Friday, April 30, 2010

Birds

It all started with one very determined bird. This one right here. I've been absolutely captivated with the process that has been unfolding for nearly two months on my front porch. I touched on this in a prior post, but it's unfolded even more, and it's been amazing to see.

First, there was at least ONE MONTH of that bird trying to build a nest on top one of the columns on my front porch. But the winds came and blew apart her every attempt. This picture shows the pile of that bird's fruitless efforts:
But then after more than a month, it looked like the bird was able to pull it off--an actual nest was forming up there!
And that nest was the environment for new life to hatch. :)
I don't know why this little bird saga has meant so much for me to watch. Maybe because I feel sometimes like before my eyes stands--not a little pile on a front porch--a mountain of fruitless efforts and failed attempts. And swept all together, it's hard not to wonder if what I do will ever bear lasting fruit. But I have to consider that each time I kneel by my children's beds to pray, it's a piece of the nest that is coming together. And each time I make our home comfortable for Justin to walk into, it's a piece of the nest that is coming together. It looks like one stick, one twig. And there are times when it feels like the winds come against us and dash it all apart. And so the next day I'll pray another prayer, put away another load of folded laundry, make another meal, fill more sippy cups, and read them another story about their mighty God. And twig by twig and stick by stick, I have got to trust my God to weave it into an atmosphere for new life to grow.

video

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If Only

It was Outdoor Fun Day at my son's school today. But he wasn't there for it.

After a few days with (not good) notes home from his teacher, we let him know that if he didn't come home with a good report on Monday, he would be missing Outdoor Fun Day.

He didn't come home with a good report.

So today I planned to take him to school for the first half of the morning, then pick him up before the festivities began. I drove up to the school and saw everything set up for Outdoor Fun Day--big jumphouses and lots of other fun stuff. Stuff my son loves. I dropped him off and drove past everything that was set up, and before I knew it, tears were pouring out of my eyes. "That could've been for him to enjoy," I thought. "If only he had just listened and chosen differently." Frankly, it broke my heart to look at what I know he really would've enjoyed, and knowing that his choices disqualified him from getting to enjoy any of it.

As I drove home, Isaiah 48 came to my mind:

I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
IF ONLY
you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

I know God is merciful and all about redemption. But I am sure there have been times in my life when my lack of paying attention to His commands has meant opting out of peace. Can you imagine how He must feel when He sees in full view all that He wanted for us--peace and blessings--but knowing that we opted out?

If only.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

He Thunders


BOOM.

I awoke this morning to a loud clap of thunder. I went downstairs to pray before the rest of my family got up, and as I was praying, there was one majestic crash after another. I could physically feel each one--the windows of the house shook at the might of each thunderous crash.

Then comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back.
Job 37:4
God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.
Job 37:5
Do you have an arm like God's, and can your voice thunder like his?
Job 40:9
The Lord will roar from on high; he will thunder from his holy dwelling and roar mightily against his land. He will shout like those who tread the grapes, shout against all who live in the earth.
Jeremiah 25:30
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
Jeremiah 51: 16
Glory!!! If the earth-shaking power of a giant boom of thunder gives us even the smallest glimpse of His voice, then what a mighty God we serve. Can you imagine that He gives us--in the midst of the strongest storms--thunderous reminders of His power and majesty?
If that's the case, then bring on thunderstorm season! I love the reminders. And I mean, it's one thing to read in the Word of thunder that represents His voice. And it's another thing to feel it shake the very ground you're on.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"No Matter What."

Three days of school; Three days of notes home from the teacher.

After a long stretch of great behavior at school, it's been a rough week for Trevor. Justin and I have talked to and disciplined him far more than we typically need to.

So tonight I crept into Trevor's room long after he'd fallen asleep, and I took him in my arms and kissed his head. I told him I loved him, and then I just kept holding him and saying outloud, "No matter what. No matter what. No matter what."

And I tell you, it was almost like there was an echo in the room, because I was not the only one saying it. I can't explain it other than to say I was suddenly so very aware that my Heavenly Father was speaking the same over me...

"No matter what. No matter what. No matter what."

You see, this week I've been broken. So mindful of my frailties and failures. Felt really unworthy of His glory and grace. Been keenly aware of my inabilities.

And yet my sin and my failures haven't managed to run Him off. He loves me.

No matter what.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

And So I Just Kept Folding Laundry

Found out the other night that my grandfather is in kidney failure--Grandpa Tom, who is 2,400 miles away in Modesto, California. And when my brother told me there's just really hardly any time left, I stood there in my laundry room with a half-folded towel in my hands for a moment, trying to think of what I could do.

I couldn't jump in my car and be there in an hour. Or a day. More like four days at least. Were I in the same town, same state, even the same time zone, I'd drop everything and jump in the car, praying I'd get there in time. But I'm not.

And so with this terribly helpless feeling, I just kept folding laundry.

It bothers me not to be there to sing hymns and declare the Word over this man who cherishes these things. It bothers me not to be there to hold his hand and thank him. It bothers me that I can't be there when it matters most.

Lord, I know there are times when our hands are tied. There's simply nothing we can do, and that is extraordinarily frustrating sometimes--today it's just heartbreaking. But I know You're sovereign. I know You're loving. I know You are good. And I know that Grandpa is in your hand even before He's in Your presence.

The Trouble With Ninety-Eight Percent

Yesterday I noticed that one of our upstairs windows was closed ALMOST all the way. Like, 98% closed. I promptly shut and locked it, knowing that that tiny open space at the bottom was enough for tiny fingers to get under and push the window up--and possibly fall out. I shudder to think.

And just a few days earlier, I came downstairs in the morning and noticed it seemed a bit chillier than usual. I looked and saw that the back sliding door was open. Not just unlocked--open! Sure, it was closed most of the way. But that 2-percent-open-door could have allowed someone in. In the night. With my children down the hall. Again, I shudder to think!

We're normally so diligent, which is why two of these things happening in a week is a bit unusual. But the Lord brought to my mind the story of Jotham, a 98% kind of guy.

Jotham did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 15:34). Probably would've earned a 98% on his report card. But the one thing he did not do--HE DID NOT REMOVE THE HIGH PLACES (the places where idol worship took place).

Well, okay, so he didn't remove the high places. Take a few points off his score card and move on, right? But for this man who did so much right in the eyes of the Lord, not removing the high places was a grave error. Because his own son, Ahaz, became a man who offered sacrifices and burned incense to false gods AT THE VERY HIGH PLACES HIS OWN FATHER WAS NOT DILIGENT ENOUGH TO TEAR DOWN. And Jotham's failure to do away with those high places led to his son's undoing.

This story in Scripture haunted me. I wondered, what are the ways that my my 98% efforts are failing to protect my family? An open window, an open door--absolutely. The consequences could be devastating. But what about those things that I pass down to them? Am I clearing the path of what threatens to trip them and entangle them? Are we protecting our son's eyes now, that he may look upon woman rightly later? Are we filling our daughter's ears with truth now, that she would abhor lies later?

Or are we leaving something undone--even 2% undone?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

You're Gonna Do Great Things

Ever feel like you're not all you'd hoped as a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a child of God, an anything? How about all on the same day?

That was today. And it made for a rough day.

I felt like I was camping out under a cloud of discouragement, but no typical cloud. A really dark cloud that seemed to say "You contribute nothing." In multiple, equally-unpleasant ways. And see, that's a tough one for me, because I'm desperate for my life to be an offering. I want to know that I bring something to the table....and that my piece of the puzzle matters. Only today, I wasn't so sure.

I was out on an errand tonight and was praying as I drove. At the end of pouring out all my failures before the One who made me, I felt compelled to turn on the radio--and did so just in time to hear these words:

Be strong in the Lord
And never give up on hope
You're gonna do great things,
I already know
God's got His hand on You
So don't live in fear
Forgive and forget
But don't forget why you're here.

Tears. Grateful tears. It was as though the Lord was pressing these words into my hurting heart and binding up my brokenness with a song--one I'd never heard before. Can you imagine? You're gonna do great things. God's got His hand on you. Oh, that I would do great things as a wife and mom and friend. And to rest in the knowledge that His hand is upon me as I seek Him...Beautiful. What if it's true--that He intends to use this highly imperfect, sometimes insecure, often-too-hard-on-myself kind of girl?

What a wonderful God. Really.

* "The Words That I Would Say" by Sidewalk Prophets

Friday, April 16, 2010

Grace and Peace and Blah, Blah, Blah

Maybe I'm the only one who does this...

But anytime I begin a book of the Bible written by Paul, I tend to start a few verses into it. As in, whenever Paul is done with his whole "Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ" shpeal.

It's like, "Yeah, yeah, heard it already, get on to the good stuff."

The good stuff?

Yesterday I was compelled to pick apart Galatians 1:3-5 (One of the "Grace and peace and blah, blah, blah" parts). I translated it from Greek, took it all in, and smiled.

Here you go:

Grace * benefit * favor * liberality * joy
and
peace * quietness * rest * being set at one again
Boldfrom God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave * bestowed * committed Himself
for our sins * offences
that He might rescue * deliver * pluck us out
from the present evil * grievous * wicked * harmful * lewd * malicious course,
according to the will * pleasure * desire
of our God and Father,
to whom be glory * honor * worship * praise * dignity
in this course and for ever.
There were some things in these verses that I needed to drink in--not just gloss over for the gazillionth time. Jumping ahead to get to the "good stuff?" Yeah, I'd definitely say the good stuff starts smack dab in verse one!
"ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Indelible Mark of Marriage

Nine years ago today, Justin Nelson put a ring on my finger. It was Easter Sunday, and he asked me to be his wife.

Three months later, he put a wedding ring on my finger. It had been his great-grandmother's ring--almost completely worn through on the bottom from years of wear, but beautiful, nonetheless. And I couldn't have been more honored to wear it.

The ring was already on the tight side when I got it, but then two kids and some "happy pounds" later, that ring felt like it was welded to my finger. I finally got it off and haven't put it back on since, because to size it up would require it to be built up on the underside (translation: Expensive).

I went for about a year wearing no ring at all (I'd just had Trevor and my engagement ring was a bit snug at the time, too), but that wedding ring had made such an impression on my finger that, even after months and months of no ring being there, there was still a very obvious "ring" etched onto my left ring finger. An indelible mark that never went away.

I feel that's what took place when I became Mrs. Thea Nelson--a branding into my soul of the word "joined." Joined to Justin in a permanent way. The vows we made to one another were written--in indelible ink--on my heart.

Our wedding passage from Scripture:

"Where you go, I will go,
where you stay, I will stay.
Your people will be my people
and your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
and there will I be buried.
And may the Lord deal with me,
be it ever so severely,
if anything but death
separates you from me."
Ruth 1:17-18

Lord, thank You for Justin. What You held in store for me still continues to amaze me. And thank You for putting a seal on my heart, an indelible guarantee of things to come. I love You.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Glimpse

What if you could get a glimpse of the hidden?

I don't know how to explain it--and I probably won't do justice to what's been on my mind today. But I wonder what it would be like to have a quick glimpse of what's going on in the heavenly realm. Like right now. Almost as if I could read a narrative of what's going on, just like the first chapter of the book of Job.

Were I to get such a glimpse, something tells me that I would realize the intensity of the battle going on, the attacks that are underway--and if not for my hiding place in my mighty God, I think it would scare the crap out of me (can I say "crap" on here?). I would see what's at stake. I would see just how worth it obedience is. And things would make a little more sense than they do in the earthly realm right now.

And I would see the glory and might and love of my Defender.

Oh, to have a glimpse.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Can't Live Up on the Mountain

Today is the last day of Spring Break. And it has been glorious. GLORIOUS!

Sleeping in...Justin home...nowhere to be...midday naps...stillness. Ahhhhhhhh. One day I slept in, took three quick little cat naps, and still went to bed early. That is unheard of for me, but then again, there's not always a lot of time to rest around here!

I wish I could live in a permanent state of Spring Break-ness. But (very unfortunately) that's just not realistic. Instead, I can go forth out of this week, full of the rest, the "filling up" that took place over the past nine days. I can approach the impending hit-the-pavement-running days before me with peace because of what's taken place leading up to them.

In the same way, I could SO camp out atop the mountains in life. When I have those times of intense fellowship with the Lord, those moments when I so GET the fact that He is sovereign, those seasons when all is well and the skies are blue. There's a time for these things.

But there's a time to come down from the mountain, too. The church service ends, the retreat wraps up, and the "mountain top experience" draws to a close. Life on this earth is all about mountains and valleys. But thankfully, it's the refreshment we find atop the mountains that allow us to head back down into the valleys with our steps covered in peace. And we find ourselves in a brand new way looking for the Lord's hand in seemingly unspectacular stuff.

Sure, it will be a bummer to have the alarm go off in the morning; I've grown so accustomed to not hearing it every day! No, I can't live life as one unending Spring Break. But I'll enter this busy week with a rested soul and peace-covered steps--thanks to my time "up on the mountain."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Click-Click-Click

3:05. That's when I started the process of trying to print something to take with me to tutoring.
3:30. That's when I should have left the house to get to my tutoring session.
3:45. That's when I finally gave up on the print job and jumped in the car, knowing I'd be late for said tutoring session.

It's what happened in those 40 minutes that resonated with me. I started off waiting--drumming my fingers, looking through a magazine. But the longer I waited and the more it seemed that nothing was happening, the more frantic I became. I began click-click-clicking on everything in sight just to make something happen--to absolutely no avail. And then Justin said the words that stuck with me:

"You have to be patient with it because even though it doesn't look like it, it's in the process of doing what you need it to do. And clicking on everything just makes it worse."

Hm.

I thought of Sarai (later, Sarah) in the Bible. God told her she would have a child. Yes, Sarai, even as an old woman, was going to have a child. I wonder how long she sat on that info until she jumped into action and began "clicking," so to speak. And by "clicking," I mean that she initiated her husband sleeping with her maidservant Hagar, thinking this is how she'd end up building her family.

Seemed right in her own eyes. But this "click" (understandably) led to jealousy, which led to Sarai mistreating Hagar, as well as the conception and birth of the very contentious Ishmael (Genesis 16).

Wow--that's a mighty big c l i c k .

And maybe you and I haven't done something of that magnitude, but when we're waiting for the promises of God to unfold, do we jump in and try to help speed the process along? Making that phone call instead of waiting on the Lord? Taking it upon ourselves instead of waiting for God to move? Pursuing opportunities we were never intended to, rather than being still and knowing that He is God?

Ooooh...Guilty. I'm a "clicker." And it's true--clicking messes things up.

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; Do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:19)

Nope, sometimes I honestly don't perceive it. But it doesn't mean You're not doing something. You are! So in Your grace, let my faith be sufficient to wait. And to refrain from the click-click-click.

Try. Try. Try. Try. Try. Succeed!

So....this is what has been going on outside my front door for the last month. A robin has been trying and trying to build a nest on the top of one of the pillars. Here is a picture of his failed efforts:
You might be thinking, "Don't you ever sweep your front porch?" Yes. But not that corner--not for the last month. Because I had a feeling that that pile of failed attempts would be a sweet image once that bird had some success.
And he did! We have watched that bird fly back and forth with pine straw, sticks, and other junk, only to see it all fall off that tiny ledge into the pile of defeat--but then...success! I don't know how he got it to work, but there is a nest up there. And pretty soon, new life will inhabit that nest.
Would you have it in you to try at the same thing over and over and over and over and OVER and OVER when it seemed the outcome would ever change? Would I?

Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Can't Sting Me

Today I walked out the front door to have two huge, fuzzy carpenter bees follow me to the car, and I didn't even bat an eyelash.

A year ago I would have freaked out. I am absolutely terrified--even to the point of tears--of anything that can sting me. But what I know now (that I didn't know then) is that carpenter bees don't sting.

So I'm no longer afraid of carpenter bees. Without the sting, what's there to fear?

2,000 years ago my Jesus went to the cross, endured it, and overcame it. And in His death and resurrection...

...death lost its sting.

And now, in Jesus, there is no more fear. :)

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

1 Corinthians 15:54-55

H a p p y E a s t e r !

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thanks in All Things

This one makes my heart so tender, it almost hurts.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"
(1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I've read and heard these words plenty of times, but coming from my 2-year old, they penetrate my heart in a new way.

Aila is pretty good at saying "thank you." Thanks when I put her breakfast in front of her. Thanks when I help her get something she can't reach. Thanks when she's stuck and I "undo" her.

But then there are her thanks over unpleasant things--to the extent I've not seen before in a child. Like when she had something sprayed into her face and I had to flush her eyes out repeatedly for 10 minutes. And as I doused her head over and over and over, she kept saying, "Sank you, Mommy" over and over and over. Or when I took her to go get her vaccinations, and even as we held her down, she tearfully cried out, "Sank you, Mommy." Or when I'm cleaning her skinned up knees with something that I know will help (but stings like the dickens)..."Sank you, Mommy."

It hurts my heart even to revisit these moments, because they all involve my little girl hurting in one way or another. But each of these moments also involve a parent putting a child through these things for her own good. And that her mouth would be filled with thanks in the midst of it SPEAKS VOLUMES TO ME about the thanks that should be in my mouth for the One who allows things--even those things that make it hard to say those grateful words--because they're for my good and His glory.

Thank You for provision
Thank You for help
Thank You for disciplining me
Thank You for redemption
Thank You for disappointment
Thank You for joy
Thank You for pain

Thank You, Lord. In all things, thank You.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Agenda

"I love you sooo much, Mommy!" (Cue the batting eyelashes...)

Now, under any other circumstance, hearing this would mean everything to me. But today I knew Trevor's words were laced with ulterior motives.

He expressed his affections for me, hoping I would take him to see the trains.

I wanted to simply focus on his words, but I knew his heart wasn't in them like it is at other times. This time he had an agenda in cozying up to me.
I've been there before, too--in that place of coming with flattering words and an agenda. I come before my Heavenly Father with words of lavish praise, but I'm simply trying to butter up the Creator of the universe to pave the way for my impending requests.

It's not like my flattery will increase His love for me, or will warrant His favor resting on me. And just as I don't want Trevor using seemed affection to get me to do what he wants, I can't imagine it sits well with my God when I leverage my praise to get the only wise God to do what I want.

And I think that while He bids me to come and tells me to ask, He wants my affections when I'm bringing Him a laundry list of needs, and when I'm broken, and when I'm thankful, and when I'm at a crossroads, and when I have no other agenda than to say YOU ARE MY GOD and I just plain love you so much." Free of agenda, I love You, Lord.