If Hearing About the Acorn Grubs Two Posts Ago Bothered You…

then take my advice and just SKIP this bloggy entry, m’kay friends?

You’d think on the Sabbath I’d have something uplifting and spiritually encouraging to share with you. Not today, readers, so sorry!

This morning I stayed home from church with a little boy whose tummy hurt him. After spending some time with him, I turned my attentions to tidying up a bit. That’s when I remembered those pillar candles and the hurricanes which still needed to be cleaned out.

The other day when I tossed the “grubby” acorns (into a sealed bag for my FIL who may just find a use for the disgusting little creatures), I left the candles and hurricanes as they were. This morning I figured I’d wash them out. When I went back to look at them, I was surprised at how much loose powdery wax was at the bottom of the hurricanes.  I had assumed maybe all the acorns in the container had somehow loosened little bits of wax from the outsides of the candles. I was wrong.

Picking up a pillar candle and examining it, I was horrified to see little holes all around the base, and a tiny creature inhabiting each hole. Evidently our acorn grubs liked the idea of setting up house inside the vanilla scented candles, for they had created a small apartment complex for them to nest in. Housekeeping was already set up and they were in the process of decorating for the holidays.

I spent almost an hour extracting these disgusting little things from each candle base, all the while telling myself not to puke over the ickiness of it all. And then after all that work, I asked myself the obvious question: why in the world I had bothered? Did I really want to put these particular pillar candles back on my dining room table?? Hmmm??

Once again I find myself thinking it would have been wise to have just bought those Pottery Barn acorns in the first place. Because tomorrow I will spend yet more $$ as I venture back to Hobby Lobby for some grub-free candles.

Clean Springs

I was listening to Leviticus on the drive into work today, and made a connection of sorts. In Leviticus 11, we learn that when something unclean falls into a container, everything in the container is made unclean. Leviticus 11:36, however, makes an exception for springs and cisterns, which remain clean in spite of contact with uncleanliness.

This reminded me of John 7:38, where Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” We often summarize the New Testament as setting aside the ceremonial aspects of the law, including the Levitical clean/unclean laws. Interestingly, it seems that very law provides the mechanism for its obsolescence. If we are springs of living water, abounding with life, death cannot stick to us. We cannot be made unclean by something unclean contacting us.

Peace vs Understanding

How many times have I read Philippians 4:6-7? Hundreds? Certainly. Thousands? Maybe. Yet a few weeks ago in our Sunday liturgy, we said those verses as a congregation, and I heard something entirely new.

Wind back to November of last year. It had been a terrific few months at Viewzi. However, we hit the wall on our fundraising with the downturn in October, and by November payroll was, well, not. We all kept working at it, and the company has continued to have some success by shifting focus to more immediate, revenue-driving projects. However, the new approach really wasn’t a fit for my contribution. I’ve continued to office with the guys and collaborate on some opportunities, but by the time I heard the Philippians passage that Sunday in late March, I had been over 4 months without a paycheck.

February was the low point for me. Interestingly, our church’s service also played a key role then as well. We sang that wonderful rendition of Psalm 130, and I sang it quietly to myself each day for weeks as I learned to patiently wait on the Lord. Now in March I was doing pretty well in terms of my outlook. I’d even started a couple ventures that were starting to generate revenue. And we said Philippians 4:6-7 in the liturgy, and it was like I heard it for the first time.

What had I always heard before? That God’s peace goes beyond anything we can make sense of. We experience his peace in circumstances that should not lead to peace. And I think this is exactly what the verses state, yet I’m now convinced there is even more.

What causes worry? When do we wallow in worry instead of experiencing peace? I’d suggest the Bible’s admonitions exactly match our experience. In Matthew 6, Jesus asks us if we can add one moment to our life by worrying. We are told not to worry for food, clothing, or shelter, that God knows our needs. That we should think about today, and not fret about tomorrow.

There it is. We worry about the future. And Tricia and I, as we went months without income, worried. Tricia summed it up so well one evening when she told me, “If you told me we’d be in this situation for another 6 months, and then it would end, I’d be okay.” The situation wasn’t the only stress, it was our fears for the unknown future that were killing us. Not knowing was at the heart of the worry.

We worry because we do not know the future. We may mourn for what we do know or experience, we may experience real hardship, but we worry because of what we do not know. As we read Philippians 4:6-7 in church, I suddenly heard it this way, “and the peace of God, which is of more value than knowing”. We don’t know the future. But God does. And his peace, which he brings us, is of far more value than us knowing, even knowing the future.

What is the antidote to our worries? From this point of view, Philippians 4:6-7 and Matthew 6 offer similar answers. We need to know that God knows our needs, and then we need to seek first his kingdom. And we need to believe that God’s care, God’s knowing, is far better than our knowing.

Meditation for the Start of Lent

14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

–Hebrews 4:14-16

Why I Am Going to Observe Lent This Year

As a child growing up in the Baptist, E.V. Free and Presbyterian traditions, I do not recall our family ever observing Lent. When Jay and I married and joined a Presbyterian church body, Lent continued to go fairly unnoticed until a couple of weeks before Easter when we certainly were inclined to meditate on the events leading up to Passover, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally Resurrection Sunday.

For the past couple of years we have attended a wonderful and truly refreshing PCA church here in Dallas. I could go on and on about the ways our family has been blessed by being a part of this body, but that is a post for another time. While this particular congregation does not collectively observe Lent, a number of our dear friends within the church do, and over these last two years I have watched them as they choose to give up a particular indulgence during the forty days leading up to Easter as a way to focus more on Christ, his sufferings, and ultimately their faith in and walk with him. Until this year though, I have never felt compelled to join the ranks of those “giving up something” for the season of Lent.

But the fact is, that for a host of reasons, I have felt more keenly aware of my own sins and shortcomings in recent months. This is not to say that I have become more sinful than before; perhaps I have, but that is not my point. I have truly felt more of a struggle with my sin, and a sense of frustration as I battle against it than I have felt in a long time. Mostly, I accept this as a positive thing, for if we are not finding ourselves battling sin then perhaps we are either ignoring it, or becoming complacent or even hardened to it. Yet the outworking of struggling against our sin can be exhausting!

Our family is experiencing a set of somewhat challenging circumstances on several fronts. Though I might choose to end these trials in favor of an easier time, these challenges are certainly pushing and prodding us to learn and grow in new ways, and to become more sanctified than we might otherwise. So I am ultimately thankful for the opportunity to know more of Christ and what it means to serve Him, whatever my circumstances in this life. We are learning firsthand that no growth occurs without a good deal of hardship and some pain along the way.

Which brings me to Lent. In the midst of this hardship, I would like another reminder to continue to cling to Christ: to trust his kindness, his love for me, and his promise to help me travel through whatever paths he has planned for my good and his glory. Toward this end, I would like to turn away from an area in my own life which has plagued me since I was a young child, more and less depending on my circumstances. And so…I am going to try to give up biting my nails for Lent.

It might sound silly; most people I know give up chocolate or alcohol, or even Facebook (!) in an attempt to indulge less in the pleasures of this world, and focus more on Christ. But there is no glaring area of my life where I habitually ignore Christ’s call to trust him more than in the pathetic and ugly act of continually biting my nails. It is for me a sinful reaction to the stresses and pressure of life, and an area which, due to more stresses than I can remember in a long time, I have absolutely just given up trying to tame in any way recently.

Some people when they are stressed, go eat a bag of chips or a carton of ice cream, others turn to their god of alcohol to numb the pain of life, still others spend money they do not have in an effort to escape from the cares of their present situation. When things get tough for me, I choose to destroy my poor little fingers!! And while it doesn’t make me fat, or create heart or liver disease, or financial debt I cannot repay, I can safely state that it is a poor stewarding of the body of I’ve been given, and therefore not in keeping with behavior fitting one who calls themselves a Christian. Additionally, it is an outward manifestation of a refusal to give certain hardships and stresses over to Christ who has promised to help me carry whatever burdens I encounter in this life.

So…for the next forty days I am making a commitment to try my very best, with an abundance of help and grace from God above, to turn away from my nasty habit, and turn instead toward Christ. If, in every instance where I went to nibble on a nail, I instead stopped, took a moment to pray and meditate on the things of Christ, and fixed my eyes upon him instead of my worries, how could it not help me to love him more, and worry less about my circumstances? My prayer is that he might use this simple act of faith from a struggling sinner to strengthen my frailty and glorify himself more in me.

If anyone else is choosing to observe Lent this year, I’d love to hear about why you are doing it, and what you are choosing to abstain from or give up. Maybe we can be of help and encouragement to each other these next forty days. And regardless of your personal position or beliefs about Lent, “May we all continue to fix our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross…..so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

And Now For Something a Little Different…

As of today we’re halfway through our Cleanup Challenge, so I wanted to take a little break from the messy house pictures and share some more solid food for thought with you instead.

I was reading my friend Kristi’s blog awhile back and was quite struck by a post she wrote on Expectations. I loved what she had to say, and I think her words will likely ring home with more people than just me.  Kristi has graciously agreed to my posting her thoughts here, but when you have a chance I highly recommend a stop over at Gently Led to enjoy some of her other musings.

A confession: when people don’t meet my expectations, I tend to blame them, not my own expectations. I think they could do better than this, if only they tried harder, or if they were more spiritual. (Condemning, aren’t I?) Not that I explicitly think this, but it seems to be my underlying belief. Why else would I be frustrated at them for not doing or being what I want them to do or be?

Probably the only person I don’t usually have unreasonable — i.e. often unmet — expectations of is my son. He is 22 months old. I expect a toddler to sometimes cry, have a low level of frustration tolerance, and to demand a lot of attention. And most of the time, he is lots of fun. Why, I wonder, is it so easy for me to love him and not condemn him, and so hard with other people?

Jesus’ response to the poor widow giving money at the temple offering box shows me the problem with my expectations. After “many rich people put in large sums,” the widow gave “two small copper coins, which make a penny” (Mark 12:41, 42). Jesus said to his disciples, “this woman has put in more than all these who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (v. 43, 44).

How convicting. Jesus knows what spiritual and emotional riches other people have; I don’t. Where I see — and privately condemn — someone’s meager contribution, Jesus sees a heartfelt self-sacrifice.

I’ve always thought it sounded trite and unsatisfying when someone says about people who let them down, “Well, they did the best they could.” Perhaps this is just another way of saying that — but lately I’ve found it helpful, when I’m disappointed with someone’s behavior, to think, “Maybe this is their two cents.” 

~Kristi, of Gently Led, September, 2008

As we are in the midst of the holidays, when we all likely be getting together with family and friends to celebrate in one form or another, our expectations of those we love can come to the forefront of interactions. Sometimes these expectations can be good and right, but oftentimes I think we are the most critical of those who are closest to us, and hold expectations of them that are neither charitable nor healthy. I have seen firsthand the damage and hurt caused by unfair expectations. Not surprisingly, I have been the one harboring the unfair expectations more often than I’d like to admit.

I appreciate Kristi’s reminder to me and all of us about viewing others through Christ’s eyes. If we were to keep this at the forefront of our interactions with family and friends this holiday, how much more grace-filled our Christmas would be! Thanks Kristi, for sharing your two cents.

On Beauty

My sister’s wedding is in three weeks, and I am honored to be her Matron of Honor. As such, I get to wear a very beautiful dress. This here dress:

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And yes, dear readers, since you asked, that is me in the picture. On top of home schooling three kids and chasing after a fourth, I do a little dress modeling on the side. Just for fun.

But, since I am about six inches shorter than the average bridesmaid, there is much fabric to hack off and hem, etc etc.  So this afternoon, I went to see a seamstress about some alterations. And when I put on the dress, I was mortified to see that my middle section is rather bloated and puffy from a surgical procedure I had just three days ago. Such that I no longer look quite as good as I do in the above photo. Ahem.

In fact, I look about two months pregnant, and I’m not exaggerating.  Which would be fine, except that I’m not two months, or any months pregnant. Ugh. The seamstress was very nice about my round tummy, and tried to console me by saying things should resolve nicely in time for the wedding, and in the meantime, it wasn’t going to complicate her sewing or skew the fixes she needs to make. Well, that is good at least.

When Jay got home tonight I related my sad story, finishing with “And Honey, I truly look like I either have a serious beer belly, or am quite obviously pregnant. The dress looks terrible!”  To which my  daughter, listening nearby quickly responded “Oh not at all, Mom!!” with a sweet, sweet smile, clearly wanting to cheer me up, “It’s not bad like you think it isl! Sometimes you can be plump AND pretty!! And look, you have rosy cheeks too!”

Now of course this was not exactly the comfort I wanted, but I appreciate Abigail’s desire to comfort her mother, and her innocent and cheerful words gave me pause, in spite of my disgust over the size of my middle. It hit me that nothing in her language smacked of twentieth century terminology, and so I asked her where she’d heard that sort of wording. In a book, of course, and an old book at that.  A Little Princess is where she’d read conversation about a group of ladies who were plump, pretty, with rosy cheeks to boot.

And despite racking my feeble brain, I cannot think of a modern piece of literature that highlights anyone being pretty who is also described as “plump”. Which reminded me that beauty does come in all different sizes. Not that our culture recognizes all forms of beauty; it doesn’t. But when I hear my daughter’s viewpoint, that pretty does not necessarily mean skinny, it strikes me that she has a fairly healthy and balanced view of what is beautiful at her ripe old age of nine. And I hope that as she grows and matures, and sees more and more of what our culture interprets as beauty, she will continue to see and recognize beauty for what it truly is, in its many different sizes and shapes.

In today’s society of model-thin, almost anorexic-like ideals of beauty that our young girls are bombarded with, it is helpful…NO, make that needful for us parents to convey and live out this truth to our daughters (and our sons, for that matter, as our young men are perhaps even more inundated with unrealistic and unhealthy images of what ideal female beauty is).  But maybe we ourselves need to be reminded of it before we try to help our children learn it is so.  And hey readers….let’s not forget about those rosy cheeks either!

Sweet, Beautiful Sleep…How Thou Dost Elude Us

See these four cute, angelic-faced creatures? Aren’t they sweet all snuggled together and ready for bed in their various nighttime attires?

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Who would believe, looking at these four cherubic little faces, that these dear children are the cause of night after sleepless night for their poor dear parents? Parents, who despite their youthful good looks, cannot deny the fact that they are continually aging, and feeling the need for more rest for their weary bodies. The dark blotches underneath our eyes are a testimony to the nighttime antics around House of Horne, and except for one blissful night of uninterrupted sleep that happened a few days ago, we parents cannot recall another night in the past many, many weeks around here that we were not wakened by at least one incident in the wee hours of the night. So we are feeling sleep-deprived, despite the fact that we are more than two and half years out from having a newborn in the house. And this at a time which is, perhaps even more so than usual, pretty busy around here.

Popular themes in nighttime wakings include (but are by no means limited to) bad dreams, bed-wetting (through your diaper if you are the two year old and through your Spiderman boxer briefs if you are five – even though you haven’t wet your bed in literally almost a year’s time), coughing spells, stomach aches, night terrors (this is really actually quite sad despite my attempt at humor — Nicolas has suffered continually since January with ongoing, very awful night terrors), and various requests from the two-year-old to “sleep in your bed with you” just because “I want to” at 3am. Ugh. Continuous wakings throughout the night do nothing to improve my looks or my countenance, and it has been more of a struggle of late to hold my frustrations and tendency toward impatience in check.

So…why do I take the time to emote (albeit mildly) about this on our usually rant-free site here at House of Horne? I don’t know…running out of interesting fodder? Not really. But, I told Jay the other day that I really do love this stage of life with relatively young children. Mind you, I think I made this statement after that one night where we were not woken up by children, but even so. I love our life, sleep-deprivation and all, and would not exchange it if you gave me the option.

Despite the physical exhaustion that is often a part of parenting young ones, it is a precious time, and one I do not want to miss, no matter how tired I am. I feel as though we are given a gift in watching these little people grow and mature, and in having a huge part in shaping whom they become. Being their parents is hard, hard work, but is it also wonderful fun, and heaps blessing after blessing upon our lives. I pray, despite sleep deprivation which will most likely continue, that we will parent these children well. That God blesses our efforts, feeble and stupid though they sometimes are. And yes — since you asked —yes, after everything else, I do pray for sweet sleep as well…maybe someday.

My Boring Bible Story

Near the end of 1997, at the tender age of 26, I wrote my first Deacon’s corner article in my church’s monthly newsletter. I was just sifting through old files on my laptop, and came across it. I ask you, what is more fun than plagiarizing yourself?

My Boring Bible Story

circa November 1997

This morning, chapter seven of Numbers happened to be part of my devotional reading plan. It is a favorite of mine, because I learned a great lesson from it a couple years ago when I listened to it in my car for the first time. Unlike a book, one cannot skim a passage when listening to the Bible-on-cassette. There I was, trying to keep a disciplined focus on the words coming through my speakers as I cruised down the highway, when God ‘enlightened’ me. You see, Numbers 7 is perhaps the most boring chapter in the entire Bible.