Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Cup Runneth Over

So much has happened in the past five or so days, and I have been so busy with all the coming and going, loading and unloading, packing and unpacking, cleaning and organizing and cleaning again that I haven't had the time to sit down and get my thoughts and feelings onto virtual paper.  Right now I really should be putting away all the clothes piled up in a heap on my closet floor or clearing off the kitchen counter or unpacking boxes in the office or a host of other jobs on my to-do list.  Instead, I am choosing to sit at my newly put together dining room table and look out the window at the snow covered trees behind my house.

I am choosing to breathe.  To exhale.  To attempt to express ALL that God has done in our lives and the lives of those around us.  To share my joy and thanksgiving.  To invite you to praise Jesus with me.  To wonder at the God of hosts.  To marvel at His awesome deeds.

I think if I were to wait a moment longer, I might just burst into a thousand pieces!  And then my husband would have even more work to do than he already does!  I certainly don't want to distract him from leveling the washer and dryer so I can do some much-needed laundry later :)

Well, I better get started, seeing as how I haven't even really begun and I've already been interrupted numerous times by two adorable little red-headed girls who don't seem to understand that I just want to sit and type my little heart out.

I feel as though I can relate to the psalmist David when he penned these lines in his famous poem/song:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runnenth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(King James Version)

Or as some other, more modern, translations put it:
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
(New Living Translation)

You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me all the days of my life.
I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
(The Message)

Each version adds meaning and depth, hits another cord, highlights yet another way God is at work and making Himself known in my life (and those around me).

With all that has taken place in just the last week alone, I can't help but feel as though my "cup runneth over!"
I read this morning in the gospel of John:
Jesus' disciples saw Him do many other miraculous signs besides the ones recorded in this book.
But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah,
the Son of God,
and that by believing in Him you will have life.

And I suppose that if ALL the other things Jesus did were written down,
the whole world could not contain the books.

How very true!  

There is no way I could put into words all that is on my heart.  For starters, there's just too much and our God is far too complex to even begin to try to understand or explain.  And then there's those two little red-headed girls I mentioned earlier.  As I type, the youngest is trying to figure out how to open the It Works defining gel.  At 14.5 months and weighing barely 16 pounds, I am pretty sure defining gel is the last thing she needs to be using at this point and time!!! :)

As I sit here in my new house, I keep waiting for the doorbell to ring, for a cop to come to the door and ask me what in the world I am doing here.  I keep thinking this is all a dream.  That I am going to wake up and it will all be over.  It's simply too good to be true.  I look around at our home and utter over and over and over again, "Oh Lord, I am not worthy of this!"  Which is followed immediately with, "Dear Jesus, thank You, thank You, THANK YOU!"  And in the same breath, "God, please help us to take and use all that You have given us to make You known, to shine Your light, to draw people to You, to bring praise and honor and glory to Your name."  For that is the very reason why we are here!

And already I have seen Him answering those prayers, in a variety of ways.

On moving day, we had MANY friends and family members help us pack up our stuff and start setting up our new house.  At least three of our friends brought their kiddos along to help, and these 4th-7th graders did indeed haul boxes up and down the stairs for quite a while.  But as soon as the men carried the foos ball table inside, their work was done!  The kids were given the task of putting the foos ball table together, and the second they finished, you could hear the ball rolling back and forth, followed closely with shouts of triumph -- or defeat, depending which side of the table they were on -- as the boys and girls enjoyed a well-deserved break.  As I worked upstairs in the kitchen, I listened to the noise in the basement, and my heart swelled with joy.  My cup runneth over.  We have prayed  time and time again that our new house would be a place for the neighborhood kids to come and play, to hang out, to have fun, but even more importantly to feel safe, to belong, to be accepted, to be able to open up and share what's on their hearts, and above all else to see Jesus' love in action and invite Him to be the Lord and Savior of their lives as a result.  Saturday was just the beginning of many things to come, I believe.  I anticipate many more kids, and many more messes, in my future, and I can't help but smile from ear to ear at the thought!

When I called my mom to get a progress report from our "old" house, she exclaimed, "Sarah, there's people everywhere!  I was worried no one was going to come, but now there's so many I don't know what to do!"  I was just getting ready to order pizza for everyone, and I panicked.  I am sure Domino's didn't mind that I ordered TWENTY large pizzas that afternoon, but as the lady set box after box after box after box of pizza on my kitchen counter, I realized I might have gone just a little overboard in my exuberance to tell everyone thank you by filling their stomachs.  Well, no one let hungry, that's for sure!!!  Not even the Time Warner Cable guy who came to set up our wireless internet, as he left with a box of pizza in hand.  The next door neighbor kids were delighted to receive two boxes of pizza, though I told them not to tell everyone that Mr. Young gave them pizza or all the kids at school might think their teacher will show up on their doorstep with Domino's.  And the wives who stayed at home with their young children while their husbands helped us move might have appreciated the boxes of pizza that came home, meaning they didn't have to fix supper that night! My zeal and slight over-calculation of how much food we needed was slightly embarrassing at the time, but I believe God used my mistake to bless quite a few people.  At least I hope He did!

Like John, I could go on and on and on about all God has done in my life, but I am going to pause and turn my attention to what He has been doing in the Ewing family.  Many of my facebook friends have been praying for Baby Levi, as I share pictures and posts about this little boy who was found to have a brain tumor last summer.  I am sure my friends have gone on to ask their friends to pray for Baby Levi and his family as well.  As has everyone at our church.  And so people from all over the world have joined from afar to pray for a miracle.  Well, God has heard our cries and pleas.  He has done the humanly impossible!  Baby Levi (who is now over a year old) is back home with his parents and brother and sisters!  Granted, he will be receiving oral chemo treatment and making trips back to St. Jude's in Memphis, Tennessee for many months to come, BUT he is not hooked up to any machines and he is ALIVE!  His parents, Nathan and Alicia, shared at church this weekend some of what God has done in and through them during this terrible ordeal.   could try my very best to relate all they said Sunday morning, but even my best efforts would fall short.  You simply MUST listen to the podcast yourself!!!!  

Only then will you understand what I mean when I say, "We serve a Warrior-Ninja God."  Or when I encourage you to read Zephaniah 3:17.  Or when I talk about being part of the family of Christ who comes along beside you during dark times.  Or when I say, "I want to be like Alicia Ewing (and Grace Allen) when I grow up."  Seriously, an entire book could be written about the faith of these two amazing women.  I hold them both in the highest regard.  I never, ever want to go through anything remotely close to what they have endured, but if God did chose that path for me, I would most definitely want to walk in the footsteps of these godly women, whom I am blessed beyond words to call friends.

Well, like I said, I could go on for hours, days even, sharing with you all that God has done in my life.  I can't stop smiling.  I can't stop praising Jesus.  And I can't stop telling you thank you.

Thank you for all your prayers as we put our house on the market and waited for a buyer.  Thank you for your prayers as we thought the snowstorm was going to interfere with our moving plans.  But what's a mere 12 inches of snow for the God who has storehouses of snow in His backyard (Job 38:22)?!  He was able to get our new buyers a 4-wheel drive vehicle and pull the title lady out of the ditch and get them all safely to the office to sign the papers on Thursday afternoon, despite the mountains of snow.  I couldn't help but think of the time Jesus told His disciples, "If you had faith as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move."  (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21)  How fitting at church, then, that we sang:

He can move big mountains like brain tumors and ATRT cancer.  He can move little mountains like snow-covered roads.  Whatever your mountain, God can move it!

In response to God working in our lives, I want to shout it from the mountain tops.

As the song we sang in church goes on to say:
Shine your light and let the whole world see
We're singing for the glory of the risen King

Jesus told His disciples, "You are the light of the world -- like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see.  Don't hid your light under a basket!  Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."

Well, we want our house to be just that!  A place where God's light shines brightly for all to see.  And ironically enough, our house is actually on a small hill!  God is definitely a God of details!!!  From the location of our house to the color of its siding (when we first started looking for houses, there was a green one for sale that Lawrence really liked, but it was WAY out of our price range.  Coralyn,  however, took note that Daddy liked the green house, and whenever we would go look at houses, she would exclaim, "We want the GREEN house!"  Well, we may not have gotten that particular green house, but our house is indeed green.  God is soooo good, and most certainly has a sense of humor.)

Maybe with all the snow we've had, we can invite the neighborhood kids over to come sledding down the hill that is our backyard!  

For now, though, I need to get off the computer and get busy setting up our house so that it's ready for visitors.  And doing some laundry so we have clean clothes to wear when they come! :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's Coming

Well, the snow is finally starting to fall here in the Kansas City area.  We're heard about this monster snowstorm -- called a Thundersnow or something, I guess -- for the past 5 or so days!  In anticipation of the expected FOOT of snow, people have rushed to the grocery stores and bought enough milk and bread to last a lifetime!

Yesterday afternoon, I was on facebook and saw pictures from back home (near Wichita, KS).  I had doubted Gary Lezak's promises of inches upon inches of snow, thinking to myself, "I'll believe it when I see it."  Well, I knew if this was happening just 3 hours east of me, the snow would indeed be headed our way.

And just in time for us to MOVE to our new house this weekend!  Nothing like hauling your stuff across town on snow-covered roads!

When I woke up this morning, the ground was still bare.  No snow.  I questioned the reality of what was to come.  Maybe it was all a farce after all.

As we watched the morning news, however, we were shown pictures and live video clips of Overland Park and downtown Kansas City.  Sure enough, snow was falling!  I guess it's only a matter of time before our own front yard is transformed into a winter wonderland.

I began to think about how people went crazy when they heard that a snowstorm was headed our way.  Gas stations were full.  Grocery stores shelves were empty.  I am sure hardware stores had a hay-day as they sold every snow shovel and bag of ice melt in stock.  A few people might have even gone a little overboard and bought snow blowers!  Whatever the case may be, everyone and their brother wanted to be as prepared as possible for this nasty (and at the same time beautiful) winter weather.  And when you have a week to go stir crazy waiting for the snow to fall...

But what about something else that we know for sure is going to happen?  Are we doing all that we can to be prepared for that day?

Granted, we don't know exactly when this major event will take place, so we can't really stock up on bread and milk and ice melt to be ready.  In fact, it's not weather-related at all, though we will see some pretty amazing and mind blowing acts of nature in the process!

The sun will become dark, 
and the moon will turn blood red 
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.

I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, 
and there was a great earthquake. 
The sun became as dark as black cloth, 
and the moon became as red as blood.

So, what day am I speaking of, you might want to know.  The day (or night) of Jesus' return!  It might seem like forever ago that He ascended into heaven, promising to come back one day and take all who believe in Him home to be with Him for all eternity.  You might think that He's forgotten all about what He said as He floated behind the clouds.  You might think He was just trying to make His disciples feel better as they grappled with the fact that He was seemingly deserting them.  You might think, as I did with this snowstorm "Yeah right, I'll believe it when I see it!"

Oh, my dear friend, then it will be too late, I am afraid!

You see, unlike when the snow does start to fall (as it is right now, pretty heavily I might add) and you still have a chance to dash out to the store or gas station or wherever else you may need to go before the streets are impassable, when the trumpet sounds to announce Jesus has indeed returned, there is no turning back, there is no time to change your mind, there is no second chance.

We tell you this directly from the Lord: 
We who are still living when the Lord returns 
will not meet him ahead of those who have died.  
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, 
with the voice of the archangel, 
and with the trumpet call of God. 
First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves.
Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth 
will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. 
Then we will be with the Lord forever.

This day IS coming.  When, I don't know.  We aren't told that.  We can't look into a glass ball and foresee the day or hour of Jesus' return.  In fact, only God the Father knows that information.  Not even Jesus Himself has been made privy to this top-secret, yet highly anticipated and promised event!

However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, 
not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. 
Only the Father knows. 

BUT, you can be guaranteed it WILL happen!  

Now concerning how and when all this will happen, 
dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. 
For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, 
like a thief in the night.
When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” 
then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. 
And there will be no escape.

And you can't wait to see it to believe it!  
You MUST get ready NOW.  
For this is one thing you do NOT want to miss out on, that I assure you.  

Jesus told several parables, or stories, to help us better understand and more fully grasp the significance of His return and our dire need to be ready when we hear that trumpet blast and see Him descending from the clouds.  He used various illustrations on several different occasions -- bridesmaids waiting for the wedding, servants looking for their master -- to get His point across, as it is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE and affects how you will spend all of eternity!

You can read the entire chapter of Matthew 25 to see what I mean.  I've also selected this shorter version from Mark 13 for you to read right here and now:

The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. 
You, too, must keep watch! 
For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—
in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. 
Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. 
I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!

How you view this day and its events depends on which side you are on that day -- and there won't be any opportunity to change sides once that trumpet sounds.  Again, you MUST DECIDE NOW!  

On one side there will be sadness and despair like never experienced before.  But, on the other, there will be happiness and great rejoicing, also like never before seen or heard anywhere at any time.  So, please, I beg you, if you are on the fence or putting off a decision or thinking you'll just believe it when you see it, take time today while you watch the snow fall (whether in your own yard or on TV) and reconsider.  Your eternity is at stake!  Here, read one final passage to see what I mean and how very important this is:

And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted 
and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. 

He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, 
bringing judgment on those who don’t know God 
and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. 
They will be punished with eternal destruction, 
forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. 

When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—
praise from all who believe. 
And this includes you, 
for you believed what we told you about him.

And as for that promised snow storm that hadn't even dropped a single flake of snow as of 6:30 this morning, well this is my view from my windows now at 8:10!

I guess we might just get that FOOT of snow that Gary Lezak on NBC predicted after all!!!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Home Is Where the Heart Is

As we prepare to move -- IN JUST A FEW DAYS! -- I am getting more and more nostalgic.

Since the deal fell apart the first time we had a contract on the house, we have tried extremely hard not to get excited or even ready to move until we knew for sure everything was final, that this was actually going to happen.  Well, IT'S HAPPENING!

And now that we are in the final days of living in this house -- the only house we have known as a family -- I am beginning to feel overwhelmed.  We still have a lot of packing to do, and that kind of stresses me out.  But then, I get a facebook message from a friend asking what time we need him, his truck and trailer, and a crew of guys to be at our house on Saturday to help us move.  It's as though God is reminding me all over again how He has all the details worked out and is doing things at the perfect time in the perfect way -- including this predicted 9-12+ inches of snow that is supposed to fall TOMORROW!  Not my ideal weather conditions for moving, but I am just going to have to trust that God knows what He is doing.  He usually does.  Okay, He ALWAYS does.

Anyway, this whole moving thing is fast approaching and really ON TOP OF US already, as we sign papers to close on our current house this afternoon at 4:30!

As I try to get my mind around the fact that we really, truly are indeed moving, my heart and mind are flooded with differing thoughts and emotions.

While I am definitely over the top excited to move into the area near Kellybrook Elementary, I am also a little sad.  I am going to miss our house here on Westboro.

I am going to miss our backyard.

I am going to miss our neighbors.

But above all, I am going to miss the memories we have made here.

Granted, we will make more memories at our new house.  And it's not really like I have to leave memories from Westboro behind; I can take them with me for sure.  But, it's not the same.

I can't take the wall where we have the girls' height measurements marked to show how they have grown over the months and years.

I won't be able to sit in the living room at Christmas time and reflect on how Kellah was born under the twinkle lights.

I can't take the corner where Coralyn and Kellah haul as many toys as possible from their rooms to the kitchen and then pretend to have sleepovers or tea parties or parades or whatever else Coralyn's vivid imagination can create.

I can't take the rock path in our front yard that Lawrence laid by hand, using rocks he and his brother hauled from the creek near their childhood home.

I can't take Miss June and her little dog Sweetie Pie with us.  We will miss seeing her out in the yard raking leaves or going for a walk up and down the sidewalk.  We will miss her little treats that she brings the girls every holiday and for their birthdays - she hasn't missed Coralyn's birthday in THREE YEARS!!!  I have promised Miss June, and some of our other elderly neighbors whom we visit frequently with baked goodies Coralyn has "helped" me make, that we will come back and visit.  We have been so blessed with some amazing neighbors, and I am going to sincerely miss them!

BUT, we will have new neighbors.  We will get to know them and become friends with them.  At least I hope so!  That's certainly one of the main reasons why we are moving in the first place -- to develop relationships with the families around us and introduce them to Jesus as we interact with them on a day to day basis.

And we will have a new backyard, with a creek running behind our fence.  I am sure we will make many memories "exploring" in the "woods" or rolling down the hill or playing games with the neighbor kids.

We will have new corners for the girls to turn into hideouts.  We will have a new wall to measure the girls' growth, though we are thinking it might be better to get something we could take with us if we were ever to move again.

We will have a new living room, where for now I can teach other couples about childbirth and help them feel more prepared for their babies' BIRTHdays.

So, as I prepare to move, I am taking time to both look back on the life we have enjoyed here in this house over the past 5 and a half years and look ahead to the life we will have in our new house.  It's so obvious God has opened the door and paved the way for us to make this move.  There's no way any of this could have happened without Him! That's why I get more and more excited about what the future holds and the various opportunities God has for us in our new HOME.

Because wherever we live, we know that God is with us.  Indeed, Christ is our HOME.  He has lead us to this house.  He has placed this burden on our hearts to reach the kids and families of the Kellybrook area.  So, yes we will miss our house here on Westboro, but our new house will soon be HOME because that's where our HEARTS will be as we come to know and love the people all around us, as we share the love of Jesus with them, as we see God do His amazing work in and through us.

I do think, though, that at least a little piece of my heart will stay behind here at our current house.  As I thought about that, the country song "The House That Built Me" came to mind.  I don't know all the words, but the concept hits home (pun intended) this week as I start to pack boxes and prepare to turn our new house into our HOME SWEET HOME.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fear Ye, Fear Ye

As I have been reading through John's account of the time leading up to and surrounding Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion, and this morning his burial, I have been bombarded with the theme of FEAR.

I was going to blog about this very topic a few days ago when I read of Jesus' trial before Pilate.  At first, Pilate tried to shrug off Jesus' accusers, asking them, "What is your charge against this man?"  When they explained, "We wouldn't have handed him over to you if he weren't a criminal,"  Pilate told them to take Jesus away and judge Him themselves.  The Jewish leaders persisted, though, "Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone."

All this took place with the religious leaders waiting with Jesus in the outer courtyard of the governor's headquarters.  You see, the Pharisees who are determined to have Jesus murdered couldn't actually go inside Pliate's house, for FEAR of defiling themselves right before the big Passover celebration.  Then they wouldn't be able to partake in the biggest Jewish celebration of the year!  And that would be such a tragedy.  Oh no, they had to keep those appearances up and follow the law to the T.  All while doing their best to convince Pilate to CRUCIFY Jesus.  Yes, that makes perfect sense.  Don't enter the headquarters, stay physically pure, murder an innocent man, and then go celebrate the Passover as if you never did anything wrong!

But back to Pilate.  He caves so quickly, having Jesus brought inside to interrogate Him.  After a brief conversation with Jesus about Him being a king in a "kingdom not of this world," Pilate asks the famous question, "What is truth?"  Apparently, Pilate didn't realize that The Way, THE TRUTH, and The Life was standing right before his very eyes in human form!  Still not wanting to convict Jesus of any crime but not wanting to upset the religious leaders either, Pilate goes back to the courtyard and informs the crowd he has not found any reason to hold Jesus captive.  He then asks if they wish him to release Jesus, as the custom was for one prisoner to be released at the Passover.  When they shout back, "No! Not this man, but Barabbas!" Pilate doesn't put up a fight, but rather goes back inside and has Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip.

Pilate then looked on while his soldiers had not only beaten Jesus within inches of His life, but also mocked Him by adorning Him with a crown of thorns, putting a royal robe on His bare, bleeding back, and then repeatedly punched Him in the face while hailing Him, "King of the Jews!"  Thinking this "punishment" would suffice, Pilate brings Jesus out to the priests and religious leaders.  They persist, however, and cry out, "Crucify!  Crucify!"  Again, Pilate tries to pass the responsibility on to them, "You crucify Him.  I find Him not guilty."  The Pharisees insist, "By our laws He ought to die because He called Himself the Son of God."  Then, we are told, "when Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever."

Letting his fear of man dictate his actions, Pilate takes Jesus back inside and demands Jesus answer his questions, threatening "Don't you realize that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?"  Evidently, Pilate didn't have the confidence to actually use that power as he tried once more to release Jesus, but caved under the pressure of the religious leaders' ultimatum, "If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar.  Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar."  Then, as the crowds shouted, "WE have no king but Caesar," Pilate supposedly washed his hands of the situation and handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.

Pilate let FEAR get the best of him.  He cared more about what the people thought of him than of doing the right thing.  He was more concerned about his own position and prestige than he was Jesus' innocence.

I also could have blogged about Peter's FEAR when I read how He denied even knowing Jesus.  Not once. Not twice.  But THREE times.  Just hours before, Peter had stood by Jesus' side and boldly proclaimed, "I am ready to go to prison with you, and even die with you."  He had even wielded a sword and tried to defend Jesus as the guards arrested Him.  But as the night continued and Peter looked on while Jesus was questioned at Annas's house, Peter let his FEAR take over.  And then the rooster crowed, as Jesus had predicted.

Then, this morning, I read of two more men associated with Jesus who had also let FEAR determine they way they lived.  And I couldn't put off blogging anymore.

Today, I was at the point in the story where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus ask Pilate for permission to take Jesus' body off the cross and get it for burial.  Their time is limited as it was "the day of preparation before the Passover," so they quickly wrap Jesus' body and place it in a nearby tomb.  While it seems thoughtful and kind and even courageous for these men to do such a thing, we are reminded that these men weren't always so brave.  For starters, we are told of Joseph, he was a "secret disciple of Jesus (because he FEARED the Jewish leaders)."  Then, we read of Nicodemus, "the man who had come to Jesus at night," obviously out of FEAR for what his fellow religious leaders would think of him if he had gone to Jesus during the day, for all to see -- and hear -- the way he was contemplating Jesus' message and considering accepting it as truth.

The good thing, though, is that these men didn't let their fears continue to control them.  Evidently, Joseph and Nicodemus were able to put their fears aside and make their love and dedication to Jesus known.  Albeit, all this happened after Jesus had already died!  Which got me thinking: Don't wait until it's too late!  Don't let FEAR get a grip on you, as its grasp will only get tighter and tighter and tighter until it finally strangles you, debilitating you completely and keeping you from not only enjoying a relationship with Jesus but also living for Him and bringing others into this amazing grace God so freely offers each and every one of us!

I couldn't help but remember the apostle Paul's words of encouragement to the believers in Corinth:
We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, 
and no one will find fault with our ministry. 
In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. 
We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 
We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, 
endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 
We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, 
by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 
We faithfully preach the truth. 
God’s power is working in us. 
We use the weapons of righteousness 
in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 
We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, 
whether they slander us or praise us. 
We are honest, but they call us impostors. 
We are ignored, even though we are well known. 
We live close to death, but we are still alive. 
We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 
Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. 
We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. 
We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

I thought too of his bold declaration in his letter to the church in Galatia, "Obviously, I'm not trying to be a people pleaser!  No, I am trying to please God.  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ's servant."

The choice is clear.  
You can't have your cake and eat it too.  
You must decide: Am I going to live for man or am I going to live for God?

The road will not be easy.  God never promised us that.  BUT, Jesus must have known that His disciples would be scared, that we thousands of years later would also struggle with fear.  Which is why I go back to the last words Jesus said.  They truly are crucial for us to remember, every single day, if we are going to lay it all on the line and live boldly and courageously for our Jesus, no matter the cost.  So, dear friends, join with me in this quest to know Jesus and to make Him known, and as we embark on this journey together, may be abandon our fears and take to heart what Jesus promised us:

Have peace in Me.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart,
because I have overcome the world.

To close, I think of Joshua, who lived many, many, many years before Jesus ever spoke these words.  But, God had the same message for him -- and us today:

I command you -- be strong and courageous!
Do NOT be afraid for discouraged.
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kellah Grace {14 Months}

Kellah, Kellah, Kellah!  You're 14 months old today.  You keep growing up!

Well, not literally, seeing as how you still weigh around 16 pounds and wear 6-9 month clothes without any problem.  You don't seem to notice that you are small for your age or let your size keep you from doing anything kids around you are doing.

Thankfully, you are sleeping through the night, waking up around 5-6 am to nurse and then go back to sleep until you get up for good around 7-7:30, when the daycare boys arrive.  You don't want to miss out on anything!  You are definitely a morning person, talking and chatting and making noise from the moment you wake up until the second you fall asleep at nap time.  And there's no morning nap for you anymore -- oh no, if everyone else is going to stay up and play, then so are you!

You have 12 teeth now!  And you put them to good use every single day as you chomp on carrot sticks, bananas, blueberries, broccoli, cheese sticks, apple slices, pears, and even asparagus!

You like to stack blocks, "throw" balls, "read" books, lug stuffed animals around the house, and above all else you love to climb!

I can't even go to the bathroom by myself, for fear that you will be on the coffee table when I come back to the living room.

You like to play with the music toys, especially the drums.  You are curious and like to explore.  You seem to be magnetically drawn to the cabinets with tupperware containers and lids, and now the appliances too!  I am not sure why you like to pull out the blender or the juicer, but you do!

Oh, Kellah.  You are growing and learning and doing new things every day.  And every day I fall more in love with you.

I love walking into your room to find you standing in the corner of your crib, leaning your head to the side, and then immediately reaching for your blanket to hand me when I come to pick you up out of your bed.

I love how you give hugs and kisses.  I love how you get so excited when Daddy comes home from work each day and run to the door to greet him.  I love how you smile really big when you see me in the nursery window at church.

I love how you notice what's going on around you and are starting to "help" me or your sister or your friends.  Every day, when the daycare boys' moms come, you hand me their coats and shoes.  You know they need them and are ready to help.  You do the same thing with their sippy cups -- if you find a "lost" cup, you pick it up and take it to its owner.  You might take a sip out of the cup first, but still...  We actually prayed before you were born that you would be observant of those around you, taking notice of their needs and emotions so that you could respond to them and help them in whatever way they needed.  Boy did God answer that prayer!

I love how you want to be in the middle of things.  You have no fear.  You want to catch bubbles just like the older kiddos at Library Storytime.  You want to climb the slides and swing at the park or on the swingset in our backyard.  You want to jump on Coralyn's bed.  You want to read books with your sister.  You want to help put away the dishes when I am unloading the dishwasher.  You want to make towers with the blocks.  Anything that is happening around you, you want to be a part of.  You make take a second or two to observe what the other kids are doing, but then you jump right in and play alongside them.
I pray that you use this fearlessness to stand up and do what's right, even when no one else is.  I pray you will jump in and try new things, learn new skills, and that these adventures will provide opportunities for you to share your love for Jesus in new and exciting ways.

I love how you are starting to communicate, be in with signs, sounds, or motions.  You know what you want and make it pretty clear to everyone around you.  One thing you definitely make clear is that you are NOT ready to wean.  You are determined to keep on nursing, and for now, I am totally fine with that.  I love to sit down and hold you for a bit, relaxing for just a few minutes during the busy day.  I get to cuddle you, hold you close, kiss your hand, play with your hair, tickle your feet, pray for you, and enjoy this time when you're little and actually want to be on my lap.

I love that you have a sense of humor.  You love to laugh and have the cutest giggle ever.  I love watching you and Coralyn play and have fun together.
I love chasing you around the house when it's time to change your diaper or get dressed after bath time.  For some reason, any time you are naked or have just a diaper on, you think it's a game to run away from me and make me work extra hard to get you dressed!

I love that you learn quickly.  You pay attention to what's happening and then figure out how to do it yourself.  You may not use the potty regularly, but any time Coralyn or the daycare boys go to the bathroom, you follow allow and insist on sitting on your little potty.  When I announce that it's time to eat lunch, you go right to your high chair, handing me your bib if it's at a level where you can reach it.  When Coralyn asks me for her milk, you walk over to the fridge and try to open it.  When we tell you it's bath time, you race into the bathroom and try to climb into the tub before we can even get you undressed.  If I say we're going somewhere, you get your coat and shoes for me.  I pray you learn quickly about Jesus and His love for you. I pray you trust Him as you Savior when you are young and start living all out for Him as early on as possible.  I pray you recognize how worthwhile and meaningful, no matter how hard, that kind of life is!

My precious baby girl, you are growing up indeed.  And I am so proud of you!  I know you won't be my baby forever, so I want to soak up every day and make memories with you.  I want you to know beyond a shadow of doubt that I love you with all my heart.  Even more importantly, I want you to know how much Jesus loves you, how perfectly He created you, and that He has special plans for you, my Kellah.  I don't know what they are yet, just like I tell Coralyn regarding the plans God has for her.  BUT I do know that you are His masterpiece and that He will use you to do big things and bring much glory to His name.  Oh how excited I am to see those plans unveil!  And how thankful I am that God has given me the privilege of being your mommy so I can play a role in those plans!

I love you, I love you, I love you.  Kellah Grace, I love you more than I could ever say!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Your Last Words.

If you knew you were going to die (boy, what a great way to start a blog post on this early morning of Valentine's Day!), you would probably chose your words carefully as you spoke with your loved ones for the last time.  As you said good-bye, you would look them each in the eye and tell them one by one how much you love and care for them, how special they are to you.  You might reflect on the good times you had together, but you might also ask them to look ahead to the future, making them promise to keep on living life to the fullest, to make the most of each day.  Your final words will be the last thing your loved ones hear from you; they will remember what you say for the rest of their lives.

As we enter into this season of Lent, I am amazed at where God already has me reading in His Word.  Sometimes for special holidays, such as Lent or Easter or Christmas, I will stop whatever devotion "plan" I may have been doing or whatever book I may have been studying at the time so I can focus on Scripture related specifically to the season or holiday.  I even thought about writing a post about God's love today, seeing as how we are celebrating Valentine's Day -- the day of love -- and without God first loving us and showing us the ultimate example of love by sending His One and Only Son to die on the cross to pay for OUR sins, to die in OUR place so that WE might live, we would not truly know the meaning of love, or how to show love to anyone else for that matter.

But alas, God didn't give me the words for that blog, at least not yet.  The day has only begun, so who knows what else He might try to teach me in the next 15 or so hours.  For now, though, He is keeping my heart and mind focused on the idea of preparing for Jesus' death, and thankfully also His resurrection to follow!  And, I didn't even have to change devotion plans or anything; I just kept right on reading through the gospel of John!  Coincidentally, I "just so happen" to be in chapter 17, when Jesus looks up into heaven and opens His heart and candidly prays for His disciples (and all believers to follow).  These are some of His last words as He prepares for His final days on earth.  He knows His time with His disciples is drawing near.  He knows what lies ahead -- anguish, grief, pain like none of us have ever experienced.  He knows Judas will betray Him.  He knows He will be arrested, beaten, scorned, mocked, ridiculed, and ultimately hung on a cross to die. He knows His disciples will be scared and frightened, confused and shaken.  And so, instead of retreating and feeling sorry for Himself, He turns His attention to His closest friends and prays for them.

I was going to try and summarize or highlight the parts of Jesus' prayer that stood out to me the most, but as I kept reading, more and more of Jesus' last words struck a chord in my heart.  I decided to just share the entire prayer from beginning to end and let Jesus' words speak for themselves.  Who knows, maybe something He says will touch you where you are at, maybe it will be something completely different than what I would have chosen to expand on in my blog.  God has a way of knowing each and every one of us and meeting us right where we are at in life at the very moment we are reading His Word.  I pray you will be encouraged and strengthened, your spirits lifted, your hearts renewed.

Lean in close and listen carefully now as Jesus speaks some of His last words, for they are what He considered to be the most important thing for us to hear.  Above all else this is what Jesus wanted us to know before He breathed His last and died, returning to His Father in heaven:

Father, the time has come.  Glorify Your Son so He can give glory back to you.  For You have given Him authority over everyone in all the earth.  He gives eternal life to each one You have given Him.  And this is THE way to have eternal life -- to know You, the ONLY true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth.  I brought glory to You here on earth by doing everything You told Me to do.  And now, Father, bring Me into the glory we shared before the world began.

I have told these men about You.  They were in the world, but then You gave them to Me.  Actually, they were always Yours, and You gave them to Me; and they have kept Your word.  Now they know that everything I have is a gift from You for I have passed on to them the words You gave Me; and they accepted them and know that I came from You, and they believe You sent Me.

My prayer is NOT for the world, but for those You have given Me, because they belong to You.  And all of them, since they are Mine, belong to You; and You have given them back to Me, so they are My glory!  Now I am departing the world; I am leaving them behind and coming to You.  Holy Father, keep them and care for them -- all those You have given Me -- so that they will be united just as We are.  During my time here, I have kept them safe.  I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

And now I am coming to You.  I have told them many things while I was with them so they would be filled with My joy.  I have given them Your word.  And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not.  I'm not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.  They are not part of this world any more than I am.  Make them pure and holy be teaching them Your words of truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  And I give Myself entirely to You so they also might be entirely Yours.

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for ALL you will ever believe in Me because of their testimony.  My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as You and I are one, Father -- that just as You are in Me and I am in You, so they will be in Us, and the world will believe You sent Me.

I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one, as We are -- I in them and You in Me, all being perfected into one.  Then the world will know that You sent Me and will understand that You love Me.  Father, I want these whom You've given Me to be with Me, so they can see My glory.  You gave Me the glory because You loved Me even before the world began!

O righteous Father, the world doesn't know You, but I do; and these disciples know You sent Me.  And I have revealed You to them and will keep on revealing You.  I will do this so that Your love for Me may be in them and I in them.

I don't have anything else to say or add.  I will just let Jesus' last words speak for themselves.

Just know this one thing, on this Valentine's Day, GOD LOVES YOU.  I hope you saw/heard that in Jesus' prayer, that you know beyond a shadow of doubt that He loves you and wants you to be filled with His love -- and the joy and peace that come as a result of experiencing that love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

This morning I thought to myself, "I should write a blog about Lent this afternoon during nap time."  Then, I got on facebook, and several friends has posted articles about Lent and why evangelical Christians should take the time to participate in it.  I decided I should just read those articles and add my two cents worth.

So, here's one article for ya:
Why Bother with Lent?

I really appreciate how the author mentioned that sin and grace collide at the cross.  We most certainly need to recognize our depravity and the desperate situation that leaves us in -- complete separation from God!  Thank goodness we are extended grace!!!  God freely offers us forgiveness of our sins and the opportunity to have a PERSONAL relationship with Him!!!!

In response to that grace, we should be willing to lay our lives on the line for our Savior.  If He sacrificially died in our place so that we might live, should we not use every single day to thank Him, bring honor and glory to His name.  Should we not tell everyone we know about this amazing grace that is available to them as well?!  Should we not risk everything we have in hopes that those we love will admit their sin and accept God's free gift of salvation?  Right now at church we are focusing on what it means to be a disciple and what that lifestyle looks like day in and day out.  Like I said in my blog yesterday, giving your all for Jesus is hard and scary, but totally worth it!!!

Leading right into that is the fact that we don't know how many days we have here on this earth.  We don't know how long we have to reach our family and friends.  We don't know if today will be our last day on earth, if we will never have another opportunity to share the love of Jesus.  And so we should live each day as if it might be our last.  Back in college a wise friend (Annie Wilson) said, "Think about how you want to be remembered at your funeral, and then live each day so they will."  She added, "How you live each day is how you will live your last."  So true!

I love, love, love how the author said to give something up in order to benefit someone else.  It's not about scoring points with God or making yourself look good to Him or to impress your family and friends.  Instead, it's about sharing the love of Jesus with those around you!

Finally, the author spoke of how Lent helps us look ahead to Jesus' return.  Again, that serves as a reminder that TODAY may be the very day we get to see Jesus face to face.  What a joy that will be!  I want to be ready though!  I want to stand before Him knowing I have lived each day to the fullest, made the most of every opportunity, and laid it all on the line for His name.  I want to hear Him say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Here's the other article, if you want more to chew on:
Lent Day 1

Well, ALL FOUR KIDDOS ARE TAKING NAPS AT THE SAME TIME, including Coralyn!  So I had better get something done while I can!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Can You Handle the Truth?

Several months ago I had to message one of my former students and ask her, "What does LMS and TBH mean?  I keep seeing these abbreviations on people's statuses and I'm apparently not cool enough to understand what they are talking about.  Can you help me out?"  Kala was super nice and didn't make me feel old or ignorant.  She kindly informed me, "LMS is 'like my status' and TBH is 'to be honest."  Once you explained that to me, these junior highers' statuses made so much  more sense to me!!!

You see, if you LMS, then I have to tell you something I think about you.  It's basically the same thing for TBH, only I would post that on my status and you would comment something you think about me.

I probably have that all wrong, but that's not the point anyway.  The whole idea is the concept of being open and honest with each other, actually telling your friends the TRUTH.  So often, we sugar coat a situation or try to avoid having to share our true feelings or revealing what we truly think about something or someone.  Honesty is hard.  It can be difficult to swallow.  BUT, it can also be freeing.

I have been reading in the gospel of John and seeing firsthand that Jesus didn't mince words.  He came right out and said what He was thinking.  He didn't care if people hated Him because of it, either.  In fact, I think He often tried to stir up people's emotions, just to reveal the truth about them.  They may have been able to hide their thoughts and ideas and feelings from each other, but their hearts and minds were laid bare before their Creator.  And when He exposed them for their falsehood and hypocrisy, the religious leaders weren't too happy with Jesus.  In deed, they came to hate and despise Him to the point that they plotted His murder.

Jesus knew His time on earth was drawing to a close, and He was doing His best to prepare His disciples for the time when He would no longer be with them.  His closest friends had committed their lives to following Jesus everywhere He went for the past three years.  They had left their families and homes and jobs.  They had dropped everything - literally - to be with Him as He traveled throughout the area, teaching and healing and turning the world on its head.  And now, Jesus tells them He is leaving them to return to His Father.  They are devastated.  Yet, Jesus promises them, "But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don't, the Advocate won't come."

Who exactly is this Advocate and what makes Him so great?

Jesus had an answer, "But I will send you the Advocate -- the Spirit of truth.  He will come to you from the Father and will testify to you about Me."

That sounds really nice, and it is.  As Jesus explains, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[e] who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.... No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you... I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you."

Wonderful, the Holy Spirit will come and live with us, IN us.  He will guide us into the truth, showing us how to live for God, how to obey His commands, how to enjoy a deep, close relationship with Him day after day after day!

However, it's not all roses when you love Jesus and commit to living your life for Him.  The truth is: it's going to be hard, the hardest thing you have ever done.  Jesus doesn't hide this reality from His disciples and flat out warns them that having the Holy Spirit will set them apart from the rest of the world, "The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you."

That doesn't sound all that bad.  Oh, we're not done yet.  Can you handle the truth?  Not only we will be different, we will be HATED.  I told you the truth can be hard to swallow.
If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 
The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, 
but you are no longer part of the world. 
I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

But it makes sense.  
Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)
If people hated Jesus, and we claim to love Jesus and seek to live as He did, then we too will be hated.  

Jesus knew the truth would be hard for His disciples to accept.  He somewhat encourages them, "I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me. Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning."

He gives us plenty of advance warning.  When we decide to embark on the journey of faith, when we chose to follow God, when we lay down our hopes and dreams to allow God to accomplish His plans and purposes for us, it isn't easy.  That's just the truth of the matter.

Thank goodness Jesus wasn't done yet!  Thank goodness there is another side of the coin.  
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. 
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

You see, the truth is that following Jesus is worth it, no matter how hard it may be, no matter the cost.  The reward is far greater than any loss we will experience here on earth as a result of our love for Jesus.  Paul knew something suffering for Jesus, and yet he was able to encourage other believers:
I once thought these things were valuable, 
but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 
Yes, everything else is worthless 
when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 

For his sake I have discarded everything else, 
counting it all as garbage, 
so that I could gain Christ 
and become one with him. 

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; 
rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.
For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. 
I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,
so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things
or that I have already reached perfection.

But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,
but I focus on this one thing: 
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, 
through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

And while we are pressing on, fighting for our faith, standing up when no one else is...
When we are knocked down, persecuted, discouraged, frustrated, and want to throw in the towel...
Jesus reminds us of one final truth:
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart
And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. 
So don’t be troubled or afraid.

That makes me think of the daily verse on my phone earlier this week, 
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Then you will experience God’s peace, 
which exceeds anything we can understand. 
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. 
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—
everything you heard from me and saw me doing. 
Then the God of peace will be with you.

As I remind myself of all the things I have just written, I have to ask myself, "Am I willing to live like this?  Am I ready to lay it all on the line for my Jesus?"

Because the truth of the matter is that it's going to be hard, very hard.

BUT, it's also so so so so so so rewarding!

So, yes, yes I am ready to live out my faith, no matter what.  But, TBH: I am really scared!

Blog Archive