1.27.2015

No Gray in Fifty Shades






In just over 2 weeks, women (and apparently men) will be flocking to theaters for the release of the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey. The book is described as “an erotic romance novel...notable for its explicitly erotic scenes...”. (The description continues to describe the content of those scenes; I'm leaving out the rest because I don't want those terms to lead to my blog in a search. In my previous post on this topic, I used the phrase “pain,dominance, and bondage”. We'll just leave it at that.)

Anyone who has read my blog for long knows that porn is a hot-button issue for me. I have said before that I consider porn...in all its stages and variations...to be one of the greatest weapons of Satan in our age. The 50 Shades books/movie (and others like them) disturb me for that reason alone. These erotic fiction novels and movies are known as “mommy porn” or “soft porn”. Whatever label they wear, have no doubt: they are porn.


What disturbs me most about these books and movies, though, is how many professing Christians are reading/watching/celebrating/promoting them. As I said back in 2012:

What I cannot understand is how there can be ANY controversy about this book or this movie among those who profess to be Christians. What a heartbreaking example of Satan's powers of deception. So many people have no idea the "slippery slope" of porn and how devastatingly dangerous it can become very quickly...regardless of the gender of the one who partakes. I had read the True Woman post referenced in the comments of the Josh Harris post earlier this week, but hadn't read the comments. Wow. I am absolutely floored....although I shouldn't be. This is the power of the enemy and I am convinced that porn...in all it's stages and variations...is one of his strongest weapons in this age. *Sigh* I think I've pulled my soapbox out and hopped on...I had said that I wasn't going to blog on this, because there are already so many good blog posts out there on this topic, but I'm afraid I feel one coming on...because I am flooded with thoughts on this. One I have already shared, though, is this, " I want to be so caught up in the "more" that God created me for that I don't have time for books or movies like these to even be on my radar."

I blogged about Fifty Shades and Magic Mike back in 2012, and again last year. Since that time, I've seen more and more Christian women openly supporting these books/movies and others like them. My thoughts and feelings haven't changed since that time, but that original post (Fifty Shades, Magic Mike, and the More We Were Created For) needed a bit of a makeover, so I'm revamping it along with a few current thoughts. 

But first, a disclaimer. 
 

As I said back in 2012, for those who don't believe the Bible is the true, inerrant, holy Word of God...well, I'm glad to have you reading, and hope you'll stay and read some more, and I'd love to chat with you via the comments or email about that.  However, this particular post really isn't for you.  Because until a person realizes the depth of their sin against the holy and righteous Creator of the universe, repents of that sin, and accepts the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus...the rest really doesn't matter much.  If you haven't taken that step, I'd love to chat with you about it!


But my focus in this post is Christians...those who claim to have been convicted of sin, turned to God in repentance, and accepted that gift of eternal life...those who claim the name of Christ.  

Men Should Read and Learn


I've seen several people comment that men as well as women should read the book, because supposedly, through the main character (who uses pain, dominance, and bondage in his relationships with women), men can learn how to truly love and romance their wives.  


As more than one pastor of mine has said, there is a good Greek word for that...HOGWASH!! 


Men are not to follow the example of the hero in an erotic novel to know how to love their wives...they are to follow the example of Christ in the way that He loves His bride, the Church. 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word,  so that He might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of His body. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33

The War Within

The Bible says that lust is sin. The Bible says that sex outside of marriage is sin. For those who truly are Christ-followers, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, and Jesus Christ has become the Lord of our lives. As Paul says in Romans 7:20-8:9, there is a war going on inside every true believer. In my previous post on this topic, I referenced a Sunday School lesson I had just taught to a group of youth girls:

There is a war between our new self and our old sin nature.  But...Jesus Christ has already won the war through His death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit helps us to live in that victory. 


But how do we live in that victory?  The key, according to this lesson, is our mind-set...our way of thinking, developed by what we make the focus of our lives.  As these verses say, "those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit."


If we set our minds on things of the flesh, our flesh will control us.  If we set our minds on things of the Spirit, the Spirit controls us.  If we are truly Christians, by relationship, and not only by name, we are to have our hearts set on the things of God, not on things of this world.  The more we feed our flesh, the less sensitive we are going to be to the prompting and conviction of the Holy Spirit.  This gives Satan greater opportunity to deceive us...to make things that are sin look beautiful and appealing.  That is what he has been doing since the Garden of Eden...making things that God calls evil look good.  That deception is obvious in the discussion in Christian circles about this book and this movie. 

I shared this story with my Sunday School girls that day:  Many years ago, when I was in college, Gilbert and Susan Baker were my Sunday School teachers.  There are many things that have stuck with me all these years from my time in their class, but one of the biggest was about gray areas.  Gilbert quoted 1 John 1:5...God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  Gray, he pointed out, is white with a bit of black added...light with a bit of darkness.  But "in Him is no darkness at all."  So...if it is gray...it is not of God.  We are to "walk in the light, as He is in the light" (1 John 1:7)  And if we back up a verse there, He says that "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth." 


He Is Lord


If He is truly our Savior, He is also our Lord. As Dr. Steven Lawson says, “Wherever Jesus is received as Savior, He must be recognized as Lord.” We must realize the tremendous importance of His Lordship in our lives, and the catastrophic results of sin when we don't allow Him that Lordship.

If It's Offensive...” and What Do We Thirst After?


The night before that 2012 post, Bro. Gary (who is now our pastor, but wasn't then:)) preached a sermon that hit me right between the eyes. God brings bits and pieces of it back to me from time to time, and it never fails to convict me. Here are some thoughts from that sermon (from John 4):

"Only a small portion of those who 'make decisions' evidence the grace of God in a transformed life." ~Walter Chantry, author of Today's Gospel, Authentic or Synthetic:

"We've stopped telling people that their sin offends a Holy God."  The Gospel is offensive to the lost. If the Gospel doesn't step on our toes, something is wrong. 

*Anything that is offensive to God should be offensive to us.

*People who are saved are going to thirst after the things of God.  

Based on those truths: 

1. Sexual immorality is offensive to God; therefore, it should be offensive to us

It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.     1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28 (That applies in the reverse as well.)
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness,which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Colossians 3:5-6

2. If we are saved, we are going to thirst after the things of God.  


Another blogger posting on this subject said, "We were made for so much more!"  I commented on her post, " I want to be so caught up in the "more" that God created me for (and I want the same for my children) that I don't have time for books/movies like these to even be on my radar. "  I want to be seeking after Him with all my heart!  I want to be so full of His best for me that everything else fades into complete obscurity.  

Who Can Fathom?


The Sunday before I wrote that 2012 post, I was struck deeply by this song by by Mark Altrogge. It so perfectly declares the holiness, glory, beauty, majesty, and righteousness of our God.   How can we even think of filling our minds with the likes of Fifty Shades or Magic Mike in the light of His love and mercy and grace?


You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard 
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom?
Who can fathom the depth of Your love?
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty, enthroned above

And I stand, I stand in awe of You
I stand, I stand in awe of You 
Holy God, to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of You

You are beautiful beyond description
Yet God crushed You for my sin
In agony and deep affliction
Cut off that I might enter in
Who can grasp such tender compassion?
Who can fathom this mercy so free?
You are beautiful beyond description
Lamb of God who died for me

2015 Thoughts


None of those thoughts have changed since 2012, but as I've written this post, I've had a couple more.

First, there are many things we may see and do differently as Christian women. We may be married or single, we may have children or not (by choice or not by choice), we may work out of the home or be SAHMs or WAHMs, we may homeschool or send our children off to school, we may eat all organic or hit the drive-throughs a little too often, we may vaccinate our children or not, use essential oils or not, be helicopter parents or tiger moms or moms who let our children run free. We can make different choices in those and many other areas, and all those things are okay. They are lifestyle choices, and we must seek God's direction in those areas for ourselves and for our families.

Porn, however, is never a lifestyle choice. It is never okay, in any form. This is not a gray area. This is sin, pure and simple. As Christian women, we need to acknowledge that and live by it.

Second, the fact that I've purposed to avoid Fifty Shades and other books/movies of this genre doesn't mean that I am seeking Him with my whole heart.

I've been convicted all over again while writing this post. Saying “no” to “mommy porn” isn't enough. It doesn't mean that I'm seeking Him with all my heart, it doesn't mean that I am living in His grace from moment to moment, and it doesn't mean that my heart is pure or that I'm running from other types of evil.

Saying no to Fifty Shades and the like is good, it's important, it's vital. It's a starting point, for those who've allowed that type of filth into their minds, hearts, and lives.

But it's not enough.

I want more.

I want the more He created me for.

I want to seek Him with my whole heart.



I want to be so full of His best for me that everything else fades into complete obscurity.



Is that your heart? Do you want that "more"?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments here or on Facebook, or through the "contact me" box on the right.  Disagree?  Feel free to share also...as long as it stays clean and friendly.  I reserve the right to delete if I feel something crosses the line. :)



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If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  
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12.22.2014

"Fear Not To Trust Me In the Storm"






Wow. Sitting here in tears and just have to share how God's faithfulness has blown me completely away this morning. This is not a well-edited, well-formatted, well-planned post, but an "I've got to share what God is doing NOW!" post.


This morning I was suddenly hit with the fact that 2015 is less than 10 days away. That shouldn't be a big deal. I usually love the beginning of a new year...time for a new planner, new goals, fresh starts (and my birthday on the 31st of December :)).


2015, however, is a different story. I've been dreading 2015 for a long time. A situation in our family which has been somewhat dormant for years is scheduled to rear its ugly head again in 2015. Back in October, when I realized that "the date" was then just a year away, I began having panic attacks again...for the first time in a long, long time.  I've struggled more with anxiety and fear in the months since than I have in years.


During the holiday season, life has been too busy and my mind has been far too occupied to think much about "the year" coming up. But this morning it hit. Hard. The realization that just a few days stand between now and those four digits I've been dreading for over 7 years made me physically sick.


As I was driving home from dropping Billy off at work, my mind raced and I tried to pray, unable to really form coherent sentences. I fussed at myself...reminding myself of Tom Stuart's famous phrase, "Remember what you know!"


I know...really know...that God is faithful. I know that His sovereign plan is perfect, and that He is working, always and in all things, for our good. He has shown us that in unmistakeable ways through dark, dark days. He reminds me often of His faithfulness, His sovereignty, His goodness, and His love. Just yesterday morning Bro. Gary preached on the kindness and love of God revealed in Jesus's advent.


I know those things. And yet 2015 holds a great deal of uncertainty...known uncertainty, if that makes sense, because of course all years hold uncertainty...and I still struggle with that.


As I was driving and pondering and trying not to fret and trying to pray and recounting to myself many of the things God has shown us about His faithfulness and sovereignty and goodness over the last 10 years or so, I decided that my "one little word" for 2015 is going to be trust. 


I had earlier considered pray as my word for 2015, and that is still where I want my focus to be in the coming year, but as the words to "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" flowed through my mind this morning, I decided that I need the daily reminder to trust. I know I need to. I know why I need to. I know Who I need to trust. I just need to trust. 


Prayer will be a huge facet of that, along with staying in the Word. The Holy Spirit uses prayer and the Word to do His work in us, and I know that I don't even have the ability to trust on my own.


I sat down when I got home to map out the next few days [In case you are reading this from a cave somewhere, it is now "three sleeps" until Christmas. We did finally get our tree up, but we are not finished shopping and we have a whole list of "traditions" we haven't gotten to yet, along with just normal life stuff, like the fact that if I don't get to the gym at least three times this week, I'm not going to be able to walk soon. Ahem.], and have my quiet time. I got behind on my advent devotional over the weekend, so I was determined to get caught up today.


I love the way that God's perfect timing even extends to using our weakness for good. Sunday's Scripture reading was Psalm 27:1-6:


1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
4One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
5For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
6And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

Yes, I was in tears by the time I finished reading those words. As Bro. Gary would say, I know that that my reading that today was not "chance and circumstance", but the divine providence of God.


Then I read the devotional content for the day, from Louie Giglio's Waiting Here for You, An Advent Journey of Hope. It started out by saying that in the midst of the "fray and the fury", we must keep our eyes on Jesus. It then talked about the attacks of our enemies, with a reminder that our hope is in the One who fights for us, and our safety is secured by His love and power.


Each day's reading includes a hymn. It's rare for me to come across a hymn with which I'm unfamiliar, but I had never heard this one before. I can't wait to learn it, though, as its words are a perfect reminder for the year to come:


 Fear not to trust Me in the storm,
I’m always very near.
I come thy needless fears to calm,
Then, weary ones, don’t fear.

Refrain:
Fear not, I am with thee,
Fear not, I am with thee,
Fear not, I am with thee,
Am with thee all the way.

 I may not always seem so near
As thou wouldst have Me be;
But in the calm and in the storm,
I all thy dangers see.

 Fear not to trust My mighty arm;
It bro’t salvation down.
I suffered much to give thee life,
To give to thee a crown.

 I’m always near thee in the storm,
To raise thy sinking feet,
If only thou wilt trust My word,
And My commandments keep. 

 Fear not, the storm will soon be o’er,
The victory soon be won;
Then lean upon My mighty arm,
And sing, I’m going home. 

 And when the storm of life is past,
And you have faithful been,
I’ll take you to that blest abode
That’s not defiled with sin.

 There no more storms shall cause thee fear;
The river will be crossed;
Then thou shalt rest within the gates,
With all the heavenly host.

~Rev. J.W. Howe


 Just a humorous word about this hymn. The words are so excellent, I was stunned to find that it was only published in two hymnals, back in the late 1800s. I wondered why it had been published so rarely. Then I came across a copy of the hymn itself. I'm guessing that part of the reason this hymn was not used more frequently had something to do that the melody of the chorus goes up to a high F. :) Not a good vocal range for this alto, anyway! :)


Do you have a "word" for 2015? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! Are there fears and uncertainties about the coming year?  Email me through the box to the right, or share in the comments; I'd love to pray for you.


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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email. 

12.21.2014

The Good in the Bad and the Ugly of Epilepsy {Three Years In}, Part 1





"Bayley passed out at the Acteen sleepover at church this morning.   They think she may have had a seizure.  They've called an ambulance.  We're headed there now.  Please pray."

I typed those words three years ago this morning, having no idea at the time that we had just been thrust into another radically unexpected life change.

It took over three months, but we finally got a diagnosis: Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. We learned that this type of epilepsy typically manifests during the early teen years, and that she would have to be on seizure meds for the rest of her life.

We learned about the different types of seizures, particularly tonic-clonic (also known as grand mal), absence also known as petit mal), and myoclonic (involuntary arm/leg jerk) seizures, as these are the types common to JME.

We learned that the major seizure trigger for most people with JME is sleep deprivation. Another major trigger is flashing lights. Over the last three years we've learned that in Bay's case, the most important things other than taking her meds regularly are giving her a long time to wake up in the morning and avoiding sleepovers. Adequate sleep is a must, and early mornings don't work well. And while emergency lights and Christmas lights haven't been the major triggers we expected them to be, flickering florescent bulbs and big screens at the movie theater present serious problems.

I jokingly said the other day that one of the biggest lessons I've learned during our epilepsy journey has been how often lightbulbs flicker in public places, and how long it can take for them to be replaced! We've had to avoid the shower area at the gym and one whole side of our  most-used grocery store for weeks at a time due to bad florescent bulbs.

We've learned that sleep-deprived EEGs are really just a medically approved form of torture.

Btw...around here, EEGs are known as "Eggs". Peter coined that term back around Bay's first or second EEG to try to help her laugh about it, and the term stuck.

Speaking of EEGs, Peter would say one of the most important things we learned during Bay's very first EEG was that Bay does indeed have a brain. He seemed quite thankful to have his mind put at ease on that subject. Helpful brother, that one! ;-) Actually, he has been extremely helpful by keeping her laughing throughout the tougher parts of this journey.

We've learned much more through this epilepsy journey, some of which I'll share in tomorrow's post. For now, if you'd like to read more, check out He Directs the Hearts of Kings (And Insurance Companies!) and Another Unexpected Path. I'll share more about this in tomorrow's post, but the most important thing we've learned (again!) through the unexpected path of epilepsy in our family has been God's overwhelming faithfulness and care for the smallest details of our lives.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28

How have you seen the truth of Romans 8:28 worked out in your life? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!




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11.17.2014

Wonders Too Many To Declare! {World Prematurity Day}


November 17 is World Prematurity Day. It always sneaks up on me, and this year was no exception. However, I can't let the day go by without a post about our preemie, and our thankfulness for God's healing power and faithfulness in her life and in our family.

This year as I've thought about our "preemie story", it's brought great encouragement and comfort. We're going through struggles of various kinds right now, and so many around us are going through major trials that seem so overwhelming.  I'm thankful for the reminders of God's power, sovereignty, and faithfulness as I pray for all of those needs. Our God is a God of miracles. He is always working for our good and for His glory, even when the circumstances are hard!

Tonight I want to share again my words from last year, with some more recent pictures of "our everyday, walking {or more often running}, talking {all. the. time.}, breathing {which we'll never take for granted after seeing her "blue" too many times}, giggling {ALWAYS!} reminder of God's amazing grace, power, and goodness".

From my 2013 World Prematurity Day post: 

The night that my water broke at 30 weeks, my friend Kathy shared these verses with me:


I waited patiently for the LORD;
   He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
   and put their trust in Him.
  Blessed is the one
   who trusts in the LORD,
who does not look to the proud,
   to those who turn aside to false gods.
 Many, LORD my God,
   are the wonders You have done,
   the things You planned for us.
None can compare with You;
   were I to speak and tell of Your deeds,
   they would be too many to declare.
~Psalm 40:1-5

I clung to those verses for dear life during the time I was in the hospital before Ammah Grace was born and during the time that she was in NICU.  God was so gracious to us in giving us wonders too many to declare with Ammah Grace!

As often as I feel I've shared Ammah Grace's story, there are always people who haven't heard it. You can read more here, here, and here. We were cautioned by her neonatologists that she might never walk or talk, and that she could be blind and/or deaf.  I still marvel, almost 10 years later, at our running, laughing, always-talking, bright and healthy reminder of God's faithfulness and glory.

Prematurity is such a scary thing.  The NICU is a world unto itself that no one wants to enter.  What a blessing, though, to have the technology and medical advances that we have today, and to have the highly-skilled, compassionate doctors and nurses who work with these tiny little ones and their families.

God taught us so much through those days that I don't know if we could have learned any other way, and I am so thankful for that.  I am also so thankful for the many people who helped our family in so many ways during that time, and for the many, many who prayed for her.  The "Ammah" in Ammah Grace was my great-grandmother's name.  We discovered after she came home from the hospital that "Ammah" is a Biblical place name that means, "God's people".  What a perfect name for our little preemie, in whose life God's people played such a huge part.






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11.12.2014

Do Not Fear!

A little more encouragement tonight for those struggling with "big storms"...a repost from the archives. 




(This was supposed to post last night...not sure what happened, except that I was having computer issues, and apparently when it said it posted, it didn't. :))


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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.

11.11.2014

He is Faithful to Complete It! {Redeeming One of "Those" Days}


Being reminded of this truth again today!!







Today was "one of those days" when the need to work on heart issues (along with a bunch of unrelated interruptions) crowded out the "school" I had planned for this afternoon. My plans for the day were shredded and I was worn out and beyond frustrated by the time we left for TKD. I didn't feel like there was much left of the day to redeem, but I prayed that God would redeem it anyway.

Since then, my kids (with a little, but not a lot of, input from me) have had a fabulous conversation in the van about the Geneva Convention, international law, and changes in warfare over the last couple of centuries, AND even better, I've seen some major improvements in some of those heart issues we dropped everything to address this afternoon.

Thankful for God's reminders that He always equips us for what He has called us to do, and that when we feel like we are totally inadequate for the task, HIS strength and abundance are just beginning. He Who began a good work (in me and in my children!) will be faithful to complete it!


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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2014 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.