Friday, April 18, 2014

Wonderful, Terrible Good Friday


Today is Good Friday. I always thought that was a strange name for this day, and the Lent devotional I've been doing for the past almost six weeks summed up my thoughts better than I could:

"Today is called Good Friday, which is not really good because "good" is too neutral a term. The events of Good Friday are the ultimate paradox--at once atrocious and wonderful, scandalous and beautiful, the worst kind of hate and the best kind of love. On this day we were convicted and pardoned, condemned and freed, cursed and blessed."


I love that summary of what this day is. It was the worst day imaginable; and though the followers of Jesus couldn't see it that day, it was the greatest act of love that had or would ever happen in all of eternity; it was the darkest day that had ever taken place, yet it would be followed by the brightest of bright days that would ever take place, three days later on Resurrection Sunday. Imagine what Jesus' brothers and sisters and Mary and Joseph and all of his beloved followers were thinking that day. Their world came crashing down in the worst possible way, and they had no idea that there truly was light at the end of this nightmare.


"To his disciples--those that had forsaken everything in order to follow Jesus--this day was anything but good. This man, in whom they had put all of their hopes, was hanging dead on a tree. This was the death of their faith, the crushing of all their hopes for a new kingdom, and the end of all they believed in. Or so it seemed...Easter Sunday lied in wait for them, but on Friday they couldn't see it. they couldn't see the defeat of death, the glory of the resurrection, or the advancement of God's kingdom. They couldn't see the whole story."


"God is a God of light: darkness cannot survive in his presence. We, who have dark hearts full of sin, should tremble at this fact. But Jesus, who was completely good, cloaked himself in the darkness of our sin and stood under the wrath of God for us. On the cross, he was destroyed and cut off from his Father. It was to have been our fate. On the first Good Friday, in the midst of our darkest hour, God did not cut us off. Jesus Christ, our true light, plunged himself into the darkness so that we might live in the light."



This is a concept I have a hard time with. It's not hard for me to believe, but hard for me to imagine and grasp the fullness of it; the enormity and the implications of it. To think about the fact that for one single sin, I deserve hell...for one sinful thought that crossed my mind for one instant, or one sinful word that leaves my lips; for a sinful attitude, or for one tiny white lie I tell. for the time I cheated on one answer on one test in high school, or for the gossip I shared in a moment of weakness and wanting to fit it. For losing patience and snapping at my girls yesterday. For one of these sins, I am guilty and deserving of hell, because God cannot look upon sin. He is too holy. To think that Jesus was able to come to this Earth and never, ever even think a sinful thought...and then to think about the fact that this perfect, sinless God-man took the weight of every single sin I have and ever will commit, plus the sins of billions of people who have and ever will live...this, this is a concept too great for me to fully grasp. Yet I believe. I have to believe. This is the hope we as Christians live by. That the God of the universe can look at us and love us because Christ took the sin, the darkness, thus clothing us in pure white, making it possible for the Father to look at us in love. THIS IS OUR HOPE. THIS IS OUR JOY.


And so we mourn the death of our Savior and the depth of our sin today on Good Friday. But we have hope, because Sunday is coming!

"Holy God, you have opened our ears to hear your Word and our lips to proclaim your truth; open our eyes this day to see in the cross the revelation of your love; through Jesus crucified, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, be honor and praise, now and forever. Amen."


Italics are from the Lent devotional online at thegospelcoalition.org, Day 39.



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring has Sprung!


I thought it would never come, even though it always does...SPRING IS HERE!

It's funny how my heart seems to come alive at the sight of everything else coming alive! The snow has officially left my yard (only as of yesterday...we live on a hill headed into the mountains, so our snow takes forever to melt!), garden gloves and pruners and ladders are out, getting things ready, and our heater is finally turned down a few notches, which our wallet will thank us for. I opened the windows this week and lit my favorite spring candle and the whole atmosphere of our house went from stuffy and closed in and seemingly dark, to bright, fresh, open and airy...glorious! We went to the park this morning, lunch and picnic blanket in tow, and ended up spending three-and-a-half hours there. A lazy wasted day to some...not to us! The girls so needed it, just to run and play outside and get dirty...and eat dirt (Addison and her friends were making wood chip and dirt 'snacks'...she actually ate hers I'm pretty sure). The day was not wasted, not a single minute of being out there. Naps? Meh. Who cares on a day like this. The girls are out cold now, just a couple of hours late, but they were having so much fun, I don't think they felt tired until we hit the car.


Other happy 'spring things' this week...trail running (with a lot of walking involved;)) with Brad, just the two of us...my big yellow vase full of yellow daisies and pretty green flowers that I don't know the name of...tacos and strawberry margaritas with good friends...sitting on the porch swing with hubby after the girls are in bed for the night...unexpected drop-ins from friends and getting to catch up while the kids get a spur of the moment play date...buds forming on my lilac bushes and on our gigantic tree in the front yard...spring cleaning with yummy homemade lavender cleaner...out with the soups and stews, in with the salads and smoothies...and last but not least, something Brad hates hates hates, and I loooove: birds waking us up faithfully each morning before the sun comes up! Haha! Our gigantic tree I mentioned happens to house about one million sweet singing birds that are early risers. It's music to my ears, a fabulous way to say hello to a new day. Brad on the other hand can be found with a pillow over his head, dreaming of nice, er, not so nice ways to get rid of the birds. :)

That's how our spring is going. Hope yours is just as lovely!

Gotta love it when Brad straps on his weight vest and looks like he's got 
a giant bomb strapped to his chest. Seriously, I'm pretty positive people think that.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Achy Flakey Heart

If you weren't a cool kid and never listened to Billy Ray Cirus, you don't get the title. But if you were cool like me (joke), you obsessed over his hot mullet and knew every word of Achy Breaky Heart. And if you were super extra cool like I was, you may or may not have had a giant poster of Billy Ray that you sometimes kissed goodnight before bed. I'm not saying I did that...



Isn't he just dreamy? I mean, to a pre-teen in the 80's? Seriously. I was in love.
Okay moving on, awkwardly.

Our life seems up in the air right now. So many unknowns...
Brad has applied for teaching licenses in TN and SC and has/is applying for school districts.
This is what I wanted...most of the time anyway. My heart has been torn and tormented most of my life between MT and TN...or at least being somewhere close to either of those places. When I've lived in MT, my heart has ached for TN and the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins I was far away from; When I've lived in TN, I ache for the familiarity of MT...my parents and siblings, the dairy I grew up on and the family there, the majestic mountains and the big sky with endlessly changing sunrises and sunsets that prove the existence of the most infinitely creative and awesome God.

Because of my ever shifting desire to be near one place or another, I've been thought of as a flake. Someone who can never be happy. It's not either of those, though. I am ridiculously happy both places, although winter in MT has proved to get harder and harder for me to get through the older I get. Since I was a little girl, I remember every time I had to say good bye to family on one side of the country as I headed to the other side, so very far away, I would weep and my heart would hurt so bad. Not just as we said good bye, but for days! I am able to keep the tears locked away inside as an adult (usually), but my heart still aches. It is what it is, and flakey or not, I truly love both places and all of my family and I wish we were neighboring states. But we aren't. And here I stand, this time with a husband and two kids, at a crossroads once again. Will we stay in MT, or will we head back south? And I've placed it in God's hands with my mouth, but not with my heart. My mouth says, "Wherever He wants us to go is where we want to go...Lord, open a door to the south or keep it closed if you want us to stay here."

But then there is my fickle, fickle heart. Here is what my heart says:
I want to be somewhere warm.
I want our kids to grow up with diversity.
I want to live somewhere where we can take day trips to the beach, to see family, to the mountains, to the city, to this and that (this is the draw to SC...centrality to so much!)
I want to be close to my parents and have the girls close to them.
I love MT...in the summer and fall!
MT is 'safe'.
I don't want to leave the friends I've made here...what if I don't make such wonderful friends elsewhere?
What if we don't find a church that lets us use our gifts to the extent that our church here does?
Brad wants to teach at an inner city school and I want to do inner city ministry with the homeless.
Somedays I want to live in the city...
Other days I want to live in the country where we can have a giant garden, some chickens, and have a nice, big back yard where the girls can play.
Somedays, I want to trust God and let him use us...
Other days, I want safety and security.

See a pattern? 'I want I want I want I want....." And my wants change and can't be trusted. My heart is fickle. What my deepest, most real desire is, is to please God; to go wherever He sees fit. Wherever it is that we will be used by him the most. I believe He is sovereign and has a plan so enormous for all of his children's lives. But that plan can only reach full potential when we stop following our shaky hearts and choose to follow HIM. I don't want to be out of His will. My greatest fear is to get to Heaven one day and have Him say to me, "Well done...but I had so much more for you!"

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

This song rings in my mind often lately. Somedays I sing it and mean it. Other days, I sing it and the words shake me to the core. I fear. I don't trust. I want to be in control. But my prayer is that I would place my complete trust in Him...not just in writing or with my mouth...but that my heart would follow. That I would lay aside my aspirations, my wants--selfish or unselfish as they may be--and whole heartedly say, "Lord, where ever you want us to go and what ever you want us to do...HERE WE ARE. USE US." As my friend said this morning as she spoke at a MOPS meeting..."Our minds are bipolar..." Meaning one moment, we are all in; the next moment, we're obsessing over stuff that has no meaning or importance whatsoever. It isn't enough to say you follow your heart. It isn't enough to say you are wise and experienced enough to follow your mind. Both will lie to you. We must follow God if we want to truly live the life he has for us. Lord, lead us wherever you would call us...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This Week in Pictures

I've had so much I've been wanting to write about, but life gets busy and somehow this always gets put on the back burner. So, as I do when I don't have time to thoughtfully write, I photo dump!
It's been awhile since I posted lots of pictures, and I actually got a few good ones this week (that's rare these days, with my wiggly girls and a camera that doesn't capture action shots whatsoever!) So I thought I'd share a few good ones, plus some random pictures of things that brightened this past week:)

A bit of 'spring' to brighten up the house, even though it snowed twice this week. I love love love having flowers in the house, no matter what the season. It just brightens my day to look at them!

Farm fresh eggs...my egg lady went MIA and I haven't had true farm fresh eggs in months. A friend of mine brought these to me Monday and we've been enjoying both eating them and looking at them. Why I think eggs in a bowl on the counter is pretty, I have no idea, but I do! It's just one of those things that makes me strangely happy:)

Favorite moment of the week: Both the girls dragged their little chairs over to help me make granola bars. Don't worry, the burner was off! :) They had so much fun 'helping' mom...and then eating what they helped make!

This girl. She's at that age that just kills me. As in she is so. stinking. adorable. I can hardly stand it. I put her hair in pigtails for the first time ever, and it made her look all the more like my mini-me (as you'll see in the picture below). Her personality is just blooming right now and it's so much fun to see it come out more and more each day!

Hamming it up for pictures:) Gotta love her crooked little smile!


I decided to make the traditional corned beef (or is it corn beef? I never know for sure!) and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. I've always wanted to try it, and neither Brad or I had ever had it before. The veggies were good...however, I wasn't a huge fan of the corned beef. But I thought it was a pretty dish anyway, and Brad liked it, so I'll probably try again next year, maybe do it a little different!

These two...either picking at each other and screaming, or like this: best friends and playmates and giggle buddies. They'll just giggle and giggle at nothing sometimes. These are the moments to remember! (I choose to block out the pinching and poking and hitting and pushing and tattling!)

This is one happy girl. We were eating lunch at the health food store here, and what does she eat? A pickle (in her left hand, mostly eaten at this point), and strawberry milk. Her first strawberry milk. Like I said...a happy girl!

And of course, I had to include the best outfit of the week. Swirly shirt, checkered dress, heart leggings, and hello kitty/zebra striped boots. Just awesome. I tried to pick out her clothes for church last Sunday. I will never do it again (I keep saying that and then forgetting). It's simply not worth the fight. Plus, then I miss out on seeing her look like this! So fun:)

That's all for now! My computer charger broke and my computer is about to die. And spring break starts tomorrow (yay!), so I might take a little break from blogging. We'll see. Or maybe I'll feel inspired and borrow my parents computer and write from there next week. Who knows. I'm rambling because I should have gone to bed by now and my brain is officially turning off as I type. Have a wonderful weekend friends!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lent

I was raised evangelical Christian. I always thought Lent was something that just Catholics participated in and never really thought about why they did it, or whether or not I should. It was so far off my radar in fact, that I never knew it was coming until the day of, when I would notice people here and there with ash smeared on their forehead. I considered giving up cookies or something once. But that was just because I needed an excuse to give up cookies...not because it would have had any meaning whatsoever!

Last year, I started thinking about Lent a little bit more, although I don't think I gave anything up, or even gave it a whole lot more thought than before. This year though...this year, I really started thinking about it, what it means, what the purpose is, and whether this is something strictly for Catholics (which I don't believe it is), or if I could/should take part. I did Advent this last Christmas for the first time ever, with the intent of being mindful every day of what we were coming up on: The coming of Christ to walk among His people, to rescue humanity. I didn't want to get lost in the busyness of the season, getting so wrapped up in parties, gifts, and decorations, at the expense of losing the Christ in Christmas. Lent is like Advent, in that it's a way to prepare my heart for the coming celebration of Easter (or 'Resurrection Sunday', for those of you who have a hard time calling it 'Easter') But unlike Christmas, Easter morning tends to sneak up on me, and I often find my heart unprepared for the depth of the holiday. Lent is heart preparation. Mindfulness. Surrender. Letting go of what's unnecessary in order to receive that which is the only thing necessary: more of Him. Less of me.


Obviously I'm a first time Lent practicer. I haven't even given anything up yet. I keep forgetting. I'm planning on starting tomorrow, but you know what? That's the beauty of it. I'm not doing it to be legalistic or to prove anything to God or anyone else, or to earn righteousness, or to feel good about myself. I'm not doing it to be more religious. I'm doing it to reset; to refresh; to take inventory and re-evaluate.  For the first time ever, I'm doing a lent devotional, and it's by far the BEST devotional of any kind I've ever done, ever. (If you're looking for a devo right now, I highly recommend jumping right into this one! It's so so so deep and yet so down to earth, practical, and easy to read.) A Christian man I barely know semi-attacked me for participating in Lent, saying it's absolutely unnecessary and that true Christians should take time to re-evaluate their spiritual life on a daily basis, and should focus daily on repentance and Christ's work on the cross and new life that came from His resurrection. While I can agree with that, I still believe that there is a certain significance to Lent, and if you're convicted to participate, you can and should! Certainly we don't need to participate in Lent or any other kind of fasting or ritual in order to be saved. I know that there are plenty of people out there who do Lent because they feel like they have to because they were raised that way or feel bound to it as a religious duty; yet they give something petty up and don't think twice about the meaning of what they're doing. It has no significance. I love what the writer of the devotional 'She Reads Truth' wrote a couple of weeks ago, regarding the reason of the Lenten season...


[Lent] is a time for us – Protestants, Catholics, Jesus followers, Truth seekers – to acknowledge not just our acts of sin but our condition of sinfulness before the Lord. It is a time to turn to him in mourning and to return to Him in trust anew, believing He is faithful to forgive and forgive again....Backwards as it may seem, we come to Lent for refreshment. We fast – be it from a comfort or a thing, an action or an indulgence – to receive. We give up that which we do not need to live, to gain that which we cannot live without: more Jesus. We hold ourselves back from the everyday trappings of life simply to refocus our gaze and re-firm our grip on him. We do not fast for fasting’s sake, but only to draw near to Him. 

I don't know if I'll participate in Lent every year, but I kind of think I will.  Of course we shouldn't only think about repentance and Christ and the cross and the resurrection once a year. Of course I can't earn anything or become more righteous or more holy by participating. But for me personally, I need these stepping stones through out the year. New Year's resolutions, Advent, Lent, etc. I think it's good to have these times of getting out of whatever routine I'm in, changing it up a bit, re-focusing, refreshing, starting over in some sense. Maybe next year I'll remember to actually start on Ash Wednesday and I'll follow through the full forty days. Maybe I'll teach my kids about Lent, or maybe it'll just be a personal thing I do in my walk with the Lord. Who knows. For now, I'm okay with not being "all-in", I'm okay with starting late and not knowing all there is to know about it. All I know is it's a wonderful time of renewal--and how timely that it happens to go hand in hand with the snow melting and the trees and flowers budding and the promise of Spring coming! What a beautiful picture God's given us! If you're interested in the devotional I was talking about, you can check it out here .

Hope you have a beautiful Sunday! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Seasons

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven."

My mind is full of tidbits...nothing fully processed at this point, just a bunch of unrelated things bouncing around, waiting for me to somehow slow down enough to do something about each one, as they are all in need of attention right now. Even when my calendar doesn't look full, life seems to be busy right now. Here are just a few things I've been thinking about lately...



I feel like when Addison was younger, she was getting lots of one-on-one attention from me. I was actively teaching her, making everything fun, yet learning along the way. Then Lily was born. For awhile, I think things stayed the same, but now that Lily is a toddler herself, I feel like I'm not doing a good job with either of them (in the area of teaching/being creative/letting them create). Lily definitely hasn't got the same time with me that Addison did, when I would walk around, showing her objects and just having one-on-one time. And Addison is ready to be doing craft projects beyond just coloring, and doing projects that teach her numbers, letters, etc., but Lily isn't old enough, and it may sound like a lame excuse, but it's been hard to find time to do age appropriate things with them separately, and they simply aren't at the same level (Lily isn't ready for glue and scissors, and Addison is past wanting to move objects from one container to another, that kind of thing). All that said, I'm tired of making excuses, and I've got to make a way, make time for doing more with each of them, even if it means putting them on separate nap schedules. I've been looking on Pinterest for Montessori style toddler activities, and have found some really fun things I'm excited to put together for them! More blog posts on that as they happen:)


Next thing I've been thinking about a lot is kinda funny, or at least the reason I started thinking about it is funny. I was talking to someone the other day, and she was making fun of a friend of hers who's always telling her she needs to 'slow down and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.' She found it annoying, but I seriously haven't been able to get it out of my head! How true is that statement! And what is the destination, anyway? (Figuratively and literally...in her case and in her defense, this entailed her friend wanting to stop a thousand times on a short trip, making the trip hours longer than she had anticipated) There are days when I sigh a lot and keep looking at the clock, waiting for Brad to be off work. Hard days where the girls are bickering and being disobedient and making disastrous messes and peeing their pants and throwing tantrums. But I'm realizing that that's part of the journey! Yes, these toddler years are hard in many ways, but oh so wonderful in many, many, many ways, and honestly? This is the destination I have been waiting for for so many years, so I wonder why, why do I find myself sometimes waiting for the day to come to an end, instead of enjoying the ride, whatever it brings each day? If I'm always looking for a new destination, I'll miss the sweetness of this one. I'm trying to have that attitude about all things in life. Even road trips...so what if we have to stop four times for snacks or poopie diapers or potty stops? It's just part of it, and getting annoyed will only facilitate negative and anxious emotions, whereas being more laid back and not worrying about time really, honestly makes the 3-turned-into-5 hour trip much more enjoyable!



Last, well, not last in my mind, but last for now because that's all I care to write at the moment, goes along with the last one, in a way. Routine day in and day out are okay for some people. Us, not so much. I think part of enjoying the journey of everyday life is adding some spontaneity to it. Mixing up the routine, even if you are exhausted. Not settling for what everyone says: "Oh, it's just a season, it'll pass!" I hear this all the time, and yes, it is a season, but I think I've given in to that as an excuse too much lately and become lackadaisical about things I used to be intentional about. Mostly in my marriage. Things like making his favorite foods for dinner or snacks, leaving him notes to find at a random time during the day, taking the time and effort to plan something special and out of the ordinary when it's my turn to plan our date night every other week. I've been in a rut and chalked it up to having two babies and a surgery, followed by a year of not feeling well, all within the first few years of marriage. I'm ready to step--no, to leap!-- out of that rut and start fresh. I'm feeling better finally (praise God!) and Spring is coming, the sun is out more and temperatures are above freezing. All of this is motivating me and giving me a fresh new outlook. And you know what? I think sometimes God puts us on our behinds to teach us something, to keep us from something, or to force us to slow down for a bit. For our own good, even though we don't see it that way all the time. That's what I've felt like lately. Like He knew some reason that I couldn't see that I needed to slow way down, but He knew I wouldn't do it on my own. So He, in His sovereignty and goodness laid me low for awhile.  But I feel like that season is coming to a close, I can just sense it. Like the snow slowly melting away, (painstakingly slowly it seems sometimes!), so is the season of sheer exhaustion and mundane-ness melting, slowly. In His perfect timing. I still have days I don't feel good, days I'm exhausted and don't feel quite myself yet, and it really does remind me of late winter/early spring. When you get a bit prematurely excited for that nice weather. The sun comes and melts most of the snow and you think winter's over...then it snows another few inches. But each snow that comes is less and less, and it melts a little faster each time. So it is with me right now. Spring really is coming. And I'm waiting as patiently as possible:)




Thursday, March 6, 2014

Irish Nachos

Just for fun, I thought I'd share one of our staple dinners with you. We had these at a restaurant downtown last summer and for months, Brad was begging me to make them for him. The only problem...I didn't really like them, plus they were super, super greasy and heavy. So I 'cleaned them up' a bit and voila, our new favorite (and healthy!) dinner: Irish Nachos! 

First, I cut a combo of sweet and russet or red potatoes into thick cut 'fries'. Do whatever you like here, but I leave the peel on the regular potatoes, and peel the sweet potatoes. 

Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl and toss until evenly coated with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and a bit of cumin. If you like spice, a touch of cayenne is nice too! Until my kids are older, spice is out:( 
Spread evenly on a baking sheet and put into 425 degree oven to start baking. Meanwhile...

Start chopping your toppings that you want to bake for a bit. I like the peppers and onions to go in the oven for a little while, so that's what I cut up as the potatoes are starting to cook.

Pull the fries out and sprinkle with veggies and pop it right back in the oven.

Now, while everything is baking, I cut up my cold toppings, get the table set, and clean up!
That's one thing I love about this step by step dish...it keeps cooking while you work on the next part. It only takes about 30 minutes total, not bad for a quick, veggie packed weeknight meal!
For toppings, get creative! This time, I just used tomatoes and black olives, because that's what I remembered to buy at the store. Green onions are good, and avocado is a must, but mine wasn't ripe yet:( Whatever you like on nachos, go for it!

Last but not least, add meat (chicken is good...ground beef seasoned with homemade taco seasoning is reeeally good!), or make it a vegetarian meal and add some black beans...

Sprinkle with cheese, and put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes.

Top with whatever you prepared, plus sour cream and your favorite salsa,  and enjoy!

By the way, my girls love this and eat them up! Any meal that gets them to happily and willingly eat lots of veggies, you can count on me making often! Plus, it makes for a very happy hubby:)

Here's a quick ingredient list:
Sweet potatoes
Russet or red (or any kind, really) potatoes
Veggies of your choice...
-bell peppers
-onion
-jalapenos
-banana peppers
-black olives
-tomato
-green onion
-avocado
Meat of your choice...
-chicken
-beef
Grated Cheese
Sour Cream
Salsa