Isaiah 32:17"The Effect of Righteousness is Quietness and Assurance Forever..."

“When the devil accuses us and says, ‘You are a sinner and therefore damned,’ we should answer, ‘Because you say I am a sinner, I will be righteous and saved.’ ‘No,’ says the devil, ‘you will be damned.’ And I reply, ‘No, for I fly to Christ, who gave himself for my sins. Satan, you will not prevail against me when you try to terrify me by setting forth the greatness of my sins and try to bring me into heaviness, distrust, despair, hatred, contempt and blasphemy against God. On the contrary, when you say I am a sinner, you give me armor and weapons against yourself, so that with your own sword I may cut your throat and tread you under my feet, for Christ died for sinners. . . . As often as you object that I am a sinner, so often you remind me of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins. So when you say I am a sinner, you do not terrify me but comfort me immeasurably.’”

Martin Luther, commenting on Galatians 1:4, “. . . the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins.”

Missionary/ Medical/Mathmetician/Ministry/Musician/Marine/?

I, like every mother, counted all the toes on each baby, smelled their soft little fuzzy hair, and wondered who they would grow up to be. Twenty-plus years later, it is only now becoming a little more clear.

Sarah will one day be a missionary, with her great love, and soon to be husband Jonathan. Hannah works in the medical-clerical field, and is leaning towards serving the local church in ministry. Her husband Justin will graduate soon with a Master's degree in mathematics. He has a teaching gift on his life, as does Jonathan. Josiah is an excellent musician, and is also swearing in as a Marine this Monday....and the question mark (?) is the baby...the almost 17 year old "baby" of the family.

He hasn't picked any field that starts with "M". Although he does lean towards physical therapy/sports medicine. Only time will tell if he actually does become a therapist, or becomes a dynamic preacher, or a basketball player, or whatever. (?) We have tried to expose them to a great variety of input, many, many things to dream about and lots to do with their hands....building, repairing, painting, yard work...a home has to be full of possibility for a wide range of training.

"Given a tiny new human being, how can you know what encouragement to give? Is this a musician, painter, writer, mathematician, or zoologist who will do something magnificent in one of these areas, given the right beginning? The knowledge of what talents lie within the seed is hidden, but an atmosphere can be conducive to developing in many directions, until later one or another becomes obvious as some special talent. The environment in a family should be conducive to the commencement of natural creativity, as natural as breathing, eating, and sleeping."

--Edith Schaeffer, What Is a Family?

Finding What I Seek

I read just today about a phenomenon called "Situation Evocation". This refers to the fact that we spark responses from others that reinforce a tendency we ourselves already have. Cheerful people tend to make others smile back at them. Jaded people are dangerously contagious. Critical people get little mercy from others. The merciful obtain mercy. Just like in water, face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man, the Proverbs say.

I've noticed I can talk about how that leaders have to be "people-persons", and then ask someone, "What makes you an extrovert?" - and they will answer me with whatever is evidence in their mind about what makes them a people person.

But then, weeks or months later, if I talk about the beautiful artistic gifting inherent to the introvert, I can then ask the same person, "What makes you an introvert?" - and they will give me evidence for that, too.

Here's the thing: we all have the ability to find evidence for two opposite conclusions. Which conclusion we choose to go with reveals our heart.

If I look at my husband and think, "He doesn't care" - I find evidence of it. If I look at him and think, "He is so sweet and loving" - I find ample evidence of that.

I know. I've tried it, both ways.

It is stunning, the way my thoughts can define and dictate my feelings to me...not vice-versa. I can "truth" my way out of any lie, if only I am willing to have my perspective adjusted. I can choose a critical perspective, and my experience will soon confirm the conclusion; when I seek evil, I can find anyone and anything at any given time.

He who earnestly seeks good finds favor, But trouble will come to him who seeks evil. (Proverbs)

Perspective is a function of the heart. The heart of every woman is predisposed to seek either good or evil, to be either positive or negative - because the heart is wired to function from a basis of either grace or performance (works), nothing in between.

"And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." Rom. 11:6

It is important, therefore, to be renewed in the "spirit of your mind". Allow your heart to be renewed in the gospel, begin to earnestly seek the good in your circumstances and in the people you say you care about. If you do, you'll find your perspective adjusted to function from grace instead of a mindset of "earning and deserving".

If you must "earn and deserve" with God, then so must your children and spouse and friends with you. If you rather earnestly seek good, and you receive the free gift of grace from God, so must your children and spouse and friends ultimately experience undeserved love from you.

When I hear someone refer to this as "cheap grace", or "easy believe-ism", I laugh. I've read (and love) all of Bonhoeffer's works, and I get what he meant, when he coined this term from a prison cell, suffering for the sake of Christ.

But nobody else can use it with authority, unless they are likewise suffering. Pretty much everyone who tosses around the words "cheap grace" today, are using them to look down their nose at someone else's theology. Almost none who bandy that term in our generation have actually lived grace out - it is mere concept to them, that is why they think it can be cheapened. When you "live of the gospel" as opposed to merely saying you believe it, nothing is more costly or more difficult in life than to earnestly look for the good, to "keep yourself in the love of God". (Jude)

Every time you choose to re-name and re-frame by faith, calling things that be not as though they were, not being moved by what you see, all hell will conspire against you. Please. Do not even start spouting grace until you have counted the cost. Stick with the will require less of you. Law is way easier. Far from being "cheap", the truth of grace will cost you more than you ever thought you could pay, and stretch your faith beyond where you thought you could go.

If you look for good, you'll find it...even in your parents and your kid and your church.

If you look for evil, trouble will find you.

I bet you wish I made that up, but God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. What will you do with the truth of it?

While lacking the power and keen edge of God-breathed Scripture, and not understanding how "grace through faith" works, Goethe observed: “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather...If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming."

Too Far, I Tell You!

My fondness for creating hand made things just for the joy of it has revived of late, (see my word for 2010: Create) and I have many such projects on my front end list...

...but this is carrying the whole crafts thing too far...too far, I tell you!

If you ever find me knitting an apple cozy, do just shoot me on the spot.

In Which Sheila Thinks of Spring and Redecorating...

Look at this lovely master bedroom. I do not like the lack of color, but I love the natural light, the seating arrangement, and the small table and chairs by the windows. I could easily do this sort of set-up in my own huge bedroom, once we get our home office out of it. When Sarah gets married, her room becomes my office. My very own. I can't wait to blog it - complete with pictures. Special request: if you run across any pictures of interesting and beautifully designed home offices, please do send them my way. I've already started my idea file...but don't tell Sarah.

Beautiful, amazing table and chairs. A most unusual shape and design. I have never seen anything quite like this before.

I wish my foyer looked like this. Very, very doable - installing a shelf and pegs below it. I could do without the little horsey, but I love the pops of yellow. I'd have to make sure I also get the perfect tote bag - just to hang there and look capable and colorful! Form meets function here...
Today, I stepped out and inexplicably came home with a pot of hyacinths and a pot of daffodils. I do this every year, when the days get the grayest. I don't plan just happens. Every late-January, early-February, I end up needing spring flowers. And so it was today.
Nothing short of the use of my super-powers stopped me from coming home with a pot of tulips and an entire succulent garden on top of the hyacinths and daffodils. I really, really wanted three or four of the succulents, simply because the pots were clay instead of tacky plastic, and the pot colors were so unexpected and fresh. I needed to take a bunch of them home and make a new centerpiece for the dining room table out of them. My mind was thinking something about wooden trays, pebbles in soft muted tones, and a clusters of those tiny gray-green plants in the orange-toned pots.
I am loving the color orange these days. Also inexplicable.
We're expecting snow here in east Tennessee this week. This fact gives me a mild case of cabin fever. Gardening books work wonders, as does a trip to the plant nursery. What do you always do, this time of year, to cheer the winter gray?

It Wasn't Your Test...

Have you ever handled a situation imperfectly? ("Almost 100% of the time" would be the correct answer there...)

The other day, I was analyzing where mine and Tim's shortcomings lay in handling some events of the past year. Yeah. Imagine that. When are we both aware of our faults? Only all the time, every day, that's all.

Suddenly, God broke through my self important musing. (Going over one's faults can be a form of self importance.) I know His voice. He said to me, clear as clear can be:

"But Daughter, none of it was your test. It was __________ 's test."

I have been tested and tried by God so many times, even up to and including this day. Leaders get so used to being tested, we can begin to think that we are never not being tested. But none of what I was bothering myself about, in that particular series of events, was my test or Tim's test in the first place.


There may be things you have not handled perfectly properly as a parent, as a pastor, as a leader, as an employee, as a boss, as a person. But if the test wasn't yours, if God was not testing you, you weren't being graded, pure and simple. The person being tested is the person who needed the evaluation, more for their own information than anyone else's. Tests come by the way, not as final judgment or condemnation, but simply to reveal our mastery of material we are supposed to have learned. Sometimes we've humbled ourselves enough to pass, sometimes we fail.

But if we aren't the ones being tested this time...if the test is, in fact, someone else's test and we just happen to be involved, why then it "just is". There is no pass or fail for you in this case. Just do your best - live what you know to be right and true, however imperfectly.

If you are in a difficult place, with accusation being hurled your direction, it is very important to discern, "Whose test is this?"

Are you the one being tested? Or is this your son's test? Your daughter's test? Is this your test, or the other person's, or both? Sure, it can be both of your test. But not everything is your test. Get that. Hear that.

Some people tend to think everything is their test from God, some people live as though nothing is their test. I definitely fall in the first category. I know how to borrow guilt from the vast expanse of the universe. So it was revelation to me that... was not my test. It was theirs.

Ah, that final letting go is sweet. Buh-bye accusation, once and for all, at least in this case.

Case. Closed. (That's what is said, by the way, when an accusation doesn't stick.)

(and she closes up her laptop, humming to herself happily...)

Underlined Bits

The weapon of repentance, through rejection of false beliefs and affirmation of Godly truth, has changed thousands of lives. Repentance can liberate the mind and destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) And it can help us discover the wondrous significance we have in Jesus Christ: We are deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, totally acceptable, and complete in Him. Our journey is a joyous and challenging adventure with Christ."
~Robert McGee

A Godly Mother

I ran across this quote the other day, a quote about "French" mothers. While it is all well and good to be French if you are French...(Scandanavian and French-inspired decor is all the rage right now!) it is equally well and good to be American, if you are American...and it is best of all to be a believer in Jesus Christ. My citizenship is in heaven, for sure.

Intelligence, Robert Frost said, is a feat of association. My mind, being at the mercy of its associations, rejects the idea that there is anything inherently "French" about being the sort of mother this quote describes, but rather these are qualities of a Godly mother.

I can own that. I'm not French, never will be.

Enjoy the ideas found in this quote from the book Entre Nous (meaning "Between Us", in French. I googled it.) by Debra Ollivier~

"The French (read: Godly) mother is often the source of everything that informs the French (Godly) girl: a sense of the feminine, of social conduct, poise, etiquette and, of course, cooking. She's an arbiter of continuity and tradition, a sort of magistrate who oversees the smooth functioning of family life--managing conflict, diffusing resentments, letting go of grudges in an elegant and seemingly transparent way. Through her all things eventually pass--the family's history as living memory as well as the future."
In a day and age when I see too many mothers get involved in the drama of their teenaged daughters, I am struck by the importance of managing conflict, and setting the example in "diffusing resentments". Why? Apples never fall far from trees.

I Had a Dream

This song, "Dream", by Priscilla Ahn, speaks of those deep things, those deep dreams about being a mother, those dreams I cherished since I was "a little girl alone in my little world".

I really, really did feed my pretend houseguests bark and leaves. And oh, how I dreamt of having a little home of my own, with a husband to love me, and children to read books to at night.

God and I created just such a life. The dreams all came true. He gave me the husband. He created the children, and I created their home. It has been a purposeful life, this whole blessed thing of raising little ones, giving them roots and wings.

My oldest daughter got married last year. My youngest-by-thirty-seconds daughter is about to be married. My oldest son has had his own apartment for awhile now, and is about to become a Marine and live on the other side of the world...or maybe a police officer, and live across town. My youngest son will be a senior next year, and has very suddenly done some growing up lately.

I never thought I'd be looking back on almost every bit of it. I lived it full and lived it well, there's many tales I've lived to tell. And now, a brand new chapter in life lies just ahead.

I am ready now to fly...

What's next for me? For my beloved and I?

I am nearly done with this season of mothering young ones, and I am sadder than I ever thought I'd be about it. With the end in sight, I pray with all my heart that I finish well. If I have done my job right, this has to be a life I am willing to leave.

Soon. But not yet.


I was a little girl alone in my little world who dreamed of a little home for me.
I played pretend between the trees, and fed my houseguests bark and leaves, and laughed in my pretty bed of green.

I had a dream
That I could fly from the highest swing.
I had a dream.

Long walks in the dark through woods grown behind the park, I asked God who I'm supposed to be.
The stars smiled down on me, God answered in silent reverie. I said a prayer and fell asleep.

I had a dream
That I could fly from the highest tree.
I had a dream.

Now I'm old and feeling grey. I don't know what's left to say about this life I'm willing to leave.
I lived it full and I lived it well, there's many tales I've lived to tell. I'm ready now, I'm ready now, I'm ready now to fly from the highest wing.

I had a dream...

Thrift Scoring...

Yes, "scoring". There is an art to "thrift storing", I confess. My daughters have it, I am acquiring it.

Today, I so scored.

In generations past, before we stopped caring about how we looked at home, and before there was google (sometimes I just want to say to a girl who obviously googled a book or a topic, and now thinks she can pretend like she knows, "Honey, I knew that before there was google.")...

...back then, the more artistic and soulful a woman was, the prettier she looked while she was cooking dinner...and the less she spent monetarily. Read in "The Tapestry" or "L'Abri" what Edith Schaeffer could do with a second-hand skirt, or a sweater with a moth-hole in it. Or a yard of leather and some furniture tacks.

You can buy stuff, but you can't buy style. You can build a house, but only a wise woman builds a home.

I aspire to be wise. I aspire to live well on less, not because I have to, but because I can. It is noble, and it takes intelligence and heart. At least I know ahead of time what I will be wearing on Sunday. This is saying a lot, since this will be a busy weekend in which I will be working on wedding details, plus hosting a guest speaker in my home, followed by a long day spent at the educational co-op on Monday.

My whole life is in transition, and I want to be well dressed for it. Girlfriend, what we wear tomorrow morning is about the only thing we have any control over. Work it.

Looking good is the best revenge. Besides, it is the only revenge preacher's wives are allowed, and they certainly better not spend too much money doing it, either.

Tell me what you think:

Vintage necklace was a gift from a friend...

I've wanted a sweater dress all winter. Retail price? At least fifty bucks for a nice one. More, if you want it really well made. This one is merino wool, from American Eagle Outfitters, fits like a dream, and cost me $6. The Levi's denim jacket, in brand new condition, also $6. This is what I'm wearing Sunday.

Looking ahead to spring! Brand new, never worn sandals from Ann Taylor. Retail price, $48. My price? $2.

Vintage pink shirt dress - in new condition - $2. I took the shoulder pads out, and it is the cutest thing on. I am so wearing this around the house when the weather gets warm. I will do dishes and mop floors in this.

A sweater wrap dress - my big splurge at $9. It ties in the back, and you can't see it, but the front drape is so designer, and so lovely - slightly asymmetrical. My only puzzle is what color camisole to wear under it.

In the interests of encouraging each other to "reduce, reuse, recycle", I am going to try to make thrift store shopping a regular feature on my blog. (Weekly? Monthly?) It will encourage me to get out there and get the creative juices flowing. What I am really hoping for is a beautiful piece of furniture from which I can create a "before" and "after".

After the wedding.

Oh, The Power of One ~

"How can one family affect anything? One person battling away to put selfish interests aside, to put other people before herself or himself, even for a fraction of time, day by day, how could that help?

. . . One family and the children of that family can do marvelous things to affect the world or devastating things to destroy it."

~Edith Schaeffer, from her incredible book, "What Is a Family?"

Pieces of Beauty... the tapestry of life.

No. In the crazy quilt of life. That is, the crazy quilt that is my life. And I'm in love with it.

Our winter table....

I'm getting good at mix-n-match place settings! This brown transferware is receiving all my love these days...

Junk drawer. Pretty pencils.

My growing apron collection. Yes, I wear them all the time, and very much approve of myself when I do. Please disregard the Don Aslett microfiber sweeper-cloths, though I highly recommend them.

A pile of thrift store purses...I'm a fool for a thrifty purse.

A handmade gift from a niece named Katie...who, I believe, is a budding designer. Look what she makes with a pipe cleaner and a bit of paper!

From a child who I adore, whose name literally means, "Praise!"

Experimenting with wedding motif...

the back corner of my bedroom is piling up with all the Ingredients To A Perfect Vintage Wedding...

Flowers from my Hannah...

My inspiration wall...images that make me happy inside, a chalkboard with the wedding countdown, anything and everything that makes me smile.

Look around your life for bits and pieces of beauty. I venture to say you could snap a hundred pictures!

Random Musings...

I love Sundays, so much. Worship was saturated with God's presence today. Every time of corporate worship has its sweetness, but today was particularly sweet, do you know what I mean? The word of the Lord was fully released to the house, with a minimum of five different prophetic encouragements through various ones, as we all pressed into His grace this morning. Then my father brought the corporate word - a timely exhortation to faith, an exhortation that was fully supported by the previous prophetic words, by the way...without anyone knowing what my dad was going to preach.

Our church experience, week in and week out, is so very apart from the World of the Mega Church, and I couldn't be gladder...if gladder is a word. I'd rather not have my corporate experience carefully crafted for me and presented to me. How demeaning. I want to participate, and engage the messiness of humanity and real relationships and know the mixed blessing of proximity.

Proximity is a mixed blessing, because when you become truly intimate with it your mate, a friend, or a will see the flaws. Can you even handle it?? It is the price you pay for closeness. In Big Church World, most are spared the blessing of proximity. Most don't know their pastor intimately enough to know his every flaw. Most have not gotten to know each other well enough to get through that season of not even liking them anymore. So it all feels comfortable, and everyone "likes" everyone else.

In my church, pretty much every one of us have persevered in the context of proximity, sacrificing our mini-gods of personal peace and affluence, loving each other enough to weather the season of not liking each other. Makes me smile. It is precisely at the point of proximity, that the men are separated from the boys. It takes maturity to know more than you wanted to know about someone, and decide you still love them and want to fellowship with them.

Speaking of maturity, versus immaturity - what about former UT football coach Lane Kiffen? He comes in, declaring his love for the students, his commitment to the program, and leaves very, very suddenly.

All Tim and I know for sure is that a true leader sticks and stays. The Bible says a false leader ("shepherd") leaves an "organization" suddenly. How a man leaves anything...a job or a church or a relationship or a party...will forever characterize him. Every man will proclaim his own goodness, but a faithful man, who can find?

Last night, my daughter and her husband came over with a custom-made gift for their dad. Oh, the dark humor that bubbles in the genetic stew of this family!

We laughed so loud, and so long.

I hope your Sunday has been blessed with the proximity of God's people, and with the sweetness of His presence. I pray your church has been a laundromat today - that your mind was washed by the water of the Word! I pray you were made clean by the Word spoken; that the spirit of your mind was renewed and refreshed. I pray you were an integral participant in all facets of worship today, instead of a passive consumer of a pre-packaged experience, presented to you...however expertly presented, that is not church life.

Church life is far harder and infinitely better than that.

Haiti On My Heart

There isn't much to post about in the usual way...not this week. Haiti is so heavy on my heart. Please pray for peace in the streets of Port-Au-Prince and surrounding areas. (Well, peace in what used to be called streets, which were not streets as we know them, even before the earthquake. Haiti's infrastructure was terrible before this tragedy.)

All the devastation in Haiti brings into stark significance the efforts of all God's people there. Every soul brought into the kingdom mattered to God. Some who have perished this week, I am certain had just believed the good news of the gospel within the past month or the past year. All who have recently reached out to the nation of Haiti (whether preaching to her lost, or strengthening her indigenous pastors) should be filled with holy fear - their work was not in vain, in the Lord. God knew what was coming.

My husband told me yesterday, with tears in his eyes, that the Scripture keeps coming to him, "Hell hath enlarged itself." There have been many lives lost, who had not yet heard the gospel, or accepted Christ. This too should fill us with a holy fear and urgency.

Tim has been to Haiti many times over the years, and so he carries vivid pictures in his heart of what all this chaos and devastation must feel like over there. The primary prayer need - even over basic necessities right now - is for a supernatural peace to settle over Haiti. This, friends, only God can do. But peace is urgently needed, so that relief supplies can be brought in, in an organized fashion.

May God speak peace to the raging storm. Peace, Haiti....peace, be still.

Ps 34:18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a crushed spirit.

This Season of Harvest

Harvest Church has sent many on short term missions trips - too many for me to try and count them all up. And we, along with other Master Builder's churches, support several long term, career missionaries.

But we...Harvest Church...sent out our very first long term missionary this past Sunday. We held a special service Sunday evening, commissioning Jonathan Trentham (lovingly called Jon-O), who is, even as I type, on his way to Kampot, Cambodia to work full time with Lighthouse Ministries orphanage, and their church planting efforts, led by Lewis and Kristin Burke.

Jonathan's parents, Kevin and Angela, drove from North Carolina to proudly join us in sending off their son into the work of the ministry. I admire them so much for their open to us, open to Harvest Church, open to sending their son into a sometimes-dangerous place for the sake of the gospel. We enjoyed what little time we were able to grab with them, having heart-to-heart conversation, and establishing a unity of purpose with which I know God is pleased. Jon-O, I hear, comes from missionary stock. His parents have raised a good, good man.

There wasn't a dry eye in the sanctuary this past Sunday evening...we concluded the commissioning service with a party at the Kear home - where it felt like "you couldn't stir 'em with a stick!" Then, bright and early Monday morning, Jonathan said his final goodbye's at McGhee-Tyson airport.

Jon-O, we all will miss you. This is indeed a corporate sending, deeply felt and rejoiced over by each of us. Godspeed, dear one.

(Many thanks to Angela Trentham, Jonathan's sweet mom, for these shots...)

A time of worship - singing "sending songs"...

Our Emily, playing her violin beautifully, as usual...

Pastor Tim, preaching a "sending message"...

A word of wisdom from Kevin, Jonathan's father..."Hands on the plow, son, do not look back, do not be distracted."

Praying sending prayers...

Bittersweet going away party...

That's Jon-O, the tall guy in the black shirt...

Our young missionary...

Kevin and Angela, and their young arrow, released strong and straight and true, into the nations! Congratulations, mom and dad!

My Word for 2010

Many writers of blogs I've begun to follow do not make New Year's resolutions, per se. They prayerfully choose an action word that will characterize their upcoming year - a word that will inspire, remind, and motivate them. One word.

Ann Voskamp's word is "Yes".

Interior designer Heather Bullard's word is "Celebrate".

Jane, over at the ever-delightful "Out of the Crayon Box"...her word is "trust".

My word for 2010...this is the first time I have done this...I must admit, it is so stinkin' fun... create. Oh, such scope for the imagination, in that one perfect word!


–verb (used with object)

1. to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.

2. to evolve from one's own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention.

3. Theater. to perform (a role) for the first time or in the first production of a play.

4. to make by investing with new rank or by designating; constitute; appoint.

5. to be the cause or occasion of; give rise to: The announcement created confusion.

6. to cause to happen; bring about; arrange, as by intention or design: to create a revolution; to create an opportunity to ask for a raise.

–verb (used without object)

7. to do something creative or constructive.

8. British. to make a fuss.

originate, invent.

What will your word for this year be? Choose isn't as easy as it seems!

Blogs I've Discovered...

Oh, it is a beautiful world at my fingertips!

Time is of the essence for us all, so we all appreciate a good blog recommendation. There is a blog or two I've removed from my list, and stopped visiting in 2009 - I have not read a word in many months, and likely will never read again. (...and I know I'm not alone in that...I know you "get me", girlfriends...)

Why? Some blogs are boring. Some are intent on pushing an agenda that the writer herself - or himself - doesn't even thoroughly understand. Others try too hard to be profound or positive or inspiring, but instead come across as a little bit whacked or a whole lot insincere. Some are just plain depressing. Lots of talk about raindrops and quietude and wind or livestock and veiled stabs and breathing and deep thoughts and silence, when everyone knows a life lived in community is busy and funny and noisy and messy...and that fact is Genuinely Wonderful (as opposed to Simulated-ly Wonderful).

Ya'll know what I mean, don't you?

For every blog I have stopped reading, I have discovered at least two inspiring replacements. I have found some absolute treasures. I promise, you will find beauty and fun, authenticity and inspiration, without the not-so-hidden negative agenda.

Breath of fresh air, eh?


holy experience

I'll stop here, because on these few blogs, you will find enough fun, thought provoking, grace-or-beauty-filled links to keep you busy for a cozy evening or two.

By the way, be sure to visit the blogs of Harvest Church folks. You'll find some gems! And if you have or know of a blog that celebrates grace, the Christ-life, truth, and beauty, be sure to share the link with me. Who knows - I may love it so much, it becomes part of my routine, too! (You know they say blogs have replaced the "morning paper". We all wake up with our cuppa coffee, and our precious few favorite blogs...)

My love to all of you...

A Few Things That Matter (Sorta...)

Roll-on perfume. Viva La Juicy roll-on perfume. Quick. Inexpensive. Portable. Doesn't leave you in a cloud of cloying scent. Will not bother anyone's allergies, since the application is under your full control. You can literally just touch this to your pulse points, if you wish. (Is there anything...anything worse than cloying, sickly sweet, overpowering perfume?)

Where has this baby been all my life? Love it. It is the answer to one of the biggest fashion blunders I've seen (or rather smelled), which is to wear a bad perfume, or to wear a good perfume badly. Hint: don't wear a scent designed by an old lady. Hey. Faithful are the wounds of a girlfriend.

It is a new year - a great time to edit your closet. There is nothing unspiritual about wearing beautiful clothes. You're going to wear clothes anyway, aren't you? You will be spending a certain amount this year on your wardrobe, whether you shop retail, or like me you often shop resale. Might as well wear something stylish, even at home, when no one sees you but your husband and children. Especially when no one sees you but your husband and children.

While we're on the subject of fashion, I am eyeing a new addition to my stable of boots:

If you are at all familiar with quality boots, these look almost exactly like the classic Frye boots, don't they? I don't know about you, but you will not catch me paying $250 for a pair of the real things. Well. I am about to make your day.

Target carries these knock-offs for $49 and change! Yes, they are real leather. Yes, they are well made. I've checked. Can we say "cute"?

Here is a picture of the real thing:

Can you tell the difference? Neither can I. Give the two hundred dollars I've just saved you to your church's missions fund.

One last word: scarves. Find yourself one or three beautiful scarves to wear in your hair, with your layered long sleeved T's, with your winter coat or leather jacket. By all means, get something colorful. And while you are at it, no matter what you weigh, toss out some of the black stuff in your closet. Just do it. You'll be glad you did.

...says she who is, at this very moment, wearing a black wrap least it is over a jewel-toned T...

The Dominion Mandate

"The woman who rules her own spirit is better than she who takes a city." Prov. 25:28

Better. Some things are just better - Old Covenant and New, they are timelessly better. I don't know about you, but I was Created for Conquest, Destined for Dignity, Mandated to Mandate...and in the process, I am being a good steward of the manifold (read: many, many, many varied expressions) of the grace of God.

The greatest land, yet unconquered, is the terrain of the soul...the renewal of the mind...all things being brought into conformity to the nature of God. I've made great strides in the taking back of soul ground in recent years. I've reached that place where the target plot of self-soil was "tightly shut up...none came out, none went in." (Joshua 6:1)

I've even marched seven times around my obstacle/habit/old unrenewed, untransformed thinking/negativity/depression/unforgiveness/fill-in-the-blank. Had it well contained.

But I stopped short of, "Shout..."

...that sound of victory that must come before the walls crumble once and for all time.

Nothing falls without the shout. I can corral and contain, I can circle seven, and even seventy times seven, relishing in my obedient self discipline...and yes, the marching seven times around was part of The Plan.

But at some point, there has to be supernatural grace. My best human effort will not bring the obstacle down. There has to be a Final Falling of the walls of the stronghold. There has to be a shout of faith.

Take dominion, oh my soul!

"Shout! For God Has Given YOU The City!"

What are you to lay seige, circle as many times as it takes, and finally shout over? The restoration of broken relationships? Needed finances? Unhealthy extra weight? Habits of disorganization or ruts of negativity? Stolen joy? Ruling and reigning right where you are makes you a better woman than she who takes a city. Through your God, you CAN do valiantly, because He is the Valiant One! Christ in you...Christ as you...all things subject to His authority, all illegitimate rule under His beautiful feet.

Rockin' The New Year!

I have loved the holidays this year...and I love that they are over. There is something so fresh and shiny and hopeful about the New Year, and 2010 is no exception. This being the first Monday of this fresh decade, I found it fitting to get it going right.

Then, it got itself going right. Shortly after I awoke, it began to snow. Beautiful, delicate flurries that danced first one way, and then another, as the frigid breezes shifted outside my window. No accumulation - just loveliness. My youngest went to his educational cooperative classes, so I had the day to myself to work and plan. I selected an acoustical guitar CD for the Bose and put it on "repeat", creating a tranquil sound palette that blended perfectly with the day's mood and flurried-ambiance.

About half way through, I stood, taking a break and sipping hot coffee and looking out my kitchen window at a dozen sweet songbirds filling the bare branches of my tree. I couldn't have staged a better scene for my thoughts to gather around.

There we were today, Tim and I - just we two. We had been working separately, but together, in the same house all day long. Neither of us idle for a moment, neither of us bored in the least. (He worked from his home office today.) There were not many words exchanged, but not because we are distant. The house was full of a delicious quiet. We were both working on our own Vital Thing, each aware of the other's presence, each content with the other's presence. A full-some sense. A good day.

I thought of all of you, and how to communicate the sweetness of these I did what I usually do. I reached for my point and shoot digital, and began to frame the images and look for the words.

The dining room table became my desk for the day.

My Tim, at his desk.

Our lunch...(oh, if you knew how rare these
quiet afternoons are for us, you'd indulge me
even beyond this! For you, dear reader, are kind...)

I discovered the prettiest 3X5 spiral index cards with
decorative edges, upon which to write out the new
daily schedule...hopefully dividing up all my repeating work into six manageable units. I'll let you know how it goes. Every day has lots of purpose, shall we say?

A ten hour day, basically...and I still haven't gotten to my blog-tech research. I'll do that as soon as I hit...

...publish post.

I Do Aspire

To live content with small means....
To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion....
To be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich....
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly....
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart....
To bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never....
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common...this is to be my symphony.

~written by William Henry Channing, but wholeheartedly embraced by yours truly.

Never has there been so much in my life to love. I have come closer in this season to living the life I've dreamed of, than ever before. Most importantly, the voice of God and the touch of God upon my life grows, "unbidden and unconcious", and radiates great joy into my so-called ordinary day. I find myself wild with joy while parking the car, singing God's praises, my heart full of creative ideas. This is all quite spiritual, yet largely unbidden - the Spirit just shows up, the presence of God manifests to my heart, heaven blows me a kiss, and an ordinary day becomes an encore of the miraculous.

"This is to be my Symphony..."

Creating Reality from Inspiration...

My youngest twin daughter gets married this March. We're in the planning stages. It is the barest of beginnings, but we've officially gone from abstract to concrete. We've looked at photograph after photograph, design after design (oh, the miracle of internet!), inspiration after inspiration...and now, we've actually picked up a few things to get us started.

the Color Story! "Soft metals", i.e. vintage golds, pewters, pops of merlot, the colors of mercury glass and pearls, combined with earthy brown woods and leathers.

A Theme. There isn't a lush profusion of blooms in mid-March, but there are bare branches, and there are birds. Birds hold a special place in the story of the new couple. They sort of fell in love, or more in love, more-or-less, because of a bluebird. Jonathan, and particularly his father, are serious bird watchers.

I can't believe it is January 2nd. Time's-a-wastin'. Daughter number two will be married in 11 short weeks.


Your God is up to a new thing. This means, it is time to change your mind!

When I say the word "repent", many conjure up images of sackcloth and ashes, and I don't discount that. But repentance is simply a change of thinking. You held to one opinion yesterday - and today, you change your mind to match what God's opinion is.

Psalm 55:19 says this: "...Because they do not change, Therefore they do not fear God."

I have known women who draw inaccurate conclusions, and proceed to stamp them in concrete. They refuse to examine a new conclusion. They are inflexible, and looking back, I don't remember a single time - not one - when they ever said a meaningful "I'm sorry" and I cannot recall them ever changing their mind once they'd formed a personal opinion.

Friends, we were born wrong. We are wrong so often, it is downright scary. To be a woman who rarely changes her mind is to be a woman who has no fear of God. That sends shivers down my spine.

Sure, it is unhealthy to be double minded. To put your trust in an unfaithful person ("given to change" the King James puts it) is unwise. But I hope to be found in Him as one who will change her mind quickly and easily. I want a tender heart. I've seen womanly hearts that should be pliable and sensitive be in reality as cold and unbending as old leather. I've been that way myself - and frankly nothing frightens me more.

New Things have inherent in them the seeds of change. Some of us need to yield to a radical change of thinking.Let this New Year be your time to embrace the New that God is always doing.