Friday, December 25, 2009

Joseph's Lullaby

Since becoming a parent, this has become one of my favorite Christmas songs.
I hope you've had a wonderful day celebrating the fact that God is With Us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Voice in the Wilderness

There are many charities in the world caring for people. But often when I am asked for money I wonder what my money will be used for. Will it go directly to the people in need, or be spent on salaries or marketing? This is one charity that has captured my heart and I can trust to use my resources wisely...A Voice in the Wilderness.

A few years ago, on an Emmaus Walk, my husband met a guy who does mission work with his wife in Haiti. They started a non-profit organization to help the children in Haiti, gathering support from churches and by word of mouth. The newsletters I have read are eye-opening and heartbreaking. The couple goes to Haiti once or twice a year and are very hands-on in their ministry, seeing the need with their own eyes. The following is a brief summary of the work they support there.

Feeding Program: The program provides children with one bowl of rice & beans every weekday. And some of these children take that one portion of food home to share with the rest of their family. The lucky family in Haiti eats one meal of rice & beans per day. Others eat "mud cakes" to stay alive.


Education: After feeding the children, there are a few teachers who educate the children...teaching them about Jesus, and how to read and write. The teachers get a meager salary, and choose to work even on their "days off" because of their devotion to the children.


Medical supplies: A few times a year they ship a container of medical supplies. Many things that we take for granted such as soap, vitamins, Tylenol, pills to kill the intestinal parasites they get from drinking the water, and much more. People will stand in line all day to get these items. (In my mind there would be nothing worse than watching my child suffer and being able to do nothing about it. Kids there die all the time from starvation and illnesses we consider to be minor. In fact, many don't even name their children until their 1st birthday because the mortality rate is so high.)


The thing that amazes me the most is that the Christians in Haiti have a stronger faith than many of us. They are forced to depend on God for their needs. And they are THANKFUL for what they receive. They live with a real HOPE of what is to come. When I think about the things I whine and complain about it makes me ashamed. Every time I read about the conditions other people live in it reminds me how blessed we all are and how much we take for granted.


If you want to learn more about this ministry, receive their newsletter, or make a contribution you may write Liz and Dewaine Seese at:A Voice in the Wilderness, 99 Cypress Edge Drive, Blairsville, Georgia 30512

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A New Addition

I have a new addition to my morning routine...one that recharges me physically, emotionally, and even spiritually! My wonderful husband bought me this treadmill for my birthday/Christmas/any other holiday he could think of during the next year :) I have been wanting one for a few years...so this was a good gift. Now the question was if I would find the motivation to USE it for something more than a clothing rack (which I hear is a common use of treadmills these days).

My friend gave me the golden key when she introduced me to podcasts. For those of you, like me, who are wondering what a podcast even IS, it is a radio broadcast that can be downloaded from the internet (I use iTunes) for FREE! What a concept! I can listen to teachings from amazing Christian pastors and authors, normally between 15-30 min each, right from my iPod. And since my goal is to work out for 30 min this makes the time go by really fast. I get to workout my body, fill my mind with wisdom, worship, and get an overall boost of confidence every morning. For the first time I am beginning an exercise routine that I believe I can stick to and am truly excited about. I hope to see improvement in my physical health, and more importantly in my spiritual health. Feel free to keep me accountable :)

1 Timothy 4:8 "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

2 Timothy 1:7 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline".

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Glimmer of Hope

We did our Christmas decorating yesterday and soaked in the boys excitement. The joyful anticipation they express inspires me. One of their favorite traditions is our advent calendar, taking turns to place an item on the nativity scene each morning. Jacob got to go first today, placing the star on the scene...a glimmer of hope.

I've been doing the daily advent readings we got at church this past Sunday. The verse for today is Romans 8:18-27. It talks about how creation is groaning and eagerly awaiting what is to come, similar to a pregnant woman experiencing labor pains. What an interesting analogy. Pregnancy, like life, is not always pleasant. There are hardships such as being uncomfortable, leg cramps, swelling, weight gain, nerve pain, nausea, vomiting, being poked with needles and forced to drink liquids for testing, not to mention childbirth itself. But what helps us endure those things is the hope of that little life growing inside...the hope of what is to come. And once that baby has come into the world eventually the negative memories fade. That must be true since many of us choose to go through the whole process again! The end result is more wonderful than anything we could have imagined. Life is meant to be lived in that same state of mind. We can endure our trials because we have hope for what the future will bring...a future so great we can not even comprehend it.

I find that with pregnancy it is easier to have hope because we know when the birth will come. We know when things will be set right again. But in life we don't. We don't know when our problems will be resolved, when Christ will return, or when we will be taken to heaven (I pray that you know that is your destination). So we are left to trust in the fact that God knows and will strengthen and refine us so we will be prepared for that time, which eventually will come.

Why are downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Savior and my God.
-Psalms 42:11

May this Christmas season fill you with hope and the joyful anticipation of what is to come.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Exalted

Exalted means "elevated in rank, character, or status".
Someone worthy of honor and praise.

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted
- Psalms 148:13


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lesson From a Dixie Cup

Last night at New Hope's Thanksgiving Eve service we sat around tables and took communion "family-style". On the table sat a large cup of juice, which was to be poured into Dixie cups for each person to partake of. If I had been the one to fill the cups, I would have poured just a little juice into each one - just enough to taste. But my brother who sat at our table and filled my cup is a big dude...he filled it all the way to the top! To him this might have been a mere swallow. But for me, this was the biggest communion cup I had ever seen! As I sat there gulping down my communion and remembering my Lord, I felt Him say "Drink deeply".

How often do we just take sips of Jesus? Maybe we only drink enough to keep us going and get us through the day. But to be filled - filled enough to overflow onto others - we need to drink deeply. And this means spending time with the One whose well never runs dry.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks to a living God who can speak to me through whatever means He chooses - even a little Dixie cup. May His name be praised.

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" - Jesus

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

God is in Control

I remember hearing about the death of Steven Curtis Chapman's adopted daughter a few years ago. She got struck by a car, which was driven by her brother, in their driveway. I wonder how people can get past such tragedy, how hope and faith are able to rise through such sadness. In the midst of his struggle Steven has written an album called "Beauty Will Rise". The following is one song from that album with a message we can all relate to. Even in the midst of our pain and confusion, God is still in control and worthy of our praise.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

The End of a Season

Life is full of many seasons. As it's getting ready to transition from fall to winter, there is another season change happening in my life that is bittersweet. I am now reflecting and celebrating what has been, while at the same time looking forward to what is to come.

Very soon after moving to Loudonville in 2001 Jeremy and I joined a couples small group and have been a part of one ever since. We connected with our first group after visiting a church in Ashland. Even though we were still "church shopping" this group took us in, became our friends, and celebrated important milestones with us, such as the birth of our first child. After a few years we had found a church home and decided to lead a group of our own for the Purpose-Driven Life study our church was promoting, which led to another study on marriage. Then we took a year off from leading to participate in a couples group in Perrysville. And finally, back to leading a group of our own for the last few years. A couples small group was just what we needed during this time in our lives. We were able to fellowship and make great friendships...in fact most of our close friends have been in a small group with us at some point. And I was able to grow in my leadership by pushing through feelings of inadequacy and trusting God.

While my passion for small groups is still strong, I believe God is leading me away from the couples small group and leading me toward a womans small group for my spiritual growth. And unfortunately my schedule doesn't allow time for both. I've been feeling this for some time but have been struggling with the when's and how's to step down from the leadership position I was in. Monday will be our last official small group night. It's so hard to step away, yet I know that is what is being asked of me. I will miss the regular fellowship with the couples who I consider to be part of my family, yet I know our friendships will remain.

So I look forward to a new season...not quite sure what to expect...but trusting that it is exactly what I need. (Heads up Kim, I might be coming your way!)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Simple Pleasures

I love when my kids remind me of the simple pleasures of life...



Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love is Patient

Love is patient. And I am not.

God was patient with me and continually showed me His grace when I was searching for the truth. And he continues to be patient with me as I stumble through this life and seek affirmation in all the wrong places. He waits for me to bring my burdens to Him and submit to His will for my life.

My husband won his way into my heart by being patient with me. He was content just being my friend until I came to the realization that he was the man God had chosen for me. He is patient with me still as I learn how to fulfill the great responsibility of being a wife and mother.

Yet patience is something I lack. I’ve heard the analogy many times that as Christians our job is to plant the seeds and God’s job is to grow them. Well I feel like I’ve done so much planting and I’m discouraged because I never see the growth. Am I a poor planter? Or am I just not being patient enough to allow God to do His work? Just once I want to know that I’ve been used to change someone's life for eternity. There are so many people that my heart just aches for. I want them to know the peace and joy that I have found. I know God loves them way more than I do and is working His plan, but I want to SEE it! Is that selfish? I imagine God patiently waiting for these children of His to turn around and run to Him. But I am not as patient.

Father, fill me with YOUR love for your people. Inspire me to show that love wherever I am and to patiently wait for you to grow any seeds that are planted. Also grant me patience for the work that you are doing in MY life that seems painstakingly slow at times as well. Thank you for being patient with me~

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Honoring Your Word

One of my favorite lines from Shrek 2 is spoken after Shrek drinks the magic potion to make himself handsome and finds he needs new clothes to wear. After stealing two noblemen's clothes he declares to them "Thank you, gentlemen! Someday I will repay you...unless of course I can't find you, or if I forget." What makes it so funny is that he states out loud what is all too common reality. There are a few people I know who I can trust to follow through on what they say. If they tell me they will pray, I know they will do it. If they say they will show up somewhere, they will be there. But then there are so many others I know who may or may not do what they have said. Maybe they intend to, but for whatever reason it doesn't happen. Are you faithful to do what you say you will do?

And I always find it odd when people are sworn in or put under oath by placing their hand on the Bible. Doesn't God hear the words that come forth from our lips all the time? What difference should a hand on a Bible make? Here's what Jesus had to say about that..."You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say "If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that's nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that's serious." What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: "If you shake hands on a promise, that's nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that's serious?" What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you accountable regardless" Matthew 23:16-22 The Message

Although I'm not perfect, I place high value on following through on my word. I don't need to make promises or offer reassurances. My friends know if I say I'm going to do something, it's done. And I expect the same from them. What would your friends say about you?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Woman of 25,000 Words

I recently read that research shows the average woman speaks close to 25,000 words each day compared to the average man's 10,000. Gary Smalley concludes that women have a need to connect through words and men simply don't have a need to talk as much. He gave this example, which I could easily relate to..."When the husband comes home in the evening, he's already spent his 10,000 words at work and has no energy left for communication. The wife, on the other hand, may be home with the children all day, and she is just warming up because she's got to get in her 25,000 words with an adult before sundown!" That's how I feel sometimes after being at home with the kids all day...I can't wait for Jeremy to walk in the door so I can tell him everything I've thought about all day long :) That's why having some close female friends to chat with (or email) during the day can be so helpful. Women simply need to communicate.

Then another passage in this book caught my eye...this one is for you husbands. "Start talking. She needs to talk. It's necessary to her happiness, her security, and even to her health. Whether you want to talk doesn't matter. If you love her you will want to meet her deepest needs. Start talking and make sure you are truly engaged in the process, not merely mouthing words from a sense of duty...If you withdraw into your own comfortable silence, the enemy is sure to fill the communication gap and talk to your wife. She will lie awake at night wanting so much to understand your heart that words will come into her mind to express what she thinks you are thinking." And the stuff the enemy has to say is never good, or true. (I Promise by Gary Smalley)

My husband does a great job of listening to me when I simply need to talk. But on days that he is busy with other responsibilities, I am thankful for my girlfriends and my man Jesus, who frequently fill in the gap so that the enemy doesn't get the chance.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life - Proverbs 4:23

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Message

Sometimes reading a familiar verse in a new way can be eye opening...

"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you - plans to give you the future you hope for.

When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen.

When you come looking for me, you'll find me.

Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."

-Jeremiah 29:11-14 from The Message

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fields of Wheat

This morning I read the parable that Jesus told about the wheat and weeds in Matthew 13:24-30. I know very little about farming, or growing anything for that matter! Jeremy has tried to educate me a little...I can usually identify what crop is growing in a field, and know the names of some key pieces of farm equipment...but that is the extent of my knowledge. So after reading the above passage, I was desiring a little more info to help me understand what Jesus was saying. I came across this explanation online. Good food for thought...

"We are told in the parable the farmer is the Son of Man and He planted good seed in His field (vv. 24, 37), then the enemy, Satan, planted weeds (tares or darnel). The enemy is no originating genius. He is an imitator. He produces counterfeits of the works of God. It is important for Christians to know this, so that they may be on their guard. If we study Scripture we shall not be ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Note if you will, the enemy did not plant thorns or thistles. If he did this it would had been easily detected, and there would be no difficulty in distinguishing the false from the true. He planted "tares," or "darnel." It is impossible to distinguish the darnel from the wheat until the wheat begins to bear fruit. When the "servants" of the Farmer discovered what the enemy had done, they wanted to root out the darnel (v. 28). He told them not to root out the darnel. If they root out the darnel, they will uproot the wheat (v. 29) because the darnel wraps itself around the roots of the wheat. It is only when the wheat is harvested can the wheat and darnel be safely separated. As these imitation blades, green and flourishing, growing side by side with the real wheat, it appears there will be a good harvest. However, appearances are deceptive, and the harvest will be a disappointment and mockery to those who have spent so much time and labor on their cultivation."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

You Complete Me

Any romance lover who has watched Jerry Maguire can most likely picture the moving scene in the movie when Jerry bursts into a room full of women and declares to his lady, "You...complete...me". Let's all say it together...Awwww. That's what we all want, right? For our mate to complete us?

Maybe that's where we get it all wrong. Men and women were designed to complement each other, but only God can complete us. Are we expecting our spouses to fill needs that only He can fill? I've been challenged by this question. How about you?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

To Honor and Cherish

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. I remember learning about it in school. Basically it says that what we believe about ourselves, which is shaped by the things others believe about us and how they act toward us, ends up coming true. For example, if a student's parents and teachers expect him to fail, he will begin to expect that as well, and due to lack of effort and belief in himself he will fail. The reverse can also be true. Our own expectations can have a tremendous effect on our behavior. While I've known of this theory, I'd never thought to apply it to marriage. But that's exactly what Gary Smalley does in his book I Promise. Here are a few excerpts from Chapter 2: The Power of Honor...

"When I choose to look at the inner value of my wife, I'm simply looking at her as God looks at me. And I'm so very glad He sees me as He does. I would cringe to think that my Creator sees only my weaknesses and judges me by my stumblings and bumblings. Instead, He sees my potential, my innate worth, complete with all the godlikeness that He instilled into me originally. Honor is so simple, really. All we need to do is look at each other as God looks at us."

"You can make the choice to look beneath the surface behavior of your mate and find the value inside. You decide in your heart, on your own, that you will treasure her; that you will honor him as valuable. You will look at all the plusses instead of the minuses. And it will work. Your emotions will fall in line and validate your choice because it is our nature to place our affections, desires, and enthusiasm on whatever we treasure highly. Our feelings always follow our beliefs and thoughts." As it says in Matthew 6:21, Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

"I want to tell you a story to remind you of a point I covered earlier - the result you can expect when you give honor to your mate.

There was a Polynesian island tradition that when a man wanted a bride, he had to give in payment to her parents something that he believed to be of equal value to what she was worth. Most men would give a pig, chicken, parrot, or some similar animal. For the most beautiful of all women, a man might even be willing to give one of his prized cows.

One woman in the village who had just reached marriageable age was considered to be a little more plain and ordinary than most. Yet every girl had a few suitors, and she was no exception. One of these young men offered her parents a rabbit, another a chicken, and another a goose. One suitor came along, however, and offered the girl's father ten of his finest cows. Everyone was stunned. Such a bride price was unheard of. All the other young men walked away in disgust. No woman is worth that!

The new suitor was thought to be foolish and extravagant. But he knew what he was doing. Knowing the value her suitor had placed on her, this Polynesian plain Jane began to hold her head higher as she strolled through the villages. She, after all, was now the famous "ten-cow woman". She paid more attention to her speech, her dress, and her way of conducting herself. She became more confident and elegant. Her facial expressions became kind and gentle, her body movements graceful and elegant, her voice soft and caring. In short, she became what she believed her worth to be..."

1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to encourage each other and build each other up. By honoring our spouses and those around us, we have the power to help them become the men and women they were created to be.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Look Past the Pigs

I love when I read a story that I've heard many times and it strikes me in a new way. This week it was the story in Matthew 8:28-34 about Jesus driving out demons. So Jesus comes into this town in which he finds two madmen living in the cemetery. They had been kicked out of the town because they were so violent and had terrorized the townspeople. The evil spirits that were in the men recognized Jesus as the Son of God, knew he had the power to cast them out of the men, and begged to be allowed to live in the herd of nearby pigs instead. For whatever reason, Jesus allowed this and the crazed pigs stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned. Now here's the part that got to me..."Scared to death, the swineherds bolted. They told everyone back in town what had happened to the madmen and the pigs. Those who heard about it were angry about the drowned pigs. A mob formed and demanded that Jesus get out and not come back". (The Message)

I'm thinking...what a minute...Jesus just changed the lives of these two men! The people no longer have to live in fear of being terrorized. They have just witnessed a miracle! Yet they were more concerned with the pigs. Maybe the pig-owners just saw their source of income run into the sea (it was about 2,000 pigs). Maybe they were worried how they would provide for their families. Maybe people were worried that their source of nourishment was gone. Or maybe the people were just scared because they didn't understand what had happened. Whatever the case, they missed what God was doing because they were concerned with less important things. It's so easy to do.

In our times of fear and uncertainty may we draw close to Jesus instead of pushing him away like these townspeople did. Ask Him to open your eyes to the ways He is at work in your life and in those around you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Engaged in Battle

Are you in a battle? Who is your struggle with? Your spouse? Family? Co-worker?

Here is what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms". Remember who your enemy is.

Then what are we supposed to do? "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." Ephesians 6:10-11 We are then told to stand firm with the armor of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God in place.

Maybe you don't feel strong enough to fight. That's okay, because the Lord is a warrior, He is mighty in battle. I am encouraged by the words Moses spoke to the Israelites "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today...The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:13-14 Put on your armor, stand firm, and ask God to take up your battle!

And when you get weary, pray David's words "Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress." Psalms 71:3





Don't forget to share your struggles with other Christians who can pray for you. "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20

There is power in that. I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are there to lift me up and help me to stand firm. I'm ready for battle.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Making a Difference

I get overwhelmed at times thinking of all the needs and hurting people in the world. There are charities for everything from cancer research to starving children to missions. There are people dying physically from starvation, disease, and abuse. There are people dying spiritually. There are people without jobs who can't pay their bills. Everywhere I look there are people in need. So how can we make a difference? Is it even possible? I am reminded of this poem called The Starfish:

An old man was walking down the beach just before dawn. In the distance he saw a young man picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the sea. As the old man approached the young man, he asked; "Why do you spend so much energy doing what seems to be a waste of time?" The young man explained that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. "But there must be thousands of beaches and millions of starfish, exclaimed the old man. "How can your efforts make any difference?" The young man looked down at the small starfish in his hand and as he threw it to safety in the sea, he said; "It makes a difference to this one!"

I alone am not going to cure the world of hardship and suffering. No matter how much time or money I give, there will always be others in need. Sometimes I'm tempted to do nothing, because I feel it won't really change anything. But that's just an excuse. God has been opening my eyes to the world around me. To the people and issues that He has placed in my life and in my heart. I don't need to feel overwhelmed with all the suffering in the world...God can handle it. What I do need to do is be obedient to what He is asking of me. Maybe there is a charity or ministry that tugs at my heart and needs my time or resources. Maybe there is a person He places in my path who has a need I can meet. I can make a difference, and so can you, one person at a time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

90 Minutes in Heaven

I just finished reading a book by Don Piper, 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life. I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to these topics, but it sparked my interest. Here's a few things I took from his story...

1. God is still in the business of doing miracles. This man was in a terrible car accident and pronounced to have died instantly. He had no pulse. The emergency personnel were in no rush to even get him out of the car. 90 minutes later, after a pastor prayed for him (yes, the pastor felt led to pray for a dead man), he revived.

2. Could this be a glimpse of heaven? Don remembers going to heaven during the time he was dead. His account is pretty cool to read. He describes complete joy and peace..."I wasn't conscious of anything I'd left behind and felt no regrets about leaving family or possessions. It was as if God had removed anything negative or worrisome from my consciousness, and I could only rejoice at being together with these wonderful people. They looked exactly as I once knew them - although they were more radiant and joyful than they'd ever been on earth". Won't that be amazing?

3. His experience was used to touch many lives. Even though he lived, Don had a very difficult and painful recovery. I skimmed through some of the details, but read enough to understand his ordeal. He wondered why he had lived and longed to return to heaven. But he realized that God had a plan. In the book he shares many stories of ways he was able to encourage others...both through his memories of heaven and through his painful recovery. We may at times wonder why bad things happen to us, and these accounts demonstrate that when we stop looking at ourselves in self-pity, our eyes can be opened to the ways God can use our experiences to help others.

I like the way the book was concluded, and will close this post with Don's words:

"I find comfort in a story recorded in John's Gospel. A man born blind meets Jesus and is healed. After that, he runs around praising God, but his healing is an embarrassment to the religious leaders who have been trying to turn the people against Jesus. They interrogate the formerly blind man, trying to force him to admit that Jesus is a sinner (that is, a fraud). The man wisely says "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25)

In the same way, some may not believe my account; they may think it was some kind of wish fulfillment during a point of severe trauma. I don't have to defend my experience. I know what happened to me. For those of us whose faith is in the reality of heaven, no amount of evidence is necessary. I know what I experienced. I believe God gave me a hint of what eternity in heaven will be like...

I am here, I am alive, and it's because God's purposes have not yet been fulfilled in my life. When God is finished with me, I'll return to the place I yearn to be. I have made my final reservations for heaven and I'm going back someday - permanently. Prayerfully, I'll see you there too."


Monday, August 24, 2009

Warming Up

Yesterday I was re-baptized. Instead of the warm summer evening that is typical for late August, last night was chilly...jeans and sweatshirt weather. I don't like to be cold, so the thought of being in shorts and a t-shirt and being dunked in icy water did not appeal to me. I was uncomfortable. And then I did get some of the odd looks and comments I was expecting, such as "I thought you would have already been baptized." I felt vulnerable. Part of me wanted to run back to the van, put on my warm clothes, and get back in my comfort zone. But I didn't - I walked through it with the support of my church family. I had made the decision to be obedient and get into that cold water (which really wasn't too bad). And I was blessed by the two men who got into that water with me, simply because I asked them to.

To my left stood my husband and best friend, Jeremy. He has walked with me and supported me through much of my faith journey. He knew me back in the day when I was skeptical about Christianity and still searching for the truth. He accepted me unconditionally and played a big role in my initial acceptance and growth in my relationship with the Lord. He has been there to push me out of my comfort zone and support me in whatever I've felt led to do. I am continually blessed through his music and his character. Thank you, Jeremy, for always standing by my side.

And to my right stood Jim, who is a father-figure to me. Shortly after New Hope opened I was introduced to Jim and greeted with a hug. And so it was every weekend...I looked forward to seeing Jim because I knew he would be happy to see me and have his arms open wide. Such a simple act, but one that made me feel loved and accepted, like I was in a place that I belonged. And I've come to look up to and respect him as a leader in the church. But now due to some messy circumstances, Jim is no longer there to greet me on the weekends...and I have felt the void. I knew asking him to come to the river and baptize me would require him to step out of his comfort zone. But he did it, for me. Thank you, Jim, for your love and support.

I am at peace knowing that I was obedient to what God has asked of me. I hope that as He looked down yesterday, He thought "This is my daughter, whom I love; with her I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Going to the River

I made a decision today that I should have made a long time ago. I'm getting baptized...well, actually re-baptized. I've sat through the baptism messages at church year after year debating whether or not God was asking me to do it. You see, I was already baptized by immersion when I was 15 years old. It was a choice I made at the time, but not for the right reasons. I didn't fully understand the gospel and ask Jesus into my life until I was 19 and in college. Since then I passed up an opportunity to be baptized in the ocean at Myrtle Beach, big regret. And since joining New Hope I had been a Christian so long that it felt too late to get baptized, so I used the "I've already been baptized" card. I'm tired of sitting in the service each year and wondering what I should do. I know I'm saved and that baptism is a matter of obedience. So even though I am going to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about having waited so long, I am going to the river on August 23rd! (I already turned in the info card at church...so it's too late to back out now LOL)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

Being a mom, I've noticed that my mood is greatly affected by the way my kids are behaving. When they are getting along and playing nicely together, I am at peace. When I see them share their toys or comfort their brother who is sad or has been hurt, it warms my heart. But when they are yelling, being selfish, taunting one another, or fighting it irritates me like nothing else. They give me lots of opportunities to grow in patience and understanding! (By the way: the caption to the cartoon says "Mummy,Mummy: Tim's piece of cheese doesn't have as many holes as mine) Kids can fight over the dumbest things, don't you agree?

Then I think about the way other people treat my kids. When someone is kind to my children...playing with them, making them laugh, or just showing them love...that person earns a special place in my heart. I noticed that with our babysitter Micki. I love her like family and it's because she's treated my boys so well. But if someone tried to hurt my boys, oh man, totally the opposite.

So if we're all God's children, does the way we treat each other affect Him in the same way? Does the way I treat my spouse, my family, my friends, and even strangers either bring joy or sorrow to the heart of my God? Can we truly treat one of His children badly and then expect to come before Him and be blessed?

May we all fight for peace. Not just because it is best for us, but because we want to bring happiness to our Father.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Roaring Lion

A thought from Jennifer Rothschild taken from her book Self Talk, Soul Talk...


"In 1 Peter 5:8, the great apostle compares Satan, the enemy of souls, to a roaring lion. He says something like this "Be careful! Be alert. Watch out. Stay awake. A roaring lion is out there, and it's stalking you and seeking to destroy you."

That passage has always confused me. How does a roaring lion sneak up on anyone? Unless you happen to be deaf, you can't help but notice his approach. His roar gives him away, even if you're busy or occupied with other things. Even a dull roar would cut through your thoughts and interrupt your senses. You don't have to be that alert to notice, do you?

That question sounds logical, but what if we heard that roar all the time? What if we heard it so often that we gradually tuned it out and became desensitized to it? It would be like living in a house next to the railroad tracks; after a while, you don't even hear the trains. We grow so accustomed to the distractions around us that we barely notice their influence.

And that's when we become easy prey."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Life Slows You Down

I have recently been re-reading through my favorite book series...The Mark of the Lion by Francine Rivers. The 3 books are a work of Christian historical fiction. While the story is fictional, the books are historically and biblically accurate. Anyhow, each time I read them I get ministered to and inspired. Today I wanted to share with you one of my eye openers.

In the story there is a woman who has 2 grown children, both of whom are far from the Lord. She is a Christian and devotes herself to serving the needs of the poor. One tragic day she has a stroke that takes away her independence. She can no longer walk, talk, or care for herself. But her mind is still sharp. The physicians even go so far as to suggest that the family put her out of her misery. After all, what possible use can someone be as an invalid? But the author seems to suggest that God may have a purpose behind this woman's condition. What possible reason would God have for taking a healthy woman who was devoted to serving Him and allow her to live in such a state? I honestly hadn't a clue. But the woman found her purpose...to pray unceasingly for her unsaved children. God had to make her slow down from her busyness so she would devote herself to prayer. The story doesn't end there...but you'll have to read to get the rest :)

So it got me thinking about all the ways God can slow us down....illness, injury, traffic, waiting rooms, sleepless nights. I don't like these inconveniences that keep me from doing what I want to be doing. But what if during these times we just say "OK God, I'm here. What do you want me to pray about?" We can transform those boring, frustrating moments into something useful and powerful for the Kingdom of God. I would never claim to be a prayer warrior of any sorts, but lately God has been laying things on my heart to pray for. There are people and issues that burden me in such a way that I can get emotional while praying for them...which is so foreign to me that I know it must be God at work. And the peace that follows is pretty cool too.

So what will you do the next time life slows YOU down?

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Date Night

I love Fridays. Not just because it falls at the end of the work week, but because it means time alone with my hubby with no kids...for free! For those of you who have never heard of a babysitting co-op, you don't know what you're missing out on! This is how ours works. We have 4 couples in our co-op. Each couple takes a turn to watch all of the children on 1 Friday per month...which leaves 3 date nights of free babysitting! Not only do Jeremy and I look forward to this, but the kids do too. They love hanging out with their friends every Friday night. We have been doing this for 6 years now and I'm sure my marriage has been strengthened because of it. And even tonight, our turn to watch the munchkins, isn't so bad. We enjoy being able to bless our friends by watching their kids and giving them alone time. So I encourage you to get a group of your friends together and give it a try!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One Request

If you could ask God for one thing, what would it be? More money? A job? Better health? To fall in love? Those are all things I've prayed for. But reading about Solomon reminds me that there is one request God longs for us to make...a request that can involve every aspect of our lives...the request for wisdom.

Listen to God's response to Solomon's request: "The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever will be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for - both riches and honor - so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life" 1 Kings 3:10-14

Lately God has been opening my eyes to how much greater His wisdom is than my own. I think back to situations in which I felt disappointment and wondered why God wasn't coming through. But now that time has passed I can look back on those situations and understand that God knew what was best for me. He knows that what I WANT is not always what is best. When God imparts His wisdom I begin to take the focus off of me and instead see the big picture. Satan wants my life to be about me. When I think about my unmet needs (which are really wants) I begin to feel depressed and withdraw. But when I seek God's wisdom and perspective all of a sudden life becomes not about me, but about Him! I begin to pray for and serve others and my joy returns. It's something I need to ask for and seek daily. I want to be like Solomon and please my Father by asking for a wise and discerning heart, for I know that He already has my needs taken care of.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Praying Together

I want to share an online devotional from Rick Warren that I read recently. It really got me thinking about my prayer life. Like many Christians, I feel uncomfortable praying out loud in a group. I can do it, but I much prefer to pray alone. When I'm alone I don't have to worry about how my words come out. My entire focus can be on what I'm praying about instead of wondering how it sounds to others. Know what I'm talking about? But Rick reminded me that while praying alone is good, real power comes while praying with a group of believers. Even the Lord's Prayer which Jesus modeled was meant to be prayed in a group. Maybe it's about time I stop worrying about what I sound like to others and start caring more about the power that comes from praying together...

"And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them" (Matthew 18:19-20 TEV).

If you look at the Lord's Prayer, you'll see that it reflects praying together: "Our Father . . . give us . . . our daily bread . . . forgive us our debts . . . as we also have forgiven our debtors . . . lead us not into temptation . . . deliver us" (Matthew 6:9-13 NIV, emphasis mine).

Many of us miss out on so much because we only pray by ourselves. Yet, when Jesus gave us an outline for prayer, He spoke about praying together. There is power in group prayer.

If you're not praying with other believers, then you're not getting the support you need. You're missing out on one of the major benefits of being a Christian. Jesus says "whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them" (Matthew 18:19-20 TEV). That's the power of praying with other people.

Ask yourself, "Who am I consistently praying with on a regular basis?" You may be saying you've never prayed with anybody before and it scares you to death. It's okay to start slow. When you get together with five or six other friends, you don't have to pray if you don't want to; you can sit there and be quiet. Then, after several weeks, as you become more comfortable, you can begin to participate more in the group's prayers. You'll find a new level of stability in your life.

If you've never prayed with other people, start by praying aloud when you're alone. I do most of my praying, more than any other place, on the freeway. I'm driving down the road and talking aloud to the Lord, "Lord, here are some things I want to talk with you about today."

Another suggestion is to pray at meals. Our family holds hands; sometimes we pray sentence prayers such as thank you prayers to God for what he has done for us. Praying together is another form of worshipping God.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What I've Learned From My Dad

In honor of Father's Day, I wanted to reflect on one of the greatest lessons my dad has taught me...how to love and sacrifice for my children. I was essentially raised by my father. My parents divorced when I was young. My dad got full custody of me because he was retired military and had more time to devote to my care. Being an only child for a long while, I will admit that I got spoiled. He made me his life. But it wasn't the material things that stand out to me...it was the time and effort that he put into making me feel special. I remember spending lots of quality time together playing games, roller-skating, playing Nintendo, taking road trips, and even just watching TV. As a child he would play the piano for me at night as I was falling asleep, always taking "requests" of my favorite songs. He would also do little things to let me know he was thinking of me such as preparing my favorite foods or scraping the windshield of my car during the winter before school. I always knew that I was a priority to him. Picturing a loving God has never been a problem for me, because I know what it's like to bask in a father's love.

And still today my dad sacrifices his time to come up to visit, baby-sit his grandsons who adore their "Papa Joe", and help out with projects around our house. Just this past week he came up and allowed Jeremy and I to escape overnight for our anniversary...and even gave us the money to do so!

I may not have the luxury of being able to focus all my love and attention on one person, but I certainly hope that enough of my dad has rubbed off on me that my husband and children will always be able to feel the love I have for them and know that they are my priority.

Thank you , Dad, for being such a great example and for loving me even when I haven't been easy to love. Happy Fathers Day! I love you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

God's Dreams

Waiting is difficult. We live in a society that wants instant gratification. So to wait patiently for God to reveal or fulfill his plans for our lives is hard.

Waiting was hard for Abraham and Sarah too. God had promised him descendants as numerous as the stars, but Sarah was old and barren. "As Abram's faith was developed and tested, delay was seen in the fulfilling of God's promise. In moments of weakness there are suggestions of alternative plans - plans not characterized by faith. Human efforts to assist in the fulfilling of divine promises complicated the matter." (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

So Sarah suggests they "help God out" by having Abraham sleep with her maidservant and build a family through her. This was an acceptable solution during that time, but it demonstrated a lack of faith. They had simply grown tired of waiting. The maidservant did bear a son and named him Ishmael, but many tensions developed within the family. God then told Abraham that Sarah would also bear him a son...at the age of 90! After recovering from his laughter, Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" And while God did promise to bless Ishmael, He said his covenant would be fulfilled through Isaac, Sarah's son.

"While we are tempted to criticize the couple for not believing a miracle could emerge from Sarah's womb, then coming up with an alternate plan and expecting God to bless it, don't we do the same? Rather than patiently and expectantly asking God "What dreams do you want to bring to life through me?" We often ask "Lord, will you bless the dreams I have for my life?" Our self-sufficiency results in many ministries that ultimately bear human-sized fruit rather than an abundant, God-sized harvest" (Shannon Ethridge)

I honestly don't know what God has in mind for my life other than being a wife and mother. I know there is something. I feel like I'm being prepared, but I don't know what for! And I don't want to get impatient and run ahead of God and what He's doing. I pray that when the time is right, I will know what His dream is...and that it will result in a ministry that produces fruit as numerous as the stars.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

By Your Side

"Please don't fight these hands that are holding you." Doesn't make sense to fight with God. But that's the very thing I do when I act in my independence instead of resting in Him.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Waiting

Do you ever find yourself in a period of waiting? Maybe you've been praying for a situation in your life to change, but no change occurs. Maybe you've been praying for guidance and direction, yet God remains silent. Could it be that He is waiting on us?

Shannon Ethridge writes that "Waiting may simply mean returning to the last thing you felt prompted to do, then asking yourself, Have I been obedient? As a parent, I try not to overwhelm my children by asking them to do something until they have finished the last thing I've asked them to do. God works in similar ways. He guides us step by step, refusing to overwhelm us with the big picture until we can handle it. He doesn't call us to run spiritual marathons until we've been obedient to the little things and mastered basic training.

When was the last time you were certain that God spoke to you? Go back to that place and ensure you have obeyed that instruction. Only then will God continue to give you further direction."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tossing the Bouquet

It's a tradition at nearly every wedding...the bride tossing the bouquet over her shoulder, wanting someone else to find such happiness and fulfillment...the single woman hopeful to catch it and be the next to marry. As Christians we are called to "toss the bouquet" by sharing our testimony with others. I know firsthand the life-changing power of a relationship with Jesus and I long for others to know that same joy. So here is an "abridged" version of my story...

Today I am living my dream. But the road to get here was not easy. I was blessed to grow up in a loving home where my needs were provided for. However, it was a broken home. The frequent changes that occurred in my family left me feeling insecure. So I took control over every aspect of my life that I could. I excelled in school and tried to do everything "right" to earn the approval of others. I shut myself down emotionally so no one could see my pain and vulnerability. And when I got older, I sought my security from my relationships with boys. While I grew up going to church it was more of a "Sunday morning" thing rather than a faith that permeated my life.

I was around 18 years old when I began losing control. A 2-year romantic relationship had just ended, my self-esteem was in the gutter, and I was heading to college with a major...but no real direction or purpose for my life. I was drawn to a student Christian group on campus. The people there were different. They had a sense of joy and optimism that I longed for. But my skepticism kept me at a distance and I continued making poor choices. Until one day I hit rock bottom. But instead of sinking into despair, I felt something telling me "You were made for more than this"! And the amazing thing was that I believed it. I began to really seek out Jesus, and you know what...I found Him! I thank God that he made His presence known to me before I made a total mess of my life.

In the 12 years since, my life has completely changed. My attitude and outlook on life have improved. I have a clear purpose and direction. I now look to God for my security and self-worth. I find freedom in not needing to be in control. And I'm finding joy in my growing compassion for others, rather than living life for myself. All these changes are a result of God refining me, which sometimes can be painful, but the end result is worth it. Of course my life isn't perfect...I still struggle with issues, I still mess up, I still sin. But now I seek wisdom and correction, I know that I'm loved unconditionally, I have hope for the future, and I live in the freedom of resting securely in the grip of my heavenly Father.

As I throw this bouquet, I pray that you would catch it and if you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior that you would begin to seek Him with all your heart. No need to push your way to the front, or elbow and claw the person standing next to you...the invitation is open to all.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who opens finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." - Matthew 7:7-8

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is Jesus your friend?

Another excerpt from Completely His...

"Many people could claim to know me because they've read some very intimate details of my life in books I've written. But to know me through a book can't compare with how my friend knows me so personally and intimately.

Suddenly I sensed God saying, Uh-huh! That's exactly how I feel, Shannon. Lots of people know many things about Me because they've read My Book, but they have yet to experience the joy of being in an intimate relationship with Me.

Think about it. Would you enter a room where your closest friend was waiting, sit down near her, pick up a book about her life and read a chapter or two, then stand up and leave without personally interacting with her? Of course not. So why are we tempted to do that with God?"

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dying to Self

Shannon Ethridge has written yet another book that speaks right to me. She makes me feel so exposed! But I guess that's a good thing. Here's some food for thought...

"No matter what we have done, God is determined to reveal the fault lines running deep within our character so that we will allow Him to strengthen those faults and restore our relationship with Him. Our fault lines are the most vulnerable points that Satan will continue to target. He uses our favorite flavors of sin to attract us into taking a detour off the path of righteousness and to distract us from living the life we truly desire to live."

Jesus says in Mark 8:34-45 "If any of you wants to be my follower...you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life."

"Do you want to live as the spotless bride of Christ? If so, consider the main thing that Jesus said is required - putting aside our selfish ambition and following Him. What might this look like? Whenever we are tempted to do anything that would pose a threat to our righteousness and bring disappointment to our Bridegroom's heart, we do whatever it takes to resist the temptation and remain pure."

"Remember how I willingly died for you, (insert your name here). Now willingly obey Me and die to yourself. Don't go play in the mud. Remain pure and white for me."

I'm trying, Lord. I'm trying.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Free Will

I think I'm getting a taste of what's to come in my world of parenting... I'm in a position to offer some godly advice and wisdom to a young lady about dating and marriage. I know what God's Word has to say on the subject. And I've learned from my own experiences. But when it comes to giving advice, I am well aware that she has the free will to take it or leave it. I can't force her to make wise choices. I just hope she has come to trust me enough to follow my advice even if she doesn't completely understand it now. I love her and only desire the best for her life. So what if she doesn't take it? What if she gets hurt? Will I say "I told you so"? No. I know what it's like to make mistakes. I would hurt along with her. And I would hope that the next time she would make a better choice. But watching someone exercise their free will and make poor choices is very hard sometimes.

So I wonder how God feels to be in that position. He has written us an entire book of advice and wisdom on how to conduct our lives. Jesus has lived as a human and knows what it means to suffer and be tempted. He loves us and only wants the best for our lives. But we are able to exercise our free will. We can choose to follow his path or leave it. Do we trust Him enough to follow His counsel even when we don't understand it? And what happens when we make a poor decision? Some people may think that God is a judge and is quick to condemn and say "I told you so". But if he loves me even more than I love my children, then I know he would hurt when I hurt. And he would pick me up off my feet and encourage me to do better the next time.

My prayer is that this would be true in my life and in yours...

"I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free."
-Psalm 119:30-32

Monday, May 25, 2009

Swing Your Partner

Looking for something different and FUN to do on date night? Try a Barn Dance at Malabar Farm! We went to our first one this Saturday. I haven't laughed that much in a long time. And another big bonus is that it is FREE! Here's some tips if you decide to give square dancing a try...


1. You don't need to go out and buy an outfit like the one pictured above (which by the way is NOT what we wore). Although if you really want to wear a frilly dress, this would be a good occasion!

2. It's ok if you don't know how to dance. There are lots of beginners and the callers walk you through the steps. Learning is half the fun.

3. If you arrive right at 7:00 and feel weird because it is an older crowd, rest assured that the younger generation shows up "fashionably late".

4. Be prepared to be spun...a lot. Thankfully there are breaks after every couple of dances or I wouldn't have been able to stay on my feet!

Go ahead...be brave and give it a try!

To view dates of future Barn Dances check out: http://malabarfarm.org/activities_content.cfm?coverpageid=3&storynbr=2

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Day of Rest

The Sabbath. It has fascinated me for a long time. A day of rest each week...is that possible? I can't figure out how my family would fit that in during the school year. Being married to a teacher means lots of grading to do on the weekends. But summer is coming, and we're going to give this a try! Sundays after church are going to be about relaxing and focusing on relationships instead of "what needs to be done". Here are some thoughts from Joanne Heim that make me desire and anticipate the Sundays to come...

"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)...God created the Sabbath for our benefit, for our enjoyment. The Sabbath is a day unlike any other - a day for rest and relaxation and fun and family and friends. The Sabbath is supposed to be a guilt-free vacation day each week - a day to not work and not feel guilty about not working! It is one day not measured by how productive you were or how many things you checked off your to-do list."

"Instead of keeping the Sabbath holy - set apart, different, special - we've made it a day like any other. We skip the rest God offers for a hodgepodge of last loads of laundry, trips to the grocery store, last-minute school projects. We fall into bed, feeling like we've almost caught up, and then wake up Monday mornings tired, unrested, with another week ahead to somehow get through."

"God gets involved and has to "make me lie down" (Psalm 23) because rest must be taught; we must learn to rest. Why doesn't rest come naturally? For me, it gets pushed down on the list, brushed aside for all of those things that seem more pressing. But rest is important. God "makes me lie down" in those green pastures for the purposes of restoring my soul. And that's something I want - how about you?"

"The Sabbath is my chance every week to turn around, to turn back, to think again of the way I want to live, the way I want my family to function, the way I want to walk closely with my God. The Sabbath is my chance to return to God, to the point where I strayed from the path, and to begin again."

Jesus says "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest." -Matthew 11:28 msg

Monday, May 18, 2009

Speak

Do you ever fear talking about your faith? I do. What if they don't care what I have to say? What if they don't listen? What if my words don't come out right? What if it turns them away? But what if God is urging me to talk to them and I refuse out of fear...what then?

As God is preparing Ezekiel to become a prophet in Israel He tells him, "Your job is to speak. Whether they listen is not your concern." (Ezekiel 2:7 msg) Then God promises to strengthen Ezekiel in verse 3:8.

What is interesting to me is that even though God is going to directly give Ezekiel the words to say to his people, he still has a choice as to whether to speak them. The same choice that we have everyday. So God lets Ezekiel know that if he chooses NOT to speak the message that he's been given, God would hold him accountable for the ruin of the people. (Ezekiel 3:20-21) I wouldn't want to be responsible for that.

While you or I, as Christians, may not be commissioned as prophets, we have been commissioned to "go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20 msg) I think there are different ways to reach different people. But when I feel that stirring inside me, telling me to share something about my faith with a particular person, I hope to always say "Yes, Lord. I will not fear, for the outcome is up to you. Give me the right words to speak."


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Like a Child

Sometimes I finish watching a movie and think "Wow, I just wasted the past two hours of my life!" And sometimes I enjoy movies because they are entertaining and make me laugh. But there are those few movies that stir my soul and leave me deep in thought...movies that I know I will remember for weeks, months, and even years after watching it. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one of those movies. Essentially it is about seeing the Jews concentration camps through the eyes of a child. And it reminded me that sometimes children have things to teach us adults...

Children can teach us to love without judgement or prejudice.

Children can teach us to fully enjoy the moment, instead of thinking about everything else that needs to be done.

Children can teach us to play sports for the love of the game. I enjoy watching Jacob's t-ball practice because the kids care about each other and having fun more than the competition (which may drive all the fathers crazy during games..lol)

And when it comes to faith, Mark 10:15 tells us to "receive the Kingdom of God like a little child". My kids are so trusting and have complete faith in me to care for all their needs. They don't worry because they know they are loved and in capable hands. If only we all trusted our Heavenly Father the same way...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boy Meets Girl

You may be wondering why I'm reading a book about courtship since I'm married. Yes, that stage is behind me...Thank God. Well, there has been a single young lady coming to me for relationship advice. Thinking back to my single years, I could tell her what NOT to do. I have learned from plenty of mistakes. But I was lacking in wisdom on how to tell her to do it the right way! So I bought her this book, Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris, to guide her and I decided to read it as well.

I would highly recommend this book to any singles out there wanting to pursue a relationship in a God-honoring way. I wish I would have read it. Joshua Harris talks about the idea of courtship...purposeful romance. Some of his ideas seem old-fashioned. I read it thinking "Are there really people out there that can maintain this level of purity?" Our culture is bombarded with images of immorality so often that it has become the accepted way to enter a relationship. But just because it is accepted doesn't make it right. Young people today need to know that they have a choice...there is a better way.

The updated version of this book also has a section in the back with "8 Great Courtship Conversations" that are neat date ideas for couples who want to get to know each other on a deeper level.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Expectations


Yesterday was Mother's Day. I could have expected to wake up to a hot homemade breakfast, flowers, and heartfelt cards telling me how wonderful I am :) I could have expected to get the "day off" and do no chores of any kind...a day of total relaxation. I could have expected that someone else would do those chores so they wouldn't all be waiting for me Monday morning. I could have expected that my children would be perfect angels and would cease to argue and disobey. But those expectations would have led to disappointment. They wouldn't be grounded in reality.

So instead, when I woke up yesterday morning I decided to get my attitude in the right place. I told God "I am so thankful to be a mother. There are many women that aren't able to have children. I have been blessed with 3 active, healthy boys! Today I don't want to focus on ME. I want to focus on Your faithfulness in growing my family and making me a mother." And I believe I was able to enjoy my Mother's Day much more because of it.

I have learned that I have the tendency to daydream and "anticipate" certain events in my life. While all anticipation isn't bad...what happens when expectations aren't met? Disappointment and discontentment. I find that much of my unhappiness in life comes from unmet expectations. And that is something I have control over! If my expectations of how life "should be" are coming from fictional movies or books, or my own imagination, then I am setting myself up for a fall. It's a difficult thing to separate myself from because I really enjoy those types of entertainment! However, I know what is best for me. Real life. Real people. Real experiences. And most importantly...God's truth and perspective. Is there an area of your life that is causing you unhappiness? A change of attitude and expectation might be a good place to start.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Adam and Eve

"Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled by him, but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him." - Matthew Henry

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Treasure at the End of the Trail

Being alone with 3 little boys all day long can wear on me. I love them dearly, but the collective whining, arguing, crankiness and demanding nature of children can overwhelm me at times (like today). Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes. Gary Thomas says that "If God gives us situations we already have the strength to handle, we won't have to grow in order to deal with them."

He says that "our first and natural inclination in any trial is to pray for God to remove the difficulty". (Obviously, that isn't an option in parenting!) "But God's first priority is often to strengthen us in the midst of the difficulty rather than to take us out of the difficulty. That's because he can see the treasure that lies at the end of the trail".

And just what is the treasure? "No matter how difficult our children may be, God can and will use them to shape our souls into his Son's image. No matter how many bumps we may hit or bends we may have to negotiate along the road to raising our children, God promises to guide our steps, strengthen our stride, and refresh our souls. He knows we are insufficient, but he points us to his Son's provision and his Spirit's comfort, guidance, and power, all of which more than meet our needs. Even if we don't see all the results we like to see, at least we're getting steady reminders of God's patience and long-suffering toward us. Parenting may not be an easy journey, but in this it is truly a sacred one". (from Sacred Parenting)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reminders

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to the Closing of a Women's Emmaus Walk to hear the testimonies of the women who had attended. I almost didn't go. Lots of excuses ran through my mind as to why I should stay home. But an invitation from a friend convinced me, and I am so glad I went. To think that I nearly missed out on the blessing and inspiration that I received last night...

God used the testimonies of these women as reminders to me. It brought back memories of my own Emmaus experiences and what God had taught me. It also reminded me of the power of God's love and how he can use us to show that love to others if we're willing. There were women there who had recently buried loved ones, who had been hurt by the church, who had drifted away from God, who didn't feel loved...all kinds of pain. And these women found restoration. They had joy. They had hope. They felt the love of Jesus because of a group of people who were willing to sacrifice their time to invest in the lives of others. It was beautiful.

One story I heard from one of the ladies (we'll call her Jen) echoes something I struggle with...being quick to judge based on appearances. Jen says that there was a girl on the Walk who she was critical of. This girl had some physical deformities and a speech impediment. Jen was nice to her, but held feelings of judgement in her heart. Well, there came a time later in the weekend that Jen was overcome with emotion and was at the altar crying. Suddenly she felt a set of arms around her and heard someone praying words of comfort...it was this girl. Jen learned a powerful lesson and said she will never view people in the same way again.

It was an awesome reminder to me as well that we are all children of God. We share the same hopes, dreams, fears, and hurts. We may look at another person and think that we have nothing in common. Maybe because of how they look or act, or how we perceive their life to be. But there is so much that goes on beneath the surface. May we all take the time to see others for who they really are. Thank you God for the reminder.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is the end near?

Last week I got a surprise visitor. He is someone Jeremy and I knew a few years ago but had lost touch with. So he shows up because he wants to give us a book to read about Islam and the End Times. Since he is a Christian and so passionate about the research he has been doing, I told him I would take a look...yet I hesitate...

First, I am pretty historically ignorant. I'm sure the book will be way over my head. Secondly, do I even care if the End Times are in a few days or thousands of years away? Would it change the way I am living? For me, the answer is no. I know where I stand in my relationship with God and I try to live in a way that if I died tomorrow I would have no regrets. So why should I spend time studying something that will not impact my life?

While it's not a priority, I'll crack the book open as promised and maybe, just maybe, I'll learn something...










Saturday, April 25, 2009

Finding My Song

One of my favorite things to do is sing with my husband. Not on stage in front of an audience, but just the two of us with his guitar. But discovering this joy has been a journey...

I've always loved music and enjoyed singing, but sometime in my childhood I lost my confidence and would only sing in complete privacy. Then I surrendered my life to Jesus and slowly found my walls crumbling. I began to worship in church, but only when I was confident that the music and other voices would overpower my own. And then I had to go and fall in love with a singer (who later learned the guitar too). Jeremy would plead with me to sing, but I resisted for a long time. Finally, one day I honored his request, but I made him turn his back and not look at me! After much encouragment, I began to sing with him alone...and it was amazing. My favorite date nights were those spent somewhere outdoors, just us and the guitar, praising God together.

It's sad to say, but after becoming parents this act of worship has been put on the back burner. There is plenty of music in our home, but mostly in preparation for the next weekends church service. So I treasure times, like date night last night, when we get that guitar out just to worship as husband and wife. It is during those times that I'm filled with peace and the world seems just as it should be.

"The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him." - Exodus 15:2

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Isaac!

Although I've been saying it for a month now, today it is official...Isaac is 4 years old. He is full of mischief, but is cute enough to get away with it :)

One day I came into the kitchen just in time to see Isaac shut the fridge. I came up and asked him what he was doing. He of course says "Nothing". So I asked him what the white powder was all over his face. "I don't know." Hmm...after smelling it I realized what he had done and couldn't keep from smiling. It was Parmesan cheese! But sometimes Isaac doesn't get into trouble on his own...

Jacob started using Isaac as his scapegoat at an early age. Isaac was about a year old at the time. I could hear that he was awake in his crib, but wanted a little extra sleep, so I told Jacob to go in and keep Isaac happy. I was pleasantly surprised that he obeyed...until I walked in a while later to find everything covered in white powder! Jacob says "Isaac did it". But he left out the fact that he was the one who handed Isaac the open container of baby powder...


And of course since Isaac is the middle child, he can learn from his older brother ways to torment the younger one. There are many days that Isaac is just cracking up laughing, while Brady is screaming due to him taking a toy away (and mom is about to lose it...lol). But along with the mischief comes an adorable little boy who brings a lot of smiles and laughter into our home. Thank you God for this wonderful gift.






Monday, April 20, 2009

Laminin

The following is a molecular diagram of Laminin, the cell adhesion molecules that literally hold us together and keep us from falling apart. Need I say more?


Friday, April 17, 2009

Like a Tree

Every time I read the following passage, I long to be like this tree...

"Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit." - Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

I'm at a point in my life where things are good. No major concerns or worries. But I know it's only a matter of time. In this life there will be trouble. So that's why I want to invest energy in deepening my roots. I want to be able to stand strong when the heat is turned up. I want to be confident and not worry when it seems that God is distant. And no matter what happens, I want my life to produce delicious fruit.

Sometimes the fruit I produce now is rotten...my kids could tell you that. They test me like nothing else ever has. It's probably a good indication that I'm not bringing in enough nourishment. Sometimes I feel like my roots are sitting in the water, but not soaking it up. We can read and hear so much, but is it changing us? Are we letting it soak in?

Or maybe I just expect change to happen too fast. I want to be a new woman overnight! But trees take time to grow. Lots of time. So I will just hold onto this vision and be confident that God can and will grow me into this beautiful tree.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Call to Guide

We all need people to guide us. People we can look up to, who will lead us in the right direction. I think that families used to provide this function. Younger women learned from their mothers and grandmothers...how to run a household and be supportive wives. Younger men learned from their fathers and grandfathers. I'm sure this still happens today, but many families are broken by divorce and distance. I know mine is. So where does that leave the younger generation to get their training? Too often we look to peers and the culture around us. But I believe we need to be looking to those who are older and wiser, who have walked where we are walking, and can guide us from experience.

Paul writes to Titus about the need for the church to guide future generations. He says "Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy love, faith, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up neither gossips or drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's message because of their behavior. Also, guide young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself." Titus 2:1-7 (Message)

This passage first impresses upon me the need to live my life in a way that will set a good example for those looking up to me. Not to be fake and pretend to have it all together, but to be real with my struggles and show how God can provide and be my strength where I fall short. I need to invest my time in those younger than me, especially young women without anyone else to guide them.

And it is also the desire of my heart to find a mentor. Someone who will push me, encourage me, and speak the truth in love. Someone who will take time out of their busy schedule to invest in me. Don't we all need that? I had a mentor in college who guided me during my "baby steps" as a Christian, but many life changes and distance separates us now. So I'm looking to you, women at New Hope. I'll be watching you. Teach me well.