Thursday, March 31, 2011

Feeling the Squeeze!

I have felt a few times in the last week or so like I'm being squeeeeeezed.  Some of the pressure comes from myself.  Some of it comes from plain old life.   I also think it comes from God.  But not in the "you'd better get your act straight or you're in big trouble!" kind of way.  Not in the "live up to my expectations or I'll be disappointed and so will everyone else" kind of way.  (That kind, unfortunately, that tends to come from yours truly.)  

The kind of pressure that comes from God (dare I say it?) is the kind that transforms sand into rock and carbon into diamonds.

I woke up yesterday with the idea for this blog title and almost immediately had this image pop into my head.  
It made me laugh.  We've had these around for years.  You probably know the drill...  1st you fill it up with as much as you can.  Then, of course, you SQUEEEEEZE IT and all the extra stuff comes oozing out the sides of the mold.  Extra stuff that doesn't fit or belong.
 Trim it off and you have a finished product!  (That's Bob the Builder's friend Wendy, in case you were wondering...)
I know God is fashioning me into someone He can use even more fully in His Kingdom.  Like Wendy has, He's giving me the tools I will need.  He's reshaping me.  But I'll tell ya...  It's not always fun.  And I'll bet money that you already know that and are agreeing with me.  But wouldn't you also agree that it's worth it?  I know that I reeeeaaally don't like the squeezing process, but I also know that I always appreciate the freedom that comes after.  And I'm trusting and expecting that the mold is going to open (soon, Lord!) and I'll be able to breathe a bit easier.  And I'll tell Him thank You.  Again.

Now, if you're like me, you might be jumping ahead to poor little Wendy here going through a firing process where she's baked and hardened and then sanded and glazed and fired again...  I know.  But for tonight, I'm just going to rest in the idea of breathing better when the mold is open.  We'll deal with the fire when we get there.  : )

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard PRESSED on every side, BUT NOT CRUSHED; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  


Day 21

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grace and Peace for Today (instead of longing for yesteryears)

It was good the other day to visit with a couple of good old (as in for a long time - not our age!) friends.  Lisa and I met our freshman year in college and we've been friends ever since.  She and I spent lots of time together when our kids were babies and toddlers.  A few years ago, our kids started school, our schedules changed and we switched churches, so it's been harder to see each other on a regular basis, but whenever we're together it makes me happy.

Anyway, we were talking about how changes in life can make us long for the way things used to be.  Both of us were acknowledging that there are things we miss about the early mommyhood stage of life.  (Staying home more is top on my "I miss that!" list right now.)  BUT we spent enough time together back in those days to know that for both of us that season was FILLED to the brim with challenges, frustrations and discouragements along with the joy and fun and excitement of having little kids.  So why do we wish we could go back?  That's what nostalgia does to us, I guess...  it helps us focus on the rosy parts of the past especially when we're unsettled in the present or uncertain about the future.

Every week or so I find myself wondering why things seem hard still.  Yes, this is a season filled with change, but really?  How long will I struggle with keeping my emotions in check?  (It's been really good for me to be paying more attention to the little thoughts I wrote about yesterday.  It helped me a lot today!)  It's also good for me to realize that many of the things that made life a challenge before all these changes have not just evaporated.  Most of them (like housekeeping, mothering, etc.) are still here beneath all of the obvious sources of stress.  So again, I find myself needing to receive the grace God gives me for today.  And I have to be patient with myself.

I always say that we don't "forgive ourselves" (we receive and accept forgiveness and believe we are forgiven!  But that's another post...) but I wonder if grace is the same way.  It's not something we give ourselves but something we receive from God (and maybe other people) - especially in the light of all I wrote a few weeks ago about that it means.  I need to be merciful and patient with myself, but grace comes from others.  I just have to be willing to accept it.

Day 20  (Woohoo!  Halfway!!!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Growing Perspective

When Timothy and I left the house for our little walk yesterday, I was feeling a little down.  And I couldn't figure out what was wrong - which perhaps bothered me the most!  I think it was like feeling foxtails in my socks and not knowing where they had come from.  What was going on?  Was it grief again?  Something else?  I couldn't put my finger on it.  So we went for a walk and that's when we found all of the flowering weeds.

I started reflecting on how things can look like one thing and grow into something that hardly resembles its previous existence.  Like the ladybugs or the weeds.  Who would look at flowers and automatically make the connection between the seeds that grow from them?  Not most of us, unless we have had reason to learn.  

When I taught 2nd grade, we did a unit on flowers.  It was quite fascinating (I love science!) and the main point I kept reminding them of was that flowers existed to produce seeds.  Their very purpose was to be pretty and attract pollenators so seeds could grow... with or without fruit surrounding them.  The plants don't really care.  They just want to reproduce.  (Well...  not that they want to...  but it's what they're made to do.)

And it's a cycle.  The seeds grow plants which grow flowers that produce more seeds that produce more plants and flowers and seeds, etc.  Who knows where it starts or ends?

So back to my gloomy mood.  I asked God to help me see what thoughts were either the seeds that had been planted or flowers that had produced seeds of discouragement or something else and I started recognizing little thoughts that probably bloomed into gloom.  

"I'm never going to get caught up on the laundry."
"We always have to file for an extension on our taxes."
"This kitchen is a disaster."
"I can't do this.  It's too hard!"
"I don't feel connected to God."
(And at the moment...  "What is wrong with the formatting on here???  Why can't I fix it?")

Most of the time the thoughts are so quick and fleeting I hardly notice them.  So I'm praying God will help me take even the most subtle of my thoughts captive to Christ so we can sort them out and correct them.  Weed out the wrong and replant the right.

"It is hard to get the laundry done, but we have clothes to wear tomorrow."
"We'll likely have to file for an extension on our taxes again, but we'll get it done eventually and it's okay."
"Maybe the kitchen can be rearranged so it works better."
"Nothing is impossible with God.  Challenges help me to grow."
"Nothing can separate me from God's love and as long as I'm on this earth I will always long for more connection with God.  And praise Him that I long for it!"
(And "who cares if some of the text is a different color?  I'm not going to spend extra time obsessing and being frustrated about it!")

And I'm also asking God to help me recognize and be grateful for the things HE has planted in my life that might currently look like caterpillars but are going to turn into butterflies.  Seeds of grief that will bear the fruit of joy.  Trials that will give way to triumph.  Trouble that will be transformed into eternal glory.
"17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Heavenly Father, fix my eyes on what is unseen and what is true.  Fix my eyes and my heart on You...
Day 19

Monday, March 28, 2011

What's Growing On?

Timothy and I took a little walk around our complex this morning and found a bunch of little purple flowers.  Aren't they cute?  Don't they look sweet and innocent?  Like you might want to plant a little purple flower plant in your garden?

We started collecting some and I was surprised when I realized they were growing on "scissor plants." Hmmm...  Not nice weeds.  These sweet little purple flowers turn into these:

These are what we kids would make scissors out of.  Split one at the base and stick another one through it and you have some little scissors!  : )

They dry up and split and curl up into these nasty little seeds that embed themselves into whatever they can find so they can be planted again somewhere and grow more sweet little flowers.  Or maybe they're not so sweet after all.

Just before we found the purple flowers, we saw about 20 ladybug larvae crawling around on the sidewalk.  If you didn't know that's what they were, you would think they were scary, ugly bugs.  But, unlike the cute flowers that start out sweet and end up scary, the ladybugs start scary and end up cute!


I saw some dandelions growing today, too and remembered how I was a kindergarten teacher before I realized how dandelion flowers turn into dandelion seed puffs because I had never bothered to stop and make the connection.


Think there's a lesson in all of this?  Definitely.  I'm still thinking about it and will write about it tomorrow.  : )

Day 18

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Preparing to Praise!

I think I'm taking my Sabbath blog break tonight and will write again tomorrow night instead.  
(That's what I originally posted, but later realized that I God didn't inspire me to blog a certain amount everyday...  just to blog something everyday.  So even a very short post counts.)

I'm helping on the worship team tomorrow morning and feel the need to be a bit more prepared spiritually than I am at the moment and think that means praying rather than writing.  Thanks to my sis-in-law for what she wrote about praise on her blog today...  if you want some good words about what most of us will be doing (or did) in church tomorrow (or this) morning, check out her blog...  

Back tomorrow Monday...

Day 17

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Therapy :)

Thank you everyone for your sweet comments after my Spring Tears post.  It all such a learning process - even learning to recognize how we all grieve differently, whether it's over people, or things or seasons or whatever.  But it's good.

This afternoon/evening we were blessed by our pastor's family taking care of our kids so Lowell and I could have a nice date!  We ended up wandering down by the San Joaquin River taking pictures of wildflowers and enjoying the quiet river and lack of people around us.  Here are a few of my favorites...


I love this guy...

Day 16

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hard Wired to Sing

I know I haven't directly mentioned Colossians 3:15-17 (my Lent theme verse) everyday, but it's been on my mind just about everyday.  I thought about verse 15 a lot for the first 10+ days  ("Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as member of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.")  and it led me to all the stuff about grace.  While there will always be more to learn about living out that verse, I've moved on to meditating (for me that equals thinking a lot) about verse 16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."  

thought I was starting with just the first half of that verse and would get to the second half in a week or so, but I was wrong.  It turns out that for me, memorizing and thinking deeply about God's word goes hand in hand with singing.  (I shouldn't be surprised.)  I've been reminded in the last day or two that one of the most effective ways for me to let God's word dwell (i.e. inhabit, abide, LIVE) in me is to sing it!  Often when I am memorizing scripture, I either turn it into a song in order to help me memorize it, or it just turns into a song all on it's own as I'm repeating the words over and over.  It's just the way God makes my brain work.

I've been thinking a lot about Psalm 23 lately and finished last night turning it into a song...  (in Spanish!  It's the first song I've ever written that was in Spanish first and not a translation, so I'm excited about that!)  The song was running through my head all night (when Timothy was climbing in bed with me) and all day...  and that's a much better thing than grumpy thoughts or that other song that was running through my head the other night that I couldn't get out.  It's good for me to remember anew that my brain is wired by God to have music running through it and if I want the lyrics to be His Word, working them into a song is a great way to help that happen.

Do you have music running through your mind constantly?  How do you memorize scripture most easily?  Just wondering...  : )

Day 15

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Tears

The last few days have been sort of hard.  I've felt pretty sad for a variety of reasons and most of them I couldn't even put my finger on.  I realized last night I was grieving again when a picture of lilacs made me cry.  Because we used to have a lilac bush.  Back when we lived in our house with our beautiful yard.  (Not beautiful because we took good care of it, mind you.  I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea.  Our yard was fairly well neglected except for the requisite lawn mowing in the front yard.)  But our yard was huge.  And it was filled with all sorts of fabulous trees and bushes that fairly exploded in Spring.  

And here I go crying again.

I LOVED walking around our yard in Spring.  Never mind that Spring made me sneeze and made my eyes itch and my nose run.  It was totally worth it.  I loved watching the plants come alive again after winter.  I loved watching the bees dance around the blossoms on our fruit trees.  I loved anticipating the cherries, plums, peaches, apples and nectarines we would be eating all summer.  (Not to mention the citrus we would eat all winter!)  So I miss our old place.
There have been some other emotional things going on around me this last weekend and finally I realized this morning I needed to stop stuffing the tears and just let them out.  I think God helped me realize that in the middle of a season like this one, I don't have to feel any worse about crying from time to time than I do about sweating when it's hot or I'm exercising.  Despair and discouragement are bad.  Tears are not.  Just because I need to cry does not mean something's wrong with me.
They that sow in tears will reap with songs of joy...  Tears are sometimes seeds of joy.  And I bet it's no coincidence that tomorrow night in our Life Group we're looking at the story of the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with precious perfume and with her tears.  Maybe when I feel like crying I need to get to the feet of Jesus and just let my tears fall right there on Him.  I know that at least today, it brought a lot of relief.  Thank you Jesus for that.

Day 14

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I have just a couple more thoughts to share about grace.  Remember a few days ago when I started talking about thanksgiving being connected with awareness of grace?  It made me notice for the first time (since my first Spanish lesson back in 1984) that the word in Spanish for THANK YOU is GRACIAS.  And in case you don't speak Spanish or see the connection...  Gracia is the Spanish word for GRACE.  So basically, every time I am thanking someone in Spanish, I am acknowledging grace.  I think that's pretty neat.  : )

And here's the last thing I have to say (for now) about God's grace:  
God's GRACE gets the LAST WORD!  
Do you know what the last verse in the entire Bible says?  It's Revelation 22:21.  "The GRACE of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen."  : )  And that just makes me smile.  To know that in the end, there is God's grace shown to us through Jesus Christ.  No matter what else happens.  No matter how many times I mess up.  No matter how many times I think things depend on me instead of on God.  No matter what, He who began the good work in me will be faithful to complete it.  Because I have chosen to entrust my life and heart to Him, His grace will get the last word in my life.
Gracias, Señor.

Day 13

Monday, March 21, 2011

Before the Throne of Grace

A couple of Septembers ago, I was in awe of the invitation God gives us - to approach God's throne of grace boldly!  Back in the Old Testament times, if the High Priest entered behind the curtain into the Most Holy Place, he had to carry burning incense with him so the smoke would conceal the atonement cover (aka mercy seat) of the ark where God's presence rested - OR HE WOULD DIE.  Wow. (Leviticus 16:12-13)  

I have always been moved by what God did when Jesus died on the cross for us - that He reached down from heaven and tore that curtain in two from top to bottom!  To go from "you can't come in here or you'll die" to an open invitation is stunning.  God has shown me the reason it means so much to me is because more than anything else, I long for intimacy with God.  I don't always realize that's what I am longing for, but it's there at the bottom of it all.  And the curtain being torn is my invitation to intimacy with my Savior and King.  Wow.

So, that September, I was feeling like I would love to write a song about it but couldn't figure out even where to start.  Then God gently suggested that I start with some of His words.  Aaahhh...  of course.  Hebrews 2:15; 3:1; 4:14-16; 10:19-23; 13:5-6; Micah 7:18; Eph. 2:4-5... 

And the song was born.  

BEFORE THE THRONE OF GRACE  (click here to listen to it)

We have a great high priest
Jesus Christ, the Son of God
He came from heaven to earth
He knows our struggles and how weak we are
Yet He was without sin
And through His body, invites us in

CH:     Let us come before the throne, the throne of grace
With confidence before our God
Let us boldly approach the throne of grace
With confidence before our King  (1st time, go to V2)
To receive mercy and find grace
To help us in our time of need
You offer mercy, You pour out your grace
You always help us in our time of need

So let us draw near to God
With sincere hearts, full of faith
Guilty consciences clean
Captives set free from the power of death!
Hold onto your hope (hold on to your faith)
God our Father is faithful!

BR:                 So we say with confidence
“The Lord is our helper.”
He will never leave us
We will not be afraid.
God, You delight in mercy
By your grace we are saved!
We will fix our thoughts on You
For You have called us by name

To receive mercy…  etc…
(So I cry)  Lord, have mercy on me!

Hebrews 2: 15; 3:1; 4:14-16; 10:19-23; 13:5-6 ; Micah 7:18  ; Eph. 2:4-5 

Song by Melissa Ens

Day 12

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I'll likely be talking more about Sabbath during Lent, but for now I'll leave it at this:  I'm taking Sundays off from the Lent blogging.  I don't normally skip Sundays when I'm fasting during Lent, but this year is different.  AND I've also learned that according to the way some count the days of Lent, Sundays aren't counted anyway because Sundays are always a day of celebration (that's actually part of what Sabbath is supposed to be, I think) so they can't be a day of fasting.  So I'm going to take Sundays off from blogging during Lent.  (I'm actually setting this up Saturday night to post tomorrow.  Fancy, huh?)  Instead of writing, I'll be posting a link to something I've read that week that I want to share.  This week it's this...

Finding The Esther In You 

(Written by Stacy from  posted at

Empty cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and packing tape filled our dining room.
With a confused heart, I started to wrap our china, which unfortunately, seemed to be multiplying.
Feeling defeated, I decided to take a break. I grabbed the remote, plopped down on our sofa, and turned on the television. Flipping through channels, a sermon caught my attention. Soon I realized that the preacher was speaking specifically to women.
“Oh great,” I thought, looking toward the mess of Noritake plates and bowls scattered on my dining room table. “I bet he’s going to make me feel real good now.”
Although I was tempted to turn the channel, I felt that tug to keep watching. I’m happy I did. He shared a seven-word sentence with such conviction that to this day it still impacts me.
Click here to read the rest of the story.  (It's really, really good.)  : )  
Happy Sabbath.  : )

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Grace With My Name On It

Well, I've made it to Day 11!  I've never, ever blogged this many days in a row before (or even close to it!) so this feels like an accomplishment of some kind.  I've noticed so far is that it's been a good thing.  There have been several times that I've written something and really needed to hold on to it the next day or two.  Or even just thinking about how I would explain something has helped me find some truth.  I have been blessed by remembering to accept and cry out for God's grace.  I have discovered anew why so often in scripture Grace and Peace are together.  When I accept God's grace, peace follows.  

It's neat to think that God has special grace just for me.  If his grace is given for specific tasks and callings, then there is some grace specifically for me and the calling He has on my life and the tasks He's given me.  Today.  Right now.  There is grace just for me to raise my kids in the middle of MAJOR change.  There is grace for my marriage in this brand new season.  There is grace to help me accept a messy house that is messy because I spent hours this week doing my new job instead of my old job.  There is grace for me when I'm tired and discouraged.  Grace just for me.  There is grace for me when my spirit is weary and burdened and hungry and thirsty.  There is a throne of grace I can boldly come to because I need God's help.  Because I need God.

And how sad does it make Him when I am tired and won't rest or hungry and won't eat what He offers?  Lord, I choose to rest in You and accept Your grace - the grace You offer to me - grace with my name on it. Thank you for teaching me in a whole new way what it means to let Your grace and peace rule in my heart. (Col 3:15) May your peace reign in me and as it reigns in me, may it reign in my relationships.  We were called to peace.  Thank you...

Day 11

Friday, March 18, 2011

Grace Like Butterscotch Caramel Cheesecake

OK.  So maybe you're still saying to yourself, "Well, that sounds just great!  But I still don't exactly understand what grace is, let alone how I get it!"  How about some official definitions?  Merriam-Webster says it's "unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification" or "approval [or] favor". says it's "1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.  2.  a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment. 3.  favor or good will."  Strong's concordance defines the Greek word "charis" as "1) grace  1a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech  2) good will, loving-kindness, favour."

There.  Does that help?  Not really?  Turns out that defining grace is a little bit like defining love.  We pretty much know what it is, but putting it into words is really, really hard.  I really hope I'm not declaring something not true here, but this is how I understand it...

The way a mother feels about her baby when it is born and snuggling in her arms would probably be described as love.  But everything that mom does for that baby is GRACE.  One of the keys is that GRACE IS NOT EARNED.  It might not even be logical!  Mercy is when punishment deserved is withheld.  Grace is everything given even though it isn't deserved or earned or merited.  

Everybody loves chocolate.  But I happen to also love CARAMEL.  MMmmmm....  Especially when you start talking about Mrs. Richardson's butterscotch caramel.  Give me some ice cream with Mrs. R's on it or some of my Grandma Krause's cheesecake and I'll be a happy, happy camper.  (Ooh!  Or put some of the caramel ON the cheesecake!)  (You'd think I was fasting from sweets or something...)  Anyway, I do have a point.  If you asked me to choose between my Grandma's cheesecake and a bowl of tapioca pudding, there would be no question what I'd choose.  (The cheesecake!)  BECAUSE I highly favor the cheesecake!

Now.  Did the cheesecake or caramel do anything to earn my favor?  No.  I just love them.  : )  And God just loves you.  He loves everyone.  We're all His favorites!  : )  So just like I would take care of a cheesecake put in my care, He takes care of us because He not only loves us, but He even likes us!  He can't help it!  And everything He does for us because of His love for us is GRACE.  I think Grace is His love in action.  Grace is what love does.  

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen."  (Philippians 4:23)

And amen.  : )

Day 10

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Now, that's GRACE!

These two verses are probably my 2 favorites about grace.  2 Corinthians 9:8  "And God is able to make ALL grace abound to you so that in ALL things at ALL times having ALL that you need you will ABOUND in EVERY good thing."  This is so cool!  Do you see all of those "ALL's"???  It does not say that He will sometimes give us some of what we need so that we might barely be able to survive.  We are more than conquerors, friend - ALL. THE. TIME!  And that word "abound"?  The Greek word there means “to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure.”  Think Jesus feeding the 5000 and having leftovers!  That's what abound means!  : )  I want that!!!  I love that!!!  
I remember one time asking God why I wasn't feeling very satisfied if His grace was so abundant and He showed me a picture of someone (ummm... I think it was me) sitting at a huge, overflowing banquet table and that person (ahem...  I mean I) was complaining about being hungry.  And God said "It's because you're not eating!!!"  Everything I need has already been given me through Jesus.  I just need to walk in it!  
2nd:  God’s GRACE is SUFFICIENT. 2 Cor.  12:9 says “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”   I'm so tempted to type in all caps and size 40 font here so you could really hear me.  Get this:  The word there for "sufficient" doesn't just mean "enough".  That word means to be POSSESSED with UNFAILING STRENGTH.  God's grace is unfailingly strong for me and you, friend.  UNFAILINGLY.  And that word at the end for "rest" is about taking residence or abiding.  So I'll gladly say I am WEAK and need God's strength tonight and tomorrow and forever because without Him I CAN DO NOTHING.  I will gladly boast about my weaknesses because I want God's power to take up residence in me!  And as long as I depend on myself, I won't be depending on God's power.  Oh, why do I forget that?  Why is it still my first reflex to think I can handle something?  I still have so much to learn.
I want to leave you with this picture.  God's grace is NOT "enough" or "sufficient" or "abundant" like a cup or pitcher filled to the top with water.  It is like this:
(If you're reading this in a reader, PLEASE click over to watch the video if you can't open it!)

And when I start to feel like I can't do it anymore, (likely that will be tomorrow sometime) I'm praying God reminds me (like He's been doing lately!) of what I wrote here - that He will allow me to picture myself standing at the base of this huge waterfall holding out an empty cup crying out to Him saying "I can't do this, God!  I don't have enough strength!" and that I'll hear Him saying right back to me, "What?  I can't hear you!  My GRACE is too loud!"  And that I'll let myself laugh at the ridiculousness of thinking I could ever exhaust His strength or His grace.  And I'll  toss my measly cup into the froth and jump in and get washed away by His love, His mercy...  and His amazing, astounding grace.
Day 9