He fills the longing soul with good things. Ps. 107:9

True Beauty.....?

I'm not promoting the Dove self esteem fund or anything, but this does kinda make you mad. I'm a little more okay for the first part - I mean, we all look better with our hair fixed. But by the time they get to the whole neck-stretching, cheekbone-raising, eyebrow-moving thing, I want to smack somebody!




So sorry - I had to delete this video because of the You Tube content options at the end.
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Breathe


I was carrying a troubled heart, a battling mind,
and a restless spirit.
I was desperate for the calming Breath of Life -
Hungry for the forgiving cleanse of grace.

I finally found the space I needed to dig...and wait....and soak.

Then I could breathe again.

At first, my prayers reached dead space. My spirit stayed crumpled. I drove to pick up the kids, put them all to bed, and took my prayer cards outside into the sunny wind across from a waiting field. And then, scripture by scripture, his Words began to unrattle me. His forgiveness settled into my soul. His counsel set my mind at ease. His quiet washed my heart and I breathed deeply.

He knows me as I long to be known.
He forgives me in my weakness
He understands me before I tell Him,
but he waits - still - eager to listen.
His answers are above me.
The answer is Him.


He is enough again.

____________________________
"O God,
please set my heart at rest in Your presence
when my heart wants to condemn me.

for You, God, are greater than my heart
and You know everything."

(I John 3:19-20)
Scripture prayer from Beth Moore's "Praying God's Word Scripture-Prayer Cards"
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Oh Man, I love GBS!

Blooper Video - I laughed my silly head off.There's nothing like seeing the people you love at their most polished.
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Quiet time?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. ~ Psalm 42:1 (NIV) (Need a cup of fresh water this morning? Click here)

As I talked with an old friend recently at IHC, she told me that she is in a "good place." Meaning: Her spirit is quiet. She has joy. She is viewing the challenges of her life with strength and grace as God helps her. Why, I ask? Her answer, Prayer. Waiting. Sitting - in the mornings, until her soul has quieted long enough to open up with God and talk it out. "It changes me inside." She said.

And it reminded me how thirsty my soul is for extended quiet time.

I've been running a lot lately. A lot. And this weekend my spirit was showing signs of an unquiet heart. Cranky. Irritable. Dissatisfied. Definitely NOT refreshed.

So this morning I considered it a gift from God that my kiddos slept a little later than usual. But my time alone was short-lived. It is a practice of discipline for me to say, "No, you may not have your breakfast until Mamma is done. Yes, you may have some milk. But you'll have to wait."

But as I sat in the big chair in the living room (once again drinking in Eastman's A Celebration of Praise and A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of Man), I could not ignore my son's quest to empty the snack drawer onto the floor -one item at a time. Had he pilfered carefully, perhaps I could have continued in quiet. But it was the vivacious pitching-and-plopping that made me nervous. A loaf of bread. Plop. A half-sack of chex mix. Pitch. A half bag of wheat flour. Bang. A can of pistachios. Smack. And I realized I simply must rescue my kitchen from certain destruction.

And so, I remembered why my spirit is thirsty. This is what happens.

Now, I know that the practical answer would be to get up an hour before the kids. But it is not uncommon for my children to wake up at 6:30 or 7:00, full of vim and vigor and ready for the day. And at this time in my life, one of the most spiritual things I can do for this mommy-body is to get as much sleep as possible. So I do not rise at 5:00 and sink into spiritual oblivion. Honestly, I look forward to the day when I can again. And I certainly believe in beginning the day quietly alone with God. But creativity is a must in this household. It seems that after breakfast or during nap times works better around here. But whenever it is, I am getting out the biggest sippy cup I can find and lifting it up to be filled.
Right now I have some other sippy cups to fill. The kids are asking for cake for breakfast. One needs an asthma treatment. Another is crankily teething. The dogs have been eating cereal and milk because we ran out of dog food (seriously!). Karissa informs me dramatically there's a fly in their room - a BIG one and the big ones are MEAN! The day has begun.

I need a date with my Abba.

And we press on. I think I'll turn on some Brooklyn Tab.

Abba, you know that I am thirsty for you. You know how to fill me. You know my frame, that I am dust. Thank you for loving me anyway. I am anxious to meet with you. Give me a moment today, Lord.
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Reconnecting * Recovering * Reflecting

ON RECOVERING:

After 5 years of being squirrled away in the deep south during IHC, I was very excited to get to go back. My excitement was dampened by the fact that my better half was home teaching and studying and thus I braved the elements alone with three monkeys.

The stage was set after a busy week of getting over (I thought) a 10-day sickness on Sunday, rushing to Cincinnati Sunday night for my mother's surgery, rushing back on Monday night, teaching on Tuesday, running errands and packing on Tuesday night, Teaching on Wednesday, running errands again, jumping in the car with all the kiddos and driving as fast as my husband allowed me all the way to Dayton. I was unspeakably proud of myself for not making one single wrong turn all the way from Frankfort to 5th street!! Those of you who know me understand what a miracle that is. Thank goodness for Mapquest.

The real fun started as I made the journey from the parking garage to the Crowne Plaza lobby with 3 kids, a double stroller a large suitcase and a diaper bag. Everyone around me received a lesson in patience as my stroller stuck in doorways and the suitcase stuck in the elevators. The kids could not WAIT to find some cartoons. After dressing everyone, we actually made it to the service in one piece. I was blessed to the tips of my bones as the choir powerfully sang:

"Under his wings, under his wings. Who from His love can sever? Under His wings, my soul shall abide. Safely abide forever."

I was reminded of who I am and why.

But by Thursday afternoon, my pressed and curled children were coming apart at the seams. So we found a dark quiet room and they all slept. Gloriously. Then the four of us split one $8.00 convention dinner plate and were refreshed. Until.....the evening service. Five minutes after we sat down, Kayla has to pee. Had there been a husband on the scene, that would have been only a mild irritation. However, I had to repack the diaper bag and haul 3 cranky kids in front of 3,000 nosey people. Two minute potty break. Then repeat the process.

So about 30-45 minutes later when the sibling relations reached the point of WWIII at an embarrassing decibal level, we gathered our stickers and coloring books and slinked away behind the black bleacher curtains. (It's really spooky back there, by the way!)

We crashed Thursday night at Mom and Dad's house full of happy memories, then on Friday we gave Mom a full report and enjoyed a lazy day of playing in her gardens.
________________________
ON RECONNECTING: I felt this year like I was reconnecting with a whole new batch of friends. Many of you I have gotten to know through blogging, and I have looked forward to seeing you in person. And of course there are the old friends...

(I missed those of you who watched from home. It's bittersweet, eh?)

But I have to tell you that I left feeling like I'd had two days of relational fast food. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a hot & salty 99 cent small fry. But after a day or two of that, my body starts longing for a baked potato and broccoli - something of a little more substance.

I am not slamming the fellowship. I loved it. I'm already looking forward to next year. But I value your friendships so much, it made me dissatisfied with a 30-second greeting and hug or a quick escalator conversation or a 5-minute nursery discussion about chilbirth options. It made me hungry to sit and linger and laugh. To have one of those midnight table discussions where we laugh like a bunch of idiots until our sloppy joes are digested (precious memories, Melodie).

Or to watch our kids play together in a park while we find out how life "really" is.

And I know that for many of us, email will have to suffice. But please know that your friendships are gold to me. And when I say "It's SO good to see you." I mean it. David and I have learned over the years to deeply value these friendships when we find a family who gets life the same way we do and pursues the same values and has a passion to raise children in love with God. This is the fleshing out of the 2nd great commandment.

Which brings me to my IHC prayer this year. I never missed an IHC until I got married and moved off to Mississippi. So I've heard my share of reflections and comments about the whole Dayton phenomenon. Some say it's just a fashion show. Some say it is a Bible College competition. Maybe for them it is. But not for us. Before I came this year I realized in such a beautiful way that it is a wonderful opportunity to fulfill God's top two priorities for my life:

Love Him more and Love You more.

And so I prayed that He would help me to do both. And He did.

So until next year, let's BLOG, baby!
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Houses

It all started weeks ago. I was making the hour drive to the pediadontist with Baby Boy. As the fields whizzed by I started noticing the houses we passed.

These thoughts have been twirling around in my head, trying to find solid resting places. I'm hoping that writing them will help the sorting.

So many houses grace my days - flitting pictures sometimes noticed, sometimes ignored. The once-exquisite houses in town - history and architecture ignored, turned into run-down apartment complexes. The contented white farmhouse - more grey than white because of peeling paint. The cheery yellow Cape Cod with little patches of annuals dotting the yard. The comforatable Raised Ranch with toys scattered and a stroller parked outside. The huge house across the field from us. A mystery in its massiveness. Deeply in need of repair, but strong and cozy and inviting.

I know that some share my strange love for driving past warm-lit windows at night. What families, lives, stories are in the light behind those half-closed curtains?

It is easy to make assumptions. Labels. Categories. This kind of person lives in That kind of house and That type of person live in This sort of house. Maybe there is some truth to those categories. Its so easy to judge a book by its cover, a family by its dwelling place. Do I do the same thing with people?


It has been rumbling around, troubling me. We not only categorize, but we place value to those categories. Of course, you realize that I'm not talking about the value of Real Estate. But doesn't the pristine Queen Anne seem to hold more value to us - societally - than the run-down trailer with toys in the yard?
My own home is beautiful and cozy inside. It is designed for our needs - who we are as a family. It has our signature all over it - in the colors, the books, the lived-in-ness. But the outside has some issues. Even my oh-so-cool red barn star doesn't distract from the siding-bare spots left from last summer's remodel. And try as we might to disguise it, our small storage area is open for the world to see. And I know how easy it would be do drive by and notice the bare siding and the toy storage, rather than the hundreds of new flowers that are blooming or the cool red barn star.

I know because I'm afraid I do it too.....To people.

How easy is it to think we understand a person based on what we see? We see their designer clothing and manicured nails. Or their slim physique and new running shoes. Or their perfect hair and magazine-ready children. Or their extra pounds and loose-fitting shirt. Or their starchy suit and shined shoes. And - plop - into a category they go. Know it or not, we stamp them with a general range of value. Like when you shop online for real estate, you have to click on a price range. And you get what you pay for.

I'm terribly afraid we don't only do this to the people we pass in the grocery store. We do it to each other.

Just as I want someone to look past the flaws of my house, to enjoy the flowers and come inside and see what we're about and why our priorities are as they are. I also want others to look past the 3-baby-poundage still hanging on for dear life. And the non-designer clothes. And the 4-foot-ten-ishness that lingers about me. And I want them to know me for me. How many times in my life have I been labeled from a distance? Enough to realize that it isn't fair.

If you have gotten the message at this point that I do not belive our packaging or housing matters, you don't know me. But there is a little ribbon of understanding curling its way through my thoughts, trying to tie things together and make them part of me. It is the matter of value.


God values the prostitute on the corner exactly the same as me. And he values my wealthy, picture-perfect friends the same, too. He sees past all that. And He doesn't categorize us.


I had a college professor once that taught me about giving people "wobble room." It is so easy to lash out at the one who is often harsh, or who runs their mouth too much, or who seems reclusive or even proud. But what a gift it is to learn to give them the grace, the wobbling-space, that I wish to be given. To understand that I don't understand everything about them. And that I have not walked in their shoes. And there are reasons people get into the habits they're in.

As I said, these thoughts - although not a new concept - are arresting me in a new way lately. Because: I want to begin the slow process of de-valuing facades. And knowing people. For who they are. For how they hurt. For where they've been. For those beautiful laughing and crying and understanding and creating corners within them that they don't let people see. (The image of God within all of us.)

The same way I want people to know me.
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My tough Grandma

Photo: Kayla and Karissa with their Great Grandma Wolf in Cincinnati in November. Doesn't she have the most beutiful smile?

Unbelievable. Grandma Wolf woke out of her coma! It's actually almost funny, because she's the toughest cookie I've ever known. I mentioned that she's 93 in the comment section....but she's actually 94! Dad said, "Well, I just know it's gonna be hard on her to bury all of us." She's just about tough enough and stubborn enough to outlive the lot of us.

Her seizures were so violent and her blood pressure so high, they didn't even expect her to live through the night, much less wake up, much less be able to speak. But she's saying words already. (See where I get my affinity for talking?) They say her words don't exactly make sense yet, but they're words....
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Another anniversary

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Garen and Crystal!

Some of you may not know that I have a brother (Garen L. Wolf II) who is 2 1/2 years younger than I. He studied construction management at University of Cincinnati. He now is in management for Lycos, a large construction company. I don't know his title. But I know he's good at managing huge jobs and keeping all the workers in line. His company's parent company (or owner or something) did the concrete for the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky.

He married an incredible southern gal named Crystal Reese. She was our friend before she was our sister. My Dad says she walks on water: meaning that she is an unbelievable match for Garen and for our family. We let her know in no uncertain terms that when she married him she couldn't bring him back! She still claims she doesn't want to.

She is a teacher/tutor at a place like Sylvan Learning Center and is very good at what she does. She also does private tutoring. So if you live driving distance from Cincy and you need a good tutor give her a call.

They live near Cincinnati in a beautiful 5-bedroom home that Garen remodeled himself.

Garen is a tough guy with a soft heart. Crystal is a sweet lady with a tough mind. They're a wonderful match.

Garen told me recently: "Everyone talks about how hard marriage is at first. We don't know anything about that." In other words, he's a happy man.

They are friends first and have learned to work through things as they come.

I think we need to celebrate a wonderful marriage when we see it.

CONGRATULATIONS! Love you guys.

Garen - a message from Mom and Dad: They thought you might want to celebrate your anniversary by coming over to their house tonight to visit with them. Doesn't that sound fun? : )
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Speechless

I'm already tired of seeing that "On a Sadder Note" title. What a downer....

Thus a new happy post about my ongoing, obnoxiously tenacious sickness. And the blindingly bright flowers above said post. (Speaking of which, I hope it doesn't bother anyone that I've been changing my blog layout more often than some people change underwear. Then again, I really don't care a whole lot if it does bug you. I like change. If it does bug you, you need to take some herbs or something. You're entirely too buggable.)

Oh yeah...back to my post about not talking....

I was just grinning to think today how funny it is that I can't talk. It's a rare occasion, indeed.

I can still barely eek out some noise (although I'm paying for it), but this is probably the closest I've ever been to truly beeing speechless.

Even when I run out of words, I have words about the fact that I'm out of words. Take now for instance.

'night, folks.
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On a sadder note...

My mom fell and shattered her right wrist and is facing serious surgery.

And Grandma Wolf had seizure attacks this morning and is in a coma.

Makes the championship seem like peanuts, huh?
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WaHOO!

Champions....
Go Jayhawks!
I've got some relatives who are absolutely going bonkers with joy right now. Probably screaming and shouting and acting like a bunch of crazy monkeys.
I'm happy and all that, but I'm going to bed!
{For those of you who don't know, Kansas is "home"
for the Wolfs (Ft. Scott) and Parsons (Overland Park)}





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Deanna Marie


I've been stricken again with mysterious insomnia. So in my wakeful doodling I make the mistake of going to my sister's website.

And now the tears {the happy and sad-mingled tears} of missing and loving someone so much you can't stand it.

She's amazing. I pause to even think where to begin for those of you who don't know her. Those of you who do know her - or have even met her - don't need me to say much.

I've heard that her name means "bubbling over". Now how in the world could a name be so fit? She bubbles over with her giftings, with her enthusiasm, with her intensity, with her love.

Her sarcasm is hilarious. Her cooking is glorious. Her music is notorious. Her pace is furious. (I'd better quit this rhyme or it will be injurious!)

She married a wonderful, distinctive British man. And in turn for getting to be my brother-in-law, he takes her to Northern Ireland! I'm kidding. They are doing a wonderful pastoral work there - one of the most active churches I've encountered. He is a great man with a great mind and a great wife. They are where God has placed them and that is beyond doubt the best place to be.

What is it that makes the bond of sisterhood so deep? Is it the hours spent in the blistering heat of a lemonade stand? The years of lessons and practice and playing together? The Saturday Sister bond of folding socks while listening to Ranger Bill? The understanding that needs not words? The silent pokes that are full of muffled humor? The enduring and surviving of pain beyond belief? The years of sorting through the heartbreakers to find the ONE? The thrill of wedding plans? The sugary doting of Aunthood? No. It's none of these. It's all of them and a million more....



But now I sit 'midst the cornfields of Indiana. And she is galavanting across the European countryside, dodging sheep and visiting castles, having tea and using words like "midday." Who'da thunk?


I have nothing profound to say through my tears.

Only this: I love you. I admire you. I miss you.
.........
O yes - and HAPPY 1st ANNIVERSARY today! Here's to 60 more years of wedded bliss and all that stuff (am I on speakerphone, De?).
............
Wanna say hi to De, wish them a happy anniversary, and shower them with comments on their website? Click Here
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Sunday Go-To-Meetin'

I was surprised this morning to find that the girls had already dressed themselves for church of their own accord!

Karissa is incredibly picky about her clothes. She had replaced the socks and shoes I had laid out for her own choices - including some not-so-great socks and her favorite purple shoes! Isn't she Kooky?

Notice the streaker who kept messing up our attempt at modest picture-taking.

The kids love their new outfits from Grandma Fry. She took the picture and took the kids to church for me since I'm still home sick.

Hair fixed, purple shoes ditched (although she did manage to get out of here with a purple purse!), streaker dressed (At least for the moment. This kid hates clothes! But he loves Sunday School. Clothes are a sacrifice he's willing to make to see Miss Melva.)

Here are my sweet darlings.

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Spring Nature Walk

Quick! Open the window......Spring is knocking! Can you hear it? Smell it? Feel it?

Boots-clad, the girls are happily digging outside in the sunshine. Diaper-clad, Baby Boy screams instructions at them from the back door. Jammies-clad, I sit inside with the flu, bed-resting and tea-drinking and window-watching. This house is ready for spring!

Easter weekend, we had a few chilly sneak-peek days of Spring at Grandma and Grandpa Wolf's in Cincinnati. So we took our first spring nature walk of the year.



Grandma's garden shoes, ready for a busy season of coaxing beauty


New light and shadows


Swinging feet of happy mama with kid heart

Buds ready to burst into colorful spring

Looking, noticing signs of spring (excuse the pj's, please)

Wind and wood and setting sun

A ride in Grandpa's tractor to end a beautiful day...

A word about nature walks:

We started this tradition in Alabama when the kids were very small. We downloaded Tanglewood Education's Nature Notebook and put it in a 3-ring binder (plain paper works just as well). Kayla recently took this to school for show-and-tell. It's full of memories, leaves and drawings from our time in Alabama.

We usually just take a short walk around our yard, or wherever we might happen to be. It's amazing the things you notice when you just pay attention to the signs of the season around you. One time we discovered a caterpillar on a flower, took it home, and got to watch the whole cacoon/butterfly process. On this recent nature walk in Cincinnati, I realized how much had really sunk in on those walks. Mom has a small magnolia tree in her garden. I found Kayla standing alone, gazing at it. I asked her what it reminded her of. "Home" she said quietly. There was a humongous magnolia tree in the woods where we took our nature walks. It was a strong and vivid memory for her. There was also a cool chicken that lived in those woods we liked to chase.

These walks are not something we do on a regular basis or get in bondage to. We just do it when the fancy strikes. It's a great way to get the wiggles out when everyone is cranky from being together inside. And it fosters the skill of observation.

Download a free sample of a Charlotte Mason nature study handbook if you want to read more.

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Back home again in Indiana...

So good to come home to....



Buttercups from Mamma's garden

Roses from my Main Man

Sisters fixing hair...

The new "do" - She did it herself!
Happy squeal from Baby Boy...



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So many wonderful things

How could a few days be filled with so many wonderful things?



Incredible hospitality

Delicious Dining

Old Friends

New Friends Mary Ellen, I was going to say how cool it was to meet you and feel an instant friendship. But then you had to go and do the whole picture/video thing. So now you're dead meat. Only I can't think of anything to do to you. So I just stole some pictures off your blog.Quiet time alone at the Intercoastal waterway
(right by where I stayed)
Beautiful Beach (Beautiful friendship)

....and one serious sunburn!


I'm thankful for the chance to visit Hobe Sound Church services for the first time, time to be with some of the most wonderful friends a person could want, time to be alone and sleep (I was amazed at how fast I can get ready w/o kids!). I have a super-sized bottle of aloe that will hopefully bring soon relief from the remains of the Florida sun.
I also had a little adventure of being stranded in Atlanta for the night along with several hundred angry travelers. Subject for another blog, if I get to it.
Thank you, Sis. Vernon for calling me. You are one of my heroes!
Thank you, P.D. and Sherry - for everything. I have about a hundred funny, deep, meaningful and meaningless conversations replaying in my head.

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