The whole shebang

By now, Amy and the kids are on their way up to family reunion. With no access to the internet.

So, it’s safe to unveil the whole story to the rest of you. Just don’t drive up to wherever they’re staying and spoil the surprise for Ethan and Audrey. They’re not going to get to hear the last chapter until tomorrow! 🙂

BTW, I added Isaac to the story in Chapter 5. I guess he was very excited to be included.

Here’s the whole story.

Chapter 5

The story continues. Here’s Chapter 5!

It’s fun to write to my kids’ sense of humor. Chapter 6 is almost done. I had to take a long walk tonight to figure out what I wanted to have happen in chapter 7 — it became a full-page outline. And then, I could work backwards from there to get things set up right in chapter 6. I’m on track to have the whole thing finished by the time the kids and Amy go “off the grid” for family reunion. I can’t miss that deadline, since they won’t have access to the internet to get the exciting conclusion if I’m late!

I’m also very excited to bring you chapter two of Ethan’s story:

Chapter 2

But no one else had that trouble.

Then the next night, the boy went sleep walking again. He ate all their food. He went out the front door and ate their neighbor’s food. He went back to bed.

In the morning, the parents said, “Where has the food gone?” Then they heard the doorbell. Their neighbors came in. They said, “Did you eat our food?” and the parents said, “No.” So, they both called a detective. The detective came. They asked him to find out who stole their food. Then the next night, the boy came up and sleep walked AGAIN! He at their food, he ate their neighbor’s food, he ate the neighbor’s neighbor’s food then went back to bed.

In the morning, the detective got up and looked for clues. All he found was a bunch of footprints and even more crumbs.

TO BE CONTINUED. . .

Chapter 4!

Here is Chapter 4!

Also, I’m excited that Ethan and Audrey have been writing stories back to me!

Chapter 1: The Sleep Eater

A long ways away in a town there was a boy. One day, when he went to sleep, he started sleep walking. He sleep walked into the kitchen, he ate some food, then ate some more, until all the food was gone.

Then he went back to bed and in the morning, he didn’t remember any of it!

When his parents got up to make him breakfast, they said, “Where has all the food gone?” “Someone stole it!” said the boy!
“But who?” said the dad. “I wonder if anyone else had the trouble.”
“I guess we’ll have to go to the store,” said the mom.

TO BE CONTINUED. . .

My secret plan

So, a couple years ago, I was sitting on the floor of Ethan’s room and asked him whether he wanted me to tell him a story. I asked him what he would like the story to be about.

“Dragons!” was his immediate reply.

He picked out names for three dragons — Fire Lightening (which we cut down to Firelight to save my poor tongue), Flower Dragon, and Whizzbang (my suggestion). I then proceeded to tell him a story about these three dragons and how they put out a forest fire using controlled burns in a kingdom inhabited by the likes of Sir Ethan and Princess Audrey.

This week, Ethan, Audrey, Isaac and Amy are way up north. And to surprise, them, I have been writing bedtime stories for others to read to them in my absence.

Here are the first three chapters of my secret story. Chapter 4 will come tomorrow after the kids have heard it. Can’t post it too early now that my boy can read…I would hate to spoil the surprise!

Hmmmm…8:00. I should get started on chapter 5!

Digging Deep, Planting Roots

I’m re-posting this in honor of the SheReadsTruth community. 

If you’re looking for a simple and powerful way to make the most of your Bible study/Bible reading time, the S.O.A.P method is a powerful tool!

First of all, I need to give the disclaimer that this system is all from the book The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordiero (I need to check and make sure I spelled that correctly!). Here’s what you need:

  1. Your Bible (you can use an actual physical Bible or sit at your computer and read it online)
  2. A Journal to write in
  3. Some sort of Bible Reading plan
  4. Your daily planner/calendar
  5. Something to write with

Sounds easy already, doesn’t it?

Why a Bible? Because it’s God’s Word directly to you. He has something to say to YOU! “Our Daily Bread” and “My Utmost For God’s Highest” are great and so are other devotional books and you can learn from them, but it’s good to go directly to the Source.

Why a Journal? You’re going to be writing things down as you’re doing your Bible reading (more on that later).

Why a Bible Reading plan? If you’re like me, it’s easy to get distracted and spend half your time flipping through the Bible and wondering what to read next. Or maybe you read the same passage over and over again and end up missing out on all the other awesome gems in the Bible. If you use a plan, you don’t have to spend time figuring out what to read every day. There are tons of reading plans that you can google and find online. The She Reads Truth community is currently using the Soul Detox reading plan from youversion. To use that plan, create a username, login and search for Soul Detox. Use whatever plan you want. The point is to have some sort of plan.

Why a daily planner/calendar? This is for the times when you go and start your devotions time and you think of something you’re going to have to do or remember for later. Instead of getting up and doing it right then and forgetting to come back, you can write it on your calendar and free that space up in your brain.

Why something to write with? You’re going to be writing. 🙂 If you were going to a meeting with someone who knew everything that you needed to know about your job, you would probably take something to take notes with. It’s the same idea here.

So, what exactly is S.O.A.P.? I’m so glad you asked!

Now that you have all the things you need, open up your journal and write S O A P down the page.*

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For “S” write down one particular scripture verse or section that stood out to you. Just one. If you do this every day, you’re going to have A LOT of truths to look back on and see what God was showing you. More than one thing and it becomes more difficult to manage.

For “O” write down your observations.

For “A” write out an application to your own life.

For “P” write out a prayer of response.

Do you know why I like it so much? I love that it’s interactive! As I open my Bible (or web browser)I’m asking that the Lord would speak and show me the things that He wants to show me. Then I listen, take notes and respond. It makes my time spent in the Word more meaningful and focused. If you have something that works well for you, I’m not saying you should change. But, if you’re like me and struggling sometimes with direction or motivation, maybe this will help!

 

*I actually write the “S” and then write out my scripture and then write the “O” on the next available line and write out my observations. . . etc.,

 

What It’s Like to Be New To a Church

Nathan and I have been going through the new-comers class (called Discovery) at our church. Last Sunday, as the pastor was wrapping up his portion of the class, he asked if anyone had questions. I’m pretty sure my husband got nervous when I raised my hand.

I asked how often the Discovery classes were held. He said that the next one would be in August. That’s 3 months away. I plunged ahead with some thoughts I had. At this point, I was certain that Nathan was worried about what I would say.

The background on this is that we had waited almost 3 months to be a part of this Discovery class. For some church congregations this might work well. In the case of this church, it’s a bit more problematic. This particular church specifically does NOT have many things happening at the building where they meet for church. They really want people “being the church” outside of the church building. The way to connect with people is to go through the Discovery class and then be placed in a community group. We’ve spent three months attending this church and there have been almost no opportunities to get to know anyone.

So, I spoke up in class. I said that three months was a very long time to wait when you’re new to a community, don’t know anyone and are lonely. You know what? A good number of the people in the class with us agreed.

Here are some take-away questions I would love to hear your thoughts on:

1)What does your church do to reach out to those who are new?

2)What have you seen that works well or doesn’t work at all (this would vary by person, obviously!) to assimilate new people?

 

 

Timely Messages

My brain has been busy lately. Tons of big thoughts and dreams. Excitement and fear. I swing from peace to fretting. Assurance to hopelessness. Peaceful to tied in knots.

I was full of fear, fretting, knots and hopelessness when Nathan called from work on Thursday and asked me to pull out some paperwork. In the middle of a pile of building permit paperwork, this fell out:

A verse written on an index card by someone who loved me dearly. It was a great gift. I needed to be reminded of those words.

And later in the day I read these words that seemed just for me:

My prayer for you today: That Jesus would enlighten your understanding of Him, enlarge your ability to love, expose any hopelessness as from the enemy. May He stand between you and the foe of your faith and keep you passionate. May He grant you a clear answer to prayer, in Jesus’ name!
(via Beth Moore on Twitter)
I hope these words encourage you as much as they have me.

If You Aren’t a Perfect Mom

I’ve been thinking about motherhood lately. Specifically, I’ve been hoping that  I can work through my issues quickly so my children wont suffer too much.

I mean that last sentence seriously.

I’ve been trying to bring back memories of my mom from when I was Audrey’s age. I remember the radio being on the local Christian station and hearing lots of Insight for Living. I remember pretending to go to sleep for a nap and really staying up and dressing up in my favorite red and white checked dress. I remember writing her notes that always ended in “I love you and I love you all the time” (I must have been older than Audrey if I was writing that). I remember fighting over my hair every Sunday morning when she would curl it all cute. I longed for my hair to be long and feathered. I can not count the number of arguments and tears shed over my hair. I remember seeing my mom sitting out on the deck, from time to time, crying.

I wish I could ask her now what was going through her mind then. I want to ask her, “How did you navigate growing up and establishing your own family in the midst of a crazy, broken world where there are so many other demands and how did you do that while establishing a new way of relating as a friend, a daughter and a sister as an adult?”

I was thinking those thoughts as I stumbled onto this post yesterday. Here’s a portion that jumped out at me:

“Perhaps there was something more powerful to experience than a perfect Mother: the wonder of a committed Mother who simply humbles herself.

Like that Shepherd who knew the cost of relationship, chose to pay the price, and, staggeringly, “humbled Himselfeven to the point of death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

Out of the ashes and brokenness of our sin, rises the breathtaking exquisiteness of humility and grace, the Cross. And out of the anguish and woundedness of Mama’s life, surfaced a gentle humility and a dogged devotion to relationship. Regardless.

I felt the strangling terror give way to realization. Motherhood does not require, thankfully, perfection. It simply requires commitment and humility.”

As I reflect on Mother’s Day, I’m very thankful that I had a mother who did have a commitment to relationship. I never doubted that and I’m very grateful. She was such a great example of the quote from that blog post: “It’s not that you aren’t going to blow it. It’s what you do with it when you do.”

Oh boy, have I blown it and I’m only 6 years into this. It’s my prayer that I’ll be humble and committed and devoted to relationship over saving face or things that wont matter in the end.

Mom, if you can read blog posts in Heaven, I want you to know that I still love you and love you all the time.

Mom holding newborn Brian. Brian was born at 29 weeks.

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What I Know 3 Years Later

On January 11, a woman that I don’t know suffered a major stroke. She was 38. She is 38. She is still alive though in very, very serious condition. Her name is Joanne Heim and she blogs here. She’s currently in a medically induced coma to reduce swelling in her brain and her husband is updating her blog for her. You may have heard of her if you or your friends follow the Living Proof Ministries blog or twitter accounts from any of their staff. There are thousands of people all over the world praying for her healing.

I have to admit that my first reaction to the public out-pouring of support was one of jealousy. The updates on facebook and twitter didn’t bring me to my knees immediately, they just brought me back to 3 years ago. It was 3 years ago today that my mom died. Thousands of people all over the world did not pray for her healing. Famous people didn’t send word out to all their friends to send letters and pray. I know it’s a silly thing to feel jealous of, but it was my very real and honest first reaction.

But the Holy Spirit has been doing some work in my heart and when Satan tried to discourage me by trying to show me the inequities and seeming randomness of God’s healing, I have been reminded of truth and there are some things I know today that I had never thought of 3 years and 1 day ago.

  • My mom’s sudden and early death cannot take away the fact that I had 31 years with her. She was there when I graduated from high school and college, she was at my wedding, got to hold my first two babies (and actually drove me to the hospital when I was in labor with Audrey) and I have many wonderful memories with her.
  • Having a solid, Bible-based understanding of suffering is crucial to navigating a world full of unexplainable sadness. This quote by Joni Eareckson Tada is profound and explains it well: “Suffering is connected to sin; if God were to get rid of suffering, he’d have to get rid of sin, and then he’d have to get rid of sinners—and God is too merciful to do that.”
  • Knowing the right answers isn’t what initially brought comfort. I know this is kind of contradicting my previous point, but hang in there. God’s truths are loving, but they can also be painful. I learned that knowing the answers was of secondary importance to knowing the person of Jesus. There have been times when I couldn’t open my Bible, but I held it and wept, “Jesus, help me.” And He did.
  • Suffering can be isolating. So many times people are afraid of saying the wrong thing so they say nothing, avoid the situation, or avoid the person. Shauna Niequist has a chapter in Bittersweet that talks about this very thing. Her advice for when you don’t know what to say is to say this: “I heard what happened, and I don’t know what to say.”  Say something.
  • In the middle of it all, I have needed to feel it, mourn it, talk about it, and process it, but I can’t let Satan convince me to stay stuck there. That great big, overwhelming hurt you’re holding (and I’m holding) is not the end of the story. In some ways, I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life, but not in a way that crushes. With God’s help, it’s carried in a way that brings hope, healing and encouragement to others.

So, today I pray for the Heim family. For Joanne’s husband, Toben and for their very young school-aged daughters, Audrey and Emma. They may have well wishes sent to their mom from Beth Moore and Tiger Woods, but I can guarantee you they would all rather have their wife and mother back. Sweet Jesus, please heal Joanne so that she can tuck those girls in at night, celebrate all their important milestones with them and hold hands with Toben while watching Audrey and Emma marry men of God.

And for the rest of you, who are more like me: A million people may not know to pray for your story, but God knows your name. He knows your hurt and it’s real. I’m praying for that God would be near today. May God bring beauty from ashes.

Do You Trust Me?

Today, and many days recently, I hear the Lord asking, “Do you trust Me”?

Honestly, I have not been living a way that proves that I do.

I will answer that question in big and little moments all day. I will choose to trust the One who is completely trustworthy. Even when it’s confusing and I’m in the murky, confusing, dark “middle”. That place where nothing is clear. I will trust that this is not the end and that a beautiful “end” is coming.