10.21.2017

He gives us what we NEED.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 
Psalm 23

The last few weeks have been filled with emotion, discipleship, difficult conversations, mutual encouragement, precious time with family, correction, challenges, and well, life. Because I was fully engaged in each of these things, I did not recognize my weariness and how much I needed rest. I woke up tired yesterday, longing for a nap before the clock struck 9 am. At noon, when I was making a beeline for the couch, I spotted my Bible. "Come to ME, all you who are weary and need rest," it seemed to call.
I grabbed my Bible, sat down to read, and asked the Lord to point the way.
"Psalm 23."
"Really, Lord? That Psalm is overused. How about something unique?"
"Psalm 23, Michelle. Go."
(I cannot prove it, but I have a sneaking suspicion the Lord sometimes rolls His eyes when I speak!)

Thankfully, I obeyed. And God opened my eyes to something new.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Why would the Lord force us to lie down? And why in green pastures? Why would a shepherd make his sheep lie down? For the same reason we do so with our children ... because they need it. They may not think they do, they may not want to, but do we care? Nope. We make them do it. And the faithful Shepherd does the same for His children. He forces us to be still, to lie down, and to rest.
There is little else do to in a green pasture but think, relax, dream, pray, and sleep. Not only does the Lord make us lie down, He makes us do so in a place free from distractions, concerns, demands, or fears.
HE MAKES US lie down.
Why?
Because we refuse to do so on our own. We keep going and moving and working and thinking and planning and striving. But what we should do, what we need to do - is BE STILL.
And once we are still, we are able to take in the beauty and quiet that surrounds us and hear the still, quiet voice of the Good Shepherd.

He RESTORES my soul.
We are restored through the quiet and beauty of the green pasture. During our time of rest, we are able to reflect on who God is, His promises, and His love. Before the stillness, we are too distracted to see where He is leading us. We are not able to listen because we surrounded ourselves with noise and cannot hear what He is saying. But in the quiet, our God does not have to yell, for our ears hear Him, and His words and commands are clear.

He LEADS me beside quiet waters.
He GUIDES me in the paths of righteousness.
Notice how the verb changes from a forced action to a willing action.
After we have been forced to be still, savoring the rest we so desperately needed, and remembering the greatness and love of our God, it is then that we are able to rise up and follow where He leads. Willingly. And with JOY.

Where does He take us when we are willing to follow Him?
In the paths of righteousness.
Because He is a Good Shepherd, He does not just point us to this place of wonder. He is right there, guiding and leading us every step of the way. Through the beauty of the mountaintops, and through the darkness of the valleys - He is always there.

The LORD is my shepherdshall not want
He makes me lie down.
He gives me rest.
He leads me.
He guides me.
He restores my soul.
Our God may not always give us what we want, but He always, always gives us what we need.

10.17.2017

Too much for me - never too much for Him.


From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!
Psalm 113:3

When I stand before an awesome display of creation like the beauty of this sunset,
I am reminded that the same God who created such vast splendor with only a word from His mouth,
is able to handle the hurts and sorrows and disappointments of my heart. 
Though I feel overwhelmed, there is nothing too difficult for my God to resolve.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In His hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are His also.
The sea is his, for He made it,
and His hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
Psalm 95

10.14.2017

Quote.

How much we ought to hate sin!
Instead of loving it, cleaving to it, dallying with it, excusing it, playing with it - we ought to hate it with a deadly hatred!
Sin is the great murderer, and thief, and pestilence, and nuisance of this world.
Let us make no peace with it.
Let us wage a ceaseless warfare against it.
It is "the abominable thing which God hates!"
Happy is he who is of one mind with God, and can say, I "abhor that which is evil." Romans 12:9
- J. C. Ryle

10.12.2017

This and that.

🎡 Sing with me! 🎢
If you're happy and you know it, say Amen! A-MEN!
If you're happy and you know it, say Amen! A-MEN!
If you're happy and you know it then your face will surely show it.
If you're happy and you know it, say Amen! A-MEN! 🎢🎡

Today was a great day! Early wake-up call, school lessons completed, house cleaned, chores finished, dinner pre-made, Dennis came home from work early, the littles played creatively, the big boys said they love me, and to top it all off, I get to spend the evening being lovingly raked over the spiritual coals of discipleship by an older woman who loves the Lord. Yay for today!

Last week, my birthday week, was also wonderful.
Dennis and my children made the day special, and cards in the mail, surprise gifts, e-mails, and text messages added to the joy!
I am thankful the Lord chose to bring me into the world 46 years ago, and I cannot wait to see what He has planned for the next four decades of life!
It is true - the older you get the more precious life becomes. ❤
I pray I will use the next year WELL!

One of the highlights of the weekend was the start of a new tradition with my teenaged sons.
Birthday DATES!
As much as I enjoy gifts, I would much prefer making a memory with my boys. When they asked what I wanted this year, I answered, "A date with each of you!" And they obliged.

- Caleb planned our date and because he knows I love Mexican food, he chose to have lunch at Rubio's. (Their grilled tacos are delicious!)
We talked about his walk with the Lord, the need to read the Word daily, his enthusiasm for youth group, and his friends. We also had a short but important discussion about how to initiate conversations with people that are purposeful and encouraging. His junior high ears were eager to take this in, and by the end of our lunch date he was zinging questions at me right and left. YES!
He also planned dessert for us - Yogurtland - and was quite pleased that he had discovered a 2-for-1 coupon because it allowed us to get as MUCH as we wanted without worrying about the price. A 13-year-old boy without a job is on a budget after all!
Thank you, Caleb, for my birthday lunch/dessert date! I LOVED spending time with you!

- Micah said, "We can do whatever YOU want to do!" I didn't tell him what I had planned, however, because I knew he would quickly change his mind. It was not until we were a good few miles down the freeway that I announced, "Okay! We are going SHOPPING! For two things - a necklace and a purse. And then we can go to dinner." Complete silence, but a look of horror covered his face.
When we approached the door of the store, I said, "Take a deep breath!"
"Whatever for?"
"Trust me. Take a deep breath." He did. Aaaand then we stepped into Charming Charlie's, at which time my son stopped dead in his tracks, dropped his head to his chest, and groaned, "You hate me, don't you?"
The Mission: Choose three necklaces you think I would like.
And thus began a thorough lesson in observation, attentiveness, how to select jewelry for a woman, and how to be a thoughtful gift-giver. An eye-rolling emoji and a face with laughing tears would sum up our time in the heavily-laden-with-estrogen store!
He took me to dinner and we engaged in a serious discussion about his future, staying far away from the line that separates the believer from the world, and where He wants to grow in his spiritual life.
Micah, you were a thoughtful, entertaining, and gracious date. Thank you!

- Luke took me out to lunch after church on Sunday. Being that he and I are twins in mind and spirit (though definitely not body!), we enjoyed a deep, introspective conversation about the body of Christ, the Lord, sin, and where we need to improve in relationships with others. We also took a short trip down memory lane. My favorite part of that trip was when I asked him, "Did you EVER think we would be where we are now as mother and son? All of our battles, the rebellion, the frustration and anger ... did you think we would end up here, close and mutually respecting one another, or did you plan to pack your bags at 18 and get as far away as possible?" Without missing A BEAT he stopped his fork full of food in midair and declared, "The last one! Bags packed - and outta there!"
And then we shared how thankful we are that the Lord has drawn us together in a unique and precious way this past year. Not just mother and son - but friends.
Thank you for an encouraging and mutually enjoyed birthday lunch, Luke. I loved it!

We jumped into the world of Ancient Egypt this week, so it seemed fitting to engage in a "Let's make each other into mummies!' activity.
Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie mummified Caleb first (a team-building event in which they fought with each other as much as they cooperated), and then they took turns wrapping each other.
They ended up having a BLAST, and laughing - a lot! How thankful I am for excellent curriculums that include FUN in the learning!


~~ Dennis, Micah, Luke, and Caleb have the privilege of attending our Men's Conference this weekend, and I am excited for them! An excellent speaker, a timely topic, worship and prayer with their brothers in Christ, and time spent together as father and sons. A winning combination!

~~ On Monday night we get a special treat! Mom Eastman and Denise (Dennis' sister) are coming to town for two days! We have not seen them in the last year, so we are eager to spend time with them, catch up on life, thoroughly enjoy one another, and make some new memories! We have great visits when they come down south, so we are thankful it is happening SOON!

~~ I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead of you! Whatever you do, make sure to spend time in the Word, in prayer, and serving someone else. Sometimes the best remedy for a worn and weary heart is doing something for someone else - just because you can! Your troubles are forgotten for a time as you focus on the other person, and they are encouraged by your kindness. A win-win!
ENJOY your weekend, friends!

10.11.2017

Quote.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!" Philippians 1:21 

True Christianity is not merely the believing a certain set of theological propositions.
It is to live in daily personal communication with an actual living person
- Jesus the Son of God!

"The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20

- J. C. Ryle

10.10.2017

There is a better way.

Do you ever wonder if this is what the Lord sometimes sees when He looks at us?


His children, trudging through life with huge, heavy loads they placed upon their own backs, creating an unbearable burden that is so overwhelming and exhausting they cannot sustain it and must surrender to the weight of their burden by being buried under it, or tossed onto their backs because of it. 

How grieved He must be to witness such a sight when He has opened His arms wide to us,
graciously and lovingly inviting us to,
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.  Matthew 11


THIS is what the Lord wants to provide for us!

Rest.
Pure, contended, sweet, refreshing rest.

Come to ME, Jesus says.
Take MY yoke.
Learn from ME.

Will you respond?
Will you walk to the Master?
Will you lay your burdens at His feet?
Will you trust Him with the load you have carried for far too long?
Will you listen to Him?
Will you learn from Him?

He is a gentle Master, a humble Master. And His promises are true.

You need only COME.
And you will find rest for your soul.

10.09.2017

Fear is impatient. Trust will wait!

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Psalm 27:2

Fear is impatient.
It demands answers right now.
And when it doesn't get them, it breeds worry, assumptions, and despair.

God commands us in Scripture over and over again - Do Not Fear!
Fear not,  for I am with you!
Be not dismayed for I AM YOUR GOD.
God knows we cannot produce godly courage on our own. He knows we cannot defeat fear through our own power. He knows that apart from Him we can do nothing. So He gives us Scriptures like Psalm 27 to remind and encourage us to ...
BE STILL.
WAIT ON HIM.
LISTEN.
REST in the stillness so you are able to hear His voice.
Be COURAGEOUS.
"Courage is not the absence of fear - it is the presence of God!"

And then what does He say?  What does He PROMISE?
"And He shall strengthen your heart."
HE.
The God who created the heavens and the earth.
The God who holds the entire universe in the palm of His hand.
The God who controls the wind and the waves.
Makes the lame walk.
Makes the blind see.
The God who knew you by name when He formed you in the secret places of the earth.
The God who knows every thought in your mind and every word on your tongue before you do.
The God who sees you as you are - and knows what you will become.

He SHALL.
Scripture does not say He "might" give you strength.  It doesn't say, "He seems to have a pretty good reputation for giving strength, so chances are He will help you." No. It just says He SHALL.

But what is required of you?
Waiting.
Uncertainty.
Unanswered questions.
Patience.
Faith.
TRUST.

Seemingly impossible when you are watching a spouse slip away from this life to meet the Lord at the gates of splendor.
Seemingly impossible when a baby is born with a degenerative disease.
Seemingly impossible when the words, "You are unable to have children" are spoken.
When a spouse loses his job.
A beloved father is dying.

We do not have the ability to create a strength that will stand firm in the days of uncertainty.  
We cannot create a strength that will sustain us in the darkness of doubt and the 'what ifs.' But the Lord our God is ready, willing, and completely capable of strengthening our hearts FOR US, so that when fear descends ... clouding our judgment, causing us to forget who our God is and what He has done, making us feel totally alone, wondering if He even hears our prayers ...
we can stand with confidence and courage knowing that when God sets our feet in the fire and asks us to trust Him - in the seen and the unseen - He is standing right beside us.
" ... for He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" Hebrews 13:5, 6

Fear is impatient.
But TRUST - will wait.

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

10.05.2017

Birthday BLESSINGS!


46.  Beautiful flowers
45.  Wind
44.  Sitting on the sand, staring at the ocean, being reminded how small I am, and how big God is
43.  Chocolate
42.  Sleeping in
41.  Laughing - and people who make me laugh!
40.  Enjoying a Tea Date with a friend
39.  Easter Sunday
38.  Deep, purposeful, thoughtful conversations that leave me feeling equally convicted and encouraged
37.  Reading biographies of godly, passionate men and women who served God without apology or fear
36.  Being trusted with the hurts and heart of another
35.  Listening to godly men preach the Word of God passionately and without shame
34.  Reading and memorizing Scripture
33.  Singing hymns and worship songs with my brothers and sisters in Christ
32.  Marriage
31.  Motherhood
30.  Ministry
29.  Spending time with our extended family
28.  Drinking ice cold water on a hot day
27.  Getting handwritten letters in the mail
26.  Hugs and kisses on the cheek from my teen boys
25.  Godly grandparents who prayed for me
24.  A husband who loves, protects, and defends me
23.  Forgiveness
22.  Mercy
21.  Grace
20.  Faithful friends
19.  The wounds of faithful friends
18.  Godly, older women who willingly give their time to invest in and disciple me
17.  A delicious cup of tea, a flickering candle, a soft blanket, and a good book - at the same time
16.  Friends who accept me as I am, faults, weaknesses and all
15.  Thought-provoking, kick-you-in-the-backside, you-limp-away-after-reading-them quotes
14.  Breakfast buffets
13.  Museums
12.  Huge, full, green trees
11.  Old friends
10.  Watching my children play with and serve each other
  9.  Listening to my children talk to and laugh with their father
  8.  The blessing of seven children ... six who live with me here on earth and a son who has only                         known the joys of heaven, yet continues to make an impact on the earth
  7.  The joy of being raised in the Christian faith, growing up in church, and being taught to hide                         God's Word in my heart since I was a little girl
  6.  Beautiful stationery, leather-bound journals, and "the perfect pen"
  5.  New shoes
  4.  Fun jewelry
  3.  Being allowed to serve our Orphan Care families, and trusted to know their stories
  2.  Friends and family who love us, care for us, pray for us, and serve us when we are in need
  1.  LIFE!

On my 46th birthday, these are the things for which I am truly ❤ THANKFUL! ❤

10.02.2017

Am I willing to do ANYTHING?

As I continue to read about the life of an ordinary man used by God to do extraordinary things, I am
challenged to look long and hard at my own life.
My time in prayer.
My devotion to God's Word.
How I spend my free time.
Who I reach out to, and with whom I interact.
How many of my thoughts are focused on eternity?
Do I fear man, or do I trust God?

D. L. Moody was as human as the rest of us. He was a sinner saved by grace. He had strengths and he had weaknesses. He loved people and he offended people. He had a heart of compassion and a spirited temper. He was humble - after the Lord reminded him that his pride would destroy not only himself but the work God wanted to accomplish through him.

D. L. Moody was human. Fallible and imperfect. And yet, like many men and women before him, he accomplished extraordinary things for God because he continually sat at the feet of His Savior, his Bible open wide, and his mind locked in prayer. He was willing to do little things for God, and because he did them faithfully and without complaint, God called him to do more. So I am forced to ask myself ... what am I willing to do for God? Am I willing to do ANYthing? Even when I am ridiculed, unsupported, rejected, or despised? Am I willing to do anything for God - without recognition or praise?

I want to echo Moody's words ... "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do."
Lord, make me this kind of woman!

I pray you are encouraged by these few quotes spoken by a man who loved, pursued, and obeyed the God who put a burning fire in his heart to cry out to every living soul he met, "Do you know Jesus?" Moody could not preach the Gospel without tears in his eyes, for he felt just as Spurgeon did: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

May the Lord light a similar flame in each of our hearts!

"If you have so much business to attend to that you have no time to pray, depend upon it that you have more business on hand than God ever intended you should have."

"Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter."

"So few grow, because so few study."

"The Christian on his knees sees more than the philosopher on tiptoe. God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves."

"Our Faith must be tested. God builds no ships but what He sends to sea."

"The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible."

"If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself."

"I prayed for faith and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” I had up to this time closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since."

"We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won't need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don't fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine."

"Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian."

"We ought to see the face of God every morning before we see the face of man."

"He who kneels the most, stands the best."

9.30.2017

This and that.

Saturday!
A day to sleep in and enjoy time as a family without any schoolwork, meetings, or commitments. YES!
Let the refreshment of the weekend BEGIN!

We kick off each weekend with a Friday night flag football game!
Josiah and Isaiah are on the same team - the Raiders. (Dennis' favorite NFL team since he was eight-years-old. He takes a lot of ribbing for his choice in teams, but always replies with a smile and, "I am a loyal fan - not a bandwagoner!" HA! HA!)
Josiah and Isaiah are having a blast playing football and eagerly RUN to the field each week ready to play. And win or lose, they are full of smiles!
Micah is now legally allowed to drive the streets of America! (With an adult who is 25+ years of age.)
His motivation was low at first, seeing that we require our teens to pay for their own car insurance, gas, and maintenance of any vehicle they drive, but after working hard for a year, saving money, and studying for his permit in between being buried in books for his school studies - he is ready!
Six months behind the wheel
+ a driver's test in March
will hopefully = a licensed driver!
Good luck, Micah!

I am devouring this biography right now.
I have always been fascinated by the life of D. L. Moody, having heard many stories about him, and reading dozens of fantastic quotes, but have never personally studied the man himself.
I have only reached his 25th year of life thus far, but my goodness did he accomplish MUCH in his first century! Thankfully, his passion and industrious nature inspire me rather than make me regret the wasted time in my own 45 years of life. If the Lord gives me only ten more years of life, I can accomplish a great deal for the Kingdom if I model my actions after Moody's! That man did more in one day to serve "the least of these" than most people accomplish in a year!

He was criticized for his zeal (and his methods), but he was undaunted by such opinions. God put a fire in his heart for the unwanted and the unsaved - and he pursued them with everything he had - mind, body, and soul - regardless of the thoughts and negative opinions of others. I want to emulate this steadfast nature of his. I am criticized often, but I am not always swift to cast off the negative comments to remain focused on what God has called me to do. Embarrassingly, the criticism sometimes distracts me enough to slow me down and take my eyes off of the goal: Obedience. As my wise cousin, Laura, encouraged me, "Obedience to the Lord is the measure of success - not the opinions of others. WALK IN OBEDIENCE." Dwight L. Moody lived this truth, and the more I learn of him, the more I am challenged and encouraged to do the same.

Dennis was invited to speak at a teacher's convention in Sacramento this week, and was honored to be able to say, "Yes! I will attend!" He presented four different seminars in two days to eager and enthusiastic crowds, and loved every minute of it! Teaching truly is his gifting!
I include this photo because, of COURSE, he chose to order his entire lunch from a BACON TRUCK! One of his life's mantras: Bacon should be its own food group!

The littles and I enjoyed our collection of school lessons this week. 
Noah and the flood, the Ice Age, and Dinosaurs were the topics of study.
We read about dinosaurs, measured their length in the backyard to understand their enormous size, and then made our own fossils!
Coffee grounds, flour, salt, and a collection of twigs, shells, and rocks produced some fun results.
I am thankful Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie dive into our studies with enthusiasm! Their excitement has even lured Caleb (who is also studying the Ancients) into our activities/experiments when he hears their laughter and shouts of glee.
I pray they will always maintain a desire to learn - and to do so with JOY.

Happy Weekend, everyone!
May it be filled with wonderful opportunities to serve, encourage, and love others the way Christ loves us!

9.29.2017

The Secret.


For two days, a sweet sister and I exchanged text messages about - contentment.
Wanting to move someplace where life is simple, slower, more relaxed.
Feeling frustrated with finances and the constant lack thereof.
Bemoaning the moral decline of our state and country.
Etc.
Etc.
Etc.
We discussed the fact that God rarely gives us the desires of our heart when we refuse to be content with what we already have.
And sometimes, He uproots us and sends us where we don't want to go. Will we obey? Will we trust Him, even when we don't understand what He is doing - or like it?

Contentment is a choice.
Yet often, instead of choosing contentment, we choose to play the game of Compare and Despair.
We look around instead of looking UP.
UP into the eyes of our Savior who bids us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

In the late afternoon on the day of the final exchange with my friend, this quote showed up in my box.
“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”
~ Elisabeth Elliot

Talk about a heart check!
No matter where we are - where we go - what we do - or with whom we do it, the common denominator in every situation - is US.
If we refuse to find contentment in our current circumstances, why do we think we would be content in a new state, a new job, a new marriage, or a new church? Regardless if one or every one of our circumstances changes, we bring our thoughts, attitudes, convictions, and perspective right along with us. As a wise person once said, "The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but the lawn still has to be mowed!"

Our sin nature of selfishness and pride will always be at war with the need to surrender and submit to the Lord. We constantly have to kick Self off the throne of our heart to allow the Savior to take His rightful position of power. Paul summed up this fight clearly in his letter to the Romans.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Romans 17:18-20
We could easily slide the word 'contentment' into this passage. "I have the desire to be content, but not the ability to carry it out. For I am not content the way I want to be, but the discontentment I hate is the attitude of my heart. If I continue being discontent, it is not me who does it, but the sin that dwells in me." So, what do we do? How do we defeat discontentment and create contentment - in all circumstances?
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Lord, pull out and destroy any discontentment that is buried within my heart. I can quickly identify many of the weeds, but others are so cleverly covered I know I will not be able to find them unless you point them out to me Yourself. It is embarrassing that I even have to ask, Lord, but I would rather see the ugliness of my sin when the weeds are small and manageable than wait until they are choking the life out of my spiritual growth. Reveal my discontentment, I pray. Reveal it, uproot it, destroy it, and replace every weed with seeds of contentment and joy. Forgive me for desiring my own way instead of Yours. You are God, I am not. Not my will - but Oh, Lord, let YOURS be done!

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.
This is my rule in all the churches. I Corinthians 7:17

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, ... I Timothy 6:6

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

9.26.2017

A fun and somewhat chilly school day!


 We had a fun day studying the Ice Age!
After reading about the interesting details of the time period, we engaged in two fun activities.
First, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie had to dress as though they LIVE in a land of ice.
Snow gear, warm jackets, hats, gloves, and of course, weapons for hunting and self-defense.

(I should mention that it was 83 degrees outside while we partook in this activity, and there was only one place in our entire yard that could remotely pass for a desolate, ice-laden land.
In hindsight, a couple of white sheets would have been very handy for this tableau!)



The experiment: Who can keep a pile of ice on their belly the longest?

Step 1
Place a double handful of ice on each child's belly.
Step 2
Grab camera to capture the moment on film.
Step 3
Hear screams coming from the children lying on the floor
because the ice froze their skin faster than expected and they are in pain.
<expressions of misery are real, not acting>
Step 4
Change the 'control' piece of the experiment by placing the ice on the neck of each child.
Step 5
Grab camera to capture the moment on film.
Step 6
Hear laughter swirling through the room instead of screams.
Step 7
Engage in ice fight while cleaning up after the experiment.


Ice Age Lesson Plans?
A SUCCESS!

9.25.2017

A most excellent quote.

When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply that . . .
his sense of sin is becoming deeper,
his faith is becoming stronger,
his hope is becoming brighter,
his love is becoming more extensive, and
his spiritual-mindedness is becoming more marked.

Let us read the Bible reverently and diligently - with an honest determination to believe and practice all that we find in it.

Imagination is the hotbed where sin is too often hatched.
Guard your thoughts - and there will be little fear about your actions.

~ J. C. Ryle

I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh, when will You come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
Psalm 101:2-4

9.24.2017

We must remember. And we must prepare.

This book was added to my "wish list" when it came up in conversation several months ago during
COMMITTED. We were talking about the importance of memorizing Scripture so we would have the promises and truths of God hidden in our hearts if Bibles became illegal here in America as they have been in many countries around the world. One of my girls mentioned this true story, sharing that the woman knew she was about to be imprisoned for being a Christian, so she memorized 100 chapters of the Bible to prepare for her time in prison. That brief synopsis was enough to convince me that I had to know her story. I purchased the book some time ago, opened the cover yesterday, and finished reading the entire book this afternoon.

It is amazing how many Christians have suffered for Christ in ways we have never even considered. A choice few became famous for their suffering, traveling the world to share their stories, and writing books to preserve the detailed truths of what they endured. But for every famous figure tortured for Christ, there are thousands of others who are not remembered by men. Yet their names are recorded in the scrolls of heaven. When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Revelation 6:9-11

We must remember them. The named and the unknown. For they stood firm in the day of testing and persecution, refusing to bow to idols, refusing to denounce Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and boldly preaching the Gospel to every person set before them - without shame and without fear. Tortured or martyred, they willingly suffered and died for the sake of Christ. And thousands were brought to saving faith because of the unwavering faith of the martyred saints. Tortured - yet singing. Beaten - yet giving their daily food ration to another. Persecuted - yet smiling and praising God for His goodness and deliverance.

We cannot forget these men and women.
Because one day - it might be us.

I want to share some quotes from this book, for they inspire and encourage me to increase my faith because like Ahn Ei Sook, I know that on my own I am not strong enough to stand. Without Christ, I will fall. Without Christ, my flesh will win. Without Christ - I am nothing.

     *****************************************************

"I would not bow before the idol, even if He did not save me from the hands of the enemy. I was saved by Jesus. I could bow only before God, the Father of my Savior.
Of all the people at the shrine, I was the only one who remained erect, looking straight at the sky."

"I was only an ordinary woman. No kingdom was awaiting my rule. Still, I knew that my Lord had ordered me to fight. I had no choice except to bear testimony of my Savior until I should die."

(Before entering prison, when she was still in hiding.) "During those days and weeks I sang and prayed and memorized more than one hundred chapters of the Bible as well as many hymns.
I felt faint to think of what would happen to me. 'How long will I be able to endure?' I kept asking myself.
I read the Bible earnestly and had a new concern to memorize important chapters against the day when I would be in prison without my Bible."

(The underground church.) "We took great care to go to the house every Friday night ... We met quietly, sang hymns in low voices, read the Bible, gave testimonies, and prayed. Our prayers were long and serious.
We were filled with the Holy Spirit and were convinced it was more an honor to die for the Lord. We constantly lived in fear of the police, but we were happy and satisfied, envying no one.
I realized that it was because of this persecution that I was able to truly experience God's presence and trust His promises."

(A godly, older man encouraging her.) "When the world is at peace, not very many people diligently seek God. Only at times such as these of persecution and disorder by the hands of satan do believers awaken in faith.
What would happen if God kept silent at such a time as this when satan is working so powerfully to kill men spiritually? It is at such a time as this that God works even more zealously to protect His believers. It is at such a time when God never rests."

(When taken to prison and speaking with her mother before entering.) "Now I'm going to enter the advanced course in the college of faith ... Christ Himself is the Principal, so I am sure He will teach me about true faith. Isn't that wonderful?"
"You must follow Him completely," she said, "if you are to learn from Him. You must lose your life so that Jesus may live within you. That will mean death to yourself every day, every hour, and every minute."

"Having been overwhelmed by God's infinite love and glowing with love for Jesus, I looked forward to being persecuted and tortured for His sake as a trial of my faith.
I had read the Bible several times and stored God's Word, will, and promises within my heart. I was prepared. I thought I would probably be able to give a good answer in this test. This was truly the trial I had been waiting for."

(Regarding prison and wicked jailers.) "I decided these experienced might be God's will. Hunger, trials, and unbearable tribulation provided good opportunities to experience the Lord's promises."

(When all persecuted Christians were released from prison at the end of WWII.) "When we were all together just inside the gate, the jailer in charge shouted for attention. 'Ladies and gentlemen! These are the ones who for six long years refused to worship the enemy's gods. They fought against severe torture, hunger, and cold, and have won out without bowing their heads to the idol worship of the enemy. Today they are the champions of the faith!'
Suddenly the throng of people outside the gate shouted as one. 'Praise the name of Jesus!'
A hymn was sung:
All hail the power of Jesus' name! Let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all."

Thank You, Father, for the work You have done and are doing in the lives of Your saints. Some died for Your name, some have endured indescribable suffering, and some have only felt the sting of persecution. Thank You for giving them the strength to stand firm on the day of testing, letting others see that the "joy of the Lord is our strength" so others marveled that they could sing and pray and smile in the face of death. Death has no power over the believer since Your Son conquered death when He surrendered His life on the cross of Calvary. Praise You, Lord, for this truth! PRAISE YOU! And we thank You, Lord, that every saint who suffered for Your name, and for the sake of the Gospel, is now enjoying peace and joy in Your presence - forevermore.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3,4

9.22.2017

PEACE. One day at a time.

Trials,
concerns,
frustrations,
disappointments,
unknowns.
They surround us.
They overwhelm us.
And they can push us back to Christ. The One who says, "Come to ME, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

May this writing by J. R. Miller encourage you today!

"As your days - so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day - but the bit of God's will for that day. If we do that well - we have absolutely nothing else to do.

Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day - had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a heavy load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plow for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.
We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are - life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down - we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat - if the summons to rest had not come just when it did.

We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through - and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not to be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time more than we can do between the morning and the evening.

If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure us of all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

- J. R. Miller

9.20.2017

A gift of love.


Every week we receive four to five requests for our hand-written letters penned by women who have walked through the sorrow of miscarriage or stillbirth.
They write words of encouragement, comfort, and hope 
to women who are living in darkness, discouragement, and despair.

Our team of women is made up of faithful, committed, compassionate, and thoughtful women who are quick to respond and eager to serve each time I send an e-mail with the names of women who need their kindness. We are so blessed to have them!

And yet - we need more.

If you have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth and would be willing to share your story, your understanding, your empathy, and your heart ... we would love to have you join us.

There is no shortage of hurting women longing to feel their babies in their arms,
and something as simple and sweet as receiving a personal note,
written by hand on beautiful paper by a woman who understands their pain
is a most precious and desirable gift - of love.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
II Corinthians 1:3-5

9.19.2017

I want the one that comes with GRACE!

Pride is the oldest and most common of sins.
Humility is the rarest and most beautiful of graces.

This is a wonderful quote!
And there is plenty of Scripture to support it!

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. Proverbs 29:23

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5

Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2

It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory. Proverbs 25:27

When we look at pride through God's eyes, it is most repulsive.
What is paired with this grievous sin?
- disgrace
- destruction
- falling
- being an abomination to the Lord
- being opposed by God
- deception

Who wants to be known as such a person?
To be known as a man or woman of humility, however, is a reputation to be desired and pursued.

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
I Peter 15:33

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:10

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. I Peter 3:8

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. Psalm 25:9

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

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you. I Peter 5:5, 6

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked to the ground. Psalm 147:6

Humility, when observed through the eyes of the Lord is a beautiful thing indeed!
And unlike the unattractive pairings of pride, humility is linked with:
- honor
- grace
- being lead by God in His ways 
- being lifted up by the Lord

May we pray as the Psalmist did, "Search me, O God, and know my heart," so He can find and remove any pride lurking within us, destroy it, and replace it with the humility that brings His grace.

9.18.2017

Who will it be?

I love when the Lord makes a familiar passage come ALIVE!
Especially when you are not expecting it!
I am currently taking a class on Suffering.
It is being taught by one of my favorite men on the planet. He is a godly, wise, gentle, compassionate, honest, and vulnerable man, and every week I leave his class with a mind full of biblical truth, and a heart full of encouragement.
I don't know if the Lord has me in this class to prepare me for personal suffering in the near future, or if He is equipping me to serve others who will suffer. Either way, my toolbox is being filled with excellent resources to use when needed thanks to the faithful study, preparation, and prayers of a man who finds great delight teaching the body of Christ.

We flip through the pages of Scripture constantly in class, and it was near the end when we paused in Isaiah 55. Though written to Israel, there is much we can learn and apply from this chapter, just as we can from all of Scripture.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

What struck me while reading this passage was the number of active verbs used by Isaiah.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to Me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call upon Him while He is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Come - Buy - Eat - Listen - Delight - Incline - Seek - Call - Forsake - Return.

These are active verbs.
And each one is INTENTIONAL.

in·ten·tion·al
adjective
done on purpose; deliberate.
synonyms: calculated, conscious, intended, planned, meant, studied, knowing, willful, purposeful, purposive, done on purpose, premeditated, preplanned, preconceived;

We do not accidentally come into the presence of the Lord.
We do not accidentally listen to, delight in, call on, or seek the Lord.
And we certainly do not accidentally forsake our sin and return to the Lord.

Our God gave us free will - the ability to CHOOSE.
The question is - who will it be? The Savior - or Self?

Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth,
and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side
of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord,
choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,
whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. 
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:14, 15

9.16.2017

A fun and sweet memory for this mom!


Three weeks ago I made a commitment to read ALL of our children's books before the school year began. We own approximately 200 books that have been collected over the last seventeen years, and many of them are family favorites. My plan was to read twelve books per day, which ended up being an industrious pursuit since it takes about 90 minutes to read a dozen books.

After checking 160 titles off the list, I was growing a little weary. I love children's literature (some of the books were purchased while I was in college) but I now know I prefer reading them in smaller doses. It wasn't until only 40+ books remained in the pile that I finally realized, "Hey! I have SEVEN OTHER PEOPLE in this house who can read!"
That was all it took to redirect the pursuit of making the entire stack of literature disappear.
Let the Circuit Reading BEGIN!

We set up three stations, and Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie read one book to Dennis, Micah, and Luke, rotating stations after each reading. Then, the three older boys read to the littles, three books each. BAM! 18 books removed from the pile - and everyone had a GREAT time!

While I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie read out loud, my favorite part of the evening was when the older boys read to their siblings. Enthusiastic, dramatic, energetic ... just a few words that describe their efforts. I asked them to choose their childhood favorites from the stack, so not only did they read with emotion, they ad-libbed, commented on their favorite portions of the books, and laughed during the story just as they did when they were little boys. It was a sweet moment for me as a mom.

As you can see from the photo above, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were highly entertained by their brothers. They actually fell back laughing because of the expressive readings and funny voices employed by Micah, Luke, and Caleb. I am so glad I was still holding my camera so I could capture the funny moment on film!

I know the window is closing on the "littleness" of our three youngest, so I want to soak in all of these 'lasts' because before I blink twice, the moments - will be memories.

Lord, thank You for my family! For Dennis - Micah - Luke - Caleb - Josiah - Isaiah - and Ellie. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without them, and I don't want to. They bring me such joy, and I love them more than I thought was humanly possible. Thank You, Lord, for seven amazing gifts.

9.14.2017

Time to Seek and Fear!

We arrived at church 45 minutes early Sunday morning, which was an absolute delight because it meant I could sit in the solitude of the sanctuary and read my Bible without interruption. How I cherish those times! After reading through the Psalms of the day, I flipped over to the Proverb of the day. Proverbs 10. I have read that chapter more times than I can count, yet for some reason, it felt like the first time. It is a chapter full of contrasts ... the righteous do this, but the foolish do that. It is easy to see myself in the foolish half of the verses, but on Sunday the Lord pushed my eyes to focus on the righteous portions. And there are many!
As I read, and re-read each verse, I found myself desiring to become the person Scripture described.

Consider this list:

‒Blessings are on the head of the righteous,

‒The memory of the righteous is a blessing,

‒Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,

‒The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,

‒On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,

‒The wise lay up knowledge,

‒Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,

‒Whoever restrains his lips is wise.

‒The tongue of the righteous is like choice silver;

‒Wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

‒The hope of the righteous brings joy,

Can you imagine being able to replace the words righteous, and wise with your own name?
Blessings are on the head of Laura.
The memory of Christina is a blessing.
On the lips of Denise, who has understanding, wisdom is found.
Ginger lays up knowledge.

What a worthy pursuit!
And one I need to employ.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, 
Matthew 6:33

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

9.12.2017

A bright pink reminder.

Last night, five of my COMMITTED girls sat together on my couch while we spent two hours discussing I Thessalonians 5. What a rich chapter! We dissected the verses, turning each command into a personal question, and shared our answers with one another. Humbling - convicting - vulnerable ... those are just a few words to describe the content of our conversation. As Scripture says, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12, 13
The thoughts and intentions of our hearts were most definitely exposed. And it was WONDERFUL!

Of all the fantastic verses with which we interacted, it was these three that kept wrapping themselves around my heart - and squeezing tightly.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18

At face value, they seem simple and lovely. But when you look at them through the eyes of the Lord, they pack a powerful punch, for they are not suggestions - but commands.
Rejoice ALWAYS.
Pray WITHOUT CEASING.
In EVERYTHING give thanks.
For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

The questions we answered were these:
- Are you always rejoicing?
- Is your prayer life consistent, without pause?
- Do you give thanks for all things?

We spent a good amount of time here, each of us marveling that we find it difficult to obey such a positive and happy command, and then realizing that it goes back to the ugly roots of selfishness and pride. We don't rejoice always, because we are discontent, and we are discontent because we don't have what we want or what we think we deserve. We do not pray without ceasing because we let the cares of the world distract us, suck up our time, and focus our eyes on our circumstances rather than our Savior. We do not give thanks in all things because we find some of them unfair, unsettling, or outright painful. And yet, the verse gives us no wiggle room. There is no clause stating, "Rejoice, pray, give thanks unless you don't feel like it, you don't understand or like what God is doing, or you don't want to obey." The trio of commands closes with, "This is the will of God." Period. End of discussion.

And the words of Job rang in my head. Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” Job 40:4
There was nothing to say. No argument. No excuse. No defense.

After the girls left, I studied the notes I had written during our time together, feeling the conviction deepen with every line I read. I could not sleep, for my mind was not at rest. I rejoice, I pray, and I give thanks - but not enough. Not always. Not without ceasing. Not in everything.
Something has to change.
And it begins with renewing my mind.

I printed the words REJOICE - Pray Constantly - Give THANKS on a piece of neon pink paper, and taped it to the cabinet above our school books. I stand in that spot dozens of times each day, and now, every time I do, I will be reminded that it is GOD'S WILL for me to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Always.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! 
Psalm 32:11 

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 

... and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:17,18 

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ... Ephesians 5:20 

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! Psalm 100:4 

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15