Sunday, April 24, 2011

Flying with children...

We are just now settling back in from having gone on an 8-day family vacation which called for flights to and from Virginia. With the exception of Hannah flying as a baby, none of our children have ever flown on an airplane before. Coupled with the excitement of seeing some friends, the countdown to "flying day" began over a week before our travel date.

I chose a 5:35am flight going to Virginia, specifically because it got us there at noon and we would have the whole day to spend with our friends. Our other option was to leave here at noon and get to our destination at 6pm, which simply seemed like a waste to spend the whole day traveling. Elliott worried how the children would behave waking up at 3:45am, but it was silly of us to assume that for as soon as Elliott turned on the light all the children POPPED up and jumped out of bed!

We talked to the children about being a blessing to the other travelers, choosing to keep their excited voices down even though they were bursting with joy. People looked at us sideways as we boarded the plane, you could read their faces saying, "Please don't let them all sit next to me..." With the exception of a few squeals of excitement, the children did wonderfully. We were afforded multiple opportunities to give glory to God as many of the same passengers who looked so scared of us getting onto the plane, complimented the children as we left the plane.

We still had fun. We talked about the "dollhouses" and "broccoli trees". We put our arms up when the airplane tilted far to one side as it turned to prepare for the the runway. We were awed by the sunrise, as well as the sunset. We played with the tray in the back of the seat, and tried to figure out how anything in the plane could turn into a "floatie". We turned on and off lights. We opened and closed vents. We tried to see who could drink their orange juice the fastest out of the teeny-weeny coffee stirrer straw they gave each child with their drink. We did all these things while reminding the children to practice their quiet voices since "not all people are used to kid noise".

We had some helpful grandmothers who passed Micah back and forth through the rows when our seats got separated. As well as one who played peek-a-boo with him when he grew bored with us. We read some great books. Drew some sweet pictures. Listened to some Adventures in Odyssey.

All told, I would do it again. And again. And again.

Things I know...

Recently I have been struggling to accept the path the Lord has been leading me down. It is not the path I want to go on. I am acting like a 3-year-old who doesn't want to go to bed (kind of like how Caleb acted tonight). I am stomping my foot and shaking my fist.

But, it isn't doing any good.

And the sad thing is, I know it won't either.

Just like my children should know that their defiance and disobedience will not sway my decision or command. And they should know that my request is made in their best interest. To protect them, to see them grow, to bless them. And yet, intellectually I know it is the same with my Heavenly Father, so why am I stomping my foot and shaking my fist instead of joyfully submitting to His will? Why do my children resist that which I, or Elliott, have deemed good for them?

Because I don't like it. I look ahead on the next few steps planned out for me and I don't like where it takes me. I know in my head that God's plan is good for me, but I can't see the good through the trial and I am scared of the pain. Again.

I have spent many days crying and complaining and wishing it all away. Yet, I have found no relief, or comfort, or peace. Why? Because God doesn't give peace to the rebellious, but to the submissive. God doesn't comfort the one running away from Him, but instead welcomes the child returning to Him, repentant and broken.

Tonight I have chosen to remind myself of some things I know, but as of late was having trouble putting into practice. What do I know?
  • I should meet this trial with joy because it will be a blessing to me. (James 1:2-4)
  • God has planned this day and this trial I am facing, He has known about it since before the creation of the world. (Ephesians 2:10)
  • God has designed this very moment in my life for my good and His glory. (Romans 8:28-29)
And so, I will stop shaking my fist and will open my Bible. I will stop stomping my foot and instead will sit at the Master's feet. I am broken. I confess the stubborn rebelliousness in my heart, that I was allowing fear to cripple my ability to trust in God's perfect plans for me. I will remind myself of the things I know, and submit myself wholly to God's will for me, joyfully.

What do I know? God is good and does good. And I am thankful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Contemplating weeds...

I love weeds. They challenge me. They make me think about my own life and the spiritual battles I face and the many ways in which temptations come. I also love the definition of the word "weed" - a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth: one that tends to choke out more desirable plants. Every time I see a weed, I think of sin.

Right now if you came into my yard, all 1/4 acre of it, you would see some things. New St. Augustine grass is beginning to peek out from underneath the dormant grass of winter. Leaf buds on trees and new growth on shrubs and flowers. Vegetable plants beginning to grow in height and strength, preparing to put forth flowers and await pollination unto fruitfulness. Spring is in full bloom and it is beautiful to behold it, remembering our marvelous Creator God who called it all into being with a simple word.

And then, you will notice something else... weeds.

Some of the weeds in my yard are ostentatious, they catch your eye right away, they make you squirm to think about pulling out their horrible thorny leaves. Those plants make me think of anger and bitterness. Their roots go so deep and they are horribly difficult to completely remove, many times a small piece of root remains and the weed returns in full vigor, stronger in root than before. Of course, like with sin, anger and bitterness in our hearts are thorny and hurtful in our relationships. A yard left alone with this type of plant would be filled and uninhabitable in a few years. Isn't our heart the same way? Left alone to stew over bitterness and anger, and our relationships would be in shambles and our lives a mess. Even if you are able to pull the entire root out of one of these well-groomed weeds, the hole in your yard is noticeable, and even as the grass overtakes where the weed once resided, there remains a little divot as a reminder. Oh, the heartache of a relationship destroyed by anger and bitterness, even after being mended.

Yet, that weed did not begin as nothing and appear as huge and overwhelming overnight. It was once a small little weed, just first putting out its leaves and roots. So new are it's leaves that there is no real "poke" to the thorny edges yet. When approached in these early stages, the root can be removed easily and completely. Same with anger, dealt with before bitterness sets in. The Bible even says in Ephesians 4:26, "Be angry and do not sin;" - instead deal with the offense or provocation in a God-honoring way as in Matthew 18, seek forgiveness or give it, and pull the weed of anger out before the damaging root of bitterness sets in. Deal with the problem before it becomes a real problem. Don't ignore those first few fragile leaves, kill them with forgiveness and repentance.

I have the kids as a warning system for me, they run in from playing outside to let me know of "new little poky weeds". What alarms can I use to alert and remind me of the dangers of anger and bitterness taking root in my heart? God's Word which reminds me to "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14, 1 Peter 3:11).

More on other weeds in my heart, and my yard, later...

Who knew...

I had no idea when I mentioned something I thought was simply interesting to someone that I would then be recruited to take the matter seriously... but that is what happened yesterday...

We recently put up bird feeders so that while we are studying birds in Science this year, we will have birds to look at. Novel idea, I know. But any of you who know my struggle against weeds (and my desire to maintain a weed-free landscaping) understands why this took me so long. But finally, we did do it. And it has been fun.

The kids and I have really enjoyed watching all our bird friends, and trying hard to identify them (though we are terrible birders... we are all like, look at that pretty red bird... oh, the cute brown one...). We have laughed as they "line up" to take turns at the feeders and also commented on their selfishness during "fights" when one bird feels another has taken longer on the bird feeder than he ought. Elliott is not a fan of what they leave behind on the deck. The kids have a new chore now. There are strange new plants growing in my landscaping... and I keep pulling them up. Ah, the fun of bird feeders.

But, the most interesting thing has come from our observing one specific bird. Patch, the children have named her. We know it is one bird, and not one of many, because there is something very special about her. She is a sweet, little female house finch, she never fights for her way at the feeders, in fact, we only see her at our least frequented suet feeder which is right outside our kitchen window. We know it is Patch because she has an eye deformity. We watch her come to the suet feeder and she is faithful to come nearly every day, right after lunch. We always say "hello" to Patch and everyone comes to watch her until she finished eating or gets run off by another bird.

I just happened to tell the folks who lead the Young Birders Club, which we joined in the fall, because I thought it was a cute story. I really thought I was just sharing with them a little interesting fact. Turns out, that the folks in the Bird Lab at Cornell University are doing a study right now about house finches with eye deformities. Really?!?!?! And, they asked that I try to take a photo of Patch and give them any details I have about behavior, when we see her, how often, etc. Who, me?!?!?!?!

So, now I have a camera close by the window and I am super distracted by every movement outside my kitchen window. It is a humorous turn of events, especially if any of you knew how tirelessly I teased a certain friend of mine over the past few years over her bird obsession (sorry, Michelle...). If I get a good picture of our little bird, Patch the house finch, I will post it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Disaster averted...

Or at least I hope so. My next baking project will tell the tale as to whether that is true or not. I was mixing flour tonight and needed to put 6 3/4 cups brown rice flour into each of 3 containers. I happily scooped and measured the five different flours for the first batch of three triple-sized recipes. Then, I shook them all up, mixing nicely and filled the gallon-sized ziplock bags.

But something was wrong...

The bags were too full...

Why would that be when I measured correctly...

Then, it occurred to me. I had scooped 6 cups of flour into each one using the 1 1/2 cup measuring cup! I had chosen that measuring cup to make things "easier". Well, that didn't work.

So, I reverted to good old fashioned math. I needed to figure out how much extra brown rice flour I had put into each batch, then compensate for that with the other 4 flours. Thankfully, I figured it out and hand mixed with a whisk the flours to fix my mistake... It took forever... and how well I mixed it and whether or not my math was right will be discovered the first time I bake with these bags of flour. I eventually made 10 triple-sized batches of flour.

What does that mean?

Well, my baking will either be as good as it normally is, and I won't need to mix flour for a while OR we will be living through some lean months with meager baking success. I hope the former is true. I really, really do!

I wish I could blame the mistake on being tired or distracted. But, I just honestly forgot it was a 1 1/2 cup measuring cup. That said, it is likely I never will again.

Ahhh, the wonders of "convenience". Sometimes, they are not so wonderful...