14 December 2009

An Average Joe?

As we are in the midst of the Christmas season, we are reminded over and over again of the story of Christ's birth. Usually it's the narrative in Luke that gets the most attention, with the account of Zachariah and Elizabeth and Mary the mother of Jesus. However, I just recently started reading the first seven chapters of Matthew for my daily bible reading, and I have been appreciating some things about Matthew's account of Christ's birth, especially what I have learned about Joseph, the husband of Mary.

He was a righteous man. (1:19-20) Although he would have been within his rights to have Mary stoned because she was found to be with child while they were only betrothed, Joseph did not want to disgrace her. He planned to send her away secretly. This shows that he was merciful and not legalistic in his righteousness. While God does use and has used the unrighteous to accomplish His will, His most high and holy will is accomplished through those who willingly yield their lives to Him, as Joseph did.

He was obedient. (1:24) After he received commands from the Lord's angel to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife and to call the baby Jesus, he "awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him." We see Joseph's obedience to the Lord's commands throughout the first and second chapters of Matthew. He took Mary to be his wife (as he was commanded in 1:20). He called His name Jesus (as he was commanded in 1:21). He got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night and left for Egypt (as he was commanded, 2:14). After the infanticide in Bethlehem and the death of Herod, Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel (as he was commanded, 2:20) And finally, we learn that Joseph was warned by God in a dream, and he took his family to the regions of Galilee, namely, Nazareth, which ultimately was God's perfect plan in order to fulfill prophecy about the Messiah. So Joseph did what God told him.

He was a good sleeper. Being righteous and obedient, Joseph had the perfect prescription for a good night's rest. Okay, you can call me hokey if you like, but have you ever given this much thought? Joseph had a lot of major issues going on in his life, and yet he seems to sleep soundly amid all the stress and anxiety. His betrothed is found to be with child. And how does this righteous, obedient man deal with it? He goes to sleep. And God tells him what to do. (And he does it.)

The maji had just left after God had warned them to go a different way, and what does the righteous, obedient Joseph do? Business as usual. Time for a rest. And Joseph is told in another dream to get up and flee to Egypt because Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him. Now you would think, okay, it's time to stress out. The most powerful ruler of the land is after you because he wants to kill your child. But Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. (2:14) Did I mention how obedient this righteous man was?

So Joseph remained there in Egypt, and meanwhile infanticide happens in the Bethlehem vicinity. It would be enough to keep a person on edge, especially knowing that you have the Child that is on the "most wanted" list from that region. But again, Joseph seems to be sleeping well. Because an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and tells him to return with the family to Israel, and Joseph does just that.

He was afraid. Now, verse 22 of Chapter 2 says, "But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there." So Joseph was afraid! Finally, something I can relate to! It's good to see that he was a pretty average Joe, in some ways. And of course we all know by now what to expect: Joseph doesn't lose any sleep. No, he goes right to sleep, and God warns him in a dream, and Joseph goes where God directs him to go, and prophecy is fulfilled.

So, how about it? Was he an average Joe? Am I? If an account of my life were written, would it show that I was righteous and obedient to God's commands, and responsive to His direction even amid the most extreme circumstances? Is God willing to use me because I do not freeze with fear, nor delay in obeying, nor complain about it, but respond straight away with obedience?

07 December 2009

This and That

Is it just me or does it feel like Christmas is next weekend or something? Everything is happening at once, the work week is full full full, and the "mail in time to get there before Christmas" date is fast approaching. (Anyone know what that date is, by the way?) I recently "emptied" out the camera, and came across some long lost moments captured in digital format.

So this post is a hodge-podge of photos--think of them as the missing blog posts from November (and maybe even October)--and I'll just write my comments beside as best I'm able.

Insects and worms

If you look carefully, you'll see a "giant spider," as Rosalind identified it (actually a praying mantis--somewhat common in our neighborhood). I think he was responsible for the "silence of the crickets" that had been populating our herb garden this summer. You might also recognize the over-sized book worm consuming a kid's mystery while sporting a rather casual demeanor. Reading is an after-school competition at our house!

The cat got caught

Our poor indoor cat. He's such an adventuresome and curious creature. There's no doubt in my mind that he would absolutely love to smell and chase and kill things in the great outdoors. But alas, his only thrill (besides chasing the ball with the bell) is to live vicariously through the smells that come from far away places (like grocery bags and packages that come from the great Northwest). You do what you can.

Yes we can!

Well that was a great segue! To the average person, these photos mean nothing. But take note: inside that kettle is a bubbling batch of sweet apple goodness made from most of the 90 lbs of apples we picked this fall. We like to call it love in a jar, but to the rest of you, it's called apple butter. Look at all those jars! (And I had done another smaller batch before this one!) Anyone who gets a jar of apple butter from us this year is dearly loved indeed, as Enoch would barely part with it last year, it was so good.

Bread Head

I think November is probably the best month of the year. Not only is it the month we celebrate our wedding anniversary, but it's also the month we go all out in the kitchen. Enoch especially enjoys making bread whenever he can, and this loaf was one specialty loaf he made that was photo-worthy. (Although it looks like a giant dinosaur claw, it's supposed to be a woven bundle of wheat, in case you're wondering.) We also made a delicious herb-stuffed turkey, with herbs from our own garden, which always makes everything taste better.

Pumpkins and Punkins

Just a couple of snapshots of a pumpkin before we roasted it in preparation for pumpkin butter (more photos of this likely to come). Hopefully we'll get it canned before the postal deadline arrives. (When is it, again?) And finally, the following recent shots of my "Punkins" after they had a little hair taken off the sides to update their look. Also, a braid comparison of Rosalind's braids from last year and this year, since she had nothing taken off.

03 December 2009

Changing Seasons

Today's blog post is just my ramblings, so bear with me...

Some days I feel like a champion: everything works like clockwork, the kids behave and help out, the dinner meal turns out fantastic, and the house is clean by the time we sit down to eat. I could potentially impress people. Other days, I feel like the hamster on the endless wheel: no matter how hard I work at it, I can barely see any visible progress for all the effort I put forth, and the house is a mess and the kids look like they just rolled out of bed, and I even forgot to brush my teeth. It's on those days that I desperately hope that I don't have any unexpected visitors or even worse, the need to call the paramedics. One look around and the professionals might take away my "good mothering card," or worse.

So I walk the balancing act of finding what things I need to change and, by the work of the Holy Spirit, changing them or else going easy on myself because I am in a particular season of life that I know will change in time. It is times like these when I know I need the voice of experience and the encouraging words of moderation and diligence.

For instance, I can vaguely remember when I only had Julien at home, and it was sometimes difficult to get a dinner on the table and get the house clean (or at least presentable). I can remember how it seemed nearly impossible to go grocery shopping with two little ones . And now nearly eight years of experience and additional children have forced me to develop skills that I just didn't have back then. Shopping with two kids now is a breeze, and I find I'm better at it when I have a couple kids along than I am when I go by myself! Cooking has gotten easier as I have a better mind for keeping certain things on hand at all times and even sometimes making a plan and sticking to it. Housework has gotten a little easier as my kids have become more responsible and able to help.

So sometimes I look around and (depending on my energy level) I am tempted to be overwhelmed by the mess. Other times I look at the mess and think, "This is just a little mess that will clean up quickly." Still other times I don't even see the mess (until the doorbell rings unexpectedly or my husband walks through the door).

My hope is that I will continue to hone my skills and continue to improve my personal habits until I reach a point where I can feel content with myself and my home. I'm counting on the fact that one day there won't be crumbs everywhere and there will be fewer "surprise" clean up jobs and toys to trip over and have to pick up. But I also know people who miss this season of life, when the children are small, and they always say, "Enjoy it while you can because they grow up so fast." So I sometimes need to lighten up. While I don't enjoy being messy, it's sometimes a necessary part of enjoying life. And while I sometimes get tired of picking up toys, I don't want to imagine life without them around, either.

So that's the "season" I'm in right now. Christmas brings all kinds of "stuff" out of boxes and all over the counters and windows and doors. I sometimes look at the stuff and want to get rid of it because it feels like more work than seems worth investing. But at the same time, creating something beautiful and fulfilling out of a mess is one of the most rewarding feelings in life.

So now I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get to it.

02 December 2009

Ornaments and Wreaths

The boxes have been pulled out, and the dust is getting stirred up as we begin to deck the halls for Christmas. As we read yesterday's Proverb of the day, I asked the kids to listen for any verses that might have an application for Christmas. I didn't expect to find one, but right there, in verses 8 and 9, it was unmistakable:

Hear, my son, your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck. (Proverbs 1:8-9)

Certainly, these verses were not written with Christmas in mind! But we had Christmas decorations on our minds, and the thought of draping ornaments and such on ourselves did seem a bit silly. One of my kids made the connection of the wreath that an Olympic athlete would wear after winning an event. And that is a good connection.

Ornaments worn on the head or around the neck were worn as a reward for winning a contest of some significance. Their actual value, as in the case of a wreath, had nothing to do with their material worth, but in the "bragging rights" associated with winning the prize, and the honor that was bestowed upon the winner.

In the case of the above proverb, they (the wreath and ornaments) refer back to the instruction and teaching of a child's parents. And a child whose parents have instructed him in the word of God is indeed blessed, especially if he hears and does not forsake what he has been taught.

There may be times when such a child might feel as though the wreath and ornaments are cumbersome and weighty and make living life a little awkward. But if he hears and does not forsake, he will one day realize the great blessing and prize that such instruction has given him, and be thankful to God for such a heritage.

There is no obvious Christmas connection. But as you pass on your traditions and teach and instruct your children about Christmas, my hope is that it would be the kind of teaching and instruction that will one day grace their lives with truth and the beauty of a life set apart for the glory of God.

01 December 2009

He Became Poor

As I think and reflect upon this time of year with Christmas approaching and with thoughts of buying gifts and spending money, it is tempting to lose sight of the profound reason why Christmas is so special. I am intentionally going to focus my thoughts on Christ during Christmas, and I hope that it will be an encouragement to you as well.

Lately I have been reading through 2 Corinthians, and this verse stood out to me this morning

2 Corinthians 8:9

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

This verse, in context, is in reference to giving financially for the sake of others. But with Christ’s example, it also refers to the spiritual riches that we receive because of Christ’s sacrificial gift to us of eternal life. For our sake, He became poor. Because of His grace, we might become spiritually rich. A little further on in this passage we read that “God loves a cheerful giver.”

Even though I am not rich by some standards, the Lord Jesus Christ has made me incredibly wealthy by His grace. And I must not be greedy with the spiritual wealth that He has blessed me with. I must be a cheerful giver. I must look for opportunities to share His wealth with others who are spiritually bankrupt and beggars as I once was. It is my sincere hope that God, by His grace, will allow me opportunities to share His riches with others this Christmas season.