Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer ...

is by singing loud for all to hear! We only discovered Elf a couple of years ago, but it has become a Christmas tradition in our home. We love the silly antics of Buddy and the heartwarming story of lives changed by the joy of believing. 

This Advent, I want our home to be filled with joy, with singing, with the belief that Christmas is more than just the presents and the trappings. Not filled with stress and hurry and obligation.  Sometimes I look at blogs and magazines and wish I could have a home decorated like that or amazing family traditions like those. And I could probably do it if we suspended real life - no school, no ballet, no cleaning. But Jesus came to be Immanuel - God with us. God with us in the midst of school and ballet and even cleaning. Christmas cheer, like singing loud, happens while we live life, not only when we stop all other aspects of life. This year I want to have eyes to see God with me in the daily stuff of life. And, like Buddy the Elf, I want to be unashamed to express childlike joy and wonder at the beauty around me. (But, unlike Buddy, I plan on avoiding pre-chewed gum!)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Letter to My Teenage Self

Emily Freeman from Chatting at the Sky has asked for her readers to write letters to their teenaged selves in conjunction with her new book for teen girls, Graceful. I was so blessed and challenged by reading her first book, Grace for the Good Girl, and I bought each of my teen daughters a copy of Graceful.

Dear 16 year old April,

The most important thing I want you to know is that God loves you! Really loves you! And not because you've earned it. Because you can't earn it. Even though you began your relationship with Jesus two years ago, you still haven't let that sink in. So spend these years learning about God's love.

I know you're already thinking about who you will marry and viewing marriage as a panacea. It's not! Instead of worrying about guys, enjoy your girlfriends! When the right guy comes along, he will pursue you; you won't have to make sure he notices you! When you are married (in just 6 short years!) you will never regret not having a high school boyfriend! Trust that God has good things for your future, so you can enjoy the good things He is giving you right now.

Learn how to live a righteous life without being self-righteous! Love the people around you, even if they were cruel or indifferent to you in the past. You are making so many right and good choices. Please don't look down on those who aren't. They need your grace, not your judgment. Realize the depth of God's grace to you, and it will be so much easier to give grace to others.

I know you feel so insecure. What you don't know is that most of the people around you also feel that way. So instead of worrying about impressing others, focus on finding your security in Jesus. He wants good things for you. And don't be afraid to let others see your need. Because trying to pretend like everything is fine and hoping that others will see through that and reach out to help you (and feeling resentful when they don't) is counterproductive! So let some people into your life. You are worth it!

Spend time with Dad without resentment. He is learning how to love you, so don't make it harder for him. I know he needs a lot of help; be patient with him.

Don't cut your hair! It grows slowly, and you'll regret it. If you go to your junior prom, go with friends, not a set-up date! Trust me on this!

Most of all, enjoy the moments God is giving you right now! Soon enough you will be at Baylor! But all the great moments of high school will be over. No more flag corps or high school football games or eating lunch in the band hall. So be thankful for now. 


Your older (and I hope wiser) self

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Dirt on SSMTC

One week ago I was telling my sweet husband about how God had spoken to me at the Siesta Scripture Memory Celebration over the most amazing hot chocolate I've ever had! My sweet husband drove me to Houston for the SSMTC, since I have issues with highway driving. And we had three sweet sets of friends who took in our various children Friday and Saturday.

We got to the event just in time for me to change clothes in the Suburban, thanks to a fun trip to Ikea and some Beck's Prime. I found a seat and got ready to worship. And God spoke! One of the first songs we sang was "Your Name." And God reminded me that His Name - God Himself - IS a strong and mighty tower and my best protector. Then I realized that when I resort to self-protection and self-preservation, I am stepping away from God's protection. I am essentially saying that I am better able to protect myself than the God of the Universe!!! How dumb is that! I CAN trust Him to protect me. That doesn't mean that nothing bad or hard will ever happen to me. It means that God will enable me to handle those things. They might still happen, but they won't crush me. Oh, how I need to live this out!!

Beth spoke a wonderful and challenging message from 2 John about walking out our faith. I am so prone to letting my knowledge remain in my head, so I needed to hear this! Some of my favorite points were when she told us how abiding in 2 John isn't just sitting still, but is keeping in step with Jesus. It also really spoke to me when she talked about investing our whole lives into love. I so want to really LOVE God and other people! 

God was so kind to me on Saturday. Another Siesta who had come alone (from Pennsylvania!) sat next to me. Jean and I enjoyed getting to know one another and each of us said all 24 of our 2011 verses to each other! We had each asked for God to give us someone to spend the conference with, and He was so faithful! I'm so thankful for my new friend Jean!

She ended with a challenge to bring some dirt from Houston back home with us to signify the ground we are taking back from the enemy. My dirt is in a bag on my dresser. I want to display it in a pretty jar or vase to remind me that I am going to fight to take back all the ground I have surrendered. 

Even a flat tire on Saturday couldn't mar the wonderfully refreshing time God had given me!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's Really a No-Brainer

I started Beth Moore's James study a couple of weeks ago. I've done most of her studies and have enjoyed every one. This one is no different.

In yesterday's homework we read James 1:2-4. The consider it all joy during trials verses. This is something that does not come naturally to me! As the lesson concluded, she asked her readers to write down three possible responses to a trial we are currently facing, encouraging us to have obey James 1 as an option. Then we were to predict what the consequences of each would be five years from now.

When I did this, I realized just how LAME my other possible responses really are! One of my options is to withdraw from the situation and pout. I know, so mature! But it's one I've chosen many a time. The five year fruit of this one is regret and marred relationships.

Another of my stellar options is to be resentful about the situation and blame others.  Yeah, that works so well! (NOT!!) I know this from experience as well. I don't think resentment has ever made my life or my relationships better.

When compared to the alternatives, considering it pure joy when I encounter trials doesn't seem so crazy after all! 

I've faced numerous trials during the year and a half of this church planting journey. And, I'm ashamed to admit that pouting and resentment have been my response far more often than considering them pure joy. But God's mercies are new every morning. And I'm seeking His help to respond to each new trial with joy and faith! The rewards will be so worth it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January Is Slipping Away

Can it really be January 10? I had so many good intentions of keeping the blogging going without interruption in 2012. I really did. Then last week happened!

Paul was in Atlanta all week for Passion. He left Sunday after church, and my sister and her family arrived for a one night stopover Sunday night. Everyone except Patches enjoyed the visit. Patches was NOT HAPPY about another cat being in her house! She slept with me that night and woke me up by making a horrible noise when my sister's cat dared come in the room. 

We started school back after they left, but we made Monday a catch-up-on-projects day. Our favorite project was to have tea time, complete with homemade scones and freshly whipped cream! In addition to school (and dance and piano) the girls were preparing for 4-H contests held last Saturday. Faith, Joy, and Grace all sewed things for the sewing contest. All four entered pictures in the photography contest, and they all baked something for the sugar cookery contest.

We stayed up late working on projects more than once. And then I would just veg by watching some of the Passion sessions online or Downton Abbey on Netflix. I thought about blogging, but my brain was too tired!

Paul got home Friday in time to see our frantic last-minute preparations! I know he must have felt a bit overlooked. We spent Saturday morning at the contest. Each of the girls won at least one ribbon. There were a few tears when Joy realized that Grace had won more than she had, but they didn't last too long. I'm so proud of all their hard work!

This week hasn't been quite so busy, so I hope to share my 2012 words soon. (I know I could have today, but my mind is fuzzy from some major sinus/allergy crud I'm having!)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long 2011

Today on her blog, Beth Moore invited readers to share three words that characterized 2011.  I really liked that way of reflecting on this past year.  Here are my words: Hard, Grace, and Learning.

Hard- This year has been one of the hardest years of my life.  This year we discovered that church planting can be hard work! And this year our business was hard, too. Paul's dad went to be with Jesus this year, and that was hard on him. And the girls and I have really felt the loneliness and isolation that comes from homeschooling and attending such a small church. Also this year, I've seen how hard  it's been on Paul to have the pressure of planting a church and running a business. This year I've also made life harder on myself by not being organized.  On a lighter and more positive note, I've worked very hard and lost some weight I've been wanting to lose. So we've had a whole lot of hard this year!

Grace - Even in the hard, God has graced us. One particularly difficult situation was answered beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Sometimes I don't always see the grace at the moment, but I can look back and see how God has cared for us and seen us through. 

Learning - We've learned a lot about how to - and how not to!- plant a church. And this year I've learned a lot about myself. I've spent so much of my life trying to be who I thought those around me wanted to be that I haven't always known who I am. I think I know myself a little better now. My girls and I have learned so much as we continue our homeschool journey. I know more history from learning alongside my girls than I ever learned in school!

I'm not sad to see 2011 go. The hard has been almost overwhelming at times. I pray that 2012 is a year filled with more grace and less hard!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Shoot

Here are a few of the photos from our photo shoot yesterday.  I really like the ones by the train tracks.  The scenery was interesting, and the light was gorgeous!