I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free! Psalm 119:32, NIV1984

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Old Camel Knees

We're studying the letter from James in Bible study right now - teaching it to high school and middle school students - and I'm loving that for so many reasons!  James is one of those people I want to meet when I get to heaven because, I mean . . . seriously . . . imagine the stories he'll tell!  I'm thinking:  find a shady spot by the river, split open a juicy pomegranate, take a seat on a smooth stone, and listen while he tells stories of his growing up years. 

James, half-brother of Jesus.  James, who doubted and rejected Jesus during the days of Jesus' earthly ministry.  James, to whom Jesus came personally, after His resurrection.  James, who became a pillar of the early church.  James, the wise partriarch and respected peacemaker. James, who counseled Paul

This man, I think, could tell some fascinating stories.

But you know what I find most fascinating and inspiring and challenging about this man?  This man was known to his own people as "Old Camel Knees." 

And I have to ask:  Have you ever taken a good look at a camel's knees?

They're not exactly the prettiest things you've ever seen!

They're knobby and rough and calloused.


They look like they've taken a pretty good beating.


But the reference to James as "Old Camel Knees" is one of honor and respect. 

That description of James is the reason I brought home a little olivewood camel the last time I went to Israel.  

I bought it in an olivewood shop in Bethlehem, and it sits on my desk to remind me . . .

James was affectionately referred to as "Old Camel Knees" because he spent so much time on his knees, praying for his people.

Can you imagine?

What would that kind of life look like? 

I don't know.  I know some people that probably live a life that is close to that.  I know I want to live that kind of life.  Or at least . . . I want to want to.

Paul said in Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
I wonder if he learned that from James.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Count Your Blessings

I woke up this morning with that old song running through my head and soon finding its way to my lips. I can't remember the last time I even heard that song.  But this morning, I made biscuits, poured coffee, prepped homeschool lessons . . .

. . . and as I worked I sang:

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your blessings
See what God has done
Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your many blessings
See what God has done!

It's contagious, you know . . . singing those catchy tunes.  Pretty soon, my boy-child was singing the song with me.  And my firstborn, leaning over her math book, looked up and rolled her eyes and said, "Mom!  Look what you've started!" 

I had to smile.  Because it's exactly the thing I want to start!  I want to start them counting their blessings, naming them one by one.  I want them to think through every one - every single blessing, big or small.

Like all those biscuits cut out one-by-one.  The whole lump of dough was more than any one of us could digest.  But one biscuit at a time?  One biscuit at a time sat scrumptious on our tongues.  One biscuit at a time was something we could chew on.  One biscuit at a time satisfied our hunger and prepared us for the day ahead.

Ann says it in her book, and I concur:  "There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things.  It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up."  She continues, "...slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply grateful for very few things in my life . . . life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time."  (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)


And so I continue the counting . . . one small thing, one big thing, each individual thing. . . one at a time.

1031 fruit trees in full bloom
1032 quiet, rainy mornings
1033 sleepy kids snuggled under blankets
1034 jugs of spring water
1035 waking to the sound of rain
1036 Sabbath
1037 celebrating with husband and kids
1038 rainy days still . . . after a year of drought
1039 sweet, sweet potatoes
1040 strawberries, mangoes, and avocados in salad
1041 singing this song in church
1042 hearing my kids sing that same song over and over at home
1043 homemade cheesecake
1044 licking the bowl! =)
1045 her waterproof cast
1046 neighborhood friends signing her cast
1047 picking him up after work
1048 the simple clean-up that follows a crock-pot dinner
1049 writing
1050 her excitement
1051 this new book
1052 salt air and sea spray
1053 Spring Break road trips
1054 lunch with neighbors who have become friends
1055 enjoying them so much!
1056 sandy feet
1057 rocking chairs on a porch overlooking the water
1058 picking strawberries . . . row after row
1059 three buckets full!
1060 hearing them say again and again, "That was so much fun!"
1061 rain boots in the mud
1062 cinnamon coffee and dessert
1063 hearing her stories of Damascus
1064 seeing the orthodox man in his yalmulke and tzitzit at the rodeo
1065 finding a sweet treat that was safe for her
1066 all those cowboy boots in one place
1067 a bus driver who went the extra mile
1068 sweet kitty sitting out front waiting when we got home
1069 her cast and how it reminds us . . . sometimes God uses the hard things

Taste and see that the LORD is good . . . Psalm 34:8

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Hard Things

She finally got her hard cast last Tuesday.  Bright pink and reaching nearly to her shoulder.  Hard as rock.  Her brother and her friends have been knocking on the pink, amazed at how hard it actually is. They've been grabbing markers, scribbling their names on the pink in permanent ink.

In some ways, that hard cast has made things easier.  She's not afraid to sleep in her bed now - not afraid that if she rolls, she'll reinjure her arm, move the bones that aren't quite "sticky" enough to hold in place on their own.  She's confident that the hard cast will protect her arm when she picks up her toddler cousin and the sweet boys she babysits.

And it's waterproof.  She can shower now without a towel inside a plastic bag wrapped with duct tape to seal out the water.  Now the water can wash right through the pink, right under the white, cleansing the skin beneath, washing away the salty sweat and grime of the day.

It's a hard thing.  It's uncomfortable.  It fully restricts the movement of that arm.  It's hot.  It makes some things impossible and some things harder than they used to be.  But it's a blessing.  It's the hard thing that provides the platform for healing.  It the hard thing that holds the broken things in place for now - because without the hard thing, they'd move in opposite directions.  It's the hard thing that makes it possible for the broken things to become one again.

And isn't that it? Isn't that the beautiful part of this uncomfortable, inconvenient, frustratingly hard hard thing?  Isn't it this . . . that sometimes God uses the hard things?  The uncomfortable things.  The inconvenient things.  Sometimes that's what it takes.  Sometimes it's the only way.  It's hard, uncomfortable, even painful in the midst of it.  But sometimes it's the only way to mend what's been splintered and shattered and torn.

Sometimes God uses the hard things to make the broken things whole.

Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces;
now He will heal us.
He has injured us;
now He will bandage our wounds.
In just a short time He will restore us,
So that we may live in His presence.
Oh, that we might know the LORD!
Let us press on to know Him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of the rains in early spring.
Hosea 6:1-3, NLT

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Monday, March 19, 2012

A thousand thanks

Over a year ago, I started keeping a gratitude journal. I started that journal during a week we received some unsettling news...during a week we told our kids that we were going to start a new adventure, that we didn't know what God had in store, but we would be excited to see. God had always faithfully met us at every point of need, and we had no reason to doubt He would continue to do exactly that. That gratitude journal was a way of keeping track...a tangible way for me to see...a process by which I could make sure I didn't miss the glimpses of God's goodness and the blazing fireworks displays of His faithfulness in the midst of a journey I knew might be challenging.

The process of recording His gifts became a gift in itself - this gift of seeing...like the optometrist flipping the right lens down and suddenly everything is brilliantly clear, the fuzzy edges gone, and I can see! And who can contain the gift that changes everything? Who can keep it to himself? Like the sweet strawberries just picked from the vine..."Taste this! See how sweet?!" Like stars blazing bright in the sky after so many days of rain..."Come look! See?!" Who can keep from sharing?

So I put a basket on the table and filled it with a pen and colorful leaves cut from cardstock. And I told my children to just grab that pen and write down what God had done. If they knew that God had blessed them, if they were grateful for something He had given them, if they knew He had done something just for them...well, write it down. It would be a basket of blessings, a way to record His gifts, a way to give thanks. And they did! They wrote down His gifts - the ways that God had blessed them. They wrote down happy things... "kayaking" and "pumpkin bread for breakfast." And they wrote down hard things... "Thank you that we found Cali (my boy-child's beloved cat), even though he wasn't ok, so we would know and we wouldn't wonder." They wrote and they wrote, and they filled the basket...and the next month, they said, "Mom, could we get cardstock shapes every month so we can just keep going?" Um. Yes! Yes!! Yes!!! A thousand times, YES!

They filled that basket month after month, and we moved the finished months' records to a box labeled "blessings." And we're still counting. Because His gifts...they just keep coming. And His goodness...it never ends!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, and praise His name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:4-5, NLT

Continuing to count His gifts...

1001 all those sweaty lacrosse clothes on my laundry room floor
1002 her bright pink splint
1003 sunlight streaming in my kitchen windows
1004 sun streaming through clouds over the field yesterday
1005 their sweet friendship still...since preschool
1006 my firstborn and her friend babysitting little ones together
1007 toddler smiles
1008 the fragrance of flowers on the lemon tree that hangs across my fence
1009 bees buzzing busily about the branches
1010 husband taking the kids out to dinner so I can write
1011 grace even though I missed the deadline
1012 my firstborn's quick forgiveness after my temper flared
1013 pretty aprons
1014 this news report,  this commentary,  and these reminders to pray
1015 tweets that make me smile
1016 precious man faithfully mowing our lawn these dozen years
1017 boy-child raking leaves in our front yard
1018 his sweet attitude as he helps his sister
1019 the scent of her shampoo
1020 washing her hair
1021 blowing it dry
1022 plastic bags and duct tape to keep her splint dry in the bath
1023 having to go without running water from 8-5...realizing how we could use less
1024 boy-child carrying an elderly lady's purchases to her car for her
1025 clean water
1026 the sound of laundry turning in the dryer
1027 fixing the toilet
1028 quiet house, kids sleeping still
1029 morning coffee
1030 this word:  "Oh, my people, trust in Him at all times.  Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge!  (Psalm 62:7-8, NLT)

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Monday, March 12, 2012

People always ask . . .

The question people ask me - probably more than any other question - is, "Why do you homeschool?" And the answer, in its simplest form is this:  "Because God called us to it." 

I often tell people that I could have been the poster-child for the "Anti-Homeschoolers of America."  (I don't even know if such a group exists. In reality, I hope not.)  But God changed my heart.  Completely.  It wasn't easy.  And it didn't happen overnight.  It was a process . . . like so many other things the Lord accomplishes in our lives. 

It started with a friend - who wasn't even a homeschooler! - encouraging me to pray about homeschooling . . .  (My kids were 1 yr and 3 yrs old at the time!) and with me responding, "Um. No."  For at least a year, I said, "No.  I don't want to pray about it.  I won't pray about it.  I don't want God to change my heart."  (Are you liking how that worked out for me? Yeah, I'm a slow learner. Ever been there?)

About a year into this conversation, I said to the Lord, "Ok.  If you want me to homeschool, you're going to have to change my heart."  Little did I know that He had the whole operation lined up and ready to go.  The short version of that story is that, for the next year, over and over in infinitely creative ways, He put me face-to-face with people who were unknowing but powerfully and beautifully sweet refutations, in living color, of every argument I had against homeschooling.

So then I said to the Lord, "Ok, you've changed my heart.  But now you'll have to give me a vision for it."  And in His faithfulness, He did.  And He gave me this . . . this thought turning in my head, this anthem for my heart, this foundation and framework for our days . . . "because I want them to be trained by My Word not by this world." 

Will we always homeschool?  Will we homeschool all the way through high school?  I don't know.  I'm learning not to make grand proclamations about what I will and won't do in the future.  I can only say what we'll do now, in this place, today.

And I can pray that the Lord will keep my heart tender toward Him and willing to obey His call . . . whatever and wherever that might be.

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  Psalm 86:11, NLT

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