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My Mother: A Flurry of Grand Activities!

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always been making and doing stuff. I think she must have an extra set of hands hidden somewhere because I can't for the life of me think how she got so much done on top of feeding, clothing, and bathing us four kids. There's no doubt about it. The Taylor house was a flurry of grand activities. She ran church programs, taught Women of the Word Bible studies, housed foreign exchange students, shuttled us around to friends' houses and summer sports programs, held all the major celebrations at her house, allowed us to have sleepovers (which is huge in my mind), hosted kids from the African Children's Choir to stay with us, and planned themed birthday parties where she lead all the games and baked the cake herself. Even when attending meetings and bible studies her hands were busy with one project or another. In the summer, she planned clay days and art days and museum days and theme-park days. We kids had no reason whatsoever to

Comstock Chronicles: How The Children Play

As you can imagine, my three children have become quite close over the last year. Lee and Rose are best mates. They call each other "honey" and pretend to be running a house until Lee can't stand it any longer and ends the game with a tornado or an enemy attack. He is an excellent example of why it's not good for boys to do domestic things for too long.  At night, they crawl into each other's beds by way of the gap they've created between the wall and their triple bunk. They seem to like this self-made chute better than the highly accessible ladders. They would sleep in one another's beds too except I usually catch them at it. Since this picture was taken, Lee now sleeps on the bottom, Benny in the middle, and Rose on the top. This makes their vertical highway between one another longer. When Lee has gone up to my parent's cabin for the night or when Rose has a slumber party at Grandma and Grandpa Stevens' house, there is a chilly atmosphere betwee

The Insurmountable Tax

If doing good things for God's glory is like money, we humans seem to have been born broke. And in order to fulfill God's required tax, which is his moral law written on all our hearts compelling us to live in a sacrificial, unselfish God-honoring way, we tend to acquire money in one of two ways: by stealing or using counterfeit money. The stealers understand their emptiness best. They know they're broke. They know they don't have it in them to serve others or give up their time or money or power willingly. And they're terrible fakers. So they go off and steal or wait around until the circumstances are just right so that they can give without really giving at all. The weather, their mood, their financial situation, their to-do list, etc, everything has to be in alignment before they can give. These thieves can look different from one another. There are the overt thieves, such as the drunkards, prostitutes, drug-addicts, tyrants, and misers. But there are also the mo

The Oath-Bringer God of the Old Testament

I've been going through the Old Testament with my kids. We've finished Genesis and Exodus, skimmed through Leviticus, and now we're on Numbers. And let me tell you, this God of the Old Testament is no joke. At one point Rose turned to me and said, "This is not God!" It definitely doesn't seem like he's gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. This Old Testament God strikes the Israelites with plagues for disobedience. He commands his people to stone someone for collecting wood on the Sabbath. He gives Mariam a skin disease when she undermines Moses authority.  I've come to three conclusions. One: My sin is much worse than I realize. Two: I can't survive in the presence of a Holy God. Three: I need protection from him. The trouble comes when I think God must be like me. For example, when the Israelites grew sick of manna, they complained to Moses (Numbers 11: 4-6 NIV). So God gives them quail and then strikes them wit

No Judge Accepts Alms

It's hard to accept anything from people we judge as selfish or immature or ruled by passions or fool-hardy or unjust.  I remember complaining about my parents while living under their roof and eating their meals and benefiting from their generosity. My heart didn't feel right within me. I had to invent ungodly reasons why they were generous in order to justify my judgements because the two simply couldn't co-exist: a critical spirit and acceptance of kindness. When we criticize and judge other's hearts as being more wicked than our own, we place ourselves above them. It's like we become a judge with a gown and wig in a courtroom. Those we judge become the lowly hand-cuffed accused. The judge stands on the platform looking down. He holds the gavel. He declares the verdict. "You're not doing life well enough!" "You should be making the same decisions as me!" "You're not worthy!" The acceptance of gifts levels the playing field. I

First Person Limited; Third Person Omniscient

Authors can use various points of view when writing a story. There's first-person limited, which uses I, me, and myself, and is told from one character's perspective. This point of view (POV) usually remains in one character's head. We, as the readers, see everything through that person's eyes and are thus limited in how much we can know about the other characters and events of the story. As you can imagine, this is a very restrictive perspective, and thus hard to write without boring readers. Unless the main character—or author, really—is uber-perceptive about the world around them, readers can grow tired of the narrator's voice. They can tire of the personality and inner-musings of that one character rather quickly.  Third-person POV is more versatile. This perspective takes on multiple points of view using the pronouns he, she, and it instead of the first person pronouns. Third-person omniscient is the most God-like. It can see into everyone's heads. It knows

Before and After Dumpster Diving

Before the adoption, you dug in the trash.  Before, you found your meals at the bottom of dumpsters, and the food you found was rotten and dirty and caused indigestion for several days, but it was all you had.  Before, dumpster diving was your livelihood. You searched the garbage ravenously. You craved spoils. And when you found them, you clutched the scraps close. You hid and ate them, always keeping a wary eye on the alleys and skies lest a beggar or crow or stray dog steal them from you, steal what you had stolen. Before, you had nothing and had to scavange to survive. After, you had everything you needed and more.  After, you ate at the king's table, which was spread with an abundance of food from his farms: pies and pastries, roasts and cold cuts, salads, fruits, and cheeses. Everything you could ever imagine was there.  After, you were provided with more than what you needed: food, clothes, protection, friendship. And dessert. After your adoption papers went through, your deb

Go At Your Own Pace, Benny

Go at your own pace, Benny, On this hike to Millard Falls. Your siblings travel much faster, Benny Then you're able to when  small. Go at your own pace, Benny. And watch where your foot will fall. This trail's challenge enough for you, Benny, So give to your steps your all. Go at your own pace, Benny. And cease "Lee and Rose!" to call. They're caught up in the thrill, Benny. And it's good for them not to stall. Although you long to be with them, Benny, As they run to see what's next, You'll always find someone with you, Benny, When you go at your own pace. Lee's Poem Rose's Poem

Hopelessly Hopeful At Our Rope

Imagine life is like a giant river and we're all trying to get across. We each have our own raft, and we're crossing at different places and at different times. We don't have paddles or oars, just a rope that we know stretches from our side to the other. That's our only way across. We can see where the ropes come out at the other side, but we can't tell which rope is ours because they're all submerged beneath the water.  Imagine also that we see various checkpoints along the way. There's the Island of Nautical Education and a houseboat selling raft upgrades. There are flat rocks protruding from the water where we see yummy snacks or umbrellas or sun hats. There are also sharp dangerous rocks that we know have punctured holes in people's rafts. We have read accounts of various people who have crossed the river before us. We've learned that some intercept very few of those delightful stops along the way; some pass through rough waters, some smooth; som

Meals

Meals are sacrifices  Of dollars  Or time over a cutting board and stove. They are sacrifices  Made by someone to another Like a gift Or compliment Or friendly embrace. What I have I share with you To sustain you for awhile. And those who eat Accept. Meals are pieces of goodness Built-in to our existence. They are occasions to sacrifice Or accept sacrifice, To acknowledge we've enough And remember we need too. They are like trusting  Jesus' brokenness on the cross So our hearts also might be Broken for others. We accept  To give. Always one before the other. Never one without the other. Receive to give. Receive to give. Nothing stagnant Always passed along Like a faith that works Or the body burning calories Always in need Always able to give In need of more Christ Thus able to give more than we have.

To All The Broken People

Have you been disappointed in yourself? Have you failed to do what you thought you ought? Have you said the wrong thing yet again? Have you been unable to achieve all your goals? Have you ruined your chances at that life you wanted? Have you disqualified yourself at being a good person? Be at peace.  God has use for you. Where before you were too satisfied with yourself to find satisfaction in him. Where before you were too hopeful in your own abilities to hope in his. Where before you were enough unto yourself and thus needed nothing more.  Now you are empty and have space. Now you are hopeless and searching. Now you have been weighed and found wanting Wanting him. O broken people,  There is someone who wants you. Who has a use for you,  A position, even a place of honor. He desires to give you a new name.  Son Daughter Friend You will no longer drown in failures, But rejoice that those tears have sent you  To Him. "'Keep your eyes on Jesus,' and you'll find that the

Harvesting the Ocean

O, weak and worrisome heart of mine, Who guards today's joys as if tomorrow had none, Who mourns the passing of each good Because it is not eternal. O foolish grasping heart of mine, Building a wall against the waves To capture the retreating water, Have you forgotten the ocean's expanse Or the constancy of the tide's ebb and flow? Dear heart so starved for God's goodness, The waters will come quench again. As surely as God's breath formed this earth He will wreck your walls with his blessings. Therefore, let today's joys go un-encircled So your hands are free for tomorrow. Let the children grow into adulthood. Say goodbye to those who must go. Abandon your ideals proven hollow. And stop longing for what cannot be. Then enter tomorrow's glory unhindered Fearing not its scarcity or unknown quality, For there is manna waiting in the wilderness When you enjoy today's food today. "His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him.&qu

Eyes Up. Head Down.

Nose to the grindstone. Eyes on the task at hand. Administer consequences. Hold. Comfort. Listen. Teach. What if I was too harsh? What if I was too lenient? What if I ruined them? What if I repeat history? Eyes up. Up ahead. See the net of God's grace All around you, inside and out. The net to catch me, The net to catch them, Made by faith  Not my efforts But what Christ has done. Back to the grind. Stay afloat. Achieve success. Schedule. Budget. Economize. Write lists. Clean. Return calls. Catch my breath with other moms  And suddenly see a difference. One mom prays over her four each night. Another is outrageously spontaneous. That one's house is disgustingly tidy. And that one has published a book. I'm quite sure I'm not enough Not nearly as glorious or good. Head down. Eyes on my own hands. What is it to me If they march to a different beat? I must follow Christ. Nose to the grindstone To God's task for me here, And praise him who doesn't repeat. Back to jug

A Mother's Report Card

At the end of each quarter, A mother's grade is not based  On the number of fights she foresaw and prevented. It isn't calculated by the nutritional meals she makes Minus the fast-food restaurants she's driven through. Nor is it affected by the number of plates left overnight in the sink, Or the appearance of the school projects that she helped complete. It is not derived from her children's behavior in public Or her children's behavior in private Or her children's behavior after they've moved out. A mother's grade is not decided  By the frequency of her prayers for her kids, Or how often she teaches Biblical principles to them, Or the modeling of good-Christian behavior in front of them. A mother's grade is not even based on her demonstrations of love: The familial love, possessive love, or agape love. At the end of each day, A mother's grade is based  On the perfection of her  Savior To whom she commits  Her every feeble attempt, To whom she be

Demanding Other's Sympathy

Have you ever told someone about a difficulty or fear or frustration that you were having, and the person's reaction was anything but sympathetic? Maybe they told you that your problem is nothing compared to theirs, or maybe they tried to make you look on the brighter side, or perhaps they played devil's advocate (I'm often guilty of this). Maybe they told you some cold hard truth and maybe they were right, but it didn't make you feel any better. Perhaps you felt like you weren't being seen or like that person was acting self-centered or unkind. I think that sympathy or understanding is like love or respect. It is what we owe one another, but we cannot demand it from each other. I think this for two reasons. One, it rarely seems to work if we do; and two, I think only God has the right to demand right feelings from people.  First, people don't receive love or respect by demanding it. Sure, we can demand those under our authority to behave in a certain way, but w

The High Price of Doing Good

It seems like bottling up our anger can have the same corrosive power in our souls as venting our anger. Let's say two sisters are fighting. The older is venting and expressing her anger with rude comments and unfair accusations while the younger one holds her tongue and grits her teeth even though, inside, she is equally as angry. The younger one has seen the destructive power of expressing anger like her older sister has and she has decided it's ugly and hurtful and wrong. She has decided she will not do it, and she is right to hold her tongue. She makes the world a nicer place for others. But as the older one goes on with her day and forgets the whole matter, the younger one broods and holds a grudge against her older sister, and her anger seeps out towards others in small simpering ways. Are either of them better off? Has sin been less corrosive within either of their hearts? The older one holds no grudge but has left behind a world of hurt. The younger one didn't shout

Hard Things For Enneagram Numbers to Say

Below are things that each Enneagram number probably finds hard to say. Conversely, these are things that would be good to practice saying. One: the Reformer "It's not perfect, but it's good enough." "I'm really angry." "I need your advice."  "I can't do it correctly." Two: the Helper "I am desperate." "I need your help." "I have no idea how to help you." "No." Three: the Achiever "That person doesn't like me." "I failed at that." "I can't do this." "Your ideas are great as they are!" Four: the Individualist "I'll fall in with the others." "My feelings are wrong and aren't helping me." "I'm a sinner just like everyone else." "Yeah, I'm a typical four." Five: the Observer "I was foolish." "I won't be able to understand this." "I've got plenty to spare."

Major and Minor Issues

Are there categories for sins? Are there minor sins and major sins? We can have minor and major health issues. Minor issues are like mosquito bites or canker sores or dandruff. Major issues are things like stage four cancer or having a stroke or breaking your neck.  We have minor issues quite frequently and deal with them accordingly, maybe with some Calamine Lotion or Head & Shoulders Shampoo. We don't usually go to the doctor for the small stuff, not unless it persists.  Major issues are another story. Major issues are usually life changing. We go straight to the doctor or the emergency room for those. We know the severity. Now if we categorize our physical ailments into major and minor issues (and probably some in-betweens as well), can't we also categorize our sins like this? After all, when we were kids, our parents consequences to us were based on the severity of our crimes. I got reprimanded for seemingly minor offenses to my siblings. I got spanked for disobeying. D

Muscle Memory

I just finished reading the second book of Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Series. These books are mega-huge, over a thousand pages each. And I could write blogs and blogs about some of the inspirational gems of truth in them. These books have ability-enhanced swordsmen and unearthly creatures, mystical gods and epic battle scenes, knights and heralds and surging crystals with magical powers. I wouldn't necessarily recommend them. This guy has invented his own nations, languages, texts, alphabet, animals, plants, ships, underclothing, everything. It was rather tedious getting into the first one. In fact, I didn't start to like it until I was two hundred pages in. But yes, they were worth the hours I spent reading them, and now I understand why my husband and his cousin were glued to them before I read them. I especially like the heroes in them who trained so long and so well at a particular skill that their muscles just acted instinctively in battle. There's this spearma

The Weeping Unmasked Man at the Grocery Store

The other day I was at my neighborhood market, standing in the check out line and observing a man in front of me who was trying to purchase a gift card for someone outside. He told the checker that he was going to make sure the man was still there. Then he jet outside and came back with the individual in need, a man in his forties or fifties with brown leathery-skin and tattoos up his arms. The man in front of me told his friend or acquaintance that he was buying him a ten dollar gift card and would that be enough. The man in need nodded and then began to weep.  It was then that a store employee, a young lady maybe in her twenties, came up to the weeping man and told him that he needed to put on his face mask. I had not noticed up until this point that he wasn't wearing one. She pressed him repeatedly until he found a crumbled mask in his pocket. By that time I was bubbling with anger. Could she not see what was going on? Could she not tell that something more important than face m

The Betrayal of Trust

Do you know that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when you learn that someone has done something alarming? When you learn that a friends' marriage is on the rocks? That someone is moving far away? That a friend has been deeply offended by someone you love? Or is leaving your church in a huff?  I don't mean you feel disappointed. I mean something deeper. You feel sick. Oh no! Not that! Not them! How could they? You feel betrayed, fooled, defensive, maybe even manipulated.  How do you handle those situations? Do you write those people off? Swear you'll have nothing to do with them? Take sides. Try to argue with them? Rethink the past and find evidences that pointed to this outcome? The trouble begins when we believe that the world will go on as it always has, that what we see is stable and reliable. We place ourselves in this universe like my daughter does in her bed, arranging her blankets and stuffed animals in perfect order, never suspecting her brother is in the o

Dear God: I'm Praying. Please Do Not Disturb.

If I would ask the Lord To change a nation Change this church Change that person; But I have no stomach To ask him to change me, Am I not a rather Blunted weapon? If I would ask God To heal my friend Provide for their needs  And fill them with peace; But I never admit My needs or inner illnesses, Have I any acquaintance  With God's power at all? And if I would pray  For the salvation of souls For closed doors to be opened And justice for the oppressed;  But never ask God  For my daily bread, Have I any understanding  Of life's substance at all? If my conversations with God Never discuss my mind's wanderings Never name the emotions within Never voice my rebellion Never kick or scream Never pierce the heart Never draw tears of repentance Never put me on my knees, Then am I so sure It's to God that I speak?

A Country Founded on Equality

Imagine a country founded on equality. We shall call it Harkland. Imagine that Harkland believed that equality was the supreme good under which all other virtues were secondary. However, the people of this country weren't entirely sure what equality meant. Did it mean sameness? Treating everyone as if they were one? Did it mean ensuring that everyone got the same thing? They weren't sure. So the people of Harkland decided it must mean that everyone ought to be given equal opportunity to achieve what they wished regardless of the "appropriateness" or "sensibility" or "goodness" of their desires. So long as nobody's achievements took away from another's achievements anything was allowed. The citizens in Harkland protected their right of originality with a fervor that bordered on paranoia. Entire careers were built on the defense of originality, experimentation without repercussions, and the proving that individuals or business were operating

Values as Pets

Everyone has a pet value. We feed it and fiercely protect it against other pet values, which often bark or sniff or growl. We take it around on a leash and hope others will admire it or pet it or appreciate it. And we believe that in a pet show, our value would win the others. There's the pet Goodness also known as glory. This pet demands that everything be done with excellence. No half-baked attempts. No sub-par achievements. Everything must be good or else prove they're progressing towards goodness. This pet usually barks at mistakes or anything that doesn't look perfect.  There's the pet Peace also known as inner equilibrium or contentment. This sort doesn't let circumstances or emotions disturb them. Nothing gets to them or moves them. This pet will run and hide from obligation or confrontations. Then there's Foresight also known as trust or loyalty. This pet maps out the daily route and considers every conceivable possibility. Their certainty and loyalty re

"I Can and I Will!"

I was rewatching the British Baking Show Season 3's final episode when Nadiya Hussain wins. She is holding her bouquet and cake-stand trophy, and in between tears she says, "I'm never ever going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I'm never going to say, I can't do it. I'm never going to say maybe. I'm never gonna say I don't think I can. I can and I will." Nadiya now has her own Netflix show called Nadiya Bakes.  I imagine winning the bake-off gave her lots of confidence. That prize in her hands, the judges' decision, and a host of spectators were witnesses to it. She won! I wonder. If I had someone declare I had won a writing contest, would I be more willing to put myself out there. If I won Mother-of-the-Year (hahahaha!), would I be a more confident mother? What if I won the Trophy of Selflessness, could I then love with no strings attached, give without running dry, listen without judging, care without worrying about myself? Could my lo

Answering the Lies II

You posted watchmen at every gate, determined to mark the enemy before he marked you. Those cinematic sins wouldn't get past your gates, not while your watchmen stoically stood by keeping out drug addiction and adultery, bigotry and sexism, wastefulness and homelessness. But the Devil is no amateur adversary. He brought no battering rams or siege towers. No, he knew your blind spots, and subterfuge was his game. With only the subtlest of suggestions, he means to collapse the whole city. But you are not without a helper. So to the one berating herself on her weak show of faith, who feels the strain of demanding more and more from herself. To the one who knows that serving Christ should bring her joy but feels nothing but drudgery. Who wants to enjoy a hobby or dessert or TV show, but who can't sit down for fear that she's acting selfishly. "You should be doing better," the lies say. "You should do more." Answer with truth. You are a sheep. You are not Jes

Silver Plating Our Motives

I know of no other sure-fire way of silver plating our motives than to attach the golden rule to them. You see, if I can show that what I want to do is for others and not myself, then certainly no one can find fault with me. In fact, I think we do all manner of mental gymnastics to convince ourselves that we're acting for other's good; therefore, we can proceed as passion desires. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, God knows what is under that silver plating and is not fooled by our tomfoolery. He sees through us when we serve in the hopes of being repaid, quite literally doing to others in the hopes that others will return the favor. He's not taken in when we say we don't want to hurt our witness when in fact we're really managing our self image. He knows when we project ourselves onto others, believing them to be just like us and thus failing to actually see them or understand their pains. And God knows exactly what we're up to when we sacrifice ourselves f