Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beauty in Hand

Tulips are up. Pink, purple, white, and any other color big one threw in the cart last fall as we snatched up clearance bulbs.
 Before I could gather them for a vase, they were found...
snatched by hands eager to hold beauty.

In those tulips, I saw two worlds:

My mom's as she watched her toil in the garden snapped up by my small fingers or crushed under careless feet. Beheaded plants, some with bulbs exposed, bedraggled garden.

Myself, as a little girl, confused at mommy's dismay. Smelling and seeing from the border were well enough, but I wanted to be in the garden, sitting in the middle of all those colors, holding flowers in my hands. Tasting beauty.

Small one embraces her tulip, pressing it to her chest. Petals fall to the ground as she releases. She's all smiles.
The flowers would last longer in a vase. But they would never have been enjoyed like they were crushed in tiny fingers. I'm all smiles, as I let go the garden and embrace their joy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Heaven-turned Eyes

Our neighborhood hawks hang in the air, tails twitching as they play in the headwind. With a slight flex of wings, they're carried back across the sky. Over and over, they dance above our lunch table, entertaining heavenward eyes. A cliche in the blogging world, but no less majestic.

Big one watches them, forgetting the food on her plate. {Small one's not sure what we're going on about.}

We practice our made-up catechism, the questions we recite to help overcome a fear of F22 flyovers:

Where does the bird {plane} fly?

   In the sky

Who's coming back in the sky?


When's he coming back?

   Any time! 

She throws her hands in the air, expecting a party when Jesus "comes in the sky". She's not old enough yet to worry that Jesus will bring the end of the world, and she might never get married, have her own grown up life, etc... thoughts that stole my joy for the return of the king for many years.

Sometimes time ruins perspective.

Maybe that's what Jesus meant when he said:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 ESV

   or another way...

If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison--your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even your own life. Otherwise you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 NLT

Fear is born in misplaced love. Worshipping joys in this life more than those in the life to come. Valuing, however unintentionally, God's gifts over God's will.

What was it Jim Elliot said:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

Childlike faith trusts the imperishable gain, giving rise to reckless hope and heaven-turned eyes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

with Love Incorruptible

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. Ephesians 6:24

Love incorruptible.

Is anything in me incorruptible? Can I even conceive of such a thing? A love that my sin cannot touch.

Aphtharsia {grk}: literally, no corruption 
Unable to experience deterioration, lacking the very capacity to decay or constitutionally break down, incorruptibility, hence: immortality Strong's Greek Concordance

{Aphtharsia is used elsewhere to describe God's glory Romans 1:23; I Timothy 1:17 and the inheritance of the saints I Corinthians 9:25, 15:52; I Peter 1:4, 23, 3:4 }

Lots of bold letters, written shouting, because my head is spinning at the notion of love for Christ that is unable to decay. I can accept God's incorruptible glory and an immortal heavenly reward, because I have nothing to do with them - they exist regardless.

And that's what makes my heart race about this verse. If my love for God is incorruptible, then it cannot depend on me. My sinful heart is capable of corrupting anything. This love that lacks the capacity to diminish must come from the One who cannot decay, cannot corrupt, cannot deteriorate in any way.

Which means... I can trust my love for Christ. If my love depends on my fickle heart, then I should live in mortal fear that I will wake one morning with love extinguished. But, if my love for Christ is grace, part of the new creation package, a gift from God, it is sure. I wake every day sure that God's seal on me assures that my love for Him is incorruptible.

And I shout with Paul:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

 Make your own seal - A creative reminder of our assurance in Christ

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rejoicing in the Upswing

Another mother-daughter weekend. Spring is time for school vacations and youth trips. And time for we girls to play together, bond over something besides household chores.

So, we visited the park. Situated under a stand of pines, we climbed and swung in a green fog {could account for the stuffy sinuses and sore throats}.
 Unsure of the swing at first...
 One big push later, exaltation in anti-gravity

The drama of the swing's fall makes the upturn that much more joyous. Our hearts the same. 

If you sin is small, your savior must be small also. But if you're sin is great, your savior must be great. 
~Charles H. Spurgeon

Our hearts are preparing this sacred week. Searching the soul to expose the depth of our fall, so that we might rejoice in the unimaginable height of His glorious grace

Friday, March 23, 2012

Our Creating God

We're having a beautiful, albeit pollen-filled day. The girls played long, arms pink and hair curling in the humidity. Peer pressure tells me to mow, but dandelions tucked behind ears speak louder. Let the flowers grow, and the let the little ones exalt in simple beauty. Our perfectly creative God hides tiny petals in all colors among the blades of grass for little fingers to search out.

Spring beauty reminds me that I owe stories, namely the creation story, for the storytelling project. The first Teachable Story, the story of our creative God from Genesis 1 and 2.
This is the story from God's word: In the beginning, there was nothing {make a zero with hand}. But God was there! He looked at the nothing, and {hold up one finger} God said, Light. He separated day and night, and God said, That's good. The next day {hold up two fingers}, God said, Sky.  He separated earth and heaven, and God said, That's good. The next day {hold up 3 fingers}, God said, Land, Plants.  He separated the ocean and the land, and God said, That's good. The next day {hold up 4 fingers}, God said, Sun, Moon, Stars. He filled the day and night, and God said, That's good. The next day {hold up 5 fingers}, God said, Birds, Fish. He filled the sky and seas, and God said, That's good. The next day, {hold up 6 fingers}, God said, Animals. He filled the land, and God said, That's good. Now that everything was full, God had one more thing to make: Man. God didn't speak this time; He formed dirt to make the man, Adam, and God breathed {blow into your palm} to give him life. Then God created a perfect helper for him, Eve. Adam and Eve were special because they could walk and talk with God. And God said, That's very good. The next day {hold up 7 fingers}, God was finished creating, so He rested. That's the end of the story.
Please give me feedback. Is there anything I need to include or exclude? Do the memory cues work {hand signals, repeated verbal patterns}? Did I slip "church language" in there without realizing it? Is it short enough? Do you have a better way to describe how Adam and Eve are special? Let me know in the comments section.

**Ashley's corrections have been made. Thanks again!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Being Pollen-like

Our neighbor drives a 2011 corvette. He traded in his tricked out T-bird for it last spring. The corvette is his pride: vanity plates, professional cleaning service, stored when he deploys, upgraded pipes to announce the V8. A most beloved possession.

His car is covered in neon green pollen this morning. Same as our 18 year old, taught-three-kids-to-drive Volvo wagon.

Nothing escapes the pollen fog of early spring on the peninsula. Snot turns green. Dust turns green. At the next rain, the puddles will glow like run-off from the Oak Ridge Labs. Pollen permeation.

Am I pollen? Or more to the point, is Christ in me pollen? Does the gospel shower forth from me, permeating everyone around me?

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Daffodil in the Lawn

One daffodil sprouts through the lawn. I didn't plant it there. It must have put down roots after a squirrel dug it up, took one bite and cast it aside. A very plucky flower. My favorite because it's sharing beauty from the wrong spot.

I'm all wrong to see beauty right now. My heart is heavy. My Bible barely read. My prayers hastily thrown skyward over a chaotic weekend.

God's grace is beauty, shining in unlikely moments. He reminds me that He loves me because I am His, not because I act like His. He answers prayers because I am His, not because I ask correctly.

I bow on my knees before the Father... that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height  and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:15-19

Rooted and ground in love. God's love founds knowledge and filling. His power and peace pour from his love that surpasses knowledge. 
And here is his astonishing answer. Verse 17 {John 7}: "If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority." I remember sometime in the fall of 1967 at Wheaton College being shocked when someone brought this to my attention—that right willing is the foundation of right knowing. It seemed at the time to make life more complicated, more mysterious, and certainly less under my control. Less rationalistic. The intellectual task of knowing truth suddenly became a moral task, and a spiritual task. ~~John Piper, "Willing God's Will As A Way of Knowing Christ's Word"
My state of learning and study doesn't matter. Unable to snatch even a few quiet moments to open the Word, yet I am immersed in the truth of God's grace more tangibly than any reading can provide. God has made my heart right willing that my foundation in hardship is right knowing. Grace sprouting in my life from the wrong spot.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bumpy Trip {I-40 through Arkansas!}

Big one fell asleep at the table yesterday, bottle in hand, quesadilla untouched. She just could not keep her eyes open for one more second. An apt description of the entire family recovering from our trip to Arkansas this weekend.

DH's bro married his lovely bride Friday night. A wonderful family event... filled with obstacles for the Tim Ellises.

Started the trip with a gallon challenge gone wrong. Small one neglected to ration her double bottle of milk and threw up all over the parking lot at the airport before we even left the state.

Sweet baby cousins were anxious to share wheat with the girls - sick tummies and full diapers ever since. Big one went on an industrial toilet strike. No bribe could induce her to use the "dirty" Arkansas rest area toilets or the "scary flush" hotel toilets {her bladder must take up half her torso}. Small one couldn't nap on the wedding day. She and I paced the halls through the entire ceremony. I don't think there will be a single photo where she is less than hysterical.

On our way home, small one dislocated her elbow. After instructions from the pediatrician, we parked in the back of a gas station {fewer witnesses} to relocate {correct term??} the joint. On the last flight, the airport lost one of the stroller wheels. While we waited for them to locate and replace the wheel, big one blew out her panties...twice.

Oh yeah. Underlying all this, the hotel was replacing the carpet on our wing, so we spent most nap times listening to hammer strokes and mariachi music. Twice we were "painted" into our room by carpet glue. The first day this happened, I found it quite inconvenient. In light of everything else, I barely remember it.

I have no pictures. I have no pithy message. I only have a wild story and bag of dirty clothes. But bro and new sis have a brand new life together. We would do it all over again for that.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Family Yard Work

We procrastinate yard work, regular maintenance stuff like weeding and raking. The big projects we jump right into.

On the weekends, we look for fun family activities: the museum, Williamsburg, the fish shop in VA Beach. All week piles of leaves, stuffed gutters and unchopped wood nag at us. Something about the nagging makes me want to ignore the work {organizing closets and changing out baby clothes fall into the same category}.

All our watery attempts to excuse ourselves from work were painfully transparent. Overhauls, boots and jackets later, the four of us marched to the yard.

We had so much fun. Delighted in the day.

Big one jumped at the chance to be big helper. Small one delighted in her sister's distraction. They tootled around the yard working at whatever toddlers work at. DH and I found ourselves pausing to watch them and smile with parental satisfaction. Thank you Lord for babies and exploring and the glorious task You entrusted us with. Good work prepared beforehand for otherwise bumbling 20 year olds.

The yard is neat just in time for the birds to return to the fantastic hedge by our french door. DH built a better compost bin, as specified by Bob the Builder. The yard isn't picturesque {we rent}, but it's no longer nagging us.

This weekend reminded me that family fun time only requires presence. Not a setting or lessons or toys or special events. Just attention. Such a relief for a family with a perpetually tight budget. Among the four of us, we have what we need for a great day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Teachable Stories

The guest pastor scrapped his lesson this week. Decided not to pressure the congregation to enter the mission field on the morning we were sending missionaries out. Instead, he taught us how to teach stories. I found this fascinating and helpful for a Momma wanting to impart the Bible to children. So I thought I would share it with all the Mommas {even the baby-less ones} here.

Team Expansion studied how cultures with oral histories pass stories from one generation to another. They likened the story to a full cup of water passed on carefully. No room to add anything. Rim full, so you must pay attention not to lose any either.

The prep work
These are not accidental stories, made up on the spot, but carefully crafted, intentional tales, meant to be repeated precisely so that the truth is not lost. A group familiar with the original story work together to construct a complete story that is:

  • Accurate {of utmost importance with scripture}
  • Contextualized to the audience {drop the religious buzz words, i.e. use 'close followers' instead of 'disciples'}
  • Transferable {trying to start a chain reaction of information}
  • Simple {less than 3 minutes}

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Boasting in Weakness

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 {Emphasis mine}

I envy joyful pregnant women, who see beauty in their bulging bellies and evidence of new life in every ache and pain. My heart is not well-muscled to see that grace. I moaned and groaned and watched an inordinate amount of television during both pregnancies. No one had ever been so sick. My migraines were the worst in history. I shouldn't have to cook or clean. Not remotely Paul's attitude.

{This is not a bizarre pregnancy announcement. Just an example.}

When confronted with Paul's thorn in the flesh, given to keep him humble through pain, pain that he rejoiced in because it made Jesus that much more beautiful, I am ashamed of my attitude.

Could migraines be a gift from the Lord to teach me dependence on Him?

That might be one of the strangest sentences I've ever written, but maybe it's God foolishness 1 Corinthians 1:18,25. The folly to the world that is actually the power of God, wiser than man can comprehend. Boasting in weakness - foolishness until you see the power of the cross shine through.

As I cry for humility {one of those dangerous 'don't pray it if you don't mean it' requests}, my gratitude builds for the persistent headaches that force me to rely on God. Release the urge for self-preservation so strong during weakness. Replace it with trust, trust in the All Sufficient.

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. 2 Corinthians 12:15

Godly witness pours out of my outpouring. I spend my transient life for eternal reward. And maybe I do that best on my worst days.

For He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. 2 Corinthians 13:4

In my worst days, I find it easiest to crucify human effort and live by the power of God. With enough bad days, I might learn to live in His power on the good days, too.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A plea that breaks pride

My writing muscles are stiff. Funny how quickly you lose the flow of words when practice pauses.

Force myself. Don't stop. Just like I learned in elementary school from the creative writing book I begged my mom to buy. Keep going. Ten minutes. Whatever comes to your head. Edit later. Words in print. That's the point. Force the flow.

Words from Lenten devotion persevere in my prayers through the weekend. Wonderful weekend with my parents. But a weekend full of hard discussion about aging grandparents. Decision to be made that can't be. Hard weeks of waiting and guessing and mostly recognizing how little control we have.

Help me God. Lord, hurry to my rescue. Psalm 70:1

Since I read it Friday, "help me God" seems to be every prayer. It's not just my cry when I look at hard stuff. Even more it's my cry when I look at controlled stuff. Because control is just another way to say pride. Thinking I have this covered without help from anyone else, thank you very much. God, You can now tackle the Middle East. My heart is so prideful. Ever the optimist in my own triumph and power.  My way is best.
Humility is our greatest weapon against Satan, sin and temptation. This plea gives me that weapon. Without it, I have no humility in me. Not one meek thought.

Help me God. Lord, hurry to my rescue. Psalm 70:1

He rescues me from me. My new creation from my enslaved old self. And He rescues every day. For as soon as he saves me from one disaster, I am running headlong into a new one. How grateful I am for a tireless father.
My mother called parenting toddlers relentless. Every day. Over and over. There is a bit of the eternal in motherhood.

But when I consider how relentless God is to pursue me and how relentless my sin, my position looks so temporal by comparison. And I find myself nodding thanks to my father, the Lord who is...

merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:8


Related Posts with Thumbnails