It's perfect.

This has been a long month. Much emotion and struggle, within and without.
And life doesn't grind to a halt just because we need an extra moment to breathe. The sun rises, the hours roll by, and the sun sets whether the day has been filled with joyous moments, sorrow, or a combination of the two.
Days wrapped in joy are a blessing, without a doubt, but they rarely push us to the feet of the Savior like a day wrapped in frustration, disappointment, and heartache. Those days make me crave my Bible. Even if I don't have the energy to read it, I want to touch it - just to know it's there. Without reading a word, I know what's inside. Wisdom, grace, forgiveness, mercy, love, promises ... truth. Every single thing I need for life.
I do not want to live in Job's world, but if I am honest, I seek Christ and desire Him more when circumstances are beyond my control and I can barely keep my head above water. And even better, those are the times He holds a spotless mirror before my face and shows me my sin. When life is good and everything is rosy, I don't feel the urgency to seek Him, let alone sit still long enough to look into a mirror.
I love the good days.
But I need the bad days.

These two verses have been consuming my thoughts the past few days. I've also been singing them because they were made into a worship song when I was in high school. Sometimes I just think about the words, and other times I am begging the Lord to remove every last bit of filth and ugliness and sin from my heart.
I decided to look up different versions to see how the words changed, and I was glad I did. Though not a drastic difference, the word choices change the tone of the verses, and I like having all of them before my eyes.

Psalm 139: 23, 24 
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting. NKJV

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,

And lead me in the everlasting way. NASB

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting! ESV

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting. NIV

Search me.
Know me.
Try me.
See me.
Lead me.
What a perfect way to pray!

Good days and bad, Lord, please never stop searching my heart and mind so You can continually remove the wicked, hurtful, grievous, and offensive ways that are found within. I would rather feel the poke of the shovel to scoop away a small weed of sin than the sting of the axe as it cuts through roots that have grown thick and deep. Though I don't want Job's life, I do want to be a woman who cries, "Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?" And then readily submits to Your will, with joy.


Mine will end ... theirs does not.

This was my view today.

A(nother) day with a fever and aches so, everything happened here ... on my bed.
Prayer, reading, games, a science video, snacks, and rest.
Moms do not have the luxury of hiding under the covers when they are ill, as much as we would like to do so. The house chores can be left unattended, but the people cannot. (My people, at least!) Because of this truth, we have to get creative. I'm not sure how other moms do it, but I find that bringing them all into the same small space reduces the ability for complete anarchy.
Today, I organized each activity and then curled up in a ball to rest until they needed me again.
I was proud of them! They knew how poorly I felt, so they did their best to work together and
"be kind" as Isaiah had prayed earlier.

Thankfully, Micah was home until the late morning, so he took Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie on a long walk which ended with a treat of hot chocolate at a local coffee house.
How precious were those 90 minutes!
Thank you, Micah!

In the late afternoon, I asked Josiah to grab my camera so I could snap this photo.
I wanted to remember this day.
Every time I looked at my children, I thought of my friends who suffer from chronic illnesses. I had a conversation with one of them just last week discussing what daily life looks like for a mom who is in constant pain. While they can accomplish many things, they cannot accomplish everything, and they hate it. Guilt plagues them as they watch their husbands and children "pick up the slack," while they are equally grateful for the support.

I feel like the Lord allowed me to understand a little bit of their struggle this week.
Four days of canceled events, unprepared meals, older children helping care for the younger ones, school lessons directed from a pillow, and little interaction happening between me and Dennis because I am in pain or sleeping when he gets home left me feeling like I am disappointing everyone. 
The thing is, I know my illness will come to an end. Before long, our house and our family life will be functioning as usual.
My friends, however, never know from one day to the next if it will be a 'good day' or 
a 'manage-the-house-from-bed day.'

They say we can never understand someone until we walk a mile in her shoes.
Today, I felt like I laced up my sneakers and took my first steps.
I am thankful that pain and fatigue and discomfort are not my 'normal,' but I am grieved with the knowledge that for many, many women - it is.

Lord, thank You for letting me experience a very small piece of what my friends suffer on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. It is clear that Your grace alone is what sustains them when they are at their weakest ... just as You promise when you say, "My grace is SUFFICIENT for you." Thank You for being such a faithful God who meets our needs, even in the silly ways and the strange. A meal here, a gift card there, a friend who invites their children to play, and husbands who willingly choose to serve their wives when their wives are not able to serve them. Burden my heart to pray for these friends when they need it most, and remind me of this week, so I can offer encouragement based on understanding. And if I may be so bold, as You invite us to do in Scripture when we come before Your throne ... HEAL them, Father! Remove the illnesses, the diseases, the pain, and the suffering. Make them whole. I ask this with personal desire, but according to Your will. Heal them, or use their continued suffering for Your glory and their sanctification. They are Your daughters, and they love You. Thank You for loving them first.


He meets our needs.

Yesterday, the Lord provided a tremendous source of encouragement for my weary heart.
After sitting in a coffee shop for an hour, I stood up to refill my drink and discovered our Pastor's wife sitting across the room. We were so far from home it surprised each of us to see one another! We laughed, explained why we were there, and then engaged in a brief conversation. I had no intention of burdening her with my struggles, but just as we were about to say good-bye I blurted out, "Please pray for me!" I gave a thirty-second explanation, she spoke some words of encouragement, and then reached into her bag and pulled out a well-worn book - Streams in the Desert. She opened to the page she had read earlier that morning and read it to me, right there in the middle of the room, and the words refreshed me like cold water in the dry throat of a thirsty man.
A Divine appointment - with a willing participant and an incredibly grateful recipient.

As I drove home, I remembered that we own the same book, so I pulled it off the shelf as soon as I walked into the house. I did not have time to read it until this afternoon, and after flipping through a few pages I found an entry that made me smile because it described our coffee shop interaction perfectly.

If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
II Corinthians 1:6,7

Are there not some in your circle to whom you naturally betake yourself in times of trial and sorrow? They always seem to speak the right word, to give the very counsel you are longing for; you do not realize, however, the cost which they had to pay ere they became so skillful in binding up the gaping wounds and drying tears. 
But if you were to investigate their past history you would find that they have suffered more than most. They have watched the slow untwisting of some silver cord on which the lamp of life hung. They have seen the golden bowl of joy dashed to their feet, and its contents spilt. They have stood by ebbing tides, and drooping gourds, and noon sunsets; but all this has been necessary to make them the nurses, the physicians, the priests of men. 
The boxes that come from foreign climes are clumsy enough; but they contain spices which scent the air with the fragrance of the Orient. So suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect us to help others.
Do not fret, or set your teeth, or wait doggedly for the suffering to pass; but get out of it all you can, both for yourself and for your service to your generation, according to the will of God.

Thank You, Lord, for meeting my need so perfectly through the encouraging words and comfort of a sister in Christ.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply - and how delightful is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23


Quote. On PRIDE.

Remember that pride is the worst viper in the heart - and the greatest disturber of the soul's peace and sweet communion with Christ. 
Pride was the first sin that ever was. 
Pride is the most difficult sin to root out. 
It is the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts. 
It often insensibly creeps into the midst of religion, and sometimes under the disguise of humility! 
~ Jonathan Edwards


Orphan Care is a Spiritual Battle - and WORTH THE FIGHT!

Yesterday we celebrated our first Orphan Care Sunday with our church body.
What a day!

Our goal for the day was AWARENESS.
Very few were aware of the Orphan Care ministry when they entered the sanctuary, but everyone was aware when they left!
As someone once said, "Ignorance is bliss, but once you are aware - you are accountable." I love that!
One of the quotes in the fost/adopt world is, "You can't unhear what you've heard, and you can't unsee what you've seen."
Yesterday, people heard facts, statistics, and the truth about foster care and adoption ... none of which can be unheard. Four of our families painted a beautifully realistic picture of what life looks like as fost/adopt parents by sharing their personal testimonies. They did not make it look glamorous. They made it look REAL. Even with the heartache, the frustrations, and having to fight for their children every.single.day, they do it willingly and passionately because they know these children have no voice, so they MUST speak for them.
I was proud of our families. They were vulnerable, and because of their transparency, hearts were touched, and seeds were planted. Now, we pray the Holy Spirit will do the watering so the Lord can produce the fruit!

I think the highlight of the morning services was hearing people share their stories with us at the ministry table. We met men and women who had fostered and adopted children and wanted to share the joys and successes of what their children are doing now. We met people who are passionate about orphan care and want to support young families as they begin the long journey of finding the child God has prepared for them. We met couples who have a passion for adoption but don't know where to start. I met a woman who was part of the foster system as a child who wanted to thank us for what we are doing because after being bounced from home to home, she was placed with a minister and his wife - and found Jesus. And THAT is the heart of orphan care. The Gospel!
Children need a home, safety, security, and love. But more than anything - they need a Savior.

In the evening service, we had a small panel of our fost/adopt families answer questions about the day to day realities of caring for foster children, and once again they were honest and forthcoming about the difficulties and the joys. They don't want to be called saints, they don't want to be put on pedestals. Every one of them would tell you, "There is nothing special about us!" Their stories are different, the details are unique, but there is one thing they have in common: each one responded in obedience when God said, "Go rescue that child!" They laid aside their comfort and their plans and followed God wherever He led them. They have sacrificed much and suffered apathy, rejection, and neglect by those around them, but they keep plowing ahead to rescue one child after another because that is what God has called them to do. And because they obey - He blesses their families. What a delight and privilege it is to be invited to walk beside them. I have learned what 'compassion in action' looks like, and what it means to be the 'hands and feet of Jesus' by observing these families. Their calling is intense, their days are difficult, and the spiritual battle is fierce - but they dismiss all of it because they know they are putting Jesus before the hearts and minds of these children every day - and that truth makes every battle, every fight, and the entire war WORTH IT.

Father, thank You for such a wonderful day!
You orchestrated every detail, and Your truth about the church's responsibility for "visiting orphans in their distress" will not return void. You have drawn these orphan care families to our church body with purpose, and You have a plan for them - and for us. Show us what it is, Lord, and may we be faithful to walk forward in obedience as we speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Your heart for children is incredibly large, and filled with compassion and grace. Please, make our hearts look like Yours. 

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3, 4


Encouraging and challenging AFFIRMATION.

How fitting that this would arrive in my inbox today, barely 12 hours after my Last Post describing my desire to be a "fierce lover of God" in which I wrote: It is the desire of my heart to be a woman such as this. But it will not just "happen." It requires daily surrender. Constant examination of heart and mind. A desire for holiness more than happiness, and an all-consuming knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL.
I love when the Lord does this! As if His instruction and conviction are not enough in the original delivery, He affirms His orders to drive the point home even further. (And, probably to make sure we are listening!)


If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus - He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience, that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other believers do things which He will not let you do.

Others who seem to be very religious and useful, may push themselves up to be admired, and scheme to carry out their plans - but you cannot. If you attempt it - you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes - but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so - He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or in having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries - but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold - a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward - while keeping you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit in you, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great - but He will keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit - but He will make you work and toil without others knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done. This to teach you the message of the Cross and humility.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time - which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own - and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

If you absolutely give yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other Christian people say and do many things which you cannot.

However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life - then you will have found the vestibule of Heaven, the high calling of God.

(George Watson, 1845-1924)


I want to be like her.

A woman recently requested our hand-written miscarriage notes for her best friend, and in her request, she included a paragraph giving details of the miscarriage, and a beautiful description of her friend. I smiled as I read it, praising God for providing someone who desired to minister to this hurting woman in a way that mattered.
There was one line that grabbed my attention and has been dominating my thoughts for days.
She wrote, "She is a fierce lover of the Lord ..."

A fierce lover of the Lord.

How does someone earn such a title?

Her speech,
biblical obedience,
faith and trust in God,
ability to forgive wrongdoing,
ability to love her enemies,
compassion for the hurting,
passion for the unsaved,
sincerity of worship,
godly humility ...
each of these character qualities must be a tangible reflection of her Savior and so consume her that people cannot tell where she ends - and He begins.

How did she become such a woman?
There is only one way.
And He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

If we love the Lord with ALL of our heart/soul/mind/strength - we are totally incapable of loving ourselves. Looks, race, intelligence, our 'rights', bank accounts, accomplishments, ideologies, opinions, preferences, and personal desires have no space available on the throne of our hearts when it is filled with the presence of the Savior.

John Calvin said, "Man's heart, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols!"
He also said, "The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood works, and is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy - that it often dupes itself!"
And he's right.
Idol-crushing must be a daily discipline in the life of a believer.
We cannot love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength when we are busy loving ourselves first, and best.

"She is a fierce lover of the Lord ..."

It is the desire of my heart to be a woman such as this. But it will not just "happen." It requires daily surrender. Constant examination of heart and mind. A desire for holiness more than happiness, and an all-consuming knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL.

Oh, Lord, how much I have to learn and how much I need to grow. Transform me and renew my mind so any desire for Self will disappear, and be forever replaced with a desire for only YOU.


Excellent quote - and a COMFORT.

A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears. 
~ Charles Spurgeon

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:3,4


Psalm 23 - in a unique way - and it's WONDERFUL!

The Lord is my Shepherd - that's relationship!
I shall not be in want - that's supply!
He makes me lie down in green pastures - that's rest!
He leads me beside quiet waters - that's refreshment!
He restores my soul - that's healing!
He guides me in the paths of righteousness - that's guidance!
For His name's sake - that's purpose!
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death - that's testing!
I will fear no evil - that's protection!
For You are with me - that's faithfulness!
Your rod and the staff, they comfort me - that's discipline!
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies - that's hope!
You anoint my head with oil - that's consecration!
My cup overflows - that's abundance!
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life - that's blessing!
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord - that's security!
Forever - that's eternity!

~Author Unknown