Tuesday, February 25, 2014

At The Cross...

The cross. The place where Jesus, crucified unto death, breaking the chains of sin, set humanity free.  It's a supernatural place where dead flesh permanently transforms into a new life in Christ at the simple asking of forgiveness and giving our lives to Jesus. And it's at the cross that believers find grace, forgiveness, freedom, peace, new life, faith, hope, endurance, redemption, eternal life, rest for the weary. It's where ashes are turned to beauty and fear to strength; where despair turns to peace and mourning into gladness.

My mentor taught me to pray "Jesus keep me at the cross." "Like pray it all the time", she said. "Through easy and through difficult times." She warned me that at any moment we walk away from the cross, we are walking into the dangerous territory of sin. I surely prayed that prayer, asking Jesus to keep us continually at that place where I met my Savior and He set me free. I admit I prayed it just because I trusted my mentor! I really had no idea what I was asking God to do for me.

Over the years, like many of you, we've gone through some tough tough times. Many difficult events have happened that kept my husband and I so broken, crying out to Jesus, clinging desperately to Jesus because circumstances were so painful and difficult. And there were many amazing lessons learned in the midst of the trials, blessings and gifts we wouldn't have beheld if difficulty wouldn't have entered in. All of it wrapped into a love package that kept us clinging to the foot of the cross. It wasn't until the last few months that I recognized the faithfulness of Jesus to answer my prayer and realized the bigness of what that prayer meant.

Recently I've learned of a few handfuls of folks who proclaimed Jesus to be their Savior, yet walked away from the faith. I've watched a few friends walk into the snares of sin and become engulfed in controversy and pain. And I tremble in fear. Because I am no different than any of these precious sisters and brothers. As followers of Jesus, we are all sinners saved by grace. And any of us can walk away from Jesus or become entangled in the snares of our sin flesh. None of us are immuned to sin, me included. And although Jesus' love, salvation, faithfulness to these folks and us never fails, the consequences to walking a life of disobedience are scary.

It occurred to me that God had been faithfully answering my prayer through the circumstances He'd allowed us to go through. Those life events had kept us desperate for Him, clinging tightly to the foot of the cross, eyes fixed on His, ears tuned to His voice. And it was only because of His amazing grace that I hadn't turned away from Him.

     Daily. No, moment by moment, embracing the cross is the best place for us to live. It's gripping the massive wood beam, arms desperately wrapped around it, that we continually grasp Jesus' sacrificial payment for our sin debt that allows and equips us to walk in freedom from sin; the splintered wood reminding us that His grace is sufficient when the thorns of life poke and prod us.       It is remaining at the foot of the cross, at that place of closeness to the Savior, blood dripping down, where we can look up and set our eyes on Jesus face and hear His voice whisper, 'Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.' And we are humbled continually by His words of grace.
    It is here, at this resting place that our pride stays in check - how can we walk in selfishness and pride when we are staring at the face of Redemption and are reminded that we are Redeemed only by the blood of the Lamb, the very blood we feel running over our arms as we cling to the cross.
    It is here that we know we can do nothing without Jesus and all things through Him. Clinging and bowed down to the old rugged cross keeps our hearts and minds at the place of total humility.

And that friends, is exactly where we want to stay, to live. It is the only place we can dwell safely this side of Heaven.

Sin always starts with a slow fade. Pride is numbing, keeping us from recognizing the slippery slope we are treading. But the cross is the place where our hearts and minds are continually renewed. Where sin gets recognized and forgiven. Where our hearts stay humbled by His great love.

So join me in praying, "Jesus, keep me at the cross. Continually. Use every situation you bring into my life to keep me at the cross. Thank you that everything that enters into this life you've given me is hand sifted and handcrafted for Your glory and my good.  You are a perfect Father and everything you do for me, even the painful stuff, is orchestrated perfectly to make me like Jesus. Use all the amazing blessings in the everyday moments of my life to keep me at the cross too; reminding me that you are so so good and loving and awesome that you would put those love gifts in my day to bless me. Jesus, keep me at the cross. Guard me from sin. Keep my feet from slipping. Wake me up when I'm wooed by the slow fade of sin. I am nothing without you. Keep me at your cross. Amen"





Friday, December 27, 2013

Preparing for the New Year

If we were sitting at my kitchen table discussing the upcoming year, what might we talk about? Probably our plans, a few resolutions, some goals. Weight loss, exercise, saving money or spending it more wisely. Spending more time with family, eating healthier, more discipline with time. And the list goes on...

I think we'd agree that we all hope to live a happy life, have a fruitful year, meet our goals and live a life full of wonderful adventures and have very little heartache or trouble. I don't think you'd say to me, over a steaming cup of coffee, 'I really hope this year is the hardest year of my life, full of troubles and pain.' !!

Most of us would hands down agree that we want an easy life. Yes, I would.

It was in this last year that God showed me that my 'Yes I would' answer to wanting happiness in life, was the reason I was getting so tripped up by the storms of life. Every time a storm came upon me, I would be angry, frustrated, sometimes appalled that God would make me have to go through the difficulty. This, in turn, would result in me pushing God away (at least in my mind), angry that He would allow such pain and hardship. I felt sorry for myself. My prayers were angry and desperate. I wanted people to lament with me. I had a massive expectation on God that was rooted in my lack of understanding of God's Word - Jesus tells us 'You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world." (John 16:33)

God then began to teach me about giving thanks. I read Ann Voscamp's book 1,000 Gifts and learned that when I gave thanks in (the midst of) every and all circumstances and events, big and small, from the beauty of a red robin and the smallness of an inch worm to the loss of a job and the sickness of my children, God's great love abounded in my heart, comforted me, rescued me, hid me in the shelter of His wings. Giving thanks in everything put eyes on my faith so that I could see clearly that God is good in every single detail of the path of my life. Every. Single. Detail.

God is good and His plans for our good (Rom. 8:28) are wrapped into all those day to day details in ways that we will not understand or fathom  (Isaiah 55:8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways." This is the Lord's declaration. "For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts") And when we recognize this, we can truly live out Philippians 4:4-7 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything, but in everything, thorough prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" learning just as Paul did "for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." (Phil. 4:10)

Psalm 106:1 "Hallelujah! Give thanks to the Lord, for His is good; His faithful love endures forever."

Can I just tell you that as we begin to unwrap the year 2014, day by day, we will encounter troubles. Jesus told us to expect them.They will come. Get prepared: pack a storm preparation kit. Inside, put thankfulness, prayer, God's Truths, rejoicing, trust. Then, as the new year begins to unfold and the storm clouds brew, you are prepared! And you and I can stand courageous as Jesus told us too! He has overcome the world!





Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Grandma's birthday

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDMA!!! WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND HOPE YOU HAVE AN AWESOME DAY TODAY! WE MISS YOU AND WISHED WE COULD BE THERE TO HUG AND KISS YOU, AND CELEBRATE THIS SPECIAL DAY WITH YOU....

But since we can't be there with you, we made you some signs to express our love....
Ellie sends a hug from our hearts


Eli says 'our hearts aren't the same without you!'
Sarah and Andrew say, well, the signs say it all!!
Bryan says, ' Love you Mom'

And this is my artistic depiction of when you and I braved
the shopping trip/nail salon/grocery store with the girls... see our crazy
twitching eyes??...that's about how I think we felt after!!!
Notice how energetic the girls look.... what a day...!
 I love you Johanna! I hope you are laughing right now! We all miss you and love you so much :)

Hole and Whole

I am learning to listen to the Holy Spirit as I lead our homeschool. And over the last 5 weeks, I have watched God do some pretty amazing things in our lessons.

For our Bible curriculum, my kids are working through grade appropriate workbooks. Each lesson has Scripture(s) which they use to complete the lessons. Many times I expound on the Scriptures. And some days, the Holy Spirit really grows the lessons. Today was one of those days.

Today's lesson was in Judges 6. We were discussing Gideon and the Lord's instructions for him to tear down the idol Baal and the Asherah pole because it was idolatry. They were amazed that people actually worshiped statues and such. And I explained that it is still happening today in many religions and cultures.

Then I brought it home - to their hearts. I asked "What are some things that you worship?" And I explained what and how we worship idols that may not be statues, but are the exact same as statues. I defined 'worship' as things that consume our minds and hearts, things we think will bring us happiness or joy, things that if we think we have them we will be complete.

Each one of us (including myself) went around the table and said out loud the things that we worshiped. I'm always so thankful for my kids transparency. Then I pulled out construction paper to demonstrate this. I cut out a heart (us) and then a shape out of the middle of the heart. With a separate piece of paper, I cut out different shapes (representing the stuff we worship). We went around the table trying to put the wrong sized shapes (idols) into the hole to see if they fit. Of course they didn't. And then we put the piece that I had cut out (Jesus). And of course it fit perfectly.

The fun part was that they all got to cut out a heart and a shape inside the heart.






I explained that only God can fill that hole perfectly. No one or thing can complete us or make us whole. And yet we try try try to fill it, day in and day out - with things, people, affirmation, cell phones, a new job, a new toy, a car, a house, ourselves. And we think "If I just had ______, then I would be happy." And yet it's a lie. Nothing but Jesus makes us whole.

So here's the most amazing part of this lesson. I checked my email as the kids were working on their hearts and this was the Proverbs 31 Ministries devotion for the day 'Letting God Fill My Empty Places' (http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/). As I read through the devotion, I was amazed - it was the exact same lesson from the perspective of the woman at the well (John 4)!
I read it to them and they were amazed too! 

I couldn't do this great task of schooling my kids without the strength of the Lord. He is alive and active, and teaching in the midst of our little school! And I am so so thankful that this broken gal get's to be apart of God's amazing work!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

An 'Out of the Box' Day



I really love homeschooling my kids. The possibilities are endless when it comes to learning. I wanted to post some of the things we did yesterday, because I think it really shows how 'out of the box' homeschooling can be...

Lego Building. We had to get a 'real life' shot of S's creation!
S is working on a project that she will eventually send
in to Lego magazine!
We are learning right and left
Peanut made a fish with her hand!

E had to get in on the action

Guilty as charged!
Painting


A, taking a moment to catch the rain in his mouth!

Along with all this fun, we did our typical day of school - Math, English, Writing, Spelling, History and Science.  Plus we did some chores and had free time.

But the crown jewel of the day was the conversation I had with my son. He was learning Proverb 11:30 which says "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.." I could tell he had no idea what a soul was and that he was curious as to how he would win one! So I began teaching him what this verse really meant. Oh if you could have seen his face as the Holy Spirit began to open his eyes to God's Truth! He was so excited! At the end of an amazing conversation, he told me he wanted to learn how to share the Good News of Jesus with his friends and our neighbor. And so next week during school, I will begin doing just that - teaching my oldest children how to share the gospel with the folks who are lost and dying and in great need of a Savior.

My journey as a homeschool mom hasn't been all peaches and cream. It's definitely been a growing process with the Lord (and continues to be)! But yesterday really encompassed what this ministry to my children is all about. I am incredibly thankful to God, that in His great Sovereignty, He set me on this path of homeschooling my kids. He leads us every step of the way!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Houston Zoo, in rewind

OK so I'm still rewinding the year and going through all the pictures I haven't blogged about!

Toward the end of the Texas winter (which really isn't a super cold time, but apparently it was cold enough for us to bundle up), we traveled to the Houston Zoo with our precious friends, the Parker Family.

Our kids had a blast and made some wonderful memories together!
Our kids LOVE Taylor, who is one of the sweetest girls that we know.
Ellie.... such a beautiful picture. Her favorite animal was the chimpanzees.
While we were watching them through the glass, one ran over and put his
little chimp tush in her face!!! She loves that memory!
I had to post this because it appears as if the 2 chimps in the
background are having a serious conversation.

My good friend Jen and her sweet son Trey.
You know you're singing it.... ''In the jungle, the mighty jungle,
the lion sleeps tonigh.... ooooeeeeeee....."
Me and E.... The carousel was his favorite time!




Thursday, September 5, 2013

Best Time All Summer...

We had an amazing summer, full of lazy days, swimming and summer play. But, by far, the highlight this summer was our time spent with Grandma, Papa, Uncle Micah and Hannah!

'Is that their plane???' The kids looking and hoping!
Sarah kept telling me she had butterflies!
I think I was more excited! Even with camera ready, I completely forgot to take pictures of them as they came around the corner of the airport waiting area! Oh the hugs were grand! And a few tears too!
Here are some of the fun snuggles we got with Grandma, Papa, and Hannah...


The best father (in law) in the world....
We hadn't seen Hannah for a couple of years! Sarah
had no idea Hannah was coming and was so surprised when she saw her!
 They had so much fun together!
Oh the silliness! We laughed so much!
Such a beautiful picture!
Micah was pretending like he was looking in Ellie's ears with her doctor's kit.
Ellie and Eli LOVED their time with Micah!
Papa was getting smothered with hugs from the boys!
Micah, Andrew and Grandma snuggles
Since Grandma and  Papa, Uncle Micah, Hannah and Aunt Kimberly (who wasn't able to come :( )
are so far away, we rarely get to spend our birthdays together. So we decided to have a gigantic birthday for the cousins! Each one got a round cake with their name on it and with a decoration that matched their personalities! It was so so fun!





Blowing out the candles...
Tracie (my sis) and her hubby and kids, as well as my Dad, joined in the celebration!

My sister's sweet baby Wesley

Eli and Pop
Eli and Aunt Tracie


Wesley lovin' him some cake

Here are the kids with their 'personalized' cakes...
Hannah with flowers and her favorite colors...
Sarah had a rainbow cake...
Andrew with a Ninja Turtle cake...
Eli and his baseball cake...
Ellie loves flowers (and my niece Rylee next to her!)

Oh we were so sad when it was time to say Goodbye. After we say our family off to the airport, we all got in the car and cried. It was such a huge blessing to have them come and see us. 
WE LOVE YOU PAPA, GRANDMA, MICAH, HANNAH, and AUNT KIM!!