Find Us Faithful...

Faithfulness.  It's a word that has been on my mind often lately.   First, because the faithfulness of God has been such a major theme of all God has been teaching me and working in my life in recent years especially.  But in the last few weeks, the faithfulness of God's people has been a recurring theme as well.

Our church celebrated its 50th anniversary this year...this past weekend, in fact.  It was a wonderful weekend of looking back at God's work over the past 50 years and looking forward to where God is going to take us from here...and I'm planning a post (or perhaps posts :)) on the anniversary itself soon.  

In the meantime, this post has been "percolating" for a few weeks.  I had the blessing of serving on the anniversary committee, and as part of that, collecting photographs from the church's 50 year history and re-doing our church scrapbook.  It was a lot of work, but it was *mostly* fun work...despite some major frustrations along the way. :)   

One of the best parts of the whole process was learning so many things about our church history that I didn't know and hearing so many stories I'd never heard.  We've been at Oak Cliff almost 15 years, and I learned a lot when I served on the 40th anniversary committee ten years ago, but there were many things about its history that I didn't piece together until this go-round.  

As I went through photos with various people trying to put names with faces and identify dates and events, there were many people who always evoked similar reactions:  "Oh, look there is ________________.  He/she served so faithfully for so many years"....and then would come the explanation of the fact that this lady worked in the nursery for 30+ years, or this man was so faithful in this ministry up until the day he died, or this person was the beloved teacher in this department for so long.    This one was such a prayer warrior.  This person gave so generously anytime there was a need.   This person was always such an encouragement to everyone around them.  This person shared the gospel with everyone they met.  

Four of the seven faithful pastors of Oak Cliff

It was such a blessing and encouragement to hear those stories.  It was a blessing to see pictures of people from 30, 40, 50 years ago who are still serving the Lord today, although their bodies may move more slowly and their area of service may have changed due to physical limitations.  

Occasionally, though, the stories weren't so encouraging.  There were the pictures that no one really wanted to display...photos that were reminders of people who had in one way or another fallen away...those who chose a lifestyle of sin over faithful service, those who let bitterness overtake them...those who aren't now serving the Lord at Oak Cliff or anywhere else.  

As I was sorting through photos one day, I was struck by the contrasts.  And overwhelmed with the desire to be in that first group, rather than the second.  To be faithful to the finish.  And immediately the old Steve Green song came to mind (and has stayed there now for weeks!)...

We are so blessed to have such a heritage of faithfulness at Oak Cliff.  But as with any church, I suppose, there are those whose stories grieve our hearts...and most of all grieve the heart of God.  The kids and I have spent time this week talking about these things, and discussing the subject of faithfulness.  I reminded them that one of the names that comes up often in relation to faithfulness is a name very near and dear to us...their Papaw, my dad.   Bro. Phil used him as an example of faithfulness in his sermon Saturday night, in fact. 

I've reflected a lot lately on the heritage of faithfulness not only from our church, but also from my parents.   From the time I was a little girl, my parents taught me...by word and by example...the importance of faithfulness.  They continued to live that even when it became difficult to the point that most people would have said that they had a "reason"...multiple ones, in fact, for letting the younger, more active people take over.  Daddy sang in choir even after he was declared legally blind and could no longer read the music, and when getting in and out of the choir loft every week became not just difficult, but painful.  He taught 3rd grade Sunday School right up until his health got so bad that he couldn't get to church at all.  My mom has continued to teach in the kindergarten Sunday School class even though her mobility has gotten so poor she is having a hip replacement next week.  They have believed and lived that we are to serve God until we literally *can't* anymore...not until it is just inconvenient or difficult.  

My dad as Noah...a role he reprised often :)

The children and I talked about the fact that faithfulness isn't just what we *do*...it is who we *are*.  Faithfulness may be seen through our activities, but it begins in our hearts.  It starts with our totally giving our hearts and lives to Christ, and then seeking the Holy Spirit's help to live for Him every day.  Faithfulness isn't just about doing the right things...it is about making right choices, even in the little things, day by day.  And faithfulness isn't about never making a mistake...never sinning...because we all will.  It's about repenting, in brokenness, when we do make a wrong choice, and turning from that, rather than "wallowing" in it.  

Our conversation yesterday stemmed from study we were doing on the life of Solomon.   Solomon started out well...at the beginning of his reign as king of Israel, he made a good choice, for which God rewarded him, and he became not only the wisest man who ever lived, but also one of the wealthiest.  God allowed him to build His temple, and to have a very prosperous reign as king.  And yet, by the end of his life, Solomon had made wrong choices and turned away from God, ending his reign and his life in disobedience, sin, and idolatry.  

Solomon's father, David, also made some very wrong choices, and committed some truly heinous sins.  The difference between David and his predecessor, Saul, and his successor, Solomon, was that David always acknowledged his sin, repented in brokenness, and turned back to God.  Perfection is not the key to faithfulness...repentance and commitment are.  

I'd been pondering this blog post for several days, and finally determined yesterday to get it posted.  Then last night, my friend Michelle posted this verse on Facebook.  She had heard it in the testimony of an elderly man who was receiving a volunteer award...he cited it as his motivation to volunteer.  I thought it went so perfectly with what the children and I have been discussing, and with this post...I originally read it in the New Living Translation, which I don't normally use, but I love the wording, and I think it stays pretty true to the translations I trust most...the ESV and NASB:

Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.

Here it is in the ESV...

They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,

And in NASB...

They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green,

I want to be vital and full of sap, producing fruit into my old age!  I want my children to have that heritage not only from their church and from their grandparents, but from their parents.  I want that to be a desire of my children's hearts even at their young ages now.   I am so thankful for my parents, and for so many others through the years who have modeled that faithfulness for me.   I am thankful for our church, celebrating 50 years of faithfulness this year and looking forward to many more.   Mostly, I am thankful for God's faithfulness  that never wavers.  


In "Other" Words..."I Know a Whole Lot More For Sure"


"I know a lot less about God, 
but the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more for sure."

~Steven Curtis Chapman
on Larry King Live after the tragic death of his daughter Maria

On May 21, 2008, Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, experienced a "parent's worst nightmare" as their 5-year-old daughter, Maria, was killed in a tragic accident.  Her older brother was coming home in his SUV, and didn't see little Maria as she ran to meet him.   Just over two months later, Steven and Mary Beth, as well as their three older children, appeared on Larry King Live to talk about the tragedy and the hope that was and is carrying them through.

I hadn't watched Larry King in years...decades, even...but I watched that particular interview with great interest (and through many tears!)   First, just two years earlier, our family had gone through one of those "defining moments" in our lives...experiencing a situation that sent us reeling....and continues to, in many ways, today.  Our situation did not involve the death of a child, but the trauma involved was very similar in many ways.   I had ached for and prayed for the Chapman family since first hearing about the accident, and I was anxious to see and hear how God was answering the prayers of people around the world on their behalf.  

I was also interested to see how Larry King would react to this family of faith and the hope they were showing through tragedy.  Years ago I watched Larry King fairly frequently...not by my own choice, but because my grandparents rarely ever missed an episode.  When I visited them, and later when I lived with my grandmother for a few years after college, he was a nightly visitor in their living room.  I knew that Mr. King was quite adamant in his anti-Christian views.  

There was much that was noteworthy about that interview.  I remember at the time actually taking notes of things the family said...there was so much that resonated so strongly with me, even though our situations were very different.   But the thing that stuck out the most was the above quote by Steven.    It expressed so perfectly what God had done in me in the two years preceding that interview...and what He has continued to do in the two years since.  

I had been blessed to grow up in solid Bible-teaching churches and a godly home.   I was saved at a young age and saturated with God's Word throughout my growing up years.   Our family went through some difficult trials over the years, and I saw my parents meet those trials with faith and obedience.  During all of those years...even through a devastating church split in my teen years, the death of my beloved grandfather at 17, family financial crises, and serious health issues with my dad...my faith never wavered.  I never once asked "Why?"  I read and heard about people questioning their faith in times of crisis, but the crises we experienced just strengthened my faith even more.  

Then came 2004.   We experienced the birth of our little 30-week preemie and listened to dire prognoses for her future.  We spent 6 weeks in NICU with her, with almost daily threats to her health and even her survival.  Six months after she came home, when we had finally begun to relax and enjoy our now healthy baby, my dad's health, which had been in decline for a while, took a steep downturn.   We discovered that his cancer from years before had returned, and at this point his health was otherwise so fragile that there was no possibility of treatment.  He spent his last few months in constant intense pain, and died in December of that year.  

We felt like we had been through the fire that year.  We had been through the great trials of our lives, and though they had been horribly painful, we had survived with our faith not only intact, but stronger.  God had taught us much during that awful year, and again, despite a year and a half of intense grieving over the loss of my daddy, I never truly questioned God or doubted my faith.   There were questions, but they were mostly superficial ones...not life-shaking ones.  

Then came 2006.  We were just beginning to feel like we were settling into a "new normal" when the bottom fell out of life as we knew it, never to be the same again.   And this time...for the first time ever...my faith was truly shaken...and I wrestled with doubts and questions I had never expected to face.   It was a blessedly short time, but it shook me to my very core.  I questioned God's goodness and became angry at the thought of His sovereignty.   But...God met every doubt and every question with His love, grace, and faithfulness.   

As I questioned and wrestled with those questions, He sent people, books, music, and always Scripture to shore up and solidify my faith from the very foundation up.   He took me back to the basics of who He is...and who we are...and back to basic doctrines of the faith to rebuild what had shattered in this latest and most devastating storm.   He reminded me over and over of the fact that He is so very much greater than we can ever imagine, and His ways are so very much higher.  He reminded me...and in that, brought me crashing to my knees...that He is GOD.  He created us.  He made a way of salvation for us.  Although this "thrice Holy" God can't even look at our sin and depravity, He LOVES us, and He calls us to cleansing through His Son, Jesus.   He gently showed me that, as Voddie Baucham says, we ask the wrong question in times like these.  Instead of asking "Why? am I going through this trial?  Why? do we have to suffer?"  we should be asking  "How on earth can a Holy, Righteous God know what I did and thought and said yesterday, and not kill me in my sleep last night?"  "Why, O God, do your judgement and your wrath tarry?"   The very fact that we wake up to another day, or breathe another breath, is the awesome goodness and mercy of God.   Every blessing that He gives us is effectively icing on the cake...and further proof of His love, mercy, and grace.

The lessons I've learned...the things God has taught me...in the intervening years could fill a book, and many of them are scattered throughout this blog.   But as I listened to Steven Curtis Chapman say those words on LKL that day, I realized that they summed it all up perfectly. 

"I know a lot less about God, but the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more for sure."

God has shown me, in a most humbling way, that despite my solidly Biblical Christian background....being raised in a Christian home, active in wonderful churches, saved at a young age, etc....I know much less about God than I thought I did when this journey started back in the summer of 2006.  I have questions that will never be answered, at least not on earth.  There are things I will never...ever...make any sense of.  But God graciously wrestled through my doubts and questions with me, and brought me to the point where the things I *do* know about God, I am more sure and more certain of than ever.  The concept of His sovereignty, which brought so much anger and pain at one point, has become one of the greatest comforts of my life.  He has taken things that I have believed all my life and tested them in the fire, and now I know them not just because I have been *taught* them, but because I have *lived* them.  And I cling to them in ways I have never clung to them before.   There are still days...weeks...hours when I struggle...sometimes much more than others.   And yet God is always faithful to remind me of the things that He has shown me in these years, and to continue to teach me day by day.  

In that same interview, Steven Curtis Chapman said that we don't always have an explanation, but we do have a comfort, and a hope.  Later, Larry King stated that he wished he had that kind of faith.  I have no idea what God may have done and still may be doing in Larry King's heart since that interview, but I am thankful for the Chapmans' faithfulness and openness during such a traumatic time, and I pray that perhaps even yet God may draw Mr. King to Himself.  


In "Other" Words..."A Whole Lot More For Sure"

"I know a lot less about God, 
but the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more for sure."

~Steven Curtis Chapman
on Larry King Live after the tragic death of his daughter Maria

Please join us here tomorrow (Tuesday) for In "Other" Words!  I'm looking forward to hosting and to reading your thoughts on the above quote...it's been a very meaningful one to me in the last few years.   

If you are new to IOW, we'd love to have you join us.  Just post your thoughts on the above quote on your blog, and then come back here to link to your post (be sure to copy and paste the link to the actual post, not your main blog link).  Then visit the other participating blogs to see what others share!  

(Note: If you come in the morning and the IOW post isn't up yet, please check back mid-morning Central time.  I had planned to have a post ready to auto-post at midnight tonight, but today's schedule has been a bit derailed by a sick child.   I'll finish my post and have Mr. Linky up as soon as possible in the morning...I'm sorry for any inconvenience!)


Post-Vacation Week Daybook...

October 18, 2010

Outside My Window...
Dark, Quiet, and probably chilly at the moment.  Birds beginning to chirp a bit.  After the sun comes up, there will be the beginnings of fall color visible.  So looking forward to the color to come in the next few weeks!

I Am Thankful For...

I actually just replied to a "Five Things I'm Thankful For" thread elsewhere, so I'll cheat a bit and copy those answers here...:) :)

1. Billy's vacation last week...all the things we got accomplished and fun family times with him and our growing-up-way-too-fast children!

2. For a job for him to go back to today, even though we are really going to miss him!

3.  That God led us, in a very odd way, to our current church 14 1/2 years ago, for the blessing it has been in so many ways, and for the opportunity to be part of it's 50th anniversary celebration this week.

4.  The Sunday School class of youth girls I get to teach every week...I love the girls, I love teaching, and I'm just blessed every week by this class.

5.  Six years ago this week was a turning point in my life in many ways...God began working in my life in several areas in very obvious, pivotal ways that "set the stage", so to speak, for the major events He was about to bring into our lives (my dad's death and the situation with my brother and the girls).  I'm thankful for the memories of that week and all that followed and the reminder that they are of God's perfect faithfulness and sovereignty.  

From the Learning Rooms...

We were on vacation last week, as Billy was off.  This week is a very busy and oddly-scheduled week for us, so school this week will probably be rather "bare-bones basics" as we transition and meet the demands of the week.  Next week should be a "normal" school week, and then we will have a week or two (or more) of "school-on-the-go" as my mom is having hip replacement surgery and things will be a bit topsy-turvy for a while.  I've got some major planning to do between now and then, because we aren't especially good at school-on-the-go. :)

I Am Remembering...

Delving into Oak Cliff's history for the anniversary celebration has brought back many memories of the beginnings of Woodland Heights.  It's hard to believe that has been over 23 years!   Those were exciting times...and times God used to grow my faith immensely.  It looks like we may get to go back for a visit in December (hopefully we'll be there for their Keyboard Christmas!)

 From the Kitchen...

I need to pull out my menu plan and see!  Billy did most of the cooking last week...which was wonderful!   A few things I can remember from this week's menu plan...CopyCat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana, Baked Mac & Cheese from Southern Plate, sloppy joes, lasagna soup, and enchiladas.  (I actually didn't remember all those...I pulled out my list when I couldn't remember anything other than the Zuppa. :))

I Am Creating...

Actually "re-creating" our church scrapbook.  The huge scrapbook that was made ten years ago for our church's 40th anniversary has been looked at and loved on a bit much in the intervening years, so we decided to refurbish it for our 50th anniversary celebration this weekend.  It's been one of those "Murphy's Law" projects where everything that could go wrong, has, and it's all taken 10 times as much time as originally planned. :)   So...it's crunch time to get it finished, and that is top on the list of the week's priorities. 

On My Mind...

Thoughts on the topic of faithfulness brought on by preparations for our church's 50th anniversary celebration this weekend.  Planning a blog post related to this soon.   They involve a big pile of photos, a couple of songs (Steve Green's "Find Us Faithful" and Getty Music's "By Faith"), and a Psalm (Psalm 145). 


This has been one of those weeks when you notice all over again how fast your children are growing up.  We bought Peter new shoes this week...bigger than his daddy's!  He is 12 and wears a men's size 11.5.  He's already taller than me, and given his age, he still has quite a bit of growing to do.  :-O  Bayley is growing into such a young lady.  I can't believe she will be a "youth" in less than a year.  And speaking of shoes...she's wearing a ladies size 7 now.  Eek.  Emlyn is really "coming into her own" now...it's been amazing to see how much she has changed and matured in the last few months.  She is developing a real sense of vision and purpose about what God may want her to do with her life that is exciting!  And Ammah Grace...my "tiny girl" is growing up, too!   I've gotten so many glimpses in the last week or so of "big girl Ammah Grace"...and they are startling sometimes!  I don't know if it is because she is our youngest, and therefore always the "baby" to us all, or if it is more specifically because of her preemie tininess, but I've been slower to see her as a "big girl" than my others.   I realized last night that she is older now than Peter was when she was born...when he and Bayley became "the big kids" (and sometimes Emlyn...she's the true middle child who is one of the "big kids" one minute, and one of the "little girls" the next. :))  

I Am Reading...

*Still* trying to get through Ted Dekker's Immanuel's Veins.  I had to take a little break from it this weekend...it is pretty intense, and I needed "not-so-intense" for a while.  I'll get back to it this week.  Also re-reading The Schwarzbein Principle a bit at a time.  Other than that, these days have been too busy for much reading.  I'm hoping to catch up after this weekend's anniversary celebration (and when my mom has her surgery...I'm planning for all of us to get a lot of reading done then!)

I Am Hearing...

Silence, mostly.  And birds chirping outside.  And the tapping of my keyboard as I type.  I love quiet early mornings. :)

Around the House...

Enjoying the fruits of Billy's labor from his vacation...Peter's room and the girls' room got painted last week and we are SO excited.  We didn't quite get to the dining room, but we have the paint now and plan to have it done before my mom's surgery.  I can't wait!   This week's plans include mostly maintenance, a bit of decluttering/organizing, and the seasonal clothes switch (which we planned to do weeks ago, but didn't...and thankfully so, given the 80-90 degree temps we've had lately!)

One of My Favorite Things...

My husband's cooking!   I always said that if I married a man who liked to cook, I would let him. :)  Billy loves to cook and he is an excellent cook, and I always enjoy his experiments in the kitchen. 

A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week...

School, chores, and food prep
Finish church scrapbook
Children's choir, Adult choir, and Ensemble rehearsal Wednesday night
Field trip to Prairie Grove and trip to Lake Fort Smith with Billy later this week
50th anniversary celebration this weekend at church
*Somewhere* in there fit in a two-week grocery shopping trip! 

Photos to Share...

From our trip to Natural Dam/Lake Fort Smith last week...more to come soon!

Thanks to Peggy for hosting the Daybook each week!  


Fall Daybook...

FOR TODAY...October 4, 2010

Outside my window...An absolutely perfect *cool*  fall morning.  Sunshine is glistening on the trees outside...beautiful!   

I am thankful for...an encouraging, fun, refreshing weekend and the family and good friends I shared it with.  Beautiful fall weather.   Improved physical strength...even with a bit of a fall allergy attack, feeling SO much better than I have in the past few weeks...so thankful for every day that I'm up and going!   Our church.  Music!  

From the learning rooms...Finally getting started on our timeline books...yay!  Also working on owl lapbooks we've been trying to do since summer.  Memorizing 1 Thessalonians 4:7-12.  Otherwise just trying to have a good, solid school week.  

From the kitchen...I am singing, shouting, and jumping up and down (well, on the inside, anyway :)).  The house is finally cool enough  to use the OVEN again.  I am so very excited...we may bake all week long!  And...a most wonderful friend gave me a copy of the Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food That Makes Everyone Feel Like Family cookbook  this weekend.  Yum.  Yum.  And yet another YUM.  I think I have gained ten pounds just *READING* it.   Three of my  favorite recipes are from Southern Plate... Chocolate Cobbler, Pizza Rolls, and the super-delicious Chicken and Dumplings.   I'm seeing lots of Southern Plate recipes on the menu this week!

I am creating...little celebrations of fall at our house.   Even made a fall wreath for the door last week!  That's probably the end of my random fun creating for a while, though...the next few weeks we are going to be doing major purging, organizing, and refreshing (painting! :)) around the house, AND working on the 50th anniversary scrapbook for our church's anniversary celebration later this month.   (Although I *am* hoping to make some pumpkins like my friend Tauna's soon!

On my mind...Andy's sermon last night, and this article from Rebelution's  Alex and Brett Harris.  Andy preached about suffering {intentionally} for Christ...Alex and Brett's article is a twist on their "Do Hard Things" theme, "When Hard Things Come to You."   Much food for thought (and prayer). 

I am going...to my sister-in-law's tonight to celebrate my niece's birthday and see Nonna and Granddad, homeschool group yearbook photos and church/choir on Wednesday, friends' soccer games on Thursday, two-week shopping trip Friday, and at least one long stint at church to scan photos for the anniversary scrapbook.   It's a bit slower week than the last few have been...for which I'm thankful! 

I am reading...my first Ted Dekker book ever.   I keep hearing "you either love Ted Dekker books or hate them".   I'm about 1/4 of the way through, and the jury is still out.   Check back in a week or two for a review here...:)

I am hoping...for a long, beautiful fall, and for my family to stay healthy throughout!  (Last year we did 7+ weeks of the chicken pox starting the first week of October.  It put a serious damper on our enjoyment of our favorite season!)

I am hearing...Emlyn and Ammah Grace chatting as they go through their old school notebooks.  There is lots of giggling going on in the process...such silly girls!

Around the house...Getting ready to tackle some much-needed repairs and do some serious painting next week when Billy is off...yay!

One of my favorite things...Fall picnics!

A few plans for the rest of the week:   Cooking (baking!), schooling, singing (choir :)), shopping, scanning, cleaning, sorting, purging, reading, photographing...

To see what others are doing this week, visit Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook