31 December 2011

His "I wills"

When it happens I rarely can explain why. I can hardly put a finger on an exact event or a single happening and assign blame. It’s usually just a feeling that leaves me wanting to retreat, to bury my head in my pillow and cry.
And of course, I figured I am the only one.
Until this week.

Early in the week, I read-
     There are mornings when I wake up feeling fragile. Vulnerable. It’s often vague. No single threat. No one weakness. Just an amorphous sense that something is going to go wrong and I will be responsible. It’s usually after a lot of criticism. Lots of expectations that have deadlines and that seem too big and too many.
     As I look back over about 50 years of such periodic mornings, I am amazed how the Lord Jesus has preserved my life. And my ministry. The temptation to run away from the stress has never won out — not yet anyway. This is amazing. I worship him for it.
     How has he done this? By desperate prayer and particular promises. I agree with Spurgeon: I love the “I wills” and the “I shalls” of God.

 And that confession comes from a pastor, from John Piper, he who created the term “Christian hedonism,” he who wholeheartedly believes that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." John Piper suffers the same unexplainable vulnerabilities as I do?

But as answer to our cry, Piper and I both found ourselves in the book of Zechariah that day. And we both quickly came back to the “I wills” of God in found in Zechariah 2-
“For I,’ declares the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst." (verse 5)

“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ declares the Lord.” (verse 10)
And I remember, again, His promises are for me.

I have coffee with a friend later in the week, and I share these thoughts, these Truths, with her. We both find ourselves with tears about to spill over.
No, certainly I am not the only one longing for He who makes all things new.

Relationships are broken and in constant need of repair. Bodies are fragile and hurt. I don’t even know how to pray as I should. And yet, He promises faithfulness.

So, on this last day of the year, I stand ready to move forward, eyes fixed, and yet, echoing those last lines of Revelation,
Amen, come quickly, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
Amen.
And, He will.

zits

For a very long while, we really felt certain that the folks at Baby Blues had placed a spycam in our house, that's how familiar some of the scenes were to us when we'd open up the funny pages day by day.

But, the kids grow and their parents get older, and now it's Zits- and today it was the teens that were laughing at us, err- WITH us... :-)

Remembering 2011

Truly, when I think back over the 2011, it seems like a decade of life passed by in a blink of the eye.
That slowly.
That quickly.
So much happened in these 12 months, and yet images of people and places flash by and change at rapid fire pace.

We started 2011 in the canopy and rain forest of Costa Rica. We traveled a bumpy twisty road on a standing room only bus to reach Monteverde. We watched cheese being made by Quaker ex-pats and listened to a European wax eloquent about the declining bat population and marveled at how very dark the sky can be once you journey outside the city. We flew, really- suspended only by cables and ropes,  over the tree canopy and walked across bridges through the canopy and hiked on paths under the canopy. And we shared it all with a rare visitor from home, a dear friend who brought mousse and Crest and a cheerful try-anything-once spirit that quickly endeared her as one of our favorite guests of all time.

Visitors in Costa Rica were rare, but so precious! I had the opportunity to guide my college roommate’s parents and their travel companions through the streets of San Jose one day and watch them capably negotiate souvenir prices. Then later in the spring I picked up my college roommate and her family, bleary-eyed after an overnight flight, and saw them leave after a week of travels, confident, with stories to spare. We piled four of our family into a taxi to meet one of my Summerbaby internet pals and her family in downtown San Jose and share impressions of the country in their hotel bar.

Faces of our friends from language school flood my mental album- those who we learned with day in and out, who heard more stories of our families then we realized we knew, all told in Spanish bits and pieces. I hear the voices of our teachers who taught us with such skill and patience. I see the faces of my ESL students who cheered me week by week. I recognize our brothers and sisters at church who unfailingly greeted us with kisses on each cheek and worshipped beside us with wholehearted passion in the most simple of places.

Costa Rican memories are colored with a palette of green, so many shades I cannot begin to describe how they differ. The greens are accented by the sandy browns of the beach and the blues of the sky on a clear morning and of the ocean off the coast of Panama. The scenes are accentuated with bursts of color, from bright flowers and iridescent birds and day-glow frogs, to red taxis and multi-hued signs, and even include the rainbow of painted houses on our street.

As planned, right as the first quarter of 2011 finished, we packed all our belongings in 14 bags, flew out of rainy Costa Rica and landed in sunny south Texas. The temperature was warm and getting warmer. The scenery was brown and would become even more so. We moved a household of belongings from north to south, and once again, we never would have completed it without our church family. We initially floundered in our new place… ready to respond in Spanish, the sun doesn’t rise and set at 5?, the stores are so big..., flush toilet paper?

Through the summer and into the fall, we settled into this new place. We were welcomed by many. We were reunited in brief visits with family. And little by little, we relearned normal.

I traveled this year, more than I deserve. I ate good food and savored sweet fellowship. I knew the comfort and ease of being with true friends. I rested in the unwavering lovingkindness, limitless mercy and unending grace of my Savior, especially through struggles and hurt that come while living in the brokenness of this world.

Highlights?
Sitting on a bus next to Nicki.
Meeting the Kayes, and then the Loews, in Costa Rican hotel lobbies.
Dinner on a Manuel Antonio street with the Hoovers.
Experiencing Central America with my family.
Joining the Youngs and the BEAMM team.
A birthday surprise for Beth.
The first prayer meeting with the ladies here.
An evening meeting the homeless of Laredo.
One near perfect Sunday in Omaha in August.
A return to teaching others to teach ESL.
The arrival of a fearfully and wonderfully made grandson.
My last minute roommate at the WIC conference.
An anniversary overnight at the beach.
Meeting Stella for coffee, whenever, wherever.
Real letters in the mail.
Unexpected email and text notes.
A suprising November morning when hope showed up.
A very slow and lazy Thanksgiving day with family.
The ever present promise of tomorrow- plans to give you a future and a hope

(photo credit: all but the first from the 2011 archives...)

25 December 2011

The Gift of Gifts

O Source of All Good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not create,
my redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreate and the created,

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart.
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.

In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

(from The Valley of Vision)

dpp- 24 december

Adventure indeed!
and a great soundtrack.
and the best detective dog since Asta.

23 December 2011

dpp- 23 december

Three French hens.
(at the Hidalgo Festival of Lights)

Hallelujah Chorus -Quinhagak, Alaska



Amen! Great job, Quinhagak, Alaska!!
(thanks to Challies.com for the link)

22 December 2011

dpp- 22 december

and in the middle of the party, we left to feed chickens and collect eggs. (it was the best sort of party!)

21 December 2011

dpp- 21 december

The decorations in Roma reminded me of driving through Bloomfield on the way to Durango, of Christmases so long ago.

dpp- 20 december

... for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Luke 2:11-12

19 December 2011

dpp- 19 december

This might be the cutest Christmassy crafty gift I've made EVER!
(not to mention, easiest!)

(& if you happen to be living a few miles east of me- shh!! don't show your youngsters!!)
:-)

18 December 2011

dpp- 18 december

Snowflakes
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Out of the bosom of the Air.
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent and soft and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.

on worship

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
John 4:24

“True worship is not confined to any place or building on earth. It is not concerned with stained-glass windows, ecclesiastical garments, candles, liturgies, or incense. Rather, in genuine worship we pass from earth to heaven by faith, and there, in the presence of God, we pour out our souls in thanksgiving, praise, and homage to the Lord for all He is and for all He has done for us.”
Alone in Majesty by William MacDonald

dpp- 17 december

Free wifi and unlimited ice tea refills... not a bad retreat on a drizzly gray day.

17 December 2011

dpp- 16 december

(update: the professional bird guy tells me that it's a mockingbird)

I think it might be a warbler, but it never sang for me and I can't decide. I sent a note to a warbler expert to see.
My husband says he thinks I might be turning into "one of those birdy people." My daughter says, "A birdiac." psheesh! who wouldn't take a picture of that cute little thing? :-)

15 December 2011

dpp- 15 december

a beautiful brand spankin' new library AND amnesty on fines, besides? How exciting is that?!

14 December 2011

dpp- 14 december

sometimes the hassle and conflict of gathering together for the candles and the reading just doesn't seem worth it, and then I remember...
this is why we need a Savior...

13 December 2011

dpp- 13 december

I think that is 20 games, 19-1.
And now, I think, not another game until next year.

phew.

dpp- 12 december

the food was my favorite, but the fellowship was even more rich. we are blessed.

12 December 2011

"veiled glory in a garb of flesh"

But we can know that, though He emptied Himself of His position in heaven to become a man, He never emptied Himself of the attributes of deity. He did not become God minus some of His attributes; that would be impossible. Rather, He became God plus humanity. He did not lay aside the glory of deity; rather, He veiled that glory in a garb of flesh. If a prince leaves the royal palace to go and live in the slums, his position has changed, but he is still the same person. He can empty himself of his privilege place and veil his true identity, but he cannot empty himself of his personhood. So it was with the Lord Jesus. he did not consider His position with the Father in heaven something he had to hold on to at all costs. Instead, He came down to this planet as a man so that He might die for humankind. But He never ceased to have full knowledge of all things.
- from Alone in Majesty by William MacDonald

(art credit: Nativity relief prints by Eric Gill, in the Tate Collection)

11 December 2011

dpp- 11 december

400 tubas, euphoniums, baritones and sousaphones playing together makes for a pretty impressive sound.

(and who knew that an audience shaking their keys would sound so much like jingle bells...)

10 December 2011

dpp- 10 december

it was the rainiest of days, and as my kids pointed out, my heart was "two sizes too small." But when they laughed at my rant, I had to laugh too (even though I'm right! HA!). And besides, a basketball win, six quick points, time with the best of friends, another win, and soup waiting on the stove, that adds up to a pretty good day.

dpp- 9 december

because what says "Christmas" like Santa Cougar?
:-)

08 December 2011

dpp- 8 december

if only all of life's mice were so gosh darned cute...!

dpp- 7 december

The temperature dropped to around 38 before warming up. The girls insisted that it was "freezing" and had me get out the winter accessories. I don't miss the cold, but I sure miss the mitten maker...

You know you live in south Texas when...

the weekly grocery ad.

(ingredients for tamales, which are one of my favorite foods EVER, but I've never actually made them...)

06 December 2011

dpp- 6 december

Bubbles, the coolest turtle ever.

05 December 2011

dpp- 5 december

there was a POP and a bunch of smoke, and then the oven would heat no more. Plan b took us to the grocery store. She loved the trick candles. :-)

04 December 2011

dpp- 4 december

it has been over a month now, and I'm still amazed, every single time, how many birds there are at that corner...

snowflakes!

Need a Snow Day?Today the high here at the edge of the US/Mexico border is predicted to reach 85. I'm entirely satisfied with "cutting" virtual snowflakes. It's the best part of snow- all the fun, none of the mess!

03 December 2011

DPP- 3 december

My midwestern friends are sending me photos of snow... this is as close as I get to Winter Wonderland tonight!

02 December 2011

DPP- 2 december

I passed by this little old church half a dozen times before I could finally stop and take a photo. Each time I wondered what it would have been like to worship there back when...

DPP- 1 December

I really didn't think he'd be the first photo, but really... why not? :-)

December Photo Project (DPP) 2011

A photo a day for the month of December, graciously sponsored by View from the Prairie Box.
And it's not too late to join in the fun- sign up today!

habit- 29 november

javelina v. ref.
we pick the javelina.