Celebrating Turning 8

“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.”              1 Samuel 1:27-28

The passing of time is very evident when birthdays hit. Our sixth child just turned 8 years old the other day and it seems like we were just heading to the hospital for him to be born. He is such an interesting kid and is very comfortable in who he is. He never meets a stranger and what he thinks, he says. The way he loves the Lord is remarkable and it carries over to people, as it should. If he puts up a guard with someone, I trust him. This rarely happens, but when it does, I take it seriously. I hear many stories that start with, “You won’t believe what Eli said”.  Knowing Eli I never know what he will say.

IMG_5866When he was born, his heart had not fully closed up yet. It was our first experience with a child being rushed to the NICU. Thankfully, it closed up within a few hours and he has not had a problem since. He did tell me a few days ago that he can fill his heart getting bigger and bigger. I told him I often feel the Lord expanding our hearts to hold more love for Him and others. I know exactly what he is talking about. He loves well.

I have learned a lot from this kid. He is fearless and carefree. He is friendly, but still maturing. He is teachable, but has strong opinions. He is solid in his belief that God is who He says He is and calls him King. He accepted what Christ did on the cross for his sin and looks forward to heaven. He encourages and seeks out those who need it the most. I like to walk a bit behind him and just see what will happen.

As amazing as this boy is, he has also been challenging since birth. For that I am thankful. It helps to have one that knocks you back down on your knees and reminds you that you do not have all the answers. Humility has been the gift that arrived with Eli. Recently when my husband and I were talking about this child, he ever so gently pointed out how I need to let him grow up. There is a bit of fear because of his unpredictability. However, self-control and maturity do not happen without guidance. The Lord gave this child to us and I want him to grow into a man that is mature, unselfish and self-controlled. To throw off restraint is a bit expected of a child, but not for a man. The time to guide is now and I am a bit behind in some areas.

So as we jump into 8 years old, it might be a bit rocky for a bit. Change is never easy and increased discipline is hard on all of us. He was given to us and each and everyday I will give him back to the Lord in how I guide, teach and love. This is normal for us, but more needs to happen with this one. To build up and correct takes time and patience. He is worth it. A heart always comes before a chore. This kid has gifts that need attention and behavior that needs correcting. Parenting is not easy, but I am thankful for wisdom given by God every step of the way.

Eli, 8 is going to be great!!

 

Community

Back in our Young Life days, we had instant community. If we moved, we met people who quickly became friends and it was good. We had a common burden for high school kids to meet Jesus and the bond was tight. I did not realize at the time what a gift this was to us. The past two weekends we have been given this gift again. We gathered with community and it has been so encouraging. It has very much felt like returning to those Young Life days.

IMG_5834The first time was an outdoor concert/fundraiser for Young Life. We sat under blankets and stars and listened to great music. I hope our little town will do more of this kind of thing. The next event was a community night of worship. The title for the event was “Never Alone”. The night was perfect and a sweet group of people made it happen. I love how everyone has something they are good at. When each brings their gift to the table, a beautiful picture of the body of Christ working together in unity is the result. Isn’t this what God had in mind? In fact, we can read these words written by David, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1). Seems so often Christians can be known for their differences and not our unity.

I know in recent news Ellen DeGeneres received a lot of attention because she sat by George W. Bush at a Cowboys game. Her response was very good. The short explanation I heard her give was that we are to be kind. We might not agree, but we can be kind. Can we do more of this in our homes, neighborhoods, cities, schools, churches and country? Often this whole liberal vs. conservative thing really bothers me. Each bashing the other and both looking anything but unified. It amazes me that the names “right wing and left wing” are used in politics. Has a bird ever flown with only one wing? The answer is no, I looked it up. Why do we divide then? Seems both wings, maybe not always agreeing, but flapping in unity would cause our nation to soar.

I know that our community is not perfect and we are small, but what I saw was very encouraging. When there is a common cause, many of the reasons for division end. Both events had the unifying goal to lift up our powerful God. Can you even wrap your head around what our country would be like if this was our common goal? A glimpse of heaven is what I see. I pray revival breaks out again!

Awhile ago I read 2 Chronicles 20 and cannot seem to get away from this unified kingdom. I will summarize it for you and I hope you love it as much as I do. King Jehoshaphat gets word that a vast army is coming to attack Judah, his county. He is alarmed, but resolves to find out what the Lord would have them do and everyone fasts. “The  people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD..” (vs 4). He prays and reminds the people of who God is. He then says the most beautiful, comforting words. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (vs. 12). The situation has not changed, but they know where to focus.

The account continues and “…the Spirit of the LORD came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah..” (vs. 14). He gives them a message from God. He tells them not to be afraid and the battle belongs to God. He tells them that God will be with them and they will not have to fight. Have we not received the same message and promise that God will be with us? The people fell facedown in worship. What a sight this must have been! Then they head out very early in the morning. As they begin, the king reminds them of the message they have received from God. Then he does the most interesting military move. He places singers in front of the army who sang, “Give thanks to the LORD, for His love endures forever.” (vs. 21). As their song rang out, “the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. (vs. 22). Only God can do the impossible.

What would happen if we followed their example? What if we started with ourselves? What if we lifted our eyes to our powerful God, fasted from our need to be right, bowed in worship to the only God who has the final say in what is right? What about if we went about our days in thanksgiving, trust and surrender? I will tell you what happened in this country. “When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground, no one had escaped.” (vs. 24). It took them 3 days to gather all the plunder! They returned home rejoicing and what a sound that had to be! There is no sound more amazing I am certain than that of a follower of Christ who has seen an impossible victory.  How their faith must have soared! Then something else happened. “The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel.” (vs. 29). Their country experienced peace.

I do not know what you will decide, but as for me and our family, we have our eyes focused on the only source of victory. There is uncertainty and somethings that could easily usher in fear. Everyone I meet has something impossible to see their way out of. It may be a relationship, family, school challenges, lack of direction, health issues, finances, loneliness and the list could go on and on. We can choose to go our own way and gather likeminded travelers to our cause. Or we can come together, trade our “right” ideas in for His and unite in worship. My prayer is that we hear each other singing, “Give thanks to the LORD, for His love endures forever.” (vs. 21). This must be what revival sounds like. And trust me when I tell you that His love transforms you in the most beautiful way and worship is a natural response.

I will leave you with this verse. “Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God” You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” (Psalm 77:13-14).

*One of my daughters just told me tomorrow is National Kindness Day!!

An 18 Year Walk of Grace

“When you discover who God made you to be,                                                                you’ll never want to be anyone else.”  – Bill Johnson

 

Our oldest turned 18 this week and there are so many thoughts with this milestone. The first is how fast it has gone. People tell you this when they are young, but it is true. Much has happened over these years and the one word that comes to mind is grace. When I look at her beautiful senior pictures, I see and know grace. Despite how much I love this child, I have made many mistakes…but grace. Fear had a tight grip on me during those early years and shaped many parenting choices. However, she has grown up to be a fearless young lady. Perfection was a priority, but she aims to reflect Christ,  not a perfect version of herself. Insecurity ran high, but she is secure in who God has made her. One act of loving grace after another.

IMG_5831She celebrated with sweet friends and they danced the night away. Our back porch was transformed into a dance floor and they all learned the basics. I told them these were life skills since they live in Texas. Some of our kids joined in and we two-stepped around our kitchen. We caught glimpses of big smiles, confidence gained and friendship. They two-stepped, spun like crazy and laughed a lot. More of this needs to happen and I pray we can do this often in our home. To have a home where our kids want to invite others in is another gift of grace to us.

While we do not have this raising children to know and love the Lord down, we do know where our help comes from. We have seen that when our kids hearts and heads know who they are; which is created, chosen, precious, a sinner saved by grace and loved beyond imagine, they slip into their true identity. This 18 year old walks this out daily. And if the Lord has given us grace in all my parenting mistakes with this one, will He not do the same for each of us?

Happy 18th Birthday, Maggie!

*Senior pictures by our talented friend, Corri Robinson.

 

 

 

An Unexpected Note

“If we had but an inkling of the measure of divine love and of the depths of divine mercy and of the patience of divine faithfulness, we would never despair or become discouraged.” -M. Martyria Madauss

This quote was written on a card that was tucked inside a book I picked up at a retreat. The book was not used, but somehow had a note inside. It was an unexpected gift. Inside the note was a precious birthday message dating back all the way to 1976! And inside the note was another small card that said, “Consider yourself an unprofitable servant; then God can use you as His instrument.” These kind of unexpected gifts have filled the month of October. While God Himself did not write the note, He allowed me to pick up this book. I do not believe in coincidence for that would make God very small and life extremely boring.

IMG_4753Some weeks back I was looking for a worship song and in my search heard an incredible line. It has stuck with me ever since and become a prayer. What was spoken was, “Lord, I’ll be your trumpet.”  Pick up your Bible and you will be amazed at the number of times a trumpet is mentioned. It seems I come across a new one almost daily – another unexpected gift. One common theme I have found is it was an instrument played with a purpose. It was a form of communication. However, a trumpet without a player is just a nice instrument. While it may shine, its purpose is not reached until it is picked up and air breathed into the mouthpiece. This very much reminded me of the work God does in us. Once you allow Him to pick you up and “breathe” life into you, purpose follows.

I know full well that the Lord can do all things without this little trumpet. He is God and I am not. He loves me enough to write a part in His symphony just for me. Sometimes I remain silent and other times I get to play, both are a privilege. Trying to even grasp this is too much. I will continue to trust His love, mercy, patience and faithfulness. With this truth in my heart, discouragement and despair flee. This was such a wonderful reminder from this unexpected card and I am thankful. I pray you are encouraged and feel like you just discovered a precious, timely note too. I pray you also find what part the Lord would have for you to play. He has plans for you and I just know they sound amazing.

*The picture is another unexpected note on our driveway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What causes you to become discouraged or despair?