Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No "Christmas Letter 2008"



After college, I moved across the country to volunteer as a missionary in the inner city. I got used to writing letters to family, friends and supporters to let them know how things were going. After I got married, a Christmas letter seemed the perfect way to update far-away family and friends to the going-ons of our life. Some letters have been sentimental, some clever, each building on this tradition I always look forward to. This year the letter will simply be absent.

It's just been "one of those years."

I wouldn't know how to begin to recap all that has happened to our family this year. While I am careful to give God glory for everything He has accomplished in our family through our struggles, a letter this year seems like it would be more of a Who's Who of family catastrophies.

Speaking of which, have you noticed my absence these past few weeks? Let's just say that the holidays didn't go exactly as planned.
The day after Madeline's 2nd birthday party, the first week of December, my husband proceeded to fall off a ladder at work and miraculously only broke both of his wrists. (I say miraculous because every nurse and doctor we came in contact with was faithful to make us aware how blessed he was to have sustained such minor injuries from his type of fall.) This required double surgery, physical therapy, and lots of help from his wife. I am pleased to note, as the year comes to a close, that we are happy he is again able to drive to work, dress himself and finally semi-wrestle with the girls. And that he retained his sense of humor.

A couple days following, my daughter stepped on a toothpick, and we were undecided about whether it actually broke off inside. A trip to the Urgent Care on Christmas Eve confirmed that it had indeed taken up residence in the arch of her foot, making the holidays even that much more exciting. A stop by the peditricians office this week and a minor surgical procedure hopefully did the trick.

The following week, the Southern California desert that we call home, got hit with a rare and freakish snowstorm. Our neighborhood was dumped with 8 inches that day! Beautiful indeed. Nonetheless, being the "desert" that it is, the city was unequipped to deal with the snow and announced the closure of every freeway into and out of town. I happened to be out of town and was unable to get home for 2 days. I was grateful to have my in-laws home to stay in, as many were forced to spend that time in their cars on the side of the road.

So, while we may not have been able to put together our Gingerbread House, and although our Christmas cards may have been a bit late, and even though we didn't make it to Christmas Eve service (our favorite tradition!), somehow those things lost their utmost importance.

As we reflect on the past year, we take note of the good and the bad. It has been a year of non-traditions for sure. But ultimately, we find ourselves grateful for our health, our jobs, God's provisions, God's protection, and the time we have together as a family, which in essence overrides all the struggles, pain, family estrangements and inconveniences this year brought our way.

We look forward to what God has in store for each of us in 2009. We anticipate getting closer to God as a family and seeking what it is He would have us do with the next year.


May the Peace of the season be yours! Love, Rebecca

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Standing for Your Marriage


Today's Topic: Standing for Your Marriage

Today's Host: Chelsey at Joyfully Living

Chelsey has a great post today. If you get a chance, stop by and read it for yourself. She asks us the following:

What does commitment in marriage mean?

What kind of wife are we called
to be to our husbands?

What are ways that we can Biblically stand for
our marriage?



When I first got married, commitment meant, "for better or for worse." As in, you don't give up or walk out, no matter how hard it gets. And although that definition stays true, for me after almost 7 years, it has acquired new depth.

Commitment to something means to bind yourself to a course of action, or pledge to do something in the future. But in marriage, is commitment really just sticking with it, as in not leaving? Or does it require more? Can you still "give up" without actually getting divorced?

What if standing or fighting for our marriage was not even about something as difficult as infidelity or an unsaved husband? What if the issue was just something as mundane as not feeling cherished, or important? Or not agreeing on an important decision? Or something as simple as not feeling heard? These issues can create a crevice over time that seems irreparable.

When I think of those committed to a cause, I think of people doing everything they can to "make it happen." That's the kind of commitment I want to have in my marriage. Not just the "I'm in it for the long haul" commitment, but the "I will do everything I can to make the most of this relationship" commitment.

The kind of wife I feel God calling me to be is one who honors her husband by submitting to his leadership, supporting him in his role as leader, not undermining him when I think I know more. A wife who makes her husband feel respected by being slow to speak and listening twice as much, who asks for his advice instead of rushing into things on her own. A wife who allows her husband to hear from God and exercise his right to decide what is best for our family.

Mostly, I feel God challenging me to be a wife who honors her husband whether or not he responds the way I think he should. I want to extend love, even if I'm not getting as much attention as I want. I want to listen to hear what he has to say, even if I have to repeat myself often. That's real God-honoring commitment.

Maybe you don't have the same struggles in your marriage that I do. But I find these things really hard to remember sometimes. And even when I do remember, sometimes it's hard to find the resolve in myself to do the right thing. So that's why I have to go to the Word (like I had to today) and remind myself of what God wants to see in me. And let the Holy Spirit fill me with godly resolve to become the kind of wife God designed me to be.

There are a few ways I can align myself with God's word to take a stand for my marriage. The one that God is working on in my heart recently is to humble myself. Phillipians 2 tells us how to embrace humility like Christ. I've never understood this passage better than in the light of my marriage relationship:

"Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

When I humble myself, bowing down before God in an act of sacrifice and worship, it gets me out of the way so God can do a lasting work in my marriage.

Right now I am practicing these things in my marriage through the Love Dare book. I hope this can help me identify ways to make humility and service a godly habit in our relationship.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Snapshots

This week's At the Well topic is a little bit different. One of the advantages that women of long ago had in meeting at the well, was the friendships and community that was developed. So today, Chelsea is hosting "Getting to Know You."

She wants us to share a glimpse into our lives. Old friends, no need to read any further - I'm sure you've heard it all before.

I'm a first born. I have a younger sister, followed by 2 younger brothers (the youngest is 9 yrs younger).

As a little girl, I remember lots of family and lots of church. I am blessed with a rich, godly heritage!

I've always loved studying, school and academics. Typical over-achiever (also reads pleaser).

I love to read. Missionary stories are my favorites.

In jr. high I was passionate about being either a lawyer or a missionary. I pursued the latter.

I've always been an "old soul." I was old beyond my years and often preferred to hang out with teachers instead of students.

I got my bachelor's degree in Cross-Cultural Communications, with my heart set on foreign missions. I interned at an inner-city church in Detroit, MI.

I briefly substituted as an elementary music teacher for a semester, to pay off the bulk of my student loans.

I am musically inclined. God often speaks to my heart through music. I love to play the piano but we don't have one right now.

I journeyed from the midwest to work in an inner-city mission in Los Angeles, the Dream Center (can anyone say culture shock?). I itinerated and raised support, going as a full-time volunteer and missionary.

During that time, I got a taste of all kinds of ministry: administrative, outreach, discipleship, worship leader, children's ministry, piano teacher, speaking in churches, feeding the homeless, bringing in prostitutes off the streets. Uh-mazing!

I was very focused and did not date unless I knew the man was pursuing missions (so, pretty much I did not date).

Then I met my husband at the Dream Center. He was working in construction. :) He owns a construction company that has supported and built for missionaries all over the world. Not the way I saw it happening, but what God had in mind all along.

During our courtship, I pursued a teaching credential while I taught Kindergarten. It was a low income area and the kids were very needy. I thrived there.

We got married and honeymooned on the island of Barbados -- had a beautiful destination wedding with the ocean as our backdrop.

Immediately, I got a beautiful brown miniature dachshund named Ginger, to compliment Troy's distinguished German Shepherd. They were best of friends. Ginger was a hunter and would stealthily sneak up on birds, and kill them. She also had a bad habit of licking people's mouths. She was adopted out to my brother, who did not have children at the time.

I would say I'm a crafty person, dabbling a little in painting, crochet and numerous Do-it-yourself projects.

I stopped teaching when I learned I had a pituitary brain tumor and was told we could not get pregnant because the tumor would grow and become life threatening.

6 months later, I was healed. The doctors assured me this was impossible, but the MRI's showed differently. Praise God.

Eventually, we were told I needed chemotherapy before I got pregnant - but surprise! I already was. More complications and we were told we would lose the baby. The doctor even scheduled a D&C, which we refused. After 5 months of bedrest, Olivia Faith was born without complications.

My entire family moved across the country to the town where my husband and I live. My sister and her family, my brother and his new wife, my parents and my youngest brother when he finished college. We are currently all living in the same city and that's amazing!

I love to drink tea, especially out of a china cup. Fancy tea house? I'm there!

I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis, requiring surgery. I have an extremely low tolerance to pain. Or as I like to say, I'm just very sensitive. I was so scared, I wrote out a will.

I began to volunteer in a Christian crisis pregnancy center. They needed a childbirth instructor, so I became Lamaze certified in order to teach classes for free at their center.

My husband and I know we will be in our town long term (even though it is quite transient). So he built a beautiful home created for ministry and outreach. He is an incredibly talented man, but doesn't realize it. He is also a bit of a modern day adventurer.

I am a girly, girl. I enjoy getting dressed up, doing my hair, makeup and nails. My husband appreciates it too, so we are a good fit. I am determined this year to master the "Smoky Eye." I can also get dirty: spend our vacation in the sand dunes, play a few sports, I love being outside.

After surgery, and being told we were infertile, we became pregnant again. When Olivia was 2 and 1/2, after 3 months of bedrest, we had Madeline Joy.

Madeline had extreme issues from the day she was born. We later found the root to be severe allergies (mostly to environmental chemicals, fragrances, preservatives, etc). When she was born, no one could hold her without a special barrier between them and her skin or she would break out immediately. Often her lungs would shut down in a reaction to some unknown substance and we would end up in the ER.

We met a natural Christian doctor when she was 4 months old and we were at our wits end, who diagnosed and successfully helped us cope with her allergies. She was GOD-sent! Madeline has made great improvements over the past year and a half. Her allergies are predictable and manageable, with extreme caution and effort.

We are ALL much healthier and much more aware of what is in our home, our food, our environment. Out of necessity, we've Gone Green, so to speak. Although, I have struggled to limit my Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes. If I was a superhero, this would be my weakness.

We planted our first garden this year, mostly so we had our own supply of fresh foods without pesticides so Madeline could eat them. We live in the desert and were SHOCKED by the way it took off. We had more food than we knew what to do with. I can't wait to start next year's garden, and have been getting advice from my Grandparents on how to can food to save it for the next winter.

My sister and I accidentally started a baby boutique, Sweet Poppi Baby Boutique. We both had little ones and didn't want to pay boutique prices for boutique baby items (picture incredibly soft, luxurious baby blankets). So I took a sewing class and we started sewing them ourselves. Requests from friends overwhelmed us, and we started a website to sell our things.

We've been able to bless various ministries by donating to auctions and raffles and moms in need. We purposely keep our prices low; 1) because we do not want to be greedy and 2) as a way to bless other moms who want pretty things but can't always afford them.

I love photography and pictures....someday I will pursue this a little further. For now, I leave the amazing picture taking up to my sister.

This year has been a year of simplifying and pruning. I struggled with endometriosis again, and had to pull out of ministry. I needed another surgery (no will this time). Afterwards, the doctor gave us a 0.5% chance of getting pregnant. 4 weeks later we were pregnant - another miracle! At 12 weeks, I miscarried and God welcomed our son into heaven.

Being a journal-er at heart, I started my blog around this time. I wanted record of what God was going to do (because I believed He would bring good) through this horrific circumstance.

Our struggle with infertility has caused us to depend on God in such a deep, emotional way. He's given us three miracle pregnancies. We continue to trust Him completely.

My love for the Bible was renewed this summer and my relationship with God has been transformed. As has our marriage. God has been doing an incredible work in our family.

God has allowed me to get involved in a new ministry at our church that reaches out to young, mostly unwed, teenage mothers. Most of how I help can be done from home. I am thrilled to see what God is going to do and grateful for an opportunity that does not take away from my time with my family.

I have some incredible friendships, a few in town but most have moved out of state. I travel across the country, with the girls, a few times a year to see my dearest friends.

Obviously I've struggle with my health, but I also struggle to keep my words to a few, to feel confident to set up boundaries and say No, to be patient with my girls when I'm lacking sleep. All areas God is working on in me.

I realize I left out much of the negative. I have had my share of heartache, mistakes, drama, abuse and hard times -- God has brought me through each and every time. And continues to be faithful to His promise to redeem it all.

That's quite a few glimpses. I think you get the idea.

Blessings,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Three Stranded Rope



"And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken." Ecclesiastes 4:12


In this picture, from left to right, is Faith, Olivia Faith and Olivia. No, I didn't stutter. And they used to all refer to each other as "Two Wawa" (as in two Olivias).

We go to a large church. When I saw an announcement in the bulletin for twin girls just 3 months older than my baby, who were named Faith and Olivia, I knew I wanted to meet the mom who chose the same names I did for my daughter, Olivia Faith.

Never would I have guessed that when I finally did meet her, when our girls were 3 years old, that she would become a God-sent friend to us. Crystal (a.k.a. Dr. Crystal) was the one who eventually led us in the natural direction that helped us deal with our youngest daughter's medical issues, including her severe allergic reactions.

The three girls have become fast friends, not to mention their mothers. How could they not? It almost seemed "meant to be." I just love how God puts people in our paths.

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For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Amy

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just an Ordinary Day


Today's Topic:

Arise and Shine: Being an Exceptional Mother in the Midst of the Ordinary


Today's Hostess:
Lisa at A Second Generation of Homeschooling

Lisa has this to share about homeschool mothers, but any mother I know, homeschooling or not, can relate:

"Homeschool mothers can most assuredly relate to the feelings that come from drudgery. The days are long and tedious. The success that comes of the toil sometimes goes unseen for months, maybe even years. Our lives seem downright plain and ordinary. Our work goes unnoticed. Our existence remains unobserved. Life can become commonplace. Where do we go from here? How can we keep going from day to day?"

She asks us the following questions:
1. What daily tasks seem mundane or monotonous to you?
2. How can we change our outlook when completing these tasks?
3. What impact do these tasks have on our husband and children? How does it make a difference in their lives?
4. Is it okay to focus on earthly recognition when completing these tasks for our loved ones, or is receiving an eternal reward sufficient? Which does Jesus think is more important? Shouldn’t that be our focus, as well?

Today I'm keeping it simple. There are a lot of "mundane tasks" that need to be done around here, and my blogging time needs to be short.

I want to share briefly about recognition and motives in our daily lives because God has done a work in me this year in this area.

I have the privilege of getting to stay at home with my kids. I have since I was pregnant with the first. I always knew I wanted to stay at home once I had children. I also pictured myself very involved and active in church, ministry and volunteer work.

And that's what I set out to do. I volunteered for local ministries, completed additional certification classes, became involved in Bible studies, moms groups and hosting ministries at our home. I started an at-home business with my sister.

I kept busy.

And then in January, something changed. The best way I can describe it was I had a constant lack of peace. I always felt overwhelemed, underaccomplished and scattered. I didn't feel I was being an attentive wife, an involved mom or a productive volunteer. My household duties felt like burdens and a day where I didn't load my kids into the car for one reason or another was hard to come by.

The light bulb moment was when I got sick and was thankful that I had an "excuse" to stay at home and enjoy my family. At that moment, I knew my priorities had been turned upside down.

As I began to make changes and learned to refuse different opportunities, I was surprised by the backlash. God really used that time to prune out the things that didn't bear fruit, including church activities and friendships. I was criticized, belittled and accused because I made a choice to spend the majority of my time in my home, taking care of my family, instead of in service to others. I was even told I was not in God's will because the most important thing to Him was that I go outside of my home to bring people to the Lord and that I was a example of selfishness to my children.

It's been a year of pruning and loss. But I feel lighter, because I'm not carrying around more than God designed for me. The mundane chores and household responsibilities are not overwhelming anymore. There is satisfaction in having the time to do them well. Overall I feel closer to God, more at peace and balanced as a family.

I received this story in an email today and thought you might like to read it. I wish I knew who to give the credit to, but it was one of those anonymous forwards. True story or not, it really speaks to the heart of a mother.

"Invisible Mother"

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'

Obviously, not.

No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going; she's going; she's goooooooone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in.

I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.

I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.'

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe.

I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:

'To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.

It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life.

It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right.

And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1

Blessings,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Team Hoyt - Father and Son



My Redeemer Lives
Nicole C. Mullen

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning
And Who told the ocean you an only come this far?
And Who showed the moon where to hide 'til evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
This life within me cries I know my Redeemer lives

As I watched this video, I could hear myself having one of those very personal conversations with God. (And as such, certain details will remain nameless.)

"Lord, I'm inspired. And if I could ask for anything, I would want to do such and such. But I know it is near impossible."

And as unfeasbile as it would seem to everyone else, including me, God's reply would be

"My daughter, you desire what? Well, here's what I can do. I made the heavens and the earth. I can move mountains. I can fulfill the desires of your heart for my glory. While it may seem inconceivable, I will accomplish it in you. Trust in Me."

And then I would be reminded that because my satisfaction, my happiness and my contentment are found in Him alone, He has given me the desires of my heart. If He has placed them there, how could they be preposterous? Would He not fulfill the work He Himself started in my heart?

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." ~ Psalm 37:4,5



What is the impossible in your life?






For more songs that inspire, visit Amy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Challenge Outcome

Today I am thankful for the work God is doing in my marriage. I started the 30-Day encouragement challenge 2 months ago because of an At the Well post on building up your spouse.

Wow, how our marriage has been transformed! Or should I say, how hasn't it been transformed?

I knew it would take me a few months to get it down pat, so after I completed the first month, I started the challenge over. All the while, I did not tell him (my husband) exactly what I was doing. He noticed the changes and asked me about it often.

In the middle of the second month, Troy and I made a date night to see Fireproof at the theater. I had it in my head that I wanted to support a movie based on godly principles while it was in the theater, so the world would see that there is a market for wholesome and godly.

Without revealing the storyline, there is a key element in the movie very similiar to my 30-Day Encouragement Challenge. I was so excited, before I realized it I nudged my husband and said, That's what I am doing for you!

By the end of the movie, we were both equally stirred in our hearts. We had a wonderful, meaningful conversation on the way to dinner, about where our marriage was and where it was heading. We made new commitments to each other, with specific promises of what we would each try to do for the other person.

I'm not one to gush about a movie, but this is one that is worth taking the time for. Even if you have young kids. It's worth the trouble of finding and paying for a sitter. Consider it an investment in your marriage. If you live nearby, Troy and I will watch your kids so you can go see it. Yes, you heard me, free babysitting! We believe in it that much.

Slightly related, I am thankful for an encouragement I received from Peggy today at Amazing Grace ~ Mazes, Messes and Miracles. She wrote a note, passing on some blogging friendship awards to me that made me smile. Unfortunately, I could not access them at the time I was writing this or else I would share them with you.

Peggy also has, in the same post, a link for The World of Chelle, a discussion blog that is born from the book THE LOVE DARE which came from the movie, you guessed it, Fireproof. I was so encouraged when I read parts of it, that I made an extra stop today at the Bible bookstore to grab my own copy. I was just getting ready to start a 3rd month of the 30-Day Encouragement Challenge, so I decided to give this one a try instead.

Stay tuned and I will let you know if the outcome of my new challenge is as successful as the first challenge. I am believing it will be!

Blessings,


Today Iris was thankful for special friendships. What are you thankful for? For more words of inspiration visit her at Sting My Heart....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Recycled



Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!"
2 Corinthians 5:17


Isn't it amazing that when God agrees to take on our messed up, garbage-filled lives and make us into new creations, that He knows exactly what has redeemable value and what needs to go immediately?

I'm forever grateful that God saw enough value in me to pull me out from the garbage and breathe new life into my soul. By the grace of God, I am a new creation!

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For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Amy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Home Reflections

Today's Topic:
Our Home is an extension of who we are.

Today's Hostess:
Natalie at I Am (not)

"They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God's message will not be slandered." Titus 2


Natalie simply asks us, How does your home reflect who you are?

If you head over to Natalie's blog, you will no doubt agree that she was blessed with the creative gift of interior design and decorating. I, on the other hand, was not. Getting the house (or even a room) the way I like it, takes me way too much time and alot of hard thought.

In spite of my designing deficiencies, I feel that our home truly reflects who we are and what we value by what it is used for. Two and a half years ago, my husband and I were blessed to be able to build our own home. He works in the construction industry and did much of the actual designing and building himself. I admit, I had never fully valued his abilities until then. He built us an incredible home!

We collaborated alot during the design phase. We talked about our goals for our family, our future ministry, our kids, their friends. I think that is how our home reflects who we are. We especially felt if we were going to build a large home, it had to serve a higher purpose than just existing as a house for us. Because of my husband's business, we felt we would be in this city for quite some time. That being said, we designed our house with longevity and ministry in mind. I think pictures show it the best.

When you enter our home, the view is the Living Room. We designed this room, from the layout to the furniture, to be an open, comfortable area where we could entertain and host events or meetings for ministries, especially Bible studies. The blue couch belonged to my great-grandparents and reflects a special part of my family line.


In the dining room, we replaced our long table with a square one. It seemed to fit the room and foster conversations between all the guests better. This is also where I house all of my tea things. There is nothing like inviting a friend over for a playdate, getting out the fancy tea sets and serving her tea while the kids run around and play.


My bedroom reflects a love of reading and studying. We built a window seat, so I could read and still keep an eye on the kids while they play outside. We also put in a low table for writing and study supplies. My favorite spot is the oversized chaise lounge for cozy reading times.



The kitchen was made for fellowship. I made sure to have extra roomy aisles so as not to get grumpy when everyone is milling around while I am cooking. With chairs along the breakfast bar and connected to the Family Room, it's naturally a place people gravitate to.




The Guest Suite is my favorite. Our intention was to create a private retreat, with it's own outdoor access, to host traveling ministers, missionaries and out of town guests. We tried to create the feel of a fancy hotel room, even equipping one of the closets with options for a coffee maker and microwave.





Lastly, the kids playroom in the basement which has seen many playdates. Our goal is to keep an eye on our kids and their friends. We hope to host many get-togethers here. We pray that we can have the kind of house kids will want to come hang out at -- inviting and comfortable. And we hope this extends well into their teen years. They are young yet, so we started by creating a playroom that is interactive and organized for easy clean-up. Years down the road, we plan to turn it into an older game room, ping pong, lounging couches, etc.

What I hope our home reflects is a desire to serve, host and bless others. We want to use our home for ministry. We want to open it up and treat our guests special, with the intention that they feel as comfortable as if they were family.

There is just one thing missing in our home. We want to incorporate Scripture verses on the walls. One place is in the Kitchen, above the stove on the flat front of the hood. Another is to post the girls "life verses" in their rooms. And we also want to hang our family verse on a wall. This is one of my projects for the year. I will share new pictures when I get that completed!

To read more, head over to the well at Natalie's blog I Am (Not).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

October 19-25th, 2008: National Infertility Awareness Week


Today I am recognizing National Infertility Awareness Week, a movement to raise awareness about the disease of infertility which affects 7.3 million Americans.

My "About Me" says after overcoming a few obstacles, I am blessed to be a mother. My husband and I dealt with infertility from the moment we thought about starting a family. I met with my family doctor for a check-up, explaining we were going to try to get pregnant soon, and after a month of tests, found myself with a brain tumor diagnosis (pituitary tumor). To top it off, I was assured that if I got pregnant, the hormones would cause the tumor to grow rapidly.

Months later, after an MRI confirmed that God had indeed healed me, (the doctors assured me this was completely impossible), we sought advice from an infertility doctor who specialized in patients with pituitary tumors. During our first appointment she advised me to undergo a round of chemotherapy drugs. Immediately after that statement, she took a phone call from the nurse advising her we were already pregnant! The pregnancy was not without it's trials (including 4 months of bedrest due to preterm labor), but no ill effects from the tumor. Olivia Faith was born full-term and healthy.

Our story continues with another couple years of what is called secondary infertility, usually defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after successfully and naturally conceiving one or more children. Many diagnoses were given, including severe endometriosis. One surgery later, and once again a natural pregnancy was confirmed by an infertility doctor. Another eventful pregnancy ensued (with more bedrest). And Madeline Joy was born full-term as well.

We again experienced secondary infertility, including one early miscarriage, due to the endometriosis. This time our infertility doctor gave us less than 0.5% chance of conceiving on our own. I was in need of another surgery. The next month he was dumbfounded, confirming that once again we were pregnant. Unfortunately, this time we lost our baby boy at 3 months.

Once again, we find ourselves in a season of secondary infertility. It's a tough place to be. The tug of war between my overwhelming desire to add to our family and the guilt I feel in appearing ungrateful for the children I have often keeps me from sharing anything at all.

This week seemed like a safe time to share my story, and a few facts I've learned along the way. From what I've read, Secondary infertility is often unrecognized as a problem, and many couples find it hard to receive support from their family and friends. Some couples are even criticized as seeming ungrateful for the child or children they already have.

The emotional impact of infertility is profound. Unless you have had a close encounter with it, you probably wouldn't begin to guess the ramifications. RESOLVE published an article, "Coping with Infertility" that had this to say:
From the shocking diagnosis and demanding treatment to the disruptive day-to-day experiences, this emotional assault can leave an infertile individual depressed, angry and guilt ridden. Of the eight types of loss researchers have identified which can lead to depression in the average man or woman, the infertile individual may experience them all: loss of self-esteem, status, important relationships, health or an acceptable body image, control, security, important fantasies and someone or something of symbolic value. The cumulative effect is profound, creating a life crisis that impacts a person's ability to cope and has no immediate or foreseeable resolution.

It goes on to say: Ultimately, many infertile women....feel the wound of infertility in every part of their being, and there are no simple remedies to ease such deep pain and extensive loss.

I agree that infertility is that intense. I've often said it is like grieving the death of a dream every month. But it's here that I would have to agree to disagree with the article. There is a simple remedy to ease my deep pain and my continued loss. It is my continued relationship with God. He is able to take my questions, my fears, my grief, my disappointments. In Matthew 11, Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

That doesn't mean I am not sad. I grieve the babies I've lost. And many months I grieve the lost dream of having another child. But even in my sadness, there is a promise that eases my pain and loss, Psalms 34, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." God has never been closer to our family than these last few months since we lost our baby boy. We are overwhelmed by His goodness towards us.

For those have journeyed the road of infertility, though our paths may never cross, this traveler holds you close in her heart. My prayers extend toward you this week.

For those who have never carried the burden of infertility, my hope is that you can reach out with understanding and compassion, and help carry the burden of a tired friend. You can't fix it, but you can lift her spirits.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Int...er...rupt...ed


Today's Topic:
"Interruptions, Delays and Inconveniences"


Today's Hostess:
Lori at I will take it Lord, all You have to give


Titus 2 reminds us "...to be kind."

Today, Lori asks some great questions. In the face of day-to-day interruptions, delays and inconveniences, are we really as kind and open as we can be in our daily lives? Are we able to pause and recognize God in those potentially frustrating situations?

I am at the kitchen counter innocently attempting to prepare my own diet-restricted breakfast, after getting the kids settled at the table with their drinks and food, and I realize the knife I am looking for was left in the sink and needs to be washed before I can continue. But right as I reach for the dish scrubber, the girls start asking for more food and the phone begins to ring simultaneously (which I ignore in an attempt to get some nourishment together for my apparently starving kids). But my husband comes on the answering machine begging me to look up just this one thing for him real quick.... and all of the sudden that little phrase from Titus 2, "be kind," is not so easy.

This topic is right on time for me! I can't tell you how many times lately, armed with my well-intentioned desire to get a job done, I've heard myself say to someone in my family (for the 100th time), "Yeah, in just a minute. I need to finish [you fill in the blank]."

I find myself getting grumpy from the pressure of being pulled in multiple directions all day and longing for those late night hours when I have my time to myself and can sacrifice a little sleep in order to complete a job uninterrupted.

Lori asks, How do you handle interruptions in your days? Do you plow right on over them missing opportunities God has placed on your path?

Ouch! Back to that "just a minute" catch phrase I seem to have adopted. I can almost picture my daily path laid out before me, and God walking my kids or my husband right through the middle of it. Too often I miss out on what God has for me by thinking my family are the "interruptions."

Lori wrote, "I often imagine a day when I have an opportunity to stroll around heaven, where it will be revealed to me how many things I "missed." Missed in my attempt to be in control of "my day" and do it in "my time." I imagine a tour that reveals to me the times when I had only tunnel vision and missed the opportunities that God was trying to lead me to."

I don't want to miss out! Even in my pursuit to be a Titus 2 or Proverbs 31 woman, I want to make sure I am balanced. The real goal isn't the tidy house or the wonderful meals or the checked off to-do list. Serving my family is supposed to be the goal!

What interruptions frustrate you the most? How are you working to overcome that?

The things that frustrate me the most are the things that get in the way of my agenda. If I keep in mind that I am a servant, and that I can use those interruptions as a way to serve others, I have a feeling it will be a little easier to respond graciously with kindness. And if I embrace the idea of trusting that God has directed my day, then I must become more flexible in order to receive all He has for me.

Since I know I will need help in this area, I decided to commit my entire day to the Lord, interruptions and all, with a prayer from Psalms, first thing in the morning when I wake up. Usually I'm not much on doing things when I first wake up, because it's not my most coherent time of the day. But I think this is really going to help my outlook on the day.
Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.

Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

Rescue me from my enemies, Lord; I run to you to hide me. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.

May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. ~ Psalms 143:8-10

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rejoice Over You With Singing




We chose a life verse for each of our girls. A verse that simply expresses something God has laid on our hearts for their life. We have plans to display each of their verses in their individual rooms. For Madeline, we chose Zephaniah 3:17.

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." ~ Zephaniah 3:17

If you are at all familiar with her story/testimony, then you will understand why this verse is so very special for her. Madeline has battled one physical issue after another. But we KNOW God is with her and that he takes great delight in her just as she is. We also know that He is the ultimate healer and we continue to pray that he will take care of all her physical limitations.


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For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Amy.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Keeping a Home


Our Hostess: Chelsie at Joyfully Living

Today's Topic:
Keeping the Home

"These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God." Titus 2:4-5

Another version says "keepers at home." I looked up the root to the word keeper, which is - a guard, be "ware." The definition throughout the Bible is "caring for the house or working at home," which means: a) the watch or keeper of the house, b) keeping at home and taking care of household affairs and c) a domestic (relating to the family or household).

At the Well is a little different for me today. Since Chelsie is focusing on (b), keeping a clean and tidy home, today is one of those days when I am acutely aware that I am one of "the younger women." A day when I admit that I have much more to learn, than I have to share. My ears are open and I am ready to be trained!

I decided I would share a quick story, and then mosey on over to the other women at the well and see what wisdom they have to share with me. My story begins in January of this year, when I really felt God telling me to stop doing things that kept me away from my home and my family. As hard as that was for me to hear, I was sure it wouldn't be forever, and even my husband called it a season.

These words from the Bible about a wife of character were critical in my decision:

"She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Proverbs 31:27-29

While many people might have given me praise for all the "capable" things I was doing, I was sure my husband and children weren't one of them. As a wise woman once said, "You can't do a hundred things well." So in an effort to get my priorities straight, I took a break from extracurricular activities.

It wasn't easy at first. Being busy was a habit I had formed. But eventually, what a difference it made in my attitude! I went from looking at making meals and doing housework as a burden, to seeing it as a way to bless my family. I began to understand that this is my responsibility, that God has given me. And because it is God-given, it is just as important as my self-given responsibilities. No, it is more important.

I'm starting to treasure time with my family. I realize this time with my girls will come to an end soon enough. At some point, they will grow and move on. This season is a wonderful one that I have been given to bless them, teach them and model what a wife of noble character looks like.

OK, now for the practical stuff. I'm on my way to learn from the other women at the well....

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies



How He Loves
by John Mark Mcmillan

Verse 1
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

Chorus
And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us so

I never felt I had much of a "testimony." I grew up in a Christian home, our church family was as close as our real family. I knew the presence of God in my life at a young age. And by the time I was 10, I knew I was supposed to use my life to tell others about our amazing God. I continued to stay close to God. Attended Bible College. And began to work in ministry.

But after hearing this song and incredible video, my definition of 'testimony' was redefined. I realized I had many, many cardboard testimonies. Many of them physical. Some emotional. And the most important ones, spiritual. Even as I struggle today in some of these areas, it inspires me to look back and remember all that God has been to me.

Diagnosed with a pituitary brain tumor -- "impossibly" healed, according to my doctors

Told I had many reasons for infertility -- have had 3 miracle pregnancies

Heart breaking miscarriages -- Peace and joy beyond my understanding
What is your cardboard testimony? I would love to be encouraged by yours as well.



For more songs that inspire, visit Amy.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

God Shed His Grace on Thee



I am thankful for our country. I am thankful for the opportunity to live in America. Even though the upcoming elections and issues can seem overwhelming to me at times. (Although I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed the Vice Presidential debate tonight for a couple different reasons.)

Two days ago, I had the privilege of reconnecting with an old college friend by phone, who has been a missionary for the last 10 years or so. (I am choosing to leave the country undisclosed for safety reasons). She explained to me from a firsthand perspective, how dehumanizing governments can really be. And the horrific effect that has on not only a person's view of themself, but also their basic view of others.

I came away from that conversation, with two things in mind. First, I began to pray harder than ever for souls around the world who do not have the same Christian freedoms that we can so easily take for granted. And second, how blessed I am to live in a country where we have the option to value human life.

I know our country has problems, and fittingly I kept thinking about the lyrics for America the Beautiful, especially "God shed His grace on Thee." They seem so perfect during these times. As do all the prayers included for our country (below in bold).

O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

O beautiful, for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!


O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
'Til all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!

O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!


Blessings,


Today Iris was thankful God has lifted her dark cloud. What are you thankful for? For more words of inspiration visit her at Sting My Heart....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Autumn Rains



Be glad, O people of Zion,
rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before.
Joel 2:23

We had our own rare and refreshing autumn rain two days ago. Tell me, what's more carefree than a permission-to-get-your-clothes-soaked dance in the rain?

Today, let yourself soak in the promise of God to send abundant showers to bless your life.

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For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Amy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Feeling Dry?


Our Hostess: Heather at Emotional Purity

Today's Topic:
Spiritual Dryness

Have you noticed a pattern of when you find yourself spiritually dry?

What do you do to move quickly through that season of dryness?



An interesting thing happened here in the high desert early this morning. The girls were finishing up their breakfast and we heard the loudest thunder! We quick grabbed some umbrellas and ran outside to greet the rain. It's been many months since we had our last rain.

It wasn't a downpour. It wasn't even a good soaking. It was intermittent at best. But because it was so unusual and this desert is so dry, it was exhilarating, refreshing and exciting.

Did you catch that? The drier it is, the more valuable the rain becomes. My life gets that way sometimes. I feel dry and empty. I haven't "felt" God's presence in a while. And the possibility of Him raining on me a little becomes so desired, it's all I can think about.

King David was in the desert of Judah when he wrote:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Sometimes I am thirsty because I haven't been making regular trips to Jesus' deep, sweet well. There is a story about Jesus in John 4 where we find Him sitting by a well. While he is there, a woman comes to fill her containers with water. He says to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14

When I am not taking in what Jesus provided for me, sometimes I am the one making myself thirsty. We've been given the Word of God, prayer and the Holy Spirit to sustain us and refresh us. When I decide not to allow one of these things in my life, I start to get spiritually dehydrated.

Why? Well, just like anything living needs water to grow, the Word is intended to be living and active in our lives (Hebrews 4:12). If a dry spiritual season is one that feels sluggish and slow, the Word of God motivates us to get moving and change.

In the same way, if in a dry spell we feel like we are not as close to God, James 4:8 promises us that if we come near to God, He will come near to us. Jesus paid an expensive price to provide a way for us to talk to God, just so we could get closer to Him.

And sometimes my soul feels dry because of my own sin. Jesus left us a parting gift, the Holy Spirit. I have a choice each day to live a life filled with the Spirit of God or not. Galatians 5:16 instructs us, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." There are times when I have simply been drinking too much of that worldly water. I get too busy, my priorities are in wrong order, I don't believe and stand on God's promises, I'm doing something I shouldn't be and it starts to create a wall between God and I. These things can dry me up as fast as our desert sun snatched up our meager little rain puddles today.

But what I've noticed on occasion, is that sometimes it is not my sin, or my busyness, or mixed up priorities that are causing me to feel empty. Sometimes we're just suffering the consequences of living in a sinful world. We have all experienced loss, disappointment and pain from others. It's as if I know my spiritual tank is dry. So I go faithfully to the place I always go to fill up my tank, but the needle is stubbornly stuck on E. In these times, God seems distant from us for no apparent reason.

These seasons seem to move beyond a dry spell, to a drought filled wilderness experience. There are a variety of possible causes for these times: God may use them to test our faith, to strengthen our commitment, or to purify us. Moses talked to the Israelites after they had a time like this:

"Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart.... He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.... Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.... For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land--a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing." Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 5, 7-9, NIV

God allows those times in my life to show me what is really in my heart. Maybe He needs to show me that I only go to Him when I can get something from Him and He wants to know if I will be faithful to come to Him even when I'm not getting what I think I should. Maybe it's to simulate a "rock bottom" experience, causing me to be humbled and once again recognize my great need for Him. And maybe it's just to keep me aware of how amazing the waters of God really are and keep me thirsting for them even when I have more than I can drink.

Whatever the reason, I can be sure the wilderness experience will lead to the Promised Land. It is the path God has chosen for me. His Word is forever true, and He makes a promise to me that He is my peace, and His choices for me will lead to fulfillment and joy.

Heather asks us, What do you do to move quickly through that season of dryness?

There are a few verses from Psalm 51 that I love to cry out to God when I am in a spiritual drought because they remind me of what I should be doing.

verse 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.


Verse 10:
* Ask God to create a clean heart in me, even if I am not aware of any sin that is keeping me from Him. And ask Him to renew a steadfast [adamant, dependable, enduring, faithful, firm, loyal, stable, steady, sure, true, unchanging, unflinching, unshaken, unwavering, unyielding, wholehearted] spirit in me! I do not want to give in to the temptation to just give up seeking Him.

Verse 11:
* Beg Him to keep allowing me access to His presence and His Spirit. It shows how much I value those things in my life.

Verse 12:
* Seek out the joy of my salvation. I need to remember where He has brought me from, what He has delivered me from and all the gifts He has given me! Sometimes this becomes real clear when you get around some new believers, as we were last night at a Teen Challenge banquet. There was something about being around a crowd of men and women who had recently been delivered from their sin and addictions, that brought my own salvation into perspective and made it that much sweeter to me.

Verse 13:
* Start reaching out. Get involved in the lives of others and start sharing the Gospel in tangible ways. This is often one of the quickest ways God leads me out of my wilderness times. Allowing myself to be used by Him has the ability to pull me out of my self-absorption and reminds me whose servant I am. Sometimes this is hard simply because I am feeling weak and thirsty. But this is also when God starts to fill me to be used for His purposes.

Verses 14 & 15:
* Praise God for the things His Word says are true, whether or not I can see them at the time. (Exercise that faith muscle of mine that is so puny.)

Verse 16 & 17:
* Realize while my sacrifices of time in the Word and in prayer are things that bring me closer to God, what God truly desires is my heart. I need to evaluate if there is any area of my heart (or life) I am holding back from God. Sometimes even though I am going through all the right motions, there is something so personal, so vulnerable, that I don't completely trust even God with it. I can kind of hold it close in my arms instead of opening up completely to God. I have to remember, even if I feel God disappoints me by not giving me all I desire in an area of my life, that brokenness of spirit and heart God will not despise. I have recognized Him in His rightful place by trusting Him with it and He will honor that.

If you are giving God everything you have and still feel dry and lifeless, hold on! God will reveal His face to you again. Don't give in to the temptation to give up. God's love for us is real, and our suffering is never wasted. In your waiting, cling to His promises and know His words are truth. You will be stronger for it in the end.

"Here is the opportunity offered. Be patient. Wait on the Lord for whatever He appoints, wait quietly, wait trustingly. He holds every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year in His hands. Thank Him in advance for what the future holds, for He is already there. "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup" (Psalm 16:5). Shall we not gladly say, "I'll take it, Lord! YES! I'll trust you for everything. Bless the Lord, O my soul!" ~ Elisabeth Elliot

Friday, September 26, 2008

To Love From the Inside Out





A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Chorus:
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
In my heart, in my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise


OK, the real reason I love this song is the first line, "A million times I fail still your mercy remains." Yep. That's my song. I'm completely indebted to the mercy and grace that allows me to move past my mistakes. For example, yesterday I was sharing something I should not have been and even as I was saying it I was thinking to myself "Stop talking!" It was as if I was in slow motion and couldn't stop the words from escaping my lips and jumping to their death. That's why I'm glad God's mercies are new every morning. Today is a new day. With a new chance to make God proud.

But it's the "inside out" part of this song that recently caught hold of my heart. What we choose to do on the outside, is a direct result of what is going on inside. I alluded to this in a recent post. I want to love God from a desire in my heart, not because being a Christian obligates me. I want to honor God with my life because it brings us closer, not because it's "the right thing to do."

I walked with the Lord a long time before I understood the difference between doing something to fulfill the role of a good believer, and doing something because I desired to stay near to God. If you've read any of my blog, I'm sure you're aware that we lost our son when I was 12 weeks pregnant. Before that experience, I would say my walk with the Lord was lacking. I wanted to be closer to Him. I did most of the right things outwardly, but I wasn't actively seeking. Honestly, I found it hard to fit Him into my day.

After the trauma of losing our baby, my perspective changed. Suddenly and drastically. God was no longer just Someone to call up when it was useful, I needed Him - every minute, every hour, every day. Spending time with Him was no longer based on convenience, it was necessity. There was no other option.

The natural outcome of this utter dependence is a desire to clear out anything in my life that keeps me from getting closer to Him. Not because anyone said it was bad. Not because I felt convicted in a sermon. But because after I've been surrounded by God's love and comfort, it is hard to spend time on trivial things. I'm talking about things that aren't bad, but they don't hold any real value because they don't bring me any closer to Him.

I didn't make a conscious decision, I just lost my taste for those kids of things. For me personally, it was entertainment/news shows, internet "window shopping," People magazine (unless Sarah Palin is on the cover and then I'm still interested). It is probably something else in your life.

I feel like I have been finally freed up. For the first time, my actions are based on a true love, a real desire to have closeness with my Father God, rather than performing to seek His approval so that I would have His blessing over my life.

These changes started on the inside and manifested on the outside. I've been consumed from the inside out. And that's where my praise comes from today.


For more songs that inspire, visit Amy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Delicious Autumn

This gorgeous image came from Lori at All You Have to Give,
who creates the most beautiful Word Pictures.

I am thankful for the changes Autumn brings. This is my absolute favorite time of the year. The brisk mornings and evenings, the abundant harvests, the smell of cinnamon and spice, trips to the apple farm and pumpkin patch, the warmth of a hot cup of tea or pumpkin spice latte, the coziness of sweaters and jeans, the relief from the desert heat!

And my favorite, the changing of the leaves. A sure sign that one season is ending and a new one beginning. It's then I realize the creativity of our Maker and it inspires me to delight in my own creative gifts.

Blessings,


Today Iris was thankful for Change. What are you thankful for? For more words of inspiration visit her at Sting My Heart....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Season of Waiting



If my life was divided into seasons, this one would be called Waiting. God has been teaching me layer upon layer of lessons in this area.

My sister posted this picture recently of my newest nephew, Evan. The verse is a most accurate, beautiful picture of this season of my life.
WFW credit to Elizabeth.


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For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Amy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Words of My Mouth

It's time for our Monday gathering At the Well. Join me and the other ladies, as we conversate about the significance of our chit chat. Laurie Ann has a jam packed post about our words. It's well worth a visit.

Our Hostess: Laurie Ann at A Magnolia's Heartbeat

Today's Topic: What We Speak


Do the words you speak reflect your reverence for Christ?


The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
Prov 18:21
"Ho-eee Caaah-ow." My husband and I stopped in our tracks. Slowly our eyes met, our minds thinking in complete unison, There's no way. We both turned to see Madeline, all of 20 months, looking up at us with a little grin and expectant expression. Holy Cow? And used in context no less.

That's the beauty of kids. Of everything she's heard come out of our mouths, all the prayers, all the Bible stories, all the kind words, those 2 little words are what she tuned into! Some things just don't seem natural rolling off the inexperienced tongue of a 1 year old.

We went through the same thing with Olivia last year, granted she was already three, when she decided to make her most popular phrase "Oh My Gosh" -- without the /sh/ at the end. This sounded way too much like using God's name frivolously. Which led to the complete banning of this phrase in our house, plus a handful of others, much to our chagrin, as now she often corrects others with a compassionate, "Mr. So and So, we don't say gosh. It's not nice." (or dang it or crap or stupid or...)

In reality, they both learned their words from me! There's nothing like seeing your kids do a spontaneous impression of you, to show you the truth of how something really sounds or looks. * Flashback Alert * A favorite Olivia memory of mine took place when she was about 2. We were watching Women's figure skating and not surprisingly Troy opted out to leave us alone for some girl time. I glanced over to find Olivia stripped down to her diaper and meticulously placing kleenex on the floor. Full of wonder, I asked what she was doing. And as she carefully stepped onto her kleenex, in all seriousness she replied back, "I am skating." So I asked, Well why did you have to take your clothes off? She explained, "So I would look like them." I looked back at the TV to which she was pointing, and wouldn't you know it, that was how it really looked. * But I digress.

My point is that watching someone "do as you do" can sometimes be a reflection you just weren't ready to see. My girls have shown me that while "stupid, dang it and Holy Cow" may be the preferred substitutes for worse words, they certainly aren't the words that make God smile in delight with me.

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Laurie Ann's question is relevant, Do the words I speak reflect reverence for Christ? To be certain, I had the bright idea of looking up the origin of the expression, "Holy Cow!" I was hoping to read something rather unsubstantial that might get me off the hook. That's not what I found.

Wikipedia sites 3 possible origins for this phrase: "Holy cow!" is an exclamation of surprise. It is widely believed to have stemmed from the Hindu belief of reincarnation. (Travelers commonly shout the expression as to not hit one of these "reincarnated creatures" while driving.) While others derive the origins back to the story from Exodus of the golden calf or the "Holy Cow." Worst of all, the Dictionary of American Slang (1960) states it may even be a euphemism for "Holy Christ!"

Suffice it to say, there are no redeeming qualities in the exclamation Holy Cow. And since it apparently pays homage to either Hinduism, idolatry, or misusing God's name, it will without doubt be joining the forbidden list in our house, along with all the others: "Mommy, we don't say...."

Would you consider your speech to be self-controlled and pure?

Our hostess brings up the story from Luke 6:43-45:
“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart."

I wasn't sure what a bramble bush was, but I was certain I didn't want my words to be characterized as brambles. Just to be sure, I looked up bramble bush - any of various rough thorny shrubs or vines. A good heart can't produce thorny words.

This is how it works. When my heart is close to God's heart because I've been spending time in His word and in His presence, my words are self-controlled and pure. When my heart is not close to God, my words are not controlled, often from a lack of patience (or sometimes sleep), then they come out louder, meaner and thornier than I ever intended.

I want what I say to be self-controlled, because the Bible has some harsh things to say if it is not! James 1:26, "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless." I can DO everything I know to try to live a life that honors God, but if I don't control what I SAY, it will all be worthless. That's true because my words show the real state of my heart. Ouch.

There is a lot to be said for putting a little filter between my lips. What would change in my life if I took just a short moment to assess if the words about to leave my mouth would be better spoken, or best left unsaid? God's Word encourages us,
Understand this, my beloved brethren.
Let every man be quick to hear
[a ready listener],
slow to speak,
slow to take offense and to get angry.
James 1:19
How would it affect my husband if I took 30 seconds to let his words get past my ears before I had a quick response ready on my tongue? How would it affect my children if I took 30 seconds to let my anger subside before I started my discipline? How would it affect my friendships, if I took less than 30 seconds to think about what I am getting ready to share and if it would uplift her or not? How would life change for everybody if I just slowed down a bit?

Not only must my words be pure by filtering out anything thorny, they must also be pure by being authentic. When you have known God for some time, you become familiar with the kind of things that should be coming out of your mouth and the kind of things that shouldn't. Sometimes I am tempted to talk one way at church, and another way altogether at home. Anyone hear me on this one? There is a temptation to say the right things with your mouth but think something else in your heart.

The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.
Isaiah 29:13
I recently attended a video conference where Beth Moore was teaching. She pointed out that sometimes we go to church, we participate and even sing the songs of worship, but we hold our hearts back from God...this is not whole-hearted obedience. Maybe it's because we think God has disappointed us, and now we don't feel we can trust Him with all of our heart. Maybe we are fed up with all He has allowed in our life and decide to hold our heart back until things get a little easier. In either case, God knows the truth of the matter and knows this is not real worship.

As we wrap up around The Well, we are hit with one final question, "Do you find gossip and slander hard or easy to avoid?"

For the most part, I try to be conscious of talking negatively about others but I admit that I find myself having a hard time discerning what is gossip and what is just talking about life, especially with my close friends. I don't intend to be hurtful to anyone. But that line isn't always visible to me, even when I'm looking for it, and I'm afraid I cross it without realizing the dangerous territory I am walking into. Laurie Ann helped clarify, "Regarding gossip, what I'm working on is my motive for sharing. There are things that I do need to share and I run it through the self-control and purity checkpoint first, to see if it's just an utterance or something I really need to talk about and get feedback on." Back to that filter...I figure if I can consider it to be uplifting, I can probably determine it is not gossip. Does what I'm saying bring God glory in my life? If not, it might be best left unsaid.

Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18
My prayer today is to have a wise tongue that brings healing, in my family, in my marriage, in my relationships. Lord, create in me a heart that is pure so the words that come out are controlled and pleasing to You. Show me where I need to "bridle my tongue" so that my walk with you can be honest. Give me the strength to keep me from uttering reckless, piercing words. In Jesus' Name.