Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Strength of an Ox

I just got back from a short marriage retreat. (Yes, this has been a month of retreats for our family!) It was enjoyable. On the first night we watched a video about the differences between how men and women think. The pastor used a verse to describe marriage that I had never heard before. I'm sure I've read it, but have never thought about it much.

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest." Proverbs 14:4 (NIV)

Or from another translation..."Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; but much increase is by the strength of the ox."

At first glance this verse appears to be all about farming, which is probably why I didn't pay any attention to it. But I like how it was explained. Basically, if there are no oxen in the barn, there is no "poo" to clean up. Seems great, right? Less animal to feed, no need to clean the barn, no effort required. But there is also no reward. From the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest! Applied to marriage it means that marriage takes work. It may seem easier to just kick the husband out and have less to worry about. But by doing so, we would lose all the blessings that come from having a marriage that has stood the test of time.

This verse can also be applied to parenting. If I had no kids, I would have a cleaner house and significantly less work to do! But the rewards of being a parent are greater.

I came across yet another application of this verse that I liked, written by a Baptist pastor..."Now if we don't want any problems, simply bar sinners from our doors. But that is not what God called us to do. We are supposed to be reaching out to people; all colors, all sizes, all shapes, all kinds of people who need help."Where no oxen are, the crib is clean." But thank God for the sinners who come here, dirty up our church and make us justify our existence. This pastor has a good point. Except I would say that if a church barred all sinners from its doors, it would be an empty building!

Whichever of these scenarios resonates with you, I challenge you not to be overwhelmed by the work and problems that your "oxen" create, but keep your eyes focused on the prize...on the abundant blessings that the strength of the "ox" will bring.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Picture Perfect

As I go through pictures we've taken and watch home videos, I realize that I am in very few of them. The pictures still bring back memories for me, because I was there watching everything unfold, however I'm not IN the pictures. Why? Partially because I'm the one that normally grabs the camera to capture the moment. But also because I shy away from the camera. I'm not the only woman who doesn't like to be captured on film unless she's "prepared". So why do we do that? Why are we so critical of ourselves?

Rick Warren writes "God prescribed every single detail of your body. He deliberately chose your race, the color of your skin, your hair, and every other feature. He custom-made your body just the way he wanted it...The Bible says You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something". Psalm 139:15

Who am I to argue with my Creator? Dare I tell him that he made me wrong? From this day forward I am going to embrace who I am...inside and out. And I will encourage Jeremy to pick up the camera more so that I can be captured and remembered as being part of the family!

You are who you are for a reason.
You're part of an intricate plan.
You're a precious and perfect unique design,
Called God's special woman or man.

You look like you look for a reason.
Our God made no mistake.
He knit you together within the womb,
You're JUST what he wanted to make.

The parents you had were the ones he chose,
And no matter how you may feel,
They were custom-designed with God's plan in mind,
And they bear the Master's seal.

No, that trauma you faced was not easy.
And God wept that it hurt you so;
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into his likeness you'd grow.

You are who you are for a reason,
You've been formed by the Master's rod.
You are who you are, beloved,
Because there is a God.

-Russell Kelfer

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How Do YOU Eat an Oreo Cookie?

This is how the Gessners eat an Oreo cookie...on a fork! Jeremy came up with this idea as a child and began a tradition. He wanted to be able to immerse the Oreo in milk without getting his fingers messy. Now even little Brady enjoys his Oreo on a fork (actually, it's a generic sandwich cookie...but he doesn't know the difference)

Speaking of Brady, he turns 2 years old next week. My "baby" is growing up. I'm trying to treasure this time with him. He is the only one of my boys that is still a mama's boy. He wants to be with me all the time and smothers me with hugs and kisses. Last night I was laying on the floor and he was blowing raspberries on my stomach, making his brothers laugh hysterically because it sounded like mommy was farting (for those of you without boys...this is what it's like!) Then I got out the video camera and taped the boys playing hide and seek with daddy...all of them screaming like little girls when they found Jeremy. Moments I will always treasure.

Brady turning 2 is significant, because if I would have kept to my child-bearing pattern, baby #4 would soon be on the scene! Thank God for I love my kids, but I have enough :) And when I start to miss holding the little babies, I can always volunteer in Hopeland.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Desperate Housewives

I just got through the first chapter in Every Woman's Marriage by Shannon Ethridge. She blows my mind. I read Every Woman's Battle last year and was transformed by it, and now this book is starting out the same way. Almost as if she can read my mind...kinda creepy. Anyway, this is a huge lesson I've been learning over the past 6 months and have never put into words. I'll let you hear it from Shannon...

"He doesn't meet my emotional needs...I felt like I was nothing more than a maid, cook, nanny, and occasional outlet for sexual tension, positions for which I was sadly underpaid...I was constantly badgering him for not initiating romance anymore, for being too laid back...I was weary of having to hint around for my emotional needs to be met"

Sound familiar to anyone else? Now here is the lesson to be learned:

"In hindsight, I realize that my unhappiness wasn't about what my husband was or wasn't doing; rather it was about how I felt about myself. I needed him to affirm me, to make me feel beautiful, and to convince me that I was desirable, because I didn't know how to feel any of these things on my own...If we fail to acknowledge the need to work on our own issues, we believe that our relational problems must be our husband's fault...we may not stop to consider that we might play a part in our own dance of discontentment."

I am married to a wonderful man and could not ask for a better husband. However, I can't expect him to fill needs that only God can fill. I may wish he would try a little I'm letting him off the hook. As Shannon says..."At some point we have to put on our big-girl panties and go through the work of resolving our own issues, remedying our own insecurities, and becoming happy with ourselves before we can truly be happy in marriage." I can tell you from experience that this is true. May God reveal to you any issues that you need to lay at His feet.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Not Fair!

This has become Jacob's favorite phrase..."It's Not Fair!" We all know life isn't fair. We see other people get blessed with something and wonder why it isn't happening to us. But do we really want life to be fair?

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...the wages of sin is death." (Romans 3:23, 6:23) This is what we deserve.

But "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18)

"The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord...If you confess with you mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 6:23, 10:9)

I wonder if Satan reads these words and shouts "It's Not Fair!!!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sharing My Faith

"Some do not want to share their faith because it is awkward. I'll tell you what is awkward...standing in front of Jesus and trying to explain why we didn't share the good news" -Jeff Cooper

Ouch. I have no problem sharing my faith with other Christians...people that I know will agree with me or at least see where I'm coming from. But I do struggle sharing my faith with my un-churched friends and family. On one hand, I care about them and want them to know the hope and freedom of being in a relationship with Christ. But I am also afraid of being "preachy" and pushing them away to the point of them writing me off as a "religious nutcase" :) So how do I find the balance? I've been where they are. I have been skeptical, not wanting to put my faith in something I couldn't completely understand. I've seen the hypocrisy of "Sunday morning Christians". I've viewed Christianity as just a religion...a bunch of rules and rituals. So how do I show them that being a Christian is really about a relationship, not rules? How do I show them that it should be a lifestyle, not just something people do during a service?

I want to just live my life as an example. But I don't have one of those powerful testimonies on the outside...such as the people who have been delivered from addictions or obvious lifestyles of sin. My outward actions probably seem pretty much the same as they've always been. The change for me has been internal. I know that internal changes express themselves externally, but I don't know if it's enough for anyone to notice.

So then I've just gone along with the idea that if my friends know I'm a Christian, I can then leave the ball in their court as to whether they want to discuss faith issues with me. But is this the best policy? I don't know.

I know what Jesus has done in my life. And I long for those I care about to know this same hope. I want them to find true joy in this life, and be able to spend an eternity in heaven. So what's the best way to share my faith, while at the same time just loving them wherever they are? Still searching for the answer to that one...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Walk to Emmaus

Last weekend my husband led music for a mens retreat called the Walk to Emmaus. I went to the closing ceremony and was blessed by hearing the testimonies from the men of how God has impacted their lives. Listening to their stories always adds fuel to my fire and inspires me to share the love of Jesus with others. Several of the men thanked me for giving my husband up for the weekend, and I must say that it was worth it!

So what is the Walk to Emmaus and how can 3 days change someone's life? The retreat is for men and women seeking to strengthen and renew their faith. It is for people of any denomination and from all different points on their spiritual journeys. The goal of Emmaus is to show the love of Jesus and to equip Christians to go back and serve in their home churches and communities. What happens there? You hear talks given by pastors and peers, worship, fellowship with other believers, and are given many unique experiences to connect with God. The Emmaus weekend is unlike any other retreat or conference you may have attended in the past. Many will tell you that it's hard to describe, but is just something that must be experienced. The one thing I can guarantee is that you will feel loved, possibly more than you ever have before.

I went on my Emmaus Walk during my sophomore year of college. I was nervous about being the youngest one there, and not knowing anyone. But none of that mattered. It was one of the best experiences of my life! I have been on team twice since then, each time getting something different out of the weekend.

Sound like something you'd like to do? To go on Emmaus you need to have a sponsor...someone who has been through it. Just ask me and I can either sponsor you myself or connect you with someone who can. The next Walks for men and women are in the fall. You won't regret it!

Monday, March 16, 2009


My husband heard this illustration about setting priorities this past weekend, and I thought it was pretty cool too...

One day a professor was giving a lecture to his students about time management. He pulled out a big glass jar full to the brim of large rocks. He looked at the class and asked "Is the jar full?". The class replied "Yes". The professor paused a moment and said "Really?" He then pulled out a bag of pebbles. He carefully poured the pebbles in and slightly rattled the jar, allowing the pebbles to slip through the larger rocks, until they settled at the bottom. Again he asked the students "Is the jar full?" They replied "Yes". Next the professor pulls out a bag of sand and pours it over the rocks and pebbles, filling in all the tiny spaces. The class again thinks the jar is full...until the professor opens a can of Pepsi and pours it in the jar.

He explains that the large rocks represent the things that really matter in our lives-our highest priorities- such as God, family, church, job, etc... The pebbles and sand represent all of the other activities we spend time doing that are of less importance. Point: If you put the pebbles or sand in the jar first, there will be no room to fit all the larger rocks later. But if we prioritize by first filling our lives with what is most important, then we will find room for the other things we enjoy doing.

After thinking this through, one of the students asked "What does the Pepsi represent?" The professor replied..."It just goes to show that there is always room for Pepsi" :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Don't Forget the Roof!

A few weeks ago after the snow began to melt we noticed a drip in the ceiling of our garage. What began as a few drops quickly developed into a big problem. Insulation was soaked and the plywood ceiling began to weaken. Thankfully the leak is only over our garage and not over the house! Our insurance agent came out and gave us a check (praise God!) for the repair of our ceiling, but not for the repair of the faulty roof...which is obviously where the problem originated. So it just got me thinking. Wouldn't it be foolish if we fixed the ceiling in our garage, but not the roof?

But how often in our lives do we do that very thing? We see and treat the symptoms, but not the cause. When feeling depressed we try to make ourselves feel better by eating or going shopping. Or we distract ourselves with tv and video games. While that stuff might make us feel better, it overlooks the real problem. It's only a matter of time before our ceiling starts to drip again.

Finding the leak and fixing our roof can take time. Some might need the counsel of trusted friends, some may need professional counseling, but we all need to seek wisdom from the Counselor. I can normally trace most of my "leaks" back to one cause...not trusting and finding my identity in Christ. I want to focus my time on repairing the cause rather than just treating the symptoms.

As Jesus said in John 14: 26-27 "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sharing Our Stuff

Have you ever been blessed by someone giving you something for free? Something of real value given to you for nothing. My family has been. There have been so many people who have overwhelmed us with their generosity. We've been given meals after the births of our children. People have given us clothes and toys for the much that I have had to buy them very little (although that will change the way Jacob keeps ripping holes in his jeans!) Soon after moving here a family even gave us their swing set for our backyard. And I mean this was a nice one...not a piece of junk. We have been blessed with a babysitter that blows me away. I of course pay her when I ask her to watch the boys, but she asks to take them at other times and spoils them with her own money! I know the joy of receiving. But there is even greater joy in giving.

Now that we're done having kids and they are starting to grow up, I'm finally entering a stage where I can begin to give back. I want to bless others the way I've been blessed. When I have things of value that I no longer need, I admit that my first thought is to sell it. I've had plenty of garage sales...and I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that. But God has recently laid it on my heart not to sell any longer, but to give it away. I want others to know the joy of receiving something for nothing.

We attended a Vineyard church before moving here. One thing they did really made an impression on me. Once every month or two they would send out a newsletter that included classified ads. People could list things they had and no longer needed, services they had to offer, or needs. The catch was that everything was for FREE. It was a way for the church body to share their stuff and love one another.

I've heard of churches having rummage sales. What would happen if a church had a rummage sale, but accepted no donations? People could just bring in what they no longer needed and invite anyone who was interested to take what they could use. What kind of an impression and impact would that have on the community? (There's a KIA idea for you Brian!)

One thing I've run across that I think is awesome is a Yahoo group called FreeCycle. This one is for people who live in Ashland County. On the site people list things they have to give away or that they need...once again, all for free. It's so easy to give stuff away in this fashion because the people come to your house to pick it up! (And I've noticed that it is much easier to keep a clean house when I get rid of the "stuff" sitting around!)

Once again, I don't have a problem with people selling things. I've sold things in the past, and I'm sure I will in the future. But at this point in my life, I have been blessed so much that I can't help but want to do the same for others. The ideas I've shared in this blog are for those of you who feel the same way. Let's be an Acts Chapter 2 church and share our stuff with one another.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I just awoke from my nap...recovering from attending the Soulfeast women's retreat. The weekend touched many women in many different ways. This is my story...

I knew God wanted me to go on this retreat and I was excited to see why. My one reservation had to do with the retreat location. It was being held at Inspiration Hills, a special place for me because of the Walk to Emmaus. I was concerned that being there for something different might be a distraction. We arrived, had some snacks, and began our first large group gathering. We worshipped, heard a message, and then were ushered into a time of ministry. Only something was wrong. I was not at rest. I was not comfortable. I cared for the women around me but was unable to reach out to them. What was going on? Why was I here? I began to feel God telling me "It's ok. Just come to me. To the chapel." And then I understood the significance of being at Inspiration Hills. There was a place there that I had met with God in the past, and He wanted me to come. So I did.

The next day Kim led us in a Lectio Divina on Psalm 61. These are the words that spoke to me. "And when my heart is overwhelmed, please lead me to the rock that is higher than I". These words were already special to me. They are song lyrics. I believe it was the first song that Jeremy taught me to sing harmony to. I have memories of sitting by the reservoir on date night, just us and the guitar, singing that song together. But on Saturday the words took on a new meaning. My heart has been overwhelmed lately. And I needed to be led to the Rock. I looked forward with anticipation to the times during the weekend when I could escape to the chapel and be alone with my Lord. I set aside time at home, but lately it has become more of a ritual. This weekend renewed my desire and hunger to be with Him. I was filled with wisdom and love from the women around me, but I also needed those moments just me, my Bible, and my iPod...resting in the arms of God.

Thank you, sisters, for blessing me this weekend.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Declaration of Dependence

One message I heard loud and clear growing up is that I needed to be strong and independent. Marriage was not viewed as something permanent, so I needed to strive to be self-sufficient so that I could make it on my own. I took responsibility for myself at an early age...doing my own laundry, being responsible for my own schoolwork, saving my money, etc. I got my sense of security from being in control of everything I could. On the outside I may have appeared strong, but it was all an illusion. I could have used these words of wisdom from Isaiah 30:15.

Your salvation requires you to turn back to me
and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.
Your strength will come from settling down
in complete dependence on me
The very thing you've been unwilling to do.

My strength would come from being dependent? The answer is yes. In college I re-committed my life to Christ and became engaged to Jeremy. One evening, Jeremy and I were out on a date discussing the future when the subject of children came up. He expressed his hope that I would be a stay-at-home mom while the kids were in school. This came as a shock to me because I had never even considered it! My mindset was to establish a career so that I would be self-sufficient "just in case". God revealed this to me and I knew in my heart that I had to choose what was to be the focus of my or family. As you all know, I chose family. Some women might be able to do both just fine, but I knew for me that it had to be one or the other. Giving up the career I had been preparing for was tough because I had to transfer my dependence from myself to God and my husband. I have never once regretted that decision. And I truly feel stronger when I am able to give up control and trust God with my future.

Now I'm in the mood to jam to "Declaration of Dependence" by Stephen Curtis Chapman and praise my Creator. Care to join me?