Sunday, June 29, 2008

Songs on Sunday

Indescribable is another song from Chris Tomlin, who I believe is specially gifted. We opened worship with this this morning as we heard our second sermon in the Genesis series. Patrick Forrester, a NASA astronaut requested this song as his wake up call while on the Space Shuttle. You can search on You Tube to see his video.
1) From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea,
Creation's revealing Your majesty.
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring,
Every creature unique in the song that it sings.
All exclaiming...
Indescribable, Uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God.
All powerful, Untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees and we humbly proclaim,
You are amazing God.
2)Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go,
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow?
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light,
Yet conceals it to give us the coolness of night?
None can fathom...
(Final chorus ends with:
Incomparable, Unchangeable,
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same.
You are amazing God.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Faith On Friday

As I begin this new series, please know that it comes from a growing desire to share what the Lord places on my heart. I share with a humble heart and realize that I do not corner the market on God's Truth. These are just the stitches of His grace on my heart! This first post is a little intense, but that won't be the norm.
Hubby and I are reading from The Bible in 90 Days and already on our 5th day I can say that it is truly an experience. Since we are reading out loud, it takes about an hour. If you are a fast reader or reading to yourself it would go faster. However, I find that when I read it out loud as literature, I hear things that my mind has skipped over before.
Have you read the Bible through before? Since I love to read and my Grandma Hopkins lovingly illustrated in her life, the importance of reading God's Word, eating it, soaking it in, enjoying it, treasuring it... I have read through the Bible many times. Never have I read it through so quickly though and it is opening my eyes to new details.
I admit, that there are parts I don't particularly care to read. Some of that changed for me when I went through Kay Arthur's Precept Bible studies on Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These were books I admittedly viewed as boring and would rush past to get on to "the good stuff". After studying them I learned that they are also rich with meaning, show God's love in incredible ways and still had some things to teach me today that had nothing to do with law, legalism or how to get rid of a bad rash! After all, Paul instructs Timothy in 2 Peter 3:16, that " All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness". (NIV courtesy of Bible Gateway) That includes the Old Testament and the Law!
Today God showed me many things I had not noticed before while reading Exodus. Exodus is pretty interesting, being an historical account of the children of Israel being led from Egypt to the Promised Land. But have you ever read through and thought, "Let those people go already!"? In the past I have read it and felt that it drags on and on and my mind wanders and becomes lost in a sea of plagues and hardened hearts. Frogs. Locusts. Gnats. Blood. Ick! I'm sure volumes have been written about why God did it this way and I could probably even spout off from the top of my head, a few reasons, but today I felt like God had "opened the eyes of my heart" to something different.
Many struggle over God hardening Pharaoh's heart. This doesn't bother me because I don't believe He would have done this if Pharaoh would have turned to Him and worshipped Him. It would be contrary to His own nature. God knew Pharaoh's heart already. So, I don't want to focus on that aspect. But, have you ever thought about the magicians, wise men and sorcerers? Since the Bible makes it clear that sorcery, communication with the dead etc is evil, I had read through this and kept on going, not giving it much thought. In Exodus 7, Aaron throws his staff down and it becomes a snake. Then Pharaoh's men do the same thing, but Aaron's snake swallows up their snakes. Weird.
After the words left my mouth, I turned to Hubby and said, "There is no 'magic' that can make a stick become a snake. This had to have come from the enemy." (I do not even wish to write his name here!) "Still he had to have had permission to alter God's Creation..." In this passage I see that he was given permission to make these things happen, but God was telling him that HE is still in charge no matter what. I wondered if these magicians had done this before or if they were astonished at what they did?
As I continued to process my thoughts, I realized that the enemy works in exactly the same way today! He presents himself or his colleagues as being able to perform and behave like the miracles and gifts of God. He distracts us so that our hearts are hardened to The One True God, just like Pharaoh's heart was hardened. Many people choose not to follow God because they see all the different religions and cults, new age movement and paranormal activity and think that He is just one amongst them. The Israelites too had been living amongst all kinds of foreign gods and different kinds of worship in Egypt. Perhaps their hearts had also turned or at least their heads had been turned from the Truth.
Many of us are not tempted at all by other religions. He turns our heads in other ways, trying to keep our hearts in Egypt and focused on things that keep us from growing spiritually. We fill our days and hours with anything and everything but God. I am not trying to say that we should become nuns and priests, but that we are often lazy and forget the very One who gives us "every good gift". It reminds me of an old Keith Green song in which he sings, "Jesus rose from the grave and we can't even get out of bed!" We make time for everything we *want* but neglect our relationship with our Father, who restores our soul. Some of our distractions are even good things, ministries etc. I know I am often guilty of this.
This year I have been learning how to make time for Him in my day every day. Some days it is hard! Certainly, the enemy doesn't want me to spend this time with God and grow stronger as it makes his work harder! Since the women's retreat on spiritual disciplines I have been thinking of this even more. And at the home school conference, Sally Clarkson impressed upon me that as a mother, I have a great responsibility in modeling the importance of a real relationship with God to my children, so that they will know how important it is in their own lives. If we treated our marriages like we often treat our relationship with God, we would be divorced! In fact we often treat God like we are divorced - talking with him only when we want something and possibly having weekly visitations!
It is not my job to make you feel guilty.
I do not want you to feel guilty, but I want to encourage you, maybe challenge you to think out of the box - not only of the world we live in, but the Christian bubble we often find ourselves in, which is a culture unto it's own.
I know that I am not the only one experiencing this in our rush around world. We don't have the enemy producing snakes out of staffs, but we have the enemy speaking to us constantly through the world, telling us we deserve this, that or the next thing...time, possessions, selfish wants, extra sleep, indulgences. Or he could be telling us what we need to add to our to do list to be what we envision (as opposed to what He envisions) as the "perfect" Christian, mother, woman... fill in the blank! He tells us we need to be involved in this ministry or that out of guilt. We listen without asking God if this is His voice or His desire. Is the world so crazy that you feel like you no longer have a choice? Sometimes I feel that way. CRAZY!
This spring and summer I have been taking time to evaluate this. There are so many things in my life that are not necessarily bad and are not sins, but still they pull me away... from my family, from God, from my health. Am I listening to the magicians who present a form of godliness or am I listening to Aaron/God who is giving me the Real Thing? Am I willing to leave Egypt for the land God has promised me? There are numerous accounts of the Israelites blundering through and choosing something in the immediate, rather than waiting for what God promises is coming. Have you done that? WHOA! I can't even list how many ways I have interfered with God's blessings in my life by doing this! It's painful to recall.
As the plagues continue, God demonstrates, not only to Pharaoh, but also to the Israelites and me, that He is powerful, above all and that He loves His Children. He remembers His children. They are not forgotten. He hears their straining in Egypt and listens to their groaning and complaints. He desires to free them of their slavery and lead them out of the world of Egypt into a place He has prepared especially just for them. He wants to feast with them, rejoice with them, protect them, lead them, dwell with them, delight in them, bless them and treasure them.
God wants the same with us! Is that not reason to rejoice!?! I am not saying that if we follow Him we'll be in Candyland! We still live on a fallen Planet Earth. But, I believe He is calling His children out of Egypt today and you know what the good news is? We don't have to struggle to get out. He does it for us! That is what struck me as I read Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."
Amazing! If you read any of my post about what I learned at the women's retreat - God has been teaching me about quietness and stillness. What a relief! I believe there are times when He calls us to action and there are times when our own actions have led us the wrong way and we need to be still in order for Him to re-orient us, heal us, comfort us and strengthen us!
One might think that I am being melodramatic on the importance of God leading us out of Israel, but if you read Exodus, God Himself emphasizes it and tells the Israelites to commemorate it every year through the 7 day Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover. We are to teach our children and say, "See what God has done for us, for you!"
Chapter 11 is sobering. The Plague of the Firstborn and the Passover are described. Unless a household bore the blood of the Lamb, the firstborn was taken in death. Those who bore the blood lived. Have you ever noticed that the bones of the Passover lamb are not to be broken? The Psalms say the Messiah's bones will not be broken and the Gospels tell how Jesus' bones were not broken on the cross, though they usually are in a crucifixion to speed the death. Jesus is our Passover Lamb. This gets so lost in our culture's view of "Easter". We should be celebrating that the Passover Lamb has not only been sacrificed but resurrected! And we should be carrying that knowledge and joy in our hearts throughout the year, reflected in our words and deeds. We need to stop living like we are still in bondage and serve the Lord in Freedom!
Do you struggle with this too? This year I seem to be sorting out these things. I have listened to what the culture says I should be as a Christian, as a wife, as a mother, as a homeschooler, as a woman and as a person. There may be great knowledge in the world, but wisdom is a gift from God. I finally realized that He is my direct source for strength, wisdom and teaching. Sometimes it is difficult to sort out the truth from the fiction, because just like the enemy used the Egyptian sorcerers to copy the miracles of God, a good lie has an element of truth. The problem is those truth covered lies are like swallowing a sugar pill that is bitter in the middle. There are consequences to listening to lies and sometimes it takes a bit of time and effort to work out of those consequences. That's where I am at now.
It never struck me until today though, that God gave the Exodus for an example, not only to generations of Jews to remember, but also for me!
Does God ever teach you things in funny ways like this? I sat down to read our allotted verses. He had another idea and took me the next step on my journey! How awesome that He leads me gently on!
Phew! Another long post. I don't even know if anyone will read this or if they will find this relevant, but as soon as I put down the Bible, I knew I had to write out my thoughts about this. I'll try to join you next week for Faith on Friday too - maybe something shorter! LOL

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wellness Wednesday #32

Wow, I just made it under the wire! I was getting ready to shut the computer down and remembered that today is indeed Wednesday. It has been a frustrating day with a long to d0 list - and none of it got accomplished! I woke to blocked sinuses, wheezing and coughing from all the smoke from the fires. We do not have any in our immediate area but looking at the fire map, they are in a ring around our city. The sky looks horrible and today my lungs decided they were not going to take it anymore! Yuck! Pray for the firefighters who are fighting 800 or more fires through out California, the people who are losing homes and possessions and for our poor kids and staff who are trying to put on a sports camp VBS this week with air quality in the "Unhealthy" range!

So, this morning I was really disappointed to not walk. But I wasn't willing to push my lungs over the edge and go full blown. By the end of the day today my body felt like a spring that had been coiled too long - I'm actually MISSING exercise! I think that is definite progress! :o) My weight was the same at 315# and hopefully will remain there but I must confess we made homemade ice cream from a custard type recipe and it was so yummy, but HIGH calorie! I didn't pig out but it tasted so decadent, I could just picture it applying itself directly to my belly! LOL But since I am not dieting, I am not going to beat myself up over it because realistically I will face these types of ups and downs for the rest of my life.

Lynette encouraged me to share a story though, where God helped me in a tangible way to "just say no" to donuts! I had a stressful morning at church when A threw a fit - the kind where you want the earth to open up and swallow you because your kid is making such a spectacle of themselves. Anyway, as I was chatting with Susan near the bagel and donut table, I was thinking that "just one donut wouldn't hurt" and I knew that the only reason I wanted one was because I was stressed and it is one of my weaknesses as far as comfort food goes. My brain knew that they really don't taste all that great, but my emotions wanted one. Just as I was almost ready to give in, a HUGE fly landed on top of the donuts! Ick! So, my medical background kicked in and said, "Gross! Flies carry germs - I'm not touching that!" And then I laughed. "Okay God! I get the message! I don't need a donut to feel good! Thanks for the vivid reminder." So I triumphed over the donuts last Sunday.

As I mentioned, my body is enjoying the exercise now! I actually miss it and if I wasn't so tired would probably walk now, but will wait until the morning since it's 10PM. But I wanted to add before closing that we are doing one more thing to contribute to our wellness, since wellness to be is a whole bundle of different things, including spiritual. Hubby and I have started The Bible in 90 Days after hearing about it from Susan, whom I linked to above. At the women's retreat she mentioned how it was interesting to read through it in a short period of time because you actually see more connections and different things that you miss when you read through slowly or bit by bit. She spoke about it more on her blog and I shared with Hubby and he thought it would be good.

I have read my Bible through many times but never in such a short time period. We thought it would be a good way to stay connected while we are apart for 3 weeks. We will be reading the same thing and can discuss it at night when we talk. Today was the third day and I have been reading it aloud to Hubby. It is 12 pages a day and by the end of the 3rd day we have read 40 chapters.

Is anyone else doing this? Do any of you incorporate your faith into your workouts or your wellness routines? If you do, I'd love to know how.

Hope this all makes sense... my eyes are heavy and ready to close!

20 Great Reasons To Homeschool

I found this at Who Said Learning Can't Be Fun and it stated it could be copied, so I'm posting it here. You might need to click on the picture in order to read the cartoons. We don't home school in pajamas (we figure it's a respect thing) unless we are sick. But some of these are great reasons, especially in our school district where gangs are prevalent, as well as drugs and there are city police officers assigned to each campus! I love that our family is Our Gang and that we can grow together and learn together and discover the world around us. (Please note: If you are my friend or family member and don't agree with homeschooling, this is not meant as a slam against those that don't. Since this is my blog, this reflects our own family's view!)

We are still waiting to hear how the court proceedings went on Monday 6/23/2008 in the appeal process for homeschooling. HSLDA was involved in presenting some of the information to the Judge in the appeal case. We are praying that the Judge will be honest and just and respect our Constitutional rights to have choices as parents, so that home schooling can remain a legal option.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Prayers For Barbara

This is Barbara and her husband Ted cutting their wedding cake in 1959.

This is Barbara, taken with her family in March 2008.

A difficult decision was made this last week to discontinue chemotherapy for Barbara's brain cancer. The brain cancer is more and more aggressive and is affecting her brain's ability to do things like see, talk and walk. Outside of a miracle from God, it will be only a matter of time. Her family is trying to find the best care facility possible for her and hospice has been called in.

Please pray for Barbara's passing to be gentle and easy and that she will not be afraid.

Please pray for my cousin (her husband) and their two sons. Pray that they will feel the Father's loving presence and strength as they go on this difficult journey with their wife and mother.

Pray for my cousin Dan who is in Asia and is unable to come back at this time. It was a blessing though that he was able to see his Mom in March while she was still coherent and "herself". Still it is difficult to be so far away from your family at a time like this.

Thank you for praying for my family.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Mosaic

Amy talked me into it again! :o) She has a fun mosaic on her blog and suggested I try it to, so here are the instructions and my answers below will explain the photos.

How to make a mosaic:
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

The Questions (and my answers):

1. What is your first name? Theresa (photo is a quote from Mother Teresa)
2. What is your favorite food? Raspberries
3. What high school did you go to? Mariner High School, Everett, Washington (photo is the Mariner Alumni Society dinner)
4. What is your favorite color? Purple
5. Who is your celebrity crush? Michael J. Fox (I have a hunky Hubby that I am madly, deeply and satisfied in love with... I don't need crushes! However, in order to complete the list, I chose him because when I was in high school I had a crush on him. He was a "local" boy from Burnaby, BC, a Vancouver suburb and I grew up seeing him on some BC local tv shows before he became Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly.)
6. Favorite drink? water
7. Dream vacation? Scotland
8. Favorite dessert? Chocolate Pie
9. What you want to be when you grow up? Photographer
10. What do you love most in life? Family
11. One Word to describe you. Christian
12. Your flickr name. talindamood

(Credit for photos taken from Flikr)

1. no great things, 2. raspberry show off, 3. Mariner High School (Everett, WA) Alumni Association Dinner - May 2, 2008, 4. drops of purple petals, 5. Michael J. Fox, 6. 2007 SEPT 08 TRANSIENTS WEST OF PENDER, MILLING, 7. Eilean Donan, 8. Grandma's chocolate pie, 9. Backlit Beauty, 10. the rest of the family, 11. The Ultimate Sacrifice, 12. Theresa

Three Things Meme

Amy tagged me for a meme and since I'm tired from the smokey air and chasing children, I think I'll participate. I'm tagging anyone here who wants to do it!

Three Things…
…THAT SCARE ME: losing a family member, those I love not loving God, losing the liberty to raise my family as God asks me.
…I LOVE: God, my family, and creativity.
…I HATE: phony people, distortion or lies about God's truths, pickled/sour foods.
…I’M DOING RIGHT NOW: Blogging, watching the kids, considering a nap!…I CAN DO: knit, sew, take pictures
…I CAN’T DO: jog/run, water ski, clap and sing at the same time! LOL
…THAT ARE MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE FOODS: raspberries, spaghetti, eggs
…SHOWS I WATCHED WHEN I WAS A KID: Little House on the Prairie, Disney Sunday Movie, The Waltons

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Songs On Sunday

Today our pastor began a series on Genesis and these two songs which deal with God's beautiful creation were sung - my heart soared in the midst of family chaos (disappointed children because their SS teacher wasn't there and one threw a huge fit!). God has often spoke to me through His awesome Creation. From the evidence I have seen and read about, there is NO conflict between Truth in the Bible and Truth in Science. There is no need to check your brain out at the door to be a Christian and believe the Bible is 100% True! In fact, having your brain engaged at all times is a good thing! :o) If you are interested in science and the Bible, I highly recommend Answers In Genesis.

Your Love Oh Lord
by Third Day

Your love, oh Lord
Reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide

I will lift my voice
To worship You, my King
I will find my strength
In the shadow of your wings


20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20, NIV, Courtesy of Bible Gateway

Shout to the Lord
by Darlene Zschech/Hillsong Music

My Jesus, my Saviour
Lord there is none like You
All of my days I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love

My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

Shout to the Lord
All the Earth, let us sing
Power and majesty
Praise to the King Mountains bow down
And the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name

I sing for joy at the work
Of Your hand
Forever I'll love You
Forever I'll stand
Nothing compares
To the promise I have
In You

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—

the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—

he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going

both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121 NIV courtesy of Bible Gateway

Saturday, June 21, 2008

No Complaints

Remember to praise God, from whom all blessings flow! In light of this young man's testimony, my 3 week migraine is just a nuisance. I have no complaints!

Sac Bee article about Ben Underwood

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wellness Wednesday #31

Hi All! I'm writing at the end of a very long, but nice day. My last day being 41! :o) I started off the day with some good news... 315#. So, the exercise is helping the weight to start going down and I am really motivated to keep doing it. The last two days I have struggled a little bit because the air quality is so poor that my breathing suffers and I have had a migraine. So, I have done a smaller workout, but still working out. At this point I am a little nervous that if I break the rhythm, I will fall out of practice, so I am trying to allow myself just Sunday off and one other day of the week only when necessary.

And, last Friday I attained 10, 084 steps! This is not going to be possible when I am at home (unless I exercise a four mile work out). So I am trying to think how I am going to deal with this on days when we are inside due to weather and don't want to leave. My goal is to keep it consistently above 5,000. Our place is so small that this is a real challenge. And somewhere today I have lost my pedometer! I hope I find it soon.

Sorry this is short, but I am tired and have a fun day planned tomorrow.

I am behind in answering email and comments. Sorry! I do love hearing from you and what you are doing - are you making your goals?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Retreat Gleanings

Silence may be a little crazy to blog about; perhaps it is even oxymoronic! LOL But, silence, quietness, rest, stillness and tranquility are things that God had begun to teach me before retreat, which were reinforced while there. So those of you that know me in real life - are you laughing now?! You all know I love to talk. I think that spending most of my life as an only child, moving a lot and being really different than my peers, brought this chattiness out of introverted soul as an adult.

Talking and more specifically, writing have been my main technique of working through problems. I have faced some tough stuff in life - not as bad as some people, but for long periods of my life it seemed like one struggle or grief after another. They were the kinds of things that our enemy uses to distract us from God. Like we learned in our sermon yesterday, when our eyes are on our circumstances, we fall, we fail or we make things more difficult for ourselves, even compounding the consequences! When God is our focus and we trust in His guidance, we can face ANYTHING, no matter how tough!

This reminds me of hiking. Yes, you should watch where your feet are going, but if you focus only on what is directly in front of you, it will cause you to fall, bump into something, lose your direction or worse. But if you look at what's in front of your feet and then look up to where you are going, you at least have a better chance of making it there safely! Many times during hikes, the process is not always fun. But I liken it to Paul saying:

13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Part of maturing in Christ and in life is learning to keep pressing on. God does not ask us to callously forget, however, when we keep focusing on the past or solely on our circumstances, it becomes egocentric and harmful.

About three weeks before the retreat Hubby and I decided to go on a prayer journey together. Instead of looking at some of our circumstances which are quite discouraging and sometimes feel impossible, we decided to devote time each night to lifting up our concerns and especially about a certain area. I am not sure what I thought when we began... A HUGE BILLBOARD?! That certainly would have been helpful: HERE IS THE WAY, WALK YE IN IT! LOL I don't know about you, but God rarely speaks to me in an audible voice, sends big signs or presents ideas in obvious ways.

Some may feel that He hides His will. Though I have had times of frustration, I do not feel that He hides anything from those who seek. In fact, Ephesians 1:9-10 read:

9And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

I believe God wants us to know and that just like me, when I am excited about learning something new, He wants to share everything with me. But He does not spill everything out to be trampled on, abused and disrespected. As Jesus spoke in parables so that those who "had ears to hear" would know, God created us to be thinking, responsive beings. His desire is for us to interact with Him. He delights in us and He treasures the time He has with us. Often we do not value that time and view it as an interruption in the rest of our busy lives. How ironic when all we have in life is His and from Him. Every good and perfect gift came from Him. He lavishes us with His love and the Scripture is filled with references to our relationship with God being like that of a Lover and we are His Bride.

So, shortly before the retreat, as Hubby and I are praying together, I feel God telling me to be still. When I have gone through chaos in life, I have often quoted to myself, Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God." I have not had a lot of success at the "be still" part. My approach to struggles is to problem solve - make a plan of action.

But now He was asking me to be still. There was a magical silence - like the deafening roar of silence I experience after an intense ASL/Pantomime session with my deaf neighbor and I realize that we have been communicating in an intense sound free bubble separated from the rest of the noisy world! It was also the peaceful silence that one experiences in a fresh snowfall. There was no awkwardness, no squirming and no struggling to force back all the thoughts that press in from the day and from my mind wandering. Wow! This I knew came from God because nothing like this ever comes from me. The only discomfort I felt was that Hubby was there with me, waiting for words to leave my lips. I worried he might even fall asleep, given it was late at night and we were praying in bed! At the time I thought "Okay this is neat" but I did not put all the pieces together until retreat. It was difficult to leave those quiet respites. I wanted to stay there in His presence, enjoying what our retreat speaker referred to as "snuggles" from God.

Fast forward to the retreat. Man was my brain full when I got there! The previous weekend was the home school conference where Sally Clarkson spoke and my mind was reeling with thoughts, ideas, plans and questions. How could I fit anything more in there?! The topic of the retreat was spiritual disciplines. I have read a little on this topic and wanted to read more. That weekend was a good way to get my toes wet as we learned about prayer, Bible reading and Sabbath keeping. We interacted with each other at our tables, we learned from the speakers' insights and presentations and we were given supplementary material to implement what we learned during our quiet times. My Hubby, who now teaches education classes, would have given her an A+ on her facilitative teaching format! :o)

Imagine my surprise as I read from page 14 of our retreat booklet under the Prayer of Rest: "In this kind of prayer we come away from the to do lists and activities and just do nothing. Rest. We don't pour forth words and questions and confessions. We sit in attentive silence...This is a type of prayer where we simply exist in God's presence and let him love us and bring to us whatever he wants, rather than pushing a concern or agenda of our own. We may come away with answers, or we may just come away knowing that he loves us and we are forgiven and special and that God is with us."

WOW! Knock me over with a feather! God had given me this snuggle time and was telling me: "Theresa, you are not in charge of the world, you are not even in charge of all your problems. I am God. I can get the job done. I'll let you know when I need your help. Let's just sit here and enjoy our time together." It reminded me of when I want to just sit and enjoy time with Hubby and he is restless because some job here or there in the house isn't done and so he pushes himself until everything is done and then we don't have time to be together. It always makes me feel sad and in a very small sense, abandoned. Here I had been doing the same thing to God and He was saying, "Theresa, let's just spend some time together. And if you are able to keep from talking and thinking for just a little while, I would like to share some things with you." WOW! Okay, so this might be just an obvious conclusion of a very long blog post for you. But, for me, it was earth shattering and a pivotal life changing moment.

"Be still and know that I am God."

So, during the rest of the retreat, whenever we had time to do other activities, I chose to spend time alone. That might seem anti-social, but I felt like God brought me to that point to LISTEN, not to DO. Or as our retreat speaker emphasized, sometimes we need to stop being Do-ers and start being Be-ers. (That is really going to freak out the spell and grammar check! LOL) Fortunately I had brought a spiral notebook with me, so I wrote and wrote and wrote. It was like that time in quietness along with the definition of that prayer time, added together to make a key that unlocked many of my thoughts and brought clarity and in some areas direction.

When I had written out my thoughts, I began to do some Bible study which I have continued at home, starting with the words quiet, quietness and quieted. One of the verses which I looked at first was Isaiah 30:15, which of course was written to the Israelites long ago, but I saw an application in my own life now:

15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

That hit me full force..."but you would have none of it". Okay, the Lord has my attention now. I'm listening. Quietness and trust are my strength. He is my strength. I am seeking more answers to what it means to be quiet, still, peaceful, tranquil, meek, gentle. These are the qualities that are often used to describe godly women and godliness. In 2 Corinthians 10:1, Paul even appealed to the Corinthians by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.

God is powerful and loud and BIG. He is mighty, awesome, fearsome and Holy.

Paradoxically He is meek and gentle, quiet and full of peace.

What an incredible God we serve, who takes time from all His concerns to hear the concerns of our hearts - even the ones we do not know how to voice. He meets us where we are. When we seek Him, He answers. He never abandons, He never leaves, He never forsakes us and He never fails.

Who am I to presume to have the answers or solutions to my circumstances? Yes, I need to engage my brain and apply wisdom, but Godly wisdom is the key. It is by His wounds that I have been healed and it is by His strength that I can do all things required of me. Isn't He wonderful?

If you have some experience in the spiritual disciplines and especially if you have had experiences where He quiets you, I would love to hear. Hopefully more women from our church will take the challenge that Susan has presented to share what we learned from retreat. The challenge is also open to people who want to share how God teaches them at retreats even if they did not attend ours. Susan is cool that way! :o) Thank you Susan. Thank you God! Thank you D for all your hard work in the retreat presentation and materials. And thank you, my cyber sisters if read this far!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Songs on Sunday and Father's Day

Poor Hubby. Most of what we had planned to do for Father's Day did not pan out for one reason or another and I have been really sick with a migraine so not able to give him much of a break. We did enjoy a nice day at church and the picture above shows Hubby opening his presents. L to R are D, Hubby, J and A. Hubby got a LowePro photo backpack which he received last week and we got him two movies, Patton and The Raiders of the Lost Ark.

D has been very excited about giving Daddy the Ark movie because he has an Indiana Jones Lego set. Naturally we are not letting the kids see the movie. Hubby and I sat down to watch it together this afternoon while the kids had some room time. I don't know if it is the fact that we are watching it in broad daylight or that special effects have evolved so much today or that the kids were rowdy - but it didn't have quite the suspense and action that we felt when we saw it in 1981 in the theater. Of course Hubby was a Junior and I was a Freshman... possibly our perspectives changed over time. :o) We enjoyed the time together and had to laugh when J kept sneaking a peek and running back to the room, "I saw the horse!" and when the previews were on, "I saw Irina!" (the "angry girl" in the Lego set! LOL). The one thing that really bugged me though was that it is a fairly decent move except a little too much violence, but two times they took the Lord's name in vain. It was gratuitous too.

Today is Father's Day, as you know. A bit of a strange day for us both. Hubby never had a male parent and my growing up was broken and disjointed. Since I was born on Father's Day, for many years, my birthday was a reminder of the pain. Thank you Jesus for healing my relationship with my Daddy and for healing my relationship with Him! It took some time for me to wrap my mind around the relationship I have with my Father God, until I got to the point where He was all I needed. During my broken and aching years I clung to Scriptures where He promised to bring the lonely into families and not to forget the orphans. And so today my song choice reflects that work that He has done in my heart. We had a guest worship team - a guy with a guitar and a girl with a voice (he had a great voice too!). They were awesome and I wish they had a worship CD. The simpleness of their music was really beautiful.

One of the songs was This Is Our God. Chris Tomlin really speaks to my heart anyway. But this song was special to me today. I love and serve a Father God who sees my every need, even ones I don't realize I have, and meets them. I serve a God who wipes away my tears and gives me back the wasted years. He heals my brokenness. He is with me when I am lonely. He is my peace, my lover, my comfort. This is our God!

This Is Our God by Chris Tomlin and Jesse Reeves

A refuge for the poor, a shelter from the storm

This is our God

He will wipe away your tears and return your wasted years

This is our God

Oh... this is our God

A father to the orphan, a healer to the broken

This is our God

And he brings peace to our madness and comfort in our sadness

This is our God

Oh... this is our God

This is the one we have waited for

Oh... this is our God

A fountain for the thirsty, a lover for the lonely

This is our God

He brings glory to the humble and crowns for the faithful

This is our God

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wellness Wednesday #30 (on Thursday)

Oops! I did it again! It's Thursday, isn't it?! Well, re-entry after a retreat does take some adjusting. Wednesday I have Bible study (for one more week) and in the afternoon I took a 2+ hour nap. My family and friends know that I do not nap unless I have a migraine. Occasionally I get one that compels me to sleep whether I want to or not; it is like a switch goes off in my brain that says "overload" and puts me to sleep. I wish it was restful sleep, but it's not. Today is a little bit better.

As I write I have 5 loaves of bread, still in the dough rising stage and I just took whole wheat biscuits out of the oven. Welcome to Sacramento in the summer...the AC is on before 9AM...well technically it's still spring. In the summer the AC goes on at 7AM! LOL However, I am pleased with myself as today I made it out of bed at 6AM to walk! Yesterday I was not well enough, but today I did not want to break the pattern. So I did the two mile walk, which does not measure two miles on my pedometer, probably because some of the steps are side to side. Shuffles and sideways movements do not count as steps. Okay, so do I feel rah! rah! rah! about getting up and exercising each morning? NO! But I did notice when I came back from the retreat that my body missed having the work out. So I think that is progress.

Oh, weigh in. Still 317#...but if you had seen all the food we had to eat at the retreat and I used no discretion or self control, you would be thinking this is a miracle in itself. I am hopefully expecting the weight to drop this week if I continue walking. I still have not made it to 10000 steps. But it is still a goal. A work in progress.

I was asked if I really recommend Leslie Sansone's walking DVDs. Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, my friend Margaret just told me about this at QVC and I ordered it. Remember it is an exercise DVD - so Leslie is overly cheerful as most exercise instructors are and if you are going to listen to them for the awesome music, don't! LOL Her DVDs are probably not for everyone, but I will talk about why they are working for me.

1. You don't have to go anywhere to exercise, it's right in your home! Some people have lovely places to walk. I have smog from San Francisco and the Hwy floating over my house. Cough! Cough! It is not uncommon for it to be in the 80s in the early morning during summer months. Rain or shine, no matter the heat, I can walk.

2. Even if you can walk in your neighborhood, this will give you more of a workout than just regular walking. You also have the benefit of a warm up and cool down.

3. It's low impact and you can go at a slower pace if you need to.

4. There is a variety so you can choose something shorter for a busy day or something longer and more strenuous for a day when you have more time or want more of a challenge. You can experiment with some other types of walking, some with kick boxing moves, exercise bands etc.

5. Even though other movements are added, you don't feel like the dumby in the aerobics class who can't figure out what body appendage goes where and when.

6. I can do it any time day or night.

Thank you to everyone who has been encouraging me. I sure appreciate it! I am hoping to push past this plateau and start losing again. Hopefully I can still make my weight loss goal by the time of our trip in August.

In the next couple weeks we are going to be working on organizing around the house and that will help tremendously towards my mental health, which in turn effects my success with food and exercise. Organization is probably the single biggest factor for my wellness. We have our home school area almost done with new, cheap book cases to hold supplies and books, the books catalogued and items placed efficiently according to ease of use. I have also organized my cookbook shelf for better use. I'm looking forward to sharing some of the changes and how they are helping me, in the near future.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CNC Women's Retreat

This is the view looking out from the lawn at Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center where my church held their women's retreat this past weekend. In the post prior to this, I shared the pictures of our day up on Friday. Hubby and the kids brought me there and it was a little tough to say goodbye. The kids and I have been at my Mom's without Hubby, but I have never been alone overnight without the kids! It was my first time being away from my family as a whole. I know some of you may think I'm crazy, but it was difficult for me - not in the sense that I cannot be alone or that I cannot handle it emotionally, but because God has been busy bringing us to a certain place together as a family and there have been a lot of changes happening for us spiritually and emotionally. A lot of good things are happening and it felt weird to leave right in the midst of this because it disrupted the flow of our progress. In addition, the home school conference the weekend before was still fresh in my brain and ideas were overflowing, bumping into each other, trying to get organized in my mind. Hearing Sally Clarkson the week before was like already having been to women's retreat. So, I arrived at the conference center feeling like that old Far Side cartoon where the guy is raising his hand, asking the teacher to leave because his brain is FULL! LOL

Being primarily an introvert, I was a little bit nervous about who my roommate would be and if we would be compatible. My roomie ended up being my SS teacher's wife who had watched our girls last weekend while we were at conference. We were well matched, both being quiet and needing rest! The photo above is not too exciting, however, I am posting this here so Mom can see where I stayed. I am at the top dormer, behind that tree. I have always loved houses with dormers because they created magical, inviting spaces that are awkward sometimes to decorate, but often provide a cozy environment for reading, artistic endeavours or gazing out windows and dreaming! :o)

The only thing that would have made our dormer "better" was a cozy little love seat to sit and read. This table served the purpose and you can see my "stuff" sitting there. I spent quite a few hours here, breathing in fresh air, taking in the early morning views and pouring my heart into my journals and Bible study. Much to my surprise, this retreat was about solitude for me. I say it was surprising because solitude is generally not found in a group. But the lovely setting here and the timing of events created a wonderful environment for the work God was doing in my heart.

The rooms were not fancy, but very clean, which is more important to me! I had a double bed with a firm mattress, which is what I prefer. The first night I didn't sleep very well as it was warm and stuffy. We had been afraid to open the window too wide because the temp was in the mid to high 30s at night. The next night we opened it all the way and I enjoyed all the fresh air. It reminded me of sleeping at Grandma Hopkins' as a child.

Each room had a quilt and donated quilts were a theme throughout the conference center. This is a small quilt about 30" square and was not too appealing for my taste, but it was a homey touch to the room.

We could not have asked for a better view on the lake. We could look both towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the California side and to the barren, dry hills on the Nevada side. The conference center itself was 4 miles over the state line, in Nevada.

There were several short trails down towards the lake as well as plenty of benches, tables and other spots to sit and contemplate. One thing I enjoyed was that the lake views were reflected in all the windows, so everywhere you looked you saw God's glorious creation!

From the lake, looking up, this is how you viewed the conference center. The building on the right is where the dining room and kitchen were. My room was on the other side of the dining room. Where we met for the retreat was in a conference room on the middle of the ground floor of this larger section.

The retreat theme was "Spiritual Disciplines". The speaker D, whose blog I had read many times without realizing she was our speaker, did a great job. Apparently she used to attend our church before college and career took her elsewhere. She did a great job of presenting some heavy ideas in a fun, but respectful way. Many hours were put into the research and resources that she gave us in the form of handouts and a booklet to take notes. What I appreciated was that there were exercises to practice some of the things we learned about at a later time. As I said, my brain was already full, so during the quiet times, I needed to process the information that was already running around in my brain. For me the theme was "Silence is Golden"! However, this is a topic I have long been interested in and was delighted to hear more.

D broke the topics into sections and we covered different types of prayer, Bible reading and Sabbath keeping (from a personal rest perspective, not a legal/moral perspective). Some of the ideas seemed strange to a few of us, not having experienced them before. Many of my friends and a few family members do come from a high church background so it was not totally foreign for me. Many people do feel uncomfortable exploring this, feeling that it is stodgy and has no meaning or belongs to certain denominations. D did a pretty good job explaining why we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. One of the most compelling reasons to try some of the liturgical prayers or other methods mentioned, was the connection to many Believing Christian Souls who have gone on this journey ahead of us.

To my surprise, when I came home from retreat, the gals on the Christian Artisans list were discussing these same topics. The conversation began from a hymns versus choruses discussion, but blossomed from there. Thankfully, that is such a loving group that we can discuss different perspectives of an often divisive topic without hurting each other or throwing fiery darts. I really appreciate this in my cyber fellowship them. For me, I have to say that I like both sides. There is a lot to be gained in some of the old hymns, liturgical prayers and so on. On the other hand, sometimes certain praise choruses cause my heart to soar and fall in love with Him all over again. This may surprise some of you, but this gray haired old lady, even occasionally loves to "rock out for Jesus"! LOL It depends on where I am and what He is working on in my life. The conclusion in our group discussions was that it is the intention of the heart - as Paul put it, whatever we do, whether in word or deed, should be done for Him. Personally, I am looking forward to trying some of these different ideas to see how they fit with our family's mission. We have already instituted a Sabbath rest of sorts, though the world always crowds in with noise and demands. But I find that, the weeks in which we are successful in finding that pause and rest, flow better and more gets done. I think we have become so selfish with "our" time that we even get stingy in sharing it with God!

These are views from the outside of the dining area. We were well fed spiritually and physically! I have never eaten so much in a weekend! Monday morning I fasted half the day just to give my stomach a rest! Of course it wasn't quite as good as when your Mama makes it, but it was the best institutional food that I have ever eaten. There was a lot of variety too, including a salad bar and the nummiest, most sinful desserts!

This is inside, looking at the upper part of the dining hall from the walk way near our room. The buildings here were well planned and in their design really do promote worship, contemplation and fellowship. As a creative person, I find architecture fascinating.

This is looking down into the dining area where they had just washed the floor. It gives you an idea of our experience.

Do I have any Presbyterian readers? I was curious as to the significance of the design of this cross. It appears to me that the Holy Spirit is descending upon a baptismal font, but I am not certain. The world is behind the cross and the cross is red, yellow, black and white - so I wondered if that symbolized how Jesus Christ came to save ALL His children, no matter what their ethnic or religious background. Perhaps I am reading more into it than is actually there, but it seems to be more than just a regular cross design.

As I mentioned, quilts abounded. I cropped this so that you could see the airplane on the right. Obviously some children or some rambunctious men on retreat had been here as this is up two stories from the dining hall! LOL This quilt was very pretty and I have always enjoyed the various trip around the world designs.

This autograph quilt was in our lodge and was made with some of my favorite colors. Star designs always intrigue me. This was simple but very beautiful.
In addition to all our serious discussions and serious eating, we did have a lot of fun! There was a purse decorating contest. My friend L was a winner and here she is holding up her design, sharing how she made it and what it symbolized. There were some very creative entries but this one was my favorite because of the story behind it.
L has been de-cluttering and she used items that were sentimental - buttons from her Mother's and Grandmother's sewing box, a tatted trim, a crocheted doily, family costume jewelry and her Mother's picture to decorate her purse. A judge told why they chose each purse and M.E. gave a humorous presentation including the fact that she thought it would be practical when she was old to have her picture on her purse to know who she was and where to go home! We had good times of laughter while looking at all the purses!
Humor interjected our serious discussions and we have a lot of talented ladies in our group. At the beginning of each session, Susan would bring in "phone messages" to be read to the ladies. They weren't real, but made us all laugh. One session there was a note for me saying: Hubby called. He can't tell the twins apart and they aren't telling! LOL I laughed hard. Right now they have different hair lengths and they don't know they could torture their poor father in this manner, but it is a possibility in the future! The next session there was another "message" and it said that Hubby had found a Sharpie and solved the situation! I had to chuckle at that too. I can tell them apart now but when they were first born it was hard and we painted purple nail polish on J's toes and pink on A's.
During the free time, some ladies went shopping and to a craft fair and some took drives around the lake. Others took naps or like me, stayed on grounds. I rested in my room and then later took pictures of the lake and even did a bit of drop spindling. When I came down to dinner, some of the ladies said, "We watched you from our room, WHAT were you doing?!" LOL While on my walk, I tried calling my friend Shelley and when I was leaving a message for her I saw this:

This is the Nevada side of the lake, which is dryer.

Don't these look innocent? I think it was a fir tree. When I touched one, pollen flew everywhere! Big mistake!

We had one session early Saturday evening and then more free time. I was excited to watch the sunset because I had watched it through the window the night before without being able to take pictures! On the way down to the water I saw these lovely lilacs.

Some of us found quiet places to phone our honeys. :o)
Isn't this a gorgeous view? There was a house on the point... tough to be them! LOL
Here is my friend J. She lives less than a mile from me and sometimes we go there and our kids play in their huge backyard. She is a lot of fun, but very smart too and I enjoy conversations with her. That night we had some silly giggles with L and some other gals over J posing with her popcorn. It was a "guess you had to be there" moment!

This is another view to the west (California) from the beach area and those are the same docks in the previous pictures. It looked beautiful with the golden pre-sunset light.

Here is the view to the east (Nevada side) and the steps that are part of the beautiful amphitheater. The young single gals all agreed (and we did too!) that it would be a beautiful place to get married.

This is also towards the Nevada side. They have an awesome view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the California side, but I think they'd go swimming if there was an earthquake!

This is my friend L, who is also our CE director at church, in the yellow sweatshirt. She has been a great support to me with some of my challenges over the last year or so and I'm glad to have her as a friend. The gal behind her is one of the young college aged women who played keyboards for the worship at our retreat and plays on the youth worship team at church. One of the nice things about retreat is getting to know people you might not usually interact with - like nerds like me who rarely interact with the younger people at church, getting to meet them in this lovely setting. I do have a few other people pictures, but because I don't like to post images of others without permission. Since L blogs, I thought hers would be okay. Also, I need to get a flash for my camera so that the people pics I take indoors will be better quality. I did enjoy sitting with the gals to watch the sunset!

I took a lot of pictures at various settings and stages and found the ones after sunset were prettiest. In the city, naturally we still see the sunset, but it is not framed and silhouetted by nature. Having grown up always living within a half hour of the salt water and usually also near freshwater (lake, river, pond), I find that watching beautiful sunsets or "chasing" them (as we call it when we rushed to find the best spot for pictures), is one of the things that I miss living here.

I lightened this photo a little so that you could see the amphiteater. Don't you think it would be a lovely wedding setting?

A post on Lake Tahoe wouldn't be complete without pictures of the stunning water. These are NOT photoshopped! Isn't it beautiful?!

And this was my one last shot before leaving. I rode home with T and M.E. It was fun. Usually I am so serious, it was nice to relax and let go and laugh and just enjoy being before heading back to the rush of daily life. Last year I gifted to T as a "secret sister" at church. It was a fun, but challenging experience because we had never interacted at church before since we usually attend different services. This gave me an opportunity to talk to her and get to know her a little. And M.E. is an interesting lady that I am getting to know too! Thanks for the wonderful ride back.

Well, it seems my Abbie kitty and my husband missed me the most. D, who had teared up when I left, gave me a hug and the girls acted like cats - looked at me like "oh, you're back" and returned to playing. Hmmm... not sure what to think of that. Hopefully it just means that they are very secure in their relationships with each of us. I was glad to see them though, even if it meant returning to the land of refereeing toy ownership disputes and "I don't want to"! :o)

Now the challenge is applying what I learned to my everyday life and walk with God. There was some discussion at the retreat for the few of us who are homeschoolers, that some traditional forms of worship and liturgical prayer could and should be introduced to our children. So, yesterday I decided to start with the Doxology (Praise God from whom all blessings flow...). This led to them deciding to sing Holy, Holy, Holy, which mentions the Trinity. Another door opened and we got out our book 3 in 1 which explains it at a simple level for children using apples as an illustration. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful our school sessions are when the Holy Spirit is the real Teacher! So, our first introduction to liturgy and theology went well. And the beat goes on...

Now to unpack my suitcase sitting in the kitchen! LOL