Tuesday, April 18, 2017

His Work, Not Yours - Chapter VI

            I am so excited to share today's guest blog post by my oldest friend, (as in since before birth!) Sarah Ashwood.  Sarah is a published author with a fabulous fantasy trilogy, numerous poems and awesome ideas too numerous to count.  But she is also one of the most thoughtful and generous people I have had the privilege to know.  I am truly blessed to call her my friend.  You can check out her books at Amazon-Sarah Ashwood.

Just in case there was any doubt, Sarah is the one in white :-)

I have a confession to make. When my dear friend Mary first suggested this book reading and discussion group, I was excited. However, when the first book she proposed was “Stepping Heavenward,” I groaned.

I’d read “Stepping Heavenward” years ago, probably in my early teens, and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I remember thinking the main character was very whiny and sniveling. Well, she does cry a lot, which got on my nerves. I’m not a crier, and never have been. I came from a family with a strong stoic streak; thus, as a teenager, I found relating to Katy very difficult. There was never a time in my life where I would fling myself on the bed and cry for hours at a time. That just didn’t happen. She seems to do this an awful lot when the book starts.

Furthermore, along with the stoicism, there is a strong streak of contrariness in my family. Unfortunately, I inherited that one in spades. If everyone else likes something or praises it, my first and automatic reaction is to head the opposite direction. As a young teen, I remember my mom and all the other moms and all the good teenage girls (you know, the ones who were sweet and lacked a huge contrary streak) loving “Stepping Heavenward,” so of course my back was up. Then my mom forced me to read the book, which I really didn’t appreciate, and—as you know by now—I simply didn’t enjoy it.

Old prejudices die hard, I’m afraid, and I was not enthused about rereading this book nearly two decades later. I nearly dropped out. Then I saw several ladies in the discussion group, ladies with excellent character traits whom I very much admire, talking about how excited they were to reread “Stepping Heavenward.”

This forced me to reconsider.

“Okay, if these women love this book so much, maybe there’s more to it than you remember. Maybe it’s worth a second reading, and this time with an open mind.”

Convinced, I dug in. First impression: yes, Katy was whiny. She does cry a lot. Too much. Annoying. However, second impression, there was much more to her than that. She could also be pretty snippy at times, which someone with a mean sense of humor might find humorous. (Cough cough.) She was petty and flighty, impetuous and sassy. Yet, underneath it all, as the book progresses, one can see her heart for the Lord and her hunger to grow into a better Christian.

I’ll be honest. I was amazed by how much I identified with Katy on my second trip through the book. (Except for the perpetual crying.) Like the book’s heroine, I tend to be impetuous. I dive into things without thinking them through. I get mad easily, but it usually blows over quickly. Unfortunately, during the short storm, there’s no telling what trouble I’ll get myself into. Like Katy, if I could just learn to keep my mouth shut, I wouldn’t bring so many problems on myself. I am easily amused, as Katy is, and not nearly as serious as I perhaps should be. I tend to view people who are quiet and even-tempered and even-keeled as saints, like Katy does her mother. Also, like Katy does her mother, I despair of ever making progress in learning to be like them.

Above all, Katy’s spiritual journey is what stands out to me the most in this book. She wants to follow the Lord, she truly does. But every time she feels she’s gained some new spiritual insight or mastered some terrible trait, she finds herself tumbling right back to where she started. As I kept reading, I realized this, this, must be why so many people love this book. As Christians, I am sure we can all identify with Katy on this level. We do have a desire to be better and to do better. That is a part of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling work. Sadly, we fail so often: or I do. I fail more often than I ever make progress. In fact, while rereading this book, it occurred to me that I’ve been a Christian over twenty years now. Twenty years. Two decades. That is a long time to work at something. If I’d been practicing any other skill for twenty years, you would think I’d have mastered it by now. Alas, not so with being a Christian, or with the Christian graces. Katy says and I believe, “the truth is, the journey heavenward is all uphill. I have to force myself to keep on. The wonder is that anybody gets there with so much to oppose—so little to help one!”

Now, I can’t say I don’t have a great deal to help me: wonderful Christian parents, siblings, and friends. A husband who is my biggest encourager, but will also point out when I’m crossing the line. (I need that.) A solid church. Years of habit in reading and re-reading the Bible. You really would think I’d have made better progress. I suppose some of us are just slower to learn than others. I think Katy is. I know I am. Katy puts my own feelings into words when she says, “If I am growing better how slowly, how slowly, it is! Somebody has said that ‘our course heavenward is like the plan of the zealous pilgrims of old, who for every three steps forward, took one backward.’”

Katy, like me, definitely does have her helpers along the way. First and foremost is her godly mother—and any person with godly parents should appreciate them for the jewels they are! She also has Dr. Cabot, who is so saintly he puts me to shame as he does Katy. Yet he has lots of good things to say, especially in Chapter Six, in a letter of encouragement he writes to our heroine. The entire letter is excellent, full of practical advice to any Christian on how to live their lives on a daily basis. Yet there was one line that seemed specifically highlighted towards me.

“Remember,” he writes to Katy, “that it is His will that you should be sanctified, and that the work of making you holy is His, not yours.”

His work. Not yours.

That’s a hard lesson for Katy. That’s a hard lesson for me. I’m not very good at not working, or at realizing I can’t accomplish something—unless it’s algebra. I’m not very good at being patient. I’m not very good at sitting still. Even if I’m outside playing with my kids, convincing myself I’m being a “good mother” by temporarily ignoring my to-do list, on the inside is a running mental playlist of all the things I need to be doing. It’s very hard for me to be a Mary and choose the better part of sitting quietly at the feet of Christ, when I was born with a Martha’s heart, who wants to be up and about serving and complaining to Jesus that other people don’t see the work that needs to be done the same way I see it. Shall I tell you a secret? Nearly everything I do during the day gets ticked off my mental or physical to-do list. Even reading my Bible and devotionals and praying—the urge is there to get it done and get it ticked off the list. Only by God’s grace am I ever able to shut out the noise and sink myself into what I’m reading. This really does require God’s grace, because I always feel I need to be doing, doing, doing instead of sitting quietly. When I do slow down for time with the Lord, I am amazed by how refreshed I feel. I think of more people for whom to pray. I take more time to pray actively for my husband and children. I see my faults, but I also see the beauty and grace of a Saviour Whose love “will not let me go.” I am encouraged to keep on, in spite of my numerous shortcomings and mistakes.

This is God’s doing.

His work. Not yours.

Yes, Katy has her personality flaws. So do I. Most definitely so do I. But so do you. So do we all. Every one of us has their own areas where they struggle. Maye you are the complete opposite of me: maybe you are very good at shutting out the running playlists and you refuse to live by to-do lists. Maybe you find it easy to sit at the feet of Christ and learn. Maybe it’s easy for you to actually enjoy playing outside with your children without thinking the whole time, “I have so many other things to do!” Maybe you excel at silence and patience. On the other hand, maybe it’s harder for you to get motivated to do the work you really must do? Maybe it’s not. I don’t know.

You see what I mean. We all excel in some areas and fail in others. This is a part of being human. In the spiritual realm, our Christian life isn’t any different. I think we all have the tendency to occasionally get frustrated with our fellow Christians and the things they do or don’t do, forgetting that we are all at different stages in our journeys and at different levels of understanding. We can learn something from Katy who, despite her many outbursts and many failings and many tears, never gives up. She keeps on that journey. She keeps stepping heavenward, even if the progress is agonizingly slow and she sometimes takes three steps backward for every step forward.

But, you see, that’s not Katy. That’s the grace of God. That is God doing His work. Philippians 2:13 reminds us, “It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” So it is God who must bring us along, even when we feel like giving up because the way is too hard or we’re discouraged because we don’t see any progress. If we are really the Lord’s, He simply won’t let us fall by the wayside. He WILL keep us going. He may permit us to make mistakes, but He is going to ensure that we learn lessons too. He will sanctify us through a variety of methods and means. I sort of doubt there will ever be a point where we stand on the hilltop, hands on hips, and say triumphantly, “Look how far I’ve come!” (If we do, we might want to be leery. After all, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12.)

Nevertheless, one day, one day, on the other side of this life, even if we’ve reached heaven with tottering baby steps, we will be able to raise our Ebenezer and say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”

In conclusion, if you haven’t read “Stepping Heavenward” or maybe didn’t care for it the first time around, I would heartily recommend giving it a second chance. Place yourself as a Christian on your own spiritual journey in Katy’s shoes. I honestly feel her story is one that will resonate with most, if not all, of us. I am very grateful God used my friends and their commendation of this book to override that contrary streak and convince me reread it. In fact, it’s been so uplifting to me that I read a small section every morning, along with my Bible, like a devotional. (And it helps that you can purchase the ebook for next to nothing and have it handy on your Kindle or Kindle app.) “Stepping Heavenward” is a wonderful book overall, and doubtless a journey I will take again with Katy in years to come.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mary's Homeschool Day in the Life (11, 9, 7, 5, 3, and due in August)

I only have two speeds:
Navy SEAL Intense
Flower Child Relaxed

Since I had three Intense days to start the week, today and yesterday have been more relaxed.  It is the last day before our Spring Break, after all.  And all the kids have the sniffles.  And the flowers are blooming everywhere!  My inner Flower Child is begging to be unleashed.

So, on a relaxed day, I get up around 7.  No matter the day, coffee and devotions come first.  Even a Flower Child needs marching orders.

I snuggle with sniffley kids.

I dispense "nedicine".

The older boys fix breakfast for themselves and the younger kids.  Dee, (9) is making instant oatmeal.  Cy (11) is allergic to oatmeal, so he gets out a frying pan for eggs.

"Hey, can you fix me an egg too?"  I call over my shoulder as I escort our resident toddler to the potty.

A few minutes later a plate of golden eggs-in-a-basket appears on my computer desk.  Bless his servant's heart!

As I brush the younger girls' hair, I quiz Dee on what he has accomplished this morning.  He is having a difficult time concentrating on me, the screensaver behind me of a brilliant blue bird is just too attractive.  He has inherited a goodly dose of my Flower Child genes.

"Dee!  I am going to give you three tasks.  Hold up your fingers as I list them."

His eyes snap back to my face as he holds one finger aloft.

"Make your bed.  Tidy your room.  Practice your violin.  Repeat them to me, please."

He counts off the tasks.  I suspect he has a good case of ADD.  We are practicing the Habit of Attention this year.  Having a regular routine is so important for him.  Relaxed Days can really throw him off.

I set the timer for violin practice for Dee and Alvin (7) while Cy gets down with a Jillian Michaels workout video.  If this was an intense day, there would be no time for that.  We would be cleaning the kitchen, tidying the house, finishing up music and ready to sit at the table for our Morning Meeting by 9:30.  As it is, even with being all relaxed and going with the flow, things are going well.

 It is 9:23, workout is finished, three different violin practice sessions are going on in various corners of the house.  I will step in and clean up the kitchen and start a load of laundry before we all sit down for the day's lessons.

By 10:00 we are all in our seats around our dining room table, ready for our Morning Meeting.  After opening with prayer, we dive right in to math flash cards.  On an Intense Day, we also use our skip counting poster, and Times Tales .  Everyone is happy to pull out pencils and handwriting workbooks while I read from our science Read Aloud.  We just finished the Introduction to Chemistry text, so today I pull out one of my favorite Astronomy books, The Stars for Children.  I read this engaging tale countless times as a child and have been waiting for just the right time to introduce it to my own children.  I wasn't disappointed.  They were instantly intrigued and are already begging for a second chapter this afternoon.

At 10:30 we take a Karate Break.  This might just be the most important break of the whole day.  It gets the kids up and moving after a typical 45 minutes spent at the table during our Morning Meeting.  It also gives us a chance to practice karate more consistently.  It's not long, I set the timer for 10-15 minutes and the boys run through their katas, self defense techniques and various stances.  At least, that's the theory.  The reality is that it sounds like the Three Stooges are filming in the living room.  But that's okay.  The real goal, getting the wiggles and giggles out, is being accomplished.

  Now it is Book Time.  Cy settles himself at his "office desk" in his bedroom.  He has it all set up with a rolodex and other official accoutrements essential to the private eye business.  In the interim between international intrigue, it serves well as a quiet spot to work on math.  We began this year using the Khan Academy for math as part of the Easy Peasy System.  By December it was clear to me that this method of video instruction was not working for my avid reader.  He needs written words, lots of them!  We switched to Saxon Math at the beginning of the year.  He loves how logical and sequential it is.  I love that he has plenty of review and practice drills.  He understands the concepts and is enjoying the feeling of success at the end of the lesson.  It wasn't long before I had also switched to Saxon Grammar and Writing.  Again, plenty of instruction that Cy can read on his own.  I am just required to grade and discuss any missed problems.  The one drawback is that each subject requires about an hour to complete.  Cy gets fatigued at times.  The discipline required is good for him, though and I believe he is mature enough to handle it.  I'm glad I waited for 5th grade before starting serious textbooks.

The front porch is the best place to read!

Dee, Alvin and Elle take turns spending one on one time with me as they do their math and handwriting worksheets, read from their respective readers and complete their computer assignments.  Dee is practicing calculating elapsed time.  Alvin is learning about graphs.  I am exclusively utilizing the Easy Peasy website for my Elementary scholars.  One big improvement over last year is that each grade has a pdf for printing off the math worksheets (and handwriting for the Learning to Read levels)  You can also purchase all the reading assignments for each year bound in a paperback book.  Totally worth the $14 dollars!  We can take our reading anywhere. (today it was the porch swing)  Not only do my children learn better from a book, it frees the computer for our other lessons; math games, instructional videos, vocabulary quizzes and typing lessons.

Alvin's illustrated copywork

We finish up with the Elementary kids around 12:30.  When I come back in from reading on the swing, classical music is playing from the radio in Cy's room.  He has finished his math and is likely lounging as he devours The Three Musketeers.  He has read over 500 pages during the last ten days.  He spent nearly 20 minutes last night regaling a captive audience (captive because I wouldn't let them leave) with the intricacies of the plot.  I was impressed that he could recall at least a dozen different characters, refer to them by their French names and detail the various intrigues they were involved in.  This was completely spontaneous, no prior preparation for an official book report.  He is just that excited about it  And that makes me excited!

I call all hands on deck to clear away the table for lunch as I warm up leftover Taco Soup and Bean Burritos.

After lunch we head out to the swing again.  Can you tell it's my favorite place?  I read to the girls a couple of library picture books; Fancy Nancy and Mouseterpiece (a mouse who lives in a museum and loves all styles of art).  We are nearly finished with Through the Looking Glass, sequel to Alice in Wonderland, and boy am I glad!  It's a little too nonsensical for me, but the kids have thoroughly enjoyed it.  In fact, Cy offers to read the next chapter aloud while I put Ana in bed.  We finish Story Time with a short excursion into the Life of Fred.  Although I'm not sure that LOF provides enough drill and review to count as an exclusive math curriculum, (the author's protestations notwithstanding) it is an excellent source for fun and relatable math knowledge.  The elementary series is just perfect for Alvin (in first grade) but with enough new concepts to keep my third and fifth graders engaged.

Books are the heart and soul of our day.

After Story Time, everyone scatters.  Elle reluctantly lays down for a short nap, Alvin sets to work repairing the chain on Elle's bike.  He has to get out a wrench, (be still my heart!) but with perseverance, he tightens the chain and has the bike operational again.  He sprints for the front door... 

"I'm going to tell Elle I fixed her bike!"

"No! Wait until she gets up from her nap!"

Too late, he's already in her room, sharing the good news.  So much for the nap.

Elle brings me a delicate purple weed flower, and we note the indigo stripes and gauzy yellow patch in the center.  We count the petals and discover that there are four small petals with one large petal at the top.

I go inside for some reading time of my own.  When I come out of my room, I find Alvin "teaching" Elle how to play Chess.  Be still my heart again!  When they come to a dispute about a move, Dee looks up the rules online.

I don't play Chess, so they're on their own...

At 5:00 I call everyone to come straighten the house while I start supper.  Speaking of supper, I also take votes for what we want to eat during Spring Break.  I'm running out of ideas.  They come up with:
Steak. I modify it to Salisbury Steak.  Good, I have hamburger patties in the freezer.
Seafood.  Tilapia with a salad, baked sweet potatoes and Red Lobster Biscuits it is . . .
Quesadillas.  Add in the boneless chicken thighs with fajita vegetables and that will be a good karate night dinner.
Chicken and Dumplings. Always a hit!  If I make extra, I'll have something to take to someone who just got out of the hospital.

 So far no one has even thought to ask to watch a movie, although I have several available from the library.  We can save those for Spring Break.  Secrets of Ancient Egypt, B-17 Flying Legends and McGyver.  Good stuff!  Speaking of the library, I order both the Disney cartoon, Alice in Wonderland and the Gene Wilder version to celebrate reaching the end of the book.  I believe in providing my children a "well rounded" education.  ;-)  Make mental note to buy popcorn.

On an Intense Day, I shoo everyone out of the kitchen.  I need my space.  But since I'm chill today, I take up everyone's offer to help fix dinner.  Cy commandeers the cast iron skillet to make his world famous sauteed green beans.  (You drain the green beans, season with garlic salt, fry in butter until slightly scorched caramelized.  Done when the smoke alarms go off.)  Dee takes charge of the mashed potatoes.  He's a little slow on the chopping, so Cy helps out, while Ana practices her knife skilz with a butter knife on a stray piece of onion.

Just about the time the meatballs come out of the oven, I note a slight tickle in the back of my throat.  By the end of dinner, I'm down for the count.  I finally caught the cold that's been going around.  I drift off to lala land on the couch as the rest of the family cheers on McGyver.  I whisper a prayer of thanks that next week is Spring Break.  I can be just as sick as I want with no pressure and no schedule.  Just lots of books, and games, and outdoors.

Hello, Flower Child!

Photo Credit to the incomparable Rebekah Byrd

Thanks for joining us for the day!  Be sure and check out the other Homeschool Day in the Life posts at Simple Homeschool!  It is so encouraging and inspiring to see what other families do.  I'm always amazed to see how different every family is, and yet so similar in spirit.

Homeschooling is a grand adventure, and like the best adventures, no two are ever the same.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Journey Heavenward is all Uphill - Chapter V

"Oh, I am so glad I was born into this beautiful world, where there will always be dear little children to love!"

 Katy is taking her first baby steps on this strange and delightful journey heavenward.  She knows she has a Father who loves her, no matter how foolish she may be.  And now she is beginning to taste the joys of serving others.  What was at first a frightening prospect, teaching children when she knew herself to be deficient, has become a bracing challenge.

"Now that I have these twelve little ones to instruct, I am more than ever in earnest about setting them a good example through the week.  It is true they do not, most of them, know how I spend my time nor how I act.  But I know; and whenever I am conscious of not practicing what I preach, I am bitterly ashamed and grieved."

I can certainly relate, here.  There is nothing more sobering than to realize that one is teaching by example, 24/7.  Actions most certainly speak louder than words.  I can sanctimoniously lecture about being kind and gentle and not yelling at one's siblings one moment, and the next be screaming myself at an unlucky offender.  These things ought not to be, but praise God for putting us in these situations where our natural weakness is brought to the surface and we realize just how much we need our Savior!

Katy laments that she had not begun to earnestly serve God as a young child, or else she would not be entangled in so many detrimental habits.  I understand the sentiment here, but I think she is misguided.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  There is a sense that if only she tried harder and earlier, she would be more perfect.  But in God's sovereign will, this was not the case.  His plan cannot be improved upon.  He works on each of us in His time and in His way.  We all have much to lament in our B.C era (Before Christ) but the way forward is not by continuously looking back.

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

Katy still has niggling doubts and fears that she is not completely accepted.  She is laboring to please God under her own power and soon burns out.  Anyone would and eventually everyone does.

She soon gets caught up in a whirl of gaiety with exciting and fashionable friends.  She is caught betwixt and between what could be innocent amusements and what are distracting hindrances to her walk with Christ.

"All my pleasures are innocent ones; there is surely no harm in going to concerts, driving out, singing, and making little visits!  But these things distract me; they absorb me; they make religious duties irksome.  I almost wish I could shut myself up in a cell and so get out of the reach of temptation.
The truth is, the journey heavenward is all uphill.  I have to force myself to keep on.  The wonder is that anybody gets there with so much to oppose - so little to help anybody!"  

Poor Katy is weary and heavy laden with this work of changing herself.  She reminds me of myself.  Impetuous, fervent, earnest, but inconstant, easily distracted and - well, let's face it, - a show off.

What?  The girl that writes all her innermost thoughts and publishes them for the world to read, a show off?  Inconceivable!

Yes, alas and alack.  I was the one dancing in front of the camera in all of our home videos.  I was the first to speak, the first to volunteer, the first in line.  Singing, believe it or not has been a secret source of struggle to me.  Every now and then (and I mean ever so little) someone will compliment me on my singing.  For the next six weeks, my worship is ruined.  I'm torn between wondering if I'm on key and if everyone can hear and tormented because I am quite sure this is not what Jesus would have me thinking of when I'm supposed to be singing about Him!

Oh wretched man that I am!

C.S. Lewis provided me with a simple concept that has revolutionized the way I think about pride and accomplishment.

"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."

Wise.  Profound.  Absolutely true.
Katy is ready to give up singing altogether if it will help her overcome her love of display.  Dr. Cabot wisely redirects her.  God has given her a talent that can bless many people.  There is no need to hide it under a basket of false modesty.  True humility is so focused on others, that performance value never enters one's head.

What talent has God given you?  Have you ever struggled with secret pride?  What about shyness?  Does fear of what others might be thinking of you keep you from being all that God has called you to be?  Shyness can be pride in another form.  Both bashfulness and brazen boldness are self centered sides to the same coin.  Both are forms of focusing on one's self.  The cure?  Look to bless others.  Seek to enjoy God.  If you have a voice, sing with all your might!  If have a story, take up your pen and write.  Go say hello to the new girl.  Take a Sunday School class.  Visit someone in the hospital.  As you focus on others, your own concerns will fade into the background.

Katy kicks off her twenties by going visiting with her mother.  Her eyes are suddenly opened to the sheltered existence she has been living in.  She is surprised by the joy that overtakes her in the midst of such privation and suffering.  

She is well on her way heavenward.  There is no going back, now.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

But He Loves Me!

"I am a wayward, foolish child.  
But He loves me!  
I have disobeyed and grieved Him ten thousand times.  
But He loves me! 
 I have lost faith in some of my dearest friends and am very desolate.  
But He loves me!
  I do not love Him; I am even angry with Him! 
 But He loves me!"

So, Katy has finally found true love.  Not in a self centered romance.  Not with a self interested boy.  But in a Man.  A true Man who loves her enough to die for her.  And that's just what He did.
Katy is all too aware that there is nothing in her that would prompt such sacrificial love.  She writes,

"I knelt down to pray and all my wasted, childish, wicked life came and stared me in the face.  I looked at it and said with tears of joy, 'But He loves me!'  Never in my life did I feel so rested, so quieted, so sorrowful and yet so satisfied." 

This is the true love story for every believer.

"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:7,8

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." John 10 :11

"...having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." John 13:1 

I am going to take a time out from Book Club Facilitator and just be real for a moment.

You may have noticed the three week hiatus on posts.  I apologize.  I was busy, hiding under a rock.  The month of February has been absolutely miserable.  I have been exhausted from the physical demands of growing a new person, true, but the real weariness has been in my soul.  I have been under a constant spiritual attack.  Fear, guilt, shame, rage, anxiety and depression have been my constant companions.

The biggest challenge has been meeting criticism from a concerned family member.  I know they have my best interests at heart.  I love this person deeply and don't doubt their love for me.  But, goodness!  It really hurts and I have been at a loss to know which criticisms are fair and constructive, which are stemming from misunderstandings and miscommunication, which are none of their concern and which are subtle diversions from the Enemy, meant to keep me off track and discouraged.

Some of the criticism I know is well deserved.  It highlights my failures in training my children adequately in areas such as manners and deportment.

Other issues are ones that I'm already addressing, but the new pressure is causing me literal headaches because of the fierce judgment and scrutiny that I am under.

The hardest to deal with are dissastisfactions over things I am already doing well.  These I have to prayerfully consider, should I be engaged in these activities at all?  If God gives me the affirmative, then full speed ahead, but leave the bitterness behind.

And so here I am.  I'm just a girl who is aware that her youngest son wore no socks to church in spite of having plenty of clean folded socks just the day before.  I'm not perfect.  I'm struggling to stay afloat in a world where perfection is required.  I need protection.  I need a shield.  I need a Rock.

Jesus is my Rock.

"The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, and my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." Psalm 18:2

The Rock that was struck by Moses split open and out of it sprang living water.  Moses himself took refuge in a cloven Rock that he might behold Jehovah passing by.  Jesus' side was rent and from him water and blood flowed mingled together.  Jesus truly is that Rock of ages, cleft for me.  I must run and hide myself in Him.  I cannot stand before a holy God, I cannot bear up under the rod of the Law, I cannot take a step further in this dry and desolate wilderness without Him.

Katy finally finds the freedom she has been longing for through submitting to love.

But He loves me.

She is on the cusp of discovering how she can serve her beloved.  She would like to do something great, something spiritual, something noble and (just maybe) noteworthy. But she doesn't know how or what.  She has a startling thought as she reflects,

"I have been thinking that if it is true that God notices every little thing we do to please Him, He must also notice every cross word we speak, every shrug of the shoulders, every ungracious look, and that they displease Him.  And my list of such offenses is as long as my life!"    
Ouch!  While I have been busy nursing hurt feelings, a bruised ego and defending myself against "grievous injustices", I have been just as busy racking up cross words, ungracious looks and a seething rebellious spirit.  What a grief to my dear Savior.  Each offense has already been personally born in His own body and duly paid for.  But how it must pain Him to see me acting out the very sins that left indelible marks on His glorified body.

Like Katy, I want to live for Him.  Because in the midst of all of this, when I am unlovely, He loves me!  Unconditionally, forever.  There is now no condemnation.  He is my lawyer, my judge and my jury.  He paid the restitution debt.  He was the mediator between the offended party and the offender.  And when the day is over, He is the one taking me home, to be with Him, forever.  In light of all this, how should I then live?

Katy's wise mother recommends a radical course of action,

"You have tried living for yourself a good many years, and the result is great weariness and heaviness of soul.  Try now to live for others.  Take a class in the Sunday School.  Go with me to visit my poor people.  You will be astonished to discover how much suffering and sickness there is in the world and how delightful to sympathize with and try to relieve it."  
This is not at all attractive to Katy.  She is much too busy with her own pursuits of pleasure and "accomplishment", but having no greater alternatives, she figures she will give the least repugnant of these a try. 

As a mother, my sphere of duty is squarely laid out before me.  I must show my love and delight in my Savior by showering those under my care with love and delight.  I must get up and try again every day.  I must gather strength for the day by reminding myself of the the One Great Truth.   It is not, "He disapproves, therefore I must work harder." 

No, I must walk in the glorious truth of . . . 

He loves me.

In other words, I need to spend more time hiding under my Rock.

"And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Isaiah 32:2

Sunday, February 5, 2017

"He Likes Me Ever So Much!" - Chapter lll

"A frank, unchastened, generous creature,
Whose faults and virtues stand in bold relief."

Dear Katy is looking for love in all the wrong places.  Her mother loves her more deeply than any other person on earth.  And because of that love, she speaks the truth that her daughter does not want to hear.  Katy thinks it's love that she is seeking, but it is really admiration.  No, it's worship, is it not?  

Girlfriend, I feel your pain.

It makes me laugh to think of some of my teenage crushes.  

Did these boys point me to Jesus as the True Friend who will always love me best and first?  No.     

Did they encourage me to be the woman that God created me to be?  No.

Did they love me for the unique individual that I am, flaws and awkward glasses and horrible denim skirts and all?  No.

Did they even know or care that I existed?  

Sigh.  Nope.  I was pretty much invisible.  Either that or I was so embarrassingly obvious that they loathed me entirely and ran for the hills the moment I entered the room.  I think invisible would have better for all concerned.

I understand where Katy is at right now.  She wants so badly to be told that she is amazing, beautiful, unique.  To be admired and emulated, whether by her girlfriends or a young man.  She is missing her father, who made her feel secure and beloved.  She is rebelling against her mother, possibly because her mother represents the surrendered life that Katy is so desperate to avoid.  The thought of marriage took her completely by surprise.  I don't know what she thought an engagement would lead to, bless her heart.  She confesses: 
"All I had wanted was for Charley to come here every day, take me out now and then and care for nobody else." 

In other words, she is in love with the idea of being in love.
What are the warning signs that alarm her mother?

"How can you fail to see what I see, oh! so plainly, that Charley Underhill never, never can meet the requirements of your soul . . . His flatteries delude, and his professions of affection gratify you.  You do not see that he is shallow and conceited and selfish . . . His ruling passion is love of admiration.  The little pleasing acts that attract you are so many traps set to catch the attention and the favorable opinion of those about him.  He has not one honest deisire to please because it is right to be pleasing."
If only we would listen to the wise advice of those who love us best.

Like Katy, I started off looking for a young man who would make me feel valuable.  Someone who would love me without being obligated to.  Of course my family loved me, but they kind of had to.  There is something very validating in proving that someone could choose to love you.  Couldn't help but love you!  

Except . . .
that is just self love.  There is no rejoicing in that which is good, true, or noble in the other person.  There is no sacrifice.  It's not love, it's idolatry.

There came a day when I resolved to be mature.  No more crushes.  I was 15 and a half and it was time to grow up.  (I know, I'm killing myself with laughter right now)  I was going to just wait for the man God had for me and dispense with the awkward and embarrassing infatuations with boys that couldn't care less. 

The very next week I went to church and did what I always did, checked to see if Robert's truck was in the parking lot.

During the service I did what I always did, I watched Robert as he sat on the front pew, sang with gusto and scribbled furious notes.

I was already in love and didn't even recognize it because for once in my life it wasn't about me.  It was just pure admiration of a man (who, once again, barely knew that I existed) for who he already was.

And that is what love is.  

I think when Katy begins to realize that this is the sort of love towards God that she is missing, her life is going to turn around.  

What I see as I read this week's chapter is that self-centeredness is a black hole of need that is ever collapsing in on itself.  When do you ever have enough?  Your vessel is cracked and all the love you can grab runs right back out.  We have to realize that we were never meant to hold in love, but to be channels of love.  God's love, running right through us and watering the thirsty souls all around.  The Dead Sea is dead precisely because all the water flows into it, but there is no natural outlet.  Instead, the blazing sun beats down, evaporating the life giving water and leaving behind the deadly minerals.  I don't want to be like that.

 So, what are your thoughts? 
Do you have any humorous teenage crush stories to tell?
How did you find true love?
Any words of insight or wisdom?

I love hearing from you!  Thank you so much, all of you, for your support and participation.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Interview With Elisabeth

I'm really excited to bring an extra post to you today.  I had such a fun time sitting down with my friend, Elisabeth Yancy, yesterday and getting her perspective on Stepping Heavenward.

Elisabeth is 16 and a big sister that loves to make homemade pizza for her family.

M: So, tell me a little bit more about yourself. What do you like to do?

E: My number one hobby is to play the piano.I love to listen to classical music. I also really enjoy reading The Hardy Boys.

M: A woman after my own heart, lol. I absolutely had a crush on Joe Hardy.  :-D
Grandma told me that you are such a blessing, playing for their church services. 

So, Elisabeth, is this your first time to read Stepping Heavenward?

E: No, I read it last year.

M: What do you think of Katy at this time in her life? The very first time I read the book, I thought she was a bit much. Too much drama, you know.   

E: I think that she should control her emotions a bit more. I agree with you about the drama, though. It is hard to control myself when I really want something.  Or rather, how I want something done.

And pride gets in the way, too, sadly. When mom says something works and I don't like it until I try and see that it really DOES work, then I don't want to admit that mom was right.

M: haha, that is so true. It always cracks me up when someone describes pride as being a particular trait of their family. The Hudson pride or the Kimball pride. It's Adam's pride and we all inherited it .

It was challenging for me in some ways, growing up in a Sovereign Grace church, because I knew I needed to be saved, but I didn't know how to get there.  It was a real searching time for me. What has been your experience as you seek the Lord?

E: Although this is not in the beginning of the book, I remember when I read it last that Katie was asking Dr. Cabot how to know if she was saved if she didn't know exactly when she was saved, and he said that knowing when is not the point, but just knowing that you are trusting in Christ is more important. That has helped me a lot.

M: Absolutely. The way she describes it in the beginning of the chapter makes so much sense. Since we are dead in our sins and unable to will or exercise any faith, we must depend on Him to provide that first spark of life. That first twinge of conscience, that dread of displeasing an utterly Holy God. These workings of regeneration are the gift of God as much as the faith they later produce.  

My dad used to caution me  not to have faith in my faith. That used to really puzzle me,
E: Yes, that is a good point. I have been reading through Pilgrim's Progress since the new year, and it is amazing to see the deep doctrines of the Bible written for all to understand.
This is changing the subject slightly, but I was thinking about the differences between the 1830's and today. Human nature is, of course always the same. That is why the truths of Christian Classics are always relevant. In what ways do you think today is different than Katie's time and in what ways similar?
E: some servants to load the dishwasher for me would be nice...
M: lol, I get a little jealous whenever I read of them having a cook!
I really appreciate having the opportunity to chat with you 🙂 Do you have any quotes that stood out to you or final thoughts?
E: Yes, it was so sad that her father died. And how at the end of the chapter, she says she would give almost anything to live in a world where nothing painful would happen. I know I would, but I do not have to, because Christ has given Himself for me.
M: Katie's mother displays that same Christian fortitude. It is helpful to know that your loving Father sends only what is needful and is there to help us through every trial. I just read today in Psalm 56:8 that God treasures up our tears in a bottle. I feel awkward around others who are bereaved and hurting. It is so easy to thoughtlessly say something that is even more hurtful, as Katie so vehemently illustrated   
E: It is a comfort to know that God knows every hair on our head and every tear we weep. 
M: Well, a very pleasant hour has sped past. I'm sure you have much to do today. The pictures of the dinners you prepare for your family are always mouthwatering! 
E: I enjoyed chatting with you too. And now I am going to get some pizza started. It is fun to talk to someone older than me.  I really enjoyed our discussion! 
All right, ladies!  If y'all want to jump in and join the discussion, we'll be here all week :-)