Works for Me Wednesday {Electric Skillet Love}

It's been a LONG time since I've done a Works for Me Wednesday post. Today, however, as I used our new-to-us electric skillet for the second time in 18 hours, I decided perhaps it was time to get back in the WFMW swing of things. 

When we were first married, my dear friends and former bosses, David and Mary Pratt, gave us an electric skillet as a wedding gift. I hadn't used an electric skillet a great deal prior to that, and I don't remember using it a whole lot the first couple of years we were married. 

Then, however, we moved into this house, and a very few months after we moved in, the oven died.  I don't remember how long we were without an oven that time, but we very quickly got creative with what my WB sisters call "kitchen servants".  That's when I began to develop a deep affinity for the electric skillet.

We eventually bought a used oven, but we still used our electric skillet quite a bit.  Used it so much, in fact, that we ended up replacing it after 12 years or so.  Then our second oven died.  The electric skillet, the crock pot, and other small appliances got even more of a workout. 

Last year we were gifted a brand new range/oven.  We've put a lot of miles on it in the last year!  But our electric skillet continues to see a lot of use.  It's easy to pull out when needed, it's better for things like pancakes and bacon than a regular skillet, and it doesn't heat up the kitchen on hot days. 

Billy and I had been saying for months that we were going to need to replace our electric skillet soon.  We were thrilled when his mom brought us a new-to-us one when she came to town Sunday. 

As I said, I've used it twice in the last two days. It's a 16-inch, extra-deep model, making it perfect for cooking a big batch of pancakes, laying flat a whole package of bacon at a time, or even frying chicken (it's been  LONG time since I've done that, but this skillet may prompt me to try. :)

So, electric skillets, particularly the larger models, are handy for several reasons:

  • They cook evenly. No "hot spots". 
  • They stay a consistent temperature. 
  • They are convenient for cooking larger amounts of food. 
  • They're actually easy to clean, despite what I would have thought before using one regularly.   

Do you have a favorite small appliance?  Tell me about it in the comments!  I'd also love to hear how you use your electric skillet if you have one.  

Linking up today with Works for Me Wednesday.  Visit Kristen to see what others are sharing there this week! 

works for me wednesday at we are that family


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For Such a Time {Online Friendships and the Body of Christ}

Note: This post was written (rather hastily) early Sunday morning, before I got ready for church and left home for 12 hours. I'm leaving the timeframes as is (i.e. "yesterday" is Saturday :)).  I have also changed the board name for privacy sake. 

"I'm going to be away from my computer all day. Please call me with any updates!"

That was the request, shared with a phone number, from my friend L early yesterday morning.  I replied that I was going to be away for much of the day as well, but that if I did hear anything before I left, I would let her know.

My friend K shared late yesterday that she couldn't concentrate on anything...she was checking repeatedly for updates and praying continually.  I replied that I was having the same problem.  My heart was just aching for our friend and her family, and I was struggling to focus on anything else.

This is definitely not the first time I've experienced such a burden. Friends and I had just been talking about the week-long near vigil for our sweet friend Merlene and her family last month. For days, we were in a constant state of prayer for her and her family, often waking multiple times in the night to check for updates and pray.

The difference this time, though, is that I've never met any of the people involved in person.

I've "known" L and K for years, but we have never met. I've also never met Rachel, the friend for whose family we are praying, although I think of her as an old friend.  We have all been part  of a close-knit group of ladies on a private message board, which I'll call Webster's (WB) for years.

I know that I found WB through another message board (which I'm no longer part of, and I'm not even sure still exists), but I can't even remember all the details of when and how. I know that I've been part of it for over 10 years, because I remember announcing my pregnancy with Ammah Grace there.

Regardless, we are a group of ladies from all over the world who have developed a bond over the years that is really indescribable.  We are mostly (but not all) married, mostly (but not all) moms, mostly (but not all) homeschoolers.  We all have in common a heart's desire to live out Titus 2:3-5:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 

There are a few ladies in the group who knew each other "IRL" (in real life) prior to joining the board, but for the most part, the friendships we've developed have been via the message board.  Since then, many have met one another in real life, and it's always a treat to hear of (or better yet be part of!) a WB meet-up. 

We hear so much negative (and there is so much negative) about social media, online relationships, and the internet in general.  As with almost anything in this fallen world, these things can be used very wrongly, and can indeed be quite dangerous. 

And yet, I am always amazed and thrilled at the ways that God can use even modern technology for His glory. 

{I have to interject here that much care is taken for safety and security in this group. There is an application and a type of vetting process. Particularly for any younger readers out there, realize that this is not just a bunch of totally random strangers. The internet can be a dangerous place, and we must exercise utmost caution.}

We WB ladies have prayed one another through high-risk pregnancies, troubled marriages, military deployments, financial crisis and unemployment, terminal illnesses and accidents, church issues, and just about every other situation imaginable. We have rejoiced in weddings, new babies, new houses, salvation of children/spouses/relatives/friends, healings, and struggling learners finally "getting it". We have grieved losses of children, parents, other relatives, friends, and marriages. 

These ladies have faithfully prayed for my family through Ammah Grace's six weeks in NICU, my dad's final illness and death, and the more recent epilepsy diagnosis in one of our children.  And due to the fact that we were unable to share with but a tiny handful of IRL friends for so long, the WB ladies were some of the first with whom I shared when life as we knew it exploded into oblivion 7 years ago. Because we had to be so careful about sharing with anyone local, their prayers were especially treasured during that time. 

We have "done life" together. 

And yet, there is always the encouragement and admonition that family, local church, and face-to-face relationships are of vital importance and must be our priority. 

In so many ways, the prayers we have prayed for our friend Rachel this weekend showcase the way God can use the interaction between IRL and online relationships and blur those lines so that it all just comes out in the wash as the family of God in action. 

Rachel's family is a missionary family who served in a small southeast Asian country. Our family had prayed for them for years as part of our missionary prayer list.  Then in March 2010, Benjamin was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his knee.

This hit especially close to home for us because Benjamin is the same age as Peter, and they were both huge Lego buffs.  Whereas we had prayed for their family on a regular basis before, our prayers for them became daily.  We shared prayer requests for the family at times at church, and Benjamin became a regular on the youth Sunday School prayer list. 

Benjamin recently began receiving hospice care.  Friday night he took a severe downturn and was admitted to the hospital.  The tumor in his lung had grown so large that it was cutting off his airway, and there was nothing that could be done other than to keep him as comfortable as possible.  His sisters who were away at school were called home. 

Along with many others across the world, our WB family has prayed fervently, checked for updates over and over again, and ached for our dear friend and her family. Many of us have then shared on Facebook and other social media outlets, and our friends have prayed, checked for updates, ached for this family that they have never met, and shared with their friends. 

As I read yet another post last night by one of my friends whose only connection with this family is through my Facebook updates, I realized that this has been multiplied many times over throughout the world this weekend.  I remembered being humbled and awed and amazed and so, so grateful when Ammah Grace was in the hospital and we knew that so many all over the world, the majority of whom we didn't even know, were praying for her and for our family. 

With Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, however, those numbers were nothing compared to the number of people praying for Benjamin and his family.

The family of God, all over the world, lifting up this family to the Father...it's hard to even wrap my mind around the magnitude of the people who are not only praying for this family's needs, but who are being impacted by the faith of this young man, his parents, and his siblings. 

I've also been moved to tears more than once by the hearts of our WB family for these friends. When it appeared that there might be difficulty getting one of Benjamin's sisters home from school many hours away, within minutes there were multiple families offering to drive her a few hours as part of a "chain" across the country. Although the family's church met the need by providing a plane ticket, this was just an example of the kind of "real life" support that this group is for each other. 

Many have shared ways that their children have prayed for and showed honor for Benjamin and his family.  One mom (D) shared this morning that her young children asked to "play" for Benjamin today. She thought they meant pray, which they had been doing and would continue to do, but the boys showed her that they had their Legos out, ready to "play" for Benjamin this morning. They also asked to have one of his favorite foods for supper tonight. 

As heavy as my heart is this morning for Rachel, Benjamin, and their family, it is also overflowing with thankfulness.

I am so thankful that God can use anything, including technology and social media, to show His glory.

I am so thankful for the ways He has already shown His glory in amazing ways in and through Benjamin and his family, and I know that that will only intensify in the coming days. 

I am so thankful for this group of WB ladies that has been such a special part of my life for so many years.   

I am so thankful for the ways that God knits together hearts in the family of God whether they be next door or across the world.  

Please pray for Benjamin and his family as he is very close to seeing His Savior face to face.   

Edited to add:  As I mentioned earlier, this post was composed early Sunday morning.  Benjamin entered Glory just a few hours later.  We rejoice that his healing from  cancer is complete and that He is with Jesus!  But we grieve with his family as they are already missing him so much...please pray for them as their grief and loss mingle with the joy of knowing he is whole and with Jesus.  

I have to add this as well.  Last night Bro. Gary was talking about the Great Commission, and the fact that "as we go, wherever we go, we are to make disciples".  For some of us, that will be across the street; for others, it will be across the world. I couldn't help but think of Benjamin, of his parents, of his siblings, and the impact that their lives have had on so many during this time of Benjamin's illness.  They weren't able to go back to the mission field as scheduled due to Benjamin's medical needs.  That could have seemed like such a negative thing, and yet God has used and is continuing to use Benjamin's life and testimony to reach thousands of people.  Their work on the foreign field may have been interrupted, but their ministry has gone on in ways they could never have imagined. 

Just last night, D, one of the ladies I mentioned above, shared that God had used Benjamin's life, death, and testimony to draw her son to Himself last night.  There's a new name written down in Glory, and Benjamin was used of God to stir that young boy's heart.  No telling how many others have been and will be touched in similar ways.  We don't often think of teen boys as leaving a legacy, but what an amazing one Benjamin has left! 

Thanks to the WB ladies who helped even in putting this post together...clarifying facts for my fuzzy memory, making suggestions of various kinds, allowing me to share their stories, and especially to Barb for her title help! :-D 


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Spilling out and Flowing Over {Mary, Martha, and a Raw, Honest Struggle}

"Are you a Martha? Or are you a Mary?"

Anyone who has grown up in church has heard that question posed more than once. Dozens of times, perhaps. We all know the lesson: Martha was busy doing, while her sister Mary sat listening to the Lord. Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help...after all, there was company and work to be done! Jesus, however, rebukes Martha ever-so-gently, telling her that Mary has chosen the better thing.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12

The older I get, the more I love this verse. I seem to see it in action more and more as God causes certain things to jump out at me that I never noticed before...or they take on new meaning or import because of where I happen to be at the time.  Even though it's a bit painful at times, it thrills my heart when He *zings* me with something fresh and new...even if it isn't actually fresh and new!

That happened Sunday morning as Bro. Gary was preaching from John about Mary and Martha.  I've heard that story a million times (well, maybe not quite a million...I'd have to calculate an estimated number of times per year multiplied by my forty-something age to get a bit more accurate figure, but a whole bunch for sure!) over the years, but Sunday morning it *zinged* in a whole new way!

I struggle sometimes with some of the choices we've made regarding the children's "schooling" (and some of the things that haven't really been a "choice", but rather just survival).  We aren't doing organized sports, lessons of various kinds, or group extra-curricular activities.  We haven't even done co-op the past few years, although hopefully that will happen again in another season. 

We have nothing against any of those things.  In fact, there are some we'd love to participate in, if circumstances were different. But...they aren't, and it's been obvious that those things aren't part of God's plan for our family right now.

Most of the time I'm good with that.  My goal for this season is for us to all learn contentment, to stretch our creative muscles in other ways, to make a priority of family and church activities, to have a calmer, more peaceful schedule than we'd have if we had kids in lessons here and on sports teams there.  

Calmer? More peaceful? Did I really say that?  I guess it's all relative. :-D  Bro. Gary actually used our family as an example of a "busy family" Sunday morning. I got a little tickled, because I know that we are {relatively} busy, and we are certainly perceived by many as being busy...and yet, we are probably one of the least busy families I know!  (There are weeks...not often, but sometimes...when I don't go anywhere but church on Sunday and the grocery store...and I LOVE those weeks!)

I mentioned above that my goals for this season include contentment, developing creativity, making a priority of family time and church activities, and just in general living a calmer, more peaceful lifestyle than we would if we were running many more places during the week.  I have visions of our lives being fuller and richer because we have "margin" and "simplicity" and "peace"...all those words we see idealized in the lives of others online. 

And yet, it's easy for the real picture to include a frazzled, never-caught-up mom, squabbling children, and a husband who comes home from work to chaos and mayhem. Having more freedom from outside commitments doesn't automatically translate into a calmer, more peaceful life.  It's easy to fall into the trap of feeling like we have "more time" and then frittering it away instead of using it purposefully for that rich, full life we envision.

As Bro. Gary said Sunday morning, there is very definitely a need for servants, for the "do-ers" in our churches.  I would say there is also very definitely that need in our homes.  As wives and moms, we have a great responsibility to cheerfully and diligently "do" in a variety of ways.

However, in order to serve and do effectively, the "doing" cannot be our priority.  Before we can "do" anything for our families, for our churches, for the world around us, for the Lord, we must first follow the example of Mary, "who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said."  (Luke 10:39)

Bro. Gary pointed out that Martha was distracted by her busyness and serving. Again, serving is not a bad thing...unless it is a distraction from the best of sitting at Jesus's feet. 

Distractions fill our lives.  Some of those distractions are good things, in their place. When they distract us from sitting at His feet, though, they become dangerous. We get caught up in them and begin to think that we can "do it" (whatever "it" is) on our own. Distractions cause us to lose sight of the fact that we are totally dependent on Him in every way. 

As Bro. Gary said Sunday, 

Sometimes even the church/serving gets in our way.
Sometimes doing what seems to be right gets in our way.

Ouch!  So many things "get in our way" of sitting at Jesus's feet. Homeschooling can get in the way. Serving our families can get in the way. The perfect schedule, or our "plan" for the perfect homeschool experience, or our need to  have "perfect children" can get in the way. Church activities, fellowship with friends, and helping others can get in the way. Our own laziness, lack of discipline, and leisure activities can get in the way. (Ouch, ouch, and ouch.)

Through Bro. Gary's sermon Sunday morning and the pondering I've done on it since, three things have stuck out to me:

1. My first priority must be sitting at Jesus's feet.  I need to start my day with Him, end my day with Him, and seek Him first throughout the day.  Anything and everything else I do is worthless (as filthy rags) without that. Sitting at the Lord's feet, listening to what He says is vital to anything and everything else I do.

2. Having limited outside commitments doesn't mean we are free of distractions. We (I!) must be intentional in sitting at Jesus's feet and then using our time and resources wisely to do whatever He has called us to do. We must guard against the deception of thinking that having less commitments automatically means less distractions. 

3. Serving and doing are not bad things. Outside commitments are not bad things. Sports and lessons and extra-curricular activities are not bad things. God has called us to serve. He has called us to do.  But we must make sure our serving and doing flow from our time spent at His feet, rather than crowding it out.

This post began composing itself in my head during church Sunday, but it's taken me three days to actually sit down and finish it. It's a hard post for me, because it isn't something God "has taught" me, but something that right now He is daily working on in me.  It's a right now struggle.  I'm way too easily distracted. 

I'm in the midst of a "Hello Mornings" challenge right now...an accountability/Bible Study group in which we've committed to get up early in the morning and spend the first part of our day sitting at Jesus's feet.  We're 3 days into this session and I've already completely flaked one day. Really?  The second day in and I completely bombed? 

But God's grace and mercy abound and overwhelm. Today was better than yesterday, and I am praying tomorrow will be better than today. Often posting things here, where others are reading, is an accountability all in itself. So I open myself to you, and give it to you honestly and with a bit of rawness. This is hard. Satan offers distraction. The world offers distraction. The flesh that wars within me offers distraction. And I am all too easily distracted.

And yet...I want to sit at His feet. I want to soak in all He has for me.  I want to listen, and then out of my listening I want the doing to spill out.  I want the all the richness and beauty that is possible in this season in which God has our family.  I want my children to see all of that and want it themselves.  I want to be prepared for the busier seasons that will most likely come. 

I want to be Mary. 

Are you with me?  

Are you already there?  Do you have wisdom and encouragement for those of us who aren't yet?  Please share in the comments, or email me through the link in the sidebar.

Are you in the midst of the struggle? Wanting to put the distractions in their place, to let the doing flow out from the time sitting at His feet, rather than letting it crowd that time out?  I'd love to pray with you, or just share together in the journey.  Leave me a comment, or shoot me a message, please? 

Are you reading this and maybe not sure what it's even all about?  Before you can sit at Jesus's feet as His disciple, you must come to Him as your Savior and your Lord.  I'd love for you to message me if you have questions about that.  You can also find out more here.


Has this post encouraged or challenged you? Feel free to share via the share buttons below or the pin it button above.  Want to come along in this journey?  I'd love for you to follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.

Linking up with: 

women helping women


Grace For "Those Days"

Some days it's easy to rejoice, to praise, to worship, to be thankful.  Some days, though, we have to choose to praise and rejoice.  And some days it just seems almost impossible.

On the days when pain won't go away, when friends get bad news, when the interruptions to our plans just seem to pile up like leaves in the fall, when kids are grumpy and mom is grumpier...on those days we have the opportunity to live grace in action as a testimony for those around us...even if it is only the people inside our homes...to see.  He gives grace to redeem those days. He gives grace to stop and pray for that redemption.  He gives grace to praise and worship and rejoice and be thankful in and through and in spite of and even because of those days.

So thankful for those days that God uses to remind me how much I need His grace!  And for the assurance that His plans are perfect, and His ways always better than mine!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
~Isaiah 55:8-9

Has God redeemed one of those days for you lately?  I'd love to hear about it!!  Please share in the comments...it will be an encouragement to all of us!


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Teaching Creativity: Creativity Challenges for Kids

We've talked about Why we need to teach creativity, we've discussed some of the Hows of teaching creativity, and we've listed some resources for teaching creativity.

Over the coming weeks, we'll continue to share resources and ideas for developing creativity in our children (and in ourselves!)  Today's topic: Creative Challenges for Kids.

One way to encourage children's creativity is to give them a challenge.  This can be done in a number of ways.  Here are three ways to get your children's creative juices flowing:

1. Individual or Family Challenges

This can be a spur of the moment challenge from mom or dad, or a regularly occurring family event. Give a child, or the whole family, a set of parameters or a collection of supplies and issue the challenge.

Grab a handful of office supplies, hand it to a bored child, set a timer for 30 minutes, and see what cool invention they can come up with.

Or have a variety of craft supplies and recycled items available, and have each member of the family design their own ___________ (bird, vehicle, building, robot...the list is endless.)  This can be customized according to family interests or what is being studied in school at the time.

Another possibility is to let the child come up with the challenge.

This is a great example of a family challenge: Pipe Cleaner Challenge

2. Community Events

Check your local newspaper or community calendar for creative opportunities in your area.  Art fairs are often available through your child's school or homeschool  group.  State and county fair competitions can provide great motivation for creative projects.  Local nature centers, businesses, and civic organizations sometimes sponsor competitions as well.

3. Online Challenges

There are two types of online challenges...challenges for which children actually submit their creative projects by a certain deadline, and open-ended challenge ideas which are for personal use only and can be done in any time frame. The following list contains both types:

(As always, I'm unable to vouch for everything on these sites. Please use your own discretion in determining their appropriateness for your family!)

I'd love to hear how you challenge your family to stretch their creative muscles!  I'd also love to hear any suggestions for future Creativity Thursday posts.  Shoot me an email through the sidebar widget, or leave a comment below, please!

This is part 4 in an ongoing series of Creativity Thursdays here on Ponderings of an Elect Exile.  You can catch up on the previous posts through these links:

Teaching Creativity When You Don't Feel Creative (And Why Do I Need to Teach Creativity, Anyway?)
Teaching Creativity: Where Do I Start?
20 Resources for Teaching Creativity

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The Adventure {One Year Later}

"We sure do miss you," said a friend from our former church as we hugged the other day.

"We sure do miss you, too," I replied, "but...we know we are where God wants us to be, and we are loving it there."

That's pretty much the one year update in a nutshell! We love and miss our "old church", but we love our new church and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's where God wants us to worship and serve and be family.  We are beyond blessed in these two churches that God has allowed us to be part of, and in the pastors who preach the truth without reservation and who have been used to ground us in the Word. 

A Year? Really? 

Crazy to think that it was a year ago this week that we moved our membership to our little church in the pasture. In some ways, it seems like it's been way longer than that...a lot has happened in that year!  And in some ways, it seems like it's just been the blink of an eye.

I shared the story of how our adventure began here. If you haven't read it, feel free to pop over and get caught up. It's a good story. :)  I've been wanting to do a bit of an update for a while now, and I decided this anniversary was the perfect time to do that.

I'm not sure where to even begin. I've shared a little along the way (here and here, among others). So far this year we've had several "events" (including Fall Block Party, Community Thanksgiving Meal, and Gospel Singing), and numerous fellowships. We've packed "Buckets of Love" for tornado victims and sent boxes of Bibles and other materials to Arab Christians in Pakistan. We've started Sunday night classes for youth and children (using the same AiG curriculum used in our adult Bible Study), and we've taken a break from those classes for the summer.

We're no longer the newest members. :)  We've celebrated another family joining our little body, and God continues to knit us together as a true family.  We've had a number of visitors and look forward to more (visitors and new members!) 

This time last year we'd never have expected that less than six month later we'd be having our first funeral.  The sudden, unexpected Homegoing of our dear friend Roy rocked us to the core, but God has shown and continues to show Himself faithful.  No matter how many years we are there, Grace will never be quite the same without those twinkling eyes, that wonderful laugh, and the wet willies for all the kids.

Keeping Up

Last summer's church change was quite sudden.  Within a matter of a few weeks, we went from being totally settled in a church family we loved to realizing that God was saying, "Go, now", to a new place.

I used to read my friend Sandy's blog and think how wild it was that they went to two different churches...one on Sundays and one on Wednesday nights.  I saw her at a homeschool moms' meeting in September and told her that I had been laughing that I had turned into her...a two church mom (which she isn't anymore, by the way. :))

We continued with Wednesday night activities at Oak Cliff until the end of the year. (Grace doesn't have Wednesday night church.)  The little girls participated in the children's Christmas musical, and I continued to help with children's choir.  Bayley and I sang in Keyboards at Christmas.  This summer, the kids and I did VBS at Oak Cliff (as I had promised Mrs. Margaret last summer that I would do crafts again this year:)) and our family participated in OCBC's Family Day Camp in June (for which Bro. Gary preached one night. :))

Peter and Bayley continue to participate in Wednesday night youth classes, and additional youth activities throughout the year as it works with our schedule.

Lessons Learned

Unlike Abram, when God called him to leave Ur, we knew where we were going when we left Oak Cliff.  We were headed to a church we'd already come to love, with a pastor we knew was a solid preacher of the Word. Grace already had a special place in our hearts, and we were excited about the ministry there.  In spite of that, it was definitely a step of faith.  We would never have left the church we'd loved for 16 years except that God said, "Go", and we knew we had to obey.

As I mentioned in last year's post, one of the most difficult things for me about leaving was leaving my youth girls' Sunday School class.  I knew that I had been called to teach that class 2 years before, and I had planned to keep teaching it until Ammah Grace graduated!

When we first began to realize that God seemed to be leading us to go to Grace, I brought up my concern about my class to Bro. Kent. He said, "If God is leading you to Grace...and I believe He is...then that is not your concern.  Lyndel and I will deal with that...you do what God is telling you to do."

That was the last of the things holding us back.  I'd already made peace with leaving the choir.  We had agonized over how hard the move would be for our two oldest children, but we had gotten solid counsel from both Bro. Kent and Bro. Gary in that area.  God had given peace that this was His will, for our whole family, and they had both reminded us that God would use this for good and for blessing even for Peter and Bayley, if we obeyed.

As I prayed for God to send...quickly...the perfect person to love and teach these girls I'd come to think of as "mine", one name kept coming to mind:  my friend Kathy.  I just kept telling myself that was a crazy thought.  Kathy and her husband had been preschool division directors for many years, and I knew that Kathy felt about preschool somewhat the same way I'd felt about my girls' class...she was going to be there forever.

But God...Don't you just love those words??  I love them more and more the older I get and the deeper I get in the Word.  God's ways are so not our ways, and His plans are always SO much higher than ours!

Kathy subbed for me the first couple of weeks we were gone, with Justin covering the preschool department.  Then, quite suddenly and in a rather fruit-basket turnover fashion, there was a new preschool division director, and Kathy and Justin were both teaching in the youth department.

I love the ways God works!  That class has about doubled in size since I left, and those girls love Mrs. Kathy (and she loves them!)  And God has given me total peace about not being there.

When God calls us to obedience, He always provides what we need to obey (even if we sometimes don't see that provision until after we've taken the first step!)

What Does the Future Hold?

So now begins the second year of this adventure.  We are excited about plans to constitute as an independent church in the next few months.  Bro. Gary is doing a sermon series on Sunday nights on Baptist Distinctives: What is a Baptist Church?  It's actually more "What is a Biblical Church?" and I'm thankful that there is no doubt that if there's ever a conflict between the two, we'll go with Biblical over Baptist.  (We're not necessarily a "typical" Baptist church in some ways, and we like that. :))

We love our Grace Lavaca family, and we are excited about continuing to learn and grow and worship and fellowship alongside them. We're looking forward to our body continuing to grow over the coming year(s). We are excited about what God is doing in and through our church in unexpected and unplanned ways.  We are thankful for opportunities to fellowship and serve with our Oak Cliff family occasionally, too, and for our kids to learn that "church family" transcends the walls of a building or names on a membership roll.

We have no idea what the future holds.  We certainly had no idea what this year would hold!  But we know this.  We know Who holds the future.  We know that He's had it all planned since before the foundation of the earth.  We know He called, and we went. :) We know that we have been blessed beyond measure this year.  I come home on Sundays with a heart overflowing with God's abundance!  We know that whatever this year holds, it will be for His glory, and for our good, and we're excited to see what He is going to do from here!


Are you local  and looking for a church home? We'd love to have you at Grace Baptist Lavaca.  Feel free to email me through the sidebar widget for more info! 

Not local, but you'd like to keep up with what God is doing at Grace Lavaca?  Follow us on Facebook, or listen to sermons via SermonAudio.

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When the Cares of My Heart are Many...

I've said before that my posts are very often written in fits and starts over the course of a day.  Because today marks the one-year anniversary of our moving our membership to Grace, I had planned an update post on the first year of this adventure that God began last summer.

As I kept trying to finish my blog post in between the other tasks of the day today, I just couldn't focus. I thought perhaps it was because I was trying to type in tiny snatches of time, but then earlier this evening when I had a longer pocket of time to write, I realized my mind just wasn't going to focus to write that post.  

My heart is just too heavy.  It just seems like there has been so much grief and loss and sadness lately in those we care about.  We've been through seasons like this before, where the blows just seem to come so close together there isn't even room to breathe.  This has been one of those seasons.

So the post I'd planned for today will come another day. But for today, a much simpler post. Our pastor posted one of my favorite Spurgeon quotes earlier today.  I realized I had created a graphic for it months ago and had never posted it.  So true, and so timely...His Word truly does sustain us in the darkest of times.

So I went searching for the comfort of Scripture today.  I had been praying, "Lord, so many burdens right now.  So many hurting people.  So much tragedy and loss.  Comfort, strengthen, sustain."

And then I came across this verse...so simple, and yet so true:

His consolations truly do cheer our souls when our hearts are heavy and weighed down with cares.  Praying that today for so many who are hurting right now.

Please continue to pray for the Whitten family as they learn to do life without Mrs. Merlene.  And please pray for my long-ago driver's ed partner, Melisa, and her family, as well.  Her oldest son was in a motorcycle wreck yesterday, and sustained severe brain injury. He was taken off life support this afternoon. I can't begin to imagine the pain they are going through right now.


20 Resources for Teaching Creativity

There's nothing worse than sitting down to write on the topic of creativity and having your brain go into a total creative black hole. That's where I am right this very moment as I write. I've spent 15 minutes trying to come up with a creative lead-in for this post, and it just isn't happening.  It makes me need to scream, loudly. Unfortunately, I have a sleeping child in the next room, so screaming isn't an option.  You can imagine it, though, right? :)

Today's post (which was supposed to be yesterday's post...thank you for your understanding as Creativity Thursday became Creativity Friday this week.  Yesterday's post just needed to take priority.)  is the third in a series.  If you've missed the first two, be sure to check them out:  Teaching Creativity When You Don't Feel Creative (And Why Do I  Need to Teach Creativity Anyway?) and Teaching Creativity: Where Do We Start?

Those two posts were originally published at the Homeschool Toolbox website.  With the owner's decision to close that site, permission was given to repost our HSTB columns on our personal sites.  I am continuing the series here with Creativity Thursdays.

So we've talked about the "Why?" of teaching creativity, and we've given a few ideas for getting started. Last week I promised a list of resources.  This list is in no way exhaustive.  There is a whole world of resources out there!

I also need to say that I haven't necessarily used all of the resources listed.  Some I have and have read/used.  Some I have, but haven't actually read/used yet.  {*Blush*  I know I'm the only homeschool mom who has shelves of resources we "haven't gotten to yet", right?}I have high hopes for this year in that regard! I'm trying to be more intentional about using the resources that we have this year!

I'm also trying to be more intentional in teaching creativity to my own crew this year.  Some seasons we've done better with that than others.  Recently, the kids have done a lot of creative projects, but I've not done well in guiding and participating with them in an intentional way.  That is definitely one of my goals for this year!

Now, without further ado, the list!

Books I Own:

  • Educating the Wholehearted Child, by Clay and Sally Clarkson - This book is about much more than teaching creativity.  It's one of my very favorite books on homeschooling and childrearing.  However, their section on building the mental muscle of creativity is some of the best info I've read on developing creativity in children (and adults!).  And it's just a good read for parents, period.  I'm re-reading it again as I do so often at the beginning of a new school year. 

  • Real Learning: Education in the  Heart of the Home, by Elizabeth Foss - This is another of my very favorite books on learning and child-rearing.  Although the author is Catholic and I am not, I have found much of value in this book (and I just skim over the parts which contain religious references with which I don't agree). Again, this whole book is worth reading, but her chapter on creativity is just excellent.  Just reading the title..."Creativity-Cultivating Color and Cacophony"...makes me feel more creative! 

  • Growing Creative Kids, by Dr. Wesley Sharpe - I don't necessarily agree with everything in this book, but Dr. Sharpe has some excellent information that goes way beyond the artsy-craftsy project-based activities we often associate with creativity.  Dr. Sharpe gets to the meat of developing creative thinking as a lifestyle.  While each family will need to figure out how to make this information work within their own parameters of discipline and lifestyle, it is definitely a worthwhile read that will encourage parents to be intentional about building creative muscle in their children. 

  • Drawing With Children, by Mona Brookes - This is one of the most-recommended drawing books for children around.  We are planning to work through at least the basic lessons this year.  Not only is this a good "hands-on" resource for learning to draw, it also has some excellent information on creativity and artistic thinking.  Again, I don't agree with everything Ms. Brookes writes, but overall, there is excellent info here.

  • Experience Art, by Brenda Turner -  This is a neat little book which was actually published by the Arkansas Department of Education.  As I was looking at it in preparation for this post, I discovered that it was actually developed by the state Art Curriculum Task Force, on which a cousin of mine served at the time.  Cool little small-world discovery. :)   This is a simple book containing basic lesson plans for teaching various aspects of art, from line, shape, and color, to sculpture, ceramics, and art history. I have no idea where I came across it...not sure if I found it at a book sale or if it was given to me.  It's still available at Amazon. 

  • Thinkertoys, by Michael Michalko - I picked this book up at a used book bag sale thinking it looked interesting.  Subtitled "A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques", this book is full of ideas for young people and adults in learning to use creativity in business and personal applications. I'm planning to have my teenage son work through some of this book this year. 
Books on my Wish List: 

  • The Creative Family, by Amanda Soule -   (Also her books Handmade Home and The Rhythm of Seasons)  Amanda Soule is familiar to many from her blog, Soulemama (listed below).  All of her books are on my wishlist.  Much info and inspiration for developing creativity as a family. 
  • Playful Learning, by Mariah Bruehl - This book looks wonderful! 
  • The Artful Parent, by Jean Van't Hul - This book is subtitled Simple Ways to Fill Your Family's Life with Art and Creativity.  It looks like an excellent resource for getting started adding creativity to your family, particularly with younger children.  
  • Crafting With Kids, by Catherine Woram - Simple project ideas using everyday household items.  This one's been on my wish list for a long time. 
  • Made to Play, by Joel Henriques -  Wooden spool birds, a toilet paper roll zoo, wire people...this book is full of fun, creative projects!
 Educational and Inspiring Creative Blogs:

(Note:  There are so many fabulous blogs on creativity in the blogosphere these days.  This is a small portion of a long list of fun creative blogs.  I'll be posting additional links on future Creativity Thursdays, so keep an eye peeled! Also, I cannot necessarily recommend all content on these blogs.  Please use your own discretion in deciding which ones are good fits for your family.) 

  • The Artful Parent (by the author of the above book of the same name) - Beautiful blog with lots of fun ideas.
  • Living Creatively - This is an Arkansas blogger I just discovered.  I can't wait to explore this blog more!  
  • The Creative Mama - A collaborative blog on all aspects of creative life.
  • Filth Wizardry - Crazy name, but this gal is a fun mom, and she has some great creative ideas!
  • Fangletronics - It's always great to get the dads involved! Cool blog by the husband of the Filth Wizardry blogger. 
  • Harmony Art Mom - Blog of the mom behind the Harmony Fine Arts curriculum.  
  • Let's Explore - Subtitled "Adventures in Playful Family Living", this blog goes way beyond "arts and crafts". 
  • The Creative Family Creativity is more than just art!
  • The Chocolate Muffin Tree - great creative ideas for all ages.

Again, there are so many great resources available on developing creativity in children (and in ourselves!), that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I will be sharing more resources on future Creativity Thursdays.

And I'd love to hear from you!  What are your favorite creativity-building resources?  Share them with us in the comments, please!


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What a Legacy, and What a Hope!

My friend Amanda posted Rev. 21:4 this morning.  So thankful for the truth of this verse!!

I pulled into the Neighborhood Market parking lot last night and found myself in tears.

I hadn't realized, until last night, that every time I pull into that parking lot I subconsciously wonder if I'm going to run into Bro. Phil and Mrs. Merlene.  We have bumped into them there so often over the years that apparently I've grown to anticipate that possibility.

We've known for a week that our sweet friend Merlene probably wouldn't come back home to Fort Smith, but would almost assuredly go straight Home to Jesus from her hospital room in Little Rock.

Last night in the parking lot, the realization hit that we wouldn't ever round a corner in the store and see her scooting around in the motorized cart again.

And it made me cry.

Often, the kids would see her before she saw us.  Their faces would light up and off they'd go...sometimes in a big rush, sometimes very quietly and stealthily so as to "surprise" her.

They love Mrs. Merlene.  Oh how they love Mrs. Merlene.  She's been like a grandmother to them.  She's been like family to all of us.

The moment she would see them...any of them, or Billy or I...her face would light up, too.  No matter how much pain she was in...and it was often obvious she was in a great deal...she would pull everyone down one at a time for a hug.  Usually they were more than just quick hugs, and often she would whisper a message into our ears as she squeezed tight.

We are going to miss those hugs. 

As I wiped my tears and pulled myself together to go into the store, I began to try to organize the flood of thoughts swirling in my head.  They still aren't very organized, but I'm afraid they are as good as they're going to get. :)

Encountering Sunshine

Not for the first time by far, I pondered the fact that there are certain people you just love to bump in to when you are out and about. An unexpected encounter just makes your day.  You leave with a smile and a bit of an extra bounce in your step.  Those visits are like sunshine peeking out from behind a cloud.

Then there are those people you dread bumping in to...you see their car across the parking lot or you catch a glimpse of them across the store, and you do everything possible to avoid a face to face  encounter, because you know that their gloom and grumpiness is going to cast a pall on your day, as an unexpected black cloud hiding the sun on an otherwise beautiful afternoon.

Merlene was part of that first group.  It was always a delight to see her.  I never came away from an encounter with her that I didn't come away feeling encouraged and loved.  Things weren't always rainbows and roses, but even when our visits involved hard things, they were still a blessing.

That wasn't just true for me, or for our family.  It was true of many, many people.  As her children have posted updates this week on Facebook, so many people have shared what  Merlene has meant to them over the years.  She made all those around her feel loved and special.  

What a legacy! 

Heritage of Faithfulness
As I was hunting for my favorite photo of Merlene earlier this week, I was reminded of this blog post. The photo was taken at the 50th anniversary celebration for our former church, and that post was written about what God taught me through the time of preparation and celebration.  Merlene is one of those who has been known for her faithfulness...and for God's faithfulness evident in and through her.

As a faithful pastor's wife, as a mom, as a friend, as a mentor, as long-time children's Sunday School teacher and department director, she has impacted many for the Lord.

What a legacy!

Sickness to the Glory of God
This week as we have grieved the coming loss, we have also prayed, for her sake, that it would come quickly.  She has dealt with pain and debilitation for so long.  Once it became obvious that her healing would almost certainly come on the other side, rather than this one, we longed for her to experience that healing and see her Savior face to face.  We knew that she longed for that, too.

Bro. Gary has been preaching from John 11 the last few weeks, and we've been reminded about "sickness to the glory of God."  Like my dad in his illness, Merlene in her illness has been a constant conduit of God's glory. (Read more of my dad's testimony here and here.)  While she's been open about her struggles, she has been steadfast in her certain hope in God throughout.

Her focus has been first on the Lord, and then on others: her family, first and foremost, and then many others for whom her loving concern poured out.  During some of our hardest conversations about her health, she always seemed to come back to her concern for our children.  She knew they worried about and prayed for her, and she didn't want to cause them grief or pain.

What a legacy! 

God just keeps showing us examples of "sickness unto the glory of God."  I posted yesterday on Facebook a link to a blog post that ministered greatly to me.  Benjamin is a young man the same age as our Peter who has been fighting cancer for over two years now.  Many of you have prayed for him and his family.  His sister Esther's post from a couple of days ago is a must-read for anyone touched by cancer or grief.  Here's an excerpt:

The cancer isn't consuming him; the Lord is slowly pulling him away from the cancer. In the end, it's God that wins.

Our entire purpose for living here on this earth is to bring glory to God.

...soon God is going to answer our prayers. My brother will be healed forever.

So, this is my new perspective. My brother isn't dying; he's slowly being healed.

This past week in that hospital room in Little Rock, it may have looked as though the cancer was consuming Merlene.  It wasn't.  God has been slowly pulling her away from the cancer.

Last night around 9:42 p.m., the prayers of hundreds for healing for Mrs. Merlene were answered.  She is pain-free, and worshiping her Savior face to face.  I can't help but wonder if she's been greeted by Mrs. Mavis, Gary P., my dad, and so many others who have gone on before her.  Regardless, her joy is now complete.

Our prayers are now for her family and the many, many who loved her and were impacted by her life.  And we thank God for the ways He used her in our lives and the blessing she was to us in so many ways.

Most of all, we are thankful for the sure and certain hope of believers.  Merlene knew without a doubt that when she left earth, it would be to step straight into Heaven, because she had been convicted of her sin and called on the Lord to save her many years ago.

What a comfort, and what a hope!

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.
~1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Today's Creativity Thursday has been postponed until tomorrow. Please check back then for Part 3 on Resources for Teaching Creativity. 

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