Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gratituesday: A Story On Provision

"You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance." Psalm 65:11

"You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance." Psalm 66:12

"Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?" Job 48:41

I have a story to tell today for my post. I have a story to tell about the last few weeks and how God truly does know me, and how He provides, even when it seems impossible. We've been under a pretty major financial crunch this last month. Andy's been working hard at work, and his paychecks have been enough to pay bills, keep current, and maybe allow for an extra small expense if it came up. Yet we've still been paycheck to paycheck, and eagerly desiring to start working on our nest egg for the winter lay-off season. Well, at the beginning of June, my van stopped running and needed a new transmission put in. Transmission equals thousands of dollars, which we didn't have, and didn't foresee getting. Yet, the transmission was necessary- we simply can't function without our van. We can't even get to church without it, so it had to be repaired. We had the mechanic go ahead with the repairs, and spent a lot of time during the week it was in the shop, praying for God to provide.

When the van was ready to be picked up, we went to the mechanic and asked if we could pay him in installments, because we just weren't able to come up with what we needed at that time. He agreed like it was no trouble at all, and so we wrote out a series of checks for him to take to the bank for a few weeks and took home a happy and well-working, like-new van.

While we were thrilled the mechanic was more than willing to work with us, it still left us in a bit of a pickle. All our income was going to the mechanic. The amount we paid him, plus our July rent was going to eat up an entire months worth of income. We did the only thing we could do, we started praying. We've been praying for God to make a way- and a way has slowly come about.

First, a tree job came in for Andy. That first job he did this month gave us such hope- he didn't get paid much, but with that check we were able to take care of a few other small bills and put gas in our vehicles to get back and forth to Appleton and work for Andy. It was a real blessing that these people had called us completely out of the blue!

Then, two weeks ago, I was looking for something in the basement, and I looked around at all the stuff we had down there that simply was sitting there, and I felt a sudden need to have a rummage sale. I shared this with Andy, let family know I was doing this and if they had stuff to unload, they should bring it over. So we got busy planning for a rummage sale. The added benefit for us in having the rummage sale was that with the proceeds, I would be able to go do some grocery shopping, as the larder had been running dangerously low. While we were preparing and pulling things out of the basement to the garage, Andy found some utility equipment from an old job that had never been used. He was going to put it in the rummage sale, but a quick look online told us that we were going to put it on Ebay. So we did that, and a few days later, we made a sale and a nice little sum was deposited to our bank account!

Our rummage sale ended up being pretty successful. We unloaded a lot of stuff- and it really made our day to see people loading up on super cheap name brand kids clothes and be so excited with the deals they were getting for their kids. We also made a small profit for our efforts, and combined with some sales of cookbooks I'd made through Amazon, we had made enough to make Andy's car payment, as well as allow a small amount for me to go stock the pantry back up a bit. Hooray! I'll have to admit that this whole while, there was a part of me waiting for a miraculous answer to our desperate cries to make ends meet. I was waiting for that magic check to appear, and while I'll readily confess that I still wish that had been the answer, God did provide in other mysterious ways. Like the rummage sale, and the strange utility equipment selling on Ebay. But then it got a little more fun last week, and we did get to see a touch of the miraculous.

Not having any expendable income this month has been a little trying. It was tough during Abigail's recital week to not be able to lavish her with flowers or a nice dinner out. And it was tough on Father's Day to not be able to take Andy out for a nice dinner, or even pick up a couple of steaks for him to grill. One of the hardest things though came after we hit a deer with our newly refurbished van. Yes, just three days after we'd gotten this sparkly new van back, we hit a deer. We were able to drive it okay, it seemed fine other then missing a grill, and a dent in the radiator. But a trip to the mechanic confirmed for us that the radiator and other things needed to be replaced. They work okay for now, but could go out at any time. The problem came in with this coming Independence Day weekend. We have plans to travel 3 hours to the west of us to spend time with family, and there was no way we were going to be able to get the van repaired before then. Andy's car was an option, except that he needed new brakes, so we'd at least have to have that repair done. After discussing it with other people, we decided to have the brakes done, only Andy connected with an old friend who used to take care of our cars, and took his car to him.

On his way out of the shop with his car, he was literally flagged down on the road by someone who wanted him to come do some tree work for them. Andy had just found out the repairs to his car would be minimal, and had scheduled to have it done Friday afternoon. Well, the tree job would be done earlier Friday afternoon, so before Andy even had the work done to his car, God provided the finances to pay for the job! And then it just got better from there!

During the rummage sale, I'd been talking with my sister a few times, and on Friday, as she stopped by to help me clean up for the day, our conversation turned to strawberries. I mentioned how I just didn't think we'd be able to go strawberry picking this year, because we just didn't have the extra money for it. She lamented right along with me, because she's gone with me the last few years. We take the kids and load up on strawberries, and then I come home and process them into jam and berries for the freezer for the year. The irresponsible thing for me to do would have been to go pick berries, but I conceded that it probably wouldn't happen this year. My sister and I agreed though that if the money came up somehow, we'd still be going. So she left, and about five minutes later, Andy walks in the door, fresh from getting his car repaired and the tree job done. He brought along proof positive that God knows me personally and knows my heart.

Because when he walked in the door, he showed me the invoice for repairing his car. And then he showed me the check he had for the tree work- and the two did not match. Then he proceeded to tell me that the people he had done the tree work for were people I knew from many years ago, and when the man wrote out the check, he gave specific instructions that he was writing out the check for a little extra, and that Andy was to give me the extra money specifically so that I could go buy strawberries!!!! Honestly and truly! I ran to the phone, and called up my sister, giggling the whole time,and we all were amazed at how God provides the desires of our heart. God was providing strawberries, which I had already decided I wasn't going to have this year, because I needed to stay the course on being responsible with out finances.

Of course, God doesn't do anything small either, because then later on, I was thinking in my mind, and not saying anything to anyone, about how I was going to pick strawberries, but I wasn't going to pick a whole lot. Because I was also thinking about our upcoming weekend away, and I knew that would need gas money. So I'd planned that I would still pick strawberries, but just not pick as much as we usually do. Well, apparently, God had other plans for us, because later that day, after a fun evening of fellowshipping with friends, we found cash in our van. And not just a dollar or a few dollars, but more than enough to put gas in our car to get us back and forth on our trip. I think I've been glowing ever since Friday night, because I'm just amazed at how God provides for all our needs, and at how much God knows me personally. And He knew how much picking those strawberries meant to me, and He knew how much the family weekend meant to me, and He just decided to make it all more than possible!

So yesterday, we did pick those strawberries, and God provided a beautiful overcast and cloudy day to do so. It was windy, so there were no bugs to deal with, and it was cloudy and cool, so while we were picking it was very pleasant, and not hot and stifling. And then as we got home and I started making jam, this cool breeze kept blowing through the house, so it never got all hot and sticky like it usually does on jam day. God provided start to finish! And I swear that those strawberries were multiplying themselves as I sliced them up for jam- I made five batches of jam out of one flat of berries, and I had three to work with! We had strawberries to eat all day long, and some went into the freezer. I still have a flat of berries to work with, but right now, we're enjoying eating them. And I'm greatly enjoying the fragrance of fresh berries wafting through the house- it's a reminder to me that God doesn't just provide enough- but he provides in abundance.

And I can't wait to see what's going to happen next. We're still in a bit of a crunch financially, and our van still needs repairs from the deer hit, but for now, we're riding a bit of a high from all the provision we've seen thus far. The biggest repairs are fully paid for, and I was able to send out the rent check without breaking a sweat-the money was there for it. There are still other bills to pay yet, some of them more urgent than others, and right now, we're just praying for patience on the other end, as they will be seen to in due time. We can trust in knowing that God knows what is going on and will provide in every way possible. Today's whole story, and the strawberries on the counter are a fantastic reminder that God does care, and He is watching over us each and every day.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

He Died For Them

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

He doesn't want anyone to perish. The key word this morning is anyone.

This weekend I was reading an article about all the recent deaths in entertainment and Hollywood. The last few days have been busy in that regard, and as I was reading this article, the author said something that really tugged at my heart, and I've been thinking on it ever since. Michael Jackson was very well known the whole world over- but you know what was the most spectacular and important thing about him? Jesus Christ died for him. Jesus died specifically so that Michael Jackson could not perish, but have everlasting life.

I just don't know that I really gave much thought to Jesus dying on the cross specifically for each one of us. Maybe that just makes me late in the game, but when you really think on it, it gives a whole different perspective. And maybe, thinking this way may be the key to helping share the love of God with those around us. Think about that annoying neighbor- the one who revs his engine at 2:00 in the morning after he comes home from the bar. The one who lets the dog go to the bathroom in your yard, or the neighborhood busybody- always sharing the latest gossip. Did you know that Jesus Christ died just for them? Look at that checkout person at the grocery store. Jesus died just for her- so that she might have eternal life and eternal love. Does she know that?

Every once in a while in life we come across that person who just becomes a thorn in our side. Whether its a co-worker, family member, neighbor, boss, fellow church attendee, who knows? But there are those people, the people that you really would rather not spend time with, you simply don't get along and don't like them very much. Yet Jesus told us that we are to love everyone!

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:36-38

Loving our neighbor as ourselves can be really hard when we may not even like the person! But that's when we ask God to love them for us, and to help us love them the way He wants us to. And along the way, maybe it would help to think about them in a new light- think about the fact that Jesus died Just. For. That. Person. God knew that person before he was even born, and over two-thousand years ago sent His only son to die so that person could have the opportunity to have an eternal life. God loves that person so much, and He wants you to love that person too, and share God's love with him. Maybe you're the very person who will lead that person to Christ- maybe YOU will make the eternal difference for that very person.

We can also use this principle on a much larger scale. That rock star who flaunts his lavish lifestyle on TV and in the magazines? Yep- Jesus Christ died just for him. While we may not be in a position to personally talk with that rock star or share God's love with him, we can do the one thing we CAN and that is pray for that person. We can always pray for God's love to surround those we see in the media day in and day out. We can pray for our governmental leaders and our President because, you guessed it, Jesus died just for President Obama- that he might receive eternal life. We can pray for those reality stars who appear to be struggling, we can pray for movie writers and movie producers, actors, actresses, sports stars, anyone who comes to mind. And you know, we really should! These people are in the spotlight day in and day out, imagine how they could use that platform to share the love of Christ with others!

So the next time you catch yourself thinking about someone in a negative way, try spinning that thought in a different direction. When that annoying star catches some news attention, instead of rolling your eyes, say a prayer for them, and think about how Jesus died just for them! The next time that neighbor fires up his lawnmower just as you get the baby to sleep, think about how Jesus died just for him. This may very well be an important step in learning to follow the commandment that Jesus gave us- to love our neighbor as our self.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blessings Everywhere You Look

I'm in the middle of hosting a rummage sale... so I only have a minute. I didn't really want to take time to post this morning, because I wanted good thoughts, not random thoughts.

But over the last hour and a half, I've discovered some strange opportunities to be a blessing to someone. A woman stopped by, and loaded up her arms with clothes for her daughter, and when I told her how much it was total, she just gaped at me. Really? For all this? Really.

And a minute ago, a young lady, very pregnant stopped and peered at our bassinet- barely ever used. She saw the price, and was like, really? It's set aside for her so she can come back on her lunch break and take it home with her.

These are people in need, yet they are getting the opportunity to actually physically buy the things they need, but at prices they can't believe. It's rather exciting being a blessing to all these people who are being encouraged, just from picking up somebody elses old stuff.

May God bless each and every person who walks through our garage today...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: A Nation In Trouble

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." John 15:7

"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." 2 Thessalonians 3:3

"Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps." -President William McKinley

This morning as I read the Presidential Prayer Team website, I just really felt this sense that we really need to pray for this nation as a whole. We really need to pray for the return to God- and the return to the very reliance this nation was founded on. President Obama clearly needs our prayers of protection, and our prayers for Godly wisdom as he just doesn't seem to be facing much good news. Unemployment rates are at their highest in over 25 years, and are expected to reach 10% shortly. At the same time, foreclosure rates are staggering, and those are expected to go up as well. It's such a scary time for Americans, and as Christians, we have a very real responsibility to pray for this country.

As I read all the bad news in the country some days, it could be very easy to fall into despair and just sit back and think that there's nothing I can do about the current economic climate- except that I would be wrong. I can pray. I can pray and intercede for a nation in trouble. I can pray for a country, who was founded on Godly principles, to to return to her Godly ways. I can pray because I have hope and I have faith in a God who hears each and every person who calls His Name.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gratituesday: Grateful for The Gardening Bug

"Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:11-12

"Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." Genesis 1:29

God sure knew what He was doing, didn't he? I've often wondered at what exact moment it was that I decided I wanted to grow vegetables. I can't pinpoint it at all. I clearly remember growing up, watching Mom garden, and not being interested in working in the dirt. I also clearly remember walking through gardens tended by both my grandfathers. I recall my first attempts at gardening- we were living in a place with no space for a garden, so I tried growing herbs in pots. I also planted a small tomato plant and a fennel bulb in pots- none of them were uber successful.

Then we moved here, and honestly, I didn't plan to plant a garden. In fact, it was our landlord's fault, because she mentioned that she didn't mind us planting a garden or doing things to the yard- as long as we planted grass seed when we were done with the gardening. Then one day, as I was grocery shopping, and wishing I could save money, I picked up some seeds. I came home, marked out a space on the lawn, and when Andy got home from work, I set him to work tilling up the dirt and building me a raised bed. And I've been in love ever since.

Somewhere along this simple journey, God woke up in me this huge desire to work the earth and coax produce to grow from it. My garden is my baby, which I work on, really, twelve months of the year. As I put it to bed in the late fall, I'm already mentally making plans for next year. The seed-starting begins as early as February, after the seed orders have been placed in January. And now, now, the best part has begun.

Last night, I had grilled up a pair of salmon fillets for dinner, but I wasn't yet sure what to do with them. A quick rummage through the fridge found a small pile of spinach, but not quite enough. So I went to the garden with my bowl and filled it to the brim with assorted greens and lettuces. I felt like a kid at Christmas, as I filled my bowl with tender greens that were seeds not all that long ago. With a pile of mixed greens, a handful of leftovers, and some flaked salmon, we had the perfect summer dinner, and I just felt so loved while eating it. Doesn't that sound silly? I felt like God really knew what He was doing when he gave me this desire to garden. It just felt like such a blessing to be able to walk out the back door and gather dinner! And the best part is that this wasn't a one time shot! I'm looking forward to many, many nights of dinner from the backdoor, and only God made it all possible.

Only God created such a wonderful variety of plants and vegetables. Only God could create that perfect relationship of plant to earth. I thank God all the time for my garden. On the days where I am out working the dirt, pulling a few weeds and tying up a few vines, I spend time thanking God for the ability to grow these plants. So this Tuesday morning, I am remembering to be grateful for the gardening bug. As I remember walking through the garden with both my grandfathers, it would be easy to think that I have the gardening bug in my genes. Except that if I look all the way back to Genesis, it's clear that I DO have gardening DNA, only it's not a grandparent that shared it with me- it's my Heavenly Father, who was the first one to do the gardening.

Don't forget to check out the other Gratituesday posts over atHeavenly Homemakers this morning. You'll really feel blessed reading Laura's post today- it brought tears to my eyes, and I was thankful right along with her. And if you have a blog, feel free to post your own Gratituesday post- and if you don't have a blog, why don't you leave a comment here? Tell my what you're grateful for this beautiful Tuesday!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Watcher

"1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore." Psalm 121

When I think of a watchman, I think of a sentry. I think all kinds of fun scenarios all at the same time. I think back to the days of kings, and of the two knights posted at the kings bedchamber, alert and ready to prevent anyone from disturbing the king. I think of a critical situation, like a group of men surviving in a dangerous forest environment, so they take turns standing watch as the hours slowly tick by. I also think of a military situation- perhaps of a bodyguard, always at the ready, or of the Secret Service, always alert and watchful over the president and his family.

God is our watchman. He watches over us day and night, and unlike all the watchmen and sentries preciously mention, our God is unique. Men need to take a break- they need to rest, and sleep and re-charge. Men need to give their alert minds a rest in order to remain on guard for such a long period of time. But God needs no rest. He needs no refreshing, and he is ALWAYS on guard over us, watching over us.

We saw this very thing last week, as a pair of deer launched themselves out onto the road directly in front of our 55-mile and hour van. We missed the first, but slammed right into the second. We hit it dead center, and then ran it over. God most definitely had his hand in the whole affair, because the deer we actually hit was very small, and did very little damage. While there are a few things that will need to be replaced, for the most part, right now, our van is completely drive able. No one was hurt in the hitting of the deer in any way, we just sort of hit it and moved on after a thorough examination of the vehicle. After talking to our mechanic, we also learned that it was truly amazing that our airbags didn't deploy- and that would have rendered the van undriveable, and would cost us thousands of dollars to have them replaced. God had his eye on us the whole time, and while we certainly didn't see that right away, we certainly see it now.

I also know, with all my heart, that God keeps an eye on us when we cannot keep our eyes open. In the wee hours of the night, God watches over my sleeping babes while I also get some much needed rest. I have nothing to fear, because when I am needed, I know that God will wake me. I like to think, when I go to sleep at night, and when I say goodnight to God and close my eyes, that God pushes a button of sorts, and a force-field extends over the household, keeping all who sleep within safe and under his protection. It's one of those silly images that just makes me smile to think about it.

And God knows when we need Him.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

He knows exactly what we need, and when we need it, and sometimes as he watches us, all He's waiting for is for us to ask for help.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5

I know I've asked for help many times over, and while that help almost never comes in a way I expect, it still comes, in a way that only God can put together. Only God would put the right pieces into your life at the right time.

Saturday is the perfect example. It was a busy day, we're having a rummage sale this week, so this past weekend we spent a lot of time working on getting it together, in case Andy ended up out of town this week and couldn't help me. Then in the middle of the day I had to go do something I didn't particularly want to do, and then I was trying to wrap my mind around figuring out something to make for dinner. For some reason, that simple thing of needing to put dinner on the table during a busy day was just putting the tip on the stress iceberg for me. So what did God do? He had some dear friends call us up and invite themselves over for dinner- but they would bring the dinner. How wonderful us that? So not only did I not have to worry a smidge about what was for dinner, but I also came home from an unpleasant situation to find that God had showed up in my home in the form of wonderful fellowship. We finished up a busy day in a wonderful manner.

God knows what we need. He is our watcher, he watches over us day and night, all the time. That can be such a comfort in times of need, and it can also be a great reminder when we are not going through a time of need. The Lord will keep us from harm and keep watch over us both now and evermore. What a great thought to start the day with!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Where Is That Quiet Time?

"My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises." Psalm 119:148

"Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this." 2 Timothy 2:7

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

One of the things that has really been impressed upon me lately from several sources is the importance of quiet time, and that we need to find the time to do it. When I talk about quiet time, I'm talking about these verses up above- meditation and reflection time. Quiet time is not the same thing as my Bible reading time, and quiet time is not the same thing as my prayer time. All three things kind of make up my personal walk with Jesus, and I'm just not so good at the quiet time part. The Bible reading I've gotten much better at, I do try and read daily. In fact, lately I've been getting out more than one Bible and reading a few chapters in the New Testament, and then reading them again in a different translation- that makes for a very interesting perspective sometimes! My prayer time is doing pretty good as well. As a homemaker, I have plenty of opportunity to be talking to God. I pray when I do the dishes, when I clean the house, as I fold laundry, and as I tend the garden. I get lots of prayer time in some days. But that quiet time eludes me, because of the mere fact that it's quiet time. As a mom, I just don't have that luxury.

Yesterday though, the kids and I did our night time reading together, and when we were all done, it was time for them to clean up, get ready for bed, brush their teeth, and things like that. All told, they had about 15 minutes worth of stuff to keep them busy, so I flopped back on my bed and just laid there. They took care of their things, and I just laid there, gazing at the ceiling, letting the MP3 player in my head play a praise song or two, and it was just, well, it was nice. It's not something I ever do. And then it struck me. That was the time that God was looking for, that was the quiet time that I needed to find.

As a stay at home mom and homemaker, I think I'm under this impression that I should always be busy- I should be like Ma Ingalls and always have my hands in something and my house should never be in disarray. I do spend too much time at my computer, so most days, I just feel harried and like I will never get everything done that needs to be done. So I flit from task to task, spend time with the kids, spend time with Andy, prepare meals, compute and blog, and at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is fire up my brain and think on God's Word. That was the only time I thought I had available to me. Last night there was a bit of a revelation to me though that when God is looking for quiet time, he'll take what is available. All this time, I've been thinking that I need to carve out a 30 minute block somewhere in my day, and as such, that's just not going to happen. Instead of focusing on that big chunk of time, I need to focus on all the little bits that could be scattered throughout my day.

I think of the days I do laundry, I always take it up to our bedroom to fold and put away, while the kids are busy doing their thing. Why can't I put the laundry away and then just sit for five extra minutes, thinking on scripture I'd read earlier in the day? And why can't I take advantage of the opportunity that the kids are outside playing with the neighbor? I can plop myself on the patio furniture and maybe get a good 15 minutes in meditating on God's Word before anyone needs my attention. Or even when I go up and get myself showered and dressed in the morning. Yes, I need to be available if my kids need me for something, but it doesn't take much to get myself ready and then flop on the bed for an extra few minutes to think.

It definitely was a light bulb moment for me last night. Not only did I find a way to get in that quiet time, but I also felt a real sense of peace and a sense that it was okay for me to take a break to spend that quiet time reflecting on God's Word. It almost felt decadent as I laid there having these thoughts that I am now sharing this morning. And just as I go about my day, pretty much praying without ceasing as I go from task to task, I can insert reflection and meditation time as well, and do that all day long in small bits here and there. And maybe some day, there will be big chunks of time available for the meditation, but for now, I am so blessed that I have been shown where to squeeze in my quiet time. Because I knew I was failing in that area, and I just wasn't seeing where I could do it. Seek, and ye shall find.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Did You Know...

Did you know that God is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow?

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8

So when I read in my Bible that David danced before the Lord, and Miriam danced before the Lord, and the Lord was pleased with the dancing, that leads me to believe that we have a God who actually enjoys seeing people dance before him.

"David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets." 2 Samuel 6:14-15

And there was shouting! Can you believe it! Shouting and dancing before the presence of God.

"Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:
"Sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea." Exodus 15:20-22

As I read both of those experiences, with singing and shouting and dancing, I can't help but think about what a joyous occasion both of those must have been! Imagine those parties! Imagine being so filled with the joy of the Lord that you can't help it- you have to let it out, and sometimes it comes out in the form of a shout, and sometimes it comes out in the form of a dance. Dancing is such a wonderful and joyous way to praise the Lord, and it seems to me to be such a shame that more people don't just do it.

My heart is dancing this morning. I went to bed singing this song last night, and I woke up singing it this morning. It's a new one we've been doing with our worship team, and it appears to be an instant crowd favorite, as it is infectious. Once you start singing about how much you love God, you just can't help it! Your feet start moving, and before you know it you're jumping up and down, dancing and praising God with everything you've got. I have to admit, I've been so focused lately about the struggles that we've been going through that I've kind of let my daily praise slide. While I'm confident that God is going to get us through these troubles in an awesome way, I've been wrapped up in praying for that. And while I've been so focused on doing that, I've missed the important part. I've missed the part where I praise God in all situations. I praise Him when I'm happy, and I praise Him when I'm sad. I praise Him no matter what the situation, because He is worthy of ALL praise.

So today, I dance. Today I dance, and I let the joy of the Lord fill me from top to the bottom, because no matter what, I WILL praise the Lord!

" 1 Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD." Psalm 150

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Warfare Wednesday!

And that means it's time to remind ourselves to pray for our President and our government- that they may make Godly choices and Godly decisions each and every day.

"May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." 2 Thessalonians 3:5

This morning as I read through the Presidential Prayer Team website, I just found so many concerns that tugged at my heart. A few weeks back we prayed for the situation with North Korea, and it just doesn't seem to be improving any. President Obama met yesterday with the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak to discuss the situation with North Korea. I can't even begin to imagine the position that President Lee is in. On one hand, he has this vicious dictator just a few miles away, no doubt threatening his nation and his people. On the other hand, all the world is trying to convince South Korea to stand firm... it's just got to be a rough and stressful place to be in. May God give President Lee Myung-bak peace, and comfort and encouragement to get through this rough time. May President Lee receive Godly advice and wisdom, and may he feel the presence of God marching through his nation, protecting the South Korean people. And most of all, may God cause a change of heart of the North Korean dictator. Only God can change hearts for the good.

And as we pray for events on the Korean peninsula, I also want to shift my attention to the Mid-East, where recent elections in Iran have led to riot and unrest in an already troubled nation. Let us pray for a wave of peace to the discord that is sweeping the country of Iran, and seems to be getting worse, not better. May the opposing parties cease their non-peaceful demonstrations and rioting, and may no more lives be lost in the useless displays.

And while we're in that region, we must remember to continue praying for our troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. May they feel the love of God and the love of home when they need it most. As suicide rates are rising among the military, they need our prayers more than ever. May God richly bless their service to their country and may he infuse the moral of the military with some much needed joy.

Let us also continue to pray for God's wisdom and intervention in our troubled economy. Unemployment rates are rising, and those who are working are working less hours and are finding themselves with less spendable income. Fuel prices are expected to continue to rise as well... my God just pour himself out on this country and fill the people with hope and love, even in troubled times. May the people see that it is truly God who is the answer- and not the dollar. May God work his miraculous ways to show that turning to Him truly is the only way to happiness and eternal joy.

And finally this morning, let's turn our attention to the skies and the space program. This morning, a launch of the space shuttle Endeavor was scrubbed as a leak was discovered. Praise God for this discovery that kept those astronauts on the ground in safety! May he continue to protect those brave men and women. Tomorrow a launch is scheduled to take place to deliver observation satellites to the moon to further moon exploration. Many years ago, a struggling nation turned their eyes to the moon and became encouraged and excited and filled with hope at the ideas of possibility. May the same experience happen today, as we return to the moon in a time of trouble and trial. And may God keep his hand of protection on those who serve our country by exploring outer space and its possibilities.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gratituesday: Grateful For The Precious Word of God

"Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path. " Psalm 119:105

"Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.

90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.

91 Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you." Psalm 119:89-91

Today's Gratituesday post may sound a little corny to some, but I have to say that lately, I've just felt a very deep and profound gratefulness for my Bible. It seems like every single day, when I open it up I find some new nugget of encouragement or a new tidbit of wisdom that I didn't see there before. I can be having the worst day ever and all I need to do is grab my Bible and flip it open to any page, and I will find something to nourish my soul. I love how a passage in the Bible can change meaning over time as well, as different seasons of life bring new enlightenment and new understanding. I love the instruction! God's Precious Word tells us everything we need to know to live a Godly life. While I enjoy reading other books, and other words that other men have written, there just isn't the same... absoluteness that comes from reading my Bible.

I am so grateful that God gave us His Word, committed to paper, so that any time we need to, or want to, we can open it up and see what He has to say to us. And when I sit down with my Bible, and I really need some encouragement, I can say a quick prayer before I even open it up. I like to pray Psalm 119:18.

"Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law." Psalm 119:18

God gave us such a precious gift in the Bible. I've been reading a lot about the merit of reading "living books" and while I agree with those who think in those ways, I also know that there is no book that is as alive as the Holy Bible. As I spend time each day reading through The Word, I find myself wrapped up in drama, in satire, in a mystery, in a disaster, and in a comedy all in one. It's the best book ever written! And this morning, as I celebrate being grateful with all the other precious people at Heavenly Homemakers, I can't help but be grateful for my Bible, and also for this new desire that I find in myself to spend more time within it. There are definitely days where I spend time reading my Bible, and I just feel like certain passages, certain scriptures were written just for me. Just for me! So many years ago, a man put pen to paper and wrote down the words that God told him to write, because God knew that someday I would read that verse and be filled with joy. Is that not awesome?

Monday, June 15, 2009

God Always Knows

"Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt." Genesis 45:4-8

The story of Joseph is one of the greatest examples of seeing the good that can become of trials. I love it when we're going through a rough patch, and I turn to Genesis, read about Joseph, and I become encouraged. Joseph had a very rough going of life for a while! His brothers hated him because his father favored him, and when an opportunity presented itself, Joseph's brothers sold him and told their father he was dead. Joseph went on to live in Egypt, where he became a member of Pharaoh's household and then spent many, many years in jail. It wasn't until later on, when facing his brothers again, that he was able to look back and see that all his trials, and everything he went through had a purpose. It had a big purpose at that! As he was meant to become a valued member of Pharaoh's household in order to save his family, which would grow into the nation that God had promised so many years before.

God always knows. As He watches us go through trials and struggles, and work to overcome them, God is always an active participant. He never gives us more than we can handle, and He also sees the future. He sees how today's struggles will lead to tomorrow's walk in the park.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

That is extremely encouraging to me when we are going through a struggle. Yet even now, as we're in the midst of our own woes, I am able to look back, look at the years past and see other times of lesser, similar struggles, and I can clearly see how those earlier struggles have helped to shape us. I can see how past struggles really helped prepare us as larger struggles came along. And the best part is? God always wins. He always comes through and gets the glory for the success at the end of the day. There is no mountain too big for our God to move, and we have the faith to see that mountain completely eliminated. God used Joseph for a very great and mighty purpose, and I just can't help but wonder what our purpose will be. His ways may be mysterious, but they are His Ways... while it may be difficult to go through these rocky paths and bumps along the way, it gives me great excitement to think about what may be just around that next bend. God is awesome! And nothing we go through is pointless or without purpose. And as long as we remember that it IS the Joy of the Lord that is our Strength, I think we'll muster our way through. And on the other side, boy, will we have a story to tell to share what God has done for us. I'm looking forward to that.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Be Strong And Courageous

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

We're in the midst of a huge opportunity in our household... and that is to practice what we preach. And let me tell, you, it's no walk in the park. Yet at the same time... I'll tell you, in our church services and messages right now, there has been a huge deluge of messages of joy. Not your typical, "chin up, all will be well" messages, but messages of experiencing God's Joy, even in the midst of trials. Do you know how difficult that is? It's really hard to look at the problems that just keep piling on top of each other and finding joy. Yesterday I just had to shake my head as we're in the midst of some pretty big stuff, and another snowball added quietly to the pile. Truly, all I could do was laugh about it.

But then, later on, I was laying in bed, not sleeping, because I was thinking about all these trials, and how it was unheard of that they would all be happening at the same time, and I truly could not see an end. I just don't see myself how we're going to crawl out from under these troubles... and then I started praying instead of thinking about our trouble, and I tell you, I almost started giggling right there, because I thought about how it seems like we're in a full out battle, and then I realized that we are, and I got excited. Yes, I got excited, because if the Devil is coming at us with all these guns, we're very clearly on a journey that he really doesn't want us on. And he. Will. Not. Win. Yesterday was such a snowball of bad, just one thing on top of another, and then as I looked back over my day, I saw where the enemy even used my children to try and get to me, and that made me angry and even more determined. They were so crabby and at each other's throats yesterday, and that in turn made me cranky, and it seemed like I had to be at them all day long to get along. So last night, as I'm thinking all these things at once, I prayed for that too, I prayed for God's protection over my children, and prayed that I would see these things for what they are at the time they happen, and not several hours later when I can't do anything about it.

The Lord is with us wherever we go. Wherever we go! Before I drifted off to sleep last night I had such a sense that all will be well, and it will be well in God's timing, and oh, will we have the most wonderful testimony to share! The devil is not going to win and distract us from our course, because we are full of the joy of the Lord!

"Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD : "I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea." Exodus 15:1

"Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth." 1 Chronicles 16:33

"Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O LORD; I will sing praises to your name." Psalm 18:49

Even the trees and the fields praise God day and night. I will do the same. I will praise him no matter what we're going through, and I will be filled with the joy of the Lord, for it will sustain me and be my strength.

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." Psalm 28:7

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Curiouser And Curiouser

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" Psalm 46:10

I read this verse this morning and it went straight in and made me take a second look, and a third, and then I really looked at it. It says right there, that Our God WILL be exalted among the nations. And He WILL be exalted in the earth. The day will come when our God reigns over all, and all will praise Him as the One and Only Everlasting God.

"It is written: " 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God." Romans 14:11

And when that day comes, when the day comes that EVERY knee bows and EVERY tongue confesses that God IS God, I just wonder what that day will be like. I imagine much rejoicing, much celebrating, and so much praise and worship. But until that day comes, what am I doing to prepare for that day? What am I doing to help those around me reach that day where they can celebrate in KNOWING Jesus as their Savior, and not know, and be doomed for all eternity. I can't help but feel like I'm not doing enough.

Yesterday I shared that there was a bit of vandalism on our house, with our neighbors. Last night, before I drifted off to sleep, I was thinking about that. Our neighbor set up a video camera overnight, and I was hoping for their benefit that they'd catch the people responsible. Then I had this invasive thought that, gosh, I hope they don't decide to start getting the whole house, instead of just half. And then I felt ashamed. I felt as if someone were standing right there in the bedroom with me, shaking their head, disappointed, and then I felt disappointed in myself. Right then and there, I prayed for protection over the house we're living in. Not just our half, but our neighbor's half as well. I imagined that the Presence of God in our life was like a bubble, stretching over our home, our yard and our family, protecting us from the world and the devil. And then I imagined that bubble stretching to encompass our neighbors as well. And then I prayed that they would get a restful sleep last night, as I'm sure they were awake several times in the night, checking on the yard and what was going on. I hope it all helped, this morning I don't see any signs of trouble, and now I have a mental reminder to not just pray for MY family's protection in the night, but I'll pray for that of our WHOLE house as well.

A little bit at a time, I'm stretching. A little bit at a time, I'm noticing that uncomfortable feeling that God's about to stretch me and have me do something a different, and maybe out of my comfort zone. I think a while back, I wouldn't have been okay with that, but now... well, now I just don't want to go through the motions anymore. I don't want to be that "pretend Christian." The one who makes it look good and easy on the outside, but on the inside I'm foul and rotting. I want to be Jesus through and through, I want what's on the Inside to be reflected by what's on the outside. And so this morning, I'm actually sharing two songs! Because they play off of each other very nicely. If God works on me from the inside out, then HE will always be there, He will always be reflected, even in our trials and our troubles. I want to love God first on the inside, and once my inside is full of love and peace, then I can take it to the outside where there will be no more pretending, and no more going through the motions.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Romans 8:26

Every week, as I sit down to write this Warfare Wednesday post, I click over to the Presidential Prayer Team website, read it through, and think about what to focus praying on each week. Sometimes there's something that will specifically stir me to pray, and sometimes I just pick up a little of this and a little of that, because nothing really jumps out at me. This week, something did jump out at me, although it wasn't any of the specific prayer requests on the website. It actually was this verse above. I thought it was perfect, so this week, that is my prayer. God knows what is going on in the white house. God knows where President Obama needs help today, and God knows exactly what meetings are going to need Godly intervention this week. So I will just pray today. I will pray for Godly wisdom to sweep the white house and attach itself to the problems that need it. I'm going to pray that the hand of God will reach down and put all the pieces into place to show HIS glory!

As I've been lately turning my attention towards the coming school in the fall, I've really been attracted towards tidbits from history, and the more I read about the history of our country, the more it's obvious that our country is currently headed in the wrong direction. Our beautiful nation was founded on Godly principles, and the sheer love of God. It is my prayer each and every day that we will see a return to the same principles on which this country was founded, and not on vague "interpretations" of those principles. Our country needs God, it needs Godly love to spread across the nation. This morning when I woke we found that our neighbor's cars and home had been vandalized. Nothing major, I'm sure it all washed off, but the mere fact that it happened is bothersome. It was not Godly love that smeared tomato soup all over the neighbors cars. May our country turn to God in its time of need. May every man, woman and child turn their gazes to heaven and hear what the Lord is saying to them. He's saying that He loves them, and if they could only hear that, our nation would change for the better.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Gratituesday: His Provision

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

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." 1 Timothy 6:17

We're trying mighty hard to focus on the good in our situation these days. Last week, Zander and I were on our way out of town to do some grocery shopping for a fun company-filled weekend. We didn't get very far before there were serious problems with our van. As in, when you stepped on the gas, it wouldn't move. So we called the mechanic, he took the van to the shop and called us back with the bad news- our transmission is shot and needs to be replaced. He gave us all the options, but quite honestly, none of them fit our budget at all. Andy's just been working enough to pay the bills, and we were not prepared for an emergency like this. We both prayed about it, because we really do need the van, and called him back and told him to go ahead. We've been praying ever since for God's provision, because we're going to need to pay for this repair tomorrow. I can't wait to see it come to fruition!

In the meantime, it's been a bit of a struggle to not have the van. And while I could dwell on the bad, and the fact that we are stuck at home without it, instead, we choose to focus on the positives, and of those, it turns out, there are many. For instance, just a few weeks ago we were on a family trip to Minneapolis. Thank God we made it back and forth with no instances, because had we had this problem on the road, I don't know what we would have done. I know God was watching out for us! I am also incredibly thankful for the perfect timing of the van actually breaking. It was here in town, and not out on a busy highway or in the city of Green Bay. It was here, where our mechanic is, and we were able to avoid any towing charges, and we also had peace of mind that he was available right away. I am thankful for our mechanic, who told us all the facts, and reassured us that this repair was the right thing to do- our van will be guaranteed for three years should we encounter any problems. That's like a brand new vehicle!

I am thankful for the timing for the van to break down. It could have waited until this week, when Abigail has her recital and we'll be back and forth to Appleton several times. As it is, we're also grateful that during the week, we are able to borrow my mom's truck if we need it until the van is ready for us. I am also incredibly grateful that our children seem to really understand what is going on. We sat down and told them what happened with the van, and explained to them that for a few weeks, things are going to be very tight, and we need their help in helping save money and not spending. They were a little sad about that at first, but understood, and have been wonderful about the whole thing. I am also grateful because I know there is a whole group of people praying with us about this situation. I am grateful for our church family who agrees with us in prayer in times of need.

Mostly though, I am grateful this Tuesday morning for His Provision, because I know it will be there. I know that tomorrow when I go to pick up the van, that the funds will be there to pay for the repairs. God supplies ALL our needs, according to HIS riches, and our needs will be met.

*Don't forget to head on over to the Gratituesday event at Heavenly Homemakers. Laura's post this morning is guaranteed to make you smile.

Monday, June 08, 2009

How God Loves You

"The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

We read this verse yesterday in church, and boy, did it make me smile. Especially the last line, because I was having a hard time picturing it and it almost made me laugh a little bit. Normally, it's us who does the rejoicing. We worship and praise God, and when we're in a setting of worship, it is us who delights in the presence of the Lord. It is us who rejoices by singing aloud to God. But right here in Zephaniah it says that God loves us so much, that HE takes great delight in us, and HE rejoices over us with singing. I looked up the word rejoice in the dictionary, and it says "to be glad or "to have joy or great delight".

Wow! God loves us that much that he has joy and great delight in us! And then after I read that a few times, and simply took in the thought that God delights in me, I went back to the first two lines of the verse, and I felt such encouragement. It says that The Lord my God is with me, and He is mighty to save. In all trials, in all troubles, He IS right there with me, and we will make it through the trials and the troubles. I have to admit, right now we're smack dab in the middle of a trial and a trouble, and while at the very beginning I got down and almost depressed. I decided though, that I would live by the words I read in Nehemiah, that the joy of the Lord IS my strength. It is joy that will get me through the trial.

"for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

And so life goes on. The trial is still there, we're still going through it, but I know that when all is said and done, when we've made it to the end of the trial, that we are going to have a grand testimony. In the meantime, I continue to seek God as we make our way through the trial. I continue to ask for His guidance and His intervention, and I have faith that everything will work out for good. Because My God, who loves me, will not give me a snake if I ask for a fish.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:9-13

Thursday, June 04, 2009


"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all." 2 Chronicles 29:11

Everything in heaven and earth belongs to Our God. Absolutely everything. He created everything we see... it came first from his mind. Think about that for a minute. Think back in history to some important moments... Think of Henry Ford designing that Model T- that came from God. God looked down and saw Henry Ford and liked something he saw, and gave him the vision for the future. Think of Louie Pasteur. God gave him the scientific mind to discover the process of pasteurization. Think of all the lives that have been saved through this practice ever since then- think of all the disease and pathogens that have been destroyed over time because of the discovery of pasteurization. God looked down from heaven, saw Louie, saw something he liked in that man and gave him an idea that lasts for generation after generation. When I think of things like that, when I think about all the good and wonderful things in this world, and I think about how God thought of it first, that just blows my mind.

It also makes me wonder what's coming next. Think about Tim Berners Lee and Robert Cailliau- who are they? They are the men responsible for what we now know as the World Wide Web. God gave them this amazing idea that would eventually link the world together in a way that was only possible in science fiction movies and novels. And now... well, just look at it! Information at our fingertips in a way that our great-grandparents could have never imagined. God has such an incredible mind... I can't even begin to fathom what he could come up with next. That kind of makes me laugh a little bit. Imagine God sitting back, watching the goings on of the world, and coming up with "the next big thing". And then he leans over, looks around at the billions and trillions of people and sifts through them before settling on one. And he gives a chuckle, points to that person, and says "Here, this dream is going to change the world!" How can that not make you smile!

He is mighty to be praised. Not just because he created everything, but because he created everything to give us such joy. More than anything God wants us to be filled with joy. I woke up singing this song today. I dare you- I dare you to give this song a play and not feel like jumping up and down and singing for joy to the Lord. It seeps in, it fills my every pore, and it reminds me that I can give my everything to the God who gave me everything. As I clean my house to prepare for company this weekend, I can do it to the best of my ability, with God at my side. As I take a break to play video games with my son, I can do that with my everything, instead of thinking about all the work I have to finish. Time with my son is so precious, and I can know that God gave him this desire to play video games, and not only is he amazingly good at it, but it is something that he and I can do together and have a wonderful time. While we are racing our little Mariokarts together, we are laughing and giggling and being joyful- and God loves to see that.

With everything, I will shout for HIS Glory.

"for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: A Monument Speaks

"Live in peace with each other. 14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15

This week, as I read the Presidential Prayer Team website, I was trying to decide what things I should point out and mention here on the blog. The lists they have posted are actually pretty small this morning, so it took me very little time to read the entire page, and all the little prayers and tidbits they have scattered throughout. One of the things on the page is a mention about the Washington Monument.

I love the Washington Monument. I love Washington DC. When I was in high school, our show choir took a a trip to perform in Washington DC, and I just fell in love with the architecture and the history and the beauty of that city. In-between college years, I actually lived there for a time, and took every spare moment I had to just go and hang out at the mall- the large lawn where the Smithsonian is laid out, and where the Washington Monument stands at one end. There is just nothing like that monument, and I learned something new today. I had no idea that there was a metal cap on the tip of the monument. I also had no idea that the words "Praise be to God" are engraved in that metal cap at 555 feet. So then I went and looked up Isaiah 55:5

"Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor." Isaiah 55:5

I knew then what I was going to blog about this week, and what I am going to pray about this week. As I continue to remember President Obama in my prayer time each week, I also feel a sense of urgency to pray for our nation as a whole. This week an atheist group has launched a series of ads in Chicago that claim that man has made up God and religions, and I just really feel that we need to pray against that. Right now our nation needs hope more than anything. As I read online over and over again about the trials that people are going through, everyone is just looking for that lifeline- that hope to cling to in times of desperation. I need to pray for our nation, that we will return to our roots and hasten to God. It is God who has endowed this country with so much, with all the beauty and splendor and natural resources, and we need to give praise to God for what we have. We need to remember that this country was founded on Godly principles and adhere to them. And we just need to pray for a return to those Godly principles.

I feel such a need to pray for an awakening in the White House and in the city of Washington DC. May God send his angels to scatter throughout the House of Representatives and the Senate and the Supreme Court. May those angels bring an awareness of God back to the country as a whole. We need an awakening in this country! As we hear about tragedy and doom all across the globe, we need to turn to God in our time of need, and HE will deliver us! As North Korea is practically on our doorstep with long-range missiles, let us intercede on our nations behalf and pray for safety for every citizen and visitor. If there is one thing I know in my heart it is that God loves the United States of America, and more than anything, I'll bet that He wants to see all of his children return to Him. I have faith and hope that we will see that day in our country. I have faith that we will see abortion abolished and marriage upheld. I have faith in prayer, and that prayer will return as an important part of ceremonies and acts of congress. And it all begins here. It all begins with the prayer of one, which turns into the prayer of two, and then the prayer of many. Join me today in praying for this great country of ours, and together we CAN make a difference and see the change that we're all desperately hoping for.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Gratituesday: Growing Children

"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." Psalm 127:3

"When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:14

Growing children are definitely a bittersweet subject for most moms. On the one hand, it's always remarkable and amazing to watch our little one grow and experience new things each and every day. On the other hand, we want them to cling to us as dependant children for as long as we can let them- and let them just be children, without the pressures of adulthood. In the last few weeks I've just seen my children do such remarkable things, and I don't know if I'm just an anomaly of a mom or what, but I swear each and every day I'm thanking God for the two most beautiful children on the planet. I really very seldom have those moments of disgust or annoyance, or those brief flickers that life would be easier without them. Because they are just such treasures, and it is so amazing to see the world again through the eyes of a child, and I can see each and every day that God is shaping them into some truly incredible people.

I just sent Abigail out the door on her scooter to school. It's the three day countdown, and we're all looking forward to the end of the school day on Thursday. This morning though, she woke herself early, got herself dressed, got breakfast, brushed her hair, and read a book. When I came downstairs at the normal wake time, she was fully ready to go to school. She had wanted to be super quiet this morning so she didn't wake Zander, who was feeling a little off yesterday. She is just so thoughtful sometimes! When she gets stickers or little trinkets for rewards at school, she almost always asks for two, so that she can share one with her brother. She is already planning that after school today, she'll play with Zander for the short time we have before heading to dance class.

And Zander, oh my, that little boy is just a little bubble of joy and love. There is nothing on this planet like a Zander hug. And there is nothing on this planet that fills my heart with so much joy as watching my son dance to the Lord. I don't get the opportunity to see that very often, as when we go to church, the kids go one way while the adults go another, but this past Sunday, the kids spent a portion of their time with the adults, and I got to see my precious son praising God with all his little heart. He also is an extremely thoughtful little boy, and he's very protective of his big sister, which cracks me up. My two children are like a little wolf pack- they go together, and every once in a while, when they're playing outside with the neighbor kids, I'll catch a snippet of talk and something along the lines of "we need to include mt brother/sister." Or "that's not what Abigail/Zander wants to do, let's do something else instead." And at the end of the day, their days are not complete until they've told each other good night and shared a hug.

So this morning, I'm joining in the Gratituesday event hosted by Laura of Heavenly Homemakers, because I am eternally grateful for the two children which God has placed in my care. I just love being their mom each and every day, and I am so grateful that they are loving toward each other almost all the time. They truly are remarkable little people, and God has really blessed us with them as our children.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Rejoice, And Be Glad

"My lover spoke and said to me,
"Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.

11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.

13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me." Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Yesterday morning in church, our pastor talked about something that just instantly made so much sense to me. I know I've read before and talked before about guarding the types of things we watch on TV or read, or see in the movies. I've put this into practice myself, and in fact, our whole family has. Our TV viewing is almost non-existent, where we used to watch TV every night of the week, it's now the rare night where we actually turn something on to watch. I think we're down to total, about four shows we enjoy watching. We tried starting to watch a new series a few months back, but then had a bad feeling that it was going to go in a direction we were uncomfortable with, so we just stopped watching it. Where once upon a time, I daresay, we were addicted to our TV viewing. We had to be home on certain nights to watch certain programs, the invention of the DVR was a revelation for us, but ever since then, our viewing has been slowly waning. Even the kids are watching less these days, and we've made it a point to watch their shows with them, and let them know the ones we don't want them to watch. It's funny, because shows I certainly never would have watched on my own, I find enjoying simply because we can watch them as a family, and enjoy the clean and safe entertainment.

The thing that my pastor mentioned very briefly though was to be careful of the type of shows you're watching a lot of. One mentioned was reality TV- particularly, the kind of reality TV where you're watching people and they're suffering. Or fighting or are angry or are struggling to accomplish something. I think of The Amazing Race, which we enjoy watching, but you know, I would never watch it with my children because generally, the people on there are not nice to each other. There is always horrible fighting and name calling and blame-placing, and often times, when we're finished watching an episode, I find myself glad that we're done watching, because then I'm not subject to enduring all that fighting anymore. "But Erika, it's geography, think of what the kids can learn about other cultures!" Yeah, every once in a while when they visit someplace exotic, I think that, and then the racers will say or do something awful. Like this last race, they were in China, and one of the teams was having bad luck, and the one girl turned to her partner and said flat out that China s*cked. Do I really want my children to hear that kind of talk? As much as we've enjoyed this show, I'm wondering if we'll even tune back into it next fall.

This totally isn't the direction I was headed today with my blogging, but we're really becoming careful about what we're taking in as entertainment as a family. If we spent a lot of our time watching all these reality shows, and watching all the negativity, where do you think that goes? The more we take in, the more it becomes a part of us, and how long will it be before some of that behavior becomes part of us? The verses above are an example of what we should be taking in. We should be taking in the glad, the positive, the Godly. When we watch TV it should be with a critical eye- would I watch this with Jesus? If Jesus were sitting right here in the living room with me, would he approve of my selection? I don't think that watching TV or movies is inherently bad, it's when we let them take over. And I also don't think that we are to spend every waking moment reading our Bibles or praying- I think that God approves of entertainment, and I think if we choose carefully, He approves of seeing our family sit down together with a bowl of popcorn to enjoy a movie. If we take in good positive entertainment, it can help us draw closer together as a family, and it can simply be fun. God has no problems with fun.

I want to rejoice and be glad. I want my heart to be full of positive things and full of joy. I don't want to spend my time in the evenings watching sad and depressing television. I don't want to always watch people fighting and arguing or even watching crime shows all the time. The more good I put in, the better. The more joy that goes in, the better. And as our pastor said yesterday, laughter is a fantastic thing- it's beneficial in more ways than one, and I just know that God loves to hear laughter. He loves to hear his children laughing together at something silly. I think God himself has a great sense of humor!

Obviously, this can all apply to any media. I love to read books, any and all, and I recently read a book for a book club that I really had a hard time reading because it was filled with stuff about witches and psychics, and while I know where I stand in my beliefs, and I also knew this was fiction, it still bothered me. It bothered me that in this particular book, something completely inanimate and man-made can be given "life" so to speak. (Think of a magic 8-ball, and what if people actually believed that toy spoke truth- that's how this book was, only with a different item.) I read the book to be able to contribute to the discussion, and I have to say, when I was finished with it I felt like I wasted my time reading it. That's making me think twice about doing the book club. I'll finish the season, but I think I may think twice about joining again, only because I don't have the final say in what the group reads. We all choose a book, and while some have been uplifting, others have been disturbing. It's the disturbing ones that I'm trying to stay away from.

All this to say that I am going to be even more mindful of what I take in. Especially when it comes to my children. Abigail is down to the last four days of school, and then I don't have to worry about the influences she is getting from school, so why do I want to just let her watch and read whatever? I think over the next several months, year maybe, our family is going to grow in leaps and bounds together, and I just feel that right now, we need to be very careful about what we're letting in on a regular basis. Oh, I have no doubt that we'll likely watch a movie or read a book that later on, we'll wish we hadn't, but I think that if, for the most part, we can be on guard, our spiritual life is going to really start to wake up and soar. And that's our goal. We want to rejoice as a family. We want to be uplifting to each other and to those around us. And I like to think that goal is entirely possible.