2.24.2011

Thankful Thursday...Glorious Hope






Anyone remember this book? :-)  My grandmother bought it for me many, many years ago, and for years in our family we used the title to express that we were having "one of those days"...you know the kind...where nothing goes right and you want to dig a hole to China and crawl in it?  "It's time to move to Australia" became a code phrase for "It's been an awful day and I'm at the end of my rope."  


Yesterday was an Alexander day.  I was more than ready to move to Australia...or New Zealand...or some remote island village no one has ever even heard of.  We were trying to get back into our routine after a week of kids with the flu...light cases, thanks to rather odd circumstances causing us to all have been prescribed with preventative doses of Tami-Flu, but the flu nonetheless.  It didn't help that we had started a new schedule just a couple of days before the flu hit...so we had strung out that not-so-fun transition stage to the point of intense frustration for everyone.  One thing after another all day piled on until we were all in horrible moods as we drove to church that evening.  


Church brought the first real bright spot of the day...a meeting with one of our children and our pastor...but I was still feeling a great deal of tension as my children had extra responsibilities that night, and other things weren't quite going as planned.  I dropped into my chair at choir rehearsal, thankful to be there, as it was only my second or third rehearsal since our Christmas music in mid-December, but not sure I had the energy to hold my music and actually sing.  


As usual, I began to relax as I became immersed in the music we were singing, but there was still a bit of lingering anxiety...wondering how things were going on the other end of the choir loft with my daughter who was serving as "page turner" for our pianist for the first time, and worrying about an ill friend.  Then we started a new song, and it was all I could do to keep the tears at bay as we sang:


There's a peace I've come to know, though my heart and flesh may fail.
There's an anchor for my soul, I can say, it is well.
Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed.
The victory is won, He is risen from the dead.  
And I will rise when He calls my name, 
No more sorrow, no more pain. 
I will rise when on eagles wings, 
Before my God, fall on my knees and rise; I will rise.
There's a day that's drawing near, when this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear and my faith shall be my eyes.
...
And I hear the voice of many angels sing: "Worthy is the Lamb!"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart: "Worthy is the Lamb!"

~ Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher, Jesse Reeves, and Louie Giglio


It wasn't the first time I had heard it, by any means, but somehow the process of actually singing it seared the words on my heart in a new way.  And perhaps the very "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" that we had had caused it to hit me in a different way as well.  As we sat there singing, I thought about very visible signs in our lives of the victory He has won.   Satan has tried *hard* to destroy our family...especially our children...in recent years through circumstances way worse than "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad" Alexander days.  And yet just that very night, we had sat in Bro. Kent's office talking about the glorious work God had done in the life of one of our children, and I was at that moment watching another of our children excitedly beginning her first real "ministry" opportunity at church.  


I realized as I sat there singing and trying to hold back tears that God was fulfilling the promise I had begun clinging to back in July of 2006 for our girls and for our whole family: 


"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 on 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


He has a plan for our girls, a plan for all of our children, a plan for our whole family.  He is working that plan even now, and He is allowing us to see glimpses of the fulfillment of those promises.  I also realized, again, what God has been reinforcing over and over these last few years...that our greatest hope is found in these words from that song...


And I hear the voice of many angels sing: "Worthy is the Lamb!"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart: "Worthy is Lamb!"


Because the Lamb is worthy, we have hope not only in this life with all of it's struggles, but for Eternity.  I am so thankful for that hope!  


As I was writing this this morning, I searched for a video of "I Will Rise" to post with this song.  Those who know me know that I love the "stories behind the songs".  I came across this video of Chris Tomlin sharing the story behind "I Will Rise", and had to share it here.   Wow.  




I'm linking up with Laurie today for Thankful Thursday.  Thanks to Laurie for hosting this month! 




2.23.2011

Save the Date Blog Tour





This week, the
 
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
 
is introducing
 
Save The Date
 
Thomas Nelson (February 1, 2011)
 
by
 
Jenny B. Jones
   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I write Christian fiction with a few giggles, quite a bit of sass, and lots of crazy. My novels include the Katie Parker Production series and So Not Happening. I would also like to take credit for Twilight , but somewhere I think I read you’re not supposed to lie.

When I’m not typing my heart out (or checking email), I teach at a super-sized high school in Arkansas.

My students are constantly telling me how my teaching changes their lives and turned them away from drugs, gangs, and C-SPAN.

Okay, that’s not exactly true.

Some facts that are true include:

I've always been refined!

A. I got my camera confiscated by big boys with guns at the American  Embassy in Europe this past summer. O la la!

B. I once worked in a seed mill office and cleaned out mice on a regular basis. Ew.

C. I’m a former drama teacher.

D. I didn’t pass my drivers test the first time. Or the second…

E. I attract stray animals like a magnet.

F. I used to assemble and test paint ball guns for a local factory...

Since my current job leaves me with very little free time, I believe in spending my spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits such as:

-watching E!
-updating my status on Facebook
-catching Will Ferrell on YouTube and
-writing my name in the dust on my furniture

I’d love to hear about you, so drop me a note. Or check me out on Facebook.


ABOUT THE BOOK

You’re invited to the engagement of the most unlikely couple of the year.
When the funding for Lucy’s non-profit job is pulled, she is determined to find out why. Enter Alex Sinclair, former professional football star and heir of Sinclair Enterprises—the primary donor to Lucy’s Saving Grace organization. Alex Sinclair has it all . . . except for the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Both Lucy and Alex have something the other wants. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancĂ©e in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn’t quite what he seems, Lucy finds her heart – and her future – on the line.

Save the Date is a spunky romance that will have readers laughing out loud as this dubious pair try to save their careers, their dreams . . . and maybe even a date.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Save The Date, go HERE


My take: I'm excited to be participating in this week's Save the Date blog tour!  Jenny B. Jones is not only a fellow Arkansan, but also an author I've thoroughly enjoyed since reviewing Just Between You and Me a little over a year ago. Her books are modern, and sassy, and just fun.  And yet not just fun...in the midst of plots that keep you turning "just one more page..." and then another...and another...they weave messages of faith, and hope, and truth.  Her characters are very "real"...I became particularly attached to Clare, Julian, and Marinell in Save the Date.  Most of all, in both books, I hated to see the books end.  I desperately wanted to see *how* they were going to end....but when they ended, I was disappointed...not because of the *way* they ended, but because I wanted to keep reading!  I didn't want these characters to go away, and I just didn't want the book to end.  My one caution is this:  Although Jenny B. Jones is also known as a young adult author, I would not recommend this particular book for young people, due to the heavy issues it deals with that I would consider more appropriate for adult readers.  

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and CFBA for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 


2.21.2011

Sharing the Stories...



This post by Mary DeMuth was such an encouragement and challenge to me today. It reminds me of the verses God gave us through our friends Kathy and Justin when I went into labor at 30 weeks with Ammah Grace...Psalm 40:1-5.  I quoted them to myself often during the next 6 1/2 weeks.  Verse 5 says, "Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare."  I always ended that with "But, Lord, I will share as much and as often as I have the opportunity."   

It took longer to come to that place in the events of the last 4 1/2 years, but God did show me that He is working just as many wonders in the difficulties of that situation, and that they need to be shared as well.   Mary DeMuth's article, Seven Reasons I Still Share My Story, lays out perfectly my heart regarding "stewarding our story well", as Mary Beth Chapman says.   It's very appropriate that this article is by Mary DeMuth, as God used my "happening" (which wasn't "happening" at all, but God's perfect plan) across Mary's story as a major source of encouragement to me during some of our darkest days.  God had given me such an assurance that "even this" was part of His plan for our girls and our family from before the beginning of time, that His plan was for good and not for evil, that it was to give us a future and a hope, that He was and is working it all for His glory and our good...and Mary's story was such a comfort and reinforcement in that.  



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


2.11.2011

February 11







February 11.  A day full of memories.  


For years, I woke up every February 11 with an impending sense of doom.  It should have been a day to look forward to...a day of celebration...but every year for many, many years, some sort of crisis or bad news would occur on or right around Daddy's birthday.  Someone died.  Someone ended up in the hospital (numerous times, actually).   Someone lost a job.  Every year it was something.  Poor Daddy never seemed to have a calm, peaceful birthday.   "What do you suppose will be this year's February 11 disaster?" became  a standing (and not always particularly funny) family joke.  


Seven years ago on February 11, I was released from the hospital, 7 days after arriving there in the back of an ambulance in a snowstorm in the middle of the night, and four days after our 30-week preemie was born and whisked to the NICU.  I still remember being so torn...needing so badly to get home to our other three children, and yet being completely aghast at the thought of leaving our tiny Ammah Grace in a hospital 2.5 hours away from home.  I remember calling Daddy to tell him Happy Birthday and bursting into tears on the phone...at the fact that I had to leave my baby in such uncertain condition, at the fact that Billy was driving to pick me up in a snowstorm, and at the fact that it was Daddy's birthday and we weren't going to be able to celebrate.   He did what he had done best for 35 years....listened, encouraged me, prayed for me, and somehow made me feel better.  I knew that when I got home, there would be a big hug (and probably a few tears :)) waiting for me.  I apologized for the fact that there would be no big birthday celebration for his 70th birthday...to which he replied that the best present he could have was for me to be out of the hospital, and Ammah Grace to be alive and getting the best care possible.   We had no idea that that would be his last birthday...although with the health issues he had been struggling with, there was a tiny wonder in the back of my mind. 


Shortly after that phone call, Billy and I said goodbye to Gracie...one of the hardest moments of my life, despite the fact that we planned to be back 3 days later to visit...and then headed out in the snow to return to Fort Smith.  I remember very little about that trip other than being in pain from my surgery just a few days before, and stopping at Dairy Queen in Conway to eat.  And the snow.  Oh, the snow.  It snowed every. single. trip.  that Billy and I made back and forth while Ammah Grace was in NICU.  Billy and the kids came a few times (while I was staying in LR) that it didn't snow, but every time we made the trip together, it snowed....once so badly that they closed the interstate right behind us as we were leaving Little Rock.  God made His hand of protection *very* evident during that time!!






For all of the sad and crazy memories of February 11, it is still, first and foremost, in my mind, my Daddy's birthday.   The photo above is of a scrapbook page I did years ago, using a picture from Daddy's first birthday. Here is the journaling...


"When I look at this picture of my daddy on his first birthday, I wonder--'Did anyone ever think?'   On that first birthday, did anyone ever think you would sit in the top of a chinaberry tree and chunk berries at your little sister?  Did anyone know you would celebrate more than 40 anniversaries (and counting!) with a girl who wouldn't be born for another six years?  Did they plan for you to be singing in church choirs your entire adult life, or be teaching 3rd grade Sunday School at age 69?  Did they know you would pass on to your children your love of classical music and a fiercely competitive spirit in games?  Would anyone looking at you then have guessed that in 60 years your trademark would have been a neatly trimmed white beard?   Could anyone have imagined the impact your strong faith and perseverance through cancer, strokes, and blindness would have on all who know you?  Did anyone know you would have a "Daddy's little girl" who loved you with all of her heart?  I wonder...."  








(I am way behind on birthday posts.  I have been fighting all week with my silly computer in an effort to edit Ammah Grace's birthday pictures.  Hopefully this weekend, I will win the battle and finish her birthday post.  I realized while working on it that I still haven't posted about Peter's, Billy's, or my mom's birthdays...or mine, for that matter!  After I get Gracie's done, I'll work my way backwards, perhaps. :))

2.08.2011

Blog Tour ~ Another Dawn




This week, the
 
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
 
is introducing
 
Another Dawn
 
Bethany House (February 1, 2011)
 
by
 
Kathryn Cushman
   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathryn Cushman is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in pharmacy. After practicing as a pharmacist, she left her career to marry and begin a family and has since pursued her dream of writing.

Other books by Kathryn, A Promise to Remember was a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers Book-of-the-Year in the Women’s Fiction category, and Waiting for Daybreak was a finalist in Women’s Fiction for the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award.

Leaving Yesterday, her third novel, was a finalist for the ACFW Carol Award.

Now her fifth book, Another Dawn, has arrived in stores, and I’m very excited about it!

On the homefront, Kathryn has been married to Lee for over twenty years now, and their two daughters are currently braving the worlds of junior high and high school. They’ve lived in Santa Barbara for the last nineteen years. It’s a beautiful place and Kathryn feels blessed to be there (although a seventy degree Christmas still leaves her dreaming of a white one—or at least a colder one!)

ABOUT THE BOOK    

Grace Graham is back in Tennessee with her four-year-old son on a short unpaid leave from work, helping her father recover from surgery and spending time with her sister.

Shoal Creek seems more backward than ever after her years in California, and it's hard to find organic food anywhere. When the unthinkable happens and her son is diagnosed with measles, Grace's fears over modern medicine take a dangerous turn.

Worse, the town has fallen into quarantine and its residents focus their anger and blame on Grace. She is alone and scared, until one brave woman chooses to reach out a hand of forgiveness and mercy. But when the outbreak takes a life-threatening turn, will Grace be able to forgive herself?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Another Dawn, go HERE.

Following His Pace...




“Learning to wait on God’s timing –
and having the patience to follow His lead rather than running ahead of Him,
is essential to those who are committed
to seeing their faith journey through to the end.
God seldom rushes things along.
Getting used to His pace will help you in the long run."
~Essentials for Life for Women, by Marcia Ford


There are times when I read the In "Other" Words quote for the week and a post almost begins to write itself immediately.  There are other times when I struggle to come up with anything at all to write about a particular quote (and sometimes I just don't)...not because there is anything wrong with the quote, but because it just doesn't happen to be something I relate to at the moment.  And then there are times when I read a quote and my thoughts go all over the place...and I can't seem to rein them in to create a coherent post.  This quote seems to be in the latter category.  So many things come to mind...lessons God has taught and is teaching in the "School of Wait".  

One thing that comes to mind is the recent realization that developing patience is not like learning to ride a bike...it isn't a "once you've learned it you're set for life" proposition.  I've realized lately that I don't handle waiting so well...an area in which I thought I'd made great progress at one point in my life.   Is it getting older?  Life circumstances changing?  Health issues making me more "on edge" at times?  I have no idea...but I know that it's time to *re-learn* how to wait on those around me...my children, other drivers, people in the grocery store...with grace and patience.  

Another thing that comes to mind is one of the greatest learning times ever in my life in terms of "waiting on God".   On the evening of July 3, 2006, as Billy and I sat in a dark living room quietly discussing the discovery that had rocked our family to the core, we realized that we were in a situation in which one wrong move could cause irreparable damage to our daughters and to our whole family.  There were no obvious answers, there  were no "how-to" books on how to handle such a situation Biblically, and there was no one who had "been there" we could go to for advice.  The only thing that we could do was cling to God for day by day and minute by minute guidance.  We purposed then and there that we would not make one step at any point along the way, without being certain that God was telling us to make it.  If we didn't have crystal clear guidance...we wouldn't move, period.  

There have been many times in the past 4+ years that we have wanted, even felt we needed, to move at a certain point...and yet not had clear guidance from God to do so, and so we have stood still and waited.  Waiting was agonizing at times, but the alternative...making a wrong move because we weren't sure of God's clear leading...was unthinkable.  At every point, as we have stood fast in our commitment to wait on His direction, He has given crystal clear guidance in His perfect timing...often even taking the decision-making out of our hands completely.  

Although the time has often seemed to drag interminably, and the waiting has felt almost impossible, the wonder of watching Him show His faithfulness and glory in every detail, and the peace that has come from knowing that He is working out His perfect plan for us, has made it more than worth the wait.  

The situation itself has been incredibly hard, but in some ways, it has made it easy not to run ahead of God.  The stakes have been too high, the price of a misstep far too costly.  As hard as waiting has been, it has been much, much preferable to making a wrong move.   

In "everyday life", however, it's harder to see the necessity of waiting on God's timing no matter how ready we are to move ahead.  The consequences of a wrong move aren't so obvious, and we tend to think we are managing fine on our own.  There often isn't the motivation to seek God for direction in every move we make.  The desperation we feel to know God's will during the dark of night is easy to forget in the warmth of sunshine. 

In truth, although our circumstances may change, our need to wait on God doesn't.  We may be more aware of the dangers of moving on our own in the dark times, but they lurk just as much on the sunny days as during the storm.  

I've been reminded of that recently.  Life has settled into a sort of a new normal these days, although we still have bumps (and sometimes major potholes) in the road.  As we settle into a somewhat more peaceful time, I realize that I tend to "run ahead" far too often.   I get impatient about the next steps...I'm ready for God to move us into the next chapter...and I am frustrated sometimes by the seemingly slow pace of His plan.  As the trauma begins to fade a bit, the moment by moment desperation to know His leading tends to fade as well.  

But, as the quote above says, waiting on His timing, following His leading in every detail, and disciplining ourselves to His pace are essential.  

"Teach me, Lord, 
                            Teach me, Lord, 
                                                       To Wait..."


"But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;

   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
   they shall walk and not faint." 

~Isaiah 40:31


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


I waited patiently for the LORD;
   He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the LORD.

 Blessed is the man who makes
   the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
   to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
   Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us;
   none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
   yet they are more than can be told.
~Psalm 40:1-5



Today's In "Other" Words is hosted by Deborah at Chocolate and Coffee.  Please visit her for more thoughts on today's quote.