Focus: First Things First and an Invitation

Good Morning Girls
I woke up this morning with a song on my heart and craving Scripture like I crave chocolate mid-afternoon! {Am I the only one who dips into the chocolate stash mid-afternoon???}  I’m filled with anticipation for the coming weeks and the special time I get to spend just with Him in the morning and then delving into the very same Bible passages with my kids after breakfast!

With my goal this year to continue to hone my ‘focus’.  There are so many things vying for my attention.  Many of them good things.  But I’m finding that to each there is a proper time and during that time I need to focus.

One aspect that is deserving of my primary focus is my relationship with Jesus because out of that flows meaning, purpose and provision for everything else. And I mean  everything.

I don’t know about you, but when I sit down and ask God to speak to me through His Word, He never ceases to amaze and delight me.  Now I’m not saying that I’ve never had dry spells, but He is always faithful to lead me out of them.  In my experience dry spells are usually a result of not spending time soaking up the Word on a daily basis and time spent just being with Him.

The danger is falling into the trap of blaming the dry times for not having a desire to get into the Word or talk to God.  Why?  Because the only way out is to invest in the relationship.  The only way for that to happen is when we decide to spend time in the Word, in prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to lead all of our daily interactions. And that, my friends, is the best part.  This is where your relationship with God literally spills out and flows into all of life.

At the crux of it all is pursuing Him.  I tend to thrive when I pursue God within the context of community.  That is why I’ve always enjoyed women’s Bible studies.  I wake up each most mornings filled with anticipation to see how He will speak to me.  It is always exciting to gather together and be encouraged by how God is speaking to each of us.

Over the last two years, God asked me to lay aside my ladies Bible study and focus on our family devotional times at home.  It has been special and yet I’ve found that I’m not as consistent with daily time spent reading my Bible.  I brought this to the Lord in the last few weeks.  You see, despite having two wonderful family/children’s devotions that I want to do this semester:The Dig for Kids {a study in the book of Luke} and God Said So! 31 Truths Every Kids Should Know. I find myself still craving structure and accountability with my own time with the Lord.

So when I saw that Good Morning Girls is hosting an online Bible study that could coincide with the children’s devotional on the same subject my heart leapt and I just KNEW that I wanted to do it this semester.

I will be studying Luke 1-8 with the Good Morning Girls.  They provide a free pdf study guide with a simple guide to drawing you into the Word and helping you meditate on it each day.  It won’t take long, but it will be just what I need to start each morning with my focus where it it should be.  Plus, I’ll get a second dose later that morning when the boys and I explore The Dig for Kids together!

Here’s what it will look like:

LivingLikeJesus

The structure for for each day follows S.O.A.P.
S ~ Write out the Scripture passage for the day.
O ~ Write down 1 or 2 Observation about the passage.
A ~ Write down 1-2 Applications from the passage.
PPray over what you learned from today’s passage.

That doesn’t sound too hard, does it?  I am just giddy with anticipation to dive in.

Now for the really cool part! Your kids can explore these same passages in the fun devotional, The Dig for Kids.

A typical Dig lesson consists of the following four components:

1. The Map: The Map tells you and your child where you’ll be going in each lesson. It is a short summary of the study ahead.
2. The Dig: The Dig is the main passage you will be studying. Following each passage will be several questions designed to help conversation and understanding. They are meant to be a guide. You can use them or tweak them to help you talk with your children.
3. The Treasure: The Treasure is the big idea of each lesson. In a short statement, it is what you want your child to remember from the passage you studied.
4. The Display: When an archaeologist finds a treasure, they will clean it up and put it on display for everyone to see. This is the basic idea of the Display. It is the application of the Treasure you have found!

If you want to get this it is available in several formats: PDF, KINDLE or paperback.

We are excited to dig in and focus on being with Jesus.  It all starts next Monday, January 14th!

Do any of you want to join me?  It would be so wonderful to share with one another how God is meeting us and our children through this journey?  I’m doing this with my mom and sister, but I’d love to join up online with some of you if anyone is interested.  

Slowing down to SEE…

  

Eight year old fingers tapped out “Old MacDonald.”  The four year old is galloping around the back yard, boots on, cape flying behind him as he takes his sturdy stick horse for yet another lap.  Middle son and I sit at the coffee table playing with our math blocks and working on math problems.

The girl is conflicted.  Play with math blocks or try to play the piano.  She ends up trying to manage both.

Keegan ‘gets it’ and starts to speed through his problems and for the first time in a while, I just sat back and watched each of my children.  Sure there were dirty dishes in the sink, piles that needed to be sorted and items either discarded or put away…  But for few minutes, I just savored.  And as I drank in the moment I was struck by its beauty.  What a great privilege I have to be with four of my favorite people, 24-7 – loving them, training them, learning along-side them.

Xander scooped up his sister so she could really start playing at the piano.  The recent return of sleepless nights {trying to cut those first teeth} fade from my memory as I watch my two book-ends giggling and playing together.

Why don’t I SEE this more often?

As I mentioned on facebook, we had a hard start to our week.  I had slipped into one of those wheel spinning, but not progressing kind of modes.  God in his kindness pulled me out.  It is funny how sometimes the way to have forward progress is to slow down.  Slowing down to think, pray and SEE allows God to provide clarity and direction.

Thanking God for renewed vision and strength to delight in the everyday, aware of the Spirit at work in our lives and eager to participate in His plans for our days. 

Prayer: Opening Eyes to See the Miracle

My heart sank when Rich came into my parents kitchen where I was nursing Greta to let me know that our van was overheating…

We just sat staring at one another for a few moments – silently speaking volumes. We both winced internally, simultaneously considering the cost involved for repairs and the probability of turning around.  Boys gathered around us with quizzical looks {they don’t yet understand how to speak with eyes only…}.  Our car was packed to the brim with food, clothes and books -ready to embark on our yearly cabin getaway.  How do you explain that this long anticipated getaway might not happen?

He had dropped me off just 15 minutes before so I could feed Greta while he went for gas.  Funny how life can change in such a short span of time.

Since he couldn’t find the source of the problem, he set out to take the car to the shop.  As worry set in, I gathered the boys around and {as cheerfully as I could} explained to them that we needed to pray.

Our van was in trouble.  We needed God to intervene – someway, somehow.  Right there the four of us prayed.  Greta sat in my lap, grey eyes flitting from face to face, as we simply asked God to move and supernaturally provide for us so that we could still go to the cabin.

It wasn’t anything fancy.  It wasn’t a lengthy prayer.  But it was enough to change my horizontal focus to a vertical focus.  Peace replaced worry, enabling me to look into those sweet boy faces and tell them with all confidence that God was going to move.  Just watch.  Somehow, someway, He was going to move.

Twenty minutes later Rich calls, sounding confused. He starts to explain that the mechanic could find nothing wrong with our van.  NOTHING.  I began shrieking and excitedly telling him that we had just prayed that God would move.  I called the boys in to tell them the news…

The mechanic was pretty dubious about the prospect of us taking this van with stuff packed in every crevice and full of hopeful children up to the mountains.  But he said if we insisted on going, to pack water in case the van should overheat on the way up.

Full of faith, we bought water just in case and set out for our mountain retreat!  We never ended up needing the water!!!

Prayer is so important.  It opens up our eyes to our need for God and helps us to recognize His provision.

It is vitally important to bring our children into the process as we model everyday reliance on God. It brings the abstract notions of God into the everyday living out of our faith. And God uses these everyday opportunities to showcase His glory and His provision!

And vacation couldn’t have been sweeter!

Linking up to: Faith-Filled Friday, Thrive @ Home,

Bought at a price…

Today has been one of those days.  Well, maybe not one of THOSE days…  Actually the more I think about it, today was a pretty normal, run-of-the-mill kind of day.

peaceful moments punctuated with cries and whines.
                       teachable hearts one moment, stubborn one’s the next. 
                                                    calm and tranquility interrupted by chaos.

Life is a roller coaster – full of ups and downs.

During my peak of feeling overwhelmed today, I started to reach for my go-to coping mechanisms.  Any of you have those?  Sadly, chocolate and cookie dough balls were out of the question. {I’m in the middle of an elimination diet to determine exactly what foods are bothering my baby girl.  So dairy, wheat/gluten, eggs, chocolate and a few other things are off limits.}  Mindlessly surfing the Internet is my next escape…

As I slipped to the front room in an attempt to escape reality, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit as He dropped a nugget from the Word into my heart.

“…you are not your own.  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
(I Corinthians 6:19b-20)

God reminded me that my life is not my own.  I’ve given it to Him.  And He’s called me to be in the moment, doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  I am a mother to these four, called to embrace the glorious and messy job of raising them, showing them what it means to live in the world -but not of it and introducing them to Jesus.  At these times, I’m called to embrace the chaos and look to Him for peace.  So I turned back and thanked God for speaking to me and tackled the rest of my day.   The baby still fussed, boys bickered and my patience ran thin.  But God was faithful to continually draw me back, renewing my focus and resolve.  He showered me with his love so I could in turn love my children.  I’m so very thankful…

A Rebirth-day Milestone

Last week marked a milestone – 30 years since I became a child of God. It’s been 30 years since the day when in the midst of build-up for my physical birth-day, my mom read me this book.

The King’s Invitation relays the parable Jesus told about a king who sent out invitations to his son’s wedding feast (found in Matt 22:1-14). The important people didn’t want to come, so the King opened up the invitation to everyone. He provided wedding clothes and invited them to a feast. Even at that young age, I was able to comprehend this beautiful picture of life with God. God opened up my heart and I responded to His call!

30 years in His family.

30 years as His child.

30 years of sweet fellowship.

Indescribable…

And yet, I always feel compelled to try. As I look back it is just beautiful to see how God made Himself real to me through the different stages in my life. I’m thankful that my parents introduced me to Him, even at that young age.  I’m thankful that they didn’t think I was ‘too young’ to have a real relationship with the Lord.

But Jesus called them to him, saying,
Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” 
Luke 18:16
And I’m praying for my own children. One has made that step of faith and we are praying for our other children, planting seeds and watching for God’s perfect timing in reaching each of them.

What a glorious privilege we have as parents to introduce our children to our heavenly Father and then disciple them and help them to grow closer to the One who gives us life, hope and meaning.

So I continue counting His many gifts to me as I make my way to 1,000!

816. Memories of quiet conversations with God at night before drifting off to sleep and waking to joy that I just knew came from Him in the morning as a child.

817. Memories of the Spirit’s whispers to my soul and hungering for more of Him these many years…

818. The fact that I really don’t remember life before Jesus became the center of it.

819. Looking back and seeing how my understanding of and trust in the Lord has grown and changed over the years.

820. Time spent in I John celebrating and contemplating how God brings us into His family and makes us His children.

821. Parents who not only introduced me to Jesus, but faithfully encouraged and taught me to pursue him in every aspect of my life.

822. Grace and a new opportunity to embrace “30”. (My initial reaction to reaching this ‘birth’day was not met with excitement or enthusiasm.)

823. Seeing God at work in my children by the questions they ask.

824. Glimpses of God’s creativity and care as He uniquely calls us each to a beautiful relationship with Him.

825. Getting to read that very special book to my children now.

Growing in Gratitude!

I formally started my online gratitude list last year.  Wow.  I love the habit that it has formed.  When I’m struggling with discontentment, envy, selfishness, exhaustion or whatever the problem of the day is, it is amazing to see what happens when I turn my thoughts to the Lord and then start thanking Him for what He has given me.  Taking time to be mindful of the multitudes of blessing in my life has been such a gift in and of itself.

In my kitchen (where we end up spending most of our day) I’ve posted this passage:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again, I will say rejoice!

Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.                                   

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.              (Philippians 4:4-7)

Emotions are so fickle and I’ve found this passage to be so helpful no matter what I’m going through.  In all things, at all times, I’m called to rejoice, pray and give thanks!

So I take time once again to type out a few of the many gifts that surround me as I sit in the midst of half-unpacked suitcases and a pile of laundry ready to be put in to wash!

Joining others at A Holy Experience as we record our lists of gratitude.
501. smooth, uneventful time in the airport and in the air!

502. boys excited to watch airplanes – even at 5:30 in the morning!
503. time with my husbands family back in St. Louis!
504. romping through dry leaves.
505. the sound of wind rustling through the few leaves remaining on the trees.

506. getting to experience a bit of stereotypical fall that our desert home just doesn’t have.
507. getting half the amount of rain Arizona gets in a year in just three days in St. Louis.
508. a foggy evening!

509. a special treat of snow that started to fall while we ate dinner on Thanksgiving Day!
510. football in the snow.

511. catching snow on our tongues (and licking them off leaves).

512. little boys peering out from beneath fun hats!
513. an adorable niece!
514. woods explorations in Mima and Pa’s backyard with my fellow nature lover!!!
515. getting to see FOUR different kinds of penguins at the St. Louis zoo. (King, Humboldt, Rock Hopper and Gentoo)  A true treat after learning about them this summer.
516. simple kid pleasures of watching Pa’s car get picked up by the tow truck!
517. chasing geese!
518. foot races with my boys!
519. the feeling of cold air being desperately drawn in to warm lungs.
520. making homemade butter.
 521. eating homemade butter.  wow.

522. hand-holding

523. arch exploring.
524. squeezing 8 of us inside metal 50’s sci-fi reminiscent pods made to huddle 5 for a memorable trip to the top of the St. Louis Arch!
525. getting to hang out with my husbands childhood best friend and his wife.
526. enjoying being with his wife just as much as my husband likes being with his friend.
527. home sweet home.

Learning to Trust…

As I think about God’s gifts and blessings for us, I’ve been struck lately with the packaging in which these ‘gifts’ arrive. 
I’ve been praying for the last couple of years that God would grow my trust and faith in Him.  I want to live every moment free of worry and confident in who God is and living a life led by the Holy Spirit.
So what does He do?  He gives me opportunity to trust Him.  Are these gifts easy?  NO.  But they are good.  There are many situations in my life right now that just don’t make sense.  I don’t see how it can or will be resolved apart from supernatural intervention.  And that is where I have the opportunity to trust God.
When I was having a particularly hard time giving up control over circumstances in my life last year, I received this video.  It was so thought provoking and gave me a better handle on what it means practically to trust God.  My thoughts return to the illustration again and again…

So I embrace the opportunities God has given me to trust him and continue to count His many gifts to me, along with others in the gratitude community…


both the joyful, pleasant, effortless, but oftentimes unassuming gifts and the challenging one’s.  They are all good.  They are all from Him.
176. Opportunities to trust God.  He knows I need them…
177. Bible study.  It grows my faith to see how faithful, patient and sovereign God is over and over again.  He sees the big picture that I can’t.
178. Jonah – and reminders to face what I’ve been called to do!
179. Family.  I can’t hide or pretend to be someone I’m not and yet they still love me! 🙂
180. bird-watching boys.
181. holding a newborn little boy.
182. an evening conversation with this little boy’s mother.
183. mud covered toddler toes.
184. excitement spilling out of little boys.
185. unexpected mornings home.
186. Holy Spirit insight into how to approach a child training situation.
187. catching sight of a baby hummingbird fluttering around my porch.
188. the sound of my 23 month old son running through the house calling for me.
189. my 5 year old negotiating being allowed to do math on a Saturday.
190. Creative, non-sensical costumes.
191. Older, wiser women in my life.
192. Songs like, Full Attention, that remind me to abide close to Jesus. (audio here)
193. getting to stroke a soft baby nephew head!
194. boyish giggles as they try taking a shower for the first time!
195. creek explorations
holy experience

What’s in a name?

Change has come. While still capturing family life thru pictures, bringing you along on our crazy learning adventures, posting my creative pursuits as well as sharing thoughts on parenting and educational philosophy, I needed a name that reflected my journey; something that would serve to remind me of the big picture and ‘why’ behind what I do…

As a daughter of the King, aside from spending time with Him, I am called to pursue kingdom work, the work of cultivating souls.

As a mother, I can imagine no greater privilege than to disciple and “cultivate” these three little lives by helping to prepare the soil (provide the environment) for them to encounter God and grow to be what He has called them to be!

But they aren’t the only lives that need cultivation. I need it too. I need Jesus each and every day… loving me, gently pruning me, causing me to blossom and bear fruit as I abide on the vine.

As a family, we need to cultivate our communing with God as the central aspect of our lives – knowing and loving Him with all our hearts, souls and minds. Out of that flows everything else – our creative pursuits, learning and loving others.

Thankfully, although I’m called to help in this cultivation, it is God’s Spirit and His Word that provides direction. He is faithfully at work in our hearts. Our job is merely to cooperate with His transforming work.

And that is where I will dwell, relying on the Master Gardener to be at work in my heart and in the hearts of each member of my family. Come and take a peak at my journey of cultivating intimacy with Jesus, providing opportunities for my children to encounter God, and weaving this glorious reality of ‘God with us’ into all that we do!

Selah

From my study this morning I read:

“A healthy fear of God bows to His holiness and obeys His precepts, but all the while is compelled like a magnet to the source of its fascination. It seeks Him like hidden treasure. It stretches and strains to peer into His perfections. It yearns to be captivated by His beauty from so near a place that it becomes beautiful too. It longs to approach the One who dwells in unapproachable light. To know the unknowable till faith turns to sight. To be ruined for every other contesting love.”

Like the desert needs the rain…

Being at the end of a long, hot, fairly dry summer, makes this song even more relatable…

Like the desert needs the rain, I need You.
Like the ocean needs the streams, I need You.
Like the morning needs the sun, I need You.

:sigh:

Fellowship is sweet.  This is the lesson we had for today!

I LOVE THIS SONG!