Random Firing of Neurons on New Year's Eve

It's a good think I can rock the sweatpants, because Mr. Baby (grandson) makes me not wanna get actually dressed. It is way too fun to loll about in sweatpants all day, with him laying on his back in my lap, and me talking "wotsa wotsa wittle baby talk to my cutie patootie Mr. Baby."

(Actually, I only hold him a little bit each day, I promise. I let his momma do the holdin'. But I do loll about in my sweatpants and speak in strange tongues...)

Yeah. He's kind of a big deal, and the "current family favorite".

But far be it from this Armchair Philosopher to let a single New Year's Eve go by without some ponderings. 2010 has been, by miles, the best year of my life.

2010 has been, by miles, the worst year of my life.

When you put those two extremes in the balances, and sit back and watch the scales do their thing, here is the result:

2010 has been the BEST YEAR EVER, BABY!!!!! There just ain't no if's and's or but's.

I will not take delight in ("glory in") my stuff. I will not take delight in my health and strength - gifts of sheer grace. I will not take delight in my education (oh, the books - big 'uns - I've read this year! Oh, the Scripture my soul has absorbed. Oh, the things I have learned to do and the concepts I've begun to understand, that I never knew as much about before!)
Yet, it all pales in comparison to Jesus.
I truly have to take delight in understanding and knowing God, whose plan for humanity was the grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ, and this plan was in place before the foundation of the world. The gospel is an everlasting gospel, did you know that? The good news will still be good news when we see Jesus face to face. "T'will be my theme in glory!"
The grace of God, this lavish good news, this epic Plan God made, will be the boast and the glory of heaven, for all eternity. Read your Book of Revelation. And to think...I am only beginning to know and understand it! What unmitigated delight.
A dear prophet friend of ours from across the pond called us yesterday. He said that God had given him a word for us, for 2011. The text was out of First Chronicles, chapter 17 ~

"Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said: "Who am I, O LORD God? And
what is my house, that You have brought me this far? "And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O LORD God.
What more can David say to You for the honor of Your servant? For You know Your servant. O LORD, for Your servant’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things."

Our friend read that Scripture to Tim, and said, "The Lord says 2011 is The Year of Yet More."

This word brought tears to my eyes, because it witnesses, it coincides perfectly with what the Lord
said to me two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, I was rejoicing before Him, for the Springtime of the Soul I find myself in. For lo, the winter is indeed past. Do you know what the Holy Spirit said to me? He said:
"All these things that are to you as Springtime, they are but your tulips on your kitchen windowsill in late February, compared to what is just around the corner. All this joy is the mere hint of what is to come, not the whole of it. There is yet more."


Friends, I thank God for the gifts of the Spirit. I say to you, find a church where these gifts are welcome. We are meant to find comfort and encouragement and direction by a "now word" from the Lord. Paul said that by the prophetic word, we are able to wage war.
Thank God that there are still prophetic gifts in the church, and prophets as part of the 5-fold Ascension Gifts. Our across-the-pond friend operates in the office of prophet - using his gift to edify pastors all over the world.

Lastly, (and if you have read this far, bless you!) I will soon be blogging from a sunny, undisclosed location by late tomorrow, or the next day. I say "undisclosed location" because I'm a rock star.
Fear me.

No, actually I say it that way because it's just fun to be cryptic. But we are taking a vacation, seeing some beautiful, historic towns and architecture, walking the beach, and I'll be rockin' the bermuda shorts instead of the sweat pants.

Thank you, thank you, from my heart's bottom, for becoming a follower of this blog this year, for sticking and for staying. I have made precious friends this year, who I have yet to meet - thinking particularly of Susan and Faith, among others...

I propose a toast, to 2011 - it will be OUR year of "MORE!"

Your New Year, In One Word

Words have such power. They literally define moments, days, and lives. I remember, not so long ago, when our oldest son was beginning his downward spiritual spiral, I reached a turning point. Let me explain.

We Atchleys are name callers...in our happy moments and in moments of angst, we name. It is how we celebrate and how we cope. Words are the tools of our trade, they are all we know. So we called our son "foolish" and a "player" and yes, even a "goober".

When I had reached one of my lowest points, and was muttering and name calling, the Holy Spirit said to me, "Rename him." Not "rename him" as in call him Bob instead of Josiah. But rename him as in calling things which be not as though they were.

I cannot begin to tell you how hard that was. You see, he had more than earned the names we'd called him. It had always been a relief and a release, of sorts, for me to call a Spade, a Spade. I am known for that. It feels honest and right and even courageous to tell it like it is.

Religious spirits are the hardest ones to discern in ourselves. Easy to discern in others, hard to see in ourselves. The God of all Grace has a ministry of renaming. Gideon was a "mighty man of valor". Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Saul became Paul, and I too will be given a white stone with my new name on it, one day.

The God of all Grace leads us to tell it like it could be.

So, almost every time (I wish I could say "every time") when a name was on the tip of my tongue, when that son of mine tweaked me the hardest, between clenched teeth, I would sometimes literally groan out these words:

Wise! Pure in heart! Godly! My wise, Godly, pure in heart son.

The rest of my son's story is still waiting to be told, there may yet be some roller coaster rides before his story line levels out. Still - I can't wait to tell the rest of his story, because I am confident in the finished work of Christ. See, government rests on Immanuel's shoulders, not mine. I am free to be in happy relationship with my boy.

All because of grace. All because of saving, sanctifying, amazing naming grace.

I named the year 2010 "Create". And "create" I have. Big masterpieces, like the atmosphere and design of a wedding...and tiny works of art like baby booties, big projects like a kitchen remodel (Tim the Tool Man and I), and smaller projects like a dining room repaint. Last year was the first time that I prayerfully sought God, and then "named" a whole year. It was so effective and so incredible that I am certain I will do this the rest of my life.

Soon, I'll share with you my name for 2011. In the meantime, what will you name the coming year? How will you re-name the circumstances and people in your life that have hurt you, and deeply at that?

God is the God of the New Name.

To Mothers of Babies...

"Life is inherently wearying. Seasons are inherently unbalanced. The sooner we accept this, the less disappointed we'll be. We're better off to abandon the false hope that, with enough money or time, we'll arrive at some ideal state of existence, a place unscathed by burdens and pressures and disappointments and trials. That place is heaven, and no amount of
jerry-rigging the borders on this fallen earth will conjure it here.

The real order of business while earth-bound is to choose, in season and out, what to weary ourselves with, who to weary ourselves for. It's to decide what part of our lives will be lopsided. The direction of our tilt. If our lives are always skewed toward something, and out of kilter in some way, then let's make the most of it and skew them toward the light.

Like the season of raising young children...while Jesus' followers bicker over the credentials for kingdom greatness, Jesus has a little child stand among them. The Kingdom belongs to (them). They have ready access to the kingdom life. (They) live under the rule and reign of God, without hesitation, default, pretence, avoidance. Without even thinking about it.

Your primary job...is to receive the kingdom through (them), and to imitate them in living under God's rule and reign...

Such living calls for a glorious lopsidedness. It calls for choosing the right weariness."

(excerpt from the book Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus in Every Season)

Now that I am finally a grandmommy, finally I am that "older woman", who through obedience to the seasons of my life, is qualified to teach younger women, I want to say something to the mommas...

Young mommy, you are wearying yourself on all the right things. As am I. I weary myself caring for people, too. And I remember when mine were babies. I promised myself I would never, ever forget, and I have kept that promise. Can I tell you? In Kingdom life, you will usually be weary, but if you are loving people (or babies) your weary tired will always be the good kind of tired.

Rest, beautiful mommy. Lay your head upon your pillow tonight, and gain strength to weary yourself again. God receives it as worship.

And if you know a young mommy of babies, please pass this link on to her. I pray it refreshes and encourages her spirit.

Was I Dreaming?

Was I dreaming yesterday afternoon...

...or did I really sit in a peaceful livingroom, just me by myself, rocking my grandson, on a White Christmas Day, watching snow fall, listening to Bing Crosby's "Adeste Fideles"?

...did I really wake up to this?

...and then this?

(little Timothy's "My First Christmas" hat and pj's, from yours truly...)

...did I actually hear that my oldest son has been promoted to Squad Leader?

...did my Main Squeeze really get me the one present I specifically asked for?

(A Fisher-Price Nativity Set) all my "babies" will play with this, every Christmas, at Mimi's house, forever and ever, Amen.

...and a necklace, with my grandson's birthstone, the back engraved with these words: "To The Most Beautiful Grandmother Ever"...was that me, or was I dreaming?

Did I really, really receive a big Jonathan Howe Original? Not a print...an original? Not a "little one"...a big one? Someone pinch me.

And did I really get all those emails and phone calls from friends, just to wish us "Merry Christmas"?
How many times on this blog have I said it? I am living a dream I do not deserve. After weathering the worst, vindication comes in the form of receiving His Best. He giveth more grace.

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."

The LORD has done great things for us, And we are glad.
(Psalm 126)

God Rest Ye Merry!

(my front door - come on in!)

I've always wanted to greet people I care about in this way at Christmas time: "God rest ye merry, my friend."

For many years, I never understood that old carol, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen". It originates all the way back to the middle ages, and was written in old English. In those days, "merry" didn't mean "happy" as it does now. In those days, "merry" meant "mighty". A great and powerful king was a "merry" king, and a great and terrible army was a "merry" army.

"Rest" didn't mean to put your feet up, nor did it mean that you took a nap. "Rest" meant, in old English, "to keep in a continual state of".

"God keep you in a continual state of might and strength, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day, to save us all from satan's power when we had gone astray.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy! Comfort and joy! Oh tidings of comfort and joy!"

This Christmas, I've been smitten over and over with the simple statement of a great heavenly host. There...filling the heavens...Jehovah Sabaoth, Lord of the Hosts, sent His great host to break centuries and centuries of silence between God and men. God could have commissioned them to say anything. These ministers of His, this great, innumerable host, are as flames of fire, carrying out His Word, down to the smallest detail. They've declared war before, down throughout human history - lots of times.

Would this be that sort of message?

God could have instructed His hosts to give only the facts: "Messiah is here."

He could have sent a message of judgement.

God dropped a bomb, to be sure. He dropped a bomb that would forever make that field in Bethlehem the greatest, most utterly meaningful, most famous "ground zero" of all time. But it was an explosion of joy.

The Grace Message was finally detonated.

A blast of mercy, engulfing the planet. Into the black of the night, into the darkness of our human spirit, came the bright light of Good News. It was tidings of comfort and joy. Jehovah Sabaoth utilized His great host, He sent the mightiest, "merriest" troops in the universe to tell us, "YEAY!" and to promptly throw a party amongst the stars, in full view of a few shepherds.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, Peace....Goodwill....to men."



Let it sink in. Let those two words be the good news they were meant to be. Your very own tidings of comfort and joy.

Merry Christmas, dear ones. God rest ye merry...

How 'Bout YOU Do It?

Interesting experience, I had today. Navigating the crowded parking lots of Knoxville, I pushed my brimming grocery cart to my car, unloaded its contents, and turned to push it all the way back to the area where carts are Supposed To Be. I was feeling a bit virtuous about it. Then, I happened to spy a lone cart. This cart had been left, in the middle of the parking lot, smack dab behind someone's car. For that car to get out of its parking space, the driver would have to move that grocery cart (left by some other rude stranger) out of the way.

I shook my head slightly, and I'm pretty sure I made one of those "tsk tsk" sounds. "People these days."

...and walked right by.

Immediately, I realized that I was just as guilty as the person who left their cart standing in a rude place. I went back, just three steps, and got that cart, put it together with mine, and pushed both to the store. I had almost violated the number one law of love...okay, maybe number two law of love, but it's way up there:

If you notice that a job needs doing, you are the one to do it.

To walk past it, shaking your head at the thought of the other person who was supposed to do that job, is to BE the other person who was supposed to do that job. You just became "them".

If you see it needs done...do it. Don't walk past it, and get irritated with the person who didn't do it, if you won't do it either. That would be hypocrisy at its most deceptive.

Later that day, in another store, for extra measure, just to buffet my body and just to please the Lord, I also picked up some stray trash in the women's bathrooms, and took a moment to straighten merchandise that was plundered. Nothing obsessive compulsive...just small actions to drive home to my own heart and mind the idea that the person who sees the job undone is the one in the best position to do the dang job already.

What Do You See?

"And he looked up and said, "I see men like trees, walking."
Mark 8:24

If you are still under the law, you see "men as trees walking". You've experienced the touch of Jesus, maybe even come to a saving knowlege, but you are not seeing clearly. Yet you might go years - alas, decades, thinking that you see just fine.

Then, one day, you hear the gospel preached by a pastor-teacher who is walking in a New Covenant understanding, and you realize that "seeing men as trees walking" isn't the same as seeing Jesus clearly and centrally. You have not been seeing the world as you could and should.

Does this offend you?

Let Jesus put His hands on you again, afresh. The moment you see the God of all grace, the moment your focus is on the finished work of Christ and not on your performance, you finally see everyone else clearly, and through the eyes of love. In fact, through the lens of the gospel of grace, as taught in all the New Testament, everything in all of Scripture becomes clear.

Season of Light

We're expecting a winter storm here in east Tennessee, and a White Christmas! There is a beautiful frost on the ground every morning, and all is cold and dark by 5 PM.

But! From here forward, all the way up to the summer solstice, the days will get longer and longer. Because of this, I truly view the Christmas season as being The Season of Light. I so love the Lord. Right smack dab "in the bleak midwinter", God plants the promise of light and life.

Winter never lasts forever.

Have yourselves a Merry Honking Christmas, my friends. I'm already praying about how I can be a blessing and encouragement to you in the year ahead. I want this little homey spot in the Blog World to be a place where you feel gladdened and strengthened and graced. I want this to be a place where you laugh. I want to get to know you.

Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for your feedback, via comments, private emails, and Facebook. I love that you find this blog a haven of sorts. We've seen and done a lot together this year, haven't we?

Grace and Peace...

I'm So Grateful to be Planted

Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God.They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him!

I may not be "old", but I'm a grandmother now, and Biblically, that gives me a right to open my mouth and speak the word of the Lord. I'll never forget, shortly after Hannah discovered she was pregnant, the Holy Spirit spoke to me clearly and succinctly, and said, "You are now that older woman." (..."the older women should teach the younger women...")

Of course, I took that as a compliment. My self esteem is through the roof these days - because my concept of womanhood has, over a period of many years, been transformed to be more Biblical than ever. Becoming a grandparent has not diminished my sense of femininity or sensuality or joy or energy. If anything, life has gotten sweeter, and marriage more intimate and fulfilling - and believe me, it has always been good, if hard at times. So to be able to say that marriage is better and sweeter is saying something quite nice.

Physically, I feel as young as ever. I'm in great health. And I admit to the gift of good genes - my own mother does not at all show her age. Spiritually, there's a good bit of miles on the motor, as I've walked and talked with the God of all grace for 38 years now. I'm bearing fruit in my old(ish) age.

I'm flourishing, because I am planted. But I'm not just planted any-old-where. I'm planted in the local church. I've built a grace-bridge to the people I love in my local church...and it will never be burned by my hands. I can't be a blessing, or build a bridge to the church universal...I want to see you try to "bear the burdens" of the "church universal", or even the "church internet". I want to see you try to "imitate the faith of those over you" when you, in fact, answer to no one in particular; or when you, in fact, don't really know those who watch over your soul.

The long and the short of it is this: you really have to be planted in the church local, in order to flourish. I find it sad when people think they are flourishing outside the church local. All it is, is they have seen a measure of success, and they think that's all there is. When there is so, so much more.

But the "more" comes at a mighty price.

Nothing...nothing matures you like right relationships. Nothing separates the precious from the worthless like gut-honest communication by flawed people, with equally flawed people. Nothing defines spiritual leadership more than the insistence on relationship as priority over moralism, nothing tests leadership more than the defense of relationships in the context of Christian community. To walk in that sort of leadership, you have to have a theological and practical understanding of the God Who Is Community.

If you are not planted, get planted. If you have broken relationships, go back and repair them with the people who count...versus attempting to re-establish communication with people you perceive as being on the peripheral. (There's something creepy about that - everyone knows.) If you were offended by the choir director, then it is the choir director you need to be emailing or calling, not the lady who takes care of the nursery. Trust me, you may not pick and choose who you will or won't get in touch with, if your real heart is to make things right. You must get in touch with the very ones you disagreed with, and if you hurt or betrayed anyone, you must get in touch with the very ones you hurt and betrayed. No one else. Not before you make things right with the people you wronged, or who wronged you. Even if that means the preacher and/or his wife. You. Go. There. First.

In painfully practical terms, being planted is a blessing....get planted. It is the only way to flourish all the way into old age. And really...is there another way to age? What is the alternative? Otherwise, you slowly wither and petrify and become stale, jaded, stilted, petty and comical, alone and a loner, bored and boring.

Ain't no way to live.

And now, back to my crazy-flourishing life...God, how I thank you for your gifts and the grace of your gifts...

Home Sweet Home

I've not a lot of words today, because there really are no words to describe. Only those who have grandchildren can possibly know.

The grandson came home from the hospital shortly after noon today. When I heard they were on their way, I fairly floated through the house, switching on the lights on the trees (yes, plural), turning on the Christmas music, making sure the outdoor speakers were working, just so that the new little family would hear Christmas tunes as soon as they got out of their car and onto the front porch. I turned on the space heater in the nursery, tied the "It's a boy!" balloon to the mailbox, wrote "WELCOME HOME" on the front storm door with window paint, and wished I had a long length of red carpet to unroll, reaching from the front door, down the driveway. Alas...red carpet was the only thing I was missing.

I thank you for the grace you extend me, allowing me to share the moment with you!

Proud Papa Justin with his wittle man...

Wittle man in his wittle Pooh Bear hat...

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children...
~Ps. 103:17

I Love Ya, Tomorrow, You're Only A Day Away!

Poppy and his namesake. This man of mine is thoroughly smitten. Utterly hopeless. He "got to" change Tidbit's poopy diaper today, and he texted me, just to brag. He is counting the minutes till Little Man and his parents get to come home. So am I.

Please bear with me for a short season, because I am Ga-Ga. My own mother warned me, but nothing could really prepare me for this love. I had to run several errands today (only one of which was to mail an important package to my soon-to-be-Marine. He is about to enter "The Crucible" stage of his training, and has to have hand-warmers, because of the danger of frostbite)...and those errands, coupled with last night's ice storm, kept me away from the hospital until about 5 PM. I was so not a happy camper.

As I stood in the Relentlessly Long Postal Line, the longing I felt to hold that grandson was a physical sensation in my chest.

And now I know exactly where my "Inner Man" is...my spirit-essence exists there, in the center of my body. I have physically felt my spirit rejoicing, these last two days since the birth of our Next Generation.

Not to diminish the awe and wonder of the human spirit, but your inner man rejoicing is much like a rumbling in the tummy. It is a flip-floppish activity that takes place just behind the stomach, coupled with a sense of weight...a solid heavy breathless joy unspeakable. It is a spin and a dance that the inner man does when it connects with the power and blessing of the grace of God.

I'm telling you that I could lay hands on the sick right now, and I'm thinking they'd be healed. There is such a sense of Presence, of God's manifest glory, in my inner being.

Our little Sugar Muffin is the physical manifestation of the spiritual reality of the grace of God...he represents Newness of Life. God is "all about" this stuff, I'm telling you the truth. Oh, how He loves you and me!

Double Blessing...

....across the "hundred acre wood" yesterday, our life-long friends were also having their baby boy...

...and so, forever, Ethan and Timothy will share the Bond of the Birthday Brotherhood. Who but God could have had such a creative, brilliant idea? We couldn't have planned anything more meaningful, or more fun, than this.

Both tidbits will be home for Christmas...both households bursting with joy unspeakable, full of glory.

Boasting in the Lord...

You know what??? This is what we Atchleys are all about. Others can have their "thing" that they are about. They can have the houses and lands, the sports cars, the "fancy creams and lotions", the livery and the livestock, their own private jet, or a castle in Spain. Give us the generations, give us people, give us relationships, and we feel like royalty.

Isn't he the most beautiful thing you ever saw??? The Lord hath been mindful of us, He hath blessed us. He hath blessed the house if Israel, He hath blessed the house of Aaron, the Lord hath blessed us small and great, the Lord hath increased us more and more, we and our children. We are the blessed of the Lord.

He's Here

doing some mobile blogging...it is almost ten p.m. and we are still at the hospital. little timothy paul was born at about five thirty this afternoon, weighing in at six pounds fourteen ounces, via c section. mommy and baby are doing fine. and he is absolutely breathtakingly perfect.

grandmommy here, yours truly, is a little frayed around the edges, but deliriously happy.

pictures soon, i promise.

and i love smart phones. love. them.

cannot believe i am blogging from the hospital.

thanks for the prayers...please also ask the father for a quick recovery...

Checklist Before Becoming a Grandmother

(above oil painting by Gaye Lynne LeGuire...)

I'm going about the house, today, preparing to be a grandmother. (Our daughter, her husband, and new baby will live with us, for now, while Justin completes his internship and his Master's degree...thus, after baby Timothy is born, they will come home from the hospital to this home.)

How does one prepare to be a grandmother? How...how...how...

I know what to do to prepare the house. I still have to clear out the fridge, sweep the floors, and make sure my little bag of power bars, knitting needles, yarn, and Diet Coke is packed - I'll be there for all of labor and delivery, per Hannah's request. At six o'clock in the morning, it will be the trip to the hospital.

I know how to prepare a home, but how do I prepare a heart? How do I prepare my heart for the birth of a Christmas baby..."my" Christmas grandchild? How do I get ready to step seamlessly into what I have heard is the sweetest role I will play in all of life?

How do I go about the mundane preparations for a time of glory?

Life really is all about maintenance. Even on the eve of weddings and births, even on the day after death, there must be clean clothes and warm meals and physical comfort given to the people I love. Such is the Life of Woman. Ask me how I know.

Somehow, my heart assimilates. Somehow, my mind is slowly wrapping itself around the fact that God is the God of the New Thing. And New overlaps Old, always. One must always be cleaning up around the edges, where Old and New have collided. One must always be ready to tend to the business of tidying up in the place of transition, while simultaneously airing out the chambers of the heart...letting the breeze of newness freshen old routines and mindsets.

I've heard it said that women wear lots of hats. Well, this particular "hat" has been waiting for me, in its box, since the moment I gave birth to this daughter of mine and her sister. I have not so much as tried it on, in all these years. But I've looked at it longingly.

Today I get the hat out. I admire its loveliness. Yes, this hat suits me more than all the others, I bet. I think I will look just fine in this hat.

Tomorrow, I put on the hat for the very first time.

For the rest of my life, I will wear that hat with obnoxious pride. (And dear reader, it is most certainly not red...)

It's Gonna Be A Christmas To Remember!

...because friends, we will be having ourselves a grandson, no matter what, on December 14th!

If Hannah and Justin do not go into labor before this Tuesday, she'll be induced at 6:30 in the morning, December 14th, with Timothy Paul to make his appearance however many hours after that.

Guess who else is having her baby, via C-section, on December 14th?

My dear friend, and member of our church (visit her over at Hope Springs), Wendy Cantrell! Two babies born into our church family, very, very likely on the same day. If the fruit of the womb is a reward, Harvest Church has been doing something really right. (We are expecting five total!)

God has crowned my year with His utter goodness. He has given me my heart's desire, and has not withheld the request of my lips. He has given me a grandson for Christmas. He has given me yet another son by marriage (Jonathan, the arteest) this year. He has returned our wanna-be prodigals to heart, hearth, and home. My oldest son is thriving as a Marine-recruit. He is near the top of his squad. The other recruits in his squad of 80, ask him for prayer, and bring him their spiritual questions. He even has earned a nickname there...

..."Chappie". Short for "Chaplain".

It is nothing but grace. You. Just. Cannot. Know.

And my youngest is slowly making a name for himself, playing basketball. He will graduate from our home school this year - the very last one. God, by grace alone, has given me the gift of finishing well. I am living a dream I do not deserve. I have not earned it.

On the way home from a brief shopping foray, again, all alone in my car, I heard the old Christmas song by Amy Grant, "It's Gonna Be a Christmas To Remember."

Do you fight back the happiest tears of your life, or do you let them go?

Yeah...you let them go.

Word Junkie

A particular poet said that the most beautiful words in the English language are "summer afternoon".

Personally, I think him quaint, but I disagree. The most beautiful words in the English language are "You can go to your Kindle and start reading."

Yeah. Your homey is a junkie. She loves her reading material. Cannot. Get. Off. The. Junk.

I've been alternating this evening between my (free!) Kindle app, Audible.com, and my knitting. I have to hold my phone to read my Kindle books, but get to listen to my Audible.com books, through said phone, while I knit. Oh, bliss. Oh, heaven. And I didn't have to buy a Kindle. How cool is that? I am so fierce, I wish I could stare at myself.

Home Girl is all hopped up on an overdose of gorgeous words and ideas. I'm so high, I might never come down.

Do We "Balance" Grace With Law? Final Answer: NO!

I ran across the following article on The Gospel Coalition's website, and was struck hard by one thing: my husband and I know a very few people who thought/think that the gospel of grace we teach is somehow different or wonky or....something. Not only did they fail to understand the sweep of ecclesiastical history, but they failed to explore amongst some of today's heavy hitters of the faith.

Tullian Tchividjian - Billy Graham's grandson. Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Yeah. Um...that would be late pastor D. James Kennedy's church. According to what I read in this article, an article I just discovered about a month ago, my husband, the pastor of a mini-mega church, is the best kept secret in the southeast!

Obviously, I'm slightly tongue-in-cheek with that, but only slightly. But these two men, one world renown, one little-known, preach the exact same gospel. Down. The. Line.

While we understand what some people mean when they say that we should preach and teach a "balance" between law and grace, we have stood strongly for preaching grace in all its glory, and the law in all its exacting terror. We have stood, having done all to stand, we have continued to stand, and it seemed, awhile back, that the cost was going to be more than we could pay. When in reality, God was positioning us for our wildest blessing! By grace, we've stayed faithful to what we understand, in our theological studies, about Biblical grace and the full, New Covenant Gospel.

We've always known we aren't the only ones preaching this, but nor have we wanted - when in direct dialogue with anyone - to name drop in some misguided effort to defend ourselves. People who are misinformed often want to be - there is usually no changing their mind.

But this is a personal essay, I'm free to say anything I want, and Tim and I are long past feeling any urgent need to defend ourselves. So...is what we are teaching some sort of anomaly that only we, and a few "iffy" other people, are seeing in Scripture? Come on...Billy Graham's grandson? Coral Ridge Presbyterian? Really? Puh-leeze. Not exactly your small church. Not exactly a "cult".

So yeay! This gospel of grace is like a tsunami, covering the face of the whole earth. We happen to be doing our part, in our part of the world.

Enjoy the following article. I gotta get Tchividjian's book!


An Interview with Tullian Tchividjian on Gospel and Law

One of the things I enjoy most is fruitful theological dialogue with a few faithful friends. One of them is Tullian Tchividjian.

His new book, Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, is now available. It’s a stirring, insightful exploration through the book of Jonah, showing the beauty and power of grace. (It also includes some pretty cool artwork by various painters and sculptors who have sought to convey aspects of the book.) You can read a good review by James Grant at TGC Reviews.

Since the book is (essentially) on the outworking of the gospel, I wanted to ask Tullian a few questions about the gospel and the law, especially as it relates to Christian motivation.

Is the gospel a middle ground between legalism and lawlessness?

This seems to be a common misunderstanding in the church today. I hear people say that there are two equal dangers Christians must avoid: legalism and lawlessness. Legalism, they say, happens when you focus too much on law, or rules. Lawlessness, they say, happens when you focus too much on grace. Therefore, in order to maintain spiritual equilibrium, you have to balance law and grace. Legalism and lawlessness are typically presented as two ditches on either side of the Gospel that we must avoid. If you start getting too much law, you need to balance it with grace. Too much grace, you need to balance it with law. But I’ve come to believe that this “balanced” way of framing the issue can unwittingly keep us from really understanding the gospel of grace in all of its depth and beauty.

How would you frame it instead?

I think it’s more theologically accurate to say that there is one primary enemy of the gospel—legalism—but it comes in two forms.

Some people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they’re told, maintaining the standards, and so on (you could call this “front door legalism”).

Other people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by breaking the rules, doing whatever they want, developing their own autonomous standards, and so on (you could call this “back door legalism”).

So the choice is between submitting to the rule of Christ or submitting to self-rule?

Right. There are two “laws” we can choose to live by other than Christ: the law which says “I can find freedom and fullness of life if I keep the rules” or the law which says “I can find freedom and fullness of life if I break the rules.”

Both are legalistic in this sense: one “life rule” has as its goal the keeping of rules; the other “life rule” has as its goal the breaking of rules. But both are a rule of life you’re submitting to—a rule of life that is governing you—which is defined by you and your ability to perform. Success is determined by your capacity to break the rules or keep the rules. Either way you’re still trying to “save” yourself—which means both are legalistic because both are self-salvation projects.

(My note: Tim and I teach this concept as being a "prodigal" or a "pharisee". BOTH insist on walking in their own understanding! Both are in the same boat: not in touch with the Father's true heart. When speaking to those "under the law, as being under the law", people without a firm understanding of doctrine, we call the two enemies of the gospel "legalism" and "license". But this is not to imply that there needs to be a "balance". Both are anti-Christ, but legalism is by far the most dangerous.)

If most people outside the church are guilty of “break the rules” legalism, most people inside the church are guilty of “keep the rules” legalism.

What do you say to folks who think we need to “keep grace in check” by giving out some law?

Doing so proves that we don’t understand grace and we violate gospel advancement in our lives and in the church. A “yes, grace…but” disposition is the kind of posture that keeps moralism swirling around in the church. Some of us think the only way to keep licentious people in line is by giving them the law. But the fact is, the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical acceptance of sinners. The more Jesus is held up as being sufficient for our justification and sanctification, the more we begin to die to ourselves and live to God. Those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly understand that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s.

But don’t Christians need to be shaken out of their comfort zones?

Yes—but you don’t do it by giving them law; you do it by giving them gospel. The Apostle Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; he always uses the gospel. Paul always soaks gospel obligations in gospel declarations because God is not concerned with just any kind of obedience; he’s concerned with a certain kind of obedience (as Cain and Abel’s sacrifice illustrates). The obedience that pleases God is obedience that flows from faith—faith in what God has already done, and trust for what he will do in the future. And even though we need to obey even if we don’t feel like it, long-term, sustained, heart-felt, gospel motivated obedience can only come from faith and grace; not fear and guilt. Behavioral compliance without heart change, which only the gospel can do, will be shallow and short lived. Or, as I like to say, imperatives minus indicatives equal impossibilities.

So do you think the law no longer has—or should no longer have—a role in the Christian life?

No, I wouldn’t say that. While the law of God is good (Romans 7), it only has the power to reveal sin and to show the standard and image of righteous requirement—not remove sin. The law shows us what God commands (which of course is good) but the law does not possess the power to enable us to do what it says. The law guides us but it does not give us any power to do what it says. In other words, the law shows us what a sanctified life looks like, but it does not have sanctifying power—the law cannot change a human heart. It’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

You’re the master of good word pictures. Got one for this?

Well, someone told me recently that the law is like a set of railroad tracks. The tracks provide no power for the train but the train must stay on the tracks in order to function. The law never gives any power to do what it commands. Only the gospel has power, as it were, to move the train.

But doesn’t Scripture motivate us by saying that if we love Jesus we’ll keep his commands?

When John (or Jesus) talks about keeping God’s commands as a way to know whether you love Jesus or not, he’s not using the law as a way to motivate. He’s simply stating a fact. Those who love God will keep on keeping his commands. The question is how do we keep God’s commands? What sustains a long obedience in the same direction? Where does the power come from to do what God commands? As every parent and teacher knows, behavioral compliance to rules without heart change will be shallow and short-lived. But shallow and short-lived is not what God wants (that’s not what it means to “keep God’s commands.”). God wants a sustained obedience from the heart. How is that possible? Long-term, sustained, gospel-motivated obedience can only come from faith in what Jesus has already done, not fear of what we must do. To paraphrase Ray Ortlund, any obedience not grounded in or motivated by the gospel is unsustainable.

Do you believe in the so-called “third use of the law”?

Yes. I’m a staunch believer in the three uses of the law (pedagogical, civil, and didactic). The law sends us to Christ for justification (the first use—which is correct), but some would also say that Christ sends us back to law for sanctification (a misunderstanding of the third use). In other words, there’s a common misunderstanding in the church that while the law cannot justify us, it can sanctify us—not true. In Romans 7 Paul is speaking as a justified, rescued, regenerated Christian and he’s saying, “The law doesn’t have the power to change me. The law guides but it does not give any power to do what it says.” So, I would caution people from concluding that the third use of the law implies that it has power to change you. To say the law has no power to change us in no way reduces its ongoing role in the life of the Christian. And it in no way minimizes the importance of the law’s third use. We just have to understand the precise role that it plays for us today: the law serves us by making us thankful for Jesus when we break it and serves us by showing how to love God and others.

How would you boil your concern down to one sentence?

We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and God sanctifies us by constantly bringing us back to the reality of our justification.


The Christmas-Tank is FULL...

It was one of those perfect moments. All by myself, in my car, driving in the velvet darkness. A pinch of Christmas lights, was combined with a heaping cup of Amy Grant's "Breath of Heaven", and sprinkled with snow falling copiously in the glow of my headlights ....God stirred all these ingredients together for me tonight...

...and I was enchanted!

How often do I get to go shopping in the snow? With a cute wool peacoat on, a hand made red scarf, and an adorable crochet cloche hat, with a red crochet trim, and black boots? I felt like a Christmas movie, everything (including me) looked like a Christmas movie...and I was smiling, glowing, gloating over the ideas I was gathering.

It was one of those (very rare) evenings when I could walk confidently into an upscale store, and heads might turn...not because I didn't look like I belonged there, but because I DID look like I belonged there. Fashionable from head to toe (oh, glee!), with red leather gloves on my hands, I was tranquil and gloating over my secret knowledge. What was my secret knowledge?

I didn't belong in any exclusive store, and was deeply enjoying the thought. I don't ever buy anything in "upscale stores". I just gather ideas. Have you seen the latest Christmas commercial, where the wealthy lady is showing you her Christmas mantel, with its stockings hung, and telling you all about the provenance of each bejeweled stocking? She then reaches out to still one that is swinging back and forth, saying, in her most controlled and educated tone, "I want these to hang straight and still. The movement will cause wear and tear."

A hilarious satire on people who buy "upscale" for the sake of "upscale". My secret knowledge was just this: This season isn't about what you own or can get. Christmas, from its inception has been about how very much you can do with what small thing you have right there beside you....whether that be a stable, or gold, frankincense and myrrh, or a shepherd's staff. Are you using it to glorify Christ? To make Him known? To love others? In the words of God to Moses, "What is that in your hand?"

You Get to Pick Your Friends!

This morning, in church, as worship flowed, as people sang, I was overwhelmed with a gratitude that I felt all the way down deep in my chest.

Who am I, that God is mindful of me so much, that He surrounds me with family and great friends?

To be surrounded by family is enough! Gentle reader, it has not been a picnic in the park this past year. My family, my parents, my brother, my sister and her husband, my children and their spouses, my husband and I - we have all been dragged through the mud...behind horses...with ropes tied around us...over tumbleweeds...

...nevermind. I hope you get the idea. We don't have it all together - but together, we manage to have it all!

To experience two prodigals in one year's time is a pain beyond telling. Though they both are already doing well again, I will never be the same, I will forever walk with Jacob's limp. But for the hundredth time, I have wrestled through into a new identity that rests in grace, which means to rest in Christ Alone. Do we ever stop re-learning grace? Never. The whole New Testament and New Covenant rests on this fact. We will grow in grace until we know as we are known.

But there we were, Sunday morning...together. Imperfect, but Worshipping. Lost in love for Christ Jesus.

Not only that, but I get to go to church with my friends. Tim and I cannot conceive of attending church with mere acquaintances, or even strangers. Tim and I cannot conceive of friendship outside the work of the ministry. We simply believe that the best friends are the friends faithful to the Bride, the local church. The best of friends have their hands to the same plow, and relationships are made in the plowing and planting, and cemented in the Season of Harvest. Our dearest friends are either in our church, or in our network of churches, or in another network that has our same passion for the gospel of grace, and for New Testament Church. Wherever we find them, we can't imagine a friend of ours not being about the business of the kingdom. Is there time for being in "social circles" that have little to do with our Magnificent Obsession? Not really...

It struck me how that these people all around me could be anywhere at that moment. They could be in any number of other mega churches, enjoying a measure of anonymity. They could have slept in and went to a fancy brunch at a restaurant, followed by Christmas shopping in the snow. But we all, every last one of us, chose to hang out together in worship, because we like each other.

That's all.

Well, that, and we really, really like the God we have come to know in the face of Jesus Christ. And we genuinely like how Jesus expresses Himself through the different vessels.

It was a warm fuzzy moment, and I am all about the warm fuzzies. I want to feel it when my God wraps His arms around me, and speaks truth into my innermost being. I want to experience my sanctified feelings - that is part of practicing true religion.

I really do like these people I do church with. I really do love the God I serve. I really do love this family of mine - and we are not a trophy family, folks! We're a bunch of mad hatters.

Next time you are in church, I pray that you can look around you and see the faces of dear friends - people you would trust with your business or your family, if something happened to you.

I. Have. That.

That is to be startlingly blessed. I'm so humbled to realize that sometimes the pulsing, glowing, sparkling truth of the gifts I have been given goes right over my head. I have not always seen these things for the indescribable gifts they are.

A verse, from a passage we read this morning: "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

Some of the Best Advice...

Somebody has to get up early, stay up late, do more than the others, if the human garden is to be a thing of beauty.”

~Edith Schaeffer

This is some of the best counsel I've ever read. It applies to home life, church life, business, you name it. I'm not saying we should consistently overdo it, and never rest, but at the same time, nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved without working harder than the "average bear".

If all you want is an average marriage, then stay "into yourself" and be mindful of your rights and how tired you are and how much you do and what your spouse doesn't do. That is a sure-fire way to a completely average relationship, and it is your right to be average, if that is what you really want.

If all you want is an average life, then do an average amount of necessary work.

If you want something more, you have to get over yourself, roll up your sleeves, and be more. That does not necessarily always mean doing more - sometimes working harder is more about working smarter, which means actually working less! But let's be honest...being who you really want to be always leads to doing what you really need to do to be who you really want to be...and doesn't that often mean doing a lot?

Get happy about it!

Someone really does have to be willing to quietly and willingly do what needs to be done and then some, otherwise the marriage, the family, the church, or the business will descend into a disagreeable, cranky mess.

Sometimes doing what we really need to do, to be who we really want to be will involve expecting more out of those closest to us - but we must always first start with ourselves.

The Nursery

More pictures to come, I promise, but here is a preview of The Nursery. All is in readiness, we just need the grand baby to come! (No, Hannah is not in labor as of this moment, ten till midnight, December 3rd. That could change by morning, or that could change by next week. We don't flippin' know.)

The crib is Jenny Lind. The crib skirt is made of three different, coordinating fabrics...I need to get a closeup for you. The bedding is Laura Ashley - surprisingly, not a print...it is a beautiful matelasse! The valance I found on clearance at Marshall's for $2.99!

The rocking chair is an antique, purchased at a shop called Granny's Attic, near Oak Ridge. The small side table is also an antique, a gift from a dear friend named Anna Sprain, many years ago. The floor rug is from Target - and is incredibly soft.

There is another crib skirt, under the one that you can see. It is the skirt that came with the Laura Ashley bedding...but Hannah wanted the splash of color, and the hand made look of the one you see. (The one you see, there, was a stroke of luck. It somehow got separated from its "set" in a department store, and never sold. It was sent to Ross, of all places, where I snagged it for $3.99! It is absolutely adorable, very "vintage" and handmade-looking! But sorry...there are no more. It was truly the only one of its kind. I got the back story from the manager, who happened to be nearby.)

So Hannah put BOTH bed skirts on the crib, the clearance priced colorful one, and the matelasse Laura Ashley. She can change the look any time she wants, simply by tucking the colorful skirt up under the mattress, revealing the plain skirt.

Soon, Hannah is going to re-figure out a way to put a layer of creamy linen (we already have plenty of linen fabric, ivory colored, formerly a huge tablecloth we picked up at the thrift store for $5...$5 for about three square YARDS of pure linen! All we can figure, is it must have been meant to cover several tables, all end to end...if we cut straight down the middle, we will have about six yards long, by a yard or more wide, enough to make luscious, long ruffles.)

Why do that? Well, Hannah wants another layer of crib skirt that goes all the way to the floor, under both existing crib skirts. This will add more texture, and hide the necessary fact that under the crib will have to also be storage.

Hannah used to have burlap for her crib skirt, and it was adorable, went all the way to the floor in this cool puddle...but interfered with being able to smoothly raise and lower the side of the crib. We have not yet had time to tweak, but either the burlap-to-the-floor or the linen-to-the-floor will also go there.

The floor lamp has been in my house for over fifteen years. Hannah took a few yards of white and baby blue ruffling, and hot glued it around and around the lamp shade, and made it a beautiful one of a kind, expensive looking detail.

The chalkboard is a vinyl wall decal...perfectly safe, and won't fall off the wall onto baby. It is adorable right there. It was purchased at Marshall's.

More later...

Random Acts of Beauty...

When I see an image that makes my heart beat just a little faster, I save it to my inspiration file. (Most of the time I include the name of the blog where I saw it, unless that blog got it elsewhere, and the writer doesn't remember where...easy to happen, believe me, I know!)

My own pictures, about five different shots I took of the decor of both daughters' weddings, are all over the internet, copied and pasted onto other blogs, with no credit given to me. I really don't mind at this point...but I might mind later, with future photos. Hence, my husband got me Photoshop, and I've learned to put my name directly onto the photo itself. It isn't foolproof security, but it is a start.

So anyway, design inspiration is everywhere. I find the more I feed my hunger for good design, and for beauty, the more voracious my appetite becomes. I have quite a collection of gorgeousness, and so this evening, I'll share a tiny bit with you. Enjoy - these run the gamut from Christmas decorations to fashion.

These two images above are from the beautiful blog, "Sofie's Haus". The outfit is so near perfect, and I want the boots!

This living room "hits it out of the ballpark" in my opinion. Simple, simple...and lovely. I happen to really like the "unfinished" look of the antique couch.

This image is also from the blog "Sofie's Haus". It is an antique drawer that was made into Advent candles! (You light one on each of the four Sundays before Christmas Day...) The only change I'd make, is the color of the candles. I'm just not feeling the black. I have an antique sewing drawer, currently holding my living room remote controls - I just might redo it for the Christmas season, into my own Advent Candle Celebration!

Image from Pottery Barn - who this year, incidentally, have the best Christmas display and products of any "chain style" retailer, anywhere. I thought for a moment, on my latest visit, that I'd died and gone to my version of Holiday Heaven. EVERYTHING is "just my style".

Dear Santa,
I. Want. It. All.

"Sofie's Haus" does it again. This girl knows her fashion. I find her aesthetic irresistible! All genius begins, in its embryonic stage, with imitation. Make sure you imitate the very best. (Caveat: if you imitate too long, or too closely, you become a caricature. You become a cutesy carbon copy of someone else, and cutesy always kills. Make sure your imitation isn't too identical, and make sure it gives birth to your own originality! Alas, I am forever lapsing into "a teaching". I'll stop now. Amen.)

Anyhow, I'm imitating Sofie, next time I get dressed.

The German/Scandinavian blogs are stealing my heart lately. If you haven't discovered them, you are truly missing out. These women seem to be designers by genetic predisposition. Their taste is flawless. This image from the blog of Andrella Liebt Herzen. Again - imitation! I want to make ornaments like this one. So simple - yet brilliant. Isn't that how you would describe all the best designs?

Let It Snow...

We actually had snow flurries this morning!

It was a Perry Como Christmas sort of Wednesday...homey...tranquil...

"All is calm, All is bright..."

Adding to the dining room Christmas decorations, bit by bit - I love these mercury glass balls so much, I can't stand it...

I've got my knitting needles, a plethora of yarns in wool, mohair, cotton and silk, so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

A Blue Christmas - the COLOR Blue

I'm having a bit of a "blue" Christmas, but I'm not at all sad...

This is a little tree I put up in my dining room every Christmas. This year, I was inspired to decorate it differently than I have for at least six years! (I think it is about time for a change, no?) So I added touches of turquoise blue...

...with pops of red. I lovelovelove the red/blue combination. It is so close to the orange/blue combination I also love, and have been decorating with.

I used simple burlap for a tree skirt on this little tree - and leaned my big wooden initial "A" against the wall. This picture doesn't really do it justice - the look is so adorable!

Please excuse the extension cord...ahem. I promise, when I'm ready to share more pictures of my red and turquoise dining room, I'll do better.

My six-foot-three "baby" and I baked our traditional Ginger Snap Christmas Cookies today...just the two of us. We found out yesterday that he'll be looked at by a small college in a state south of us...won't say who yet...not a junior college, either! The assistant coach will be in touch with Tim, if they like what they see. We're praying that his "hooping skills" increase more and more! I snapped this picture today, thinking that this time next year, he could actually be away at _________ college. Who knows?

...the finished product. YUM!

...and he packaged up a dozen, as a gift to his girlfriend. What a sweetheart!

Friends, I pray your Advent Season is blessed and highly favored. My heart is very, very full these days, and I expect the overflow to spill onto these pages. Thank you for spending a little time with me...I love you!