Authenticity Revisited...

"We are only what we are in the dark; all the rest is reputation.
What God looks at is what we are in the dark-
the imaginations of our minds, the thoughts of our heart, the habits of our bodies;
these are the things that mark us in God's sight.
Character is what you are in the dark."
~Oswald Chambers ~
My Utmost for His Highest

When I saw the quote that Deborah had chosen for today's In "Other" Words, I immediately thought back to my One Little Word post, written in January of this year. In it I wrote:

"I want to be authentic in my relationship with God. To be authentic in my relationships with my husband and children. To be authentic in my parenting. To be authentic in my friendships. I want to lead my children to be authentic. I want them to have authentic relationships with God. I want them to make right decisions and do the right thing because they are walking with the Lord and want to please Him...not because of what "people" will see or think. "

God had been stirring my heart on this subject for a while. Our family had been sent into a tailspin by someone much loved and trusted who turned out to be anything but authentic. In the midst of the practical day-to-day and long-term issues thrust upon us in the aftermath of the betrayal we discovered, we began to seek answers to the whys and hows of the situation at hand. What I realized, in hindsight, was that this person had spent a lifetime building a reputation that had no connection to the person they truly were inside. The imaginations of the mind, the thoughts of the heart, and the habits of the body bore no resemblance to the front everyone else saw.

I realized then, as I do now, that we are probably all that way to some extent. Most, if not all, of us have areas we don't care to show the world; we often wear masks of various kinds. To some degree, those masks may be okay...some of us are just more private than others, and it certainly isn't always a good thing to "let it all hang out". But there is a fine line there. When we actively seek to show the world a persona that is only skin-deep, we hit a danger zone that isn't good for us *or* the people around us.

I've spent a lot of time since that authenticity post in January pondering the subject of authenticity. We want to have a good name...Proverbs says a good name is to be desired more than great riches...and we want to be good ambassadors for our King...not stumbling blocks. But it is so crucial that we truly *be* the person worthy of that good name. Our motivation must be to be the person God has called us to be, to obey and serve and glorify Him...because we love Him, because we can never repay the debt we owe. If our motivation is to look good to others...it is as filthy rags.

As I said in this post, I have realized this is my primary goal as a parent...that my children grow to love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. I want them to want so much to please Him that nothing else matters...not what others think, or how "successful" they appear...only that they are following Jesus, step by step, day by day.

And for me to teach that to them, I have to live that myself.

I so needed this reminder, halfway through this year for which my "one little word" is "authentic". I need to stop, in the midst of summer planning for the coming school year, as I'm evaluating where everybody is, what has been working, what needs to change, and what our goals are for the year, and first of all assess "what I am in the dark", and then what my children are "in the dark".

I've shared before the link to Ann Voskamp's post on a "one piece life". I revisited that post this week, and was again so convicted that that is the key to authenticity...making no room in my life for a distinction between the sacred and the secular. As Ann says, with the Holy Spirit inside us, it should all be sacred...every ordinary moment.

I want my life to be seamless. No compartments, no division between the sacred and the ordinary. Our scarred wood floors holy ground, and our lives the same during Monday morning chores as Sunday morning church. I want who I am to God in the dark to be more important to me than who I am to others in public.

I guess I want "authentic" to be more than "one little word for 2009"...I want it to be a defining characteristic of our family for a lifetime.

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good."
Romans 12:9

To see others' thoughts on this quote, visit Deborah at Chocolate and Coffee. Thanks to Deborah for hosting, and for a great quote this week!


Midnight in Madrid Blog Tour

Noel Hynd's Midnight in Madrid has been compared to classic detective and suspense fiction such as The Maltese Falcon and The Da Vinci Code. Definitely not fluff fiction, this book is filled with action, intrigue, and meaty historical references.

I received a review copy of Midnight in Madrid, the second book in Hynd's Russian Trilogy, in return for participating in this week's blog tour. Once again, I was a bit concerned about starting in mid-series, but Hynd provides just enough information to keep a new reader from feeling lost while encouraging a read of the first book as well.

From the media release:

"When a mysterious relic is stolen from a Madrid museum, people are dying to discover its secrets. Literally.

U.S. Treasury agent Alexandra LaDuca returns from Conspiracy in Kiev to track down the stolen artwork, a small carving called The Pieta of Malta. It seems to be a simple assignment, but nothing about this job is simple, as the mysteries and legends surrounding the relic become increasingly complex with claims of supernatural power.

As aggressive, relentless, and stubborn as ever, Alex crisscrosses Europe through a web of intrigue, danger, and betrayal, joined by a polished, mysterious new partner. With echoes of classic detective and suspense fiction from The Maltese Falcon to The Da Vinci Code, Midnight in Madrid takes the reader on a nonstop spellbinding chase through a modern world of terrorists, art thieves, and cold-blooded killers."

Although the book is heavy on historical references, I didn't find them tedious; in fact, I was fascinated with the information on art history Hynd wove through the narrative. I was interested to learn that Noel Hynd has a B.A. in International Relations...other than my Constitutional Law classes, my International Relations classes were probably some of my favorites as a Poli Sci minor in college. However, a background in that area is certainly not necessary to enjoy the drama Hynd crafts. :)

Midnight in Madrid can be purchased at Amazon. For more information on the book, visit Noel Hynd's website. And be sure to check out other reviews on the blog tour here.

Booking Through Thursday

This week's Booking Through Thursday was tough for me...for those who know me, you know that short answers are NOT my forte. :-) I *really* wanted to explain most of my answers! Anyway...I'd love to see what others prefer in their reading...pop over to the Booking Through Thursday site to participate in this week's prompt, or leave an answer or two in the comments here. :)

Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)

  • Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? Both!
  • Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? Either.
  • Fiction? Or Nonfiction? Both, always.
  • Poetry? Or Prose? Prose.
  • Biographies? Or Autobiographies? Biographies.
  • History? Or Historical Fiction? History.
  • Series? Or Stand-alones? Either.
  • Classics? Or best-sellers? Hmm...eclectic. :)
  • Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? Straight-forward, basic.
  • Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? Both.
  • Long books? Or Short? Long.
  • Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? Love illustrations!
  • Borrowed? Or Owned? Either.
  • New? Or Used? Used all the way!! :)


"Do The Next Thing"

It's been one of those weeks. Long lists of things begging to be done coupled with physical issues that have kept me down more than up. Unexpected challenges (like new roof leaks...ugh!). Friends facing hard times and more hard times. "Overwhelmed" has been the word of the week this week...especially this morning, as I decided that no matter what, I *had* to start marking things off this "to do" list today. I found myself wishing this morning that I was one of those people (like friends I know :)) who get really energized and productive when under stress (and clean house!) Unfortunately, stress has the opposite effect on me...it paralyzes me. I can't afford to indulge in the sluggishness that has gripped me all week...progress *must* be made.

I was sitting at my desk trying to decide how in the world to fit it all in to the day...what needed to be done first and what was most important...and worrying about balancing all that needs to be done today with the need for energy and strength for the evening's commitments at church. A familiar Elisabeth Elliot phrase popped into my mind, and I decided to look up its origin. I was delighted to find this poem. It's going on our "Mega Memory Month" queue! What a beautiful reminder...

Do The Next Thing

(an old Saxon poem quoted by Elisabeth Elliot)

"At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'

Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing."


7 (Super) Quick Takes Friday

I was determined to participate in 7 Quick Takes Friday this week, but at 9:30 after a *very* full day, it's going to have to be a "Super Quick Takes Friday" (especially since I have to get up earrrly in the morning, as it's Billy's Saturday to work and the big girls have to be at a GA activity early.) I just hope my tired brain can come up with 7!

1. I finally decided on the co-op classes I'm teaching this fall. After waffling about whether we were even going to participate (due to external circumstances beyond our control that may wreak havoc with our schedule), I am getting really excited about it again. Kelli has a great line-up of classes started already, and I appreciate her and Matt and their work to continually improve co-op so much. We have been super-blessed with great co-op coordinators during our years in co-op!

Anyway...I'm teaching two classes this time (which I said, after the last time I did it, I would never do again!): (1) Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Spy Stuff for 9-13 year olds, and (2) Scrapbooking and Beyond, a papercrafts class for teenagers. The spy class was a special request from Peter, who said, "You always teach girl classes, Mom...teach something for me!" The scrapbooking class is hopefully going to somewhat satisfy the recent overwhelming desire to teach scrapbooking/paper arts classes again. I would so love to find a place to teach and start teaching again, but for now, this should be fun! I really need to nail down plans and projects for the classes in the next few days, so that I can get more detailed info to Kelli...so watch for more on that soon. :)

2. We had a great lunch at ChickFilA today with Kathy and Kaitlyn and Joshua. I'm not sure Kathy and I completed two sentences in a row without some child bursting out of the PlayPlace to get a drink or ask a question or tell us something "really important", but somehow we still managed to get in some good "mom talk." That's always a good thing. :)

3. I'm mourning the loss of Emerald Cocoa Roast Dark Chocolate Almonds. :-( We made our every other week trek to Sam's today, only to discover that not only have they changed the salad we usually buy (and were quite happy with), they have also quit carrying the Dark Chocolate Almonds. Have I ever mentioned I have a love/hate relationship with Sam's?? It's Billy's favorite place to buy pants, I love the cheap prices on dairy products, and as I've mentioned before, the Sam's Cafe is one of my kids' favorite (cheap) places to eat. :) But I *detest* the fact that just when I get used to a product I really love...they quit carrying it. UGH.
I'm on a quest now for an alternate source for the almonds, but so far, everything I've come up with has been *waay* more expensive than Sam's. :-( Since I was diagnosed with Diabetes, these have been my mainstay...even though I don't care for almonds *or* dark chocolate usually, these are quite tasty...a good low-carb protein snack with just a hint of chocolate. *Sigh*

4. We have been given a blessed reprieve from triple-digit temps. The last weather report I saw showed highs in the upper 80s (!!!!) and low 90s well into next week. I would be thrilled if that would last all summer (although I know that is a dream :)).

5. I am blessed with an abundance of books at the moment. I always have a "stack" going, but right now I've got quite a few either "in progress" or "pending" even for me! Check back next week for the blog tour for Noel Hynd's Midnight in Madrid. I'm in the middle of it now and can't WAIT to finish it. The week after that is the blog tour for Tour de Force, by Elizabeth White.

6. I had a good hair day today. I realize that isn't important to anyone but me...but it doesn't happen often, so it's noteworthy. Besides, it gets me down to #7! :)

7. After yesterday, I am determined to put a serious dent in our food waste. I'm trying to come up with a way to make myself accountable about that, but I haven't quite figured it out yet. And I would love to hear any ideas you have for reducing food waste, using leftovers, disguising leftovers for picky eaters, and using what you have without spending an eternity in the kitchen. :) Thoughts or suggestions?

Made it! For more Quick Takes, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary . (If you haven't visited her already, you should anyway. Her blog continues to intrigue and challenge me. Much there worth reading!)


Thankful Thursday

I've been way too hit and miss with Thankful Thursday lately, so I was determined to post today, and I even had my post somewhat planned. Then I ended up running across a couple of things this morning that changed my course.

I get so bogged down sometimes in the "big stuff", that I forget the "basics". Today I've been reminded how thankful I am for the "essentials". We always bless our meals and thank God for our food...but how often do we *really* stop and realize how blessed we are that we...and our children...have plenty of food, clean water, a roof over our heads (leaky or not ;-)), clothes to wear, and even medicine when we need it?

Yesterday and today I have been cleaning out the fridge/freezer and pantry (Okay, so I don't actually *have* a "pantry", but that sounds better than "the non-perishable food cabinets" :)). I have been appalled...again...at how much food we *waste*. We've been trying to rein in our food budget again, and I'm realizing...again...how much we could save if we just didn't end up *tossing* so much. So...I had been pondering all morning how to be more frugal by cutting our food waste.

Then a friend in an online group posted this video. Wow. (Warning: This video is extremely powerful and will tug at your heart and haunt your mind. It is beautiful...and sad...and disturbing. However, be aware that it is also not for the extremely weak-stomached. Nothing gory, just kinda yucky.)

I also ran across the trailer to this book

this morning. I *really* want to read this book. I rarely buy new books, but I may have to make an exception for this one. The author is Tom Davis, founder of Children's HopeChest, an organization that works with orphans in Russia and in several African countries.

I am always telling my children that one way to express gratitude is to take care of and wisely use that which we have been given. As I thought this morning about how grateful I am for food, clean water, shelter, and other basic necessities for us and for our children, I realized that I have not been showing that gratitude through wise use of the food we've been given. How convicting to realize what an unwise steward I have been.

I posted a while back that we had begun sponsoring a child through Compassion International. His name is Frank, and he lives in Ghana. We have been so blessed through being able to participate in this ministry, and especially through Frank's letters. We knew when we decided to sponsor him that we would have to practice frugality to make that payment every month. In some ways, we've done well with that...in others, not so well.

In today's economy, frugality is becoming more and more important for many of us. I realized again this morning that frugality is not only important in "making ends meet" in our budget...it is important for us to be able to share with those whose needs are much greater than we can often imagine. As I said in the previous post on World Hunger Day, "No, eating all the vegetables on our plates won't help the starving children in Africa, but changing our habits so that we can sponsor a child can."

I am so very, very thankful for our abundance in the essentials. Even on the leanest weeks in the grocery budget, we eat *so* much better than much of the world. I am thankful that I never have to worry about my children going hungry. I am so thankful for clean water, shelter, medical care, and clothing for them.

Now I need to express how thankful I am for God's provision by "taking care of and wisely using what we have been given." I have the feeling that it will not only help our budget, but our grateful hearts as well.

For more Thankful Thursdays, please visit Lynn here.

Gentry Rose Dress Giveaway...

I am so excited that Iris of Grace Alone is blogging again...I've missed her! I'm also excited about her Gentry Rose Dress Giveaway. Designer Granny B designed this dress especially for Gentry Rose, and all proceeds from it go toward her therapy expenses. (See Gentry Rose's story here.) Isn't it adorable?? Iris is giving one away to one of her readers, so pop over and check it out here!


Mega Memory Month Update

Note on this post...I typed this last night (Monday)...so proud of myself that I was getting it done on time. Then I realized that MMM reports are now on *Tuesday*. ;-) So, I saved the draft and thought "I'll edit tomorrow and post it then." Then I completely forgot about it until just this moment...10:30 p.m. :) Now I'm too tired to edit/update...so you're getting Monday's report instead. :-D Someday I'll get my act together...maybe!

"Better late than never." I guess that would apply here. It is the 13th day of July and we actually started working on our July MMM passage this morning. Eek! We have a long way to go in the next 18 days!

This morning everyone got a new Mega Memory Month folder, with a copy of 1 Cor. 13 in the ESV. We read through the chapter and discussed vocabulary words and the meaning of the verses. We will do this more in depth as we go along; today was an overview. We also started learning verse 1.

Hopefully by tomorrow I'll have the cassette recording made, and at least one other activity ready. Guess I need to pull out the books and decide what that will be.

The children *really* don't want to sign this chapter. I'm still undecided, but I'm leaning toward not. The signing was fun in the beginning, but has somehow become drudgery along the way...and I don't want to take the joy out of memory work for them. (They really do enjoy it! :))
We'll probably sign again someday...but I'm thinking we'll probably take a break this time.

Not much to report, but at least we are started! Given the past few weeks, that is an accomplishment. :)

For more on Mega Memory Month, visit Ann Kroeker.

In “Other” Words

“If all you ever attempt is that which you know you can do,
or have the resources for,
how will you ever discover what He can do?My Jesus is . . . Everything!
~Anne Graham Lotz

When I first read this week’s quote, my mind immediately flashed back to a comment I made over five years ago. I even know the date…February 2, 2004. :) I was talking to a friend on the phone…I’m not even sure who…and I remember distinctly saying, “I know That God never gives us more than we can handle, but I am telling Him that I am *there*. I am at the outer limit.”

The funny thing about that comment is that I have no idea *what* I was talking about at the time. I know that my parents and I were dealing with “issues” with my grandfather, which were part of it, I’m sure. I remember feeling rather overwhelmed with housework and homeschooling…it had been a difficult pregnancy, and I had had a hard time keeping up. But really, I’m not so sure *what* was so overwhelming at the time, other than that a conglomeration of “life”.

I have often wondered since if God was smiling as he heard my words. :)

Two days later, I was in an ambulance in the middle of a snowstorm on my way to a hospital with a Level III NICU, in premature labor. Three days after that, Ammah Grace was born, 10 weeks early. She spent the next 6 weeks in the NICU, 2 1/2 hours away from home, receiving one dire prognosis after another. I spent those 6 weeks travelling back and forth, staying in Little Rock the last three weeks while Billy, my parents, and various friends and church members cared for our three older children and things at home.

Just when we were starting to feel a bit “normal” again after that upheaval, my dad’s health, which hadn’t been good for several years, began a sudden, steep decline. A few months later he was hospitalized and we discovered that among other things, cancer had returned. He died two months before Ammah Grace’s first birthday.

The years since my dad’s death have held their own traumas…days that have made Ammah Grace’s hospitalization and my dad’s illness seem like the easy part.

At some point in the midst of all of that, I was reflecting back on the conversation with my friend two days before Ammah Grace’s birth. As I chuckled at bit at the irony of my words on that particular day, and how *often* I have since wished I could go back to those “good old days” :), I realized that my theology was faulty.

God does, often, give us more than we can handle. Because it’s not about “what we can handle”. It’s about His strength, made manifest in our weakness. He wants us to learn that we can *not * make it in our own strength. He wants us to learn to rely on *His* strength. He tells us that we can do “all things” through Christ who strengthens us…not just the things we can handle. (Php. 4:13) He wants us to learn what a big God he is, and to depend on his power completely, moment by moment.

In fact, He tells us to rejoice in what we *can’t* do! This passage has had a whole new meaning for me in the past few years:

"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 about my weaknesses,
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong."
~2 Cor. 12:9-10

We are to *delight* in our weaknesses, in the hard times, in the things that we “can’t handle”. We are at our strongest when we realize that we “can’t” handle circumstances in our own strength, and begin to truly rely on *His* strength.

I still struggle with this. It’s a day by day, and sometimes hour by hour, thing. Just last night I got completely overwhelmed, again, and fell flat on my face. There are *lots* of days when if I only attempted the things I knew I could do or for which I knew I had the resources…I wouldn’t get out of bed!!

But God has been so amazing over the last few years to show me more and more how HUGE He is, and how amazingly vast are HIS resources. Through circumstances I would have said I could *never* handle, He has shown me things about His nature and character I could never have learned any other way. And I am thankful.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.
~Isaiah 55:8

Thank you to Nina at Mama’s Little Treasures for hosting this week’s In “Other” Words…visit her to see what others have to say about this week’s quote!

Another post on "God not giving us more than we can handle" can be found here:  The End of the Rope


Sunset Beach Blog Tour

I seem to have a fascination lately with books about family secrets. I like the ones that wrap up with nice, neat happy endings (I know they aren't particularly realistic, but that's okay :)), and I like the ones (most of the time, anyway...;-)) with more real-life endings where things aren't necessarily resolved in a package with a pretty little bow on the top. I won't tell you which category Trish Perry's latest novel falls into...that would be giving things away. :) But Sunset Beach keeps you engrossed until the very end *hoping* for a happy ending for Sonny Miller, recent college graduate who decides her graduation present from her mother is going to be the answers about her past for which she has waited all her life.

When I received Sunset Beach from The Blog Tour Spot to review for this week's blog tour, I discovered that it is actually the fourth book in the "Beach House Series", by Sally Johns and Trish Perry. I was a little concerned that I hadn't read the previous three books, but was glad to find that while the books are connected by the quirky little cottage and its neighbor, Julian, and his friend Zeke, they are each written as stand-alone volumes. There is enough of a hint of the other books to pique one's interest, without feeling that one has *missed* something.

From the media release about the book:

"Sonny Miller is tired of not knowing who she is. Soon she’ll begin graduate school to earn her masters in Psychology. But how can she counsel future clients about their identities when she isn’t even sure about her own? To that end she has cooked up a little meeting at a certain beach house in San Diego.

"Sonny’s mother, classical soprano Teresa Miller, isn’t aware she’s about to be reunited at the beach house with her sister, Melanie Hines, after 25 years of estrangement. And Sonny isn’t aware her mother has invited a surprise guest of her own. Russian adoptee, Irina Petrova, finds herself dragged along on a trip so tumultuous she summons her handsome concert violinist brother for moral support.

"The four women converge on the funky little beach house in San Diego, each with her own disappointments and hopes about family, identity, and love. For Sonny, the trip reveals all she expected and more than she ever dreamed."

Trish Perry says "I love good stories," and that is evident in the story she weaves in Sunset Beach. It's a "curl up on a rainy day and read all afternoon" book with deeper underlying themes: the importance of seeking God's guidance in everything, and the determination of our personal identities...how do they, and how should they, develop?

Sunset Beach, published by Harvest House, is available at Amazon. Check out the other reviews on this week's blog tour at The Blog Tour Spot. And be sure to visit Trish Perry's site for more information, as well as additional book reviews, interviews, and give-aways!


Mega Memory Month...Behind as Usual!

Ack! I feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland: "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!"

Mega Memory Month started July 1 at Ann Kroeker's, and here it is July 9 and I am *just now* deciding what we are going to work on this month! Eek.

However, after MUCH thought and prayer, I have rejected, for one reason or another *every* passage I had initially thought about doing, and settled on one I hadn't even considered before this morning. Typical. :) All of those that were "rejected" this time are going on a list for upcoming months, but either I wanted to save them until we are actually doing more formal "school" again, or I felt like we needed to devote an entire month to them (without a late start :)).

So...July's Mega Memory Month passage is...

I Corinthians 13.

I've decided we could all use this right now. Besides, it is just one of those passages everyone should know and *I* have never even memorized the whole thing.

We are memorizing it from the English Standard Version (ESV). The ESV is replacing my beloved NIV as my preferred translation, and earlier this year I got a great deal on a new ESV Study Bible...I love it!! However, we aren't necessarily doing all of our memorizing from it. I usually look up what we are going to memorize in ESV, NASB, NIV, and KJV. I'm trying to memorize mostly from ESV or NASB, but occasionally (especially if it is something I know well in NIV or KJV), we will use one of the others. This time I just felt like the meaning of the ESV was more clear.

This one is going to be a challenge. Not the passage itself, but our memorizing of it! Although we do school year-round (mostly :)), our early summer break ran a bit longer than I anticipated this year, so we are still *on* break this week. The plan is that we will go back to a light school week next week, and then add in a bit more the last two weeks of this month. This will be the first time we've started MMM when we weren't actively schooling, so it should be interesting. :)

By tomorrow I will have new Mega Memory Month folders made for everyone, as well as a new cassette recording. I haven't decided if we will sign this one or not, but I'm leaning toward signing. :) I also hope to add in a few activities from the various scripture memory activity books I have but have trouble pulling out to actually *use*. :) We'll see how that goes...:-)

I Corinthians 13 (ESV)

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


Lesson from a Big Dumb Dog

I have never been a dog person. We have had dogs that I have loved, and I didn't necessarily have anything *against* dogs (except Shelties...I abhor Shelties! :-D), but I was always really more of a cat person.

*Now* if I had my way, I would be a "no-pet" person. Again, not because I have anything against pets per se...in fact, I always thought I would have a houseful...but because at this point in our lives, I'm not up to pets. If we were in a different house, with a different income, with different life circumstances, and my health were different...I would love pets. As it is...not so much.

However, we now have two dogs. Darcy, our dauchhaund/beagle mix, was our own doing. Billy and I both completely lost our senses at the same time and agreed to a puppy. Sandy, on the other hand, was ever-so-graciously passed on to us by my inlaws. She's a 13 year old, seriously overweight beagle, that the kids all gave my FIL (with his blessing) for Father's Day one year. When our niece was born last year, my inlaws decided that with two little ones to help care for, Sandy needed a new home. Ours.

Sandy and I tolerate each other at best. She knows, I'm sure, that I'm not thrilled about her being here, and I know that I am definitely her least favorite of the 6 humans in this house. She's not a bad dog, but she annoys me in all manner of ways. Barking during dinner, sleeping too close to my chair, deciding to take her Sunday stroll in the backyard when I am the only one home and need her to come in so I can leave for church on Sunday evening.

Tonight Sandy was really, REALLY annoying me. She had had a bath, and was in the dining room (where I was sitting trying to read/relax) shuffling around bumping into chairs trying to get comfortable. Did I mention she was making LOTS of noise?? Then she got into my trash, looking for a bedtime snack, I suppose. THEN I walked in the kitchen and discovered that she had pulled dirty towels out of the laundry basket and made herself a bed in them. Ugh!

At that point I decided it was time for Sandy and I to have a little chat.

"Dog, you and I are about to have it out. I have HAD IT. I know you are big, but I am bigger, and I am GOING TO WIN."

May I stop here for a second and insert that Billy is at this point around the corner snickering at me. He thinks the relationship between Sandy and I is hysterical...especially when she is obvious in her disdain for me. I am not so amused...

Anyway, the next words in my tirade were these:

"You know, the ONLY reason I put up with you, the ONLY reason you are even still HERE, is because of what you mean to that little girl in there. If it weren't for her, you would be OUT of here faster than..."

And then I stopped.

I suddenly realized that Sandy and I are kind of in the same boat.

You see, when Sandy came to live with us, she became "the dog" of one particular daughter. This daughter had gone through some very rough days, and Sandy almost became like a "therapy dog" for her. She *loves* that dog. She LOVES that dog. She's very protective of her, and Billy and I are already worrying about how she will handle it when the end comes.

Sandy is completely worthless on her own merit. She doesn't fetch, she doesn't contribute anything to the welfare of the family. She eats (a lot), she sleeps (and snores, really loudly), and she wanders around in the yard (and barks, loudly, at every human or animal that comes into her field of vision.)

But Sandy has one great value. My daughter loves her. A lot. And because she means a lot to my daughter, she means a lot to me. I show her grace (LOTS of grace) because of what she means to my little girl.

I am worthless. The Bible says that all of our good works are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). It also says that God cannot look upon sin (Isa. 59:2), and that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23).

But...when God looks at me, because of His gift of salvation through Jesus, He doesn't see my sin. He sees the love of His precious Son, poured out in His blood. He sees us as spotless and clean (Col. 1:22) Because I am "in Christ", I am not condemned to Hell.

I needed that reminder tonight.

Maybe Sandy isn't so worthless after all.


In “Other” Words…Wholehearted Love?

“To just read the Bible, attend church,
and avoid "big" sins -
is this passionate, wholehearted love for God? ”
~Francois Fenelon,
The Seeking Heart

What a quote! I was so excited Friday when I saw that this was going to be today’s In “Other” Words quote. How easy it is to fall into that trap~to “read the Bible, attend church, and avoid ‘big’ sins”~and feel like we are “set”. All of those things are important. It is vitally important that we saturate ourselves with God’s Word. We are commanded not to forsake the assembling of the Body. And we are told to “Be Holy” as He is Holy…not just to avoid “big sins” but “all sin”.

But it mustn’t stop there. Our heart must be in love with God. We are commanded to love Him with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our strength, and with all of our mind.

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

Luke 10:27

I’ve realized in the past few years that I had fallen hard into that trap…even though I *knew* better. I had let a list of do’s and don’ts take the place of a Relationship. Now…I still feel very strongly about many of those do’s and don’ts! But the motivation has changed.

God has used the experiences of the last few years to rekindle a passionate love relationship with Him. I have experienced that love in ways I never imagined before. I still fall very short…both in the wholehearted love relationship, and in the behaviors that should flow out of that. But…my heart’s desire is to please Him, to serve Him, and to obey Him, because of His great love and sacrifice for me. I so want to have a “passionate, wholehearted love for God”. I want to demonstrate that to my children.

As I said in this post, that is my primary goal as a mother:

“My primary goal is for my children to love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Only if they truly love Him and have a personal walk with Him as not only Savior, but also Lord of their lives, will they truly be the successes that He...and I...want them to be. No matter what they look like on the outside, no matter how intelligent, polite, and "successful" they appear to be...if they haven't given their hearts to Him completely, it is all for naught.”

And if that is truly my primary goal as a mother, then I must live it myself. Not just for them, not just for my husband, but for *me* and my relationship with God. I want to be totally, passionately, on-fire-sold-out-in-love with Him. And I want that love to spill out wherever I am.

Speaking of passionate love, the book Crazy Love, by Francis Chan, has been on my wish list for a long time…since my friend Tauna first mentioned it to me months ago. This month it is the free download from ChristianAudio.com. I downloaded it today and can’t wait to listen!

in other words

Thanks to Debbie at HeartChoices for hosting In “Other” Words today. This is a great quote and one I needed to think about this week.


Independence Day Wisdom...

"We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come."- Samuel Adams, 1776 (at the signing of the Declaration of Independence)

"The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained."
- George Washington, 1789

'The secret of my success? It is simple. It is found in the Bible', "In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."
- George Washington Carver, 1939

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here."
- Patrick Henry, Patriot 1776

"It is necessary for the welfare of the nation that men's lives be based on the principles of the Bible. No man, educated or uneducated, can afford to be ignorant of the Bible."
- Theodore Roosevelt - (1858-1919) 26th President of the United States

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever."
- Thomas Jefferson, 1871

"The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."
- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) 35th President of the United States


Blog Tour: "Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity"

I was so excited when the opportunity arose to review Keri Wyatt Kent's new book, Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity. First, free books are always a wonderful thing. :) And second, but more important, the issue of honoring the Sabbath is one with which I've struggled for a long time, and one which has been increasingly on my mind in in my heart in the past few months. For our family, Sabbath-keeping involves goals such as these:

Corporate worship with our church family is priority.

We don't take on outside commitments (other than church) that require regular Sunday participation.

We keep Sunday shopping to a minimum.

Our Sundays are often far from restful, however...and at times even when they are restful and relaxing, I wonder if they truly qualify as "honoring the Sabbath":

There are times (such as the last couple of months, when we have been preparing for Family Camp and VBS :)) when church activities seem to run us ragged, even on Sundays.

While I rarely shop on Sunday, stopping by the grocery store on the way home from church ends up being a necessity some weeks. I steer clear of the mall and other retail spots...most of the time. But one of the most restful, refreshing Sundays I've had in a long time involved a fun afternoon trip with a friend to a craft store...I came home energized, motivated, and feeling creative inspiration I hadn't felt in a long time.

Our "no outside commitments other than church" policy for Sundays is definitely a good thing for our family...but lately I've wondered if our *quiet* Sunday afternoons with everyone following their own pursuits leave something to be desired.

I have to admit that after my initial excitement about reading Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, within the first few pages, I was a tiny bit put off. Kent mentions early on that her daughter's soccer team periodically plays on Sunday. I shoved down the little Pharisaical voice inside saying, "What on earth is someone whose child plays soccer on Sunday doing writing a book about Sabbath rest??" and continued reading. I'm glad I did.

Kent doesn't offer pat answers or a list of "dos and don'ts". Instead, as she shares honestly her journey toward a life of Sabbath Simplicity, she encourages us to take heed of the Biblical mandate to set aside a Day of Rest, and to explore how God would have us and our families live that out.

Rather than getting hung up on "Which day should one observe, Saturday or Sunday?" (although she does give a brief Biblical and historical argument for the Lord's Day observance on Sunday), Kent lays out a basis for a day set apart from the normal routine and ideas for making it meaningful and workable in our fast-paced modern world.

I could well relate to her introduction to the second chapter, where she describes herself as "a bit of a restless soul". "The illusion I labor under is that when things really get going or finally settle down, I'll be able to focus on what matters. I'll be content. I'll live a simple and serene life." She then describes the trap I think many of us fall into..."running like crazy but getting just about nowhere" in the pursuit of contentment and serenity...making more lists, doing more tasks, working more hours, when what we really need to do is STOP.

She offers that as the only "rule" for Sabbath rest..."just stop". Further than that, she offers not rules, but "guidelines for stopping" as she invites us to "consider receiving the gift of God's rest." I especially appreciated her discussion of the body's need to alternate periods of being "fully engaged" with periods of being "fully at rest". It provided food for thought on the issue of God's promise of "rest" and a "light yoke" and "easy burden", versus the physical, mental, and emotional sacrifices we often seem called to in following Him. Is part of the burn-out so many of us experience directly related to the lack of true Sabbath rest in our lives? Is there a way to reconcile that in the modern world? Kent says that there is.

I was a little concerned that a book on "keeping the Sabbath" might lead to feeling a bit overwhelmed or guilty at what I "should" be doing. Instead, I was inspired and motivated with changes I can make...some immediate and some more gradual...to make our Sundays more restful and more God-honoring, without being legalistic or just plain lazy. I also became aware...again...that celebrating and honoring the Sabbath doesn't just involve a single day in the week. It involves a change in our hearts and attitudes to give Him *all* of our time in order that we can accept the gift of rest He offers.

Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, by Keri Wyatt Kent, is publised by Zondervan and available at Amazon. For links to others on this week's blog tour, visit The Blog Tour Spot.



I got up this morning and decided I needed to read back through my blog a bit. I needed to be reminded of what God has done in our lives in the past few years, and of the things He has taught me through it. It's been a slow, but very good, journey through the past year's blog entries. I hope to have time later today to read a little more...but I just ran across my blog entry for a year ago today, and thought I would share it again, in it's entirety, here. (I almost had to laugh as I read what I wrote about "closure" and the "cloud of waiting" no longer hanging over our heads...as the beginnings of "closure" ended up being an illusion, and the "cloud of waiting" merely moved out of our field of vision for a few weeks before re-entering it even larger than before. Eleven months after its reappearance, it still hangs there, threatening a storm occasionally, but mostly just unsuccessfully trying to block the rays of the sun.)


Trust His Heart

Trust His Heart

All things work for our good
though sometimes we can't see how they could
struggles that break our hearts in two
sometimes blind us to the truth

Our Father knows what's best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim, and you just can't see Him
Remember you're never alone

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart

He sees the master plan
And He holds our future in His hands
So don't live as those who have no hope
All our hope is found in Him

We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry He's weaving you and me to someday be just like Him

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart

He alone is faithful and true
He alone knows what is best for you
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand trust His heart

~Babbie Mason and Eddie Carswell

This song has been a favorite of mine for years, and yesterday on the way home from an extremely difficult morning, the chorus began to run through my head, over and over. I found myself humming it all day and evening. This morning when I woke up, it was still playing in my mind.

Yesterday did not go as I had hoped and prayed. In some ways, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been, but in some ways, it was much worse than I expected. It didn't help that my perspective was very different than that of many other people involved...people whom I care about very much, but who either aren't aware of "the story behind the story" or who are aware, but don't see it through the same eyes we do. The complicated mix of emotions was stirred even more by unsuspecting words on the part of others...I felt as though I were swallowing ground glass as I sat and listened to people describe a version of the situation that was far, far from the truth...and knowing that, at least for the moment, I was powerless to do anything about it.

But...God is still God. He is still good. He is still sovereign and sufficient to meet every need. There has been much in the past two years that I have not understood about God's plan and His work in our lives. And as I told a friend yesterday, "The fact that I don't understand this is no different than all the other things I haven't understood in the past two years." I reminded Billy this morning that two years ago today, on what would turn out to be the worst day of my life before or since, I would *never* have been able to imagine the ways that God has worked in this situation. Yesterday's outcome...although not exactly what I would have chosen...was nothing less than a miracle, considering the bleak outlook from two years ago.

The day for which we waited for almost 18 months has come and gone. I suppose in some respects there has now been some *closure*, although the scars will linger forever, and it will never truly be *over*. I am thankful for an opportunity to begin moving toward a *new normal* in our lives, without the cloud of *waiting* hanging over our heads with every step we take. I am most of all thankful for the lessons God has taught us...and is still teaching us...through all of this...about His love, His goodness, His grace and mercy, and His sovereignty.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26