Friday, May 27, 2011

Horn of Plenty

I've been thinking about plastic fruit after reading an article by business expert and author, Tim Sanders. He tells about the horn of plenty that sat in the middle of his grandma's table. When he inquired about it as a young boy, she informed him, "It's not just a decoration. It's a declaration of abundance."

She then explained to Tim, "When I was much younger, there was a terrible Depression in this country. Those were times when everybody talked like sad sacks and counted the days until they lost everything. Spend time with them, and soon you'd catch the fear too. Even though Dad's farms were producing crops and our gas station was busy, he caught a case of it. The talk at the dinner table was always about the economy and who was going broke."

"One day my mother, your granny Hattie, came home from the Five-and-Dime with this horn of plenty. It represented prosperity, something all of us needed to think about..."

"Your granny Hattie gave a speech that night that changed our family forever. She said that the talk around the table was holding us back and keeping our noses to the grindstone. She pointed out how much land we owned and how healthy we were. Then she stood up and announced that as of that moment, for our family, the Depression was over. She made the decision that we needed to move the conversation forward and get on with our lives."

Tim asked, "Was the Depression really over?"

"For us, yes, it was, because from that day forward, we never talked about misery or lack at the dinner table again," she said. "Instead, we started every meal with a discussion of the day's progress. For the rest of the 1930's we found opportunity right and left." (Taken from Chick-fil-* leadership conference, Leadercast journal)
I realize that it may be over-simplifying to say that if we change the way we talk it will completely change our economics. But truth rang with the clang of conviction as I read. In part, because as a country we are living in a season of economic hardship. But still- as the richest nation we whine like the poorest.

Even more piercing was truth I heard from the Holy Spirit concerning my own perspective and situation. As I mulled it over this week, the Lord has been opening my eyes to His creativity in providing for us. It has been tempting to worry about the inconsistency of our paychecks right now. It's easy to hold up my idea of what would make me feel secure and believe anything short of that is lacking. I was reminded that even with fluctuating income, we have been able to do a few Costco trips due to generous friends. Our lights are on, our house is warm, and we are still richer than at least 95% of the world.

I've always dreamed of having a suburban (or 12 passenger van...don't judge me!) to have room for nieces and nephews along with my own kids. We were blessed to find an older suburban in great shape and I smile whenever I fire it up- here I am driving the vehicle I hoped for, in a time that I thought I'd have to "make do". We don't have a predictable check on predictable days but it has made God's provision so much more obvious. Even as we short sale our house, we have a great roof over our heads and some potential roofs when the season here is over.

My convictions were challenged this week when we lost a donor who gave a substantial amount to our ministry, due to economic hardship. We cringe as we feel like we are treading water, but then simultaneously God shows us His abundance.

This week His abundance showed up in the form of a '94 truck. S. has been looking for months for a truck that he can make into a stage truck for concerts, speaking engagements, and for some things BIG OAK is doing at the fair this summer.. Originally a friend at a dealership was trying to find a trade in for it. Now in a time crunch, he instead generously offered to donate toward one we find. Initially it looked like an uphill battle to raise the difference and do the leg work.

But, wow. In the past week we have had a handful of people donate toward the truck S. found that exactly fit his vision. It didn't stop there. The people who happened to sell it to him also happen to attend our church and support what BIG OAK does. Then they happened to volunteer to do the stage conversion and happened to connect us with another business who generously donated a flatbed that they had just happened to obtain the previous day. S.'s co-worker and close friend just happened to learn pin striping this year and is going to be able to do the design work on the truck. Another generous man is volunteering his time to complete the interior.

Today we are marveling at God's creativity. We thought provision would entail a big check. Never did we imagine it would involve an entire team of people catching the same vision. Now many people get to participate using their own gifts and BIG OAK gets a sweet truck that will get much use as S. shares Christ with students.

Isn't it easy to always feel like we are lacking? Yes, we might own a home but until that mortgage is paid down, we can't rest. Yes, I might have a savings account but until it is 5 times my monthly income I won't feel "safe". Yes, I might start a retirement fund but I'm plagued by the fear that I might have to pay for a nursing home and it won't be enough. The what-ifs, the fears, the constant measuring against what other people have destroys me. It puts the responsibility for abundance on my own head instead of doing the work God puts in front of me and understanding that God is a God of abundance.

Often in this season S. and I have been reminded of the Israelites in the desert. When God gave them manna and quail, it was enough for the day. They complained that they couldn't save it (just in case God didn't come through) and complained about the lack of variety. What an insult to God who was each morning filling their need before they were even awake to collect it. How quickly we stop stepping out of our tent to say, "WHOA! The manna is here AGAIN!" "Can you believe this?! The quail is BACK... what are we going on- forty years of provision here? What a God we serve! Woo-hoo!"
How quickly we pout and whine, "Only enough for today? Why can't I ever get ahead? Manna and quail again?! When is my tent going to be a four bedroom house?"

So I step back. I stop worrying about what our current short sale is going to do to our credit. Instead of focusing on the fact that we started a non-profit ministry in the midst of a flailing economy, I recognize God is meeting our needs each morning before we wake. I will get excited every time I start the suburban. I will praise God that right when Hudson needed new clothes, a friend gave me a huge bag of her son's hand-me-downs that happened to be the perfect size. I will celebrate the doctor visits covered by insurance and the groceries in my cupboard. I will use whatever it takes (but please Lord, don't let it be tacky plastic fruit on my table...) to declare to myself and to my family that God provides....ABUNDANTLY.

Monday, May 16, 2011


"Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise." Isaiah 43:19,21

Last year when S. turned 32 I struggled with how to celebrate. I could see the workings of the Spirit but S. had gone through low lows and I had watched him self-destruct in front of me. It was a hard year to kick up our heels and celebrate.

Ahh...but this year is so sweet to commemorate. Coming to the end of himself and his own ability to succeed- even in ministry- was what ultimately brought him to "deny himself, take up his cross" and follow Christ. When Jesus says "whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 16:25 ) He doesn't just mean to become "Christian". S. was a believer for years but only in the past year and a half was brought to such a deep place of surrender. He lost everything that felt 'secure' in his world. Instead of throwing in the towel or making things happen on his own, S. got on his knees and waited for God to begin building life into him.

And now...I could write for hours and kick up my heels. As S. has responded to the Lord, I have seen God focus him, teach him discipline, and feed Truth into him. For the first time since we've been married S. committed to do a Bible Study this past year where he didn't teach or lead. He studied for his own relationship with God and God met him there.

S. has sought wise counsel and it has refreshed both of us to build friendships with people smarter and wiser than we are. He has slowed down to fall in love with our family. Not only is he intentional with our own kids, he has allowed God to break his heart wide open to love Little Girly as his own. It didn't happen automatically. He prayed that God would put him in the right place as he was tempted to have his guard up, not knowing if she will become a Taylor. He believed God was telling him that in this season he is Little Girly's dad and chose to take on that role without inhibition. His love for her is evidenced by the way that she grins, squeals, and throws her arms in the air when he walks in the room.

I have seen the Lord take a man brimming with creativity and ideas and I have watched Him chisel away to give clear direction and specific vision. S. started BIG OAK with about fifty possible directions to take it. God gave us a fantastic board of directors and the right connections to move in the best direction in this season.

A week and a half ago I had the privilege of working the BIG OAK booth at a leadership conference. We got to share about a;life and give mini-presentations to people about how it will work to have this devotional tool online. Watching the vision catch, hearing people from churches and Y*uth for Christ say, "This is a need! How can we get our hands on something like this?" fueled my excitement for what we do.

I am excited about a;life and how the Lord has pulled pieces together for it. Even more so, I am excited to have a husband listening to the Lord. Watching him at the conference, I was excited about his ability to communicate vision and his growing passion to get students grounded in Scripture.

My prayers continue for my husband. I pray this year that God would continue to quicken S.'s ears to His voice, to continue renewing his mind and transforming his spirit. But mostly, this is my year of thanksgiving. It is my year to step back and praise God that the prayers I prayed for a decade are being answered in gracious ways.

This morning at 3am I sat on the couch with Little Girly and her stuffy nose, which was preventing her from sleep. S. stumbled out with some great bed head and said we might as well be up together. As we watched a sitcom and rocked Little Girly, I marveled at the irony: somehow as S. and I are at our poorest (materially) we are experiencing the richest of all seasons. That can't be anything but the work of the Lord. May we get to experience more of God's richness this coming year- Happy Birthday Sean!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

3 years for Everett

Last week our family landed at our favorite local coffee shop for sandwiches and coffee while we had a house showing. It was dangerously close to nap time so I was extra diligent in helping our kids remember manners in the otherwise quiet shop. A beautiful elderly couple sat in chairs near us, enamored with our kids but mostly with Everett.
The woman told him, "Your smile is bright as sunshine!"
He smiled again to prove it.
The gentleman had a strong Dutch brogue and chuckled at the amount of activity happening at our table.
The kids ate. Everett tried to sneak under the table. The kids talked. Everett tried some tricky stunt on the bench he was supposed to be sitting on. The kids helped clean up. Everett saw something in the display case that he thought needed his grubby hands all over.

S. took care of three kids. It took all of me to keep Everett going in the right direction. He was amiable, funny, and mischievous.

We were packing up to leave and the kind woman watching said with a knowing wink, "I see you have an alpha male there."
I laughed. "Yes. That's one way to put it."
She leaned closer to impart her grandmotherly (great-grandmother, I learned later) wisdom. "Those are the best kind. They may take the most work to raise but it's worth it. It's the 'sheep' I worry about. That one that you have...he's definitely not a sheep."
I laughed again. "True. True."
Then I had to leave abruptly because while the other children were waiting for me, I realized Everett was already exploring the parking lot.
I am learning with Everett that sometimes when I think he must need more intervention, what he really needs is more independence. For example, we have struggled with Everett regressing in potty training. My instinct was to hover, to remind him too often, to decide for him when to go. Then one day I heard the toilet flush, the sink go on and off, and a very satisfied Everett emerged. Apparently he needed to do it all himself.
Everett is quite social like his dad (I have yet to have an introverted child...). Right now he is intent on learning social cues. If he does something funny he will continue to test it until it is no longer funny (and then still try again just to make sure the moment has passed). He also has been observing faces. We were at the Y and Everett was intently studying a woman while she watched her kids swim. I had wondered a couple weeks earlier if this particular woman was tired or had endured a sad season of life.
Apparently Everett was wondering the same thing because he pointed from across the room and said, "Why that lady so sad?" (Fortunately it sounded like "I dat lady do dad?" and she didn't pick up on it.)
Yesterday at the bakery he saw a man walk through and inquired, "Mom? Why that man have a mad face?"
"I don't think he's mad, Everett. He's just in a hurry and doesn't seem to have a very cheerful resting face."
It's very difficult cuddling with Everett...because it takes all the restraint in the world to not bite his little cheeks. Something in the combination of his charisma and impish little grin calls to be munched on. He is affectionate and feisty at the same time, reminding me very much of the Tadema boys on my side of the family. The other night after wrestling him to bed by tickling, tossing, and giggling he insisted on giving me three kisses and an equal amounts of hugs. I knew he was procrastinating, knowing all this would keep me there longer.
Then as I was insisting "Last one," he patted my back and said,
"You a great mom."
"and you are a delightful son."
My prayer for Everett this year is that he would be excited about Jesus. When Everett is excited about something, there is no stopping his zeal. I pray that God would capture all that passion and enthusiasm to use for His glory. I also pray for protection over him physically because he doesn't have a lot of fear and can be impulsive in his bravery. He is a little warrior; dreaming about conquering bad guys and confident he could proficiently shoot squirrels with S.'s air soft gun. I pray that God would even now be preparing him for spiritual battle; equipping him to know the Word and to love prayer.

Today, Everett requested spiderman on his cupcake. Done. In fact, the spiderman figurine we have is able to hold 2 of the candles as fire torches. We'll see how that goes.
Happy third birthday, Everett Clifford!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

I had a post Mother's Day glow this morning. My sweet children painted little flower pots for me and each said what they appreciated about me (affirming Darla said, "I'm so glad you don't go work and you decide to stay with us instead.")
I hoped the glow wouldn't rub off as I was homeschooling (which meant shouting out word definitions) while I changed a wet diaper and warned my 2yr. old to stay on the toilet until I had a chance to make sure the wiping was adequate. Within minutes of starting school there were whines about spelling words, a multitude of army men spread on the carpet waiting to poke my feet as I walked through (holding a baby), and two preschool boys with a significant volume control problem. Instead of pulling my hair out in chunks...I recalled my favorite poem and share it with you now in (late) celebration of Mothers Day.

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World
by William Ross Wallace

Blessings on the hand of women!
Angels guard its strength and grace,
In the palace, cottage, hovel,
Oh no matter where the place;
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Infancy's the tender fountain,
Power may with beauty flow,
Mother's first to guide the streamlets,
From them souls unresting grow--
Grow on for the good or evil,
Sunshine streamed or evil hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Woman, how divine your mission
Here upon our natal sod!
Keep, oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With worship in the sky--
Mingles where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

All in a Day's Play

I recently read a blog that listed ways we stifle our children's creativity. It's true. We are a generation of parents who easily succumb to immediate gratification, keeping our kids quiet with TV, video games, or "learning" toys. We have beautiful homes on tiny lots and we have been taught to hover: instructing our kids to not climb so high, not to walk to the neighbors independently, having over-supervised play dates.

How irritated I would get as a child when I told my mom "I'm bored" and her response was, "Oh good! I have plenty for you to do." I was irritated then but as I say the same irritating words to my own kids- I'm thankful she did it. With a mom who required some personal responsibility, who didn't hand us entertainment in our listlessness, and a house full of siblings, we managed to get creative in our play. My own kids are blessed to have the same opportunities and even in a ridiculously wet Northwest spring, are finding inventive ways to play.

Spontaneously one morning Darla set to work on masks. Her cousins were going to be coming by and she thought if they were going to be Belle, Tinkerbell, and Silvermist- they should look the parts. She found paper plates and set to work. No one fed her a single idea, I simply tied a string on the back when the masks were completed. (I missed the picture of the boys' batman and spiderman masks.)
The next day Hudson had a wooden spoon and bowl out, pretending to cook for us. I went to feed Little Girly and put laundry away, amazed at how happy and quiet the other three were for an extended time. Upon entering the kitchen I was overwhelmed with the smell of cinnamon. Apparently invisible food didn't cut it so they created "Cinnamon Shake" (ingredients: water, cinnamon, sprinkles). I came in as the milk was being poured... into wine glasses. Our house smelled of cinnamon goodness for two days and I discovered in the back of the fridge that they saved some in a glass jar. Mmm mmm.
As they were cleaning up the kitchen mess, they found the paper plates and cups again. They immediately set to work making "phone systems". I was impressed that they thought to use the hole punch and string...and even more impressed that they knew what a rotary phone is.
(Yes, that is left over cinnamon still on Everett's face.)
One of the things on the list of creative children was to let children use furniture and toys for things other than their intended purpose. They accomplished that later in the afternoon when they tipped all our kitchen chairs on their backs to create a train (at least the steering wheel was a plastic plate). Kids and stuffed animals alike choo-chooed down the hall.

There is still cut up cardboard in my kitchen because they thought a great idea would be to make a sign to hang from our suburban's antennae that reads, "Taylor Car".

I thought that was enough for a day but when I was making dinner Darla came in the door with folded papers. "I've been asking the neighbors for help and money."
"For our zoo."
"Our what?"
"We want to make a zoo in our yard. We might borrow some people's animals. For sure we'll have Taryn (5 yr. old neighbor boy) get bugs. He's practically a bug scientist."
"What is it you'll need money for?"
" huh. I guess we don't. I guess I'll just give these invitations to the neighbors so they can come to the zoo."
"Sounds great. But it's dinner time so let's wait on the zoo."

The highlight of creativity came at the end of the week. Our neighborhood has an annual clean up day. Our kids decided with the neighbor kids that as a "reward" for everyone who cleans up, they would have a play to conclude the day. They found all the chairs they could and lined them on our sport court.
They enlisted the help of an older neighbor girl to build a 'fort' out of branches, which then became the castle.
Quite unfortunately, in their role casting and set design, they neglected to bother with lines, plot, a narrator, or anything else that might help the play be...well, a play. We watched them "play" for some time and they were proud of their performance.
Here is neighbor boy "King Kierian" with sword in what could loosely be described as an action scene:
Later Darla and I learned about narrators, plot conflict, and the essential aspect of letting your audience know what they are watching. She is excited to write the next script and let S. be narrator (so she can still play the leading lady role, naturally).
Our house is listed to sell and everything in me wants to keep it spotless so when we get last minute calls to show it, I can retain my sanity. When cinnamon fills the air, when paints and crayons and slivers of paper cover the floor, when I realize my lilac bush is naked because "the wild bunnies needed salad", I am tempted to hand over the video games. Ah, but there is more to learn than what a spotless house and clean children can teach... (I said with a nervous laugh.)