Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thoughts on Lent

We've never celebrated Lent with much intensity around here. I recall in high school possibly trying to "give something up" for Lent, and maybe I did something similar when we were first married. This year, however, I am in the midst of a Lent journey. We aren't doing special readings or following a Lenten calendar, but I have been inspired to fast from something. Also, as a friend insightfully pointed out, you can't put something off and not put something on in it's place. So, I am also trying to "put on", welcoming Him.

It's not that I'm using Lent as a habit making or habit breaking, 40 day crash diet. No, this time around, I see Lent as an opportunity to explore my cravings and my longings. I want to be hungry for Christ and immeasurably grateful on the day that we celebrate his glorious resurrection. In my mind, each time I chose to meditate on Christ and his sufferings, I am inching closer to that happy Sunday morning. I am making a deposit of yearning in the joy tank of my soul. I have another opportunity to die to self and live to Christ, saying "I need YOU." As my yearnings, longings, cravings, hungers increase over a short 40 days time, I am believing that the Holy Spirit will come and transform desires into ache for Him, the crucified one.

You see, I am simple, sinful, addicted. After the long list of synonyms used above, you might be led to believe that I'm really suffering, making myself battle with basic needs in the hope of enlightenment. No, it's much simpler than that. All I'm saying "no" to is sweets, desserts, sugar treats. But however simple and silly that may be, I'm opening the window of my soul to say "yes" to more of Him.

Although it hasn't been a monumental struggle, I have been spent at times. And the needy one cries out to God, saying "More! Please. I need you." Can there possibly be a better place to find yourself? I am enjoying saying "no", believing that the Father says "yes! I will fill you. I will help you. I am."

Eva mulled it over and decided to give up arguing. She has had to plead with her sister to stop inciting her to anger for the sake of her fast. It is a beautiful thing to see her desperate, and ultimately longing for the help of the Holy Spirit. We yearn together and talk together.

Most of the time, I am happy to not be eating sweets. Anyway, my brain is less foggy this way and my energy more even through the day. But each time I say, "I need you", I am looking forward to Easter. Forward to victory, to resurrection, to the day when we shall see Him face to face. Longing is good for me.

Here is my inspiration to fast this year.
Elizabeth writes a compelling tale.
Ann's words simultaneously sting and sweetly heal.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More deep things

***this is a continued post***


The moments continued. There were other words, other Scripture, other prayers. The Holy Spirit was moving in and out and between his people, allowing us a brief taste of the joys of paradise forever with Him. Allowing us to see Jesus better.


It came to me again, "We are small." Then the picture became clearer. Ecclesiastes. Life is meaningless. There is nothing new under the sun. We are small.
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity
in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from
beginning to end
." (vs. 3:11)

He loves us. We are small. he is BIG. He wraps us into his story. His redemptive story, which we cannot fathom. We are running after perfect houses, coordinating swimming lessons schedules, fluoride free toothpaste, matching picture-day outfits, new bathrooms. He is writing an epic story, transcending space and time, starting before the foundation of the world, the destination: HIM. I am undone.

I spend all of Friday and Saturday in my head. Thinking, feeling, yearning. I want to understand! Why is it so important that I know that He loves me? Do I know that? Do I feel that? I feel blessed. Refreshed. Fortified. The Holy Spirit's presence and surprise giftings excite me. I am exhausted still, but I cannot nap. I can only think. pray. read more of His Word. I am drawn, the Holy Spirit is working in me, drawing me closer. I can't explain this longing for more. It is not natural to me. It is otherworldly... a taste of Glory.

Sunday morning brings family conflict and struggle. It also brings peace. In the presence of other believers, I feel rest. I let the words of the songs swell and wash over me. I watch my girl earnestly singing next to me, fighting to keep pace with young reading skills. She knows. She prays each night into her pillow, "Thank you for loving me, even when I disobey you." She has childlike faith. She knows she is small.

Our dear friend and pastor stands to preach his final sermon. With trembling voice, he begins to share his parting words for us. If he were to share just one thing, this is it.
"For I decided to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified." (1
Corinthians 2:2).
He moves on to share the meat of his message from 2 Corinthians 5. Several bullet points, but I was unable to take any notes. For 45 minutes he gave fresh words to stale truths- I am calloused to the glory of the gospel! The righteousness of God, the wrath of God, the redeemed sinner, the ministry of reconciliation. The greatest weight of the sermon was on this point though,
"For our sake he made him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we
might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21)

And I was undone again. I sat next to my husband, tears falling on both of our cheeks. We're shaking. My view of my sin must be great. The view of Christ must be greater still! Again, "He. loves. us. We are small. He gave his son for us."

We stand with the congregation at the end singing, "Jesus Messiah. Name above all Names. Blessed Redeemer. Emmanuel. Rescue for Sinners. Ransom from Heaven. Jesus Messiah. Lord of All." Arms outstretched. Steady tears falling. Gasping for air. I am wrecked by this love. He has come hard after me in only a few short days. Why me? How can I know HIM more? How will he make me, small, wretched sinner, "the righteousness of God"? Why does he love us so?

All is grace.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Going a little bit deeper than "stroller derby"

I want to write about what God's been doing in my heart. But it's deep, and it's personal, and it's so important that I am afraid to write. Afraid the words will come out wrong. Or maybe they won't come at all. Or perhaps it will be one of those posts that just rambles on with no clear direction or cohesiveness. In this moment it's a risk I'm willing to take, so please bear with me. I blog because I think in narrative. It is good for me to put my stories out there, no matter what sort of quality my writing might be. This post has been writing itself in my head for a few days now, and I must let it live.

I've been reading good books lately and thinking about important things. Soul work. I am slowly softened, continually regenerated. The Holy Spirit comes and guides me, purposefully it seems, to the stuff I need to hear, need to read, need to savour. This past week, a new wind began to blow in my devotions. Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, really), I sat with glazed eyes and watched Eric and Aaron play their 1,000th game of Tetris that night. It wasn't mind numbing though- real conversation was happening. The men were talking, building each other up, this is the technology-age take on sitting in the boat fishin' and talkin' about nothin'. You know how guys have to DO something to bond. Anyway, finally Aaron announced that he really needed to go. He had to get up early for Ecclesiastes, to read it. He said, "It's kind of blowing my mind." I asked why, and he told me.

Next morning, I was sucked into Ecclesiastes too. Solomon had done it all. He was the wisest man to ever live. The richest man in the land, he travelled the known world and tried it all: women, food, drink, adventure, power, insight, pleasure. His final word on all of it- "There is nothing new under the sun." Ultimately, life is a breath. In the end, we all die. In the end, your Nobel Peace Prize is going to rot. Your banking empire will be handed down to someone who will squander it. Even your lifelong investment in training and loving your own children may be all for naught. Again and again, Solomon declares "This too is meaningless."

Slowly, so slowly I was getting a picture. A feeling. Ecclesiastes compelled me. Instead of feeling disheartened and despairing by the "meaningless" state of life, I was stable, steady, at peace. Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, I read and read. I drank in the repetitive nature of the book,
"Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will
call the past to account." (vs. 3:15)
Thursday evening, we travelled to small group. It was "full group", and the plan was for extended prayer time. I considered my week, full of late nights and early mornings (Ecclesiastes included), and thought I might actually fall asleep for extended prayer time. I arrived nauseated with exhaustion and car sickness. But joyful. Joyful in the fellowship of other believers, trusting that God was there.

Extended prayer time wasn't fatiguing. There were heartfelt petitions for employment, healing, refreshing. Tears were poured and hearts were laid bare, desiring more. More from God, would the Holy Spirit come and meet us? A Brother believed that God was giving him a tongue for the Body. Yes, that. Speaking in tongues at a small group. I'd never heard it before, but I *we* believe that it isn't outside the realm of possibility. We are open, and so we prayed and invited the Holy Spirit and all His giftings, including discernment.

He prayed and we listened, silently asking for interpretation. Willing, but travelling uncharted waters. Like a child who looks to their parent, "Is this OK dad? I've never done this before.", looking for the assuring smile and nod from Father. I sensed that more was coming. The Holy Spirit was moving, washing through the room, coming over me with warm pressure. Scared, dependent, shaking, on the edge of a precipice of faith. We're not used to following. It still feels scary, bringing an unfamiliar rush. This feeling is distantly familiar, but it makes the breath catch in my throat each time. Then the interpretation came,
"He wants us to know that He loves us. He loves us. We are
small. But He loves us. He. gave. his. own. son. for us. He
loves us."

That was my voice, my tears. Those words were forced out, not by me. They had to be spoken. God was giving us a gift. My heart was stabbed through deeply. He wants to tell me that He loves me? That's it? Then in a moment of revelation, "It's that important that I we know that He loves us. And that we are small ." He gave the gift of a tongue and an interpretation to an unlikely audience. His message is important. I was struck through with the weight of this moment. A moment when, and just for a moment, we transcended the line between space and time, the mundane reality always at our fingertips and the invisible spiritual plane of glorification.

***to be continued***

***EDIT: After this post was read by a number of people who are far more educated than myself, my Senior Pastor pointed out that what I thought was the gift of interpretation of a tongue was probably the gift of prophesy instead. This doesn't make the evening less meaningful or negate the message. The only reason I post this edit is to help other believers deepen their understanding of the spiritual gifts and develop sound theology. Here is what my small group leader wrote in an email on this subject-

Becca Pat's words after the tongue was spoken was not an interpretation of the tongue, it was a gift of prophecy. How do we know that's true? If you read through 1 Corinthians 14:13-19, it describes the gift of tongues: "I will sing praise with my spirit....give thanks with your spirit". Reading directly from my notes from the Holy Spirit Seminar 2 months ago: "What are tongues? Speech directed towards God. Prayer or praise or thanksgiving to God.... The interpretation will always be prayer or praise or thanks to God. If not, it is not an interpretation."


Just thought I should clarify. Grace to you all!***

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stroller Derby Video

We keep joking that Old Man Winter has been on speed (a few have suggested Cialis) through the entire season this year. It has snowed, even just a little, every single day for months now. We have blind corners at every turn, narrow streets, tunnel-like sidewalks, "ice dam" seems to be the word of the day (every day), and the hems of our jeans have permanent salt lines inching higher and higher. I inwardly scoff when the girls check the calendar each day to confirm, "Yes, only 16 more days until Spring!" Spring storms in Minnesota are some of the worst.

The girls get outside often, but some days it is just too darn cold. Today it wasn't that cold, so Eva and Hope, in a sudden, rowdy fit of excitement burst through the front door. They ran up and down the sidewalk and around the side of the house wearing only socks and a single layer of indoor clothing. Eva, in a dress, even had bare legs. I didn't care. I just hollered out the door, "Come inside when you get cold!" They lasted a good three or four minutes...

Anyway, the video I am including here is to prove several things:

1. Happiness is an older sister who adores you.
2. Noise levels reach record heights immediately preceding bedtime.
3. Small houses have a surprisingly large capacity for fun.
4. Parents really do slack off on the rules the more kids they have. (In the name of good stewardship and safety, Eva and Hope were NEVER allowed in the doll stroller.)
5. I may have completely lost my marbles.
6. Esther's lack of walking ambition may be fueled by the obvious display of charity.
7. Spring (Real Spring, that is) couldn't come soon enough.

video

Friday, March 11, 2011

Food Day Friday: When Frugal is Top Dog

(spare me the examination of my dishpan hands. Also, I already knew that I had blue pen on my fingers. Thanks for keeping me in the light!)

I recently got an email from a friend (you know who you are!) who said, "I need to be inspired again to live frugally and also how to keep living in a smaller home... I would love to get together and see how you're doing."

She stole the words right out of my mouth! Also, two follow-up comments:

1. Aren't we all trying to have it all on a budget that can't afford it all?!?

2. Even those who live in modest homes come to our house and magically feel like they own a mansion. And we're happy (sort of) to provide that service to any of you!

I was actually thinking about frugality in the kitchen this week, so here's one small way that I am pinching pennies: Cake mixes. And not just any cake mixes, the Holiday Funfetti cake mixes that were $.11 each after Christmas. I also grabbed several cans of premixed frosting (retro 70's green) for $.17 each. I thought to myself that I must, must, must (!) be able to find something to do with these for that price.

Now, I have to suspend my cake mix excitement for just a moment and offer this disclaimer. It is abnormal for us to eat boxed food. I don't recommend it. I don't like it. I'll go so far as to say, I loathe it. But, how many times have you been asked to bring a dessert or bars or cookies to some event? More than likely, you will bring your offering and never see it's ugly mug again. More than likely, you are feeding hoards of starving pubescent boys that don't care one bit about the ingredient list. They're the ones who hover around the potluck table and take several pieces of dessert in each hand, inhaling them before you can say, "Artificial food coloring" three times fast. This is the cake mix's moment to shine!

Personally, I'm saving my meager grocery budget to be spent on real food for more intimate hospitality or my own family's consumption. I'm not trying to be selfish or set a double standard here, it's just that age old balancing act- quality vs. cost. Let's face it, dessert ingredients can be quite expensive: real cream, butter, chocolate, berries, nuts, cream cheese... not the most frugal of characters. Sure, I love to splurge on them for a birthday party or a special night with friends, but not. the. potluck.

And, as it turns out the cake mixes have come in handy often! The whole "funfetti" thing has not been a hindrance since I just omit those little red and green Christmas trees. Without the funfetti, I'm left with a white cake mix that has become many things: Superbowl party cupcakes (frosted in the retro green with piped white goal posts), baby shower cupcakes (I dyed them blue and pink with contrasting frosting... gender confusion), peach dump cake, and tonight cake balls. The cake balls were especially satisfying to me because I used both the cake mix and the premixed frosting in one sitting- the green frosting easily translated to St. Patrick's day. Apparently people really like cake balls, and Eva and Hope really like to help make them. But here's my dirty little secret- I think they're kinda gross. Personal preferences aside, refreshments for Arts Night at church were something out of the ordinary and really easy on the budget.
So, that's my frugal dessert tip, friends! Watch for cheap cake mixes (couponing or after Easter) and be a little creative.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Monday, March 07, 2011

UTAH!

In January, Eric and I took a special trip to Park City, Utah to chill with our friends David and Beth Anderson. We were gone for 6 days with no kids! It was a hard decision to go since we hadn't really envisioned spending money this way and because it was a long time away from the kids. I'm so glad we went though! There is more to tell about this trip than I have time for blogging, so I'm just going to throw out a few happy pictures.

We skied, quite a lot. Two days of downhill skiing and one day of cross country. As you can see, Beth is mega preggers, so she was not allowed on downhill skis. David and Beth humbly (and patiently) invited me to teach them the basics of cross country skiing, and they caught on quickly! Cross country is a great workout for a gestating mama!
Basically, it was 5 degrees in Minneapolis, and 35 degrees in Utah the whole time. It was paradise. The sun on my fair skin felt as good as a Triple Chocolate Coconut Raspberry Entirely Decadent dessert on my tongue. (I have a good imagination for things like dessert, and I really love sunshine). David (certified ski instructor) very generously spent most of two days teaching Eric to downhill ski. Although he is still struggling a bit, David dun good! Eric can remain in control at all times and actually wants to continue learning the skills. While they taught and learned and skied a bit together, and while Beth ran all our errands and cooked our food (thanks Mom!), I explored the resort solo. It was fun and exhilarating and challenging and refreshing!Then we met up and did a few runs together. David and I also got to (recklessly) ski together a bit, allowing me to ski some new runs with a companion. David also evaluated my skiing a bit and helped me to start unlearning some bad habits and catch on to some new tricks. I can't wait to hit the slopes again and practice!
When we weren't skiing, we were settling Catan, talking politics, eating delicious food, talking economics, watching Sundance films, talking A Capella, sleeping in, talking parenting, hot tubbing, talking science, looking for Eric's lost _______ (fill in the blank), talking religion, cooking, talking Jesus, gleaning Sundance freebies, talking major life decisions, and talking some more. It was a sweet time!

Thanks D & B for convincing us to make the trip, and of course taking great care of us!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Esther Follow-Up

Life With Baby Esther sped away at breakneck speed last week and has left us welcoming a new BFF, Life With a Toddler #3.

Literally moments after posting about Esther a few weeks ago, after declaring that she "refuses to walk" and "demands to be carried", I found myself clapping and cheering wildly for Esther's first few seconds of unassisted standing. Believe me, at almost 17 months, the whole house was ready to celebrate. We encouraged Esther to share her trick with any and every person to pass through our doors, and sure enough by day 2 of standing, she decided to take a few steps. Now just to be clear, that was about 2 weeks ago, and there is currently no running, jumping, ball-kicking toddler emerging yet...

But, she does decide to walk a few steps every once in a while. Esther's personal philosophy is becoming quite clear in regard to walking: slow and steady wins the race! To date, she enjoys standing for praise and when she forgets that she is doing it. She walks also for praise, and occasionally if she only needs two or three steps between stabilizing objects. Her longest walk so far was about 8 feet, probably 10 steps or so. With the other two girls, I declared them to be walking on the day they took their first steps. For Eva that was on her first birthday, and for Hope it was near the end of 13 months. This time around though... I'm waiting to announce that Esther is a walker (though it would've been 16 months) until she really moves... which I'm hoping is before her second birthday :).

Anyway, the toddlerhood explosion continued all last week. Suddenly I realized that Esther likes to feed herself with a fork and a spoon. I also realized that she easily forgoes the morning nap (if I had been paying attention, I would've realized that she was playing in her crib for most of it anyway). By the end of the week, she was "lovingly" loading a baby doll into her doll stroller and taking all kinds of trips around the house (and NOT on all fours!).

I took her to the doctor last week for a well-baby check, and I was actually surprised by several things. I thought she was a puny runt, but it turns out she is solidly in the 50th percentile. I also thought she was probably a little delayed across the board with development. On the contrary, as I filled out one of those developmental milestone questionnaires,
I was able to circle every skill up to 21 months. Of course, I laughed out loud at the thought of Esther kicking a ball, so I (obviously) didn't circle "running", "walking", or "kicking a ball". Her doctor, who we absolutely adore and love to recommend to others, thought she looked great and chided me for having any concerns about the lack of walking in light of her other normal growth.

Once I stopped to think (and blog) about Esther's words, I started to remember and notice many more than I thought she had. To add to my previous list: (sorry it is double spaced. Blogger and I fight. A lot.)

sock

light

boll (ball)

babo (baby)

up

noh(nose)

eye

guk (yuck, in relation to poopy diapers)

meow

moo

quack

neigh

bah

tickl (tickle)

Brrr

Sno (snow)
col (cold, we DO live in Minnesota)

bana (banana)

chiz (cheese)

poo boo (peekaboo)


Esther has a very special relationship with Eva lately, but that will have to be for another post. For now, I am pleased to introduce our official TODDLER!

Wordless Wednesday: Loot after a visit to Bonnie and Donnie