Becoming Civilizers and Life-Givers through Relationship

str

“’You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”
Isaiah 41:9-10

In all generations, when human beings turn their hearts away from God and do not build godly character and act with integrity, there have been chaotic consequences for nations and the history of the whole world.  Recently, I recalled one of the first times I felt “panic” about the difficult circumstances of my life. There had been lots of tension in Poland between the Polish workers and the Russians who controlled the country, and I was a young missionary living there–illegally. People had begun to riot and rebel, and Russian tanks began to roll into Warsaw, where we lived. Many of the streets were lined with soldiers and the threat of war was in the paper and on the news every day. I remembered thinking, “What am I doing over here in a time of war? I am not sure if I am ready to die in this conflict just now.” We had been ministering in Hungary and touched the bullet holes in apartment buildings of people we had worked with, where a similar revolt had caused the loss of hundreds of lives.

It was one of the first times I remember coming across this passage in Isaiah: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” I camped on that verse, pondering and praying it. I resolved that I would stand on it emotionally and spiritually. The Lord was faithful, and we came through the conflict with Him holding our hands.

There have been so many other times and seasons where fear threatened to take away my peace. Yet, I have a pattern of remembrance now. He has been faithful through all the seasons and hard times.

God is still with us. He still loves us. He will always be abundantly faithful. Women are especially designed and equipped by God to dig down deep and bring beauty, faith, peace and hope to nations. A woman is at her best when she is creating life from the richness of her soul. I believe moms are true heroes who will be the bearers of light when shadows threaten to overtake. They weave peace and love in homes where burdens are weighing on the shoulders of husbands. They sing songs of faith in the midst of life’s calamities. They can model a child-like faith and rest in God when they live in the Sabbath rest of His provision, even when physical provision is scant. I believe that moms can be the determining factor in our country during difficult times, to bring courage to families and nations as we wait on God and follow His ways.

In these days of the shaking of moral foundations and volatile uncertainties, in an era of confusion, when biblical motherhood is often disdained or dismissed as irrelevant or unimportant in a post-modern culture, we are ripe for a movement of the Holy Spirit. There is need for an intentional movement of godly women to hold forth ideals, to inspire confidence, strength, faith and good works, and in the midst of all that, to develop deep friendships with other moms. God created women to be the wisdom bringers, gatekeepers, and civilizers of culture through relationship.

My wonderful friend Phyllis is such a joy to me. She is 72, and yet her desire for bringing life and beauty and love to women so burns in her heart that she is always alive, energetic and engaged whenever I see her. She has made her home a haven, so that just to be inside her rooms is a pleasure. There are soothing colors on her walls, pictures, small relics and treasures throughout her home that speak of the many places she has lived and traveled, her love of the Lord, and the great value she places on family. And always there is a candle lit, soft music playing, and a pot of fresh tea ready in case someone might want to come by for a few minutes of fellowship. There is a lovely little bedroom in her basement, just ready for someone who needs to get away–two single beds waiting for the next guests.

Every week for the past nineteen years, she has opened her home to young moms. Her “cuppa” is shared, along with sweet fellowship for the first few minutes, followed by prayer and scripture opened and taught and discussed. Literally hundreds of women have passed through her doors in these studies, including me. Each week, women leave with hope, conviction, ideas, love, and renewed and refreshed spirits.

Where there are real relationships and real love and heartfelt devotion to the Lord, life takes place. God built us for relationship. God built us for love and friendship and intimacy–the desire to be known and still loved.

When we as women experience this kind of relationship and warmth, our whole demeanor is different, our emotional and spiritual cups are filled and we become better at everything–walking with God, loving our children and husbands, bringing beauty in our homes and in reaching out with God’s grace to others. It is what we were designed to do.

If you have the desire to go deeper today, take a moment to complete the reflection and application below:

  • ”But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things …” Luke 10:41 Do you find yourself worried over many things? Make a list. Then write at the top the scripture here from Isaiah … and throw the list away.
  • “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” 1 Peter 4:9 If you have an introverted personality, it may be difficult for you to even think about purposefully inviting someone into your home! But making the effort is worth it. Ask the Lord if there’s someone you could invite over for a cuppa—and maybe share this little exercise with them, too!

I birthed a new book! And now I can finally decorate for Easter!

Clarkson Traditional: An Easter Egg Tree

Now let the heavens be joyful,

Let the earth her song begin:

Let the round world keep triumph,

And all that is therein;

Invisible and visible,

Their notes let all things blend,

For Christ is risen, Our joy shall have no end!

St. John of Damascus

Tonight, I finished writing a book I have had in mind for a little over a year. I turned it in just before writing this blog and it will go through a process and come out sometime next January. When I write a new book, it always forces me to examine my life, to remember God’s faithfulness, and to plan/pray about living even more into ideals, so that I may end serving Jesus to my very last breath.

The title of my book will be revealed when it is final, but the subject is about taking responsibility for your choices, your faith, the legacy you will live and your actions. Getting to the end of this book makes me realize that God has indeed worked amazingly in my life. Not because I am in any way especially gifted. But the secret is that I was challenged to give my all to Him, to believe He would partner with me to work, to live by faith and to take risks and to follow Jesus’ life and model to live a life of generous love.

Being at a funeral lately caused me again to reflect on the legacy I am leaving. What will people say when I go to see Jesus? You will have to read about it in the book! :)

But as we ponder His reality this week of celebrating His resurrection, we must understand again, that if this event was true, His being raised from the dead, His total forgiveness of our sins, His kingship over the whole universe and call on our lives to invest in His kingdom, then today is the day to live to the fullest, to show His reality, to believe that our faith matters, to be true to teach our children of his message, His forgiveness, His call on each of us to be stewards of His light, His life and His love.

I love Easter! The message encourages me every year. I love Jesus and his story and celebrating my adoption as His child. I love the grace that pours over my soul. I even love Easter Egg hunts and celebrating the day with friends and family.

We celebrate big in our family. (We even always have a hunt even for our 20 year olds–each child in our family has their own color of plastic egg with goodies inside–now gift cards and money!  and we would color code the eggs to be more difficult for the older and less for the younger so that Joy would have a chance to actually find hers–though sometimes the younger ones were better scouts than the older.  Sarah would always look for pink, Joel–blue; Nate red and Joy purple. So much fun.

Now, a few pictures from the past when Joy was in an Easter production we held at our church.

For now, I am going to sleeeeeeeeeep and take a day off. And then I will shop for food, finish decorating the house with our special Easter treasures collected over the years, and live into the moments God has given.

It is truly my wish that it will stop snowing and give us a hint of sunshine. Have a lovely week and live this week for eternity. This is the day you have to live a story worth telling.

IMG_3503

I was working on my book in a hotel, because our internet went down and saw this! I adore roses.

It was so pretty I just had to take a picture. So this week, I wish you roses!

What is your favorite flower?

The Raft and My Little Artist {Book Reviews}

IMG_7187 edited
Occasionally we stumble upon a book that reminds us of what an inspired childhood looks like. You know, a childhood where we are free to just be creative, silent, thoughtful, appreciative. In awe. The Raft by Jim LaMarche is one such book.
Nicky isn’t very excited about spending time with his grandmother in the country. In fact, he’s downright sad. His dad has to work, so that means Nicky must spend his summer out by the river, deep in the Wisconsin woods, with his Grandma, also known as ‘river rat’. With low expectations and a heart longing for something more, he says goodbye and watches his Dad’s car disappear into the pines.
At first, things seem strange. In her cottage, books are scattered everywhere, walls cluttered with sketches, stuffed fish and maps of rivers…. there’s even a nearly-finished bear carving staring proudly from a table. Nicky slowly takes it in as the days pass by, all the while helping his Grandma with random chores. When his Dad told him that Nicky’s grandmother would keep him plenty busy, he was absolutely right!
IMG_7192 edited

 

Nicky’s first point of noticeable frustration is when he tries to fish from his Grandma’s dock. After waiting and waiting and waiting with his hook in the water, he decides, very resentfully, that there are no fish in that river. But, after some patient encouragement from Grandma he tries again. This time it was in the waiting that he discovered something.
Roused from a nap by the loud chirping of birds, he noticed something floating towards him. Free and untethered, the raft floated aimlessly down the river. Finally, after butting into the dock where he sat, Nicky reached out to clear away leaves and branches only to discover that the raft was covered in drawings. Wonderful drawings….. a deer, a raccoon, a dragonfly, a fox. Other drawings as well… and immediately Nicky was drawn in. How did these drawings get there?
It is here at this moment that summer begins for Nicky. From fishing, poling upriver for a swim, to pitching a tent on the raft and watching the night come alive with so many creatures…. Nicky accepts and embraces this newly discovered gift: a raft that takes him places and allows him to observe and relate to something much bigger than himself….. God’s amazing creation.
As Nicky spends time on his raft he is met by so many of the animals pictured for him there, right under his feet. And, as he observes his Grandmother quietly drawing and carving away , he is inspired to put to use the large sketchpad, pencils, and crayons that she gave him. He draws a great blue heron and an otter.  As the summer nears it’s end, he discovers something far more grand to illustrate… and as the book comes to a close, Nicky’s final drawing is born from personal experience.
 
“I discovered the power of drawing, and learned that when you draw something, you get closer to it and know it better.” Jim LaMarche
If not for the warm, inviting, and beautifully crafted illustrations, then for the  imagination-stirring and wonder-inducing storyline, The Raft is a perfect book to redirect a young boy’s gaze from what is happening on the nearest screen to what is happening right outside his front door. Just as importantly is the lesson of not disregarding the older generation. As Jim LaMarche writes from his own boyhood experience of “becoming a river rat, and becoming an artist”, he relates to his readers that time with someone older than ourselves can be fun, adventurous, and meaningful.
In My Little Artist by Donna Green you will find yet another story of the wonder of moments spent with a grandparent, but as experienced by a little girl. Like The Raft, My Little Artist is auto-biographical in style and the illustrations are wonderful masterpieces crafted by the author.
Beginning with a grandmother leaning over a small girl sitting in a chair, she lovingly braids the youngster’s hair.
 
“Grandma how do I become an artist? I want to be just like you?”
“Well, I guess that depends on your heartsight.”
What follows is a charming story of how a young girl learns to close her eyes to really see the world outside. The light dancing through the trees, the smell of the sunlight falling to earth…. these things can’t be touched or caught, but they can be imagined and perceived.
 
“Grandma fueled my curiosity with intriguing snippets of wisdom wherever we went, and in the magical light of her garden, taught me the meaning of heartsight.” Donna Green
It is through this imagination or ‘heartsight’ that this grandma passes down and instills a love for nature, a love for art, and the desire to dream of everything beautiful. My Little Artist is a great book to pull out and enjoy with your daughter over a cup of hot tea. By the end you both will be desiring a nicely spread quilt on a sunny patch of grass, a box of watercolor paints, and an easel.

French Dip Easter Sandwiches

frenchdip“The most indispensable ingredient of all good home cooking: love for those you are cooking for.”
-Sophia Loren

With Easter only a little over a week away, it is the perfect amount of time to begin dreaming and planning for your holiday feasts and festivities! You already know that the crockpot can be an amazing friend in the kitchen. Why not put it to work to make a lunch and even leftovers for another meal? Most families will bring out the ham and deviled eggs at Easter, but our family loves to feast on these melt in your mouth sandwiches that are known as “dips.”

If you have never had the pleasure of eating a French Dip sandwich, you must try it now! Nothing goes to waste! You even use the lovely broth created from the meat (au jus) and dip your sandwich into it before each delectable bite! It is more than an easy go-to meal, it’s fun food!  Save whatever meat you have leftover, if any, and use it for soup, pot roast dinner, even add some mexican seasoning to the meat to use for tacos or enchiladas! You can’t go wrong with this inexpensive cut of meat!

Yields: 12 sandwiches (24 halves)

Ingredients:
4 lbs. boneless chuck roast
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 beef bouillon cube
1-2 bay leaves
3-4 peppercorns
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
12 French Rolls – split
12 slices of Havarti cheese (or whatever you like)

Directions:
1. Place roast in a 5 qt. slow cooker.
2. Combine soy sauce & next 6 ingredients. Pour over roast.
3. Add water to slow cooker until roast is almost covered.
4. Cook covered on LOW for 8 hours or until very tender. Cook until it falls apart!
5. Remove roast, reserving broth.
6. Shred roast with 2 forks.
7. Place split french rolls under broiler for about 30 seconds to toast.  Remove bottom halves. Return top halves to oven with slice of havarti cheese on top, just to melt (10-15 seconds).
8. Place shredded beef onto bottom half of roll, top with other half roll & cut at angle.
9. Serve with broth on side in small ramekin or add a little broth to meat before completing sandwich.

The beautiful thing about having a crockpot is the fact that your home cooked meals remain juicy, delicious, and flavorful without all the hassle. Remember that it is more important to have extra time to spend with your sweet loved ones on Easter than it is to stress about having the perfect feast. Enjoy this easy, delicious meal, and don’t forget the secret ingredient…love!

What are some of your family’s favorite Easter treats and meals?

Say “Yes!”

IMG_0858

Last I had the opportunity to share with you, I encouraged you wonderful ladies to hide God’s word in your heart by memorizing Scripture passages that you felt God wanted you to focus on.  At the time, I was memorizing the passage in I John 4 about love.  Loving others does not come naturally to me, (does it to anyone out there?!), so taking time to dwell on God as the definition of love and how He shows love was just what the Great Physician ordered.  And wouldn’t you know it, God used His Word to get me thinking not only about loving others in my church or neighborhood, but also my closest neighbors, the ones with bedrooms on the same hall as mine – my husband and kids.

You see, I often won’t hesitate to drop what I’m doing to help a neighbor or take a phone call from a friend.  But when one of my children needs me to stop for a few minutes and read them a story, come see their new Lego creation or simply listen to them share their latest out-of-this-world idea, my answer is often, “Not now.  Later.”  Or when my husband needs to talk at exactly the time I’m about to put my feet up and enjoy a little “me time” with a cup of tea and a book, my body language screams “leave me alone” while I pretend to listen and be interested.

I know the right, kind and loving thing to do: engage.

Look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.

Like Jesus.

But I often don’t want to do the right, kind and loving thing!  My days are punctuated by my sloth and self-centeredness getting caught in a stare down with the Spirit that dwells within me.  I am so thankful for the times that God graciously helps me choose Him over myself; often He does so by pricking my heart with His Word to drag me into obedience.  Father does know best!

Thus, with meditation on, This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him, has come the Spirit whisper to say yes more often.

~Say yes by lifting my eyes and closing my book or computer when my husband wants to talk.

~Say yes by leaving the unwashed dishes in the sink a while longer to read a book with the child tugging at my pant leg.

~Say yes by ignoring the toy-covered floor and plopping down in the middle of the mess to cuddle with a child who needs reassurance.

~Say yes by resisting the urge tell the kids to entertain themselves outside and joining in the ballgame when they invite me.

~Say yes by not hurrying out of their rooms into the glorious peace of post-bedtime when it is clear they need to talk a little longer.

~Say yes to engaging when the to-do list tempts to with its promises of productivity.

~Say yes to connecting when it’s easier to remain disconnected.

~Say yes to giving life.

~Say yes to service.

~Say yes to love.

 

There’s always a temptation to place our needs and desires above those of our husband and children.  After all, we work hard and the to-do list won’t accomplish itself, and a little alone time sure is nice now and then!  But our to-do list was not created in the image of God and made for eternity with Him, and the Lord has given us all we need for life and godliness.  So, when the stare down between the self and the Spirit begins in our hearts, let Jesus, who did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many, be an encouragement to us to press on and “yes” on as wives and mommies.

 

Praying for you as you serve your families today,

Heather, Life in the Valley