Saturday, December 31, 2011

With Love


With a warm cup of coffee in my hand, I glanced at our December calendar and took a deep breath. Then, I decided that today was going to require something more than caffeine. This evening, alone, I have to be in three places nearly all at once. It seems that most days this time of year look the same.

Wrapping.
Decorating.
Baking.
Parties.
Shopping.
Concerts.

"How did I let it get away from me again?" I think to myself.

Don't get me wrong. It's all good stuff. Still, every year, in the midst of the Christmas crazies, I begin to feel a bit unraveled. And every year, right about now, I begin to reassess how Christmas is going to look for our family. Clearly, I can't do it all. And, if I choose to chase after the insignificant this Christmas season, I will miss the most important thing of all...Christ, himself.

So I am taking a close look at our family calendar and I am desperately trying to scale back our "have to's" in order that we might spend more time celebrating our Savior. The world is fighting back. Hard. Commercials, marketing gifts I can't afford, bombard me and my children throughout the afternoon. Images of the "perfect" Christmas mock me as holiday movies replay on my television. And then there is the decorating. So. Much. Decorating. Still, I am holding my ground. I simply refuse to let Christ be lost in the middle of the chaos.

Over the years, I have placed some simple anchors in place to keep our family grounded in the real reason for the season. Our Nativity, a treasure from my childhood, sits in its usual place in the hallway, so that it might greet us as we walk through the door. Each evening, our family gathers together, if only for a few moments, and we read a Christmas devotional and countdown to the "big day". And every Sunday, we sit at our dining table and light a candle on our family Advent wreath. Still, I long for more. This time of year, my heart desires to look upon Christ and worship him for all that he is and all that he has done.

When I read the Christmas story quietly and simply ponder the beauty of that silent night over 2,000 years ago, I am reminded that Christmas is about just one thing. Big love. Jesus humbly left his throne in Heaven. He came as a baby and was born of a teenage Virgin. Christ, fully man yet also divine, led a sinless life and then offered that life as a sacrifice for me. He took my sin and my place on a Cross, so that I might be reconciled to God. By his sacrifice alone, I have eternal life in the presence of the LORD. It's a free gift from my Savior to me. And he did all of this for love.

So, this Christmas, I will follow the example of my Savior. In the middle of the busyness, I choose to "do everything in love". (1 Corinthians 16:14) As I hustle through the obligations that will not go away, I will take my Jesus with me. This Christmas season, in all I do, with everyone I meet, I choose to show the love of Christ. And while I hope to conquer the items on my "to do" list, I aspire to greater things as well. There is still time to trim the list and make a little more room for my Savior. After all, it is HIS birthday for which we are preparing.

Perhaps, you have a calendar that looks like mine. Maybe you have a list in your head of what you feel "must" be done to make this a "merry Christmas". This year, I challenge you to prayerfully sift through the distractions. You can't do it all. The best part is, you don't have to. This is one Christmas party where you are free to just come and be. For, Christ has already prepared everything that really matters. And he did it, for you, with love.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wait For It


One of my favorite characters is from a television show called "How I Met Your Mother". The character is a smarmy guy named Barney Stinson and his favorite one liner is "Wait for it..." Those words are especially relevant to me today.

Just when I thought the paperwork phase of our adoption was behind us, we had a few minor setbacks this week. First, we learned that our biological children will require a tuberculosis screening before we can schedule our home study. Dutifully, I contacted our family doctor and scheduled the tests for early next week.

Then, I learned today that I have to fill out an extensive health history form on...wait for it...each child. Browsing through the details required on these forms, I took a deep breath and felt like I was going to cry. It seems that so much about adoption is "hurry up and wait". I have never been good at waiting. Not for my birthday. Not for Christmas Eve. And not for our baby. Now, our home study which was tentatively scheduled for next week will have to be delayed. "It's God's timing," I whisper to myself, though I felt like screaming.

An hour or so later, Jack walked through the door and heaved a heavy sigh. He had been waiting all day to learn his part in the UIL spring play at his middle school. Earlier in the week, he had finished two auditions for one of the lead roles. The results were suppose to be posted right after school. To his dismay, a delay has caused him to wait for two more weeks.

As I listened to him share his disappointment and sensed his frustration, I searched for words of encouragement. "Jack, waiting is hard," I said gently. "Whether you are waiting for your birthday, for Christmas, or for a baby...waiting stinks! Still, sometimes, we are called to wait. Never forget, son, that God has already placed you in the part that will bring him glory. Waiting won't change that." Suddenly, I felt as though I was talking to myself.

The hard truth is, sometimes we must wait. And it's hard. However, during a season of waiting, it is important that we remember that God is still in control. Even in our waiting.

For, "those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

His timing is perfect and "he has made everything beautiful in his time".(Ecclesiastes 3:11)

So, "wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD" (Psalm 27:14)

Long ago, the world, covered in darkness, was waiting for a Savior. We are told that "when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman." (Galatians 4:4) Jesus Christ was born in order to fulfill God's plan of salvation. It was true then. And it is true today. In His time, the LORD will see his plans through to their completion.

Perhaps you are like me and my son. Maybe you have a need or a desire in your heart that simply cannot arrive fast enough. Remember to fix your eyes on Heaven and know you are not forgotten. Remain patient, steadfast, and strong. Sometimes we must wait for it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hide And Seek


When I was a little girl, one of my favorite games was "hide and seek". The best games happened on warm summer evenings in my grandpa's backyard. For hours, my brother, my cousins, and I searched for covert hiding places as we tried to avoid being found by whomever was "it". Patiently, we waited for the best moment to run "home" and be "safe". It was big fun!

Sometimes, life feels a bit like a game of "hide and seek". Unfortunately, it isn't as much fun these days, as the stakes are so much higher. As we stumble in this dark world and attempt to find our way through life's trials, we sometimes get overwhelmed and discouraged.

So what are we to do when our greatest desires seem to be hiding in the dark? First, we must cling to hope. Even in our hardships, God is at work behind the scenes, preparing us for promises yet to be revealed. Despite the appearance of our circumstances, we must choose to fix our eyes on the LORD and faithfully follow His lead. Indeed, these troubles are temporary. They shall pass away and a new day shall arrive. Ultimately, God is in control.

God never hides His will from his children. We are directed to "seek and you shall find". (Matthew 7:7 NIV) When life gets messy, as it often does, we must hide in God's word and seek after Him. Scripture tells us that our "light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) Even as we encounter darkness, the LORD is doing more than we can see or imagine. As we wait for His plans to unfold, we must choose to look with faith filled eyes.

In our darkest night, we can find comfort in the knowledge that God knows right where we are. For nothing is hidden from God.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Calm In The Storm



If you haven't guessed it yet, the road of adoption is exciting and terrifying all at once.

It had been a long day. An emotional day. Our interview with our adoption agency had taken most of the afternoon. The questions were personal. The answers required raw honesty. And I was left exhausted. So after a hot bath, I went to bed. Early. And I expected to remain asleep until the cruel alarm demanded that I wake and get the kids ready for school.

But just two hours after I had fallen into a deep sleep, I suddenly woke with my mind racing. It was as if the enemy was right up in my face whispering every vile lie about who I am to discourage me from proceeding any further with our adoption. Every insecurity, every doubt, every fear about the road we are on seemed to grip my heart in this moment, and sleep was off the table.

So, I prayed and I trembled with God as I confessed every thought...

"What if I am too old to be the mother of an infant?"
"What if I won't be a good mother to this baby?"
"What if the baby never accepts me as his mother?"
"What if the changes a baby brings to our family turns our home upside down?"
"What if they decide that my past mistakes disqualify me for adoption?"
"What if the the social worker decides to reject us?"
"What if this dream becomes a nightmare?"

What if, what if, what if...

I felt myself dripping in sweat as I crawled out of bed and attempted to clear my head. I went to the solace of my laptop and began writing. Even my favorite hobby couldn't quiet my fears. I wrote down every doubt, every fear, every worry. A blog update and a couple of hours later, I was still awake. I wondered if I would sleep at all this night. I imagined how tired I would feel in the morning and I asked God to help me find some peace. Then, I went to submit an article and noticed an early morning devotional had already arrived in my inbox.

I clicked the link.

I scrolled down.

And I read...

“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” Matthew 8:26 (NIV)

Tonight, the waves are more than I can handle. And I am reminded that I don't have to be afraid because God's "got this". The Lord is bigger than me. He is bigger than my fears. And he is big enough to handle the waves of fear that are crashing around me right now.
He rebukes my insecurities.
He quiets my fears.
He commands that my peace be restored.
He assures me that all is well.

How grateful I am that Christ never leaves me alone in the boat. Jesus is my calm in the storm.

The Boy Inside The Man-Child



Today, I saw the little boy hiding within my man child. This morning, Jack had his 13year well check up at the pediatrician's office. Yes, I am aware that he is closer to fourteen than thirteen. Yes, we got the certifiable look of disapproval from our doctor. In any case, today, before school, Jack and I headed off to his appointment.

Jack and I have been at this doctor's office many times over the years. Our pediatrician has been Jack's doctor since we moved to McKinney. Jack was just 2 years old the first time he visited this office. Through the years, our pediatrician has treated Jack for everything from ear infections to asthma flare ups. He has seen Jack through every cold and every well visit. This particular check up was not extraordinary in any way. In fact, in nearly every way, it was identical to countless other visits we have made to our doctor since Jack was a little boy. Still, somehow today seemed different.

Maybe it was because it was the first time we have walked down the halls of that office where my son was actually taller than me. Perhaps it is because, lately, it seems that my Jack is more "man" than "child". Most days, I am reminded by his deep voice and huge appetite that Jack is growing up. But today, I saw a glimpse of the boy hiding within my son. And it made my heart smile.

There, in the office, as Jack laid back on the examination table, Jack became ticklish and started to giggle. In that moment, I was transported back to another time, when we visited this office for the first time. Jack was just 2 years old and he was extremely ticklish. I smiled to myself as I recalled the faded memories of my blond curly haired boy who couldn't stop wiggling or giggling on that day so long ago. Quietly, I sat there, smiling to myself, remembering my little guy and missing him just a little.

There is no denying that my son is growing up. High school is closing in on us as he just had his "rising freshman" meeting at school. Lately, our discussions have been about his "four year plan", and his goals for the future. Gone are the days when he would build cities with Legos, save the day with his Rescue Hero action figures, or pretend to be his favorite super hero. These days, it's not often that I see my little boy. But, today, for a moment, he was in the pediatrician's office with me.

As I took in the familiar sound of Jack's laugh today, I was reminded, that "sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3) Certainly, Jack's growth curve has changed, but his giggle is the same now as it was when he was small. How I treasure every precious moment God has given me with my son. I am proud to be Jack's mom. I have loved him since before I laid eyes on him. Being his mom is one of the greatest joys of my life. I can't wait to see the plans God has for him as Jack steps into manhood.

In this new season of life, I pray God gives me wisdom to be the mother Jack needs. I pray that with each new challenge, God will equip me to prepare my son for the world that beckons. But, today, I offer thanks for the glimpse of the boy within my man-child.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Face of The Fatherless



Last December, on Christmas Eve, the Hubs and I committed to expanding our family through adoption. Over the past year, we have prayerfully explored how adoption might look for us. In the process, we have studied scriptures that mandate God's call on his people to "defend the cause of the fatherless" (Isaiah 1:17)

Since we are challenged to check scripture with scripture and not just take individual verses out of context for our own personal argument, we dug deep into the problem before us. Here is some of what God has to say about the fatherless...


What the Bible says about the Fatherless

One thing is clear. God is serious about His commitment to the fatherless. And we should be too. So, over the past year, I have been looking into the face of the fatherless and what I have found disturbs me to the core of who I am.

Fatherless has many faces. Too many faces. Many times, it's an orphan. Other times, it's a child whose family has been dismantled. Every time, the effects are devastating. The statistics are quite sobering. According to the website Dads 4 Kids the following statements can be made about children who grow up without a father:

"Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality."

"...the absence of the father in the home affects significantly the behavior of adolescents and results in the greater use of alcohol and marijuana."

"Fatherless children are at dramatically greater risk of suicide."

"Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely that those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity."

"The economic consequences of a [father's] absence are often accompanied by psychological consequences, which include higher-than-average levels of youth suicide, low intellectual and education performance, and higher-than-average rates of mental illness, violence and drug use."

"Fatherless children -- kids living in homes without a stepfather or without contact with their biological father -- are twice as likely to drop out of school."

Here is more info on the fatherless if you have the stomach for it...

Statistics on Fatherless Children

Fatherhood Coalition

Fathers.com

Had enough? Let me point out that these statistics don't even begin to address the world-wide orphan crisis where over 140 million children are left without a mother or a father. These statistics are just the tip of a very menacing ice burg that humanity is failing to address.

These are the facts and they paint a picture that breaks the heart of God. Therefore, it should break the hearts of God's people. Children were never intended to be fatherless. And yet, we see a generation of children growing up without a father.

Some see these statistics and use them as a justification for abortion. Let me say definitively, this would NOT be God's solution. For God values the sanctity of life and considers each child, born and unborn, precious. He has a plan and a purpose for every human life, and His plans do not include abortion.

Neither do God's plans include abandoment. The Church mustn't turn away as this festering problem affects the children of today, and the mothers and fathers of tomorrow. So, what are we do to? My response is...do what you are called to do. Start with a prayer. Let me warn you. It might sting a little. Probably a lot. Then, go where God leads you one step of faith at a time. You don't have to have the whole journey from start to finish all figured out before you commit to follow after the LORD. Just choose to walk in obedience. God will do the rest.

For us, our family has been called to adopt one of the fatherless, but not everyone is called to adoption. Still every child of God is called to do something on behalf of the fatherless. And I believe our Heavenly Father takes our efforts to be his hands and feet and multiplies them for His glory. As ambassadors of Christ and God followers, we are called to go to where they are and care for them in their distress. (Deuteronomy 10:18)

May I challenge you to pray about your role in fighting for the fatherless. Perhaps you will mentor a child who has been abandoned by a father. You might decide to sponsor a child through a charitable organization. Maybe you will serve on a missions team that will go abroad and meet the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of the fatherless. You might even decide, as we have, to open your home and your heart to adoption.

I don't know your role in defending the cause of the fatherless. But this I know. We all have a part to play. And we will all suffer the consequences if we fail to do so. Let's not look away from the face of the fatherless.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Ransom


image by www.faithclipart.com


My husband and I love to snuggle up and watch movies. It's one of our hobbies together. Our friends tease us that we have seen every movie that has ever been made. Despite our best efforts, I am sure we have missed a few. One movie I have been thinking about a lot the past couple of weeks in the movie "Ransom".

Imagine your child has been kidnapped. That is the gist of this 1996 thriller starring Mel Gibson. I know. It's a nightmare none of us want to consider. But hang with me for just a bit. Picture it now. You precious son or daughter, lost to you, can be purchased back...for a ransom. That's what God did for you, His child, through Christ.

Scripture teaches us that "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many". (Matthew 20:28) Furthermore, "there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people". (1 Timothy 2:5-7) Because of sin, all of mankind has been captured by an enemy who seeks our destruction. After all, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord". (Romans 6:23) Because of the fall of man, we are all born into sin. We are told that "for this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant". (Hebrews 9:14-16) You have been ransomed.

When I consider the fact that my Heavenly Father sent me a ransom in Christ, before I even took a breath, I am filled with wonder. Truly, His great love is too big for me to fully comprehend. But, when I filter these events through a parental lens, I see more clearly. For if one of my precious children were taken from me, there is nothing I wouldn't do to bring them home. My kids are precious to me and worth any ransom. That is who you are to God.

God, The Father, saw his children captive to sin and sent a ransom in Jesus Christ. I could not free myself. Not with good deeds. Not with charity. Not with social justice. Neither can you. Only Christ can free us from the captivity of sin. Through Christ alone, the ransom was paid in full. My ransom. Your ransom. He is the ransom for us all.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fatherless



“He must have loved me once…“

The thought gripped my heart as my eyes gazed on the tattered photo in my hands. My eyes focused intently on the image of a new father as he held his newborn baby girl in his arms. His faced was turned away from the camera, and it left me only to imagine his expression during this tender father/daughter moment. The baby girl in this picture is me. The man is my biological father.


Life has given me many images of this man. I know him as my father, but I do not call him "Dad". For the word "Daddy" is far too intimate to describe my relationship with him. This is a man who is a mysterious puzzle in my life. For although he was gifted with fatherhood, he discarded me when I was just a girl. The role of my "Dad" was filled when my mother remarried. And the loss of my father faded over time.

I have many pictures in my mind of my interactions with this man. Most of them conjure up feelings of helplessness and fear. For as long as I can remember, his presence filled me with deep insecurities. And though it has been almost three decades since I was in his presence, there are some things time cannot erase. Hateful words and devastating emotional games have left an unforgettable impression on my heart. He simply was not equipped for the responsibilities and privileges associated with being a dad. Over time, as his interest in me vanished, I became one of the "fatherless".

Now a grown woman, I see him differently. Memories of the past now fail to look so dark. Though I will never understand his choice to leave his post of fatherhood, I no longer yearn for his affection. As a girl, I anxiously wondered how I might earn his love. As a woman of faith, I understand there was no way to capture his heart. But I am adored by the One who made me. He is "Abba", my "Daddy". My Heavenly Father.

Even though my biological father is part of me, it is God the Father who gave me life. As I place the photo back in the box from which it came, God gently reminds me that I am no longer "fatherless". In fact, I have never been so. The LORD is "the father to the fatherless". (Psalm 68:5)Daily, He continues to make provisions for my future. I am never out of His sight. I am not unlovable. I am not unworthy. I am His precious daughter. And he gave me a stepfather who filled the space left behind in my dad's absence.

Perhaps what amazes me most is how my Heavenly Father has used every hurt to shape my life into the beautiful adventure it has become. My husband and I are pursuing domestic infant adoption. Now, as we wait to meet our chosen child, I dream of days to come. I look forward to the day when our baby is placed in my husband's arms. I long to hold our child close, and sing him/her to sleep. This baby is deeply loved and prayed for already, and we shall point him/her to the love of the Heavenly Father each and every day. This baby, who might otherwise be fatherless, shall never know what it is to be so.

So, I watch for God to move. And I wait for the next step. More than anything, I rest secure in the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father, "Abba", who “takes delight in me. Quiets me with His love. And rejoices over me with singing.“ (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV) Forevermore, I have my Father's love.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Molded By The Potter



Living in north Texas, winter is rainy and cold. It's not Iowa cold where the wind chill takes your breath away. Here, it is more of a damp cold, that makes you want to hide under a blanket. On those dreary wet days, the kids have no choice but to entertain themselves inside. One of their favorite rainy day distractions used to be Play-Doh. Even now, my girls like to play "bakery" and mash the colorful clay into pretend cakes and cookies for imaginary customers. For hours, they sit together at the kitchen table, molding and shaping their Play-Doh into creations from their own imagination. And if their design isn't the masterpiece they envisioned, they simply pound it down and start again.

The Bible tells us we are like clay. In Job, scripture says, "I am the same as you in God’s sight; I too am a piece of clay." (Job 22:6) We are constantly being molded either into the likeness of Christ or into the image of the world. One leads to peace, the other to peril. One leads to joy, the other despair. One leads to restoration, the other to ruin. When we choose to spend time with God, we allow Him to shape us into the creation he imagined before our conception. Scripture explains "yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." (Isaiah 64:8)

Not long ago, I spoke with a woman who had forgotten that she is "the work of a potter’s hands". (Lamentations 4:2) Bitter from disappointment, the woman explained that her life had not turned out the way she had planned. Through the years, she had grown distrustful of the LORD. Rather than clinging to God and allowing Him to mold her life into something meaningful and beautiful, she instead chose to embrace the false securities of the world. In her discouragement, this young woman's heart had grown cold towards God.

My heart broke when I took in the hopelessness of her words. She was so sure she was right about the LORD, although my eyes of faith could see clearly what she could not. She insisted her past circumstances offered her all the "proof" she needed. In her present state, she is blind to all that God has done for her. She only sees her pain. Consequently, there was little I could say to change her mind. Instead, I chose to hear her out. Then I took her before the Lord in prayer. I am not close to this woman, and I have no idea where her heart stands today, but I know the LORD isn't finished with her. In time, He shall shape this beautiful woman's life as it seems best to Him. (Jeremiah 18:4)

As a mother of faith, her story is one that I keep close to my heart. Truly, it is a reminder of how important it is for me to mold the hearts of my children for God. I long for them to be clay in the potter's hands all of their days. For, in His hands, the hands which gave them life, their future is secure, no matter how their circumstances appear. Troubles are momentary. However, God is eternal. Regardless of the political or financial climate of today or the deteriorating condition of the world, my children will know His peace if they rest in the hands of the potter.

We are told that in this life, trouble would surely find us. After all, we are born with a sinful nature into a fallen world. All of creation is groaning in peril. Trouble is a certainty we all must face. Still, God is with us in our troubles and He is working everything for good. (Romans 8:28) If we are wise, we will be mindful that even in our troubles, God is molding and shaping us into the image of Christ. For the LORD declares, "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand." (Jeremiah 18:6)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Child Of God




For the past few weeks, I have been studying the Hebrew names of God. One of my favorites is "Abba" which means "God the Father". It literally translates into the word Daddy". Furthermore, I was surprised at the revelation in my Bible study class that Christianity is the only religion where God reveals himself as our Father. The Bible assures us, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters," says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:18NIV)

Because of what Christ did for us, we have been adopted into God's divine family. Scripture teaches that "even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure." (Ephesians 1:4-6 NLT)

Hear the truth about whose you are and understand the depth of God's love for you.

He is your Father.

He loves you.

He chose you.

He adopted you.

He approves of you.

You bring him pleasure.

You are His child.

Truly, our enemy has been on the assault against fathers for decades, for he knows the power associated with such a role in a child's life. Too many children are growing up without a father. Some of us go our entire lives without knowing the unconditional love of an earthly father. For many, the absence of a father leaves an empty place that leaves us continually yearning.

Fortunately, we are never alone for God claims himself as the "father to the fatherless". (James 1:26) As your Father, he will not fail you. And "just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him." (Psalm 103:13). He is Abba. God the Father. And He loves you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a wonderful earthly father. Count your blessings. But if you are amongst the multitudes who are wandering through this life fatherless, take heart. Lift your eyes to Heaven and remember...you are a child of God.(1 John 3:1)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The God Who Sees



I made a decision for Christ when I was twelve years old. When I look back, I can see the moment clearly. It was mid-July and my grandma had sent me to church camp. Hand in hand, I walked with a friend down to the altar, and took Jesus as my Savior. I cannot tell you the date, nor can I recall my friend's name, but I can close my eyes and see the warm glow of the chapel on that beautiful summer night long ago.

It was the most important decision that I ever made. With that one choice, the course of my life was forever changed. In a moment, I went from certain death and eternal separation from God, to eternal life in His wonderful presence. In that place, I could so clearly see the Lord all around me. God's love so penetrated the darkness in my life, it was impossible to miss His presence.

Still, the world is an alluring place, and life this side of Heaven is sometimes painful and confusing. Over the years, the world pressed on my young heart. For a time, I forgot to whom I belong. In those years of walking in the desert of life, I sometimes felt insignificant, even invisible. And in my need to be noticed, I sometimes made choices that surely grieved God's heart. The more I wandered, the harder it was to see His presence in my life.

Fortunately, God's love and acceptance of me is not based on my behavior, but on His mercy and grace offered to me through Christ. He is El Roi, "the God who sees". Every bad decision. Every painful choice. Every hurtful mistake. Every sin I committed. Every sin committed against me. God has seen it all. And through it all, even as others reject me, He chooses to love me. To guide me. To walk beside me. For "The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

Those around me have not always known me. They could see me. But they didn't know my heart. Instead, they looked at my choices and made judgements about my position before God. Sadly, we Christians often make that mistake. Sometimes, the condition of the world makes us blind to what is real and true. We see the outward appearance of a person, we see their choices, and we think we know what makes them tick.

But that's not how God operates. Continually, I am amazed by the fact that no matter what path I choose, God goes with me. Without a doubt, there are paths I can take which He refuses to bless. Like a loving father, God quickly convicts me when I stumble. More often than I care to admit, I have felt the hand of His discipline. But, His love for me is not based on my behavior, nor is His presence. Instead He sees me as His precious daughter and my place with Him is firmly rooted in my decision for Christ. Like any child, I am prone to wander. Still, He promises to never leave me nor forsake me. For "I am the apple of His eye". (Psalm 17:8)

I have taken God's path, and I have also taken my own. In my experience, the Lord's way is superior, hands down. His mercies and love never fail me. That doesn't mean that I always get my way. Things don't always turn out the way I think they should. And many times, I simply don't understand what God is doing in my life. Sometimes, I am simply standing too close to the world to have His perspective on my circumstances.

Still, in all things, I choose God. For, "I have now seen the One who sees me." (Genesis 16:13) It's a truth that endures for us all. No matter how today appears, the LORD sees you. You are not invisible. There is no reason to hide. God sees your heart, and He looks on you with love.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wierdy!




A few nights ago we had "breakfast night" and I made the family pancakes. As my husband, Marty, glanced at my pancakes topped with peanut butter and maple syrup (don't judge until you've tried them), he shook his head with a smile and said, "You are SUCH a Wierdy!"

Like everyone else, I've got my little indiosyncracies that make me unique. My tennis shoes HAVE to match the colors in the clothes that I am wearing. I have to end on an even number when I am filling up the gas tank. I eat pancakes covered in peanut butter and maple syrup. (Simply delicious!) I AM a wierdy.

And lately, I have been embracing my inner weirdness. The Bible calls it unique.

"But my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her." (Song of Solomon 6:9)

Set apart.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart". (Jeremiah 1:5).

Wonderful.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. "(Psalm 139:14)

So, today, I challenge you to embrace your inner weirdness. For you, my dear, are unique. Set apart. And Wonderful in His sight. In a word, you are special. Lift your head up and walk boldly into today, sharing your unique God-given gifts and talents as only you can. For the world only gets ONE you. And, if you have a moment, you might want to consider making pancakes with peanut butter and maple syrup. You will thank me for it later.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Choose Wisely



But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”-Joshua 24:15 NIV

My mother-in-law used to tease me when our son, Jack, was a toddler. Attempting to mold my little boy into a strong, decisive man, I let him make many decisions for himself.

"Would you like to wear your blue shirt or your red shirt?"
"Do you want chocolate milk or orange juice?"
"Shall we go for a walk or play inside?"

I wanted him to understand the power of his choices. Now that he is a thirteen year old man-child, our discussions are a bit different. As life beckons, our conversations turn to more serious things like goals, potential occupations, clubs and organizations, and colleges. Truly, Jack has many choices before him. As a mother, the influences I allow near my son are of greater importance now than ever before in his young life. For if my son is to know wisdom, he must know the path of the Lord.

Benevolent and good, God believes in giving us a choice. For God is love, and love is a choice. He wants us to choose Him. We are free to choose otherwise. It really is that simple. The LORD is the one true God, sovereign over all things. We can embrace Him with gratitude and awe, align ourselves with Him, and be His hands and feet in the world. Or, we can choose our own path. The choice belongs to every man and every woman. Denying this truth does not make Him less sovereign.

Furthermore, Jesus, God's son, is the one true Savior. We can choose His gift, or deny to do so. Again it is our choice. But choices have consequences, and we are mindful to remember as much when we weigh our options today. Refusing to acknowledge Christ's gift doesn't make it any less available. Jesus did his part, but we must also do ours, and choose to accept His gift of salvation.

But the journey only begins there. Daily, we are challenged to "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve". (Joshua 24:15 NIV) After all, you cannot serve both God and man. For, the Bible pointedly asks the question, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10) It's a choice we all must make.

Which brings me back to my son. Life comes down to the choices that we make. Jack's future is beckoning, and soon, my son will take his place in God's kingdom. Though he is young, Jack has already made the most important decision of his life. He chose to embrace the redeeming love of Christ and knows Jesus as his Savior. Still, I long for my son to walk victoriously through this life, so that he might point others to Heaven.

As the saying goes, Jack is not of this world, but he must still walk in it. Many distractions lie waiting for him, disguised as choice. Truly, we are warned that "there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 16:25) One only needs to look at the condition of the world to see the perils in making decisions without God.

I pray that Jack would have courage to stand for his convictions and make a difference in the lives God places in his midst. I pray he will take a god-fearing wife, who will be his helpmate, partner, and encourager in life's journey. Above all, I pray that Jack, my precious boy, will be a man who puts God first in his life, and will therefore influence many for the Lord.

As a mother of faith, accountable to God, I continue to teach my son the ways of the Lord Most High. How I pray that Jack might choose wisely, all the days of his life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Be Sweet!



"I smell cookies! SWEET! What an awesome surprise, Mom!" my youngest daughter, Sofie, yelled excitedly as she plowed through the door on a typical Thursday afternoon. "They smell SO good, Mama!" Her words brought a smile to my heart. Later, as I ate a few of the delicious double chocolate chip delicacies, made with a whole lot of love and even more butter, I thought about my daughter's declaration and how it applied to many facets of life.

As Christians, the world should be sweeter in our presence. In fact, we are told to "walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". (Ephesians 5:2 NIV)

So, what smells sweet to God, you ask?

First, we are to walk in love. As the feet of Jesus, we are to bring God's love into the presence of all whom we meet. Not just on Sunday, but everyday. At the grocery store. At the PTA. At the soccer game. Wherever we go, God's children are to offer a fragrant love offering to the LORD.

Then, we must give ourselves up for Christ. This one is a bit tougher, isn't it? For it calls us to lay down our selfishness, turn away from pride, and submit ourselves to our King. Ouch!

I pray that God would make me as sweet smelling as those cookies I made for my kids. Still, I am reminded that many times, I stumble, and smell more like the garlic cloves hiding in my refrigerator. How grateful I am that my Heavenly Father made me a work in progress. His mercies are new each day and so are my opportunities to make my life a sweet aroma to God.

So, dear sister in Christ, consider your heart, confess your weaknesses, and step sweetly. For today is a great day for cookies! Be sweet!

Glory Days



I am writing this on Monday morning. The kids are at school. My husband is at work. The dog is laying at my feet. And I have surveyed the damage of a weekend at home together. Visions of an F5 tornado come to mind as I look around at the mess in my midst. With a sigh, I decide to sit down and enjoy a second cup of coffee before taking on the day. "It's Monday," I think to myself with a smile.

I'm a mom. Most days, you will find me running errands, folding laundry, settling disputes between my kids and chauffeuring them from place to place. After that, I take on the additional tasks of homework, dinner, and bedtime. Whew! It makes me a bit tired just writing all that down! On the surface, these don't exactly appear to be my "glory days". I am not running for office. I am not powerfully influential. I don't receive a paycheck for the work that I do each day. In fact, if I am foolish enough to let the world define my worth, I might feel pretty insignificant.

However, that would be a short-sighted mistake on my part. For God wants me to look at the reach of my life with an eternal perspective. His perspective. He wants me to build a lasting legacy that points to Him in everything I set myself to do. In that, my life brings him glory. Both the menial tasks that fill the hours of my busy days, and the bigger moments that shape and mold the hearts of my children, are opportunities for me to glorify my Heavenly Father.

As a mother of three, and a woman of faith, I have tremendous influence on tomorrow. The way I interact today will shape and mold the hearts of my children forevermore. For a piece of me goes with my kids wherever they may go, both today and far into the future. If I am to see God glorified in a task this big, my heart must be aligned with His. Daily, I must remember that I am the heart of this home. In the quiet of the post morning crazies. In the middle of the afternoon chaos. In the midst of the evening grumpies. I must remember...these are my "glory days".

This is my legacy. Therefore, I must live well, for little eyes are watching and learning in everything I choose to do. It's true for us all. As women of faith, we must remember that we are building tomorrow in what we choose to do today. So, ladies, "whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17 NIV) These, are in fact, glory days.

Whether you are serving at home or your responsibilities take you further into the world, you are shaping the future. So, get up. Finish your coffee. And then confront the day with passion and purpose. Believe me, I know it is hard to get too excited about laundry, coupons, or sibling squabbles. Consider this instead...today is your chance to build a legacy. So, be the woman God made you to be, smile knowingly to yourself, and then "do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Girl Power!


My youngest daughter, Sofie, is wonderfully complex. Strong and sensitive, she is a little girl more at home on the soccer field than she is at a "tea party". Though she will indulge her big sister and agree to play with Barbies, Sofie prefers to be running outside. She is imaginative, energetic, fast and fun. Sofie prefers bright colors to pastels. She dresses more for function than fashion. And while she does like to have her nails painted, she prefers her long, blonde curls to be loose and free as they blow in the breeze, as opposed to being tightly pulled back in a bow on top of her precious head. I wouldn't want her any other way.


(My Honeybug playing "Superheros" with one of her best friends and partners in fun.)

Still, the world has crept into my little girl's mind and her enemy has begun to whisper lies about who she is and who she is suppose to be. "Everybody calls me a tomboy, Mommy," she said somberly after school one day last week. Looking into her honey brown eyes, I saw hurt and shame. "How does that make you feel?" I asked her gently. She paused for a moment, and then with a single tear falling down her cheek, she said, "Not good."

Unfortunately, I have found that it isn't only kids who label her incorrectly. For in the past week, I have had several women smile and say, to me, "Your Sofie is such a hoot! What a tomboy!" In response, I usually smile and say, "I don't know. I think she is just a girl who knows how to play. She has girl power." It is tough to hide my disdain for these remarks. If only others understood my daughter the way that I do. Her strength, both inside and out, are undeniably feminine. And I find it demeaning and insulting that we have reduced femininity to pink sparkles and cute outfits with matching accessories.

So this week, I have taken it to prayer, asking God, Sofie's Creator, for guidance as to how I should respond to the world's perception of my little girl. Of course, I cannot change the simplistic view that some might have of her. Nor can I chase down and correct each and every person who mistakenly categorizes my daughter. Both of these things would, no doubt, help me to feel better. However, neither of these options do much to remedy the hurt that has settled in my daughter's heart.

Instead, I have chosen to use my best weapon against the world...God's word. In an attempt to nurture and heal Sofie's broken heart with truth, I have tried to give my precious daughter new eyes about what it means to be feminine. God's eyes. After all, Sofie is a girl. She is fearfully and wonderfully made and God's thoughts are precious towards her. (Psalm 139)

My daughter needs a new perspective on what it means to be feminine. She needs to see femininity as it is illustrated in the Bible. She needs to understand the wonderful blessing of "girl power". I suspect that many of us could use a crash course in how the LORD views femininity. For too many women have been listening to the world for far too long.

Let's start with Eve. Now, I know...there was that little thing called The Fall. Poor Eve got quite the bad rap for her "little mishap" in the Garden. Still, she brought life into the world and was the first woman to give birth without the aid of an epidural. That alone should give her snaps in the Girl Power Hall Of Fame.

Let us not forget Ruth. Widowed and alone, she chose to begin life anew in a strange land and remain loyal to her mother-in-law. Because of her great strength and sacrifice, Ruth met and married Boaz, gave both Naomi and herself a new start, and became part of Christ's lineage. Girl Power!

Then, there is Esther. My personal favorite. A young girl with an ordinary background and extraordinary beauty became queen and then courageously risked her life to save her people. Major Girl Power!

There are others...Deborah. Sarah. Elizabeth. Mary. Rachel. All uniquely strong and feminine. And I bet none of them needed pearls or lipstick to accomplish their purpose. Now do not get me wrong, I can embrace my inner frilly, foo-foo, girlie- girl self as much as the next gal. However, that is not what makes a woman feminine. Being feminine is a complex mixture of strength and sensitivity. Grace and gumption. Caring and courage. And you can possess those qualities and still get dirty, run fast, and play hard.

Yesterday, Bug came home wounded once more by a classmate's careless proclamation that she is a "tomboy". I listened for a moment and then I spoke strongly, as a mother determined to vanquish the pain that had stolen my daughter's sparkle. "Sofie, do you know that God imagined you and created you to be the amazing little girl that you are? He and I both think you are special. There is no need to be something else. For you are not a tomboy. You are a strong little girl who God will use in a special way for His special purpose." Really?" she answered back. Though she didn't sound convinced. "Absolutely!" I assured her. "Just be the Sofie that God made you to be."

As a woman, raising up two girls, I want to challenge everyone reading this blog. Take a moment and think about the women we want our daughters to become. Soon, they will be the wives, mothers, friends and leaders of tomorrow. God has made each little girl for His purpose and He has a plan for each and every one. Some might prefer to sit quietly, read books, bake cookies, and play Barbies (I live with one of those as well). Others might be more like a "tomboy" (though I would caution you not to use that word in front of me or my little Bug). All of them have girl power!

Let's nurture our girls and build them up so that they might recognize their individual worth and embrace their God-given potential. Let's encourage our sons to do the same, for one day our boys will be walking through life with these same girls. Let's remember that our daughters, whether sugar or spice or some mixture of both, are created unique in appearance and in character for "such a time as this." (Esther 4:14) And THIS is a time for "girl power".

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Not At Home

Verse: "Dear friends, I warn you as 'temporary residents and foreigners' to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world." -1 Peter 2:11-12 NLT

This past week, as we were busy running errands after school, the girls spotted a Halloween costume store that had just opened for business. "If we are good...can we PLEASE go look at the costumes, Mommy?" the girls began to plead. I know there are those who dislike this American holiday. But the Arbuckle gals love it! The costumes. The candy. So. Much. Fun! I confess that I enjoy it as much as my kids. As we walked around the store looking at the colorful costumes, I was reminded of another Halloween, a few years ago, when I missed the Halloween excitement because I was away from home.

It was late October in 2009 and I was thousands of miles away from my cozy life in McKinney, Texas, thoroughly enjoying my time in beautiful Vienna, Austria. I had prayed and prepared for almost a year to be part of this mission team. While I served alongside new friends in Vienna, time seemed to pass quickly. The warm hospitality and friendships that greeted me allowed me to feel right at home in my new surroundings.

Then it happened. My husband lovingly sent a text message with a picture of my daughters, dressed up in their Halloween costumes, and ready for a night of trick or treating without me. All of a sudden, my heart was torn with grief as I contemplated all that I was missing with my kids that night. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I quietly imagined the squeals and laughter of my girls as they scampered up to doors decorated in fall leaves, scarecrows, and Jack-O-Lanterns and yelled, "Trick or Treat!" I pictured my son, Jack, as he pulled a wagon behind them, and collected cans of food for "Scare Away Hunger". I was missing it. All of it. And I desperately longed for home.

The moment passed. I collected myself, wiped my eyes and pressed on to focus on the work that was to be done that day in Vienna. Still, when I look back on my time in Austria, that moment stands out as one of the more defining moments of my trip. While I sat there and gazed at the smiles that looked back at me, I felt like God whispered in my heart, "Sweet child. Don't get too comfortable. This is not your home."

Now, I realize that to some, my story seems insignificant. Perhaps, even trivial. I mean, it IS only one Halloween that I missed in my kids' lives. Now, 2 years later, life has moved on and we will celebrate Halloween as we have in years past. Nothing has changed except the costumes the girls have chosen to wear on that "frightful" night. But I would argue that is not my point. The bigger picture I am trying to illuminate is that sometimes we need to remember...this is not our home.

We must be mindful, each and every day, of the moments that we can never get back. So take in the picture of this world. Consider everything. The good. The bad. And the ugly. Sit down and cry if you must. Then, dry your tears and resolve to get back to the work you have been sent here to do. Embrace your family. Make that phone call. Reach out to that friend who needs you. Take time to make a difference in the lives God has placed around you. Make some memories. And don't get so comfortable that you forget that there is work to be done. Remember...you are not at home.


The picture that brought me to tears and inspired this post.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Forget Me Not



If you were a fly on my wall on a typical morning before school, you would hear the following...

"Got your lunch? Your homework? Your cell phone?"

Like many other preoccupied teenage boys, my son is forgetful.It's not his fault. In fact, I am sad to admit that he most certainly inherited this trait from his dear mother. Still, each day, we go through a checklist of tasks before and after school so that nothing important is left forgotten.

Like any other dutiful mom who is memory impaired, I have tried to pass on tricks to assistmy son with his affliction. We make lists. Use an academic planner. And I confess, I even sometimes resort to good old fashioned nagging.(A technique proven to be completely ineffective I might add) Still, he remains forgetful.

Many of us are...

We forget God's love.

We forget God's promises.

We forget God's character.


We wake up, the world dark all around us, and we forget.

But what if we made a pledge to ourselves to NO LONGER forget? How would our present circumstances appear differently if we remembered the truth in God's word?

Never forget...

We are chosen. (You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." John 15:16)

Dearly loved. ("I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me." Proverbs 8:17)

Secure. ("For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39)

And God is FOR us!
("And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28)

He remembers us in our darkest moments and leads us into His light. ("The Lord remembers us and will bless us." Psalm 115:12 NLT)

While our enemy attempts to lure us into desperation with fear and lies, we are empowered by God's unshakable truth. So today, I must make a choice. Rather than allow my challenges to tell me who my God is, I must choose to look up and remember. Despite how circumstances appear today, I "will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me." (Psalm 103:1-2 TLB) For He is worthy of remembrance.

As a beloved daughter of the King most high, I must pause and remember whose I am. He is the great "I Am". The LORD of Lords. Almighty God. And He will forget me not.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Help



Last night, in need of a "Mommy time-out", I went out with two of my favorite gals to see "The Help". Set in the early 1960's, this movie poignantly illustrates the racial lines drawn between Americans, a few years before I was even born. Paid pathetically low wages, these brave black American women were hired as house maids in affluent white homes. The movie portrays what life in that era may have looked on both sides of the tracks in Jackson, Mississippi. Sadly, I imagine many others parts of our great nation looked similar.

Surreal to me in many ways, the movie offered a glimpse of an America, that thankfully, I do not recognize. "The help", as these women were labeled, were the ones responsible for the vast majority of household duties, including cleaning, cooking, shopping, and childcare. My favorite scene depicts a house maid speaking truth into the life of a small white child as she lovingly tells her..."You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

Though foolishly considered too lowly to even use the household bathroom, this woman had the awesome responsibility of raising up this child. Because of "the help", this little girl would grow to know her worth to her Maker, even if she didn't know it from her own mother.

Today, I am pondering my own "help". Now understand, I don't live in the America that hires house maids. The only one cooking, cleaning, and shopping at my house is yours truly. (With help from the Hubs when he isn't at the office...many thanks, Honey) And I would never allow someone else to raise my kids, for they are far too precious to me. Still, God has given me "help" as I raise up my children to take their place in His kingdom.

How grateful I am for teachers, youth workers, mentors, coaches, neighbors, and friends whose influence helps my kids to comprehend how cherished they are by their Creator. How thankful I feel for the numerous Godly influences my kids find in their midst. Without fail, these faithful individuals grant me support as I teach my kids to passionately seek after the LORD.

The days of childhood are fleeting, and passing faster than I would like. One day soon, my children shall each take a piece of me and "the help" into the future. I want my kids to know they are kind. Smart. Important. But, as a mother, and a woman of faith, it is my greatest prayer that my children will grow to fully comprehend that they are His. The Bible tells us to "train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is older he shall not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6). Clearly, a task this big requires patience, a well developed sense of humor, and a whole lot of "help".

So, if you are one of the many people making eternal investments in my kids, I owe you a debt which I can never repay. Your God-given gifts are priceless and they do not go unnoticed. Truly, my gratitude for all that you do has no limit. Thanks... for "the help".

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nineteen

I met my husband, Marty, when I was just nineteen years old. Back then, life was noisy and uncertain. Though I had been a cautious teenager, and had made careful plans for the future, nothing had turned out the way I had expected. At the time, it seemed my whole life was broken and I felt powerless to put the pieces back together.

I was a college sophomore, lived on a huge university campus and I was surrounded by thousands of people. And yet, I felt completely alone. I dutifully attended classes and was told I had a bright future, but my eyes only saw the uncertainties before me. Important relationships, which I had built my hopes upon, had broken apart. Dear friendships had been lost. Life was on a track I had not anticipated. In many ways, I felt like a total failure at the tender age of nineteen.

Then I met Marty. We were introduced over lunch. I was eating. He was working. I still remember the first time my eyes locked with his. It was surreal to feel so connected to someone whom I had never spoken. As I looked into his gentle blue eyes, I saw someone who made the world a bit less scary. I wanted to know him better, but was sure he would not be interested in a girl like me.


Our first picture together as a couple...our story was just beginning.


He told me once that what he remembers most about that first encounter was that he saw a pretty girl with a broken smile. It made me grin knowingly when he shared his perception. Even then, he knew me better than I knew myself. When he looked at me, I felt as though he could see me...the real me. The me I tried to hide from everyone out of fear of discovery. I never worried about that with Marty. With him, my heart was safe. I knew that right away. As we spent more time together, I began to shed my layers of guarded suspicion, and let him into my world and my heart.

In the weeks after we met, Marty and I spent so many special moments together during our ordinary days. Laughing. Dancing. Strolling. Talking. With Marty at my side, I felt my fears of life begin to subside as I started to believe in myself again. He lavished me in a love so innocent and sweet, and I found him irrestistible. My guard was down as I slowly fell in love with the sweet boy taking up so much of my time. Never before had anyone made such attempts to win my heart. Day by day, the storm that had raged in my life for so long, seemed to quiet as Marty earned my trust with his faithful and constant ways.

Truly, God placed these two hearts together for all eternity. Marty and I said "I Do" nineteen years ago today. Now, his wife and the mother to our three children, I hardly recognize the girl who once looked at life with such trepidation. With Marty's love, I have become a woman far more confident than the young girl he met in the cafeteria that crisp, fall afternoon so long ago.



Today, our life is still noisy, as the sounds of three children fill the rooms of our home each day. We have had ups and downs as the years have quickly passed. I have known him for half of my life and I thank God everyday that he is mine. Sometimes, life still feels a bit scary. But, when I look into Marty's eyes, I find the courage to stand firm and smile in the face of uncertainty. What a difference nineteen years, and this man, has made in my life.


Happy Anniversary, Marty. My heart will always be yours.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Grandma's Words

“You’ve always been strong-willed.” Grandma’s words stung as my wounded heart wilted for a moment. Searching for understanding, I shared my dismay at her characterization of me, her oldest grandchild, and asked her to explain. “It’s not a bad thing,” she clarified. “Ever since you were a little girl, you knew what you believed. And once your mind is set, it will not be swayed. You are strong. I have never worried that you would lose your way.”

It was one of the last conversation I had with my Grandmother this side of Heaven. Months later, she lost her battle with cancer and God took her home to be in His presence. For years, when I reflected on our exchange, my heart hurt just a little. At the time, I wasn’t sure she knew me at all. After all, I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t know which way to go. Life for me, a young woman in her twenties, was filled with uncertainties. In fact, most of the time, the world made me want to retreat into hiding. Still, as I have grown, I have come to realize my Grandma saw me with faith filled eyes. She saw the me that was yet to be. And she had faith that God would lead me on my way.

Now, many years later, my heart smiles when I recall our last exchange. Though she is not here to teach my children, my Grandmother is part of the legacy I am growing in them. Today, as I raise up Godly children in a world hostile to absolute truth, I understand what my Grandma saw in me. For regardless of what political arguments may grip our nation, I am determined to raise my children God’s way. After all, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV)

For me, the right path was easy to find, for I had my Grandmother to walk it with me. She read me God’s word. Took me to Sunday School. She even paid for me to attend the church camp where I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. But even more than that, she prayed for me and believed that God would finished what He had started in me even after she was gone.

Truly, my Grandma knew the right path when she saw it. She passed it on to me, and now I am teaching my own children to follow it as well. It’s the path of Christ and it leads to eternal life in God’s holy presence. To be sure, she would recognize the same spunky spirit in my own children that she saw in me. Those apples seem to have fallen right next to the tree! When I gaze upon them and teach them His ways, I recognize the strength looking back at me. It is the same look that lit the eyes of a little girl my Grandma understood quite well. For she knew me better than I knew myself, and she believed that God was faithful to His promises.

On my behalf, she claimed the promise that when we “train up a child in the way he should go, when he is older he shall not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) It’s a truth that endures for sons. For daughters. For granddaughters. And now, when I reflect on the words of my Grandmother, a knowing smile comes over my heart.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Starry Night


"Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh

"When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
-Psalm 8:2-4


I have always loved a starry night.

When I was a little girl, growing up in Iowa, I had a view of the heavens that I sadly took for granted. On clear nights, I often looked up at the stars blinking back at me and tried to find the brightest one so I could make a wish.

As time marched on, I grew into a teenager, and I continued to look to the night sky. But, my thoughts turned away from childish wishes. Instead, I looked up and dreamed of tomorrow as I wondered quietly where my life was going. When an occassional falling star streamed across the sky, my heart jumped in excitement as I pondered the surprises yet to come.

Now, as a woman of faith, I still gaze at the stars with the same wonder as that girl from years past. The stars, with their simplistic beauty, have been a constant reminder to me that I belong to a great and wondrous God. For, in His great might, the LORD made the stars. (Genesis 1:16)

And when I take them in, and consider the vast number of stars visible and not so visible, I am certain that He is mindful of me.

My past.
My future.
My plans.
My mistakes.
My pain.
My disappointments.
My triumphs.

God has seen it all and loved me through it all.

At times, I have been prone to doubt, as life pounded me in loss. Still, the stars in their constancy served as a beautiful reminder that He hears me. Knows me. Loves me. Delivers me. He sees me the same way I see those beautiful stars in a clear Iowa sky. For Him, I shine in the darkness of this world as I courageously live out my faith this side of Heaven.

Last week, I visited my parents' home in Iowa. So many things are the same, including the sky that beckons me when I am there. One dark, starry night, I laid on a blanket with my son, Jack, and took in the beauty of a clear summer night in Iowa. Without the illumination of city lights, we were able to vividly experience God's splendor in the heavens.

Together, we found the brightest star, made a wish, and searched for constellations as we talked about Jack's dreams for the future. Truly, it was a night I shall hold close to my heart for all the years to come. How I hope that Jack carries the stars with him as he steps slowly into manhood.

Maybe, one day, my son will look for the brightest star on a clear summer night and think of me. More than that, I hope that when Jack sets his attention on the beauty of the stars, he will remember the constant love of his Heavenly Father, who never ceases to be mindful of his needs. I pray those stars draw my son ever closer to our God...who placed the stars in their places just because He is and He can. May he always feel God's presence in the serene beauty of a starry night.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Small Stuff



Do you want to change the world? It's not as hard as it seems. It all begins with small stuff.

This past week, I was part of a mission team that served the children living at Tuscany Apartments here in McKinney. Since most of these kids have never been to church, we brought the church to them instead. Each day, we held "Beach Blast" on the apartment grounds. For the most part, it was a typical week of Bible school, including songs, crafts, and lessons. Indeed, it was small stuff that seemed to bring the most joy to the faces of those kids.

Sidewalk chalk.
Water relays.
Popsicles.
Lots and lots of hugs.
Even an old inflatable pool toy in the shape of a dolphin. (the kids named it Waterfall)

Many of us likely take these simple pleasures for granted. After all...it's small stuff. Yet, each day, as little blessings poured over the complex, the eyes looking back at me softened and smiles grew bigger. As a result, I saw the world grow a little brighter by the power of small acts of kindness performed with great love.

This morning, I witnessed 6 children take Jesus as their Savior and I rejoice with the angels in Heaven for these new brothers and sisters in Christ. Today was the end of our "Beach Blast" but I have no doubt that God will continue to work in the hearts of all who were touched by His love this week. The seeds that were planted by each servant's small acts of love will one day reap a great harvest in God's kingdom.

Too often, we underestimate God and we fail to see Him in the little things. Hopes. Dreams. Wishes. Desires. No matter how insignificant they may seem to others, God cares about it all. Likewise, He cares about the little children, whom many of us disregard. It's true...they are small and they are easy to dismiss. But we are wise to remember that Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14 NIV)

Today, I challenge you to be mindful of the little ones in your midst. For it doesn't take much to make a big impact in the life of a child...good or bad. Consider the small acts that can either help them or hinder them on their journey to Christ. Then consider the power in the small stuff. After all, we make big changes in the world... one small child at a time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Narrow Gate

Lily and Sofie spent their first week of summer vacation at tennis camp. First Baptist Church of McKinney has several sports camps throughout the summer months, and the girls were excited to learn tennis. Every day, I dropped them off at the court, coated in sunscreen, with a water bottle in one hand and a racket in the other.

Learning important skills for the game, such as how to serve overhanded and to use a mean backhand are important if the girls are to be successful tennis players that have a lifelong love for the game. Even so, they are little girls and they inherited their Mama's sweet tooth. To be sure, Lily and Sofie were most excited to receive free ice cream for memorizing their Bible verse. During camp devotions throughout the week, the girls were challenged to "Rise Above" and...

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road the leads to destruction. And many people enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and only a few will find it."-Matthew 7:13-14

Naturally, we practiced the verse a lot at home to earn that coveted Chik-fil-A ice cream certificate. And as we worked to memorize the words, I was challenged to plant the truth in my daughters' hearts. As we studied the words, we talked extensively about the crossroads before us in the road of life.

At some point, we all make a choice as to which gate we shall pass through. As a woman of faith, I pray my daughters and my son charge through the narrow gate. The world proclaims that it doesn't exist. And yet, God's Word tells us to enter through it. In a lie, straight from the pits of Hell, the world claims there are many ways to God. Still, the truth says there is only one... the narrow gate. It's marked, not by tolerance, but by the blood of Christ. While the world calls it foolishness, only the narrow gate leads to true redemption.

Today, my children walk the road of life with my husband and me. Hand in hand, we spend our days safe in the presence of our LORD. He goes before us and He has our back at the same time. But one day, not long from now, Jack, Lily and Sofie will choose their own path. There is no greater prayer for me as a mother than my desire to see my children "walk in truth."(3 John 1:4 NIV)) And I am aware that each day I am responsible to "train them up in the way they should go so that when they are older they shall not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) It's a responsibility I do not take lightly, as I understand, that for this, I am accountable to my Holy God.

Our journey has already begun and our days together are short. Therefore, as a woman of faith, I am challenged to live out and teach my kids about God's promises. As their mother, I must not fail to "teach them to (my) children, talking about them when (we) sit at home and when (we) walk along the road, when (we) lie down and when (we) get up." (Deuteronomy 11:19) I must not squander the fleeting moments I have with my kids. Instead, I must train their eyes to know the narrow gate for the world will surely hide it from them. The road of destruction will have many disguises. My children must "not forget the things (their) eyes have seen or let them slip from (their) heart(s) as long as (they) live."(Deuteronomy 4:9)

All the days of their lives, I pray my girls and my son continue to seek the narrow gate and walk the road that leads to life in Christ. As mankind continues to strive on the wide road of humanism, another path lies waiting for us all. Only with Christ can we truly "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8 NIV) It's a life of restoration and it is found by walking through the narrow gate.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life To The Extreme



This morning, I woke up early and took a van load of teenage boys to the departure site for Extreme Camp 2011.

Their excitement was contagious as we drove to our church parking lot and loaded duffel bags, sleeping bags, and pillows onto the bus. Zip lines, swimming, and tons of fun await them at Camp Wow in Oklahoma. The boys could hardly wait to get out of the van and onto the bus.

For the next four days, the youth at FBC McKinney shall live life to the extreme. And while I hope this experience is everything they imagine, I pray that camp will be so much more than fun memories with friends. I pray they are moved by the Holy Spirit to embrace a life with Christ with the same excitement they are feeling this morning.

Love,
joy,
peace,
patience,
kindness,
goodness,
faithfulness,
gentleness,
and self-control.

(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

These are the building blocks of living life to the extreme. "And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself." (Ephesians 2:20 NLT) So as my son and his posse' take in the great outdoors, I pray they also turn their hearts to their Savior. I pray they dig deep in His Word and come back changed by His grace.

For "our Lord is great and very powerful. There is no limit to what he knows." (Psalm 147:5 NCV) In Christ, we have life to the extreme.

I lifted this pic from Kim Preston's Facebook page...thanks Kim!! Jack is somewhere in that sea of blue. Over 400 FBC youth at Extreme Camp this year. Go God!!




Update: God is moving this generation, one heart at a time. During Extreme Camp, God called out over 100 kids who are feeling called to ministry in some capacity. To my delight, Jack was one of them. In addition, 47 kids chose to accept Christ and were baptized at Camp Wow. Praise God!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Closure


It's been three weeks since we heard of our recent adoption opportunity. Three long, silent weeks. Until Monday. When I woke up on Monday morning and noticed the date on the calendar, I knew something was different. "The baby is due in less than a month," I thought hopelessly to myself. "Surely, she has chosen a family by now..." The silence led me to believe that if the birthmother had indeed chosen a home for her unborn baby girl, it must not be our home. It was a reality I didn't want to face.

After I got the kids off to school, I decided to go for a run and clear my head. As the morning breeze caressed my cheek, I humbly presented my requests to God. "Heavenly Father, if this isn't our baby, please end our waiting. We need closure," my heart cried. While I hoped I was wrong, somehow, in my heart, I knew bad news was coming. For the next few hours, I reasoned and prayed as I tried to prepare myself for the looming disappointment that seemed inevitable.

The day passed slowly and still there was no word. I kept myself busy with errands. Housework. Laundry. Even Facebook. Then it happened. Immediately, I felt a lump in my throat as I heard the words..."She has chosen a family." It wasn't ours. My eyes burned as I listened to the few known details. At last, we had closure. That was good, right? Now, we could move on.

Still, I felt as though someone had just kicked me in the stomach. I hung up the phone, sat down on my bed, and began to cry. All of my efforts to lessen the pain of this day had failed. For this was NOT the closure that I wanted. What I wanted, wasn't mine. She belonged to someone else. I didn't understand and nothing could take that away.

When I told the kids about the news, my daughter Lily reacted most like me. Throwing her arms in the air and stomping the floor she yelled, "Why? What's wrong with our family? Why didn't she choose US?!" I understood her heart. For that had been mine only hours before. So, I took Lily by the hand and pulled her to my lap as I asked God to help me with answers to questions I did not understand myself. It was clear that my daughter, too, needed closure.

Gently, I said, "Lily, I know you are angry. It's okay to be mad. You can yell. Cry. Scream if you must. But let's go back to how we have prayed the past three weeks." I continued, "We prayed for God to guide this young woman and lead her to the family He has chosen for this baby. The LORD is faithful. That is exactly what He did. This wasn't our baby. She has always been theirs. God just allowed us to be part of her story for a little while. I don't understand either, but we must trust that God has a plan and that His plans are always good."

Together, my children and I cried and prayed for God to take us out of the pain that seemed to have swallowed us up. Then, we prayed for the baby girl who we had spent so much time dreaming about these past few weeks. We thanked God for her birthmother who had courageously chosen to honor her life. We praised Him that she would grow up with a Mommy and a Daddy who will cherish her and love her and train her up in His truth. And we chose to rejoice that this family, whoever they might be, are busy preparing a place for her in their home.

Most of yesterday, I felt silent. Words just wouldn't come. Instead, I sat alone with my thoughts and I just kept asking the same question. "Why couldn't we have her?" Why?! It seemed to consume me. And yet, I figured there was little chance I would ever know. More than likely, I would never have closure. While that seemed a bitter pill to swallow, I made a decision to let God be God. That would have to be enough, as it was the only closure I was likely to receive. He is God. I am not. Case closed. This was going to have to go into the growing file of "things I won't understand this side of Heaven". I didn't like it. And I told God as much. But I chose to accept it.

Little did I know, God wasn't finished. Late in the day, I indeed got the closure that I needed. Through a friend, the LORD revealed that the family that is welcoming this precious child is unable to have children of their own. As soon as I heard this, my heart rejoiced for this sweet couple and praised God for His goodness. For even though He did not owe me an explanation, God offered one anyway.

Last night, I shared the news with my children. Again, Lily responded much like me. With a big smile, she simply said, "Well then, that was exactly the right choice Mommy." That was all she needed. Now, it all made sense. We had closure. We may never know why God brought us to this place, but He didn't leave us in our pain. Instead God brought us to it. Then, in His great mercy, God brought us through it.

This morning, I woke early and stumbled to my coffee maker. As usual, I flipped our devotional calendar to glimpse at today's scripture. My heart smiled as I read the words...

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and stadfast." (1 Peter 5:10 NIV)

So today, I raise my cup to Heaven and I thank God for His closure.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jericho


The past few days, I have felt like my family and I are walking around Jericho. This week, we are awaiting to hear from a potential birth mother who is considering us for her unborn child's forever family.

Friday morning, I prayed for our chosen child and told God that I would walk whatever path He placed before us regarding our adoption journey. Of course, I imagined He would lead us to an agency or an adoption ministry that we have already researched. Little did I know, God was already at work, and we were already on a path. Where it leads, I do not not. Still, we continue to step in faith as we pray for victory.

Within hours of my prayer on Friday morning, a door opened in our adoption. In obedience, we have followed God's path. Remarkably, we learned of this unborn precious baby girl on Friday afternoon, put our profile together Friday evening, and it was in the hands of the birth mother shortly after. Truly, it is a miraculous turn of events that only God can accomplish. Honestly, I have no idea how many days we will walk around Jericho.

Now all we can do is trust, obey, and wait for God to declare victory. It isn't easy. In fact, waiting is so much harder than I ever imagined. Still, we must persevere and endure. In faith, we press on. In prayer, we look to God for strength. In hope, we ask for God's will to be done.

Yet, here is what really knocks my socks off, as I ponder the happenings of the past few days. One way or the other, God has declared victory for this child. Some lucky family will receive the blessing of this little girl, as she will make her way into this big world in mid-June. Her courageous birth mother, who has chosen to honor her baby's life, will decide with whom this precious child shall live and grow into womanhood. I hope and pray we are that family. But, even if we are not, I celebrate God's goodness. I acknowledge His great power. And, I pledge to keep walking around Jericho until He brings our baby home.

We are all waiting for victory in some area of life. While we anticipate the homecoming of our chosen child, others await employment, financial security, emotional or physical healing. Some, like us, may be waiting on the arrival of a child. I challenge you today to remember that God is the same today as He was yesterday. We are told "the LORD said to Joshua, 'See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands'." (Joshua 6:2) Never doubt that our awesome God has already declared victory over the obstacles in your midst. It may not be in your timing. It may not look the way you imagine. And it probably won't come the way you expect. Regardless,one day, He shall blow the trumpet and declare victory in the Jericho of your life and mine.

What a day that shall be! So keep walking. Keep praying. Keep hoping...and listen for the trumpet. And watch the walls of Jericho crumble at your feet.

Reading: Joshua 6

Reflection: How are you waiting on God today?

Dear Heavenly Father,
We trust in your mighty power and we await your victory as we walk around Jericho today. We thank you that you are the same mighty God that brought down the walls of Jericho for the Israelites. We recognize that You, Father, are the same mighty God today. And we wait to rejoice as you bring the walls of Jericho down in our midst. Thank you, LORD, that victory has already been declared by your power.
-Amen