I have seen healing in friends and family members for which there was no medical explanation. Where doctors could not help, the Healer did.

ABBA (Romans 8:15): Father

I know ABBA, because I spent 9 months alone in Nashville after my family had already moved to Vermont. But I felt my Father's arms around me in that big empty house in ways that I never had experienced before that time in my life.

Just a small representation of who He is for sure, but these names mean everything to me, and I look forward to becoming more familiar with a much longer list over time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Good List 2-8-12

10. Waffles. I don't know why they're any more special than pancakes, but for some reason they are.
9. Just 6 months 'til Fantasy Football drafts!!! :-P
8. THIS. I love how creative and fun these guys always seem to be.

7. Homemade New England clam chowder. I made a pretty simple recipe the other night, and my whole family acted like it was the gourmet recipe of the year. (Also--Jared thought it was the strangest thing in the world that I actually bought clam juice, but I suppose it makes more sense to him now. ;-)
6. Sunshine. I'm still one of those weirdos who would love to have tons of snow every winter, but February has been so gorgeously sunny so far, I just can't complain.
5. Super Bowl parties. That way, when the game isn't going quite like you hoped, you can still have fun with your friends. :-D
4. Two great dental check-ups for Macy and Grace and a dentist that we ALL love!
3. Feeling caught up on chores. To be clear, I'm never *actually* caught up, but what is in my immediate sight/memory seems to be in pretty good shape, so I don't plan to go digging for the undone stuff. 
2. When Dylan says, "Can I snuggle with you?" The answer is always yes.
1. When God drops provision right into my lap when I wasn't even pursuing it. This time through my friend Becky. Thank you, Lord AND Thank you, Becky!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Homemade Aromatherapy

It's amazing to me the extent to which aroma can so profoundly impact my mood/memories. Before my brain can even recognize what's happening, the smell of a pina colada snowcone puts me onto a rubber mat at an old cement waterslide in Sunset, LA (where I lived as a child) with Ronnie Milsap playing on the loud speaker.

Aerosol hairspray fumes transport me right back into my 80's cheerleading days when the only thing bigger than my ridiculous shoulder pads was my infinitely more ridiculous permed and teased hair.

And the festive smell of pine envelopes me immediately in all things Christmas, taking me back to year after year of adventures in choosing the perfect REAL Christmas tree for the living room of my childhood.

The gift of smell is a powerful thing indeed. For most of my life, I've largely left these situations entirely up to chance. Meaning, if I happened to get a whiff of one of those smells, I would enjoy the moment briefly, but it never took long to move on and forget about it pretty quickly. Those moments are still great fun--the times when a scent takes me by surprise and walks me down memory lane. But recently I decided that if something so simple can bring such joy, why would I not be more deliberate about it? Right?

And so. . .  I'm creating my own mental library of homemade versions of aromatherapy, and so far I'm loving the results. These are some of my favorites:

Lemon: When I need a little boost or just a spark of energy, this works every time. I challenge anyone to be in a blah mood while zesting a lemon. I bet you can't do it. I can't.

Ginger: Grating fresh ginger has almost a spa effect on me. So yummy. Makes me take long, refreshing, deep breaths and savor the moment.

Coffee: Oddly, this smell has the opposite effect on me than it does on most other people. While for most I'm told it is a call to wake up, for me it triggers a moment to relax. I'm guessing this comes from my years and years of work in corporate retail, during which stepping away from my desk for a few minutes to pour a cup of coffee was my only escape from the hundreds of emails and stacks of paperwork I was facing each day. I still use coffee that way. Rather than pour myself a cup first thing in the morning, I'm much more likely to get up and knock out a list of chores and save my coffee for a break after getting the work done. Probably kind of silly, but it works for me. ;-)

Roast: If ever I'm feeling homesick, you can bet roast will be on the menu soon. Something about the smell of a roast in the oven or crock pot all day conjures up some of my favorite family moments. A roast always meant one of two things when I was young--either we were all home to relax and enjoy the day together playing games, doing puzzles, etc. OR someone special was coming over. Either way, it always meant a fun day spent with people who loved me and I them. I wonder if my girls will feel the same way. There's something about serving up a meal of roast with all the fixin's that makes it more of an event than just a meal.

Lavendar: I'm not sure I can think of anything more relaxing than the smell of freshly clipped lavendar floating in a warm bath, which is why I always have at least one big bush of it growing somewhere in my yard.  So much better than Calgon. ;-)

Bacon: I'm sure this doesn't need much explanation. But in addition to smelling amazingly delicious (which is enough to make me happy), bacon tends to say ADVENTURE. As in--a Saturday morning with no schedule that lets you have a nice breakfast and then just go where the day takes you. Love it!

Cinnamon: Certainly, it's yummy any time of year, but since it is a spice that tends to be more prevalent during the holidays, cinnamon almost always puts me in a festive mood. It makes me want to craft and bake and crochet and maybe even shop a little.

Vanilla: Something about vanilla signifies clean to me. It's one of my favorite candle scents, and I developed a habit a long time ago of lighting a candle after cleaning my house. So something about vanilla makes me want to curl up with a book or a movie, knowing that the chores are done, and I can sit still for a little while with no guilt. I like that.

Rosemary: This one is a bit of a mixed bag that can trigger a number of different things, but all good. Sometimes it has that "someone special is coming to dinner" effect kind of like a good roast. Other times, it has more of a spa effect like a an herb-infused facial or body lotion. And then other times it's similar to the ginger effect. Nothing specific--just makes me slow down and take some good deep breaths so I don't miss the glorious fragrance while I'm chopping it for whatever recipe I'm working on.

Bread: This is weird, especially since I tend to bake more in the winter than in the summer, but something about the smell of baking bread puts my mind in summertime, with the sun shining in through open windows in every room while a gentle breeze circulates the scrumptious smell throughout the entire house. Makes me want to be barefoot in my kitchen and elbow-deep in flour.

Those are some of my favorite smells and a bit about the effect they have on me. What are some of yours? I'm adding to my list all the time. Maybe some of your energizing, relaxing, or nostalgic scents will have the same impact on me. I'd love to try!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Good List 2-1-12

10. When they say "holler" on Leave it to Beaver. Makes me giggle every single time.
9. Wells Country Store breakfast muffins. I rolled my eyes when someone told me they were the best muffins in the world, but I take it back. It's entirely possible that's a true statement.
8. The way Macy giggles when she watches Abbott and Costello.
7. 2 excellent report cards (with a side note that Gracie has an "opportunity" to work on not distracting her fellow students quite so much when she finishes her work early. :-D)
6. There is a church in the Philippines which has developed a youth camp curriculum based on Jared's writings about "Gospel Wakefulness." We got this package in the mail from them yesterday. Amazing to feel like a part of this. What an adventure!

5. "Jesus Loves Me" played with handbells and signed by the lovely and multi-talented Kim Carr last Sunday. Beautifully sweet and simple.
4. Macy's painting of a sunset on the horizon.

3. When Macy and Grace are playing together unaware that anyone is listening, and they are making each other belly laugh like the very best of friends. Best. Sound. Ever.
2. Jared just signed another 3-book deal with Crossway. I'm telling you, that dude just can't keep his pen still. :-D I'm so humbled and grateful for Jared's incredibly hard work and overflowing heart, for Crossway's tremendous support of him, and for God's provision through this work that Jared so passionately loves.
1. My sister and bro-in-law just BOUGHT A HOUSE within walking distance of our church. I guess this means they love it here and want to stay awhile! I wonder if you can hear the gladness in my heart. It's so LOUD right now! Awesome.