Saturday, February 19, 2011

Seeing Through the Glass

It may seem silly, but I am truly thankful to God for contact lenses. Since I got my first pair at age 13 (for softball, supposedly, though that was my last season participating in anything that resembled a sport), I have never been seen in public sporting the four-eyed look. In fact, I have not bothered to even own a backup pair of glasses for the last decade; I just put my "eyes" in as soon as I get up, and take them out right before bed. This system was working wonderfully until I got an eye infection last winter and had to spend a weekend in relative blindness. Since then, I have realized that despite my distaste for spectacles, there may be some wisdom in owning a properly prescribed pair.

It took me until summer to see an eye doctor for a prescription and until New Year's to look into filling it, but it is finally done. I bookmarked Zenni Optical after reading about their incredibly affordable glasses on another blog, and I am so glad that I did! Not only are their prices unbeatable, but they even have software on the website so that you can upload a picture of yourself and "try on" hundreds of frames. Don and I each spent an hour or so narrowing down our choice of frames based on size, shape, color, and cost. Don didn't believe me at first that the $12 to $15 price tags were for more than the frames, but when we realized that the low prices also include lenses, a plastic case, and a cleaning cloth, we decided that we would each get two pairs! At that price, in case one pair didn't fit properly or look as fantastic as it did in the virtual fitting room, it was worth ordering a second. And believe it or not, we had four pairs of brand new prescription glasses to shipped to us for only $50!

After a couple weeks of waiting, our glasses finally arrived. Amazingly, all four pairs fit and seem to be just as high quality as the hundred-dollar ones we could get at the mall. Besides the fact that I don't find glasses particularly flattering, it was a strange feeling for me to put them on after all these years. Goodbye, peripheral vision; hello, motion sickness. The sensation that the world is moving up and down as I walk looking through the lenses is a bit unsettling for someone who normally forgets that she lacks 20/20 vision. Contacts are like a correction for my eyes; glasses are a foreign piece of hardware. Still, I am thankful to have acquired such useful (and relatively stylish) hardware for so little cost!

And how much more thankful am I that though my flesh may fail and my eyes are weak, my God is unfailing and His vision is perfect. Without contacts, glasses, or any help from me, He watches over all His creation, and gives good gifts to His children where He sees fit.

The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, 
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
Proverbs 15:3

Saturday, February 5, 2011

For Love of the Self

One night a few weeks ago, everyone went to bed early. I was left with a quiet house, a Bible, and the Bible study homework that had been gathering dust for a few months. As I snuggled up on a comfy chair, resisting the urge to grab popcorn and a cup of tea (I'm trying not to eat right before bed, which is a very difficult habit for me to drop!), I found myself once again remembering how much I love God's Word. And how convicting it is. In fact, I thought I was doing pretty well, which is simply evidence that I haven't recently been in the Word enough. When we really examine God's standards, we see how far short we fall - and how overwhelming His grace is for Him to give everything for such ungrateful, imperfect creatures.

Today's moment of conviction was tucked inside one of the most familiar passages in my mind: 1 Corinthians 13, the famous "love" passage. I have reflected on "love is patient, love is kind" before, but looking ahead to verse 5, I stumbled upon these provocative words: [love] is not self-seeking. "Self"...that must mean me. Love is not me-seeking. Love doesn't seek MY good. If I love God, I'm seeking HIM. I am seeking His glory. That doesn't leave room to look out for my own interests, preferences, and ideas. It doesn't leave room for my vain thoughts and selfish frustrations and woeful disappointments with the fellow humans in my life.

As I reread those lines, a fleshly little voice whispers in velvet undertones, "That's too hard. Put others first? Sure. But that doesn't mean you have to make their breakfast first. You don't have to smile when your toddler keeps waking up and you're lucky to eek out a broken six hours of sleep. Get your rest, your workout, your shower, your cup of tea, and your favorite slippers. Then you can think about changing wet sheets or convincing your husband to take out the trash. Do it when it's convenient...for YOU."

Isn't that what our society is all about? Me first? "You deserve it" is the spoken or unspoken message of most commercials. "You're worth it." "You've earned it." None of the voices of pop culture are saying, "Actually, you're worth nothing, you've earned nothing, and you deserve Hell." Only the voices of truth dare to admit such harsh statements that throw our teacups and slippers for a loop.

I love the Amplified Bible's extension of this verse:

Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking...

Not my love, but God's love in me. Not my rights, but doing what is right. Not my way, but God's way. It all sounds simple and cliche, yet when the velvety voice points out the specifics, I realize how often I seek my own interests, my own comfort, and my own way. To really change is going to take more than my will-power. I may be able to refuse a late-night snack, but I can't stand strong against the subtle temptations of selfishness on my own. "God's love in us" - that is what calms the angry, inspires the lazy, convicts the indulgent, persuades the stubborn, and drives out the selfish. The only way to stop insisting on my own rights and my own way is to fill every recess of my mind with Him. Dear Jesus, save me from the trap of always seeking my own good. In the very details of my everyday life at home, let me surrender my rights and desires to Your perfect and holy Will. Show what it really means to love You more than I love myself.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Looking Back

To my bloggy friends and readers, I do not pretend to have the time to be consistent in blogging, but I do hope to at least get back to periodic updates on our family happenings and occasional musings on daily life as a lamb in His arms. For those who may have missed it, here is our our annual family newletter sent to family and friends at the conclusion of 2010. Hopefully, I will be able to update again soon! ~ Manda

Dear friends and family,

Merry Christmas 2010! We hope that this holiday season finds you in good health and good cheer. Despite being the only year of our marriage when we neither moved nor had a new baby, 2010 has been a busy year for our family. God has blessed Don with a few new career opportunities, including the day job he started this summer. He is still programming for hospital software, but his new job is 100 percent telecommuting, so he gets to do it all from home! Don is thankful not to have to battle Boston traffic anymore, and the children love having Daddy around all the time.

In addition, Don completed his certification early this year to become a NASM Personal Trainer, and in April he opened his own personal training business. His most recent endeavor has been teaching a 12 week fitness course that he designed to teach adults how and why to work out. After this success of the first Fitness Challenge, he is planning to teach the same course at other local places of business.

When he isn't working, Don's biggest hobby this year has been guns. We purchased our first handgun at the Kittery Trading Post, and a membership to the local Fish and Game Club has allowed us to have many shooting dates. Don also went hunting for the first time, and while he didn't see any deer, he did get a coyote! Besides shooting and working out, we have enjoyed many church and family activities, trips to the zoo and aquarium, visits to the beach, the fair, minigolf, and summer days at the lake. In late summer, Don and Manda even swam all the way across Rock Pond! We also transitioned from helping with the teen youth group to leading a Bible study in our home for the college-age young adults at our church.

Hayden is now four years old while Donny just turned six. Donny lost his first two teeth this fall after his adult teeth had already come in – he had a few extras for a while! The boys' days are busy with helping Mumma (they now unload the dishwasher together without any help!), imaginative play (Legos and their stuffed animals are favorites), inventing their own craft projects, and homeschooling. Just this month, we finished Kindergarten, and we plan to start My Father's World First Grade in January. They are both very curious and intelligent, and it has been amazing to hear them recite Bible verses, watch them sound out words, and answer their questions about science and geography. If you visit our home, be prepared to hear all about their latest Lego creations: most of Hayden's creations are guns, jets, or rocket ships, while Donny builds intricate buildings, vehicles, and other machinery that usually require ample explanation. Donny is considering a future career as a scientist or model builder; Hayden says he wants to be a dad.

Lydia has blossomed into a spirited, entertaining one and a half year old. Like many toddlers, she could live on apples and Cheerios, her favorite word of the moment is "no," and she can charm her way out of trouble with her smile. She loves books, balls, babies (her term for dolls, stuffed animals, and pretty much any inanimate object with a face!), being silly, and playing with her brothers, Donny and "Hay-da." She is an eager helper, ready to grab a rag to wipe the table or put laundry away – though her idea of "away" is to throw everything into the bathroom closet!

People sometimes ask us, "How do you do it?" and the answer is simply, by God's grace. He gives us wisdom to raise our children, and as we seek to know Him better, He blesses us with joy and peace. We pray that you will have the same hope in the Savior during this Christmas season!

With love,

Don, Manda, Donny, Hayden, and Lydia

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. ~ Titus 2:11-14