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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Build My House Thursday - A Place for Beauty


If the voice of your home were an audible sound, what would it say today? That may sound like a silly question because, unless your home groans with age or creeks from the fierce winds that blow against it, it probably doesn't speak aloud. But don't think for a minute that your house doesn't have something to say. In fact, it speaks loud and clear to all who enter it or even those who pass by. 

"Naturally, our homes don't speak with words per se," writes George Andersen in his book Silent Witness, "but they subtly reveal so much:... interests and priorities...the place God has in our lives...our concerns for others...the value that we put on our families...how we spend our time. Thus, our homes become 'silent witnesses' to the multifaceted work of God in our lives."

If my home speaks silently, with subtlety, of my God, I think I should take the time to make sure the "voice" with which it speaks is a lovely, beautiful, and appealing one. Even though its voice may be silent, my house can speak with harsh tones or gentle ones, arrogance or enthusiasm. It can whisper gently or yell at those who enter its doors. And it can soothe, encourage, and bless, or it can criticize, unsettle, and disturb. How? Through its silent voice, its tone.

When God created the earth, He created a beautiful world that both excites and calms, energizes and puts to rest, invigorates and soothes. How? Through a multitude of elements of beauty. He used color, texture, fragrance, sound, and even tastes to create a lovely voice for all that He wanted to say to us through His created world. And we can do the same with our homes. Humble as they may be, we can use those very same elements to create beautiful atmospheres through which our stories and the story of our God can best be expressed.

It takes effort to make things beautiful. Quite honestly, it also often takes money, time, and know-how.

I'm not a great decorator. I'm the kind of interior designer who pours through magazines, examines other peoples' homes, and watches the home and garden channels just so I can select a color of paint for a room. I don't have the kind of budget that allows me to hire a professional decorator, redo an entire room at one time, or reproduce a designer's show room in my home. Like most of you, I have to do a little decorating at a time, copy the designer showcases with a dime and a little creativity, and even create a lot of my own decorations.

I sewed my own drapes ...


and used the leftovers to make accent pillows. (The pillows are used in different rooms than the drapes so my house doesn't look like a home interior line of Garanimals! I least I hope it doesn't...)


I took drapes from my last house and re-sewed them into cushions for my rocking chair. 

And I recently made coasters for my potted violets from scraps left over from another project.

If I want to make things beautiful in my home, I have to be resourceful. I'd love to hear how you have used your limited resources to create loveliness in your environment.

I tell you all of this so that you'll know I don't claim to be an expert on creating beauty in our homes. I do the best I can, but no one has ever asked me to come help them decorate their home, so that tells me I still rank as an amateur. But I do make beauty a priority in my home.

Why? Because I believe my family and our guests deserve a little beauty. Quite honestly, my teenagers would probably say they could care less if things look nice, but I don't believe them. Even if the folks in your home never tell you your homemade curtains look nice or the flowers on the table are a lovely touch, I think they reap the benefits of those pretty touches. Beauty speaks to the soul even when we're not really listening. 

Like I said, I'm no expert, but I thought I'd offer a few pointers that might jump start your creativity and get you thinking about how to kick up the beauty meter in your home a notch.

  • Fresh flowers are always a nice touch. And they don't have to be expensive. I bought a bouquet of fresh daisies at the grocery store on Monday for my Tuesday breakfast party. They were just $5.99 and I managed to spread them out over one large arrangement (with silk greenery) and 5 place setting arrangements. Of course, I love cutting fresh roses from my own rose garden as well. You don't have to be a master flower arranger to make a pleasing bouquet of flowers. God has already made them beautiful; you just have to display the beauty.

  • Set the table! I know it's just your family, and they don't seem to care if they eat off paper plates or even fast food wrappers, but like I said, beauty speaks even when we're not necessarily tuned into it. I don't always set my table this nicely, but I should. My family deserves it and I do too. And this little table arrangement took all of 5 minutes. Well worth it. I'm also a firm believer in cloth napkins. They're my meager effort at going green!

 (Did you see my mini-daisy arrangements? Nice and easy!)
  • Light a candle and make things smell nice. I think we feel like things are really beautiful and lovely when all our senses are engaged in something pleasant. 
    • Decorate with what you have. We have three avid readers at our home so we have lots of books. I think books make nice decorations when stacked in different places in your home. You can stack them with coordinating colors or themes.

    • Turn on some nice music. While I love the "sounds of family" - conversation, rock music blaring from behind closed doors, children's laughter, the muted voices from the television, the hum of the washer and dryer, the swish of the dishwasher, dogs playing, etc. - beautiful music is what sings to my soul. Praise songs, soft jazz, love songs, and classical music are my favorites, but I try others things every now and then too. I actually have an Italian bistro CD that I pull out occasionally when we eat Italian food. My family groans when they first sit down to their spaghetti and hear it playing, but I know they love it...at least I tell myself they do!
    • Use color. God's creation is full of color. Even here in the desert southwest, God has painted a beautiful picture of His peace, His love, and His gentleness with the soft, muted tones. If you can't afford anything else to add beauty to a room, you can probably afford a bucket or two of paint. And if you don't like it once it's on the walls, you can easily paint over it. I think paint - beautiful, bold color - is a miracle worker!
     (When I first painted my kitchen green, it turned out a distinctively "hospital green"! That wouldn't work! So I had to paint the whole thing again. But it was relatively easy and cheap.)
      So now it's your turn. What do you do in your home to create a little beauty? I really want to know!

      And one more thing. The book I quoted earlier by Georg Andersen is a lovely home decorator book by a Christian and for Christians. I gave you a link to get it on Amazon if you're interested.

      Have a beautiful day!

      Wednesday, May 26, 2010

      Not So Wordy Wednesday - But Oh So Worky

      Today there are indeed few words because there is so much work to be done. Honestly, I'm a little overwhelmed. And I have no one to blame but myself.

      I tend to procrastinate. There I said it. I'd like to say that I simply work better that way, under pressure and all. But that's not true. If anything I do a shoddier job on things when I allow the work to build up.

      Today the laundry is piled high, my desk is somewhere under a stack of unfinished projects, I'm behind in my daily read-the-Bible-through reading, my list of errands has "been continued" on the back side of the page, and the bathrooms are starting to grow stuff. So I guess it's a good thing Wednesdays are not so wordy! Of course, I'd rather sit here and pontificate about nothing in particular than tackle the unfolded clothes or the soap scum on the shower doors.

      But, alas, I made the mistake of blogging about keeping your home in order last Thursday, so I'm feeling a little pressure to buckle down and get to work. I suppose that is a good thing.

      So I leave you with a couple of easy-peasy questions today. Since you happened to drop by while I'm folding clothes, ironing and scrubbing bathrooms, let's talk housework.
      1. What's your least favorite household cleaning task?
      2. What's the worst part about doing laundry? Washing and drying, folding, ironing, or putting the stuff away?
      3. Do you have a favorite household chore? This may be a stretch, but I feel I ought to ask for the sake of ending on a positive note. What one job is either a real thrill to you or at least gives you a great sense of satisfaction when it's all said and done?
      Here are my answers:
      1. By far, cleaning the bathrooms. Yuck! It's such a wet job!
      2. Definitely putting the clothes away. I usually make my family members do their own because I hate this job so much. Besides it's good for them. By the way, my kids often do their own laundry, but I'm giving them a reprieve for a couple of weeks, thus the huge mounds I'm wrestling with today.
      3. I do love the results of freshly vacuumed floors and I don't mind vacuuming so much either. 
      It would make me feel so much better to hear you whine a little too. Won't you join me? But you can end on a positive note by answering #3.

      Thanks for dropping by today. I'm a little suspicious of my friends who only drop by on Not So Wordy Wednesdays... But I'll try not to let it hurt my feelings!

      Tuesday, May 25, 2010

      A Look at Lydia

      I'm a little late with my post today because I had a small breakfast party this morning. Now before you start thinking that's something I do often, think again. And yet, I don't know why not. Breakfast is one of the easiest meals to make, one of the least expensive, and many people's favorites. And starting the day off with a party is a great motivator!

      My husband had been out of town during Secretaries' Week, so he was a little behind on honoring the ladies who work in the church office. He asked me last week if I'd like to take them to breakfast - just us gals - but I suggested I host them for breakfast in our home instead. I'm normally all for going out to breakfast, but I must have just put down my Southern Lady magazine or exited out of Yvonne's StoneGable blog or something, so I was in the domestic and hospitable frame of mind. And I'm so glad I was.

      I loved having the ladies into my home this morning. And amazingly it really wasn't that difficult or time-consuming to prepare for them. I straightened up last night, set the table and chopped up a few of the ingredients for the fruit salad and the quiches I would be preparing. I got up a little before six this morning and got dressed, baked the muffins, assembled the quiche, turned on the coffee and finally popped the quiche in the oven. I had my apron off and the soft jazz music playing well before they got here at eight o'clock.

      Why don't we welcome people into our homes for a meal or games or dessert more often? Or maybe you do. But I must confess that I'm guilty of good intentions and poor follow through. I mean to have people over; I just rarely actually extend the invitation. And maybe that's where we need to make the change - just invite and get the ball rolling, because once the invitation has been accepted there's no turning back, is there? At that point you're committed and you somehow manage to make the thing happen. And really, how hard is it to set a few more plates at the table, toss a few more burgers on the grill, tidy up the bathroom and light a candle or two? Warm hospitality requires just a little effort, but produces huge results - sweet fellowship, deepened relationships, wholesome fun, and simple kindness.

      So who's our trailblazer when it comes to breakfast parties and such? Why Lydia of Thyatira, of course. Her brief story is in Acts 16:11-15 and verse 40. When Paul and Silas met her she was sitting along the riverside where she and other women had gathered for prayer. She was already a worshiper of God, but did not yet know about Jesus. But as Paul spoke, God opened her heart and she eagerly responded to the truth about Jesus. She and her household were quickly baptized. Obviously Lydia shared her new found relationship with Jesus with her household, immediately and enthusiastically. In fact, enthusiasm seems to have been one of Lydia's strong suits.

      Lydia, a seller of purple (costly and fine) fabric, continued with her prosperous business as far as we know. Undoubtedly, she used her business connections to share the gospel with others. But, as busy in business as she was, Lydia evidently still took the time and made the necessary efforts to open her home to others, namely those in ministry. Not only did she invite Paul and Silas (and probably others who were traveling with them) to come into her home and stay there while they were in Philippi, but the Bible says she "prevailed upon" them. She wouldn't take no for an answer. Now here is a woman who knows how to offer an invitation - with enthusiasm!

      Even after Paul and Silas' unjust stint in jail, Lydia welcomed them into her home again. Their tarnished reputations did not nullify her invitation, but sealed it.

      Isn't it amazing that some folks like Lydia just pass out invitations to come to their homes like you'd pass around a cold? They don't seem to weigh out the cost, consider the hardship, or double check their calendars for possible conflicts. They just "prevail upon" you to come to dinner, stop by for dessert, or visit for the weekend, as though your presence in their home is truly an honor to them, a gift they will enjoy even more than you do. They aren't just offering to be polite; they really want you to come for a visit. Why? Because they want to know you better, spend time with you, listen to you, catch up with your life, and bless you. These are truly gracious folks. And being gracious is supposed to be what being a Christ follower is all about.

      Funny thing is, most of us, good and godly Christians that we may be, still think this kind of behavior is optional. We tend to think some folks are "just that way" or that they are just the entertaining type. But the Bible doesn't explore hospitality, as though it were some sort of rare phenomenon. It demands it. We, all believers, are to be hospitable. We are to show hospitality to each other, to those who minister to us, to the church, and to strangers. We're to open our homes, go the extra mile, exert a little effort, show some grace and kindness, make others feel comfortable in our presence.

      I can write this today because I happened to extend an invitation last week and I followed through with it today. But I'm just as negligent about showing true and consistent hospitality as most of you are. How about we all consider Lydia's trailblazing example today and commit to opening our homes more. I tell you what: I'll commit to having at least one family or a few individuals over for a cookout in the next three weeks (I'm giving myself a few weeks because I'll be out of town part of that time). I'll talk with my husband about it tonight, put it on my calendar and extend the invitation before this week is up.

      What about you? Would you like to join me in this Lydia challenge? I'd love to hear about it if you do!

      Monday, May 24, 2010

      Ministry Monday - The Hellos and Goodbyes

      Last night we went to a goodbye party. While I'm normally quite the party gal, these are my least favorite types of party. I absolutely hate saying goodbye!

      Our friends Jim and Katie were in mine and James' first off-campus small group. A close knit group of various ages and stages in life, we met each Sunday evening for dinner, a Bible study, and a good time. We kept it up for a little over a year and when our group became too big for intimate fellowship, Jim and Katie became the leaders of the core group and James and I moved on with another couple or two to begin a new small group. Even that felt like a goodbye of sorts. It was tough leaving the ease and familiarity of our group to start a new one. But we knew we were leaving it in capable hands with Jim and Katie. Over the past two years we've continued to combine all of the break-off groups for parties and cookouts.

      But last night we bid Jim and Katie a more lasting kind of farewell. They're moving to New Mexico later this week to be closer to the rest of their family. We will miss them greatly. Not only were they phenomenal small group leaders, but they led our church's Team Kid program, Katy sang in the choir, they both worked in Vacation Bible School, and Katie was one of my favorite Bible study gals-- always wearing a smile, offering good comments, and pitching in with "housekeeping" type things.

      Ministry molds people together. When you minister alongside someone, you develop a kindred spirit between you. Your hearts begin to beat with the same passions, you pray for the same things, you weep over the same losses, and you celebrate common victories. Even last night, amongst the casual conversation and reluctant goodbyes, Katie enthusiastically shared with me about some of the newer couples in their group. With that familiar twinkle in her eyes, she told me of the progress they'd made, the hopes they have for some of the folks in the group, and the prayers they will continue to pray even as they leave. Jim and Katie may be leaving, but they take with them a fervent love for small group ministry, a heart for our church, and a desire to see other believers grow in their relationships with Christ.

      Goodbyes are hard. Because we've been in the ministry for over 20 years, James and I have locked hearts with many people in the throes of ministry. We dive in and enjoy working, praying, and dreaming together. We laugh and cry and learn and grow and face disappointments and overcome challenges together. We begin to feel like partners, like family. We learn to love one another, be patient with each other, forgive little offenses and oversights, and carry on. We get used to each other. And then...someone leaves.

      Until we moved here, it was usually us that left. I hated those goodbyes. James and I, along with our kids, have always planted ourselves deeply wherever God has chosen to lead us. We know it's risky, but we feel that's the only way to truly live. So when God would begin to dig up our roots and move our hearts to somewhere new, it was quite painful. Even though there have been some moves that included a sense of relief, we've never moved on without our hearts breaking.

      But now that we're in this extremely transient military town, we are always on the other end of goodbye. We are now the ones being left behind. Jim and Katie are not a military couple, but we are saying goodbye to several couples in the next month who are. We have already said goodbye to more folks than I care to count who are either military, border patrol or contractors who work for the government. Goodbyes are way too common here. At this time of year, they are weekly.

      The good news is, hellos are just as common. And I love hellos. I love meeting new people, anticipating new relationships and partnerships, getting to know new folks - their dreams and passions and experiences. Hellos are the tantalizing appetizer of the good things yet to come. Goodbyes are the sweet dessert that bring the good times to a necessary close. They are sweet, but the knowledge that the party is almost over makes them a little bitter too.

      People in our military town handle the coming and going in different ways. Some have decided to stay ever so detached, trying to stay as far as possible from the risks of broken hearts. But most welcome the hellos even though they know the goodbyes are inevitable - sometimes three months later, other times three years down the road, but almost always somewhere on the horizon. And that goes both ways. I've noticed some military families stay to themselves, visit family in other states often, and treat their time here in Sierra Vista more like an extended stay on a whirlwind vacation than a permanent home. But others plug in, join the church, get their hands dirty with the work of ministry, invest themselves in people they will never see again and a church family they will only be with for a short while. They know the goodbyes are coming, but they resist the temptation to guard their hearts so closely that the goodbyes don't sting. They accept the anticipated pain and attach themselves to the fabric of our church and community like a sewn on patch. And these are the folks who win in the long run because they carry with them so much love and leave behind a valuable piece of themselves every time they move on.

      Well, I've rambled enough here for today. Going on and on isn't going to make Jim and Katie stay. Neither will it keep Blake and Mike from leaving, or Julie and Tim, or Antoinette and David, or Kathy or Aimee or ...

      But it's ok, not because someone else will come along and replace them. Because they won't. New friends do not replace the old. And new ministry partners don't fill the shoes of the former. But it's ok because they will remain in our hearts, in our memories and in our prayers. And one day we will see them again, if not on this side of eternity, then definitely around the throne in heaven.

      Thursday, May 20, 2010

      Build My House Thursdays - Order...Order in the Home!

      With God's character and His Word as our foundation, we begin building our homes today the Psalm 127 way. We're not going to labor in vain, for pete's sake. We're going to let "the Lord build the house" so we have homes that reflect well on Him, act as safe harbors for our families, and shine like beacons in our communities.

      Where to start? At the beginning of course.

      I love how the Bible begins with "In the beginning God created..." Our divine Author sees no need to explain who He is, where He's come from, or why He is the central character in our Book. He simply ....is. He is the great I AM; He always was and always will be. But, I digress.

      In the beginning God created. He created our home -- the heavens and the earth. You can read the creation story in Genesis 1-2, but I'm going to move on from there quite quickly today. I am most intrigued by the way God created. I think it is here that we see our very first building block for a home that bears God's mark.


      When I create things I tend to make a haphazard, willy-nilly mess. When I sew, my kitchen table and the surrounding area look like a bomb went off in a fabric store. There are pieces of fabric and thread everywhere. When I cook, pots and pans quickly mount up on my counter tops and shreds of celery, carrots, and onions accumulate in my sink. My recipe gets stained with tomato juice or dish water, and my dogs hang around anticipating flying shreds of grated cheese falling to the floor. And don't even get me started on what it looks like when I attempt to do a little scrap-booking. Let's just say I'm real good at the scrap part, but not so great with the book part.

      But when God creates, He creates order. That's why I know the whole evolution and big bang theories aren't correct. I don't find record of God doing anything with a big bang in the Bible. No, He simply spoke the world into existence in a very logical order. He didn't have scraps lying around like I would have. Nothing got stained from a haphazard spill. And there were no left-over parts that caused God to scratch His head and tuck them out of sight until He figured out where they belonged later. God creates with order.

      Alexander Pope wrote, "Order is Heaven's first law." I think he has something there, and order might ought to be the first law of our homes as well.

      An orderly home makes its inhabitants and guests feel peaceful, secure, calm, protected, and refreshed. Disorder, on the other hand, causes us to feel restless, ill at ease, distracted, and even skiddish.

      So how do we create homes where order reigns? Well, how did God do it?

      The way I see it and the way I read the Bible, God creates order through:
      • having a proper place for everything (sea creatures in the water, creatures with legs on the land, winged creatures in the sky, etc.)
      • instilling routine (day and night, the rising and setting of the sun, the seasons)
      • instituting traditions ("on the seventh day, you will rest...")
      • proper maintenance (man was to cultivate and keep the garden)
      • proper relationships (husband and wife are companions, father is the leader, children are to obey and honor their parents, parents are to discipline and raise their children, etc.)
      I suggest we simply follow God's blue print and build our houses accordingly. I'm going to give you a few of my ideas for how to flesh this out in our homes, and I welcome you to give me some of yours.
      • Don't "put out" or display everything you own. I read recently in a woman's magazine that if you're displaying everything (every little chotchke, trinket, or decorative knickknack) you own, then you probably have a cluttered home. So the last time I dusted, I simply took a few items off my piano and china cabinet and stored them away. I may never find them again, but that's another dilemma!
      • Straighten and organize one room a day until each room looks orderly, welcoming, and fresh. Gretchen Rubin says in the June issue of Woman's Day that "messy areas tend to get messier, and tidy areas tend to stay tidy. Once your dining room table is finally cleaned off, or that enormous stack of papers on your desk is gone, it will be easier to vanquish the new clutter that enters your house every day." I gave her theory a try this week and I think she's right. It's definitely easier to keep order than create it afresh every Saturday!
      • Try putting your housecleaning on a schedule. I've used different housekeeping schedules over the years and found success with different ones at various seasons in my life. You might do certain jobs on specific days of the week (dusting & vacuuming on Mondays, sweeping & mopping on Tuesdays, bathrooms on Wednesdays, etc.) or you could clean a different room each day. If you work outside the home, you may need to do like my family did when I was growing up. As soon as my mom got home from teaching school on Fridays, we would all start cleaning the house. Working quickly and together, the four of us could accomplish most of the indoor cleaning in a couple of hours so our weekends could be spent outdoors or on hobbies.
      • Develop and maintain some crucial family routines. I've noticed that many parents today don't institute routines because they either feel they can't or they're too frazzled to enforce them. But routines actually cut down on those frazzled nerves and set children up for successful cooperation. Kids of all ages (babies through teens) like knowing "what comes next." Some of the routines that have been important in our home include nap times (when my kids were younger), daily quiet times or devotionals, regular family dinners, homework before television or electronics, going to church every Sunday morning, reading and prayers before bed, chores during the summer and on weekends, and cleaning the kitchen right after a meal.
      • Create some fun and lasting traditions that the whole family can enjoy and count on. Traditions often change as your family ages, but you can still milk them for all they're worth. And in my estimation, traditions are definitely worth the work required to keep them alive. We tend to think of the holidays when we think of traditions, but who's to say you can't have a Saturday morning tradition of pancakes or waffles? For years, our family had a Sunday night tradition. When we got home from our church's evening service, everyone fixed their own supper - even the 3-year-old! And everyone could have whatever they wanted - even ice cream with cookies on top! As long as they cleaned it up, too!
      • Sometimes you just have to stop and do the big jobs! I've found there's no way around spring cleaning. You may wait until the fall or even winter, but those big jobs have to be done. Make a day or a week of it, but clean the garage, purge the freezer, wash the windows and screens, clean the carpets, ... you know the jobs! I find it works best to dedicate a week in the spring to all these nasty chores. What about you?
      • Insist on proper communication in your family relationships. Tone of voice, respectful responses, timely apologies, spoken gratitude, and simple acknowledgments all play a part in keeping family relationships on the up and up. However, in our carefree, anything-goes culture, it's easy to slip into some bad habits that create disorder in our homes. In our home, we still insist that our children say "yes ma'am and no sir", etc. I try to get a pleasant "good morning" out of our teens (that's a tough one!). I consistently jump on any uses of what I consider to be inappropriate slang. And even my husband and I apologize when we speak sharply or say something rude out of anger or a bad mood. I think godly and respectful communication is just as crucial for creating an orderly home as clean closets or well established routines.
      So those are some of my ideas for creating an orderly home. Remember, the goal here is to create homes of order so our spirits are refreshed and our family lives are enjoyable. We're not going to win any awards for having the cleanest closets or the most spotless garages (although I certainly feel more like a winner when my house sparkles than when it's full of clutter and dust!). But an orderly home certainly sets the tone for a thriving family life. I think it's worth the effort. Don't you?

      Remember, I'd love to hear your ideas for creating and maintaining order in your home. Thanks for sharing!

      Wednesday, May 19, 2010

      Slow: Changes in Progress

      In case you're among the handful of folks who are wondering what's up with my inconsistent posting lately, this is my offering of an explanation, weak as it is. Quite simply, summer has begun here.

      That means I picked the man child up from college Friday and have been adjusting to having him at home. It also means my in-laws are in town for a visit. And it means the super-involved teenage girl is bringing her school year to a nicely packaged conclusion - complete with end-of-the-year parties, extra credit projects (like the 8-legged mechanical hound she made out of aluminum foil for her English class two nights ago...so sorry I neglected to take a picture!), studying for finals, and incessant summer dreams and schemes.

      This time of year always feels like a huge speed bump to me. It doesn't wreck my life or anything, but it definitely causes me to slow down, shift gears, look both ways, and proceed with caution.

      I really do work at home. Not only do I try to maintain a fairly organized and clean home, cook some decent meals, and keep our clothes clean and on their hangers, but I also really do write, study, or handle ministry tasks most days. So when my kids stop going to school and hanging around the house more, it really throws a kink in my days. I love having them home and I am thrilled that they get a break from school, but I don't love the adjustments I have to make so much.

      Fortunately we're still in that stage where the college kid hibernates in his room until about noon. And Abby has another week and a half of school. That means I have about six hours each morning to get stuff done before the sleeping bear man child asks that daunting question that drives me crazy. "What's for lunch?" We go round and round for a while about how he can fix his own lunch and about how a variety of sandwiches are a perfectly acceptable lunch menu, and then he gets in the car and drives to his favorite pizza place where he buys the lunch special (with his own money, no duh!) and reads a book. That buys me another hour or two.

      Actually my kids, teens that they are, don't bother me that much anymore. It's not like I have to supervise them while they use the playdough or finger paints anymore. Mainly they just distract me. And that's because I'm easily distracted. So five o'clock comes and goes and I've filled my day with stuff like arguing about lunch with my son, finding the picnic basket for my daughter, picking up a dozen pairs of shoes, playing a game with my son, watching Anne of Green Gables with my daughter, and running imaginary errands simply so I can get out of the house for a few minutes of sanity.

      So summer is bittersweet for me. I love having my kids around, really I do. They're great kids and a huge part of my life. But I miss having my house to myself all day so I can play the television in the den loud enough so I can hear it from my office get my work done, eat whatever I want for lunch without having to fix anything for anyone else eat my salads in peace, talk on the phone all day concentrate on my studies, and go to Starbuck's without forking out $5 more for anyone else keep my house clean. You can see my dilemma, I'm sure.

      Is summer an adjustment for you? If you don't have kids whose schedules suddenly wreck everything change, the beginning of summer may be more of a welcomed respite than a speed bump. Maybe you're like my parents used to be. They were both educators, so summer meant freedom and rest for them. They welcomed the summers. And, I repeat, I do like the summer and having my kids home; it's just a bit of an adjustment...and I'm sure that goes both ways.

      I'd love to hear your take on summer.What do you like about it? What drives you nuts? Do you have to shift gears too?

      Monday, May 17, 2010

      Ministry Monday - Who's on Your Heart?

      This morning I had a steering team planning meeting for our church's new MOPS group. I love meeting with this group of young moms. They inspire me and make me feel young. Especially since one of them had on the same shirt I was wearing this morning. It made me feel really hip and youthfully stylish!

      I'm thrilled that our church is finally able to start a new MOPS group. We already have two in our area, but one of them (the one where I've been a mentor mom for the past five years) is full and has a long waiting list and the other one has limited space due to their childcare facilities. So there's a real need for another group that can minister to young moms and their preschoolers in our city, especially since we have a military post here.

      MOPS is a great international ministry that supports moms of preschoolers and gives them opportunities for making friends, learning new skills, gaining godly wisdom, and developing leadership abilities. If you're not familiar with MOPS, you can find out more here, and maybe even find a group that meets in your area.

      The main reason I'm passionate about MOPS is because I love ministering to women, and young women who are just starting their families and setting the patterns they will follow for years to come have a special place in my heart. These women truly are the heart of their homes. They have the power to create the environment in which their children grow in, make choices that affect their families' future, and blaze the path for their families' spiritual journey. And yet, these very women often feel inadequate for the tasks, drained and weary from their everyday duties, isolated and overwhelmed. That's why it's so important to offer them a place of refuge, refueling, fellowship, and encouragement.

      For some reason, God gave me a real heart for women's ministry when I was in college. Perhaps that passion was birthed because so many dear women invested their time and energy in me during those years. They befriended, encouraged, taught, and mentored me. And I ate it up. Their investment in me made a huge difference in my life. And I want to make that same kind of difference in the lives of the women I teach and mentor.

      Women are on my heart. But I know other people who have a passion to minister to teenagers, senior adults, school aged children, preschoolers, and college kids. I also know folks who minister to those who are grieving, those who are caregivers for the sick and dying, children with special needs, foster children, women who've had abortions, and military families. I have friends who love to minister overseas, across the border, and in the inner city. And I know people who reach out with the love of Christ to those who ride motorcycles, those who backpack the Appalachian Trail, those who travel in RVs, and those who are homeless. I've had the personal privilege of being the recipient of the love and attention given by those who feel called to minister to ministers and their families.

      I'm glad that God has given each of His children a burden, a love for different kinds of folks. Sometimes we can get a little frustrated because we think everyone should be as passionate as we are about, say, children, teenagers, or those contemplating abortion. But the truth is that God gives us all different passions so that all the bases get covered. We need to learn to appreciate and respect each others' passions instead of resenting them or expecting everyone else to adopt ours.

      Ministry is about people. But your ministry is probably about a certain type of people. In fact, that is one of the best ways to find your ministry if you haven't yet identified it. Simply ask yourself, "Who is on my heart? Who do I love spending my energy on? Who do I feel compassionate toward? Who do I hurt for? Who do I have high hopes for?"

      So what I'd like to know on this Ministry Monday is "Who's on your heart?" Who has God given you a passion to reach with His love? Who do you desire to impart truth to? Whose plight burdens you and weighs heavy on your heart? Who are you compelled to reach out to? You can be as specific as you'd like, but I'd love to heart about your passion!

      Thursday, May 13, 2010

      A New Series on the Home

      Series help me focus. I'm a pretty scatterbrained person, so it's good for me to have something that helps me focus. So today we're starting a new series for Thursdays. No longer will I wake up on Thursday mornings and wonder what in the world to post about. I'll wake up instead, look at my messy home and wonder who in the world I think I am trying to write something about homemaking! But, alas... I'll have a focus.

      I read some great blogs about homemaking periodically. Their authors are some of my homemaker heroines. These ladies post beautiful tutorials about cooking, decorating, cleaning, etc. They post lovely pictures of tablescapes, delicious recipes, and reviews of cleaning products. And they show you how to restore old furniture, turn vintage linens into curtains, and decorate with twigs from your shrubbery. One of my very favorites is Yvonne at StoneGable. So if you're looking for that kind of post on homemaking, I suggest you head on over there. It will be well worth the visit. Yvonne is a lovely, godly woman who happens to also know how to set a beautiful table, clean your fine linens, and cook up a crock of French onion soup. I adore her and her stunning blog!

      But that's not what you'll get here. I make no pretense about being a talented decorator, a great cook, or the crafty type. Yes, I can sew and cook and decorate pretty well, but only because I follow the directions and inspirations of people like Yvonne. And my cleaning skills are not the most desirable either. I haven't gone green yet (gasp!) and my favorite cleaning method is the shove-everything-into-a-closet-and-make-things-look-tidy method. This is a cleaning tactic that buys you a great deal of time until the closet virtually explodes and then you simply take an hour or two to clean it out. I personally think it works.

      So if I'm not offering cooking tutorials, tablescapes, pointers for cleaning green, or photos of my latest decorating venture, what exactly am I inviting you to each Thursday?

      If you join me for Build My House Thursdays, you'll get my take on building a Psalm 127 house.

      Unless the Lord builds the house,
      They labor in vain who build it;
      Unless the Lord guards the city,
      The watchman keeps awake in vain.
      It is vain for you to rise up early,
      To retire late,
      To eat the bread of painful labors;
      For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
      (Psalm 127:1-2)

      As much as I may wish it were the case, I don't think this Psalm tells me to sleep in late, lie on the sofa all day, and go to bed early with dishes still in the sink. In fact, I know God's word teaches me in other scriptures to be industrious in my home, to keep my home diligently, and to open my home to others. So the psalmist isn't promoting slovenly housekeeping or minimal decorating. He's just reminding us to keep our priorities straight.

      I think the psalmist is all for beautifully decorating your home, cooking delicious meals and even setting a pretty table. But he's reminding us that unless we build our home on biblical principles, God's character, and truth, we're just wasting our time with all the scrubbing and flower arranging and vacuuming and painting.

      So each Thursday I'll be addressing how we can create homes for our families that effuse God's character, that reflect His glory and that give testimony to His plan for our salvation. We'll look at ways to display the fruit of His Spirit in our homes - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. And we'll discuss ways to give our guests and our family members a taste of His character by making our homes orderly, beautiful, inviting, peaceful, and full of love.

      Next Thursday we'll get started, but for today I must move along. My in-laws are coming into town tomorrow and my college boy is coming home. I have stuff I need to put in my closets and a few closets that are bursting at the hinges and must be cleaned out!

      Wednesday, May 12, 2010

      Not So Wordy Wednesday

      Today, in my effort to share fewer words than I did yesterday (because yesterday I think we'll all agree I surpassed my weekly quota), I give you some of my daughter's recent words instead. I realize not all of you have the thrill, currently, of living with a 16-year-old girl, so you might get a kick out of hearing from one. Those of you who do have a teenage girl in the home can commiserate with me.

      Recent quotes (as in the last 48 hours) from Abby:

      "Oh, mom, I'm supposed to bring a finger food to costume day this afternoon. What could you fix?"

      "Oh, I need lunch money....well, I had to use that $20 to pay for something in Student Council, so I need more."

      Phone call from aforementioned costume day, "Mom, I'm thirsty....well, could you bring me something to drink?...Well, Fatima and Tia brought these really hot taquitoes and now we're all really thirsty and we can't enjoy ourselves. Could you bring us all something to drink?....About 8....Anything would be great....I love you more than chocolate biscuits!"
      *Note: Fortunately "costume day" was being held at the elementary school directly behind my house.
      *Note: Abby often tells me she loves me more than chocolate biscuits, but I don't think she's ever even had one. Kind of diminishes the sentiment...

      "We need more milk."

      "Wednesday, sophomores are supposed to bring desserts to the Student Council banquet. What can you make?"

      "It was Happy Hour at Starbucks? Why didn't you bring me one?"

      "I love you more than chocolate biscuits."

      "I think this pasta is a 'no.' It has too many vegetables in it and not enough noodles....Well, you may like it, but it's not for me...Well, just don't make it again when I'm around then."

      "We need more milk."
      *Note: Abby drinks a lot of milk.

      "Oh, Friday is salad day in Thespians. Can you make me a potato salad?"

      "Don't forget to make a dessert for tonight. What are you making?...I guess that's ok."

      "Have a good day, Mom! I love you more than chocolate biscuits!"


      Well, I'll leave you with that today. I'm off to make a pound cake and buy some potatoes!

      Tuesday, May 11, 2010

      Speaking of Female Judges

      With all the talk about President Obama's recent Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan, I thought we'd just go with the whole female judge thing here today on Trailblazer Tuesday. The media is touting Kagan as a sort of trailblazer - the first female dean of the Harvard Law School and the first female U.S. Solicitor General. While that may be impressive to some, I'm more impressed with our biblical trailblazer, Deborah.

      Deborah's story can be found in Judges 4 and 5. Since the nation is all abuzz with the talk of a third female sitting on our current Supreme Court, now might be a good time to read up on Deborah. She is identified in Judges 4:4 as "a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, ...judging Israel at that time." Funny how our liberal government likes to toot its own horn for being so open-minded, progressive and inclusive as to seat females on the highest court in the land. God put Deborah on the judge's seat for Israel thousands of years ago and doesn't seem to have even batted His holy eye at it. She was simply the one for the job, enough said.

      And it was no easy job. She was called to judge a nation in rapid moral decline. Umm, sounds familiar. God's people had begun a steady downward spiral since entering the land of promise under Joshua's command. While they set up house and settled into their new land with integrity and godly obedience under Joshua's watchful eye, their allegiance to God quickly faded once their hero was dead. They began a cycle of behavior that is notated throughout the book of Judges and explains at least part of their eventual demise.

      The people would do what was right in their own eyes, but what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He would allow one of the nations the Israelites had failed to eliminate from the land to oppress His chosen people. The Phillistines, the Midianites, the Hivites, or some other ites would oppress Israel for some number of years, until finally God's people would yell "uncle!" Actually they would cry out to the Lord, He would raise up a judge who would deliver them - either through their bravery or their wisdom - and once again the people of Israel would thrive. For a while. As long as the judge lived and ruled. But as soon as God's judge would die, the people would return to their old ways. In fact, Judges 2:19 says they would act even more corruptly than the previous generation. Doesn't this all sound so familiar, so current?

      Deborah was one of those judges, one of those people chosen by God to keep things on the up and up. Like I said, I hope you'll read her story in Judges 4 and 5 because I'm not going to go into all the details. Judges is one of those very readable books in the Bible. It reads like a good novel, full of ups and downs, intrigue, mayhem, and heroism.

      So take the time to read Deborah's account. You'll find a strong woman, a reticent hero, a strange prediction, another brave and wiley woman, a gruesome but effective murder, and a song of celebration. You'll quickly forget the name of the hesitant warrior (well maybe not, since it's our current president's name as well), but you'll remember two strong women forever.

      Yes, I'll let you read the story for yourself, but I'll tell you my take-home points on Deborah, today's trailblazer.
      • God was with Deborah. That's a pretty big deal in our heroin's day. The spirit of God didn't just rest upon or indwell everyone. The Holy Spirit had not yet been sent to teach and guide and comfort and speak truth to every believer. But Deborah operated under God's direct protection, inspiration, guidance, and trust. That says something about her because God chose to be with her.
      • Deborah spoke truth...consistently. That's why she's called a prophet. She spoke God's will, His direction, His Word, His plan at all times. That means she had to be listening to Him with keen ears. In a time when everyone else was doing what was right in their own eyes, Deborah was able to distinguish that which was truly right from that which just sounded good. We live in a similar culture, so the question is, "How good am I at speaking truth when everyone else is just saying what 'sounds good' to them?"
      • People chose to come to Deborah for judgment. Judges 4:5 says, "the sons of  Israel came up to her for judgment." She didn't "go around" telling people what to do. She had a reputation for wisdom and godliness that drew people - men - to her for advice. That's amazing even in today's culture of equality. Makes me consider the efforts of some businesses and our government to fill "quotas" in hiring and promotions. I think they call it "affirmative action," but I wonder how affirming it can really feel to be hired just because you fill some arbitrary quota. Hiring someone because she is a woman is no less discriminatory that not hiring her because she's a woman! I'm aware that we are still in the process of enlightening some people to the capabilities and equality of women, but that doesn't mean we need to force women into places of leadership they cannot earn on their own. Deborah naturally rose to a place of prominence in the estimation of men. And isn't that the best way to break through the proverbial glass ceiling, on your own merits?
      •  Deborah was not threatened or intimidated by men, but did not choose to threaten or intimidate them either. She yielded to a man, Barak, when God so ordained. She encouraged him to do the job God had called him to. She didn't step in and say, "Move, get out of the way. I'll just do this myself!" She encouraged Barak, accompanied him when he needed the extra push, and helped him achieve victory.
      And here are three delightful nuggets we gain from Deborah and Barak's song in Judges 5:
      • Deborah awoke to the potential for change. Judges 5:12 says, "Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake, sing a song!" Obviously even Deborah realized that this battle between Barak and Sisera was not her idea. It had been a challenge for a nation that had grown complacent and victimized. She had to awaken her soul to embrace the idea of it. Is God calling us to awaken to anything today? Anything that we have been lulled to sleep over that deserves a second look?
      • Deborah arose for the challenge. Judges 5:7 says, "The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel." Deborah didn't just sit around praying about things or thinking up good ideas. She got up from underneath the palm tree in the hill country of Ephraim where she usually sat and did something...something different, something challenging, something courageous. Is it time for us to get up and do something different? I'm the kind of person who could spend all of my time reading and studying the Bible. I don't say that to brag; I'm just a student by nature. But if I spend all my time studying the Bible and neglect to get up and do the thing, I'm useless to the kingdom. I need to be sharing the gospel on the front lines, fighting the battles of the oppressed and poor, ministering God's love to the hurt and rejected, and battling the prince of our world in the marketplace, in the voting booth, and among our children.
      •  Deborah awoke others. Judges 4:14 says, "And Deborah said to Barak, 'Arise! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hands; behold, the Lord has gone out before you.' So Barak went down..." And Judges 5:2 has Deborah saying, "Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers!" This woman had earned the ear of men and she used that privilege to inspire them to action. And something about Deborah, beyond her words, must have motivated people to move. Wonder what that was? 
      • She supported those she awoke to action. Judges 5:9 says, "My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel, the volunteers among the people; Bless the Lord!" She sent men out to battle, but her heart went with them. She loved them, she appreciated their sacrifice, she supported them and probably prayed for them. A noble characteristic even for today's Supreme Court Justices, wouldn't you say?
       Wow, I don't usually like to write such long posts. (Stop snickering! That's not nice....) But I've been watching the media highlight one strong woman on the news for the past two days and felt like I should give equal time to one of God's strong females. There's nothing wrong with being a strong woman. I do think there are some parameter's for our strength as detailed in God's Word, but I know God is not offended by strength in women as long as that strength is godly. And I think Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, judge of Israel, is a great example of a strong woman.

      So, with this in mind, go and be strong in the Lord today!

      Monday, May 10, 2010

      The Ministry of Mom

      Since yesterday was Mother's Day and today is Ministry Monday, I thought we'd combine the two and look at the role of mom as a ministry. That's what it really is, you know. A labor of love, a work of the heart.

      I'll admit, especially when my children were young and oh so needy, I struggled to think of what I did as a mom as ministry. It felt more like slave labor some days and like a sentence to boredom and monotony on others. Sure there were days when I woke up feeling energetic and inspired and managed to operate with that attitude all day long, but quite honestly those days were few and oh so scattered on the calendar.

      But when I began to see that my mothering was a holy calling, I began to embrace it more enthusiastically and enjoy it more consistently. God showed me that while washing clothes, wiping up spills, playing with blocks on the floor, and cooking yet another box of macaroni and cheese might not seem like a very noble calling, the time I spent with my children or tending to their needs actually carried great impact. I was shaping lives into living vessels and pouring the love of God into them.

      Children are very much like sponges. Have you ever reached for your kitchen sponge only to find out after you've picked it up that it is full of some mystery liquid that it was sitting in? It looked dry to you, but when you picked it up you realized it was wet through and through. That's how children are. Even when we don't think they're soaking anything up, they are. And before we know it they are full of attitudes, dreams, dispositions, habits, and ideas that we didn't even realize they had been absorbing. That's why we'd better be mindful of what our "little sponges" are soaking in.

      Mom, seeing as how it's the day after your national holiday, you're probably feeling pretty good about the ministry of motherhood. But if your enthusiasm begins to wane today after folding the fourth load of laundry, changing the second messy diaper, or creating the fifteenth noodle necklace, look at those precious children and visualize them as thirsty sponges. What are they "sitting in" and soaking up? Have you poured in any faith, love, joy, or gentleness today? Have they soaked up some peace in your home? Are they swimming in your patience? When you pick them up and "wring them out" do they ooze with your goodness and kindness? And have you managed to soak them in a respectable dose of self-control?

      I'm sure you recognize that list as the fruit of the Spirit. That's what you'll need to be successful at this ministry. So, as with any ministry, make sure you spend plenty of time soaking up the sweet juice of that fruit yourself before you try to do the work you've been called to do. Ask God to help you get a grasp on how huge a ministry this really is. Spend time in His Word so He can equip you for the calling. Then get to it, ministering His love to those precious sponges. There is no more important task in all the world. And it's not just mundane, boring work. It's a holy calling, a ministry of love.

      Friday, May 7, 2010

      Happy Mother's Day!

      This weekend we thank God for our mothers. How very good it is of God to place our lives in the tender hands of someone with flesh and bone who loves us almost as much as He does. Someone who feels tenderly toward us from the moment she first lays eyes on us and continues to carry us close to her heart as we pass through each stage of life.

      What would we do without mothers? It seems to me that God made mothers to do some very specific things in our lives that no one else can do quite as well.

      Mothers wipe us up. They wipe our sticky faces and our messy hands. They wipe our bloody knees and elbows. They wipe off the table, wipe up our spills, wipe our runny noses and wipe away our tears. Basically mothers keep us cleaned up.

      Mothers yell. They holler for us to come to dinner. They squeal with glee when we pick them a bouquet of flowers. They hoot and holler at our ballgames. They yell to be heard over the television. They shout for joy when we graduate. And they speak highly of us to their friends. Basically they’re loud.

      Mothers stay up late. They nurse us in the wee hours when we’re babes. They sit up with us until our fever breaks. They stay up to build volcanoes out of paper mache, bridges out of popsicle sticks, solar systems out of foam balls, and costumes out of feathers. They wait up for us to return from dates, ball games, school trips, and after-school jobs. Basically they’re really tired.

      Mothers pin things. They pin on diapers. They pin on badges and team numbers. They pin up our hair. They pin up hems (and sometimes forget to take the pins out – ouch!) They pin up newspaper clippings. They pin on corsages. Basically they’re really good at making things stick.

      Mothers decorate. They do up the nursery. They hang balloons and streamers for parties. They create faces on your pancakes with fruit. They tie ribbons in your hair. They hang your artwork on the fridge. They decorate the Christmas tree – often all by themselves! Basically they make everything look really nice.

      Mothers pack. They pack diaper bags, lunch boxes, back packs, and overnight bags. They pack picnic baskets and coolers. They pack up the clothes you’ve outgrown and give them away. They pack up care packages and send them to camps, colleges, army bases, and prisons. They pack up your trophies and yearbooks and put them in the attic. Basically they know how to put a lot of good stuff in a container.

      Mothers know where things are. They can quickly locate things like aspirin, band-aids, beach towels, your tennis racquet, and your library card. They know the mayonnaise is in the refrigerator door, third shelf down, behind the salad dressing. They could direct you through Target blindfolded and they know where the bathroom is in every store and restaurant. Basically, they are almost omniscient.

      Mothers pray… a lot. They pray for “this baby to go to sleep!” They pray that all those big kids on the other team will not clobber their five-year old. They pray that their 10-year-old will behave at his grandparent’s house. They pray for you to have good teachers, safe bus drivers, fair coaches, and wise doctors. They pray even more when you get your driver’s license, your first job, your first apartment, your first baby. They pray for patience, wisdom, courage, and more patience. Basically they spend a lot of time saying, “Dear Lord!”

      Yes mothers do an awful lot for us. From the time we are wee infants until the time they, or we, part this earth, they give and give and give. So whether your mother is here with you today or miles away, whether she lives down the road or in a mansion in heaven, thank God for your mother. Basically she is pretty wonderful!

      This is a little diddy I wrote for Mother's Day a few years ago and read in our church that morning. Because I'm still a little addle-brained (read Monday's post, if you really need to know...), I decided to share it with you today.

      I didn't want to miss this opportunity to thank my mother, Louise, for all she does and has done for me and my family. She is simply the very best mother God could have chosen for me. I would have wanted no other. Happy mother's day Mom!

      To all you moms out there, have a blessed day. Enjoy it for what it is - breakfast in bed with burnt toast and cheerios, etc. But remember that we are really the lucky ones every day. For we have been given a great trust, a huge responsibility, and a tiring job. But we wouldn't trade it for the world.

      Enjoy your weekend!

      Tuesday, May 4, 2010

      Is It Time to Set Sail?

      "Asher kept his distance on the seacoast, safe and secure in his harbors." (Judges 5:17)

      There was a battle going on just miles away. The brother tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali could have used their help. But the tribe of Asher kept their distance. They clung to their treasured coastline and kept away from the raging war. 

      But Asher also evidently didn't venture out into the sea. They stayed safe and secure in their harbors. They neither engaged in the battle to their east nor sailed into the waters of adventure on their west. Asher stayed put in a harbor of complacency.

      Where are you today? Are you avoiding the spiritual battles that are being waged around you? Are you keeping a safe distance from the sanctity of life battle? Do you figure the poor and homeless can fight their own battles that they somehow got themselves into? Are you trying to avoid the battles with hunger and poverty? Do you consider the war against human sex trafficking to be beyond your scope of influence? Do the arguments about the ethics of our modern culture seem too sticky to involve yourself in? 

      Granted, these are some big battles and involvement is risky.

      What about the smaller, but just as significant battles that are closer to where you live? 

      What about the war to win the hearts and minds of men and women, boys and girls for the kingdom of Christ? What about the battle that parenting well sometimes requires? What about the battles that are best fought on your knees? The long and arduous prayers for our country's leaders, schools, and families? Are you engaging in those battles?

      Or are you sticking close to the shores of complacency? Not engaged in the battles within sight and certainly not sailing into the unknown to look for adventure?

      I am convicted by the poor example of the tribe of Asher. I cannot point a finger and shake my head in disgust. All too often I have watched the battle from the seashore. And all too often I have clung to the safe harbors, the inland creeks, insisting they were enough for me, rather than venturing into the unknown.

      Don't know for sure if you need to be charging off to battle or not? Don't know for sure if an adventure is in order right now? Me neither. But let's at least keep our heads up, our ears tuned in, and our eyes wide open to the possibilities. Let's ask God to give us a willing spirit. And let's allow Him to put the wind of adventure in our sails when the time is right.

      Monday, May 3, 2010

      Ministry Mondays - When the Well Goes Dry

      The truth is I'm experiencing a little bit of writer's block lately. No, the real truth is I'm experiencing a little bit of brain block. Not only do I not seem to have the words to write; I don't even have the thoughts to try to put into words. I hate to admit this, but my brain just feels empty.

      Normally I wake up with a dozen different thoughts going on in my head. I come up with ideas for magazine articles in the shower, outline messages while I'm on my walk, put together blog posts while I wash the breakfast dishes, and create whole new book proposals while I'm driving to the grocery store. I'm the kind of person that creates sermon outlines from my daily Bible reading, even though I never preach those sermons to anyone. I don't have to tell my mind to meditate on the Word of God; it just happens. I actually have to reign my thoughts in and force myself to think about the practical things of life like what I'll cook for supper.

      Lately, not so much. What I'll cook for supper is a no-brainer. In fact, now that I think about it, my family told me just the other night that I've been cooking some especially fabulous dinners lately. That should tell you where my brain has been spending it's time as of late. On the other hand, writing my devotionals that are due next Monday, blogging each day, and preparing a message I need to present next week are all next to impossible. I can't seem to wrap my brain around any one idea long enough to get two complete sentences strung together, much less tie up the whole thing into a neat, presentable package.

      This predicament has concerned me for several days now, but I haven't been able to even sit and think about one topic long enough to really mull it over. But this morning, when my house was quiet and my dogs finally quit bothering me, I sat on my sofa and talked with God about it.

      Is this the beginning stages of Alzheimer's? Is it some sort of dementia? Or maybe I have some sin that's blocking the airwaves not only between me and God, but between my own two ears as well. Then again, maybe I'm just done. Maybe, at the age of 4? I'm just through thinking of creative, profound or even silly imaginative thoughts.

      But then the Lord was good to bring to my mind something I've been doing a lot of lately, but hadn't really considered (because I haven't considered much of anything lately!). I was just thrilled He brought something, anything to my mind. But I was especially glad that He cared enough about my mental state to help me see what potentially is going on with me.

      He showed me that while I haven't been able to "produce" much creatively or intellectually lately, I've been drinking truth and instruction and encouragement in like seldom before. I've returned to reading some good Christian fiction lately. I've been intentionally tuning in to some sound and wise preaching on television, like Dr. David Jeremiah and Charles Stanley. I've been reading my Bible hungrily, not just passively or with boredom. And I even caught myself at one point yesterday (Sunday) morning sitting on the edge of my pew and leaning forward in my seat as my own husband preached the sermon. I was drinking it in like a parched beggar. Once I caught myself I tried to sit back in my seat a little so I wouldn't look so starved, but I still drank in the message with gusto.

      The Lord also reminded me this morning that I'd just finished writing a 6-week Bible study that I had poured my life into pretty steadily for the past four months or so. My first response to this reminder was, "So?" Writing the book was a little draining and tiring at times, but it was also a blast. And I gained so much as I wrote. Why should that work cause my brain to shrivel up like a prune?

      Because, aware of it or not, I'd poured out a lot spiritually in the past months.

      Ok, so obviously the point here is that I'm kind of sitting on empty right now. I hate saying that because it implies I haven't done something right (in my prideful estimation). But the truth is, my emptiness is not a sin, it's just a state of being. And it's not irreversible or life-threatening. It just means I need to soak up a little before I try to pour out so much again for a while.

      I'm used to being the one preparing and serving the meal, when it comes to spiritual things. I'm a teacher, a writer, an adviser, a mentor. But truthfully, even those who teach must learn. Even those who advise must be directed. Even those who mentor need to be mentored. And even those who write need to read.

      So this week I'm going to be taking it kind of easy on the blog. I have devotionals and a message due next week. I trust God will give me what I need to get those done. But whether or not I write each day on this blog may be a different story. If there's anything in my head, you'll surely get to read about it. But if I don't show up here some days, you'll just know that there still isn't much going on between my ears.

      Do you ever hit dry spells in ministry? I've hit them before, but this is the first time the dryness has manifested itself this way. Usually I get physically exhausted or maybe a little weary of being around people. Not the case this time. I just don't have anything in my noggin this time :)

      What do you do when you're drained from ministry? When you've poured out so much that you find yourself a little empty? I hope you're full today. I hope your soul is filled to the brim with God's goodness. Funny thing is, I feel like my soul is full. My brain just isn't! But, hey, I'm working on that. Or rather I'm letting Him work on it and I'm just drinking it in.

      Blessings, sweet friends! I'd appreciate your prayers if you're so inclined.