the Stone and the Oak

A journey into bible education with the depth of the of the oak the accountability of the stone

This is Kim.

Her drink is a homemade butter coffee (your guess is as good as mine… all I know is that Kim is really disciplined with her Keto diet).

Kim and I seized an ebb from the smoke in the skies to head out to the park for our chat. Before we dive in, let me share how Kim and I met (it has a similar God-orchestration such as how I met Hilary from the last Sips & Scripts).

At my family’s first-ever event at the elementary school— Kindergarten Orientation for my oldest— we walked over to see where his classroom was, and there was another family who was doing the same.

The boy in that family, my son’s soon-to-be classmate, looked an awful lot like my son: light brown hair, rail-thin build. We got to chatting and had the boys introduce each other.

Fast forward a little and the only way to describe the boys’ friendship is through clichés: they were two peas in a pod. In fact, they haven’t shared a teacher again in three years and yet they are still thick as thieves.

My son on the left and Kim’s on the right at the start of 3rd grade this year

As you might imagine, the kids bonding meant that we moms got a chance to know each other. And to my delight, Kim holds many of the same values and parenting ideals that I do. In fact, she’s an inspiring mom to me because she turns every conversation with her kids into a learning opportunity, and I just love that.

So it came as no surprise to me that during our chat, Kim not only discussed verses that were important to her, but also verses that she feels are important to impart in her kids.

Like me, Kim has a storied past— we both felt that there were years when we de-prioritized God and gave priority to the things of this earth. Though God has forgiven her for all of her past choices, Kim has chosen to take those experiences and turn them into lessons for her own children.

TEACHING HER KIDS TO TURN TO THE WORD FOR TOUGH DECISIONS

“I lived in New York City for awhile, and housing can be tricky there. My roommate and I slept in bunk beds to consolidate space. She told me she wanted her boyfriend to move in… and sleep in her bunk. Clearly, this was not going to work for me.

I had to decide if I was going to put in for another roommate, or try and move to another apartment. After weighing the options and rationalizing with myself, I opened my Bible. I landed on Acts and I read Paul’s simple line ‘After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship and returned home’ (Acts 21.6). That word home almost jumped off the page at me. I knew God was using that verse to tell me it was time to move home.

I’ve told my kids this story and that logic and reasoning is not always the way to the right decision. Turning the decision over to God often means it will be made in the heart, not the brain. Sometimes we have stop working so hard for answers, and open ourselves up to messages from Him.”

Sometimes we have to stop working so hard for answers, and open ourselves up to messages from Him.

TEACHING HER KIDS TO LISTEN FOR MESSAGES FROM GOD

“When I was a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory, I heard the voice of God asking me to buy my co-worker a Bible. I didn’t even know the girl that well, and I felt pretty awkward about just handing her a Bible. I put His direction off for a bit. But I kept hearing it. So I researched Bibles, and found the one I would want to give her. It cost $43. At the end of my next shift, I counted up my tips and they totaled $43 exactly. I felt like saying, ‘God, I hear you loud and clear!’ And I bought her the Bible.

When I share this story with my kids, I want them to know that the voice of God can be a feeling in their gut… a phrase that gets stuck in their minds… or an image that they get in their imagination.

Because, ultimately, they will get lots of different messages— even within the church— and I want them to understand that the relationship they develop with God will guide them better than anything else.”

TEACHING HER KIDS NOT TO HIDE FROM GOD WHEN THEY MESS UP

“When my son was little, he got in a fight with his sister and hit her. He immediately ran to his bed and hid in his covers, hoping that hiding from me meant he would not get in trouble.

This was the perfect opportunity to talk to him about never hiding from God. We are going to mess up— it dates back to original sin. Eve and Adam made a wrong choice and what was the first thing they did? They hid from God.

But God knows everything. Hiding not only doesn’t help, it puts distance between us and Him. I told my son to confess and he will always be forgiven.”

TEACHING HER KIDS TO EQUIP THEMSELVES FOR THE ENEMY’S ATTACKS

“In the darkest part of my dark years, I felt like I was drowning. I didn’t feel like I could get myself above the surface. I asked God how much longer I would be drowning.

Again, I turned to the Bible. I read the verse ‘Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5.8, ESV).

It felt like the enemy was trying to devour me. So I asked God for insight, and He told me that the enemy was trying to take my strength and my honor: the two attributes of my name.

It was Psalm 139 that really helped me find a way to the surface:

You have searched me Lord, and you know me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise;

You perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all of my ways.”

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

Psalm 139. 1-5, ESV

In those days, I was still reeling from abusive relationships, and I needed to be known like that. Feeling so intimately known by Him was what really got my prayer life back on track. I didn’t have to be formal or all put together with Him; I could just be me and speak to him from where I was.”

TEACHING HER KIDS THAT THEY WERE GIVEN A PURPOSE AND CAREFUL DESIGN

Psalm 139 has continued to guide and shape our family. When I was pregnant with my first child, my daughter, I had an ultrasound and in the image printed, she was smiling. I framed it with the verse you knit me together in your womb:

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made

Psalm 139.13-14

To me, this is one of the most convicting scriptures— the creator of the universe so carefully designed me and my children.

This knowledge helps if I ever am struggling with a parenting challenge— I pray and ask God to help me know them like He knows them.

And when I talk to my daughter about her careful and purposeful design, it helps instill in her that her identity can be in Him and not in the things that might try and influence her.

I have heard her recite this message to one of her friends who was calling herself ugly. My daughter said to the girl ‘God made you perfectly and so carefully! You are just as you are meant to be.’

Her friend had never heard that verse before.

And so the lessons we teach our children can have a beautiful and important ripple effect.”

TRAINING OUR CHILDREN IN THE WAY THEY SHOULD GO

Kim has turned her struggles into important lessons in abiding in God. I commended her tactic of discussing these things on the front end, before the ways of the world try and sway our children.

Like Kim and like me, our kids may have a spell when they stray or doubt God. But if God is in the roots, then the tree won’t be fully knocked over by the storm of doubt or the storm of disobedience. If the roots remain, new growth can always occur.

If, like the Proverb says, we “Train up a child in the way he should go” he will not depart from that way even when he is old.

And training up our kids means letting them know the mistakes we have made and the struggles we have had and how God redeemed them.

This is how we equip them for the storm or, perhaps, it equips them to help others through the storm.

with His love,

Adelaide

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For the umpteenth time, I tapped the weather app on my phone, and once again saw an Air Quality Index (AQI) of over 170– unhealthy. I dropped my phone glumly and planned for another day confined to the walls of my house.

Typically, September is one of my favorite times of the year. Our scorching valley heat starts to wane and the mornings are delightfully cool. I take my mug out after the sun spreads its meager September light for some quiet mommy time. I plant mums. I eagerly await the start of autumn.

Not this year.

As I am sure you know, California wildfire season has raged more furiously this year than an any point in recent history. And the Creek Fire has hit very close to home as it tears through the local mountain community. We know many people who have been personally affected by the fire, and I have been to my local evacuation site to offer the little that I could.

So many people are suffering serious devastations from the Creek Fire, and the battle is not over yet.

I realize that being confined to my house because of hazardous air quality is nothing compared to the displaced and those suffering serious losses.

But in a pandemic that has already placed serious restrictions on where I can go and what I can do (though I understand why), facing weeks of an even tighter confinement really got me down.

I prayed for God to contain the fires, and then I had to admit to Him that I wanted them contained for myself in addition to the mountain community. Selfish as it sounds, I asked that he clear up the air so my family could go outside again.

And in my prayer I told God that I know blue sky is up there, and I had full faith that I would see blue sky again.

What a day that will be! I thought. I will praise Him with all my heart when I see that blue sky.

I will praise Him with all my heart when I see that blue sky?

Let’s put a pin in that statement and revisit it in a bit.

THE MANUAL FOR FAITH

I read the book of Hebrews for my September reading, and my pre-reading investigation led me to understand that the unknown author is trying to convince Jewish Christians that Jesus is greater than all that they hold dear from the Torah.

Jesus is compared to angels, to Moses, to priests, and to sacrifices, each time making the case for why Jesus surpasses them all.

And then the final chapters of Hebrews meditate around the idea of faith. In fact, our pastor refers to Hebrews as “the manual for faith.” And it is this subject, these verses, that sauntered into my heart and took up residence there while I battled the gloom of the smoky skies.

Chapter 11 starts with two definitions of faith:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,

the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11.1, ESV

The definition first pairs hope with assurance that our hope will manifest.

The second definition is the certainty or belief in things we cannot see, or at least we cannot see yet.

So, if we go back to my example about the blue skies, it stands that I had faith in that moment. I hoped for blue skies and felt assured that I would see them again. And though all I could see was a smoky sky, I was certain that the smoky sky would been replaced by a blue one.

And yet… (it seems I always have an “and yet”), I was saving my praise for the Lord until I saw the results I wanted.

Is faith complete with suspended praise? I would argue probably not.

Making praise conditional on the end result is a faith half-baked.

Does God only love us when he sees results? Certainly not.

So why would I hinge my faith on results?

And so, rather than waiting for the blue skies to say God you are SO good because you answered my prayer, I need to say Him, amidst to the smoky skies, God you are SO good. Always.

It’s hard to do.

But radical faith is the catalyst for unimaginable goodness.

Radical faith is the catalyst for unimaginable goodness.

TO WHOM SHOULD WE LOOK AS MODELS OF GREAT FAITH?

The author of Hebrews uses almost an entire chapter (11) to recount some of the hall-of-famers of faith in the first five books of the Bible (the Torah)— the text this particular audience will value.

And for each faith role model mentioned, I started asking myself questions:

  • Did Abel wait for God to reward him before offering the firstborn of his flock? (Gen 4.4; Heb 11.4)
  • Did Enoch only walk with God after God had blessed him with many sons and daughters? (Gen 5.22-24; Heb 11.5)
  • Did Noah wait for the rains to start before building his ark? (Gen 6.11-22; Heb 11.7)
  • Did Abraham wait for the bestowment of the promised land to be obedient to God? (Gen 15.18-21; Heb 11.8)
  • Did Sarah wait until Isaac’s arrival to delight in the blessing of a child? (Gen 18.12; Heb 11.11)

Spoiler alert: the answer is no— a resounding no to all of the above.

These faith role models exhibited the important byproducts of faith: praise, obedience, and a close relationship with our Lord. Incomplete faith waits on results, whereas complete faith waits for nothing.

Incomplete faith waits on results, whereas complete faith waits for nothing.

The chapter goes on to list many more examples of great faith in early believers: Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jepthath are all mentioned for their great faith. All of these individuals are what the author calls the “cloud of witnesses” as he/she begins the next section.

WE LOOK TO THE PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH

The first two verses in chapter 12 are so rich in poignance that I had to create a graphic for them:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses

let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,

and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy that was set before him

endured the cross, despising the shame,

and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12.1-1. ESV).

The fourth line holds so much for us to unpack. First, Jesus is the founder of faith in that before him, salvation came from adherence to the law. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians that “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law…So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3.24-25).

Faith is the gift that was bought and paid for by the body of Christ. Faith is a gift; the least I can do is not take it for granted– not continue to offer incomplete faith. And this fact ushers in the next part of that line: Jesus is the perfecter of our faith. Faith isn’t a black-or-white entity; it is not always “you have it or you don’t.” We can improve the faith we have. We can make our faith whole and complete.

And how do we perfect our faith? The answer is in that same fourth line– we look to Jesus.

And how do we perfect our faith? We look to Jesus.

We remember what he endured in faith to atone for our sins and save our souls. We remember this when we are enduring a long race– even when the road ahead stretches farther that the eye can see.

We remember Jesus’ endurance when the smoky skies settle heavy for days on end with no hint of blue above.

Ash may be falling from the sky, but we need not let it coat our hearts.

with His love,

Adelaide

In poem 28 of her “Nature” collection, Emily Dickinson writes this of autumn:

The morns are meeker than they were,

The nuts are getting brown;

The berry’s cheek is plumper,

The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,

The field a scarlet gown.

Lest I be old fashioned,

I’ll put a trinket on.

I’ve always loved this poem. Perhaps I love it because Emily and I share one key thing here: a desire to delight in the bold colors of the autumn season by dressing in equally festive attire.

The temperatures are finally starting to drop here, and fall clothing lines are hitting the stores. While many probably don’t think much about clothing lines in autumnal colors, I have had to plan for this occasion so as to maintain the self-control Paul refers to in Galatians 5.23.

WHY CLOTHES?

Let me back up. For me, clothes have always served more than utility; for me, clothes are a creative expression.

While some people are strongly affected by musical sounds, and others by scent, I have always been incredibly color-driven.

Expressing myself through color sometimes takes the form of paint and brush, sometimes takes the form of decorating my window box, but most often, it takes the form of curating a wardrobe that reflects the colors that are speaking to me.

There is nothing inherently wrong with creative expression. We desire to create because we were made in the image of the One who created all things.

There is nothing inherently wrong with creative expression.

Where a love for clothing can go wrong, however, is in a few different ways:

  1. When certain brands of clothing are worn as an indication of wealth and status in hopes of inciting envy or jealousy
  2. When money that should be tithed or spent in a charitable way is used to purchase unnecessary clothing
  3. When clothing has become an idol in terms of sheer amount amassed
  4. When extended amounts of time that could be spent in communion with God is spent thinking about and desiring more clothing

Though I can’t say I struggle much with the first one, I have definitely had to take a hard look at my own love of clothing in terms of the other three.

So, over the years, I have put a few measures in place to keep my love of clothing in check.

PROBLEM: WHEN MONEY THAT SHOULD BE TITHED OR SPENT IN A CHARITABLE WAY IS USED TO PURCHASE UNNECESSARY CLOTHING

Budgeting is all about choosing how money is spent. If more money is spent on X, there is less for Y. Impulse buying is one of the fastest ways to upset a budget. If too much impulse buying occurs, and it’s time to give charitably to disaster relief—or buy a meal for someone struggling—these fruitful acts are sacrificed for the dress already hanging in the closet.

Making my fall wardrobe feel new can curb shopping for fun

I’ve noticed that I impulse-buy the most when seasons change. As I mentioned earlier, when the new fall line drops in all those autumnal colors, my will gets weak.

One strategy that helps is to segment my wardrobe into fall/winter and spring/summer. When the weather moves from one to the other, I take my out-of-season clothes and tuck them away underneath the bed in a rolling tub.

My fall tub— itching to see the light of day again!

Pulling out the clothes for the new season can be as exciting as a shopping trip which helps me substitute it as such.

Be sparing and mindful about “trendy” items

My rule-of-thumb when it comes to purchasing clothes is to spend very little on trendy pieces; instead, I try to invest in classic, well-made pieces that will last for many years.

But trends can be fun, so I don’t rule them out entirely. I just have to be judicious about trendy items.

This fall, I want to see if I can turn some pants I found secondhand into some trendy wide-leg crop pants (stay tuned).

And speaking of secondhand…

Shop secondhand so not to compromise the budget

The first 10% of my paycheck goes straight to God. He has given me everything I have, and it’s all His anyway.

Once the bills are paid, and we cover food and gas, there is not always a lot left in the checking account for clothes. But I have found that I can find great items when I buy secondhand.

This fall, I decided to invest in a pair of high-waist flare jeans as a staple for the fall and winter months (and, ideally, for years to come).

I did some casual looking online and found a pair of Anthropologie jeans on Poshmark for $40 (retail $128).

Poshmark is an online secondhand store that is individually based: anyone with an account can list an item of clothing for sale, and the buyer completes the transaction when the item arrives as described.

On the other hand, ThredUp is a different model, but another great online secondhand shop that I have used for years. ThredUp takes mail-in bags of clothes from sellers and lists them, consignment-style, on the website. ThredUp does accept returns, and offer a rewards program for frequent shoppers. Buyers can even filter the search for “new with tags” in hopes to score some good deals (these items are probably retail overflow).

Keep in mind that money not spent on clothes may find a more fruitful avenue

In the parable of the rich young man in Matthew 19, Jesus tells him that in order to gain eternal life, he must keep the commandments. And when the young man presses further, Jesus adds that to be perfect, the man should sell all of his earthly items and give them to the poor and set out to follow Jesus. And though we don’t know what the young man in the parable ultimately chose (we infer that he doesn’t sell his riches because he goes away from Jesus sorrowfully), we can heed the message: rather than living in riches, we should use the equity of such to help those who have less than us.

  • Maybe it means through careful budgeting and purchasing, we ensure that the end of the month sees enough extra funds to financially support Convoy of Hope as they swoop in to help when disaster strikes.
  • Maybe that means donating the baby’s crib to a family in need instead of saving it for sentimental purposes.
  • Maybe that means asking for a smaller Christmas gift for oneself in order to sponsor a family who won’t have any Christmas gifts.

I’m likely preaching to myself more than to my readers, here, but I believe maintaining perspective with our money is a powerful, holy tool.

PROBLEM: WHEN CLOTHING HAS BECOME AN IDOL IN TERMS OF SHEER AMOUNTS AMASSED

Clothing is truly something we need, to a certain extent. Learning to parse out what we could use for the upcoming season versus what we are tempted to accumulate is an important practice.

Creating a purchase plan as a measure of self-control

Paul tells us that one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control: the ability to resist temptations and desires (Galatians 5.23, ESV).

If I go into the fall retail season without a plan, I can find myself not even realizing how much shopping I am doing—casually grabbing an item of clothing every time I go to Target, for instance.

A more mindful, self-controlled approach is to pull out my fall/winter items as the season is beginning, and write down a careful shopping list for the seasons.

Here is my shopping list for this fall:

  • High waisted flair jeans (purchased—the ones I snagged secondhand and mentioned earlier)
  • 1 hair scarf in fall colors
  • A belt bag or mules using my Madewell gift card from last Christmas (self control!)
  • Allowance for an inexpensive “fun” purchase

And here is what I am planning for winter:

  • Two plain long-sleeved tees
  • One hair scarf in Christmas plaid
  • Allowance for an inexpensive “fun” purchase

I like to add that last one to each list because, occasionally—albeit rarely—I will stumble upon an item I hadn’t planned for that seems tailor-made for me. I don’t want to be so legalistic that I don’t ever get to enjoy sound purchases.

But having a list and practicing self-control means I am buying wisely and making sure I am not using more of my family’s budget than allotted.

Do not store up; let unused items go

Jesus directs us explicitly in the matter of collecting fine things:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, or where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also

Matthew 6.19-21, ESV

First off, right there in Jesus’ command is a logical reason against hoarding textiles: the most expensive, most coveted garment can be taken down by a single moth. Why place our value on something so easily destroyed? It makes no logical sense.

But more importantly, Jesus tells us that the state of our hearts is reflected in what we pour our attention and funds into.

PROBLEM: WHEN EXTENDED AMOUNTS OF TIME THAT COULD BE SPENT IN COMMUNION WITH GOD IS SPENT THINKING ABOUT AND DESIRING MORE CLOTHING

Though the tips I have mentioned definitely help curb impulse-buying and hoarding, there comes a point in which the time spent hunting for clothes should be considered.

Yes, I am a bargain-hunter, but at what point does the bargain-hunting take up too much time?

Time for a shopping fast?

For Lent this year, my friend Michelle (you may have caught her Sips & Scripts chat in July) and I decided to refrain from purchasing any items of clothing. For some of you, this all sounds silly— 40 days without purchasing clothes? Easy.

But Michelle and I made that decision for a reason. Clothing has a draw and an appeal to me that I do find hard to resist. If I ever feel that draw starting to get out of control, it’s time to pull back and prove to God that I don’t need to strive for more earthly items. He is all I need.

I don’t need to strive for more earthly items. He is all I need.

Flex creativity in the styling, not in the purchasing.

There are so many ways to give an existing item of clothing a fresh look. I’m reminding myself to take some of my warm weather pieces and re-mix them for the cool weather:

If I hadn’t had a 6-year-old photographer for these pics, you might have been able to see my fall outfit with booties. But what can I say? He works for hugs and cookies.

When we keep our gaze off “new” and “more,” we find contentment in what we already have.

And perhaps the most important strategy of all:

Stay in the Word to keep the gaze on heaven, not on earth

As I round out Paul’s letters and move toward Hebrews, so many of his words speak to just this topic. Just this morning, I read these words:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

1 Timothy 6.6-7, ESV

We will leave the world with naked palms unfurled and empty. Our belongings will be sold at an estate sale, or perhaps passed on to those who will ultimately pass them on as well.

Let us use our earthly items with gratitude, but let us not grasp them tightly.

A tight grasp is intended for the right hand of God.

with His love,

Adelaide

When I was walking past my husband’s work-from-home station the other day, I noticed that he was reading my latest blog post. As a subscriber to my blog, he gets an automatic email when I post something new.

What I didn’t realize about this automated program is that all of my colors and formatting is lost through this service.

A bit of the spirit of the blog was lost in translation, so to speak.

So, after talking to another very helpful blogger friend (Sarah Butterfield!), I decided to start an email service that would allow me to connect more with those who want to engage with the blog.

I’m now signed up with Mailchimp for email communication, and if you would like to continue to get notifications of a new blog (some of the subscribers will already be connected with the new system, but not those via WordPress), enter your email address here:

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As an extra incentive, if you subscribe, you will be given five entries into the One Thousand Gifts giveaway to win this bundle of goodies:

The giveaway remains open until Thursday, September 3rd at noon (PST). I will announce the winner within 24 hours of giveaway closing (more details can be found by clicking on the image).

I would be honored if you choose to follow the work I believe God is leading me to accomplish.

with His love,

Adelaide