The Church is Beautiful

The Church is Beautiful

From the Authors
Grandpa and Grandson
Grandpa and Grandson

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. ~Matthew 18:20

I’m sorry to mention moving again. But it is the season we are in, so it is what I’m always reflecting on. It still feels like we are in the middle of moving. Even though we officially ‘moved’ eight months ago. I should say we moved all our stuff eight months ago. But it takes longer to move your hearts. This weekend I went back to our old stomping ground and we went to the church we had been attending for ten years before our move.

I walked into that familiar building and thought to myself, “The Church is beautiful.” Not the building (though ours is nice enough), but the people. It was like coming home. Our church really is a church family. I walked in and was hugged and welcomed like a long lost daughter returning home for a visit. There are people in that church family that feel like spiritual mamas and papas to me. Friends that feel like family. And everything is familiar and comfortable. The place was full of love for me.

I had one moment, where a woman I really look up to, came over to say hello, and I nearly burst into tears. I think it’s because she’s one of those women who prays, and prays, and then prays some more. She looked at me, and I felt like God used her love and care for me to reach out and put His finger right on a sore part of my heart. I suddenly realized that after all these months of moving and adjusting and being so busy, I hadn’t really noticed how lonely I have been. Relationships take time to build, so I don’t think this is a problem that I’m going to fix overnight. But it was nice to return to the familiar and to know that I am loved.

This is the Church. People. God uses our hands and feet to accomplish His Work on earth. He uses our words and actions to set hearts into motion towards Him. He uses our thoughts and dreams to spur us on to greater purpose in Him. It’s amazing really. This almighty, all powerful God chooses us- the weak and lowly, the sinners, the misfits, the bumbling and confused. He uses us to accomplish His Work on earth. It is perhaps the most miraculous thing He does. He has already won*. He is winning**. His plan and purpose is moving forward***. And we are a part of that.

Now the reason I even wanted to blog about this is something my friend said to me. After sharing how I’ve been feeling with her, she said, “I guess that’s what makes community so important. Because wherever two or three are gathered, Jesus is in the midst of them.” We need community to help us feel close to God. God is always close to us. He is with us- Emmanuel; God with us. We are the ones who get distracted and discouraged. We are the ones who need others to encourage us. We are the ones who need community. We need the Church. And though we are not perfect, we, The Church, are beautiful. Because where two or more are gathered, God is in the midst of us.

today's blog post is all random summer pictures, because why not?
today’s blog post is all random summer pictures, because why not?
My Grandma and Great-Grandma. Before women could wear shorts?
My Grandma and Great-Grandma. Before women could wear shorts?
This is a summer vacation that is probably fuzzy in a few memories...
This is a summer vacation that is either completely gone, or a little bit fuzzy in a few memories… (Bahahahaha!)

Lord God, I thank you for your Church! I thank you for the people you have put into our lives that draw us nearer to You, and I thank you for the people you will bring into our lives who will draw us nearer to You. Please bless our hands and feet to do what You have purposed us for. Please fill our hearts and minds with Your Words, Your Love, and Your Thoughts. Help us to see the good in others, and to call out that good. Help us to be encouragers, to love people as they are, and to bless. For our friends and family, and even us, help us to be in community with the Church. That we would be in Your Presence, and our hearts would be in tune with Your Heart. In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*John 19:30 “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

**1 John 2:8 “Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.”

***Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

****What is up with these weird blog pictures that have nothing to do with the blog? Well, what kind of pictures would I have that would be ‘church’ pictures? I thought about how a church can feel like a family, and went looking for some family pictures. I wanted summer pictures, because it’s nice out and I thought the Christmas family pictures would be confusing… then I just kept finding summer vacation pictures that made me smile, so I put them all in the blog post. Because honestly, I’m the kind of person who looks at the pictures, but doesn’t always read the blog.

The Gift of Laughter

The Gift of Laughter

From the Authors Our Story

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
    and a chain to adorn your neck.
~Proverbs 1:8-9

Mom and my daughter.
Mom and my daughter.

When I was growing up, my mom had a notepad with the quote, “Blessed is he who can laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be amused.” Not a direct quote from the sermon on the mount, but definitely something our family lives by.

From an early age, my parents taught me to never take myself too seriously. There are times to be serious, times for grief, times for tears- but we must never forget, that at all times, life is a gift. So, they taught me to laugh as often as possible, even when laughter didn’t seem the likely outcome of a situation.

Proof of this arrived again last night when my mother texted me,

“Dad and I just came in from a walk. Something was poking his foot in his shoe. By the time he mentioned it we were a mile and a half from home. He removed his shoe to reveal a bloody foot. He found a sharp object had broken through his sole. I ran home to get the car. Wheezing and coughing up the hill.”

Now I know some of you read the message of the text and think my mom was worried, or even annoyed. But I read it and could already hear the laughter in my mother’s voice. Of course the double smiley face she texted next was confirmation of this.

These texts were followed by a wheezy phone call in which Mom reassured me that Dad was indeed fine.

Dad and my oldest son.
Dad and my oldest son.

While we were talking, Dad, who couldn’t come to the phone because he was soaking his foot, hollered to tell me about his ruined hanky and that the ability to feel pain evidently diminishes with age.

Mom thought she better tell me the whole story to explain about the hanky. Upon removing the sharp object, Dad used his hanky to blot his heel and then put his hanky in his shoe to cover the hole. He walked on for a while but then stopped to take a look. The bleeding had slowed but had not stopped. Hence the ruined hanky. At this point, Dad handed mom the car keys and she started jogging for home.  Mom had to run up a hill to get to their house (it is one of those hills that I would never choose to run up). It was while she was jogging up that hill that she was passed by a man walking his dog. And this is where her giggles erupted in her retelling. “But in my defense,” she added, “it was a big dog, and I’m pretty sure he was helping to pull his master up the hill. I didn’t have any help like that!”

After my phone call, my husband asked what all the laughing was about. And when I said, “Dad cut his foot.” My husband gave me a very confused look. I’m sure he was thinking (and rightly so) how is that funny?

Enter the gift of laughter. Choosing not to be angry, or frustrated. Choosing not to think that the world is out to get you or that you should give up. Instead, the ability to not take yourself too seriously. *

We all have different gifts from our parents. Gifts we treasure, and even ones we’ve maybe never noticed. And maybe, if we are lucky, gifts we can pass on to our children.

May the Lord open your eyes to the gifts he has placed in your family. May you be blessed to give new gifts to your children, that your ceiling would be their floor to start on and reach higher from. And may you know that whatever challenges may come, you do not need to take yourself too seriously. In Jesus name, Amen.

~Lindsay

*It was at about this point that my youngest son came along and pounded on the keyboard. The end result being that the ‘d’ key no longer works. I think that peanut butter may somehow be involved. Any ideas how to get peanut butter out of your keyboard? ;)

 

It’s All God’s Anyways

It’s All God’s Anyways

From the Authors Our Story

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
Psalm 24:1 (NIV)

Can't you see him asking, "Seriously, Mom? Those curtains right behind me? Those are the curtains you can't live without?"
Can’t you see him asking, “Seriously, Mom? Those curtains right behind me? Those are the curtains you can’t live without?”

We recently moved, which involved selling our house. When we read the offer for the house, it stated that they wanted to keep all of the curtains. I sat up a bit at that, and may have thrown a small scale tantrum. “Those are my curtains!” I obstinately told my husband. And it was true. I’d sewn most of the curtains in that house (or found them clearanced and had a coupon…). My husband gave me a look, and then patiently asked me if I wanted to keep the curtains. And I thought about that. “Well… no, not really. But they are my curtains!” And then he patiently informed me that we could ask to keep the curtains, to which I scoffed, “What would we even do with those curtains? They’re not even that nice.”  I was already thinking of how they weren’t that great of quality (homemade, in my case, sometimes translates to thrown-together-as-quickly-as-possible while using the cheapest fabric I could find). Then I was thinking that we don’t even know where we will end up, and what kind of curtains we will need. And then I remembered something my husband always says, but had (wisely) not said yet.

“It’s all God’s anyways.”

It’s funny how those words change the attitude of my heart so quickly. Sometimes I forget that God is the one who owns everything. Even us. And when I say, “Well, it’s your house God, so I guess you better find someone to buy it so we can move.” Then I can also say, “Well, those are your curtains, and I guess I don’t really need them.” My selfishness sort of slowly fizzles when I stand before God openhanded and say, “All that I have, it’s not really mine, it’s Yours. All that I am, it’s not mine to boast in. It is Yours.”

So we (me, Mom, Uncle Bob, Cousin Adam) are prepping to get our first (of several) children’s books published. And it’s intimidating in it’s own way. We are standing open handed before our Lord, our God, our Savior, our Friend.

It’s all Yours anyways.

My favorite part of the Lord’s prayer is, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Not the easiest part, not by a long shot. But my favorite part, because I trust that His ways are infinitely better than mine.

And my husband and I now laugh at my moment of curtain-insanity. And it amazes me that I was so adamant about keeping ugly curtains!* But we live, we learn, and hopefully we can always find ways to laugh at ourselves.

May the Lord, protect you and keep you. May He make his face to shine on you, and fill you with peace. And may you stand before your Father in Heaven with hands opened toward him, freely giving and freely receiving. In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*I also have a new way of sewing curtains that is infinitely cuter… and I may have learned my lesson about just buying the cheapest fabric. Not very fun to look at everyday.

 

Family Culture

Family Culture

From the Authors

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” Philippians 1:9 (NIV)

I wish I had a penny for every time I said the phrase ‘family culture’ during the last few months. I’d have at least a dollar. It started when we visited my father’s extended family last September. Just my parents, my brother, and I. This gave me a chance to experience uninterrupted adult conversation… which was a real novelty for me (a mother of three small children).Lphone july to oct 2014 392

We talked about family culture, our roots, our heritages, and the way our parents and grandparents were raised. We visited the hometowns of my great-grandparents, stopped at graveyards with tombstones of family, saw houses once lived in, but no longer, and the barn my dad helped roof when he was young. We noted the similarities in our heritages, but even more, we noted how families are so different. As a child, we make the assumption that all families are like ours.

But they’re not! And it’s shocking. And it’s a good thing. And sometimes you might think it’s not that great of a thing… (because you may be biased about your family? Or was that just me?).

Here is an easy way to sum up (my mom’s side) of our family:

My uncle recently said, “Well I reacted as we all do. The Norwegian in me kept my opinion to myself, until the German got so upset about it, that the Irishman just had to go and let it all out!”

On a whirlwind tour of families this Christmas season, I tried to appreciate our differences. And to remember that ‘different’ does not mean wrong. Different just means different. Because in our differences, we find strengths. We find blessing.

I also tried to remember that family culture is complex. It’s not just how a family acts, it’s their shared values, traditions and norms (those unspoken rules). No wonder families vary greatly!

Learning your own family culture takes time. We learn our family culture through many, many shared experiences. For example:

My family has one norm which indicates we should communicate clearly by saying what we really think and feel. This is good… and sometimes, maybe not so good.
We have another family norm that indicates that at times we should not say what we are thinking and hold our piece to keep the peace. This is good… and sometimes, maybe not so good.

Learning what to do, when, is part of the great family experience.

So, taking time to travel and visit family helped me think about our shared family journeys and our blended cultures. I have a greater appreciation for the differences which make for different strengths.

So here’s to a new year. A year filled with the ability to appreciate our differences, to take note of one another’s strengths, to recognize our own strengths, and to keep the shillaly* to a minimum. Let love abound! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Not a great picture, but this is the trestle bridge my great-grandmother had to walk across to get to school.
Not a great picture, but this is the trestle bridge my great-grandmother had to walk across to get to school.

*My mom says ‘shillaly’ a lot. It means, to our family, ‘silliness’ or ‘ridiculousness.’ Especially if we are talking about actions. For example, when we were little and my siblings and I were causing a ruckus, my mom would come in and holler, “What’s all this shillaly!” At other times, when there was bickering between us over insignificant details, she would say, “That’s enough of this shillaly!” Because what was causing us to argue wasn’t even important. When I looked up the word, I found out that it has to do with an Irish walking stick or club? Not sure where the connection is… or if my spelling is way off. But, if you need a more specific line, then let us say: may your reasoning and actions be those of a well formed mind, and not a bitter heart.

The barn on our family's homestead
The barn on our family’s homestead