Sunday, December 1, 2013

Resting

Sometimes you just need a nap!


Twice in the last few weeks I've found my four-year-old asleep in the middle of coloring. Its a good reminder that sometimes we need to just stop what we're doing and rest.

That's hard for me to do sometimes. It seems like there is always another meal to prepare, homework assignment to help with, chore to complete, or need to meet. Life's responsibilities and demands don't stop. But we have to. We're human, so we get tired and sick and sometimes we need rest.

A little over a week ago, just when I thought there was no way I could do everything that needed to be done, and keep balancing it all, I was put on modified bedrest. Talk about an unfinished to-do list! Bedrest means sitting down with my feet up for the majority of the day. Bedrest means stopping in the middle of simple activities like laundry or unloading the dishwasher because my stomach is "tightening up" again and I don't want this baby to come early. Bedrest means....well, it means rest.

And as I'm learning to rest, I'm reminded that God modeled rest ("By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all His work." Genesis 2:2). God commanded rest ("Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work..." Exodus 20:9-10). And God has promised that He Himself will give us rest ("Come to me, all  you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28).

And when God takes our burdens and replaces them with rest, He does it perfectly. He often raises up others to do the necessary work, and sometimes He shows us that the work we thought so important is actually unnecessary. I was blessed to see that this very week.

I went on bedrest the week before Thanksgiving. The week before Jon and I were hosting my family. The week before Jon and I were doing the entire Thanksgiving meal for the very first time. But God worked it out to be a wonderful, restful time. God raised up our neighbors to invite the kids over to play for a few hours on just the right day. God raised up someone to clean our house at just the right time. And God raised up Jon to shop, plan and prepare all the meals.

God gave Jon two extra days off and the energy and creativity he needed to cook several dinners, a breakfast casserole, and the entire Thanksgiving meal...complete with ham, turkey, traditional and nontraditional side dishes and three different pies! Plus, it all tasted great!


So, I'm learning what it means to embrace physical rest. But the cool thing about physical rest...just stopping and sitting and being quiet for a while...is that it offers more time to pray and reflect and meditate on God's Word. Slowing down in our physical state can lead us to focus more carefully on our spiritual state. The rest God offers in Matthew 11 is not actually just a physical rest, like a nap. No, God offers something much greater and longer lasting..."rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29).

Imagine that. Soul rest. A break from the emotional burdens. A break from the heart struggles. Grace that offers freedom from guilt and fear. A soul that is content and resting in the Sovereignty of God's plan. And any of us can have it, at any time. We just have to "Come to [Him]".

So today I am embracing bedrest. Because I can see the blessings that God has brought so far and that God can continue to bring as I slow down and learn to rest. My prayer is that this physical rest will not be wasted by worry or list-making, but instead it will lead to soul rest...learning to trust in Him and let Him carry my burdens.

Anybody else feeling weary today? Meditate on Matthew 11:28-30 and ask God to show you what soul rest really means:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Wedding

Several weeks ago my kids had the opportunity to be in a wedding, and it offered a neat opportunity to discuss with them the significance of a wedding ceremony.  


We explained that marriage is a sacred covenant that represents the relationship between Christ and Christians (the Church). We explained to them that marriage is significant not only because you're committing your life to another person. Its significant primarily because you're showing the world a picture of Jesus' love, commitment and faithfulness to His people.


We told them it was a great honor and important responsibility to participate in a marriage ceremony. And we prayed like crazy that everyone would stand still, cooperate and behave! :)  


 The kids enjoyed the experience and we were blessed by the opportunity.


We also had a great time at the reception. Some children are quiet and shy in situations like that. Not ours. All three of them spent the majority of the reception on the dance floor. They danced to every song, learned the arm motions to "YMCA" and made up their own steps right smack dab in the middle of several group dances. They summoned any wallflowers out on the dance floor and thoroughly wore themselves out.  


But, after a while there was a distinct change in the songs. When one song came on that definitely made me feel like we were in "the club" Jon and I decided it was time to scoot. Two of our kids left in tears, disappointed that the fun had to end (they were probably also somewhat affected by the long day and the copious amounts of sugar they had consumed during the evening!).

So we simply explained to them that a song had been played that did not honor the Lord, and we did not want to dance to music that did not please God. I've heard it put in two different ways by two different pastors:
"Never laugh at the things that make Christ weep."
and
"Don't be entertained by the things that put Christ on the Cross."


Of course, they wanted to know what the song was. We said we didn't want to tell them because we didn't want them to have it stuck in their minds. The next day when my son began to sing "wobble baby, wobble baby" we realized it was too late! So the conversation continued.

And it reminded me that our children cannot be sheltered from the sin of this world. As much as I want them to stay "innocent" (one had asked when we left the wedding "why would the DJ play a song that didn't please God?"), I realize that they live in a fallen world, they are being chased by a devil who wants to "steal and kill and destroy" them (John 10:10), not to mention the fact that they will always face a war within their own selves against their own sinful nature (Romans 7:14-25).

My role is to teach, train and pray. Christ's role is to redeem them, renew their minds, and make them righteous. Praise God that He does all the work and we simply reap the reward! Praise God that my children's salvation and sanctification does not rest on my own sin-sick shoulders!

But this parenting role, this teaching and training, is not easy. Even tonight I am exhausted from facing the discipline issues of the day. I am befuddled as to how to get the truth through to them. I can't change their hearts. I can't make them care. But I can rest in the arms of the God Who CAN. I can receive His grace to accept and rely on the gospel myself, and to teach this great gospel message to my kids. I can pray and wait for Him to change their hearts, to draw them into repentance, to deliver them from the grip of sin.

And I can look forward to the day when I pray that my children will participate in another wedding. A wedding with much greater significance. A wedding supper where all the music brings glory to God and no one leaves in tears!

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready." "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 19:7; Rev. 19:9; Rev. 21:3-4)

"They held harps given them by God and sang...
Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Rev. 15:2b-4)

"AMEN. COME, LORD JESUS"!
(Rev. 22:20b) 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Worshipping God

A little over a week ago Jon had the opportunity to preach on a Sunday night. He did a great job, but an unexpected lesson that has really stuck with me from that evening was something my four-year-old said. About halfway through the sermon, in typical four-year-old style, she leaned over and whisper shouted with great enthusiasm "Daddy is worshipping God!" I gave her a little smile and put my finger over my lips to remind her we weren't supposed to be talking.

But the comment stuck with me. So much so that I wrote it down at the bottom of my page so I wouldn't forget it later.


Over the years I have heard numerous pastors, teachers, and leaders remind their listeners that when we come to church, worship doesn't stop when the music ends. Corporate prayer is an act of worship. Giving our money is an act of worship. And, yes, the preaching and studying of God's Word is an act of worship. In fact, every aspect of our lives should be an act of worship.

Somehow, in that moment, my young child got that. She saw her daddy on stage, talking about the Bible and teaching what it says, and she felt compelled to tell me that daddy was worshipping. Perhaps to remind me that every aspect of my life should be worship too. Not just the moments when I'm listening to praise music in my van or talking to God in prayer. Not just the moments when I'm reading His Word or sharing His Truth with others. But every moment.

Standing in a long line with three energetic kids in a store should be an act of worship. Assisting someone who interrupts my planned schedule with a need or question should be an act of worship. Planning healthy meals and cooking for my family should be an act of worship. Even scrubbing spaghetti sauce off the wall behind my child's chair and scraping rock-hard cheerios off the floor should be an act of worship!  

Because worship isn't just a song on my lips or words from my mouth. Worship is a state of my heart. A heart that should be bowing down before our Mighty God who deserves more glory and honor and praise than our sin-prone lives could ever muster up. A heart that should recognize that caring for others and loving others is our calling and a way to show God we love Him.

Perhaps that's exactly what I need to remember this week. I was created to bring God glory and to worship Him with my life. And no matter what I'm doing, it should be an act of worship to my King.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. AND WHATEVER YOU DO, WHETHER IN WORD OR DEED, DO IT ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Col 3:16-17)

Lord, help me to do everything for Your glory. Help me to live each moment, especially the hard ones, as an act of worship to You. Help me to offer my entire self as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You...may this be my spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Waiting on a Girl

A few weeks ago we found out this little one we're waiting on is a girl.
And this is what we've seen of her so far....



"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'." (Matthew 19:14)

We are praying that each of our children (including this one we have not yet met) will know and follow Christ for their entire lives, starting at an early age. Our goal is to be able to say with the Apostle John:

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 1:4)!



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Serving Judas

We're trying to eat a healthier diet around here. And that means I'm doing a lot more cooking. But you know what I've learned? Cooking...real cooking, is hard work! It takes time and planning and lots more time.

And sometimes, people don't like what you slaved over! Early last week I made a dish that included artichoke heart. I won't tell you how long I stood in the grocery store looking for artichoke heart, but it got to the point that I actually called Jon and asked him to google "substitutes for artichoke" in case I never found it! Eventually I did find it, and I made the dish. One of my children asked if it was brain on her plate. Then I made a steak and onions dish, and someone asked if the cooked, sliced onions were squid. The next night I served a soup, painstakingly made with my own homemade chicken broth. The broth I had carefully seasoned with a variety of herbs and vegetables before it slow-cooked all night in my crock-pot. Of course, the kids questioned if there was grass in the soup the minute they saw the herbs. A few days later I gave them a smoothie with kale...more grass-related questions!  

Needless to say the kids did not like or appreciate much of my hard work! I gave them a long lecture about how I have never tried to feed them brain or squid or grass, and that its rude to make non-stop negative comments when someone has spent time cooking for you. Jon gave them a lecture about how they wouldn't be able to go places like Ethiopia with him if they weren't willing to try new things. They thought about that, let it soak in and replied with "its not the best meal you've ever made, but its not the worst either"! I mean, do you even say "thank you" to that?!?

But a few days ago, God impressed on me a very interesting point. Sometimes we are called to serve people who do not appreciate our work. I was studying through John 6 with a friend, and verse 64 really stuck out to me:
"For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him."

Jesus came to earth. He loved. He served. He taught. He sacrificed His time and His energy, and then He gave His very life. And very often His love, His time, His sacrifice was not (and still is not) appreciated. And I was reminded that Jesus served Judas. Jesus served one who was not only unappreciative, but would completely turn his back on Him and betray Him. 

Jesus knew what Judas would do, and yet he spent three years of His life in intimate friendship, patiently teaching and leading him. Jesus gently chastised Judas in John 12:7, and He lovingly washed Judas' feet along with the other disciples in John 13. When Jesus revealed that one of these twelve disciples would betray Him (John 13:22), those men had NO IDEA who He meant. Jesus had never treated Judas any different from the others. There was no clue in His demeanor, His attitude or His actions that He knew one of them was secretly plotting against Him.  

And I realized that I am also called to wash the feet of others (John 13:15). Not just serving those who appreciate and thank me, those who really want to learn and grow, or those who are easy to love. But Judas. I'm called to serve people who may be difficult. People who may not appreciate or want my service. People who may even turn against me.

After considering the weightiness of Jesus' ministry, betrayal and sacrifice -- all the way to the Cross -- it seems silly to return to a conversation about cooking. But sometimes its the little, seemingly silly circumstances in which it is most difficult to submit to the example of Christ. I must realize I'm not cooking for my family so that they'll love it or thank me or think I'm great at something. I'm cooking for my family because I'm called to follow the example of Christ; to love Him, bring Him glory, and model His character in every aspect of my life.   

And so, this weekend, when my kids asked if my whole-wheat, homemade pie crust was mud rolled out flat on the counter, I was able to smile, and think about Jesus...patiently serving even Judas.


Lord, help me to serve others today. Those I interact with in my home, neighborhood, work and community. Help me to love them with Christ's love, even if they're difficult, even if they complain, even if they seem like a Judas to me. Thank you that You loved, served and died EVEN FOR A SINNER LIKE ME! Help me to live like You.
"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:14-17)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Birthday Girl!

Today our current baby turned four! She got her first present last night in the form of strep throat. :(  She was pretty miserable all night. Seriously, I think I got more sleep counting contractions the night before she was born than last night! But we went to the doctor this morning and hopefully she'll be feeling better soon with the medication.  


She was a trooper and ate a little pizza, opened all her gifts, and appreciated that the cake was pink. :)


And, here's hoping we don't all wake up sick tomorrow!!!! :)

Happy Birthday to our sweet girl!


Last Trip of Summer

Just before school started we made one final road trip. We went to Kentucky to see Jon's dad and stepmom. We hadn't seen them in awhile, so it was good to catch up and hang out. We went on some fun outings and spent lots of time outside at parks and in the backyard.
  



During our trip we stopped at Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. 


Here we are deep underground at Ruby Falls.




And high in the sky at Rock City. 


Crossing a swinging bridge...


and safely across.





The daredevils and the not so daring :)



My kids standing under a 1000 ton balanced rock



These final pictures show what happens when kids get sick of saying "cheeeeeese"!




Monday, August 12, 2013

When God Holds Your Hand

The last few weeks were difficult. Jon's stepdad, Jeff Bassett, passed away on July 28. We'd known about his cancer since the beginning of January, and we knew it would be terminal. But somehow it still seems shocking when life ends in death. We praised the Lord that Jeff's death was only an earthly one...he lives in heaven now, with Christ! We prayed for months for healing, and God answered that prayer with an ultimate, and everlasting healing. But he will still be missed and the testimony of Jeff's redemption and willingness to embrace God's will in his final months is a story we will continue to tell for a long time.

I'm currently reading Patricia St. John's autobiography entitled An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Faith (which I highly recommend...its an amazing story of a woman who was a missionary nurse in Morocco and lived an incredible life!). In one section she details the difficulty of losing her brother to cancer after praying and praying for his healing. Her words come as a great encouragement to anyone who is hurting....

"Answer to our prayer may come in our body, our mind, our spirit, our circumstances, or in blessing sometimes long delayed, or even on the other side of death, and usually in our sorrow we fail to think much about that amazing final healing" (p.265).
"But I am glad that Jesus wept. He knows that it is almost impossible at first to see through the mists of sorrow to the glory beyond. We just have to believe it is there" (p.267). 

Amen!

During this difficult time God gave our family an additional blessing. Our sweet niece Ruthie was born just two days before her PaPaw passed away. She is a sweet reminder that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die...a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,4).




On the heels of these changes in our extended family, there was also August 5. August 5 was a day I had wondered about for many months. Would I anticipate it as it got closer? Would it be hard? Easy? Would I remember? You see August 5 was my due date.

Last fall and winter we experienced a difficulty that was new to us: the loss of two pregnancies. The first was October 1 and I was around 6-7 weeks pregnant. The miscarriage happened at home. I saw the sac that had encased the tiny life, but I had not known I was pregnant. The difficulty was experienced later, as I realized I had basically flushed a pregnancy I didn't even know existed. But God is gracious and as quickly as I could begin to feel guilt over this lack of awareness, He reminded me that He was there. He knew. He cherished that life for the few short weeks it existed.

And then, the evening of December 25. We were a little over 8 weeks pregnant. I'd been praying for this little one for weeks. Anticipating the new addition. Considering how our summer calendar might need to change as we prepared to welcome a new child into our home. And then I began to see the tell-tale signs of a miscarriage. All day, all night, those signs. For 3 1/2 days. I prayed. I called the doctor. I put myself on bedrest. I waited. But when the contractions became painful and my trips to the bathroom became every few minutes I knew things might not be turning out as I had expected. And then, in the sanctuary of my own bathroom, God invited me in to the "secret place" of Psalm 139. As I stared through my tears at the tiny life in my hand, no bigger than a nickel, I sensed God holding me in His own hand.

As I looked at that tiny, still-forming body, floating inside a clear sac, I sensed God's deep love. His care. His concern. That He would spend time creating such tiny little arms and legs on a life that would last for only weeks is amazing. And I praised God. I praised God for the gift of seeing this life. I praised God for His gentle reminder that He is always in control. I praised God for my husband who wept and prayed with me. And I praised God for my three children sitting in the living room, waiting to celebrate the most important child ever born: Jesus Christ.

The weeks that followed were difficult. I felt like I was caving in on the inside; like I was falling apart and no one even knew why. No one had known we were pregnant, so it wasn't until after the miscarriage that we announced both the pregnancy and the loss to our families. I missed the baby. I was tired of making trips to the doctor to check my hormone levels. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. And then God led me to tell a handful of people. The grace and the love and the tenderness and the personal stories that began to pour in were amazing. God used these sweet sisters in Christ to comfort me and help me heal.

And over the months, the difficult things became less difficult. My eyes were opened to the pain of those who have waited at the obgyn office, watching smiling faces and pregnant bellies come and go, but held back tears because their visit involved pain, heartache or difficulty. My early loss led me to grieve more deeply and pray more fervently for those who have lost babies later in pregnancy, or shortly after birth, or weeks or years into life. My loss, even 7 months later has already opened doors for me to minister to others.

I'm reminded that God is not blind to our pain. When He allows difficulty in our lives, He uses it for good. He has a purpose and a plan, and we can trust Him.


The wonder of it all is that as I sit and type this, reflecting on the past year, I am currently pregnant again. I have felt this baby move and kick. And only God knows its story...how long it will live, if it will be healthy. But I know that regardless of what happens in this life, God is good. And I don't just say that because I am pregnant again. Regardless of whether babies are born or pregnancies progress; regardless of whether cancer is healed; regardless of the circumstances of our lives, God is good.

And when He chooses to allow difficult things into our lives, He holds our hand. He walks us through. He leads us on.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting Wet on the First Dry Day

It seems like its been raining for days around here. We've done all sorts of crafts and read tons of books to pass the rainy day times. But finally, yesterday afternoon, the rain stopped, the sun came out and the yard dried up enough to play. So I sent the kids outside.

About ten minutes later I saw this outside my kitchen window.




They were completely drenched. I guess I should have just let them out in the rain!

Birthday in July

Last week our oldest had a birthday! We now have an 8 year old!



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Learning to Love

I found this sign on my fridge a few days ago:


Sometimes my kids place their own artwork on the refrigerator, which is pretty funny to me. Obviously with this one, my daughter had slightly confused the words from Galatians 5:14, which says "Love your neighbor as yourself."

But sometimes a mistake in wording, like this one, can make me stop and think. And as I considered this drawing on my fridge, I realized that it is often much harder to love your "family" as yourself than to love your "neighbor" as yourself.

I mean, think about it. Loving my neighbor usually involves simple things like smiling and waving, making small talk, and maybe inviting their kids over to play in the yard for a few hours. Sometimes we get one another's mail or check on their house when they're out of town. We may help them with a small yard or house project and take them a meal or dessert every now and then. But really, these things are often scheduled or planned. There is usually a set beginning and end time and its usually done at our convenience.

But loving your family is a constant responsibility. It doesn't matter if you're tired, sick, hungry or stressed. It doesn't matter if its early in the morning or the middle of the night. They want three meals a day, every day, and usually a snack in between. When your kids are done playing in the yard, your creative activity responsibilities don't end. In fact, mine usually come inside and want to know "what's next?"

Loving my family as myself is hard. It requires round the clock sacrifice. It requires a continual servant's heart. It requires that I remain close to the Lord, guided by His grace, love and care.

But, as I think about all this, I realize that that kind of sacrifice is likely what God actually meant when He said to love my neighbor as myself. Perhaps there's much more to it than just waving hello and bringing their trash to the curb every now and then. Maybe my love for my neighbor should involve a continual, sacrificial care just like my family expects.

I admit there's no way I can do this on my own. The very thought of pouring out more time, more energy, more sacrifice is completely exhausting and overwhelming to me right now. But, I could at least be open to letting God fill me and strengthen me and pour me out in whatever way He wants.

In fact, I've seen this done well. I've experienced this first-hand. We have a neighbor who has loved us so completely, so sacrificially, and so generously that our kids call them their "in-town" grandparents.

As I thank God for these great neighbors, I am reminded that "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required" (Luke 12:48). I know what God's Word says. I've seen it modeled before me. Now the question becomes "will I live it out?"

I can't be a "super neighbor" on my own. But I can make an effort to ask God "who do YOU want me to love today?" And then obey Him and trust Him to help me live it out; to truly love my family, my neighbor, others in my community and anyone the Lord brings into my life. To love them...you know, like myself.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Plans with Eternal Purpose


We have survived the whirlwind month of May! Here's a brief recap:

We watched swim meets,

enjoyed puppet show school projects, 


participated in church programs,


enjoyed some sweet time with Jon's family at the beach,


attended tea party birthday parties,


ballet recitals, 




end of the year choir performances,



field day,


class awards ceremonies,



and spent some sweet time with my family as well.


This fun picture includes the most senior (88 year young grandma) and most junior (7 month old nephew) members of my family!


Here we are partying on the last day of school:



and our temporary yard pet...


We also celebrated graduations with lots of our seniors throughout the month.

And now, needless to say, we are ready for SUMMER!

I've signed the kids up for various camps and activities. I've looked up the summer reading activities at the library. I've made travel plans to see family. I've checked the free summer movie schedule (not great options as it turns out). I've reserved several audio books for long car trips. I've made plans for day trips to the beach. I've picked up the pool schedule.

We are ready. Except for one important thing. As I was thinking through our summer plans I realized I failed to plan for one crucial thing: spiritual growth. Several years ago I went through a study on the life of Paul with the kids. Every day after lunch we sat down to talk about the Book of Acts. Paul is a very exciting Bible character for kids...especially if you tell the stories with excitement and enthusiasm! Blinding lights, supernatural miracles, dangerous journeys, near-death experiences, shipwrecks, snake bites, and a life-changing message. Don't tell me the Bible's not an exciting read. The kids were really into it. Well, one was napping of course, but the other two were fully engaged! They would even remind me if I forgot to do the Bible lesson on a particular day. Because we were studying the missionary Paul we also talked about and prayed for several modern-day missionaries (some who we even knew personally). We had a big map of the world and learned how to find the different countries of the missionary families we were praying for.

So, what happened this summer? How did I forget to plan for such an important thing? Why is the beach, pool and library on my calendar, but not the study of God's Word? Why have we planned and prepared for all sorts of growth experiences except spiritual?

Yikes! Praise the Lord that His Holy Spirit reveals to us our faults and weaknesses. Praise the Lord I realized this oversight on June 1st and not August 15!

My weekend plans? Pray for wisdom and make a plan for the daily spiritual training of my children over the next few months. Lord, please help us use this extra time in summer for eternal purposes and not just selfish pursuits!