Wednesday, April 24, 2013

His Sweet Reminders


Do you ever just need a little reminder throughout the day?  It amazes me how God can give me such encouragement and instruction in the morning during my time in His word, and then an hour later I've completely forgotten all about it.    

I found these chicken scratches on this little piece of paper tucked on my kitchen window sill. I remember quickly writing it one morning a couple weeks ago as the kids were waking up and the house was coming to life....to remind me of the things God had put on my heart that morning...my attempt at keeping it before me throughout the day so I wouldn't forget.

I don't remember if I even looked at it that day or not...I think I need to actually tape it to my arm!  

I'm thankful I found it though...God is so gentle in his love for us.  He works patiently with his clay, molding it with tender, slow movements.  He knows our frame, that we are but dust.  He knows I need these sweet reminders.  He is my Good Shepherd....leading me to green pastures...to still waters...(to little pieces of paper that have living words on them)....restoring my soul and leading me in paths of righteousness.  

So, his reminder today....

Sing praises to God.
Rejoice always.
Be thankful.
Think about praiseworthy, commendable things - the positive.
Focus on the good things the kids do.
Be a tender, loving mother.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What to do When the World is Falling Apart

Photo by VASQUEZ.CO


My heart is heavy with so many things...

Our country is going downhill fast.  Moral decay permeates our nation, and our government is quickly taking more freedoms away from the people.  It's no wonder though....

Noah Webster, author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary said, "[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence." (http://www.free2pray.info/5founderquotes.html)

It seems every day I hear of something else...

from legalizing homosexual marriage to taking away our guns, threatening our parental rights, brutal murders of infants to bombings & terrorism...and government cover-ups and corruption.  Christian groups are being labeled "domestic hate groups," the liberal media is claiming children don't belong to their parents but to the collective...

The list just goes on and on and on.

What will life be like in 5 years?...10 years?...When my children are grown with families of their own?

It really puts into focus how important it is to prepare our children for whatever is to come.  To prepare them to stand strong for TRUTH...for JESUS!...no matter the cost.

We must speak the truth, renouncing ungodliness and proclaiming the truth of God's word and the light of the gospel which is Jesus Christ.

But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.  We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:2-6

Jesus Christ is the answer!!

And He shines His light in our hearts, and then through us to the world!

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:14 

We must be bright lights in this dark world.  We must not hide our light under the basket of fear or not wanting to offend or be labeled... or just being too busy.  

We must not let our light grow dim.  We must kindle the flame!  We must burn with passion for our King...so much that we can't help but share Him with others.  

Photo by VASQUEZ.CO
We must understand clearly that the only hope for our neighbors, our co-workers, the stranger at the grocery store, the homosexual, the pro-choice feminist, our government leaders, our children and relatives, our country as a whole...is Jesus!  Nothing but Jesus....He alone is the answer.  And without Him, there is darkness, blindness, confusion, evil, fear, depravity...the end of which is destruction.  

Do we feel the urgency?  Or are we complacent?  I'm speaking to myself here too.  It's something that weighs heavy on my heart.  Am I willing to count the cost? Am I willing to speak out for Christ?

Sometimes I wonder what this busy homeschool mom of 7 (almost 8) can do to impact our nation and our world for Christ.  God knows my heart longs to make a huge impact for Him in this world.  Maybe you feel the same.  This is what He continually reminds me of...

As a mother, not only do I have precious souls in my care that I have the opportunity to share the gospel with day in and day out, but I am also raising up the future generation!  I am a nation builder!...a nation changer!  What a huge responsibility, as I think about the future generations that will come from my children and my children's children...and all they will impact.  I have a HUGE job right here in my own home.

But beyond the walls of my home I have a commission, given to me by my Savior, to make disciples of all nations.  As I pray about how we, as a family, can fulfill this command from our Master, I am reminded of how Jesus did it...with 12 men.  He called them one at a time and poured his life into them....and then sent them out.  Again, I see clearly how God has given me 7 (soon to be 8) disciples to pour my life into, but also that one way I can disciple them is to show them how we can spread the gospel to all nations one person at a time, one opportunity at a time.

When we pray and have willing hearts, God answers with opportunity.  He is looking for vessels He can use.  

God has shown me an opportunity right around the corner from me....a dear old couple who own the land next door (or rather just sold 20 acres of it).  They are getting up in age and their health is declining.  We've visited with them many times, usually at Christmas or Thanksgiving when we bring them some goodies and sit in their living room and visit.  God has been putting them on my heart a lot and I know what I need to do.

So, before all my readers, I'm committing to take them some cookies this next week...and share Jesus with them.  Please pray for me.  Pray for boldness, discernment, the right words...for tender hearts that are ready to receive the good news.  I have put it off long enough.  Now I have all of you to keep me accountable!

What opportunity is God giving you?  Have you asked Him?  

Let's all commit to something...instead of allowing the wickedness of our world and all the problems we see around us to bring us down, discourage us, and create fear in our hearts....rather let it be a reminder, a call to action...to rise up!!  We have the answer!  Let it embolden us to do what we have been commissioned to do.  Remember, this is not our home.  We are just here for a short time, with a PURPOSE!  Let's fulfill our purpose for the glory of God.

If you want to join me in publicly sharing your commitment to follow God in a specific way, please share with us in the comments.  Sometimes it helps just to say it out loud...the first step in taking action.  Can you imagine the motivation that would give all of us as we join arms together for Jesus?  And then we can pray for each other!

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Life Changes Again... Learning to Embrace the Now



This picture is my amazingly beautiful view from my back deck. These 20 acres of rolling hills next door to our 3 1/2 acre home is one of my very favorite things about living here. It makes me feel like I'm out in the open country, surrounded by God's peaceful presence.  I love watching the sunset through the trees, watching the wind blow through the soft yellow flowers that cover it in the spring.  I love seeing the round hay bales after the tall grass has been cut.  When I'm going a little crazy with the kids and the house and everything that needs to be done, I can step outside and let my eyes gaze upon the quiet, still beauty of the rolling green grass and the blue sky.  


Ahh....it helps put life back into perspective.  Life is bigger than the 4 walls of my house.  God is bigger.  And in just a few moments, as I breathe in the fresh air and drink in the beauty of this beautiful place, God washes me with His peace.  There's something about nature...about His beauty reflected in His creation that is just what my soul needs.

And this is why I love these 20 acres next door...we have dreamed of owning it someday.  Last week we found out that our neighbors sold it all to developers who are going to turn it into "Green Gable Estates"... dividing it into 6 lots.  I can't tell you how devastated I have been.  Why is it so hard to accept the changes of life?  Why can't life just stay the same?
I know this is a relatively small thing, but it's a loss nonetheless.  A loss of life as I now know it.  It's a reminder that life isn't going to be the same forever.  And it's really got me thinking...

...thinking about the life I live and love right now.  All my blessings...and there are so many!  I love my life right now. I love it that my children are still young enough to play outside together, climb trees, build forts, play Legos, dress up and wrestle and giggle.  I love it that I have little ones running around in diapers making everyone laugh.  I love that they all yell and run for Daddy when he comes home, that my 6 year old tells me that I'm beautiful and my 4 year old daughter told me yesterday that I'm "a wonderful lady."  I love sharing life with them.  I love that I get to live every day with my best friend by my side...figuring all of this out together, as a team...and that we're still crazy about each other.  I love that we live on this beautiful piece of land, with our crazy chickens who eat cat food right alongside our cats, and that I get to have goats...and even pigs for a while.  I love that I've had my last 3 babies in this house...and that I get to do it again in a few weeks.  I love having babies.  I know life can't stay the same forever, and I wouldn't want it to.  But the thought of things changing makes my heart ache.  The thought of my children growing up...it puts a knot in my throat.   But it also makes me overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy as I recount God's goodness to me and all the ways He has blessed me...and all the gifts He has given to me.  I am so amazingly blessed.

My dad battled cancer when I was just a teenager, and during that time God taught him an important lesson about contentment.    When he had regained some of his strength for a time, he shared with his congregation what God had been teaching him.  He said he had been laying in bed next to my mom holding her hand and thinking about life...and how it could all change.  He thought about how much he wished he could always be there holding her hand...and growing old together, how he wished he could see his kids grow up.  But God was teaching him that contentment was wanting what you have more than what you want.   So he laid there, hand in hand with my mom, and thanked God for that moment...for the gift He had given him right then and there.  He was practicing wanting what he had more than what he wanted.  He was finding contentment.  He was being thankful.

No, life doesn't stay the same for long.  Things change.  But I want to learn from my dad's example.  I want to take the moments I have right now...and cherish them.  I want my heart to overflow with thankfulness to my God.  I confess, I've complained and whined quite a bit about my beautiful land next door being taken from me.  I've been a bit of a baby about it.  But God has taken that piece of land and has made it a visual reminder to me that life changes and that I must embrace every moment and be thankful for what I have right now....it is all a gift. 

So I want to encourage you to stop and take a good look around you at all the gifts God has given you... and embrace your blessings, hug your kids, kiss your spouse...be thankful!  Times may be tough, but that's all the more reason to count our blessings. It's in turning our eyes upward and being thankful to God, that we find contentment, hope and joy.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  1 Timothy 6:6

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thess. 5:18

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Highlights From Our Easter Week


I always have the best intentions, but of course, life happens and things don't always go as I plan. But isn't that the way God works? He is always teaching me to live in the moment, following Him instead of my to-do list.  It's about flexibility, contentment, and trust...choosing to see Him in each moment, making the best of it, knowing it is from Him.

I wish I could say that I do this well...this "taking life as it comes and adjusting cheerfully when my plans don't work out" thing. Unfortunately I usually stress out and get frazzled.  And this last week, with all the plans I had (see my post Ideas to Make Easter as Memorable as Christmas), it was especially important to remember that making much of Christ at Easter was not dependent upon all the activities we did, but rather about FOCUS...setting our minds and hearts on Him in the midst of it all, and taking time to slow down, reflect, and drink in His goodness.

And Jesus has been so gracious to show me His goodness this week, His deep deep love for me...and for His people, and give us special times as a family reflecting on Him and what He has done for us (even if we didn't do all that I had planned...or when I planned!)

Here are some of the highlights... (and if you want further descriptions of these activities and more, see my previous post)

Ok, the Palm Sunday re-enactment was a bit wild...ok really wild. But we made some great memories! Especially when Zack (Jesus) was riding on the donkey (Dad) while Jed was slapping the donkey's behind saying, "Go donkey, go donkey!"...meanwhile Ben, Sam, Hailey & Jake were all busy throwing blankets and leafy branches and pillows down in front of the donkey while yelling, "Hossana! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" (or something that resembled that).  I think this was our first take.  We did it a few more times and it did get a little better. Needless to say, it wasn't a star performance, but it was fun!  


We watched the Gospel of John movie...over a few nights and read (and are still finishing) Amon's Adventure: A Family Story for Easter. This book has been wonderful....giving us a unique perspective on what it may have been like for those living at the time of Christ's death and resurrection.

Zack & Ben had their very first piano recital Thursday night! So we didn't get to have a Seder meal, but we had a great time celebrating Zack & Ben's job well done...They both were amazing!



Then we came home and had a special "foot washing". Steven read the scripture about Jesus washing His disciples feet on the night of the Passover....as an example of how we ought to serve one another. So, Steven washed each of our feet one at a time sharing what he loves about each one of us and giving encouragement for us to seek Jesus.






Then the kids and I all gathered around and washed Steven's feet. It was such a meaningful and enjoyable time together.


Friday the kids woke up with an idea of something they wanted to do instead of normal school. So we all had a meeting on my bed and discussed their ideas. They wanted to dress up like Israelites and make market places outside and try to experience the life they lived (I think watching the Gospel of John and reading Amon's Adventure has spurred their interest). We ended up having such a fun day outside as Israelites buying and selling "goods" (trash or little creations they made) from each other's markets. We used rocks as money...and Mom had "special" money (Easter robin egg candies that looked like rocks). Oh the joys of home education!


Jed ended up being a (nice) Roman soldier


Jake's market


Ben's market

Zack's market

Abel got in on the action once he woke up from his nap

Sam & Hailey's market (shared with Jed)






Daddy happened to come home early and got to see everyone's creations!

It was a fun day. I love how the kids get so into it....from creating their own costumes, to making toothpicks by carving twigs from a certain bush, to Jake making his own ink by squeezing the juice out of stems and mixing it with dirt and water....and painting his own sign.




Easter Sunday we woke up to see the cross draped in white and the table beautifully decorated with our resurrection garden in the middle...and the stone rolled away! (and the little toilet paper wrapped Jesus was gone!)


We ate a delicious resurrection breakfast...and the kids loved pretending that the pancake was the tomb and had fun rolling the sausage stone away. They even used the bacon as the sticks to roll the stone away.




After worshipping and fellowshipping with our wonderful church family, we delivered some cookies and a little booklet by John Piper called For Your Joy to people who had to work that day. Steven and I took turns taking a couple of the kids with us into a couple hotels, an auto parts store, and a gas station...giving them our little gift and telling them of the love of Jesus...who gave His life so that we can have life. We had great responses from people. The first lady Steven spoke with was so thankful and asked where we went to church because she really needs to get her life together. He gave her our phone number and we are going to pray for her. It's amazing how God can use something so small to make a difference in someone's life.



Later that day we had a fun Resurrection Egg Scavenger Hunt and Easter egg hunt. We had to do it in the house this year because of the weather. But there were lots of fun hiding spots!


Reading the clues for the scavenger hunt


The "happy" at the end

The Easter egg hunt!


We were going to end the day dying Easter eggs, since we hadn't gotten to do that yet. But the kids really wanted to go outside instead. After spending too much energy trying to convince them that we should dye Easter eggs, I came to my senses...what was I thinking? I'd gladly skip dying Easter eggs!! (sorry, but the thought of all that dye with so many little kids after a busy day made me tired)

So, we ended the day playing tag and jump rope (I gave them some jump ropes in their Easter basket) outside since the weather had cleared up. There is only one thing that my kids have missed from not being in public school...jump rope! Ha! It was hilarious to watch the boys try to do it (including Steven). At one point Sam came up to me and said, "Mom, I'm so glad you got us these jump ropes! They are perfect for capturing people!" Ok, I tried....but, boys will be boys!  (You'll notice in the video that Jed is in his underwear...with shoes and socks...and sunglasses.  Apparently Steven told him to take off his nice church clothes before he went outside.  So he did!)


We hope y'all had a happy Easter too!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Our Baby Goat Dies and Reminds Us of God's Love

(picture taken last night when Steven came home and met the little guy)

Yesterday we discovered we had another baby goat. Freedom finally gave birth, and since we didn't know when she was bred and therefore when she would deliver, we ended up missing it again! But it seemed like he had been born earlier in the day. He was so strong and already getting around so well. We never imagined we would find him dead in the goat barn this morning. It was so sad. We've never had a baby goat die.

I had been concerned because it didn't look like the mother was letting him nurse.  She seemed interested in him but when I tried to put him near her utter she would kick and walk away.  We tried to get him nursing last night and he did for a minute and then didn't want to anymore. I convinced myself that he must be nursing when I'm not around because he's doing so well.  Apparently I was wrong...or maybe there was another reason he died. 

I have to admit I have a little grudge against Freedom.  How can a mother not take care of her little baby?  I know things are different with animals, yet even in our society, countless mothers are rejecting their babies...and even choosing to kill them before they are born.  You don't see this kind of atrocity even in the animal kingdom.  

I am reminded of a verse that has been so dear to me...

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  Isaiah 49:15

This verse assumes how outrageous and unnatural it is for a mother to neglect her nursing baby. We know this to be true because of how our hearts react even when we see a mother goat reject her baby. We know that a mother's love is one of the surest and strongest of all we have known on this earth.  Yet God is saying there is something still surer. Even a mother may forget her nursing baby, yet God will never forget us.  

It was a sad, yet sweet reminder of His love today. I hope you are reminded of his love for you as well.  Nothing can turn His eyes off of you.  Nothing can pull you out of his embrace.  

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (see Romans 8:38-39)