Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sensational Seven

Reed celebrated his 7th birthday in high style this weekend, with a party with pals on Friday afternoon, lunch at Olive Garden on Saturday, and then the long-awaited gift opening. Aunt Beth and Uncle Barry win the "Favorite Gift" award, with the giant Tweety bird. MiMi and BaBa were in the running, however, with Reed's new swimsuit ensemble that he refused to take off for the rest of the day. Notice the sunburst/lava-like design chosen by Reed. He's one stylish individual, that's for sure! It was a great birthday celebrating a great kid!

Reed celebrated with his first-grade classmates from CAK, his neighborhood friends, and his pals Eric and Maya.

Reed remembered Olive Garden's birthday cake, so he chose to dine there. He was quite chatty with the waitress and handled the "birthday song" attention better than his mom ever has.

Gifts are exciting for both brothers, as they knew they'll share in the fun of whatever lies beneath the wrapping. This year, along with Tweety, was Mario Cart for Wii and Pokemon Platinum for the DS - we haven't seen them since.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Once upon a time there was a fair-haired little boy who grew into a handsome prince. The king and queen watched as his heart grew strong, his spirit swelled with passion, and his eyes danced with life. With each passing day, they knew he was growing into the king he would someday be and that on that day he would rule and reign well. They rejoiced in the knowledge that his presence brings joy, hope, and life to others. And they rested in the faith that his life brings joy to the King of kings.

Happy 7th birthday Prince Reed. We love you!

(Self-portrait, April 25, 2009)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Creating Community

Lately I've been thinking about why some things that are so essential are so difficult. One things that's been on my mind is community.

I absolutely believe that it is crucial that we live in community with other Christians. Why, then, is it so messy, so hard, and sometimes (often times) so hurtful? If we are Christ-followers, then why don't we follow His example?

Jesus loved, and He spoke truth in love. He saw past poverty and infirmity and paid no mind to society and piety - when someone was in need, He responded.

He lived in intimate fellowship with a group of friends (one of whom betrayed Him, so He understands our hurt and disappointment when community lets us down).

He gave ... oh, how He gave! He gave it all: His words, His time, His touch, His power, and ultimately His life for others, for us.

How can we do a better job living in community? Walking through life in fellowship? Here are a few verses that speak to this very question:

If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Phillipians 2:1

Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. James 3:17

If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
Isaiah 58:9

Living in community is something we need to commit to, fight for, and be active participants in. We need to offer ourselves - authentically, lovingly, and generously. As Isaiah writes, "Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight." Ahhh, I love that. Now that's a life that I desire.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fathered By God

Last night Tim and I traveled with friends to Christ Community Church in Franklin to hear John Eldredge speak. His talk was based on his book Fathered by God, which explores the stages of the masculine journey. As the parents of two sons, we have been greatly impacted by John's writing in this area: first, his book Wild at Heart, and then, The Way of the Wild Heart (newly re-released as Fathered by God).

The stages, as outlined in his talk/book, are boyhood (ages 0-12), cowboy (ages 13-19), warrior (age 19-...), lover (age 19-...), king (age 40+), and sage (age 55+). Each stage is vital to a man, but most often a man's needs in one or more stages go unmet. Even though he will move on to the next stage, he is greatly affected by this lack of initiation.

The good news is that as unfinished men (and women), we have a Father who loves us. God will initiate us in the ways that our earthly fathers did not. He offers the answers to our deepest questions, awakens our hearts, heals our broken places, and even provides others to walk with us in our journey.

There is a process to becoming a man, and when we understand it, we can understand much about ourselves, our husbands, and our sons. I encourage you to read any of John's books, but if you are the parent of sons, then please check out Wild at Heart and Fathered by God. I truly believe they will bless you with insight as you raise your sons to be men after God's own heart.


On Tuesday I had the opportunity to conclude a study of women in the Bible that the ladies of my church have been in this year. Below is an adaptation of my "talk":

Imagebearers. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Think about it: As women we are created in the image of God.

When we think of imagebearers in the Scriptures, descriptions immediately come to mind. Eve: hopeful. Sarah: faithful. Ester: courageous. Mary: obedient. The Samaritan woman: transformed. When the Word says we "bear" the image of God, it means we carry or possess it, but bear also means "exhibit." If we bear the image of God, we exhibit or show this somehow. How? In our character.

Let's take a closer look at the women from the Bible that I mentioned to examine their character more fully. In Genesis, we first meet Woman - that is her name. Early in her story we see that she disobeys God and, as a result, hides in shame. But God doesn't leave her there. Woman is restored and given a new name - Eve: mother of all living. We see God's faithfulness in Eve's story and in redeeming her character.

Later in Genesis we find Sarah exercising great faith as she follows her husband, Abram, into a new land, and believes God's promise to them of a son. We also discover her humanity as she experiences fear and disbelief and takes matters into her own hands. The result brings her misery and jealousy, but once again, we see that God is faithful. He fulfills his promise to Sarah and gives her a son when she is 90 years old. In her waiting, Sarah is transformed into a woman of abundant faith.

When we study Ester, we see how a women's beauty goes far deeper than her appearance - to her heart. When she offers herself courageously, selflessly, and lovingly on behalf of others, she can change the world. Ester risks it all, and as a result saves her people. Her beauty of character comes from knowing that God is sufficient for her every need.

In the New Testament we meet a young, poor, unaccomplished, and unknown young woman named Mary. To God, none of that matters. He is looking for someone who loves him, and Mary is devout, obedient, and humble. In a life-changing moment, we see her put her faith in God and accept the unexpected. Scripture shows us that Mary responds - not with fear or self-doubt or hesitancy - by worshipping God, by showing her gratitude, and by acknowledging his holiness, power, and love.

In John 4, we encounter a woman very different than Mary. The Samaritan woman is drawing water in the heat of the day, alone at the well, disgraced and ashamed. Yet, her life changes when a Jewish man asks her for a drink and a conversation ensues. In that moment, God is working in her heart, drawing her to Christ, and revealing truth. In fact, she is the first person that Jesus reveals his true identity to - He is the Messiah! We see an enthusiastic, determined woman leave the well to eagerly tell all about Jesus. Her life is changed, but more importantly, her heart is changed.

Why does the Bible share the stories of these exceptional women? It can't be because they are exceptions - no, they are examples for us as fellow imagebearers. We will all, like Eve, make tragic choices and run from God. We will all, like Sarah, have times of fear and disbelief. We will all, like Ester, face circumstances that demand courage and include risk. We will all, like Mary, experience the unexpected. And we will all, like the Samaritan woman, feel alone and ashamed.

The question isn't how we are like these women - that is clear. The question is how we will respond, for through our response we move toward God or away from Him.

Scripture provides insight into how we can cultivate a Christ-like character that will rule our responses. In Ephesians Paul writes, "You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything - and I do mean everything - connected wtih that old way of life has to go. It is rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life - a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you." (Eph. 4:17-21)

In 2 Peter we are encouraged, "Don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus." (2 Pet. 2:5)

John MacArthur writes in his book Twelve Extraordinary Women: "The women of the Bible were ordinary, common, and in some cases shockingly low-caste women ... in each instance, what made them extraordinary was a memorable, life-changing encounter with the God of the universe ... He refined them like silver. He redeemed them through the work of an extraordinary Savior - his own divine Son - and confirmed them to His image ... they stand as reminders of both our fallenness and our potential ... They point us to Christ.

These imagebearers encountered God, experienced Christ, and the fruit of their faith was Christ-like character. Have you had such an encounter? Have you experienced Christ? If so, then what is your response? If you are moving toward God, then consider the beautiful promise of 2 Corinthians 3:18, for it is true for you: "We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Apparently Reed doesn't agree with writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer, who said, "A man by himself is in bad company." On Monday, Reed was sitting in the playroom watching a DVD. When I walked through the room, I asked, "Reed, do you need anything?" He answered, "Yes. Privacy."

I halted mid-step and smiled. If I didn't know better, I probably would have wondered if I heard right. But, I knew better. In his six, nearly seven, years, Reed has often caught me off guard by his unexpected and utterly frank responses to my inquiries. An example? A request for a kiss received the declaration, "No, Mom. Your breath smells." (How's that for honesty?)

So, Reed wanted privacy. When I shared this story, someone asked if he takes this after Tim. I thought about it and realized that if Reed has inherited a need for solitude, it has come through both his parents. Both of us are true introverts, who rest and recharge through alone time. Now, I'm not sure that Reed is an introvert - he's much more of a people person than Tim or myself - but I love how he recognized his need for privacy and wasn't afraid to ask for it.

I found many interesting thoughts as I read about this idea of solitude. Blaise Pascal believed that “All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone." Thomas Edison mused, "The best thinking has been done in solitude." And Martin Buber wrote that "Solitude is the place of purification." Hmmm ... all good, encouraging ideas for a person such as myself.

I really like Aldous Huxley's belief: "The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude." If Huxley is correct, then I believe I'll hear Reed's request for privacy a lot more in the coming years. (Who doesn't believe their child has a "power and original mind"?)

However, I know that if I pressed the issue and asked Reed why he wanted privacy, he'd most likely channel H.G. Wells and offer this utterly frank yet simple reply: "Go away, I'm all right!"

Monday, April 13, 2009


I thought that the nest I made with edible Easter grass (warning: "edible" doesn't translate "tasty") and the colorful eggs the boys dyed was lovely:


Tim found this robin's nest in one of our bushes as he was hiding eggs on Easter. I can't say what was more striking - the intricacy of the nest, the color of the four perfect eggs, or the sight of the protective momma bird. Truly lovely.

P.S. On April 23, we checked the nest to find four hungry baby birds waiting for their momma to return. We watched and just a few minutes later, momma bird came back to the nest with an afternoon snack for her little ones. Amazing!

Eggcellent Easter

In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Psalm 33:21
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Matthew 28:6

We enjoyed a wonderful Easter yesterday, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord with amazing worship at our church in the morning and then sharing the afternoon with my parents and our dear friends, the Alves family.

In our Sunday best (actually better than our Sunday best, since we usually wear t-shirts and jeans to our church).

Seth and Reed look mighty fine in their Easter finery.

My mom and dad full of Easter cheer (I love this picture of them).

The boys with their pals Eric and Maya Alves.

We decided that combining forces for our Easter lunch is definitely the way to go. Thanks to Jennifer's delicious sides, Mom's amazing desserts, and my contribution of the pork loin and rolls, we had a feast that rivaled a Thanksgiving meal. After calling forth much patience from the kids, it was time for the hunt! Tim and I hid more than 160 eggs throughout the yard, and then unleashed the kiddos.

First, Tim had to deliver the "Rules for the Hunt" -- what started as three rules turned into about eight. After sitting through a long Easter lunch, this was extreme torture for the kids.

The photographer needed one more picture before the hunt began. He told them, "Act like you love each other." Obviously that was no problem, especially for Reed and Maya.

At first it was "Every man for himself," but they banded together in the end to find those final few elusive eggs.

When all the eggs were found, the kids opened them revealing the tasty treasures within. It was a sweet day, all in all.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I pulled in my driveway this morning and noticed the promise of Spring's fullness right before me. The foliage of daylilies fills the bed in front of our house, with the vivid blooms waiting to make their appearance. Hosta is uncurling in a neat row. And our weeping cherry tree has already bestowed is sweet white flowers and traded them for neat green leaves.

The sight of this tree reminds me of the passing of time. Sometimes it comes to me like a punch in the gut, stirring up memories of what was lost; other times, it is a soft kiss that reminds me of God's sovereignty and provision.

You see, two years ago this March we lost our third child 12 weeks into the pregnancy. Now, each Spring, I am transported to that experience, that loss, and the amazing ways God prepared us and provided for us during those sorrowful days.

One specific way was through the kindness of our friends. Just after the miscarriage, my dear girlfriends from church gifted us with this weeping cherry tree. Tim, the boys, and I planted it together. We now watch it grow and bloom. Each Spring I enjoy its beauty, and I remember.

Another way God provided for us was through a concert, as strange as that may sound. For Christmas 2006, I had given Tim tickets to see Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin in concert. At the time, I didn't even know I was pregnant.

The concert arrived in the Spring just one week after our miscarriage. We went, heartbroken and weary, and found that evening a time and a place to grieve our baby's death. As Matt Redman sang "Blessed Be Your Name," we felt the space and freedom to weep and mourn in the midst of worship. We felt the only consolation that could bring any healing ... the love of our Father, the confirmation that He goes ahead of us and prepares the way, and the assurance that He sees us and cares for us in our brokenness.

Just a few nights ago, Tim and I went to see Chris Tomlin again. From the moment I bought the tickets, I thought of that first concert and how God ministered to us through it. I marveled at how time goes on and how life springs new even in the midst of loss.

In these past two years, God has continued to bring healing, to lavish His love, to provide for our needs, and to set us on a course of freedom and LIFE. We still grieve our loss and yearn to know the child we never met; yet, we know Psalm 139 is true. We know that God knows his (or her) name, and someday we will too. So, we can stand with hands raised in worship and sing with full confidence and utter joy ...

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord