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Mornings in our house

This is what I wish happens at our house every morning:

I wake up promptly at 6am, well before the kids, refreshed after a good night’s sleep. I spend an hour with the Lord while sipping my freshly brewed coffee. After being energized physically and spiritually, I walk (while humming) to the boys’ room and gently wake them up saying, “Good morning darlings, it’s time to get up and get ready.” They rub their sleepy eyes and respond, “Good morning, mother,” and immediately start getting themselves dressed without me having to tell them. I go into the kitchen and make us all a balanced breakfast. We sit down to breakfast as a family, Daddy kisses us all goodbye and leaves for work, and I walk both kids leisurely to the bus stop.

This is more like what happens at our house every morning:

The boys break into our room around 7am, screaming and laughing. They jump into our bed and I dream that I’m being ambushed by the enemy. I finally kind of wake up only to see a 24lb toddler straddling my stomach and jumping up and down trying to ride me like a horsey. With every jump he screams, “Mama, I want ‘nack!” (Translation: Mama, I want snack!) I manage to roll off the bed unhurt, leaving Larry to deal with the two jumping monkeys. I go into the kitchen to tend to the first order of business, boiling water for my morning coffee. The kids come into the kitchen and I try to make them eat breakfast, but they’re too busy arguing about who gets to press down the plunger on my French press. I kick myself for teaching them the verse, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” because now they quote it to each other and to me when they argue. I soon tire of refereeing the shouting match and send them to their room to get dressed even though they’re only half done with breakfast. Larry tries to kiss me goodbye, but I’m too irritated to kiss him back. I sit in the kitchen and savor my coffee in my one minute of peace. As I’m sipping, I look over at the clock and….oh no, only 15 minutes until the bus comes! I go in to check on the kids and they’re lounging around naked in their room. I get Turner dressed and make repeated threats to CC to get some clothes on. After the 10th time, he finally complies. I throw some lunch into his lunch box, some clothes on myself, and leave the house teeth unbrushed, hair uncombed. CC races down the sidewalk on his scooter with me following with Turner in the stroller at breakneck speed until we get to the bus stop. Thankfully, the bus isn’t always on time and the kids have time to play a few rounds of hide and seek with the other boy waiting there before the yellow school bus pulls up. Turner and I wave goodbye to CC and walk leisurely home where I have a second chance to begin the day again in the right way.

What do mornings look like at your house?

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Fixing the stop sign

Fixing the stop sign

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winter retreat

This past weekend we were with some students from the Christians on Campus club at UC Berkeley for a weekend retreat in Sacramento. We have this retreat every winter as a way to kick off and prepare for the new semester. We went over some messages on the book of Exodus and I so enjoyed our times of eating the word together. As we prayed over the verses, the Lord was really faithful to speak to and through each person there.

I particularly enjoyed two verses concerning the manna, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

Then Jehovah said to Moses, I will now rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day… (Exodus 16:4)

This is the bread which came down out of heaven, not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread shall live forever. (John 6:58)

In the book of Exodus, God performed many miracles for the children of Israel, but only one miracle lasted 40 years. For 40 years while they were in the wilderness, God rained down bread from heaven for them to eat. Can you imagine that? Every morning little pieces of bread rained down from heaven and this was the only food that sustained them for 40 years! In the gospel of John, the Lord Jesus is referring to Himself when He says, “this is the bread which came down out of heaven…” He is the real manna and He came down out of heaven not as a king to rule us outwardly, but as little pieces of bread to feed us inwardly. If we eat of Him as this bread, we will also live because of Him (John 6:57).

Just as the children of Israel, we believers today have the opportunity to experience this long term miracle every day. Every morning there is living bread raining down upon us, but we have to be faithful to gather our portion for that day. To do that, it’s as simple as reading a few verses a day and really chewing on them and taking them in as our spiritual food. As we do this, God has the way to change our diet and reconstitute our being.

The forecast for today and the day after and the day after is manna. Don’t forget to go out and gather your day’s portion everday!

My Flight Plan for 2015

I know it’s a little late for a new year’s post, but here goes anyway.

A few days before the end of the year I was lamenting to Larry in the car how I didn’t feel like I accomplished anything in the past year. Yes, it was a busy year for us and there were plenty of things that we did, but looking back I just didn’t feel like there was much progress or growth with me personally. He reminded me that our growth in life is in the realm of faith and often not that noticeable and that being self-introspective will just lead me down a path to nowhere, which is all very true. So instead of introspecting, I’ve been trying to do more reflecting about 2014. I realized that much of the reason I felt like I didn’t accomplish much was because I hadn’t set clear goals (or I might have set goals but neglected to write them down, so they were forgotten by March).

Larry related to me a story yesterday that he had heard from someone else about two pilots of a commercial airline. They were in the plane, ready to go except for the fact that they had no flight plan. So they decided to take off anyway and wing it (no pun intended) and somehow figure it out when they were in the air. After 20 minutes in the air, they realized how ridiculous that idea was and turned back around to land. That’s kind of how I feel at the beginning of this year. I’ve gotten pretty good at maintenance, making sure fuel is filled and all systems are a go, but I don’t know where I’m going or even where I want to go. So instead of flying around aimlessly for another year just enjoying the ride, I think I’m going to turn around and land. It’s the 5th of January, CC is back in school and Larry is back at work. Turner is playing at a friend’s house. Today seemed like a perfect time for me to take a little pit stop and make myself a flight plan for this coming year.

I won’t share all my goals with you, but I will share some in the hopes that it’ll make me more accountable. Some are personal goals and some are related to our family. For those of you out there who actually read my posts, feel free to check up on me mid-year (or next week!). The more encouragement I can get, the better. Here goes some of my goals for 2015, in no particular order:

Speak more kindly to my family

Ok, confession time. I never thought I would be a yeller, but I am. I would never yell at my kids in public (because I’m too worried about what other people will think of me), but at home, when no one’s around, I yell. And I nag. Now I’m starting to reap the fruit of all that yelling and it’s not pretty. I see how my boys get into each other’s faces when they’re mad, screaming ugly words at one another and the truth starts to hit home. That’s exactly what mama does when she gets angry. Maybe I don’t say ugly words to them, but the tone, the facial expressions, the attitude is ugly. So I’m going to do my best to work on this – to speak kindly, politely, not in anger. I want to model to my kids what it means to “let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).

Learn how to study the word

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve been trying to work my way through the Life-study of the Bible. Last year I finished the Life-study of Genesis and started the Life-study of Exodus. Even though it has been good, I realized most of the time I read it very superficially just to get through without much retention. So this year I want to try slowing down a bit and just read two messages a week. And instead of reading it on my ipad while lying in bed half asleep, I’d like to dedicate some time in my schedule to sit down and really study what I’m reading. Hopefully by doing this, my Truth Tuesday posts will become more consistent.

Make plans to travel

As Larry and I reviewed the past year, both of us agreed that our trip to the east coast was one of the most memorable things for 2014. So this year we’d like to make time for another family adventure, maybe this time not just across the country, but across the ocean. It has long been our dream to go to Europe together. Any tips on traveling in Europe with small children would be much appreciated.

Start a regular neighborhood children’s meeting in our home

I’ve been considering this and praying about this for awhile and I feel like this year I just need to go ahead and try it. I realized that outside of the two hours on Sunday morning, my kids don’t really get much directed moral education. We have so many meetings in our home – prayer meetings, Bible studies, small group meetings – this year, I’d like my kids to have a meeting that’s just for them and that they can invite their friends to. I’m not sure what we’ll do in this time, probably just some simple Bible stories, lessons on character, singing, and crafts. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Speak the gospel to at least one person

I’m setting the bar pretty low on this one because it’s something that’s always been a struggle for me. I so want preaching the gospel to be a normal part of my daily life and not an arduous, burdensome, insurmountable thing. I know there’s a particular joy in flowing the Lord out to people and I don’t want to miss out on that joy this year.

These are just some of my goals for this year. Even if the flight plan needs to be altered here and there as we go along, at least I feel like I kind of know where I’m going.

What are some of your goals for 2015? Whatever your flight plan for this year is, happy flying!

Recently I’ve been reading through a ministry book by Witness Lee titled “The Sufficiency, Pursuit, and Learning of the Lord’s Serving Ones.” I’ve been reading it in the snatches of time I have during the day – while waiting at the bus stop, on the bench at the park, during CC’s swim class. Reading it in little snippets during the day has been so enlightening, helpful and supplying. I’ve really enjoyed a particular portion I read a few weeks ago, which I’ve been chewing on and quoting to everyone. It’s so good, I’ll just quote part of it here –

Genuine spiritual life grows in desolate circumstances. We should not expect to always receive light when we read the Bible, to have the Lord’s presence when we pray, to save many sinners, or that our wife, husband, children, parents, and siblings will be spiritual. These expectations are unrealistic. Those who are genuinely spiritual pitch their tent between Bethel and Ai. God does not allow us to be free of desolate situations…God desires that we remain in the status in which we were called…If we can be normal human beings in our troublesome, complicated, and fallen situations, then we will have the genuine exercise of spirituality. Living between Bethel and Ai should be our normal experience.

Our outward circumstances in coordination with the operation of God give us the opportunity to develop a genuine spiritual life. We should not expect to be in a situation that is heavenly and without any problems…We have the weaknesses and desolation, but we also have the Lord’s blessing. We must leave our spiritual longings and learn to experience God in our desolate situations so that we may have genuine growth in life.

Is that not encouraging? To give some background, in Genesis chapter 12, Abraham was led by God to pitch his tent between Bethel and Ai. Bethel means “the house of God” and Ai means “a heap of ruins.” This is exactly where God also leads us to pitch our tent today. In our Christian life, our experience is often that we face the house of God on one side, but a heap of ruins on the other. We may be enjoying God in His house, but we also often find ourselves in the midst of many desolate situations that cause us to wonder if God is really with us. So often I have the mistaken concept that the more I grow in the Lord, the easier my life should become. But I was so helped to be reminded that genuine spirituality and growth comes out of the experience of Christ in the midst of all the desolate situations. We should never expect our life to be problem free, but our normal experience should be one of living between Bethel and Ai.

One day last week the Lord reminded me of this in a very practical way. It was a regular weekday and the day began as all other regular weekdays begin. Some time after breakfast CC discovered that his little brother had destroyed his Lego creation from the night before and a level 9 tantrum ensued. Let’s just say the situation quickly deteriorated from there. We missed the school bus, and as I was trying to get the boys out the door so that I could drive CC to school, they began fighting about who would open the door. By the time I got both screaming boys buckled into their car seats, I was on the verge of screaming myself. I was tempted to just leave them there and go back into the house and crawl back into bed. That’s when the Lord spoke that portion to me again. Here I was in the midst of a desolate situation, here I am facing Ai, but that is perfectly normal. If in the midst of that, I turn to the Lord and learn to be a normal Christ-enjoying mom to my children, then that can be an experience of genuine spirituality and growth in life.

So as I drove, I let the boys scream until they were all screamed out. I inwardly called on the Lord and tried my best to speak to them with my soft non-screaming voice. I don’t think I ever had the chance to get into the Word or spend much time in prayer that morning, but I felt like I touched the Lord and had a real experience of Him in the midst of that loud minivan. When we cooperate with His operation in the middle of our troublesome circumstances, whatever they may be, then God will really be able to grow in us in a practical way.

Talking to our children

Happy December everyone! I can’t believe there is only one more month left to 2014. Crazy how the years fly by the older the kids get. When they were babies it seemed like those long days of nursing and cradling would never end and I would faithfully track their progress month by month. Now in the midst of packing school lunches, swim classes, and our busy family and church life, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. The months go by too fast for me to remember how many months Turner is, so I’ll just keep telling people he’s 2 years old until he turns 3.

Parenting in some sense has become significantly easier now that I’m not so sleep deprived. But the older the kids get, the more I feel like I’m entering uncharted territory. It has gone beyond simply caring for their physical well being and growth to caring for the people they are becoming. Now I feel like there’s so much more to worry about. When they’re little, the dangers are more obvious, like making sure they don’t put dirty things in their mouths or play with sharp objects. But now that CC is older and going to school, I worry that the dangers are more subtle. I worry that I might not be able to see or protect him from all the germs that are getting into his mind just by growing up in this corrupt world we live in.

A friend of mine once told me her reasons for homeschooling her young children – she knew she couldn’t shield her children from all the immoral germs of the world, but she wanted them to spend their formative years with her so that she could at least make sure they build up a healthy immune system. While we don’t feel to homeschool CC at this time (although that could change), I wholeheartedly agree with her about the need to help our children build up a strong and healthy spiritual immune system. I recently attended a parenting workshop and I was so helped to be reminded again that raising our children is a stewardship entrusted to us by God. It’s not just about clothing them and feeding them, but even more about caring for their spiritual welfare. As parents we will all be accountable to the Lord for how we handled our stewardship. On the one hand, how they turn out is up to the Lord’s mercy, but on the other hand, we have the responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6).

The practical point I took away from the workshop was simply that I need to spend more quality time with my children. More time talking to them, more time listening to them, more time praying with them, and more time modeling to them what it means to love God and fear God. I had the stark realization last week that CC must hear and take in so much at school, but I don’t spend the adequate time with him to help him process and even filter out everything that’s getting into him. Besides the perfunctory, “How was school today?” to which the reply is usually, “Good,” I don’t really know what happened in his day. Now I’ve been trying to practice sitting down and having more meaningful conversations with my son, REALLY listening to him, and I’ve been surprised by how much I don’t know about him. I’ve learned that sometimes his classmates make fun of him for being little and that makes him sad, and I’ve learned that his favorite activity in choice time is computers (that didn’t really surprise me). I’ve also restarted the practice of praying with him before bed, and that sweet time has also been a window into his little heart. One night he wanted to pray that his friend would like his birthday presents, and another night he wanted to pray that the new substitute teacher would know the right songs to sing. I want him to always feel free to tell not just me, but God also, all these things on his heart, no matter how trivial they may seem to others.

So instead of wasting time worrying, I’m going to use that time to pray and to get to know my children. The influence of the world might be strong, but the God who lives in me and hopefully will one day live in them is stronger. As long as we lead our children to know this one, I think they’ll turn out just fine.

It’s high time I brought Truth Tuesdays back! For those of you who don’t know what Truth Tuesday is, it’s basically my way of staying accountable to myself to make sure that I’m in the word in a regular way. For a while I was pretty good about posting every Tuesday about any fresh enjoyment or nourishment I had received in my time with the Lord in the word. Then summer came along…and school started…and life got busy, and even though it’s not like I haven’t been reading the Bible or enjoying the Lord, I have to admit it hasn’t been that regular and because I haven’t been posting, it’s hard for me to recall all the truth I have enjoyed in the past few months. I find sometimes when it comes to what God shows me in the word, it’s those things that I share with others that really stick with me in the long run. When I just keep my enjoyment to myself, it becomes fleeting and hard to recall. So since I’m not so bold to go around speaking it to people (although I’m really praying that the Lord would change that), I’ll use this space instead as my way to share the word so that more of it will stick with me. Hopefully, some of you out there will enjoy these posts as well.

In a lot of Truth Tuesday posts I had written about what I’ve gotten out of my slow reading of the Life-study of Genesis. Well, I’m happy to report that I finally finished it, all 120 messages! Woohoo! Now I’m in the Life-study of Exodus, which has 185 messages, so with my current schedule, it’ll probably take me about a year to finish. It’ll be slow going, but I guess when it comes to being constituted with the truth, the tortoise wins the race. So expect to hear a lot about Exodus from me on Tuesdays.

One small point I’ve enjoyed so far in my reading is concerning God speaking to Moses out of the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3. While Moses was in the wilderness, God appeared to him “in a flame of fire out of the midst of the thornbush” (v.2) Why is this so significant? In Genesis we see that the thorn bush was a sign of man being under the curse. God cursed the ground with thorns because of man’s fall. And the flame of fire in Genesis guarded the tree of life; it was an excluding flame which kept sinful man away from God’s holiness. In Genesis 3, the thorn bush representing fallen man and the flame of fire representing the holy God were diametrically opposed to one another.

But in Exodus 3 the situation is altogether different. These two diametrically opposed things actually come together. Moses saw the flame burning in the midst of the thorn bush. Hallelujah! The thorn bush becomes the vessel for the flame and even becomes one with the fire. That means that even though we’re fallen and cursed, God through His redemption still found the way to dwell in us and become one with us. The very flame that once excluded us from coming to God can now visit us and dwell within us. We Christians are cursed thorn bushes like everyone else, but the difference is that we have a flame burning within.

And not only did Moses see a thorn bush burning, but he also saw that “the thornbush was not consumed” (Exo. 3:2). The thorn bush was burning, but it was not burned up. That means when God comes into us, He doesn’t consume us. God was reassuring Moses…yes, I’m calling and sending you, but don’t depend on yourself to be the fuel for what needs to be done. The fire doesn’t need you to be the fuel, it just needs you to be the vessel in which it can burn. Sometimes Many times in my Christian life, I feel burnt out and why is that? Probably because I’m relying on my thornbushy self to do everything. Let’s face it, thorn bushes are just kindling, they’ll burn up in seconds. Our natural life can never be the fuel for what God has called us to do; only He Himself can be the fuel. This simple picture in Exodus shows us the paradox of the Christian life – a thorn bush burning yet not consumed. I pray that this would really become our experience. May we common thorn bushes allow the God of glory to burn more brightly in us this week!

Yesterday my sweet little boy turned 5. We celebrated the day with a pancake breakfast, a trip to Little Farm, and his requested birthday dinner of baked spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread (originally he had only requested salad, but I convinced him we needed some carbs and protein), and of course special birthday cupcakes for dessert which he insisted on decorating with sprinkles himself. He went to bed happy, full of carbs and sugar. I went to bed and scrolled through all the old pictures and videos on my phone of him when he was just learning to walk and talk and part of me longed to have that little baby boy back. Even though I’m so anxious to see him grow, especially seeing how he’s still the smallest one in his class, part of me wishes there was a pause button I could push to stop time from going so darn fast.

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I’m thankful to the Lord for bringing our CC and us through another year. It has been a year of learning for all of us. He has mastered the art of riding a scooter and can now move on to learning to ride his new bike (birthday present from the grandparents). After over 2 years of being in swim class on and off, he’s finally ready to move on to Rays (level 3). He’s learned how to fold his pajamas and make his bed every day before leaving for the school bus. He’s learned how to play chess (I think) and the names for all the ninja turtles. My mother’s heart is bursting with pride.

Now for what I’ve learned. I’ve learned that this little boy can bring a temper out of me like no one else, and that he can match it with an equally hot temper of his own. This year has been a year of learning what kinds of discipline work with him and what kinds don’t. Sometimes I feel like I’m negotiating with a terrorist who refuses to back down or trying to defuse a bomb that can detonate any second. No one told me parenting was such dangerous work. There have been a lot of failures on my part, and sometimes there have been collateral damage. But there have also been days when I’ve been successful in averting WWIII, and I’ve come to appreciate and learn from those small victories. They’ve taught me that the best way to defuse a ticking bomb is not with a sledgehammer, but with a gentle cutting of the right wires. Hopefully I’ll get better at knowing which wires to cut. There really should be a Nobel Peace Prize awarded for parenting.

So here’s to another year of learning! Since there’s no pause, or rewind, or fast forward in life, we might as well turn up the volume and enjoy the music of our children growing up! Happy birthday, CC!

Lisa-Jo Baker

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