Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Difference Between Hospitality and Entertaining

Christmas has just ended.  I ran across a blog recently that spoke volumes of wisdom to those of us who love to have people into our homes for a meal - holiday or every day.   I love to cook for others.  Often, in my desire to have community around a shared meal, I end up seeking to impress and to entertain my guests.   I am reminded that there is a difference between serving (hospitality) and impressing (entertaining).  I had never read Jen Wilkin's blog before, but I am so glad I did!   She has much to say about the differences between the two.  You should read her words here!

Here are a few of the quotes I loved the most:

Entertaining is always thinking about the next course. Hospitality burns the rolls because it was listening to a story.

Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.

Entertaining invites those whom it will enjoy. Hospitality takes all comers.

Orderly house or not, hospitality throws wide the doors. It offers itself expecting nothing in return. It keeps no record of its service, counts no cost, craves no thanks. It is nothing less than the joyous, habitual offering of those who recall a gracious table set before them in the presence of their enemies, of those who look forward to a glorious table yet to come.

It is a means by which we imitate our infinitely hospitable God.

While we are in the middle of a holiday season of eating with friends and family and neighbors, let's put the important things first.  We love and serve others because Christ Jesus loved us first - while we were still his enemy.  We love and serve others for their good and benefit, not to receive praise.  We love and serve others as a joyful celebration - of time with family and friends and neighbors!!  My table is happiest when it is surrounded by those I love and those I am getting to know.  And when the rolls are burned (read her article!)!! 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Leading and Following

Throughout the past few months Steve has had to lead our family through some chaos and difficulties.  Often we have disagreed about things.  For those of you who know us, this isn't unusual - we are about as different as it gets.  I am pretty strong willed and stubborn - good qualities in any Southern woman, to be sure.  But they can make leading me a little on the difficult side.  I was telling a friend about a recent date where Steve and I discussed, argued, and even cried as we fought through a certain situation... all while we ate our pizza, said hello to friends, and talk with the waiter!  A little weird, I know.  But it was important for me to be heard and for Steve to be able to listen and ask questions.  This led my friend to come up with a list of her own questions.  Here they are:

"How did you know that Steve could lead you? How did you first learn that? What made you begin to trust Steve to do this? You said you are both stubborn, how has this been good for you guys?"

So this is an interesting topic and one that I think should be discussed pretty often.  It gets sticky - so beware!!

First off, I am starting with some basic assumptions that I feel are based on the Word of God.  Steve and I are equal before God.  We are called to submit to each other.  We are called to serve each other.  But Steve is called to lead me and our family.  That is his role.  My role is to submit to his leadership and to help equip him to be a leader who honors God and his family.  But that doesn't make me of lesser value in our relationship.  Our roles are different, but equal.  It took me many, many years to figure this out.  But in my old age I have come to value these differences and enjoy the reflection of God's relationship.  God the Father and Jesus and the Spirit are all equal yet each has a different role in the relationship.

Now, to those questions!  The question of leadership for me went way back to before Steve and I started dating.  Yes, way back in the 80's!  We were friends and I had gotten to know him well.  I knew
that he was a man who loved God more than anything and that he was seeking to honor God as he made decisions - big and small.  I knew this was a man who would strive to honor God as he learned to lead me. I knew this before we dated.  I observed these qualities.  No, he wasn't perfect.  But he was strong enough to let me fight with him and still be confident enough to stand on his beliefs and make decisions.  I was confident of these things before dating even entered the picture.

Trust.  I don't think this happens instantly.  It grew over time.  I saw Steve's desire to value me and love me well.  He was honest and open and willing to let me speak into his decision making process.  He trusted me.  He listened.  He still does.    Being stubborn is part of who I am.  But I do not fight for the right to make decisions for our family, God has given him this role/responsibility.  I fight for the right to be heard.  I need to know that my opinion will be heard and thoughtfully considered.  I need to know that Steve is not too proud to change his mind if I have a better view of something or a more clear vision.  He is humble.  But I have also had to learn to be humble enough to let him step out in disagreement with me when he feels that he is making a good decision.  I need to be gracious.  I need to willingly follow.  Humility on both parts is important (not easy!!), but essential.

How is being stubborn good for both of us? Hmmmm.... being stubborn gives me the drive to fight when I feel that God has clearly spoken.  It gives me the determination to argue for what I feel strongly about.  Again, it has to be tempered with humility (which I definitely need more of - lots more!).  It also has to be tempered with the desire to want Steve's best - to mutually submit to Steve as he makes decisions for us and the family.

The part that makes stubbornness so dangerous is pride.  And trust me, we have walked through lots of fights where my need to be right or in charge or stubbornly assertive way out weighed my need to mutually submit and serve one another.  It is an ugly thing to see a prideful, stubborn husband or wife fighting for their wants instead of what God has called them to want.  That undermines Steve's ability to trust me.  It undermines my ability to be a good wife and mother who seeks to put the needs of my family before my own.  It is an ugly, ugly thing.  I know it well in my own life.

The hope that each of us has is Christ Jesus himself.  Read Philippians 2.  Jesus is the perfect example of humility.  He has the right to want all things.  Yet he chose to purposely humble himself.  "2:1 Since there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, and participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  5 have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Hope in Him!  Hope in him to grow you as you seek to "let this mind among yourselves" and to "count others more significant than yourselves".  Sound hard?  It is!  Sound scary?  It is!  But the work is His to do - just ask Him to do it!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Search for the Perfect Pot Roast Has Ended!

Today is a stormy, gloomy sort of day.  These are my favorite days.  Nothings says climb back into bed like a day like this.  Oh how I wish I could spend all day in bed.  But...  there are things to do... supper being one of them.  I don't use that word "supper" very often.  But it takes me back home to growing up in Kentucky.  My mom would call us for supper.  Mmmmm.... makes my mouth water.

Anyway, back to rainy days and eating dinner (or supper).  I am always on the lookout for a pot roast recipe that will wow my family.  I have tried zillions.  I want to share two with you.  The first wowed me - and only me.  But I LOVED it.  The second wowed my family.  So to save you some time and energy and to avoid the never ending search, here are my two top picks for pot roast.

NOTES:  Be sure not to buy the expensive cut of meat - but a nicely marbled chuck roast that you can often find for less than $2.00 per pound.  That makes this even better!  Also, I know lots of you have one of those fancy dutch ovens.  Mine is from Aldi's!!  It was $20.  The seal isn't great - but it works just fine.  So use a dutch oven of any kind if you can.  It seems to be better than the crock pot.  But I think both recipes have variations for crockpots.

First, Martha Stewart is my favorite.  She's amazing.  This roast is one of the reasons why.  The tomato paste gives it a think, sweet, tomato-y flavor that I love.  Sadly, I have only gotten to cook it a few times since my family has a different idea of super roast.  But PLEASE check it out here.

Second, The Pioneer Woman has a GREAT recipe.  And her directions are very detailed - with quirky commentary and lots of pictures.  Anyone can make this recipe.  And everyone will love this recipe.  Click here.   

Dinner is served:  the Pioneer Woman's pot roast, broccoli, corn bread, and home made banana pudding for dessert.  Inexpensive but satisfying - perfect for a rainy day supper.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Steve's Travels

Most of you know that Steve is traveling with a few others to visit our friend in a far away country.  Just to be safe I am not gonna mention her name or country.  But ask me in person, I love to tell people about her!!  Sadly, I was unable to go on this trip.  So Steve and I are apart for about ten days.  Whew, it has been a while since we have done this!  I have to work hard each day to trust God and the fight off the fearful thoughts that come.  This will always be my struggle - fear.  But God is good and gracious and glorious and great.  And He has faithfully kept the evil thoughts away.

Instead of giving in to fearful thoughts, I am focussing on prayer.  I have a list of ten things to pray for - one thing per day.  Want to join me?

Day One - Sunday - it has already come and gone - but just to fill you in, I prayed for Steve to be able to sleep on the plane.  The second leg of the trip was from Houston to Istanbul, Turkey.  That's thirteen hours, y'all.  Thirteen hours!  I prayed for lots and lots of sleep - to help the trip go by faster and to help with jet lag.  Happily I can report that according to a friend, "Steve ate dinner, fell asleep and woke up in time to eat breakfast!"  Hilarious and such a blessing!!  Thanks be to God!

Day Two - Monday - Praying for safe travels to his final destination and a happy reunion with our friend!  Success!  Thanks be to God!

Day Three - Tuesday - Praying for our children to be safe while Steve is away.  This one will keep going for all ten days.  Join me!

Day Four - Wednesday -Praying for no sickness.  This is about the time that others have visited and gotten sick.  Praying for no virus/cold or intestinal issues for anyone.

Day Five - Thursday -  Praying for encouragement for the team there - for favor and protection and blessing.  Asking God to give Steve and Chris discernment and wisdom and words of courage and joy to share.

Day Six - Friday - Praying for energy for Steve and Chris and Laura.  There is lots to see and do and higher altitude and different climate and different everything!  Praying that God will give them above and beyond the physical capacity to keep up.

Day Seven - Saturday - Praying for this particular town and its truly amazing people.

Day Eight - Sunday - Praying for fun sightseeing days (not sure when that will be exactly).  Praying for a good, relaxing time with friends.  Often the best conversations happen during those moments when you are exploring the beautiful world around you.  Hoping it is so!

Day Nine - Monday - Praying for my friend - that she will feel loved and encouraged and refreshed and will not be too sad that her friends are leaving.

Day Ten - Tuesday - Praying for safe travels back home.

I appreciate y'all for being willing to join me.  Thanks be to God!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Selfishness and Thoughts from "If" by Amy Carmichael

Oh so long ago when I got married my mom gave me a gift.  It is a little book that I have valued and treasured called IF by Amy Carmichael.  It is a short look at some thoughts that came to Ms. Carmichael as she contemplated her Savior and His love and her own sometimes lack of love.  My husband Steve often says that the opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness.  My mom knew that marriage would require me to love my husband more and myself less and even to think about myself less.  She has always been such an example of putting others before herself.  I have learned much from her.  And I have been reading this book for twenty three years and counting... Thanks Mom!

IF I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve around myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF at the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and in the power of Him who works in us to will and to do, keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Now, Ms. Carmichael, and my mom even, were not saying that they know nothing of Calvary love.  But Calvary love refers to our beloved Jesus Christ, who loved us so perfectly, so unselfishly that He chose to become our Substitute (2Cor. 5:21).  He chose, although He lived a perfect life and did not deserve punishment, to take the penalty of my sin - to die in my place and win for me undeserved acceptance and love by God.  Wow - this is Calvary love and I fall so short of it.  But by the grace and mercy of God He is working in me!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The River

Today we travelled to Alton, IL to check out the flooded Mississipi River.  There is something so fascinating about a river overflowing her banks.  Jayber Crow says it like this:  "I was sitting not six inches above the surface of the water, and you can't be that close to a flood and not feel the size and power of it and also, a kind of fascination.  If you let yourself, you could sit for hours and watch it, just to see the next thing that would float by..." (Page 88, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry)

I love the river.  I have always loved rivers.  Growing up in Kentucky we were close to the great Ohio River.  On weekends you could find me driving through the corn fields to get to a favorite spot overlooking the swift moving water.  Sitting and watching the drift wood float along.  So peaceful and quiet.  It was perfect.  I learned how to drive on those roads next to my river.  When I was little we would sit on the banks and watch my parents ski there.  So many memories... so much water.

Have you ever been to the Confluence where the Missouri River runs into the Mighty Mississippi?   You can't get there right now - there's too much flooding (The flooding of June 2013 is the sixth highest on record!).  But later this summer you should go.  Walk out to the very tip of the land and stick one foot in each river.  Sit on a rock.  Watch the two rivers mingle.  You can see it happen!   Sit on a rock and just watch.  Better yet, throw a big stick into the Missouri and see how far out into the Mississippi it goes before making a quick right turn and heading down to St. Louis.  Do it!

Speaking of the Ohio River, Jayber Crow goes on to say, "Sometimes, living right beside it, I forget it.  Going about my various tasks, I don't think about it.  And then it seems just to flow back into my mind.  I stop and look at it.  I think of its parallel, never-meeting banks, which yet never part.  I think of it lying there in its long hollow, at the foot of all the landscape, a single opening from its springs in the mountains all the way to its mouth.  It is a beautiful thought, one of the most beautiful of all thoughts.  I think it not in my brain only but in my heart and in all the lengths of my bones."  (Page 310, Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Birthday to Joh

This is my friend Johanna.  She is far, far away today and it is her birthday...

How do you celebrate one so far away?  With just the right poem or quote or thought or sentiment.  These are for you, dear friend.

Happy Birthday!!!

No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth. ~Robert Southey (whoever he is!!)

                                             To me, fair Friend, you never can be old,
                                             For as you were when first your eye I eyed
                                             Such seems your beauty still...    ~Shakespeare

Promise me you'll always remember:  You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.  ~Christopher Robin to Pooh 


So Many Gifts by Hafiz
There are so many gifts
still unopened from your birthday,
There are so many hand-crafted presents
That have been sent to you by God.

The Beloved does not mind repeating,
"Everything I have is also yours."

Happy birthday my friend.  I am so proud of you.  You are brave and courageous, yet dependent on God.   You are strong, but still vulnerable.  You are far away, but still so very close to my heart.  I have enjoyed watching you grow more and more into a woman after God's own heart.  I hope that you have a beautiful birthday and that you feel celebrated.  You are loved!


One final note - this poem always makes me smile... I remember we were having tea at the London Tea Room.  It was my very first Hafiz poem that you introduced me to.  You read it and then giggled.  Very appropriate.  Enjoy:

Two Giant Fat People
And I have become
Like two giant fat people
Living in a 
Tiny boat.
Bumping into each other and



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day and Birdwatching

Mother's Day is today...  My mom is such a blessing to me.  I love her.  So let's celebrate some of the joys she brings to us.

Mom shows others that she loves them by serving them.  She bakes or cleans or shops or serves in a zillion different ways.  You can bet if it is someone's birthday she has cooked a feast!  Or if someone has a special event, she has helped you shop for just the right outfit.  Or if you need help with homework or if you aren't feeling well... she's the one my sisters and I call.  She's always there.  (And for the record, Dad is just the same!  Need a car repaired or a sump pump fixed or do you have a gardening question?  Call him!)   I know that her desire is to serve others just as Christ Jesus came to serve those around him.  She is truly a picture of the love of Christ to me.

Some people know that Mom loves to read.  But not everyone knows that she is actually a very talented writer as well.  Her letters are the best.  I still have the ones she wrote to me in college.  When my oldest daughter Victoria was away in Louisville last summer she would eagerly wait for a letter from her grandmother... then she would read them aloud to her roommates.  They were stories of daily life  and of family and of the faithfulness of God.  I know Victoria will cherish those forever.

Today I have been thinking about Mom's love of birds.  This is something I know that I get from her.  She and Dad have always enjoyed nature and seeing the things that others don't notice.  Growing up, we would take long drives through our part of Kentucky.  All three of us girls would be in the backseat -  on the lookout for anything!  Birds or deer or the perfect oak tree or the field full of horses or an old barn hidden in the overgrowth.   So today I saw an indigo bunting at my bird feeder!  It is one of my favorites.  I immediately called her knowing that she would celebrate with me.  It was fun.  And it is one of the many things I am grateful to her (and my dad) for.  Even though I don't live on five acres in Kentucky, I can still enjoy a little wildlife in the postage-stamp-sized yard that I have here.  It was good.

Thanks Mom!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Farm Dreams...

I have been in bed sick for three days now.  That makes for lots of daydreaming.  The biggest dream these days is to live outside of my little town on a few acres.  Practical?  No. Realistic? No.  But a girl can dream, right?

She can dream of five horses, five cows, and chickens.  A little red barn and a small chicken coop. (Okay, maybe since seeing all the videos on youtube I might take a fainting goat or two!)

There will be peonies and hydrangeas and roses along with corn and tomatoes and squash and potatoes.  And blackberries and grapes.

She can dream of a little lake to sit by in the evenings.  Where Steve can fish and Bear and Kentucky can swim and the frogs can croak all night long.

I think this dream farm needs a name.  Hmmm.... where would a California boy and a Kentucky girl end up?

Calitucky Farms  

There.  I said it.  Maybe that makes me just a little closer.

Thanks for dreaming with me.

Bring on Summer!

We are a house divided... Isaac and I love the fall and winter.  Steve and the girls love summer.  Now summer is here.  What will it bring?  Just heard my first cricket last night.  Lovely sound.  Waking up to a mourning dove outside my window is heavenly.  Fireflies will show up soon!  All those things are lovely... but humidity?  and sweating?  and sunburns?  Well... all of those are necessary for the very best part of summer - gardening!  More about that later this summer.  Right now, let's take a quick glimpse at what my summer holds.

Our oldest daughter comes home from her second year at college.  Hooray! 

Esther-palooza begins today!  Esther turns 18 at the end of the month.  How can this be?  Plus, she graduates!  Woah.  I am not ready for this...

Isaac will be getting ready for high school.  Can that be right?

Steve and I will celebrate our 24th year of marriage.  Seriously?  Can we be that old?

Then, at the end of our summer, Victoria and Caleb will be getting married!  Again, how can that be?  Wedding planning kicks into overdrive now.

So the close of this summer holds new beginnings for all three of our kiddos - or should I say grown-ups?  Victoria begins the adventure of married life, Esther is off to college and Isaac jumps into high school.  I am so excited for each of them... and nervous... and grateful... and praying that God shows them each a whole new aspect of His love and provision and joyfulness.  He truly is good and great and gracious and glorious!

Well, summer it is.  Here we go!  Can't wait.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Weather

Sitting on my patio watching storms roll in is a sweet afternoon delight.  My favorite days involve thunder and lightening and lots and lots of wind.  If Steve would let me, our bedroom window would be open about two inches each night just so I could know what was going on outside with the weather.  As a kid growing up in rural Kentucky I slept with the window open.  I could hear the chickens very early in the morning or the cows lowing in the neighbor's fields.  In the Spring, the smell of the magnolias would waft through the window.  The cooing of a dove will forever remind me of being tucked in my bed, nice and warm.  These days I can hear the whippoorwills in the middle of the night and the distant howling of the coyotes, haunting and strangely comforting.  I snuggle in just a little tighter when the wind picks up and blows in through the open window.  Pure contentment.

I found this poem years ago.  I found a kindred spirit.  The author, Steven Schreiner even kept his window open two inches as well.  For him those two inches not only let in the weather, but also hope after mourning.

The Weather
Ever since I can remember, I have been in love
with the weather, an extension of hope
or despair.  It comes to the window
in the morning, after crossing the country
all night:  the plains outside Topeka,
between the mountains of Ouray, across the flat
farms of Iowa where the corn turns a brilliant
green when you awake.  And when you sleep
and startle from some nightmare
of yourself in deep trouble, fighting your own
life, and should open a window, it comes
there too, it's already there
and walks right in as if it's been waiting
just for you.  I always hoped
the air would warm, I don't know why, with my radio
tuned to weather and my window open two inches.
The days moved by degrees in me, spring
coming around 52, then 55, and soon
summer, the tiring days, the mornings
bright as crystal.  If in your life
there was un unexplained event, losing a father or
having the wrong one, you were probably also looking out
into the frosted trees, for some extension
of yourself, some frostbitten hope, that soon
it would grow green again in the places
where the black earth steamed under you.

The Weather, from the book Too Soon to Leave by Steven Schreiner (Ridgeway Press, 1997)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Introverts in the Church

Sometimes as an introvert I feel I am swimming in a pool of sharks.  They control the water.  Don't get me wrong - I love extroverts - I live with four of them!  But my world is mostly designed for extroverts.  I struggle to find ways to function in such a way that I am not running for the nearest exit or the quietest corner of the room (or let's be honest - the nearest closet to hide!).

A few months ago my friend Brad (also an introvert!) let me borrow a book he had read.  I am only one third of the way in, but I want to share a few thoughts.
The book is Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh.  Mr. McHugh has captured an idea that I seem to have understood but never voiced.  As an introvert  I love to be alone with my thoughts.  I am energized by this.  I love quiet.  I love time for reflection.   I do love people and enjoy my time with them.  But I prefer quiet conversations and sometimes avoid group settings.  Mr. McHugh asks (for the first time to my knowledge) which of these groups the typical church culture/service is designed to appeal to.

A few quotes:
Former-evangelical-turned-Catholic-priest Thomas Howard explains a difference between Catholic practice and evangelical practice:  "Emotionally, one would have to say that evangelicalism is a much more 'up front' form of piety, and very talkative."  Whereas in some church traditions you enter a sanctuary in a spirit of reverence, in evangelical churches you walk into what feels like a nonalcoholic cocktail party.  There is a chatty, mingling informality to evangelicalism, where words flow like wine."

Wow!  Now, I would have never said "nonalcoholic cocktail party," but the point he makes is an interesting one.  And for me, how can I begin to engage my heart to worship and hear the Word of God at church?  I have always felt guilty about enjoying a little quiet time before a church service, which means ignoring the room full of people.  This book has given me a new perspective.  It isn't that my way is the wrong way.  It is the way that seems more comfortable and honest and authentic to me.  And that is good!  I feel a freedom to be me and freedom to let others talk away!!  

Mr. McHugh continues  ... Sometimes our value for community life can become a substitute for relationship with God.  Psychology professor Richard Beck says that for some churches spirituality is equated with socialibility.  The mark of a progressing faith is familiarity with a growing number of people and participation in an increasing number of activities.

Again, something to think on.  Obviously, as Christ followers we are designed to be in community.  To be with other people.  But this is no substitute for a spiritual, one-on-one relationship with God.  A church that is completely focused on social activities is no better than a church solely focused on quiet reflection.   Obviously, these two above quotes are very broad in their context.  I want a church that gives glory to God and is a safe place to introduce others to Jesus.  But it is interesting to think about how the standard church service is designed to make the extrovert comfortable.  I look forward to finishing  the rest of the book.

The most important discussion on ANY church culture should include the reason that we have church in the first place:  to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God created man.  Man revolted and chose to defy God - to sin against God.  God's justice demanded payment for that sin.  He graciously sent Jesus, His perfect Son, to live a perfect life.  Jesus died on the cross as a payment for the penalty of our sin.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  This is the Gospel.  This is why we gather as a church.  This church is a community of people who have been redeemed and called to live life together - introverts and extroverts alike!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Love You

For as long as I can remember I have been looking for a new word for love.  We use that word so flippantly anymore. I love lots of things.  (Funny - Steve talked about love in his message on Sunday!) I love Steve.  I love my children.  I love the ocean.  I love hay bales.  I love my dogs.  Those are all different, right?  So why don't we have different words?

I have been bugging Steve to invent a word that describes how I love him.  One that conveys just what I mean when I say "I love you".   He's Mr. English Major.  He should be able to come up with one.  But he's got nothin'.

What's a girl to do?  There's my favorite word - fidelity.  But that's not a verb.  There's adore and cherish and value... Nope, not it.

So how's this for a solution?  I have chosen places that are important to me.  Each of these words speaks a different idea of love to my heart and soul.

I KENTUCKY you.  We have history.  We belong.  We have a common place and community and work.  Love.

I NORTHERN IRELAND you.  We have adventures together.  We have a future together.  We look forward to what's next.  Love.

I CALIFORNIA you.  We have beauty and fun and family together.  We have the ocean and relatives and sunshine.  Love.

I ANZA BORREGO you.  I will go anywhere with you - even there.  Love.

I YOSEMITE you.  You take my breath away.  Love.

They may sound funny, but these words work.  They convey exactly what I want to say.  After 23 years of marriage we have lots of those words!   I am sure you have some, too.  Try one out on the one you love.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine Legacy

The Lord graciously blessed me with parents who love each other.  They have loved each other for many, many Valentine's Days.  True fidelity.  That is an old fashioned word, but one of my favorite words.   It means loyalty, faithfulness in a relationship, constancy, steadfastness, and true-heartedness.  For 46 years my parents have acted out fidelity.  My sisters and I had a living, breathing marriage tutorial right before our very eyes.  I have watched and learned.  Not that their relationship (or mine) is perfect.  But I have seen them seek to honor God and each other as they walk through this crazy thing we call life.  See how young and in love they were oh, so long ago.

Thanks Mom and Dad for loving each other - and me! 

And while I am thinking on it, I never got to see my grandparents together.  My grandfather died way too young.  But I have heard stories!  I like to think that my parents also had a great example to observe as well.  Check this photo out!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Favorite Valentine Thought from Hafiz

The Beautiful One whom I adore
Has pitched His royal tent inside of you,
So I will always lean my heart
As close to your soul
As I can.   

Hafiz is one of my favorite poets.  From the poem "The Woman I Love", as collected in the book "The Subject Tonight Is Love" (Translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kathy Keller Article: Dangers of "Faking It" In Ministry

Today I came across a great article that I want to share with you.  My friend Joel has a blog ( and he posted a link to author Kathy Keller's recent article on the Redeemer Presbyterian Church website (she is the wife of pastor and author Tim Keller).  I want you to read her article. (Many thanks, Joel!)

The article is entitled "The Dangers of 'Faking It' In Ministry.  Find it here.

Wow - this is such a good warning and encouragement, not just to people in official ministry positions but to all of us who are following Jesus and walking in community with others.

The day will come when you have to deliver a sermon, or counsel someone in need, or listen to a heartsick soul, and you will be in no fit condition to do it. Your prayer life may have been missing, or you have an unreconciled relationship that needs attention, or any number of things may have interrupted your communion with God and your rejoicing in the Gospel. (I knew a woman who claimed she had taken “maternity leave” from her relationship with God…) When that day arrives, you will have two choices: sit down, at whatever expense of time and ruination to your schedule, and get right with God. Then, and only then, attempt to minister in his name.
What you will be tempted to do, and what most of us do actually do, is to say “I don’t have the time to get back into fellowship with God before this sermon/lesson/counseling session/pastoral appointment. But I know what needs to be said or done, so I’ll just do it (even though my heart is cold) and I’ll get straightened out with God AFTERWARDS.” And, if you’re unlucky, you’ll get away with it. The talk gets delivered and is even praised. The person you meet with professes gratitude and seems to be helped. The meeting runs smoothly. So you do it again. And again. And again.

Please, please read what else she has to say.  You will be encouraged to be honest in your struggles.  Honest with yourself, God, and others.  
And yes, check out Joel's blog, too! (Click here.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Welcome 2013! Been Waiting for You!

Happy New Year.  We are ten days into the new year and the tornadoes that are my family are swirling in all different directions!  This year will bring some exciting changes... graduations and marriages and lots of travel.  Can't wait to see where it takes us.

Until then, Happy New Year from the Mizel kiddos (also known as tornadoes)!

“I see that the life of this place is always emerging beyond expectation or prediction or typicality, that it is unique, given to the world minute by minute, only once, never to be repeated. And this is when I see that this life is a miracle, absolutely worth having, absolutely worth saving. We are alive within mystery, by miracle.” ~Wendell Berry