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

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.


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.


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.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I am His and He is Mine

The words to this song are so rich, and so powerful, I don't have much to add. It doesn't matter where you are in your journey, this song seemingly has something for everyone.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

For more songs that inspire, visit Amy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


It's that time again -- Thankful Thursday has rolled around. I've been waiting for today because I am passionate about my subject and only hope I can do her justice.

I am thankful for my sister and her family. They have not always lived nearby and I value this time we have together. I know it may not last forever, and I view it as a treasure.

I am grateful for our friendship. It runs deep and is true. We share a love of Jesus, family, God's Word, ministry, sewing, healthy living, and photography. When you have this much in common, it doesn't require much 'work' to be friends. Oh! I forgot to include phones. Our young families don't leave us much time to actually get together, and when we do there aren't many quiet moments to actually talk, so we communicate more hours on the phone than I care to admit. (Good thing we can both multi-task.)

This is my favorite recent picture of Elizabeth with baby Evan.

I am always amazed that whenever I am in crisis, she speaks to me through my self-appointed love language - food! She calls on her amazing chef to whip us up something fantasical and leaves it in our freezer.

I am indebted to her memories of childhood (as mine seem to be fading). She reminds me that a good mother knows how to give Eskimo kisses and sing This is a Story About Sammy.

This is us on a missions trip together in Russia (15 years ago!)

I am always impressed with what a great aunt she is. She really loves my kids like they are her own. My girls adore the boy cousins, and I love how often they get to be together.

I am thankful that she can put up with my different moods and often help me out of one. She doesn't hold grudges, or use petty things to stir up controversy. She listens to all I have to say and knows me better than almost anybody. She epitomizes Romans 12:15, "Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep." When we miscarried our baby boy, she cried over the phone with me -- the best consolation she could have given me. As I said, she loves my kids as her own.

"After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself."
~ 1 Samuel 18:1-3

Today I am thankful for my little sister and tomorrow is her birthday - Happy Early Birthday, Elizabeth!


For more encouraging words of thanks, stop by and visit Iris at Sting My Heart.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The "Art" of a Child

Proverbs 3:1-4

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.

Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

This was Madeline's imaginative idea of how to use the stickers she found in Olivia's secret stash. For Olivia, it was unacceptable! Until 2 minutes later when it was brilliant. For me, it was a real-life object lesson. My mind immediately went to this verse about writing God's law on my heart.

Lately I've needed more than just God's Word in my hands, on my mind or even in memory. I've needed it deep within my heart so I could rely on it when times got rough.

You know how sometimes we know something in our heads, something as simple as "God will always take care of me." But life happens, and it's in those times that even simple truths run into a little bit of trouble making their way from our brains down to our hearts. You know that place.....where thoughts collide with emotions. The place that often succumbs to worry, fear or discouragement in spite of what we know to be true.

I need God's word to penetrate my heart in a way that overcomes my fears. In an absolutely real way, that takes away my feelings of being overwhelmed. In the way that instills in my very being WHO God is and WHAT He is capable of doing.

So in times like these, when life is not all smooth sailing, and the seas are more than just a little choppy, my prayer will be that the Holy Spirit would write God's truths on my heart in permanent marker (or as they say in California, with a sharpie). That those truths would be forever imprinted there and not even the storms of life will be able to wash them away.

Visit The 160 Acre Woods for more inspiring Word-Filled Wednesdays!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are You a Utensil?

Today's Topic: "Purity - Being Set Apart from the World"

Today's Host: Tracy @ Thirsty for Him

For more thoughts on purity, head over to Tracy's blog. She had some great things for us to think about.

"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

Titus 2 calls us "to be self-controlled and pure." Tracy poses some practical questions about our call to teach younger women about purity.

How do we teach the next generation (both our daughters and other young Christian women) how to live a life of purity without falling into legalistic rules, or slipping into a worldly mindset that teeters on impurity?

How do we live as Jesus said: "in the world without being of the world?"

How is the word of God "shamed" when we aren't living in purity?

When I moved to California I was single and pre-kids. I observed a marked difference in the values exhibited by the kids here from those back in the midwest. (In all fairness, I did come from a fairly sheltered environment -- the Bible Belt, so to speak. ) The children around me here were more savvy- they talked differently, dressed differently, and those were just my Kindergarten students! Things that were often done in secrecy in the midwest, were common, everyday behaviors here. I knew that someday when I was blessed with kids of my own, it was going to be a challenge raising them with godly standards so different from those around them.

Tracy's question to us about the responsibility of teaching a life of purity without relying on legalistic rules and without giving in to a wordly posture, plagued me from the day my daughters were born. Simply teaching them the right ways to behave, by following the "rules," didn't seem like it would be incentive enough. There is so much negative pressure in our culture, how were we going to successfully impart the values needed to have the strength to go against the flow and live a life pure in heart?

I was unsure, so I began a true quest for wisdom. If I saw a family with teenage girls who were confident in their walk with the Lord and didn't care about what others' thought (I'm thinking of our sitters), I would ask their parents what they did to instill those valuable life lessons. I sought out godly counsel and learned priceless lessons from the mistakes of those who had gone before me. I also devoured books on godly parenting. Now, I don't believe any one book has all the answers, or has it all figured out, but I've been able to find treasures of truth that we can implement in our parenting.

One of these books was suggested to me by a dear friend who has the same young mother's heart as my own, Colleen. "Parenting is Heart Work" by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. The premise was that as parents we are sometimes too quick to correct or discipline and we miss the chance to connect with the our kids hearts.

My husband and I identified with this idea. We knew legalistic rules were not enough. We didn't want to just teach the girls information, we wanted to mold their hearts. We wanted to integrate facts into their life through their hearts. Matthew 5:8 says "Blessed are the pure in heart." This is much more profound than simply watching my girls for the appropriate outward behaviors. It needed to come from within!

The book put it this way, "It's one thing to teach children's minds and a completely different thing to teach their hearts. We all know having information in our heads doesn't automatically enable us to apply it. Facts appear in our heads; beliefs appear in our hearts. Beliefs then feed commitments and result in behavior."

We want our girls to have an inner motivation to do what is right....not just try to do the "right" things to please their parents. After this realization, came the next big question. "How in the world do we inspire inner motivation?" Timothy 3:16 tells us that Scripture is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." We don't just want to use Scripture to point out when our children are doing something wrong, we want to use it to reach deep within their hearts and enable them to do what is right.

This is how we will teach our girls about purity. The word pure in this context means free from defilement and not contaminated (by the world), modest and pure from carnality. Interestingly, the definition of carnality is "preoccupation with the body and satisfaction of its desires." What teenage girl today doesn't go through the struggle of being preoccupied with her body and the world's image of a woman? But purity even encompasses so much more than just what we do with the's the inside that concerns me!

The same word for pure in Titus 2 is the same word that is used in Phillipians 4:8. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

This "training the younger women to live wisely and be pure" was shaping up to be a big responsibility! That's why it was such a relief when I realized it was not my job to instill those values in my girls lives. It is God's job and I am to simply point them to Him. Through Scripture, through teachable moments, through my example. It's GOD in them that will enable them to live in purity. How much better to have the truth of Phillipians 4:8 growing deep in their spirits, than me telling them all the things they can and can't do. What freedom from the self-condemnation that comes from trying to live a life that follows all the rules perfectly. How much better to be motivated by our love for God and a desire to be close to Him.

This doesn't mean we won't be specific in our instruction. We will discuss the kind of friends our girls choose, by focusing on verses that talk about the benefits of keeping godly company and how that is encouraging to us in pursuing purity. When it's age appropriate we will have discussions about Scriptures that specifically talk about a woman's responsiblity to be modest. We've already had discussions with Olivia (she's 4) about what makes God happy and how certain entertainment should not have a place in our house because it will make His heart sad. The difference in our specifics, is that we will appeal to their heart.

The Word of God is shamed when we choose not to live a life of purity because it loses it's power in us. Tracy shared this verse and I just love it! 2 Tim 2:21 ~ If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. If we choose not to keep ourselves pure, we give up that opportunity for God to use us for His good works.

This was a stimulating thought for me today, not just in the context of teaching my girls, but in my own life. I am often tempted make choices with the motivation of obligation, "because that is what the Bible says is the right thing to do." It is much more inspirational to remember if I make a choice that is God-honoring, I instantly become available for Him to use.

Lord, make me a special utensil available for Your use. Guide me and teach me how to keep myself pure, so that You can use me to teach my children to live a life that honors You. It is a huge responsibility, and I don't take it lightly. I look forward to the challenge You have set before me. Give me a teachable spirit so that I can grow even closer to You.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A good report

We're back and we come bearing good news! We arrived home from our vacation and took the girls to the doctor Thursday. They had the results from the Oregon culture and Madeline does not have MRSA or anything else; her culture grew absolutely nothing! Praise God!

The doctors in Oregon told us Madeline would have MRSA for life. I learned a little more about antibiotic resistant staph (MRSA) at this appointment. Apparently that only happens once it gets in your bloodstream, and then it is potentially fatal. Madeline's infection was superficial, so she will not have it for the rest of her life. There was a risk of it getting in her blood because she had open, bleeding sores. Thank God, this did not happen. And there would have been a greater risk if this medication didn't work and she had to have IV drugs in the hospital, because she would have had a direct opening in her skin to her bloodstream. Again, thanking God for His protection.

Olivia needed a second culture to be certain her infection was gone. There was nothing on the skin to culture, so they just cultured in her nose even though her last nose culture came back negative. We will continue to keep the girls away from the public until we get her results back, but we believe there is a good chance we will get a call saying she is good to go sometime this week.

Troy is the last to finish his antibiotics and then he will need a new culture. It's still important for him to not spread it, because we also learned the type of staph he has can mutate when it's spread to someone else. So it could be minimal for him, but mutate into MRSA for Madeline.

The doctor said there is no more risk for future infection for us than anyone else. Some of her suggestions for not getting infected again were clean shopping carts off before using, continue using special soap and remove our shoes before walking in our house.

It wasn't all good news for Madeline. The other rash that had appeared on her leg, calf and cheeks is apparently eczema - and a bad case of it. After a few days of treatments, the eczema rash has stopped spreading and seems to be starting to go away. The eczema is a good indication that she has developed an allergy to some food she wasn't previously allergic to -- and is a new allergic symptom for Madeline. We were told to have her tested again for all food allergies. Madeline has a short list of about only 25 foods that she can eat, so it's discouraging to hear that she night have to lose one of those few foods.

Although this might seem like another set back, we are praising God for the first miracle and praying for another. We will be going in Monday night to have allergy testing, for those of you who will continue to pray for her. We are so grateful for the kind words of encouragement you've sent our way. We are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I realized as I wrote tonight that many of you have never even met Madeline and might enjoy a recent picture. Here is one from our vacation in Oregon.

A couple weeks ago, I found this verse and have daily prayed it over Madeline.

"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."

At the same time, I was visiting LauraLee's blog and she had posted this song with the same verse. It has been resonating in my heart ever since. I knew exactly when I would share it with you - it was when we got the good report. So here it is - enjoy!

For more songs that inspire, visit Amy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thanks for the prayers!

I wasn't sure how to update everyone on our MRSA ordeal, because the situation seems to change everyday, if not many times a day. I decided to just share what has happened so far.

Madeline finished her MRSA antibiotics Sunday. Upon completing them, her bottom broke out in a nasty rash that bleeds when wiped. She also had a new rash spreading up her leg and eventually her torso and face. Our original plan was to wait until we got back from vacation to get her second culture done, but we decided to get it done at the recommended 14 days (Thursday) because of the intensity of the rash. So we left our campground and headed to an Urgent Care in town. That culture will come back next week.

The doctor in Oregon told us once Madeline has MRSA, she will always have it. This is a new piece of information to us and is an example of what has frustrated us all along. We don't feel that we've gotten all the facts, and the ones we do get seem to come in bits and pieces. Then we are left on our own to figure out what is fact and what is not, since different doctors are telling us different things.

We did not get to go on our houseboat vacation. Instead, we decided last minute to pack up the RV and head to the sand dunes in Oregon. We are pretty self-contained and won't risk spreading the infection here. We also have access to a washing machine to keep things sterilized. The fact that a major part broke on the RV, only serves to extend our family vacation, as it won't arrive until next Tuesday.

Olivia's culture came back as regular staph, not MRSA. This was a huge answer to prayer. They told us to stop antibiotics, which we did that night. The next morning, her bottom broke out with huge sores and a rash. We decided to continue the antibiotics through the rest of the course and she finished up yesterday. She has had no other mysterious rashes or breakouts since. She even ran into a wall and opened up the skin above, around and below her eye. This healed up and did not get infected! We will have her new culture done in a few days to see if she is clear.

Two days ago, we found out Troy's culture came back positive as a "carrier" for staph. His parents also had cultures done, since they had been around the girls, and Oma came back positive as well. Apparently, approximately 1/3 of the population is a staph carrier (it lives in their nose and under fingernails). This is not usually an issue, unless someone in the household is fighting MRSA. So we picked up some antibiotics for Troy while we were in town yesterday as well. And Oma has already been on them a few days. This means Troy cannot help change Madeline's diapers or administer ointments or creams until he finishes his medication, as he could reinfect her. He's secretly enjoying this, but doesn't dare say it out loud. ;) Ideally, they would have recommended the culture earlier, so he could have been finished with his medications close to the same time Madeline was done.

Somehow, I ended up being the only one not infected with something. Which doesn't make sense, since I am the one touching and cleaning everything. We praise God that I haven't been infected yet!

We are still keeping ourselves away from people, as the doctors have recommended, so this nasty infection won't spread any further. But we have been blessed to visit with some good friends this week, Cassie and Gunnar, who live in Oregon. They are even heading out this weekend to ride and visit with us (and probably encourage us more than they realize). They will be staying in their cozy 2 person tent, as opposed to our infected RV. The girls couldn't be more excited to have them as company -- we are on a daily countdown.

Many of you have asked how the girls are doing...if you could have seen them this morning throwing themselves down the side of a sand dune, rolling to the bottom, you would never have known anything was wrong. You don't realize there's a problem until it's time for a diaper change. The dirty diapers and wiping are very painful. Other than that, they are full of energy and generally happy. This is a HUGE blessing for Troy and I.

That's the scoop so far. We continue to be humbled and amazed by the stories of people who have committed to cover our family in prayer. Specifically, we still need prayer:
that we won't reinfect each other,
that Troy and Olivia's second cultures come back clean,
that Madeline's culture comes back as something besides MRSA, or better yet - clean!
that we stay encouraged until we can join back in with the rest of the world,
and for continued guidance for us as parents to know what to do, when to do it and who to seek medical advice from.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mercy and Grace

It's been a week since I last posted and oh what a week it's been. I love Thankful Thursdays, because it makes me stop and focus on God's amazing-ness.

This week I am thankful for God's mercy on me that is new each and everyday. And for His patience with me that allows me to grow a little more everyday.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.

So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

Lamentations 3:22-26

Each day this week I have needed His mercy and forgiveness for allowing myself to get overwhelmed or impatient or grumpy in my situation. And the fact that we have a "situation" is not an excuse! The Bible instructs me to wait quietly.....not child-like.

Today I was thinking, wouldn't it be nice if I could be one of those classy women who was the epitomy of "grace under pressure." You know the one -- smart suit, smooth, flawless hair, peaceful smile and not a feather ruffled even though her world is crashing down around her.

Ernest Hemingway said, "Courage is grace under pressure." When the time comes to face a problem, I want to appear graceful, but the Lord kept whispering to me today to lean into His grace instead of being concerned with my appearance.

I kept wondering, what does that mean? I lean upon the Lord all the time, but what would it mean to draw strength from His grace? So I looked up these definitions (gotta love Wikipedia):

* Grace is enabling power sufficient for progression.

* Grace divine is an indispensable gift from God for development, improvement, and character expansion.

* Without God's grace, there are certain limitations, weaknesses, flaws, impurities, and faults (i.e. carnality) humankind cannot overcome. Therefore, it is necessary to increase in God's grace for added perfection, completeness, and flawlessness.

Well, if complaining, impatience and grumpiness aren't considered for "development, improvement and character expansion" I don't know what is. It's clear that God was asking me to tap into His grace so I could grow up a little.

Seeing as it was just getting meaty, I decided to look up the Greek meaning of the word for grace, charis. And it seemed to tie up my thanks today for God's mercy and His call for me to grace in a concise little package.

Grace (charis) - That which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness (....sounds like that courageous woman of grace I referred to earlier). Also favour of the merciful kindness by which God turns us to Christ and keeps, strengthens and increases us in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles us to the exercise of the Christian virtues (sounds like my Thursday thanks).

** I know many of you are waiting on an update regarding our family's health, but I need some time to let this soak into my heart a little longer. We still need your prayers! Seeing as how we are on a family vacation, I will write to you the next chance I get to sneak away to our laptop. **


Stop by and visit Iris for more words of thanks....