Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year Meditations at Laurel Wreath's Site!

Two years ago Laurel Wreath hosted a lovely time of posting our New Year Meditations. It was one of the highlights of my new year and something that I look forward to continuing. This year she is back again! Here is her invitation. I hope you will join me here the first week of 2009 as well as joining her at her site to get 2009 off to a great start of what we dream God will do in our lives.


Photobucket


Who: Everyone is invited

What: I would like you to post on your site about your hopes, dreams, and goals for the next year. What would you like to see God do in your life? How would you like to see Him move in things? Make this as general or as personal as you feel comfortable. What are your goals for next year? I am not looking for the “lose 10 lbs this year” answer, something a little bit deeper. When you look back to December 2009 where would you like to be?

When: Come back the first week of January 2009 (January 1 through 5th).

Where: I will put up a Mr. Linky beginning January 1st through 7th 2009, so you can link back to your blog post (not just your blog). I am not really one to make “New Year Resolutions” (in fact I dislike them), if I make them I break them. But I am one to think about what my dreams and desires are at the time, and see where the Lord leads me. Sometimes it is exciting because the Lord has so much more in mind, sometimes it proves to be a difficult year because He had a lot to teach me. Either way it is exciting to follow God’s leading and plan for my life. How about you?

Feel fee to grab the graphic and include it on your blog.I’m looking forward to seeing who will take me up on this challenge!

As an extra incentive, anyone who participates and advertises “New Year’s Meditations” on their blog I will be sending one lucky participant a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com. I’ll do a random drawing from the names of everyone who does a post and leaves their link here (beginning Jan. 1st) via Mr. Linky

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Christmas!!

Sorry not to get this posted until Boxing Day, but there were

Photobucket
princesses to celebrate with


Photobucket
and gators to ride.



We are having a magical Christmas. Hope you are as well. See you in the New Year!
Photobucket

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In Other Words-- Re-visiting Favorite Quotes

You may have stumbled over here today in search of Tuesday's In Other Words. For the next two weeks we are doing something a little different. Loni, our coordinator extraordinaire, has given the hostesses two weeks off. Instead she has asked us to:

share what your favorite quotes were or a specific post shared by a hostess that touched you, encouraged you, etc.

I have been participating in In Other Words since I began blogging, so I have almost three years worth of material to use. There are many posts from others which have touched me in spectacular ways. I don't know where to even begin with that. So, instead, I decided to repost one of my previous posts (from October 31,2006) that still gets an amazing response. Apparently it spoke to some of you out there. Perhaps, it will again.

One more thing, Loni's 12 year old daughter has had heart surgery this week and is currently in hospital recovering. Please keep Loni and her family in your prayers during this time. Have a blessed day! You can go here to see what others are re-visiting today.


"Like the proud mother who is thrilled to receive a wilted bouquet of dandelions from her child, so God celebrates our feeble expressions of gratitude."
~ Richard Foster~


She was four years old.

She was at granddad's house.

He had a brand new car.

She had a nail.

And she scratched her name on the back of the car.

She ran to show granddad her act of love.

Her parent's freaked out.

But granddad swept her up in his arms and hugged her and exclaimed, "she's four years old and she can write her name."

He didn't see it as destruction---he saw it as love and accepted it as such.

This story was told at my grandfather's funeral in 1996. I was 28 years old. After the service, my great aunt came to me and said, "we still have that car." My grandfather had given her to car to use twenty years before but it was always a "loan." She was not to sell it. Twenty-four years my grandfather kept that bouquet of dandelions. Twenty-four years kept that signature. Twenty-four years.

And so it is with God. He stores up our bouquets of love and cherishes them. He chooses to forget our sins and he chooses to keep the love. Go offer Him some love expression today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Other Words--Just Obey

Photobucket

“You’ve stood where Joseph stood. Caught between what God says and what makes sense. You’ve done what he told you to do only to wonder if it was him speaking in the first place.” … “If you are asking what Joseph asked, let me urge you to do what Joseph did. Obey. That’s what he did. He obeyed. He obeyed when the angel called. He obeyed when Mary explained. He obeyed when God sent.”

Max Lucado from “Joseph’s Prayer” in The Heart of Christmas


Joseph is my favorite person in the Christmas narrative. To me, he represents the one who was called upon to exercise the most faith. I realize that all of the characters exercised faith, but Joseph's call was the most "unverifiable."

Mary not only knew that an angel had come, but she also knew that she really and truly had never been with a man. Yet she could feel the baby kicking in her womb. She had confirmation of the life growing and an absolutely clear conscience.

But Joseph... Joseph too had an encounter with an angel. But it was in a dream and maybe he was tempted to say his mind was playing tricks on him. He could see Mary growing "great with child" and he wanted to believe her, but it would have been so easy for him to doubt. After all, this had never happened before and could he be absolutely certain she had been faithful? I'm certain the villagers were of no help either. Shaking their heads and whispering "poor Joseph" behind his back or even more brazenly asking why he didn't "do something" about that bride-to-be of his. It would have been much to take.

But Scripture tells us that Joseph was a "good" man and he wanted to do what is right. He believed the angel and he acted in an upright manner. In other words, he demonstrated tremendous faith in action. In those few sentences of Scripture saying that he took Mary as his wife we find tremendous obedience. It would not be the last time he was asked to obey quickly when an angel came. His obedience to the next angel preserved the baby Jesus' life as they escaped to Egypt. In what seemed like impossible circumstances, Joseph simply chose to obey.

What about us? We rarely get visits from angels, but we do "hear" calls from God to take action. Sometimes they just don't make sense. Nearly three years ago, we began to understand that God was leading German to leave the company where he had worked almost nineteen years and "trust God" for the next job. It made no sense. You don't leave a reliable job, in a foreign-to-your-birth country without another job lined up. But we were certain that was the call. Via German's leadership, we obeyed. He resigned. He interviewed for a job and we were certain God was still leading. He worked out his six week's resignation, ending his career with that company on May 31. He started his new job on June 1! God was absolutely faithful! The leap from "obey" to "reward" seemed like an eternity; yet, we never missed a paycheck. Furthermore, the economy led to major changes in his previous company that would most likely have been devastating to us. God protected us from the future, but we were required to obey even when it made no sense and many people around us doubted that God would have asked us to do something so "risky."

Many of the times God asks us to obey when it does not make sense are not huge decisions. They are the simple decisions we make everyday that set us apart from the rest of society. He asks us to step out, to live differently, and to trust Him. If you believe God is leading, do what Joseph did....obey. The big picture may not come into focus immediately, but never doubt that God sees the big picture. Even if it doesn't make sense, even when you begin to hear voices that say "God wouldn't ask that," even when it gets difficult, just obey. The reward comes from obedience.

"If you love me, you will obey what I command."
~John 14:15~


Thank you for joining us this week for In Other Words! Please write your own reflection on today's quote, and then return and post your link so we can come visit you! God Bless you today and throughout this Holy Season!

Monday, December 15, 2008

In Other Words Host

Photobucket

It is my turn to host "In Other Words" tomorrow and I've chosen the following quote by Max Lucado. Please reflect on the quote, write your own reflections and then come back tomorrow to post a link to your post. I can't wait to see what God is saying through you all!

“You’ve stood where Joseph stood. Caught between what God says and what makes sense. You’ve done what he told you to do only to wonder if it was him speaking in the first place.” … “If you are asking what Joseph asked, let me urge you to do what Joseph did. Obey. That’s what he did. He obeyed. He obeyed when the angel called. He obeyed when Mary explained. He obeyed when God sent.”

Max Lucado from “Joseph’s Prayer” in The Heart of Christmas

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

In Other Words--Just a Bit More

Photobucket Photobucket


I love Dr. Seuss! Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was a brilliant scribe and a master of painting word pictures. Who could not enjoy the cadence of his writing or be bemused by his wonderfully zany animal creations? I love all the stories. But, the thing I love most about his writings is that they are filled with theology. Every writer understands that the words used tell the reader something about the author as well. He knew this. His writings tell us much about him, and about what he believed.

"A person's a person, no matter how small." Horton Hears a Who
"Thank goodness for all of the things you are not! Thank goodness you're not something someone forgot." Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
"Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!" Oh the Thinks You Can Think
"In the places I go there are things that I see that I never could spell if stopped with the Z. I'm telling you this 'cause you're one of my friends. My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends." On Beyond Zebra
"So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act." Oh The Places You'll Go

And then, of course, there is today's quote:
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn't come from a store.” “Maybe
Christmas...perhaps...means a ‘little bit’ more.”
~Dr. Seuss~
How the Grinch Stole Christmas


See the essence of the gospel story in the climax to this little story? The Grinch thought that he could kill the joy by taking the "stuff" away. No tree, no presents, no meal, no lights. NO STUFF.
But Christmas still came. Because Christmas is a state of the heart, not the wallet. No matter what LIE the retailers will tell us, you can't buy Christmas. And as the Grinch met the LOVE of Christmas, his heart grew to embrace the TRUTH of Christmas.

It is "a little bit more."
....A bit more time,
.......A bit more joy,
............A bit more consideration
................A lot more Saviour.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

~Luke 2:4-14


Praying you find "a bit more" this Christmas and well into 2009 as well!

Lori, at All You Have to Give, is our hostess this week. You will be touched by the story of why she chose this quote. Please come and be blessed.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

In Other Words---Love

Photobucket

"Remember this December, love weighs more than gold."
~Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon


The gifts were wrapped and under the tree. We kids were on the final countdown until Christmas Eve when we would get to open the majority of what was under the tree with my maternal grandparents.

Then, just a couple of days before Christmas, grandad's brother died. Unexpected. It sent things into a turmoil. His funeral was on Christmas Eve. I don't remember a lot about that day; I didn't really know this uncle well. We stayed with my paternal grandparents while Mom and Dad went to the funeral. They came home, collected us and whirled us back to our home for our normal Christmas Eve activities.

Only this year the activities were in an uproar. Mom was rearranging tags on gifts and wrapping gifts for unexpected guests. My great aunt and uncle were returning with my grandparents (my grandfather was one of 11 kids, so I had lots of aunts and uncles!). Mom took a gift out from under the tree from her best friend in the world. She and this friend always exchanged lovely gifts. She made the comment "Jo won't mind" and changed the tag to reflect my great aunt's name.

I don't remember any gifts we received that year. I don't remember if we had our traditional ham dinner, or if it was just sandwiches due to the circumstances. I have almost no memories of that night. Except for a great aunt, hundreds of miles from home who had just buried her brother, opening a lovely ornament that had been chosen for my mom and then lovingly sacrificed by mom. It is one of the most unselfish memories I have of my mom. And I cherish the memory.

Love truly does weigh more than gold....or any other material thing we have have.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
~Matthew 6:19-20~


Denise is our hostess this week. Join her at Shortybear's Place for more reflections on this quote. Have a wonderful week!

Marriage Monday---Refuge

1st Monday Every Month at Chrysalis
Want this button?


Marriage Monday (on a Tuesday), because yesterday was...well, a Monday.

This month's topic is "Sanctuary of Marriage" and I've been so excited about writing on the theme.

Sanctuary. The word conjures up feelings of warmth, safety, refuge, and peace. And those are words that we should be able to associate with our marriages. They should be places that we take refuge from the craziness of the world. It can be a cold, harsh environment out in the work place, or school, or playground or where ever you spend your time. But our marriages should provide a place of warmth.

A month ago, in speaking to my church, I said "My comfort zone is being with German when I am out of my comfort zone." That is my definition of the sanctuary my marriage to German provides. It does not matter how far out of our comfort zones we are called to walk, we are comfortable and safe because we are together.

Last Tuesday we celebrated our thirteenth anniversary. Prior to meeting German I had traveled a few miles into Mexico and a few miles into Canada and nowhere further afield. If you had told me I could find comfort in traveling the world, I would have laughed. It was something I wanted, but not something that I thought would be easy. But, German has shown me the world and except on one occasion (Egypt), I've never felt unsafe. And I felt the most unsafe there because German felt unsafe! He is my sanctuary. Being with him is safe. Being anywhere else is not a refuge, it is hard work and can be scary. I'm thankful that God has given me a place of refuge in my marriage. I pray that German can say the same. It is one of the greatest privileges I have, being his place of safety.

For other reflections on the topic of Sanctuary in Marriage, please visit Andrea at Embracing Him.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

Photobucket

God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Earth, display your exuberance!
You mark us with blessing, O God, our God.
You mark us with blessing, O God.
Earth's four corners—honor him!
~Psalm 67:5-7 (The Message)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Other Words---Thankfully or Resentfully?

Photobucket

"Thanksgiving begins with Thanks Living. Life is God's gift to you. What you do with your life is your gift to God."
~Anonymous~


Thanks Living.

I want to live a life of gratitude. Some days, I do it so well. Other days, I fail desperately. Most days, I have moments of both. Why the pendulum swings?

Thanks Living is a matter of perspective. It is keeping our mind's eye on the fact that everything (good, mediocre, not so great, simple, complex, desired or needed) comes to us by the allowance of God. He pours the blessings into our lives. He allows the difficulties to trickle in to strengthen us. He gives us the mundane tasks as well as the glamourous assignments. He is the giver of all things in our life. We must keep that in perspective. Then, and only then, can we live Thankfully.

I recently reviewed some of my old posts. One was addressed at the question of a friend's son. Do you live your life resentfully? That question still gives me pause.

Today, I want to live my life thankfully. I want to leave the resentment that tries to creep into my being behind. Today is a gift from God and I'm going to live like it is. How about you? Will you live resentfully or gratefully? The choice is all in your perspective.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:15-16


Have a blessed Thanksgiving week!

Today's hostess is Deborah at Chocolate and Coffee. Come, visit and be blessed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm Over Here Today

Mipa Homeschool
(click on this picture in the sidebar to connect to the other site)

Playing catch up on the homeschool site. Join me there!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Father of the Year?

My father has decided to give Jewel and Flower this for Christmas:
Photobucket


It has secured his place as a finalist for "Grandfather of the Year."

At the same time, it has negated his chances of winning "Father of the Year."

Please note, it comes unassembled.

Granddad is in Texas.

We are in England.

Who do you think will be assembling it?

Enough said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Other Words--Regrets

Photobucket

“And I don’t regret the rain,
And the nights I felt the pain,
And the tears I had to cry some
of those times along the way.
Every road I had to take,
Every time my heart would break -
It was just something that I had to get through
To get me to you…”

As sung by Lila McCann,
“To Get Me To You”
[Hope Floats Soundtrack]


Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. (Luke 17:11-24)



Do you think that the prodigal son regretted the nights that he spent in the pigpen? Do you think that deep down he realized that it was his own deliberate choices that landed him there? Do you think that he knew that it was a road that he did not really have to take?

Yeah. Me too. What's more, I can relate to him because of those regrets. There are messes that I have made in my life that were because I deliberately and willingly chose to go a way that was not God-pleasing. There are so many lessons I've learned that when I think about it I wish I hadn't chosen the hard way to learn them!

"Good" self-esteem tells us that we shouldn't have regrets. It says that the correct answer is something like "those hard times have made me who I am and I wouldn't change them because that would change me." There are most definitely circumstances in our life that we have no control over that God will use to mold us into His image. Infertility, illness, loss of jobs due to mass lay-offs, etc are times where we have no control. God will take those terribly difficult circumstances and draw us nearer Him and make us better ministers of His care. He draws us near Him in our pain. Those are not the things I'm talking about. I'm speaking of the times when we know the better way, and we choose the selfish. And because we choose the selfish, God takes the opportunity to discipline us back into His arms. Those are the things I regret, the lessons He had to teach me in the arms of discipline instead of walking in the path of obedience. But, you want to know the greatest thing about those regrets? Even those regrets are covered by God's grace. Just as the father was watching for his prodigal son, my Father welcomes His prodigal daughter home every single time. He tends to the scars of my selfishness and helps me inscribe the lesson on my heart. Then He forgives, and sends me out to try and help other wayward children find their way home. Even regrets are used in His kingdom. How amazing is that!

What do you regret? If it was of no choice of your own, let God draw you near and tend to your hurt. If the regret is because of your choices, run home and allow Him to refresh you in His grace. Either way, He is waiting for you.

Father God, thank you for always welcoming this wayward child home. Thank you for not wasting the lessons I have learned, but instead being faithful to allow me to minister to others on similar paths. Help me to choose the right paths and stay close to you in obedience. And when there are regrets, prick my heart to want to come home sooner. Because of the blood of Jesus......Amen.

Michelle is the hostess for In Other Words this week. Please join us for further discussion of the song lyrics above.

Friday, November 14, 2008

If This is Not Fear, Then What is It?

On Sunday, November 2, my family and I led the service at our church regarding our trip to Romania. Before the service began, I instructed the greeters to please seat the men to the left and the ladies to the right. After a little storm which occurred in my absence of checking on the food, they happily sat the men to the right and the ladies to the left. :-) This sat up part of my presentation to the church. I was tasked with speaking about whether we were afraid to go. The answer to that question is an emphatic NO. We were not afraid. We wanted to trust Jesus and follow His lead. But, that does not mean the trip was without anxiety. The following is part of what I said. This morning, I believe that there is someone out there that needs to be reminded that stretching of God and fear to move on are not the same thing. Hopefully, this will bless you. It comes out of my own lessons of the last few months.

Not being afraid, however, is not the same as not being out of my comfort zone. I was way out of my comfort zone. It took me out of my comfort zone long before we left and I stayed there through the entire trip. It may come as a surprise to you all, especially those of you who have had the pleasure of helping me get ready for today, but I have a few issues with control. [additional note: there was enormous laughter here, I really can't understand why this was so funny!] Tiny ones. But issues none the less. And anyone around me pre-vacation knows that my Type A, OCD monster emerges. I am fanatical about having a detailed list of everything that needs to go into the suitcase. The tickets are checked daily so I know where they are. The passports are physically touched a few thousand times before we leave the house and I check a dozen times in the car on the way to the airport to make sure they haven’t somehow gotten lost in transit. I need details, lots of details. I can’t tell you exactly what it looks like in the [trip organiser's] house before a trip, but I can tell you that it does not look like my house. He does not have a Type A, OCD monster that emerges. And that throws me totally out of my comfort zone. So far out, in fact that seven days before the trip I still did not know what time we were leaving! And four days before we left, I still did not know when we were coming back, and we were coming back without him! I was out of my comfort zone. Ask my prayer group. I was begging God for any details to quell my inner monster. German, of course, was saying “He has the details, its fine.” I trusted (sort of) that he had the details, but I needed to see them. But…before we even left God was taking me out of a comfort zone that provides what I want when I think I need it. There were lessons before we left. And I was excited to be going, even in the anxiety. Because I knew that God was leading us there. In all honesty, I began to understand long before we left for Romania that the real change that God wanted when he sent us there was going to happen in me.

Some of you are probably out of your comfort zone this morning. You are seeing a perspective of this church that you did not know existed. If you are a guest this morning, don’t worry, we don’t normally segregate men from women. But in Romania they do. What did that mean for me? My comfort zone is that I want to be with German when I am out of my comfort zone. And for all of these church services, I would not be able to be with him. Not only that, but it would fall to me to keep two little girls entertained and quiet ON THE FRONT ROW where everyone can see us for a 2-3 hour church service in a language that they cannot understand. Out of my comfort zone.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Trips like this one take us out of our comfort zone. Food, customs, expectations all stretched us out of our comfort zones. But God was totally faithful in supplying our needs. Through the rest of the presentation, German will show you the pictures and tell what we saw and what the needs are. And I hope that you will take that stuff to heart. The needs are real and whether we give, we pray or we go, God will use our faithfulness. But I want you to take one other thing away today as well. Last night at a concert several of us attended [Casting Crowns], the lead singer prayed that “the fear that has held the church would be removed.” I want today, at [our church name] Church, for us to say no to the fear that so often cripples the church. I want you to see that saying yes to God may lead you to face your discomfort but it is not scary. I want you to realize that being stretched by God is not the same thing as facing fear. I want you to see that he gave this family the grace to communicate beyond language, to encourage and to bring joy. I want you to see how he used those elderly, poverty-facing congregations to encourage us! I want when you walk away today, for you to have no excuse…you are not too young (He used Jewel and Flower to minister in even a mental hospital!), you are not too old (the elderly congregations ministered to us), you are not too shy, you are not too busy. You are not whatever else "it" is that you think you are that limits your ability to serve. You are a child of God that He loves and will equip for the tasks He gives you. I want you to believe that God enables when God leads. Because He does!


Have a blessed weekend. Live in His strength. Trust Him to guide. Don't let fear hold you back!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankful Thursday---Isn't God Good?





It's Thankful Thursday! I won't be doing a traditional list today, my heart is too full and explanations are needed. In fact, this was meant to be last week's post, but life, God and lessons got in the way, and He continued to add to these blessings. Today I am most thankful for the myriad of ways God speaks to us.

Last Saturday (the 1st) dawned with me expecting it to just be a looooong day. We were overcommitted and I was stressed. But God showed up, in a big way, all day. First, we were meeting at the church to do the meal preparation for Sunday (our Romanian presentation and meal). We were catering for 80. Lots of veg to chop, meat trays to make and sausages to cook. I figured if we had 2 helpers we might be able to finish by noon. God blessed us with three helpers and we did indeed finish at noon. The work was made light. The fellowship was amazingly sweet. Isn't God good to speak to us through friends in mundane tasks?

Saturday evening, sixteen of us got on the church mini-bus to travel 2 hours to a Casting Crowns concert. Believe me when I say, GOD SHOWED UP! First I had two hours to visit with my husband without children. Yay God! Then the concert itself just ministered. I took notes (at a concert a rocking-dancing-stay-on-your-feet type affair!). German took notes (truly, this was a concert not a conference). I was totally blessed. God added to my presentation for Sunday in a tangible way, and the fruit of that would be seen on Sunday. But mostly, we knew that we had been in the presence of God and He totally enjoyed our worship. Isn't God good to speak to us in our energetic offerings of worship?

We dropped into our beds at 1 AM, realizing we are not as young as we once were. But, again, God showed up with immediate sleep. That is not a norm for either of us! Isn't God good to speak to us in rest?

Sunday German, the girls and I led the entire service as well as hosted the lunch. Again, extra help arrived to make light of the final meal preparation before church. The service was filled with technological logistics---switching from one speaker to another, video, powerpoint, two little girls holding and using microphones, the praise band and instruments. There were so many places that things could go wrong, but nothing did. The message was well received and a couple of creative things should have helped people walk away and not forget. Eighty people ate lunch, and food was sent home with at least twenty of them. God multiplied the food over and over, because we had so much left yet everyone had ate their fill. Good funds were raised for the charity. Isn't God good to speak in clarity of message and logistics of church services?

My good friend, Jewel, had a baby boy on Halloween night. He is the most beautiful creation one could behold! Monday evening I spent an hour just cuddling him while Flower played with his fingers, absolutely enthralled with the perfect smallness of them. Isn't God good to speak through new life?

All week, my quiet time has "Godincidently" landed on verses that are absolutely specific to decisions that are being made in our life. Daily, I am reminded of God's control and my need to just trust. Daily, I am reassured that "today" is handled. Daily. Isn't God good to speak in His Word?

Yesterday I sat with a friend, sharing and praying over things that are happening in each of our lives. She shared an illustration she had heard over the weekend that exactly described the state of my heart. It was a hopeful illustration. It was a word of God. Isn't God good to speak through faithful friends?

His Word, friends, concerts, help and fellowship, newborn babies. They all allowed God speak to me the past ten days. I am so thankful that God has brought my heart to a place where I was able to listen to Him. How is He speaking to you? Are you able to hear?


Iris at Grace Alone is the hostess each week for Thankful Thursday. Go, peruse the posts of thankful hearts. You will be blessed!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Other Words---Beautiful Women

Photobucket

“To possess true beauty, we must be willing to suffer . . . if Christ Himself was perfected through His sufferings, why would I believe that God would not do the same with me? Women who are stunningly beautiful are women who have had their hearts enlarged by suffering.”

(Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul” by John and Stasi Eldredge)



Four years ago she buried her husband of fifty plus years. She never had children. I've never asked if they chose not to or could not, but the longing in her eyes while she watches my girls play betrays the hurt. She walks with a four point cane, permanently hunched from the damage osteoporosis has wreaked in her body. Emphesema batters her lungs. Yet, her doctor asks her, "How do you keep smiling?"

She waited a long time to discover her passion in life. Several battles in a mental hospital fighting the ravaging depression that haunted her. Finally, at age forty she began to live for her dreams. Dream degree, dream husband, miracle child. But the depression continues to haunt. And the dream husband turned out to be addictive and abusive and fed her mental illness. She hangs on, however, to see her daughter emerge into a confident young woman.

Weariness is her life. The ex-pat life and homeschooling her girls came to an abrupt end with mysterious exhaustion and illness. When I first meet her, she can barely hold her head up from fatigue. She surrenders her children's education to a school and begins to concentrate on getting better. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) will not be her downfall. Four years down the road, she has a vibrant ministry and has brought her girls back home for school. There are days weariness creeps in, but it does not win.

Alone again, she prepares to go to worship. She's been married, in name, for a long time. But he left the marriage years ago. He has sought the beds of who knows how many others. Her friends advise her to leave. But she won't. No, she can't. She resolves that she made promises in marriage, and she believes God will honor those promises. A year goes by. Five years. Ten. Now, twenty years I have known her. She still believes that someday her husband will hear the call of the Lord. Until then, she waits and she hopes and she prays and she allows Jesus to be her comfort.

Multiple sclerosis is her enemy. She received the diagnosis just as she was bringing her third child into the world. Could she manage with three toddlers and MS? Manage she did. Then her sister was diagnosed with leukemia. Years of battling, and her sister lost the earthly battle. A reprieve? No, the MS was still there. But her children grew and became adults and gave her grandchildren she adored. Then another cancer diagnosis. This time her own. This battle would take another year. She would not have enough to conquer it. But she never lost her hope.

Five women. Different ages. Different circumstances. Different reasons for coming into my life (or me into theirs). One thing in common. They are without a doubt among the most beautiful women I know. Their beauty was tested in the crucible of suffering, and when you look at them you just see Jesus. You see their hope. You see their lifeline. You see His beauty staring back at you.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4


Father, thank you for the examples of the lovely friends mentioned above. I thank you for how they have ministered to me time and time again in the very midst of their suffering. Your face is beautiful shining through theirs. Lord, I want to show you forth. In the face of the crucible that you will use to make yourself known, may I be found as worthy as these. In Jesus Name....Amen.

Our hostess this week is Nina at Mama's Little Treasures. Please visit and be blessed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

In Other Words----True Liberty

Photobucket

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
2 Cor 3:17 NKJV.


Today, millions of people will go to the polls and vote for their choice of government leaders for the United States. They will be casting a ballot to say which candidates they believe will provide them and the country the most freedom in the upcoming terms (whether it be President, Representatives, Governors, Mayors, etc). Many people are hanging their entire hope on whether or not the "right" candidate gets elected. Don't get me wrong, I, too, have my opinions of who will be the best leaders in our country. My vote was cast weeks ago by absentee ballot and I pray that I voted in the way God would have had me vote. I do believe it matters. But I believe that it is more important for the people of God to recognize that God is the leader of our lives and not any person we choose to govern us. God allows and appoints governments. But He does not relinquish His control.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Romans 13:1-2


When we believe that the government chosen by the people is more important to our living lives of liberty than God we are in trouble. The question is, what are we voting to be liberated from? If we are seeking liberty in how to spend our money, care for our bodies, educate our children, protect our interests, or relate to other countries then it is true the government is the more important choice. But if we are seeking true liberty, then God is our only hope. No candidate can liberate us from what truly holds us in bondage. Only God can do that because only God can liberate us from our sinful state.

To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:6-8


In an interesting twist of timing, several bloggers are at this very moment traveling in the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. If you have a chance go and read some of their stories. They are only on day one of posting and they will tug at your heartstrings as you see true poverty and an organization that I personally believes makes a difference. In today's post, Melanie at Big Mama writes, "...I was sitting in a shack with a tin roof, filled with four smiling children and a mother who was beaming as she told us how happy their home is because they have Jesus." Melanie goes on to contrast that with groups of kids who can have anything materially but have no hope. [PLEASE click the link above and read it. It will touch your heart, and maybe lead you to get involved with Compassion.] Melanie captures this sense of liberty with Jesus. The family that has nothing materially is liberated because they have Jesus. We, who compared to much of the world, have everything materially live in bondage if we don't live in Jesus.

Today, if you are American, please go vote. It is a privilege and a duty that we should not take lightly. But, more importantly, if you are reading this and you are a Christian, today vote to live in the liberty that Christ has already bestowed upon us. If you are not a believer, I urge you to consider allowing Jesus to liberate you from your sins. There is no greater privilege than living in His kingdom's freedom. Bless you today!

Father, God, we come to you today on our faces. We humbly seek your guidance in how to vote for the leaders in our country. We confess that we oft times allow negative, destructive rhetoric to come out of our mouths as we discuss political things. Forgive us when emotion is allowed to rule and we dishonor you and your Name with our words. We know that You hold the authorities and we beg that You will be the God of whoever is elected today from the smallest to the highest offices. We pray that those officials will seek You and that Your liberty will be allowed to reign in our hearts and in our country. Amen.


Today's hostess is Karen at In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus. Please visit her today for links to other reflections on today's Scripture.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Marriage Monday--Grace of Marriage

1st Monday Every Month at Chrysalis
Want this button?


Marriage Mondays is evolving! And changes are good. Over the next several months, MM will be hosted on a different blog each month, giving us an opportunity to get to know some other great bloggers out there (and give Chrysalis a much deserved rest from hosting). The topics are also going to be more thematic. Each month there will be a topic of "The __________ of Christian Marriage" with the blank being the month's theme. I'm really excited to see what will be written in the coming months. The topic this month is GRACE. Our guest hostess this month is Robyn at Overflowing Grace (how appropriate!) so be sure and visit her as well.

About eighteen months ago I was challenged to never say anything negative about German in social settings. I was so tired of being around Christian women who spent way too much time complaining about what their husbands had done (or not done), how their husbands spent their time or what their husbands wanted. These were committed believers. Their husbands were solid Christians, leaders in the community and church, good providers and loving family men. Yet it would have been difficult to decipher that from the conversations that could be overheard. Please hear me correctly, no one was making dire accusations in these conversations. These are the "my husband never helps with the house" or "my husband would rather watch football than spend time with the family." But we all know, in reality, that type of talk is always filled with exagerration and only serves to make someone else look bad.

In that company, it becomes easy to focus on negative things. But the more I read and prayed and sought God's leadership in my marriage, the more I became determined that this type of conversation was disrespectful and therefore sinful. Even if I had such issues, it would be disrespectful to air them to the world for the sole purpose of making my husband look bad. I would not want German to air the areas where I fall short to his friends either. That would feel disrespectful and unloving.

Yet, none of us are married to perfect mates. And none of us are the perfect mate. We all have shortcomings. There are things that are going to irritate us about our partners. Other things are going to make us downright unhappy. If left unchecked, our emotions about these things can get the better of us. That is where grace in marriage is so important. Grace says, "you may not deserve my patience or my forgiveness, but I'll give it to you anyway." Grace says, "I may be the most unlovable person on the planet today, yet you are still reaching out to me and I will accept it." Grace is treating our partner with the love and respect that God says show them even when they don't deserve it. Grace is allowing our spouse to reach out to us when we know we don't deserve it. Grace cannot be earned, it is the conduit of allowing God's love to flow through us and guide our marriage in spite or our human failings. Without grace, we are going to fail in our marriages because we cannot ever totally please another person in our human strength, nor can we be satisfied with what they have to offer in their humanness. Grace is the part of the equation that places God in the middle of satisfying one another.

It has been, and will continue to be a journey. Yet I do find that my conversations with other wives are more edifying. It only takes one person to say "but look at all the good things he/she does" to shut down the negative feast on someone's shortfalls. In fact, lots of positive attributes have been professed as one begins to season their speech with respectful and loving comments. I am a more respectful wife because I have allowed grace to be the main ingredient of all I say about German. And the funny thing is, his actions aren't nearly as irritating when I'm focusing on and looking for the positive. I don't even see the things that would have been my complaints a year ago. They may, or may not, still be there. The eyes of grace are not seeing them. Hopefully, he is able to say the same about my actions.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In Other Words---No Evil Will Befall You

Photobucket

No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.
Psalm 91:10-11


Without going into details, lest they come back to haunt me someday, we have occassion where we must do business with someone that I feel is lacking in integrity. I know that given the opportunity he would take advantage of a situation with no regard to others involved. I know this, because I have witnessed it of him more than once. But, because of his position, dealing with him is not optional. We have been attempting to get an answer on a question from him for some time. He is not responding. I've made the comment that he was going to try and harm us. I've fretted about it and worried about it and dwelt upon it. Then, Loni gave us the 'quote' for this week. Today, I heard my answer. Not from the unscrupulous person who is plotting, but from God, my Father. And HE reminds me that HE is in control. He will protect our family and our dwelling space.

In that, I'm able to rest. Praying that you, too, are resting in God's protection today.

Be blessed. To read other interpretations and thoughts on this Psalm, please join Loni at Writing Canvas.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In Other Words--Honestly Accountable

Photobucket

“Friends, if we be honest with ourselves,
we shall be honest with each other.”

~ George MacDonald ~


Accountability to one another. Accountability is a theme that is occassionally talked about in the church, but is alot more difficult to actually implement. It is hard to do, because it involves much honesty and openness.

I have an accountability partner. She is "allowed" (or requested) to ask the hard questions. She has been given the right to ask how my quiet time is going, if I'm praying more than grace-at-the-table prayers, if I've yelled at my kids today, whether I'm staying on my diet, and if I'm honoring my husband in all aspects of our marriage, just for starters. As we have built up a relationship, we have encouraged each other to ask the hard questions. We've learned the weak points, and we have learned that we are stronger when we share those weaknesses.

The funny thing is, she rarely asks the questions. Somedays I wished she would...because then I would have to answer the questions aloud and truly confront some of the ugliness in my life. But, more often, she doesn't need to ask the question. Because I know that we will be meeting, I evaluate where I'm at in those areas. Just knowing that she could ask forces me to be honest with myself. Then in the course of our conversation and prayer time, I am more apt to be honest with her about prayer support I need. It is a circle: having someone to whom I'm accountable leads me to honestly look at my walk with God, which inevitably reveals the ugliness and weakness of me, leading me to honestly share with that person for prayer.

The honesty, whether in private reflection on my life or in poignant conversation with a friend, always draws me into deeper relationship with Jesus. Isn't that the goal of accountability?


Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10~


Lynnette Kraft is our hostess this week for IOW. Please join us at her blog. I'm sure you will be blessed!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Romania--Sightseeing

We did actually get to see quite a lot of the area while we were there. Here are a few of the place we visited.

The Roman Ruins. Ok, my Roman empire history is not so great, but even I should have connected that Rome went all the way to Romania. But I didn't. The ruins were great. And since we will be studying Ancient Rome this year, I took a few educative moments as well.
Photobucket Photobucket



The Densus Church. This is one of the oldest churches in Romania. The frescos inside are incredible, but they would not allow me to take pictures. There is a fresco over the doorway, but it is by no means as vibrant as the others.
Photobucket
Photobucket


Sibiu. Sibiu was the "European City of Culture" last year. It is a delightful little town with great architecture!
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket Photobucket

The stairs to the clock tower did not seem so safe. I didn't even take the girls in. German took this picture.
It was in Sibiu that we discovered an lovely Hungarian pastry, Kurtos Kolacs.
Photobucket Photobucket


The Castle in Huandora.
Photobucket
Photobucket


Deva
We actually went to Deva to see the fort on the top of the hill and take pictures of the area. But, for me the neatest part was being right beside the gym where Nadia trained for the Olympics. Now the team trains in Bucharest, but here is the gym. There are statues of many Romanian greats in gymnastics, including the Karoli's.
Photobucket


And, not exactly sight seeing, but this was our view out our hotel window the first night in Budapest. It was too pretty not to include.
Photobucket

Romania--The People and Way of Life

The greatest joy in traveling with Pastor S and Mr. K is to be with the people. The people are the framework of any church. Buildings are nice and I'm glad to be a part of the building and renonvating of facilities, but the real church is the people. And, it is so humbling to be amongst them. They have so little, and they give it so freely! There were days we would eat two or three lunches because everywhere we went they put out a spread.

Several of the church members fed us. This couple didn't even know we were coming, but went home right after church and made us a meal.
Photobucket


This was a special meal. We were really drawn to this family when we visited four years ago. Then two years ago, their daughter came to England for a fortnight and we were privileged to host her for an evening. On this night the mom made a Romanian specialty of minced meat wrapped in cabbage. I've had similar things in other parts of the world, but never as lovely as this. *sigh*
Photobucket


Another one of the sweet ladies from the church cooking another delicacy...tripe soup. (It was actually very good.)
Photobucket


On our first trip to Romania, Jewel was two. She took and immediate love to "Sister Maria" from the church. Maria would come get her and take her who knows where! Jewel was in many more homes than we were. While we were there, Maria was watching her granddaughter (also 2) while her daughter was having a baby. A boy. This trip, Maria was watching that baby boy, now 4, while her daugher had another baby! Here is a picture of my girls with Maria and the "baby". The girls loved playing with the grandson...but mostly they loved being doted on by Maria.
Photobucket

Maria also made the most amazing pastries, cookies and doughnuts for us!
Photobucket


Here are all the little kids (and one big kid) playing in the church yard!
Photobucket


This pastor hitchhikes 15 miles to his churches every week in addition to working in the prison during the week.
Photobucket


One of the families that touched my heart the first trip lived in part of a railroad building. They are actually squatters in the building, and have been for five years. They live in hope that they will someday be allowed to rent it legally, but it is unlikely. Here is the building.
Photobucket

They do not live in the entire building. They live in the two rooms that make up the front, single story level. The rest of the building is condemned. The two rooms would easily fit inside my living room. There is no toilet, running water, etc in the building. SEVEN people live in these two rooms. And I complain about what I have!
Photobucket Photobucket



We had so many "only in Romania" moments. On this evening, we were traveling home about 10:30 p.m. We saw what looked like a light on a bicycle coming toward us. It was flashing for us to stop. Jeep or bicycle? Who should have the right away? But then we got closer. This is what we saw.
Photobucket

They were moving sheep from pasture to pasture. There were probably 50 of them on the road, with a shepherd leading and a shepherd at the back. They had us turn off the jeep so as not to scare the sheep and then they herded them around us and on down the road. The rest of the trip, the girls job was to watch for sheep!

Some more animals on the road!
Photobucket


Most of the people around this area buy second hand clothing. It is brought in by the truckload from Germany and other surrounding countries. A common morning sight was watching the ladies sort through the clothes.
Photobucket


Here are a few images of rural life as well!
Photobucket
selling onions and garlic by the road

Photobucket
grapes in the garden, notice the well for water

Photobucket
pumpkin growing on trellis

Photobucket
haystacks

Photobucket
Photobucket Photobucket
Photobucket Photobucket
transportation (that is a car that the cow is in!)

Photobucket Photobucket
feeding animals

Photobucket
four generations living together


Photobucket Photobucket
cows going home at the end of the day


The Roma, or gypsies, have a very definitive caste system which amazed me. "Rich" gypsies and "poor" gypsies would live side-by-side, and apparently have nothing to do with one another because of social standing. Here are some of their homes. Can you tell which is rich and which is poor?
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket