Category Archives: Listening Life

How Resolute?

The new year has arrived, and the webosphere is giddy with posts reviewing the past 365 days of blogging fodder. This year the rolling over from oh-nine to twenty-ten took me by surprise.  A friend emailed to see if we’d like to come over to her house:  my thought, “Why does she want me to come over so late on a Thursday night?  Is something special going on?”

It used to be such a big deal:  school papers turned in, payday, a time to start over.  I would give thought to what I wanted to do, how I wanted things to be different:  making resolutions to eat differently, dress differently, balance my checkbook, be a responsible member of society, read classical literature, better myself as a person.  Now, my brain has too many other things occupying the idealistic space where I could imagine lofty goals and dreams.  Current dreams – to someday sleep through the night, to eat a meal without having to get up fifteen different times, to have the eternal mental grocery shopping list retired, to have no more sticker bits in my carpet (it’s worse than my childhood dog’s hair, and he was a Husky/Malamute).

I talked about listening to the Bible every day, which I might not have done every day, but I did listen to every podcast (sometimes a bit more distracted than others).  Scripture has certainly become an important part of my life; however, I’m feeling antsy when thinking of listening to the podcast again this year, which generally is a God-poke-in-my-side to do something differently.  I’d love to hear how others incorporate it into their lives.

I also had a word for the year which was “present”.  That I presently forgot about until 3/4s of the way through the year.  Fortunately I remembered right as I added another member to the family, and the only thing I could really do in life was be present because having three tykes ages 5 and under means a productive days is people out of pajamas with teeth brushed at least once and sticker bits somewhat contained before bed.  This year I’m sensing the words “forgiveness” and “truth” will be woven throughout my daily walk – not necessarily the words I would prefer (“rest” and “endless energy” and “roomba” sound a lot more attractive).  It will be interesting to see where the wanderings of the year end up.

Smart Help

Worship Fully:  From “My Utmost” – “My questions come whenever I cease to obey. When I have obeyed God, the problems never come between me and God, they come as probes to keep the mind awake and amazed at the revelation of God. Any problem that comes between God and myself springs out of disobedience; any problem, and there are many, that is alongside me while I obey God, increases my ecstatic delight, because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing.”

Spend Less:  Instead of running out and buying something, I managed to scramble together an acceptable snack for Judah’s helper day:  chocolate-covered pretzels and string cheese.  AND Judah got to help make the pretzels (an excellent sprinkle distributor, if I do say so):  double score!

Give More:  In the early morning feeding hours I listened to a podcast of Rick Steves, which I always enjoy, but this time it was a show entitled Smart Help for the Developing World:  “Rick explores practical solutions to addressing world hunger in the 21st century with guests from a preacher-economist who heads a non-profit agency advocating for the interests of hungry people around the world to a Kenyan agricultural specialist who helps address policies and markets benefiting people in developing nations.”  One story stood out from a woman in Africa who, although her country had poverty and great hunger, labored to get ships from First World countries full of donated flour to be sent back; when that flour floods the country, the native growers (who grow their own flour) can’t get money for their crops, and the cycle of poverty continues.  Interesting how mindless giving can hurt, not help.

Love All:  My darling daughter cried for most of the day.  I think it was because I spent most of the weekend telling folks how easy-going and laid-back she is:  she wanted to assert her right to be a fussy baby.  :)  It’s hard to find love when she can’t settle down on my chest to nap and the middle-born is voicing quite loudly the injustice of a mandatory quiet time (not so quiet) and the eldest is complaining that everyone is too loud (no kidding).  :)  My mom always says how quiet it is when we all leave her house, and how she misses the noise.  I know some day I will miss it as well …. someday.

Yvonne

Today we celebrated an amazing woman’s life and legacy.

She Worshiped Fully:  from laughing and loving and writing notes asking forgiveness in advance as a child (so funny!) to caring for and praying for and giving to those in need.

She Spent Less:  jokes of her ability to get grocery stores to pay her for taking their products (maximum couponing!), stories of her sharing with others because she didn’t want or need to take, a note from her to her mother saying moms should receive gifts on their children’s birthdays because the moms really did all the work (and now could she get her driver’s license? :)).

She Gave More:  time to her family, prayers to those who did and did not want them, attention to drawing her family and others together for game nights and traveling adventures, voice and beauty and “grace” as she performed with her family on stage, her home to those who needed food and shelter, an ear to those who needed a safe place to confide.

She Loved All.

You legacy in Christ is strong and sweet, Yvonne; may it remind us to draw closer to Christ each and every moment.

Surrender

Worship Fully.

Spend Less.

Give More.

Love All.

When I got into the car this evening, the radio played the song “Surrender” by U2 (my boys).  Seemed appropriate since my friend surrendered her physical existence this evening.  Yvonne, thank you for your sweet presence and wonderful legacy:  thank you for being who you were, surrendered to Christ.

Rattle …. and Hum

Worship Fully:  Family attended Jason’s work Christmas extravaganza, minus the real worship aspect of it (too bloomin’ cold!).  But I think connecting with friends, watching kids decorate cookies and go bizerk, and reflecting on the season counts.

Spend Less:  Money – not so much.  After my grocery shopping trip, my husband asked, “What?  Did you buy out the whole baking section?”  To which I responded:  “Yeah.”  Cookie baking is my love language, and now is a great time to stock up the potential blessings.  :)

Give More:  Normally I use the self check at the grocery store, but today I decided to take the baking isle, I mean, my cart to a “normal” checkout line.  I enjoy the self check because I can keep my ear buds in, listening to the word puzzles on A Way With Words while scanning to my heart’s content.  But today:  not so much.  Instead, I chatted with the clerk and found out that a) she has two daughters very close together, one that wants to bake cookies all the time, which she had a problem with (I had to share why that’s a good thing); 2) she makes an awesome homemade pizza (sometimes using a Pillsbury box mix marketed as cinnamon rolls – hmmm); iii) she’s eaten at the pizza shop that my husband worked at in high school – small world!  So, I gave of my free ears, and my attention, and I think that made the few minutes of shopping closure enjoyable for both.

Love All:  Instead of talking about how I did or did not love all today, I’d rather focus on a woman who is known for her love.

When I first attended Women’s Bible Fellowship, I hadn’t participated in a group activity for some time, and I’m certain I had spitup on my shoulder.  I was late, having to sneak in and take a seat up front at a table with women I didn’t know, which almost had me run for the hills, but then women started sharing about how their summers were.  One woman stood up and talked about her breast reconstructive surgery and how women had thrown her a party when it was done, complete with a cake shaped like a boob.  My two thoughts:  I can’t believe these pillars of the church community are talking about things like boobs – they must be real people after all! and if they can talk about boobs within five minutes of the gathering starting, then I can be okay here.

This wonderful woman had had cancer, fought it, won, and then had a relapse.  Recovery, and another relapse.  And now she’s within days of leaving us physically.  Our women have prayed over her, the church community has prayed over her, friends have experienced insomnia and deep soul groanings over her suffering and imminent passing.  She is a woman I did not know well personally, but she embodied warmth and acceptance and love that only comes from knowing Christ.  She persisted in praying for everyone, loving them even if they didn’t appear to want to be loved.  She walked with people through hard times, and she allowed us to walk with her through these past years of pain.

I’m sure I saw her as a tyke.  Her uncle was my childhood pastor, and her family was known for their musical abilities, so I’m sure they came to my church and performed.  Such beautiful harmonies I’ve heard her family blend together, most recently as they’ve sung hymns and songs of praise to her in her sun room to help ease her pain and do the thing they seem to love best:  worship the Lord together.

This evening an update was given stating that she now has the “death rattle”:  a sound in the chest present hours or days before passing.  To think that a body capable of creating such beautiful sounds is now involuntarily giving off that kind of noise:  I don’t want that to be the last thing her family hears!

But then I realize that it’s only for a short while, and hopefully their memories of her past songs, words, actions – the natural hum of her true self will reign dominant as she’ll be singing as she was created to with the other saints.  And I hope, oh I hope, her family and loved ones will feel that hum in their daily lives, because you know she’ll be interceding like nothing else.  Lord, transform that rattle into a hum; thank you for letting Christ love us through her; may we continue with the melody today and everyday.

Talk to My Face

Worship Fully – sang a few songs at Bible Study during worship time, but also whispered with my friend (face to face conversation is severely lacking in my life:  I steal it where I can)

Spend Less – short trip to the grocery store (probably not necessary, but more of a time killer); less time online; more time Christmas-ing the house with the kids

Give More – unplugged the headphones and conversed with adults; stopped talking and listened to others (some); let the kids help me decorate the house (this is giving for a perfectionist such as myself)

Love All – crabby times happened with the small tykes; found myself having more grace for strangers than for those closest to me – hmmm

Today was Pajama Day at my son’s school.  I’m not sure what Pajama Day entails other than wearing the comfy slumber wear out of the house, in the car, and in the classroom where tykes normally don “outdoor clothes”.  While this was a fine event last year, this year my son would have none of it.  He stormed around the house, making very declarative statements:  “I’m NOT going to school!”

I knew what was going on:  he was having a hard time adjusting to something new.  A few weeks ago he was invited to a birthday party, and while he was excited initially, suddenly he had a change of heart.  Instead of poo-pooing it, I let him talk; instead of dismissing him, I looked him in the face, just like I ask of him:  “If you want to talk to me, don’t holler from the other room – talk to my face.”  Finally he said, “There will be too many kids there, and we’ll get wild, and it will be too exciting, and I’ll get nervous.”

Oh, son, I’m so there with you.  And I was so happy that he recognized that about himself!  So I repeated it back to him and said it was fine if he didn’t want to go.  Then we talked through some scenarios, and he latched onto one, feeling that the excitement would be manageable.

So this morning I tried the same:  looking him in the face, listening, repeating back.  Except he didn’t come to a place where wearing pjs was okay, so he went to school with his regular clothes, knowing that his friends would ask questions.  I felt nervous dropping him off when he curled up at the first questions arose, and I felt similar when I picked him up, but he was okay.  The teacher said it sparked some good discussion in class, and I felt his choice was respected:  might not be fun, but it was his choice and not my desire.

While he was not wearing pajamas at school, I was at Bible Study, worshiping with wonderful women, making faces at my darling daughter who’s decided to respond to interactions in the world.  I’ve been having a hard time getting into the specific study element this semester:  my perfectionism kicks in, and I want to do all or nothing.  But I am reading the chapters of Luke for the week:  this week was all about the Lost (chapters 15-16).  When the facilitator asked if we had any thoughts, I almost dove into my typical babblings, rambling on, verbally processing stuff that doesn’t make much sense and probably leaves the group wondering if I know how to form coherent thoughts (the answer is:  seldom).

But today, I felt the Holy Clap Over the Mouth, and I listened.  People shared their anxiety over feeling secure, opening their lives to strangers, engaging the poor, protecting our children while letting them experience some of the darkness present in this world, speaking freedom to a friend whose time on earth is coming to an end when others aren’t ready to share in speaking that release.  How does the story of Lazarus and the rich man relate to us?  Someone mentioned cutting back on the food bill:  how just because we have access to abundance doesn’t mean we should partake of it.

I don’t have answers.  But it felt like a loving thing to simply shut up and listen:  not just listen, but look each person in the face.

Human

Worship Fully – hmm, I read the Bible and some devotions …

Spend Less – I didn’t spend money, but I did spend time in the kitchen when I could’ve been with my kids, creative energy building up my Cafe World when I could’ve done something truly productive, and positive words for friends online rather than saying them to the people I live with.

Give More – I gave some patience and understanding to a preschooler who’s nervous about Pajama Day tomorrow, some time reading books to small boys, and some yummy homemade food to my family.

Love All – I do in my head.  And when they’re in bed:  boy, I really love my kids when they’re in bed.  But then they get up.  And speak.  And all my idealistic feelings go out the door, which is a good thing really, because love is a choice more than a feeling.

I’m human, and it’s hard for me to come to terms with that.  God doesn’t blame me for my failings.  Watchman Nee’s book “The Normal Christian Life” talks about humans as sin factories:  because of the fall, we produce sin.  Do we blame car factories for making cars?  Nope.  God doesn’t blame me for sinning, for falling short.  But God loves us all too much to leave us that way, and He can transform those little/big sin products into Christ’s body.  If I let Him.

Catching up on my Oswald Chamber’s reading for the day, I was struck by this:  “God never coerces us. In one mood we wish He would make us do the thing, and in another mood we wish He would leave us alone. Whenever God’s will is in the ascendant, all compulsion is gone. When we choose deliberately to obey Him, then He will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with all His almighty power.”

Oh, how I hope this human chooses daily to follow and obey.

Worry

The other week I had to take my daughter to a hearing appointment.  She didn’t pass her newborn hearing screening, so we were told to schedule another exam, this time with a specialist who works in a hospital in another town.  I scheduled it when my husband happened to be gone.  I had to try to find childcare for the second born.  When I called to verify with insurance, they told me they didn’t cover hearing screenings.  The doctor called the day of the appointment to say that we hadn’t been sent the right paperwork, that she needed to be asleep for the exam, and could I keep her awake and not feed her until the appointment?  You know, for the 30 minute + drive I’d be taking just the two of us?  And what if she really had a hearing problem?  I started to meltdown.

And then I chose to breath.  I called the doctor back who gave me billing numbers to give to insurance people:  they said, “Oh, these tests mean there’s some concern!  They’re covered” (as though I like to schedule inconvenient and expensive tests on my two month old for kicks – geez).  I met my dad for lunch, and even though neither one of us brought maps (because we thought the other one was going to), my husband navigated us to the hospital (while he was in Kansas City getting ready to eat BBQ).  We got an amazing parking space, we were seen forty minutes early, Josephine slept through the whole test, and she passed with flying colors.

I told Jason, “I should’ve known today would go like this:  I read in Luke where Christ was talking about not worrying.”

One of my children is having anger outbursts, and we don’t know what to do other than ride them out.  Another is reading up a storm, and I’m beginning to think that my plans for his schooling are yet in limbo again.  My littlest one is just that:  little.  How does one get the car in to get a potentially hazardous part (according to the letter from the dealer we received two days ago) replaced when one only has one car?  And last night, during a night feed, I discovered the cat to be licking himself excessively — because he had an oozing wound.  So many things to worry about.

And then I attended Bible Study this morning where we heard an update on a sainted lady who is finishing her last trip around the sun.  We’ve known this for some time, but a sense of urgency and seriousness and grief has descended upon all of us.  One of my friends finds herself awake for two hours at a time at night, thinking about our friend, praying for her and her family, struggling with the anger of “why her?  why like this?  why not fix this?” and the presence of the anger at all (can we be angry at God?  what does that mean?  and what will happen?).

The phrase keeps coming to mind:  “God allows in His wisdom what He could easily prevent by His power.”

`Think about the flowers. See how they grow. They do not work or make cloth. I tell you, King Solomon was a great man. But he was not dressed as fine as one of these flowers.

God dresses the grass in the fields so it looks nice. It is in the field one day and the next day it is burned. If God dresses the grass like that, he cares much more that you have clothes to wear. You do not believe in God very much!

`Do not keep asking, “What shall we eat?” and, “What shall we drink?” Do not be troubled about that.

All the people who are not Jews work for these things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need them.

But work for God’s kingdom. Then you will have all these things also.’

`Do not fear, little family. Your Father wants to give the kingdom to you.’

Our sister’s life and situation seems SO much more important, so much more worthy of true worry.  And yet, Christ tells us not to worry – about *anything*.  True, He’s talking in reference to daily needs … but her daily needs are almost gone, so I think it still applies …

Choosing to live out of fear/worry, or out of love/the Kingdom.  I know how I want to live, but my head and my heart don’t seem to match up in how it looks.  Perhaps a clue lies in Christ’s words that follow:

‘Sell what you have and give it to poor people. Make for yourselves money bags that will not wear out. Keep the things you like in heaven. They will not be lost there. People cannot go in and steal them, and insects cannot spoil them.

The place where you keep the things you like is where your heart will be also.’

Lord, cast out our fear!  Transform our fears into love and light!  You are with our sister; You are with us; may we carry that Love and Light, transformed from our fears and worries, to others.

We are singing for the Lord is Our Light

Yesterday at our gathering of Women’s Bible Fellowship we embarked in a newish venture:  worship through song.  We’ve done a little in the past, but this year a pressing sense of needing space and time dedicated to intentional worship practices was felt.  A special space was crafted with lower lights, chairs, cushions, elements:  ambiance.  The leaders selected a few praise songs projected on a projector (sometimes old school is the best option than the high-tech).

Standing in the back, I had to laugh a little.  Yes, it’s new which oftentimes means awkward.  Say you’re going on a date.  Most likely you’re not going to be singing along to that boy band song that comes on the radio, much less belting it out with the gusto you do with your college roommates (not that I speak from personal experience).  :)  But still:  watching most women stand dead still, or doing the white evangelical woman’s shuffle while singing “We are dancing for the Lord is our Light” made me laugh as much as watching the exact same thing happen on Sunday mornings.

So yes:  I wasn’t fully focused on worship (totally outed myself there, eh?).  But the song stuck with me through the day, and I found myself dancing (as much as I can these days) while scrubbing the sink.

I also read Psalm 40 yesterday morning and realized I hadn’t loaded “War” or “October” onto my Ipod:  a mistake I remedied that afternoon.

Lord, thank you for giving us this new song:  may we learn how to dance in Your encompassing Light.

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Today marks the kick-off of Women’s Bible Fellowship that gathers at my meeting place for worship.  We’re studying the book of Luke:  a book being studied by many other faith gatherings at the moment.  Sounds silly to say:  there’s only so many things worship gatherings can study, but I can list four or five podcasts I listen to that are sinking into the book of Luke at the moment.  Interesting …

When the WBF Steering Team met to decide the topic for this fall study, I felt inclined to speak up about being in the words of Christ:  why study *about* when we can study *the* words of Christ?  My mama has been leading some inductive studies and mentioned one by Kay Arthur that could work.  Today our study was introduced thusly:  “Aj’s mom leads an inductive Bible study, and Aj brought these materials thinking they would be good for us to us this semester.”  Which in tired hormonal mama speak is interpreted as, “So if you hate this study, you’ll know who to blame.”  :)  I know that wasn’t the speaker’s intention, but we’re leaving the Beth.Moore.Train which has been running consistently at some point each year (and probably will return in the spring – never fear).

People have very strong feelings about Beth, and likewise Kay.  I wish we could see the materials simply as a tool with which to connect with Christ rather than something to consume to meet our preferences.  Not all things will resonate with everyone, but I can’t imagine that if I enter with a right spirit that God won’t have *some* sort of Word for me – perhaps even to simply spend the time interceding for the other women.

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I was reading the story of Joseph and came to the point when Jacob was giving his blessing to his sons.  Instead of Joseph being blessed, Joseph’s kids were.  Kids that came from the wife given to him by Pharoah.  A wife that was the daughter of the Egyptian high priest (I think).  I believe ancestry “stuff” runs through the mamas in the Hebrew culture, meaning Joseph’s kids weren’t Hebrew.  But perhaps by Jacob blessing them, he was in a sense adopting them.  Similar to Ruth and Naomi:  Ruth and Boaz’s first born son was known as Naomi’s.  I always thought that was just to appease a sad, strong-willed, widowed mother-in-law.  But since he’s in the line of Christ, he’d need to be “Hebrew” which he would be in Naomi was his “mom”.  Interesting ….

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On Sunday I plan on helping my friend talk with high schoolers about immigration issues.  I think the high schoolers will know much more than I ….