A promise worth flying for!

Today I made good on a promise I made to this young man when he was 10 years old.
He was obsessed with planes of every kind as a child (I met him when he was five years old), reading about them, watching videos about them, talking about them. Then one day, the passion turned from wanting to know about planes to wanting to be the pilot of the planes.
He worked diligently and faithfully to earn his pilot's license, and once he had it
he looked at me and asked, "So, are you ready to fly with me?"
I was thrilled that he remembered my promise - and - that he wanted me to fulfill it.
My answer, of course, was "YES! YES! YES!"
So today we flew into the wild blue yonder ... TOGETHER.

Drake does not like having his photo taken, but since he adores me (HA!) he willingly acquiesced to all of my photographic wants. When I asked for the obligatory cockpit/headphone shot I said,
"Thank you for tolerating my photo needs!"
Without missing a beat, and in true Drake Dusterhoft fashion, he responded,
"Oh, I've been tolerating you for YEARS!"

Drake, thank you for today!
I remember meeting you as a little boy with your blonde hair, blue eyes, and the hint of mischief always twinkling inside of them. You were sweet, adventurous, quick to laugh, and respectful.
You and I have always clicked. As a little boy, you didn't like to be touched, and because I knew that I would purposely chase you down, pick you up, swing you around, and hug and tickle you while you laughed and laughed. You never told me to put you down, and your mom would say, "He doesn't let ANYbody do that!" And we have been teasing and annoying each other ever since! <grin>
And now, here you are, twenty years old, an EMT and a pilot - and I am proud of you.
You worked diligently, faithfully, and sacrificed to get where you are, Drake.
You are a terrific pilot and I loved flying with you today!
Thank you for letting me be a part of your new world. Mrs. E


HE is our safe place!

This season of Christmas seems to be exceptionally difficult for many.
A day does not pass without a new request for prayer, for help, or for counsel arriving in my inbox.
Trials are abundant.
Sickness and disease touch the bodies of dozens.
Emotional suffering. Physical suffering. Spiritual suffering.
People are hurting. Broken. Mourning. Confused. Afraid.
They are looking for answers. For relief. For healing.
They need the Lord.
He is the only One who can offer hope, a true living hope, as they plod the streets of sorrow.

Hugs, shared tears, and listening ears are wonderful things to offer a brother or sister who is drowning in the depths of despair. But they are not enough. We may be able to push them to the surface to take a breath, but only the Lord can hold them there, safe and secure while the waters rage around them. HE is their rock. HE is their safe place. HE is their everything. HE - is what they need.

Our job, as brothers and sisters in Christ, is to wrap our arms around them while they weep and mourn and sorrow, and gently walk them to the one place where they will find peace ... at the feet of the Savior. Because sometimes, as much as they want to, they just cannot get there on their own.

Last night, I fell asleep praying for those who have reached out to me for help, and this morning I woke up to find this beautiful quote by J. R. Miller waiting in my Inbox. Before I had finished reading it I was saying to myself, "You HAVE to share this!" So, I share it here, praying that it will strike the heart of someone who is suffering, offering new hope, renewed trust in a holy and tender-hearted God, and a deep and encouraging conviction that while we must struggle in this life, we never, ever have to struggle ALONE. For we belong to a God who loves us, sent His Son to die for us, and promises He will never leave us or forsake us. He IS our rock. He is our tower of strength. And when we run to Him - we are SAFE. ❤

"We do not know what we should pray for as we ought." Romans 8:26

A minister sat with a father and mother by the bed of a child who was hovering between life and death. He was about to pray for the little sufferer, and turning to the parents he asked, "What shall we ask God to do?" After some moments the father answered, with deep emotion: "I would not dare to choose - leave it to God."

Would it not be better always to leave
the decision to God, letting Him choose what it is best for Him to do for us or to give to us? We are not in the world to always have ease and pleasure, to always succeed, to do great things - we are here to grow into strength and beauty of life and character, to accomplish the will of God, and to have that will wrought out in our own life.
Ofttimes ...
The present must be sacrificed for the future,
the earthly given up to gain the Heavenly,
and pain endured for the sake of spiritual refining and enriching.
Christ does not seek to take away the burden - rather, He would make us strong and brave to bear it.

If we are willing to let God choose for us, and accept what He gives - we shall never fail to receive the best. Perhaps not what the world would call the best - but always God's best. We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, and we had better leave it to God.

We should be content to leave the guidance and choices of our lives in His hands. Think how wise He is - knowing all things, knowing how to choose the best for us. Who does not know that this is better, safer, wiser than if we were to choose the way for ourselves?

The truest prayer is often that in which we creep into the bosom of God and rest there in silence. We do not know what to ask, and we dare not say even a word, lest it might be the wrong word, hence we simply wait before God in quietness and confidence. We know that what is best - our Father will do, and we trust Him to do what He will.

We are sure that God could relieve us of the things which are so hard for us to bear - could, if He desired to. This is God's world, and nothing can get out of His hands. All we have to do is to lay our need before the throne of mercy, and to let God answer us as He will.


The Beauty of Affliction.

There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. 
Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles - they believe . . .
that Sovereignty has ordained all their afflictions, 
that Sovereignty overrules them, and 
that Sovereignty will sanctify them all.
I bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had, have turned out to be my best days. And when God has seemed most cruel to me, He has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else--it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things, the richest tenderest love has been manifested to me. Our Father's wagons rumble most heavily, when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of His grace. 
I have learned to kiss the stormy waves which throw me up against the Rock of Ages!
The tears of affliction, are often needed to keep the eye of faith bright.
The furnace of affliction is a good place for you, Christian. 
It benefits you--it helps you to become more like Christ, and it is fitting you for Heaven.
I would never have known the Savior's love half as much - if I had never been in the storms of affliction.
Our afflictions become the black velvet on which the diamond of God's love glitters all the more brightly!

(Charles Spurgeon)


Because of them I run faster and farther!

These past few days the Lord has been pushing me to be acutely aware of - and grateful for - the blessing of faithful, transparent, godly sisters in Christ.
It is easy to be with a group of women and talk about many things, yet speak of nothing that matters for eternity. It is easy to share the trials and hardships of life, yet fail to challenge each other to respond biblically. It is easy to talk about weaknesses and sin, yet refuse to be held accountable to turn from those sins and walk in holiness.
In short, it is easy to hide.
We hide behind words. We hide behind theology. We hide behind the chaos and distraction of conversation. We share just enough to let people know about us without letting them see the real us.

He did not create us for isolation. He created us for relationship. First, with Himself. And then, with others.
And because He created us for relationship, He designed the body of Christ and gave us - each other!

The Lord has carried me through beautiful seasons of abundance and difficult seasons of drought in terms of intimate friendships, but whether in plenty or in want, He has always been faithful to use sisters in Christ to encourage, challenge, and stir me up to love and good deeds. Some were used in one brief exchange, never to be seen again. Others were authors of books, writers of hymns, or leaders of a study. Some were older women who willingly invested in the life of a young mom. Some were acquaintances who always had a smile and a kind word when we crossed paths. And for each one - I am thankful.

But it is the faithful few, the ones who seek to know all of me, not just what is seen, the ones who rejoice with me in times of joy and weep with me in times of sorrow, the ones who see me as I really am in all my sin and still say, "You are enough", the ones who speak truth to me in love because they care about my holiness more than my happiness, and the ones who purposely pursue me for no other reason than to enjoy one another ... it is for these women I am most grateful, for they are the ones the Lord uses to refine me in ways that are unique and precious.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, ... Proverbs 27:6

This text exchange is an example of the kind of women the Lord has chosen to bless me with at this stage of my life. We (four women) are rarely together in person, we gather but a couple of times a year as a group, but we take full advantage of communicating with one another in ways that edify and exhort, for we know how much we need it - and how much we need each other.

Sister 1: Praying the Lord would continue to teach each of us how to run well!! I know the Lord is faithfully showing me where I have been blinded and where habitual sins have been hidden in my heart and they are being uprooted! I am thankful and desire to be continually transformed!! Love you all!

Sister 2: The fact that the four of us are willing to REJOICE when the Lord reveals our sin to us is absolutely amazing, beautiful, and as it should be! Maturity in Christ is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Not always easy but wonderful nonetheless!

Sister 3: Amen!!! Praying He keeps showing me my weights and sins!
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Sister 4: Love what everyone said!!! AMEN!!!! I take the word “IF” out of the Bible verse "see if there is any offensive way in me," when I pray that because I know there IS offense in me!

How much they challenge me to run after Christ instead of plotting my own way!

The day after this exchange, I opened my Inbox to find the following quote waiting for me. I smiled as I read it, thinking of my sisters, because they are three women who continually model the beauty of confession, repentance, and a desire to look less like themselves and more like Christ.
And because they do, I want to follow their example.

"Search me, O 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 everlasting way!" Psalm 139:23, 24
What a contrast there is between a man of this world - and a child of God! 
The one wishes to avoid the scrutiny of God - and the other desires and prays for it. 
The one loves sin, and cherishes it - the other abhors sin and desires to be delivered from it. 
The one walks hand in hand with iniquity - the other grieves that he bears with him a body of sin and death.
It is the earnest desire of all who are born of God, and made partakers of the Divine nature - to be delivered from the power of sin that dwells in them. They would have no lust spared - and no corruption unmortified. 
Chosen by the Father in eternity past, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ and justified freely by His grace - they would also be sanctified by His Spirit.
- "Every Day!" Author unknown, 1872


He keeps His promises.

"Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward!" Job 5:7 

"How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!" Job 14:1 

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous" Psalm 34:19 

Do not reckon that God will give you a life without difficulty! Tell me, if you can, of any child of His who ever had such a portion? He had one Son without sin - but no son without sorrow. No, that Son who had no sin, was the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. So you must expect the Lord to deal with you as He does with the rest of His household.

- Charles Spurgeon

I needed this quote today.
These past weeks have proven difficult.
Perspective says, "Be thankful! It could be worse."
And yet, the trials and sorrows of life still feel heavy and wearisome.
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
How grateful I am for a Father who makes - and keeps - such promises!


My favorite Eastman tradition!

This year, our Thanksgiving Eve of Thankfulness took place twelve days late,
but it was one of our best yet, so it was totally worth the wait! 

Each year we gather as a family, light candles, spend time writing down what we appreciate/enjoy/love about each other, and then read all of the comments out loud
so everyone can enjoy them. My favorite part is that all of this happens amidst much laughter!

I think one of the reasons I enjoy this tradition so much is because it levels the playing field
between the varying ages, stages, abilities, and personalities of our family.
Age two or ninety-two, words of praise are desirable and appreciated, and observing our children interact with the purpose of encouraging and building each other up is beautiful and satisfying.

Each year the entries become more thoughtful as our children grow and mature, yet fully maintain the character of each writer. We joke and jest while writing, while reading, and while listening, and all of us walk away feeling connected and content with our position in the family. ♥I LOVE it!♥

I pray the Lord will bless us with dozens more Thanksgiving Eve's of Thankfulness in the years to come, and even more, I pray the bonds that hold us together will strengthen as each year passes.


I love my family, and I will spend the rest of my days praising God for choosing us for each other.

Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, 
for His steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1


Cling to the Rock that never moves!

This morning found me fighting between Self and the Spirit as I nestled deeper into my warm bed, fighting the temptation to stay IN it rather than rousing myself to prepare for worship with the brethren. The combined busyness of daily life and caring for Dennis post-surgery these past ten days finally caught up with me, and my body literally ached to remain asleep and still. But my mind was fully alert and kept shouting, "Let's GO, sister! You can sleep when you're dead. This is the day the Lord has made, and today is a day for WORSHIP! Get moving!"
The Spirit won.
And what the Lord had waiting for me at church (through the faithful preaching of two godly men) was not only what I needed to hear, but what I wanted.
Praise God for leaving the Holy Spirit with us to guide us into all truth, for He knows far better than we what we need.

The message this morning was a perfect followup to Pastor Philip's Suffering message last week.

The title: God's Unchanging Faithfulness
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
The text: Lamentations 3:19-26
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mindand therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

- The Reality of Sorrow
- The Remembering of God
- The Response of the Believer

➛ Genuine sorrow in a believer must be tied to disciplined and biblical expressions of that sorrow.
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
BUT this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:19-23

Life is hard - loss of loved ones are real - trials exist - bodies and minds are broken.
Sorrow is REAL. Even so, we can be "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;" as the Scriptures model.
(II Corinthians 6:10)

➛ As believers, we must make a conscious, willful, intentional decision to turn our minds from our circumstances and focus our thoughts on the TRUTH of God's Word.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him." Lamentations 3:22-24

➛ Despair is the result of an undisciplined mind.
But this I call to mindand therefore I have hope: Lamentations 3:21
Jeremiah teaches us that we must be intentional and purposeful to REMEMBER who our God is, what He has done, and what He promises He will do.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise You. Psalm 63:3

As a father shows compassion to His children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. Psalm 103:3

➛ WAITING is the least favorite discipline of the Christian life, but it is a discipline, that if obeyed, yields blessings!
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25
... but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

➛ A quiet heart is a trusting heart.
A trusting heart is a strong heart.
Waiting on the Lord can be difficult, but it is always worth it!
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:25, 26

WAIT on the Lord!
Do not write your own story.
Be still and wait until He tells you what is next and leads you where you need to go.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:4

God is our ROCK.
The Rock of all ages.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
So while you must wait, cling to the Rock with all your might.
For there - you are SAFE.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10


The weaker we are - the stronger we can become!

Last week Dennis and I were unable to join our church body for worship because we needed to stay home while he recovered from shoulder surgery. We enjoyed a nice, quiet morning together, but soon learned we had missed out on a most excellent sermon. I was finally able to sit uninterrupted to listen to it in its entirety this afternoon, and my goodness was I blessed by doing so!

Whether you read my notes below or listen to the actual sermon, I pray you will be equally encouraged, challenged, and convicted to stop focusing on the thorn that causes your particular suffering, but instead focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you in the first place.

Suffering Grace
The strength of weakness

Our text: II Corinthians 12:1-10
It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Our human nature wants the thorns of life removed.
But what if there is a beauty, and a purpose, in KEEPING them?

Our thorns make us weak.
Our weakness makes us needy.
Our need points us to God.
God makes us strong through His grace.

Suffering handled correctly will see an increase of grace in our lives!


●The Picture of the thorn 
(ambiguous because the Scriptures do not name it)
- painful and hurtful, Greek word means "a stake"
- possibly a physical ailment/sickness
- possibly a reoccurring temptation
- possibly the constant opposition to his leadership
- possibly oppression by the enemy

●The Purpose of the thorn
(not at all ambiguous)
- to buffet Paul (buffet = to hold someone down and beat them)
- to keep Paul from being conceited with spiritual pride
- to give Paul a supernatural strength through grace

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an advantage!

God uses discipline to correct past sins
to prevent future sins.

●The Providence of the thorn
- While satan is the one who attacked Paul, God permitted the attack. (Job 1, 2)
- God, in His sovereignty, will use satan's harassment to strengthen and humble His people

Paul's difficulty had Divine design written all over it.
There IS a purpose in our pain for God is WORKING in our pain.

There is a GOOD "bad."
"Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Apparently, he roars to frighten us, he stalks and plots against us, but like the lion at the zoo, he is only free within the parameters of his cage. He roams only where God permits." - Erwin Lutzer

➤The PRAYER v. 8
- Paul naturally and rightly prayed for relief from his thorn
- He prayed repeatedly for relief
- Finally, Paul concluded that God was not going to answer the way he wanted God to answer, and the thorn was going to remain

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an ally!

The thorn is a weapon in the hand of satan - and a tool in the hand of God.

●God does not always heal.
Our health and our happiness are not Gods main concern.
God is concerned with our HOLINESS.

The outer man is dying
the inner man can be renewed day by day!

God healed Paul from the need to be healed.

●God does not always answer prayers in the fashion we prayed them.
He answers: "Yes", "No", "Wait", and sometimes, "Yes, but not the way you imagine it."
God did not remove the thorn from Paul but gave Paul the ability to BEAR the thorn through His grace.
Are you willing to trust God with His answer? Even if it looks nothing like your own will?

➤The PROMISE v. 9
- the thorn will remain but God promises to help Paul ENDURE the pain through the gift of His abundant grace and His sufficient strength
- His grace is CONSTANT
For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16
- His grace is sufficient to fill us up WITH that grace so we are able to face the trials of life day after day no matter how difficult or how long they may last
- His grace flows freely, pouring over us again and again as long as we need it
- As it flows over us, we will GROW in grace!

- Thorns have a value!
They are tools in the hand of God. So put down the hedge clippers!
- We may not want the thorn or like it, but we must appreciate it and trust that the Lord leaves it where it is for a reason
- Our weakness shows His strength because we know we could not do it on our own. We need Him!
- Paul's physical weakness guarded him against spiritual weakness (pride)

Stop focusing on the THORN and focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you.
For the harder we lean on Christ - the stronger we become.

LISTEN to the sermon here ...


A Night of BEAUTY - and - COMMUNITY.

1: the quality in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: loveliness
2: a beautiful person or thing 
3: a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality

attractiveness, beauteousness, beautifulness, comeliness, cuteness, fairness, gorgeousness, handsomeness, looks, loveliness, prettiness, sightliness

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

And last night, the Lord drew seven women together and used them to remind each other of the beauty of motherhood, the beauty of special/learning needs, and the beauty of the body of Christ.

I used to plan a detailed agenda for nights like these, wanting everything to be "perfect" and leaving no stone unturned to ensure that each woman would feel blessed and encouraged by the time the evening came to a close. I wanted every need met and every sorrow turned into joy. And then, with my perfect plans placed before me I would pray, "Lord, BLESS IT!" And because He is a faithful God, He did. Even though I was asking for my agenda to be blessed. Not His.
Now, after many hard lessons from His hand, I simply pray, "Lord, do whatever You want!"
And He does.
And every single time, it looks nothing like I imagined it would.

Last night was no exception.
Dennis bought me the yellow tulips the night before he left for Cambodia. I love tulips, and the vivid yellow color of this bunch is particularly stunning. I chose to use them as the focal point of the treat tray for our Mom's Night, and when I looked at them again after closing the door behind the last mom to leave, it struck me that the flowers captured the theme of our night together as women. 
the beauty of humility
the beauty of truth
the beauty of transparency
the beauty of empathy
the beauty of compassion
the beauty of sharing
the beauty of listening
the beauty of affection
the beauty of prayer

Because each woman was willing to display these characteristics so freely, we connected with each other in a way that was both needed and desired. And a community was born. It is not a closed community, for all are welcome, and all will be received. We need each other. We have a responsibility toward one another. And with God's grace, we will faithfully and successfully live out the beautiful charge in Scripture:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Father, thank You for an incredibly uplifting night of mutual understanding and edification. You knew the need of every woman before she walked through the door, and it was You who gave each one the courage to share the realities of her days and the hurts of her heart. It was, truly, a night of beauty, and one that will not be forgotten. Thank You, Lord, for Your abundant love for Your children.
How we need You!


DEPRESSION. An excellent and encouraging sermon!

Sunday morning I sat down in our church sanctuary expecting to hear my pastor's voice resound from the pulpit, but instead, the Lord used another godly man to break down a wonderful Psalm to encourage the hearts of those who battle with depression. And, it was, by far, the BEST sermon I have ever heard preached on this particular passage. His exegesis of the chapter was biblical and on point, but what impressed me more was the gentleness and sincerity that rang out clearly in each word he spoke. His compassion for those who fight against depression was palpable, and his hope that our God can help and heal is apparent.

I could barely keep up with him as I scrawled notes across the pages of my notebook. There is so much truth tucked within these eleven verses! I included the passage here, along with my favorite quotes, but this is a sermon that should be heard and studied in full. Therefore, I included a link so everyone who desires to watch it (and be blessed) may do so!

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls;
all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42

➤ Depression has always troubled God's people, therefore, it needs to be addressed and responded to biblically.
“I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” - C.H. Spurgeon, preaching to his congregation

➤ The Psalmist paints a vivid picture of what the spiritual battle of depression looks and feels like by sharing his personal reasons for his depression and then declaring the remedy for his depression.
He is not content to remain in his depressed state.
He stops listening to his own voice and starts speaking to himself about the truth of who God is.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11

➤ Depression is a real battle, and a battle in which the believer must not surrender - but FIGHT!
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Psalm 42:5

➤ When you feel defeated, dry, despondent, depressed ... do you long for and seek after God more than anything else?
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1,2

➤ The cure to depression is not always immediate.
There will be seasons of living between hope and despair.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life. (v. 8)
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (v. 9)

➤ When in the depths of great sorrow, we as believers can recognize God's sovereign hand while also recognizing His faithful kindness toward us.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7,8

Listen to this fantastic sermon in full here.


Let's USE our gifts!

This morning's sermon was wonderful! The entire series (Total Grace) has been a blessing, and today's portion, "Serving Grace" was no exception. As always, my notes are a mixture of the actual words preached by our pastor and my thoughts/responses to those words. I hope you find them as encouraging as I did!

Our text:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:1-8

Grace is not just amazing - it is ABUNDANT!
- For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16
- And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. II Corinthians 9:8

➣ The Argument
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Before you can serve the body OF Christ - you must surrender yourself TO Christ.

The believer should be a living sacrifice engaged in relentless service.

Why do we sacrifice everything for Christ? Because of His mercy!
We deserve nothing, yet He gives us eternal life through His Son. Therefore, He deserves our ALL.
And better still, His mercies are NEW - EVERY morning - for His faithfulness is great!

It is reasonable/logical to give yourself to the One who gave Himself for you.
Surrender to God is the only thing that makes sense based on what God has done for us.

The Assessment
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Soberly judge your abilities and strengths so you know how to serve others.
It is not wrong/sinful to admit the strengths God has given you as long as ALL glory goes to HIM.
It is not wrong to know your gifting!
But it is wrong to overestimate or underestimate your giftedness. (pride and false humility)

The question is not, "How gifted are you?" The question is, "HOW are you gifted?"

Embrace how God has made YOU - including your weaknesses and lack of abilities - and use your strengths to bless others and bring glory to God!

Caution: Admire the beautiful strengths and gifts in others, but do not make them idols!
You are you - they are they. Be content with who God made you - how He made you - and how He chooses to use you. As the bumper sticker reads, "Be Yourself. Everyone else is taken!"

The Assignment
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Unity - believers are many members of one body
Diversity - the body is made up of many members with different purposes and gifts
Mutuality - we belong to one another and are dependent on one another because each of us possesses gifts that benefit the others

EVERY believer has gifts given to them by God, and they were given to be EMPLOYED for the benefit of the body.
Christianity is not a spectator sport!!! No one sits on the bench. Everyone plays!!!
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:
I Peter 4:10

Thank You, Lord, for the truth of this message! And thank You for creating the beautiful body of Christ, for we all need each other and we ALL have something to offer! Not one part is indispensable!


Just what I needed.

This week I had the privilege of attending our homeschool group's Mom's Night. The hours leading up to the event were filled with frustration, disappointment, and a fight with the flesh to let go of anger, so after pulling up to the host house twenty-five minutes early, I kept myself in the car, blared Crowder worship songs, and refused to get out until my heart, mind, and attitude were appropriate to expose to a room full of women. I even sent an SOS text to three people asking them to pray for me. The battle had to be won. And because God is faithful when we call upon Him, He released me from my sinful anger and allowed me to walk into the house with a sincere smile and a happy heart. And I was grateful for this gift because it was a wonderfully encouraging and challenging evening of fellowship.

One of my closest friends was the speaker, and her message was thoughtful, on point, and personal. It would be ridiculous for me to recap her words using my voice because while we are similar in 729 ways <grin>, she has a voice that is unique to her, and I would not do it justice.

I do, however, want to share the three questions she asked us because they are fitting and good. Not just for homeschool moms, but for all moms/women who claim Christ as Savior and Lord.

Her three points:

For each topic, she quoted Scripture, challenged us, shared snippets of her own personal journey, and then asked us to break into groups of two or three to discuss a specific question related to the topic.
1. Whose "Well Done" are you seeking? The world's, your own, or the Lord's?
2. Where (in homeschooling, parenting, marriage, life) do you need to grow in humility?
3. In what areas (homeschooling, parenting, marriage, walk with the Lord) do you need to be more consistent?

Boy, oh BOY, did these questions prove to be a catalyst for fantastic conversations with my sisters as we sat huddled in a circle talking without pause until she called us back to attention! It was a delight! And even better, we ended the event in prayer. 25+ women bowing their heads in prayer in small circles all around the room, talking and surrendering to a very big God who understands our every struggle and cares about our every need.

How thankful I am that the enemy did not win the battle raging in my heart thirty minutes before the meeting, but was defeated by the One who wanted me there. At that meeting. In that house. On that specific night. To hear that message. And to minister to another mom who needed to hear, "I get it." He always knows our needs before we do, and He is so incredibly faithful to meet us where we are - exactly when we need Him most!

And, as I shared with the sweet friend who checked in the next morning after praying for me that night and texting, "GET OUT OF THE CAR and go bless the women inside!" - ministering to another hurting heart ALWAYS beats moping!

Thank You, Lord, for pulling me out of my selfishness and sin so I could focus on the words of encouragement so carefully prepared and shared by my friend. And then, because I was refreshed, I was able to share the hope and joy You poured into me with someone who needed to know she is not alone. Thank You for music that soothes the mind and heart. And thank You for friends who can make us laugh while speaking truth to push us out of our "blech" - and into something beautiful.
You are such an amazingly good God.


A confession. A grateful heart. And a desire.

The only way you can be saturated with the thoughts of Christ
is to saturate yourself with the book that is all about Him. 
- John MacArthur

But He answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:4

Oh, how much I needed to read this quote and this verse today!
I am lazy.
A procrastinator.
Not in every area of life, but in some.

As my girth declares, I do not forego food.
I find time to shop for, prepare, and consume food - every day of the week.
It is not gourmet food or even delicious, nor is it presented with artistic care.
It is sustenance. And it is rarely (if ever) forgotten.

And yet ...
I cannot boast the same about my Bible.
Like everyone else, I have p-l-e-n-t-y of time to read God's Word. Every.single.day.
But do I? Not always.
I think about God's Word. I quote God's Word. I encourage others with the truths of God's Word.
But pick it up, hold it in my hands, find a quiet place, and bury myself within its pages? Not every day.
And I am embarrassed to admit that. As I should be.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
I have no problem eating bread. I find joy in doing so. But God' command is abundantly clear: Bread is not enough! You need ME!

I KNOW this.
Yet I neglect the very thing I need most.
The only way you can be saturated with the thoughts of Christ
is to saturate yourself with the book that is all about Him.  - John MacArthur
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and nightso that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

I know I am not alone in this battle of the flesh. I talk to countless women about their time in the Word and listen to them sorrow over the same neglect I confessed. The reasons/excuses are always the same, as are the consequences of succumbing to the excuses. It is in the midst of this battle that I fully identify with Paul when he proclaims in Romans 7, For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

Lord? Help!

Isn't that the beauty of every struggle we face as believers? He has already provided the help! He has given us Himself! The Holy Spirit, dwelling within us, purposely given by the Father to convict us, encourage us, guide us into all truth, and increase in holiness. Every day. All day. Each time we need Him, He is present with every available resource to enable us to choose the Savior instead of Self. To choose righteousness instead of sin. To choose wisdom instead of foolery. To choose humility instead of pride. He is THERE!

As if that is not enough reason to rejoice, He also gives us - each other!
If I am unable/unwilling to discipline myself to read the Word of God daily, I can call on my brothers and sisters to stand beside me until my feet are adjusted and my stance is secure.
One of the many beauties of being part of the body of Christ.
Love one another – John 13:34Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12
Build up one another – Romans 14:19Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Serve one another – Galatians 5:13
Be devoted to one another – Romans 12:10
Care for one another – 1 Corinthians 12:25
Encourage one another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11Hebrews 3:13
Pray for one another – James 5:16
Confess your faults to one another – James 5:16
Be truthful with one another – Colossians 3:9
Admonish one another – Romans 15:14Colossians 3:16

The only way you can be saturated with the thoughts of Christ
is to saturate yourself with the book that is all about Him.  - John MacArthur
May this be true of me, Lord! Make me a woman who longs for Your Word in such a way that absolutely nothing else satisfies. And may it fill me to overflowing so that my thoughts, my words, my actions, and my responses reflect nothing of me, but solely - of You.


A letter to mothers ... because what you do MATTERS!

Dear Mother,

What you do MATTERS.
The day-to-day monotony of motherhood may not seem glamorous, or even noteworthy, but every day that you invest in your child - you are doing something that matters.
Every diaper change, every meal made, every tear wiped away, every bad attitude corrected, every homework assignment worked out together, every car ride to practice, every book read, every hug given, every "I love you" whispered ... they make a difference.
A real difference.
You are not perfect. You will make mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes. But that is okay because perfection is not what is needed, or wanted. Children want YOU. All of you. The beautiful, the quirky, the odd, the different, the silly, and the embarrassing. They cannot love perfectly, so they do not expect it in return. They forgive quickly, and forget willingly, and run into the same arms for comfort and affection that disciplined them the day before.
Your children don't just want you - they need you. And being needed is a beautiful thing, indeed!
The world tells us we are "just moms" as if it is a meaningless, profitless, or undesirable title.
"Don't you want to do something MORE? Something that makes a difference?"
"Don't you want to be successful and make a mark on the world?"
The answer is, "YES! A hundred times, YES!"
I want to love my husband more.
I want to serve my family more.
I want to train and equip my children to be honest, loving, compassionate people who are quick to serve those in need and willing to comfort the endless tide of hurting, broken people.
I want to raise sons who respect women and are the same men of integrity in front of a Board of Directors as they are when sitting alone in front of a computer screen.
I want to raise a daughter who thinks of others before herself and seeks to serve and bless everyone around her because she knows that by loving others she shows them the love of Christ.
And when I take my last breath, with all of my weaknesses and failings, I want my children to be able to say, "She showed me Jesus every day." If the only mark I leave on the world is the gift of six children who love God with their hearts, souls, minds, and strength - and love others with compassion and humility - then it will have been the best, most profitable use of my time, and I will have no regrets. Only JOY.
Dear Mother ... you are not "just a mom."
You are a nurse. A protector. A comforter. A teacher. A counselor. A cook. A chauffeur. A coach. A cheerleader. A mentor. A safe haven. A prayer warrior. A theologian. A comedian. A joy-giver.
You are a child of God, created in His divine image, for a purpose.
And right now, "for such a time as this," your purpose is to train and serve and love your children, every day. Not perfectly, but like the woman who smashed the vial of perfume and poured it over Jesus' head ... "she did what she could."
What can you do today, Dear Mother?
Your children don't need a five-course meal. They need sustenance.
They do not need a perfectly decorated house. They need a place to run and skip and dream and read.
They do not a size "zero" mother with perfectly dyed hair. They need a mother who sees their beauty.
They do not need music lessons and dance lessons and foreign language tutoring. They need to sing and dance and talk and laugh at home.
What can you do today, Dear Mother? Not what "should" you do because others are doing this or that ... what CAN you do?
Bake cookies? Pick flowers from the front yard? March through the house to fun music? Read books? Nap with a little hand clasped tightly in yours? Write a letter of appreciation to your teen?
The world may say motherhood is "not enough." There "has to be more." "You can have it all."
Dear Mother, stand firm!
Motherhood may be one of the most difficult roles you have ever filled, with many thankless and trying days, but it is not wasted.
We are not raising our children to be Olympic athletes, CEO's of companies, or honor's students at universities. We are raising them for eternity!
Do not grow weary in doing good! Your efforts are not in vain!
Our children are not ours. They belong to the Lord, for it is He who created them, and He who has numbered their days and planned a course for their lives. And His plans - they are perfect!
Maria Shriver once declared, "Motherhood: On the Front Lines 24/7. Are you man enough to handle it?"
You ARE on the front lines because no one knows your children better than you do, and it is for them you fight. You fight for their safety, their health, their security, their comfort, their self-worth, their purity, their innocence. Dear Mother, you fight for their very souls! Never give up! Never, ever, never give up!
You are not "just a mom."
You are a precious, valuable, irreplaceable jewel that shines beautifully and brightly.
And every time you love a child, you make a difference. For eternity.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:25-30


Excited and unashamed to SHARE!

We recently had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of Ray Comfort when he filled our pulpit one Sunday when our shepherd was away.
Ray's passion? EVANGELISM.
Nothing drives him more than sharing the truth of God's great love for mankind.
He will speak to anyone, anywhere, if they will allow him to engage in conversation.
He is honest, sincere, intelligent, and compassionate when he speaks the truths of God's Word, and listening to him share his passion stirs up a desire to be equally bold about the lovingkindness of a holy God who desires that none should perish, but that all would come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9, I Timothy 2:3,4)
I thoroughly enjoyed his message and was compelled to do more when it comes to sharing the Gospel.
He said much, but these were the four points that gripped me most.
(I added Scripture/quotes to give even more "umpf" to his fantastic quotes.)

I hope these encourage and challenge you as well!

➤We have an eternity to worship God, but only a short time to reach the lost.

➤If we lift our hands in worship to God, we must reach out our hands to evangelize for God.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14, 15

➤We don't obey the command to evangelize because it is easier to pray to God about men than it is to talk to men about God.
Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience. A. W. Tozer

➤If you are burdened by the fear of man when it comes to evangelism,
do not pray for less fear -
pray for more love.
“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 Spurgeon



Last night, five of us gathered to continue our Proverbs 31 study.
The first two character qualities we studied:

This month's character quality - Versatility!

A versatile woman ...

❊ She excels inside AND outside the home
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. v. 15
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. v. 16
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. v. 27She is astute
She possesses a good sense for business
She makes things with her own hands and sells them
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. v. 24She is an excellent homemaker AND has the ability in the arena of commerce
She has a wide range of gifts, commitments, and relationships
Her domestic side is emphasized (verses 11-15, 21-23, 27)
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5

A godly woman ...

has great domestic instincts, but that is not the whole of who she is
❊ the home is the center of her life, but her life is not limited to the home
❊ is to be committed to her home, but she is not defined by what she does in her home
❊ has a range of gifts that must be given expression, and those gifts can be expressed outside the home as well as inside the home

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31: 10-31


God has glorious purposes for disabilities!

Please - take the time to watch this touching video clip before reading the notes from, or listening to, the sermon.

There is absolutely no way I can do this sermon justice by trying to pack it into a short summary, but there are a few points that absolutely deserve attention!

"Disability Glorifies God."

The text: John 9

In order to understand the theology of disability, we must align our thoughts with God's thoughts.

➛ God has glorious purposes for disability.
- it draws attention to God
- it displays His power and wisdom
- it shifts our perspective from earth to eternity
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

➛ Every human being is a divine image bearer, and therefore, INVALUABLE.
For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16

➛ Man talks ABOUT disabilities ... Jesus talks TO the disabled.
- Compassion, care, and tenderness are displayed through the touch of the Master's hand.
As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.
“Go,” He told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam”
So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:1-7

The BEST part of this passage is verse one.
"As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth."
The disciples saw a problem.
Jesus saw a MAN.
And after He saw him, He ministered to him. 

➛ When we see others through the eyes of Christ,
we see His work displayed in greater - and unique - ways.
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. I Corinthians 12:22-26

➛ Man's greatest disability is spiritual - Unbelief.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when He found him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is He, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in Him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him. John 9:35-38

Jesus PURSUED the man!
He took the initiative to find him.
When he did, the man believed - and became a child of God!
And the first thing he did? He WORSHIPED His Lord!

Father, thank You for the joy of Disability Sunday! Thank You for bringing our brother Paul, a man who has held and wept over and prayed for his own disabled children, to open Your Word and share Your heart for those with disabilities.
Nothing You do is accidental or without purpose, Lord, so even though we do not always understand Your ways, we thank You that You do everything for Your glory and our good. It may take time for us to identify and embrace the good, for it does not always look the way we expect or want it to, but when we are seeking You and trusting You and surrendering everything to You day by day, You quiet our hearts and still our minds so we can hear You speak through the beauty of Scripture. "I AM fearfully and WONDERFULLY made." HE is fearfully and wonderfully made. SHE is fearfully and wonderfully made. The world may not always agree, but the world is not whom we seek to praise or serve. It is You and You alone, Lord. 
Thank You that You can handle us trusting You while we simultaneously question and wrestle and grieve while trying to understand and accept Your will. In our humanness, we collapse under the weight of the unknowns, but in our surrender to a holy and loving God, we find peace.


Fun - Friendship - and $5 bills!

There are MANY details behind the story of these $5 bills, but I want to share a few because they make me smile! 
๐Ÿ’ต When we shared our desire to do emergency foster care for babies, our dear friends, the Guskes, announced they would save $5 bills for our adoption/foster care jar. I was blessed, but not at all surprised, by her generosity because the Guskes are GIVERS. In all areas of life and love.
๐Ÿ’ต Somehow, it was not Julie, but her husband P.J. who ended up being the one to use cash most and would receive change - in $5's!
It got to the point where no matter what he purchased, he ALWAYS received $5 bills! (He once bought a $1 bottle of water with a $20 bill, expecting to get a $10, a $5 and four $1's in return - but instead - was handed THREE $5 bills! At which time he texted Julie and said, "Tell Michelle the Lord REALLY wants me to support her foster care ministry!")
It's happened so often that when they were recently on a trip and Julie declared, "I am dying of thirst! I am going to buy a water bottle,” P.J. immediately called out, "DON'T use a $20 bill!!!!!!" ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜…
๐Ÿ’ต The $5 Foster Fund has become a running joke in the Guske home, and I love hearing all of their stories!
My favorite thing, however, is that they use it to start a conversation about foster care/adoption with the person who hands them their change. {BRILLIANT!}
After sharing the $5 tale with a clerk at their hotel, she handed P.J. his change, and there were three $5 bills in the stack. He looked directly at her and asked, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?!?" She simply smiled. And Julie laughed. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ’™
How glad I am that God made His creation to serve and love - with humor!


We must remember.

martyr (mรคr' ter) n.
[<from the Greek word for "witness"]
1: a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
2: a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3

Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie and I just finished this book. It was a terrific companion to our history focus the past two weeks - the early church and the martyrs who willingly, and often joyfully, gave up their lives for the sake of the Gospel. I won't lie ... it is a hard read. My children waited for tears to fill my eyes near the end of each story, for they know how deeply I am affected by testimonies of the steadfast faith of godly men and women who boldly refuse to denounce Christ to save themselves. The tears fell, my voice choked, and my children, too, were affected.
Who, I wonder, would not be moved by such accounts? Even those who tortured the Christians with vehement anger were silenced and awed by their unwavering commitment to their Lord. And many torturers, like Paul, surrendered themselves to the very God they sought to destroy.

There are dozens of similar books. Volumes filled with the testimonies of those who were tortured and lived, and eyewitness accounts from those who watched their brothers and sisters die - for Jesus Christ. And these books matter. They do not make the reader "feel good" but they absolutely force the reader to think. Am I willing to die for Jesus Christ? Is my love for God bigger than my fear? Do I hold the same conviction that compelled Jim Elliot to risk everything to bring the Gospel to a people who had never heard the name of Jesus? "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Would I suffer or die so my neighbor, my uncle, my governor, my senator might truly live because they witnessed me singing hymns to my God and praying for my torturers and could not resist the desire to know and love the same God?

If you have never read the powerful stories of the men and women martyred for Christ, please do.
If you have read them, read them again.
Because, brothers and sisters, we cannot and should not - forget.
"Never did the church so much prosper and so truly thrive as when she was baptized in the blood. The ship of the church never sails so gloriously along as when the bloody spray of her martyrs falls on her deck. We must suffer and we must die, if we are ever to conquer this world for Christ."
- Charles Spurgeon

A few highlights from the book Jesus Freaks. (stories provided by Voice of the Martyrs)

- A Christian prisoner in ____ was asked to sign a statement containing charges against fellow Christians that would lead to their arrest.
He said, "The chains keep me from signing this."
The officer protested, "But you are not in chains!"
"I am," said the Christian. "I am bound by the chain of witnesses who throughout the centuries gave their lives for Jesus Christ. I am a link in this chain. I will not break it."

- An officer told a Christian he was beating, "I am almighty, as you suppose your God to be. I can kill you."
The Christian answered, "The power is all on my side. I can love you while you torture me to death."

- The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society. There are things for which an uncompromising stand is worthwhile. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

- Sufferings gladly borne for others convert more people than sermons. - Therese of Lisieux

- You can kill us, but you cannot do us any real harm. - Justin Martyr, 165 AD

- Two Chinese Christians were led to torture and death.
One quoted Jesus' words, "It is finished," in a whisper.
His brother answered, "No, that's not what Jesus said when He suffered. He said, 'It is accomplished.'"

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed,
because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
I Peter 4:12-16

The story I found most touching was titled "Her Last Prayer."

The soldiers had discovered their illegal Bible study.
As the pastor was reading from the Bible, men with guns suddenly broke into the home, terrorizing the believers who had gathered there to worship. The officer shouted insults and threatened to kill the Christians. The leading officer pointed his gun at the pastor's head. "Hand me your Bible, he demanded.
Reluctantly, the pastor handed over his Bible, his prized possession. With a sneer on his face, the guards threw the Word of God on the floor at his feet.
He glared at the small congregation. "We will let you go," he growled, "but first, you must spt o this book if lies. Anyone who refuses will be shot." The believers had no choice but to obey the officer's orders.
A soldier pointed his gun at one of the men. "You first."
The man slowly got up and knelt down by the Bible. Reluctantly, he spit on it, praying, "Father, please forgive me." He stood up and walked to the door. The soldiers stood back and allowed him to leave.
"Okay, you!" the soldier said, nudging a woman forward. In tears, she could barely do what the soldier demanded. She spit only a little, but it was enough. She too was allowed to leave.
Quietly, a young girl came forward. Overcome with love for her Lord, she knelt down and picked up the Bible. She wiped off the spit with her dress. "What have they done to Your Word? Please forgive them," she prayed.
The soldier put his pistol to her head. Then he pulled the trigger.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15