Friday, February 3, 2012

my cuties

I'm sure it's perfectly safe for the 3 yr old to speed around the backyard in this dune buggy with his baby sister. Perfectly safe.

Monday, January 30, 2012

a disturbing link

So I've begun to think about how my actions actually are affecting some real person somewhere else in the world. This link kind of makes me not know what to do with myself (or all of my Apple products)!



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ok..I can't stand it anymore! And I'll warn you, this is a LONG one! LOL!

Obviously, blogging has taken a way back seat to a million other priorities lately - mostly the wading through the dailies of having 7 children. But I just can't stand not writing a little about a book that is getting under my skin and about to make me do something crazy! The book is called 7:an experimental mutiny against excess, by Jen Hatmaker. She and her family of 5 at the time (now they are 7 after adopting Ethiopian orphans) did an experiment in which they fasted from seven different things for a month at a time. Here are the areas: Month One-Food, Month Two-Clothes, Month Three-Possessions, Month Four-Media, Month Five-Waste, Month Six-Spending, Month Seven-Stress. I have read Shane Claiborne. I love some radical people out there and how they're living, but quite frankly, when I read someone like Shane I'm almost left feeling like I have an "out" because I know that I'm simply never going to make my own clothes out of burlap, etc. He's a lot like John the Baptist and seems way too "out of my league". Enter Jen Hatmaker. She actually began seeing a lot of Jesus' truth when she read Shane, but the clincher for me is that she's a lot like me. She's a mom. She lives in Austin. She used to be the wife of a mega-church pastor (for more on the story of why they no longer are a part of a mega church, read their books...Barefoot Church; Interrupted), they are just "normal". Or at least they used to be. She is REAL. She is hilarious and witty so I really enjoy her writing and I often laugh out loud. And I have been SOOOOOO challenged by every single month. I knew the one on "Spending" would kill me and it has (all of them have, actually; this one was like the climax!). So much so that I am now about to quote half the chapter (okay, not really, but it may seem like it to you). The deal with this book is that it's basically her daily journal through each of these months so you catch a glimpse of what God is doing in her heart. But here's the deal - if I read a book like this one and quote it on the WWW, I better have some intention of doing something about it and not just mentally agreeing with what she's saying. She points out that we American Christians are really good at doing that here in the USA. And I'm figuring out that it's why I'm tired and depressed pretty often. Maybe it's true that we really have been deceived so deeply into believing that we're acting like disciples of the real Jesus that He and His original followers wouldn't even recognize us...or don't recognize us. Honestly, much of what I read in this book does describe the people I'm in community with. Really. That's not an exaggeration. God has given us some amazing people to walk out life with. Unfortunately, when I'm gut honest, I have to admit that it does not describe ME. I went through some healing/deliverance prayer ministry time a couple of weeks ago called Sozo (that's a WHOLE 'nother post) and it was AMAZING! But what I realized in it was how little I actually ask God questions and then listen for the answer. I realized that I was praying to a doctrine or an idea, but I had been praying very little to Daddy, Jesus, or Holy Spirit as real, tangible, BEINGS in my moments. This is changing. And it has been quite a beautiful (and sometimes challenging) ride the last couple of weeks as I realized how the spirit of religion had almost completely choked the very life out of me (Randy actually had a prophetic dream about it chasing me and me fighting for my life). So here's me - almost feeling like a baby Christ follower - reading this book about loving Jesus and loving the poor (globally and locally) and for the first time ever, not picturing my Jesus standing in the corner with His arms crossed, disappointed in me, and frowning. Instead He is bent down with His arm wrapped tightly around me, beside me, as He is responding to my cries to free me from bondage - the bondage that tells me that I'm not free to break from much of what seems familiar. I trust Him a lot right now. But I digress! Here are some LONG quotes from one of the best books I've ever read (how many times have I said that?? LOL!!) WARNING: these aren't really her funny statements:

After hearing these lyrics in a song, "God, may we be focused on the least, a people balancing the fasting and the feast", she comments on what has happened in the American church...(pgs 171-174):

That statement sums up all my tension and hopes for the American Christ follower, the American church, the American me. With good intentions but misguided theology, the church spends most of our time, energy, resources, prayer words, programs, sermons, conferences, Bible studies, and attention on the feast, our feast to be exact. (She then quotes Psalm 36:5-9 and acknowledges that there is indeed a feast to be celebrated.)

But the feast has a partner in the rhythm of the gospel: the fast.
Its practice is unmistakable in Scripture. Hundreds of times we see reduction, pouring out, abstinence, restraint. We find our Bible heroes fasting from food-David, Esther, Nehemiah, Jesus. We see the Philippian church fasting from self-preservation, sending Paul money in spite of their own poverty, a true sacrifice. John the Baptist says if we have two coats, one belongs to the poor. The early church sold their possessions and lived communally, caring for one another and the broken people in their cities. We see God explain his idea of a fast: justice, freedom, food for the hungry, clothes for the naked. This balance is a given in Scripture.
If we ignored the current framework of the church and instead opened the Bible for a definition, we find Christ followers adopting the fast simultaneously with feast. We don't see the New Testament church hoarding the feast for themselves, gorging, getting fatter and fatter and asking for more; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, classes, training, conferences, information, more feasting for us.
At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts. We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming. The feast is supposed to sustain the fast, but we go back for seconds and thirds and fourths, stuffed to the brim and fat with inactivity. All this is for me. My goodness, my blessings, my privileges, my happiness, my success. Just one more plate.
(Enter more booty-kicking facts about the early church here that I don't have time to quote)
What would the early church think if they walked into some of our buildings today, looked through our church Web sites, talked to an average attender? Would they be so confused? Would they wonder why we all had empty bedrooms and uneaten food in our trash cans? Would they regard our hoarded wealth with shock? Would they observe orphan statistics with disbelief since Christians outnumber orphans 7 to 1? Would they be stunned most of us don't feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, care for the sick or protect the widow? Would they see the spending on church buildings and ourselves as extravagantly wasteful while twenty-five thousand people die every day from starvation?
I think they'd barely recognize us as brothers and sisters. If we told them church is on Sundays and we have an awesome band, this would be perplexing. I believe we'd recieve dumbfounded stares if we discussed "church shopping" because enough people don't say hello when we walk in the lobby one hour a week. If they found out one-sixth of the earth's population claimed to be Christians, I'm not sure they could reconcile the suffering happening on our watch while we're living in excess. They'd wonder if we had read the Bible or worry it had been tampered with since their time.
But listen Early Church, we have a monthly event called Mocha Chicks. We have choir practice every Wednesday. We organize retreats with door prizes. We're raising three million dollars for an outdoor amphitheater. We have catchy T-shirts. We don't smoke or say the F word. We go to Bible study every semester. ("And then what, American Church?") Well, we go to another one. We're learning so much.
I think the early church would cover their heads with ashes and grieve over the dilution of Jesus' beautiful church vision. We've taken His Plan A for mercy to an injured lost planet and neutered it to clever sermon series and Stitch-and-Chat in the Fellowship Hall, serving the saved. If the modern church held to its biblical definition, we would become the answer to all that ails society. We wouldn't have to baby-talk and cajole and coax people into our sanctuaries through witty mailers and strategic ads; they'd be running to us. The local church would be the heartbeat of the city, undeniable by our stanchest critics.
Instead, the American church is dying. We are losing ground in epic proportions. Our country is a graveyard of dead and vanishing churches. We made it acceptable for people to do nothing and still call themselves Christians, and that anemic vision isn't holding. Last year, 94 percent of evangelical churches reported loss or no growth in their communities. Almost four thousand churches are closing each year. We are losing three million people annually, flooding out the back door and never returning. The next generation downright refuses to come.
Ironically, this is the result of a church that only feasts.
When the fast, the death, the sacrifice of the gospel is omitted from the Christian life, then it isn't Christian at all. Not only that, it's boring....

Okay, so I need to go to bed and I've obviously written/copied enough to make you sleepy by now, but let's just say that i've gotten bored and "stuffed" on my religion and all my gluttony. We live NOTHING like the people around us - really. I am tired of trying to avoid inconvenience and suffering because I think it's my "right" not to. That's a lie. I want to love people. I want Jesus. And I think He's lifting just a little more of the veil! And He is amazing...


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

comparison

So just a brief thought. Women seem to have this common thing that ails us all: we like to compare ourselves to one another. It stinks and we all know it. So don't you think that the internet has made this ailment even worse? I mean, back in the day, you only had a handle of people to measure up against. Now, you can easily end up seeing how you measure up to literally hundreds (and for some of us, thousands) of other moms, career women, homeschoolers, unschoolers, public schoolers, chefs, eloquent bloggers, photographers, chefs, wives, Jesus-follwers, musicians...well, you get the picture. Maybe we're slowly killing ourselves with our info overload and we don't even sense it. Maybe more on that later...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

be here now

One of my dearest friends gave me a hand-painted picture last night for Xmas. She's a great artist so it's beautiful, but the words painted on it haven't stopped ringing in my brain since I brought it home: "Be here now." Is it maybe at the core of the Fall that we are constantly trying to live outside of "now"? Wasn't Eve thinking "IF....THEN?" There's a constant barrage of "if...then's" pounding our brains I think more than we're even consciously aware of. "IF I was a better mom (or wife or daughter or Christian, etc - you get the point)...", "IF I had all my Xmas shopping done...", "IF I had only done so and so with this kid or not done so and so with that one...", "IF I only had that possession or house or outfit, etc...", "IF I only had fewer children...". I mean, seriously, the list could go on and on. Ann Voskamp says that the root of the Fall was ingratitude and I think maybe she's on to something. The "IF...THEN" mentality is, at its core, a lack of gratitude for the NOW. And I think what I'm slowly beginning to realize is that I have to ask God for grace to be in the moment and then exercise self-discipline to stay there - it is SO easy to slip off to some moment of disappointment in the past or some undefined moment in the future. God really is I AM. Right now. No ifs, ands, or buts.... Think I'll try out gratitude in the "now" again today. :)

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:19-20
"Thanksgiving is our dialect." Eph 5:4b (The MSG)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sigh. Xmas sadness

I realize I haven't blogged in ages and still don't have much time now, but I just had to share a link that was passed on to me about Christmas. We are feeling that sad, dissatisfied feeling that we experience in varying degrees every Xmas and I think this lady's blog post describes the problem. Really not trying to offend anyone (I agree with her "not judging you" thing). I'm just saying that I know this is why our family (mostly RB and I) is feeling so miserable every December - I think reading her blog post has infused some new courage in me to do things differently...it may be a little late this year, but things will definitely be different in 2012. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

just to make me smile...

These two keep me laughing...who needs toys when you've got mom's boots and your pants pulled up to your armpits??!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

a random pic that I love (okay two pics)

So our babysitter took these 2 photos on her phone this summer and I adore them! Maisie Burr and Piper Joy - LOVE this family and her mama is like a sister to me. Ami said that they look like a little Ami and Anda. ;) Sweet times!
The Brown and Burr girls (without their big sisters).

Luke and soccer

We've had fun watching Luke revisit soccer this season - this guy is FAST and I love watching him!
This is Luke's best friend, Austin - they've been buddies for as long as they can remember (age 2 or 3). So excited that they've been able to play soccer together this Fall!

a few pics for my own benefit

One mama referred to Josiah as a "pit bull" this year. The kid is not all that "beefy" but you can tell he had a little "Como football trainin'" in his younger years! Ha! He just won't let go - he did get this big guy down (often goes for ankles). ;)
I was out of town for this game. All my best friends AND my mother-in-law were there and no one told me about this little injury incident until 2 days later! Grandma just made sure he was okay and then told him to go on back out there! ha!
LOVE this picture! Grandma took around 170 pictures that p.m.!!! It was almost as if I was THERE!

Friday, October 21, 2011

new pics of the Browns in da hood!

To see a sneak peek of our latest family pics, go here: http://www.reflectinggrace.com/

Always love gearing up for all the whine and bribery of a good family picture! LOL! Can't wait to see the rest of these. Makes me love my little peeps even more! :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

the weight of the moment

These boys...
used to be these boys...

When I had my first baby, sweet McKenna, I was sure I was going to be the perfect parent, and God-help-you if you didn't totally agree with my method of parenting (I still had no children - I was just pregnant)?! When she was born, I was certain that if I didn't follow the perfect formula I was going to mess her up forever. Therefore, I let that poor thing cry for 45 minutes when she was only THREE DAYS OLD!! I was convinced (due to reading some probably not-so-Holy-Spirit-inspired literature) that to rock her or console her would most certainly result in a baby who never slept through the night, which would be miserable for me and prove my failure as a mother. The problem was that my sweet firstborn was colicky - at least I thought she was - she might have just been a normal baby with a really stressed out mother! So if I did rock her or do whatever needed to be done, I'd feel guilty or doubt every move I made because I was afraid it might be the wrong one! Merciful Jesus! That girl was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks and I had followed all the "rules" the best I knew how - but I had completely missed out on enjoying my sweet baby and had very rarely consulted the Holy Spirit on what HE wanted me to do. That book and every one else's opinion, had been my counselor. (I'm not saying there's no place for books and advice from others, but I wasn't seeking God - I was seeking a step-by-step plan to raise the perfect child. The Law kills. The Spirit gives LIFE! But that's another subject...)
So I can't go back and change any of that. I lay it down at the Cross and leave it there. But what CAN I do? Been reminded this week of Ann Voskamp's writing about the "sanctuary of time":
"Time is a relentless river. It rages on, a respecter of no one. And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time's swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. And when I'm always looking for the next glimpse of glory, I slow and enter. And time slows. Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time's river slows, slows, slows....This is where God is. In the present. I AM - His very name....I redeem time from neglect and apathy and inattentiveness when I swell with thanks and weigh the moment down....and I don't reach forward and I don't reach back and I weigh the moment down with full attention here."
Last p.m. I watched this 40 minute documentary called "Flame On" (http://www.flameon.net/) about this family who lost their five-yr-old son in a tragic accident. I bawled through the whole video, but I was so encouraged to cherish the moments with my children. Sobering reminder to be "all here".
So instead of swimming in the river of regret (I could be an Olympic athlete if this were a sport!) tonight I sat with my baby girl, Piper Joy, and slowed down time. I sat in the same chair in which I begrudgingly rocked McKenna 14 years ago...but tonight I noticed the creak of the cushions each time the chair stretched backwards, the low hum of the fan, the shadows cast on the wall by her crib, and the quiet breathing of a soft little life who had been crying out for a little extra cuddle time with her mama. I could have stayed there forever. Moment was softly broken by her sweet whisper that she needed her cup. Then I laid her down and tiptoed out of that holy moment, weighed down heavy by my extremely grateful heart, and with no regrets of having spent that extra 10 minutes in that rocking chair instead of doing something "productive."
This...
...becomes this...
...in the blink of an eye.

Monday, August 15, 2011

back from Blue Mountain Beach

a little preview of beach pics - hunting for crabs under a bridge :)
Sooooo....I have less than 2 minutes but wanted to jot down a few thoughts to prove that I'm alive! My FOURTEEN-YR-OLD (yes, I feel old) starts high school one week from today. My almost 2-yr-old is precious and TALKATIVE and adored by everyone in the family. I am full of a million ideas relating to marriage, motherhood, and living in the kingdom and have LITTLE perceived time to pursue even one of them. My house is a wreck due to another BED BUG incident and feels like it may never get put back together. Is it bad that I wanted to stay at the beach forever and that I want to cry when I see the 100+ temps AGAIN for the next 10 days on the forecast? Remembering today that God is infinitely GOOD and in LOVE with me in spite of all my crazy mess And laughing that my five-yr-old (WHO WILL START KINDERGARTEN IN 3 WEEKS) can read what I'm writing and is asking questions!! And can I also just say that Anda Brown will begin HOMESCHOOLING 2 of her children in 3 weeks???!!! Do any of you understand how this MUST be GOD??? My sweet Luke was sitting in the car on our 13 hour journey home yesterday and out of the blue says to me, "Mom, I just had a picture for you. You were this beautiful monarch butterfly and as you were flying you ran right into a telephone poll (he's giggling the whole time). But you just got right back up and started flying again!" Hmmm. Sounds like a word from Jesus to me. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

What if I believed?

So I've read One Thousand Gifts once and I continue to flip through it, rereading my highlights that are heavy throughout the book. This a.m I was listening to T.D. Jakes talk about how you will "go where you're thinking. So if you think you're going down, that's exactly where you'll go." So I turned to the last chapter of Ann's book, entitled "The Joy of Intimacy". When one of my friends got to this chapter, she texted me and said that it was beautiful and scandalous. It is. I still keep trying to go there and wrap my mind around the truth of God as lover. She begins the chapter with this sentence: "I fly to Paris and discover how to make love to God." (p 201). John 15:4 - "Remain in Me and I will remain in you." John 14:20 - "I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you." Ann V's comment follows "He's calling me to graft on, become one with the True Vine, the vine the biblical symbol of joy, festivity...fullness. He's calling me to come and celebrate being made one, and in Him, by Him, to bear the fruit of the full life round." (p 212) Yes. I want to be pregnant with all the fullness that is promised in the Word!

So as I pondered T.D. Jakes comments about our thinking this a.m., I remembered a quote that will forever be burned in my brain from Ann V on p 205: "the only thing to rip out the tape echoing of self-rejection is the song of His serenade. One thousand gifts tuned me to the beat. It really is like C.S. Lewis argued: that the most fundamental thing is not how we think of God but rather what God thinks of us: 'How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important.'" At first, this sounds a bit theologically unsound, right? I mean, the world doesn't revolve around us, and our thoughts should be consumed with thoughts of Him (yes, true, on one level). But if I see God as omnipotent, powerful, creator, King, Father, loving, compassionate, but have an inaccurate view of how He sees me, I will never enter into the abundant life He has promised. Never. Not knowing and believing that I am who He says I am is crippling. For life. So this a.m. I began meditating on how He feels about me in my journal...
What if I really believed that...
-God passionately loves me right now?
-I really am a passionate, powerful, worshipper warrior princess in the kingdom of my Father, the King?
-I am beautiful, clothed with Christ, crowned with love and conmpassion, wearing beautiful bridal clothes, garments of praise and NOT heaviness?
-I never get what deserve (hell)?
-God's intentions toward me and all His plans for today are good?
-I really am a confident and capable woman because of the cross?
-God really can conquer any mountain that appears insurmountable?
-He is doting on me with all His affection, attention, and encouragement?
-the King is enthralled by my beauty (Ps 45:11)?
-the King of the entire universe, most creative of all creators, most encouraging, passionate, powerful, holy, perfect, compassionate, gracious, merciful, forgiving being EVER to exist feels all of those things and acts on all of those things toward me??!

I'd probably smile. All over. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

precious

Beautiful is holding a precious friend's hand as she delivers a little mighty man of God into this world. Thank you, God, for moments that stop time. Praise Your name for Your perfect timing in bringing Asa Burr into the world! Children are such a reward from heaven. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Psalm 86

Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for am I devoted to You. You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long. Bring joy to Your servant; for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You. Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me. Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; no deeds can compare with Yours. All the nations You have made will come and worship before You, O Lord; they will bring glory to Your name. For You are great and do marvelous deeds; You alone are God. Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever. For great is Your love toward me; You have delivered me from the depths of the grave. The arrogant are attacking me, O God; a band of ruthless men seeks my life--men without regard for You. But You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant Your strength to Your servant and save the son of Your maidservant. Give me a sign of Your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

bye bye medicine

Well, after my mood got SOOO bad that I was ready to admit myself to a mental hospital (I'm sort of joking), I figured out that the meds were actually making everything worse (this can be a side effect). Been off for 4 days now. Went cold turkey - doctor hubby told me this was fine after only 2 weeks - and feeling so much better! Fog has cleared some and I am aware that there is a God again! :)
Here are some random pics from past few months (I'll post more later)...

This baby loves her "tutu" swimsuit!

I mean, seriously, I could eat her up!

"Bad" bye :( (but rejoicing too)

One of my dearest friends (Charlotte C) on the planet left for Uganda in May. They left everything to follow Jesus to the other side of the world. We miss them LOTS, but we know they are right in the middle of God's dreams for the people in Uganda!

Lily and McKenna
Jeff and his parents (hardest thing was watching Charlotte's mom and these sweet parents saying goodbye to their kids and grandkids)

Lakehouse trip back in April

Our teenagers - leading some beautiful worship! (Jonathan brought Matthew Miller along so he wouldn't be the only "older" one - he was loved on by LOTS of little ones! ha!)
These girls have written some amazing songs together! Seriously.
our seven-yr-old sweeties :)

Oldies played basketball with Matthew and Jonathan - they survived (barely)


Josiah shot this rattlesnake with his bow and arrow!


more pics...

Tiffany and Ami (not sure why Lexi is not in any of these pics!)
Just SOME of our children. Four couples; 19 kids. LOL!
the golf cart is always a bit crowded...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

depression

I'm depressed. For months, only my closest friends have known, but now I'm posting it on the world wide web. Whenever I'm sharing my testimony, I'm always referring to my depression as something in my past that I've been delivered from - and I know that the truth is that I HAVE been delivered from it. I will never be where I was before. But I am in the dark right now and today I decided that maybe it would benefit someone to hear about it while I'm in the middle of it instead of when it's in the past.
I've been reading The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (one of the Chronicles of Narnia) to my girls at bedtime. Seriously, reading those books is a spiritual experience. EVERYONE should read them (I'm embarrassed to admit that I've only completely read TWO of them, but it's my goal to read all of them this summer)! There are a couple of quotes that describe depression so perfectly. At one point in the story, the 3 main characters have fallen into the "Underland", the place where the evil witch reigns. It is dark, sad, and gloomy there with no natural light anywhere. They are being taken to the castle of the queen (witch) on a boat and here their experience is described: "Presently they were given food - flat, flabby cakes of some sort which had hardly any taste. And after that, they gradually fell asleep. But when they woke, everything was just the same; the gnomes still rowing, the ship still gliding on, still dead blackness ahead. How often they woke and slept and ate and slept again, none of them could ever remember. And the worst thing about it was that you began to feel as if you had always lived on that ship, in that darkness, and to wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not been only a dream." Another quote that struck me last night was when Prince Rillian is released from the curse that he's been put under by the witch in which he cannot remember who he is. After he destroys the silver chair in which he is bound every night, he says to his rescuers who have obeyed the voice of Aslan, "For now that I am myself I can remember that enchanted life, though while I was enchanted I could not remember my true self." {This whole post is probably very confusing if you haven't read The Silver Chair, but if you have, you know why it is so powerful a story right now for me}. That so describes depression - when you are not in it anymore, you can remember what it's like to be depressed, but when you are actually covered by the cloud ("enchantment"), you have to fight to remember anything about your true self and you are easily convinced that maybe your true self never really existed. So for now, I just keep going. And I am also taking the advice of my hubby and starting anti-depressants. I have fought doing this again. Not sure why - it just seems like I'm giving up on God. But I know that's not true. Wishing I could solve all of this with enough prayer, enough good health habits, enough exercise, enough of whatever...like everything else, there aren't a whole lot of "perfect" solutions. For now, we'll just keep trying to take the next step with God.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lots to write about...

So we were in Midland this past weekend and someone said to my husband, "I used to read your blog, but you stopped blogging!" It was the second comment last week that I heard about our blogging (or lack of). I think I hit a couple of "bumps" over the past couple of years that made me shy away from blogging a bit. But Randy said to me the other night that I should write again, without worrying about what people think or say. SO! Realizing that God uses writing as "therapy" for my own heart, I'm going to give it a try again.

But there are SOOOO many things to write about! Our mission trip to San Diego last week, my kids schooling next year, a TON of pictures, the fragile state of my heart, and many other "ponderings" that my heart has been holding. Where to start, where to start...Pictures are always good! Here are a couple of shots of my precious baby's first haircut:

Our Piper Joy is such a delight. Really. McKenna says at least once a day, "I love this baby!" Our favorite thing to tell her is "Cheer up, Piper!" She is one of the happiest kids I've ever known. She didn't even think about crying for her first haircut.

I know my last post was a bit depressing. Sorry. It's where I was (and where I've been for several months now). I had lunch with a few friends yesterday and as they listened to the Lord, they had a couple of words for me. One saw a picture of me lying flat on my back needing CPR. She saw herself giving it to me. She said I've been living "inside my head" too much lately and that I needed to share with my kids how stuck I feel and get them to pray for me! I have been attempting to hide my despondency because I have spent so many days in previous years speaking out the lies of the enemy that I was believing. But in not communicating where I am, I have begun to shut down my heart and to let the lies scream at me inside my head. When they're not brought out into the light, they only gain power. So today, I plan to tell my children that I love Jesus and I love them, and that for whatever reason I feel stuck in the "down" and have them lay hands on me and pray. My other friend heard the scripture Psalm 126 yesterday and when we looked it up, it was clearly God speaking: "When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Thankful to walk with these women who deeply love Jesus. I have seen the face of God in our community, which is His kingdom come to earth. He demonstrates His love through the Body over and over again. I love seeing this part of His plan worked out in the flesh! Thanks, sweet sisters! And thank you, Lord, for always providing exactly what we need. The Lord is "on our side...Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Psalm 124:1, 8)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

wonderings and wanderings in dark places

Hey friends. Guessing that no one has visited this blog in ages. Lots of neglect, like so many other things in my life. I am awake at 1 a.m. for reasons that I cannot exactly define. Could be that I took some "mood booster" vitamin supplements a little too late in the day? Or it could be that my mind is racing through the sludge again and I can't seem to stop it. I hesitate to share some of my thoughts here because I don't want to send anyone running to the phone to see if I'm denouncing my faith - I'm not. But have you ever been through those seasons when you wonder what in the world you're doing with God? Like...you wonder if all of this is for real and if it is, if YOU'RE for real. I think I've been wondering if maybe I've fallen into a bit of playing a part that I know I'm supposed to play. Pray when I'm supposed to. Say the "right" things to whoever. Play the role of happy mom when inside I feel like I'm withering away (like my kids are really fooled anyway). Okay, maybe that sounded a little dramatic. It's one in the morning, okay? I find it fascinating to think about what people think about others' lives. How often do we compare ourselves with the "so and so's" who have the oh-so-perfect-life-story (when really, very few people know the inside scoop on most people's lives). One could make quite a story about our lives - high school sweethearts wed, follow Jesus into the hood, have seven wonderful kids (and they are), and live happily ever after on the edge for God. Sounds gloriously wonderful and on some level I know that it is, but it doesn't feel like it right now. High school sweethearts are broken and need Jesus in dark seasons of marriage, those who live among the poor can become cynical and disengaged, seven children...that's a lot of relationship under one roof, and life just doesn't seem like a fairy tale a lot of times when you're on the inside of the story. But honestly, without seasons of wandering with God, it wouldn't be much of a story anyway. It would be boring. No one would want to read it. Real LIFE is birthed out of pain. Real intimacy with Jesus is birthed out of wondering if He's around sometimes. I know this and so tonight I will practice gratitude again and trust that He is doing more than I can see. And maybe tomorrow I'll post some pictures and you can erase this depressing post from your minds! ;)

Friday, March 11, 2011

the messy love of God

What if we really knew that God's love doesn't fit inside of a neatly ordered, clean, predictable box constructed out of our own preconceived ideas and experience? Started thinking about this this a.m. when I read Phil 1:8 and Paul says how he "longs for all of [them] with the affection of Jesus Christ." What does the affection of Jesus look like? And then I started thinking about what passion, what affection looks like with us, fallen human beings....Piper started hyperventilating the other day when she saw her Daddy drive up as she ran to get down the front steps to greet him. She was squealing with delight. Solomon and his bride write some pretty passionate stuff in Song of Solomon - it's not what I would call "neat" or "orderly." Mary goes to Jesus, wastes thousands of dollars on his feet, and then bawls all over them, wiping off her snot and tears with her hair. This act certainly did not fall within the bounds of propriety! There are thousands of other examples of what humans do when they cannot contain their love and affection, losing all their inhibitions.
How much more so the love and affection of Christ.
The reactions that we see in the natural are but a shadow of what is reality - a passionate, "messy", over-the-top affectionate Father who doesn't realize that He is not supposed to be "foolishly" excited over the objects of His passion. Jesus wasn't religious. And He is the exact representation of the Father. Wow. Wow.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

gratitude and the moment and pain

So I've been meditating on Phil 4:4-7 and Eph 3:17-20. Don't feel like typing them out so go read them!! ;) "Power to grasp" the magnitude of God's love that "surpasses knowledge". And having peace that "transcends all understanding". He really is able to do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." Familiar verses to many of us, but when I roll them around on my tongue and chew them over and over again, their flavor is only enhanced and heightened and magnified. I've also been reading two books that, as my friend says, are "transformative." One is Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts. I finished that one last week and just started Present Perfect by Gregory Boyd. I have lots to write, but little boys are here with swords and laundry is calling my name. But here are a couple of quotes: (the basis of Boyd's book) - "I realized that my trivial, self-centered mental chatter about the past and the future - like a dark cloud blocking the sun - had kept me from seeing the glroy of God that surrounded me every second of every day. Never before had I realized the extent to which our focus determines what we experience - and do not experience - in any given moment. Never before had I seen how being absorbed in the past or future causes us to miss the wonder of the present. This realization began to move me toward what I've since come to believe is the most fundamental truth a person can ever embrace, and it's the truth this book is all about.
The present moment is all that is real.
The past is gone. The future is not yet. We remember the past and anticipate the future, but we always do so in the present. Reality is always now. And the single most important aspect of of reality is that God is present in it every moment."
So I've marked up Voskamp's book so much I could fill post after post with quotes, but in light of what I just read in Boyd's book about focusing on God in every moment, it just takes what Voskamp expresses about deep truths concerning gratitude even deeper. We are in the middle of a couple of dark trials right now, the ones that make you look up to heaven and wonder how you got here. Thankful for these books that have reminded me to turn my eyes onto the King, the Lover, I AM and away from myself in the middle of seemingly hopeless circumstances. So Ann talks about remembering what God has done (seems contradictory to living in the present moment, but it's not actually because it causes you to remember that He is alive in your current moment). Anyway! Here is one of many encouraging quotes from 1000 gifts: "Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time i surrender to stress, aren't I advertising the unreliability of God? That I really don't believe? But if I'm grateful to the Bridge Builder for the crossing of a million strong bridges, thankful for a million faithful moments, my life speaks my beliefs and I trust Him again....It's only when you live the prayer of thanksgiving that you live the power of trusting God." Okay, here's another that has helped me see more clearly in this dark season of trial: "God holds us in the untamed moments too....Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father's heart."
And when the script written for us is certainly not the one we would've chosen, I guess certain expectations are shattered and the story we've constructed in our minds is not the one we would have told. So here's another quote: "Pride, mine - that beast that pulls on the mask of anger - this is what snaps this hand shut, crushes joy. When I would read Henry Ward Beecher's words later, I'd take it for my own story, so familiar his thoughts: 'Pride slays thanksgiving...A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.' Dare I ask what I think I deserve? A life of material comfort? A life free of all trials, all hardship, all suffering? A life with no discomfort, no inconveniences? Are there times that a sense of entitlement - expectations - is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy? And what do I really deserve? Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved....Proudly refusing to accept this moment, dismissing it as no gift at all, I refuse God. I reject God. Why is this eucharisteo always so hard?"
So, hope is not snuffed out as I try to remember that God could not be experienced in this moment in this way if not for this trial. Elisabeth Elliot always said that "all our trials are custom-made." Thankful for these trials. Thankful for the darkness in which God is taking me into His arms and reminding me of who He is and where He is. And just going through the pain - instead of trying to get the epidural - leads us to a joy that could have been birthed no other way. Thank you, good, good, good God.

Monday, February 28, 2011

rewind

Just a few little thoughts about parenting. I was really young and extremely immature when I got married (not quite 21 yrs old and really self-absorbed). Maybe I thought having children would magically transform me into a competent, others-focused, mature woman overnight. LOL! Didn't happen! Poor McKenna is still the "guinea pig" of much of our ignorance as parents! But if I could rewind the past 14 years and do some things over I would. Such as...
*I would spend a LOT more time praying and being in the Word instead of relying on parenting books that advocate formulas. I mean, really. We laugh about it now, but we let McKenna cry for 45 minutes when she was only a few days old because some parenting philosophy told us that's what we should do to produce a baby that slept all night!! UGH!! I would love to push "rewind" and go back and hold that sweet baby more. AND I WOULD EVEN ROCK HER!! [That parenting philosophy has been shelved for good, by the way. Got rid of all his books. Although I used some basic tips from it, it was much more concerned with prideful formulas and not all that concerned with building relationship and listening to God in how to love on babies.]
*I would study my children more from day one. I have just recently (believe it or not) begun to really focus on the unique personalities, strengths, and weaknesses of my kids. Training/discipline really isn't "one size fits all".
*I would speak life and blessing over them habitually. I cringe to think about what my habits have been (praise Jesus, He's changing bad habits!!). Fault-finding and criticism would be far from me.
*I would hug and kiss them more!
*I would focus on training them by the grace and wisdom of God instead of trying to control their behavior. I confess that esp with a couple of my kids, harshness was my way of dealing with them. I'm paying the price now. Again, God is our Redeemer and He works all things together for our good. I know He's forgiven me. I'm just sayin'...wish I could turn back the clock. :(
*I would let go of perfectionism and stop procrastinating.
*I would "chill out" and just ENJOY every moment with them! I would laugh a lot more!

SOOO! Guess I just felt a burden to say that if you're a young mama who happens to be reading this, go enjoy your babies! They really are precious rewards from heaven. And while I can't go back and change any of the past 14 years...I have today. And the grace of God is more than enough for today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's dinner tonight with my family

Fun dip!

Should've gotten a pic of the table BEFORE we sat down...:)

sickness is almost GONE!

BEFORE...
AFTER! Think this poor baby is feeling MUCH better!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

my shoes

"When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' Your love, O Lord, supported me." Psalm 94:18 (He didn't say "Buck it up, daughter, and figure out how to get yourself back on solid ground!")

"Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for JOY and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:14


I have always struggled with comparison. When I was young, I always thought someone else had better clothes than me or was "cooler" than I was. I was always either not as pretty or prettier than someone else. My accomplishments were either not as noteworthy or more impressive than someone else's. For those of us who spend a great deal of time in comparison mindset, you know that it's a constant game of either coming out on top or realizing that you're falling short. Now, as a Jesus follower, wife and mama, I most often find myself comparing myself in the areas of my walk with the Lord and how I'm doing at loving my hubby and how I'm doing at being a mom. Again, this can go either direction (I've spent seasons being an arrogant mess), but most often I believe that I'm falling short of some high standard that has been created in my mind. It becomes a stronghold - a mighty tower that is constructed around my soul and it doesn't take long to realize that I'm bound up and stuck, longing to escape my own prison of self-doubt, condemnation, and depression. The Lord has done BIG things in my heart over the last 5-6 years in the area of identity, but still I find myself back in that prison periodically. I've been there recently. The chains of comparison have been locked around my wrists, binding my ankles, making it almost impossible to even move. But praise God for community and for friends who will not only listen, but speak truth! About a week ago, a couple of dear friends and I were talking about this because I've been depressed and one of them said that you have to be comfortable in your own shoes and quit comparing yourself to everyone around you - what has God called YOU to do and be, etc.? So, shoes. I've been meditating on this for the past week and this morning I decided to ask God to describe/define my shoes and I wanted to know what they looked like. When I really remember that Jesus is not mad at me and that He is "exceedingly and uncritically fond of me", I sure do enjoy being with Him! I saw me sitting down and Him bending down as He put my shoes on. He looked up at me and grinned, saying "These are your shoes." My shoes are running shoes (and He pointed out that sometimes I change into track spikes - this brings me great joy - I LOVED wearing track spikes back in the day when I could actually run). They are very bright and colorful shoes because they are JOY shoes. They are comfortable and make moving through my days a delight! And here's what He showed me about what I've been doing. When I try to put on someone else's shoes and move through my life in shoes that were never intended for me, they give me blisters, cram my toes, and slow me down. In this condition, I am no longer free to run with Jesus because I'm thinking about myself and my own discomfort all the time. It also prevents me from fully entering into happiness for others and the shoes that they're wearing. Looking around at so-and-so's high heels or boots or slippers or flip-flops and wishing they were mine or trying to cram my feet into them only brings self-absorption and distraction and misery! But in the shoes that Jesus has hand-crafted for me, I am FREE to run (free to love other people with abandon, free to enjoy Jesus, free to lift my eyes up and see that there is more to life than the ground under my feet)! Some days will be a sprint and some days I'll need my distance shoes, but this is what God created me for and He's not wishing that I was wearing someone else's shoes. And when I can fully embrace this truth, I can truly appreciate all the other shoes that don my brother's and sister's feet and how their shoes bring something different to and complement mine in the kingdom of God. He likes my shoes! He likes me. His unfailing love surrounds us - right now. Thankful for my shoes today (and thankful for yours too). :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ingratitude

Not going to go into a long explanation of why, but for some reason, I'm fighting against the poison of ingratitude right now. It is my default. Critical spirit - of myself, my circumstances, my people in this house. I H.A.T.E. it. I'm reading Ann Voskamp's new book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Here's a quote I just read (I'm sure I'll be posting more in the days to come): "Isn't it here? The wonder? Why do I spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it? Do we truly stumble so blind tht we must be affronted with blinding magnificence for our blurry soul-sight to recognize grandeur? The very same surging magnificence that cascades over our every day here. Who has time or eyes to notice? All my eyes can seem to fixate on are the splatters of disappointment across here and me."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

where JOY comes from

Just a little revelation I've been meditating on for the past few days...
Due to the media void that we experienced over the last week, I found myself thinking and dreaming about all that I want myself, my marriage, my children, my home life, etc to be. Found that it all was falling terribly short. LOL! I also found that I was blatantly insufficient to meet my children's needs, made really obvious when I had 3 or 4 asking me for help, etc. all at the same time. I was so discouraged and hopeless last Monday p.m. I cried my eyes out as I went to bed with a bewildered husband lying next to me not knowing what to say. Then Jesus spoke the next morning. "The joy of the Lord will be your strength" (Nehemiah).... Getting it all right will never be my strength (and if it was, I'd be super prideful), my circumstances cannot be my strength. The JOY of the LORD is my strength. Available 24/7. He is overflowing with inexpressible JOY!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

We fired our #1 and longest employed babysitter...JOY has taken her place

Last week we made an important and life-changing decision - we fired our primary babysitter. She had been quite reliable over the years. She never made rash or unpredictable decisions. She cared little about what anyone thought about her; in fact, she was quite indifferent. And while she showed no particular interest in the well-being of my children, they were always quite mesmerized with her and her skills for entertaining at any time, day or night. I had heard others say over the years that she had highly honed skills of getting the kids "out of my hair", but I began to realize that no where in the Word of God does He address tactics parents should employ to "get their children out of their hair." In fact, quite the contrary: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Wirte them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deut 6:5-9) Okay, so she wasn't doing anything to teach them about the Lord. And here's why we fired her - I had begun to overuse her. She appeared to never grow tired, but somehow my children were. I noticed that after having been with her, they were more prone to bickering, throwing fits, complaining, being disrespectful. Their love for each other seemed to wane. Their tendency to argue with me and with each other seemed to increase. Their child-like creativity was fading and being replaced by a dumb stare. When she wasn't babysitting them, they couldn't seem to find anything to do - they had forgotten how to PLAY!

So last week we decided that the cost of keeping her around was just too great - we fired her.

THE BIG BOX ON THE WALL THAT HAS SERVED AS A RELIABLE BABYSITTER FOR ME FOR YEARS HAS BEEN FIRED!

As of a week and a half ago, my children have watched no t.v. and played no more video games and we are rediscovering what it means to be child-like and what it means to be family. We haven't even had cable in 14 years, but it's amazing to me how much that box has had control. I had been using it to "watch" my kids as my kids watched it way too often lately - just PBS Kids and dvds you might say, but it was too much. Add video systems to that and you have media overload. And what was our default family night? Watching a movie together. I must say here that there is nothing inherently wrong with family movie night or in playing video games, but I have also been forced lately to answer the question: what fruit do they produce? A few times (although rarely) I suppose it produced something good...a little family bonding or togetherness? But not communication. Not relationship. Not engaging with our own hearts or the hearts of others. And very often they produced discontentment.

BUT GOD, in His great mercy, didn't let us stay there. He rescued us! And although I would say that the past week and a half has been difficult and has actually left me in tears a few times at the end of the day, it has been 100% worth it. Last Saturday p.m. we turned up the music, danced with each other, and had a "fashion show." One night this week, my children decided to read Sandra Boynton board books aloud while some of the others "acted" them out. It was hilarious. Last night we had family night and played with Polly Pockets and Toy Story people on the floor and then the boys created some interesting game with their toy cars (it involved throwing and hitting them). The rest of us read books or created beautiful artwork. We have talked more, touched each other more, prayed more, had more conversations, just been together more. Don't get me wrong - it hasn't felt particularly glorious at the time! But when I look back at the fruit, it tastes sweet and I do not regret our decision. Engaging in relationship is much more difficult, but it is the essence of abiding in Christ. I was reading John 15 this a.m. in my time with Jesus. Jesus repeatedly says things about if you love Him, you will obey His commands. I think I've always read this and thought "Wow, that's a long list." No, it's actually not. Verse 12: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." Verse 17: "This is My command: Love each other." Not long. Not complicated. Love Jesus, love each other. They are inseperable. And I think I can confidently say that they have been a bit more difficult for our family as we have let the BIG BOX BABYSITTER take a higher place than Jesus and people. Ugh...isn't a more accurate term for that...idol?
I know some reading this are going to think I'm making judgments on everyone who has a television. No I'm not! But I am asking some hard questions right now that have been rolling around in my brain for quite some time about technology in general. There is an image that will forever be burned in my brain from the holidays. The Mighty Men came over on Christmas Eve for dinner and some of them arrived at my house before I did. When I came in there were 5-6 teenage boys sitting around in my living room...staring at the faces...OF THEIR PHONES!!!!! Not talking, not communicating at all (except for an occasional grunt), not acting ALIVE! It made me so sad. Really sad. Is this really what Jesus would have been doing with these boys? All I'm saying is that we live in a culture in which there are always battles to fight and I'm wondering if maybe we should declare war on how media is creeping in and stealing authentic relationship (yes, it could be argued that technology has made communication easier on many levels - I would agree, but could it be said that it has increased depth of relationship and community)?
I don't know all the answers. All I know is that I like the results of this experiment so far - MORE JOY - and I'm not going to be "re-hiring" our babysitter any time soon! :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

random pics of some of my babies

my big girl rocking her baby - she is one of the most joyful babies I've EVER known!
I just found a few scrapbook pages I had done for Malachi and he has looked at them over and over again - poor kid; sometimes it's rough being #6!
My oldest and my youngest - Piper loves her big sister.

Moriah turned SEVEN!!

Our Moriah Grace turned seven last week on January 19th. We are delighted with you and all that you are, sweet girl. You are a beautiful gift from God and you are destined to be a mighty prayer warrior in His kingdom, now and for the rest of your life. You will be like a tree planted by streams of water as your blessing from Jeremiah 17 says. The enemy's schemes against you will NOT succeed and you will lead many others to understand the divine power available to them by the power of the cross. You ARE full of the grace and truth of Jesus and we are so full of love for you. May this year be a special year for you as you are filled with a joyful passion like you've never known before!

On Tuesday night, she got to enjoy a "stuffed animal" party at our house with 5 of her friends!
playing freeze dance
Katherine, Grace, Mia, Olivia, Moriah, and Lily - fun, beautiful girls!

more birthday pics

breakfast birthday coffee cake - a Brown family tradition
big brother is starting to look older - isn't he handsome? :)
her favorite shirt from her Nana and Papa

Moriah's 7-yr-old princess dress

When McKenna turned seven, Randy bought her a beautiful flower girl "princess" dress that would remind her of how beautiful she is. We've decided to make it a family tradition for the girls on their seventh birthday and it was very timely for Moriah this year. She's been a little down lately and this sweet gift from her Daddy was a beautiful picture of how God loves us. And I couldn't stop watching her SMILE last night! She danced with Daddy and made her mama cry. :)

I think she likes it!
Yeah...can't you just see them in 20 years dancing at her wedding!?!

more of Moriah's dress

sweet, beautiful girl
checking out the swirl/spinning quality of her dress



Sunday, November 21, 2010

too much

Blackberry Farm. Bed bugs. Disney World. Piper's first birthday. Sickness. Sleepless nights. Christmas tree decorating. Thanksgiving feasts. Women of Grace........so much going on in life. Pictures of most of it. Too tired to blog. Maybe when I'm 80??? :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

large family...

(This is actually Anda writing): So I bought this book called "Large Family Logistics" hoping to get some helpful little hints for running the show around here. One of my kids sees the title and says "What? Is that book about how to have a large family?" A couple of the olders start giggling as I say "No...." And he says, "Oh yeah, y'all already know how to do that!" More giggles from the more informed of my offspring and the mama who can't suppress the laughter anymore. I love these kids!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nothing important to say

There is just something so empowering about being able to type something that can immediately be seen by people all over the world even if nobody every reads it.

A haiku in honor of the fact that in just 2 short days my wife and I will be leaving on a trip to Tennessee without our children:

Silent pond. White chairs.
Rainbow trees. My Love and I.
Anticipation.

And in honor of my parents who will be caring for our children:
Loud noises. Children
in perpetual motion.
Whining, pain, and joy.

I love the noise and chaos of 7 children. Driving home yesterday I was overcome with gratitude at the blessing of the life God has given us. Every morning when I leave for work, I have the delight of eight people hugging me and telling me that they love me. What great way to start the day.
Thank you Jesus.
Randy