Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Study Tips

Over the course of my life, I've picked up a few good tips here and there on studying the Bible.

I've learned about the important of reading Scripture, becoming familiar with the details of Biblical stories, and how vital it is to then APPLY truths learned to one's life.

With a wonderful preschool program at our church, I'm thrilled that the Bible stories are being taught in creative and age-appropriate ways to my young children, too.

It seems as if Miss M is already picking up on the tips related to knowing and applying Scriptural lessons.  For instance, I asked her Sunday afternoon to tell me what she learned at church that morning.  She recounted the following, in a perfect 3-point summary:

Summary:                "We talked about Moses."
Details:                     "Moses ate a lion."
Life Application:      "Don't eat lions."

I can't fault her on her application.  Eating lions is definitely frowned upon around here.  I was too amused to immediately correct her first two points.  But her big brother had that under control tonight.  He walked out of his room, shaking his head in dismay as Daddy and I were once again laughing over our new favorite advice, "Don't eat lions."

Drew asked my husband to help him find the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den in his Bible.  He then carried the Good Book, finger firmly placed, back to Miss M's room and began to set her straight.  I helped out and finished reading the story to both the kids.  Megan's eyes lit up, and she actually responded with an, "Oohhhhhh....", as if things were straightening out in her little head.

Unfortunately, the preschoolers Bible we were reading from includes only very short (one page) stories and big colorful pictures that move quickly from one event to the next. I'm pretty sure she now believes Daniel was rescued from a den of hungry lions only to find himself in the belly of a whale the next day.

So, while I appreciate her ability to grasp the "application" aspect of Bible study, I think we'd better focus our attention on the "details" for a bit longer.

Looks like I'll be starting tomorrow with the book of Jonah.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

the "BEAST"

We're running, my husband and I.  He's pushing the girl in a big stroller and I'm watching the boy ride his bike up ahead.  The pace is slow and steady, and I'm trying to keep my breathing slow and steady, too.  We've rounded just one corner on our block and already my breath is coming harder.  I'm in terrible shape.

It feels like cobwebs and rusty gears and a thousand other things besides capable, strong muscular legs. I'm praying, yes literally praying, that this will get easier.  Or at least that my family won't notice that it's already getting hard.

There's a conversation going on between the kids and their dad.  I wish I could join in, but I've got my own dialogue to deal with.  I'm talking myself into each step right now and convincing myself that I can't ask if we can walk for a few minutes.  At least not yet.

I've never been a runner.  This running thing is stupid.  And it hurts.  I think I'm too old to take up a new hobby, and I am certainly too busy.  But I signed us up for a race this weekend (The Beach Beast, it's called), and I have no more time to pretend like it'll all work out just fine.  In a few short days I'll be running through sand and surf and over obstacles for 3.2 miles alongside my athletic husband.  I MUST conquer it here on this quiet neighborhood terrain first.

This is the quiet dialogue I'm participating in when my husband breaks through.  "Great job, honey!  If you can make it to the next cross street,  you'll have run a mile."

Wow.  I'm thinking that's pretty good!  And yes, as a matter of fact, I believe I CAN make it to the next cross street.  I wish I could say all these things out loud, but I manage a tight smile and a thumbs up instead.  I don't want to waste my energy.

I meet the first mile marker and slow up to a brisk walk.  My right knee screams for attention.  I feel like I'm sixty years old.  I'm regretting the fact that I missed my dose of "anti-inflammatory" meds this morning.  Geesh... Make that more like eighty years old.

My husband seems genuinely surprised and impressed.  "Great first mile!  You're doing great!  We'll walk for a few minutes and then pick it up again, ok?"  I nod and manage to say something affirmative, although I'm not sure he can hear me above the sound of blood churning through my ears.  I certainly can't.

I do manage to look over at him at some point while the pace is slower and notice that he hasn't yet broken a sweat.  Must be nice.

Over the course of the next 2.2 miles, David directs us into short intervals of running and walking.  "Just make it to that stop sign."   "We'll start running again at the light pole."  A few times he lies.  Do all good fitness instructors feel the need to lie?  What do you mean, keep going!?  You told me to run to that yellow mailbox!!  My head screams.  I wonder if profanity is more easily forgiven when you're in a state of extreme physical duress.

At one yellow mailbox, I feel the urge to puke.  I say so much out loud.  I catch a glimmer of (could it be?) pride in my mate's eyes.  Ah yes, all the good workouts make you want to throw up, don't they?  It's a false alarm, and I have to pick up my pace to catch up with the stroller and the bike and the man who is STILL NOT EVEN SWEATING.

Before I know it, another surprise announcement is being made.  "OK, we're almost at the last turn.  We're hitting 3 miles right now."  I'm doing it!  I'm really doing it!  I'm running!  I've actually committed to this running thing for more than forty minutes now and I am still moving!  It's a great feeling and a terrible feeling all at the same time.  I experience nothing even close the elusive "Runners High" that I've heard about.  My legs feel like sandbags.  My right knee is cooperating finally but it's making snarky threats under it's breath.

I arrive in our driveway behind the boy on the bike, but ahead of my husband (only because he's now let the girl out of the stroller and she's jogging "just like mommy").  He finds me a few minutes later walking circles in the driveway.  "You ok?" he asks.  "Uh-huh."  I take it as a good sign that I can put two coherent syllables together and communicate a thought.  I am busily contemplating two ideas.

1.  Keep moving or else every single muscle in both legs will freeze or cramp up
2.  Fall down into the grass on the front yard.

My front yard grass looks like a big soft blanket to me, and I'd give anything to collapse face first into the lush green carpeting.  The fear of never getting up again keeps me on my feet for now, though.  I pace up and down the driveway, cooling off and stretching.

We eventually make our way back into the house.  My clothes are drenched.  My face is red, but I'm surprised by how healthy the "flushed" look appears as I catch a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror.  I turn the ceiling fan on and stand directly under it.  My husband asks again, this time with legitimate concern if I'm going to be alright.  I assure him that I think I will.

He tells me again that he's proud.  I point out again that he's not even sweaty.  He shows me a small, slightly damp spot on his shirt to prove me wrong.  He asks when we can do it again.

Um.... at the race on Saturday? I ask.
What... you say I need some more practice before that?

Yeah, no problem.  I'll just need to pick up a few prescriptions tonight.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Key

It was a little over one year ago, to the best of my recollection. I'd begun praying and thinking about re-entering the workforce, but like many full time moms, I didn't know what exactly to do or how to maintain some semblance of worklife/homelife balance once I started to do "it".

 My heart's initial desire was to write for a living. I get incredible joy from the craft of writing. I love words. I love the art of creating a good sentence. I am challenged constantly by the desire to make a good (or bad) experience into a great story. It stood to reason at the time that I should pursue a writing career. But as I prayed about that decision and that direction, a funny thing kept occurring. A different idea kept popping up in my head. Piano lessons.

I don't feel qualified.
I'm not a "teacher".
I wouldn't know where to start.
I wouldn't know how to start.

 But the idea persisted. It seemed somewhat far-fetched and crazy in my head. But I felt compelled to begin sharing the idea out loud. The first person I told was my mom. "Mom," I said over the phone one day, "I think I might start teaching piano lessons." Being the encourager she is, my mom responded just the way I'd hoped. She told me that it was a great idea. She did, however, point out one minor detail that might impede my success. "You know, you don't own a piano, Jenny."


It was true. In thirteen years of marriage, David and I never could seem to justify the purchase of this rather large, rather expensive piece of furniture. It was always a "want", but never a "need" when it came right down to dollars and (common) sense!

I remembered my response very clearly, though, because it's not often that I feel the courage that some rightly-placed faith will give you. I heard myself say, "Yeah... good point. But I figure that if God wants me to teach piano lessons, it won't be too hard for Him to get me a piano."

 About a week passed after that phone call, and we were dinner guests at the home of some wonderful new friends. I don't remember how or why the topic was mentioned, but our friends happened to bring up the fact that they knew of a family who was looking to give away a piano. They asked if we happened to know anyone who might be interested.


 The faithful responses were absence that night, though. I heard myself answering that I'd actually love to own a piano, HOWEVER.... Pianos are heavy and hard to move. There was really no way we could arrange to pick one up and have it delivered to our home in the timeframe needed by the current owners. My flimsy excuse was met with a solution. Our friends just happened to have the right trailer and equipment to move the piano.

 Of course they did.

 Twenty-four hours later, that precious upright was nestled against the wall in it's new home.
 My home.

 Each day I passed by that room, I was reminded of God's faithful provision. But I also felt strangely peaceful that I wasn't to start teaching on it right away. So it sat. And I played it and my children played it. And I prayed. I prayed for God to show me His timing. His purpose. His plan for that piano. That was more than a year ago.

 Today, I opened my piano studio, named "The Key". It's been months in the planning. (Well, I guess it's been a lot longer than that...). My children are in school now. We are entering a new phase of life. The shift is almost palpable. I look at both my children. The level of independence they've suddenly attained. The free time that has been created when my son decided to take a hiatus from baseball this season. The relative calm in my husband's travel schedule. The recent (as of today recent) accomplishment of a diaper-free home (HALLELUJAH!). 

Wait... that deserves one more Hallelujah. HALLELUJAH!

 And I marvel at God's time. His perfect timing. I believe this new venture is not only a way to bring in some additional income to our household. While the income is good and helpful and much-needed, this piano studio is so much more to me than that. This is about trust. Trusting God to do something new in me that I'm not qualified to do in my own strength. This is about looking back at His direction in my life and how He has prepared me for this role. This is about teaching children to love music. And teaching them why their hearts are designed to appreciate music. This is a ministry.

 This ministry is not just for the students. It's truly a ministry to my own heart. I played the piano competitively most of my early life. I didn't just love the performance aspect, I loved the theory behind it as well. But mostly, I loved the avenue it gave me for worship. I am not a singer. But I can use the keys of the piano to "sing" a song of praise, and it's where I have felt most connected to God. The idea that one child out there might also connect that way gives me the motivation to pass my knowledge along.

 As I shared previously, there was a moment early in my prayers where God gave me the eyes to see His provision (free piano). There has been one other specific prayer request I've made over the last few months. I prayed that God would eventually give me 10 students over the course of my first year teaching. Today, my first day of teaching, I have nine students on the schedule and spoke with a mom at church yesterday about signing up her son in the next week or so.

 In case you lost track, that would make ten.

 Isn't He so good? (Kinda makes me wonder if I should have prayed for 30 students and a Baby Grand, you know?)

 I have to tell you, as I type these words and draw this post to it's conclusion, I'm startled by my emotions. As my fingers move, my throat is tight and my eyes sting with the hint of tears. This is not like me.

 But it's so much like Him.

 I am humbled by His leading. And I'm asking for your prayers as I follow.

 If you'd like to follow my new piano blog, I'd love to have you stop by

 And I'd love to pray for you as He's leading you, too. Let me know what that looks like in your life right now.

 Love, Jenny

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Good Dog, Walker

Several years ago, when the book "Marley and Me" was published, my husband and I were eager to read it. After all, we had a yellow lab puppy who bore a striking resemblance to the rambunctious canine on the cover of the book. But about a quarter of the way into the novel, I found the author's story and life drew a longer parallel to our lives than simply our lookalike pets.

 We brought Walker home when he was barely old enough to leave his litter-mates. And his arrival into our family came on the heels of a miscarriage early in my first pregnancy and early in our marriage. To mend my broken maternal instincts, I cared instead for a little fur ball of white haired energy.

 His paws were enormous, and people who knew much more than we did about projected dog growth began warning us within the first few weeks we had him. "Uh... how big was his father?" "Is he a lab, or is there something else (like Great Dane) in him?" "That dog is going to be HUGE!"

 They were all right. Our Walker-dog ate everything in sight(dog food, underwear, dish towels, rocks), and grew to gigantic proportions, much bigger than a normal yellow Labrador should be. His size and breed got him into a lot of mischief during his first few years of puppyhood. I remember calling my husband in tears after many harrowing "walks" around the block. Thank goodness I had a strong background in water-skiing. My skills kept me upright MOST of the time, as Walker drug us full-speed ahead towards mud puddles, neighbors, other dogs, and the occasional frightened cat.

 After a few of these traumatic experiences, we decided our humongous puppy needed some training. We found a great trainer, and began spending our Saturdays learning how to manage our 120 lb beast. But just like Marley, our boy also failed Dog Training 101. I was mortify and nearly hopeless. My husband, however, was up for the challenge and kept re-enrolling Walker in training class after training class after training class. Over the next few years, that dog grew up a little both physically and mentally, and became the most obedient and even-tempered pet we could have ever asked for.

 He was ours for four years before children entered our family. He was affectionately referred to by my parents and in-laws as their "Grand Dog" long before we gave them "Grand Kids". He was my husband's running partner and loyal companion. He was both my babies' soft, hairy affable jungle gym. He was my "first" kid and my foot warmer.

 And after twelve years of devotion to our family, we said goodbye last week to our beloved dog.

 Towards the end of Marley & Me, the author recounts the last few days of Marley's life. I could barely read the words on the book's pages so many years ago. Hot tears spilled so heavily down my cheeks that the print was just a blur. But I recall the sentiment that Mr. Grogan whispered to that big dog in his last few moments of life.

 "I got down on my knees and ran my fingers through his fur, the way he liked. I ran my hand down his back. I lifted each floppy ear in my hands - those crazy ears that had caused him so many problems over the years and cost us a king's ransom - and felt their weight.... Then I dropped my forehead against his and sat there for a long time, as if I could telegraph a message through our two skulls, from my brain to his. I wanted to make him understand some things. "You know all that stuff we've always said about you?" I whispered. "What a total pain you are? Don't believe it. Don't' believe it for a minute, Marley." He needed to know that, and something more, too. There was something I had never told him, that no one ever had. I wanted him to hear it before he went. "Marley," I said. "You are a great dog."   (From "Marley & Me" by John Grogan)

 That, is perhaps, where our stories diverged most evidently. Although Walker's life started out so strikingly similar to Marley's, somewhere along the way, he became a great, great dog. The days of exasperation have been long gone from our memories. The antics and accidents and property damage a thing of the far distant past. For nearly a decade, Walker was a great dog. And we told him that.   A lot.

But, there, in the vet's office last week, we found ourselves on the familiar path worn by Marley's owners (and countless others, I know...). There we were, kneeling on the cold tile floor, saying our last goodbyes. Stroking a yellow Lab's furry back, rubbing behind his ears, tracing those gigantic paws in our hands, and wishing those last few goodbyes could somehow slow down the inevitable end.

 And all I could think to say were those same words I'd read all those years ago. I told him goodbye. And then I told him, one more time,

"Walker, you were a great dog."

Walker the Great