The Week Before We Celebrate His Resurrection

The yard, here at the cottage this week:

The view from the hammock today:

Our Easter Table:

This afternoon, I dyed a few eggs using some blue and some green food coloring - then splattered them with craft paint in "burnt umber"...then I modge-podged a few more with some torn pieces of a toile paper of my daughters created the vignette with the Celtic cross, nest, and the bird.
Each night, we light a series of six candles, counting down Holy Week to Resurrection Sunday, and the three of us (Isaac, Tim, and is "just us three" at home now, amazingly) read a short passage about the final days and hours of Christ before His death.
We are keeping Easter joyfully here! You?
Linking with Beth over at A 2 Z...

Holy Week's Gratitude Journal

I pray you are slowing down enough to ponder the awe of this Holy Week - the week before Easter. Just as with the season of Advent, I am taking time each and every evening between now and Sunday to consider the Passion of Christ, and its impact on my destiny, and on my ordinary day.

I truly want to do something different in the way I keep Easter, this year. As close as we are to that special day, I am still not sure what to do differently, other than taking more time to meditate on the events of the week that led to the crucifixion of God in the flesh. I want to celebrate, to decorate, and to deeply consider. New life is bursting forth all around me - there is much to be immensely grateful for.

I am living a dream that I truly don't deserve. Isn't grace incredible?

Last year, I began keeping a "1000 Gifts" gratitude journal, with the encouragement of Ann Voskamp, a blessing-of-a-blogger. Today is her "Multitide Monday". Fellow bloggers can link up with her blog on a Monday, and count our blessings together...

~hearing the canary croon with Nora Jones, about an hour ago.

~the fire burning in my outdoor firepit right now.

~both daughters, now married to good, Godly men.

~that cute girl puppy, wearing a pink bandana.

~my chicken cordon bleu turned out amazing!

~"Hey baby, Tim's my handyman..."

~the fact that I knocked out my entire "to do" list today (and it was insanely long...)

~there is time to spare for a long, luscious bath...

~our weather forecast contains "six sunshines in a row" for the first time in months, literally! I'm beside myself with joy.

~the hundred plus daffodils about to burst into bloom in my three huge pots, under my mailbox, and in the flower bed.


~used bookstores

~hearing from the newlyweds, whose itinerary is a sweet secret.

~a honey who made me a great cuppa coffee just now...

Gratitude Journal in Pictures:

about to blossom

the lettuce seeds I planted awhile back! (we had a small salad tonight...)

Spring decor

Linking with A Holy Experience...

spring table

Tisn't New

This emphasis on New Covenant isn't new at all. The emphasis upon grace-through-faith (as opposed to moral duty or improvement) isn't strange and it isn't new. If it bothers you...if you wonder at it...or (heaven help us, I shudder at this) if you think it is in error...all I can say is...

...historically speaking, where have you been? There is a such thing as "the cult of the contemporary". Are you in that cult? Do you read? Or, if you read classically, do you read only the writings of dead "merit mongers"? That is most unwise. Have you read the New Testament without the veil on your head? Have you read church history?

“The doctrine of the atonement is very simple. It just consists in the substitution of Christ in the place of the sinner; Christ being treated as if he were the sinner and then the transgressor being treated as if he were the righteous one. It is a change of persons; Christ becomes the sinner; He stands in the sinner’s place…the sinner becomes righteous; he stands in Christ’s place…and is numbered with the righteous ones. Christ has no sin of His own, but he takes human guilt and is punished for human folly. We have no righteousness of our own, but we take the Divine righteousness; we are rewarded for it and stand accepted before God as though that righteousness had been worked out by ourselves.”

Preached long ago by Charles Spurgeon, The King’s Highway

When a woman or man, no matter their age, no matter how far from God they are, suddenly sees the atonement for what it is for the first time...and believes this scandalous gospel...they are saved. They can then, and only then, begin to grow up into the righteousness that has been purchased for them, and imputed to them.

Ah, but how can they hear, without a preacher? How will they hear if confused Christians keep on questioning the validity of this simple gospel?

The enemy's plan is old, but clever. Divide, and conquer. Divide, and thus keep as many as possible from being able to clearly hear this truth.

In Which Sheila Only Has One Thing To Say...

Come join me at the table

Righteousness is not something that grows in us. We grow into the free gift of righteousness, by grace through faith. I am all the "holy" I am supposed to be, at this very moment, because I am in Christ Jesus, who is made unto me...well, just everything I need. Good works are what I do for the sake of my neighbor, not to merit favor with God. God is pleased with Christ Alone.

Yeah. I think that is the one thing I wanted to say.

The Puppies...

Isn't this too much cuteness?? The white puppy is Sarah's puppy. We are puppysitting while she is on her honeymoon. The silver teacup is our Rambo. They adore each other!

(great shot, Hannah!)
Just don't ask Tim and I how we've been sleeping. (We haven't been.) Amber will not sleep without being in our bed...and if Amber is in our bed, why then Rambo must be there too. Then, they both snuggle us to the extreme...

Happy Birthday, My Love!

This past Sunday was my Tim's 47th birthday.

Yeah. The day after our daughter's wedding. After enjoying our guest speaker, Neil Silverberg, and receiving heartfelt birthday love from all of Harvest, we were exhausted. But thanks to Hannah and Justin, we managed a celebration. Hannah and Justin came by the house later Sunday evening and brought us dinner, a small cake, and a present for dad...

Hannah made this T-shirt!

Dad, wearing Isaac's hat...Hannah, Tim, and Isaac giving the camera their best "dumb redneck" pose. This picture is falling-down-funny!

Was there ever a busier, more satisfying March? Not in my life, not so far. March 2010 is definitely going down in the family history books.

PS. You would be most definitely blessed if you went to , go to the resource page, and look up the MP3 of Neil's message this past Sunday. It is there, available for free...

The Nest Is Emptying...

This is one of the portraits we hung in the church foyer, as part of the wedding decor...Sarah, Jonathan, and Amber Marie, our "granddog".

This is a little of what we had to get done today. ::sniff:: Such an empty room. We finished moving Sarah's things to her new house for her. Have I cried yet? Oh. Yes.

...thus, Retail Therapy was in order. Here is what I found this afternoon at Tuesday Morning. Since I was feeling tired and a bit sad, I bought them both. They are happy in my kitchen, next to the coffee maker.

People, I am in serious renesting mode. Heaven help my husband, may God have mercy on his soul.

Be forewarned, gentle reader. Lots of posts to follow on topics such as "what color to repaint the kitchen and dining room", the gospel, My Brand New Life With Only One Kid Left At Home, gospel, my very first yoga classes (yet to be taken - stay tuned), gospel, the search for the perfect new armchair for the livingroom OR sewing my first slipcover (whichever option moves me when the time comes), the gospel, expanding the garden, raising blueberries and seventeen year old boys, the gospel, recipes, decorating ideas...

...and did I say the gospel of grace? I can't seem to ever stop talking about it. Your inheritance is way better than you know.

Stay tuned. I love you for visiting me here on my blog!

Our Sarah's Wedding

Harvest Church did it again. They came together as an expression of true community, and provided a complete wedding reception for our bride and her groom. Tim and I are blessed to tears, thankful for our church family.

You don't know what it meant to us that you were there. You were there in every sense of the word - physically, emotionally, spiritually, you were fully present, and have been since this adventure with Sarah and her Jonathan began.

To look around that church at 190+ faces (many of those from our parent church, Trinity Chapel, where Jonathan was raised from the time he was young) was a joy beyond telling for us. To know that they would be fully fed and entertained at the reception (such dancing!) was a stunning blessing.

My Stunning Daughter-Bride, and her handsome father, almost 200 guests looking on...

Dear family and pastor-friends, gathered in prayer

The moment they were presented as man and wife

A reception moment

Cake for the groom

"Is there anyone else in the room but us?"

First dance as man and wife

See the bride's footwear? She wore them for the ceremony, too. That's my girl. See the other boots? That is the maid of honor, the bride's twin sister Hannah. The bridesmaids wore strapless, knee length beaded gowns with western boots. It was adorable.

The princess waves goodbye as she and the groom drive away in the groom's "noble steed". Festooned with caution tape. Ahem.
many thanks to the sweet Liz Overton for her pictures...

Our Girl

Tonight is our Sarah's last night under our roof as an Atchley. The feeling is beyond bittersweet. Rehearsal went well and the rehearsal dinner was a time of "togetherness" that I will always remember.

Wedding is tomorrow at three o'clock. My little girl. My little "tomboy" has grown into a Godly and talented woman. This night marks her final, brief sleep under her daddy's authority and covering as "daddy" - but she gets the intense joy and complicated privilege of returning home, and still take her place under him as her pastor.

My dear friend (who is a pastor's wife and a pastor's daughter) Donna Jean once wrote Sarah the most insightful, moving letter about what it really means to be "the pastor's daughter". Remembering her wise words is what blesses, fills, and ministers to my heart this night. My friend brought my daughter a word in season, for sure, with gems of wisdom tucked in between the words telling her what to look for in the "right man"...that man who will someday marry "the pastor's daughter".

Praise Him! God has given Sarah a man who understands the unique relationship between pastor-daddy and daddy's girl. It is a father-daughter dynamic that is truly unique in all the world, and if a future husband does not understand it and honor it, he does his wife, her pastor-dad, and ultimately a whole church body a disservice.

Because when that relationship is beautiful and right, as it has been in our home (not perfect, but beautiful. There is a difference.) it is a joy above joy to those daughters to serve their father side by side in ministry. For my girls, it has always been a dream. It is coming true. What these girls need is not another pastor....not another father...those positions are well filled. They need a husband-lover and a friend. A friend who is not intimidated by the love they have for their daddy.

That is a tall order, and it is a rare man indeed who can meet up to it - respecting and cherishing the bond that his young wife will always share with her pastor-father. Sarah's man rose to the occasion - Hannah's man did so as well, and my heart magnifies the Lord in it!

Goodnight, little Sarah. I had a dream once, too, when I was young and about your age...and you came true.

Life These Days - In Pictures

Our youngest - opening his birthday card, membership to the YMCA enclosed!

We "partied up" the front door...

A quick birthday cake from the grocery deli, because after all, birthdays come once a year, but weddings are (in our estimation) once in a lifetime...we are getting ready for the big day - three days away!

Sarah's "personal" shower...getting a pretend "tatoo". A result of an unfortunate loss on her part in a party game. We all howled in delight.

The her blinky-crown. This thing lit up!

Sarah and her bridesmaids and her puppy, before embarking on a day of much shopping.

She'll be Mrs. Howe soon.

Me n' my gang of girls at another bridal shower. This is a picture-of-a-picture!

Our fresh baby's breath arrived via refrigerated truck, Fed-Ex'ed today.

I immediately began making two wreaths for the front doors of the church, and at this point a dear friend graciously took on the task for me.

...and she delivered the final product an hour ago! A big shout-out and thank you to the beautiful Kate Damron! Wooo Hooooo!

I Am Justified

Many aspects of the flesh are disarmed and eliminated by a deep
apprehension of our justification by faith. Faith in Christ cures unbelief,
anxiety, and insecurity, and in so doing it cuts the roots of envy, jealousy and a host of related egocentric fleshly patterns

Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life

No Such Thing...

Psychology has proven what the writer of Ecclesiastes always knew...that there is no such thing as a "state of arrival". We set goals, we aspire, we pursue...all great things to do. But by the time we attain whatever it was we wanted so much, by the time we arrive at our longed-for destination, the "getting" is never all we imagined it would be. We want the next thing. This is human nature. There simply is no changing it, unless you can change your hard-wiring. It is a result of the fall...we work, we sweat, and then we must do it all again, because this world and all that is in it is passing away - in perpetual entropy.

Please hear me: Now is the good part. All "later" is, is a "now" that has not happened yet. You will never be happy later, if you are not happy now. If you do not learn to savor and love "now", you will not even recognize the "later". Today is the best day, because it is the only day you have. You won't be satisfied - fully satisfied - until heaven. In this life, on this side of eternity, the best days are always the season you are in now.

Why? By the time you reach the goal you have set, your brain has already annexed the property. What once was the thing that would make you happy when you finally got it, now becomes one more thing in a long list of attainments, small and large, that continue on and on. And if you never reach the goal you set, if you never attain the thing you wanted...well, what then? The eyes of man are never satisfied with anything but their Maker.

The goal of singing a song is not to finish it. Think about that. The idea is to simply sing. To enjoy singing.

"Let my life be like a love song."

This time next week, the last of my two daughters will be married. This time next week, the wedding will be over, and Tim and I will be cleaning up the church sanctuary, preparing it for Sunday. My thoughts, no doubt, will be a mixture of lingering over the beautiful events of the day, and looking ahead into Sunday, mentally preparing for what comes next.

There is always a "next".

Now is all there is to take joy in. All of this process, before the wedding day, is the best part of it. Next week, as I busily decorate the church and clean out the gorgeous post-and-beam barn for the reception - that will be the "fun part". As I hear the soft music and my son seats me in my place at the front of the church as mother of the Bride, and I then stand up to welcome the Bride to the strains of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"....that will be the best part.

When Sarah walks down that aisle, into the arms of her beloved, that will become the best part.

And when I, at the end of the day, sink wearily and gratefully into the arms of my beloved, and we switch off the light for rest, with a lingering kiss and a whisper of "mission accomplished"....ah, that will be the sweetest moment, too.

Life goes on. Always, it goes on. Now is the best part.

Sarah's Wedding Shower

Her present from mom and dad...
I was married twenty plus years before I got one of these!

My fiesty "little girl" will be a married wife in less than two weeks.

::happy sigh::

And he's a good man - talented, Godly, a summa cum-laude art school graduate, and a man who understands the importance of the local church. This young man never dated until he met our daughter. Never. He waited for her, with all his heart. She is the only woman he has ever cared for, or kissed.

How uncommon is that? I told you he is one in a million. A good man.

Sarah's wedding shower was yesterday. Suddenly, in the wake of a long, cold winter...out comes the sun. Wouldn't you know it? Even the sun marks his calendar for The Princess's Special Day, (Sarah's name means "princess") and comes back from his vacation earlier than orginally planned.

My sister did it again! She planned and executed Hannah's wedding shower last April, and then planned and executed Sarah's shower yesterday...she has a sparkling, amazing gift of hospitality and event planning. I'm telling you, this woman could do this professionally, and name her price. She's that good.

She reserved a special room for the party, and we all walked in to a feast in every sense of the word....a feast for the appetite and the senses. The fragrance of vanilla candles filled the air, and all was decorated in the browns and "soft metals" that is the color story of the wedding.

such beauty...

Sweet couple!

Party favors...

Food tables...


...and more gifts...


Did I tell you that my sister is talented?

Hand calligraphied by a local artist-friend, and member of our church (Need one? Contact me!)

The bridesmaids Emily (in pink) and twin sister Hannah (snapping a photo)

Lifting a heavy box of SPICES! (I keep reminding myself "thou shalt not steal"...or covet.)

It was such special.

The book is a running joke between Sarah and her twin...(Hannah is a fashionista - Sarah is not.)

My lovely sister, who kept us wildly entertained with a monologue during the present-unwrapping-time. She is hilariously funny.

This will come in handy, will it not?

Sarah is more than able, now, to set up housekeeping. God has been beyond good to my daughter...and her future husband is getting the best of the very best.

Can't wait to see them start their new life together!