Thursday, July 21, 2016

Love Speaks Truth and God is Good

Love speaks truth and that is not always what we want to hear. But the question I have, is how and when does this happen? Do the rules Is it Kind? and Is it Necessary? still apply? (That was a weird sentence and I seriously doubt it is anywhere close to grammatically correct, so you guys can decide your love for me by whether or not you want to tell me how to fix it to be correct!!! )

I think about these things with love though. Life can be hard and cruel sometimes and sometimes you want to fall down in the ditch and hide and never return, but you need that person to speak words, that feel harsh at the time, but get you up and out of the ditch and facing life again.

Those words for me lately have come from the Psalms. I've been struggling keeping my chin up the last while and my Bible readings have been from the Psalms. So every morning I read about praising the Lord, blessing the name of the Lord, gratitude for the Lord's protection from their enemies and on and on and on. And every morning it seems, I am challenged again to praise and give thanks despite the fact that life is pressing in on me. Now, this is easier to take coming from the Bible. I mean, you can't really argue with the Bible, but what if a friend would have quoted these verses to me? Oh boy, up in arms right away, saying things like, "They don't understand." etc. etc.

But how can I learn to accept the truth spoken to me in love? I'm not even focusing so much today on how to speak the truth in love, I need to know how to accept the truth that was spoken in love or even just the truth that was spoken to me whether it was in love or not.

"A life of love requires that we look in the mirror and give an honest and humble self-assessment." This is a quote from the book that is inspiring these blog posts and I don't remember it sticking out when I read the book, but when I glanced through this chapter to see what the highlighted quotes were this one jumped out at me.

I think honesty and humility is what will enable me to accept the truth. If I honestly look at my own life and recognize that what they are saying to me is true, then I will need the humility to graciously accept that truth and make the necessary changes.

I don't know that any of this comes from that book, other than the quote, but it's what came out as I started to type.

I have been trying every day that I journal to write down things that brought me joy, etc. the day before. My joy this morning is that God was watching over my husband. I wish I had the picture he showed me, but him and a coworker were at a wood mill looking over where to put their loads of wood. The rows were short so they could stand at the end and look down where normally they would have had to walk down the rows to see if there was room. There was one row with an awful pile of wood. Dave remarked that that pile is going to fall over, not really thinking it would. Five minutes later, the pile fell. If they would have needed to walk down that row,..........  I'm grateful to God for protection.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell

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I've read a few Lawana Blackwell books and liked them, as I recall. I often find the descriptions on the back of books to make the book appear to be much more mysterious and scary than it actually is. This book didn't disappoint in that regard either, though when you read the back description again, you can understand what it is saying.

However, I found this book quite nice to read. It's the story of an actress who had married for the third time and was secluded on her husband's estate, a man who treated her rather badly. She is given the opportunity to make a comeback in the acting world, but on her first public appearance she has a memory lapse and forgets her lines and is put in a hospital. Her estranged daughter takes her away to a secluded location where their relationship is repaired.

Anyway, this actress, Charlotte, takes this opportunity to befriend the people around her, taking an interest in two abused little boys and trying to renew her relationship with God. Her daughter, of course, falls in love with the local bookshop owner, etc. etc.

I really enjoyed this book. The landlady of the house where they lived was the local town gossip and it reminded me once again how harmful and unbecoming gossip is.

There were a couple other good things to take away from this book. One of them involves the boys who were mistreated by their stepmother. The scene is the stepmother's biological daughter throwing a fit and hitting and biting her and the stepmother's stricken look. "The only person she loved in the world had turned against her, at least for a while. When you loved but one person, he thought, your happiness rose and fell, depending on that person's treatment of you....If she could have but attempted to love him and Albert, and Father, perhaps she would not allow a baby's fit of anger to make her so sad. Perhaps, even, she would be three times as happy!"

How true. I think the more we reach out and attempt to love the people God has placed in our path, the more love and joy we will feel ourselves. When you love people, you want to make them happy and you aren't looking for ways to tear them down. Your search for their happiness will bring happiness back on yourself. I believe the opposite is also true, as we look for ways to tear down others and hurt others, we will ourselves be hurt because our attitude will be bitter and critical.

The other thing that stuck out to me also had to do with this same stepmother. In the epilogue of the book, 19-20 years later, Charlotte is attempting to reach out to the stepmother of the young boys by offering to take her along to the train station to meet her sons. Her husband, the boys' real father has passed on and while the boys do not come to see her, they do provide for her so she can remain in her house. She, however, is unwilling to apologize for the way she treated them when they were young. (Things had improved after Charlotte had prevailed upon the father to make a better life for his boys, but the stepmother never allowed herself to care for them.) "How utterly foolish, to be unable to ask forgiveness. To allow pride so much importance when it was the sorriest of companions in old age."

So so true, but how often do we allow our pride to stand in the way of good relationships because of our unwillingness to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness or ask for help or ask for anything.

I want to take these lessons with me and to reach out and love and to maintain a spirit of humility rather than pride.

This book was given me by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Love Sacrifices

First off, I want to give kudos to all of you moms out there who have more than one child.  I say "Good Job" "You guys rock", etc. etc. Even to those moms of only one child, you rock too. I was thinking I was going to veer off my Love tangent this week to talk about something I'm fighting, but then I realized that it fit in perfectly with one of the laws of love.

Love is sacrificial. 

I'll say it: mothering is hard work and I know I have nothing to talk about yet. I have a 16 month old child. It's probably about as easy as it's going to get, but I've been fighting a bit of burn out. Said 16 month old (see below pictures) is adorable and cute and yes I know I'm prejudiced. But said 16 month old is high energy, go-go-go-go all the time. It's fun. I love this age. So in some ways I am enjoying being a mom more than I ever have before and in some ways I am just exhausted.

I love watching her learn new things. Yes, sometimes digging around in grease on lawn mowers while mom chats with her land lady isn't the best of ventures, but it all cleans up. Yesterday for the first time, she finally acknowledged correctly where her nose, ears, eyes, and hands were. Normally all such questions were answered by pointing to her mouth.
 I love watching her mind process things. Dave will come home and in less than two minutes, and I don't think I'm exaggerating, I may even be generous, she will grin at him maybe, point to the dogs (because somehow Dave coming home is always equated with needing to point out the dogs), bring him her ball, bring him her doll, etc. etc. This is not every night, necessarily, but one night in particular she was moving with lightning pace from one object to the next and Dave said, "She's just played with 4 toys in less than 30 seconds." Yes, dear. Welcome to my world.

The other Sunday, we had some overnight company and he mentioned having seen a study done somewhere where a child should only have 150 toys total from birth to 8 years old. It helps them develop their imagination if they don't have so many toys to play with. It made me stop and think a bit about my need to buy her toys, even if I think they are educational toys. Most days, I could put everything away but her doll and accessories, her car, her ball and her shape bucket and she would never notice the rest of her toys are gone. It's some food for thought to consider as I go garage saling this summer. 

 So so far, I've just discussed the fun side of where I'm at this morning, but it's been a couple hard, hard weeks. I was gone for a week and then with VBS every evening for the next week, I felt a little like a single mom, so the next week I took it out on everyone around me. Nice of me wasn't it? Anyone, I think we have worked through it and so far this week, I have a better perspective, most of the time.
 Now, this morning was cause for concern. We watched the fireworks last night which Amber loved, but it meant she didn't got to sleep until 11 or so. I thought I would let her sleep in this morning rather than waking her for a walk, because I figured she wouldn't wake up by then. Oh no, at 5:50 this morning, she cried out and when I gave her her pacifier, she realized the world was waking up and so she was going to get up too, thank you very much. I was bitter, I'll admit it.  One thing I like to guard very fiercely is my alone time in the morning before she gets up and this morning I got up later than normal and she got up earlier than normal. Not a good combo. I was grumpy, but then we were eating breakfast and I was reading my Bible and guess what? Yup, the Bible reading was aimed at me.
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, 
And your faithfulness every night." Psalm 92:1-2

"In the multitude of my anxieties within me, 
Your comforts delight my soul." Psalm 94:19

Okay, well, that ought to cure my discouragement over not having any alone time this morning. These three keys fit into my theme for the year too of being joyful.

From my journal: "I have a sweet adorable little girl who I love dearly. She's sitting on my lap as I write these words, playing with papers from my Bible. But I rest my head on her head and I have to think, these days are going to pass. Soon, too soon, I will be hollering for her to get up already and to not be lazy, etc. Too soon, she will be too big, both in size and maturity to want to come snuggle on my lap. So I give her an extra kiss and resolve to sing praises, to claim God's faithfulness, to load up on patience and to live with joy this life I've been given. I have such a good life. I know I do."

And she was a happy little girl for a long time this morning. In between rubbing at her eyes, she played very nicely, which amazed me and reminded me that God does care about the little things even without me asking.

So this gives me hope to do one more day of mothering. God doesn't ask me to look ahead and take the whole year at a time, He only asks me to walk step by step, moment by moment on this journey with Him by my side. And I know I can do it. But maybe I should go have another slice of my english muffin bread first.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Love is Committed

For those of you who read my blog reviews, you know that I was impressed with the last book I read on love. Dave Willis had some good things to say and some hard things for me to hear. I want to write people off if they don't conform after a certain period of time, but that isn't how it works.

I want God to release me from the pressure of loving the people around me because it's hard. I want to curl up in a corner on the edge of my sofa and read a light thrilling novel. I want to hide out in my house and do my grocery shopping at midnight when nobody else is out and about in town. I went to Walmart yesterday morning (this was written on Tuesday) at 9 AM and it was full of Mennonites!!  I mean, I thought all good Mennonites stayed at home and did laundry and organized the house after the weekend. Wait, good Mennonites probably never let their house get disorganized over the weekend. I wanted to hide. I didn't want to smile or even be nice. I can go to town for weeks and not see anybody I know and then five groups of people in one day in one half-hour segment? Really!!!! And to those of you I met there, I have no thing against you, I just like to get into shopping mode and do my thing and move on and I'm not a big fan of the possibility that someone might actually see what I was buying. Horrors!!  I mean what if I would have had a pregnancy test in my cart? Think of the rumors that could have started from that!!

Okay, moving on from my little tangent. Why did it bother me that I saw people I knew in Walmart? I'm not embarrassed to be in Walmart, I leave the embarrassment to my husband who does NOT like Walmart. I wasn't buying anything I shouldn't have been. I think the thing was it felt like an inconvenience. I was supposed to smile and say something or at the very least acknowledge their presence and I didn't feel like it.

Maybe this is a bad analogy when talking about love, but if love is committed, then I need to be willing to pause at the end of the aisle, say "Hello, how's it going?" rather than making a quick, sneaky move down a different aisle hoping that the other person didn't see you. Yes, I have been guilty of this and while I'm writing this, it's not something I recommend emulating.

Jesus said that the proof of being His disciple was the love we had for those around us. If that is the case, I should be willing to crawl through Walmart, (not literally) and stop and smile and be willing to chat with anyone and everyone I meet. What do people think when they see this harried looking lady with a black thing on her head and long skirt who is rushing madly through the store? I'm guessing they don't think of a loving person, a kind person, a compassionate person. They think of someone who might border on rude or pushy or just plain unkind and uncaring. OUCH!!! That's not the kind of testimony I want to leave in my wake.

So what is the moral? The next time I see you in Walmart, I will attempt not to avoid you. I will try to at least smile and say "Hello".

I think when we think of commitment we often equate it to marriage and it is an absolute necessity in marriage. I just think of the huge advantage I have in my relationship with my husband because I know that divorce is not an option for either of us. I can be secure in my marriage because I know he's not going to give up when the going gets rough.

But I think commitment needs to be more than that. I will stay committed to my kids because they are flesh of my flesh and I love them, but what about my siblings or my friends or even my neighbors? Do I write them off if they do something I think is weird or if they are unloving to me? Am I committed to having a relationship regardless? Granted, we don't have a close relationship with every person we meet, but commitment requires keeping our promises even when we don't feel like it.

Before I wrap this thing up, just a few things from Dave Willis on this. He says commitment requires patience and we live in an instant gratification world so we don't want to wait. He says, "We've traded true intimacy for porn. we've traded committed marriages for commitment-free cohabitation. We've traded having children for having pets. We've traded meaningful conversations for text messages. We've traded 'til death do us part' for divorce. We've traded the pursuit of holiness for the pursuit of happiness. We've traded love for lust." "Once we become willing to choose the patient path of love, we'll be poised to take our relationships to a new level of healing and health. Love isn't a quick fix. Love is a lifelong pursuit." A commitment.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Seven Laws of Love by Dave Willis

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I was looking through the Book Look Bloggers for a book that looked interesting and something I would enjoy and agree with. I saw this book, but I just had this feeling like, "Really, what can this book tell me? Is it just a do-good, God is love kind of book? I don't know the author." I read a few comments on it and decided, why not try it?

Guess what? That was a good decision. I've been reading this book and I keep toying with the idea of doing some extended blog posts on the principles that he gives in the book. I'm worried that I would just end up copying the book though and that would run me into some problems with the author, though it would also give him an excellent opportunity to practice his seven laws of love. I might do a few more posts on this book, I'm not sure yet.

It was really good. Dave started by saying what he considers the seven laws of love to be:
Conquering Fear
Offering Grace
Living Forever.

Then he talks about love in action to:
Your spouse
Your Family
Your Neighbor
Your Friends
Your Enemies
Your Creator.

He's practical and says the hard stuff. Love is a matter of both the heart and the mind. Feelings are fleeting, but to have a lasting, committed love it must endure long after the feelings have dissipated.

"The strength of your commitment will always determine the strength of your relationship." I could quote sentence after sentence after sentence that stuck out to me when I was reading it. I was challenged to be honest, to be truthful but to be kind while doing it, to love those around me even if it pushes me outside of my comfort zone.

"You don't have to trust someone in order to forgive, but you do have to forgive someone in order to make trust possible again." This is the thing of offering grace. If love is a commitment we don't run when the other person in the relationship messes up, we listen, we offer truth, we extend grace and we invite healing to occur in that person's life. It will be messy, but it is the way that Jesus exemplified. He looked for the least likely people and poured out His love on them.

So I'm not sure if there will some more blog posts on this book or not, but it's worth the read. If you are struggling in a relationship, ask God to help you and pick up a book like this. It's not a seven step process and then you're done, but it will give you some tools to equip you for the rest of your life.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review on. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Of Silently, Of Babies Gone too Soon,

I've been reading in the Psalms lately in my journey through the Bible and there is so much in there. This morning one word grabbed my attention, "Truly my soul silently waits for my God." Psalm 62:1. The word silently is what struck me. How often do I do that? I'll wait all right, but you can guarantee I will be telling people about it and complaining and asking the age old question, "Are we there yet? or done yet?"

What does it mean to silently wait? I think of this word as a quiet, a calm, a trust, a dependence on God. I don't think it means to do nothing, but I do think it means to be quiet and not complain about the wait. This is hard. I have this idea that if I have to wait, others should know about it, they should know that I'm not just sitting around doing nothing, but I am still waiting. Why is this so hard? Why do I worry about what people will say about the journey God has called me to? It's my journey and it's going to look different from the next person's. It has to, we are each unique.

The rest of the verse says, "From Him comes my salvation."  Ah, that's what we are waiting for. I didn't do a word study or anything, but I would take this to mean more than just the saving from sin and death. In the context of the Psalms, I would take this to mean a saving from enemies, a saving from a hardship, etc.  God is there to save me, but it's not always on my time table and what am I going to do while I'm sitting in the waiting room? I want to ponder this word silently.

In the past week, I have heard of two babies who have left this earth too soon. One was carried to heaven as a 15 week miscarriage, a precious little boy. The other was a 14 month old little girl who spend the entirety of her life in a hospital and just as her parents were ready to take her home, God called her to her eternal home. I can't understand the why's of all of this. I have lost a baby to miscarriage and I have known the pain of burying my little girl who was born too soon to live on this earth, but I cannot imagine this grief of having lived life completely devoted to your little girl for over a year and then having her taken from you. The grief, the pain, the loss, the emptiness--I cannot fathom. Pray for both of these parents. Grief is such an individual journey and often is done silently because people don't always understand. I know grief, but I won't pretend to know what these families are facing because it is different.

So to Paula O. and Emma, if you read this, from one mom's heart to another. I care. I pray for you and I ask Jesus to hold you tight in His arms as you walk this roller coaster ride of grief. May you find his strength and comfort surrounding you and giving your strength to take each step forward knowing you are loved and cared for and lifted up to the throne of grace.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry

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I have become a huge fan of Chris Fabry's books and this one did not disappoint. When you read one of his books, you never know how the end will turn out and often it is not at all like you expected it to and this one is no exception there.

It's the story of two boys and a girl who spend a summer roaming the hills of Dogwood, West Virginia. It's an unlikely trio, a half African-American, half white boy who is unaccepted because of his color, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who has an alcoholic father and a mother who dies young, and a preacher's boy. The theme of the book, in part at least, is keeping promises. The preacher's boy, Matt, falls in love with Jesse, the girl and tries to help her take care of her little sister, but makes her promise to marry him.

Matt's parents don't like the two spending time together so... I can't tell you more or it will ruin the suspense of the book.  Matt comes back to "rescue" Jesse from making a bad decision, but in reality Matt needs rescued. He needs to figure out that Christianity isn't determined by rescuer status but by letting God do the rescuing. After walking away from God, Matt realizes at the end of the book, that he needs to let God be his Savior and stop trying to do it all on his own.

It's a really good book, but I'm finding it hard to sum it up well. You just need to read it. Read it and let it soak in. Realize that sometimes love does the hard thing, and in doing so, finds a new freedom.

This book was given me by Tyndale House for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed were my own.