Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Our History and Our Future

Day 23: Our History

Even though I have been writing these Thanksgiving posts as a way to focus on being thankful and hopefully glorifying the LORD by sharing what He has done in our lives, I don't want to fail to mention that there is great historical significance to Thanksgiving Day.  I hope it does spur you on toward thankfulness, but I also hope part of that thankfulness comes from the history of this day. 

There are a lot of pieces to the story of the Pilgrims, the Native Americans, and about that first Thanksgiving feast that are no longer known by so many Americans.  Most of us being taught in public schools where some truths have been left out more and more over the years don't even know the whole story.  In fact, if you were like me, there are some things I was taught that just simply are not true.

The roughly 100 pilgrims who originally set out for America were followers of Christ who were seeking freedom that was not being given to them in England.  Over half of them died within the first three or four months of being in America!  They suffered greatly and had a very difficult first few months in their new land. 

I recommend reading this overview of this history from David Barton, noted historian, here.  By the way, his organization, called Wallbuilders, is a great organization I highly recommend when it comes to American history.

Also Moody Radio out of Chicago (named after D.L. Moody) has a great Thanksgiving program called Remembering the Pilgrims.  You can download it and listen here.  It was very interesting!

While I want to spend Thanksgiving (and the whole month up to it) remembering the first Thanksgiving feast and reviewing with my family the history since, I also have been reminded to be thankful for my own history.

We all have good and not so good (maybe even bad) points in our own history.  Some of those may haunt you.  Some of those most likely changed the course of your life ever since.  There is a quote I have heard before, though I cannot find the exact quote or the name of who first said it:

A man who doesn't know where he came from will not know where he is going.

Knowing our history as a world/nation/community/family and individually is very important.  It's not just knowing the historical facts, but also learning from them.  I hope I have learned from my history.  Facing my history and learning from it will help me face the future better.

I also want to continue to recognize the importance of knowing biblical history.  Unfortunately there are many who think the historical books of the Bible are boring, unimportant, and/or not worth the time and effort to read, study, understand, and learn from the stories contained within.  This cannot be further from the truth!  Until you dig into these historical books of the Bible yourself, you will be missing out on the profound, valuable, and fascinating history that is still so applicable today!  I really love learning the history of Israel and before that the history of how God created everything and what took place after that.  There is so much to learn, and it is a shame that so many do not realize this.  I love the studies that come from Precept International.  I recommend those to anyone wanting to learn and understand the Bible more.

From there I love learning about our Christian heritage that was built by all of those who followed Christ throughout history.  These are also fascinating stories about God's provision, protection, sovereignty, and guidance throughout the lives of these who have been written about.  I want to learn from their lives, as well.

I am so thankful for the recording of this history - all of it.  I also look forward to teaching it my children as they grow.  I often wonder how much better off we would all be if more of us knew, understood, and learned from history.  Instead many of the same mistakes are continually repeated unnecessarily.

Thank You, LORD, for our history.  May we handle it with care and gratitude and not forget what you have done.

Day 24: Our Future

So where are we going now?  What is ahead?  Of course there is only so much we can know and even plan for when it comes to looking forward.

I am thankful for my future because I know this:  God is in control and only does what is good even when I don't like it or understand it.  Furthermore, I know that my eternity is secured in Heaven forever because of my relationship with Jesus.  No matter what ever happens next, that is my ultimate home for all time.  What a joy to have that assurance and promise from Him!  It changes everything!

I don't know where our nation will be heading next.  I don't know exactly how all of the events that will lead to the end will come, but I do know how it all ends and who will still be in control and on His throne: Jesus. 

I am thankful for whatever future the LORD has for my family.  I love my husband and children so much and am reminded often to pray more for what is next, for the future.  I pray that they will know truth and walk in it always.  I look forward to seeing the plans that God has unfold. 

As we approach Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, I look forward to contemplating this year and the one to come.  I never want Christmas to just be one day.  It is a special day that should be celebrated as special, but it is more than just one day.  This is why we like to participate in Advent, as well.  It helps us to prepare our hearts for Christmas. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  May your future be filled with evidence of God's grace and love and may you recognize Him like never before.

"I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving." (Psalm 69:30)

This is my song.  Now and forever.  I pray it will be yours, too.  Thank You, LORD!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Prayer and Heaven

Day 21: Prayer

I am so thankful for prayer. 

The word prayer gets tossed around quite a bit these days.  People says things like, "I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers."  It takes real intentionality to actually follow through on that promise.  Some prayers can be just words with no real connection behind them like a memorized series of words that come out of the mouth with no thought necessary.  It can be easy to fall into a prayer rut or to feel inadequate when it comes to prayer and not even know where to begin.

Prayer is a conversation that involves talking and listening.  Prayer is not just a wish list sent up to the sky, but a divine encounter with the one who Created me.  Some prayers are short while others are long.  Prayer is essential.  It must come before, during, and after anything! 

I am so thankful that the LORD has given the gift of prayer to those who call on His name.  Not having prayer would be even worse than a pilot who has lost contact with Air Traffic Control.  The pilot can attempt to rely on his own judgement and what he can see and understand, but most likely he will be up against a battle that would be much easier if he could just get in contact again.  Some situations may even be impossible to come out of safely without contact and effective communication.

Prayer is so vital.  Even though I know this, I still often fail to apply this knowledge and stay in constant contact.  Thankfully the LORD is gracious enough to remind me often.  Hopefully as I continue to learn this lesson, the times that I neglect spending more time in prayer get shorter and shorter because I recognize sooner my mistake.

I love that prayer can be just one word - "Jesus!"  I love that when I don't know what to say I can just sit there and say, "Lord, I don't know what to say."  I love that prayer can take hours.  I love that there is constant intercession for me always (Hebrews 7:25 and Romans 8:27).  Jesus prays for us 24/7! 

It has been so exciting when we have seen God answer prayers.  He always answers better than we could have imagined.  This doesn't mean that He always answers in the way I wanted or according to what I was asking for, but He always offer what is best.  I then have the choice to take it or leave it.  Taking it with gratitude is always the best option.  I don't know everything.  He does.  It's not always easy when His answer is different than what I was hoping for, but it comes down to trust.  Do I trust Him enough to chose His way instead of mine?

I love specific prayers because it allows me to see God move in more specific ways.  We often make a list of our needs, spend time praising Him for who He is and how He has blessed us, confess any sins or shortcomings asking for forgiveness, and then lay the list out before Him asking for help for these specific areas.  We use this list as a way to turn over these things to His control trusting Him to take care of it in His way and in His time.  It is such a joy to update that list and record how He answered.

This is another good reason to keep a prayer journal.  It is so easy to forget what God has done in the past if we don't intentionally record it.  We have a wooden box with these verses on the front:

"We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders." (Psalm 78:4 NLT)

"But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren." (Deuteronomy 4:9 NLT)

We want to remember what the LORD has done and tell these stories to our children and grandchildren.  We want them to remember, too.  He deserves the glory for always giving us more than we deserve.  He takes such great care of us, and one of the ways we know this is because of prayer.

I cannot imagine my life without prayer.  I cannot imagine a day when I could not talk to my Heavenly Father.  What would I do?  Would I rely on my own understanding instead of trusting in Him?  Life would be so much more difficult without His guidance, without His loving words, without His truth, and without this ability and gift to communicate with Him like I can with no one else.  Only He sees the deepest parts of my being and loves me anyway.  It's remarkable.

Prayer can also be very uniting.  Praying with my husband brings us closer to each other.  Praying with my children, especially after one has disobeyed and needed correction, brings us closer.  Praying with a friend or family member can show them how much I care and love them.  Praying for my enemies helps me love them even when I don't want to and even when I don't like what they do.

I personally don't really like the cute little plaques that can be purchased that say, "Prayer Changes Things."  It can be misunderstood, I think.  The actual prayer doesn't necessarily change things.  It's God who uses prayer to change hearts, like mine, and through prayer we see circumstances change and God glorified.  Our focus must be on Him and not on our prayer.  It's a subtle difference, perhaps, but one that must be made clear in our own hearts and in our conversations with others.

One of my favorite scriptures about prayer is:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7)

Thank You, LORD, for prayer!  Please teach us and help us understand the value and need for prayer all the more!

Day 22: Heaven

Wow, the promise of Heaven.  The promise of Heaven is for those who have called on the name of the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord and have been redeemed as a result.  Heaven is real and is far better than we can understand here and now.  I am so thankful for Heaven.  I am thankful that I will again get to see those I have loved who are already there.  I am thankful that I will get to meet the very people who are mentioned in the Bible and those God used to pen the Bible.  I'll get to meet my miscarried child there.  I am thankful that I will get to meet Jesus face to face.  It's too much to fathom.  Eternity.  Forever.  What does that even look like?

We use the word forever so incorrectly.  "I haven't seen that movie in forever."  "It feels like forever since I have eaten anything."  Our finite minds have a hard time grasping the infinite.

Jesus gives us so many examples in scripture of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  We are told that He Himself is the light there.  There is no sun (Revelation 21:22,23).

There is so much I could go into about Heaven in this Thanksgiving post.  However I feel that it would be better to go into more detail at another time in a separate post.  There is much more that we can know about Heaven, much of which is greatly misunderstood without careful study of the scriptures, and I would not want to do anyone a disservice by not going into more depth on the subject of Heaven.  I will do that at another time.

In the meantime I want to thank the LORD for preparing a place for me and for all those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. 

If you are not sure that your eternity is secured in Heaven with Jesus, visit this website and learn more about what you can do to saved, redeemed, and free from the bondage of sin and death.  It's the most important decision you can ever make!

Thank You, LORD, for Heaven.  Thank You that there is more to life than just what we see here on earth.  I don't understand it all, but I trust You to tell me what I need to know now and to help me live with an eternal perspective for Your glory!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: A Good Movie and A Good Book

Day 19: A Good Movie

When it comes to movies there are very different ideas about what makes a good one.  There are movie critics and reviewers who will offer freely their opinions, but I find it doesn't always mean I will agree after seeing the movie myself.  Especially now the movie industry is heavy laden with crude humor, violence, and many inappropriate scenes and story lines that I really am not interested in putting in my head.  Once something goes in your head, it's hard to ever get it out. 

I am very thankful for those movies that I catagorize as good.  A good movie to me is one with a creative story line, good acting, good editing, good cinematography, and a message that matters.  Humor and good one-liners go a long way, too, but at the end of the movie I would like to be glad I watched it.  I don't like the feeling of watching a movie and then regretting it afterwards.  I'll never get that time back that I wasted on movies that for one reason or another made me regret spending my time on it - especially if it cost me money.

It is so nice to just relax with my husband and watch a good movie.  We have seen some good ones lately that I was glad I watched.  One of those was Soul Surfer.  I hadn't seen it until a couple of weeks ago even though I wish I would have supported it while it was in the theaters.  What an amazing story!

If you are unfamiliar with the story, the movie is based on the true story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton.  When she was a young teenager she endured a shark attack that left her without one of her arms.  Determined to get back in the water again, she persevered and continued surfing eventually turning pro.  The movie was very well done, there were quite a few known actors such as Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, AnaSophia Robb, and Carrie Underwood.  All of the elements I mentioned before that make a movie a good one for me were present with this one.  We really enjoyed it.

Another good movie we enjoyed recently was No Greater Love.  I really didn't know what to expect with this one, but it turned out to be really well done.  This is a great story about forgiveness, true love, and God's providence.  It had me drawn in and made me cry at times.  It was an enjoyable movie, and I recommend it.

I really want to go see Courageous.  I have heard nothing but great things about this movie.  In fact it is still in theaters and has been there for weeks longer than many people expected.  After all of the good reviews I keep hearing I recommend going and seeing it before it leaves the theaters.  When there is a good, wholesome movie that people are enjoying we need to support it in the theaters.  This shows movie makers that people actually care about these kind of films.  I think Sherwood Pictures keeps getting better and better with each film they release. 

A good movie stays with me and keeps me thinking.  A good movie challenges me to remember its message.  A good movie is just plain fun.  There are many good movies out there.  I think it is very exciting when independent companies are successful in putting out a good film that grosses enough for them to make another one.  I pray more companies like Sherwood Pictures will have the funds to make movies that make a difference instead the many films that just provide people with two hours of worthless or at least indifferent entertainment.  Some people like that I guess, but I am thankful for a good movie.

Thank You, Lord, for the amazing talent that goes into making a good movie.  Please provide more of them for people to learn truth and be entertained at the same time.  Thank You, Lord, for good movies.

Day 20: A Good Book

I also love a good book.  I am always amazed by authors who write good books.  It takes a lot of work to produce a good book that people will read.  There is a lot of time devoted to it, a lot of patience, and then a long road of exposure for people to even know the book exists.  It is remarkable to me when the front cover of a book boasts, "1 Million Sold."  That is a lot of people reading one book.  Usually this happens over the course of many years, but depending whose hands get on the book that time can be shorter. 

We have so many books.  There are so many books on my shelves that I have read and would like to read again and many more that I have not read, yet.  They are on my list, and I do hope I get to them. 

When I begin reading a book that already is good right off the bat, I have a hard time putting it down.  I want to know not only the ending, but the middle, as well.  Usually the books that are not so great (in my opinion)  I end up trying to finish in order to have a completed opinion about it, especially for reviewing purposes.  However I find myself painfully getting through those and often skimming quickly to get the jist hoping it will get better.  I feel badly for authors whose books I feel that way about.  I rejoice with the authors whose books I love and enjoy telling others about them.

One of my favorite books is by W. Philip Keller called, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.  This book is so good!  It is a little, inexpensive book (You can find it at a bookstore for $5) and one I hope to read again and again through the years.  I wrote a bit about the subject covered in this book here and followed it up with part two here.  This is such a great little book!  Keller has many other books that I look forward to reading.  I have also read his Lessons From a Sheepdog, which was also excellent.  I can't recommend him enough!

I also enjoyed Culture Makers: A Worldview Approach to Re-Engaging the World, by Josiah Vencel.  I have read it twice, and I highly recommend it.  In fact, I happen to see this book as one that will always be either on my shelves to re-read again unless I have lent it out for someone else to read.  I couldn't explain it any better than this description from the book itself:

"God did not call Christians to sit on the sidelines of society. But that is precisely what has happened for nearly a century as believers have forgotten about their divinely appointed role in the world. Yet history testifies to the remarkable salt-and-light influence of Bible-believing saints who have applied their faith in all areas of life, not just within the walls of a church. Christ came to transform you into an agent of reconciliation ... not just to save souls, but to redeem entire cultures for his glory. If you¿ve ever wondered how to apply your faith consistently, to think about life christianly or to engage the world for Christ, Culture Makers will not let you down. Culture Makers will answer questions such as: Is there a biblical way to see all of life? What is Christianity¿s role in society? How do my personal beliefs shape culture? How do I respond to unbiblical points of view? How can the biblical worldview revitalize my faith? And so much more. Discover your place in the world. Fulfill your calling. Become a culture maker."

Recently my husband and I both read the book Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo.  This book recounts the events surrounding a little boy's death, visit to Heaven, and return back to life (all in about three minutes).  This book is a quick and easy read with a lot of moments where I just had to read on to find out what was next.  We both really enjoyed this book.  It has also spurred great conversations about Heaven with others.  This is a great weekend read.  Actually I read it in a little over a day. 

As we approach Christmas break I have been thinking about what books I want to tackle during more down time.  I am still not sure which books I will be reading on my own, but we have some Thanksgiving and Christmas books I look forward to reading to my children.

I love how my children enjoy being read to daily.  We've been reading to them since they were babies, and they love it!  There is such a joy when I get to sit on the couch with children in my lap reading good books to them.  These books are almost never what I call "fluffy" books - just a few words with little meaning or educational value behind them.  I love reading good books to them that help them think, imagine, learn, and enjoy that time together.  Even my toddler says, "Rwead. Pwease," with a book in her hand as she starts climbing in my lap.  I hope they continue to love books.  I look forward to them learning to read and enjoy them on their own, as well, but I hope we always share read aloud time, too!

I have to be careful with what I read.  I chose to not read some books that have been recommended to me because I know I couldn't handle the subject matter and/or it is contrary to what I want to fill my mind with:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

This is the measuring stick by which I measure what I will chose to sit down and spend my time reading.  I am so thankful for good books!  Thank You, Lord, for giving authors good ideas that glorify You and promote Your truth.  May You continue to give more ideas and provide the means for those ideas to be published and sent to the hands of readers who will be changed for the better as a result.  Thank You, Lord!

I hope to produce some good books of my own in the future.  May the Lord be glorified and may His will be done in His timing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Laughter and Fun

Day 17: Laughter

I am thankful for laughter.  I enjoy laughing.  I also enjoy hearing others laugh when they are laughing at something that is really funny.  Laughter can bring so much healing.  It relieves tension, it helps us breathe and relax, it unites people, and it usually brings good memories.  Sharing laughter with others is a great way to build relationships and enjoy others.

It's no wonder that people often say that laughter is the best medicine.  It may or may not be the best, but it certainly is helpful.  The Bible says it like this:

"A joyful heart is good medicine..." (Proverbs 17:22a NASB)

Good laughter can lead to a joyful heart, which is good medicine.  I say can because it does depend on what is causing the laughter.  Good, clean laughter in good, clean fun is the kind of laughter for which I am thankful! 

I want to be clear that sometimes laughter does not bring joy.  Laughter that is compelled by evil or mockery is not good laughter.  Laughter that is at someone else's expense is not the kind of laughter that brings joy to anyone.  As I have grown and as I have continued to fall more in love with my Lord, I have realized that the jokes, movies, pranks, and language that used to make me laugh are no longer funny to me.  In fact, that kind of humor often makes me sad.  It makes me sad because if I engage in that or witness others doing so, I realize that the very sins that put Jesus on the cross are being laughed at by so many.  Is that really funny?  If we take a look at what we are laughing at we may see that perhaps our humor needs some reconstruction.

Even Jesus was laughed at when He was here on earth right before he brought a little girl back to life:

"He said, "Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him." (Matthew 9:24 NASB)

Now I find much more satisfaction in laughing at what really is funny and enjoying the gift of laughter that God gave us.  I love hearing my children laugh, sometimes hysterically.  There is nothing like that little kid giggle.  It is just so cute!  I also love hearing my husband laugh.  It's fun when something I say makes someone else laugh.  Everyone likes to feel like maybe they are witty every now and then right?

I look forward to times with family and friends during the holiday season when more of us get together than usual.  It will be fun to spend time with the people we rarely get to see and most likely there will be much laughter.  I love those memories of laughing so hard we're crying.  Those are fun times.  I hope your holidays will be filled with laughter, as well.

Thank You, LORD, for giving us laughter!  How boring life would be without anything to laugh about.   

Day 18: Fun

I am also thankful for good, clean fun.  Fun is a relative term I suppose.  What is fun to me may not be fun to you.  However we can all find something that is fun.  My ideas of what is fun have also changed over the years.

I have a lot of fun with my husband and children.  I enjoy spending time with them, especially when we just have time to hang out and enjoy each other without many time constraints or places to go. 

I also find traveling very fun.  I haven't done as much traveling, since my children were born, but before that I enjoyed visiting eighteeen countries and twenty-something states for various reasons and with various people.  It wasn't all fun, but overall there was a lot of fun had on each of those trips.  I am very thankful for those times.

I have learned to appreciate fun more after I learned to appreciate work more.  Work is necessary.  We all have work to do whether it is a career, staying home with the children, cleaning, etc.  One phrase we teach our children, especially when they protest their chores, is "Work first, then play."  The play is so much more enjoyable after the work has been completed!  This really is true.  Work completed is such a relief that frees one up to then go have fun. 

I find that in our society there seems to be a pressure to make sure your children are always having fun.  Why?  Is this realistic?  Don't they need to learn to thrive in the times that are not fun?  Perhaps if we taught our children a balanced approach to fun there would be more adults who understood the need to work well and then play well.  Both are necessary.

Anyway...  I love having fun.  Sometimes I don't get enough of it, but I realize that other times I need to relax and have more fun in the everyday tasks that can get mundane. 

Isn't it great that the Creator of the universe made us to enjoy fun?  I love that.  He also made us each to find different things fun.  One person might find reading a good book fun.  Another might find sky diving fun.  There is such a variety of choices and many ways to enjoy life and have fun (some of them safer than others).

Thank You, LORD, for fun.  Please help me glorify You while I am having fun.  You are such a good God!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Food and The Computer

Day 15: Food

Boy, do I love food.  I am very thankful for food.  Not only do we need food, but food is fun and enjoyable.  Food is nourishing (well it is supposed to be), food is social, food is fun, food is a part of our everyday life. 

Think of all of the variety of food!  There are so many kinds of vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, cheeses, and combinations of them all.  There are so many styles of cooking, traditions, cultural cuisines, diet options, and on and on. 

I am sure I have only scratched the surface with the amount of vegetables I have tried.  There are so many, and I have tried a lot.  Some varieties are only available in other countries and cannot be brought into our country.  I am constantly amazed by this.  What a creative God to offer so many choices of root vegetables!  So many choices of fruit!  It is incredible.

Because there are so many choices I find myself wanting to try as many as possible.  I want to taste as many types of food as I can.  With that being said I do have my limits because of location, money, and the desire to eat a diet that is Kosher.  Still it is fun to explore the cullinary world and enjoy.

It's funny because when I got married over eight years ago I could barely cook a single meal.  I knew how to do some things, but I was pretty boring when it came to the kitchen.  I very quickly wanted to learn more and grow in my cooking and baking skills to provide more balanced and tasteful meals my both my husband and me.  It was a challenge at first, but slowly I began to enjoy it.

Now fast forward from where I started, and I now actually have the know-how to enjoy making as much as possible from scratch.  Thankfully I have been taught along the way to make pretty much any dinner we want (within reason), bread, cookies, donuts, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, and most of what we eat for meals and snacks!  It has been a fun journey.

During pregnancies I tend to not want to cook as much or be as creative.  Usually I end up bored after a couple of months of that.  That is where I am now.  I need to be creative again and enjoy cooking and even eating again.  I have to eat so much right now that I get a little tired of food.  Kinda funny.

However I remain thankful that the LORD provides food for us to eat and eat well.  Amazingly, on our budget, He makes a way for us to continue to eat all-natural and mostly organic foods.  Sure we cut out other things like cable because eating well is more important to us than watching television.  When we shop, though, we use coupons, get good deals, and use our food budget as best as possible.  Usually we save about 50% on our total food purchases.  This is another reason why cooking from scratch is a good idea.  It saves a lot of money!

I'm so thankful for food.  I am thankful for how our bodies use it, and for how good food tastes good.  I'm also amazed that God uses a mother's body to feed a baby.  It is ridiculously amazing.  Thank You, Lord, for food.

Day 16: The Computer

I tend to be pretty old fashioned (perhaps you gathered that at some point), and I usually get a little hesitant about some types of technology.  However I recognize the good that comes from so many advances that have come with technology.

I am thankful for the computer.  It is crazy how much progress the computer itself has had since the first one made its debut.  It was the size of a large room!  Now one can carry a computer in one's pocket!  When you think about how little time has passed since then it is pretty unbelievable.  Even though computers can be overused and seem to have overrun our society, and even though they can be used for evil purposes, I am still thankful for the ways computers have been used for good.

There are a lot of ways that computers have been used for good and continue to be, but my focus here will be mostly on how I have benefited from computers.

First of all, it is pretty easy to type out everything I would like to communicate through this post, have it spell checked, upload a picture, and then publish it for literally people from all over the world to read.  I could not do that without this laptop here. 

Also as I continue to work on writing the book I am working on, it is much easier to type it all out on a computer than handwriting it or typing it on a typewriter.  Then once I am done, Lord willing, I will be asked to email that manuscript to a publisher after having an editor edit it on a computer and emailing it back to me.  Furthermore after it is publised it can be sold online through many venues, ordered and sent to stores through computer programs, and scanned at a store where someone will probably use a debit card to pay for it.  All of this takes computers, and all of it has been made much easier by them.

Of course it is also nice to communicate with others through email and social media outlets.  There are people I would not be in contact with at all if it were not for the computer.  Sometimes I get tired of these avenues of communication because many rely on them too much and forget about actual voice or face to face communication. 

The spread of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ has also been radically advanced through technology.  There are many websites, organizations, and even online Bible text that have helped others come to know the saving love of Jesus like never before.  I am thankful for this, as well.  Prayer requests can also be quickly communicated through email.

You most likely will not see me carrying around a computer, unless I am at an airport, but I am thankful for them.  I chose to have my computer just as my computer and not my phone, etc.  However, I am thankful for it.  Actually this one in particular we bought for under $500 with a protection plan a year or so ago.  I am thankful for that good deal, too! 

Thank You, Lord for the computer.  May more people use it for Your glory, and may Your truth be spread because of it even more.  Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Order and Rest

Day 13: Order

Can you imagine if there was no order?  Think of the order of the seasons, the unspoken order of the animal kingdom, order (even though it is not always upheld by everyone) in society...  We need order.  Without order, eventually we will feel unsettled, uneasy, and in need of...order.

I love studying the Bible and realizing more and more how ordered God is and how He made everything to have an order.  Even the way scriptures in one book of the Bible directly corresponds to scriptures in another book of the Bible is a clear indication of how God is the same throughout.  The protestant Bible is composed of 66 books, written by nearly 40 authors inspired by God, and over the course of years.  Only a God of order could have used that to make a life manual that is so congruent throughout each page.  I am so thankful that I have a God of order.

When there is order in the home, life is much more peaceful and satisfying.  When the children know what boundaries are established for them and what is expected of them, our home life is more ordered.  When discipline is needed to re-establish that order, everyone feels better afterwards.  This is because order has been restored.  It is amazing.

Think about the times traffic lights have been down.  People don't know what to do.  They forget simple traffic rules and there is a threat of chaos because no one really knows when it is their turn to go.  Usually at these times a police officer is sent to direct traffic, and again we have order.

I have had times like that in my own life.  Something went haywire or a storm blew in and the lights that keep the traffic in order stopped working for a time.  In those times I need my Lord to re-establish that order and bring peace and proper function again.  I am so thankful that He does this!  I am so thankful I can call on Him to direct traffic and get everything back in order again.  He is so restorative.

I am so thankful for the order that comes from knowing Jesus as my Lord and being able to call on Him daily, thoughout each day, to establish His order in my own life and the lives of those I love.  He is so kind.

Look at the way He set the world into motion with a quiet order that continues still.  Don't you think He can handle the day to day concerns of your life, as well?

Day 14: Rest

Order doesn't only bring peace.  It also brings rest.  Rest is not just physical, although physical rest is very important.  Rest is also a refreshing and peaceful state of trusting in the LORD, no matter the circumstance.

This past weekend I had the privelege of going on a women's retreat with some ladies from our church.  The theme throughout the weekend was, "Rest in the LORD."  I was looking forward to this for weeks because it's been a busy few months, and I knew some good time with my friends and time alone with no precious little ones to take care of for a couple of days would be renewing.

I knew we would have some free time on one of the days, and I continued to ask the LORD what He wanted me to do with that free time.  Should I bring my laptop and write?  Should I bring some books to catch up on?  Should I use that time to cultivate the friendships that have been building?  Should I pray?  Should I go on a nature walk?  There were many things I could do, but I wanted to know what He knew to be the best use of that time for me.  He told me what to pack and what not to pack.

Even when the free time came, I was still uncertain of what to do.  I loved having the free time available, but I also didn't know what to do with myself.  It was kind of funny actually.  Hours and hours of free time to spend however I wanted was both wonderful and strange at the same time.  I usually only get an hour to myself at a time, and usually I spend that on something on my to-do list.  I do choose to just sit and rest or read at times, as well, but this was a huge opportunity.

After asking the LORD again, "What do I do with all of this glorious time?"  He gave me the idea I needed.  Just lay on the bed in your room, leave the door open to let the breeze in, and listen to music.  We had cute little rooms at the retreat center, and the weather was so beautiful!  The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, and the breeze was blowing.  So that is what I did.  I took out my music and began to listen to Ginny Owens and Chris Rice. 

As I began to listen I also began to remember other times in my life when those songs were in the background.  I began to think of the times when I was a new believer crusing around in my little truck listening to those songs and learning to love the LORD.  I began to think of times in college when I was learning who I was while listening to those songs.  I began to think of my time in London when I would walk throughout the city or sit under a tree at Hyde Park listening to those songs...and many others.  I thought about the people, the places, and the times in life since I started following Jesus.  He reminded me of His faithfulness and of His tender care for me as I lay there listening.

It was refreshing.  It was relaxing.  It made me thankful. 

From there I read some scripture, journaled, went to lunch, went back to the room for a two and a half hour nap, drew with some colored pencils, worked on my Bible study on spiritual warfare, and talked with some friends.  It was such a wonderful time of taking care of myself, resting, and spending time curled up with my Heavenly Father.

It was also enjoyable to hear from other women how they spent their free time and how God was with them, as well.  That was refreshing, too.

Although spending that much time by myself is not something I can do often, it did remind me of the need to remember to make whatever time I can for just sitting and resting.  I recognize the importance of this, and thankfully I don't feel guilty about doing it.  I do however let other things take that time up, sometimes in the name of productivity, and I need to learn again how to manage this better.

If you drive anywhere on a public highway you are bound to experience people who obviously have not been resting.  They get mad when you are still sitting at the green light a second after it has turned green or if you are going the actual speed limit.  They are missing out on the rest that comes from just chilling out and taking life one moment at a time.

Where are you in this?  Are you resting in the LORD?  Do you know how to?

I am so thankful for rest.  Even the LORD rested on the seventh day after creating the universe!  How can we think we don't need to rest if even the Creator of everything rested?  Thank You, my Lord, for rest.  You know I need it because we all do.  I am thankful, and I don't want to miss this.

There are many, many scriptures on rest, but here is the one we focused on most during the women's retreat:

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken." (Psalm 62:1,2)

Rest in Him today.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Music and Dance

Day 11: Music

I am so thankful for music.  I don't think I go a day without music at some point.  Often there is music playing in our home throughout the day.  We love to sing in our car, around the house, and sometimes wherever we are (especially my husband).  We are a family who loves music. 

Music evokes emotion.  This is why I am careful to chose which types of music I let into my household, car, and mind.  Music stays with us.  This is why many commercials and companies have jingles to get their message stuck in our heads.  There is a mystery to music.  How does it have so much influence?  How can it bring on specific emotions?  It always amazes me when I am suddenly transported to another time or place in my mind when listening to a song.  Music brings back memories - good or bad.

You probably will not be surprised that my favorite music to listen to, dance to, sing to, and keep in my mind are songs that remind me of truth.  I want to listen to songs that remind me of who God is and who I am as a result.  I love songs that belt out His praises and worship Him for how great He is.  I love singing along to these.  I love hearing my children sing (or try) the words of these songs.  So many children are exposed to music with lyrics that are far too mature for them, and it breaks my heart.  Those words stay in their minds and as they grow their ideas and perspectives are shaped by them.  What are your children listening to when it comes to music?

I also love music without lyrics and with lyrics in other languages.  I first make sure that the lyrics in other languages still are congruent with my belief system because I want to support that which is good and true.  I love music from other cultures, and I love exposing my children to it.  Music without words or with words I cannot understand usually inspires imagination and creativity.

Music lifts me up.  Music has helped me through difficult times and has expressed the joy my words cannot in exciting times.  I even enjoy just one guy drumming on a bench at a bus stop.  Music moves me.

There are so many references to music, song, instruments, and singing in the Bible - too many to list here.  Music is important.  We'll even be singing in Heaven!

Here is one of my favorites, though:

"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

I am so thankful for music.  Thank You, LORD!

Day 12: Dance

I fell in love with dance back in middle school.  Actually it first started with baton twirling and then led to more exposure to dance.  I started out with mostly hip hop and jazz, and through high school began to learn more about ballet and modern/contemporary dance.  Finally in college I started taking dance classes and began the process of becoming a dancer.  I am so thankful for my experiences and education in college.  I had such great instruction from my teachers and from fellow students.  I learned years and years worth in just four years.  I am very grateful because I would not be who I am today without the fun and learning experiences of dancing with a pre-professional dance company in college. 

Since then I have danced professionally at churches and other events, but a special place remains in my heart for those first dance concerts where I was completely both terrified and at home on stage.  Modern dance quickly became my favorite, and it remains so still. 

Dance is not just about performing on a stage for an audience, though.  Dance is another expression of worship.  Often at church while singing along to the songs we sing, in my head I am dancing.  I am dancing and worshipping the LORD through the expression of dance.  Sometimes I really just want to bust out right then and there, but because I don't want to distract others I usually just tap my foot and move in place. 

I also am thankful for ballroom dances like swing, salsa, tango, fox trot, and many others.  My husband and I enjoy dancing along when we get the opportunity for those, like at weddings.  There is just something about dance that touches my very soul.  It is a part of who I am.  I love that, and I love when I get to share that with my husband.  He has a lot of natural talent, which I praise the LORD for.

I pray that as I continue to dance, I can also encourage others to do the same.  I look forward to choreography and making dances for others.  I love watching my children dance around to music, and I always try to help them feel free to just dance.  It doesn't have to look like a professional ballerina to be called beautiful.  Dance comes from within because of a joy or sorrow that need expressing.  I always enjoy going to dance performances, and it is even more fun to go as a family.

I am so thankful for dance.  I thank the LORD for giving dance to me in my life, and I want to dance for His glory.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Good Ideas and Creativity

Day 9: Good Ideas

Isn't it fun to have a good idea?  That moment when you suddenly think of something that seems like a really great idea is so thrilling.  I find it appropriate that that moment is often signified by a lightbulb being turned on.  I love good ideas.

When an idea comes, I must first evaluate it before acting on it.  Is it a good idea?  Does it fall in line with truth?  Would it bring good to others and glorify God?  These questions needed to be answered to help me know if the idea is a good one or not a good one.  Of course the more significant the idea the more evaluation and prayer is needed.  Not much evaluation and prayer is needed for a great idea of what to make for dinner tonight, but I love when I get one of those!  Sometimes the idea for dinner is indeed an answer to prayer, as small as it is.

One lesson I have been learning over the last year or so is that when I get an idea, I need to prayerfully consider it, ask the LORD for guidance on the first/next step, and then once I hear back from Him I need to do what He says.  Think of all of the great ideas that have come and gone through your mind, but you never did anything about it.  Then you see the idea you had in a store.  Someone else had that idea, but they did something about it.  What do you say then?  "Why didn't I do that!?"  Right?

It seems that often (not always) the difference between those of us who have an idea that never comes to realization and those who are currently marketing their idea is the fact that they did something about that idea!  Really good ideas take time, energy, work, money usually, and perseverance.  However, wouldn't it feel great to stand before your finished product and be thankful that you did it?

God takes care of the results, but what is my part?  What is He asking me to do?  What ideas has He given me to develop and shape into something that could be wonderful?

The ideas I am currently working on range from large to small.

Large ones include a few books I am working on and praying about publishing.  I have three that I am actively writing, but there are a couple of others being kicked around between my ears, as well.  I want to be diligent and responsible with these ideas and be wise with them.  I want to carry them out with excellence in His way, His timing, and for His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom.  If I produce a product, even if it looks great, but it is done in my own strength and for my own glory may it never succeed.  May I only succeed when I pursue His goals for the ideas He has placed in my mind. 

Medium-sized ideas right now include what to give to my friends and family for Christmas.  I love thinking and praying about what to give at Christmas.  It is such a fun opportunity to give to others, and I really don't get that opportunity much throughout the rest of the year - at least on such a large scale.  I get so excited when I get a really good idea for a gift for someone, especially when it is someone I was having trouble coming up with a gift idea for. 

Small ideas that are still very important have been helping me even in the last couple of days.  I am so thankful that the LORD has given me good ideas for daily life and routine with my home life, husband, children, and work.  It has been wonderfully refreshing to receive these ideas, especially when I really was needing some guidance.

I love good ideas, and I thank the LORD for them!

Day 10: Creativity 

Along the same line of being thankful for good ideas, I am so thankful for creativity!  I love creativity!  I so enjoy the creativity of others.  I love being able to enjoy someone's creative expressions through visual arts, performing arts, music, dance, architecture, writing, cooking, baking, photography, etc.  What would we do without creativity?  What would our world be like?

Without creativity, life would be pretty bland.

I also am thankful for times when I get to be creative.  I love making things and doing something creative.  It's refreshing to me, and it really is a large part of who I am.  God made me this way. 

As far back as I remember, I have always loved being creative.  My brother and I used to draw and write comic books, magazines, whole story lines, and much more.  We would also record songs and "live shows" that we made up on endless hours of tapes.  When my little sister grew old enough, she joined us in these endeavors.  It was a lot of fun, and now we have those as great memories and really funny tapes. 

My cousins and I also used to make up games and play them for hours.  We did this so often that when I became a camp counselor years later no one knew the games I was talking about.  I realized then that we must have made up more of them then I remembered.

I enjoy the creativity of others, I enjoy the creativity the LORD has given me, and I enjoy the creativity of the Creator Himself.  How can I marvel at human creativity without realizing from whom it first came?  Look at the trees, flowers, people!  Think of how many types of bananas there are, the many species of fish in the ocean and then the many species of fish in lakes, rivers, and other fresh water sources!  Isn't it amazing that instead of just giving us one or two kinds of trees, one or two kinds of food, one or two types of people He gave us the incredibly vast variety He has? 

What creativity it took to create everything we see.  Even the buidlings around us were inspired by the LORD's creativity, whether the men and women building them realize that or not.  God is the ultimate when it comes to creativity, and I am so thankful!  What excitement, variety, pleasure that brings to life!

He not only creates, but He also re-creates.  He makes new the old and breathes life into what was once dead.  He re-created me when I turned to Him.  He made me a new creation.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I praise the LORD for creativity.  It was a good idea, to say the least!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: My Family and My Friends

Day 7: My Family

I love my big family.  I have already mentioned how thankful I am for my husband and children, so in this post I am mainly focusing on our extended families.  My husband and I both have pretty big families.  I love that!  I also am thankful that we know our cousins and great-aunts and uncles (well most of them).

Funny enough we both come from a family of five.  He is the oldest, but I am the middle.  His family is four boys and one girl.  Mine is four girls and one boy.  I always get a kick out of that.

I am thankful for the family that raised my husband to be the great man he is.  We have a lot of fun together, and we always enjoy visits.  Unfortunately much of his family live far away from us, so we don't get to see them very often.  I am thankful for Skype and forms of social media that have helped us connect more regularly than before.  Too bad we can't all live in the same city - or the same state at least!  God has each of us where we are though, so I pray for plane ticket money.  I am also oh so thankful for how many of his family members love Jesus, too.  His grandma and grandpa have had a wonderful and profound influence, and we are very thankful for their legacy.

Thankfully we at least have most of my side of the family in the same state.  Although we don't get to spend as much time with them as we would like, it is great to be able to get together for holidays, birthdays, and occasional get-togethers.  We have a lot of fun, too.  I especially love when all of my siblings can get together.  We usually end up laughing a lot.  I have some witty siblings.

I love watching my parents play with my children.  It is a blessed thing to watch the very people who raised me love on the little ones I am raising.  It is also humbling, sobering, and overall lots of fun. 

I am so thankful for my parents who have always supported me even when they didn't always really understand why I wanted to do what I was doing or maybe even like what I was wanting to do - for example flying over the ocean a few times and even living in another country for a couple of months while in college.  They never let me just do whatever I wanted.  No, there needed to be reasonable evidence that it was a good idea, and they needed to know the details.  I appreciate that.  I think I always appreciated that even when I was young and sometimes annoyed about their authority.  I knew that not all parents protected their children like mine did.  That is very sad, but true.  It may be worse nowadays. 

I also thankful that my parents have been married for 33 years.  That is a blessing to all of us!  They have also always supported my marriage and made my husband feel a part of the family right from the beginning.  That is also a blessing!

My family extends pretty wide on both sides with so many cousins (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th!), aunts and uncles, great-aunts and great-uncles, and one more beloved grandma for each side.  We have a variety of beliefs, traditions, personalities, professions, hobbies, and desires.  Even though there are many who believe differently than we do, we love them just the same.

I have always been taught to enjoy and be thankful for the family I have, and that took root deep within me.  I want to pray for them, encourage them, and invest in them for God's glory.  Thank You, LORD for my family!

Day 8: My Friends

This is actually a difficult post for me to write because many of our close friends no longer live near us.  I miss being able to see them anytime.  It takes time to build good, solid friendships and sometimes it's not easy to find families where the wives, the husbands, and the children connect well.

I don't believe I will name names here because I am afraid I may accidentally forget someone.  However the LORD has provided us with friends near and far who have been a great blessing to us.  Some of these friendships have grown apart over time.  Some of them have held steady even with distance between us.  Some are still in the process of building and taking shape into what He has in mind.  I am thankful for all of these because I believe that we can learn something from everyone we encounter.  Sometimes the lessons are big and sometimes they are small.  Still they remain important.  We can positively or negatively impact each person brought across our paths. 

I am also thankful for the friendships we have built within our church.  These friendships have become like family to us, and we love them and are thankful for them.  It is wonderful to have a place where you belong and where others can come and join the family, as well.  I love that.  Our church is such a welcoming place where truth is upheld and people are made to feel valued because God values them. 

I also am thankful for these friends in our church and in other churches who are ready to call me out on something that needs attention.  I am accountable to them, and I am thankful that I have good enough friends who are willing to share the truth in love because they love me.  We love others more when we speak the truth instead of just looking the other way or approving of everything the person does for fear of rejection or conflict.  Of course we need to learn from the LORD how to do this in a loving way, as well, instead of in a judgemental or condemning way (although many people may still mistake any confrontation as judgement or condemnation instead of loving truth).

Over the last few years of praying for good friends who are nearby and have similar convictions, interests, etc, the LORD has shown me that I need to be the kind of friend for which I am praying.  I want to invest more in others and take time to call or write or do something small that encourages others.  I still am longing for this balance and desire to honor the LORD in this way. 

I realize that this is not always easy and sometimes when building a friendship you realize that it just isn't going to work out.  That is okay.  I had to learn that long ago.  Not everyone wants to be my friend, just as there are people I won't feel connected to either.  As long as I am not operating in my flesh with this or out of fear or bitterness, etc, I just have to let that go sometimes.

Being in a new area now I have had to go out of my comfort zone and open my eyes to the people the LORD wants me to connect with here.  It's a little scary at times.  How much do I open up?  What questions can I ask them, so I am not doing all the talking?  Are they a safe person to build a relationship with?  Lord, please help me be patient through the process.

Good friends are so vital to life.  We all need them.  I pray the LORD has provided or will provide good close friends for you (of the same gender) to walk through life with and enjoy the many blessings that come from friendship.  Thank You, LORD for our friends!  May I be a good friend to those whom You have given to me to befriend, for Your glory and renown.

And let me know forget to thank the LORD for being the best friend I could ever have.  He not only made me His family when I surrendered my life to Him, but He also made me His friend.

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:19,20)

"I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15b)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: My Home and My Wheels

Day 5: My Home

What a beautiful time of year to live where we live.  It is amazing to just sit outside for hours at a time and enjoy the perfect temperatures and beautiful sunshine.  We are thankful to live here, and although I love to travel I am not sure I would like to live anywhere else long term.

This year I am very thankful to also have a home where my family fits.  We moved from a 1/1 to a 3/2 earlier this year, and wow has it been a wonderful move!  I didn't realize fully how much we needed more space until we moved.  I knew we needed more bedrooms, more closets, etc, but I didn't really understand until we had more how much better it felt.  We are thriving here in a better neighborhood and with the many specific requests the LORD provided when we asked Him for a new home. 

Looking at our old home now, I am even more amazed and thankful that we made it work as long as we did.  Thanks to a lot of creative ideas from the Creator Himself, we did it.  Oh, how much better we love it here, though!  Just to have a bedroom and a real bed again has been huge!

We are so thankful for our home.  Thank You, Father God!

Day 6: My Wheels

I am thankful for our wheels: our car and our van.

About two and a half years ago we decided to sell both of our cars and get one car that was a little bigger to fit a growing family and also more dependable.  Thanks to a friend, we got a good deal on it and have enjoyed it ever since.  It had to be repaired a couple of times, and now it has some weird mechanical quirks, but all in all it's a good car.  We are very thankful for a good car.

Just a year ago, we decided to add a second vehicle again to our collection because having one car was proving to be a bit difficult at times.  We bought a van for a very low price, got it fixed and were ready to ride off into the sunset with it. 

After a fun day of time together as a family that van was stolen.  We had it for three weeks.  Amazingly we received it back after only a week, but there was much damage done to it.  It has not been the same since, and it continues to need repair.  In fact we are not sure what we should do with it next.

Even with all of that, I am so thankful to have a van.  With a new baby on the way and so much to explore with my children, it is nice to again have the freedom to go out even while my husband is at work.  That was something that was tough with just one car.

The LORD has provided for us time and time again, and we really have a lot to thank Him for including our home and our vehicles!  Thank You, Father God!  We are blessed by Him.  May He be glorified through these blessings.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: My Children and My Bible

Day 3: My Children

I often joke that we should have had children much earlier.  I say this because I think they have seriously mellowed me out, and I like myself better as a mom than before they came along.  However I know that God's timing is perfect, and He gave us children in His time, so that is why I say I joke about that.

I am daily amazed by and thankful for my children.  They are more than precious to me.  I love looking into their beautiful eyes and wondering who they will be and what they are really thinking and just beholding the beauty of God's creation in them.  I want to be a better mommy everyday and be honest and real with them.

I want them to know that they can trust their mommy and daddy, and even more importantly I want them to know that they can trust the LORD with every little and big thing in life because He will never let them down like we will from time to time.  I want to make sure, by God's grace, that my priorities are set up and maintained so that I can teach them by example what is good and right.  I also want to honor my husband in front of them, so they will learn to do the same and feel secure in our love for each other.

I have written about these little blessings before and also the one that is already in Heaven and the one we are expecting in April.  Their wit and their smarts always amaze me.  I love the funny things they do and say.  Their hugs and kisses are so sweet, and I generally really love being with them.  I am thankful that I get to stay home with them and teach them and take care of them full time.  That is a blessing that I do not take for granted.  My husband is wonderful with them, too, so I do get mommy-time, as well.

These children need constant care, constant love, boundaries, discipline, instruction, food, fun, books read to them, games to play, imaginative times, crafts, crayons, music, dance, prayer and much more.  And I love it!  I love fulfilling the God-given role of taking care of them and providing for their needs and wants as the LORD equips me and provides for me to do so.  It is a blessing! 

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward." (Psalm 127:3 NASB)

Do you believe this?

There are many people who see children as only a bother and another mouth to feed.  They look at children and see the need to provide for a college education, little league sports, a wedding...  When we focus on all of that we miss out on right now.  Yeah, I know it can be exhausting when children don't obey and need discipline so often, and it just seems hard to enjoy them at all.  There will be days like that.  However, there will be many other days that are filled with joy and delight when you take the time needed to show your children how important they are - to you and to God.

I have this twitch that happens when someone says something like, "Well, you sure have your hands full don't you?"  Yes.  Why, yes, my hands are full.  What are they full of though?  They are full of love and blessing because the LORD God who created the heavens and the earth entrusted us with these children for how ever long we have with them.  That is indeed fullness, but I am pretty sure it's not what the person meant by their comment.

Let's decide to encourage and show our children how valued they are instead of see them as a burden to endure for eighteen years or so.  Don't let the bad days get you down.  Tomorrow is a new day.

I praise the LORD for all four of my children - the two we know, the one we will meet in Heaven, and the one we hope to meet in April.  Words fail to express the genuine love and thankfulness I have for them.

They know I am not perfect, and they know that we don't expect them to be.  They also know that they are not the ones who run the household.  We remind them of that often.  Those sweet smiles and giggles are delightful!  Thank you, my Lord!

Day 4: My Bible

It's perfect that I am writing about my children and my Bible in the same post.  How would I know the truth about myself, my husband, my children, or anything at all without the Bible?  The Bible is the LORD's manual to us.  It is filled with wisdom, insight, instruction, directions, hope, and the truth I need each day! 

Without the Bible I wouldn't realize that my children don't have to learn to disobey.  It is in their nature, just like it is in mine.  They have to learn to obey instead by setting aside their own will and learning to follow the LORD's instead.  This is a daily (and often moment-by-moment) decision that will become more a part of their lives as they grow and mature.  Our job is to help them learn this when they are little and continue to teach them as they get older.  It is much easier to learn to do this with little kid problems than it is with big kid and even teenager or adult problems.  As a parent, I must realize it starts early.  I learned this from the Bible.

"As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." (Romans 3:11)

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:22-24)

My little precious ones are still born into sinful human nature and will not know how to obey God and walk in truth unless they are taught.  The good news is that they can be taught and that righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Without the Bible I would not know the truth about Jesus.  I would not be able to better understand His sacrifice to save me from the wages of sin and death (Romans 6:23).  I would not be able to better understand the everlasting covenant I have with Him because of who He is and what He has done for me (Hebrews 13:20,21).

Without the Bible I would not know how to resist the devil and flee from temptation (James 4:7).  I would not understand that the battle is not between flesh and blood but in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12).  I would not know that I need armor on everyday to be prepared to fight the battle and enjoy the victory I have in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 6:11).

There are so many more verses I could pack in here, but those are just a few for which I am very thankful.

I not only love the Bible and am thankful for it, but also I am thankful for the freedom to carry it and own a Bible where I live.  Some places in the world the people there cannot own a Bible legally.  Some places in the world do not have a Bible in their own language, yet. 

I have a study Bible in the New American Standard version, a thin line Bible to take with me in the English Standard Version, and a New Testament in the New International Version.  My husband has a study Bible in the New King James Version, and a smaller travel sized one in the English Standard Version.  Our oldest has a copy in the New International Version, and we have two children's Bibles here, too.  We have the freedom to have these, to study these, to read these, to bring them with us whenever we want wherever we go, and to go to church where hundreds of others are opening their Bibles up, as well, without any hindrance from government officials.  I am very thankful for this freedom.

I have been to illegal churches in other countries, and I realized more than ever after those experiences that we are blessed with the freedom to openly worship God and carry a Bible.  I don't want to take that for granted!

I thank the LORD for His gift of the Bible.  I also pray that more people will not only have one, but that they will learn to study it and read it daily in their own language trusting God to teach them through it and help them live in truth and freedom as a result!  Help me do this more and more, as well, my Lord!  Thank you, LORD!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: My Lord and My Husband

Thanksgiving is coming!  I cannot believe this is November already.  Seriously I wonder how times feels like it goes by so fast sometimes.  I decided that instead of getting crazed by the busyness that can overwhelm so many of us during this season of holidays leading up to Christmas, I want to focus on being thankful.  Being thankful is a chioce.  There are many things that can lead to despair if we focus on them, but focusing on thankfulness helps us to navigate through the other stuff more easily and with a more cheerful disposition.  I am asking the LORD to help me be cheerful and thankful instead of run-down, overwhelmed, or stuck in disappointment. 

What a good time to focus on this and share with others - Thanksgiving!

So, every other day I will write about two more reasons I am thankful.  I hope you will be encouraged and even inspired to write down what makes you thankful and thank the LORD for the blessings He has given you, as well.  This is of course not an exhaustive list.  I only have twenty-four days in November, including Thanksgiving, so there will be twenty-four reasons to be thankful that I will share with you.

Day 1: My Lord

I write a lot about Jesus on here, so you probably would expect I would be thankful for Him.  I am not listing Him first to sound like a good Christian.  I am listing Him first on this list because really I recognize that everything I have is from Him.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)

I started following Him (calling on Him as my Lord and surrendering to Him as my Master) almost fifteen years ago.  It's hard to believe it has been that long.  Before that I thought I was already a Christian.  I celebrated Christmas and Easter, and my parents taught me a lot of moral truths that are found in the Bible.  However I didn't realize that being a Christian was not just about knowing about Jesus and believing in Him. 

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder." (James 2:19)

It was about calling on Him, asking Him to forgive me for my sins, and deciding that He would be the Lord of my life from then on.

"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9, 10)

As time passed since that moment, and I continued to learn more and fall in love more with Him, I came to recognize my daily need for His guidance, love, direction, forgiveness, wisdom, etc.  I am so thankful because He has never failed to meet one of these needs. 

He has never failed to show Himself when I called and waited on Him to answer.  He doesn't always answer in the way I expect, and sometimes I have to realize that what I am asking for is actually not what is best.  Thankfully He shows me this with such grace and mercy.  If I listen, then much trouble is avoided.  If I decide to go with my own way anyway, there is sure to be at least some difficulty.  He always takes me back, though, even after I have disobeyed and returned to Him with my head down and shoulders slouched because of regret and remorse.

I am thankful that nothing I can do - whether good or bad - can change His love for me.  I am sealed with Him, and I will forever be (see John 10:29).  There is so much more to share.  I am so thankful.

Day 2: My husband 

One of those good and perfect gifts the LORD has given me is my husband.  It's not that he is perfect, and I couldn't expect him to be, but he is so wonderful!  I have written an ode to him before, and I am truly so thankful for him. 

We met back in college, actually before I transfered to the school where he was about to finish his undergrad.  I said to the LORD, "God, I want to marry a guy like that."  I didn't actually think I would ever see him again.  He was graduating.  Well I didn't know that he was going to be there for another three years working on his graduate degree.  We ran into each other again months later, and I still didn't really think much about it.  I learned he had a girlfriend, and I honestly didn't think he would ever be interested in me. 

Thankfully God had other plans.  Later that year he did become interested in me (he and his girlfriend had broken up months earlier), and I became very much interested in him.  It's a long a beautiful story.  I still say I "married up."

Now over eight years later I feel more in love with him as time passes.  We have had disagreements, times of lackluster, and even annoy each other from time to time.  However, he is my best friend and more than I could have thought to ask for in a husband and father of my children.  And he loves me, too!

He is such a great daddy, too!  Our children adore him, and for good reason.  I am always amazed and thankful for his growing relationship with them, his desire to seize teachable moments for God's glory, and his tender love for them.  I am thankful to be on the same page with him, as well, when it comes to raising and training up our children.  We are partners in this.

I tell you, I got a package deal with him.  I am oh so thankful!  The LORD knows I need him.  He has balanced me out in so many areas that balance was greatly needed.  Sure, the LORD has used me to balance him out, too. 

I love my husband and thank our Lord for him!

What are you thankful for today?