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Well, fine ladies and gents, I’ve decided a few things about blogging.  And in doing so, I have some new and exciting things to share.  🙂

*I’ve decided to largely leave the world of Facebook.  It feels over-crowded and I never know if I’m posting too frequently and annoying my Facebook friends.  This’ll free up some much-desired time and focus on my blog, where I can post as frequently as I want!  My plan is to blog at least once a week about revelations during times with my Father, a gardening journal, thoughts, feelings, struggles, and questions on being a keeper of the home, and anything else I darn well want to put in it!  I am SO EXCITED about this decision, even if I’m the only one who ever reads it!

*I’m taking my blogging business to blogger, where I can actually earn a few pennies if anyone decides to click on the ads framing my blog, whereas no money is earned here on WordPress.  Every little bit helps, right?

SO…. my new blog address iswww.riddlelove.blogger.com!

I hope to see you there. 🙂  I don’t plan on deleting this blog.  I’ll leave it the way it is and begin a new chapter of blogging on the new and improved one.

So, with this, I say, “Farewell, WordPress!  Thank you for allowing me to get my feet wet in this thing that’s called blogging.  It’s been real.”

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Hundreds of titles for this post were swimming in my head.  Even more topics.  A hint of dread was quickly brushed off like the cobwebs that would be resting on this blog if it were tangible as I wondered if I still remembered how to write.  Needless to say, it’s been a while, eh?  Something to the tune of four months, I believe.  It might as well have been four years, what with all the changes that have taken place during the great blogging silence.  I could write many pages documenting all the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual changes, but I’m going to write about something that’s particularly of focus: the power of encouragement.

I must admit, though I crave it as much as the normal human being, I really lack in dishing it out.  Somehow, if I give some, maybe I won’t have any for myself?  As if it’s going to run out, or something.  I’m realizing something spectacular.  Kingdom fruits never run out.  They seem to multiply more rapidly when given out.  We’ve entered this new culture where one of it’s many strengths is encouragement.  Wow, has it been a culture shock for Jer and I!  It’s brought some major exposure to a bit of unhealth, for sure.  As much as I despise comparison and know of it’s evils, it’s still in there.  I realize it when I see a picture of most everyone on earth vacationing and having the time of their lives while I’m home alone on day 24 of 28 of being a single parent.  Just as I’m about to post something kiddingly-sarcastic, comparing their good time to my alleged lonely misery to get some sympathy, I read the comments from other friends, “I’m so happy for you!”  “That looks so fun!”  “That’s awesome!”  I stop.  Wow.  Those guys are being so nice and encouraging and they’re not on vacation, either.  Some of them are even actual single parents, not temporary ones like me.

Encouragement brings freedom and allows beauty to flow.  I’m telling you, people here are encouragement dealers!  I’ve decided I want to not only be a user, but a dealer, too.  Oh, the high you get when someone says, “Your hair looks so cute!”  Whatever!  I know that seems so shallow, but seriously, you know how good it feels!  “That color is good on you.”  “Awesome new song!” “I love the way you take pictures!”

Being delighted in is the most amazing thing.  More and more, I’m grasping the sheer joy and freedom that comes, knowing that my Father delights in me.  Instead of starting my devotions in shame, thinking of how I don’t spend enough of my day in concentrated devotion, how I blew it when I yelled at one, or all, of my kids an hour ago, and all the other reasons for Daddy to say, “Bad girl,” to me, I am reminded that He delights in me.  How I am redeemed in Him.  How all that other stuff is a dead me coming back to haunt me (yeah, I like Kris Vallotton’s imagery), but He wants to bring the real me more and more to life because He loves who I am dearly.  Oh, what a feeling!  Oh, how I want to parent like this more and more!  My kids need to know that I delight in them so much!  I am starting to shower them more with encouragement, and wow, I’m seeing more and more of their beautiful, true selves and less and less of their bickering, whiney behavior coming out.

Encouragement is powerful and life-transforming.  When I feel loved, delighted in, and encouraged, I feel safe and free to be who I really am.  It’s ridiculous to think that I always had all of that in Him, but I was looking for it solely in people (which seems to come hand-in-hand when you have the fear of man like I did).  I desire so much to be that to everyone around me.  I really do love you.  I don’t talk behind your back and criticize you after I smile and flatter you to your face.  I delight in who you are.  You are beautiful.  That color really looks good on you.  I love your new hair cut.  Those jeans are hot!  I love hearing you sing.  That is an awesome work of art.  And, Jer’s and my favorite new way to encourage in this culture, “COME ON!”  Ahhh, that felt so good.  Wouldn’t you know it?  There’s even freedom and joy when you give encouragement!  I’m addicted!  This new chapter of life will be one saturated in encouragement!  Oh, the life that’s about to flow!

Practically speaking, blogging is the most illogical activity considering the current situations closing in.  There are major transitions our family is undergoing that require a lot of effort in a little bit of time.  I look forward to sharing with you these exciting goings-on, but that’s for another time.  So much is required, but I am experiencing a moment of quiet, and while I allow my ruptured eardrum to heal (stillness is the name of the game), my heart is burning within me and I’m about to spill it all out.   It’s one of those times where I see things so clearly, I’m only hoping I can clearly communicate.  I would very much appreciate your balancing input.

After reading Luke 12 this morning, I experienced a great amount of fear and joy.  Joy that the end really is near.  Jesus really is coming back, and if not in my lifetime, it could be in my children’s lifetime.  What am I doing to prepare them for His glorious coming?  At risk of sounding like a crazy preacher, the Fear of the Lord descended upon me.  He really is coming back.  Really.

I’ve personally observed pockets of Christians who seem to be embracing this reality and are going after that “pearl of great price.”  Nothing seems to be more important than readying themselves, their families, and others for Jesus’ second coming.  These people are not a people wallowing in doom and gloom, but are a people of hope, joy, freedom, and love.  They are secure in their salvation and their joy comes from relationship with Him and the promise of a perfect eternity together, no matter what temporary hardships meet them on this earth.  But they are not in denial of the current state of this world and are active partners with their Redeemer to bring about even more redemption to the world.  They do not passively sit, waiting for the world to go to pot and feeling any effort to bring about change would be futile.  They recognize the battleground is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil spiritual forces at work, and they do most of the warring on their knees.  This is my tribe.  I want to align myself with these people.

I’ve also been in the camp of Christians who truly want to be about the Kingdom, but seem to have a hard time really living it out.  They’re pretty content with the way things are, they don’t feel things are in that dire of a situation to be all that active and “extreme,” and are just trying to be good people.  There isn’t much joy, but there is confusion.

As Christians, we know what’s good and what is sinful, according to the Bible.  Or at least we should.  We know getting drunk, gossip, sexual immorality, selfishness, greed, and even gluttony is wrong.  We try not to drink too much, be too selfish, and we have internet firewalls that catch most of the bad stuff, but hey, we’re not fully redeemed yet, and stuff is going to slip by, right?  I don’t think these people are trying to be lazy Christians, I think they just might not be “interpreting the present time,” amongst other issues like Biblical illiteracy.

The fact of the matter is this: Jesus is coming back.  Yeah, most Christians are saying, “No duh, I know, I read the Bible.  What a cliche thing to say.  He’s been ‘coming back’ for over 2,000 years.”  He might not come back in our lifetime, but He might in our children’s, or the generation after that, or after that, or after that.  What are we doing to prepare them?  How are we modeling this readiness?  How are we spreading the word so more can be saved?

 Sure, there is tension on this side of the New Testament.  We are redeemed, but can still sin.  But are we using this tension as an excuse, or are we moving forward in our redemption and speaking and acting in our freedom from sin and death?  I know we are saved by grace and not works (thank the Lord), but I am also familiar with the sobering parable of the sheep and the goats.  The time is here!  There is no time for dabbling with the devil.  Or have we forgotten what the devil looks like and what our Savior is capable of doing in our lives?  With Jesus, our addictions, brokenness, and sicknesses can be healed.

I know I’m not saying anything new, yet not much seems to be changing.  This is all coming from one who has been redeemed from the fear of man, the fear of death, the fear of pain and discomfort, and lots and lots of fear, and who has been forgiven of gossip, slander, selfishness, and lying.  Yet physically I’m currently struggling with sickness, knowing God could redeem my health, too.  There’s that tension. I know the gate is narrow, but I want as many of us as possible to get through it.  It is time to really examine our lives, priorities, and thoughts.  He is coming, and that will be a glorious day for some and a damned day for others.  What will it be for you and your children and their children?
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I’m afraid I’m not as avid a blogger as I’d like to be these days. As much as I adore writing, sharing, and pondering by “pen,” other duties and pleasures have consumed my time lately. Speaking of pleasures, my friend, Rachel introduced me to ehow and, as you can see, my recipes (and most downtime obtained) has gone there.  I’m telling you, if you have know-how in a certain area, it’s a great place to share your knowledge and get paid for it.  I appreciate that it’s free to the public to access your articles; you get paid when people click the google links surrounding them.  It’s a great way to earn an little extra money.  I am fascinated and sometimes have an unbalanced enthrallment with health, especially when it comes to food, so I published an article on how to eat healthy on a budget, a real hobby of sorts and challenge of mine.  I also just created a simple, most unhealthy dessert that I am rather proud of if I do say so myself.  I call it “chocolate banana cream dessert bars.”  It’s quite a mouthful in every sense of the term.  Hehe.

Well, now that I’ve shamelessly plugged my articles, I’m going to neglect my dear blog once again and spend some time loving my dear husband who just came home from the road, sick and weary.  Until next post, dear friends…

Have you ever had one of those seasons where it feels like your mind has been suddenly flooded with thoughts, concerns, and ideas, but when you consider the hours there are in a day and the limited years you have left on this earth that there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to do it all and then you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know what to do or where to start and you get dizzy and you suddenly want to zone out to something mindless?  Let me catch my breath for a minute…  Ok, I’m better now, thanks.  Well, that’s where I’ve been for the past few days.

After experiencing the aforementioned mess of thoughts and feelings, I finally attained the wherewithal to stop and cry out to my Heavenly Father for HELP!!!!  Lord, what am I supposed to do with all this?  I feel these issues filling my thoughts and emotions are all so important!  I have a newfound interest in politics, economics, and ethical issues, and old-found interests in health, spiritual formation and discipline, parenting, family life, gardening, survival skills, natural childbirth, dancing, acting, writing, reading…  the list goes on.  I’ve been blessed with four amazing children, and want to raise them well.  How, Lord, can I be a good steward with my family and not ignore all you’ve placed in my heart?  “Do few things and do them well” are words I live by, but these aren’t a “few things!”

Suddenly it dawned on me (dare I say… the Lord did spaketh unto me?).  Maybe some of these interests aren’t what I should devote my life to.  Maybe… just maybe… I’m supposed to explore a little into each of these interests and expose my findings to spark a fire in those around me, namely my children?  

My son is fascinated with germs and body function.  When I took him to the ER to stitch up his little facial gash last month, he never cried once as I expected him to do.  Instead, he was irresistibly drawn to everything in the examining room and interested in the procedure of how the doctors mended him.  He wanted to see it all, and I took pictures for him so he could later observe what was going on.  He said it was one of his favorite nights!  I am enthralled with alternative medicine, and would love to take courses to further my education, but can’t find the time.  Maybe Levi and I will connect on this issue and he’ll be the one to go into the profession.

Bekah, my oldest, is rather talented in the fine arts.  I always wanted to go Broadway, but decided (after a quick dabbling in the entertainment department at Disneyland) that I’d rather have a family.  Perhaps putting on little plays with her and drawing together will turn into more than just playtime as she matures.

Suddenly, I am understanding more about “quiver-filling.”  I am referring to Psalm 127:3-5

Behold, children are a heritage from the

LORD,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are children of one’s youth.

Blessed is the man

who fills his quiver with them!

He shall not be put to shame

when he speaks with his enemies in

the gate.

Well, we currently have four children I love dearly, but I have more than four ideas and plenty of love for more, and that’s not including my husband’s interests and love.  Maybe we need to have a little discussion about how many little arrows we’re meant to acquire…

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I find it amusing that most of my spiritually-based posts have “bread” in their titles.  I love bread.  If only ontological bread was as nourishing as the metaphorical one.  I miss the nineties.  Carbs were good for you in the nineties.  Atkins, really.  Why did you go and start this low-carb revolution?  That, my friends, was me following a little bunny down a trail…

Back on the path…  I’m going through a book my parents gave me a few years ago called, “Sleeping with Bread, Holding What Gives You Life.”  The title was inspired by the story of thousands of children who were orphaned in WWII and left to starve.  Some of the children in the refugee camps couldn’t sleep because they were afraid they’d wake up and have nothing to eat.  One of their caretakers decided to give them all a loaf of bread to sleep with so they would have assurance of food to eat the next day.  The children then slept peacefully.  The bread reminded them “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

The book is based off of The Spiritual Exercises founded by St. Ignatius, where we listen for God to speak through times of consolation (what brings life and connects us to God) and desolation (what drains and disconnects us from God).  For instance, when I look at my now sparkling house after a long, hard, frequently interrupted day of deep cleaning, it is a moment of consolation for me.  What is God speaking to me in this?  When I am tired and melancholy and I lose my patience with the kids, that is an instance of desolation.  What is God speaking to me through this situation?

I realized that when I am in a season of consolation, when I feel close to the Lord, I am also spending lots of time outside working the soil and tending to plants.  I hear Him speak to me and so many parables and passages start to make more sense.  I want to give Him my adoration and worship by doing what God originally put us in Eden to do, to “work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15, ESV).  

When I’m in a season of desolation, when I feel furthest away from God, I realize it’s when I’m thinking about myself a lot.  For some reason or another, my devotional time has dwindled, and situations start knocking me around harder than normal.  Then worry, insecurity, doubt, and loneliness sets in.  My mind becomes consumed with finding fleshly, potentially destructive things to pacify my bad feelings with.  I eat an unbalanced amount of comfort foods (mainly bready sweets like cookies and cakes), waste time online shopping looking for something new to need, and avoid going outdoors because its a little too hot or cold or windy for my comfort.  I wonder why I feel so distant from God.  Why isn’t He speaking to me?  Then, I realize the lack of focused time I have spent with Him and where I veered off the road.

The examen is also a way to find out what our individual “sealed orders” are from the Lord.  Sealed orders are the unique purpose God has for each individual here on earth that He put in our very DNA.  The more we discover and carry out our sealed orders, the more our lives are filled with consolation.  This was a new idea to me.  Growing up in our church, I interpreted certain teachings that whatever you wanted to do least of all, that’s what God was telling you to do.  I don’t doubt there are times when God does have things for us to do as part of our sealed orders, like Jonah going to Nineveh, but I don’t think our actual sealed orders are the opposite of what we love.  This was a freeing revelation to me.  It’s actually OK to do what I enjoy.  In fact, God put that desire in me to fulfill His plans for me.

I particularly like the idea of doing the examen over dinnertime with the family and observing special ones on holidays (on the 4th of July, share what we’re most and least grateful for in our country, on New Year’s we share what’s brought the most and least consolation over the past year, etc.).  I’d like to start incorporating these in our family life and holidays as a way of enriching those times together.

This whole “examen” thing has really added salt to my time with the Lord.  I feel an exchange between Him and I when I observe it.  It has helped me to slow down and listen.  My Father truly is talking to me throughout the day.  I just need to take the time to listen.

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I told you I’d be accountable to you who read this blog about spending quality daily time with the Lord, and well, the past three days have been void of that.  😦  Let me just tell you , I felt it in a HUGE way.  Things that would normally just annoy me almost devastated me those days.  There was a strength missing (go figure).  Now I have every “right” (excuse) to miss a few days.  The first missed day was when we drove back up north, Friday was a cleaning day, and yesterday was a recovery day from all the travel and cleaning.  But did I manage to eat during the day?  Yes.

Connecting with my Father this morning was the best feeling ever.  Strength really does come when we wait on Him.  All the things that were bogging me down (the dirty house, the destroyed garden, feelings of loneliness) don’t have the better of me anymore.  I know He is my Provider of all things, and in His perfect timing, all things will be restored.

Now that I have strength for this day, it’s time to make breakfast, clean, weed, mulch, launder, and get ready for the 2008/09 home school year!  Blessings to you all!

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Wow.  Two months is a long time.  Long enough for a place to feel like home again.  We’ve been in Orange County since late June, and tomorrow, we make the 9-hour trek back up north.  The only thing that could possibly make the OC feel like home for me is the people I love who live in it.  I have never been a fan of the area.  I don’t like irrigated deserts.  Smog is not my air of choice.  I greatly dislike living in a region where sensuality and materialism permeate.  But somehow, there are some diamonds in the rough.  I have had the privillege to spend precious hours with family and friends whom I cherish.  I’ve enjoyed hearing your hearts and seeing your vision.  Some are on your way to different corners of the earth.  Some are staying put.  This summer will be tucked away in my heart forever.

Today is a day of packing and sentiment.  As I clean the fingerprints from my parents’ sliding glass doors and stuff our clothes into suit cases, I try not to stuff my feelings.  It would be a lot easier to close them off and not deal with the tearing feeling that always pains my heart when it’s time to say goodbye.  It’s especially hard to see my kids’ eyes well up with tears as the ripping begins.  

Thankfully, we have much to look forward to.  We have new friends to reunite with and get to know better.  Although I missed blackberry season, the pears will be ready for harvest, and the walnuts are preparing for their time to be picked.  I get to wake up every morning and laugh at wild turkeys and enjoy the beautiful lake.  The pumpkin sprouts I left should now be huge and speckled with squash.  I get to say goodbye to disposables and return to cloth diapering and line-drying.  It’s back to filling the home with the scent of freshly baked bread from the flour I just milled. It’ll be fun to see jars of kefir lacto-fermenting all in a row on the kitchen counter.  Call it nerdy, but I’m excited to return back to the lifestyle I’ve embraced the past three years.

Now, if I could just combine the two.  I wish I could put all my loved ones in my pocket and take them with me wherever I go.  This trip was a huge reminder of the blessings community can be, and how important it is.  I know it takes time to establish one after a move, and I know we’ll will have one again.  An old Girl Scout song comes to mind, “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other’s gold.”  🙂

Well, that was a nice break.  Now that my mind is filled with sweet thoughts of all of you, I will return to my packing duties.
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9:00pm:  My 2-year-old has a 102 fever.

11:00pm: I go to bed.

1:00am:  I check the fever, and it broke.

4:00am: My 6-year-old wakes me up with the dreaded whimper, “I think I’m gonna throw up.”

4:15am:  It finally happened (thankfully, in the toilet!)

4:30am:  Jeremy’s alarm goes off and leaves for the airport to get to the Portland event.  My 3-month-old wakes up from the alarm.  I nurse her back to sleep.

5:00am:  My six-year-old wakes back up.  She has thrown up on her pillow.  I get a fresh one and lay her down on the ground with blankets.

7:00am:  I wake up after having a dream about a white wolf and a pack of coyotes in the children’s ministry rooms at church.  Then, I had a dream that I watched a plane crash-land and there were only a few survivors.

8:00am:  I text Jeremy to make sure he’s ok and have a text from an unknown sender asking me to pray for her cousin who had been thrown out of a car and was bleeding in her brain.  My phone dies before I get a reply from Jeremy and I can find out who the text is from.  I remember my phone charger was left in my locked car, and I can’t find the keys.

At this point I realize it’s probably not coincidental that all this happened at once.  I feel under attack.  It is a grave reminder that the “spiritual forces of evil” are constantly at war with the saints.  I begin to think about the importance of His children in prayer and in unity with each other.  I feel the necessity of prayer and my need for spiritual brothers and sisters especially at times like these. 

I think it’s time to pray Ephesians 6 over all of us again.  We can be given the weapons to fight the evil one, and it’s so important to remember that we are on the same side.  This battle isn’t against flesh and blood.  We need each other.  We need to bare each other’s burdens.  We need to be in prayer as one.  How astounding it is that we already know we’re on the winning side!  Let’s forgive and forget.  Let’s stand as one in Him, fight the good fight, and spend eternity together with Jesus.  Sounds lovely, don’t you think? 🙂

PS: My 2-year-old’s fever broke, my six-year-old’s tummy feels fine, I found my keys, and Jeremy made it safely to Portland.  Thank you, Father!
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I have a confession to make.  Although I spend some individual time with the Lord every day, it has not always been quality time.  It sometimes slips into my to-do list and out of relationship.  It’s so easy to find excuses to try and justify reasons why I didn’t get around to special time with God on certain days.  Living a “full orbed” spiritual walk is something I have been growing in over the years, and “practicing the Presence” has been life-changing, but I sometimes use these life methods as excuses for my inconsistent personal connections with God.  I’ve even been told by church leaders that I’m in a season of raising little kids and my devotional life will come back in due time.  Friends, that is a load of crap.

Lately, I have felt conviction and a sense of urgency to step it up in this area of my life.  It is a must that I am daily studying the Word, supplicating, and waiting on the Lord.  I want to know Him more.  I’m after a deeper relationship with Him.  Some might think keeping it a daily practice no matter what is legalistic, but I figure if it is, then so is drinking water every day.  Just as my physical body needs hydration every day to stay alive, my spirit needs to be sustained by one-on-one time with my heavenly Father every day.  When it doesn’t happen, I start to wither away, sometimes unknowingly for a while.  Just as I can find time to feed and give drink to my body, I can find time to nourish my spirit as well, and if I don’t, my priorities are devastatingly askew.

My flesh likes to tell me that spending time alone with the Lord is a drag because it means getting my mind off myself and my to-do list.  It slows down my production for the day.   I could get a head start on the laundry or house cleaning before the kids get up instead of praying and waiting.  Or maybe I could pray and wait while I clean and kill two birds with one stone, because I’m not sure how I’m going to find the time to get everything done.  Besides, I am really just too tired to have the ability to even make a real connection with God.  EXUSES! 

I will now be held accountable by you who read this that I will daily spend time in the Word and contemplating it, in prayer, and (the most challenging thing for me) in waiting on the Lord.  I will not put a time limit on it, because I feel that would be legalistic.  Vision is found in Him.  Contentedness is found only in Him.  Salvation is found in Him alone.  I know I will lose my way if I do not study the map and communicate with the Navigator.  I know I will starve if I don’t daily take bread.  It’s always there for the taking, it’s up to me to pursue it, in times of consolation and desolation.
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Drought weights the trees, and from the farmhouse eaves
The locust, pulse-beat of the summer day,
Throbs; and the lane, that shambles under leaves
Limp with the heat–a league of rutty way –
Is lost in dust; and sultry scents of hay
Breathe from the panting meadows heaped with sheaves.

– from "The Rain-Crow" by Madison Cawein (1865 – 1914)

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