What A Day That Will Be

As my 2-year old Betsie would say, “Oh derr…”

Things are about to get all sentimental up in here.

The baby has left my tummy, and though it might make me sound a bit dramatic, I am already reconnecting to the old Mrs. Gore…

the one who really likes people and loves life and enjoys playing with my children and also the one who cries at beautiful things.

Not to be confused with Small Elephant who just cries at…things.

Like, seriously. Inanimate objects. Scents. Plants. Anything.

And my heart is light with relief, and delightfully heavy with an awareness of what I’ve been given, not just for this vapor of a life, but for eternity. Because He is good, I am so sure that God will save my children, and though my prayers for them are desperate, they are also confident. I think I will be with them forever, in the Eden we could have/should have/would have lived in were our hearts not so wicked and prone to wander…

and I rejoice in this knowledge.

But I live in a pilgrim’s body, with a pilgrim’s heart and a pilgrim’s understanding, and the dying part of me acutely feels the passing of each day we have on this earth together…

Even though I hope and believe in eternity, I long for it as if it doesn’t exist. And when I hold my newborn baby boy, a part of me praises God for the forever Kingdom we will be a part of, while another part of me mourns for this transient and blink-of-an-eye life that I can so tangibly feel in my arms and see with my eyes.

It passes so quickly, and the joys and beautiful moments and triumphs from which I would drink so deeply slip by as I scramble, wide-eyed, trying to hold on, trying to remember, trying to cling to the shadow rather than to the hope, and I am reminded over and over again that I am far too sinful and far too stupid to properly understand this great, big, mysterious, overwhelming life.

Holding Baby Shepherd…

it’s like holding Baby Gideon all over again.

6 and 1/2 years since the day my eldest and I were born into a mother/son relationship, 6 1/2 years since my soul was awakened to the nurturing fire of motherhood, 6 1/2 years since my feet were set on a path to dying more and loving more and feeling more and wanting less…

and as I breathe deeply of the sweetly indescribable scent of new life and baby lotion and as I feel once more that velvety soft baby skin underneath my chin, those 6 1/2 years of memories dance wildly about in my mind, causing me to cry, causing me to laugh, causing me to pray.

There are no words, really. Just silent meditations. Wordless pleas. Whispers of thanks. And maternal cries for help to survive the heartbreak of seeing them grow.

Gideon…

Rebekah…

Betsie…

and now Shepherd.

I would hold each of you just as you are for an eternity.

I would go back to any day in our history and stay there forever.

I would journey with you to our future and never leave your side.

And so I entrust us all to God, for safekeeping, knowing that one day our faith really will be made sight. The pilgrim will be gone. The citizen will be born. The mysteries will be revealed.

And we will rest in the place that our hearts have longed for since the day we first met.

“What a day, glorious day that will be…”

Mr. and Mrs. Gore: The Blushing Years (Part 1)

dedicated to my husband

~

How does  one sum up the most important moments and events in their memory?

How can I possibly convey the beauty of a story that is really commonplace…people fall in love every day…but paramount in my own life? An event that set my feet on a path that I never could have dreamed of?

The task of retelling my love story is daunting, as it includes a hundred glances, thousands of moments blurring into days blurring into years, a depth of feeling that is unfathomable, and yet it is the billionth verse of the same song that people have been singing since the beginning of time…

We met, we fell in love, we married.

Nothing new.

But so very new to me…

I distinctly remember the first time I laid eyes on him. I was a cheerleader, standing in my usual spot on the football field, doing what I remember doing most of my high school years, constantly moving, and laughing. How I miss that energy…when I think about the girl I was just twelve short years ago, I see a girl who hardly sat still and who thought everything was throw-my-head-back-and-laugh hilarious.

I had one friend who inspired most of that laughter, who on game nights disappeared into a mascot uniform and took her place next to me on the field, persistently slaying me with her slapstick body language and witty comments. We were caricatures of a cheerleader and mascot, making fun by throwing ourselves into our respective roles with major gusto and exaggeration. Spirit fingers were our favorite.

Anyway, it was just a typical gamenight, Danielle and I cutting up and making those spirit fingers…until I looked up and saw a “new boy” following my youth minister up the ramp to our elevated bleachers. His shirt was namebrand, Tommy Hilfiger to be exact, his hair was red and curly (my Mom’s favorite) and I was immediately smitten.

Now before you melt into the floor at my love-at-first-sight retelling of our story, let me fess up and tell you that, at the time, I was smitten with anyone of the opposite sex, especially at first sight. I was not the brightest bulb in the something (see, I can’t even get cliches right), nor was I the most discerning. I. loved. boys.

Especially this one.

“Danielle,” I exhaled, grasping her arm with my slender and well-groomed teenager fingers. “Who is that?!”

I watched his ascent up the ramp as if a spotlight had landed upon him, illuminating his newness, his spectacular hair and the chiseled structure of his ruddy face, and the royal blue-and-white checkered-print on his shirt.

And for the remainder of the football game, my eyes involuntarily flitted to where he sat at least every five seconds. I couldn’t help it; I was dyin’ to know who this stranger was and what he was doing in my neck of the woods.

Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to find out…

For just hours later, in our church’s youth building, I sat on the floor alongside my youth group and many young people from the town, listening to this young man preach at our post-game Bible Study.

Any interest that had been piqued at the football game was now a full-fledged crush, for not only was he cute as a button, he was Southern Baptist, and even better, he was a preacher, conveniently meeting every major characteristic on my list of standards.

And if you think I’m talking about a proverbial list, then you don’t know Southern Baptist girls. We ALL had a list, a real one, tucked away in some special hidden place, with the must-have characteristics of our future husbands written out, in order of priority.

We’ll ogle over and flirt with anybody (I’m looking at you, Justin Timberlake), but when it comes to marriage, that list is law.

And so my heart was officially atwitter.

Sadly, I didn’t see the young Mr. Gore again until many months later at our church’s Spring Break retreat in Oklahoma City, where we were joined by another church…

but not just any another church.

Mr. Gore’s home church.

By this time I had solved the mystery of why he had come to our small town in the first place: my youth minister, Mat, was previously his youth minister and mentor, and the two were very close friends. And even though Mr. Gore was now a college freshman at Oklahoma Baptist University and no longer in his church’s youth group, I had my fingers crossed that he would make an appearance at some point during the week.

And oh, did he.

He was just as precious and funny and breathtaking as he had been in the Fall, causing those initial feelings of admiration I experienced when I first saw him to clench themselves into my heart and dig a little deeper.

In that half-week retreat, he went from being someone I had seen once and found attractive to being the boy who dominated my daydreams and made my heart pound in my chest. I was as smitten as ever, but for real this time, and almost exclusively. (What? A girl needs more than a week to be cured of boy craziness…).

Therefore, I am loathe to admit that Mr. Gore still did not know I existed. He has no memory of my being at that retreat or ever meeting me (even though we had a riveting one-minute discussion on why Honey Nut Cheerios trumped all other cereals!) which really just eats my lunch, for two reasons:

1. I was in no way used to not being noticed, and

2. I was painfully aware of him, each moment spent near him adding to my interest and my desire to know him better.

Which, praise be to God, eventually came just  a few months later…

~

Part Two, coming soon to Mrs. Gore’s Diary

The Weekend Confinement of Small Elephant

We had a bit of a scare on Friday morning.

I’ll spare you the specific details, but all of a sudden, our morning plans of a jaunt to the local library were exchanged for several nervous hours at the walk-in clinic of our doctor’s office.

And as I’ve discovered with most pregnancy situations, the symptoms I was experiencing could be perfectly normal…or dismally grave. As much as I love and employ the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, the thesis of its contents sometimes seems to be that “every pregnancy and every facet of every pregnancy is different…you never know…check with your doctor….you could be fine…or you could be dying.”

But once in an exam room, after finally locating our little peanut on the ultrasound screen, we all (including the doctor, I think) heaved a great sigh of relief to see that little heartbeat flickering just as it should be, and after giving us the best report we could have hoped for, I was sent home to “take it easy” and wait things out over the weekend.

It is now Saturday afternoon, and I am happy to report that, for now, all seems to be well, and that scary situation that took place on Friday morning has happened no more.

Am I “out of the woods”?

Well…no.

And not because I am necessarily still afraid I might be miscarrying, but because I became painfully (and yet happily) aware of a reality yesterday morning that I had failed to understand before: Friday was no different than any other day. Just because I was faced with the slight possibility of losing my baby did not change the fact that, if God wants me to have this baby, I’m going to have this baby. I might have been excruciatingly aware of the delicate balance between life and death, afraid to move or breathe for fear of upsetting it, but nothing had really changed from the hundreds of days before this one.

Such is the unseen truth that surrounds our comings and goings every day of our life. We are never “out of the woods” when it comes to possible sicknesses, losses, death…but then again, we are ever and always held fast in the palm of God’s hand. As the great missionary John Paton put it, “Looking up in unceasing prayer to our dear Lord Jesus, I left all in his hands, and felt immortal till my work was done.” If we really believe what the Bible says, we, too, must adopt the theology that we (and our children) are immortal until our work is done.

This brought me great comfort, and I realized that my fears that day were not based on whether or not God was in control, but on what He was going to ask of me, and although I was still discouraged by my erratically beating heart and my nerve-clenched stomach in the face of the unknown, I was so happy to note the spiritual growth that has taken place in my life since my last traumatic experience…

for it wasn’t too very long ago that I frequently displayed (by my fears and anxieties and my panicked speech) that I didn’t really believe God was in control at’all.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the day was saturated with obvious grace. On our long drive to the clinic, Mr. Gore and I prayed together. Comically, our routine (per my request) is for me to pray first and then for him to follow and “clean it up”.  But as I prayed, I began to note the seeming coincidences that were lining our day…

1. My Mom had been planning on taking the kids and me to the library at 9:00, so she was at our house early, dressed, and inexplicably armed with a bag of paperwork that she needed to work on. Mr. Gore met her at the sidewalk to explain our situation, and 20 minutes later, we were on our way, hearts at rest knowing our kids would be in good hands regardless of what our day held.

2. Our servant-hearted friend, Kodi, on hearing that I’ve been having nightly bouts of “morning sickness” starting at about 5:00 p.m., kindly offered to take our kids one night this week and make us supper. We had originally scheduled for Tuesday, but when something came up, we switched to Friday. Again, our hearts were at rest as we drove to the doctor, knowing that our kids would have a fun evening at Kodi’s house, and that our supper would be taken care of.

3. And then we could have gone on and on about how God was obviously taking care of us: Mr. Gore was not out of town. Mr. Gore has a flexible job that allows him to take me to the doctor should the need arise. This happened on the morning of a Friday, giving us the freedom to make it to the doctor rather than being anxious all weekend…

I could continue, but the conclusion of our prayer was this: your kindness and grace in caring for us so fully, God, gives us faith that you will continue to care for us. We so badly want to have this baby, but we trust your Word and we can tell that you love us, and so we know you will only do what is best. We’ve been learning in church how grace and peace are often coupled together, because when we contemplate the great grace of God and focus on what He has done and is doing, our hearts will be at peace concerning the future. I am an extremely weak vessel, and so “tremulous” was still the state of my being as we sat in that exam room, but at the heart of me, the truth was ringing that God would be faithful to us, no matter what. I share these things as a memorial for my family and for my own forgetful heart. May we never forget how good He has been.

Well, as I said, things are looking extremely optimistic, and in the meantime, I have been perched ever-so-elegantly in my king-sized bed, sometimes laying on my left side, sometimes laying on my right side, sometimes sitting cross-legged on my bum, but always with several sources of entertainment nearby, along with a variety of tempting foods and beverages. My Mom has been my faithful nurse, laundress, nanny, housekeeper and cook, my friends have blessed me with childcare and yummy foods, my church has encouraged me to tears with tender sentiments and prayers, and I am feeling incredibly blessed, regardless of the fact that Friday was one of the scariest days of my life.

And, as ever, I have found in my little family a sweet source of encouragement and entertainment to get me through the weekend.

My firstborn crept into bed yesterday afternoon before going to Kodi’s house and asked me if I was feeling okay. When I asked him to pray for me, he took both of my hands in his and said, so solemnly, “Dear God, please make it easy for Mama to have her baby. And if you don’t make it easy, we’ll just come back and ask you again to make it easy.” Tears were rolling down my cheeks by the time he finished his sweet and tender prayer, but he has grown so accustomed to seeing this evidence of my sentimental heart that he doesn’t even mention it anymore.

Miss Sunday has, not surprisingly, been less tender in her ministrations, and, donning her nurse pinafore and armed with her trusty doctor’s bag, shoved mini marshmallow “pills” into my mouth and barked at anyone who came near her “patient”. Still yet, if I am ever forced to go out into battle, I want that girl at my side.

And sweet Baby Betsie toddles in every so often and brightens my room with her nonsensical chatter and her frequent hugs and kisses.

I mustn’t paint too idyllic a picture, however, and will confess that when all three are here at the same time, I feel the urge to flee from my “sickbed”.

I would never envy the life of an invalid, but for this weekend at least, there has been a silver lining in my unexpected confinement: being loved, knowing God better, resting my body and my mind…

and I’ll confess, having hot food delivered straight into my hands whenever I want it is pretty near to heaven, especially for a ravenous pregnant woman.

But most of all, I am praising God that, for today, my little baby #4 is still with us, enjoying the sweet blessings of love and home and family.

~

Want to read more on the extraordinary life of John Paton? Click here.

On Location and Feeling Grateful

This is Mrs. Gore, coming to you LIVE once more, from, that’s right…Panera Bread.

Mr. Gore, looking studious with his navy blue cardigan and handsome with his new haircut (courtesy of yours, truly)  is sitting across from me with his Elders in Congregational Life book, pen in hand, cinnamon crumb cake and Horizon Organic milk with a sippy straw nearby. We’ve really got to get this guy hooked on coffee.

And I’m just feeling quite grateful, in general, but quite specifically for you. That’s right, you, the one who takes time to bop over to Mrs. Gore’s Diary and read the words that I stay up late – or ignore my children for during the day – to type.

Gid the Kid is growing into no-nap territory…each day is a toss-up as to whether or not he will crash before the day’s end or not…but we still have him go upstairs to lay down after lunch. Today, he called me upstairs 6 or 7 times to see quite useless things – the way his racecar can flip off the bed, the pile of animals stacked precariously atop his stuffed Batman toy, the -

…excuse me, a new piping hot vat of Hazelnut was just put out…

Oh yeah. That’s some good stuff.

But where was I? Gideon. So he calls me upstairs all the time to see all kinds of random things that I have to force myself to get excited about.

And that made me think of me and you.

Hey guys, wanna see pictures of Gideon’s birthday party?

Guess what I’m thinking about right this minute, everybody?

Do you want to know what I got for Christmas? Its awesome.

And I publish it here and I share it on facebook and I pin it on Pinterest and I call my Mom and ask if she saw it and if she talked to Aunt Bea about it and what she thought and I check back a hundred times a day to see if anyone ‘liked’ it or left comments about it and how many people read and it and where they were from and what time it was when they read it.

I’m like Gideon, constantly feeling the need to share the mundane with someone who cares.

Thank you, for caring.

I need you in my life, just like Gideon needs his Mama.

This cup of coffee I’m drinking? It is totally in your honor.

Mother Hen Goes to the Hospital

~ written on the monumental day of Miss Sunday’s first and hopefully last surgery ~

Sure it was a “minor surgery”. But it was MAJOR to me…

So this morning at 4:00, I woke up, showered, fixed my coffee, put on my make-up, ate some yogurt and raspberries, and silently carried her to the car as the rest of the town lay sleeping.

By 6:00 a.m., we were sitting in the hospital waiting room, her legs straddling my waist, her sleep-mussed hair tickling my chin as she alternated between laying her head on my chest and looking up and leaning back to talk to me and her Papa in that high-pitched voice that has been mesmerizing and entertaining us for these 2 sweet years. My heart was much calmer than I could ever have guessed, proof that God answers our prayers when we trust Him to fight our innermost battles alongside us. Worry and doubt have been my longtime frenemies and this looming (and very minor) surgery has been the perfect opportunity to show them that they no longer have dominion over me. Except for when they do.

The highlight of our waiting room visit was when another little girl came into the waiting room with her family, also wearing her pajamas, also toting a humongous stuffed horse, also dragging a beloved pink blanket behind her and also looking to be the tender age of 2 or 3. Rebekah, of course, had to go and say “hello” and “I like your horse’s pink nose.” Which I think really means “I adore you and think we should be best friends forever.” Too bad we forgot to get her number…

And just like that we were in the prep area, dressing our doll-baby in a miniature tiger-printed hospital gown, donning her feet with slip-resistant socks, bathing her in our silent and constant prayers as we touched her and kissed her and held her close at every possible opportunity. True to form, she charmed the entire prep room, conversing with each nurse and doctor and anesthesiologist that stopped to talk to us, happy to do what we asked of her, completely unaware of the pain and trauma that awaited her.

And miracle upon miracles, the food- and drink-lover who asks for milk or orange juice or water or tea or goldfish or marshmallows or grapes or apples or crackers or raisins or fruit snacks or pizza every five minutes never even mentioned the fact that she was hungry or thirsty, even though her last bite and sip had taken place early the night before. My heart was so relieved, even as it continued to dread hearing her oft-uttered statement of “I’m hungwy”.

Soon it was time for her to drink what the staff called “happy juice” (not to be confused with “bug juice”…sorry, Rebekah) to ease her into surgery mode. Within five minutes, she was stumbling all over the place and singing a made-up song titled “we say yes, ma’am!” That special juice did the trick, and moments later, she was unblinkingly being loaded up into an old-fashioned red wagon with her big stuffed horsey and her crocheted pink covers and being carted off, taking a weighty and much-needed piece of my heart with her. Grandpa and Grandma – who drove from OKC the night before and stayed in a hotel close to the hospital – were admitted back just in time to kiss her goodbye.

“Rebekah!” I exclaimed. “You look like you’re in a parade!” She grinned, even as her head swayed in drunkenness and began to wave at everyone we passed, bringing smiles to each face. But behind my smile was a veil of tears, and a barely-suppressed urge to snatch her out of that wagon and take her home, crooked and unusable finger and all.

I followed behind her to the surgery door, and just as she disappeared from sight, she turned around, hospital cap crowning her strawberry blonde wisps of hair, pink pacifier in her mouth, yellow gown ribbons tied just below the nape of her neck and midway down her back and she waved at me, her Precious Moments-shaped blue eyes looking at me dolefully like the cutest puppy that ever graced the hospital hallway.

I blew her a kiss.

She blew one back.

And I took a picture of her with my mind that I put in my keepsake box of painfully precious memories.

“Rebekah!” my heart cried. And the doors shut between us.

The next hour or so was not as bad as I thought it would be – one of my dear friends who works at the hospital sent us an occasional update – and my father- and mother-in-law kept us well-distracted by their company. Our quiet discussion was interspersed with my nervous laughter, and many, many deep breaths as I begged my heart to believe the mantra I had repeated for the last 3 weeks: “God MADE her. God LOVES her more than I do. God HAS A PLAN for her life.” But when I heard the name “Rebekah Gore” called from the front desk, I leapt up, even as my feet suctioned themselves to the ground. What would await us? Was this good news? Or was it the morbidly tragic scene that had been haunting my ridiculous imagination for weeks?

My desire to see her again propelled me forward…

and then I heard her crying.

I could no longer see or hear anyone else as I followed her voice through a door and a hallway. I came upon a small glassed-in room where lots of commotion was taking place, and as my eyes fixed on it, praise God, I saw her, surrounded by a company of nurses, thrashing on a hospital bed, coming awake from anesthesia and morphine in confusion and fear and pain and discomfort. She was ripping at the tight and bulky dressing now cloaking her entire left hand, screaming “Get it off! Get if off!”

The staff had prepared me for this, as had my facebook friends. This was the worst part, everyone said, as children do not wake well from drug-induced sleeps and stupors.

But, sweet life abundant, before I knew it, they had me seated in a rocking chair, the 36 irresistible lbs of toddler flesh I had been craving to hold settled right in my lap where she belonged. It didn’t matter so much to me that she was out of her mind or even that she might be hurting. She was with me once more. She was breathing. For crying out loud, she was bossing!

I had my Rebekah – a tangible representation of so much light and so much hope – for another day on this earth. And Mother Hen was happy and thankful and breathed another huge sigh of relief.

We spent the next two hours sitting in that recovery cubicle waiting for our drugged-up baby to wake up so we could go home. A heavy dose of morphine completely knocked her out, and we saw many other patients – including our 3-year old friend – come and go before our little girl was cognizant enough to get a release form. In the meantime, I got a generous glimpse of what Mr. Gore and my Mom have spent years of their lives enduring as they try to wake me up in the mornings – sassy, sloppy, incoherent behavior – as Miss Sunday would flutter her eyelids open to mutter at us (including a pointed request to “leave me alone!”) before falling heavily over in mouth-agape sleep.

(And oh my heavens, does hospital breath stink. My darling daughter positively reeks of surgery and hospital and this Mother Hen cannot wait to scrub her down in a nice warm bubble bath).

And can you believe this? Mrs. Gore did not cry all day long, not until tonight, that is, when I held Miss Sunday close against my heart as she watched cartoons and a near mountain of gratitude and relief came crashing down in my soul, as well as a sobering reminder that today was only one measly day of survival in our pilgrimage through this fallen and depraved world.

Stepping heavenward we are. And oh, is it bittersweet. Tastes of Eden and perfection and absolute beauty lift us up and cause us to soar through this life, all while dangers, toils and snares daily surround us on every side. The Spirit speaks inerrant and resonating truth to our hearts while the “old man” inside of us continues to rail against the narrow way to life.  And Mother Hen continues on her journey, sheltering her chicks under her wings while begging the God of the universe to continue to show her family grace and mercy.

But the moral of the story? By the grace of God, she survived her first surgery.

And so did Miss Sunday.

Mother Hen has never been so happy to be back in her nest.

The Gift of a Still, Small Voice

We Christians worship the Creator of the world, who is manifested in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

I had the stupidest idea of who the Spirit of God was until this year.

I used to think that He was some invisible ghost-like figure who roamed the aisles of the church at invitation-time, begging folks to come forward and say the “sinner’s prayer”. I thought He could be easily scared away (a.k.a. “quenched”) when the microphones messed up during my pre-sermon “special music” or when the electricity went off during the most emotional climax of a sermon. I thought that He was there to help me to “witness” door-to-door, so long as I got the words right and asked all the questions on my “Share Jesus Without Fear” card in their proper order. I thought, in short, that He was sensitive. That I had some kind of control over His ability. That He was…tiny.

Boy was I wrong.

This year, this “tiny” Holy Spirit of God pulled out the big guns and blew my ridiculous theology to smithereens.

He has, by the grace of God, revealed to me who is who in this relationship.

And guess what?…

Mrs. Gore is the tiny one.

I used to try so hard to cultivate Christian growth in my life. We had lists, you know. Each Christian needed a daily quiet time, a daily prayer time, an accountability partner, a journal, weekly church attendance, and a scripture memory chart. We would check them off if we accomplished them and berate ourselves if we didn’t. I would never try to downplay the importance of those Christian disciplines – they are all good things, after all – but I had it so backwards. My devotion to all of the above was about as deep as Baby Betsie’s bathwater. Two or so days a week, I would get “serious” and sit with my Bible, struggling over what to read. I would try to pray through the ACTS prayer, devoting two minutes to each subject. I would memorize a stack of scripture verses written on organized note cards that I would misplace a month later…

I worked “so hard!” to be a good Christian. And the saddest thing is that my best efforts were actually quite lackadaisical and puny.

It was when we moved to Kentucky that things really began to change for me. All of a sudden, by the sweet grace of God, the girl who thought she had it all figured out found herself kinda speechless.

Was it the outstanding expository preaching and teaching that did it? Was it marriage to a godly shepherd and question-answerer? Was it simply my time to be on the receiving end of God’s amazing grace?…

I don’t know. Maybe all of the above, with a strong emphasis on the last one.

But what I do know is, I have been changed.

It used to frustrate me so much that I didn’t love to read my Bible on my own. I would struggle over it, I would cry over it, I would try new methods, new devotional books, new schedules. And then Chris gave me some advice one day as we sat in our tiny seminary apartment that has changed everything about the way I do this Christian life. He said “pray and ask God to give you a love for His Word.”

Come again? That was so simple! And yet it was so ridiculously obvious. Why had I not thought of doing this before? Why had I exhausted all of my own ideas and efforts before going to the One who can breathe life into dead bones?

Even still, I was a bit skeptical. It sounded too easy.

I began to notice that Chris gave this advice quite often. When I was doubtful of my salvation, struggling over whether or not I was “born again”? Ask God to give you faith, he said. When I was having great trouble loving and forgiving a fellow believer? Ask God to give you love for them and to change your heart, he said. When I was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety over what the future held? Ask God to chase away your fears, he said.

This advice slightly annoyed me…

I wanted to do something.

I wanted to MAKE myself a better person, a more devoted follower, a less hypocritical believer.

But, as usual, Mr. Gore was on to something. As I slowly began to understand and acknowledge that my abilities to be holy were limited indeed, and cried out for help, God began to answer. He sent me the Comforter. You know, the Holy Spirit. That “tiny” part of God that I had kind of  ignored for all those years…

And as a result, I have been swept away.

The Spirit is a master craftsman. He takes words that you could not understand for years and years and plants them in the deepest part of your soul where they spring forth and flood darkness with light, blindness with sight. He pursues you like a hound, never leaving you as you are, always asking for more, even in the night when the rest of the world is at rest. He surrounds you when you are weeping on your knees, confused, unsure of what lies ahead, and quietly ministers to you when no one else could possibly understand how badly your heart is broken.

He is not tiny.

For years and years, I had exchanged the truth for a lie. I thought I could measure God’s love for me in the things I had…my health, my happy marriage, my obedient children, my possessions, my spick-and-span church, and in the things I did. I told others about the redeeming work of Jesus and ridiculed works-based salvation, all while trying to generate goodness and obedience in my heart.

But when this amazing Spirit of God turned on the lights, revealing to me my nakedness, my depravity, my white-washed exterior…oh, dear God, He took away everything.

And in its place, He gave me this gift — the gift of a still, small voice — and the greatest avenue to knowing and understanding and loving Jesus.

Best. gift. ever.

Little Friend

One day as we were driving down the road, Gideon, seeing two horses running in a pasture, said quite forlornly…

“Why did God make all these animals but not give me any?”

It took all of our willpower to not go out that very minute and find the boy a dog.

However, every once in awhile, God does provide a little friend to keep him occupied until we get  a good fence built…

Creepy crawlies, I suppose, are the next best thing to a “man’s best friend”.

 

Simple.

Something about spring-type days in February makes a gal all kinds of grateful and content. When the sun is shining – but not too hot – and the breeze is blowing – but not too hard – and the birds are chirping – but the wasps are not – I find myself thinking how very little we need to survive in this world. As long as there is sufficient food in the pantry, clean sheets on the bed, some comfy clothes to wear, and a whole lotta books to look at, I am h.a.p.p.y. On days like this, the rest of the stuff in my house frankly starts getting on my nerves and I am moments away from donating it to a hoarder.

I love to watch my kids play in the yard. They don’t really need the junky toys we’ve bought for them. Sticks…rocks…dirt…grass…once a child gets lost in their outside play, God’s creation is more than sufficient to keep them busy for hours. As they laugh and work and play and I watch with the breeze gently blowing in my face and the baby in my lap, I think we are much closer to the heart of God in those moments than when we are holed up in the house with our possessions and our technology and our one thousand avenues of entertainment.

And I know in my heart that this simple life of pilgrimage that we are beginning to live, though heavy with self-sacrifice and war on the flesh, is the secret to true and lasting joy. Once the journey on the narrow road really begins, we find that all of those deadlines and stresses and aspirations that cause us to hurry and fret and load up in the car a hundred times a week are self-imposed and absolutely unnecessary.

What is the best thing I can give my children? The gospel. What do I want them to be when they grow up? Christ-followers. What do we need to do with our time, money and talents? Glorify God.

Simple, isn’t it?

I am basking in this simplicity. And so are my kids.

Of course, the popsicles help.

Easier than Apple Pie

Welcome to Mrs. Gore’s VERY FIRST cooking tutorial.

Are you as excited as I am?!

Good. I knew I liked you.

But I should first tell you a few things about me in the kitchen:

1.) When it comes to cooking and baking, I’m not original AT all. I don’t hardly even tweak recipes. I follow them, I follow them well, and if I like them, they go in my file. So I will be inventing and sharing a recipe with you probably…never. (It is for this reason that Mr. Gore and I refer to my kitchen alter-ego as Mrs. Blandings – its much nicer than calling me BORING).

2.) I’m still a learner in the kitchen, not even close to an expert, but I am capable and have great potential. At least that’s what Mrs. Blandings tells me.

3.) I like shortcuts, especially at this stage in my life.

4.) I love parties and special moments, and food naturally falls into this category for me. That’s what I like to do most in the kitchen ~ add whimsy and love and beauty to the things I make, whether it is for a party or for afternoon coffee with my Mom.

But enough about me…let’s talk about dessert!

I’ve been making spiced apples since Mr. Gore and I first married. On my wedding weekend, my fabulous Aunt Susan let me in on a little secret: “If you  haven’t gotten much accomplished in a day and your husband is about to be home, throw some sliced apples in a pot and cook them with cinnamon and sugar and butter. Your entire house will smell amazing and he’ll think you’ve been working all day.” (I told you she is fabulous). I heeded her advice within the month (with a recipe from this Gooseberry Patch cookbook) and she was right…what an easy and foolproof way to bring warmth and comfort into your home. And its tasty, too! (Thank you, Aunt Susan).

Eventually, I started eating these apples with ice cream. And just the other day as I was enjoying such a treat, I decided that the only thing missing from my dessert was some pie crust. With that simple addition, I would basically be eating apple pie!

Thus, the next time I made apples, I pulled out a ready-made crust from the fridge and my tin of mini cookie cutters (which just happened to have an apple shape inside) and came up with this sweet and simple little dessert:

First, wash, peel, core and slice 6 Granny Smith apples…

I shared a link to this little contraption on Facebook last week – it does the peeling, coring and slicing for you and is so fun to use. My gym teacher had one in elementary school and I thought it was magical – and I still do today!

When you are finished, you’ll have a huge pile of apple peel “snakes” for your little boy to eat or play with or throw at his little sister. Outside, of course.

Place your apple slices in a large bowl and measure out 1/4 c. brown sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon.

Toss, toss, toss! But before you do, set 1/4 c. butter to melting in a pot on the stovetop. I took a picture of the melting butter, but it looked weird. So here’s a picture of the apple slices after the tossing.

Place the apple slices in the pot with the melted butter and cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat.

p.s. Be sure you use a pot that is big enough for all those apples. (but if you don’t, hang in there…they’ll cook down soon enough!)

I’m sure you know this, but these Pillsbury pie crusts are wonderful to use in a pinch or when you’re being lazy. I wouldn’t use them for a REAL apple pie (or would I?), but since this dessert is titled “Easier Than Apple Pie” we can’t be rolling out our own pie crusts, now can we? The answer is no. No, we can’t.

Unroll the dough (that has been out of the refrigerator for about 15 minutes) onto your countertop – no flour needed – and begin cutting out small shapes.

Place them on a cookie sheet.

brush with a little melted butter…

sprinkle with a little sugar…

and pop them into a 425* oven for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile your apples should be smelling delicious. Don’t forget to stir frequently!

Ding! Your crusts are ready. Take them out of the oven…

and transfer them to a pretty plate or bowl.

Scoop some ice cream into a bowl or mug, top with piping hot spiced apples, and drop of few pie crusts on top. Then grab a handful to sprinkle on as you eat…trust me, you’ll want more than three.

The finished product tastes pretty close to apple pie a la mode, but it takes half the time and effort. And its kinda cute, don’t you think? Just like Mrs. Blandings. (geeze, that lady is so vain).

And the good news is, if you make too many crusts to use up with your apples and ice cream, they taste pretty good all by themselves. I’m still snacking on mine. I mean…Mrs. Blandings is. She is such an oinker.

This “recipe” will definitely be a staple in our house, whether we are having friends over or just need something good to eat on a Friday night.

Welp…that’s all I’ve got. Happy cooking, you lazy thing.

Mrs. G’s Bookclub, Interrupted, Meeting #3, Part 1

Welcome to Meeting #3 of our Interrupted Bookclub, where we will take a closer look at the 2nd section of the book, titled Early Spring 2007. This meeting will be split up into 2 different posts, beginning with this one over pages 47-61. For our meeting today I have made Paula Deen’s Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies ~ they are delicious. Oh, and your hair looks nice. And I like your pajamas. Let’s get started.

~ Meeting #3: our collective musings on Section 2 (pp. 47-72) ~

Early Spring 2007, part 1 (pp. 47-61)

At the end of the first chapter, on page 49, Jen describes the tension that comes with major worldview upheavals:

“It’s one thing to acknowledge a different worldview; it’s another thing to absorb it. The next season was marked by me thrashing around, ranting and raving, and generally freaking out as the spiritual tension caught up with me and exposed the true condition of my heart”.

Oh my goodness. Its as if she has taken a peek into my soul and is pouring out the secret struggles of my heart onto the page. The last two years of my life have been about deconstructing, relearning and being absolutely exposed as a liar, a hypocrite, and a talking head whose heart was impossibly removed from her words. I was telling people about Jesus, all while tipping my hat at him from across the wilderness…

In other words, I knew that He was the way, the truth and the life, but I didn’t want to get too close. I wanted to hear Him preach in the synagogue and let His beautiful words wash over me, but then I wanted to return to my comfortable dwelling place that had a terrific view of Jerusalem, within walking distance of the best beaded sandal vendors in the city. I wanted to be in His fanclub, but not in His posse. Talk about tension.

When I finally did begin to realize that my worldview was more American than it was Christian (thanks to Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith) (oh, and the Holy Spirit), my life did not change overnight. It began just like Jen said, an acknowledgment. Then came admiration, then a desire to change…and then the changing started. And…ouch. “Thrashing around” pretty much perfectly describes the state my heart has been in as I have embarked down a long spiral of discomfort and conviction that has led me almost to the end of myself. One misconception is cleared up and another is revealed. One sin pattern is confessed and removed, only to show an entirely new layer underneath it.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. OUCH!

But its a pain that hurts so good, for I think it is going to finally make me look like a person that follows Jesus…wherever He goes.

~

I also loved the way Jen summed up her pre-Interrupted life on page 51:

“I went to church way more than a normal human would or should, but I still had too much debt, too much pride, too much self-absorption, same as everyone. I lived for me and mine. Outside of my spiritual titles — pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, Christian author and speaker — there were no radical lifestyle distinctions that would cause anyone to say, ‘Wow, you live a really different life.’ I realized I was completely normal. But my Savior was the most unnormal guy ever.”

‘Nuff said.

~

And then on page 55, after discussing Jesus’s example of brokenness and self-denial, she says:

“Mercy has a cost: Someone must be broken for someone else to be fed. The sermon that changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing. Anytime you say, “That fed me, that nourished me,” someone was the broken bread for your fulfillment.”

This section was kind of an eye-opener for me. Sometimes I will feel this urge to do something nice for someone else – like make them some banana bread – but the long day of caring for snotty-nosed and hungry children who poop more than should be humanly possible is finally over and I have the chance to put my feet up and watch “Downton Abbey” or “30 Rock” and I push that thought aside for some other day when I have the time and the energy…

But being broken and poured isn’t supposed to be easy, is it? Nor is it something that I should save for those perfect moments when I am chipper with a hankering to bake.

My husband has been a great example for me in this area. He is beginning to acknowledge those urges and thoughts as the Spirit’s moving and he acts on them quickly. Because of this, he left his office to come clean the house for me one day  when the idea popped into his head. He had been praying for me and instead of seeing that thought as fleeting and silly, he assumed it was God nudging him to show me how loved I am. He poured himself out for me…and I still don’t know if he has any idea how deeply this act of service nourished me, making me feel loved by my husband AND God. Likewise, last week when he was planning on taking Gideon to Target to give me some time with the girls, he thought of some of the other stay-at-home Moms who were probably in the same boat. So he picked up their kids, too! He poured himself out for us. He makes this obedience look easy with his cheerfulness, but is it really easy for anyone to clean an entire house when they have other things they’d like to do? No. Is it easy for anyone to load up three 4-year olds in a churchvan to return a bookshelf to Target? Heavens no. He is pouring himself out for the ones he loves. And in doing so, he is learning to experience the lasting joy of obedience and self-sacrifice while showing his hair-brained wife how to live like Jesus.

~

And lastly, Jen discusses the trepidation many of us feel about feeding or helping those “Judases” who might betray or mistreat us but follows it up with: “We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed. Must we be wise? Absolutely. But doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission.” And this is when I start to get weary. I have so much to learn. I have so much to relearn. I have so much work to do, while begging the Spirit to work in my heart and to do so quickly. I have been such a jerk. How about you?

~

Questions for thought or discussion:

Have you had an American, rather than a Christian, worldview? If so, where are you in your journey to absorbing a Biblical worldview? Are you admiring it? Or are you in the thrashing stage? How’s that going for you?

Are you completely normal? Does the world see you as different, aside from the fact that your car is in the church parking lot several times a week?

Were you like me in assuming that helping others should come when it feels right and easy? Did Jen’s thoughts on brokenness surprise you? Have you been ignoring the voice of the Spirit without even knowing it?

Have you been reticent in helping certain people because they would not appreciate you or were not deserving or capable or discerning? Is your view on this beginning to change?

 ~ mull it over or share below ~