Our Sunday School class just finished an incredible book called The Praying Life by Paul Miller. Ryan and I are still reading it aloud together, so we’ll be savoring it for a while. One of the most powerful take-away points for me was Miller’s encouragement to pray about the things that seem as unchangeable as the color of the sky. He says he nagged his daughter about something for years before it dawned on him to pray about it. Once he finally thought to pray about it, things finally changed.

I’ve taken his encouragement to heart and am blown away by the way in which God grants my requests! If I notice a sadness in one of our children on Tuesday, I pray about it Tuesday afternoon. By Wednesday, she is back to her happy self again; that glimpse of darkness gone for days-on-end, and never-to-be-seen again.  If I feel concerned about my husband’s workload on Thursday, I talk to God about it on Thursday. The workload doesn’t go away on Friday, but I get some ideas for ways in which I can help him. Maybe a meeting is rescheduled and a project goes well for him, or he shoulders the responsibilities better than ever before. These are just a few examples of the many prayers I’ve prayed over the past few months: when I think I see a sign of sickness, when I am afraid, when I want something, or when I fail, I’ve learned to pray. The way in which God cares about these things and truly intercedes on my behalf has made me so deeply happy. Sometimes I’ve been just bouncing around the house, so full of gratitude to our caring Father.

What has really captured my attention is the fact that God grants most of my requests! You probably already know this, but I’ve been learning that when we come before Him with lots and lots of prayers – all of the “sky is blue” things that we otherwise simply accept – we get to see that He loves giving us the desires of our hearts. When we only come to Him with 2 or 3 big requests a year, He might have to say “no” to one of the them, “have patience” on the other, and we might miss the opportunity to witness His daily generosity and care.

Pray! Pray about the “sky is blue” things. Pray about everything.

 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19

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Posted in All Posts, Healthy Living, Motherhood | 6 Comments

This Human’s Resolutions

I can’t help it. I love New Year’s Resolutions. Or, I should say, I love the kind I can actually achieve. Like the year I was fixin’ to learn how to do eye-make-up. I learned how. And I think I’m sometimes cuter because of it. Or, like last year, when I resolved to close the bathroom door when I was in there. With several opportunities to practice each day, I got it down pat! And here I am – a full year later -a better human-being because I close the bathroom door. (Not to mention, my children are better off, because we actually have one healthy boundary. And that’s a good start.)

This year, I’m looking forward…

1. To keep a “People” Calendar. It’s about time I remember and commemorate important dates like my brother-in-law’s birthday. He’s been in the family for 10 years and we really like the guy. There are no excuses for my annual negligence. So, on January 1st, I printed out a standard calendar and wrote down all of the birthdays and anniversaries that I know. I must admit, that I still have to do my research and find out my brother-in-law’s special day, but I have 364 more days to work on it. He’s getting a card this year (or next, at least). I can just feel it comin’!

2. To create a Christmas Card Address Data-base and to send Christmas cards by December 25, 2012. This one is tougher, because it’s due six days before the typical 2012 deadline, but I think I can do it. On January 1st, Ryan opened up a spreadsheet for me and I’ve already entered a handful of addresses. If you want a Christmas card from the farm, send me your address. We’re hoping to make it onto a fridge near you in 2012!

3. To do a monthly French-girl shopping trip. I’m hoping to budget out my monthly cash so that I can invest in a wedge of fine cheese, a bouquet of flowers, a baguette, and a bar of dark chocolate once a month. How do you say, “yum“? (Inspired by Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Discovering Her Inner French Girl)

4. Begin a flower garden. When you invite me over for tea, I want to be the girl who brings a glass jar with freshly cut flowers from her very own garden.  Send me your best gardening tips?

Posted in Healthy Living | 9 Comments

Not a Machine

I was buzzing about my day, accomplishing everything on my extensive to-do list, when one thought changed my life. It happened the day I pulled the car into the garage after grocery shopping – keeping within our budget, mind you – and using a handful of coupons. I had selected the finest fruits and vegetables, bought all-natural snacks, and befriended the glum cashier. I parked the car, pulled the baby out of the car seat, grabbed five bags of groceries, kindly helped my little girls inside while keeping the kitten outside, and crafted a brilliant paragraph for my upcoming eBook. Wow! I was doing everything at once. I was so tickled by my Type A-ness that I smiled and encouraged myself with the cheer: “I’m a machine!”

Something about that happy-yet-crazy statement stopped me in my tracks. For one moment, time froze. The grocery bags balanced precariously in my arms, the baby waited for the next bounce, the disappointed kitten condescended to the nudge of my foot, and I felt an epiphany fall into my heart:  I’m not a machine… I’m a human being.

That one thought was so heavy, I almost dropped the groceries.

(In fact, I’ve been staggering under its weight ever since.)

Time unfroze. The kitten scampered down the steps, I closed the door, and slowly unpacked the groceries as I mulled the news: I’m not a machine. I am not a machine! I set the girls up with an art project and nestled the baby in bed (you can’t expect a Type A to stop completely, ya know), and then I poured myself a cup of tea and read an article in WORLD magazine. And that’s all I did. I didn’t cook dinner, listen to the phone messages, and crochet a scarf at the same time. I just sat there and read. And drank. But that’s all. It felt very… human.

The days after that just got wilder and wilder. I read a fabulous book called Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl (I have a weak-spot for books about etiquette and fancy-things.) While it’s definitely not the next John Piper epistle, it was like a glass of lemonade on a summer day. It reminded this American go-getter about the Latin ethic of life over work… the importance of truly savoring and meaning the food I eat, the politics I preach, the clothing I wear, the children I raise, and (okay) the make-up I wear. I was in such a dry place, that I read it as a devotional book and actually felt the Holy Spirit sighing peacefully inside of me as I remembered what it means to be human. (Warning: If you read it as a devotional, you might be sorely disappointed. It is not biblical per se. But it sure helps a girl to breathe again.)

So, am I a machine? Non!

A “chicken”? Maybe.

A human? Decidedly so.

(I must admit that I related this story to my non-A-type friend and she sighed wistfully and said, “But you’re such a good machine! You’re like the best machine I know.” So, in case you can’t relate to this post, just know that you do have good company out there.)

Posted in Farm Life, Healthy Living, Laugh About, Marriage, Motherhood | 10 Comments

I’ll tell you this much: it wasn’t because I have impressive stats.

In fact, I had the smallest blog on the speaking team. Actually, I probably had one of the smallest blogs at the conference in general. It wasn’t because I know html or photography or even fill a niche really well. I’m not a business woman, I’m not an extrovert, and I haven’t written a “book” book. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t have a facebook account and I still don’t understand what I’m doing on Twitter. In other words, I’m no social media ninja. And yet, there I am, poking my head up in the back of the Speaker’s photo. I recognize all of the other bloggers, but even I ask, who’s she?

I’m confident that the only reason I spoke at the Relevant Conference is because God ordained it so. He connected me to Sarah Mae years ago when we worked on abstinence skits for high school students. She took on blogging and, well, you know the rest. But she kept me in mind. And when it came time to plan her list of speakers for Relevant11, she looked my way and didn’t care about what StatCounter said.

It was such a relief. I love to speak. I absolutely love it. But there’s no way I had any right speaking at a blogging conference. I’m not even being humble! Really, I had no right speaking at a blogging conference. It was just an opportunity that I didn’t deserve; one that God just wanted to give me. I couldn’t have worked hard enough to earn it, that’s for sure. All of the requirements for having a large and successful blog are so far out of my skill set, that my heart faints just thinking about it. But, God wanted me to speak about Him there. It was something He planned before the creation of the world.

This is a strange post to write, but I wanted to get it down on paper. I guess I’m writing it down because I want to encourage you with this: maybe – just maybe – there are things that He wants you to do that you don’t have to strive for. You don’t have to earn it, build it, or faint over it. He’ll just make sure it happens. Perhaps you just need to be faithful in the little things and enjoy all the things along the way.

Striving gets us somewhere, yes. But resting gets us where we really wanted to be in the first place. And it’s just a sweet, sweet gift. That’s one of my testimonies from Relevant11.

Posted in Blogging, Healthy Living | 19 Comments

The Most Important Thing

“Jesus is not coming for a church that’s gritting her teeth, struggling to stay free from sin, secretly wishing she could indulge in a little immorality No, Jesus is coming for a church utterly devoted to Him – one that is free on the inside. The greatest motivation for obedience comes as we encounter more revelation of who Jesus is.” – Passion for Jesus: Cultivating Extravagant Love for God by Mike Bickle

So let us “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God…” -from Hebrews 12

What is weighing you down so heavily that you cannot spend time in God’s presence today? What is entangling your time and your affection? Get rid of it and run to Jesus.

Posted in Blogging, Healthy Living, Homeschooling, Marriage, Motherhood | 3 Comments

Tea?

This afternoon, we enjoyed a delightful tea party in the shade of the lilac bush.

We read encouragement from Ephesians, poetry from Stevenson and Milne, and a chapter in Charlotte’s Web.

Lia kept a British accent and a prim little chin the entire morning. She’s the fanciest farm girl I’ve ever known.

In the basket: Queen Cakes

Ingredients: 1/2 C butter, softened

1/2 C sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. water

1/4 tsp. salt

1 C. flour

1 T. flour

1/4 C. currants or 1/2 C chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat to 325 and grease the muffin pan.

2. Blend butter and sugar in mixer.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.

4. Add vanilla extract, water, and salt. Beat well.

5. Add flour, 1/4 C. at a time, beating well in between each addition.

6. Add currants or chocolate chips.

7. Fill each muffin cup 1/2 full.

8. Bake for 40 min. or until golden brown.

Posted in Healthy Living, Motherhood | 5 Comments

1. Baskets!

One basket sits by the kitchen table, holding our meal-time books.

One basket sits behind a stuffed chair, holding blocks.

One basket snuggles up to the couch, holding library books.

Baskets are an amazing invention: they look good, and they are easy to put things into. (An essential quality if we want little ones to help clean up!)

2. Speed!

Though I don’t use much the Fly Lady’s program, my favorite pointer is this: Work fast. She talks about all of the fun we can have when our work is done! I think about this a lot when I’m scrubbing toilets…

3. Leave the clothespins on the clothes line!

Every summer we pick loads and loads of blueberries from an amazing farm out in the mountains. I always bring my mental notebook and scribble down everything they do because they have farm life down to a science! This past year, I noticed that all of their clothespins were still on the line – one, every 12 inches or so -  just waiting for the next load of laundry. The farmer said he just had to do it this way after watching his grandmother faithfully take each pin out of the bag, put it on the line, and take it down again for 45 years. He said they wear out more quickly, but the time saved is priceless.

Posted in Farm Life, Healthy Living, Motherhood | 5 Comments

What Did You Hear?

 

Perhaps the stars emit a sound wave that is a symphony we cannot hear.

Perhaps the sky is etched with words of wisdom that our illiteracy calls “nimbus clouds,” and “weather patterns”.

Perhaps the rocks resonate with rejoicings that we cannot recognize as crying out, yet it is.

Perhaps the trees of the fields have arms and hands that are poised for applause, though we say they are stretching out shade.

Perhaps the animals indeed form words of submission and awe that we imitate to our babbling babies as noises, just noises.

Perhaps the earth shivers and shakes because God is speaking, and not because of shifting plates.

With only five senses, how can we know the holy language, music, and groanings that echo through the universe? With a vapor-breath and one moment to look around at the world, we barely make out the reality of God, let alone believe His Word or daydream about all there could be.

But You, God, are familiar with our limitations. You remember that we are dust. In the few moments we peer around, you proclaim Yourself more boldly than do fleshy billboards, banners flown across the sky, or advertisements on our screens.

We lament and blame the media, searing itself onto our eyes; but You saw to it to sear Yourself onto our souls.

Jesus, you were humble when you stepped into a body, accepting – for 33 years! – the limitation of five senses that perhaps shut out your ability to soak in the adoration and acclamation of the universe; the praise that you typically heard every moment of your eternal life.

How quiet it must have seemed to emerge into a world where you could only hear praise from humans.

Did it take some time for your ears to adjust as we didn’t recognize you but silently went about our business? Even though you knew our hearts, were you still taken-aback by our stubborn lock-jaw and proud, straight knees?

I am so sorry.

Great High Priest, grant that my life would be a loud and constant issue of praise to bless your heart, seeing and singing about the You that is revealed through all You have made.

***

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard…
…Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Psalm 19

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We can learn a great deal by observing and appreciating the insight of others.

When I was in 10th grade, I had the opportunity to be the class president. With that honor, came the responsibility of selecting a cabinet of peers to accomplish our work. To serve a class of 700+ students, we had plenty of tasks to go around: we needed a class historian, a videographer, a prom committee chair, a publicity artist, etc.

That year, I selected cabinet members from amongst my natural peer group. They were all talented and enthusiastic, and we had a successful year.

When I was re-elected the following year, our class adviser asked if she could help me to select the cabinet members. I gladly accepted her help and was amazed by what she came up with. She chose students from all walks of life, in all levels of academic classes, and from all different peer groups, and yet, she chose brilliantly. Each person was so well suited for his or her position; that year (and the following year) were effortlessly successful. From her experiences as a teacher and coach, she knew how to identify gifted and dedicated people who would bring diversity and effectiveness to a team. I soaked up her wisdom.

I still remember one of her choices: a student named Genevieve. I didn’t know much about Genevieve, and never would have taken a second look at her.  How humbling to quickly realize that she was possibly one of the most confident, intelligent, gentle, artistic, and willing young women in our entire class! How wonderful to have enjoyed her talents on our class cabinet!

I learned that, although we can make many good choices, we can also make even better choices, some of which might not come instinctively. I learned that if I stepped back to watch other people make wise choices, I could begin to appreciate their insights and learn from their experience.

I learned another valuable lesson in those formative years: that the hidden talents of others might only be hidden to me, until I found eyes to see.

Posted in All Posts, Healthy Living | 3 Comments

In our home, we aim to use the utmost discretion with our online time and interests; Covenant Eyes helps us to make wise choices and honor our relationships. The following post is written by Luke Gilkerson, a representative of Covenant Eyes, an online accountability program that Ryan and I use and promote. After reading Luke’s post, please consider subscribing to Covenant Eyes to protect yourself and your family.

How many times have you heard a story about an Internet-related problem in the past few months? I’m not just talking about things like identity theft or cyber crime—I’m talking about all the poor uses of the Internet that seem to ruin lives and dissolve our most important relationships.

Headlines speak of the latest Internet predator caught in the act of grooming a teenager.New reports come out weekly about how slanderous words exchanged over e-mail or Facebook lead to broken hearts or shattered reputations. More and more studies show modern families are becoming engrossed in technology, so much so their face-to-face relationships are suffering. Literally millions of websites with graphic and degrading sexual content are available to see at the click of a mouse, and this doesn’t even include all the “grey areas” of temptation and titillation.

The common thread

What is the common thread for all of these problems? Some want to blame the technology itself. The Internet has given us a level of accessibility that, perhaps, many people are not ready to have. While this is one common thread, I don’t believe is it the most important one. I believe the problem is not mostly technological, but relational.

One of the more insidious common threads that runs through Internet-related dangers is that of anonymity. The Internet gives us the ability to experience, explore, and express ourselves in total secrecy. Knowing no one has to know what I do, what I see, or who I talk to often lowers our defenses and removes our inhibitions.

Many times, this cloak of secrecy brings out the worst in us and exposes us to the worst in others. We are like Gyges of Lydia (mentioned by Plato), who found a magic ring that could make him invisible. Intoxicated with his new power, this once-humble shepherd snuck into the palace, seduced the queen, plundered the palace, and assassinated the king. In a similar fashion, today we hide behind monitors and smartphones so we can be seduced by flickering pixels, squander our time in endless amusement, and slaughter one another with our words.

Accountability vs. anonymity

In our always-plugged-in culture, the battle must be waged on two fronts.
The first front is the gate of our own hearts. Try as we might, we cannot blame technology for corrupting us. Technology has only exposed how easily corruptible we really are.

The first front, therefore, is our accountability to God Himself. We must admit to ourselves and to God our weaknesses when it comes to living lives of faith in the Information Age. We must train ourselves and our children to recognize that, despite the apparent anonymity of the online world, nothing escapes God’s penetrating gaze. He is always present.

The second front of the battle is our connection to other people. Despite the fact that much of our time online is private time, we should not be seduced into believing what we do online does not impact others.

The second front, therefore, is our accountability to each other. We must live transparent and open lives before those we trust. Doing this shatters the strong illusion of anonymity, which stops temptations and traps before they start. For the sake of ourselves and our children, we must counter the culture of secrecy with a new culture of accountability.

A tool that makes the job easier

The reason I’m so passionate about this is because I’ve spoke to countless people who have experienced the dark side of the Internet. I’ve listened to wives cry over their husband’s raging porn addictions. I’ve seen fathers bury their heads in anxiety over the photos their son saw online late at night. I’ve spoken with young women who, in their teen years, were seduced by men three times their age online. I’ve spoken to people whose reputations are shattered because of the vicious words shared the Internet.

I’ve also spoken to many people whose lives have been changed by Internet accountability. This is why I love my job at Covenant Eyes.
For 11 years Covenant Eyes’ goal has been the same: provide people with practical tools that encourage accountability online. Over a decade ago we pioneered an Internet accountability service, providing people with easy-to-read reports of how the Internet is used in their home so they can be transparent with others. Over the years, and with the help of hundreds of thousands of comments from our members, these reports have gone through many evolutions.

The most recent evolution was a brand new web rating system. Many people benefit from rating systems for other forms of entertainment—like movies or video games—and yet the Internet is one of the primary sources for entertainment and information today. Why not rate the Web too?

This is exactly what Covenant Eyes does. When you use Covenant Eyes on your PC, Mac, or mobile device, every web address you visit is cataloged and rated according to six age-based ratings (like T for Teen or M for Mature). All of that information is put into a report and e-mailed regularly to a friend, mentor, spouse, parent, or anyone else you want to see it. The Web ratings make the report easy to scan for relevant information.

Plus, the reports are totally customizable. Perhaps you’re a parent who wants to see what your 10-year-old does online: you might want to see when Teen websites are accessed. Or perhaps you’re a guy who is holding your friend from church accountable: you might want to see only when Mature or Highly Mature sites are accessed. It’s entirely up to you.

The reason for all this detail is simple: Covenant Eyes knows the most important element of accountability is conversation. If a report is too cumbersome, includes too much or not enough information, or doesn’t highlight potential problems, then informed conversations don’t happen.

And in a world where sin thrives in the anonymity of the Web, can we afford not to expose these dark places to the light of accountability?

 

Luke Gilkerson is the general editor and primary author of  Breaking Free, the Covenant Eyes blog. Luke has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and is working on an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. Before working at Covenant Eyes he spent six years as a college campus minister. He is also the author of Porn in the Pews: Teaching Your Church about the Dangers of Pornography. He lives in Michigan with his wife Trisha and two sons, Bradley and Cameron.

 

Would you like to sign-up for Covenant Eyes?
1. Visit Covenant Eyes to sign up for the program.
2. The cost is $8.99/ month for the first Accountability Username on the account.  You may add Accountability Usernames for $2.00 each per month.
3. To receive your first month free, use the affiliate code: 10millionmiles to let them know you found out about the program here.

 

Posted in All Posts, Character Training, Healthy Living, Marriage, Motherhood | 1 Comment