Thursday, November 27, 2008

Psalm of Thanksgiving

I got up early today to enjoy some quiet time and spend some time with the One who deserves all my thanks. I read Psalm 103 and listened to my Chris Tomlin cd, remembering all the good He has brought to me.

Psalm 103
1 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
2 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
3 He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5 He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
6 The Lord gives righteousness
and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
7 He revealed his character to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
15 Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
17 But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
18 of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne;
from there he rules over everything.
20 Praise the Lord, you angels,
you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
listening for each of his commands.
21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels
who serve him and do his will!
22 Praise the Lord, everything he has created,
everything in all his kingdom.
Let all that I am praise the Lord.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holidays for me are about family and building tradition. I grew up in a small family and moved far from any extended family when I was little, so I get really excited about having lots of kids to build traditions with. When I first realized I would have five kids, my thoughts went instantly to family dinners and get-togethers, everyone bringing home their own families to my house. A real Walton's moment.

Alex drove home from LaCrosse today for the long weekend. I got a lump in my throat as I thought about everyone's college kids coming home. Within a few hours of hanging out with me, Connor, Justin, and Sophie, she had stress hives and was ready to head back to school. I'm sure it wasn't the Hallmark card either of us was anticipating.

I did have a chance to spend some one on one time with Connor tonight while I was making my favorite dessert, the Libby's Pumpkin Roll. We were doing the mixing in bowls that belonged to my grandma; she passed away last year. Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, would have been her 84th birthday. I got to tell Connor stories about being in my grandma's kitchen when I was five, eating liverwurst sandwiches, waiting for the good stuff to be done. Connor and I sang Happy Birthday to her, then he said, "I bet Jesus told her that we were singing to her." That, my friends, was a lump in my throat Hallmark moment to be sure.

Whether the holidays bring on stress hives like they did for Alex tonight, or you are missing people who aren't with you anymore, live it fully. Take the time to look at everyone around your table, friends and family, and savor those moments. Don't hide behind the dirty dishes and miss out on the times that come so infrequently. This picture of our five generations almost didn't happen. I had had enough family time and begged to stay in the kitchen cleaning up while they took some pictures. I said I would smile on Christmas, when I wasn't all greasy and food splattered. I Thank God my mom pulled rank. Three weeks after this picture was taken my grandma was gone. She passed on December 20th.

I will be counting my blessings tomorrow, and hopefully putting some lifelong memories in the hearts of my kids. Someday they will be mixing a cake in my grandma's mixing bowls, or using my silverware with the "G" on the handles, telling stories about me. I hope they are good ones.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

This is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the holidays. From the decorating, the cooking and eating, to picking out the perfect gifts, I love this time. We took the boys to the tree lighting ceremony last night in downtown Waukesha. Except for barking dogs and Santa Claus, (Connor is afraid of both), it was like being in a Norman Rockwell painting. There were even people giving out cups of hot cocoa. The best part was that for a city celebration, the pastor from First Assembly read the Christmas story out of Luke and shared his testimony. Very cool.

Sometimes, though, this season gets really overscheduled and I get really worked up about making stuff from scratch. Cards, presents, decorations, you name it. I like to make "stuff" but sometimes the pressure of deciding what to make leaves me really cranky. I am so overwhelmed with holiday must-do's that I lose the focus of what I'm trying so hard to celebrate.

Anyway, enter the gift that keeps on giving. We have had the stomach flu on and off at my house all week. Connor had it last Saturday night but was better by Sunday afternoon. Justin had it Thursday afternoon but was better by bedtime. Today is my turn. I had really high hopes for today: deep cleaning to get ready to decorate, go to Joann Fabrics to get some crafty stuff, sort through the Christmas decorations, shop for Thanksgiving dinner, a lot of ambitious planning went into today. Aside from being crabby because my plans were thrown off kilter, it was really a nice day.

I was just sick enough to keep everyone away from me, but not so sick that I felt sorry for myself. I got to lay in bed and watch sappy holiday movies on the Hallmark channel. My daughter Jessi stopped by and ended up taking the boys to a fun thing at the High School, so I was mostly alone. Rob picked up Chinese food, wonton soup for me, for dinner so no one had to worry about cooking. It was kind of like a holiday in itself. Except, of course, for that flu part.

I actually almost feel better now, but Connor is laying down holding his belly. The gift keeps giving. If I gave it to any of you, it only lasts about 12 hours. Just long enough to do nothing but watch movies and snuggle under.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's Up With That?

Soomeone asked me once what does "saved" mean. Not in a conversational way, but more of a confrontational way. It caught me off guard, and I stammered, "Eternal damnation and the Lake of Fire, I think." I can add something else to my growing list of things that Jesus Christ has saved me from. When He comes to take His people home, I will be saved from the Tribulation.

I just read a book by Dr. David Jeremiah that answered the many questions I had about the Rapture and about the end of days. Living in these times, with all the chaos, both natural and man-made, you can't help but wonder what is going on. In Dr. Jeremiah's book, "What In The World Is Going On?", he looks at 10 different aspects of our world today and relates them to prophecy found in the Bible. He examines how Israel becoming a state in 1948 officially ushers in the end times. We all know that the world is moving towards a global economy, much of it stabilized by oil. What does it mean when the stabilizing force is run by a group of nations that hate Christians and Jews? How does that influence the world market? What do the terms "rapture", "anti-Christ", and "Armageddon" actually mean? More importantly, how do we as believers fit into this picture?

You could go to the History channel, except that there is no guarantee that the "experts" have researched their answers with the power of the Holy Spirit. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we know that He only has what is best for us. Not necessarily comfortable or happy, but what is ultimately for our good. Watching a secular show interpret Bible prophecy would leave me chilled to the bone, without including the hope that Scripture promises us. Dr. Jeremiah's book tempers each prophecy with how it relates to us a believers.

"What In The World Is Going On?" is written in language that doesn't require a degree in Biblical studies to decipher. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is asking the question today, "what does this all mean?" I found it to be a fascinating read. I also found that my gratefulness to my Savior has taken on a whole new dimension. Despite all the horrific events to come, I can rest in the fact that Jesus Christ Himself will be coming to escort all of us who believe on His Name out of here. Can I get an Amen?!

Monday, November 17, 2008

To Him, For Him

I would be ungrateful if I didn't take a moment and publicly recognize God's faithfulness. As I've shared, the last few weeks have been trying. I did try to keep my focus on the Lord, trust in Him, and keep praying for the situation. While it hasn't resolved, I can truthfully say that I am not an anxious mess. I can promise you that when you stop worrying and start praying, intentionally, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. This is the promise that Paul writes of in Philippians.

I would also be ungrateful if I didn't recognize the prayers of others, some friends I know and some friends I don't know. But, like the scripture Shelley pointed out, these friends have raised their voices in prayer with me and for me, and I have felt them. I humbly praise God and thank Him for all of you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Timing Is Everything

I always joke that the timing of each of my childrens' entrances into the world has played a key role in how they function in their lives. Allow me to explain:

  • Child #1: Arrived one week past her due date. Has been playing catch up and marching to her own sense of timing ever since.
  • Child #2: Arrived exactly on her due date. Has continued to manage herself well, for the most part. Sees what she wants and goes for it. Now.
  • Child #3: Started to come three weeks early, ended up two days late. Has a habit of starting strong, but getting distracted along the way. Divine interruptions maybe?
  • Child #4: Induced 1 1/2 weeks early due to GBS issues. Fought long and hard to stay in there. Nursed til he was pried off the breast at age 2. Dragged into kindergarten against his will. Still says he's not ready to sleep in his own bed.
  • Child #5: Showed up 2 1/2 weeks early, probably because he felt like it. Anyone who has seen this one swagger down the church hallway knows exactly what I'm talking about. Case in point: I was rubbing his back when he was in his crib tonight. He looked up and said "neck", so I rubbed his neck. Then he said "head" so I rubbed his head. Then he looked up and said "done". I guess we were finished.

Having defined all my children in the most simplistic of terms, I am confident of this: That He, who began a good work in each of them, will bring it to completion in the day of the King's return. Whatever has been started will continue to grow and blossom in each of them, in the Lord's own timing.

I marvel at the differences between each of my children. They are each special and unique, different, yet still mine. And each one of them has a plan and a purpose to fulfill, something that I didn't have a hand in planning. I wonder how their gifts, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses will work together to create the life that their Heavenly Father has chosen them for. "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10, NLT.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

One Way

Conversation from my walk this morning, coming up a big hill, hoping to hear from God:
Man walking dog: You took the hill, huh?
Me, puffing slightly: It's the only way home.
God: Can you hear Me now?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Flight Instruction

So, I've spilled my guts and you all know my family isn't picture perfect anymore. I was hoping to still have a few of you fooled. I have been praying, looking for God's word, and feeling kind of selfish about it. Like, shouldn't I be doing more? Something active? I don't know...standing in front of my child with a shield and a sword? I felt selfish asking for prayers for my guidance when there seems to be a bigger need.

My smart friend said it's like putting on your own air mask first before you attend to those around you. If I'm not getting any oxygen, I will not survive to care for everyone else. I like that thought. And about the sword and the shield, I am brought to Ephesians 6:11 "Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Strong in the Lord

In a comment I left for someone a few weeks ago, I confessed to feeling kind of complacent lately, like my fire was sputtering. I said that I wasn't looking for trouble, but that I needed to feel alive in Christ in a bigger way. Who was the really wise person who said "Be careful what you wish for?"

The boat is rocking in a big way this week, and shows no sign of settling down. Without going into personal detail, one of my children is walking a fine line between teenage angst and total rebellion. I don't recognize this child at all right now, and it is breaking my heart. As a mom, you feel like you should be able to fix things, and a lot of times you can't. You can only work on yourself.

Enter our new Bible study. In Can We Talk, we go through five steps to analyze a verse or passage of scripture. First Samuel 30:1-6 talks about when the Amalekites raided David's village and made off with all the women and children. While the other men were growing bitter, David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. Did you catch that? David did not look away from God to stare at the bleakness of the situation. He strengthened himself in the Lord, remembering Who he is. He turned to the Lord his God for answers. The Lord, my God.

As I really pondered this passage, I could see similarities. No, the Amalekites have not carted off my loved one, but this kind of trouble only has one source. The enemy is messing with my child and while I can't fix it, I can strengthen myself in my God. I sat down and made a list of some of the scriptures that remind me of the power, strength, and love found in our God.
  • The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation. Exodus 15:2
  • "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:2
  • The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." 2 Chronicles 16:9
  • "After you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation." 1 Peter 5:10
So, with these promises to stand on, I wait. I pray. And I believe.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Encouragement for "Singles"

Hi "Single" Ladies! This is a note of encouragement to everyone who feels like they are spiritually single in their homes. As we are called to teach our children about God and His Ways, sometimes it seems really hard when you are the only one in the house making the effort. This week in Mom Time, Shelley encouraged us through the story of Timothy, as in 1 and 2 Timothy in the New Testament. He was a young pastor that Paul was encouraging in his ministry. Timothy's faith in Jesus Christ was instilled in him through his mother and grandmother. Other texts confirm that his father was into idol worship and other religions of the day. In our day, that might look like a workaholic dad who is only concerned about bringing home a paycheck for his family, looking to the short term instead of the eternal, or perhaps a dad who was raised with "religion" and doesn't understand the need for relationship. Either one can make for a discouraging atmosphere as you seek to instill the Lord's wisdom instead of the world's in your kids.

The second word of encouragement concerns Paul, the author of 1 and 2 Timothy, as well as many of the letters in the New Testament. This is the same Paul, formerly known as Saul, who held the coats for the men who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr. This is the same man who went from house to house, dragging Christians off to prison. The Lord converted him in a mighty way, taking Saul's passion for persecuting the church and turning it into a passion for serving Jesus Christ.

If there is someone in your life that seems like a really tough nut to crack, take heart. Remember that no heart is too hardened for God to soften. Cover that person with your prayers, asking the Lord to turn that person's life to Him. Never stop showing, through your own example, how God changed the direction of your life. Don't decide that it is hopeless. That denies the power that belongs only to God.

We serve a mighty and powerful God, who has all things in His hand, in His timing. As you strive to do the best for your kids, hang onto Isaiah 40:31 which says, "But those 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." Take heart, ladies, you are never alone.