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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do It Anway

Do It Anyway
People are often unreasonable,
illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of
Selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some
False friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank,
People may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building,
Someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness,
They may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today,
People will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
And it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
It is between you and God;
It never was between you and them anyway.
~credited to Mother Theresa

I can't remember where I originally found this, but I've had it saved to my computer for a long time.  I especially love the last line.  What a great perspective!  It reminds me of Galatians 6:9, "So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." -from The Message 

Just a little note of encouragement to hang in there.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Forever Birthday

Birthdays are big in our family – I just counted it up and we’ve hosted 26 birthday parties for our kids – and I usually do them as big as I can manage.  Although after our son’s Rescue Heroes fireman party (inside our house) I decided to do the rest of his outside.  I love to celebrate these special days of their births.  I usually get out the scrapbook complete with original BIRTHday pictures – and retell the stories of those days – they luuuv that part.  Hey, at least I wait until the friends are gone. I believe in the value of celebrating special days, holidays, family days see my family day blog here, birthdays, 96s on Algebra tests (our most recent celebration).  It’s important to celebrate milestones and accomplishments, both the visible and the invisible parts of our lives. 

I just wrote a little note for my nieces who are celebrating spiritual birthdays today.  For us, a Spiritual Birthday reminds us about the day one of us gave our lives to Jesus.  Mine is February 11th.  My son who is now almost 14, just celebrated his spiritual birthday last week, the day before Valentine’s Day.   I will never forget his sweet 2nd grade enthusiasm as we went out on a family Valentine Date and he told the waitress all about getting saved the day before.  Both of my big kids have made decisions to follow Jesus.  

When my kids gave their lives to Jesus, I sat down within a couple of days and wrote down everything I could remember about the experience – down to the clothes they wore and where we were and what was happening in the life of our family.  I made a little fill out form with simple questions they answered in their own writing.  I collected all the emails and cards they received, pictures of their baptisms complete with dripping chins and radiant smiles, clippings from our church newsletter, anything about that day and put them into a file.  We get this file out on their spiritual birthdays and read parts or all of it and it helps us remember HIM and them – a combination created before the beginning of time.  We remind them of our own stories and just celebrate.

Every Christian parent harbors a little bit of fear that they will make a mistake during the process of leading their child to Jesus.  As a perennial VBS worker, I experienced the joy of leading many children to faith in Jesus and I just knew that my kids would make a similar decision when I wasn’t there and I would miss it!  As a young mother I had this mistaken idea that my kids’ journey to Jesus would be a one-time stop and I might not be watching.  I obsessed more than a little bit about watching for the signs they were ready (which was little bit like the stress of potty-training).  At this same time a friend at our former church taught a class where she told us that our children will make many steps toward Jesus; knowing Him is a journey, and that is as it should be!  Simple thought, revolutionary attitude change for me. Not that our kids were beginning a process of earning their salvation, but that they were beginning the process of understanding Jesus and relating to Him - absorbing His love and returning it.  I remember when my young son got very upset talking about Jesus’ unjust crucifixion.  He argued with us that Jesus must have done something wrong; the idea that He would be executed unjustly was more than his tender heart could take.  I remember our daughter asking about heaven one night and glimpsing the invisible life of faith for the first time – realizing that as we love Jesus we are connected to an eternity beyond our imagination.  Even now our baby daughter is learning to love Jesus – although she sometimes confuses Him with Jonah (we’re still working on that).  In these little preschool steps toward Jesus my children were and are learning the depth of His love and His sacrifice.  They absolutely can love Jesus with all their hearts, making the decision to give their lives to Him as children and youth, and then grow into an understanding of the theology of Him.  And, hear me young fearful mama – that is enough. 

Some things I learned in leading my kids to Jesus:
·         Love Jesus yourself – and know Him well.  This is the most important thing.  I could seriously end the list here, but I love multiple bullet points too much.
·         Invite Jesus into the ordinariness of your days, not just church stuff.
·         Let them ask weird questions about Jesus without over-correcting.  But ALWAYS keep telling them the truth about Him.
·         Say “I don’t know” when they ask you things you don’t - um, know.  Then study to find out the answer.
·         Don’t use church words like “Invite Jesus into your heart” - scary stuff for a literal child.
·         If your child is interested and asking questions but you realize they aren’t ready, just celebrate the great steps they are taking toward a wonderful friendship with Jesus.  For real, celebrate – like with a little party or at least a high five.
·         Pray for them and with them – often.
·         I found a great little resource in a Focus on the Family printable.  You can find it here.

In case you aren’t convinced of the value of a little salvation folder for your kids, here’s a treasure kept safe in our son’s folder, from his Grandfather - my Daddy:

“Many years ago, I stood in a church in Japan with nobody but my baby daughter, and prayed that God would bless her life.  The years have been great in watching her grow and to see her life and her children and know that God has truly blessed.  This morning we studied about Jeremiah the prophet.  “The word of the Lord came to me, I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.  I appointed you a prophet to the nations……” (Jeremiah 1)  Jeremiah was young, but he was chosen to do God’s work, and he was faithful.  I pray that you will be sensitive to what God says to you and be able to say as Isaiah –“ Here I am, send me” or “Here IAM, send me.”

These precious gifts in our children’s stories are powerful and available to them.  I, for one, can’t wait to see the chapters God continues to add.  No fear of missing a stop this time.

“But from everlasting to everlasting
   the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
   and his righteousness with their children’s children—“
Psalm 103:17

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

M&M Cookie Marathon

Here are some cuties from yesterday.  It was our first day home alone after snow days and weekends - so we spent some time getting ready for Baby Girl's Valentine Party at Mother's Day Out class.   Both of my girls love sweets, but this one especially LOVES chocolate and always has.  She can unwrap a Hershey's Kiss faster than I can hear her pull the chair up to reach the candy bowl (hmmmmm, there are just a whole bunch of things wrong with that sentence).  

All that to say -  I recently saw a post for M&M Cookies on one of my favorite food blogs;  You can find the recipe and really fun blog by clicking here.  Since M&Ms are one of my girlie's favorites, I thought that these would be fun. 

Here are some pictures of our fun day.  I now have the experience to know that the days of "sitting on the counter cookie baking" are very short-lived, so I plan to enjoy them to the fullest!  I didn't take time to edit these - but she doesn't need it.

I hope you enjoyed your Valentine's Day, be sure and check out my post on God's Valentine from yesterday (just in case you missed it)!

Monday, February 14, 2011

God's Valentine

My Sweet Baby Valentine Last Year.....Aw.

This is one of my favorite pics from Valentine's Day - it's a year old, but it was one of those magical and very rare mommy moments when a project shared with a then 2 year old worked out as well as I'd imagined and was received as well as I'd hoped.  I love this baby girl....she is precious to me.  As I thought about Valentine's Day this year, I wanted to share something that's been bouncing around in my heart.

I’m sure that you’ve heard about agape love, it’s often thrown around in church as a reminder to love unconditionally.  We are told that God loves us that way and so we should love one another that way – and that’s pretty much right.  Until you have to make decisions in real relationships where unconditional love becomes very hazy, or until you find yourself frustrated at God because you feel very conditionally loved by Him because of loss or lack.  What then?

Let me share something I’ve learned about the way God loves.  In studying the word Agape (which is the Greek word for love in the New Testament) I dug up this amazing part of the definition.  Here it is from my favorite Word Study Dictionary……[Warning, we are about to wade into smarty-pants territory, feel free to fast forward to the underlined part at the end, but I promise it’s worth it!]

“Agape:  Meaning benevolent love.  Its benevolence, however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved.  He [God] gave not what man wanted, but what man needed as God perceived his need, namely His son who brought forgiveness to man. God’s love for man is His doing what He thinks best for man and not what man desires.  It is God’s willful direction toward man.
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, p. 878.

There are some terrifying parts of this definition but some very comforting parts too.  The “me” that doesn’t like to be bossed chafes a bit that God doesn’t do what I desire – but we don’t like her very much.  The “me” that wants to follow Him and trust Him walking by faith is comforted by the fact that God loves me enough to do what’s best for me no matter what.  This means He is doing what is best for me always:
·        Even when what I desire is wrong and I don’t know it.
·        Even when I’m angry and throwing a temper tantrum.
·        Even when I’m bargaining with Him in a misunderstood attempt to manipulate.
·        Even when others I’ve trusted have hurt me or abandoned me.
·        Even when the plans I thought He’s led me into are not successful and I’m confused.
·        Even when life is weird and painful and I feel lost from His will.
·        Even when…….(you fill in your own personal doubts and insecurities). 

One other thing I learned about love.  The only difference between the way God loves us and the way we love (in our own efforts) is the “direction of the will”.  In other words, when God loves me with Agape love (and He always does) it is because He has chosen to.  He turns His intention toward me and pours His love into my life with an all-knowing delight for my best, not my ease.  We love based on what comes easily to us - whoever is easy to befriend or be contented with.  God loves with a protective, never-be-swayed, lavish, abundant, patient and enduring love.  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 The exclamation points are all Him – that’s the “direction of His will”.  He lavishes His love upon you and me because He wants to, because He has chosen to love us and we are His children and He can’t even begin to help Himself. 

In case no one has told you today, hear it from God –
Happy Valentine’s Day, You are loved!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Buttermilk Obsession

I am newly obsessed with Buttermilk.....let's just add that to the list of things I never thought I would write on my blog.  Weird.  We've had 4 snow days this week (Yay!) and flooding at church (Boo!) which has led me to a weird place of bored hyperactivity.  I really wanted to be at church with the cleaner-uppers but couldn't, so I got busy at home.

This tree is right outside our dining room window - beautiful!
I heart Snow Days

Right before this storm came, I bought a half gallon of buttermilk.  The date ran out on the second day of our snow in, but I hadn't yet used it!  Now, you must understand buttermilk has never really been my friend.  I avoid it for the most part and skip over recipes requiring it with an aloof eye roll.  But a couple of weeks ago I was so hungry for my Pappy's Pancakes that I bought buttermilk and made them for the first time in years and decided it's worth it to buy a little carton once in a while.....just for pancakes.  So back to my "about to go bad" buttermilk.  When added to my tense need to DO something I began searching for something to make with this stinky stuff and found some new yummies.  I made my Pappy's Pancakes, some buttermilk syrup (recipe here), a buttermilk pound cake, and pineapple sherbet (recipe here) - all with a half gallon of icky buttermilk! 

The pound cake wasn't really anything to write home (or on a blog) about, but the others were pretty wonderful.  Here are some pictures and the pancake recipe.

Pappy's Pancakes with Bananas and Buttermilk Syrup

Buttermilk Syrup

Pappy's Buttermilk Pancakes
(I remember standing next to him while he made these on an electric griddle - probably right in the middle of my Grandmother's way.  He would make them barely done for me....)
In a medium mixing bowl stir together:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Measure and pour 2 cups of buttermilk (our new hero) into the dry ingredients, beat 2 eggs gently in the buttermilky measuring cup and pour it in over the buttermilk, then add in 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil.

Mix very gently just until the dry ingredients are nice and wettish.  I let my pancake batter sit while I fry the bacon and make the Buttermilk Syrup - which you will want and which can cool a bit while you make pancakes.  When you are ready spoon batter onto a hot griddle.  Let it cook for a few minutes.  It will bubble up a little bit, but not like thinner batters - so don't wait for bubbles to come up and pop.  Flip and let cook on the other side.  Do these pancakes very last so that they are hot and wonderful.  If you have an adorable little granddaughter, let her stand right next to you and serve hers a little goopy like she likes it with butter, rolled up like a fat tortilla.

I would love to hear what new things you've discovered on your Snow Days!

P.S. Tomorrow Carly and I are going to go all "Little House on the Prairie" and pour our hot buttermilk syrup in the snow - pretty sure it's gonna taste like the best caramel ever.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Faith Walk

I’m married to a preacher, who sometimes meddles in my life when he preaches.  It’s not personal, mind you – he meddles with everyone.  He recently started preaching a series on Faith based on Hebrews 11 – a passage I loved until he started this meddlesome sermon series – which is vexing.  [Obviously I’m suffering from Snow Day number 3 – using words like meddlesome and vexing].  And I still adore this passage, I can’t help myself – all my heroes are here.

One of the illustrations he used to kick off the subject of faith was the lyrics to a Wham song…..sing along with me….”You gotta have faith, faith, faith…..”  He recollects even as a teenager hearing the song and asking the question, “faith in what?”  His point being that faith always has to have an object.  I remember listening to this cassette in my bedroom hoping my mom wouldn’t realize I’d borrowed it from Krissy Pigee who lived next door – true.  I’m pretty sure that my only reaction to Wham was something along the lines of “Wow, that guy has cool hair” or “I wonder how he keeps his facial hair exactly that length all the time – does he ever shave it smooth?”  But I digress – faith can be hard.  As I’ve grown up I have questioned faith.  As a young newlywed trying to understand the waiting for and then loss of a baby, a friend suggested to me gently that my faith wasn’t strong enough since God gives us what we believe Him for (there are a hundred things wrong with that statement beyond ending with a preposition - perhaps sometime I’ll blog on that subject).  This little thought along with the questions that naturally come with trials sent me into a bit of a tailspin for awhile.  God grew me right up and out of such erroneous thinking.  I learned to discover and trust God’s character and His unwavering determination for my growth and His glory.  He is not wavered by my temper tantrums or confusion any more than He’s wavered by the plans of our Enemy to sabotage His work in my life.

My struggles with faith now tend to be more along the lines of fear of following Him into the unknown. It’s not that I don’t trust Him, it’s that I still cannot fathom that He would use me.  And yes, I do recognize the absurdity in that sentence – both parts.  But honestly, that’s where I often find myself.  Asking Him again, “I know You are trustworthy in the lives of my kids and in my ministry, but why did you choose me to raise them, teach them, counsel them, lead them again? Just wondering, need a little reminder….maybe you don’t see how inadequate I am?”  It’s just a bunch of insecurity which I detest and cling to.  Stupid, I know.

So I’ve been digging my feet in on some things God’s calling me to do and then BAM, a sermon SERIES on Faith.  Some of the points of the first sermon?  Glad you asked - because as vexing as they have been, these sermons are unbelievably amazing.  You can find some more here courtesy of Todd Fisher.
·         Faith is based on what God has said, not what I know.
·         Faith always has to have an object.
·         Faith means the Future trumps the Present.
·         Faith means the Spiritual trumps the Physical.
·         Faith means the Calling trumps the Comfort Zone.

And yes it’s only gotten better from there……..truth is an odd uncomfortable security sometimes.

The first and the last points just made me so excited and cranky, hopeful and terrified.  I must get out of defining myself and my calling by what I know – my weaknesses and the expectations of others.  Why would I find comfort in my weakness and the expectations of others when my Creator and the God of all things calls me His (Isaiah 43:1), Equipped (Hebrews 13:20-21), and Pleasing (2 Corinthians 2:15)?  Talk about absurd – look these verses up, they belong to us.   

Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God's Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.” 
2 Corinthians 1:20-22 MSG

And Amen to that.

These pics are from my birthday surprise, my friends' giddy efforts to encourage me to keep Walking by Faith.  Love them!