Watercolor Dreams (And Nightmares)

As I sat with a sweet, fun group of ladies yesterday learning to paint simple watercolor flowers, I realized that it had been about 38 years since I'd sat in a watercolor class (and really any kind of art class at all that I wasn't teaching, I think??) In the 5th grade I had an experience with an art teacher/class that caused me for the next 30+ years to feel that I wasn't and couldn't be artistic/creative. A few words from an elderly art teacher about my lack of ability in a watercolor class that I loved said to me that not only was I not good enough then, but I didn't have the potential to ever be good enough.  Far into my adult years, those words continued to repeat themselves in my head and tell me that I was not, nor could I ever be, an artist. 

Many years later, God would begin to work on my heart and mind about the issue of creativity and the wrong thinking I had allowed to take root. Through a VBS class I was teaching, I discovered that creativity is not something that some people have and some people don't, but that creativity is a character quality that we are to work to develop in ourselves and in our children. I learned that in creating us in His image, God, the ultimate Creator, made us to be creative beings. In the years since, I've learned much about creativity as a form of worship to our Creator God. I've learned about creativity as a mental muscle that strengthens the more we use it (and atrophies when we don't!) 

In the last decade and a half, I have taught hundreds of craft classes to adults and children, I've done custom scrapbooking and lettering for friends and clients, and I even had a page published in a national scrapbooking magazine back in the day. :-D   I've taught workshops on creativity building for children and adults and written articles for my own blog and others on the topic.  

And yet, put a watercolor palette in front of me and a paintbrush in my hand, and I am that 11-year- old girl feeling inadequate and embarrassed and incapable again. I flash back to those words from 5th grade and feel as though it is somehow wrong for me to even be attempting any sort of actual painting outside of a colorwash or simple background. 

As our sweet new friend taught us those simple watercolor techniques yesterday, the negative messages were flooding my mind. Aloud, I was saying, "Watercolor isn't really my medium, but I've been wanting to learn" (I have actually recently come to the point of hesitantly wanting to try it again!), but inside a voice was insisting, "You can't do this. Look how pitiful your flowers are! Some of these ladies know you teach creative classes--they are going to take one look at your page and think you are a fraud!" (That's how I always feel, by the way, when anyone calls me an artist. I am finally getting to the point where I don't always come back with a bunch of disclaimers about the fact that "I am not really an artist; I just love paper and pens and crafty stuff")

God has worked good out of that awfully negative experience years ago that affected me so profoundly. He has given me a passion to encourage children as well as adults that we are *all* creative, and that we all can (and should!) work to develop our "creative muscles".  One of my greatest joys is to see people of all ages expressing their own God-given creativity in new ways.  I love to see someone's eyes light up as they realize "I can do this!" or as they excitedly share something they've made with me or others. It thrills me for a child or adult who has said, "I can't...", to discover that they can, and they enjoy it!

As I mentioned, I have recently, for the first time in all these years, begun to have some hesitant thoughts about giving watercolor painting another try. I think it's no coincidence that I've been wanting to go to this monthly coloring group for years, and the first time we were actually able to work it into our schedule, they deviated from their usual routine and had a mini-class on watercoloring. :-) Although my emotions were quite mixed and my thoughts very jumbled as we painted yesterday, it was a delightful experience overall, and while my creations yesterday were really rough, I'm inspired to keep working on it!

And I'm thankful for the opportunities God continues to provide to bring healing and growth, even in something relatively insignificant compared to many larger painful things in our lives and the lives of others.

I'm also reminded again what a huge impact our words can have in our own lives and in the lives of others. That long-ago art teacher has been gone, I'm sure, for many years, and I have been blessed with much encouragement over the years from many people regarding art and creativity. But those few words from decades ago have remained lodged in my heart and mind all these years. Florence Littauer's Silver Boxes illustration is so true! She says that our words are like a tower made of silver boxes--it takes many boxes to build the tower, but only one "box" of negative words to knock it completely down.

My challenge to you today is two-fold. First--do something creative today! Anything. Take five minutes and an index card or piece of scrap paper, and do a tiny bit of doodle art. Write a note to a spouse, child, or friend and do something simple to make it cute or pretty. Pick a word and try a new lettering style. Grab your phone and take a picture of something beautiful in nature just because. Cut some flowers from the yard and arrange them in a jar.

Second, encourage someone today. A total stranger walked up and gave me a very unexpected compliment yesterday. It was very simple, a little odd, and I thought to myself that she probably needed glasses, but it encouraged me nonetheless. Give a heartfelt compliment to a stranger, or say something to someone you love that they really need to hear. Or both!

I'd love to hear about what you do in the comments or on Facebook or Instagram! :)

Read more about creativity...

Living Creatively

Teaching Creativity When You Don't Feel Creative (And Why Do I Need to Teach Creativity Anyway?)  (This article is not just for teachers and parents--good creativity info for all of us. :))

Teaching Creativity: Creativity Challenges for Kids

20 Resources for Teaching Creativity

Teaching Creativity: Where Do I Start?

Creativity ~ Somewhat Random Thoughts


Simple Woman's Daybook {It's Been a Long Time Edition}

For Today
July 18, 2017

Looking out my window
 Sun streaming through the tree branches. It's gearing up to be a very hot day.
I am thinking
It's been a very long time since I've done a "Daybook" post (or blogged at all, for that matter!) For various reasons, I've been wanting to get back on the blogging wagon lately, and as I was reading through old blog posts this morning, I decided a Daybook post would be a fun way to ease back in. :) 
I am thankful
Oh, so thankful for God's faithfulness always! This time of year always brings much reflection along with anniversary dates of some of our hardest days ever. I am so thankful that God is so good to send reminders of His faithfulness, sovereignty, and care along with those memories. So thankful also for my family, our church families, and dear friends who have borne and continue to bear burdens with us, pray for us, make us laugh, and just "do life" with us in ways that make it so much richer! 

One of my favorite things
This morning I've been reminded how much I treasure my old blog posts. Such a blessing to be reminded of the funny, the serious, and the wonders of God in our story over these years. 
I am creating
Lettering projects, for family and friends and perhaps some to sell. :) 

Also working on a possible youth girls Bible study/life planning workshop based on an expansion of the planner class I did at the Solid Rock Friday night. Excited about the possibilities! 

I am wearing
Shorts and a Tulsa Lifeflight t-shirt. :) I have a whole wardrobe of various EMS-related shirts, thanks to Billy's work contacts. *big grin*

I am reading (read) /watching (watched) / listening to
Currently reading Steven Curtis Chapman's Between Heaven and the Real World with Ammah Grace. We're just getting started good, but we are really enjoying it so far. His music, and even more his and his family's testimony after the tragic death of his daughter Maria, have ministered to me so much over the years. I'm looking forward to the rest of this book so much!

I also just re-read Anne Ortlund's Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman in preparation for last Friday night's planner class.  I first read it close to 40 years ago and it's possible I've read it close to 40 times. Other than the Bible, it's one of the top five most influential books of my life, and I so needed to read it again right now (and not just for class! :)) If you haven't read it, I highly recommend you do (and for local folks, the Solid Rock had them in stock Friday. I have no idea how many sold, but if they are out, they can order it. :))

I am hoping
Seriously hoping that the weather folks are wrong about the coming "heat wave". The milder summers the last year or two have been so nice, particularly since our old house doesn't have central air. :)  I'm especially dreading the promised heat wave due to Peter working at the farm. He may be all grown up now, but this Mama still worries about heat stroke and such. *Sigh*
I am learning
 to better manage my minutes (not for the first time *blush*)
In my kitchen
Trying to manage to stay somewhat on plan with our WOE (way of eating) without using the oven during these hot days.
In the school room
I am hoping to get some serious planning done for fall semester this week, both for our own schooling and for our homeschool group activities. 
Post Script
This spot is for a favorite link. I just happened to have spent some time this morning reading back through old blog posts, and I ran across this one. It connected, in an odd way, with the planner class I taught Friday night and with some conversations I've had lately. Continuing to see similar things and continuing to pray for a depth revival, followed by a breadth revival! 
Shared Quote
Most people don't think in terms of minutes. They waste all the minutes. Nor do they think in terms of their whole lives. They operate in the mid-range of hours or days. So they start over again every week, and spend another chunk unrelated to their lifetime goals. They are doing a random walk through life, moving without getting anywhere.” (Alan Lakein)

This was one from Friday night's class. I'm really working on focusing on the big picture and the minutes, instead of getting stuck in the day-to-day, week-to-week right now. 
A moment from my day
Tiny 2x2 canvas Em painted for me. It sits on my desk and makes me happy. :)

Closing Notes
I am hoping and praying that this is the beginning of resuming regular posting here. I would love to hear from you in the comments--something from the blog in the past that has been an encouragement or brought a smile, something you'd like to see on the blog in the future, or just a word of encouragement! Would also love to connect with you via social media! you can follow the blog 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.
Thanks for coming by!!  
Thanks to Peggy for hosting the Simple Woman's Daybook!! Please go visit her to see what others are sharing.  


"Even If Not" and a Blurry Pair of Socks

This photo was taken five years ago today. It's blurry and just pretty much pitiful in general, but I am so thankful I have it! It's yet another reminder of God's faithfulness and care for even the smallest needs of His children. 

Five years ago this morning I received one of those calls parents dread. Bayley had collapsed at the Acteen sleepover, and they had called an ambulance. Because she was in a locked bathroom at the time, no one really knew what had happened. There had been lots of noise, including her fall, and she had been unresponsive for a time.

I had just had a shower in preparation to pick her up later that morning, and as I frantically finished getting ready, I fought tears and prayed panicked prayers. I reached in the drawer for a pair of socks and realized there were none. It had been a rough month, with my own health issues (including a trip to the ER), random other life complications, and the death of Jodie's mother-in-law a few days earlier. Add in the usual holiday busy-ness and I was a bit behind on everything, including laundry.

I choked out "God, socks?!?!" as I frantically dug in the mountain of clean, unfolded laundry, which apparently did not contain two remotely matching socks my size. Then I remembered.

The girls had had a sock exchange at the sleepover the night before. Jodie and I had gone to buy socks for the girls, and not knowing which pair Rachel might want, Jodie bought two. When we got to the sock exchange, Rachel picked a pair, and Jodie gave me the others, which I had admired earlier. I had stuck them in my bag and not given them another thought.

As I yanked them on, slid into my shoes, and raced out the door, God reminded me that if He could take care of something as inconsequential as socks, He could take care of whatever was wrong with Bayley as well. Although the whole thing was a horribly unpleasant surprise to us, it was no surprise to Him, and He was in control and holding us, as He has reminded me so many, many times over the years, in the palm of His hand.

We didn't get any answers that day. She checked out fine by the EMTs other than some possible and understandable altered mental state issues immediately after she regained consciousness. I posted this later that day: 
"Update for all who were involved in the excitement at the Acteen sleepover this morning...Bayley seems to be fine. We went by Billy's work and they did a little more in-depth checking, and everything looks normal. We're supposed to watch her for 24 hours, but hopefully it was just lack of sleep...which she is catching up on even as we speak! :) Huge thanks to everyone for the help, concern, and prayers this morning."

Reading that status five years later is almost surreal. I remember desperately hoping that was all there was to it, while having a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that something more was going on. None of us had any idea how dramatically Bay's life and all of our lives were about to change.

We would later realize that that was actually her first known tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure, and a few months later we would finally get the diagnosis of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. We are so very thankful for 3+ years of being seizure-free, thanks to good meds, careful life management, and God's grace and mercy. But epilepsy continues to impact her life and our family daily. 

Even though she hasn't had a seizure, this has definitely been the hardest year epilepsy-wise. She's had lots of pre-seizure type activity and other neurological challenges, partly due to the impact of stress and trauma issues this year, and possibly due to other, unidentified factors. We are thankful that we've been led to additional changes this year that seem to be slowly helping, and we are hopeful that we will be able to say that 2017 was a much better year, epilepsy-wise.

"But even if not", as we are reminded in Daniel 3, we will continue to trust, and obey, and tell of His faithfulness and glory. "Even if not", He is still good. He has given us many, many more stories like the sock story from that scary day in the intervening five years. He has answered many prayers with yes. He has given miracles large and small.

There have also been prayers that have been answered in ways we wouldn't have chosen. There have been more disappointments than we could list, and more tears than we could begin to count. But He is still good!! He tells us He collects those tears in a bottle. (Psalm 56:8) He cares about every one. He is using the disappointments, the sadness, the uncertainty, the scary times, the painful stuff to make us more like Him, to draw us closer to Himself, and to remind us to lean on Him completely.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~James 1:2-4

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I am so thankful for the assurance that whatever comes, He is in control, and He holds us in the palm of His hand. I am so thankful for the comfort of knowing that all that comes to us is part of His perfect plan for our good and for His glory. And I am so thankful for the reminder in a blurry pair of socks. *heart* 
You can follow the blog 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. And I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or message me via the contact box on the right. Thank you!!


Sharing our {Re}Story

Great is Thy Faithfulness! These words have been cycling through my mind constantly over the last few days. John had selected this as one of our hymns for Sunday, and while I ended up not making it to church on Sunday, I had practiced and prepared and this song had lodged in my mind and heart.

I woke up this morning with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. Today had been on the calendar for weeks as "ReStory Day". As I said to a friend this morning, "While I am so thankful for all that God has done to bring us to this point, and praying that God will use this to bring others to hope in Him, it's also a little scary..."

"Scary" for lots of reasons. Scary because 10 years ago, we would never have dreamed that we'd be sharing this story publicly at all, much less to such a wide audience. Scary because we know there are those who won't understand or agree with our sharing. Scary because it's painful on a lot of levels, for us and for others. Scary because sexual abuse and the devastation it brings to everyone touched by it is such a huge weapon of the enemy in our day, and we know from experience that when we share our story of hope and God's glory, the enemy steps up his attacks.

But we are so thankful that our God is greater. Greater than all the scary. Greater than our own hesitation. Greater than the worst trauma we can imagine. He is faithful and true and sovereign and sufficient and GOOD, and He loves us with an unfathomable love. He is Wonderful Counselor and Jehovah Rapha, the God Who heals.

When our world exploded a little over a decade ago, I tried to find resources to help families seeking to deal with this type of trauma in a Biblical way. There was very, very little available at the time. I remember crying out to God for tangible help and hope, and clinging to Him as "Wonderful Counselor" (Isa. 9:6) He has been so faithful to show Himself to us as Wonderful Counselor all along the way, and to send people and resources to help.

One of the first people He sent was Mary DeMuth. I ran across a video clip online of her sharing a bit of her testimony of being molested as a five-year-old girl and the work God had done and continued to do in her life since. It was one of the first glimmers that there was truly hope in our situation. I emailed her later and shared a bit of our story and thanked her for sharing hers and allowing God to use it to minister to us.

Over the years, I've been on launch teams for several of Mary's books, and at one point had a guest post on her blog about ministering to abuse/trauma victims and their families in the church. Her books and ministry have continued to minister to me and to our family.

Earlier this year, Bayley shared her story on her blog. As I was sending the link to some who'd asked for it, I thought, "I should send this to Mary DeMuth and say thank you again for allowing God to use her in ministering to us through her story." I didn't know if she would even remember me or our story, but I prayed over it, wrote a note of "re-introduction", and sent the link.

Mary did remember our story, and after we had messaged back and forth a few times, she asked if Bay and I would be willing to be interviewed for her ReStory podcast.

I was reminded immediately of this blog post, where I shared about God changing the desires of my heart dramatically in the area of sharing our story. That post shares some important things about one of my long-time favorite verses, Psalm 37:4. Here's an excerpt:
God has worked a complete 180 in my heart...from praying that our story would never be public to praying that nothing about our story would be wasted...that we would "steward our story well", as Mary Beth Chapman says.  My heart's desire is that God would get every ounce of glory possible out of our situation, and that He would use us to comfort and help others, as He provided comfort and help for us.  Some time ago, I began to actually pray that God would give opportunities for me to share for His glory and to minister to others.
I talked to Billy and talked to Bay, we prayed about it, and then said yes.

I was reminded again recently of this quote from John Piper:
"If we are comforted, it is for your comfort." 2 Cor. 1:6. Don't waste your comfort on yourself. Sweeten it by spreading it.
God has comforted us in so many ways through these years, and He continues to as we continue to deal with the lifelong effects of this particular trauma and other hard life stuff. As I said in the Psalm 37:4 post linked above, He showed us early on that we couldn't comfort others with the comfort He has given without being willing to share our story.  As much as that was not in any way our natural inclination, He has changed our hearts and allowed that sharing to minister to others even as it has been a huge part of our own healing.

Today, on "ReStory Day", He has again shown His faithfulness in so many ways: in the incredible sunrise as I took Billy to work this morning, in the words to the hymn with which I opened this post, in the message from a friend this morning saying she didn't know what was going on with us today, but God had put us strongly on her heart and mind and she was praying for us (isn't God SO INCREDIBLY GOOD????? And so thankful for friends who listen to His promptings and obey and then share! *bigheart*), and in being reminded of His work for His glory and our good through listening for the first time to the ReStory interview this morning.

You can listen to the interview here.  (Please feel free to share this post and the podcast link via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, etc., especially if you know someone dealing with abuse or other trauma. You can also follow the blog via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68, or sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.)

More resources on child protection, finding hope in abuse and trauma, and dealing with suffering can be found here

And I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below, message me via the contact box on the right, or contact me via the Facebook page linked above. 


"But today, His plan was Yes"

[This started out as a Facebook update, but it got even longer than my occasionally really long FB statuses and I decided perhaps it should be a blog post instead. It's not polished, or edited, or written remotely well. This one's all about the content. :)] 
Warning--this is long. Y'all know being concise is not exactly my thing to begin with, and the tireder I am, the less able I am to condense. Sorry about that, but please hang in to the end, okay? :) )

I am utterly exhausted and not sure I can even write coherently, but I have to follow up on this morning's post about rejoicing in the day the Lord has made regardless of how hard it is. Today we had a fellowship planned at church. Bay had requested a while back to plan one, and she had been SO excited about doing this today.

Then last night she had sleep issues. She woke up sometime around 3 (I think) and then called me about 4. When she wasn't back to sleep by 6, I realized there was no way she was going to be able to get to church this morning. I began to devise plan B, which was for Billy to stay home with her while I went to play the piano for the morning service, then I would leave during the sermon to come home and pick them up and take them back to church in time for lunch and the afternoon service. It wasn't an ideal plan in any way, but at least she would get there for some of the day.

When she wasn't asleep by 7:45, I began to realize that more than likely she wouldn't be able to go at all. Even to leave the house by 11:45, she would have to be awake by 9:45, There was just no way, with the way her sleep has to work to prevent seizures, that that could possibly happen.

I cried this morning. A lot. We had just had a conversation yesterday about the fact that this has been "The Summer of Disappointment" for Bay. She has never been hit with so many things in such a short time that she has either had to miss completely or sit on the sidelines and watch. She always has a great attitude about it, but it's hard.

I had said elsewhere this morning, "She is clinging to Jesus, and working to choose joy, but it still just HURTS, even in that. I have said over and over this week even that I am so thankful for the growth God is working in her life and the ways He is drawing her closer and closer to Him through all the painful stuff. But I just want her to have a little break sometimes and be able to just enjoy something like a simple fellowship..."

My heart was breaking, but God keeps reminding me, over and over about trusting, obeying, and rejoicing. So I just kept praying, "God, I don't understand this, and I just can't even face the thought of this child being hurt one. more. time. right now, but I know you love her more than I do, and I know you know better than I do, and I know you are working for our good and your glory, and I WILL rejoice, even if I'm sobbing at the same time." I sang the little chorus, "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it" over and over through quivering lips.

Somewhere around 9, I went in to get the other girls up. I was quietly telling them Plan C for the morning when Bay rolled over and said, "I think I can go." I said, "You think you can be ready if I come back and get you and Daddy at 11:45?" To which she replied, "no, I think I can be ready and just go to church."

At that point, I have to admit, my thought was, "there is no way she is going to be able to get up and get ready for church that soon without having a seizure. We're going to end up ending our 3 years seizure free right here this morning." But I said, "Well, okay, just please don't push it."

By 10:20, we were in the van on the way to church. Bay was tired but fine. I got in the van thanking God for a true mini-miracle. I've thanked Him over and over again all day.

There will be more disappointments--for all my kids. Watching my children deal with disappointment is one of my very top least favorite things in the whole world. I hate it. I always have, long before disappointment became such a frequent and unwelcome part of life for one of them thanks to epilepsy.

Choosing to rejoice is not a magic bullet. "Rejoice in the Lord and He'll fix your problem" is not in the Bible. There are lots of times when we rejoice through tears. There are lots of times when it takes us a good long time to get to the point of rejoicing (especially this mama!) He is gracious and merciful to send reminders of His faithfulness, goodness, and love over and over to remind us to rejoice.

There were lots of prayers for Bay to be able to make this thing this morning~this thing that would seem in some ways to be not a big deal, but that today just was. God could have chosen to say, "Not today." And if He had, He would still have been good. He would still have been faithful. And hopefully, we would have continued to choose joy in the hard.

But today, His plan was yes. Today He gave us another lived reminder that He is all-powerful, even over the complications of the human brain that even the most brilliant don't completely understand. Today He reminded us again that He cares about the little things.

Bro. Gary reminded us again this morning that our purpose on earth is to glorify God. Through the craziness of the last decade, He has given that as our greatest hearts' desire. Through the devastating, through the wonderful, that He would get glory through the story He is weaving in our lives and in our family.

We don't always do well with that. There are days I just flop miserably in that regard. The pity party beckons, and I eagerly accept the invitation to wallow and worry.

But prayerfully those days will continue to get fewer and farther between as He Who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it. And we will continue to share His faithfulness, in the little things and the big things, for His glory and in hopes that it will encourage others.

Today, from beginning to end, is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it. 
You can follow the blog 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. And I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or message me via the contact box on the right. Thank you!!


What's Your Favorite??

I always feel a little weird when people start discussing "favorites". Favorite colors, favorite books, favorite foods...everyone else always seems to have definite answers, and I'm always trying to narrow down a mile-long list.

Hymns may be one of the longest lists, and one of the hardest to narrow down for me. I've been known to say, "most of the Baptist hymnal...and a few that aren't in there!" And that's pretty true. I love hymns, and so many are so precious to me for so many reasons.

I realized yesterday that if I were forced to decide on a "life hymn", it would have to be "He Keeps Me Singing". Maybe it's because I've always loved to sing, but I've always loved the chorus. It's one of those you just almost can't sing without it bringing a huge smile. And the verses cover it all...salvation, joy and grace, suffering and trials, and our sure hope of heaven.

The summer I was 17, this hymn took on new meaning. I had really wrestled about spending my usual 3 weeks at summer camp in Lousiana as a "Whitefoot" (Jr. Volunteer Staffer/Counselor) because my grandfather was in the last stages of cancer. We had finally decided that I should go ahead and fulfill my commitment. It was a hard time in a lot of ways. Health and job issues in our family, my grandfather's illness, and the beginnings of turmoil in our beloved church.

I remember standing in the chapel singing this song one evening that summer and the words taking on a whole new meaning...especially the fourth verse. It became my theme song for that summer, which included my grandfather's death just a few days later, and throughout the coming year, in which we would end up leaving the church I'd grown up in to help start a new church in western Conway, among other difficult days.

It's continued to be a favorite in the years since, but this year it's become especially precious again. I'm always amazed when John sends the hymns for the week, as it so often seems that God has hand-picked just the hymns I need to be immersed in as I practice each day. This week's were especially good for a hard week: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", "Amazing Grace", "I Stand Amazed in the Presence", and then "He Keeps Me Singing". I practically wore the piano out with the last one in particular this week.

Then I realized that the last one was actually the one scheduled for Sunday night, but we weren't having services Sunday night due to Mother's Day. I sent a special request to Bro. Gary and to John that we add it Sunday morning, and they were kind to oblige. :)

It was our last hymn for the morning, and Bro. Gary said something about singing it all day long. I actually did, catching myself singing it as I took pictures in the rain on the Mother's Day drive my family indulged me in and as I walked through the grocery store later in the afternoon.

If you've read here much, you know I love hymn stories. I always think of this as such a cheerful, encouraging hymn, and yet it was written out of great sorrow. Luther Bridgers was preaching at a conference when he received a phone call from home. He answered excited to tell his wife all the great things God was doing at the conference, only to discover that she and their three sons had perished in a house fire.

"He Keeps Me Singing" was written out of his grief in this horrible loss.

I was struck all over again this week at how many of our greatest hymns have come from hymn-writers who have known great suffering. What a testimony!

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow. 
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumb’ring chords again.
Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ’neath His shelt’ring wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.
Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.
Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.
~Luther Bridgers

Do you have a favorite hymn? Or a few? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! 

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{Pondering Protection} Resource List

I promised this list over a week ago, and I am finally sitting down to type it. It's been one of those weeks this week!

When our world exploded 9+ years ago, my first response was prayer--desperate, gut-wrenching prayer. My second response was research. I'm a researcher at heart, so that's my typical reaction to pretty much anything: research. What I discovered, however, was that there was really very little out there for families wanting to deal with abuse trauma in a Biblical manner.

Since then, thankfully, some excellent resources have come along. I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via the contact box in the sidebar if you are aware of other resources for Christian families seeking to deal with abuse trauma in a Biblical way. Here's my list for prevention/protection/trauma response resources:


Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb--Published 5 years after our journey began, this is the best resource I've found. The Holcombs deal with this subject Biblically and gracefully.

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb--I have not personally read this book, but it comes highly recommended by people I respect. A book to discuss hard but necessary issues with children.

Thin Places: A Memoir, by Mary DeMuth-- Mary DeMuth's writing has ministered to me greatly throughout our journey.  Her story is one of hope and healing through God's grace.  

Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing After Sexual Abuse, by Mary DeMuth--I haven't read this one yet, but everything Mary DeMuth has written has ministered to and encouraged me. On my list for this year. 

(Two other books by Mary DeMuth that don't deal specifically with the topic of abuse, but that are excellent reads, are Everything and  The Wall Around Your Heart. I highly recommend both.)

On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church, by Deepak Reju--This is another book that's on my list to read this year. It comes highly recommended, and every excerpt I've seen from it has been excellent. 

I'm not as familiar with the next two, but the excerpts I've seen have looked good, and I hope to read these soon:

 Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores, by Diane Langberg

Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse, by Steven R. Tracy 

Online Resources

G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)--I don't agree with everything they post/publish, but they have some excellent resources. 

The Gospel Coalition--The Gospel Coalition is not a child protection ministry per se, but they do have a number of excellent articles, particularly regarding preventing and responding to sexual abuse in the church. I've linked to a search of child protection articles on the site. 

The Safe Side--This site was recommended by a friend at our meeting last Monday. I haven't had a chance to spend much time on it yet, so I can't make an unqualified recommendation, but it definitely looks worth checking out. 

Child Protection Resources at Ponderings of an Elect Exile--I'm in the process of updating, streamlining, and reworking some of the child protection information here on the blog, but this is an older post that contains many of the links to articles here on child protection, trauma, and related issues, plus additional resources. 

In addition to updating and reworking some older posts, I'm also in the process of creating new content on these issues based on the information I shared at last week's meeting. If you are interested in this subject, please follow us 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. And I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or message me via the contact box on the right. Thank you!!  

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