First Week of Summer

There are all kinds of events and reflections from the first week of summer!

  • Both kids and my mom were sick with a virus. My son coughed easily through and kept going. My daughter got fever and is still getting over the cold and cough a week later. So a touch of sickness marked our first week.
  • My son began two different camps that will take up 12 hours of his weeks this summer. This has been both exhausting and fun for him. He’s liking the friends he is meeting, and I enjoyed meeting the coaches at a parent meeting one night this week. I’ve been glad to see my son step out into new things without hesitating. He is okay if he doesn’t know anyone, and he’s willing to give new things a try, and I’m thankful.
  • I’m getting used to driving back and forth to my son’s new school! It reminds me so much of my high school. I have loved becoming familiar with all of this, seeing friends out there, and meeting new people.
  • A big storm came across the Midwest this week. We went to my mom’s to stick it out with her and see what would happen. It had been predicted all day, and the weather map made it look like we were in for trouble. We prayed. In the end, it seemed as though maybe we got a little rain, but no hail, tornadoes, or heavy winds and storms that were predicted. It’s so easy in those situations to just say, “Wow, they predicted a huge storm and nothing really came of it.” But I want to say, “Thank you, Lord!” and acknowledge that we did pray and ask Him to let it go around us, and the storm did just that. So we praise Him that we didn’t have to worry that night with power outages and the risk of flooded basements and everything else that can come with dangerous storms.
  • My son and I are in the middle of probably our fifth game of Monopoly! We’ve been spending our extra time playing some games, and he is absolutely hilarious. I had a couple of girl moms at school at the end of the year tell me how much their daughters were going to miss him and how nice he had been to them, how funny he is, how much they enjoy him, and I was wondering about the “funny” part. What is so funny? But I totally get it. Sort of a clever humor tying in things in life to present moments in the game. I can’t even describe it, but we’ve been laughing a lot and having fun.
  • My daughter and I did a little shopping, but she wasn’t feeling so great, so we didn’t get too much accomplished. But it always feels good to get caught up on a few errands.
  • I am enjoying just being home the rest of the time, having a leisurely pace, staying up late, reading, sleeping later, enjoying time with the kids.
  • I read one book this week: Follow Me by David Platt. I would recommend it. It’s thought provoking. It focuses on discipleship and what it looks like to really follow Jesus and make disciples. My own story of how God saved me seems to be in line with the things he shares in this book, so it resonates with me, but he does challenge a lot of things we sometimes see and hear. It has made me also want to read his earlier book Radical¬†which I have on hand to read next.

It’s been a really good, restful, full first week of summer, and I’m thankful.

Summer Update

At the Cubs game Saturday night

My husband returned today from his annual overseas trip. Students travel to Europe for classes and summer credit, and he teaches some of the classes in Italy and Switzerland. They tour many places, and he enjoys traveling and tour guiding/sightseeing. We are glad to have him home, and I praise the Lord for safety and protection.

It is always a busy time of year when he is away. School finished for my children, and I was wrapping up some things at work to slow down for the summer, too. So between field day, Shakespeare, 8th grade promotion, teacher gifts, parent teacher conferences, final field trips, and my working, we were on the go.

Once summer arrives though, we slow down and lose our routine and aren’t sure exactly how to spend our days! But it is a welcome change, and I have caught up on a lot of little things around the house.

So this is a big week for us!

  • I can return to blogging now that we have a computer back in the house.
  • I took my son to a Cubs game on Saturday! We were offered great free tickets, and I managed to figure out how to get there and back all by myself. It wasn’t too hard.
  • My husband arrived home today, just in time for his birthday this week and just after Father’s Day.
  • We picked up my husband’s third book in the Chiveis trilogy today. It will be released later this month.
The third and final installment!

Camp of the Woods

Our family just got back from Camp of the Woods, a family camp in New York. My children claim it’s their favorite place on earth. Here is the only family picture we got, right before we left on Saturday to head home. This is right outside our cabin which was on the beach.

The weather was so beautiful and warm (well, let’s be honest, HOT some of the time – in the 90s with no air conditioning), and the children loved boating, tubing, swimming, etc. The camp has speakers, and my husband was the seminar speaker for the week. We had a blast with the several families in our unit who were other speakers or there to teach the week’s sport of floor hockey.

My daughter spent many hours in the arts and crafts area, while they both enjoyed putt putting, the game room, and the rock climbing wall. We went whitewater rafting one day, too. So we can’t complain about warm weather. It was much better than needing a fleece for cool temperatures or a raincoat for rain (both of which we’ve experienced in past years).

We came back home through Albany, NY, and saw the state capital. It was closed, so the best we could do was take a few pictures. We were all pretty tired then anyway, and hot, so my husband took my son to the movies while I took my daughter to the mall and lunch while we waited for our afternoon flight.

We now have new friends in TX, AZ, NY, OH, NE, PA, MI, and VA! It was sad to leave this fun group of new friends. We spent each evening by the campfire with a few families, making smores and other food items, fighting the mosquitoes and getting to know each other better. The children have lots of new friends, young and old. So thankful for older boys setting good examples. My son loved hanging out with them and learning to play sand volleyball.

Our teaching was excellent, studying the life of Abraham. The Lord had used stories from Abraham’s life in my life during the spring, and so hearing these messages was such a blessing, hearing how God wouldn’t let him put stakes in the ground and the reasons why. We left encouraged.

If you are ever looking for a wonderful getaway for your family, check out COTW!

Summer So Far

We’ve had a relatively busy summer. My husband participated in graduation at the college where he works on a Saturday in May. He then started 2 weeks of summer school the following Monday. The last day of summer school, he left for Europe and was gone 25 days!

While he was leading a student tour through Italy and Switzerland, I was finishing the school year with my children. We ended school on a Friday, which also was my last day working at the school (in a job I had loved!) after being there since its beginning over 5 years ago. The following Monday, I started a new job which God clearly led me to this year and for which I am also so very thankful. My mom came in town for 2 weeks to help me with the transition until my husband returned.

In the transition, I gave up my computer and cell phone, which belonged to the school but which I was allowed to have for personal use as well, and I have been learning to enjoy more of a technology free life. It’s been good for me to not spend as much time on the internet when I have spare time, but to do better things.

My children and I have been to the pool a lot this summer. I’ve enjoyed reading while they swim. I finished Uncle Tom’s Cabin (what an incredible book!) and am now on Pilgrim’s Progress. I have a friend who is newly seeking the Lord, and she is reading Pilgrim’s Progress, so I thought it would give us something to dialogue about.

I’ve also written a lot more letters. For a while, I was trying to keep my stationery on hand and send out one a day. I wrote a letter to a couple who have meant a lot to me in my life since my childhood, but it occurred to me that I had never said it! The reply letter I received within a week showed me what it meant to them! I have also written more timely thank you notes. I’ve also tried to act when I feel like the Lord is moving my heart with the thought of someone to do something for him/her.

One thing I’ve most enjoyed: memorizing and reflecting on Scripture. I decided to just randomly pick out passages of the Bible that I’ve memorized in the past, but just can’t quite remember all the words. For example, Philippians 4:4-9 — when it gets to verses 8-9, I would always forget the order of these words: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you.”

I can now say them all and know what I am really supposed to reflect on and think about when my mind is tempted to think on other kinds of things (worry, anger, bitterness, pride, self, etc.). So my goal has been not to introduce all new passages, but just to really nail down the ones I should know. I’ve gone over Psalm 103, James 1, I Peter 1, Ephesians 6:10-20, and the Philippians 4:4-9. I’m trying to add a section each day.

Over the days I’ve been doing this, I’ve been blessed in so many ways. Tonight, I just blew it, stumbled and fell spiritually. I loved it that as I was praying asking God for forgiveness, the words of Psalm 103 were flowing through my head: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins or punished us according to our iniquities… as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

And as I pondered the first 5 verses about blessing the Lord and the benefits He give us (He forgives our iniquities, heals our diseases, redeems our life from destruction, crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies, and satisfies our mouth with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s), I realized that not only is God so gracious to wipe away our sins, but He goes so much farther with blessings! He crowns us and satisfies us and gives us so many blessings! He doesn’t just take our sins and then sort of keep us at a neutral place; no, He delights to give good gifts to His children, and so many of those ways are listed out in Psalm 103. It was so humbling to think on His great mercy and grace, so undeserved, yet so lavishly given.

Well, my husband brought home an iPad from a trip to Atlanta this weekend, a gift he received. I guess technology is back for me, at least in the form of letting me read my emails in a timely way! But hopefully, I’ll be a little wiser in my time and enjoy the things I’ve been learning in technology’s absence.

A page in my memory journal:

Summer Lessons

I’m finally remembering to do my summer wrap up post on how the Lord revealed Himself so mercifully to me during challenging times.

From the moment my husband planned our Europe trip, I dreaded it. I didn’t want to leave the children, I was anxious to travel overseas, and I am quite simply a homebody. I am a creature of habit and routine, and travel has always caused upheaval for me to leave my comfort zone. There are only a few exceptions, such as Florida, the Smokies, going to the lake, family camp, or other trips with my family. Nonetheless, I felt like it was the right decision to go, and I was encouraged to do so by many friends and family members.

Several times a week in the weeks prior to the trip, I would wake up in the night with an anxious heart, confess it to the Lord, acknowledge that this fear was not from Him, pray, quote Scripture, and return to sleep. Oftentimes, I would even wake up and scream out from crazy confusion in my sleep!

As the trip grew closer, my feelings of nervousness grew, the stress even manifesting itself in physical ways, but my decision to go was also certain. I would not back out. I was waiting to be surprised by how magnificent a trip it would be and to surely discover that my fears were unwarranted; somehow I expected to find out that maybe I would be a world traveler and be excited to plan future trips! I was also sort of waiting to be blessed for my “obedience” to go, if I’m honest!

No matter how much I had prayed about it during those weeks, there didn’t seem to be any kind of confirming word from the Lord speaking directly to my concerns. I just held on to what I knew was truth as found in the Bible, and I kept on in prayer, waiting for Him to help me. He did. There were nights I was comforted, nights I was blessed by reciting Scripture, and His presence was real. But I really wanted specific insight into how to handle this trip, and I didn’t have that.

Until the day before I left. June 13th. I love that about God. There is purpose in the waiting of learning to trust and obey Him, to believe Him even when we can’t see or know the outcome. And at the right time, He just provides exactly what is needed.

I was down in Memphis dropping off my children, planning to fly back to Chicago that afternoon to then fly the following day to Europe. It was a Sunday, and we did not make it to church. My mom’s friend called and said she wanted to bring by the CD of the sermon that she had just heard. It was by Reggie Sessions, pastor at Independent Presbyterian in Memphis. I’d never heard him before, but this was an excellent message from I Samuel 18, I believe. He talked about the slavery of living in our kingdom, the freedom of getting out of the way, and what we find at the end of the line.

In looking at the life of Saul, he described that it is when we live to protect our kingdom that we are bitter, jealous, resentful, angry — “it takes away our humanity,” he said, and we become a shell of a human being. We’re trying to be God and the center of our universes, and we’re bad at it. We want to be free, but we’re addicted to our kingdom.

He then talked about how we need to get out of the way. He looked at the life of Jonathan, Saul’s son, who surrendered to David’s kingship. He got off the throne and didn’t demand his rights. He laid his life into David’s hand, and gave David his sword, belt and bow.

Reggie described how we are at war with God, but we must surrender. We are fighting against Jesus the King and don’t want to surrender control of our lives. To stand down and be broken is the only way to liberation and peace of mind.

At the end of the line, there is nothing left to hide and no more attempts to control the world. This is where there is peace and joy. He described THE Person (Jesus) who got off His throne for us, who came to give us abundant life. When we surrender and go to the end of the line, “we get our true humanity back.” At the end of the line, it’s not loss, but gain.

What I found so convicting in the message was the description of one trying to control her life. Reggie said, “Some of you are too afraid to leave Memphis and all the things you love to go on a vacation.” It was funny how there were perfect quotes throughout the sermon that were completely accurate to my situation.

Later in the day, I was sitting in the Memphis airport delayed on my flight to Chicago. I began to pray and got out my journal to write my thoughts. They centered on the faithfulness of God: “Lord, You have been faithful!” I wrote a couple of paragraphs on His faithfulness and accompanying verses, then wrote, “You are asking me to do something so outside of my comfort zone, but I thank you for speaking to me, and I pray You will show me Yourself and reveal Yourself to me all along the way, just like You did with the sermon this morning.”

As I sat there, praying and listening, I wrote down what was on my heart: “Just take the next step. One step at a time. Wait on Me. Trust Me.

When I finally boarded the plane to Chicago a short time later, I opened up a book my mom had given me. It was The Saving Life of Christ by Ian Thomas. I’d never opened it before; it was a completely new book to me.

I opened the first page, and it said, “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.” (I Thess. 5:24) He then writes, “If you will but trust Christ, not only for the death He died in order to redeem you, but also for the life that He lives and waits to live through you, the very next step you take will be a step taken in the very energy and power of God Himself…. You will be restored to your true humanity.

Not only did the book begin by talking about the very contents of my prayer moments before — God’s faithfulness and my call to trust Him and take the next step — but it also re-affirmed the words in the sermon from Reggie — in so doing, you will be restored to your true humanity!

As I read this book, it absolutely amazed me that it spoke so directly to my current situation. As Ian Thomas developed life in the wilderness versus walking in abundance with Christ each day, he even wrote: “Do you still consider that you have the right to choose where you will spend your vacation? You do not have that right! Except in the wilderness!”

Over and over, the book spoke to my specific situation, and while I had waited for the Lord to speak to me, He so mercifully met me in such a powerful way.

The following day, June 14th, in traveling to Europe, I just did what He had shown me: take the next step. All I need to think about is the next step… not be worried about what is beyond it. So I would stand in the line to check my bags. All I need to do is check the bags. Then I would figure out boarding, and take that step. And the trip became just a series of steps wherein I could trust Him with each one.

When I was threatened to be overcome with fear, I could just remember He was with me, He is faithful, He would take me through this step, I could trust Him.

I hope I will hang on to these lessons as I go forward in my life. There were so many other things over the remainder of the summer, but these things really stick out to me. He is all we need, and He is more than enough. It is right to let Him be on the throne, to let Him guide us in each successive step, to believe Him for those moments and trust His sovereignty. He is faithful; He is good. I praise You, Lord!

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:23 (ESV)