Monday, December 31, 2007

This time around the sun

Jack and I agreed that our little boy's birth would have to be our best memory/best day of 2007. It was too easy. What was yours?

Now that I think about it, 2007 was the year of the boy for us. Cousins William and Kendrick were born along with friends Samuel H., Zion, Sam G. and Sanders. What a blessing of boys!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winners and losers

I woke up from my cuddled heap in the front seat- warm sun making me a little uncomfortable in my layered jackets. 11:47 the clock says. Almost back to Shreveport. The drive from Dallas' Love Field to Shreveport is not too bad- just long enough for a good nap and a little reflection on a weekend well spent.

I kept thinking about the winners and the losers of the weekend...

Losers: This unfortunate distinction goes to the babies- Samuel and Zeke. Zeke came down with an ear infection and what turned out to be respiratory syncitial virus (RSV) just before our trip. This is oddly typical of Harrigan-Chaney get-togethers. We invariably pass nasty bugs between us. But Lydia still gave the green light for us to come- for better or worse- and with antibiotics and Motrin in tow, we made the trek with our sick baby. So, at best, it was a weekend of separate play areas, lots of Lysol, and "BREECH!" alerts laughingly announced as one baby made his way around the cardboard-and-luggage barricade. At worst, Samuel will come down with the virus. Only time will tell. In either case, they will still be the sad little losers of the weekend.

Winners: The prize goes to the little people- Anna Grace and Benjamin. There was so much dancing, chasing, playing, running, screaming, and music-making fun that my little girl could hardly contain herself. Benjamin played the drums and Anna Grace arabesqued. She kept asking if she could stay "all night long?" And of course, on par with my little girl's obsession with weddings, marriage, and family, Anna Grace made Benjamin the "groom" while she was the "bride" and they danced and the grown-ups laughed and laughed (see Harrigan post for more). Nothing would make these two moms happier than such a wedding, but at this point it is just cuteness. They had a ball.

I guess us grown-ups landed somewhere in the middle. With no available babysitters because of One Thing and lots of energy spent on managing sicknesses (Benjamin had an ear infection as well) and spirited toddlers, there was little time and energy left for adult conversation and interface. But despite all odds, the blessing of being around friends who know you well and love you well was well worth it. God has truly knit our hearts together and it always refreshes my worn-down spirit to laugh and enjoy our deep-rooted friendship.

Thank goodness for good friends.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A winter wonderland

Kansas City is covered in snow.

We're here visiting our friends the Harrigans and having so much fun. Anna Grace and I had prayed that we would see snow while we were here. There just isn't a chance that Shreveport is going to see any, but now that I think about it- I guess we could have prayed for that, too. I just wanted Anna Grace to know that snow really exists and experience some winter fun. In any case, AG and Benjamin had a short jaunt in the powdery white stuff (it is REALLY cold) and it is beautiful.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The best Christmas yet!

I highly recommend having a three-year-old around for Christmas. It was so much fun! From the family to the food to the giving and receiving, it was a great time and our best Christmas yet! Here's wishing you all a happy New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

He is radiant and ruddy

We rented The Nativity Story last week or so. Great movie.

The whole thing was really moving, but what struck me the most was this scene pictured to the right. As Mary gave birth, light from the star denoting the King breaks through the dark cave and radiates around the new life. Joseph delivers the holy baby as the Word takes His first breath. Amazing. What a moment.

"My lover is radiant and ruddy." (Song of Songs 5:10).

Webster defines "ruddy" as "having a healthy reddish color." In I Samuel 16:12 and 17:42, David is referred to as ruddy in connection to his physical beauty. I think of it as that feeling you have coming in from the beach on a sunny day and the opposite of lying sick on the couch for three days. This ruddy, handsome, young David was to be the King of Israel just as the Bridegroom in the Song of Songs is the King of Kings.

In effect, this description of Jesus indicates his humanity- that He is both fully man and fully God. He is radiant as He is divine. He is ruddy as He is human.

The incarnation of the uncreated God is amazing and mysterious. It is awesomely kind, merciful, and full of grace. He has made a way for relationship with Him.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

This Christmas, try to remember the awesome wonder of this- that your Creator was born in a cave in Bethlehem- in humility. He took on the form of a man- forever- because of His great love. Truly a thing to celebrate.

He is radiant and ruddy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Family fun

It has been great fun playing with Aunt KK and baby William these past few days. Aunt KiKi (Kate) and Aunt Jenny (and family) come tomorrow. Love those aunts. What fun to have everybody together!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Faith of Mary - by Jack

A couple of weeks ago, Anna Grace learned about John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth's womb at the sound of Mary's voice. She was FASCINATED by this. She started taking a blanket, wrapping it around her head, and running up to Candace saying, "Elizabeth! Elizabeth! I'm going to have a baby!" To which Candace replied, "Blessed are you among women!" It was really quite sweet. Even after 30 plus times...

This afternoon I was preparing my Sunday School lesson on Luke 2. In order to gain the proper context, I was reading Luke 1, which is the story that Anna Grace is so fascinated with. As I was looking over Mary's conversation with Gabriel (Luke 1:26-38), a couple of things really struck me.

#1. Gabriel's greeting to Mary.

Luke 1:28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."

How awesome is this? Gabriel shows up and immediately tells Mary that she is favored and that the Lord is presently with her. Mary is confused by this (it's not everyday that an angel appears to you) and the angel repeats himself. "Mary," he says "you have found favor with God."

What does it mean to be "find favor with God"? I'm no expert, but I believe that we mortals find favor with God in the following 3 basic ways:

A. We believe in Him.
B. We trust in Him.
C. We obey Him.

Scripture is filled with people who find favor with God by following the above three principles (Abraham, Daniel, and Nehemiah come to mind right off the top of my head). Gabriel's greeting towards Mary inspires and challenges me. I yearn to find favor with God. I yearn to wake up one morning to Gabriel standing at my bedpost saying "Greetings Jack! The Lord has found favor with you and He is presently WITH you! Now let me talk to you about this very important assignment that He has for you..."

As crazy as this sounds in the mundaneness of our modern day lives, I believe that this principle is true - the Lord DOES have very important missions for EACH of us. Most of us don't get the treat of having an angel show up at our prayer meetings (lucky Quinns), and most of us lose our own unique mission's sense of urgency in a dulling drumbeat of food, entertainment, and modern-day busyness, but we all have an assignment from the Most High. By believing in Him, trusting in Him, and obeying Him, we have found His favor. He has work for us to do.

#2 Mary's response.

Gabriel tells Mary that she will carry the Savior of the universe in her womb and she only has one question. She questions the logistics of the whole operation because of her virginity. That seems to be a pretty fair question. What about the questions that she didn't ask? She didn't ask "Why me?" or "How am I supposed to raise God's son?" or "What will our friends think about the fact that I'm pregnant and Joseph and I aren't married yet?". All too often, I find myself raising questions when I feel the Lord prompting me to do something.

Instead of raising more questions, Mary simply says, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

How awesome is THAT? With a response like that, you begin to see why the Lord picked her for the job. How great would it be if we could have this attitude in our hearts before the Lord every morning as we seek Him to do his will?

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lifting them up

We've never really met them, but we have some friends who work among the poorest of the poor in Romania. Her latest post broke my heart. Join me in praying for these precious lives to which Monica is ministering. That light and life would break through and that hope would abound in the saving knowledge of Jesus.

A few glimpses of our ballerina in action

Monday, December 17, 2007

His radiant smile

When was the last time you shared a good laugh with your Creator?

Tonight, Jack and I did.

This evening, my husband and I got together and met regarding the family budget. I need to give credit where credit is due- Jack is doing a great job with organizing and accounting all the debits and credits that flow through our household. We are on a Dave Ramsey type get-out-of-debt plan and these little meetings serve as mini-pep rallies to continue the offensive drive against the student loans plaguing our finances. It's great.

So after discussing all the details of "the plan for 2008," Jack and I lifted it all up to God. As we prayed about our financial needs and our hearts for managing His money, we asked for blessing over "the plan" and for discipline to stick to it. After a brief pause at the end, Jack added that if He wanted to just take care of it all at once in some magnificent display of His power, that would be great with us, too. If He wanted to just cut us a big check on the front end, that's okay with us. Maybe you had to be there, but we had a good laugh. And definitely not because He couldn't do that, because He totally can, but I don't know... It was just funny and I really felt the Lord among us getting a kick out of His kids...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fun on ice

My Kansas City friend and I really got a laugh out of the disparity of weather patterns between us. I mean, we still have green leaves on the tree in our front yard while she is in a frozen tundra of ice.

Nevertheless, Anna Grace and I went ice skating today.

Obviously, it was her first try and she spent much more time falling than actually skating, but it was so much fun and toward the end, she really got it. Not bad for a three year old. She would just pick herself up, laugh, and ask for more- never wanting to rest. I wish I had a picture. It reminded me of Bambi on ice.

We had a blast and took in the full experience- enjoying a funnel cake to top it all off. I know she'll think I'm a big dork soon enough, so I'm soaking it all in and loving every minute of moving around the rink at 0.001 mph, holding hands, and laughing at silly words like "Zamboni."

Friday, December 14, 2007

A velour hayride

Tonight we had our Sunday school Christmas party which turned out to be a very fun event (thanks for hosting- great party, Nora!). Our church is really good about providing childcare and tonight was no exception. While we had our grown-up time, the church had a Christmas extravaganza for the little ones from six to nine pm complete with pizza, a hayride, ornament decoration, and Veggie Tales. Fun stuff. Once monthly, "Parent's Night Out" is a really great ministry for us parents with very limited time to ourselves and we try to take full advantage of the service.

All that to say, as we were getting ready to head out the door, Anna Grace decided that her jeans and T-shirt were unacceptable attire for a Christmas party. "I don't want to wear boy clothes. I want to look pretty," she moaned, "I want to wear my party dress." Despite attempted negotiations, she was adamant. So a dress it was- and a fancy one at that. We dropped off our little girl ensconced in green velvet to play in glue, hay, and greasy pizza. Frankly, it was not a battle worth fighting, but the sentiment was duly noted. I think that all of us, women especially, can relate. One of our God-given heart's desires is a longing for beauty.

As my little one got all dressed up for her party, she asked her daddy if she looked pretty. Of course, Jack expounded upon the beauty that was Anna Grace. It was quite touching. My heart is for Anna Grace to always feel and know that she is beautiful, but most importantly, that her beauty is only found in the One who imparts it.

PS- Thanks to Nana for keeping the Z man- he definitely couldn't have made it until 8:30!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We're creepin and crawlin!!!

When you become a mom, your heart automatically becomes inexorably linked to the well-being of another little life. When something is not quite right or outright wrong for the good of your little person, a sense of unrest and anxiety can tug at a mother's heart- sometimes gently and sometimes in full force.

So, when my little boy was born in haste following vacuum extraction due to a nuchal cord and subsequent shoulder dystocia, my heart's tug never quite let go. The pediatrician remarked at his low muscle tone, his peers stayed ahead, and Zeke, meanwhile, took his time in developing his gross motor skills despite having a mom trained in the field of motor function.

When Zeke turned 9 months and was set on a belly crawl, not coming up to sitting on his own, and inconsistently pulling up, I finally caved into the tug and decided to get help. Turns out, I needed it much more than my little boy. In my five years of physical therapy practice, mostly in the pediatric arena, I had seen too much. Too many struggles. Too many heartbreaks. Too many tiny walkers and braces. I needed to know what I was up against. I needed an outside, objective professional to tell me to relax, to be the mom, and to know that he's okay.
No matter what.

We had our evaluation today and the occupational therapist assured me that Zeke is on target with his development and no intervention is warranted.

I'm glad to know that objectively, but even more than that, I'm glad I learned that it's okay to get help. It's okay to not be able to be everything for your child. It's okay to be concerned, but it's even more important to rest in the hope that even though things aren't always perfect for your children, there's purpose and redemption in the midst of the struggle.

At the next struggle, the next hurdle, the next mothering dilemma of the day, I hope I can remember to have the perspective of knowing that ultimately, these children of mine are the Lord's and I can trust Him to know what's best.

PS- Early intervention is a free and valuable resource for moms of children ages 0-3 who may have any kind of developmental delay. The program varies slightly from state to state, but you can find out more here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Lord is my Fortress - by Jack

I've been reading through the Psalms for the past month. One of the recurring themes that I've been meditating on and praying about is this idea that the Lord is our fortress. David says it over and over again throughout the Psalms, perhaps most clearly in Psalm 18:2...

"The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

What does it mean when we say that God is our fortress? What are the implications of this for our lives?

#1. We are under attack and we NEED a fortress.

Why would the Lord allow himself to be called our fortress if we had no need for a fortress? Whether we feel it or not, on good days and bad, we are under assault from an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. We are on the front lines of an epic, universal struggle and we are taking a barrage of fire. Satan knows our weaknesses better than we do and he seeks to exploit them everyday of our lives.

#2. A fortress does us little good if we do not USE it.

In order for the fortress to protect us from the enemy's assault, we have to ENTER in to the fortress. We must be seeking refuge in God every day, every hour, every moment. We must orient our lives around Him and He will give us shelter and allow us to live the abundant life that Satan wishes to steal from us.

#3. The fortress does the work FOR us.

When we are outside the fortress and the enemy is raining flaming arrows on us (think Braveheart), we have to use our own shield and our own power. Once we step inside the fortress, however, we trust the fortress' huge walls to protect us. We take refuge. We take rest. We stop trying to defend ourselves with our own power and we rely on the massive strength of the fortress. This is exactly what God is calling us to do. When the enemy's arrows come, we must not spend all of our energy flailing about with our own little shields. We must press in to the Lord and seek His shelter.

Psalm 62:6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

He is radiant- part three

After all was said and done today, I plugged myself into some itunes while I went about my nightly tidying duties. One of the songs that struck my spirit was from the prayer room. The placid tune calmed my soul as they repeated, "I can almost see you smiling, close my eyes and I can see you... smiling." And then later, "You are shining. Love's fire burning."

Hebrews 12:29 reiterates Deuteronomy 4:24 in stating that "Our God is a consuming fire."

I don't have a good grasp of what that really means, but I think that the source of His radiance is His burning love- the consuming fire that emulates from His very existence. Our God, in three Persons, is love. (see I John 4:16)

It's a good word for me tonight as I have spent the past several days in a worn-down state of impatience and selfishness. I'm so thankful for a God of love- a God who loves to show mercy, even in the midst of our weakness. I am so not deserving of the love He lavishes upon me.

His radiant love is a beautiful thing.

PS- I was looking for an image to accompany my words when I came across this awesome painting by Micheal O'Brien. It's entitled "Elijah and Elisha." O'Brien comments on the painting: "As the prophet Elijah is taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot, he bestows his cloak on the prophet Elisha, his young disciple. Elisha in his boldness has asked for a 'double portion' of Elijah’s spirit. (2 Kings 2:9-11). In our times, every disciple of Jesus is called to bear prophetic witness against the culture of death, be it a small piece of the cloak or a large one." Let this post act as a small piece of the cloak- a witness of the light of life that comes through the knowledge of Jesus.

Friday, December 7, 2007

He is radiant- part two

Tonight, we went to Bethlehem- a local church's rendition of it at least. It really was an impressive effort complete with angels, merchants, free roaming roosters, shephards, Roman soldiers on horseback- the works. Anna Grace, of course, was thrilled to be "traveling" to this ancient city. She got to pet camels, a donkey, and give alms to the street beggar. But what captivated her- her favorite part- was baby Jesus. The Jesus stand-in was far from a newborn, but she stood there in wide-eyed amazement at the scene. And the tears flowed when we had to go home.

To her, it was more than a 4 month old baby in blue light trying to fight off the six o'clock crankiness. It was her idea that this represented the Radiant One. The One to whom we are drawn by His light. The very Light that gives us life.

The prophet Ezekiel saw a lot of crazy-awesome things, but one of those things was the radiance of the Lord. He described it this way- "... and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him." (Ezekiel 1:27-28)
His radiance carries with it a certain kind of emotional charisma and invokes yearning for none other than Himself. A typical reaction to the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day is to gaze with wonder, with gratitude or relief that the rain is ending, but mostly to admire the beauty of the colors suspended in the sky. So will we gaze and admire Him at His appearing.

Until then, I want my life to be one of gazing at the beauty of this Radiant One- just as my little girl stood at the manger tonight. It is certain that as in Isaiah 9:2, I was walking in darkness, but have seen a great light; while living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.

He is radiant.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Our newest trick

It's vigorous arm waving in response to the "bye, bye." Cute stuff.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Red light rest

Several years ago, right after Jack and I were married, I was driving home from work one day and I was at a red light. When the light turned green, the car in front of me didn't move. A few seconds went by, I honked, and still- nothing. I waited for a while, then drove around her, slowly, wondering what was going on. When I got a closer look, I realized that it was a mom who had two small sleeping children in the back. She was literally asleep at the wheel. I guess she had just laid her head back when she stopped and had a moment, but quickly dozed off. At the time, I thought it was kind of funny and kind of strange (albeit a little dangerous). But when I crawled into bed at 7:30 tonight, I thought about her and I can now completely understand the exhaustion. Of course, it's the good kind of exhaustion- I wouldn't have it any other way.

PS- Congrats to Jennifer (Owen) Powers (aka JennO) and hubby Andrew! She'll know the mommy-exhaustion feeling very soon! Blessings to this new little life!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Yuck Day

What can make a cold, busy, stressful, dreary Tuesday worth something? I've found that baby laughter in the bathtub every time a soapy loofah comes his way does the trick.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

He is radiant

So the Christmas tree is up, the stockings are hung, and everything is looking festively red and green. This time of year is always beautiful with all the decorations and the warmth and the lights. As I was sitting in our grandiose sanctuary today, it kind of struck me that it would be a good time for me to share about what God's been placing on my heart- the beauty of the Lord- over the course of this Christmas season. This will be the first post (I'm hoping of many) that I will share with you about what may be a calling on my life- to point you to Jesus' beauty as set forth in Song of Songs, chapter 5, verses 10-16. The subject is so vast that I'll just be skimming the surface, but still good to meditate upon as we grow in knowledge of the Bridegroom.

Song of Songs, verse 10 starts with "My lover is radiant..." (NIV). Other translations use the word "white" or "dazzling." It seems to speak to Jesus' divine nature, his glory, and a mysterious quality of light that envelopes this God-man. In John's gospel, he sets forth the context for the gospel by stating, "In the beginning was the Word... In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:1-5).

Certainly, the allusions to Jesus being the "light of the world"(John 8:12) are abundant throughout the scriptures. In 1 John 1:5, we are told that "God is light, in him there is no darkness at all." Ezekiel had an awesome vision of our Lord in which "brilliant light surrounded him." (Ezekiel 1:27) Upon being transfigured before Peter, James, and John, "[Jesus'] face shone as the sun, and his garments did become white as the light." (Matthew 17:2). In John's Revelation, he describes the New Jerusalem which has no need for a sun or moon, "for the glory of God gives its light, and the Lamb is its lamp." Hebrews 1:3 tells us that "The Son is the radiance of God's glory." The references go on and on...

He is beautiful in his brilliant, dazzling, radiant glory.

One of my very favorite Christmas traditions is lighting my candle during the Christmas Eve service while the congregation and choir join in singing "Silent Night." I remember as a child holding that small, waxy, white candle with anticipation of the light coming my way. Tears invariably come to my eyes as the whole darkened room lights up with the soft light coming from the collective brilliance of small flames. "Silent night, holy night," is real and I feel the presence of the radiant One who has come to bring light to us all.

Mike Bickle has said, "The way to remove the darkness from our hearts isn't by focusing on darkness. It is by turning lights on." So every time you glance at your lighted Christmas tree, or light a candle, or turn on a lamp- remember the beautiful radiance of Jesus this Christmas season. And wish Him happy birthday.