Sunday, February 19, 2017

Valentines

I love our Valentines traditions. We eat the traditional steak and potatoes meal by candlelight with everyone. (This is the only time every year that I will buy steak.) Ray gives everyone a heart box of chocolate. He wants the girls to be treated with love all the time and it's good for them to have a tangible picture of it on a special occasion. How he treats them now is giving them a standard to expect from their future husbands.

We often draw names to give gifts to our Valentine. It's fun to see the thoughtfulness put into each gift. Rachel actually touched our dog to make a painting for Mary. (If you know Rachel, she doesn't like dogs, at all.)
This was by far the easiest "special dessert" we've ever had. I bought a Sara Lee pound cake and sliced it. Abigail used cookie cutters to make hearts and the word Love to place on a plate around fruit. Then we dipped it in melted chocolate.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quiet Time

...Bible time, devotions, .... whatever you call it, as long as it's your time before God, it's important. It's the most vital part of your day.

A young lady asked my advice recently about my quiet time. She wanted to know how was I able to stay committed to my quiet time. It's hard some days to wake up and get started. If I didn't read my Bible every morning, I could sleep at least forty-five minutes longer.

The most important thing I learned from years of struggling over staying faithful to it was that it had to be non-negotiable. There isn't a day that goes by that I wonder if I will read my Bible or when. I was so encouraged when that same young lady came to me two weeks later and said, "I haven't missed one day!"

When I drag myself out of bed, I get a cup of coffee and sit down with my Bible. In order to leave my house on any morning it takes me a little less than two hours from waking to walking out. It's just a vital part of my morning routine.

Ray points out that for your quiet time to be successful you must have a time, place, plan and purpose.

Time - What time of the day are you going to commit? Morning seems best, but it doesn't always work for everyone. I can't imagine waiting until near bedtime to read my Bible, I'd be asleep in seconds. Read Psalm 5:3, 59:16, 88:13, 90:14, 143:8.

Place - There is something sweet about walking by a spot and knowing that's where I meet God. Over the years, depending on the season of life, my "spot" has changed. Right now this is usually my view every morning as I'm finishing up my quiet time.

Plan - Every year the plan varies. Some years, I'm reading through the Bible chronologically, sometimes reading portions of the Old Testament and portions of the New Testament, sometimes focusing on one book or portion of Scripture. The key is that it's heavy on Scripture. I plan time for praying through scripture and intercession.

Purpose - This is the most important part of the quiet time! There will be days when it seems like you're just going through the motions, but if that's all you're doing, then it will be impossible to maintain. The purpose of your quiet times must be to draw near to God, to know Him, to worship Him, to repent of sin. Read Psalm 29:2, 46:10, 96:9; Matthew 4:17.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Please Don't Complain About Someone Else's Wreck


When we were in London and had a meeting at 10:00 AM, we left very early to make sure we got there on time. We spent way too long waiting for a bus, then way too long sitting in traffic on the bus, then way too long at a bus stop where all of the drivers of other buses were just standing around chatting. It became apparent that we were going to be late and we thought we had done something wrong. I asked the driver what should we do, and knowing that I wasn't local he was very kind to us and gave us new direction. It turned out that a lorry (big truck) had hit and killed a bicyclist and half the city was being rerouted because of the investigation. (Apparently, there had been some controversy involving bicycles and vehicles.) 

I don't know why I was so shaken up by it, but I was. We met a very kind lady who actually walked us to the correct path to get to our appointment, for which we were three hours late. When we got there our host asked me how I was and mentioned how terrible the whole experience must have been for me. Up until that point, it had been... for me. But I realized at that moment, that incident wasn't about me. A person had lost her life, it was over! Every person who knew her would be changed in some way forever. The truck driver's life would never be the same either. It didn't matter that I was shaken up, what mattered was a life was gone. The host was being very kind to me and with us being in another country, I was grateful for that!


(The bus pictures above were taken before we knew what was happening. Who wouldn't want to have their picture taken on the top level of a double-decker bus with some London trash in the background? The other picture is at Spurgeon college, which is where we were headed that day.)



I was reminded of this incident recently when someone posted a picture of a major wreck on Facebook. The words with it were -"This mess caused me to be 1 1/2 hrs late to work today."  I'm sure the person's intent wasn't malicious but it struck me wrong. Sure, it caused her to be late, but the people involved were very clearly terribly impacted, someone never made it anywhere else.  

People in accidents of any kind don't need our complaints about how they have inconvenienced our lives. We need to be praying for them. Our first thoughts ought not be about our inconvenience, but how can we help others. No, don't stop if there's emergency workers there who can help. But please, don't complain about how you were inconvenienced. 


My car wreck over eighteen months ago is just about to be resolved. Those things take a huge toll on the people involved - to heal from injury, deal with insurance, get vehicles repaired. I know I would have felt worse if there had been people posting pictures and complaining that I had made them late for work.


We have to change our mindset on every issue of life. What is happening around us isn't about just us!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Sweet Susannah

I was at the computer when I heard the front door open. Expecting her family,  I thought Rachel had walked in first. I said, "Rachel?"

Then in the most precious little voice ever, Susannah said, "Nooo, just your Sweet Susannah."

Needless to say, every person within hearing dropped what they were doing and ran to smother her with more kisses and giggles. Children know when they are truly loved. Not all are so open and free with that knowledge but it's important that they know it. Be free to pour affection on them. Usually, they will return the favor.

I truly love being Grammy to this girl and her equally sweet brothers.

Rachel bought Abigail and Susannah matching overalls and they loved them!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Where Do You Want Your Children to Love to Be?

Gospel Project class
A parent told us years ago that they want their children to love to be at home and church more than any other place. We thought about that and wanted that a priority for our children as well, but we weren't sure how to make that happen.

After many years, I can say for the small children, at least, they love church! Decide the three places that you believe are the most important for your family to love to be and work to make that happen.

A few things that we have learned about getting our children to love church:
  • Be there, it's not an option, go when the doors open. Be there for every service that's appropriate. Take your little girls to ladies' meetings, boys to men's meetings, if possible. Attend special events, showers, weddings, funerals, etc.
  • Go with a cheerful heart. This is where we worship God, the God of great joy, comfort and peace! We are the pastor's family, believe me, we know that it's not always something you "feel" like doing.
  • Go with them, do not send them, do not drop them off, they want to be with you. If you can't possibly get there, send them. 
  • Stay with them. Sometimes, age graded activities are fun and helpful. Sometimes they aren't. Be with your children and talk to them, participate with them, help them understand the beauty of worshipping God.
  • Sometimes, do not go with them. Yep! No one has to be at every service or activity that the church does. The regular worship services of the church are non-negotiable. But sometimes, churches may have so many programs going on that there isn't an ounce of time left for family. 
Now, I'm still working on the idea of teaching them to love being at home...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Confronting Selfishness

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

What is the first thing do you think when something happens? If it's how you will be effected then you may have a problem with selfishness.

But what if you sit a dwell on how you are impacted by others' actions? Then I'm pretty sure that's selfishness. Sometimes, I fall into that cycle. In my mind I try to justify myself saying I'm concerned for how others are affected- my family, the church, the lost, etc. But the truth of the matter is that I'm just plain selfish.

I want things my own way for my own convenience or comfort or pride. Even when I want things for my children's sake, it could be because of pride and selfishness. Whatever the reason, it's still sin.

Our hearts may get offended for the sake of Christ or His glory, but how often does that happen - truthfully?

It's time we put before our eyes the gospel of Christ. When I am offended by something, I must change my thinking. My default shouldn't be about how it makes me feel. When you love God and follow Him, His glory is what you must be seeking, not anyone else's.

So when things don't go my way, I have to ask, "Am I upset that I didn't get my way? Or am I bothered that Christ wasn't gloried?"


Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Psalm 119:36

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Children are Savages

Beautiful, adorable, amazing, made in God's image creatures, but they are still savages.

Susannah
Consider the newborn that has just emerged from the womb, the toddler who hasn't had his nap, the older child's eyes rolling... those are just a few ways that reveal the savage heart of a child.

Those little savages are slowly and gently turned into respectable grown adults. But it's a long hard process. Parents must be diligent and seek wisdom.

Going from the mother gently bouncing a crying newborn to the parent patiently listening and advising a young adult is a very long process.

For the parent it involves a laying down of themselves. To be a parent of savages requires diligence. There isn't a day when you can say, "Today I am not a parent, someone else can take care of them." Even though, I have (jokingly, of course) told my children that my parenting button is off after 9:00 pm and that I'm done with them for the night.

Sometimes parents need a break, to recharge, to breathe air that doesn't smell like dirty diapers and sweaty socks. But there is never a time that they can turn off their parenting buttons. If those buttons are paused, they and the children need to know the clear boundaries of where everyone is supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing.

I can't tell you how many times I've failed his myself. I am praying for wisdom and the strength.

I know God has blessed our home tremendously. I am reminded that without His great mercy and grace, we would be in utter chaos.  I was told years ago that it's impossible to do this job (of parenting) without Christ. How true! Follow Christ first and foremost, He will lead you to parent your little savages.

Adrian and Josiah
Here's a few pictures of some of my favorite "savages" during our short blast of Winter. Rachel and Adrian are doing a great job of raising our grandchildren. What a privilege to be a part of their lives!


Caleb





Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Do You Feel Peace?

The following was written by a young woman and sent to me to share with others. It's a message that our self-help, feel-good society needs to hear.
A rare view from our living room window recently. 

I have peace. I do not feel peace. I have peace because Jesus lives in me. This does not mean that I always experience peace. I don't. But Jesus is peace and I have Him and He is enough-even when I don't feel peaceful. One day we will experience the feeling of peace, but that day may not be today. I've been told so many times that if you don't "feel a peace about it" then it's not God's will. Or as a true Christian you will feel peaceful even in suffering. Or that if you pray then God will give you a peace that surpasses all understanding. I believe you have hope in the midst of suffering; I believe you have peace (Jesus) but I don't believe that you always feel peace in it. 

Hearing these thing made me feel like a bad Christian or not a Christian at all. What was everyone else doing that I wasn't feeling this peace? I prayed all the time, yet I still felt stress. Then, the pursuit of peacefulness and feeling good became my idol. Finally someone told me, stop worrying about that feeling and just pursue God. Embrace Him no matter how you feel. 

Jesus is the prince of peace. He didn't live in turmoil. But, when Jesus went to die on the cross, I don't think He felt a peace about it. He was sweating blood. He suffered anguish (Luke 22:44). Yet, He obeyed the will of the Father. Sometimes you won't feel a peace. You may be called to give your life away. That doesn't always feel good. I feel like in my job I serve all day long. I love my job, but it doesn't always feel good. It feels exhausting. But I know that the Bible calls me to serve. I will continue to serve regardless the risk and regardless how much peace it brings me. 

So here's my confession. I often don't feel peaceful. But I do know that God has called me as His child and Christ took the punishment for my sins and Christ rose again. Because of this I have the living Jesus alive in me. He is my peace and even if I never feel peaceful, He is enough. 

No doubt you are, or you know a person, who struggles with anxiety or over thinkers or even someone who is really sensitive to all the pain in the world. There are benefits for those people. They are often very compassionate, very aware, servant hearted, and very gentle. However, in my experience, they very rarely feel peace. Sometimes they feel a lot of darkness because they can't stop noticing all the pain. They help people a lot but the pain seeps into their mind and it can be very dark. Know this, it takes one light to break darkness. 

Think of the most compassionate person you know. Compassion is painful and that person may feel a lot of darkness and little peacefulness. You can be that one light to break through their darkness. Show them some of the sensitivity that they have shown you. I have found light in something someone says to me or in a song or in a book. That song or person or book can put me back on track when I start to fall apart. But, no matter how much you care, you are human and you can not be a perfect light. 

Jesus is light and He is a perfect light. That's why I cling so hard to the promise that Jesus lives in me and won't stop living in me no matter how much darkness I allow in. He is light and He is peace and that is enough to give me hope even in my darkest moments. And when God looks at me, He doesn't see my sin. He sees Jesus in all of His perfection. That is what picks me up off the floor after I've been throwing up, gets my weak body showered and takes me to work, allowing me to serve all day. I haven't felt the peace that surpasses all understanding a lot, but I have felt a strength that surpasses understanding very often. Notice what God is doing for you and thank Him for that. Realize what He has done for you and embrace that as being enough. 

All this is not to say that it's okay to be living in darkness and anxiety. It's not. It's painful and no one should. I can't lie to you and give you eight steps to live a stress free. I'm not sure how to make it stop. I've tried everything that people say and there is still often this mental turmoil that I can't shake. There is still a lot of dark times. There are times when it feels like my mind is twisted up and screaming even though there is a smile on my face. I look for any bit of relief I can get in the moment. 

I've kind of stopped pursuing that peaceful feeling. Instead, I've embraced the fact that Jesus is a light in my dark mind and that He offers me hope that one day in heaven there will be no darkness and fullness of peacefulness. In Him, I will wait. I will grow weary, I will be stressed out, I will have panic attacks, I will fall into depression, I will look for relief in sinful places, I will fail. Thankfully, my assurance is not in my abilities but in His strength. Thankfully, "even the dark is light to Him" (Psalm 139:12). I will wait and I will hope in Him regardless how I feel. 

And I will stop condemning myself. If you are a struggling with anxiety, if you feel like a second rate Christian, if you're praying but not feeling peaceful, know this: "God is not disappointed in you. Because what disappointment means is that there are unmet expectations. God had no unmet expectations about you. All the expectations for righteousness and for your debt have been fulfilled in Jesus." (Elyse Fitzpatrick) 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Christmas Program

One of the highlights to our Christmas very year is the church program. Abigail was "Mary" this year and did a beautiful job. Everyone actually did great! One of the best sounds in the world is hearing children sing!


The morning following the performance, Abi had a little trouble coming to grips with reality. She was still in the actress mode, and felt the need to sit on the kitchen counter to eat.


Family Gatherings

Abigail loves to sit with Nana (Ray's mom) and Mr. Walter.
Hannah, Sarah, Lydia and Mary with Nana.
Papa loves to read to the littles.
Grandma (my mom) with Sarah and Brewer (my niece's son). Brewer fell in love with Sarah this visit because he found out that she's an EMT and gets to ride on an ambulance.
We had planned on having Christmas with my family at our house this New Year's but my mom got sick and couldn't travel. 


Christmas Morning

 We have the usual messy hair and pajamas pictures as everyone else. But I wanted to share a few of my favorite Christmas morning pictures.
When twelve people wake up to Christmas morning, the tree is going to look like we overdid the presents thing. This year we spent less, gave fewer gifts, and had a much more meaningful gift giving experience. 

Susannah and Josiah loved the playhouse.

 This gift was the the highlight of the gift giving all December. Someone learned that it had been Lydia's dream to play the cello. They bought one for her and gave her a year's worth of lessons. 
 She was blown away on Christmas morning when she found out.
The gifts didn't necessarily have to be so amazing as a cello to bring about great joy. Abigail, Susannah, and Josiah loved the box of peanuts that the cello came in. We had to literally drag them away from it to open presents.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Christmas Baking

I really like to make pretty food. When I started making a special cake for Christmas every year, I realized it was my favorite thing to cook. I've been using different recipes, some very detailed, some not. This year, I decided to make the easiest one I could find with the fewest ingredients -a vanilla cake with a buttercream frosting and we gobbled it up at our church Christmas dinner.

The day after Christmas, I was lamenting that I hadn't gotten to make any other desserts or special foods this year. I asked the girls what the one dessert they missed getting and without hesitation, they all agreed on pumpkin pie. I made one immediately and it was a huge success.