Good Friday

Easter and the rejoicing of the risen Christ has been my favorite holiday for a long, long time.  However, it took me a very, very long time to understand why today is called "Good" Friday.  If you still don't understand, I encourage you - find a church near you that teaches from the Bible and ONLY from the Bible and ask that question. 

In the meantime, today is a day of deep, deep reflection for me.  Several years ago God brought me to my knees, showing me just how flippant I was being, how ungrateful I showed myself to Him for all Jesus had done for me that Friday so many, many years ago.

In the years since then, I have been brought to my knees by it many times but now in awe.  In goose-bump causing awe and disbelief that He would willingly, lovingly take on the burden of enduring God's wrath so I don't ever have to experience it.  Such love I can't explain, understand or - in the face of all the evidence - ever deny. 

Colossians 2:13-15 states:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

This isn't a trivial thing.  It can feel quite removed, it can seem stupid (God speaks to that, too - see 1 Corinthians 1:17-25) but it is truth.  Life giving, life altering, life saving truth. 

That Good Friday over 2,000 years ago was a day of horror, of unfathomable sadness, terror, mockery, pain, derision and hatred but also a day of humility, love and the first step to glory.  Triumph.  Grace.

On all of that I reflect today and this evening I turn to eager anticipation because the sun will rise on Sunday and I will rejoice because the Son has already risen.  He is risen indeed.


Worth Reading

Yesterday I read this.  And I fought tears.  Not because Will has Down Syndrome but because that mother doubted she'd be able to love him as he deserved.

What a joy to read she discovered God provides - all we will ever always need.


This Season of Lent

I don't know how often I'll write about this.  This post will probably be quite random and rambling.  A few weeks ago I read this post talking about Lent.  And you know what happened, right?  You would be correct.  Something in it jumped at me and grabbed me by the shoulders so I couldn't move and stared straight into my eyes.  Into my very soul.

It was this: 

"I’ve made soup. I’ve lit the candle. We bow.
I serve bowls, I pass out bread, I pour cups.
They’re talking and I am listening and I blithely sit down and I eat.
I have bread in the mouth, the bowl half empty, when I drop the spoon. I shake the head hard. I taste disgust. I absentmindedly eat in the evening, a meal I vowed to fast from.
What was I thinking? I can’t scrub my lips clean.
I choke it out in a whisper, “Do I not think enough of You to remember?”
I close the eyes tight and the heart cries the words silent. Do I love You so little?”
It is an irrefutable law: one needs to be dispossessed of the possessions that possess —
before one can be possessed of God.
Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God. God only comes to fill the empty places and kenosis is necessary – to empty the soul to know the filling of God.
But the flesh is corrupt. I can’t do it."

Reading that took me straight to my knees.  I was confronted by my own arrogance, my own pride.  Those words... "Do I not think enough of You to remember?  Do I love You so little?"  They echoed and echoed and echoed through what felt like very, very dark halls in my heart.  I knew better than to let that echo sound a panic that God may have deserted me but I didn't let it fool me into believing He was thrilled with who I've been...who I am becoming.  I have been "she who does life on her own."  Again.

Isn't that the way?  Or...isn't that my way?  We are I am in the Word, we're I'm praying, God is walking with us me - hand in hand.  And then something sparkles in the distance and we I run off just a little bit ahead.  We I turn back that first time but there is that sparkle again and we I run a little further...

We I run until God is a fuzzy figure in the way-back distance and suddenly?  We're I'm not sure we I can hear him calling.  We're I'm not sure what He's saying...

And because we I can't understand, we I stand there for a little bit and then turn back around to that sparkly thing...and give up listening for good.  Or until something catches our my attention and we I realize what a fool we've I've been... again.

When that happened this time, I "woke up" when I read that article and it broke my heart.  How does God suffer us so well?  I love Him so much but I don't show Him that.  Jesus becomes another word that falls off of my tongue and I am furious at myself for my laziness.

So this time I think - what can I do?  In addition to repenting my pride, my idolatry, my foolishness I look at the calendar and see yes - Lent is starting tomorrow and Easter is coming up quickly.  This year I should try - try to give up something for Lent and this time give up something more meaningful, more painful, than I have in the past.  I've always struggled with Lent (and hence gave up giving up) because it never seemed all that heart-felt to me.  I gave up something (usually chocolate) because it was the thing to do and didn't really cost much.

This time I sat and thought and prayed - what do you want me to give up, Lord?  And when an answer didn't come to me right away, I gave up and opened my computer.

To Facebook.

And it struck me - there it sat in all of it's electronic glory.  Facebook.  That social network hub that keeps me attached to the people in my life - some whom I see often and some I haven't seen in almost 30 years and ranges in between.  Facebook.  That robber of time, duller of senses and honestly?  Reducer of value.  How easy it is to compare yourself to the friend who has 300 friends more than you do or to the acquaintance who has just jetted off to yet another location to hop on yet another cruise ship...  How easy it is to place your value in comparison to others.

When your value lies only in Christ.

I repeated that to myself a few times.  Prayed over it for another day or two and then posted for all to read (so no one would think I was dead) that I was giving up Facebook for Lent. 

And boy oh boy has it hurt.  I really didn't realize just how much I'd come to rely on that silly system to provide entertainment (who doesn't love their friend's kids' funny pictures or playing hours of Scrabble and Words with Friends?), to keep me in the loop on what was happening in people's lives (what is wrong with a phone call or letter?) and to make sure I saw my "daily deals" (who doesn't need another tchotchke for the living room?). 

It's been gone one week now and I will admit - I still go a bit weak in the knees when I think about it.  The temptation to sign on and just "clear my notifications" is almost overwhelming.  Facebook has emailed to TELL me I have notifications and I think "oh...it misses me."  (Right??? Don't touch that one...  I promise you I am NOT crazy!)

Yet in that week what I have replaced Facebook with?  Journaling?  Yes.  Reading the Psalms?  Yes.  Praying more often?  Yes.  Working a bit harder?  Yes.  Tackling that pile of recipes I've wanted to sort for more months than I can remember?   Yes.

And that's just week one...

Tomorrow will be a big test.  It's Saturday and I want to organize the freezer.  I'll be home alone for the bulk of the day and you do realize that means my laptop will be calling my name, even from another room, right? 

So what plan is in place?  Prayer.  Prayer.  Prayer.  I can't do this in my strength so I am requesting He provide His and do you know what I know?  He is faithful and just and all we ask in His will has already been provided.  He works all to the good for those who love Him and this stretching and growing, this reminding myself to whom I pledged my life...

He will be faithful.


Kitchen Beginnings

We  moved into our current home in June, 2007.  It's a single story rambler, about 1500 sq. ft.  It's not very large and it's cozy and it has a lot of quirks but that's just some of the things I love about it.  When Aaron and I found it, we swooned (ok - I swooned, he was just a little giddy) over the backyard (something rarely found these days) and the front yard (set back just far enough from the street).  We have one neighbor next door and woods on the other side & in the back (which has been a bit annoying in the rodent department but that's a post I'll never do).  We're on the outskirts of a town which is our mailing address but technically?  We're in the unincorporated portion of our county so we don't really belong to anyone.  Hello lower taxes...

However.  And it's a big however.  The previous owner, despite his wife's ravings about his carpenter capabilities, was not all that good at home repair.  Or he was lazy.  Or he was cheap.  Or he was all of the above.  My husband often refrains from expressing his mind when he finds just one more thing...

To give you a hint at his mindset - our drain field failed 6 months after we moved in and truth be told, we could have sued (and to this day there is still a part of us that wishes we had) because in the septic report there was one piece of paper he signed stating the company told him his drain field had an issue and needed major repair.  He not only didn't share that information with us, he withheld that piece of paper until after we had moved in - and even then it was his realtor who shared it, not him.  The realtor never did give us a reason for his not handing it over sooner.  I think we never followed through with the suit because we believe we were foolish in not pushing for that paperwork (on the septic inspection) before signing.  We asked for it, sure but didn't push the issue until we were in.

I am rabbit trailing in a BIG way today.  Apparently stepping away from my blog for almost 4 months makes me chatty...

My point is that the drain field failure cost us a lot of money.  A lot.  Then, in the midst of that recovery, my husband was laid off from his job (twice) and we couldn't really put any money aside for home remodeling.  Then, as we would get some money set aside for a project or two, something would go wrong (broken pipe under the house - more septic system issues - broken water main - broken kitchen pipe - dead outlet in the kitchen...) and we'd find some other cheap fix the previous owner had made (rather than doing it right... grrr..) and our money would go to a "need" not a "want."

Painting has been slow.  To say the least.  It took us 3 years of living in the house before we redid our bathroom (I can't even describe the hideousness that was there before) and our kitchen... Well.  The back part of our house is very "cave like" I always say.  It gets the morning sun only and the woods behind us holds very tall trees so even that morning sun is filtered and brief.  The sun beats on the roof all afternoon which makes it quite warm in the summer but there are no windows on the roof so it's very dark.  The kitchen was horrible.  The previous owners had installed these green countertops and a few people have called them "pretty" but I have always flat out thought they were ugly.  Not 1970's green ugly but pretty ugly.  I've always hated them.  The granite I fell in love with, though, is $64 a square foot and we have 36 sq. ft. of counter space.  That whole money issue... 

So, Aaron talked to me about painting our counters and I always blew the idea off because I could not, for the life of me, imagine liking something painted.  Until I was hanging out two Saturdays ago watching a home improvement show (I do not recall which one!) and they painted the countertops of their client.  Well, the client did the painting - they helped and featured the paint system.

That night I mentioned it to Aaron, we hopped online and found the company, checked out the different kit options and $89.70 later (safely ordered via PayPal), our paint kit was on its way.  It showed up Thursday and over Labor Day weekend, Aaron painted.  First I cleaned the counters (scrubbed 'em with an SOS pad - easy), then we taped them off then Aaron painted on the primer on Friday.  That took 8 hours to dry and we had plans for Saturday so he painted Saturday night.  Four hours for that to dry and again - plans on Sunday so Sunday night he painted the first layer of top coat, Monday night the second.  Now we wait a few days for the paint to set before we start putting things back but...  here is the before and after:

How happy with THIS do you think I am?  Yes - the top picture was taken at night but that's with every light on in the kitchen.  The second picture?  Daylight only.  In picture #1?  Shadows have shadows...  I can't believe how much brighter it is in the kitchen and how much better the room looks just by painting the counters.

Now...we're going to paint the walls and ditch the ugly wallpaper and I may even re-stain the cabinets.  I think I could love a kitchen....


Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday is the day earmarked nationally to recognize those women who have loved us unconditionally - cheered us on, picked us up, cleaned our cuts & scrapes, cooked our food, shopped for that food, done our laundry, took care of us while we were sick, hugged us through our nightmares...

And on & on the list goes.

I was blessed with a wonderful Mom and while I doubt they acknowledge Mother's Day in heaven, I know she'll have a glorious day.

For those of you who still have your Mom here on earth - I hope you have an amazing day with her.  If you are a Mom, I hope your kids (and husbands) spoil you rotten.  I know the latter is what I'm in for.  I'm ready.  I can't wait.

May the day be sunny and beautiful and may you and your family make some amazing memories.

Happy Mother's Day!

My Mom - 2008


Friday Night Dinner - At Home

Last Friday we were exhausted.  It's been a rough couple of weeks of baby showers, family things, church things and just...life.  You know what I mean that "we've been hibernating all winter & now the weather is getting nicer so we need to wake up" type of life.

So last Friday, we wound down the week by grilling at home and can I just say that my husband is a master on the grill?  I have yet to eat anything, in 9 years of his cooking for me, that I don't just drool over.  I'm not a fan of beef but he manages to make it so tender, so absolutely yummy, that I can't help but close my eyes and sigh in absolute bliss from the first bite.

Grilling to perfection
That was this flank steak...  Then,  I added a caprese salad (this was the EASIEST side dish ever - use the marinated mozzarella balls, cut them up into quarters, do the same with cherry tomatoes, chop up a few basil leaves & add a bit of shallot - yummy.  The oil that marinates the mozzarella adds tons of flavor.) and some roasted green beans.  We sat down to dinner and the world - and all of it's stress - just melted away from our house for a few delicious hours.  If I could but do that every Friday...

Dinner Bliss!



It's been a week.  A week of absolute horror as we watched the news media play video of the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon.  What is that?  Over and over and over again they would replay those pictures.  Talk and talk and talk - saying nothing new, nothing newsworthy and often nothing more than pure speculation.
Why do they feel we need to be CONSTANTLY bombarded with "breaking news?"  An on the hour/half-hour update would probably have been sufficient.  Instead, they hover - like vultures - waiting for the next morsel they can scoop up.  Pulling in their "exclusives" (how many times did we need to hear from the girl who went to high school with one of the bombing suspects - who said he was a "nice guy" but she hadn't seen him in years... ?) and wasting time and air space.
If we want sensationalism in our news, we can tune into one of those entertainment shows...
It's tiresome.  And ridiculous.  It doesn't make us look intelligent, it makes us look blood-thirsty.
Last night's capture of the second suspect in the Boston bombing had friends on mine on Facebook posting angry tirades as to why this guy was captured alive.
Angry he's alive?  Really? 
Perhaps that wouldn't bother me so much if these are the same people who profess a belief in God and a following of Jesus Christ.
You know - even when Jesus was flogged, scourged and hung on the cross He said not one negative thing about the "terrorists" who did it to Him.  He, instead, implored God to forgive because we didn't know what we were doing.
Yes.  We. 
The bombing suspect caught is a 19 year old boy.  A boy whose story we know not one iota about.  We know nothing of the life he lived to get to that point of hate.  We know nothing of what he was taught, of what he wasn't taught.  We know nothing except...
He, too, is a creation of God's.  Loved by God as much as we are. 
Who are we to be angry, disappointed and frustrated that God chose NOT to have him die last night?
Who are we to determine there is nothing more this boy can do in this world?  Nothing more he can learn - or teach?  Who are we?
I read a blip today, too - somewhere - that when Boston heard that Wellsboro?  Watersboro?  Baptist Church was headed to Boston to set up their protests that Bostonians turned out in droves to block their way into the city.  The church couldn't even get out of their vans.
I'm all for sharing the love of Christ but I have yet to see where that church does that.  They tell everyone all of the horrible things they are doing wrong to incur the wrath of God.  Well...no offense people but Jesus told us to take the plank out of our own eye so then we can actually see the speck in our brother's eye.
How much plank removing have they done?
I'm tired.  Battle weary.  I can't imagine how hard it was for God to wade through those thousands of years, how hard it was for Christ to come here and minister, serve and then die for us.  We're a bunch of ungrateful, unloving, self-absorbed, pride filled whiners.
Ok...not everyone but...I know I sure am.  What do they say?  The characteristics you yourself hold are the ones you most dislike in others?
I can be just as blood-thirsty, just as quick to anger, frustration.  Just as self-righteous.  Just as judgemental...
But I am fairly sure Jesus doesn't want me to be.  He wants me to love.  As God is love.  And leave the justice to Him.  Because His is fair, true and just.  Mine is not.
So...for that young man in Boston who has a world of hurt in front of him, I will pray.  I will pray God gets his heart and he doesn't end up in hell.  Because I know I don't want to go to hell and that young man isn't loved by God any less than I am.
And to the people of Boston?  I love you.  I am humbled by your courage and community and care for one another.  I am praying for your hurting, your helpless...and your hopeless.  For those who were "1st responders" and for those who suffered injuries we both see and don't.  Praying for God's comfort to envelope your city like a cloud.
Like His Shekinah glory of old...wouldn't that be an amazing breaking news story?