Monday, December 31, 2007

New Beginnings

"This is what the LORD says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,

17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:

18 "Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.

19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:16-19

These verses today are a reminder- a reminder of who is in control. The first few verses mention great things that God has done in the past. I mean, really, who else could hold back water and part a sea long enough for an entire nation to cross it. Then this same God released the water at just the right time that the enemy following was destroyed. Our God is amazing and can do anything-literally. There is nothing too difficult for God.

Then we look on to verse 18 though, and this is what made me think this verse was perfect for today. "Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past." As we close a year and look ahead to the next, it is nice to look back and remember the time behind us. But it does us no good to dwell on it. It does us no good to look back and wish we'd have done something differently. All we can do is look back, remember that which we have learned and use that as we move forward.

"See, I am doing a new thing!" How exciting is that! Tomorrow we begin a new year- a new opportunity to do our best. A new opportunity to share God's Love with those around us. God doesn't want us to dwell in the past- he wants us to look forward. He doesn't want to miss the excitement that is just in front of us! Next year, 2008, is going to be an amazing year! How can it not be! With God at the front of us leading the way, I know he is steering us into some great things for next year. I am eager, and ready, and I literally cannot wait. I feel like a kid in a candy store- giddy with anticipation. So as we close out the year of 2007 I will smile, look back and see all the challenges we met head on and wonder in amazement how we did all that. I will hold in my heart all that I have learned and hide it away so that it might be used in the future. And tomorrow a new day will dawn, and a new year. A new opportunity to get it all right. What an Awesome God!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Sunday Reminder

Heart and Soul takes Sunday's off for now. I like to spend this time fellowshipping and sharing God's love with others and with my church.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

There is Always Room In Heaven

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:1-3

One thing that we never need to worry about is that there will be room for us in Heaven. :-) While scientists here on earth are discussing global population and when we will run out of room, there will always be room with God. And the best part is that he wants us there with him! He wants us to learn to love him here on earth so that he can spend eternity with us. That's a long time, and it's humbling to think about. To think that God wants to spend eternity with me... that's a little crazy to think about.

What I also love about this verse above is Jesus's brutal honesty. "If it were not so, I would have told you." He says that so matter-of-factly. That if there would be reason for concern, he would have shared that information with those closest to him. Jesus was completely honest while he was on earth. God doesn't lie. And while he was on earth as Jesus, he did not lie then either. He needed to leave his friends to prepare a place for them in heaven, and he told them that as a way to comfort them. He gave them a thought to think on while they were grieving the loss of their friend and savior. They could cling to his words after he was gone, and that speaks a lot about Jesus and his character. He was kind and compassionate, and honest.

And we can cling to that too. We can cling to knowing that right now, a place is being prepared for us to spend eternity. Our job is to take along as many with us as we can. Where here on earth we go visiting and need to check with our hosts before bringing a friend, in heaven, there will be endless room, and God wants us to bring as many with us as we can. Who would you like to ask to accompany you to heaven?

Friday, December 28, 2007


"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

I think this verse is perfect for this time of the year. When so many of us have gotten so busy with the holidays, doing this and that and everything we said we wouldn't do this year. It doesn't take much to become frazzled and over scheduled. That in turn leads to short tempers, crabbiness, and an overall general unwillingness. I guess when I am faced with way too much going on, I just plain become unpleasant to be around. Thank God for his rest. When we've realized we've had enough, we can always turn to God and ask him for help. We can ask him for help realizing our commitments, and for help in making wiser decisions about future commitments. And he follows through every time.

But first we have to suck up our pride and admit that we've made a mistake. That trying to be superwoman was a bad idea and that we truly do want his help. I swear to you, I've seen it happen. Back around Thanksgiving, I realized that we'd really committed ourselves. We had three weeks in a row of an insanely busy schedule, and nothing we could do about it except follow through. I spent a few days praying about it before it got here. I turned to God and really asked him for strength and help and guidance to meet our commitments. But I didn't only ask for that, I also asked for help meeting our commitments with joy. And sure enough, I met all the commitments head on, and enjoyed every second. And then, when it was all over, I was in God's hands for a time of rest. I've been in his hands ever since. The last three weeks have been a most blessed and wonderful time of rest and rejuvenation. I was able to completely enjoy Christmas without a care in the world, because I turned to the Lord and asked him for rest.

God's rest is an amazing thing. Not only do I feel rested, and like I've had plenty of time to enjoy my family, but I am ready to go. I feel rejuvenated and like something is coming around the corner for me to sink my teeth into, and that I'll be fully ready to tackle it. I can't wait! And I know that with God's help, I will keep focused and will be able to choose to do that which is important to me, and also be able to say no with grace. There is no better lesson to learn than that, and I look forward to trying it on in the new year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Praise The Lord!

"Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Psalm 103:1-5

As we close out the year of 2007, what else could be more fitting than a few days of praise? It may have been a rough year at times, but God saw us through. He took care of us and provided when we needed provision. He provided things we never even expected, or knew that we wanted. He also taught us a few lessons, and I can only pray that we will hold those lessons close to our hearts so that we do not forget. And we can praise him for the year ahead! The turning of the calendar provides us for an opportunity for a new beginning. That is a wonderful gift each and every year. We get a fresh opportunity to start over and try something new. We get to set new goals and discover new talents and ideas.

I have a few ideas about the year ahead. First, I would like to get a few more team members in here so we can have a posting every single day of the week. If you're interested, please let me know. I also want to try and get a handful of different studies to follow- but assign them to days of the week. I loved doing the Proverbs 31 study,and I may go back and do it again. Only instead of 31 days in a row, I would assign it to Monday only. And then Tuesday we'd look at Genesis some more, and then on Friday I would share a praise of the week. Some more structure here I think would be helpful, and would also help me with continuity on the days I'm not sure what to share. One thing is certain though, this will continue to be a place of encouragement for those who need it. I can only pray that God will continue to use this blog to help others, and that he will guide me in the direction it needs to go.

Thanks for hanging out with me this year. I look forward to the year ahead!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:16-20

Merry Christmas to you from Heart & Soul. I will be taking a few days off here to celebrate this most wonderful holiday with my family. May the joy of Christmas be contagious and fill you to the brim this year! Know that I'll be thinking of you and praying for you as we celebrate the miracle of Christ's birth.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Waste Not

"When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." John 6:12

Wow! How is it I've missed this verse before, or that it didn't catch my eye before. Even Jesus himself was a bit on the frugal side. I do wonder what they did with all that leftover food. There were 12 baskets of bread and fish leftover. I like to think that Jesus picked out some of the poorest people with him that day and gave it to them. And I can bet that they didn't waste one crumb of their leftover miracle.

We have made no secret of being in a streak of very little money right now. But this verse just gives me an added boost to keep doing what we've been doing. We've been wasteful of very little lately. When we eat dinner and there are leftovers, I use those leftovers as much as I can until they are gone. It just makes good sense, and is something that now that I've learned, I can try to use even when we are doing better in the area of finances. When I look at the books from the past, it makes me cringe when I see how much money we've spent where. It's actually embarrassing to see how much I would spend on groceries in a one month period of time. And here, we've been doing just fine on a meager amount.

Now imagine, Andy is making more money and things are a bit easier financially. Imagine that we continue with the meager grocery shopping- and now look at all the extra money we have. Think of all the things we could do with that excess. We would be able to increase our giving like we've wanted to. We've wanted to hep support a few missionaries, but having the actual finances to do so have not been possible. We've also wanted to do more with things like the Food Pantry and other programs that help feed people. We could do it if we continue with the habits that we've developed over the last two months. We could easily do it.

I'm beginning to suspect a reason for going through what we have been going through. While we've always wanted to be savers for the reason of paying down debt, and saving to buy a big ticket item, I don't know how much it's occurred to us to save to give. Save so that when we see someone else in need, we can help them out as much as we can.

That's the thing with life experiences. Sometimes, we need to go through something so we know what it feels like. We've been tight on money before, but for the first time, a few weeks back, I literally had no money to go buy groceries. Payday came and went, and I could buy nothing. The next week I spent completely making stretch what we had, and you know, we did it. I managed, and we did just fine, but now I know how other people feel. I now know what it means to look in an empty fridge and wish I could just find $5 so I could go pick up something to make dinner. I know what it is like to be barraged with requests by my little ones and have to tell them that Mommy simply has no money.

It's been a tough lesson, but I daresay, the message has been received, and I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time ever, I have not been afraid to ask for help. I've graciously accepted anything someone offered us and treasured whatever it has been, because in my mind, it's been a gift from God each and every time. Even something as simple as a box of oatmeal just brightened my day. For God does provide both our needs and our wants. Sometimes, we just don't know that our wants are not what we truly want.

I pray wholeheartedly that as things improve here, this mindset will continue. When I think about how much we could help others in other parts of the world...well, it's an overwhelming thought, and I know that with God, it is more than possible, it's a certainty, as long as we continue to trust in him and his provision.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Your Thoughts

"Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Luke 2:34,35

These words were spoken when Jesus was just seven days old. When babies are born today, people will often hold a young child and make comments about what they're going to do when they are grown. Usually they're things like "you're going to be a great lawyer." or "look! An artist!" These words spoken by Simeon are a tiny bit different from that...don't you think? And his words are completely true as well.

Just this week in a city in my area the nativity scene has been debated. It's been put up at a city hall, and it's being questioned as being offensive to some. For a few days it was debated to have people from other faiths be allowed to put up their symbols of the season. In fact, a Wiccan wreath was also up for a few days. Those words from Simeon were glaringly obvious this week. He has truly become a sign that people speak against. One of the things that has boggled my mind is that so many people say they celebrate Christmas- but not the nativity. Isn't that an oxymoron? How can someone put up lights and a tree and give gifts and make cookies and still not believe in Jesus? How can you go through the motions and celebrate a holiday without celebrating it's meaning? That's truly no different in my mind than if I'd suddenly decided to celebrate Kwanzaa. Sure, I can do some group dancing and give gifts and light candles for eight days, but what would be the point? It would become glaringly obvious to anyone around me that I wasn't really celebrating Kwanzaa with my thoughts and my heart, but with my actions.

So then we see that more of what Simeon has said has become true- it does become obvious where someone's heart is very quickly. Those people who ask the nativity to be taken down clearly do not have their hearts placed with God now do they. This is an opportunity to pray for these people and ask the Holy Spirit to show them the error of their ways.

There's something else I've noticed about Jesus as a sign. He is the only one that is asked to be taken down. No one ever asks the holiday symbols of other cultures to be taken down- just the symbols that represent my Christmas and my God. That makes me sad. That we have come to this point- and it also points out another part of Simeon's prophecy. That a sword will pierce our souls as well. It should pierce our soul every time we see another battle over the nativity scene. And every time someone wishes us Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas it should stir up something. It's Christmas! If you take away the Christ, all you're left with is the mas. I don't think I want to be celebrating that one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Living Praise

"The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
fathers tell their children
about your faithfulness." Isaiah 38:19

This verse was something that the king Hezekiah wrote in the book of Isaiah. He had been very ill and at the point of death, and prayed to God and wept because he knew he was at death's doorstep. Then God sent Isaiah to Hezekiah to tell him that he had heard his prayer and was going to extend his life.

"Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5 "Go and tell Hezekiah, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life." Isaiah 38:4,5

Wow! Think about that. Hezekiah was about to die, and God heard his cries and gave him what he wished- a longer life. Hezekiah rejoiced by writing of his trials and God's grace to him, and the verse above in particular stuck out to me this morning. Specifically because it talks about the living. That has more than one meaning here, and I thought it was interesting. The living praise God, but not just the living in the sense of not being dead. Those who have given their hearts to God, who follow his laws and his book- those are the living we talk about here. The people who walk this earth without God are walking the walk of eternal death and torment, and it's only by believing in God that they may truly be living.

And then! And then once they have given their hearts to the Lord, not only are they living in Him, but they must praise Him as well- not because they have to, but because they want to. Because their hearts are so full of his grace and his love, that if they don't let it out in the form of praise, their hearts will just burst from holding in all that love. The Living just can't keep it in, they need to share it and tell about it. As the verse goes on to describe, fathers share God's faithfulness with their children. They want their children to experience the same love and joy that they do, so they share with their children what God can do for them if they just let him in.

For God is Great and greatly to be praised! (1 Chronicles 16:25) Our God is wonderful and magnanimous, and we, the living, must praise him with everything we have.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why Do I Do What I Do?

"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;" Romans 8:6

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

I've been thinking a lot lately about service. When we first started going to the church as a family, I had determined a few things about joining this new church. The first one was that I was going to not do anything. Really. Growing up our family was always very, very involved and very busy with church. I was at church four times a week for different reasons, and each time there was some sort of service involved for me as well. In one given week I could be found teaching three different classes, playing the drums for two services, running weekly puppet practice, and helping coordinate activities for youth-among, many, many other activities. And that was all before I was even 18 years old. So when my husband and I joined this church I determined that I needed to just be. I wanted to be the person who didn't contribute, but rather just took it all in. It didn't take long for me to realize that was foolish behavior on my part.

But that brought me to my second determination. I was not going to take anyone else's area of service. Every single person at this small church had their different areas of service and tasks to do, what I didn't want was to be the person who swooped in and "stole" their area of service from them. So as a result of this determination, I also didn't contribute. Silly me. It didn't even occur to me that maybe some of these people were serving because they thought they had to. Because it was a small church and there wasn't anyone else to do what they did, but it didn't occur to me then that maybe some of the people there would want to take a break from what they did. Or that maybe there were areas of service that hadn't been explored yet within the church body because no one else had those ideas or talents.

Obviously, things have changed. I've become more involved, but it did take me a long time to get to the point of involvement. And the biggest reason for that is my spirit. It didn't take long before I had the desire to serve, but I didn't want to look like I was seeking attention for my service. So I suppressed the desire to serve. One thing that I had become aware of in my younger days was that sometimes I did things for the attention, not because it served God. I would do something for the accolades, or simply because it felt good doing it- not because of the real reason for doing it. To serve God.

That is the reason for service. The reason for becoming active within a church and a community, is solely for God's Glory. If we open up our minds and spirits to His Spirit and His Voice, the works that come out a result of listening to that voice are works of faith. If we take Jesus with us as we do our service, and hold him close in our hearts, the service we do is for him and of him and will mean so much more than if we just did something because we can.

That's why I do what I do. Every single thing that I do within our church and with other churches and within our community is done because the Holy Spirit has placed that need on my heart and showed me what needs to be done. He has asked me to serve- sometimes in areas I really don't want to, but I do it anyways. And in the end, when it is finished, and lives and hearts have been touched, I am overwhelmed with gladness and love for that voice that prompted me in the first place. I do what I do for the love of Jesus. Because he came to earth as a baby, and grew, and lived life here on earth for a time after spending eternity in a wonderful heaven, and because he died specifically for me... I give him my heart and my ability to serve with all my heart. My body and my mind are his, and I pray that he continues to guide me to where I am needed most.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Full of Love

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20,21

Imagine how much Joseph must have loved this woman. My last post talked about the fear that Mary must have gone through, but this is a whole different ball of wax. The love that Joseph must have been filled with to stay with her is amazing to me. I think it would have been very easy for him to dismiss this angel and walk away from Mary for forever. But he didn't. He took what the angel said and held it in his heart and took care of Mary. He accepted the fact that she was pregnant with God's Son, despite the ridicule that he no doubt received from everyone around him. In the world's eyes, she was damaged goods, and that reflected on Joseph, and who knows what the people said about Joseph. You know he had to love Mary, and love God in order to stay and be her husband.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon and early evening celebrating Christmas with our dearest friends. It was much needed, Andy hasn't been feeling very much in the holiday mood, and yesterday we had the perfect opportunity to spend time with friends and just share what Christmas is all about- and that is love. Mary loved God and found great favor with him. Joseph loved Mary and loved God and was chosen to be the earthly father for God's Son. And God loved US so much that he came to earth as a baby to save us all from eternal torment. Love is an amazing and powerful thing. By the time the evening drew to a close, I think it was safe to say that we'd found the Christmas Spirit. By remembering the reason for Christmas, and sharing that love with those we love, we are able to fully enjoy Christmas and all that it means to us.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Do Not Be Afraid!??

"But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Luke 1:30-33

I read these verses this morning and all I could think was, how could she not be afraid!? Here there is an angel in front of her telling her that she is going to be pregnant. She is unmarried and a virgin, and yet she is going to become pregnant and carry a child. There are so many reasons to be afraid here. First there are the social ramifications. Mary does have a fiancee in Joseph, but it would cause great scandal for her to be pregnant before their wedding. In the culture at the time, Joseph would be able to call of the wedding completely. Life could be rough for Mary, she could become an outcast, unwelcome in her family or anywhere else-and that's if they let her live! And she wasn't supposed to be afraid?

Then there's the mere fact that she's about to become pregnant with a child. A child! She is going to have a baby and be responsible for that little life. That's enough to scare anyone who is not prepared for it. I know every once in a while I'll wonder what it would be like to have another child, and I'll literally begin sweating and breathing funny- the thought of another baby scares me to death! As added pressure, she is not raising just any child, she is raising the Son of God.

I'd say Mary had every reason to be afraid, don't you think? Fortunately for Mary, the angel went on with what he was saying, and in my mind, he says the one thing that would calm her and ease her fears. He says that she has found favor with God. Wow. To me that does say that all will be well and that Almighty God will be looking out for Mary and this baby and that everything will work out for the best.

Imagine the fears that would be eased if we knew we had found favor with God. How about trying to think a little more like Mary. What if we spent more time accepting what God says to us through His Word. I think part of that is accepting that she was a normal person. She was just like me, going about her business doing her work for the day when the angel appeared to her and told her what would happen. And she accepted it as he said it. I pray that as I go through this Christmas season that I can remember that, and try to be a little more like Mary.

Friday, December 14, 2007


"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed." Matthew 2:10

I would have loved to have been part of the entourage of the magi- the three wise men from afar. They traveled thousands of miles in search of The Messiah, not really knowing where they were going. They encountered an evil king who wanted to kill baby Jesus, and tried to fool them into telling him where the baby was. Of course they didn't give him what he wanted, but still. What we read in the Bible was that they saw the star guiding them to God's Son and they became overjoyed. Imagine that. Seeing the star that you know means that God is here on earth in human form. How amazing. I would imagine they wept tears of joy they were so overjoyed.

They had brought gifts from afar-gifts from the east where they were from.

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." Matthew 2:11

I wonder. As they bowed before the Son of God, and presented their gifts, did the thought come upon them at all that their gifts were not adequate? They bowed before him and worshipped him, giving him their hearts as well as the treasures from their homelands. I bet these magi were wonderful men. I imagine that they were fun and jovial, yet serious when they wanted to be. I also bet that as they returned to their homelands, they carried a twinkle in their eyes for the rest of their lives after spending time with the Messiah.

Is it not the same way for us? We spend our lives looking for meaning, for a purpose, and then once we've found God and his precious son, Jesus, we gain a sparkle. A twinkle that wasn't there before. I'm so thankful that Jesus came to us to put that sparkle there. Life would be pretty dull and meaningless without it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It Never Rains, But It Pours

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:11,12

I am literally at a loss for words this morning. I have been, pretty much since Abigail came home from school yesterday. It was at that time that I found a bag full of Christmas presents on my front porch. I just haven't been able to stop smiling since. I'm just amazed at the thoughtfulness of the people around us. This is the second time this week that we have been blessed by an anonymous person. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that these are gifts from God. God has placed us on other people's hearts, and I just don't know what to say to that! It is so amazing to see God's Love in action.

The verse above pretty much explains the point I've come to in the last week. I'd decided to be content with what we have and with our situation, but God had other plans. Part of me wishes, though, that I knew who was responsible for the blessings we've been finding, so that I could thank them personally. But I also understand the wish for anonymity, as I've been on that end myself. So it will just have to do that I thank God for all he has given us. Both what he has given us outright, and what he has given us through the loving hands of other people.

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23:1

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Give Him Your Troubles

"Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22

"But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

11 My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside." Job 23:10,11

Those verses are so true. I love that first one, "cast your cares on the Lord." You can give him your troubles, and then not think on them so much and let them fester and bother you. Sure, we have worries and concerns right now, but by giving them to God, by relying on him to help work everything out, we no longer have to focus on them. I could easily be consumed by worry if I didn't have God to rely on. It could guide my every moment, and disrupt my sleep. Instead, I choose to pray on my troubles, and then leave them at the altar. I choose to lay my burdens at the feet of My Lord and rely on his intervention to take them away completely. I know he can do that, and will do that.

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:12,13

This verse says straight out to rejoice in your sufferings. That just seems so contradictory to what we should be doing, doesn't it. But look at the rest of that verse! We are to rejoice in our sufferings, because through them, the glory of God will be revealed. When our troubles are over, there is going to be no doubt that it was because of God that we made it through. It's going to be so wonderful to have this testimony about how God saw to our needs and took care of us. Just think about the potential there.

It's no secret that our troubles right now are of the financial kind. When I think of the world, that is probably one of the biggest worries of people in general. Everyone worries about their finances. There are so many books and programs and counselors who deal specifically with money concerns. And in the midst of all that is a surefire way to control your finances and not have to worry about them, and that is through God, and God alone. We may be behind a bit for now, but I know that He is going to be our champion and we will make it through, and then we will have one amazing testimony. When all is said and done, people are going to ask us how we managed on so little, and we are going to be able to say that it was through the Grace of God, and through no means of our own. That is a reason to rejoice if I ever heard one!

So yes, I do worry sometimes. I worry about every day that goes by that we're not paying our bills, but I don't let it control me. When I find my thoughts dwelling on it, I say a prayer and ask God to take care of it and stop me from worrying so much. And he most certainly does. I have complete confidence in God to us through to the end of trouble.

"Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter." 1 Peter 4:16

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Heaps of Blessings!

"You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth." Psalm 71:20

"Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead," 2 Corinthians 2:9

God amazes me. Completely amazes me. I think I'd finally acquiesced to the idea of Christmas this year. I understood that money was not going to just fall from trees and that gifts were going to be what we could make of it. I decided that all extra treats and goodies that I make this year just weren't going to happen much either. Ultimately, after being kind of sad about it for a while, I just determined that this was the way things were going to be, and I'd decided to be okay with it. Okay God, I understand I'm learning a lesson and I refuse to get sad and depressed about the holidays. I know what we are celebrating, and this year, I am just so thankful for that.

Then God does something amazing. First, last week he laid it on my sister's heart to mail me a package full of baking supplies-along with a little extra money for things like butter, flour, and sugar. And then he laid it on my mom's heart to take me and buy me a few more things I needed. And just like that, I had the things I needed to bake some Christmas treats. I have been so excited about that, that I've really been taking my time deciding what to make so that I can enjoy it more.

Then there was yesterday. I went out to get the mail, and there, underneath all the mail, was a lone gift card. No to or from- not even a dollar amount on it. Just a gift card to a major retailer all by it's lonesome. What a blessing! Some beautiful person tucked that into my mailbox for me to find. It completely lifted my spirits and gave me a burst of joy. Now the dilemma is how best to use it. Was it intended to be used for gifts for the kids? Or was it intended to buy them clothing that they need? Or was it intended to put a few groceries in my pantry? I have no way of knowing. But the card is sitting on my fridge, waiting for me to be prompted to use it. I want to use that gift in the absolute best way possible to honor the thoughtfulness of the person who left it.

I am just amazed at the graciousness of God. Just when you think you have things figured out, the unexpected happens. And I can almost hear God chuckling, saying "see, child. I know what you need, and what you want, and I am looking out for my children." I just...I don't have words I guess. Words to describe how...magnanimous? Is that the right word? Regardless. Our God is amazing and he truly is the provider of everything. I need to trust, more than ever, that he will be taking care of my little ones, because they are jewels in his eye.

In the words of the Christmas play, "thank you for Your many blessings, thank you for Your constant care."

**Okay, I'm editing late in the day, because God's on a roll, and I'm just about to reach the point of being overwhelmed. I just received an e-mail from someone offering some of their child's outgrown clothing for Abigail. In just the last few days I've noticed that she's grown again, and the sweaters she have just don't seem to be fitting very well. With no way to remedy that, I figured we were just going to have to make do. And look! He even provides the comfort of a few new sweaters for a growing girl. It's truly amazing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Blessings and Joy

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4

"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

This past weekend we were so blessed. Beyond blessed, really. We have been working with the children at our church to put on a Christmas play, and last night was the kids performance. They were so wonderful! They did such a fantastic job, and they were so proud of themselves! It was such a wonderful thing to see their faces...they were all so excited and so thrilled to be sharing their hard work with their family and friends. It just was so...almost overwhelming I guess. It was so great to hear the parents afterwards hug their children and tell them what a wonderful job they did- because it was so true! They did an amazing job- every single one of the kids worked so hard to learn their lines and their songs. They deserved every word of praise that they received from the audience.

It was such a rewarding experience, that's for sure. We weren't sure if we wanted to tackle the Christmas program at church, but we really felt God leading us in that direction. And let me tell you, I think God and I had a little argument for a while there about it. I really didn't want to make that kind of commitment. We were out of the theater business for a reason, we really didn't want to take on that kind of stress again. But then God placed a script in front of us, and presented a plan of attack and basically, I got a talking to. We had a talent for theater for a reason, and it was time for us to use it. So with a deep breath, we took the plunge and did as we were asked. (Well, told really.) And because we followed His direction and did as he wanted, the children at our church had such a wonderful experience last night. In return for our hard work and diligence and obedience, we were granted a stress-free experience as well. Everything fell into place when it needed to, and the program went off without a hitch.

But the best part was a few weeks ago when we were talking with Abigail about Christmas. I think we were actually watching the movie The Grinch together, and he was attempting to "steal Christmas." Abigail spoke up then and said something about the fact that Christmas isn't about presents and celebrations. Andy and I both kind of looked at her and asked what Christmas was about then, and she matter-of-factly told us. She let us know that Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus and that he came to earth for us. She gave us this "duh" look and said "just like my Christmas play says." Ding, ding, ding. We had a winner. That was our number one goal with the Christmas program, was that the children themselves would understand the meaning of Christmas. The whole experience was worth that one conversation for us, and we can only pray and hope that all the kids understood the same message that our daughter did.

In the next day or two I'll be packing up the play things and cleaning up the church from the program, and all I'll be able to think about as I do that is all the smiles on the kids faces. They had so much fun, and I am so grateful that God nudged me forward to do what I didn't want to do. What an amazing God.

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's Okay to Indulge Sometimes

"Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve."

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them." Nehemiah 8:9-12

I have a confession. After Thanksgiving was over, I was feeling guilty this year. I was feeling guilty that we spend Thanksgiving feasting and eating more than we should as a celebration. And I thought that it should be more than that, and that maybe we were doing too much in terms of how much food we were cooking. It's been in the back of my mind ever since, as I've been contemplating how we could do Thanksgiving different next year.

This morning though, I turned to Nehemiah chapter 8 and found something very exciting to me! We find a large group of people all assembled together, being taught what God's Word has to say to them. Many of the people, on hearing God's Words for them, began sobbing and mourning all the bad things they had done, and they were crying because they finally understood what God had to tell them. But it was God himself who told the people to stop crying, and stop their mourning. Rather, they should go out and celebrate with a feast. They should enjoy the choice food and sweet drinks and celebrate together, and there should be no reason for dismay on this day that they celebrated.

It just struck a chord with me that it's okay for us to celebrate Thanksgiving the way we do. We don't need to worry about it being considered gluttonous, because it's not. It's a celebration of what the Lord has provided for us, a day that reminds us to be thankful for that which we have been given. It's a feast day. If we were feasting every day, that would be considered gluttony. During the Dark Ages in medieval England they did feast every day- one of the many reasons it's considered the Dark Ages. It's okay to feast a few times a year in celebration. We have another feast day coming up yet with Christmas coming. Could there be a better day to celebrate the birth of our Savior with a great feast in his honor?

And it's even okay to extend a feast to last several days- as we read on in Nehemiah 8, the people feasted for a full week before gathering again to worship God and go their ways. Imagine what a week-long feast and celebration must be like. I think of traditional weddings which can last three days. Just three days of celebration can be exhausting- I can't imagine a full week. But that's probably a good thing.

"Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly." Nehemiah 8:18

It really was great to find this verse this morning. I no longer feel bad in the least about Thanksgiving. And it has me wondering instead, what I can do to make it seem more Feast-like. Feast days are more than acceptable according to God. If you haven't read the whole chapter of Nehemiah 8, I suggest you do, it's a fun chapter to read, and makes me want to start celebrating Christmas right now.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Overcoming The World

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

"Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" Luke 9:23-25

It seems that we are constantly learning the lesson to be not of the world. Material possession and affluence are such an ingrained part of society today that it's really a difficult challenge. Apparently so difficult that we need to relearn it twice in one year. It's so easy this time of year to get caught up in the material side of the season. I love to give gifts! But there's a big difference between giving gifts because you want to, and giving gifts because you have to. When you give gifts because you have to, that's when you spend a lot of money, and when you spend a lot of time wandering the stores and the malls, looking for that perfect something. That completely adds to the stress of the season, don't you think? I've caught myself just recently, looking at the empty checking account and thinking about all the gifts "I have to buy yet."

I have decided to change that mentality. I know it's going to be difficult, but I am going to give gifts only because I want to. No longer is it going to be in my mind, the list of people I must give a gift to. It's people I would love to give a gift to, and what gift I would love to give. And as I've been trying to change my mind, other, new gift ideas have popped into my mind. Gifts from the heart that will likely mean more than just another thing off the shelf.

There is also the act of receiving gifts. Who doesn't love to get a gift? A few months back I made my annual wish list, and I made the specific comment that I didn't really want stuff. If someone saw something they thought I'd like, that would be fine, but I encouraged my giftees to think about a donation somewhere that I would like to donate to. Yet, the closer we've gotten to Christmas, the more I've thought about "the stuff" that I would like to have. It's that materialism creeping back up on me. Sure, some of my thoughts have been practical, like new dish towels and dish cloths, but really, I honestly think it's me getting caught up in the commercialism of Christmas. It's very, very difficult not to.

"It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," Titus 2:12-13

But mostly, right now, all I want for Christmas is for my husband to have a new job that he can enjoy, and take pride in. A job that he will be safe at. And also a job that will pay him well, so that he also doesn't have to spend each day worrying. Worrying about the bills and how to pay them. And I pray with all my heart that until that time comes, he will stay safe at the job he has. And may God keep me focused on the reason we celebrate Christmas, and keep my eyes off of the store shelves on and Him.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wonderful Psalms and the Sunday Box

There's just nothing like a few Psalms to put a few smiles on my face. It's in the Psalms where we see such joy in the Lord, such devotion, and a great reminder that the best thing we could do with our day is spend time praising God.

"My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.

8 Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

9 I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples." Psalm 57:7-9

"Praise the LORD.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
or fully declare his praise?" Psalm 106:1-2

Doesn't that first few verses just make you want to get up and dance? Praising God is not just something that should be reserved for Sunday- and it's not just something we do with music. It most certainly can be done with music, but praising God should be done every day of the week- not just Sundays! I often wonder if that's why Sundays always recharge me so...because I don't remember to praise God all week long, and then Sunday, I do just that. I imagine that Sunday morning fullness of joy would last all week if I would just make the effort to do a little praising on the know?

And while I'm on the thought about God on Sunday, why is that? Why do we confine God to Sunday? Sure I do my Bible reading and prayer time during the week, but it's usually neat and tidy and all wrapped up so I can tend to my day- there's no room for flexibility. But on Sunday...on Sunday the whole day is opened up to his possibilities- we go from church to small group, and often the whole day is taken up with discussing life as a Christian and worshiping together. Perhaps it's time to break out of the Sunday Box and worship God on a different day? I think I have a start here on this blog, but I think I need to take it a step further. How, I'm unsure, but I do know that I don't want God in a box in my life. I want him out of the box, so that I may be in His Presence every day of the week.

"Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.

2 I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." Psalm 146:1-2

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Maintaining the Faith

As evidenced by my angry post yesterday, sometimes things come up that may shake our faith a little bit. We'll go through something that causes us to question our faith and why we believe in a God who can allow bad things to happen to good people. I guess it's just one of the trials of life. Every time we become challenged, we come out on the other side much stronger people. It's just hard to stay the course and make it through to the other side sometimes. That's when I turn to my Bible and some verses of encouragement to help me to stay the course and endure.

"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." Jude 20-21

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23

It's during these times that we need to focus more of our energy on spending more time in His Presence. By turning to him daily in our times of need we can be refreshed and re-energized, and reminded that with God, all things are truly possible. (Luke 1:37) We will make it through, and I pray that we make it unscathed, but much stronger and ready to share the great things that God has done for us. For we know that He has our best interest at heart and knows what is best for us.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Little Angry Today

Did you know that you can get angry with God? Sure thing. Sure as I'm standing here, you can get angry with God sometimes. And that's okay. Think about it, you get angry with your children, your parents, your friends perhaps. And isn't God like a father? And like a friend? And most importantly, in this relationship that I have with God, it's important to be honest. And quite honestly I'm angry. I've been angry, but today I just woke up with some vinegar in my spirit or something. Because I read this verse today, and it made me angry. (Which is not a normal reaction to this verse.)

"Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!" Luke 12:22-24

I'm angry, because as a mom, this verse is not working out for me right now. Andy's job is awful, and that's one reason I'm angry. He had to leave to work out of town this week in a job that is awful to him, and doesn't pay him well. Every day we fall further and further behind in our bills as he isn't making enough to cover our bills. Simple things like gas and groceries have become luxuries for us. For real. And I know that God has provided the food we do have- the pantry that still is going strong, the freezer full of food, but there's only so many things you can do with a bag of frozen pumpkin or frozen zucchini. And when your son comes up to you and tells you he's hungry and would like a snack, it sure would be nice to be able to offer him a piece of fruit or some craisins that he really likes. And that right the there is the crux of what makes me angry. I have no problems learning to live on less and learning to do without, but when it affects my children it makes me so angry and mad. Yesterday the kids wanted to go play outside in the snow. I had to squeeze poor Zander's feet into last year's boots because we haven't been able to buy him any this year yet. And I certainly don't foresee being able to anytime soon. I've had to already talk with Abigail about how there won't be very many presents this year, and surprisingly, she seems okay with that. But then she asked when we were going to take some presents to the place for other kids who need them. How sweet is that!

You know, I can make do as much as possible. I can live with less clothes in my closet and less extravagant food on the table, but it's really, really unfair that God sticks us in the middle of this trial just as my kids need sweaters. And Zander goes through a growth spurt and needs new pants and new shoes because his are falling apart. And my wonderful children don't complain about the fact that they're wearing the same few sweaters over and over. I love that about them, they are wonderful children. And that makes all this even worse. They deserve to not have a care in the world yet. They deserve to have their heart's desires come Christmas. So God, this sucks. You can turn things around anytime now because I've had enough. I really don't need to learn this lesson over and over. And it's really, really awful that we've put so much work into repairing our credit and paying off bad debt, and here we are, after so much time of being good stewards, here we are avoiding the phone because we don't know who might be calling for their money that we don't have.

So you can get going on your promises now God. Because I've had enough.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19