Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Called For Such a Time as This (Part 2)

I just finished reading through the book of Esther. 

It still amazes me that God's name is not once mentioned in the book. Yet, His Hand is all over it. While it's a thought that I ponder, I think I'm beginning to get it - to understand why God didn't write His name in that book. 

I think it's to show us that God is there, all the time, always in control, always working whether He's acknowledged or not, He's sovreignly at work in the lives of us all, when we mention Him by name. And when we don't. 

As I was reading through the book of Esther this time, I really tried to read it with "new eyes", I've read the book many times before and sometimes I have a tendency to read things quickly when I've already read them before, so I attempted to really notice the details as much as I could this time, and the book of Esther really got me thinking.... 

I wonder if when Esther was just a young girl she ever imagined herself as queen?
I wonder if she ever realized the role she would play not only in history, but specifically in the history of God's people. 
I wonder if she realized her name would grace the pages of scripture. 

I doubt it. 

I doubt she ever thought of herself as much more than "just a girl". Like most of us, she probably saw her life going about as "normal", as fairly uneventful. She probably imagined growing up, possibly marrying a jewish man, popping out a few kids and living life in Susa as a jewish exile. It wouldn't have been a bad life by any means. 

But that wasn't God's plan for Esther. 

God had much more in store for Esther. 

Esther would end up changing the lives of more people than she could have ever fathomed. Esther's act of trust in God, would save the lives of the Jews and end the lives of many of their enemies. Esther would intercede on the behalf of those who could not intercede for themselves. Esther would become an example for women (and men) for generations to come. 

Yes, God had much more in store for Esther. 

I believe that God always has more in store for us than we have for ourselves. 

We may not ever hit celebrity status, or make the history books or the pages of scripture the way that Esther did, but that doesn't mean we aren't meant to do something life-changing in the lives of others.

We won't ever know all of the ways that our lives affect others but we can be certain that we are affecting them, one way or another. 

For Such a Time as This....

God will do what He has said He will do, with or without us, but do we believe He may actually choose to use us to do His work? Or do we leave that work and responsibility to someone else instead? 

I don't know about you all but, I want to be a life-changer, I want to be a tool that God is able to use, however He chooses to use it. 

I want to live my life living every moment as though it were "such a time as this." I want to remember that there are no little moments. That I have opportunities all around me to make a difference. 

I want to serve people the way that Jesus commanded us to in Matthew 25 
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I want to give up some of myself to serve others, as though I were serving the Lord Himself. I want to give to those in want and I want to bless those that are in need. I want to go and minister to those who need to be ministered to. I want to live my life serving the 'least of these'. 

And even more than that, I want to do it in the name of Jesus. I want His name to be exalted and glorified. I want to give those who don't know the Lord a glimpse of His hands and feet. I want to be an example of sacrificial love. 

I want to give more than just a dress. I want to give them the Source that can clothe them in robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10)

I want to bring them more than just food. I want to bring them the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

I want to give more than the luxury of toys and extras that they're not used to. I want to give them a hope for an eternal life beyond imagining (John 3:16). 

I want to show them through my minimal sacrifice the One who sacrificed far more for them than I ever could. 

I want to go, even when I don't want to go. 
I want to give, even when I don't want to give. 
I want to serve, even when I don't want to serve. 
For His glory. 

For such a time as this. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Called For Such a Time as This (Part 1)

February is here. 

The month that I have been planning for and praying for, for nearly a year. 
The month in which I take my first (ever) missions trip. 

We (Tim and I) leave in fewer days than I care to even think about, to go to Hinche, Haiti - a commune in Haiti, 2 hours or so from Port-au-Prince, home to about 50,000 people. 

We go to visit a people that we have supported prayerfully and financially for over 3 years. We go to see the faces of two young people that we have sponsored for the past 2 years to attend school. We go to minister to nearly 50 orphans and to serve a group of children who will probably never know the luxuries that our children (and we) take for granted every single day of our lives. 

We go to a country that is described as the "poorest country in the Americas". A place still recovering from an earthquake that happened nearly 6 years ago. A country known for political corruption, that even now is experiencing political unrest and uncertainty.

We are going to an area where running water and electricity are considered a luxury. 
We go during a time when a travel advisory exists for the entire country. 
And I'm so very expectant and hopeful for our trip. 
And I'm also very nervous and even scared at times. 

I feel like maybe I need to back up a bit. I just re-read what I had written and even to me it seems a little "cray-cray" (I'm sorry that I had to resort to using teenage slang there, it's just that I cannot bring myself to use the actually c-r-a-z.... I can't even finish typing it..... the word.... it just hits too close to the vest I suppose :)) 
I have known for years, and by years I mean probably decades that I needed and wanted to go on a short term missions trip. Since probably middle school I had had the desire to go, and it just wasn't the right time for me, for some reason or another. Once I got to college, the idea just kind of sat on the back-burner while I started life as a new wife and a couple of years later a new mother. Traveling across the world to "help other people" when most of the time I felt as though I could barely help myself not only seemed "cray-cray" but completely unrealistic. 

Eventually the desire to go, somewhere along the way, turned into a desire to definitely-not-go. I'm not sure when or why it happened but for several years of my life I was like "Nope. I'm good here. I have no problem praying and sending and supporting, but actually "going"...? I'm pretty sure that's not my gig." Like I said, I'm not sure when or why the change happened, but it was definitely there and it was definitely rooted in all types of insecurities, fears and anxieties that managed to pop up sometime during my twenties.

Even during this time, however, I did notice a few things that made me think somewhere deep inside of me that maybe one day I would still go. 

For example, I always cringed a little when the Matthew 28 passage came up (you all know the one, right?). The one that says "go". I would catch myself saying "Jesus said in Acts to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, they were from Jerusalem - I'm pretty sure I'm called to my Jerusalem, I'll be here, holding down the fort while others go out to Judea and Samaria." 

It wasn't until about 3 years ago that I started to realistically think about taking a missions trip again. I think I was preggers with our youngest, Titus, when the thought first crept into my mind. A thought, mind you, I quickly and emphatically pushed to the back of my mind and chalked up to crazy pregger hormones meeting a picture of a cute little kid with worn out clothing and sad eyes. 

I don't know the next time the thought popped back up, but I know that the second time it hit me, I couldn't shake-it-off as easily.

After awhile in order to appease the conviction inside of me, I remember coming up with an entire list of reasons why it was insane for me to even have the thought of going on a missions trip anytime soon:
- I was homeschooling 4 children, half of whom were still in diapers how could I possibly think about leaving the country to go to some impoverished-possibly dangerous- area of the world?!?! I mean, I'm a mom to young children, need I say more?!?! 
- I felt called to women's ministry and family ministries.... I enjoy serving in the office at church, I mean I clearly had my plate full of ministries here at home, no way I was also called to do missions.... right?!? 
- If I really did feel called to do missions work so badly, I should start right here at home, there is plenty to do right here in America. 
- I don't even have a passport! 
- I only speak english, and even speaking one language, I don't always do that well communicating. 
- I have a lot of anxiety 
- etc. 
- etc. 
Still, even with my rock-solid list of reasons I couldn't go. The desire never really left me. 

Then, two years ago, a small team from our church planned a trip to Haiti and while I knew that that was not "my" trip, the thought did cross my mind "maybe next year" Titus had just finished nursing and neither Tim or I were comfortable leaving him for that long, that far away. 

The following year (last year) as the next team started preparing to once again visit Haiti, Tim and I seriously discussed going, and we realized that it was not the time for us to go, it was a hard decision to make because by this time I KNEW I needed to go. I KNEW I was called to go. But Tim and I also agreed that this wasn't the time to go.... it felt like a weird decision to make but the timing was clearly not right and we both had a lot of peace in our decision. 

Strangely, however, as sure as I was that I wasn't supposed to go then, I knew before that team had even left on their trip to Haiti, that we would be going on the next trip. 
I can't explain how the Lord presses these things onto our hearts or how he makes us so certain of things without verbally speaking but it's a comforting feeling when He does. To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are doing what He's called you to do.... I wish every decision felt as sure as this one. 

So here we are, a year later, getting ready to actually "go" and I have a million thoughts swarming in my head. Most good. 
Most expectant and hopeful. 
Most are prayerful and peaceful. 
But some.... some are not. 
And that's okay. 
Because regardless of my thoughts, I know that God's working even now, even in what I see as uncertainty and worrisome. He's got it all under control. He's prepared me for this. He's prepared Tim for this. 

For this time. 
For this trip. 
For this moment. 

And He's prepared all the people that we will be coming into contact with. Nothing is outside of His power and His control. 

DISCLOSURE: The pictures I used are from Voice of Compassion's website, which is who we are partnered with and going with on this missions trip. 
I can't wait to be able to post my own pictures and share our experiences with you when we return!! 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Our Journey Towards School

So apparently you guys do still read!! I was completely blessed by the number of emails & comments that I received in response to my last post "Choosing to Obey by Laying It Dow
A couple of you asked the unanswered question of "why" we needed to put the girls into a school, other than homeschooling. 

The short answer (which is never really short with me) is that because Audrey is receiving speech services through the school system, according to the State of Wisconsin, in order to continue receiving services after she turns 6 (which happens in March), she must be enrolled in some type of school other than homeschool (meaning public or private). Furthermore, for her to receive services from the specific speech pathologist that she has been working with (and that we LOVE) she needs to be enrolled in private school. 
Truthfully, our preference would have been the private schooling either way so this was one decision we didn't actually have to make, and really we saw as a sign from God that He was working out the details of this entire thing, long before we knew anything about it. 
We chose to put in both of the girls because their grades were both in the same classroom (at the private school we chose) and because Audrey is more of an introvert and the most "mommy dependent" (as far as wanting to be with me at all times). Alexa, on the other hand, is more outgoing and confident and yet fairly nurturing and protective of Audrey. We thought that by putting them both in, they would at least have each other. 

Audrey's speech issue, which is called Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is something that requires speech therapy. It is a motor speech disorder that people much smarter than I am, understand a great deal better than I do, but to say it simply, it's a speech sound disorder that signifies a lack of "planning and programming movement" for speech, it is a "neurological inefficiency" (not my words). To put it even more simply, when the brain sends the messages to the mouth to say something it involves messages to the jaw, the muscles, the tongue, etc. with apraxic children (or adults) those messages are not received properly, and therefore they are not able to make the proper sounds for speech. 

I recently read an article written by a young lady who lived with CAS and she does a great job at describing what exactly that means and what it feels like from the side of the one actually experiencing apraxia. As a parent, her article has actually offered me a lot of hope. If you have the time, it's a good read. 

Audrey was about 2 when we realized she had difficulty learning to speak. We weren't sure why, though we had had seen some similar struggles with Treyton, which he received minor speech therapy for, but then eventually overcame. When she was about 2.5 we contacted birth to three to have her evaluated and to hopefully receive services. By this time I had started doing a lot of research starting with with I already knew from Treyton and from what I could "see" Audrey struggling with. I was pretty sure she had Apraxia. 

After she met with the speech pathologist we were assigned and went through the speech evaluation she was diagnosed with some "phonological delay" (or something like that). The speech pathologists was really sweet, and Audrey liked her, so after birth to three ended we continued to use her privately for services (at $60 a session, twice a week). 
After almost a year we saw some but very little improvement. By this time we were realizing this was going to be a much longer process than what it had been with Treyton and we decided there was just no way we could continue paying $120 a week, so with the blessing of our current therapist, we contacted our school system. 

A few weeks later Audrey was being evaluated yet again by her "new" speech pathologist, Mr. G. He diagnosed her with Childhood Apraxia of Speech and within the week started her on a more specific therapy to address the specific needs of apraxic children. He did warn us that she had a pretty severe form of Apraxia and that it would probably take years, but that eventually, Audrey would grow up to speak completely "normally" and that people would never know that she had had such difficulty early on. 

Mr. G started meeting with Audrey twice a week right away and we saw a difference soon after. Mr. G. has been a great gift from God for our family. He's been supportive of our decision to homeschool, he keeps Tim and I well informed and even makes sure we have all the tools we need to be working with her as much as we can at home. He's met with us during summer break to check in, he calls to update us on progress, he has encouraged us when we've been discouraged, and basically attempted to train us to be "unofficial" speech pathologists. He has a great "fun" relationship with Audrey, she always looks forward to seeing Mr. G and has since the beginning has viewed speech as her "special thing". 

We've been with Mr. G now for 2 1/2 years, and Audrey has progressed tremendously. In short, we LOVE MR. G!!! 

Towards the end of last year, by kind of a chance happenstance involving a friend at church seeking services from the school for her homeschooled child, we began to realize that homeschool children were not eligible of services once they reached a certain age....  we had no clue.

So we started by asking Mr. G, then we spoke with his boss, and yup, sure enough.... by law in the state of Wisconsin once Audrey turned 6 she was no longer eligible for services. I was..... devastated. 

Personally, I didn't want to lose Mr. G, he has always worked very closely with me and I know this is not always the case. 
I didn't want Audrey to lose Mr. G, they have a great relationship and he has gotten to know her well. He knows her quirks, he knows her moods, he knows when she's trying, and when she's not. He knows her. 
I didn't want Mr. G to lose Audrey, not that he's ever said anything to us or tried to persuade us in anyway, but he's gotten her (us) this far. He deserves to see her all the way through!! 

There was no way I was okay with losing Mr. G, but at the same time, I didn't know what to do. 
Our options were fairly limited. Audrey still very much needs therapy. So we could (1) hire a private therapist again once she turned 6 (2) place her in public school so she could continue services from the public school (3) place her in private school where she could also receive services from the public school. 

The only option that kept us with Mr. G was option #3, and truthfully it was the only one we were ultimately very comfortable with. 

About 6 months before we had begun to realize all of this, I had stumbled across a private school in the town we live in through their VBS program. I loved it - it was this little 2 room school house with a total of like 20 kids from K-8th grade. I had jokingly said to Tim "Well, if we decide not to homeschool, I think we found our school." Ha Ha!! Jokes on me. 
(Interesting back story - I had made a very similar joke the Christmas before we moved to the Fox Valley from Madison.) 

September 2nd of this year, the day the public school started (I think) I get a courtesy phone call informing me that Audrey, as of March was not going to be eligible for services, something we had already figured out almost 6 months earlier. 

I love looking back over our journey to this point because I see how God had so many of the details worked out, long before we realized what was going on. I mean He had even given us time!! He had given us an extra 6 months with this information, and I'm not kidding when I say I needed every hour of it! We needed that time to process; to process what this would mean: for Audrey, for us, for the other kids. The time to weigh out all of our options. The time we needed to pray. The time we needed to prepare our hearts. 

Again, I'm not trying to be melodramatic here, but this was a big adjustment to us, on a lot of levels. 

We fully understand that Audrey's struggles pale in comparison to other's. She is a beautiful, healthy, smart little girl who is overcoming a struggle but that straggle will not take her life, or cause her physical harm. We are blessed, and we know it. 

But when did we get so caught up in comparing struggles or thinking that because our struggle isn't as bad as someone else's that it makes it any less of a struggle? No, I don't want to be dramatic. I never have (it's actually a little bit of a pet peeve of mine), but I do want to be real. And sometimes being real means sharing struggles that may seem trivial to someone else, or that may seem over exaggerated to someone who hasn't walked through it. 

I'm okay with someone feeling this way. And I certainly don't want anyone to think that our entire life revolves around this one thing. This one struggle. It doesn't. Not even Audrey's life revolves around her apraxia. 

A big part of our life does revolve around it, from the miscommunications, the frustrations (on both ends), the "translating" for other people, the never-stopping-alway-happening "therapy" and reminders we do with her, the twice a week appointments, the more structured therapy we do with her at home, the mistakes we've made because we thought she said something she didn't actually say, the looks from people who don't know her, the reality that because people can't understand her they think that she isn't developmentally "normal", the tears I've cried into the shoulder of my husband because I'm not sure what to do or how to help her overcome a particularly rough patch, the tears she's cried because she was misunderstood.

It isn't our whole life, but it is a part of our life. All of us, all 6 of us live with this and it affects all of us in some way or another. But it's not all bad. 

Audrey has never felt "different" in a way that made her sad. She's noticed she doesn't talk the same, she knows people don't always understand her. Her siblings do not think negatively towards Audrey or her speech, it's just a part of our world, and they have never known anything differently. Especially Titus, who has had to relearn a few words a phrases after having Audrey "help" him pronounce something ;) Nicknames have been given because of the apraxia and I love them (Treyton is Treytee, Alexa was duck-duck from a long time, Titus was Ty-tee). 

I mentioned that I cry, and sometimes I do, but not very often. I'm actually far more proud than I am sad. 
I'm proud of how hard she works. Of how much she has overcome. Of the disciplines that she's developed. When Alexa or Treyton step in to "interpret" what she's saying. The way Alexa stays close to her, and wraps her arm around her shoulder when they're in a new place. There's so many things that make me proud. 

Audrey's journey isn't over, praise God, and neither is ours. We're not sure how long Audrey is going to need therapy. We're expecting at least another year and half if not two years, and honestly, maybe more. This isn't an exact science, we don't really know for sure. 

But we know that One that does. 

p.s. I obviously lied about this being a short story :) 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Choosing to Obey by Laying It Down

So I did something today that I never thought I would do. 

Or maybe it's more accurately said, that I hoped I would never do. 

I dropped two of my kids off at school.... like, "real" (not-in-my-home) school. 
** Side note: I can't even say "real" jokingly without cringing a little bit. Homeschool is "real". Nuff said. 

For some of you out there reading this (if there are any people left even reading this blog, and it's totally okay with me if there's not), this may seem somewhat melodramatic, but it's up towards the top of my list as one of the hardest things I've had to do, especially if you're talking willingly. 

What I mean is, sometimes things happen that are outside of your control and you just cling to the Anchor of your soul and you persevere and trust your way through it. It's not easy, and it's certainly not by choice. 
This is different.
Kind of. 
On one hand, we didn't choose this. We didn't want this. I, personally, never in a million years thought I would put my elementary age daughters into private school. Seriously. It never was a real option in my head (despite a few crazy threats to Tim made at the end of a few of the hardest of homeschooling days). 

On the other hand, Tim and I made a lot of choices and decisions together (with lots and lots of prayer) to get us here. 
We technically, could have, chosen another way. However, it is our strong belief that this is God's will for our daughters, and our family, right now. We believe that this is the best thing to do, for now. 

So while we (maybe) could have done things differently, this is us obeying, even when we don't want to. Regarding something that we hold very near and dear to our hearts - our babies and (secondarily) the initial call of our family to homeschool. 

It goes against what we've known. 
It goes against what we want. 
It goes against what our plans were. 
It seems insane. 

And yet. 

It seems right. 

I'm emotionally drained. 
Truly. I am some weird mixture of wanting to cry and curl up in the fetal position, to a hardness that wants to push my way through this firmly declaring 'I CAN and WILL get through this and I'm not going to break while doing it!', to strangely peaceful and willing to trust, to being angry at everyone, to wanting to cry again, and then back to the calm peace. 

It's exhausting. And depending on when you catch me, it may seem a little multi-personalitied (is that a word? If it wasn't it is now). 

Now, let me stop for a minute to go on a little bit of a bunny trail. Please don't hear in this post, that I hate school-options other than homeschooling. I don't. One of the reasons why I love homeschooling the way I do is because we were called to do. We want to do it. We enjoy doing it. I don't necessarily think homeschooling is for everyone, but I do think it is the best of all the options for us. I have a million reasons why it is best for us, none of which are meant to offend anyone else, but none of which I would apologize for either. 
I digress.... moving on.... 

Tim and I are attempting to read through the Bible together this year (thanks to encouragement and accountability from my big sis!), we (Tim and I) chose a Bible reading plan that has you read 4 different portions of scripture a day. We're currently in Genesis, Nehemiah, Matthew and Acts. 

Today the Genesis reading was Genesis 21 - The Sacrifice of Isaac. 

I opened up the Bible, and all the tears that I had been forcing back, came flooding through and I hadn't even started reading it!! 

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep I was praying. Praying about everything I could think of regarding the girls and their first day of school. I prayed for hours. I did a lot of repeating :) but I had determined to myself that I wasn't going to stop praying until I was at peace and able to fall asleep. 
I had a choice. I could lay awake worrying or I could lay awake praying. I chose praying. 

At one point I just cried out "Lord, you know this is not what I want. You know that a part of me hates this. You know that I love these girls, and I know that you love them more. Help me to remember that. Help me to trust You to take care of them when I'm there, and when I'm not. Help me to love you enough to lay them down." 

Immediately the story of Isaac came to mind. 
I thought about Abraham and the feelings he must have felt. 
The uncertainty. 
The anger (maybe). 
The questions. 
The strangeness of the situation - knowing what God had promised specifically through Isaac, and then the command to sacrifice him.... it all feels so familiar. 

But the part that really struck me was the fact that despite what he must have been feeling, the faith he maintained through it all was more than just admirable, but counted to him as righteousness. 
He didn't know what the end result was going to be, or how God was going to bring it about, or what all the details looked like. But he knew. Abraham knew that God would keep his promises. 
I know that too. 
So I choose to believe and to have faith that God is who He says He is and He will fulfill the promises He has made. Despite how I may feel, despite what I may want to do. I choose to trust. I choose to obey. 

I realize that my sacrifice is nothing compared to Abraham's. I am not trying to equate my girls going to school to Isaac's life. What I am comparing is the struggle of sacrifice and obedience. It's the same for all of us, it's a choice we all have to make. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Resources to Enjoy 5.28.15

So it's been a while, and will probably be a while again before I post, but I just thought I would share a few things that the Lord has brought across my path. Verses that are impacting me, sermons I've recently heard and loved, some quotes that moved me and a few links to articles/blog posts that I found helpful and/or inspirational. 

Verses to Reflect On  

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12 

"I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecuted, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life." 
1 Timothy 1:12-16 

"Behold children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate." Psalm 127:3-5 

Quotes to Ponder 

"When God gives us commands, He means to help us run the race to completion, not to slow us down.... The law is good because firmness is good. God cares enough to show us his ways and direct our paths. How awful it would be to inhabit this world, have some idea that there is a God, and yet not know what He desires from us." Kevin Deyoung in his book "The Hole in our Holiness" 

"We're not seeking God to get a sticker from Him or an attaboy. We're seeking Him to enjoy even greater intimacy with Him, to get even closer to His heart, to open more and more of those inner closets where we've tried to restrict access to Him thinking He wouldn't like what He sees, thinking He might reject us if He knew. The reason why we study His word, why we attack our sin, why we share generously from our resources, and why we serve people around us is not to persuade Him to love us. WE do these things because He already DOES love us.... and because He wants us to dig even deeper into the treasury of His blessing, into the joy and sweetness and abundant living His gospel unlocks for us." Matt Chandler in Recovering Redemption 

Sermons to Hear

From Heart to Home by Josh Patterson - (you can either listen to or read the transcript from this sermon) AWESOME, practical, biblical and real sermon regarding discipling our children based on Deut. 6 - I will be listening to this one again. 

Arrogance/Humility by Matt Chandler - I have enjoyed all of the sermons from his James series but this one has been my favorite (I think, maybe not, but it's the one that I've been thinking about the most recently.... they are all good so if you have time you really should listen to the entire series, but for now, you can just start with this one :)) 

Links to Share 

Priscilla Shirer "The Language of Privilege" - a blog about perspective and the beauty of obligation 

Into Iraq #2 by Ann Voskamp - a beautiful, heart changing, post regarding the ugly reality of sex-trafficking in Iraq and the women and girls affected by it. This is a MUST READ!! 

True Sin or False Guilt by the Village Church 

20 Quotes from the Explicit Gospel - I love this series from Desiring God. The book "Explicit Gospel" by Matt Chandler is one of my favorites! 

A Complete Classical Christian Reading List for Grades 1-8 An awesome resource from the Gospel Coalition that I will hopefully remember is here :) 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Perspective. It Changes Everything.

My kids are away this week. 
All of them. 
Visiting our beloved Mommer and Papa. 
And I'm at home. 
It's.... weird. 

I never realized my house was this quiet, and noisy at the same time. I'm hearing noises I've never heard before and our chickens (both hens) are actually quite loud in the morning. Who knew? 

And truthfully, that has nothing to do with what I'm posting about today, that was totally free of charge.  

**** segway **** 

The past several years, the Lord has made me aware a specific sin area in my life that I continue to consistently struggle with. I have bad seasons and better seasons, but rarely not-at-all seasons. I've prayed for the Lord to remove it, I've prayed for the strength to just overcome it all together.... and yet the temptation is still there. 

On one hand, I realize that my awareness of the temptation to this particular sin is hyper-sensitive (which I'm grateful for), I never "accidentally" fall into this sin. When I stumble, it's with awareness. 

The Bible tells me that I have the power to say no, to resist. So I find it frustrating that I not only fall back into the sin, but that I've been struggling with one particular temptation for such a long time. 

This morning I was reading in Psalms 44 where the people of Israel have just faced some sort of terrible defeat in battle. The first 8 verses are a recognition of God's provision and sovereignty to His people in establishing them as a nation (in the past). It's a beautifully written acknowledgment of God's faithfulness and power, if you have time, you should definitely read it. The last half of the chapter is a crying out of confusion. They're not sure of the "why" but they still acknowledge God's sovereignty. 
Verse 22 says "Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 

Reading this verse at first, it didn't sit well, and I don't think I was fully understanding it. And then I noticed that this verse was quoted by Paul in Romans 8:36 --- reading the verses surrounding Paul's quotation of it, brought me a bit more understanding and peace. 

Romans 8:32 
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? 
Who shall bering any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of For, who indeed is interceding for us. 
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 
As it is written, (here's our verse)
"For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 
No, in all these things, we are more than conquers through Him who loved us. For I am sure 
that neither death nor life, 
nor angels nor rulers, 
nor things present nor things to come, 
nor powers, 
nor height not depth, 
nor anything else in all creation 
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

I am certainly NOT saying that God is tempting me, however I am saying that God is sovereign and is fully aware of my temptation and my struggle. And ALL things that I am going through - regardless of the circumstance or struggle, whether it be temptation or trial, God is aware and He is there. Nothing can separate us from Him - even if (from our perspective) it can feel that way. He is not holding out on me. He has not ever, nor will he ever "let me down." 

While it's easier for me to acknowledge God's sovereignty and ability to save, it can be a whole different matter to acknowledge His goodness through it all. I know that in all things, God is good, but once my feet leave the coziness of the warm blanket in the morning and land on the hard reality of the day, that truth can be a little harder to sense. 

It would be "easier" to be set free from the long-term-temptation we struggle with, or to not serve in the capacity that the Lord has called us, or to only give 70% instead of 110; but it will never be better. 

Matt Chandler in his book "Recovering Redemption" wrote:
"... Christians are certainly not above experiencing the occasional face plant, sometimes one right after another. The difference, however, is that the son or daughter of God "rises again" (Prov. 24:16), even on scraped hands and scuffed knees. We may only be crawling by that point, barely getting back to our feet. But our eyes are pointing forward, and our intent is to press on, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith." (Heb 12:2) 
And the more consistently this happens - this again-and-again pursuit of Him - the more clearly the Spirit will bear witness "with our spirit" that we truly to belong to Him, that we are indeed the children of God."  
It changes everything. 

And it gets even better, because this is about more than just one temptation, or one day, or one hardship it's a truth that is intertwined throughout ALL of our life. The temptations, the struggles, the callings on our lives, the day-to-day perseverance, the sacrifices we're called to make, the trial we're meant to endure, the tragedies we face - all of it! All of it somehow falls under the banner of His goodness. 

Tim and I are currently going through a devotional by Paul Tripp together called "New Morning Mercies" (very good book) and I this morning I read: 
"When hardship comes your way, will you tell yourself it's a tool of God's grace and a sign of His love, or will you give in to doubting His goodness?" 
Hmm.... okay Lord, I get it. 
But of course He didn't stop there. Because He knows, even though I think I "get it" - I probably don't. (It's like He knows me) 
"If you are not on God's redemptive agenda page, you will end up doubting his goodness.... Here's the bottom line. Right here, right now, God isn't so much working to deliver to you your personal definition of happiness. He's not committed to give you a predictable schedule, happy relationships, or comfortable surrounds. He hasn't promised you a successful career, a nice place to live, and a community of people who appreciate you. What he has promised you is himself, and what he brings to you is the zeal of his transforming grace. No, he's not first working on your happiness; he's committed to your holiness. That doesn't mean he is offering you less than you've hoped for, but much, much more. In grace, he is intent on delivering you from your greatest, deepest, and most long-term problem: sin. He offers you gifts of grace that transcend the moment, that literally are of eternal value. He has not unleashed his power in your life only to delver to you things that quickly pass away and that have no capacity at all to satisfy your heart.... when you are tempted to thing that God is loving you less because your life is hard, he is actually loving you more.... these hard moments aren't in your life because God is distant and uncaring, but rather because He loves you so fully.
It isn't about what I'm feeling today.
It isn't about my comfort.
It isn't about my idea of happiness.

It's about more than just today.
It's about eternity.
It's about His glory and my good.

I'm sometimes tempted to think He couldn't possibly understand, when in reality, I'm the one who doesn't understand. 

It really does change everything. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Road Trip to Georgia August 2014

A few weeks ago, Tim and I took a couples trip down to Georgia to hang out with some good friends of ours. We decided to drive and made a few stops along the way. This was a big trip for us, in the sense that it is the longest we have left all of our kids, for a total of 6 days. My amazing mother-in-law (and father-in-law) watched the kids the entire time we were gone. Yes, I know how blessed I am :)

The first stop was in Indiana where we stopped at a casino to play a few rounds of roulette and black jack…. we lost $32 :( 

For lunch we ate in Florence Kentucky at this place called "Mai Thai" (thanks to trip advisor) and while we were a little rushed because we got there at like 2:45 (15 minutes before they close for the afternoon), it was fantastic - if you like Thai and sushi. We go to Cincinnati every year and I look forward to going there again. 

The next stop was Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN where we took in a show at the Smoky Mountain Opry. The show was good. We had wanted to do the dinner show about the Hattfield and McCoy's but the line was way long and we knew we wouldn't make it to the show on time. So for being our second choice I was not disappointed in the opry show.  We loved the variety, and mostly we loved the juggler and the gospel music portion. So good! I love that our country still has a few spots where this type of things still happens. IMG 3908

We also ate lunch at this little spot called "Wild Plum Tea Room" it was rated #1 on trip advisor. It was off the beaten path and was a very unique experience. 


Their regular menu was very small, and to be honest I was a little disappointed when we first sat down until the waiter came over and told us all of the daily specials. We both ended up ordering a special, as well as their famous tea (which was delicious btw). My only complaint is that I would have preferred for the specials to be written somewhere only because it's easier for me to process things I see rather than things I hear, and there was a lot so it was hard for me to keep up. 

While in the art district we stopped at a few shops, primarily to look at the pottery. I did purchase a little pottery mug for my morning coffee…. it's so cute and authentic!! 


From there we drove through the mountains - including the Smoky Mountain National Park - to Elijay, Georgia. The drive was gorgeous!!


Unbelievably beautiful, i could not take enough pictures!!


It was a great time and something I will never forget.  


And there is no one in the world I would have rather experienced it with!! 


Once we got to Elijay, we stayed at a cabin in the deep mountains (I say deep because it took 15 minutes to get 2 miles with all of the curves to get to the actual cabin) although I would not describe it at as remote, I would describe it as "a ways out" thanks to the curves. There were 8 of us staying there, and I think after the three days only 2 of us had not gotten car sick. But it was a beautiful cabin with lots of room for us and the three outer couples we were staying with. 

While there, we enjoyed some of the amenities on site: the outdoor pool (which was so warm it was like getting into bath water). I personally decided it wasn't worth getting my hair wet and just kept my legs dangled over the side. :) We did a round of mini golf, basketball and tennis (or at least the others did the basketball and tennis…. way too warm for me to be working that hard). 

Our second day there we decided to do whitewater rafting. I was very nervous at first. And by very nervous I mean, for a few moments I considered not getting into the raft.


We went with the Rolling Thunder River Company - our group of 8 was divided into two groups. Tim and I's group was with Morgan (we called her "Captain Morgan") and it was AWESOME!! As scary as it was, it was memorable and exciting. I truthfully can't wait to go again sometime and while I want to take all of the kids, I particularly can't wait to take Treyton - I know he would love it!! 

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It took about and hour and half and when we were done, all I could think was that I wanted to do more, but the next morning my arms were a little sore, so I think, in the end, it was just enough. 


Side Note: we technically were in Tennessee for the whitewater rafting. 





Our last day there we decided to go for a hike before we headed out (Tim and I left a day before everyone else), after losing our way a bit we ended up hiking The Approach to the Appalachian Trail to the Amicalola Falls. It was probably the most intense hiking we had ever done, but was well worth it once we saw the falls. It wasn't too far either, mostly just steep - both up and down. I'm very glad we went - even if Tim and I had sore legs the next day. :) 






It was an amazing trip - my favorite part aside from seeing our friends and participating in the world's most amazing dance party - was the great food and the whitewater rafting and the scenery…. okay I guess i loved it all!