Saturday, August 29, 2009

Purely a Little Nostalgia

I'm blessed to live within half an hour of any place I lived as a child. In fact, just the other day, I was feeling nostalgic and took Carter to play in my forest park in Lake Forest. It is a huge patch of Eucalyptus trees planted in the 1900's to deal with a shortage of lumber in California. They were never cut, and our houses were built around the natural edge of the forest. I call it "my" forest park because I spent many Saturdays catching tadpoles in the creek, swinging on the tree swing and picking blackberries from random bushes and eating them--sorry mom and dad, but I guess they were not poisonous. It was my private little kingdom, an escape from the heat of the day and a quiet place where the neighborhood kids, my sister and I could run, shout, splash and giggle to our hearts' content. We'd run around for hours under the canopy of Eucalyptus trees, adventuring and exploring.
One of my favorite spots in the forest was the horse stable. It was a small, friendly little stable area that always smelled like baking hay and that glorious, sweet smell that is perfectly equine. Like every other little girl, I'd pet the horses and dream of what my own horse would be and how graceful and amazing I would feel as I rode it. Along the course of the stable was a fairly wide and vivacious creek, which would occupy many of our hours with bridge building, skipping rocks, racing sticks and catching tadpoles. The creek ran along the length of the forest, and deep in the dark recesses of the mighty Eucalyptus was the best park a kid could ever find. It was made out of lincoln log type wood poles. Along with swings and a slide, it had a zip line, a tire swing and high platforms to climb. It was a hybrid between a park and a living extension of the forest around it. Needless to say, changes in what defines Orange County and state safety laws keep them from building parks like that anymore.
I took Carter and Micah to see this special spot. I knew it had changed, but it was a little sad to see the reality of those twenty five years since I'd run around there. The forest had been thinned tremendously, and it had been cleared completely where the park had been. They completely tore down my lincoln log looking playset and replaced it with proper-looking, refined play structures--resin platforms, clean swings and bright slides that looked as if they had nothing to do with the forest around them. Dirt paths in the forest had been manicured and paved, with fit joggers running by periodically. A cement path led to the stables, which had been fenced around, no longer allowing strangers to randomly enter and enjoy the horses. I had only a quick peek at the creek, because Carter was afraid to leave the cement and enter the untamed, dirt path that wound through some bushes to get there. It was still wide and apparent, but it was stagnant and dark--mossy and a bit foreboding. I wonder if it runs over the rocks, singing water songs in the winter, when the water is high?
The forest park probably appeared as different as I do if someone were to compare the thirty-four year old me to the little eight-year old who skipped through the leaves in the forest. There is a hidden resemblance that you can unexplicably see, but more has changed than remained the same. So, it isn't "my" forest anymore. I am sure it is a great park, but it is safe, tamed and a little less grand. The best part of the visit was the smell of the Eucalyptus trees. That hasn't changed. I took a deep breath of the forest air--peppery, with a little hint of sweet perfume. I smiled, and I was eight again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Life not a Season: Growing in the Knowledge of God

I was chuckling to myself the other day as I realized how my life stage is clearly explained by the channel I most frequent on the television. When I was a single adult, I would watch AMC (American Movie Classics) for hours on end, deliciously dreaming of which romantic Gary Cooper God would send into my life. Once I was married, I was obsessed with the Food Network, saving savory recipes to try out on my hubby as I domesticated myself. That was the first year I ever had to diet. A year after we married, we bought a house, and the television was often focused on the HGTV (Home and Garden Television) network. I watched "Trading Spaces" and other shows that taught me how to decorate on a dime, and I memorized the knocking and doorbell sounds on the show "House Hunters". When Ryan and I found out we were expecting our first baby, my attention turned to TLC (The Life Channel) and such shows as "A Baby Story" and "Bringing Home Baby." It might sound like I'm a fickle television viewer, but each stage was accurately framed by some informative and entertaining shows.

This made me think about how much effort I put into my Christian walk during different stages of life. Am I as equally focused on God during seasons of blessings as I am during trials? Do I hunger and thirst for God's Word when life is difficult and when circumstances are fairly smooth? I pray this answer is YES!

Truth be told, there is no season in which God should receive more attention than others. He should always be my priority. I am always to be growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10 tells us that we should, "live a LIFE worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God." (emphasis mine) As this verse demonstrates, there isn't a season to grow and a season to flatline. As Christians, we are clearly told our LIFE is to be pleasing to Him. It is a LIFE to be characterized by the fruit of good works and growth in our knowledge of Him.

Sure it is tempting to say, "I just had a baby. I can let my quiet time fall to the wayside for a bit. It is just a season." Perhaps I stop serving in my church because "Life is so busy right now! God understands, and I'll serve when my time is more free." Another common argument is "I don't have to tithe if we are hurting financially. This is a season to save and cut back." Some even reason away attendance at church. "Work is so busy right now. We need family time on the weekends." All these arguments seem fairly rational in the world's eyes. However, they are not Biblical. For example, God commands us to serve with the gifts He has given. I Peter 4:10 "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." It is of utmost importance to be in God's Word and to pray. We are told to gather together with other Christians, especially as we get closer and closer to Christ's return (Hebrews 10:25). God tells us to give sacrificially from a heart that is overflowing with thanks. There is not any prolonged life season to stop these practices.

Next week I might enter a new life season and find myself watching a new television network. However, no matter what stage of life I navigate, may I find myself seeking God's will for me and growing in my knowledge of Him. Living for God is for a lifetime, not a season.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Micah is Five Months Old

Micah is at a fun age. He is full of giggles, opinions and his little personality is starting to emerge. He loves his jumper, prefers to roll and scoot around on the floor rather than sit in any kind of chair or seat, and kicks his feet constantly. He eats his toes as a hobby, spits up a lot of food due to reflux and is very curious about his crazy big brother.
He stares INTENTLY when we eat, and I think he might be ready for rice cereal sooner than later. He isn't as great of a sleeper as Carter, and he is fairly fussy in the late afternoon and evening. However, he is content if people are in the room with him, and he is loving teething toys. The problem is he drops them constantly and cries until you pick it up for him.
He loves when I sing to him, and it melts my heart to see him smile joyfully at mommy when she walks into the room. It is great having a fan club, even if it is a toothless little boy with a drooling problem! : )

One Good Reason

This is from the Proverbs 31 blog. I liked this read and thought I'd post it for you all to read:

One Good Reason
10 Aug 2009
Lisa Whittle, She Seeks Coordinator

"Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts." James 3:13 (MSG)

It all started with a girl named Debbie.

Debbie was about 18 when she attended my family's local Baptist church. I was 8 and entering an awkward stage. She was brunette and beautiful. All the boys wanted to date her, and all the girls wanted to be her. I just wanted her hair.

Debbie successfully got her hair to form glorious, sweeping cowlicks in the front, with perfection matched only by 70's singers on album covers. I admired it from afar, coveting its style. I bugged my mom so bad about wanting it, she finally decided to pick up the phone and ask Debbie how she did it. Seems a little Aqua Net and the blast of a hairdryer did the trick. At least for Debbie.

You may be interested to know that I never did achieve the style of my hair-icon Debbie. Apparently Debbie did not have fine hair such as mine. But boy did she give me a good reason to spray, tease and blow-dry my little heart out trying. She wore her hair so beautifully that I believed I would look just as beautiful if I had her style.

This silly childhood example reminds me of the very real influence we have on each other. Even as adults we see another woman's fashion style and we try to copy it. We watch another woman's success, and we try to match it. We want what others have…try to be what others are…and believe that we will be more and live better if we can only become like someone else.

The truth is, even though I want to be a trendsetter, an individualist, a unique woman with a mind of my own, I have to admit I am just as impressionable as the next person. Let's face it, no matter our age, we influence and are influenced by each other.

As ironic as this may sound, the thought of how impressionable we are gives me great hope as to how we can help other women find Jesus. I Corinthians 11:1 talks about the type of influence we can have on one another – a way of living that comes from within and attracts those around us to want what we have. "Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ," speaks directly to this type of Godly influence.

It's about wearing Christ with the authentic beauty of a heart that's been changed, giving other women a reason to want what we have. To look like we look. To live like we live. To be what we are. Make no mistake, our hurting girlfriends are looking for one good reason to change their lives. The reality is that our lives may be the only reason they find to seek out something different than what they have known. It's a beautiful, important responsibility.

May we always remember that our mission in life is not one of perfect hair or worldly achievement, but of living and breathing the message of Jesus Christ by our words, our actions, and most importantly, our life. May we embrace the privilege of imitating Christ, so that our girlfriends and others we have influence over will see something in us that they want desperately to have. May we wear Him well so His beauty is fully and completely represented.

For the influence we have through Him will last much longer than a fashion fad…a social trend…or even, a coveted hairstyle like Debbie's.

Let's have what they want, and show them how to get it.

Jesus, You are the reason to love, to live and to breathe. You alone make the journey possible. May we remember that we represent You always, and help us understand how to do that in such a way that it will lead others to a saving relationship with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.