Tag Archives: spiritual

Easter in France

Our first Easter in France has been interesting. It is noticeably more low-key than in the States, with the exception of the chocolate. The section for Easter chocolate is at least as big as the Christmas chocolate, and definitely more artistic and creative. Sure, there are your bunnies and your eggs; but the chickens and roosters were a little surprising. I love the hens ON eggs! But why all the other farm animals? And why the FISH? I was so mystified, I went looking online for an answer…

I found some here… but also asked my Thursday French teacher, who explained the link to Lent and the fishes. But she also confirmed the strange April Fool’s prank of the paper fish on the back of an adult, with much giggling and calling of “poisson d’avril!”

Theodore’s Easter chocolate:

These are his chocolates from us. Notice the chocolate pig is atop a pile of fish.

These are his chocolates from us. Notice the chocolate pig is atop a pile of fish.

The piggie with his fish collection.

The piggie with his fish collection.

When the neighbors came for dinner, they brought us these bells. (See the website for why bells.)

When the neighbors came for dinner, they brought us these bells. (See the website for why bells.)

Inside Theo's little bell...surprise!

Inside Theo’s little bell…surprise!

Our bell had a surprise, too!

The Lindt bunny is from the grocery, but the bells were from a chocolaterie in our ville.

The Lindt bunny is from the grocery, but the bells were from a chocolaterie in our ville.

I like the quieter Easter. The yards of the homes in our neighborhood ring with the sounds of children playing, as friends and family gather together. I only wish we could marry the simplicity and relationship-orientation of the French observation with the purpose and depth of the true purpose of the holiday I experience at home. In the States, there is a clamor of opposing observances, and even sincere followers can become distracted.

This holiday, this holy day, is a measured walk from death to life, from dark to light, and from hopelessness to hope and joy realized. Our church had set up a stations of prayer for Friday and Saturday, with guided reflections on the hands of Christ. It wsas profound and beautiful. It would be a perfect marriage with our Kansas church’s Good Friday service, worshipping and reflecting through song and Scripture from light to dark. Without the garish circus surrounding this day, I really got to grow in my gratitude. Thank you again, my Jesus, for taking my place.

 

 

 

 

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Transformation and Aging

When I turned 40, I felt like life was clipping along at a rather high rate of speed. So much of my life was beyond my control, dictated by other forces. I had two teenagers, I was homeschooling two children, and the younger of the two was just beginning to be suspected of dyslexia with its added load of chaos. I had a presence at two schools, and I think that began the second year of really trying to get TeenMOPS rolling, which was a monster of an undertaking. I wanted to be available in my daily life to breathe grace into the lives of friends, neighbors and acquaintances, but I didn’t seem to have the ownership of my time to even stop and take cookies to a neighbor moving out, telling her I’d miss her. This was bad, and I didn’t want to continue in the fast lane the rest of my life. I needed something to change; maybe me to change.

Not a flattering photo, but of me in Texas, 40 years old, re-evaluating my life.

From this was born my 50 Before 50. I wanted to set in print, where it could take on form and potentially life, some of my true priorities. The expressions of those priorities made sense at the time, and I have achieved some in every category, albeit allowing for some flexibility of interpretation:

a closer relationship to God When I became a group leader for Bible Study Fellowship, I took that over a Kay Arthur Bible study (#31). With the required homiletics, I felt it was just as rigorous, and I know I learned just as much from my time in God’s Word.  As a Day Women’s Group leader, I also attended a BSF retreat with my group, and I counted that as a women’s retreat (#27). It certainly achieved the spiritual and relational goals intended. I haven’t memorized the verses, though (#32), which makes me kind of sad, because I invested time trying not to lose the ones I already have instead, and haven’t been completely successful at that.

a closer relationship to my family I am unsure how successful this one has been, but I ticked things off the list nonetheless. I did develop a habit of celebrating even the little victories of my children (#41), thus becoming a more positive, less critical parent. More could be done, though. And some of the items intended to build memories to savor in the future were done with family members, so also serving this goal. I attended my first opera (#24) with my older daughter, which became one of several we enjoyed our experience together so much. I made tiramasu (#8) with my husband, and it was fun together. But Stoney and I never did succeed in making time together for another dance class (#13), I never made time to take the girls to the Hill Country to stay in the Barn(#12), and Theo and I never made it to Mount Rushmore (#40) even after we moved to Kansas, when it would have been much closer to do so. I doubt I’ll squeeze that one in now.

improvements in my own character I’ve thrown out a lot of things I’m not using, and even simplified enough to trim things I was, but didn’t need to (#5). I got up enough courage to donate platelets (#35) and repeated several times more. I maintained a strength and weights program until my injury late this spring (#39), and I ran a 5K (#10), but I had lots of improvement goals that haven’t been met.

goals I need to help my kids achieve Well, I graduated the first three kids from high school, so that’s something (#s16, 36 &37). You might say it should have been on their goal lists, but getting kids through school requires a lot of coaching from parents! And I’m still on track to graduate a child from college (#17), this coming August in fact.

have fun and make memories That’s what most of the rest of the list was for. Some I achieved; many I didn’t. I think the most important ones have been checked off, though.

I just recently turned 47. Now, with time running out, I look over my list and wonder not only if these things are achievable now (any whales in this part of the Atlantic?), but are they even desirable now? My list doesn’t really show it, but these last seven years have been transforming; I am not the woman I was that short time ago. I thought God had already brought me through so much, changed me so much, but I could not have guessed how much more he had in store. My priorities haven’t changed, but are these remaining goals how I still want to achieve them? I’m definitely getting older, and my perspective of what is important is changing. Probably my physical abilities, too!  Do these goals still make sense?

In France at 47.

I’m thinking…no. Especially not in the light of my current circumstances! Most years of my remaining fourth decade are going to be spent right here in Europe. I need an addendum to my list! I’ll be prayerfully considering what I don’t want to leave France without doing, keeping in mind my priorities, and adding a priority: serve others more than myself. And I am willing to hear suggestions as well. When I get my addendum, I’ll add it to the 50 page and link it.

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A Basket-less Easter

Yes, it’s true…this “supermom” broke a tradition of 22 years, and that’s if you don’t count the years of MY life from 1 through college. Our Easter had no. basket. No eggs with little symbols of the Resurrection Story either on or in them. I am thinking this might well mean I am overworked. Of course, a 13 and an 18 year old don’t necessarily need a basket of surprises in the morning, but it definitely leaves one feeling thought-of.

We were not entirely without thought, though. I had on the kitchen table for my daughter a pineapple cupcake mix to do together, and Reester bunnies. And for my son, a terra cotta bowl with the makings of a Resurrection Garden. (And a little Reester bunny. After all, Jesus can hardly be worshiped without chocolate.) The Easter garden turned out to be a good substitute for a basket, and better for time spent together.

the stone is rolled away!

 

but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

 

He is risen!

 

The deviled eggs were just for fun, a Pinterest find.

It was a good Easter, all things considered. I mean, really, Easter can’t help but be good, no matter what, because it’s the Good News!

 

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The Palpable Presence of God

Back to my awesome weekend BSF retreat…

The overall theme was “Eradicating Biblical Poverty.” We studied II Timothy together, noting how Paul mentored Timothy. It was a very encouraging study, but the breakout sessions (a first for a BSF retreat) felt most useful, leaving me with practical, immediate things I could DO. My favorite experience was at the breakout on emergency prayer. According to the speaker, the second part of an emergency prayer is to bring God in; refocus the person on the Person. She called for us to call out character traits of God that we could lift up in praise in a hypothetical situation. Words rose like graceful bubbles all throughout the room, thicker and faster…sovereign…all-knowing…compassionate, ever-present, merciful. And as the praise filled the room, the atmosphere grew thicker, and a weight of comfort and peace pressed in upon me. And then she stopped us.

“Do you feel it?” she asked. “Do you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit?” And I did, of course, but I was in awe. I had never had someone else publicly acknowledge the corporate, palpable Presence of God. It was so affirming and exciting to realize that all Believers in that room experienced the same thing I did! And empowering to also realize that in praising God for who He is in a crisis situation, I can usher the calming Presence of our Savior into the storm that has captured the attention of the person in crisis.

I am so grateful for that one session at retreat. That one alone I have had the opportunity to practice a number of times already. What a blessing it was!

 

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The Lover of My Soul

Last weekend I got away from uber-busy life with a bunch of women from my Bible Study Fellowship leader group. I worried it was time I couldn’t spare, really, even though this would knock out another 50 Before 50. I had gotten to where I almost didn’t want to go, leaving my family I don’t see enough of, and my to-do list I make so little progress on. So, recognizing this attitude problem, I began, the week before, asking God each day to refresh me on this retreat. How He did this, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, didn’t matter, just so long as PLEASE would He refresh me? Well, the response left me breathless, and feeling just a bit like He had just been waiting in anticipation to do just that!

Arriving at the Hyatt, I unpacked and realized two things: my late night packing job had left me short a blouse, and my lipstick bag with lip balm for my already painfully chapped lips was missing. Ah well, my mind was on other things. I was desperate for a hair makeover. I had originally thought to grow out my curly graying locks for an updo for the wedding in June, but realize now what a mistake that was. Every time I walked past a mirror at work (and my department store has LOTS of mirrors), I couldn’t help feeling frumpy and droopy and old. So with the couple of hours downtime I’ve got before the retreat started, I decided to see if I could get a walk-in haircut. Surely there’s a Great Clips or something nearby? A directory showed an Aveda Institute (the school!) downtown, so I called and said a prayer. “Might you have an opening before 4?” asked at 2:10. They said they had had a cancellation of a 3:00! I can do 3! What a relief! I went walking, and lo and behold, this school was just across the street and around the corner, so I got there 20 minutes early. And what did I see next door, but a TJMaxx. Well, I had time for a quick browse. And hit PAYDIRT! in the form a of a lovely Cable and Gauge blouse for cheap! Unexpected top shortage alleviated.

I showed up at Aveda right on the dot, and the sweet girl who seated me informed me that a cut begins with a scalp massage with scented oil. Oh my! It was awesome, with refreshing peppermint, and right then I knew God was telling me He was taking care of me. The cut turned out really cute, but at the end, the girl said that as a thank you for using their services, I get a little dollop of lip gloss of my color choice. I couldn’t believe it!! It was like God overlooked NO tiny detail. And the whole experience was $18. You can believe I tipped WELL. I nearly cried, I felt so loved. God knew my needs, and me, and how to truly refresh me. I felt not only ready to receive all that He wanted to give me spiritually for the weekend, I was eagerly expectant!

And the public art in Denver is quirky and prolific. It was fun just to watch for it, no museum necessary. Take the Convention Center, for example:

Isn’t he cute? I’ll share more about the retreat itself in future, but for now, just know my prayer was answered. I am loved, and I was definitely refreshed!

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Creation Art

I showed the beginning of this canvas earlier, here. I finished yesterday. The final product:

commission for a friend

I wish I could get a more accurate photo. It is really hard to photograph a dark canvas. If I darken it in my photo software, the light letters gray out. Oh well.

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Give Thanks to the Lord

Today I led fifth and sixth grades to count their blessings through this project:

Thankful Words Turkey

After a discussion of ways we can change value without actually changing color, I gave them a turkey template to work from. They had several Bible verses to choose from to create their turkey body, and then were to brainstorm things for which they were thankful, and those were to become the feathers. Some students got the concept of using letters to create shape and value more than others, but I think everyone benefitted from having to list so many things they could be thankful for.

I like their turkeys, but in this case, I really like MY turkey. I loved meditating on these verses and filling his tail feathers with gratefulness. It really made want to make another, different one! I am truly blessed. My husband and children love me. In fact, my husband is still IN love with me. That alone is  HUGE. I have a beloved friend who understands me and is often only a phone call away for a chat. My church is a true Bible-believing church that rests on prayer. My pastor and his wife are people I deeply admire and respect. I get to help shepherd some amazing young adults in Sunday School. My son attends a school where the adults PRAY for him, regularly. As challenging as he is, I believe they still care for him. And wonder of wonders, I not only am allowed to teach at this same school, they actually pay me for it! And amazingly, parents seem to be pleased with what I do with the kids. And I get hugs! I shepherd a group of inspiring older women in Bible Study Fellowship. And my car is SO CUTE and got its dents fixed, so it’s all new again. And it still isn’t too cold up here! I am just overflowing with things to thank God for, but my favorite is this passage from Isaiah that we studied this past week:

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you!”  Isaiah 12:4-6

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Happy Reformation Day!

I want to be reformed. In the sense that I want to be made more like Christ. I have a tendency to get real lazy and stagnate in my current iteration. But if there is one thing I have learned in the past 45 years, it is that what doesn’t grow, decays. I really do want to be relevant to God and His purposes, though, and that is what I am looking at in me right now. Am I willing to make ANY change God asks of me? Am I willing to make any effort God asks of me? I hope so. I pray God would make me able. One thing I am examining in light of reformation is art. I approach each class prayerfully, and I know that is necessary. But what else can I do? Can this have outreach uses, ministry uses? Am I really helping God show each child their precious value even now?

And completely unrelated, I think I am finished with my koi. I keep looking at it and considering the addition of one more leaf group at the top. It still feels a little unbalanced to me. I’m also considering darkening my leaf shadows. We’ll see; no one says I can’t start it up again!

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Checking in and jumping up and down

Oh Joy!

Oh Joy!

Too bad I can’t count that as Activity Points.

Woot! I have a 5 pound star! I actually lost 1.2 pounds, for a total of 6.1 pounds lost in five weeks. This is a phenomenal rate of weight loss for me: about twice my Texas Weight Watchers loss rate, and easily 4-5 times what I lose without Weight Watchers. See my joyous Snoopy dance? However, I did learn that my jeans weigh TWO WHOLE POUNDS. I weighed at home with and without, and believe you me, I will never weigh in my jeans again. I ditched them for the lightest weight pants I could find.

Points consumed for the week, which included Valentine’s Day: 208 points out of a possible weekly 210 + 33 activity points.

Also, beyond the five pound star, I also crossed my 180 pound threshold, at 179.8 pounds. This is glorious news!! And WHY is it glorious news? Because if I maintain a weight below 180 pounds next weigh-in, I get to treat myself to a FULL BODY MASSAGE!! Woo-hoo! Hallelujah! Because that will mean I have genuinely lost 10 pounds since May. I really hope Coach does a body fat test again in March, because I would love to know how many actual fat pounds are gone now.

OK, enough with the physical. I am a spiritual creature, too, and how is that going? Well, just as I suspected, taking on leadership in BSF has definitely kicked everything up a notch. I’m having a great time, and God is helping me order my time so that it is not too burdensome (at times it’s positively joyful) praying for another 15 women in my life. And I am getting SO MUCH out of the leaders’ meeting. Who knew the Books of the Law would have so much applicable learning?

Now if Spring would just spring my joy would just bubble over! This interminable winter looks to be wrapping up a bit. I have crocus blooming in my garden. 🙂

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God equips those He calls, batteries included.

I was asked over the holidays to be a Discussion Group Leader for Bible Study Fellowship. After much consideration and prayer, I accepted. This is to fill a sudden opening in BSF, though, so I am sort of taking a crash-course, work-study kind of training. Sort of intimidating, you might say. Today was my second leaders’ meeting. If it weren’t for my faith in my God to compensate for all my shortcomings, I would feel inadequate indeed! But He is reminding me in little ways that He knows me and what He has asked me to do, and He can give me all I need to do it.

For instance, I recently found out an older friend is in the group I will be taking on, and she assured me that these are older women who have mostly been doing BSF for years. She tells me they will love me and be very supportive! What encouragement!

Also, I am supposed to dress up twice a week as a BSF leader, but have almost no dressy wardrobe. Our church is pretty casual-tolerant, and really, that’s the only dressy place I have to go, pretty much EVER. Dinner at Arby’s, cheering at a wrestling match, or watching my daughters in a play pretty much round out the setting of my life. I said a prayer and headed over to Penney’s last week, shopping the clearance racks. I found several blouses, a sweater, and some slacks, expecting to pay those marked-down prices. At the checkout, they took off an ADDITIONAL mark-down! I got out of there with a much expanded dressy wardrobe for about $80! Imagine! God not only cares how I dress, but helped me do so frugally beyond my expectations! I felt SO loved by God. (My biggest gift: a pair of fully lined black big-leg tuxedo pants, originally $100, for $17!)

Tomorrow I shadow another leader as she leads her group, and I get introduced to the group I will be eventually taking over. I am actually beginning to get excited! I truly hope I can be a blessing to God in this ministry. He is certainly blessing ME!

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