April 2, 2015 is Autism Awareness Day. Don't forget to Light It Up Blue! #LIUB

Monday, March 30, 2015

He Knew Me: An Easter Allegory

He knew me. I mean really knew me. Knew everything that I had done or failed to do. Yet, I found myself wrapped in His warm embrace. I closed my eyes and rested, being filled up with His love.
He covered my tattered rags with His woolen robe, the color of blood. I breathed in his scent. Fresh and woodsy. And my skin had changed. It was clean. Cleaner than if I’d bathed in a cool mountain spring.

I glanced up, but he was already a distance away. His skin was covered in what used to cover me, a thick oily substance, black as tar.

His stride was determined. He didn’t turn back. A cedar tree blocked my view. And, then he was gone.

I scanned the horizon. But, all I could see were the trees that surrounded this lonely valley.

Then I spotted him. Climbing up a mountain. At the top stood a lone tree with two branches, one on each side. I rubbed my eyes. No, it wasn’t a tree. And, those weren't branches. It was a cross.

Dark clouds rolled in and covered the valley. Lightening crashed. I jumped a little and pulled the robe on tighter.

He was gone again. Oh, no. He was somehow fastened to the cross. Streams of red flowed down from his outstretched hands and feet.

I heard Him cry out. Then, fall limp. No. Don’t die. I. love. You.

The sky went black.

Thick darkness covered the valley.

I huddled against a nearby rock, trembling and weeping. Exhaustion overtook me.

When I awoke, there was a light. But, not the sun. It came from within the mountain. A circle of light, as from a cave. Or tomb.

A silhouette. His. He was alive. I cried, but not from sorrow. Joy. My Savior. My King. Please come back. Please take me home.

The sun peeked over the horizon. But, He was no longer there. Don’t leave me. I don’t want to be alone.

A voice. Not outside but within. Deep in my heart. “You’ll never be alone again. I will come back. Soon. Remember. You are mine. And, you have work to do.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

F.R.O.G. Week

Another summer day and my little brothers and I were bored with nothing to do. Being twelve and the one responsible for taking care of them, I knew it was up to me to figure it out.

I grabbed the knob of the front door. "Let's go exploring."

So we set off barefoot into the unknown reaches of our neighborhood, searching for new worlds and undiscovered life.

At the end of our street, there was a ditch, full to the brim with summer rains. Little ripples on the water indicated that there was life beneath the surface. Squinting into its murky depths, we all said in unison, "Tadpoles!"

There is something fascinating about any creature that goes through the process of metamorphosis, be it tadpoles or butterflies. We hurried home and grabbed as many jars as we could find, along with a little green aquarium net to "go fishing."

We dusted off the cobwebs that inhabited our empty aquarium that lay outside in the car port and carried it to my room. Setting it on the window seat that overlooked the front yard, we then poured the contents of all the jars inside. The tadpoles swished around the bottom, their little gills breathing in and out.

A few weeks went by and the tadpoles were sprouting limbs and their tails began to shrink. Then, one day, the tadpoles went missing.

As I stared into the lifeless water, something cold and wet plopped on my foot. I swiped at it and felt, whatever it was, jump off me. Scanning the floor to see where it went, I spotted several tiny green frogs resting on the carpet, their beady eyes blinking.

I gulped. Watching tadpoles was one thing, but I could not stand frogs. They were slimy and gave you warts. And they were somewhere in my room. I shivered at the thought.

Over the course of several days, my brothers and I had the joy waking up to the cacophony of frogs in our house and having them smack onto our legs as we walked along the carpet. We eventually found them all and relocated them to their natural habitat in the ditch. But, I'll never forget the summer when our house became a haven for frogs.

So far, this year, speeding by as it is, I've been reminded of my experience with the frogs. Memories are there for a reason. And, when a memory is combined with present circumstances and our faith, it takes on a whole new meaning and purpose.

This week has been a frog week. It seems like everywhere I look, I see one.

First, our gargantuan cat, Smokey or "Furball" as Billy likes to call him, found a little doll sized frog chair and has been batting it around the house. It has become his new favorite toy.

When I read the book we borrowed from the library to Little Bit, an illustration of a frog with tadpoles jumped out at me.

My daughter decided to draw a frog from her doodle book for art.

And a frog she wanted for a friend found its way to her shoulder at the zoo souvenir shop.

The latest episode of Kids React to Food...my children's favorite youtube show, had fried frog legs as a dish. Actually, I tried them as a child. Tasted like...you guessed it. Chicken.

My youngest is potty training and picked a frog sticker as a reward for remembering to use her little green potty instead of filling up her pull-up.

In searching for next year's curriculum for my children, I spotted some cute frog stickers.

And a frog dissection kit.

And there's more. More frogs that keep popping up in my life.

The Lord was teaching me something. But, for awhile, I didn't get it.

I don't know about you, but I have found that life is sometimes hard. Really hard. Everything is going good and you almost think, could life get any better than this?

Then the trial comes. And you can't avoid them.

Something is undone, without a redemption story that you know of this side of heaven. And it hurts. Life hurts. We want the pain to stop. To find that quick fix. But, life is not a hack. The blessedness of being undone is that we have to fully rely on the Lord.

It is then that we learn that He is always enough.

This world is not our home.

So what does that have to do with frogs?

I mentioned to the ladies in my Bible study group just about the stickers with a frog on it, nothing more, but I had remembered it wrong.

"What does Fully Rely On Him have to do with frogs?" Frogs are cute and all, but I thought the phrase didn't really match up.

Everyone responded with amused smiles.

One friend spoke up, "I think the stickers must have said Fully Rely On God."

I mouthed the words then put my hand over my eyes. "F.R.O.G. Fully Rely On God. Oh, I get it."

Yeah, I'm a slow learner sometimes. But, with this. Learning to fully rely on God in everything, I don't want to be slow. I want to be quick to turn to Him in everything.

Because sometimes life just hurts and you can't fix it. All you can do is lean on Jesus and He will give you peace.

I want His peace in my heart all the time.

When I forget that I'm not alone and that God is always with me, I stress myself out. I worry. I fret. But, I don't need to. He's got me. And He is there for me 24/7.

I think I know exactly where I want to take the kids for a fun spring break treat tomorrow...

May we live our moments, days, weeks, months, years and very lives, Fully Relying on God. For He saved us by taking on the weight of our sin on the cross. We can trust in Him always.

"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31,32)

"Far Country" by Andrew Peterson

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Words of Life

A few years back, I tried asking one of my children to give up watching T.V. with me
for Lent

I don't think she got it.

By the time Easter came, she was just glad it was over. Still, I wanted our family to be a little slice of the church. To do Lent together as we do life together. 

Then by the grace of God, the idea came to me. What if, this year, we all gave up something that really needs to be given up and add something we all know we need to add.

We all have something in common, living in a house of strong personalities. We raise our voices a little too much. Add to that strong emotions and a loud voice becomes yelling.

Something subtracted, something added...hmmm...

How about subtracting the yelling and adding the praying for self and for the one(s) trying our patience. 

Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down.

We need each other's words. The good ones. The true ones. The holy ones.

"1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1-2)

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the mysterious Trinity, worked together in perfect unity to build up our world before filling it with life.

"1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was 
hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light." (Genesis 1:1-3) 

In the beginning, the holy hovering words of God shot out across the world. Creating. Shedding Light. Giving Life.

Words build up, stone by stone, line by line, precept by precept.

Christ isn’t expecting churches, whether in your home or under a steeple, to be perfect. 

He alone is perfect.

Yet, He offers us grace. Because He took the nails for us, His blood washes away our sin. 

When we believe, the ever-grabbing-for-more part of us, loosens its grip on its little stake in life and turns to grasp the nail-marked hand of the One who ever-loves-us-eternally. 

We can lean on Him because we need His help. We must come to Him in weakness and rely on His strength to free us from words that hurt to speak words that heal.

May we be grace-carriers. Broken, yet bright beacons of His shining glory, loving and serving the ones He came to save.

This is how we glorify and lift up Christ. And speak words of light, love, and grace. 

"Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is 
the Son of God." 
(1 John 5:5)

Jason Gray--"Remind Me Who I Am"

Saturday, February 28, 2015

{Abiding}: So We Can Abide

It's that time of year when I have to head down to the bank and get a medical release form for my teenage Bright Girl notarized. So she can go with her friends to the Mid-Winter youth camp.

Without mom and dad.

For this homeschool mom, time to be turning my worries for her wellbeing into prayers and trust in the Lord's care for her.

As I sat in the waiting area in the middle of the bank, I noticed all the other patrons. Leaned over their smart gadgets, pressing buttons. 

Having a "no frills" cell phone that only makes calls, I didn't know what to do with myself. No women's magazines to read. Only a few revolving bank commercials on the overhead T.V. 

Fishing through my purse, I tried to find something to do, to not feel so awkward waiting.

The bank worker came to the waiting area, but passed me by to speak to the next customer. She said something in Spanish and then they both went into an office.

Then at the bottom of my purse, I spotted it. My English/Spanish translator. I've had this electronic pocket translator since I was a teen. And I've never changed the batteries. 

I pressed the power button. It flickered on.

What better time to brush up on some Spanish. I started from the very beginning. The "A" words. And read English/Spanish definitions from A to Z while I waited.

When I got to ABIDE, I paused at the definition.

ABIDE in Spanish is soportor. Sounds like support.

But, in Spanish, soportor is only used in a negative sense, like 
can't abide people who slurp their soup.

Us siblings in Christ have trouble abiding with each other sometimes.

Loving each other with all our flaws.

Extending {GRACE}

Why is that?

We tend to mimic our culture and break off and away into cliques.

Don't we?

But, that leaves some people out.

And, if they know we are Christians by our love, that's gotta change. 

We have to, by the grace of God, abide with everyone who draws near to the throne of grace. 

Because Christ draws near to us, despite the ugly things we've done, we can do the same.

And, help make the church and the world a more beautiful place.

A place of love.

Because these three remain: faith, hope and love.

But, only one lasts when we meet our Savior face-to-face.

Where faith and hope are a reality, it's love that endures forever.

Let us be siblings who abide in Christ and abide with each other.

We may not be strong enough, but He is.

We can lean on Him.

And, when our turn comes, we can be that Grace-carrier who lends a hand.

May we all lean on Christ and be the Grace-carriers to each other and to the nations that do not know Him.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me." John 15:4

Thursday, February 12, 2015

{Not Forgotten}: How Others Can Know Jesus is Real

Tolkien Inspired Riddle:

Middle-aged. Middle Earth. Middle child. 

Of these three,

What is the commonality?


The most obvious answer would be "middle," 

but, no.

It's me.

Those who really know me (and are good at analogies), would know the three intersected on my birthday (there's middle-aged), when I saw The Hobbit 3: The Battle of Five Armies (and Middle Earth).

And, growing up, I was the second oldest of my mother (the middle child).

Being raised as a middle child, where did that leave me?

An introvert with a tendency toward solitude.

Grandma's floral couch (the one behind my brothers and me) was my hiding place. Whenever we visited her, and I wanted to be alone, I'd crawl behind there and just imagine my own sort of Middle Earth.

At home, there wasn't a place that I could be alone, so I escaped barefooted to the woods that surrounded our house. Shaded from the sun by towering oak and pine trees, I explored the conservation area around Turkey Creek. In my place of solace, I had peace and quiet and room to breathe.

I loved to be alone. And still do.

If it wasn't for the little party of five that I now live with to celebrate my birthday and make me blackberry cobbler (thanks Bright Girl) in lieu of cake and give me roses (good going hubby), I might not have come out of my shell.

Because I like it in there.

It's safe.

But, it's lonely, too.

And, unless you put yourself out there, how will anyone know the things you're going through?

Or how will I know what others are going through?

We need each other.

Because I know that Jesus is always with me, I am never alone.

"For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Hebrew 13:5

Sometimes, I take that too far and spend too much time alone, when I am called to go out and be a light for others.

Love needs hands and feet to feel true.

This thirty-something mama has work to do. It's not natural for me to reach out. But, when I do, it feels so right. And, I know it's what the Lord has planned for me, for all of us.

This is what we're here for. To show others they are not forgotten.

Praying with that person who needs a miracle. Sending off those messy Valentines your children made. Writing that note to another mom who's hurting. These things Matter. 

Because you matter.

Whether you're a first-born go-getter, a middle like me, or a youngest adventurer, there is a place in this world, specifically tailored for you. To be a light for Christ.

One good thing about being a middle-child is that I have no problem having a quiet time. I love to search the Scriptures and find God in ways I've never seen Him before.

Quiet times of solitude with the Lord are good. But, we can't stay there forever. Love isn't meant to be bottled up in our own hearts, it's meant to be shared. We have to come out and be conduits of His love. Pouring our lives into others, so they, too can know Jesus is real.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." 
Matthew 5:16

I Will Not Forget You by Waterdeep

Sunday, February 1, 2015

{Perspective}:How to Know God is Real

It was time to let my little boy, with the cowlick in the back that refuses to stand down, know the good news. 

He was watching Phineas and Ferb on Netflix with his siblings. 

"Guess what?" I said loud it enough to rise above the volume of Phineas trying to make plans about what to do today... 

No response.

"Hey. Little Man? I've got something to tell you." Slightly louder.

He glanced at me. "What?" Then turned back to the computer screen.

It seemed like he was still listening, but it's hard to tell sometimes with autism

"I am going to be your teacher tomorrow." I paused. "In your third grade Sunday School class." No feedback. "How do you like that?"

He continued to stare at the cartoon. "Oh. Good," he said without flinching.

Helping teach a classroom full of rowdy, rambunctious nine-year-olds, was not really my idea of a day of rest, but I was surprised to find that I was blessed in doing so.

Toward the end of class, one of the questions the lead teacher asked struck me. 

"How do you know God is real?"

That's not just a question for kids. And, it's hard to answer.

For the first time that morning, the class went silent.

Then one bright girl spoke up. "In God's Word."

And, it got me thinking.

How do we know God is real?

Yes, in His Word, the Holy Bible, the best-selling book in all of time, preserved through millenia, translated into nearly every language in existence.

But, how do we know God is real from the Bible?

Well, that is where faith comes in...

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

But, how does one go about getting faith?

Can you try really hard to conjure up feelings of belief?
No. Although feelings are associated with it, faith in itself is not a feeling (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Can you study really hard and know everything about theology?
No. Unless you experience a spiritual rebirth, you cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)

Can you do every religious practice "religiously" to be considered a righteous person?
No. Every thing we try to do to be right with God is still done without Him and brings us no closer to knowing Him.

God must reach out to us.

Because faith is a gift from above (Ephesians 2:8,9).

And, here is the real good news...

God reached down from on high, broke through the womb of a lowly virgin, grew in wisdom and stature in grace and in truth. 
He allowed Himself to be broken, poured out and killed on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins. 
And, He was raised back to life and now is in heaven until the appointed time of His return.

It takes a miraculous faith to believe in salvation through Christ Jesus.

And also, for us to acknowledge that Christ is not only our Savior, but our Lord, Whom all our feelings, thoughts, plans, words, and actions bow down to.

"That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9,10)

When we believe He reached down to us, and we daily acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord, we know He is real.  And, we will see Him in our lives.

Five Ways to See God:

In our feelings: when we worship the Lord through song, with lifted hands, bowed down, or clapping in exaltation, we allow our hearts to adore Him. And, we will fall in love with Him.

In our thoughts: when we pray and meditate on God's Word, His Works, and His Providence, our minds are renewed. We become God-focused. And, we will think like Him.

In our plans:  when we make a point to look to the Lord first in all things, our lives are set in tune with His will for us. We will trust Him to work all things out for our good (Matthew 6:33, Romans 8:28).

In our words: when our feelings, thoughts and plans are saturated with the Lord, our words will be full of love, thankfulness, and praise. We will confess His faithfulness to the world.

In our actions: when we depend on the Lord's strength to do the things that are hard, but good, we will be able to accomplish the impossible. We will take courage in Him.

We can only see God because He first reached out to us and gave us His grace. 

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8)

"I See God in You" by Josh Wilson

Saturday, January 17, 2015

{Marriage is Hard}: 10 Ways to Keep it Going Strong

It was April 1, 1995. April Fools Day. Flannels and droopy hair were in style. Either that or everything black. To express our teenage angst. 

I was sitting at table with a friend and all his other friends at a Denny's restaurant way past midnight. My parents weren't worried about me. As long as I was in a group, it didn't matter how long I stayed up.

And that is when we met. Sleepy-eyed and trying to be cool. Telling jokes and eating appetizers.

When it was time to go, I hugged him goodbye and the rest is history.

It's amazing how we have come from this...

To this...

The first few years of marriage were pretty easy. Just living life and loving each other.

Then, the winds and rain of tragedy hit our house, threatening to make it fall with a tremendous crash. There were times it very nearly did, but by the grace of God and our holding onto Him and His faithful Word, we made it thus far.

And, as we healed, forgave and were restored, we are glad we stayed together. And, thankful to the Lord neither of us gave up.

So what did I learn along the way? Tons. I wrote it all down in journals to look back on. Because I know marriage is hard, but the Lord is strong enough and His grace is sufficient enough to help us weather life's storms.

And it is good to be reminded, encouraged on those hard days. From my journals, I noticed the following reoccurring themes...

10 Ways to Keep a Marriage Strong:

1. Be Thankful: keep a notecard of all the reasons you are thankful your spouse to keep tucked in your Bible and look back on when you aren't feeling so loving toward him.

I am thankful that he...

opens doors for me
holds heavy things for me
encourages me
makes breakfast for the kids...

2. Be Prayerful: Once a week, I set aside a day to pray for my husband. A good book that helped me to start was The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. Life is a battle (Ephesians 6:12-13). Your spouse needs you on his side in prayer to fight the temptation to be selfish. To love sacrificially.

3. Be Grace-full: The times when you have the hardest time loving your spouse is the time when you need the most grace. These are the times I have asked for "multiplied grace and peace (2 Peter 1:2)."

4. Be Humble: We need to be humble enough to let things go. Some battles are worth fighting, but most aren't. It is more about saving face and saving pride.If the issue isn't crucial enough to be resolved at that moment, give your spouse some time and space to be lead by the Lord in loving you.

5. Be Open: Sometimes you will need to use unconventional methods to encourage your spouse to be a godly husband. If there are things in your marriage that are not healthy, ask the Lord to show you ways to help keep the good things in and the bad things out. Be willing and open to do the hard things to stay together. A helpful book to consider is Boundaries in Marriage and consider getting good Christian counselling.

6. Be Submissive: Submission is not as bad as it sounds. We look to the Lord and do what is pleasing to Him. And as we do, our desire to do things that please our husband grows (Ephesians 5:22-24). This doesn't mean being less or burying our wants and needs. It just means living in peace and harmony and not doing things that would put a burden on family life without first coming to a consensus with our spouse. Communication is key in true submission. Not silence.

When I felt passionate about going on a mission trip to Ukraine, at first Billy didn't want me to go. It would be burdensome to be apart from me and be the sole caretaker of our child, but I gave him ample space and time to think and pray about it. He eventually came around and gave me his blessing. We need our husband's blessing to flourish in whatever our pursuit.

7. Be Alone With God: If we can't be alone with God, we can't grow. Our faith walk is not dependent on our spouse. We have to make the time every day cultivating our own relationship with the Lord, apart from our husband. In heaven, there is no marriage (Matthew 22:30). We will be close to our husband, but in a different way. Our most important relationship is with God.

8. Be Patient: Being in a "marriage rut" is no fun. But, we must remember we are on a journey of faith. This world is not our home, but there will be times of refreshing. Wait for those times and seek God's face. He will bless you in the waiting.

9. Be Creative: It is imperative that our spouse is not our sole means to purpose and fulfillment. All the Disney princess movies have a "happily ever after" when the prince marries his bride, but then what happens. What happens after Mr. Darcy wins over Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice? We need to seek ways to use our gifts to the glory of God in our family, but also in the world. To be a light and let it shine for Christ.

10. Be Loved: "We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)." When we know who we are in Christ are hearts are filled with love. And we can share that unconditional, grace-filled, agape love with our spouse. And, with the world. When they see our love for each other, they see Christ in you the hope of glory !

"Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness."

Lamentations 3:22-23

"Finally Free" by Rend Collective