Monday, February 1, 2016

Groundhoggity Day 2016!

The forecasters have been bracing us for a Groundhog Day Snowstorm...apparently these happen every so often.  I'm not sure how I'll deliver our annual family newsletter to our neighbors today without my sled and dog team, so I'll post it online and call it done ;) I hope you have a snuggly warm Groundhog Day--here's some reading material while you wait for the snow plows to pass through!

Oh and hey, I had the terrifying joy of standing at a microphone to Air My Dirty Laundry with some women at Bethlehem Baptist Church and believe me, my anxiety level approaching that pulpit could have been measured in Richters. I shared with them what I originally blogged here in August (see above link), but if you'd like to listen to my voice crack, here is the link to the audio from hopeinGod.org, thanks BBC.  And here is an edited-for-sound link, thanks Tony.






Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Had a little help from my friends...

For those of you who have patiently endured the thoughts on my exodus from Facebook, my continual struggle with distractions and it's relation to grumpiness, etc., and the revelations I've had on how I don't have to be this fool anymore (amen and hallelujah), I want to give you a few resources that have shaped my thoughts and prayers over the last couple of years and increasingly over the last several months.  These are only links because I can't share my husband and friends who (thank the good Lord) have prayed for, counseled, and loved me as a mess...if you could get Christ-counseling friends and family on Amazon I'd certainly give you that link, too.  But until those become available here are my virtual friends...

I give you these with a caveat: books, articles, and thoughts can only do so much for you.  Knowledge alone doesn't change you: Grace does.  Believe me, I read plenty of these articles, secular and spiritual to shake the stupid out of me. But none of these are effective until I look to Jesus, receive his grace (John 1:16–17), and am empowered by his Spirit to be changed.  

BUT, these resources are a means of grace to awaken me from my sleepy stupor and help me stumble my way into the light of Christ.  



First, the book and study How People Change by Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane has been my connection from knowledge to power.  I would be a behavior-modifying mess for years to come if it weren't for them reminding me what walking hand-in-hand with Jesus looks like.




Second credit goes to HandsFreeMama.com, Rachel Macy Stafford with her blog and books, who brought me relief that I'm not alone, and that my faith and family are worth the "sacrifices" of social media, to-do-lists, and silly distractions. 




Next, DesiringGod.org who continually challenges me to see reality in light of the all-satisfying treasure that Christ is. My list of helpful blogs, Ask Pastor John podcasts, sermons, and articles would be endless, so I narrowed it to topics that relate to media, idolatry, and smartphone addiction.  Thank you Pastor John, Tony Reinke, and all the folks at DG who deliver the truth in love.
There are more than a bushel-full of DG articles but these are the ones I saved to re-read: 


This series from the Ask Pastor John podcast/app with guest Dr. Richard Lints blew. my. mind. (listen to/read them in order, they're short and packed):

  • Episode 674: Why We Never Find Our Identity Inside Ourselves
  • Episode 675: Why Are Control Freaks Prone to Idols?
  • Episode 676: Has My Phone Become My Idol? Three Diagnostic Questions
  • Episode 677: Why Are Relationships Thin in the Digital Age?
  • Episode 678: How Does God's Forgiveness Free Us From Idols?

And bonus, my old neighbor-friend and author-speaker Arlene Pellicane, along with Gary Chapman, wrote Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World. This is my next focus: how do my habits shape my children's habits, and how do I point them to real relationship and valuable time?

So, there's enough to keep you busy for awhile.  I'll add more as I am helped by more. And by the way, I don't get any monetary/reciprocal benefits from sharing the links/books with you, I just care about you and hope you're helped like I have been :)


Pressing on,
tracy 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Airing My Dirty Laundry


So I feel like I need to get some things out in the open...perhaps let the wind blow on stuff I've kept close.  You know from previous posts what I've been trying to scrub out, and in that attempt this spring I attended a Bible study called How People Change. As a final assignment for the study, I had to write a summary of what I learned and have been processing through, and although I'd rather you not see my "unmentionables", it's time I hang it all out on the line...

I had the joy of studying a biblical theology of personal growth with a few precious women at Bethlehem this spring. Though I have much good to say about it, I’ve hesitated writing a summary of what I’ve learned because I had a wrong assumption that in doing so I had to declare a miraculous overnight change that I’d be accountable for tomorrow. In part, this is true; I am accountable for the glorious truths that I have seen and heard, and faith is dead without works that follow. But if I’ve learned anything from this study, change that lasts isn’t necessarily flashy fireworks, but rather it is an ongoing transformation, measured by degrees as my heart turns toward Christ (2 Cor 3:18). It is my prayer that these changes that God has ignited in my heart will continue long past the initial flash of revelation and that this light of Christ’s transforming grace in me may shine before others and God will be praised in heaven.

As this study was coming to a close, a precious new friend asked me why I originally chose to participate. My initial motivation was that I needed help cutting the ropes of my addiction to social media, which had caused me to be a distracted, sleep-deprived, and discontented mother and wife. Before this study, I already made some big choices to limit my intake of internet like ending my Facebook account and moderating apps that distracted me, but I still had a strong pull to vegging-out in front of my computer or smart phone late into the night or during the day when I could be more productive. The more I thought about it, the more I saw myself as a walking zombie, going about the monotony of my days in a perpetual, numb, stupor. What I falsely assumed was that it was the lure of a screen and not the state of my heart that had caused this slip into sleep mode. Even if I mastered this bad habit, the desire to mentally detach and the resistance to come to Christ would remain. The Lord was after a deeper heart change.
If I look back on the past few years and the scenes of my daily life, I feel like the shades are drawn, like I was living in gray. That’s not to say I was depressed in any sense—I was living my Christian, stay-at-home-mom-of-four, wife-of-a-seminarian days like I ought to have…just asleep. And as you can imagine, one who is sleepwalking is bound to stumble and fall, and stumble I did. I’d like to paint a sunny picture of my mothering but I’m ashamed to say that I was often short-fused, selfish, grumbly-hearted, and worse: I was increasingly getting angry and yelling at my little children. I’d like people to think that I was a Proverbs 31 wife who served her husband and productively put her family’s needs above her own, but when I am asleep I am sinfully ignorant of others. As Spurgeon says, "seasons of grace are lost in little slumbers and life is wasted drip by drip" (or, scroll by scroll). I’m not sure what exactly shook me from my stupor to see the wake of my destructive path, but when I did, I naturally tried to modify my behavior and my actions, which lasted, at best, a few days but more so just a few hours. I didn’t want to be this woman, who appeared to others as an enlightened Christian wife and mother but was mentally absent and spiritually asleep. Sure, I could do the laundry, make a meal, go to church, and change a diaper in my sleep, but not well, and most certainly not in a joy-infused nor God-glorifying manner, which is ultimately what I want. 
Have I always been this way? I should hope not. I can look further in the past and see the sun shining, my family smiling, and me thriving. So what is it that lulled me to sleep? It was a heart that was increasingly distracted by even good things, and numbed by the offering of this world for false satisfaction, comfort, and supply for my needs. 

More importantly I allowed my “busy mom” excuse to keep my Bible shut, ironically because if I’d rise up early or sit down in the afternoon to read my Bible, I’d fall asleep—if I could get my sluggish soul to even consider Bible time in the first place. My oldest child is 8 with three more children following every two years, and for as long as I’ve been a mother, I’ve struggled to be in the Word for reasons you can naturally assume. And for just as long as I’ve carried babies on my hip, I’ve been dotingly pat on the back and told, “It’s just a season; give yourself some grace.” So I took as much grace as I needed and slept instead of rising up to read, and I napped instead of meditating, and I posted pictures of my cuties instead of praying until eventually I forgot how to walk with the Lord.

Surely as a “good Christian woman,” I’d make effort everyday to get something from the Bread of Life (John 6:35), but it was through the crumbs of devotionals and other people’s words about God’s Word, not the loaf itself. So I’d leave that snack on Scripture still looking for something else to feast my eyes on, and often it was social media and things that would titillate my eyes and mind but be of no help to my very real and present needs. The obvious truth was that I had plenty of time to post, text, and read status updates, but never enough time to update my status with the Lord. Because I forgot the friendship and presence of the Lord, I sought life from virtual relationships with my friends who were instantly present on my smart phone, and because I neglected the wisdom of the Word, I sought the knowledge of trivial news articles and make-me-feel-better-about-myself blog posts.

I learned early on through studying Jeremiah 17:5-10 that I’m made by God to bear fruit, like a tree, and that the situations and circumstances in my life, good and bad, are intended like heat to make me grow. But if I do not have a steady source of water, and roots that go deep into it, the heat of my circumstances will cause me to shrivel and bear thorns, not fruit. In other words, when life happens, good fruit is from good roots and bad fruit from bad roots. My roots were in hard, dry ground of a formal belief in God but a functional faith in lesser things to satisfy me. So when the “heat” of motherhood would rise, I’d escape to my phone or distract myself with compulsive cleaning, or warm up a mug of tea and enter a world away from my own. You can imagine the number of times reality was too much and I’d put my head in the sand. Not only was I not helped, I responded with the opposite of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control because apart from Christ I can do no good thing (Gal 5:22; John 15:5). 

What was most eye-opening in my study was that this retreat to things to numb my need is more than foolish, it is idolatry. Worship is whatever I give my heart to, and my heart consists of my mind, will, and emotion—so when I give my mind to trivial things, set my will to escape in it’s many forms, and numb my emotions with distractions, I worship created things rather than my Creator (Rom 1:18). As I identified these idols in my heart, I realized that they are as powerless as God says they are: eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, mouths that cannot speak, and those who trust in them will become like them: zombies (Isa 44:9-20; Ps 115:8). And worse, when I retreat to my false gods, I am believing that my Creator is the one who does not see, or hear, or speak—how backwards! So part of my waking-up was seeing that what I believe about God in the “heat” of life determines what my life produces: will I trust that He is good, all satisfying, the one who sees and speaks and hears and helps and so turn to Him, love and listen to him, pray, and ultimately receive from God? Or will I retreat to my lifeless idols and in turn be withered and lifeless too?

I spent a lot of time recognizing my “functional gods” and realizing how deeply my sin of unbelief and idolatry has affected my life. It’s hard to see how my sinful nature, in hostility to God, denied the very help I need to wife and mother well. Not only that, but I woke to see how the thorns I produced from my heat-scorched retreats from Him had pricked, and poked, and stabbed my family. My circumstances, my sometimes-misbehaving children, and challenges may all be valid sources of heat, but they aren’t the reason I sin; my heart is. And my heart is desperately sick (Jer 17:9). 

If I only woke up to realize that my heart was a desert cactus, I would have reason to despair, but God in his kindness doubly opened my eyes to see my spikey tree in light of His nail-pierced tree. Seeing that Christ bore my sins on the cross to reconcile me to God was water to my desert soul, and repentance was in order. For so long in my sleepy stupor I would be sorry for the effect of my sin because it made things unpleasant for me or others, but true sorrow for sin, the offense it is to God and grief over the broken relationship it causes with my Creator is what leads to true repentance. And even as the prodigal was barely over the horizon toward home, Christ receives me and reconciles me to God through the cross. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20) was my new mantra—written on chalkboards and put on display around my house.

This gospel is good news for past-repented sin…but what about when I find myself picking up my old flesh and going right back to sinning again? My verbal anger toward my children is a glaring thorn that the Lord kept me coming back to through this study, and even with new resolve to do things differently, I still have some really bad days. One day near Easter, my heart was so hard, and I was so frustrated and angry—mostly with myself but taking it out on my kids—when I walked past a sign I had hung in my kitchen: “Jesus said, ‘This is my body…this is my blood which is GIVEN FOR YOU’” (Luke 22:19). Despite my attempts to pray and cool down from my hot anger, I was beyond frustrated, and so I responded to God with the same frustration: “I know Jesus died 2000 years ago, but what does that mean for me RIGHT NOW!? I need more than forgiveness—I am out of control!!” Thankfully it wasn’t long before God in his mercy answered his despondent child, and by his grace it was through our study in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but CHRIST LIVES IN ME.” 

 In my extended slumber, I forgot that the cross is not only Christ’s life given as a sacrifice for my sin, but is gloriously also Christ’s life given as the Holy Spirit for my empowerment over sin! The cross is a past act that has present ongoing effects because when Christ died, sin was dethroned in my heart, and when Christ rose, Jesus is enthroned! So although sin is still very present, the power of Christ in me gives me new potential to respond HIS way and not my old way. See. All. Of. Romans. Six. It’s. Awesome. Romans 6:4 “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” and verse 10: “For the death he died he died to sin, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” I am NOT a mindless zombie nor stumbling sleep-walker; I am alive and awake and able IN Christ! Verse 14: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”.

So now, when I am tempted to divert my eyes to my smart phone, or doze off into distraction, the Lord is patiently pressing me to set my eyes on Him instead, knowing that the change and freedom from sin that I so long for is from Him. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18). We become what we behold; looking away from my dead idols to the living Christ is where change happens.

I have reveled in the generosity of God, the goodness of the gospel, and the very present power of Christ in me. I am encouraged that God who began this good work in me will carry it to completion and that change is a community project—not only does God use Christ IN me to make me holy, but also uses Christ AROUND me. And most of all, I am encouraged that as I put off the sinful responses of the past, the thorns will fall, and as I put on Christ and grow in his living water, fruit will begin to blossom and God will be praised for the change in me. Now that I am awake, I pray that he will continue to incline my heart to his statues, open my eyes to behold wonderful things in his word, unite my heart to fear his name, and satisfy my soul for his Name’s sake (Ps 86:11; 90:14; 119:18, 36). 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Happity Groundhog Day 2015!

Well, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today...which meant nothing to me in flowery Florida, sweltering Texas and sunny California.  But here in Minnesnowta you could feel a vacuum as us Minnesotans simultaneously gasped at Phil's declaration of six more weeks of winter!  But what's a groundhog know, anyway?  Now that I've delivered our annual family newsletter to our neighbors, I do think I'll join Mr. G-hog in his burrow for some hot Chai while my toes thaw.  Happy Groundhog Day!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Life After Facebook

My last two posts here and here were glimpses into my personal struggle with social media/web addiction and how I was just barely hanging on.  So this last spring, after many many months of milling over if it was possible to cut the cord, I took one last deep breath and deleted my Facebook account.  Of course before I said goodbye, I downloaded all of my Facebook data and history (they give you the option to do that) which was eye-opening in itself.  They kept track of every "Like" and comment and Status Update and article read and link that had I clicked, EVER.  Essentially it was my life in a nutshell (or zip file to be exact).

If it sounds like ending it all was easy, it wasn't. When I got the long-awaited courage to deactivate my account, Facebook made me take a mandatory survey to answer why I'm leaving.  Some of the options were: "It's temporary, I'll be back" (which if you hover over that option, a pop up answers, "Okay see you soon"), or "I'm spending too much time on Facebook" (which baits something like, "Did you know you can select how much you see in your News Feed, excuse excuse excuse"), and "I'm having privacy issues" (to which they reel, "You can personalize who sees your information by following this rabbit trail to your settings").  You get the idea.  They don't make it easy to just say goodbye.  When I gave the answer, "I'm leaving for good," Facebook kept their foot in the door by telling me that if I ever want to come back, they keep ALL of my information and all I have to do is sign in and everything will appear like I never left.  How comforting.

But that's not all.  When I finally got to the deactivation page, I was met bold-face with the Profile Pictures of my dearest friends and family, no kidding.  And it said, "Are you sure you want to leave?  BFF from high school, and one of your bridesmaids, and your aunt, and your friend on the east coast you haven't spoken to in six years but whose every picture you like and comment on will miss you!"  How painful is that?

But alas, 1...2...3...click.  I'm gone.  Dead to the Facebook world, like I never even existed.

So this begs the question: does life exist after Facebook?

YES.

It's funny though, when friends ask me how things are going post-FB, they lower their voice almost like they're talking about the no-longer-living: "So, how have you been doing since <lower tender tone> you're no longer on Facebook?

My answer is, THE AFTERLIFE IS AWESOME.

It was a few days after I lept off the Facebook cliff that I saw how great the ground is below.  First, my own dad texted me, "I can't find you on Facebook are you okay?"  And then a dear soul-sister in California texted, "I went to write on your wall and you were gone...how are you birdie?" Which began a sweet text catch-up that no one saw on my "Wall" or in their "Newsfeed".  Then, you know that friend I hadn't talked to in six years but whose every picture I "liked" and commented on?  She texted me, "Hi Tracy! I hope this is still your phone number, I hope everyone is doing well I was just thinking about you guys and noticed you are no longer on FB and thought of dropping you a little note!"  Which began a personal interaction with this sweet old friend that we hadn't had since we moved over six years ago.  You ask, "but didn't you comment on all her pictures?"  Of course I did, but did we interact personally?  Nope; you feel real personal connection in the afterlife.

My favorite experience in this afterlife so far was when I met up with a friend for coffee after a good couple of months without seeing her.  I knew she had been on a mission trip to Thailand, and when she referenced something from the trip, I looked puzzled because I didn't know about it.  She said, "Well didn't you read my post-trip update on Facebook?"  I answered, "No, I must have missed that...tell me about it."  Then she and I sipped coffee and walked the lake while she told me stories and things about her trip that probably wouldn't have made Facebook, or if they did, didn't come with her eye contact and voice ebbing and flowing with the story that I had the privilege of experiencing.  Sure, I could have read her update and clicked the "like" button so she knew I approved, but instead I listened to her and responded with laughter, and "oh no" and "that's awesome" and with nods and grins and my own questions to dig deeper into what's going on in her life.  It was a gift, and life-giving.

Fear of diminishing friendships and not knowing what was going on in the lives of my 836 Facebook friends was what kept me on for so long.  I shuddered to think of all that I'd miss from the social groups I'm a part of, not to mention, I was afraid of missing all of the great articles and blogs and funny comic strips and vacation pictures that were shared.  The fear clinched me: "I learn so much from those blogs and comments and links, and I'm so connected to what's going on--what would happen if I closed that window to the world?"

A window of real, fresh air was opened. And I don't miss a thing.

Of course, I miss interacting with my cousins and family and close friends (thankfully some of whom I still see on my much more manageable Instagram: @tracyfrue).  I do miss a few baby announcements and funny animal videos that everyone is talking about.  But when I say I don't miss a thing, I don't miss the multitude of trivial distractions that overcrowded those few genuine interactions.  That's why I left, and how I'll navigate social media in the future is left to be determined.  But at this point I don't expect a Facebook resurrection...I'm in a much better place now.

As heavenly as that sounds, to my dismay, I am still very much trying to untangle myself from the sticky trap of the world-wide-web, and just the habit of screen-gazing in general. My hope is that my heart will be helped so that my usage of media is more redemptive than destructive.  I'd be pushing the metaphor to call this a purgatory, but right now I'm seeking the pages of good books and arduous prayers to help me out of this life in-between.  

Dying to Facebook may not be the prescription for everyone's social-suction malady, but I'm so thankful to have ended the life I maintained on Facebook in hopes that I can revel in the angelic faces around me (Heaven help me). 







Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Facing Facebook

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8007352@N06/4726893871
I've been sitting on a couple of blog posts like eggs, and I think it's about time they hatched.  I'm just a little chicken to share because they aren't cute and fluffy.  Like my last blog, I've debated sharing my heart on this subject just as much as I debated leaving Facebook.  It's complicated.  And it's my own personal conviction not a universal prescription.  So with that said, I'm using my blog as a journal of my own experience in hopes that I'm not the only one who's thoughts on the matter have been incubating awhile...

I think the first admission that I spent too much time on Facebook was made about three years ago over coffee with some girlfriends.  I felt the trouble then--maybe it was from staying up late, or thinking too much about other people's lives, or maybe just hand cramps from thumbing the news feed on my phone.  But however my problem came to the surface, it would rise, and then diminish, or be dismissed, or laughingly excused. I'd even subtly ask for prayer about it, knowing that there is something spiritually unhealthy at the heart of my habit.  Unlike looking at pornography or drinking too much alcohol, media binging is an "acceptable addiction" and consequently help is hard to come by. So for these several years, no matter how many times I signed out, or took a break, or deleted the app from my phone, or tried my darndest to manage my habit, I kept reaping the rotten fruit of this social-media addiction.  There was grumpiness from staying up late, guilt for being so distracted that I neglected important things, relational problems because I always had a phone in my face with a need check my Facebook or update my status.  The status wasn't good.

But still, the longer I stared at the lowercase "f" the less I could see my way out of it.  Mostly because Facebook isn't the root of all evil; social media is not a sin.  Scrolling a news feed is, for the most part, morally neutral.  In fact, a lot of good can come from Facebook, and that's what kept me sitting in that hot tub.  Surely I read a lot of good articles and links from the things friends shared, and did my share of sharing good, too.  And what harm is there in posting pictures of my darling children?  Or that funny thing that will make everyone laugh?  Or the viral deep-thinking article that all my friends "liked"?  But it seems like other friends could dip in for a few moments and move on, I couldn't. You know there's a limit to how long one should sit in a nice warm hot tub, and I over-stayed my limit, often.  It wasn't good for my heart no matter how many of my friends were having a fine time in there. Unlike others, my addictive personality doesn't help me do things in moderation...I had to get out.

So as hard as it was to leave the place where most of my dear family and friends were congregating and sharing life, for the sake of my own well-being, I faced the "deactivate" button, and clicked.

What happened in that tunnel of light on my computer screen will be described in a blog to follow...


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Love is Less Screen

It's midwinter now, but I wrote this in late April and never hit the Publish button for fear of being honest, and for my overwhelming aversion of leaving issues open-ended.  But I think I'm ready to peel back the Band-Aid and let you see how things have been slowly healing since then (which I'll talk about in later posts).  So, wincing, here's a close-hearted journal entry...

Today was a full, mostly lovely day with the kiddos while Todd is away.  We had playdates/meetups planned all day long from 9am until sundown just for the sake of getting out and enjoying the company of friends on our first spring day in short sleeves.  The boys and I played with friends in St. Paul and walked to their neighborhood playground, met Lauren and her sister Cara for an all-afternoon tour of the Mill City Museum, explored and walked around Boom Island Park, met Betsy, Lauren and Cara for a sunset picnic, and had mudpies with leaf sprinkles for dessert.
It was ideal…minus my lack of patience and general happiness.  Why?  I read news articles online last night until well into the wee hours, and I was paying for it in mental absence and a physical lapse of love.  I wasn’t web-surfing for anything perverse, nothing outright wrong, just the news going on that the media thinks I should know about…that I thought I should know about.  At least, that’s what kept me clicking without recognition of the time ticking.  

When Doe woke up to be fed at 1am, I looked up from my laptop, and although I wasn’t sleeping, I did wake up—from the web-zombie state that I was in.  Picking her up, feeling her soft hair and smelling her sweetness gave me a touch of reality that was more like a cold splash of water to my face:  "what am I doing? I’m wasting my life. I’m losing the sleep I need so badly. I’m setting myself up for failure with a full day ahead.  There are four little lives sleeping peacefully who will need me in the morning…and I’m up thinking I need to know about 'The Top Three Rated International Airlines' and 'Why Nuclear Downsizing is Coincidental to Russian Uprising.'"  Sigh.

Why?  Is it a desire for mental stimulation after a long day with little people?  Why then don’t I read a good book? I just don’t get what keeps me up and web-browsing.  Granted, just last week I deactivated my Facebook account after a long time of debate over it’s usefulness versus my uselessness the morning after a News Feed binge.  I’ve been so free from the temptation to check Status Updates this week that I may not ever go back.  But I only replaced the bad habit with another one; I cleared out one demon and seven more moved in.  Deep sigh.

So it all culminated tonight as I was putting the boys down for bed and was heart-felt apologizing my for my lack of patience and kindness to them.  I tell them every night that “Jesus loves you most and best” and I thought it appropriate tonight to explain why I say that: to remind them that He is the only one who can love them perfectly; that I fall very short of demonstrating the love, kindness, grace and patience that Jesus gives.  "God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” I said, “and I’m praying that I can know His love and show it better in the way that I love you."

 I expressed how, although imperfectly, I loved them and that I’m asking God to help me.

That’s when the usually quiet Bear spoke up with eyes wide open, “Mommy we need to tell you how much screen to get…20 minutes or 30 minutes and that’s all.”  
“Screen?” I asked.  Then Lion caught on and said, “Yeah, your screen time.  We’ll give you one minute of screen time and then you’re done.”  Bear, presently fixated on rhyming, piped up, “One-DONE!"

They had no idea I had been up late, nor did they know how much I’ve been wrestling with this bad habit.  I knew it was a prophetic reference to the source of my lack of patience and focus that day and my overall malady. They insightfully equated my inability to love well with my overuse of media. I bravely pressed in to understand more of what they meant: “what screen are you talking about?’

Lion said with a grin, “Your phone. You’re OBSESSED with it.” I seceded as I combed their hair with my fingers, “Yeah…I realize I’m awfully distracted and I’m missing what’s important, which is you guys. I am very, very sorry.”
Lion agreed, “Yeah mom.  Can you give us some paper so we can write a note that says, ‘One minute allowed’? Then you’ll actually have time to play Legos with us!"

In a flash I pictured all the times during the day that I’ve got my phone in my hands, the times I’m sending a text, or checking my e-mail, or the weather, or whatever I can to feed my habit.  I saw myself missing all of the moments of opportunity to engage with my children because my mind is elsewhere, finding every opportunity to escape such a beautiful reality to numb my brain with virtual reality.  

I need help.  So I asked the boys to forgive me for being so distracted, and to remind me about my screen limits.  And while I tucked them into bed and kissed their soft faces a few extra times, I prayed to a very patient, loving, kind, merciful, always-present God for help.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

That hog in the ground better tell me winter is almost over!

Yes, I came out of my winter burrow once again to tell you "Happy Groundhog Day!" and share with you what we and our little hoglets have been up to this year!  Besides the fact that it's so cold I couldn't feel my fingers and toes after merely delivering our Groundhog Day letter to our nearby neighbors, the snow sure is beautiful here in our Minnesotan wonderland.  Punxsutawney Phil's shadow tells us we have 6 more weeks of winter...I'd be stoked if that were true.  His shadow seems to stretch a bit farther 'round these parts.  So back in my snow burrow I go, thankful for our furnace and the love of God that keeps us warm :).



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sorrow for Sparrows


Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
Luke 12:6

The newly melted snow uncovered a dead bird in our backyard yesterday--the boys' first face-to-face encounter with the sadness of death. Quietly they crouched and observed the stillness of our little feathered friend.  I found the moment appropriate to mention Jesus' teaching that not even a sparrow falls to ground without our Heavenly Father knowing about it; that God knows all about even the little sparrows and determines when their time is to "go". Their little minds worked to process why and how this one died but were mostly just sad for the little birdie.

Full of faith, Lion concluded, "We can pray for it and bring it inside and care for it to bring it back to life..." Not wanting to crush his sweet heart I gently explained that in this world, when a creature dies, it's body stays dead, but that's why we love Jesus because He made a way for life after death.  Lion began to weep and expressed, "I'm just so sad about death." I picked him up and told him that it was okay to be sad, that I was too.  Bear's sad eyes looked up from his observation of the bird and humbly asked, "will you pray?" So together we prayed a little eulogy for the bird and I thanked God for loving us even more than the sparrows, for the bird's song, and for Jesus who came to make an end to forever death.

Quietly we sat, holding each other while the boys observed and again Lion heavily wept about the sadness of death. I empathized with him while speaking relevant words of scripture, like how all creation has been made subject to death because of sin, that creation groans as we wait for Jesus to come make all things new. As Lion processed, he lamented that "death is just everywhere, it's so sad."

As Bear remained in quiet observation, Lion got up and walked across the yard to the gazebo for some time to himself.  He wandered around in the mud of our winter-killed garden; vines bare, plants brown and crushed by the months of snow...and then excitedly came running back.

"Mom! I have the BEST news after this bad death news: I found signs of LIFE! Come see!" We
 hurried across to the corner of the yard to find the very first sprouts of green emerging from the mud. Lion was inspired, "we will call this the 'Garden of Salvation' where we can come when we're sad about death and see life to wipe our tears away..."

Lion's heart was lifted and mine was filled. We walked around the yard, talked about telling daddy when he got home, and made arrangements for birdie's burial.  Lion ran inside to get a little box and he and Bear filled it with leaves "to make it comfy". Shortly afterward, Todd came home and the boys spoke a mile a minute to explain what they discovered.  Todd prepared for "a proper burial" and Lion objected: "you can't put him in our Garden of Salvation because it's only a place for life; no death can come there." So Todd dug a place under an evergreen tree opposite the garden and placed a rock there for us to remember our birdie teacher.

Lion was excited to show Todd the green sprigs in the garden, and there he said, "whenever we see green, whoever is sad can pray.  If you don't come to the garden to pray when you're sad, your heart will be like a stone.  Daddy, are you sad about the bird? Then you can pray." Lion knelt and Bear stood by the sprigs while Todd prayed a beautiful prayer of thanks for our hope in Jesus, and for His death and resurrection that brought us life. 

After dinner, we went out in the spring rain to find raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry bushes to plant in our garden.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.  We were given this hope when we were saved. 
Romans 8:18-24

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.  All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
Revelation 21:3-7


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Praises for Seven

Seven years ago, dressed in pearly white, I walked with my dad down a brick path through a rose garden to the guitar-strumming tune of Come Thou Fount.  There at a fountain I met my man, in his Navy dress whites, where we vowed our love in the communion of Christ's love.  

Since then I'd like to portray that it's been all roses, but better yet it's been beautiful blooms surrounded by the prick of thorns.  We've been painfully cut back sometimes to bloom more bountifully, watered some by dew, other times by heavy downpour, all still a consistent nurturing of God's faithful love and care.  But regardless of how well Todd and I, and now our three-almost-four children have grown, I always come back to the same tune of praise to Jesus, our never-failing Fountain of Grace:

Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
--Robert Robinson, 1757


After praise to God for our marriage, my heart wants also to praise my Todd.  Being the humble man that he is, Toddy doesn't receive words of praise very well.  It's almost like he doesn't trust them, or worse, receive them.  So today as we celebrate seven years of marriage, I thought it was appropriate to explain why I must praise him so :)

For Toddy With Love

“We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is the appointed consummation.  It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”  -C.S. Lewis

When I tell you, ‘I love you,’ ‘You’re handsome,’ ‘You’re good,’
I believe that you have me quite misunderstood.
I don’t tell you I love you to boost your esteem,
and when praising your character it may seem
that to receive my praise is to deny humility,
or worser yet to promote idolatry.
But what you have missed is that I must praise what I enjoy;
to deny praise is my joy to destroy.

For Jesus said, “what’s in the heart the mouth speaks,”
and to share from my heart is when my joy peaks.
So when you hear that I admire your frame,
your thoughts, your love, and the sound of your name,
please hear that your quality is reflection of your Maker,
and believe when I praise you that I am no faker.
That enjoyment of you is enjoyment of Jesus,
Who gives us sweet gifts with intentions to please us.
That the pleasure of others is to make more than a nod
to the ultimate joy who is our great God.

So my Toddy, I love you and the man that you are.
If I were looking for greatness I wouldn’t have to look far.
for beside me is a husband, a father, a friend,
who makes my heart swell and my knees to bend,
in praise of my Redeemer who loves me so,
Who has blessed me with you that His Christ-love I’ll know.

Happy Anniversary, seven years have now passed,
in a marriage that is more than I could have asked.
To the enjoyment and praise of the One who gives life,
and has given me the pleasure of being your wife.

From my heart,
trace