On My Screen Today...

Thought I'd share a bit of a different kind of screenshot today...links from our school day yesterday, and other reading/listening I've found worthwhile lately...

A few snippets of yesterday's school day...

In Honor Of...

Charles Wesley, upon the 224th anniversary of his death March 29 ~ Charles Wesley, son of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, and brother of John Wesley, wrote almost 9,000 hymns in his lifetime.  9,000!  A couple of my favorites?  "O, For A Thousand Tongues to Sing" and "And Can It Be?"

Earl Scruggs ~ Earl Scruggs, the banjo-playing half of the duo Flatt and Scruggs, passed away at the age of 88 on March 28, 2012.  One of my very earliest memories is of listening to Flatt and Scruggs records as a little girl.  My very favorite non-church song was "Wabash Cannonball".  (I liked Johnny Cash's version, too, but Flatt and Scruggs was the best!)

On Gratitude...

Blogging Gratitude ~ A blog post that impacted me in a big way this week, by a young lady who is way wise beyond her years.  

Unexpected Joy ~ A re-post from Tim Challies.  It's a bit lengthy, but so, so worth it.  Grab some tissue.  Watch the whole thing.  My favorite quote, from Becky Daily: "Our heart is to make God bigger to a world that doesn't know Him."  Yes! 

Just for fun...

Wonderopolis on Llamas ~ Do Llamas really spit?  For those who don't know, we have a llama fanatic at our house, so this was just for fun today.  The kids got a huge kick out of the quick little video. :)

Online reading ~ Llama, llama, Red Pajama  This was a fun break today!

Other Links Worth Clicking...

Child Protection...

Those who know me know this is an issue really close to my heart.  I've run across a couple of excellent links on child protection issues recently:

8 Ways to Protect Your Children From Sexual Abuse ~ Justin and Lindsey Holcomb are two of the best authors I know of on this subject.  

Keeping the Antennas Up:  Basic Characteristics of Child Sexual Abusers Within the Faith Community ~ Hard but important reading.  We've lived this.  Pay special attention to numbers 2 and 3, and to numbers 1 and 2 at the bottom.

Children and the Church...

3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church ~ More really important reading.

Drooling Over...

My friend Tauna's Original Razorback Art.  She's selling these cool pieces...contact me if you are interested! 

And just for fun...

Sneak Peek at the Mockingbird pictures I took this morning.  :)


focused on Glory...Amazing Birds of Prey...

A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to spend a little time at a "Birds of Prey" exhibition.  It was unseasonably hot that day, so we didn't stay long, but we did learn some cool things about various birds of prey, and I managed to take a few pictures. :)  

If you've read much at all of this blog, you know that I am a bird-lover.  Birds fascinate me.  (Our kids call Billy and I "Bird Nerds". :))  The more I watch and learn about birds, the more amazed I am at the incredible creativity of our Creator!  So many different varieties, so many different songs, so many shapes, sizes, and patterns.  Not to mention the intricacies of design...both characteristics of birds in general, and differences among types of birds.  The more I observe and learn, the more they point me to God's glory!

This was certainly true at the "Birds of Prey" demonstration.  We learned much that my forgetful mind can't remember at the moment, but here are a few fascinating facts that stuck with me...

* The family favorite of the birds on display (for rather obvious reasons :)) was the Harris Hawk.  They actually had several of these.  Not only did we like the common name, but I thought it was interesting that another name for these is the "Bay-Winged Hawk".  Bayley's double name-sake! :)   We thought it was cool that these hawks are known for hunting cooperatively and hanging out in "packs", where most birds of prey are quite solitary.  

* I, of course, loved the owls.  The Eurasian Eagle Owl was amazing.  They are around 2 feet tall, with a wingspan of 5-6 feet.  Such a majestic bird...check out those impressive claws below!...and yet I caught one showing such sweet affection for its mistress, nuzzling and nibbling on her chin.  

* One of the presenters shared a fact that was quite interesting, but now, of course, none of us can remember which bird it referred to...ugh!  But he explained that this particular bird (one of the hawks? Peregrine falcon?) will not eat unless it is at a certain weight.  If it is over that weight, it doesn't eat again until it is back at ideal weight.  Fascinating that not only does it not eat if it isn't at ideal weight, but that it *knows* when it is at ideal weight!  

Be sure to visit Tauna's blog, Creative Confetti, to see her focused on Glory post for the week...more on our wonderfully creative God!


Multitude Monday...on Tuesday...

I didn't get to my Multitude Monday post yesterday, but I am needing to count blessings today, so I will slide this in a bit late...

~ God's Word, always steadfast and sure...

~ Reminders of God's sovereignty, goodness, love, and faithfulness always...

~ Fanny Crosby.  I've been basking in the old hymns on the new Guy Penrod Hymns CD this week, and I woke up this morning humming "He Hideth My Soul".   I couldn't help but think how many Fanny Crosby songs I've been blessed by just this week, not to mention during the course of my lifetime.  And then I thought about her testimony, and how God has used it in my life, and in the lives of my children, over the years.  What an incredible legacy!

~ Hymn stories, and the sweet memories I have of my Daddy telling me stories of the great hymn writers and the "stories behind the songs" from the time I was a little girl...

~ Another favorite hymn which we sang Sunday morning in church..."He Keeps Me Singing".  I needed those words this week!  And I needed to be reminded of the times God has used that song in my life in the past.  (And how funny!  I thought Sunday morning about a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago about that song, and thought I needed to look it up when I got home.  I didn't think about it again until I was typing this.  I had completely forgotten that I blogged about one of the verses from "He Hideth My Soul" in that same post! :))

~ My husband, and his amazing love and care for our family.  

~ Big kids back from an incredible mission trip.

~ Special time with the "little girls" while the big kids were gone.

~ Bro. Gary and Becky and Grace Baptist...what a blessing they are!

~ Friends who pray, encourage, exhort, and keep me laughing.

~ Spring...Kite-flying, tiny flowers blooming, and fun family time...

Visit Ann at A Holy Experience to see what others are thankful for this week...


Adventure Revisited

1992...The year I graduated from college, moved across the state, and started my first "real" (read "college degree required") job.  It was also the year Steven Curtis Chapman released "The Great Adventure".   I remember the words so well...

Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace.
Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown...
This is life like no other - this is the Great Adventure!

And then the bridge...

We'll travel over, over mountains so high...
We'll go through valleys below.
Still through it all we'll find that
This is the greatest journey that the human heart will ever see;
The love of God will take us far beyond our wildest dreams!

I love to read published diaries and journals.  Reading a person's words as they are living life is a totally different experience than reading them as they are looking back later.  I remember reading With Love, Edith, for the first time many years ago.  The book is a collection of what Mrs. Schaeffer calls "The L'Abri Family Letters", letters written to her family just before and during the founding years of L'Abri Fellowship.  It was so fascinating to read her thoughts and experiences just as they were happening...where I as the reader had an idea of what was to come, but she as the writer at the time had none.  

I had that same feeling this morning listening to "The Great Adventure" for the first time in a long while.  A friend had posted a link to one of SCC's new songs, "Long Way Home".  It begins with these words...

I set out on a great adventure
The day my Father started leading me home.
Said there's gonna be mountains to climb
And valleys we're gonna go through,
But I had no way of knowing
Just how hard this journey could be.
Cause the mountains are steeper
And the valleys are deeper than I ever would have dreamed. 

As anyone familiar with the Chapman family's story knows, those are not just words.  They truly could not have begun to imagine the mountains and valleys their family has experienced in the 20 years since SCC first sang "Saddle up your horses!"...mountaintops including the adoption of their three youngest daughters from China and their international adoptions ministry, and the unimaginable valley of the loss of their little Maria in a tragic accident four years ago.  The whole "Re:Creation" album is all about what God has done in their lives in the intervening years, and the deeper meaning some of his older songs have taken on since the 2008 tragedy. 

As I listened to both songs this morning...past and present...I thought about the mountains and valleys in my life in the past 20 years, and the many unexpected twists and turns in the road along the way, and of friends who have experienced similar deviations or downright obliteration of their original life plans. 

Although I loved much of Steven Curtis Chapman's music as a young adult, I've been even more impacted by his ministry, and that of his wife, Mary Beth, in recent years.  Their 2008 Larry King Live interview and Mary Beth's book, Choosing to SEE, were both used greatly by God in my life during a time my family was still reeling from our deepest and most unexpected valley.  Although our experiences were very different, so much of what Steven and Mary Beth have said, written, and sung in these last few years has resonated deeply with me.  "Long Way Home" was no exception to that.  

When we can't take another step
The Father will pick us up and carry us in His arms.
And even on the best days, He says to remember we're not home yet.
So don't get too comfortable
Cause we are just pilgrims passing through.
I know that day is coming,
I know we're gonna be there soon.
I keep on singing and believing
What all of my songs say... 

And besides...I love the ukulele!  SCC says that this song, and discovering the ukulele, have been like "God just sort of letting me smile with music again."  I love that.  

So thankful for the reminders today of God's faithfulness in my life and family in the last 20 years, and for the reminders of the things that God has taught me during the deep valleys.

I know we're gonna make it...
Its just the long way home...


Thankful Thursday {Leaning}

It's been a stormy week here.  Stormy weather-wise, and stormy heart-wise.  Although the storms outside haven't been nearly as bad as originally predicted, the inner storms have been worse than I could have imagined.  The "storms of life", as Bro. Kent calls them, are back with a vengeance.

Any time the weather gets really bad, my mind tends to flood with memories of past storms.  The one when I was in the 5th grade when we saw the funnel dangling in the sky outside our living room window (as we were running for cover).  The one when Billy and I were first married, and sound asleep in our second floor apartment, when the lady who lived downstairs ran through the complex screaming, "There's a tornado coming, there's a tornado coming!"  She was a very loud lady by nature, a characteristic we were quite thankful for that night as we raced the few blocks to my mom's house to huddle in her neighbors' storm shelter.  A good bit of our town and the next town over were leveled that night.  Or the one just a few years ago when "the" hailstorm took out our entire front window, leaving our living room full of glass, water, and quarter-sized hail. 

Similarly, when the storms of life begin stirring, I tend to be transported back to times in my life I'd rather not re-visit.  When I focus on what God taught me through those times...on His faithfulness and sovereignty and goodness through it all...that's a good thing.  When I let the dark memories and vivid emotions of those days settle in my mind...even for a few minutes...not so good.

God is always faithful to provide exactly what I need during those times, though, through His Word, the support and prayers of His people (along with "just the right words" at times), printed words, and so often, music.  This week He has done that yet again, from all directions. 

One of the biggest blessings this week has been one of those "God's perfect timing" things that still amaze me.  A friend and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Guy Penrod's new "Hymns" cd.  (Backstory on Guy Penrod here. :))  The release date for the "Hymns" CD is  March 27.  But...my friend went to a concert earlier this month and discovered that the CD was due to be released early in Cracker Barrel restaurants.  She was given an incorrect date...twice...and thus made two wasted trips to the closest Cracker Barrel (in a nearby town) in hopes of buying a copy (or two...or more...:))  But the third time...this past Monday...was apparently the charm, and she was able to (finally) obtain the long-awaited CD.  

Being the wonderful friend that she is <*smile*>, she drove immediately (well, maybe not immediately, but pretty close to it :)) to my house to bring me a CD.  She had already been playing hers in the van, and it was obvious by her excitement that all the trouble had been worth it.  We had agreed earlier on the phone that it had been a good day...she had gotten the CDs, and I had gotten a much-needed doctor's appointment for one of our children with much less difficulty than I had anticipated.  In the meantime, though, the storm that had started Sunday morning had been brewing and was about to explode. 

In the chaos of the day, I heard snatches of the CD here and there, thinking every time I became aware of the words and music playing in the background that it was "just what I needed" at that moment.  Not until much later that evening was I able to sit and truly soak in the beautiful hymn arrangements with their powerful, truth-filled lyrics.  

My friend and I have laughed that whatever song we happen to be listening to from the disk at the time is our "favorite"...until the next one. :)  "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", "He Hideth My Soul", "By and By", and the song I had anticipated most, "Does Jesus Care?"...Guy's duet with the 103-year-old George Beverly  Shea have all been balms to my heart this week. 

Tuesday night, though, I found myself sitting at my desk after everyone else had gone to bed, tears pouring down my face as I listened to Guy's beautiful voice singing these words...

    1. What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
      Leaning on the everlasting arms;
      What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
      Leaning on the everlasting arms.
      • Refrain:
        Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
        Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
    2. Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
      Leaning on the everlasting arms;
      Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
      Leaning on the everlasting arms.
    3. What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
      Leaning on the everlasting arms?
      I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
      Leaning on the everlasting arms.
     Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
     Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

The words to that chorus were written by Anthony J. Showalter in 1887.  While searching for a verse to share with two different young men devastated over the deaths of their wives, he found Deuteronomy 33:27:

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
    and underneath are the everlasting arms. 

He penned the words to the above chorus, and sent them to Elisha Hoffman, who then wrote the verses and published the hymn.

As I played the song over and over again Tuesday evening, and searched for the story behind the hymn, I came across this article by Clinton and Deborah Macomber.  They point out that in the verse above, the picture is of a shepherd carrying a sheep...His arms not just  "around us, supporting us in times of trouble, but underneath us, carrying us in hard times."

I was reminded of one of my favorite verses, Isaiah 40:11, to which I've clung through several major life storms:

He tends His flock like a shepherd:   He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;    He gently leads those that have young. 

There is no storm that comes as a surprise to God.  I am so thankful for His reminder this week that His faithfulness is sure, and His timing is always perfect.

It's been a while since I've participated in Thankful Thursday.   Be sure to visit Laurie's blog to see what others are thankful for today.


Focused on {Powerful} Glory

He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 
~Psalm 107: 29

When I first had the thought for what has become  focused on Glory, I had a vision...a photo a day, capturing a bit of God's glory through my camera lens. As the idea grew, it expanded to include my friend Tauna and her blog, Creative Confetti, and it was scaled back a bit to once a week rather than daily photos.   That vision is still the same, but sometimes the fleshing out of the vision (on my end) isn't exactly what I'd planned.  There are weeks my post is a day or two late, and there have been a couple of weeks I haven't managed a post at all. Life gets in the way sometimes. :)  And my posts, for the most part, have not been exactly what I'd envisioned.  Health issues, weather, busy schedules, a new schedule (and Mom's determination to stick to it!), old house issues, and just generally trying to keep a household of six running {somewhat} smoothly...all of these seem to often keep me from quality time with my camera. :)   

Sometimes, too, I worry that my posts have a bit too much "sameness" to them. For instance, today's post will be the third post in a row to feature...yes, you guessed it...my back yard. :)  Last week's focused on Glory  post was photos of Ammah Grace on the newly re-hung tire swing.  Then there was a random Backyard Glimpses post later in the week.  When I start to worry about posting too much of the "same old", I think about this post, which SO resonated with me when I read it a while back: In the Pink. Like the author of that post, I want to be continually in awe of God's creation...even that which I see every day.  

But I also don't want to get into a rut. :)  This week I was so excited!   On Saturday I took some very different photos, and I had some interesting text to go along with them.  I could hardly *wait* to compose today's post!  Then this morning, I woke up and discovered that today is "World Sparrow Day".  Well, anyone who reads this blog knows that I love sparrows. :)  I decided I really needed to devote today's post to sparrow photos and stories, and I'd save my original plan for another day.  

I had that post mostly composed in my head and was in the process of selecting photos for it earlier today, when a chat conversation with a friend completely changed my direction.  "There is a foG post for you..."  I grabbed my camera and went out to take a few new backyard photos. :)  

These aren't just ANY backyard photos, though!  For those who don't live in our neck of the woods, we've been hearing nasty, awful, horrid weather predictions for this week for over a week.  Predictions of a foot or more of rain within 24-48 hours, flood warnings, forecasts with "100% chance of rain" for Monday and Tuesday, and talk of a severe storm or two or more as well.  ACKKK.  Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of rainy, stormy weather. Living in an old house with a cantankerous roof has cured me of the "rain is beautiful" school of thought. I don't want us to have a drought, but I'll take just enough rain to get us by, thankyouverymuch.  Please don't give me one. drop. more.  And a foot in two days?  NO, THANKS.

To make matters worse, this is spring break week.  Our student ministry left Monday morning for a mission trip at our mission church in a nearby town, also covered by the "It's going to rain until it washes all of us away" forecast.  The plans included a lot of outdoor work.  They did not include severe storms, torrential rains, and flooded roadways.

Yesterday before they left, Bro. Kent prayed for the trip.  Part of his prayer included prayer that the weather would not interfere with the work God had for the group this week.  At that point the forecast pretty much guaranteed rain the whole time they were gone.  The rain had already begun, and we were dodging puddles while getting their luggage unloaded.  

Just about the time they left for Lavaca, though, the sun began to peek through the dark gray clouds.  The sky continued to get brighter and brighter...while it never made it to "sunny", there was a definite golden glow in the midst of the overcast sky.  I so wish I'd gotten a picture of it!  

Before it seemed like they'd had time to get out there, unload, and eat lunch, Bro. Gary had posted a picture...kids clearing out brush and preparing to burn.  The rain held off all day, and they completed the outdoor work planned for the day.  

We did get rain...quite a bit of rain, although not anywhere near the flood conditions that had been predicted...in the night and into the morning.  That rain was supposed to continue all day...4 to 6 inches worth.  

And then mid-morning, I checked the radar for the umpteenth time today, and noticed something very odd.  There was a gap beginning in the formerly non-stop green, yellow, and red.  It appeared that the rain was going around us in both directions, but there was a finger-like area developing with no rain whatsoever. 

At 10:45, a local weatherman posted a photo of the radar, with this statement..."Check out this hole developing in the rain! This is great to see. It's reducing rain totals and holding back the flood potential. Hope it sticks around!" 

It was at that point that my friend and I had our discussion about the amazing answer to prayer that the unexpected break in the weather was, and that I grabbed my camera to shoot a few photos of our backyard.  While I was doing that, my friend had an opportunity to share on the weatherman's Facebook post that there had been many prayers for the predicted storms to hold off.   Her comments there, and to me during our chat, were such an encouraging reminder to me of the power of our God, who is able to quite literally calm the storm.  It was a much-needed reminder this morning, as we've been dealing with a new health-related  "storm of life" in our family that has come to a head this week.   What a wonderful visual of God's power, glory, and faithfulness!   I'm so thankful for our Powerful God, and for friends who remind me of His power, goodness, and faithfulness just when I need to be reminded most.

Our yard is usually COVERED in water in any sort of heavy rain.  This is what it looked like today during the  time that we were supposed to have 100% chance of rain and possibility of severe storms.

Remains of the earlier rain on the trees...

And more leftover raindrops.

The sky was gray, but not at all stormy. 

Radar showing the "gap".  This storm was going almost directly north.

The robins were loving the damp ground...

Love to watch them cock their heads to listen for worms!

Got it! :)

Check back this week for the belated "World Sparrow Day" post, as well as the post originally planned for today's focused on Glory.  I'm hoping to start a new book series this week as well.  In the meantime, be sure to go to Tauna's blog and check out her foG post.  I'm trying not to be jealous this week...she got to go to a place I've been wanting to see for a long time!  Her photos are almost as good as going myself, though. :)