God is Good ALL the Time! (Even when disaster strikes.)

Yesterday was an exciting day. Unfortunately not all excitement is enjoyable. It started out with a play date with good friends. As the kids ran around outside, the moms talked. I should have known something was awry when, despite very little recent precipitation, the kids found glorious mud to play with in my side yard. But I didn’t give it a second thought. A couple of hours after our friends left the fun began.

I walked into my closet to retrieve something, and when I turned around I saw my footprints in water covering the carpeted floor. It was drenched! So much so, that every step I took caused water to spray everywhere. I was so confused. After finding the water in the closet, I discovered water seeping into both downstairs bathrooms, and also discovered that the carpet in my bedroom, as well as the wood floor in the hallway were soaked from the bottom up. It wasn’t noticeable at first glance, but every step brought the water to the surface. I ran back to my closet, where the water seemed to be originating, stopped and listened. It sounded like a waterfall was inside my wall. I immediately looked at the ceiling, expecting the water to be coming from there. But it seemed dry up there. I ran outside to where the kids had earlier been playing in mud and saw that water was spraying out of my house. Finally, I made it to the garage, which was the real source of the problem.

The water heater had busted and was spraying water everywhere. I called Joel to ask him how to shut off the water to the house. No answer. I called my stepdad. No answer. So to Google I turned. The first response I found began with, “Knowing how to shut off the water valve to your house is something every homeowner should know how to do.” Thanks for making me feel guilty. Now tell me how to do it!

I was a bit emotionally fragile before all this began, so as I’m running around with no idea what I’m doing, for about 45 minutes I was seconds away from collapsing on the floor in tears. But I had to fake it ’till I made it. The kids were watching, and sobbing on the floor would not help the water stop pouring into my walls.

fullsizerenderAs I was struggling with the water shutoff valve, my stepdad called back and walked me through the  water shut off. But water continued to pour out of the water heater. He then walked me through shutting off the water to the heater and attaching a hose to drain the water heater. At that point, the waterfall ceased, and I finally experienced a moment of peace. At this point I felt like I could breath. I asked my dad what to do now, and he so sweetly encouraged me and helped me think through following steps. And assured me that everything is not lost. It can all be fixed.

After the phone conversation with my dad, I was no longer on the brink of tears and was able to switch to “just get it done” mode. I didn’t especially enjoy slopping through the muck of what used to be my house & garage, but there was nothing I could do to change that, so there was really no reason to freak out or despair over what was already done. And being miserable certainly wouldn’t help us get the work done. So I put on a smile and decided to praise God in this storm and thank Him for this opportunity to glorify Him.

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I am thankful for a table that is not always used for food. 

In the midst of all this drama, Joel did get my phone call and thankfully was able to come home from work to help sort out the mess. Joel was precious. He came home with a smile on his face grateful to see his family. Out of his love for me, he chose to handle the insurance and repair men calls. I MUCH prefer to clean out a mucky garage to those kinds of phone calls! When we had done all we could to clean out the house and garage, we went outside to hang out with the kids while the repair men spent hours assessing the damage, vacuuming out the water from our house, and setting up fans and dehumidifiers.

The day ended up being absolutely beautiful. 

When it all began, Solomon became my shadow to help where he could (and to eavesdrop on my phone conversations because he’s getting so old!) When he heard me asking how to shut off the water valve, he went inside and filled everyone’s water bottles so we would have water to drink. I didn’t even ask him to do that. I appreciate his thoughtfulness and his ability to have big-picture thoughts.

As I was clearing everything out of our closet, Solomon was eager to help, and Benjamin put on his crocs so he could splash around on the carpet in my bedroom. We all laughed with him. I loved seeing something that can be described as a disaster bring my sweet 3 year old so much joy.

When I was cleaning out the garage I noticed that Solomon and Shylah were fascinated by the water hose draining water into our driveway. The water was seeping water into the cracks, making tiny rivers that rushed into the street. When I saw their joy I decided to take a break to join them. We followed the river down to the street, and watched it bust through the dust like a dam. We created leaf boats and enjoyed following them down to the gutter.

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Shylah’s house

Later I gave the kids permission to build dirt houses for little toys. They used the water that was draining from the water heater, mixed it with dirt and had a lovely afternoon creating a little village. Once all the work inside was done and there was nothing to do but wait as the men worked on our house, I sat out front with the kids while they continued working on their houses. It was so peaceful. I often wish I had more time to just sit with the kids and enjoy their play time with them. Being forced out of my house gave me that time! Joel joined us when he was finished with phone calls, and we all sat smiling, simply enjoying each other in the beautiful spring-like weather.

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Gideon’s house

God is good. When I stop and remember that, everything is better. The initial discovery of this disaster was difficult. I was in survival mode, and my brain was wandering in selfish directions. Besides taking weekend trips to visit relatives, Joel and I haven’t done any traveling together. It is something I have always dreamed of, but we just haven’t had the means. We have been scrimping and saving for years, to reach a point where Joel and I have just begun to discuss the possibility of actually taking a trip in the next year or so. As water rushed into my walls I saw all our travel dreams crushed. Rather than focus on my incredible blessings, I was whining in my head about having to once more put off travel dreams.

But when the water stopped I was able to see God again. HE IS GOOD. What right do I have to complain about our travel budget being spent on damage repair? Our family is healthy. Our home is in tact. Because we have been so careful to save, praise God, this damage will not cause us to go into debt or wonder where our next meal will come from. We are rich indeed. And though I pray I never have to be tested in such a way, I am confident that even if we lost our family, our belongings, and did have to struggle to put food on the table, God would give us the grace to manage that as well. I praise God my maker and thank Him for all the little and HUGE blessings in life!

Glory to God!

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Joel and I get to stay in “Hotel Shylah” this week!

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These guys are spread throughout our downstairs and in our garage. They’re not much fun to live with, as we have to yell over them in order to communicate with one another, but I am very grateful for their presence. 

(Solomon is not in any of the pictures because he was right by my side all day.)

Love them how you would hope to be loved.

12801345_10208717058586836_1398738800770941637_nI have a deep respect and admiration for the elderly. Although life is short no matter what age you are blessed to reach, people at this stage of life have lived through so much: heartache, joy, love, loss, blessing, need… Understanding this, I have always felt drawn toward nursing home ministry. For almost two years we have occasionally joined our church’s nursing home ministry to spend time with the residents of a local nursing home.

These people need love. They need to see smiling faces and to know that somebody cares to take time out of his or her own life to spend some time loving on them.

Recently the women of our church gathered together for a service night. We packed bags of food for hungry children, helped sew together crocheted blankets, packed gift baskets for new moms, put together freezer meals for hot meal ministries, and created gift bags for the residents of this particular nursing home. Oh how I love the women of Frisco Bible! This evening was such a blessing. Having the opportunity to enjoy fellowship with dear sisters in Christ while working to minister to those in need was absolutely wonderful. There is not much I’d rather do with an evening.

12803018_10208717059826867_5062023322544866373_nOur visit to the nursing home last month was especially heart-touching and an enormous reminder that our presence there does matter! This was when we were able to distribute the gift bags that were prepared at our women’s service night. Other times I have been to the nursing home I have stayed out in the common area visiting, painting nails, putting together a puzzle, playing card games, and encouraging my kids to hand out the little cards they love to make for the residents. But this time we got more personal. That visit was the first where I ventured back to the residents’ rooms. We knocked on doors, gave them gift bags, then stayed to visit. And during each of these visits I made a point to ask the man or woman if we could pray with them and what they would like us to pray for. I have rarely seen such hunger for prayer. Every single one of these beautiful people eagerly accepted our offer to pray with them. Many of the prayers ended in tears, hugs, and those soft, sweet hands grasped mine with squeezes of gratitude.

1896_10208908494812622_2678189606090167334_nI made deep connections that week that will last a lifetime. Sam from Iran suffers from Parkinson’s. He was so grateful that we had come to see him and desperately desires for us to return. While we were visiting, Sam so joyfully filled my kids’ pockets with pistachios. When he offered I politely declined, but he was so insistent, so I didn’t want to deprive him of the blessing of giving. As he filled their pockets with those nuts, his joy was unmistakable. That was one of the most precious gifts I have ever seen.

We talked with Evangeline in the hallway. She asked who we had come to visit. I told her, “No one in particular; we just came to visit.” She excitedly responded, “Oh! You came to visit me!!” I said, “That’s right! We came to visit you!” After praying with her, she gazed intently into my eyes, with tears streaming out of hers and said, “Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me. Thank you so much.”

12805987_10208717059066848_3012561073113935185_nAt the end of the hallway we met Bill and Helen. They spent a lifetime travelling the country singing Southern Gospel music. That’s exactly what my parents did before I was born. Southern Gospel was a major part of my childhood. We had plenty to talk about. Helen and Bill adore children (as do everyone I meet at the nursing home). So my kids’ presence really blessed them. Bill experienced two strokes and is no longer able to communicate much. He was quiet most of the time I was there. But he couldn’t take his eyes off my children. I encouraged them to go give him a hug. They did, and you would have thought we had given that sweet old man a million dollars. The first hug was encouraged by me, but after that, the boys kept going over to hug him while Helen and I chatted. Solomon, who is not typically huggy with people outside of our immediate family offered the most hugs and stayed the longest in Bill’s arms.

At one point I heard Bill whisper to Solomon, “Thank you for loving me.” It’s amazing I was able to keep my own waterworks in when I heard that.

1609677_10208908495332635_854412158730050956_nBefore we go into the nursing home I remind the kids why we are going: to show love. I have explained to the kids that the people in this building are struggling with health issues that prevent them from being able to take care of themselves, and many don’t have family that is able to take care of them or love on them. So when I saw Solomon acting out of character for the sake of showing love by being so huggy with this sweet man, I was touched. But when I heard how much it meant to Bill, I was certain that this is where we are supposed to be. Helen told our kids they can call him Grandpa Bill, so now we are eager to regularly visit Grandpa Bill.

Now that I know these people and am aware of how much our visits mean to them, I simply can’t stay away. Joel works on Saturdays when a group from Frisco Bible Church visits the nursing home, so the kids and I have been flying solo. This past Sunday Joel happily joined us for a visit to the nursing home after church. When we left the nursing home Shylah was downcast, so I asked her what was bothering her. She burst into tears and said, “I just wanted to stay longer at the nursing home.” I love that my children have developed a sensitive heart to these beautiful people who need love.

Joel suggested that we make a habit of spending a little time at the nursing home on Sundays after church. I love it and am so excited to connect more deeply with the people I know. I am also eager to meet more people to visit and pray with and learn how to best minister to them.

If you have never considered ministering at a nursing home, consider it! If you have considered it but just haven’t taken the first step, do it! It is so worth it. Blessing the residents doesn’t take any skill, just a heart willing to spend a little time talking to these people. Imagine how you would feel if you were in their shoes (or wheelchairs). And love them how you would hope to be loved.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27

Benjamin is Potty Trained!!!

2 February 2016This little dude. What a guy. Benjamin brings so much joy to our family; I don’t know how we ever lived without him. I adore him. But I do not adore dirty diapers… or forking over piles of cash for the mountains of diapers! Potty training, my friends… This is a good thing. I never understood why moms always complained so heartily about the big P-T (Potty Training). But this guy…. He felt I needed a dose of empathy, so he decided to show me what was so difficult about this crazy stage of parenthood.

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My first 3 little ones back when they were still little

Let me back up. I have four kids, and I successfully potty trained the first two when they were 19 months old and my third when he was 21 months. I tried to train Gideon when he was 19 months like the first two kids, but after an unsuccessful morning I shelved that effort and came back to it two months later with glowing success! “See!” I told myself. “I’m flexible! Look at how laid back I am. I hoped Gideon would be ready to train as early as the first two, but when he wasn’t ready I coolly accepted that and waited for the right time. Good for me.” Ha!

 

Then comes along Benjamin. Oh what a dear. His pregnancy was the most difficult. The labor was intense (although Joel claimed I looked bored… By my fourth baby I had learned how to breath, but I was SO far from being bored!), and he was my most challenging baby. I literally could not put the child down to play on the floor by himself until he was 8 months old. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was around a year and a half. And oh, the potty training. Oh, the potty training.

I started young just like all the others. After the first day I knew that he would be more challenging than the rest, but I was full of optimism and was determined to have patience! I’m good at this potty training thing, after all. After 3 days we jumped ship. Benjamin knew how to pee in the potty after this initial potty training time. And for the next almost YEAR AND A HALF I have encouraged him to pee in the potty at every single diaper change. Benjamin had knowledge of what to do and the skills with which to do it… But did he do it? Nooo…. I still had a lesson to learn.

Every few months (for that YEAR AND A HALF) new training days were attempted. And abandoned. I tried ice cream. Gifts. Phone calls to relatives. Cheers from siblings. Stickers. Nothing worked. He could pee on command, but actually coming to me when he had to go and keeping the pants dry in the meantime… never happened.2 February 20161

Until two weeks ago… GRAMMY happened!

My wonderful mother agreed to watch the kids so the hubby and I could have a couple of days alone. I adore my children, but occasionally having the opportunity to spend alone time with the guy I’m crazy about is fabulous! While the kids were at Grammy’s house she completed Benjamin’s potty training! The moment I left, she ripped the diaper off that almost 3 year old and that was that! The little guy was more than happy to impress Grammy with his skills!

Ever since then my little boy has been diaperless and virtually accident-free! (We do still put a diaper on him at bedtime, but he’s been mostly waking up dry in the mornings, so that will be fading out soon.)

How awesome is that?! Don’t I have the coolest mom ever? I had no idea she was going to do it. She knew my struggles and that there was nothing more that I could do. Being the amazingly loving and empathetic person that she is, she couldn’t just sit there and watch me struggle. She took the challenge upon herself and lightened my load immensely by an act of selfless love. I appreciate her so much. As far as I’m concerned, Benjamin would be that one kid in college who still wears a diaper if it weren’t for his awesome Grammy.

What I learned through this process: Empathy. Seriously, I always think I’m an empathetic person until my lack of empathy slaps me across the face. Ugh. After relatively easy potty training experiences with my first three kids I didn’t really understand what all the potty training hullabaloo was about. Now I do. Some kids potty train easily; others do not. I will not judge. And I will carry this new-found empathy to other areas of life as well. I refuse to walk away from learning experiences unchanged. By the grace of God, this struggle will help me be more helpful and loving to others. And for that I am thankful that Benjamin did not potty train easily.

 

 

Mario Galaxy Party

I love birthdays. I mean, a LOT! Celebrating each member of our family individually on his/her special day, parties, family, friends, food, games, the excited buzz in the air! I just love it.

This year Solomon asked to have a Mario Galaxy birthday party. All of our local relatives were able to come, as well as some friends from church. It was great.

I used to make “real” food when our children were younger and we had fewer guests. As our guest list grows I have begun to simplify in the food department. For this party we had cheese balls (Mario’s fireballs), popcorn (Mario’s ice balls), Doritos (cause they’re yummy), a veggie tray shaped like a fire flower (Solomon did this himself), and cupcakes with cute Mario characters as toppers. These I printed on cardstock and attached to toothpicks. They were quite adorable; I’m disappointed I didn’t get a close-up picture of the cupcakes.

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I had 4 games planned, but the kids were having so much fun on their own that we decided to only do one of the games. I always prefer to be over-prepared and nix plans as they’re not needed. I’m a super-planner, but believe in flexibility.  I’ll include the 4 games we chose, in case someone else is looking for Mario party ideas:

Goomba Stomp: This was the game we played. I blew up a bunch of orange balloons and drew Goombas on them. Attach string, and as we waited for the game, they served as added decorations above the food table. When it was game time, we took them down and tied one to each kids’ leg. Ready, set, go, and they ran around the yard trying to stomp the Goombas, while trying to spare their own. The last person with a Goomba still alive wins. (Note: if you have pokey grass like we do, be sure to make extras Goombas or do this game inside. We had some Goomba casualties due to a windy day and apparently pointy grass. Thankfully I made extras, so it all worked out.)

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We were also ready for Pin the Mustache on Mario.

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Courtesy TipJunkie

I also made Mario Ghosts out of styrofoam cups. They made a great decoration, but we didn’t get around to playing the game. Basically, the plan was to have the kids try to knock down the tower with a couple of small plastic balls.

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And finally, we had some green plastic eggs ready for a Yoshi Egg Spoon Race.

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Courtesy  mysupermarioboy.blogspot.com

Really, this was probably the lowest-key party I’ve had. But Solomon proclaimed that it was the BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER!!!! So I think my mission was successful. He had a blast and felt loved, and that’s what matters.

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The kids anticipate their birthdays many months (even years) in advance, so he’s already talking about the theme of his next birthday. I tell the kids their tastes might change before their next party, but they enjoy throwing out ideas all the same. It’s fun to be able to give them something exciting and special to look forward to!

My little reader!

20160316_144344Today Gideon finished his Kindergarten reading program! He is super excited! So am I! Two months ago I set a goal to teach Gideon to read this year. I gave him and myself a lot of grace and expected that the process would probably take many months, if not the entire year. So to have made such quick progress is absolutely thrilling! He was such a sweet student! More times than not, he was the one coming after me with his Hooked on Phonics book in hand, asking to read. He was eager, teachable, and simply darling. I am incredibly blessed to have sweet Gideon for a son. And I am so proud of him. Good job, little guy! I will always look back on this time with fond affection.

Gideon’s Spiritual Birthday

Last night Joel and I had the privilege of leading our son into a clear understanding of God’s salvation! It was beautiful. Gideon is our third child, but gave us our first experience like this. I can’t pinpoint a moment in time when Solomon or Shylah “became saved” or finally grasped an understanding of salvation. We have made it a point to share the Gospel with our children from infancy. So, much like King David, I feel like Solomon and Shylah will likely feel they have known God from infancy. We waited on baptism until Joel and I felt that they not only loved God, but also had a clear understanding of what the good news about Jesus is as well as the significance and meaning of baptism. We waited until we were convinced that they had reached a spiritual maturity that allowed them to make a conscious *choice.* So it wasn’t just another to-do Dad and Mom had planned for them.

20160213_111430Gideon has been different. He’s a sweetheart just like his older siblings. He loves serving others, doesn’t like to see anyone hurting, and has a love for conversations about the Bible and God. However, in  him remained a spiritual immaturity. Joel and I have simply been waiting. Waiting for that spiritual awakening to occur. It’s not something you can force, and it comes at different ages and stages for everyone. Gideon has memorized many Bible verses, he’s very familiar with Bible stories, gladly goes to church each week, and could explain the Gospel. But, none of this equals salvation. You can do the right activities and look like a Christian, but with Gideon, we could tell he was simply regurgitating what we were teaching him. Which is GREAT! As parents, it is our responsibility to train our children in godliness and a knowledge of Christ. In response to the training parents offer, all obedience will initially be mere mimicking. Until it’s not.

One day the child will own the training. It will become his beliefs. It will become his understanding. It will no longer be me telling him what is true. He will now KNOW that truth for  himself. That day came for Gideon last night! I’d be a fool to think that his spiritual development is complete and that he won’t ever again have spiritual struggles, but it is a HUGE moment! Gideon now OWNS his faith! Praise God!!!

Last night after the kids had been in bed for awhile, Gideon wandered into our room. The conversation began like so many others we’ve had with Gideon: he was concerned because he was having scary dreams. During these conversations we show empathy, offer comfort, and also share tips for conquering the unfriendly thoughts. Joel had the privilege of having this conversation with Gideon, so I mostly listened. We often suggest prayer as a strong counter to bad dreams and scary thoughts. Gideon usually accepts this advice, allows us to pray with him, and moves on. Last night, however, the discussion took an unusual turn…

20160223_123101In response to the encouragement to pray, Gideon emotionally broke down and revealed that he’s not sure if he’s a Christian. He understands that we need to believe in Jesus to be saved, but he’s not sure if God hears his prayers and if he is saved. We had a long talk with him about what it means to be saved. Despite all of our gospel-sharing at home and what I know he learns at church, he was struggling with not being sure HOW to be saved. So, Joel patiently shared the Gospel with Gideon. Since we have spent years teaching our children, most of the conversation involved Joel asking Gideon questions: Who is Jesus? What did he do? Why did he die on the cross? What must we do to be saved? What does it mean to be saved? And finally, LET’S PRAY! Joel encouraged Gideon to pray on his own. As I tell my kids all the time, prayer is simply talking to God. I don’t want them thinking prayer is just a robotic “to-do.” It is a wonderful privilege to be able to talk to God! He loves us more than we could ever imagine!!!

So Gideon prayed. He thanked God for his love, for sending Jesus to die on the cross for his sins, and for wanting to save him. Gideon apologized for his sins. He asked God to forgive him and to help him to be godly. And after his prayer, his countenance was wonderful. He clearly felt a burden lift from his shoulders. After he left the room Joel looked at me and said, “That was beautiful.” It really was! And today as I sat here writing this post I overheard Gideon sharing last night’s experience with his siblings. Precious.

This morning Gideon came in with scribbles on a page, which he said was a letter he wrote. He asked if he could “read” it to me. It was a letter to Daddy, joyfully reliving last night and expressing his yearning to be baptized. So now I am sure we will be having many follow up conversations with Gideon and will begin discussing the meaning of baptism. What a blessed time!!! Praise God forever and ever!!

Oh, I miss Preston So!

You know what music I LOVE, but always makes me feel saaad? Shane and Shane. I rediscover them every year.

When my brother died I inherited his iPod. He had a handful of Shane and Shane albums on it. Shane and Shane music was a huge part of my mourning process. Every time I listen to their music it takes me back to the year following Preston’s death. I often went walking in our field, or sat on the dock at the lake, or into the woods to worship God; crying, singing at the top of my lungs, missing my best friend.  The music helped me keep my focus on God while also facilitating an outlet for me to cry out in agony.

The music is magical, wonderful, edifying. I wish it didn’t make me sad because I want to listen to it all.the.time.

Today’s Shane and Shane rediscovery came through a Pandora station I had created but forgotten about. (How do you forget about a Pandora station?) The first song to play was “I Miss You” by Shane and Shane. Such a fitting song to express how their music makes me feel. Oh, I miss Preston so!

 

How then should we live?

Unfortunately, the word, “Theology” has gotten a bad rap. For many, this word conjures up images of arrogant, self-righteous, sour-faced men sitting around arguing about spiritual philosophies and abstract theories. Oh, throw in some Greek or Hebrew and some fancy words like Pneumatology or consubstantial, and there you have it… Theology.

If this is all theology is about, then I want nothing to do with it! Sadly, I have heard many people speak of theological discussions as though they are shameful and anti-Jesus. I can  understand this sentiment because I used to run from theological discussions as well. Until I learned what theology really is.

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Theology is the study of God! Spending your time studying God, and joining others in discussing these truths is about as pro-Jesus as you can get!

The problem lies not with theology or theological discussions. Sure, many who passionately study theology are simply hungry for head-knowledge and don’t know the first thing about love or grace. This is not how God intends for us to pursue him. But the fact that these types of people exist should not prevent us from pursuing God out of love and a grateful heart for what he has done for us. If we are his children we should be eager to know more about him. Who is God? What does he like? How can I show him my gratitude and love? What does he despise? How can I avoid causing my Father sadness or anger? These are questions all believers in Yahweh should seek to answer. And guess what… Theology will give you these answers. Nothing boring about that!

Unfortunately, these head-knowledge seekers often turn many away from the study of theology. The problem is not with the study. It is with the attitude. It is with the purpose. What should be our purpose as believers? Well, we need to know the God we serve, and serve him! Love him and love others! Simple right? Yes! aaand no. You see, when we run from the study of theology, we start creating our own religion… our own god.

I hear my pastor quote, “Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” So I think I’ve got it. But here’s the thing: What does that mean? Even as human beings, we all give and receive love differently. If I am allergic to peanuts, is it loving of my husband to make me a peanut butter sandwich every day? What if I leave him notes that tell him I’m allergic, and he just doesn’t feel like reading those notes? He wants to decide for himself what is loving behavior. That neglect translates into LACK of love.

God didn’t leave us clueless. He didn’t leave us to make up the answers for ourselves. God has given us His Word! If we desire to love and worship Yahweh we can’t just decide for ourselves what He wants. We need to wisely dig into His Word to discover what He has told us about Himself, His desires, and His disgusts.

But theology left in the head or in the argument is pointless, sometimes even disgusting. The question we should always ask ourselves in response to any theology is, “How then should I live?” We shouldn’t be satisfied with simply knowing.We must diligently translate any knowledge of God into actions.

We can desire to worship the God of the Bible all we want, but theology is what gives us an accurate understanding of Him. Once we understand who God is, we then must respond in praise and adoration toward this awesome God. Theology without praise and practice is dead. Praise without an accurate understanding of God is idolatry–the worship of a god created by our own mind.

So don’t run from theology. But in your pursuit of understanding who God is, don’t ever neglect to ask yourself, “Now that I know this about God, how will this change me? How then should I live?”

 

 

Caring for the Sick

20160125_221516Our family recently was hit by an andenovirus, almost completely debilitating all 6 of us for a week and a half. It was rough. My mom brought mountains of homemade soups, bread, fresh fruit, toilet paper, and disposable dishes. What a life-saver! As Gideon (5 yrs old) surveyed the mountains of food on our counter, with wide eyes he asked, “Are we the richest people in the world?” I smiled at him, and before I could answer, he continued. “Because this is so much food. And having this much food makes us very rich!”

20160119_182902He is completely right! I definitely consider us to be one of the richest families on earth. Do we have the most money or things? Not even close. But we have a God who loves us enough to send his Son to save us from our sins. Our home is filled with love, we have a church home full of more love, and we have friends and family who love us enough to sacrifice their own comfort/well-being to demonstrate their love. I don’t see how a family could be much richer than that.

I used to be able to say that our family doesn’t get sick much. Oh, we’ll catch the occasional cold, but we almost never catch anything that lasts more than 2 or 3 days. This winter changed that. I feel like in the past two months we have been sick more than we have been well. Last month was bronchitis. This recent adenovirus brought that back and added ear infections, pink eye, and the most severe sore throat I have ever experienced. Joel had to take off from work, and so did I. Thankfully he gets paid sick days, but I don’t. Even with the income wound, we are still one of the richest families in the world.

20160119_183230Last month when we were battling bronchitis, my dear friend Kristy brought the entire grocery store to our kitchen. We had just returned from visiting out of town family for Christmas, and our pantry was bare. Knowing it would be, and knowing we were sick, Kristy came and stocked it for us.

One of my favorite traditions from my teenage years was when we brought bags full of groceries to needy families. Helping my mom deliver those groceries was life-changing. When I was a child we were the needy family. We lived off our backyard garden. There were times we simply did not have money to go to the grocery store. People blessed us in those days, and when I was a teenager we weren’t struggling to afford groceries anymore. My parents were determined to bless other people as we had been blessed, and they did. I am thankful to have been able to witness true generosity in them.

20160114_213206This winter has been strange. Twice in the last month we have been on the receiving end of incredibly generous grocery drops. We didn’t ask for help. But those who love us and who love Jesus sacrificed themselves to minister to us. THAT, my friends is being the hands and feet of Jesus. We all pray for health and prosperity, but sometimes we’re not on that end of things. And in this season of sickness and need, I am humbled and in awe of the generosity of family and friends.

Kristy, and Mom, thank you for your generosity and for your love. I know neither of you were looking for a public pat on the back, but I just can’t stay silent. I want you to know how appreciated your love is, and I want everyone else to know how awesome you are. You both mean the world to me. I am very rich indeed.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Birthdays, Deathdays, and Unfulfilled Dreams

December 7th was my brother’s birthday, whom I lost 8 years ago. He would be 30 this year. Birthdays of lost loved ones can be difficult.

I personally don’t like remembering anniversaries of sad events. If I feel blue on that day, fine, but purposefully diving into a mournful state on the anniversary of a sad day? Not my thing. I often miss my dad and brother, but it is not often on the anniversary of their deaths or their birthdays. It is random days when I am living life and their absence is almost unbearable. Those are the days I mourn.

When I gave birth to my kids, mixed with the immeasurable joy, in those first days I also felt a deep sense of loss over not being able to share my joy with my dad or brother or introduce them to the newest family members. Some days I need fatherly advice or to hear my dad say, “I’m proud of you.” I mourn the fact that my dad’s not here to give it. Sometimes I need my brother, but Preston is unreachable. Those are the days I mourn.

If I leave loved ones behind I wouldn’t want them getting sad on my birthday or deathiversary. The thought of others feeling like they owe it to me to feel sad on specific days each year sounds dreadful. I would want them to miss me, sure. I hope I have made myself missable.

Last year Solomon and Shylah were baptized on December 7th, so now we can celebrate their birthday this day every year! They couldn’t be any more precious.

I have a dream of doing something special this day every year… Make a special meal, reminisce, I don’t know… something. We didn’t do anything  today. Solomon’s not feeling well, and I’m not doing so great either. But that’s okay! Just because one year goes by where my dreams don’t come true, all is not lost! They still see today as special. They know how blessed they are to be part of God’s family and haven’t forgotten that this is their 1st spiritual birthday. And they know they are special to me. That’s what matters, whether or not I can make a hoopla about it.

Here’s to birthdays, dreams, and being content when your dreams don’t pan out as you imagined.

Be blessed and CHOOSE joy!

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