“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph" ~Matt Hardy


“A mother keeps a garden of the heart, planting the seeds of faith and character that give her children hope and purpose for the years ahead.” ~Anonymous


“If your story is never told, it becomes something else...forgotten.” ~Anonymous

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sun, Sand and Snow

These last weeks have had me concentrating on visas, plane tickets and details to an upcoming missions trip we are taking.  Encountering the usual and not-so-usual hassles that come with the territory has left me a bit drained.  I do think though that through prayer of friends and some helpful advice, we are getting over the top of the hill we have been climbing these last days.  God is good and I am confident we will see a lot more of His goodness in the days to come.

Today I just want to share some fun photos I took recently at an outing on the Oregon coast.  I got my camera back from repair...that is another story....but for now I hope you will enjoy the beauty of a few minutes through the lens of a camera...

I thought it was nice he stayed in one place long enough for me to get this :)

I am always drawn to "leading lines" in scenery :)

The thing I love best about the Oregon coast is the rocks that jut out of the water and provide the most amazing rough beauty.  You don't see that along too many coastlines.

And I love the trees!  Whoops, sorry!  Wrong coast....how did that get in there?

The clouds started rolling in....a normal occurrence here - love this in black and white.

And I was transfixed with the art in the sand made by the waves...

A lovely weekend away...celebrating our 26th by the way.  We did manage to get caught in a very windy rainstorm on one of our walks on the beach.  Always fun!

And lastly our first few days of Spring here in the Pacific Northwest....and THIS is not a normal occurrence...

My poor budding trees :(

And our regular visitors showed up :)

March came in like a lion in Antarctica - wonder how April will arrive?  Hope you are doing something nice, adventurous and "warm" for spring break! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

YOU Alone are My Portion...

"Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; 
you make my lot secure."
Psalm 16:5

This little verse could take weeks to chew over.  It really speaks of "who" is our sustenance, who fills us up, in whom do we find contentment?  In our study with Priscilla Shirer (SEEDS study) this past week we were meditating on verses of "control" and "enough".  Is God enough for us?  Are we in control or is God?  Heavy stuff if you want to be totally honest.

One translation says "Lord, you have assigned me my portion...".  The Message Bible says it this way..."My choice is you, GOD, first and only.  And now I find I’m your choice!  You set me up with a house and yard.  And then you made me your heir!"

Contentment... Have we reached a point in our relationship with God and our understanding of Him and His character, that we can REST in knowing we are in circumstances that He is in total control of.....He didn’t make a mistake.  I don't know about you, but I don't just want contentment...I want VICTORY!  I want to walk in victory knowing MY GOD IS IN CONTROL AND HE IS ENOUGH FOR ME!

When I first began this study, our family was experiencing some incredible hardships happening all in the space of four weeks.  My husband had a painful toothache, problems with his knee that required an MRI and surgery, a skin rash that was inexplainable and would not disappear.  He also had a minor accident involving a falling structure that barely missed him resulting in a dislocated shoulder and weeks of chiropractic care.  He was told had he moved a second later, the structure would have landed on him and possibly killed him.  He also caught his hair on fire and a light burn on his face.  We had an abnormal test return from a physical I had at the doctor's.  On top of all of this, there was a mistake on our taxes...did we owe or didn't we?  And....there was a lack of construction work, nothing in sight as far as employment.  I am not kidding...all of this in the month of March a few years ago.  

We had so many "in your face" attacks that we knew the enemy of our soul was out to discourage us.  We prayed earnestly and sought prayer from our friends to battle on our behalf.  These types of scenarios are what bring us to our knees where we have to decide...is God enough?  Can I trust Him to be in control?  And as we sought the contentment in Him, I wanted to walk in the victory despite the turbulent circumstances seemingly wanting to swallow us whole. That smile on my face needed to be the real thing and not a facade. He REALLY WAS AND IS OUR PORTION!

The feminine noun in Hebrew for "portion" means a portion of food parceled out for me.  When God fills us, He knows the amount that I need to specifically fill me so that I do not lack - we are no longer hungry or go looking for something else to satisfy us. Some versions use the word "inheritance" instead of portion.  This meant a parcel or tract of land.  The Levite tribe of Israel was told they would not have a parcel of land allotted to them.  All the other tribes of Israel had land given to them for their inheritance.  God told the Levites "He" would be their inheritance, their portion. (Deuteronomy 10:9)

Psalm 142:5...I cry to you, O Lord, I say, “You are my refuge, my PORTION in the land of the living.”

You who know God and have a living genuine relationship with Him know what I mean by this.  I for one, don't like those trials and hardships that cause me to cry out to Him with all that is within me. It's painful, it hurts, it can be incredibly despairing.  But I wouldn't trade the closeness I received from God during those times and the peace, contentment and victory He is willing to pour out to us when we choose Him.  

And that, my friends, is only a small portion (smile) of that verse...the cup and my secure lot is to come :)

To think about and ponder..."What circumstances are you currently facing that you feel ill-equipped to handle?  Do you have excuses for not fully surrendering to God His control in those circumstances?  Will you let Him be enough for you...will you let go of trying to come up with the answers and solutions...and let Him be your portion?"

I pray God will bless you with His portion today!

Photo credit: Viktor Matorin

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Menus, Meatloaf and My Man

Well, this is a mixed blog today....nothing so spiritual except that God gave us senses to enjoy our world.  And I am enjoying my sight, smell and taste!!  I realized after starting this that in my blog from a few days ago I recommended a "book of the month".  Okay, so this is my "cookbook of the month" suggestion to you.  Yesterday, this heavenly wonder was released from HarperCollins publications and I promptly went out today and purchased it...

Ree Drummond has become my favorite cook - I record her cooking program on FoodNetwork and watch it when I am on the treadmill (not a wise thing to do, but the family benefits, if you know what I mean).   I am a big fan of Ree; love her show, her books and now her latest cookbook.  I just finished browsing it -  am hungry and I just finished dinner!  I can't wait to begin cooking her delicious recipes in this new book (after my yearly checkup @ the doctor's next week where my cholesterol and blood are checked :)  I also have her first cookbook and this past week tried her meatloaf (yes, I love meatloaf....especially the leftovers for sandwiches).  I know, not a favorite of some, but I have always loved comfort food.  Her meatloaf is incredible.  I wasn't going to try it because I have several favorite versions already but I succumbed and this version quickly took over first place!

Photo courtesy of Ree's blog www.thepioneerwoman.com   

Warning...this is not low-fat, the loaf being draped on the top with bacon and smothered in a sweet tomato sauce.  The flavors meld together and is worth every single calorie and fat gram!  (this is the last beef thing I eat before my checkup...I promise!)  

Accompanying Ree's loaf was her recipe for Creamy Rosemary Potatoes:

Photo courtesy of ABC/Good Morning America recipes 
I would have photographed my food myself but my camera
was being fixed...

These two amazingly delicious mouthwatering dishes are rich, creamy, and oh, so worth it!!  I actually took the rosemary potatoes to a friends for dinner one evening last January and spilt a bit of the potato sauce in my car...my car smelled like it for days (actually weeks and I had to scrub, deodorize and bleach to remove it) but initially it smelled like heaven.  If heaven smells like rosemary and potatoes...and, yes, this is the last rich and creamy thing I eat before next week's appointment....again, I promise :)

I have satisfied my craving for comfort food during these days of rainy, cold and dismal winter weather.  I finished off dinner with Ree's flat apple pie:

Photo courtesy of FoodNetwork.com/Ree's show

Yummy and oh so easy to make. And the last dessert I eat before....you know.  Actually, I will run on the treadmill, watch her show from last Saturday and all is evened out.  I think.  Okay, I'm done.  Sorry, ladies, but food won out today and I just had to share.  Ree's blog has some of these recipes, as well as her first cookbook "The Pioneer Woman: Recipes from An Accidental Country Girl".  If you want to treat yourself, her cookbooks are the way to go.  I really think I should have been born on a farm or lived during Little House on the Prairie days, or somewhere on a cattle ranch.  Good old country cooking makes me happy.  

That's it for today.  Tomorrow dawns a day of remembering 26 years ago when I said "I do" to the man of my life.  Lots of memories, celebrating and looking forward to the next 26 years.  He may just get every recipe out of these two cookbooks in the next 26 years....I love to cook and he loves to eat :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

My "Book of the Month" :)

As you know, I LOVE books and I absolutely ADORE READING.  It has and always will be, one of my favorite pastimes and ways to relax.  It can be fictional history, which is one of my favorites, mysteries, spiritual growth, biographies, and yes, even cookbooks!  I often wonder if I didn't have my eyesight, or as these dear brown organs of sight lose their sharpness as the years are passing by, what I would do if I couldn't read!  It would be like cutting off my arm!  So, THANK YOU GOD for my eyesight and my love of reading!

Currently, I am doing a SEEDS Bible study by Priscilla Shirer.  We have a small group of incredible ladies who meet every week to share the beauties and gems of God's Word with each other.  It is a highlight of our week.  New friendships and hearts are being knit together.  This week we are looking at a chapter entitled "control" or "Fully Surrendered" which talks about humility and servanthood.  Becoming as "Christ" in loving and serving others.  Amazingly,  I am in the middle of a book a friend recommended to me months ago and last night when I couldn't sleep, I spent some time reading.  It is always astounding to me how God can and will use various mediums to get our attention and make a point, at exact seasons of our life.  This book is a MUST to read!  

I have a stack of books by my bed waiting to be read.  This was among them.  It took me weeks to finally pick it up and begin.  I am so glad I did!  This is a story which follows the lives of Father Peregrin and fellow monks in a monastery in old England, as being told by a mother to her daughter.  At first it was "slow" for me, but as I stuck with it, and the truths unfolded in the story-telling, I am transfixed by the messages of humility, servanthood and the love of God that reaches to us all and is to be lived out daily in humility.  If I could suggest a "book of the month" to you...this is it!  It can be ordered on Amazon.com either book form or Kindle.  Ladies, if I can...this is a must!  Thank you, Nancy, for suggesting it to me!  It is now among the list of my favorites and I am bookmarking pages, underlining and devouring the stories.  And the stories are in direct tandem with the lessons Priscilla is laying out for us in our Bible study!  What an exciting thing when God interacts with us right where we are at!

Have a great day! We are enjoying a few days of early spring!  Loving it!  Short-lived as rain, wind and lower elevations of snow are again threatening to rear their heads...I fully anticipate March 20th changing all that :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

His Names Upon My Lips

I've been thinking about the names of God recently and how they reflect who God is.  The second part of Psalm 16:5 says

"I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up 
their names upon my lips."

The preceding words of the verse talks about chasing after other gods...and the Psalmist goes on to say he will not even take up their names upon his lips.  That verb "nacak" in Hebrew "to take up" means to pour out, to cast metal image, to anoint (a king), to set up or to install.  This takes on a definitive act of "pouring out as an offering". Other definitions I found were: to lift up, to carry and bear, to support, to desire and long for....the names of other gods. 

The Message Bible says it like this:

Don’t just go shopping for a god; Gods are not for sale.  I swear I will never treat god-names like brand-names.  

Somehow I believe that names mean something to God.  When He took the time to name the animals, naming Adam and Eve; in fact, you look at so many places in the Old Testament where a name actually had an alternate meaning.  

Egyptians believed the way to keep a person alive in the afterlife was by speaking his or her name, saying it loud.  Enemies of pharaoh tried to destroy their monuments, carving or slashing the name and by doing so, you erased the person in the afterlife.  Ancient Egyptians believed that a person’s name is an integral part of who he is.  

Taking this in a bit of a different direction...when we "take up names" upon ourselves or others, it becomes a "part" of us, or attaches itself to us.  We attach labels or names depending on our circumstances....divorced, single mom, corporate executive, alcoholic, addict, loser and the list goes on and on.  As discussed previously, when we chase after other "gods",  names can become the only single way people perceive us and what we begin to believe about ourselves. Some names are good, others should be discarded. 

Before I launch into the names of God, the names we would do well to take upon our lips, let me take a small rabbit trail, albeit important one.  WHO are you?  What is your name?  If I may....as a believer and child of God...

YOU are BLESSED (vs. 1); YOU are CHOSEN (vs. 4); YOU are ADOPTED (vs. 5)..YOU are LOVED;  YOU are ACCEPTED (vs. 6); YOU are REDEEMED (vs. 7); YOU are FORGIVEN (vs. 7)  Ephesians  1:3-7

See...His names for us are pretty important and have incredible meaning for our lives :)

REMEMBERING what HE has done for us...saving us, redeeming us...pressing on and not taking those names of other "gods" upon our lips; not carrying, supporting, bearing, sustaining, enduring, being swept away or be carried off by those names.  Believe and take into your heart HIS names for you.  Well worth another study all its own :)

As a spiritual discipline, begin to take on GOD'S names into your heart and spirit.  Speak them out daily on your lips.  Each name is a character attribute of WHO He is.  When I meditate and concentrate on who He is and speak out His names,  it really does transform my day and attitude; my perception of what is real around me. Who really is in control of my life.  So my friend, today remember WHO He is...take His names upon your lips :)

Yahweh - LORD
Melek - KING
Ab, Abba, Pater - FATHER
Yahweh Shalom - THE LORD IS PEACE
Yahweh Tsebaoth - THE LORD OF HOSTS
Qedosh Yisrael - HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL
Yahweh Tsuri - THE LORD IS MY ROCK
Miqweh Yisrael - THE HOPE OF ISRAEL
Yahweh Shamman - THE LORD IS THERE
Maon, Machseh, Magen, Metsuda, Migdal-Oz - OUR DWELLING

Monday, March 5, 2012

Psalm 16:4 Sorrow or Joy?

Today I want to just talk a minute on Psalm 16:4...

Psalm 16:4 The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.  I will not pour out their libations of blood (ceremonial pouring), or take up their names on my lips (call on them, participate in them).

I enjoy word studies and when I look at Scripture, I always try to have a dictionary on hand, as well as an online version with Hebrew & Greek.  I just am fascinated by what words mean and where they originated.  The Hebrew noun for "sorrows" in this verse is "atstsebeth" which means pain, injury, hurt, wounds coming from (1) an idol (2) pain of the body (Job 9:28), or wounds of the mind (Psalm 147:3).  Websters describes sorrows as pain, distress of the mind, sadness and grief and the Thesaurus compares heartache, anguish, woe, regret, mourning, dejection and depression.  The same word is used in Proverbs 15:13 when it says "heartache (sorrow) crushes the spirit."

When I (we) run after other "gods" our sorrows (heartache, anguish, woe, regret, depression....pain, injury, hurt and wounds) will INCREASE.  Forgive me, but I rather think that is black and white.  This doesn't mean we won't have heartache or sorrow in this life - I'm not talking about the sorrow that befalls us because life and death happens and we live in a fallen world, but it does say that when we RUN AFTER OTHER GODS OTHER THAN THE ONE TRUE GOD, we will have sorrow following us and it will INCREASE. The first two verses of this Psalm remind us WHO is that one True God.

To have something "increase" means to be multiplied, to become greater in number, many, exceedingly greater.  This same verb is used when God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply.  God meant for multiplication to be good.  He will multiply goodness and blessings in our lives when we do not chase after other gods.  

How many of us know someone (or perhaps even ourselves) when we have continued to walk in our own way and allowing "stuff" in our lives (walking against the ways of God, habits, attitudes, unwise choices, addictions...) that the sorrows and pain just seem to keep multiplying.  And we wonder..."when will they (or perhaps we) ever learn?"  In Luke 15 the story of the prodigal son had his sorrows multiplied because he bought into a life apart from God.  Only were blessings restored when he returned home to his rightful father.

I've heard "insanity" described as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  When we continue to make the same unwise choices, my friend, the results will continue to be the same.  

The same verb (sorry, this was fascinating) is used when "waters rose up and increased, and lifted the ark above the earth".  God wants to lift us up and increase the blessings, increase our joy and multiply our (godly) lives.  Not increase and multiply the generations of pain and sorrow.  JOY is the antonym of sorrow. 

Is there pain in your life due to wrongful and unwise choices?  Are you reaping the same thing in your life because you have continually gone down the same road and through the same doors?  You can acknowledge that before the Father today.  Talk to Him, tell him your hurts and sorrows.  Ask Him for forgiveness.  Recognize where YOU went wrong, what YOU did wrong - He can turn that around when we confess, and deeply desire Truth and freedom in our lives. You can trade the sorrow, pain and heartache for joy.  

Years ago, after a summer of ministry in Latvia, we were preparing to fly back to the States.  Our six year-old son had collected rocks throughout our time and he had them in a paper bag ready to bring home.  It was exceedingly heavy :)  I told him we had rocks in America and he could collect all he wanted there.  I encouraged him to "leave the heavy stuff behind" and we would collect new, clean rocks at our new home. He agreed and was happy to leave them behind because he knew something greater was awaiting him.  If he had taken them, we would have paid a price to carry heavy rocks on the plane.  We pay a heavy price to carry our load.  But God says we can give it up because something greater, cleaner and new awaits us.  

Trade in the weight today, friends, if this word sparks something in your heart.  Find a friend to pray with you to help you unload the burden.  Or if you are alone, the Father is there to take the sorrow and pain.  There may still be rough days ahead because we do have consequences to wrong choices, etc., BUT you have a FATHER GOD who is there to begin to multiply blessings and make them evident to you as you trade in your sorrows for His joy.

There is a song..."I'm trading my sorrows, I'm trading my pain, I'm trading my shame for the joy of the Lord."  

Today, the JOY OF THE LORD CAN BE YOUR STRENGTH, Nehemiah 8:10

Friday, March 2, 2012

March Madness

Welcome to March 2012!   The old adage of "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb" should have been replaced with a polar bear for our neighborhood.   We woke up yesterday to 6 inches of powdery snow and a day off school. I love the "snow days" even without having little ones under foot....my seventeen year-old tried snowboarding down our hill (too powdery), so we enjoyed the hot tub and two episodes of 24 Season One together.  My son and I have this thing about "bonding" while watching favorite TV movies/shows together.  We went from 24 to LOST to White Collar.  I think we need something new worthy of our attention.  Not a whole lot out there worthy of our attention, so DVD's of past episodes come in handy :)  Somehow the show isn't the important thing...I just love that he stops long enough to hang out with me.  

Wow...March is here already!  And our calendar is filled with yellow highlights of weeks involving travel and ministry in 2012.  I actually printed off a calendar so we could keep track, otherwise, we could wake one morning to realize Jim should be somewhere else :)  On the horizon is the Ukraine, Moldova, Tadjikistan, Latvia, Armenia and Kamchatka.  I am looking forward to some of the trips I will be able to make with him this year.  More on that later...

We often cite "March Madness" due to the basketball championships during these weeks.  I think it can be "mad" here in the Northwest as it can be snowing, raining, blustery, and yet those daffodils and crocuses still try to make their appearance despite the fact that "old man winter" doesn't want to leave just yet.   You don't know whether to put away the heavy winter coats and boots, or take a risk and wear those capris.  One thing for sure, March keeps us guessing!  Right now it is still the coats and boots as the snow hasn't melted yet at our house.

Reasons I like March:

** my moozh (Russian for husband) and I celebrate our anniversary...26 years!
** spring break from school - a much needed break at our house!
** this month two daughters finish their schooling; one graduates 4-year university and the other her 2-year stint @ local college.  Celebration time!
** I still enjoy the hot cups of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and blankets!
** We are able to still use our fireplace & candles in the evenings. 
** Momma sheep and baby lambs show up in their nearby field on my walk!
** Daylight savings time begins
** Easter candy begins to appear in the stores...malted milk eggs, Cadbury and jelly beans
** I'm not a fan of spring cleaning, but it does bring a sense of completion to throw out the old and bring in the new :)
** Those daffodils start smiling and I love seeing them...it means springtime is really around the corner!  

I think April really lends itself to being that breath of fresh air we need after the winter, but March lets us at least begin to get a peak of what is ahead.  

This wasn't so much an inspiring or spiritual post today...I just needed to sit under a warm blanket on my bed with a cup of tea and despite the snow outside remind myself that springtime is just weeks away.  I love that seasons bring change yet in the middle of change, our God does not change.  He will be the same yesterday, today and forever.  Forever He is faithful, forever He is strong, forever He is for us....FOREVER!    Enjoy the beginning of a new month :)

photo credit: Josh McCulloch