Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Week Off

These are pictures from last summer's trip to the family cabin in Sugar Pine. See how relaxed everyone looks? Well, except for the picture of Dad cleaning fish; Nathan looks pretty grossed out there.

Notice that I'm not in any of the shots above. That's because Mom is always the one taking the pictures.

Tomorrow, we are headed back to the cabin for an entire week, which is why I won't be blogging this coming Wednesday like I usually do. The only person missing is Christian, who has to work (insert sad face here).

My family has been going to the cabin since my parents, Dad's siblings, and their parents built it in the mid-70's, and the rosewood paneling on the walls reflects that. The decor includes mismatched furniture, an oil-on-velvet painting of a mountain lion that freaked us kids out when we were little, and a chandelier that Grandma bought at a garage sale that apparently inspired the building of the cabin. (Instead of buying a light fixture to go with the cabin, we built a cabin to go with the light fixture; that's the way it's done in my family.) My childhood is filled with memories of playing Little House on the Prairie around the tree in the side lot, going to Columbia State Park where we had picnics at the schoolhouse and could not leave without a trip to The Candy Kitchen, and fishing at Pine Crest Lake. If we got bored, we looked through a set of children's encyclopedias from the 1950's, Time Life books about the Old West, and Dad's yearbooks. (Those kept us in stitches for hours on end.)

Now my sisters and I are creating those memories for our kids. We have boys, except for poor Haley, the lone girl, so they do more sword fighting in the back yard than playing Little House, but we still can't leave Columbia without a trip to that candy store, and those yearbooks are providing laughs for the next generation. (The truth? Kristy and I do most of the laughing. I'm sorry, but what were they thinking with those '60's hairdos?)

We thank God constantly for providing this wonderful get-away spot. We could care less if the kitchen counter looks like it belongs in an episode of The Brady Bunch, showers must be announced to avoid being scalded if someone happens to run water or flush the toilet, and we have no idea what is living in the dungeon downstairs. (Dungeon sounds so much cooler than crawl space where we store sleds in winter and inner tubes in summer.) It's the cabin, where tacky, dirty, Christmas mugs in August, and wondering if we will find out that the bathroom floor needs replacing when someone falls through it is half the fun.  

So that's where I'll be on Wednesday when I'm not blogging. I promise to include pictures in my post-vacation post.

Happy Summer!

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Good Gifts

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow" James 1:17 (NASB). 

Take a close look at the picture above because this is the only time you will see an image of my feet posted online. At least I say that now.

Today, my friend Samantha took me out for a belated birthday gift. She even paid extra for flowers. Now I have pretty feet for summer.

I know James did not have pedicures in mind when he wrote his letter, but that half hour in the salon chair when I soaked my feet in warm scented water, had them massages and cleared up, and let a sweet girl paint my toe nails felt like a gift from the Father. I did not need to tell the manicurist that it had been awhile since my last one. Just be happy I didn't post a before picture. The past couple years left little time or energy, let alone funds, for beauty treatments. I occasionally found time to paint my own toes, (I'll save my hidden talent as a contortionist for a later post.) or have my sister polish them, but most of the time I just wore closed-toed shoes. When sandal weather hit, I started feeling a bit unkept. After such a long season in a foggy state, I have felt a deep need to look nice, and God clearly understood that.

So, thank you, Samantha for providing a much needed lift. Your birthday gift did not feel late at all, in fact, it was perfectly timed. And thank You, Father, for knowing exactly what we need and when, and for seeing our desires as important, even a seemingly frivolous desire for professionally-polished toe nails.

What perfectly timed gifts have you received lately? How has God met your needs in creative ways?    

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And Then They Opened Their Mouths

“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” Job 2:11-13 (NIV).
I had just poured out the details of a heartbreaking situation to a friend and the emotions were starting to catch up with all I’d shared. The tears welled up as soon as she wrapped her arm around me. All I remember her saying as she comforted me was “I am so sorry.” She didn’t try to cheer me up, give advice, promise me that everything would be okay (she’d heard enough to know better), quote Scripture, or remind me to trust God as if it hadn’t occurred to me do that; she just rode out the storm with me. Even now, I am grateful for her precious gift of knowing when to stop speaking. For that sweet few minutes, regardless of what she might have wanted to say, or how awkward the silence mingled with a friend’s weeping may have felt, she was willing to be quiet and let me be a mess. When it was time to talk again, her words reflected the heart of a sister in Christ who remembered what it felt like to be so devastated that nothing anyone said could make it better.
Two years later almost to the day, I sat with another friend. I finally had closure in the situation that I’d shed so many tears over. After five days of numbness, the ice was melting. I asked her if we could pray, but suddenly found myself fumbling over what I needed prayer for. She took my hand. Her prayer lasted less than a minute. Then we sat in silence. I eventually found my voice, not because she coaxed me, “Come on, just say what’s on your heart,” but because those quiet moments as we waited for the Holy Spirit to work freed me. Once again, I thanked God for sending a friend who knew when to speak and when not to.      
If I had to choose one thing that surviving crisis has taught me, it would be this: sometimes the best, most helpful, most Christ-like thing we can say to a hurting friend is nothing, at least until God gives us words that will sooth instead of sting. I think God wants me to cling to this lesson, because it has come up in conversation twice in the past two weeks, both times with people who have experienced the beauty of quiet comforters and the burn of unchecked words.   
“Look at Job’s friends,” one lady said when a bunch of us were talking over coffee one Saturday, “They sat in the ashes with him for seven days.”
“And then they opened their mouths,” two of us responded at once.
And sadly, they are remembered more for their hurtful talk than those quiet days of sharing Job’s grief. How often have we heard, “Don’t be like Job’s friends?”
Actually, I do want to be like Job’s friends. I want to be like they were before they started talking and became, as one writer put it, “slightly less awesome.” (I love that description!) I pray that I will hold on very tightly to both the sweet and painful examples of how to, and how not to, help someone through a trial, and that moments with hurting sisters in Christ will end with them feeling comforted instead of wishing they’ll poured their soul out to someone else.
When has a friend comforted you through her presence alone? How have you learned the power of being silent when someone is hurting? Thank God today for those who have shown you what it means to be a Christ-like friend.   

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Difference

A few weeks ago, I started a morning routine of getting up thirty minutes early to take a walk. Before moving I walked everywhere, and lately I have really missed the difference that those trips to church, the school, friends’ houses, and the store made. For the first time in ages I felt like I was gaining weight. I dreaded summer when my legs would show. I resented the entire swimsuit industry and every celebrity who I knew was only skinny because she had a personal trainer. Knowing that I most likely would not be willing to wear jeans all summer long, and that those Victorian bathing outfits (that suddenly looked very appealing) probably wouldn’t hit the runway anytime soon, I added the morning walk three days per week and built up to more.
I loved it immediately. I could think, pray, brainstorm writing ideas, and walk as fast and as long as I wanted to. Just as the experts predicted, I felt more energized, my body bounced back, my clothes fit like they should again, and I slept better. As an added bonus, I found many spiritual applications to work into devotionals later. (Nothing is wasted on a writer, including fitness programs.)        
So, with all this, you would think I sprang from my bed every morning at 5:30, ready to throw on my dated sweats and head out the door. Uh, not exactly. Yesterday, I woke up with a headache that seemed like the perfect excuse to sleep in. This morning, I just didn’t feel like it.
Then, I thought about the benefits and how quickly they could be undone. I considered my son who’d caught on to my new routine and would ask, “So, did you go on your walk this morning?”
Did I really want to go back? How would I answer Nathan? Believe me, it would not be unlike him to say after hearing a serious of excuses, “So, in other words, you were just being lazy?”
Both times, I dragged myself out of bed, made a mental note to buy some new sweats, and took my walk, and both times I was glad I did.
Why is it that even when we begin reaping the rewards of a beneficial routine, we want to slack off? We know the new thing leaves us feeling far more alive, healthy, and happy, yet the slacker in us still wants to skip it occasionally. I could probably spend my entire day exploring the answer, and we all have our set of reasons, but in the end, I guess it all comes down to choice. Do we want to go back to that icky place that inspired us to take action? Do we really want to explain ourselves to those who know us well enough to recognize when we are just being lazy? How badly do we really want to feel better, look better, be closer to God, or do fill-in-the-blank better?
This morning taught me that the answer lies in what I ultimately choose to do, and that I will never regret doing the hard-but-right thing.
What new routine has made a difference in your life lately? What keeps you from slacking off? What good things is God teaching you as you learn to be more disciplined?

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