Monday, March 30, 2009

Glorious Hope for a Glorious Day

I was grinning from ear to ear and running around in a frenzy all over Audubon Park Saturday morning- the excitement of getting to run with my little sister at such a beautiful venue was almost too much for me to take. The daddies had taken the kids to the zoo and the hour was ours for the taking. It was SO nice. The sky was blue, the chill in the air was refreshing, and the park was buzzing with everything from crawfish boils to golf to Tai Chi. It was SO nice. And yes... I ran with my camera in hand. I knew it was going to be good.

Karen is quite the superstar and is going to be running her first 1/2 marathon in Dallas this weekend. I'm so proud of her in so many ways- she's a beautiful woman, dedicated wife, talented musician, wonderful mom, and now we're adding persevering runner to the list. Go KK!

Like I said, I was giddy.

The live oaks that lined the track were beautiful in every way.

Karen pointed out the resurrection fern which hung from the mossy branches. She remembered the preacher at my dad's graveside service speaking about the resurrection fern covering the trees. As we're looking forward to celebrating Easter in all its glory, what a word it spoke to my heart. The reality of the resurrection is glorious hope. May its truth wash over us all this season.

"How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord."
I Corinthians 15:57

So as I ran and thought about the fern and what it symbolizes, I could almost hear David Dent singing and swinging those arms with a huge grin: "O Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever..."

It was a great run.

My Monday Morning Madness

I am totally procrastinating, but I thought I would recount for you the scene at our house this morning because I find it quite amusing.

Anna Grace tossed her cookies last night, so she's home from school.
Fox and the Hound is playing in the background. I'm just not that strong.
Both kids got into mommy's scarves and yes, that is a scarf around Zeke's waist in the video. His idea.
Zeke is stomping around the house "singing" his own Rock Band version of "Eye of the Tiger."
Like I said, wonderfully amusing. Messy, but wonderful.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The work of His hands

"In the beginning, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands." Psalm 102:25

I'm starting to realize how important it is that we really get it. Consider it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The good, the bad, and the ice cream

A day in the life of me.

1. the good: I got a few hours to myself this morning.
the bad: I spent almost all of it cleaning the house.
the ice cream: I bought myself some sunflowers along with the
obligatory paper towels and laundry detergent.

2. the good: There's this plastic giraffe that came with some sort of
kid's meal (Melman from Madagascar) and he says
three really annoying phrases all the time. He's been
haunting me all over the house, so I tried to throw
him away today. I got a good laugh at the note
"someone" left after they had apparently fished him
out of the garbage.
the bad: At first glance, I really thought I was about to receive
some sort of romantic or at least encouraging note
from my husband. It was a bit of a let down.
the ice cream: My husband can still make me laugh.

3. the good: Since Anna Grace missed her friend Madeline's
birthday last weekend, we picked her up from school
and had a "girl day" at the Boardwalk.

the bad: They chose blue cotton candy flavored ice cream. Yuck.

the ice cream: Well... what can I say? It was blue but they liked it.

4. the good: I finished the day with a run with Nora. It was a great time to blow off some steam (figuratively and literally) and laugh with such a comfortable, wonderful friend.

the bad: I was sucking wind. It was not my best run.

the ice cream: I felt like a new woman afterward.

I feel like I can't leave out the great chat I had with my new buddy over a boiled shrimp po-boy, but I think I'll save that post for another day.

There you have it. A day in the life of me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Technology Schmeckmology

Since I put my Blackberry through the laundry a few weeks ago and then dropped my other phone in the toilet last night, Jack went out and got me a $20 go phone. My phone looks like a dinosaur next to his fancy-schmancy iphone, but it serves its purpose. When I got home, he really got me worrying because he said my phone kept calling his phone all day. I could just picture a crazy phone calling frenzy to everybody on my phone's address list from my pediatrician's office to my sister's mother-in-law.

Then he told me that my phone kept asking him what his phone was doing to get ready for Y2K.

Yes, it's my fault that I can't take care of my hand-held device, but come on... must I really be taunted?

Monday, March 23, 2009

No, it's not pleasant at the time

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11

We've hit the terrible two's with full force. I'm talking about screaming, fits, tears, and defiance of every kind. It's bad. This picture just about sums it up.

I've realized that maybe it's hard and surprising because Zeke has always been such a happy-go-lucky little fellow. He was always a very loving, very kind little one. He still has the capacity for great sweetness, but lately we're having to endure painful discipline way more often than I would like. It's very painful for us both- for my heart, for my sanity, and for his hiney that sits in time-out.

But this weekend, I had a little birdie in my ear coaching me and encouraging me along the way. Whenever I came up to catch my breath from my battles with my little man, my heart was encouraged in persevering. "You're doing a good, job," and "Keep it up, momma," Lydia told me over and over. It was such a sweet gift from God. When you're home with your kids, that's just it. You're home with your kids. There's no report cards or performance reviews. It's just you doing the best you can without any feedback or validation and sometimes, it's just plain hard.

I know there will be many more battles to come, but I'm so thankful for how the Lord has equipped me for this huge task called parenting. He's given me friends who come visit me from very far away to encourage my heart, He's given me grandmothers with great wisdom and a heart to help and give me little respites here and there, He's given me His word to meditate on even in the midst of temper tantrums, and He's given me His Spirit- to lead and guide me when I don't know how to take even the next step.

Right now, my prayer for Zeke and me is that we would see a harvest of righteousness and peace through this sometimes painful discipline. Better now than later, right?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jack the Runner

My husband rocks.

27:15 for a 5K? Not too shabby for my man...
The proof is in the pudding- here he is rubbing shoulders with some really serious runners.
I'm so proud.

Then and now

How did they grow up so fast?

Today, our two betrothed ones were in the front yard. Benjamin had picked a bunch of weeds for AG and she came to show me her newly received arrangement.

I replied with something about Benjamin loving her.

Benjamin stopped, turned around and made sure she knew it was true. "Yeah, I really love you, Anna Grace."

Pure. Sweetness.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Trucks, trucks, and more trucks

... and one sad little girl. She's hanging in there, but there was much holding and laying around today. As you can see, Lyd has not been able to keep from holding our sick one, so keep those prayers coming!

But the boys had fun. Blue skies + lots of trucks = three hours of happy play for our little boys.

My traveling hero

I know that "greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friend," but driving by yourself from Kansas City to Shreveport with two small children just for a visit has got to be up there on the list of things you do for love. Please pray for her- she's the only one who didn't get a flu shot and Anna Grace, of course, has the flu. Chariganitis strikes again (notice I've started it's own label). Grrr...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Caves and Crack

The kids had a blast with their kid cave on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the video is way lame compared to the other clip I got of Jack joining them. There was much crack involved followed by a full moon. Too much for the blogosphere, I think...

His arms are rods of gold set with chrysolite- part two

It all started at my church's event on Thursday night. Nora and I had chosen Hebrews 12:1 for our table's theme (because the Corinthians verse was too long) and all started coming together- both figuratively and literally.

This verse has always had an unique hold on my heart and I've often focused on the connotation of the "great cloud of witnesses" part in reference to the loved ones who've gone before me along with that great hall of faith expository in Hebrews 11. Nora and her mom were thinking maybe we should have come without our clothes in the theme of the "throwing off everything" part (and we got a great laugh). And we, of course, featured the "run with perseverance" that has been quite the theme of the day as we have prepared for our race.

The speaker that night spoke about Esther. It was that after-dinner time when mothers of small children sort of wind down, so I didn't catch it all, but I do know that the gist of her exhortation was for us to recognize the importance of the place to which we have been assigned, to cast off all that holds us back, to live with intentionality, and to run with perseverance. Then she referenced our table's verse:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1

I don't know where the sermonette went from there, but what struck my heart this time was "the sin that so easily entangles." The Lord spoke so clearly to my heart that this was my testimony. His hands are the hands that have untangled me, set me free from the sin and shame that have held me captive, rendering me unable to run with Him or to Him.

When I was little girl, I remember holding my hands up to heaven, and singing along with my Agapeland record, "My hands belongs to you, Lord. My heart belongs to you, Lord. My life belongs to you, Lord." And my testimony is that even though I got really messed up and turned around and tangled up in sin for a number of years in between then and now, His hands have untied me and set me free. When I had pushed Him to the margins of my life, His arms still longed to hold me close. When I turned back, His arms were wide open as I ran to Him. Those hands, those arms are so good. They are gold. They are the hands that skillfully set me free from the sin that so easily entangles- those sins that tied me up in knots of captivity.

A couple of days later as I rounded the corner of Valentine Street in Little Rock Sunday morning, it struck me that the One who loves me is calling me to the finish line- arms open wide. He has set me free to run with Him and to Him. The Lord in His great mercy and kindness has given me, through the physical act of running, such a picture of what it means to run with perseverance as in Hebrews 12:1.

On a shuttle ride to the next relay station of the race, the Lord used a T-shirt to tie it all together for me. The bright pink and yellow caught my eye and these words struck my heart as I squinted to decipher the reference:
"I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free." Psalm 119:32
That was it. I had been set free from the sin that so easily entangled me and it was my time to run to Him- in the path of His commands. I'm not yet completely sanctified or perfect (obviously), but my heart feels so significantly free, so unhindered and energized, that I can run to Him with the strength that only He imparts.

Our minister at church gave a sermon not too long ago in which he spoke about bringing things to God. He recounted some memories of tangled and knotted shoelaces that had brought him extreme frustration as a kid. He remembered always taking them to his mom and how she could always get it loose again.

So bring those knots to Him. He is able, and willing, to untie them- proclaiming you free.

May we all run to this Beautiful One with who holds His beautiful arms wide open.

"His arms are rods of gold set with chrysolite..." Song of Songs 5:14

Monday, March 16, 2009

Team Graney: The Stats

Team Graney had so much fun this weekend at the Little Rock Team Relay Marathon! Drumroll, please, for the race day stats:

Number of hours of good sleep that Nora and Jason got on the sofa bed at the Peabody: zero (Jack and I won the rights to the more comfortable roll-away beds via a victory in a rousing game of Imaginiff... sorry Greers! :))

Number of $ saved because Joe Biden stayed at our hotel and messed up our reservation, relegating us to a room with out a bed: 150

Number of coffee cups and bagels the team downed before the race: 4 and 4

Number of degrees Fahrenheit that chilly morning: 49-54

Number of race day volunteers that we could find to help us understand where to go for our relay: zero (no worries, we eventually figured it out)

Number of Elvis sightings: 1

Number of ankle bracelet hand-offs: 3

Number of medals received for our four person relay: 3 (the administration of the race left much to be desired)

Number of shuttle rides between relay stations: 3

Number of total miles run: 26.2

Number of hours, minutes, seconds it took us to run: 4:11:19

Our average pace overall (minutes per mile): 9:36

And last, but not least, we finished as the 58th out of 157. We were as happy as can be with our times and I am so proud of all my team members! What a great job they all did and what fun we had!!!

More to come on what the Lord has taught me through it all...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The corn dog cunundrum

I'd really like to post about our fabulously fantastic race today, but I'm afraid that's going to have to wait.

But in the meantime...

If you've done any amount of roadtripping in the US, you've probably been to a Flying J. You know... where they have a really bizarre assortment of everything from pleather bomber jackets for babies to a dozen fake roses for your sweetheart to slot machines next to the bathroom. You know... that Flying J?

Well, we stopped at one on our way up to Little Rock yesterday and as Jack and I were checking out with our diet Cokes and Special K snack bars, the cashier asked us, with a quite astonished tone I might add, "No corn dog for you today?"


"No, no corn dog today." Jack very nicely replied.

It was amusing enough that she was so surprised that we didn't want a corn dog, but it was even better when we found out back in the car that she had really pushed the corn dog on our friend Jason, too. It was like there was some kind of corn dog special. For some reason, Nora didn't get the corn dog pitch. I guess she didn't look like corn dog material.

I don't know. It was just a strange scene.

Now that I think about it, it's too bad I couldn't buy them all and beam them over to East Asia. I know someone over there who would have loved to been behind the counter at a Flying J, purchasing a hot corn dog.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I believe in miracles! Come dine with me (pause)... spiritually

Can you hear the tune? You have Jack Chaney to thank for that one.

Nora and I were asked to contribute our decorating prowess to our church's women's event aptly entitled "Come Dine With Me, Spiritually."

I say decorating prowess with a smirk because I don't know about Nora, but I don't have much skill in the area of decoration. However, despite the average age of the attendee being in the upper 60's, despite much wondering how it was going to come together, despite the business of life with small children (and Nora has been WAY busy with a full time job, taking care of her three little ones, testing for a certification and- oh yeah- MOVING), it came together. We pulled together some trophies, water bottles, and running bibs courtesy Sportspectrum and it turned out okay.
The cool part about it is that the scriptural theme of our table was Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Nora and I, along with our husbands, are headed up to Little Rock today to run in the Little Rock Marathon as a team tomorrow morning. So our table's theme was filled with meaning and the Lord really is speaking on a theme.

I'm telling you... the blog gas is building...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is this a comedy or a tragedy? Sometimes I'm not sure.

This morning, I was awoken by Jack sitting on my leg as he went to put on his shoes. I gave him a nice, morning, get-off-of-me kick which, obviously, did not go over well.

Then there was the screaming and the crying of the children which just didn't stop. It was a nightmare of a morning.

After Zeke calmed down, I went to change his poop. To placate his squirminess, I gave him the wipe he was asking for. He proceeded to wipe himself and then took it right up for a good nose-blowing.

To laugh or to cry? That is the question...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Meet our new friends

When I found the Martha Stewart puppets that my Aunt Polly had given us a long time ago, Anna Grace and I immediately and feverishly worked to assemble our new friends.

We had multiple puppet shows, but none better than the one that Jack and I put on for Anna Grace in which Jack insisted on his character being referred to as "the bird." Not just "bird," but "the bird."

So Jack Chaney.

Regardless, it was really fun.

Monday, March 9, 2009

His arms are rods of gold set with chrysolite

"His arms are rods of gold set with chrysolite." Song of Songs 5:14

His arms have been on my heart and mind. The NKJ translation reads, "His hands are rods of gold set with beryl." So I've been pondering the beauty of His hands, His arms... or His activity, what He does, how He directs life in this vast universe.

To me, it's easy to look up at the sky in complete wonder and awe at the Lord and the work of his hands. The heavens declare His handiwork. He is the One "who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth..." (Isaiah 44:24). He declares, "It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts." (Isaiah 45:12). I have moments of wonder I'll never forget- looking up at the night sky, marveling at the terrifying limitlessness of the God of it all. His arms, His hands are truly beautiful in bringing forth such creative work.

I think a lot of us also find it easy to see the beauty of the hand of God throughout redemptive history in the big picture of it all. We see the gift of the earth at creation- that it was good and perfect. That at the very inception of sin and death entering the picture through the fall of Adam, God promised redemption of the earth and restoration of all things through the Son of Man that would crush the head of Satan as in Genesis 3:15. We see the work of God throughout human history and the provision of this Savior. We see Jesus stretching out His beautiful hands on the cross, to take the nails and bear our sin and we see the beauty. It is stunning and really unfathomable. Truly His arms, His hands are beautiful. We rejoice in the way He was raised from the dead, as the first fruits of what is to come- the promise and reality of the resurrection. The free gift of eternal life, the way He has offered it so freely, the grace He imparts, the way He works... it's all so beautiful, isn't it? The apostle Paul couldn't hold back. After an exposition on the redemption of Israel, his doxology flows from a heart stunned by the beauty of the Lord's activity:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33-36

If you're a believer, you've been there. You've marveled at the grace and goodness of God in forgiving you, redeeming you, loving you, wooing you, calling you to Himself, and working in this fallen world a work of redemption bigger than anything you could ever imagine.

The hard part, I think, comes in the second part of the verse. That His arms are set with chrysolite. As a jewel is set on purpose, with great precision and intentionality, He moves and works on purpose and as we all experience intense pain in this fallen world, it's sometimes hard to see that beauty in the microchosm of our lives.

I've been particularly thinking about this because I've been feeling like my prayer list has been growing to become unmanageable. Sometimes, I feel like my heart just can't take it. It's the pain and the struggle of cancer, the mom who found out the baby inside her won't live past birth, the other baby who will be born soon, but who won't have a daddy, and the premature death of someone in my old youth group from church. I'm surrounded by broken bones, dysfunctional neurology, ravaged lungs, sickly hearts, and the patients and families who are dealing with the fallout. I can't keep up. The list keeps growing and my heart keeps hurting. Why doesn't He stop it all? He can, but why doesn't He?

Before my daddy died six years ago, I feel like the Lord prepared my heart by giving me a sermon series on transitions by Andy Stanley (I can't find a link to it... I guess it's kind of old and obscure). He went through the ins and outs of all kinds of transitions and what our response should be in transitions that seem hard and sometimes wrong. At the end, a woman who had gone through horrific pain gave her testimony and shared a prayer that moved my heart. She had prayed, "Lord, I accept this as coming from your hand. Please help me act like a woman who knows that you are with her." Whether or not He had caused her pain, He had certainly allowed it to befall her. But her hope was sure in the Lord. Things aren't as they should be, but He will come to make all things new and that is our hope. He only holds back because of His long suffering. He waits for all who will to come into His kingdom and respond to the Good News of Jesus.

So at my dad's graveside service, I nervously spoke briefly and prayed that prayer that I'm sure ruffled a few feathers.

But even now, looking back on it, I feel like it is the confession of Job: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1:20)

The confession of the three Hebrew exiles in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar who were thrown into the blazing fire for refusing to worship the statue echos a similar conviction. The three stunningly replied to their accusers that, "...the God we serve is able to save us from it [the fire], and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were saved through the fire. Job's family was not. But either way, what's true is that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). All things. He may not cause these horrible things in this horribly fallen world where death reigns, but He works them together- somehow- for the good of those who love Him. Whether we're saved and refined in the fire or whether we are called into His presence, He works and He's intentional and the work of His hands remains beautiful. He has the final word and he WILL abolish death forever (I Corinthians 15:26).

The pain is hard to bear. Sometimes it seems like to much. But His grace is sufficient and rest assured, my brothers and sisters- He will make all things new with His beautiful, healing, comforting, sustaining hands.

Psalm 118:14-17 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things! The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!" I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.

Psalm 136:12 With a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.

I still struggle and I'm still muddling through it all, learning what He's really up to and what's on His heart. I don't claim to have all the answers to all the pain, but I know the Lord is good. I know He is love. Mike Bickle, in his Song of Songs commentary, states, "Wherever there is lack of discernment of [God's] activity, there will be lack of affection for Him." I think the converse is also true. I yearn to know Him and His purposes more and more as I grow in love with the One who is love.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The work of His fingers

Psalm 8

O LORD, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. You have taught children and nursing infants to give you praise. They silence your enemies who were seeking revenge. When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers-- the moon and the stars you have set in place-- what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us? For you made us only a little lower than God, and you crowned us with glory and honor. You put us in charge of everything you made, giving us authority over all things-- the sheep and the cattle and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents. O LORD, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Meatloaf? Really?

I interviewed Anna Grace with one of those circulating lists. The highlights (direct quotes):

What is the difference between you and your mommy?
"She has lots of pairs of tennis shoes and I only have one pair."

What is your mommy's favorite food?

What is your mommy good at?

How do you know your mommy loves you? (and this one was quite revealing of AG's love languages... or maybe mine)
"She tells me all the time."

Also, this is a picture Anna Grace drew of the family a while back. I thought it was funny that Zeke was little and green.

What to read before bed

I was thinking about posting this last night, but then I remembered my sister's Literacy Thursday!

I've tried out all kinds of Bibles for children. It's sort of a strange dynamic because none of them, of course, are a word for word account of the Old or New Testament. So it gets kind of tricky. But Lydia gave Anna Grace Shelia Walsh's "Sweet Dreams Princess"- a Bible story/devotional book for bedtime that has been fabulous (there's a little boy's version as well). The book is great in presenting a biblical account and then relating the story to your child in a way they can understand. Promises and prayers are featured at the end which are a perfect to lead you into focused prayer with your little one.

For example, last night we read about Solomon's dream and his request for wisdom. So we talked about what wisdom is, why we need it and why it's important, and then we prayed for the Lord to impart wisdom to Anna Grace- that even at four years old, she would gain wisdom and understanding beyond her years as a testimony to the goodness and wisdom of God.

So if you ever have a hard time knowing what to pray over your little ones, these books are really helpful. So kudos, Sheila Walsh. And thanks, Lydia Harrigan. And praise you, our great and wise God!