Testify

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

(Ugliest couch on the planet. The source of many fights on the way to church about how we needed a new one but couldn’t go into debt to get one. Thank God for the lazy boy recliner couch we have today. (Paid cash 😉) )

Our local church started their Sunday School classes up again today, something that COVID had put on hold for almost a year now. The lesson was on Sarah, Abraham and the angelic visit/ announcement of the coming supernatural pregnancy and birth of Isaac to a couple who were well past their 80’s. Sarah’s once laughed about possibility became her provision from God with laughter of joy brought to a heart sadden by infertility for years. A promise that looked to be forgotten, realized in God’s miraculous timing and in God’s miraculous ways. In the teaching I was reminded of God’s miraculous provision and God’s miraculous ways in my own life.

(One of our first cars. Used car made up of 2 different cars but so very dependable. I was just happy it had air conditioning,Car before that one didn’t. We’re driving a 2016 Jeep Wrangler now that we purchased because it’s just plain “fun to drive” )

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, the good things that God has done, especially in seasons of difficulty. I’ve spent many times writing in this blog about God walking with me in difficulty either of circumstance or of mind (my thought life). But I neglect to every once in a while just lay out the testimony of God’s Goodness to me in my life. Because the truth of the matter is, without the Goodness of God towards me where would I be? Not anywhere near where I am now. Though I have had trials, I have also had a blessed life, and I would do good to give thanks for that daily, hourly or more. Fixing my eyes on the One who is always with me and does cause all things (the hard, sad, and bad included) to work out for my good. Because I love God and am called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) The truth of the matter is He is no respector of persons and He is more than able to do that for you as well. Paul sums life up pretty well when he said “I know what it means to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty…” Philippians 4:12 We all get a taste of a little of both at times. The problem I have is my “squeaky wheel gets the oil”, or I tend to see the things I’m going through and tend to, wallow in the disappointment. Then I forget…

(First house- 1 bathroom, 3 kids (at the time)
We Ended up in a much bigger house with 4 bathrooms for our growing family of 4 kids. Got it for $85000 less than the owners originals asking price at an auction a huge blessing. We couldn’t have afforded it if we had to pay what it was really worth. )

Sarah in the Bible probably did the same thing. Years of waiting, wanting, crying, pleading, heart break… Only to find herself way on the other side of the childbearing years with a promise reminded and then fulfilled. When she laughed at the promise from her heavenly visitors, God didn’t say, “Well… you missed your chance. I’ll show you for laughing at me…” Instead He blew her mind and Abraham’s too with a fulfillment so outrageous, laughing for Joy while holding their son would be the only appropriate response. And here’s the deal… God didn’t just do that yesterday for them. He has done it today for us. He doesn’t change and He’s not surprised by my own struggles to take Him at His word at times. I think He gets a kick out of blowing my mind too. Because in that moment, I testify. I tell of His goodness that has brought me to a place of blessing. I tell of His presence that never leaves me alone in my time of need. I tell of how God took a small town Missouri girl, Gave her a smoking hot husband 😍, four kids, a grandson, a nice home, a Jeep and a good life. Not a life absent from trouble. But a life that is abundant with His grace, joy, peace, and freedom in the midst of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. God is good! Let me testify!

(My youngest 17 years ago. Breathing troubles when born ended up in the NICU for 7 days. Turned out it was just acid reflux. i.e. (God took care of him) He’s a 6 ft tall rugby playing, drummer, lifeguard, Junior in High School. Healthy and strong 😉)
(Family 2021. Together on Easter Sunday. Attending church celebrating the Goodness of our Resurrected Lord)

Wilderness Wandering

Several years ago me and God had this thing. That may sound a little strange at first, but hear me out. My house has an upstairs deck. It’s not very big, but it’s not easily accessible by my Great Pyrenees, and it faces East. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunrise without getting slobbered on on a beautiful Spring morning. Several years ago it was my spot that I went out on with a cup of coffee and my Bible, sometimes a blanket. I would pray and contemplate God and His goodness over my life. But I got busy… Busy homeschooling teens/ four kids, prepping for my volunteer work at church and in our homeschool community, keeping my house somewhat clean, the troups feed, etc… So even though I still maintained my quiet time or prayer and Bible reading in the morning, my moments of sunrise with Jesus went to the wayside.

As I’ve alluded to before in my blog, I’m in a new season in my life. All the indicators of this new season have been popping up all over: three of my four kids have graduated our homeschool, my oldest is married, my next one is engaged, my third is in college, my fourth is a junior and has a drivers license- never around , I’ve got a grandbaby, and I turned 50. I’ve felt a little lost here recently, a little bit like I’ve been wandering in a wilderness.

Today as I was reading my Bible. I came a cross a few verses that stuck out to me. Jeremiah 31:2-3 “This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”” The Message version puts it this way, “They found grace out in the desert(wilderness)…Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” Finding grace in the wilderness sounds pretty good to a person that feels like they’ve been wandering around in one here lately, and for a person who has been looking around trying to figure out how to rest, the assurance that God is out looking for me and gives rest freely is awesome.

I think from time to time in my 36 years of walking with the Lord I get myself off track. I forget what I am really seeking and find myself chasing after other stuff. The “other stuff” may not be all that bad, like the busyness of life: Raising a family, feeding the aforementioned family, cleaning house, church committments, community committments… not all bad. Sometimes it takes me waking up in a wilderness to show me I may have gotten a little off track.

The book of Hosea in the Bible is the story of a prophet who marries a prostitute. He loves the prostitute and tries to get her to quit running after her other lovers. It was a living illustration of what Israel was like to God. God loved Israel, and they continually ran after their other lovers, idols. I can see myself in that story too. I find myself too busy chasing other lovers and lose my way to the upper deck for “A Sunrise with Jesus”. Hosea records these words, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14. There are times it takes God leading us out into a spiritual “wilderness” to show us that our other “lovers” are not what will fulfill. The truth of the matter is God is not after all the things I can do… He is after me. He wants my heart, my love, my worship, my time…He wants me.

It hit me today after reading these verses, how much I’ve missed my “Sunrises with Jesus”. I may let my neck of the woods warm up a bit more before I head out the upper deck door, but I need that time to resume. It is in that place I can experience the rest of Jeremiah 31:2-3 I quoted above. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” God’s love and HIs kindness are revealed to us when we take the time to slow down and “rest” in His presence, when we’re quiet and calm enough to be able to receive what He’s been offering us all along, Himself.

Here Comes the Son (November 2017)

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭130:5-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Last year Andy suckered me into taking him deer hunting on a school morning while his dad was at work. He hadn’t scored a big buck and needed someone who has a Hunters Ed Certificate, which I possess. (Thank you Salem Junior High PE class).
I’m not the deer hunter of the family as you all know, but I bundled up and trekked with him onto the neighboring federal land to the spot recommended by his dad. As we sat there in the dark, the sun began to appear over the horizon. Andy leaned over to me and whispered, “This is the time, when dad and I hunt, that dad quietly sings, “Here comes the sun. Do do do do. Here comes the sun. It’s alright. It’s alright.”” An old Beatles tune makes a memory for a 12 year old kid that I’m sure will stick with him for the rest of his life of him and his dad hunting.
I read the verse above this morning thinking about all the different occasions I’ve awaited the sunrise, trout fishing at Montauk on opening day of trout season, Easter Sunrise Service as a kid at church, watching the sunrise from my deck, etc.
You know it’s coming, it never fails, and when it comes it will be beautiful and usher in the awaited prize you have been waiting on as you sit there patiently awaiting its arrival.
God is as faithful as the sunrise, actually more so. He is worth waiting on. His love never fails and He is full of redemption- setting us free from all that has entangled us and kept us in bondage. It does not matter how dark the night has been. He will come. We can expectantly wait for Him knowing that what He brings as He rises in our lives will be beautiful and oh so good.
So this morning as you may be sitting in the darkness, waiting for a glimmer of hope. Remember, “Here comes the Son. Do do do do. Here as comes the Son. It’s alright. It’s alright.”
Keep watching. He will never fail!

Homeschool Advice for the Newbies

Just a little word of encouragement for those of you who have young kids you’re schooling this year. I’ve been cleaning out my school room. I don’t need it any more. 3 of my 4 kids have graduated and my youngest is a Junior.
I found this note while cleaning. My daughter, who wrote this, now has an associates degree and works at a bank. She happened to get A’s in all her college English classes. I would have never guessed that to be possible when she gave me this note years ago.
Relax… Enjoy your kids. Homeschooling is so much more than academics. Make sure you major in the important stuff like: time together and teaching them about God. The academics will come.
I cried many a tear over that kid’s spelling and with God’s help and time to grow she’s ok.
Kindergartners Don’t have to read by the end of the year. Two of mine didn’t… 6th graders may not excel in multiplication and division. My oldest son didn’t. He’s married now, has a degree in what he’s good at, music and has a family and a job. So you may end up with a kid that struggles in an area. Don’t we all struggle in an area. 😉
In the end, it will be ok as you just keep going and trust God that He always has a plan.
Happy School Year to you all. Now back to cleaning out the school room. My new season came quicker than I thought it would.

High Maintenance Me

Looking back at my younger life I believe I lived in survival mode. In my early 30’s, I found myself a stay at home mom with four kids and homeschooling them on top of that. I remember looking at the cluttered mess of my house, toys, dirty clothes, clean clothes, books, etc. Thinking to myself, “I am going to have to conquer them or they will conquer me.” So the battle began. I am not naturally an organizer, but I knew I would have to become one. I knew it would take long hours, less sleep, and hard work to wage the war. But I was an accomplice in making these children so I would have to be a warrior to survive them. The problem is when all your energy is spent on survival you barely have time to refuel. After the birth of my fourth kid, I found myself around 220 lbs with knee problems, back problems, emotional stress, etc. And I then figured out that I was going to have to take care of me too.

Taking care of me is not an easy business. First of all “me” is not the first person I think to take care of. I’ve awaken to this reality more than once in my life. Whether it was “you need to walk daily for 30 minutes.” Or “ you need to eat right”. Or “you’re going to have to take some time to pray and read your Bible to recharge your spirit.” I can get in the habit. Start feeling better then lay off of it. Next quit. Then I wake up feeling like I did before I started.

A couple of years ago as I was running through my morning routine: Bible time, walk, bath, lotion on my drying out body (thank you hormones), brushing, flossing, and mouthwash (I’m tired of having cavities), speaking my daily who I am in Christ confessions, etc. I looked in the mirror and thought, “You know what… you’re high maintenance.” There’s a lot that goes into just maintaining me.

I don’t want to do maintenance. I would rather wake up and instantly have a great body, perfect hair, teeth, clean house, awesome kids, etc. It would be so much easier that way. But alas, “High Maintenance” is my destiny until I see Jesus face to face.

Lately, among all the physical and spiritual things I do to promote my maintenance, I’ve had to develop some “mental maintenance” practices. Thankfully some of the physical i.e walking, and spiritual i.e. daily Biblical meditation and confession of scripture can cross over. But other things like setting an hourly Thankfulness reminder, planning out hobbies, and keeping a watch out for what I’m thinking have become a necessity on my “High Maintenance Me” list. Unfortunately I get lazy at times and stop doing them. It’s probably the equivalent of stopping taking a daily medicine or brushing my teeth. If you need to do it and quit you’re going to feel bad in a matter of a few days or the people around you will wish you had (bad breath).

This morning I was talking on the phone to my bestie. We were discussing the survival of my younger years as a young mom. I was telling her about my desperate attempts to take a not so organized personality and organize. Daily lists of cleaning areas, menus, schedules, and a calendar. It really was what helped me survive. I told her that although I hated it I have had to fight. That means get up, show up, do what I need to do, and keep doing it. It occurred to me as I was saying it that nothing has really changed. I may not be folding baby clothes and washing bottles and sippy cups, but I am still doing maintenance/ fighting. There are things I have to do both spiritually and mentally on the daily if not the hourly to keep up with life. I told her I would rather not have to make all the effort, but she quickly pointed out the Bible verse about how we are to “renew our minds” Romans 12:1-2. Just like I can’t expect my house to clean itself, my car to run without being refilled by gas and oil changes, my body to do fine without regular sleep, food, and exercise, I can’t expect my thought life to be perfect without working on it.

High maintenance has its perks. If I’m in the business of taking care of myself, all those around me benefit from a well groomed, spiritually attuned, more joyful version of me. Not a bad exchange for the energy and effort. Keeping that in the forefront of my mind when I want to slack off should be a priority. There is a promise for the person with a “renewed mind”. I can test and approve God’s “good, perfect, and pleasing will.”

Maintenance of the mind and spirit insures that I will walk closer to my creator and in doing that I will find exactly what He had in mind for me, His High Maintenance Girl that He dearly loves and wants the best for.

Generations Blessed

I’ve often said the happiest times of my life were each of the days my kids were born and the day I married their Dad years before. Each of those days hold those “magic” moments: watching my groom sing the love songs to me at our wedding as he stared directly into my eyes and smiled, the moment I saw my first born son as he was lifted over the small curtain where the c section occurred, Rich searching all over the hospital for a bow for our first daughter’s hair, the doctor hardly catching our second daughter because she came so fast, and our youngest son not breathing as the doctor called the resuscitation team only to hear a faint whimper from him as the doctor worked and worked on him and knowing it was going to be ok. “Magic moments” that are probably better described as “miraculous”. It’s the kind of thing you wished would just freeze in time forever, but it can’t because time just goes on.

I find myself anticipating another such day very soon.  It’s kind of hard to believe, with my genuine youthful looks and all, that in a matter of a day or so I will be a Grandma, although I believe I’ve been a Grandma for the past 9 months.  Off and on today I’ve caught myself getting a little misty eyed at the thought.  From what I’m told, it sounds like I’m headed for another “magic” moment, another time I will probably wish will stand still and freeze so I can enjoy it forever.  But I know it will only last for a short while so I need to soak it in and absorb every second of its beauty.  

It’s been around 25 year since I caught baby fever the first time and wanted to try to have my grandson’s Daddy.   I can remember wanting a baby so bad that a Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo commercial would send me into tears.  It was just my heart’s desire.  I wanted to be a mom.  

When he was born, I would rock my son, I remember thinking, “You know I’m not really a fan of the old nursery rhyme songs. I think I’ll sing him worship songs about Jesus instead.  With exception of one song, Phil Collins “Groovy Kinda Love”.  I figured it was a good song for a mom to sing to her son. 

I spent a lot of time praying for each of my kids.  I kind of felt bad because we never formally “dedicated” any of them at a church service.  But I prayed to God often and told Him how even if we never celebrated a dedication in a service I wanted with all my heart to teach my kids to love Him, to know Him, and to walk close with Him because He was and is everything.  

Now I look at my kids.  I know they aren’t perfect, but I am grateful for the journey so far.  They walk with Jesus and many of the things I have prayed for through the years are growing in them.  

Galatians 6:9 is the verse of Motherhood. I would figure it is the verse of fatherhood also, but I’m writing as a mom. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I feel like in some small way my new Grandson is another fruit of that harvest. Looking back, my mom and dad sowed seeds of faith in me, their moms and dads sowed seed of faith into them and so on and the same on my husband’s side. My grandmas invested their time sharing Jesus with me as well as pie, cakes, and cookies. I know I’ll need to get that Grandma vibe going, and from what I understand, I have joined a long line of Notable “Grandma N’s” some of which will be pretty tough shoes to fill. But I’m pretty excited about getting my chance.

Psalm 112:1-2 says, “Praise the LORD. Blessed are those who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” 

Every workday morning, right after breakfast, my husband and I join hands and pray for our kids and each other. Something he started a few years ago when God placed it on his heart to be the Godly leader of our family He was called to be. When we pray here lately, we’ve added our anticipated little one and the others that will surely come. “Our generations will be blessed.” That’s our prayer. I’m not asking God to give them wealth, straight teeth, and knock out good looks. I’m asking for Him to bless them with a soft, responsive heart that hears the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit calling them when they are young. I’m asking God to carry on the fire that was there years ago in the generations before us and will carry on long after we are gone. I’m also asking that in the every day life that I find myself in the baby slobbers, the baby laughs, the first steps, and the Grandma stuff I do that I soak in the blessing God has given me in the generations God gives to us, and that my children and their children and so on and so on will be mighty in the land. I know God has blessed me and with His good gifts like the “magic/ miraculous” moments ahead are meant for me to soak in and enjoy. It will only be for a moment and then time will go on. I guess that’s what makes those moments so sweet.

Boxed Curriculum, Busy Work, and Being

20 years ago when my oldest was kindergarten age we started to homeschool. I wanted the best for my son so I went to an Abeka meeting at a local hotel and purchased the entire kit for kindergarten. Teachers manuals, flashcards, and all. When my boxes arrived I worked hard setting up the school room. I got a little wooden school desk for him at a yard sale. I hung up posters. Made folders up. Got my lesson plans ready. I was on top of it. Then the first day began.

Through out his preschool days he had already learned a lot. Mainly by us taking construction paper and doing little made up projects that I thought up on how to learn letter sounds and recognize numbers. Nothing formal, just us playing and learning together in a fun atmosphere, but in my mind, in order to do things right, I needed to become more disciplined and do everything by the books, literally…

That’s when the trouble began… My sweet 5 year old son struggled with the concept of sitting still and doing page after page after page of workbook work. There were no fun projects. It was just him at a desk with a pencil.

In order to get through a day, we would do 15 minutes on 15 minutes off. I would make him plow through every page. Even if he understood the concept. It was miserable for him. It was miserable for me. After several weeks of this, I started talking to a seasoned homeschool mom. She encouraged me to return to what worked: A little less busywork, a little more creativity and fun. Now 19 years later, with 3 kids graduated from our homeschool and either graduated college or in college, I’m on my final kid, a sophomore. He’s benefited from all the experiments I tried on his older brother, who I’ve jokingly referred to as “the guinea pig”. I’d like to think his learning through the years has been a combination of the best, creative fun learning experiences through the years.

This morning as I read my Bible I came across the story of Mary and Martha. I was contemplating my own life. How I’ve set up a lot of religious “busywork” trying to create “the best” Christian life I can. Running Bible studies, heading up ministries, going to leader meetings, etc. But somewhere along the line the “busywork” has stolen the joy of a creative, living, breathing relationship that I’m meant to have with Jesus. I’ve reduced myself to a lifestyle that mirrors the kindergarten year of my oldest son. “Sit here for 15 min. Do this work. 15 minute break. Repeat.” All of this to try to make something special out of my life for the Master.

I’ve been a lot like Martha, wanting to have things perfect. Having thrown several dinner parties in my home, I can imagine her thought process. Everything must be in place, sparkling, and the food needs to be excellent as well. Jesus pointed out that that was not his expectations. Mary’s approach was what touched His heart. She wanted to be with Him. Soak Him and every word He said in. Enjoy the moment with Him because the moment was all she had and soon it would be gone.

Lately, I’ve woke up in a new position. A lot of the things I was striving to do ministry wise have suddenly ended. All the busywork has stopped. I’ve awaken to a new possibility of letting the Martha in me go and embracing the Mary. In a homeschool mom’s terms: I’ve come to a place where I can let go of the boxed curriculum’s rigidity and embrace life giving and freeing lifestyle learning.

God give me the grace to open my eyes and enjoy the things I already have. Let the striving for more cease as I learn once again to sit still at your feet and soak who you are in. Let You be enough. Not what I think I can build to enhance the perfection that You already are. Let me be like Mary and sit at your feet, enjoying You and all that You have given me to enjoy.