Unanswered Questions

Kids ask a lot of questions. “Can I have a drink of water?” “Can I have that toy?” “Can we play outside?” “Why?” There’s the ever popular “What’s for dinner.” and the ever dreaded, “Where do babies come from?” Then they enter school and there’s questions about homework and about the world around us. As they get older the questions get harder.

Some days I get very annoyed with all the questions. A mom just needs a little peace and quiet from time to time. But when it comes down to it, I want my kids to ask questions. I want them to wonder about things and learn. I want them to be thinking. I want them to continue communicating with me. I want them to ask other people questions to learn how to get to know and interact with others. I want them to ask God questions believing He will answer.

For Bible class we are going through the Gospel of Luke. My kids are at different levels in reading and I want them to hear the Word straight from the Bible. Not a children’s storybook version but straight from the Word of God. We stop at each section and talk about it before reading more. Recently we came across some questions I didn’t have answers for. I tried different versions of the Bible and we even asked our “school principal”, a.k.a. my husband, if he had any further knowledge but we were stumped. This happened two days in a row.

I began to feel incapable of teaching them the Bible. I was afraid I’d run into more questions I couldn’t answer. Truth is it was good for my kids to see that I don’t know everything and that I struggle with some of the same things they do.

Having faith in Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll always understand. It’s in the unanswered questions that our faith will grow. After all, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Even though I don’t understand why some people are healed and some are not, I still have faith that God heals. Even though I don’t understand why certain things happen in this world, I still believe God is in control. Even though I can’t answer all my kids’ questions I still know God has called me to be their mom and teach them of His ways. I will do this imperfectly but the Lord knew that and He’s not shaken. It’s through our imperfections that we can teach volumes more than we can when we have a tidy answer for everything. Answering with “I don’t know” takes humility and honesty. Being at peace with all your I don’t know’s takes faith in a loving God who has everything in His hands.

So my kids can bring on their questions. Together we’ll learn and grow. And if my answer is “I don’t know” I’m at peace with that.

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Champions of Faith

beauty for ashes

For three years I’ve been involved in the women’s ministry at my church that meets on Tuesday mornings. As much as I have enjoyed the speakers there’s one thing I’ve enjoyed more than anything. That’s getting to know the ladies.

One day as I was in my quiet time I was thinking of the ladies at Tuesday mornings when the Lord gave me a revelation. It’s not the speakers or leaders that are the heroes of the church. “Instead”, the Lord said, “look among the peoples faces. The woman who is battling breast cancer, the mom who’s elementary-aged son just finished up chemo, the wife who lost her husband, the woman committed to her marriage and family on the tails of her husband committing an affair…those are the heroes. Those who look hard circumstances in the face and fall to their knees asking the Lord to walk with them through amazingly difficult circumstances – those are the real heroes. Champions of the faith.

Each of those situations I just mentioned are real women. To those and the many who I couldn’t mention, I give them honor. God has not forgotten them. He’s eye is ever watchful on them. He is so proud of them and I am honored to have sat among them. Learning their stories. Walking with them as they press through. Watching the beautiful transformation of women as they journey in faith. Some just beginning, others digging in for the long haul. It has been my honor to get to know some and a privilege to walk side-by-side with a small handful.

 

Fire Lanes

It was dinnertime. Our tummies were empty but we were full of excitement. After a day of traveling, my family and I had finally reached our vacation destination. As we pulled into the restaurant parking lot we couldn’t help but notice the bright red lines painted on the pavement. These fire lanes were marked so well it called you to attention. The boundaries were very clearly set. In case the bright painted lines weren’t enough there were signs warning you to stay out of the fire lanes.

Where I’m from there may be a sign about keeping a spot clear but nothing that grabs your attention like this. As we explored this area the next week we noticed it wasn’t just the restaurant that did this but everywhere we went. I actually liked that they were so definitive about it.

We should be as fierce on protecting our space with the Lord. Clearly defining when we will have time set aside to listen, talk to and learn about the Lord. Then boldly protecting and honoring that time. But instead of putting out fires, we’ll be using that space to continuously fan our fire with the Lord.

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Restored

I awoke one morning in early spring 2016 sitting up in bed in a coughing fit from a lingering cold I had. There was terrible pain from my lower back shooting down my leg and into my foot. It was a challenge to get ready that morning. My left leg felt like it was drawing up. By the afternoon I laid on my bed where I stayed for several days. I moved slowly because the pain was intense.

For the next eight weeks between rest, chiropractor visits, and pain management I was slowly able to resume my daily routine. I wasn’t 100% though. My left calf, top of my foot and some of my toes were left numb. I could feel my back wasn’t stable, like something could pop if I wasn’t careful. So I was careful when sitting and moving. I found a new normal and babied my back.

For the next two years I struggled with lower back problems. There was a handful of times I’d pull it out bad enough to lay me flat on my back on the couch for a few weeks. I became compassionate to those who have to live with ongoing illness. The fear of getting hurt was almost as bad as the back pain. I prayed for two years for God to heal me completely, including regaining the feeling in my leg and foot. I also became more aware of what a gift it is to walk and move without pain, to scurry through the grocery store and take care of my kids. All those things we often take for granted, I am now very thankful for.

In spring 2018 my husband, kids and I were taking a family vacation to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We were all very excited but I was also nervous. I was told it was a ten hour drive and sitting is what seemed to bother my lower back the most. I decided I just needed to trust God. It was going to be okay. Still, I was nervous. The Lord told me before we left that He was going to heal me in Texas. At the time I wasn’t sure what He was going to heal, but I was willing to take whatever healing He wanted to give me.

We were all so excited for our trip that when the day finally arrived to leave we all jumped out of bed a couple hours earlier than normal, full of energy and smiles. Our van was packed in record time and we were ready to roll. About two hours into the drive my back was aching. I shifted a lot in my chair to find the most comfortable spot. As we continued so did the ache which shifted to pain. When I stood and walked around I was fine, but sitting really irritated my lower back. By Oklahoma I was really hurting. I had been praying the whole time, asking the Lord to heal me. I texted a friend to pray also. All the while I tried to not let my family know what pain I was in. I knew once I got to our hotel I could lay down awhile and I’d be okay. I wasn’t going to ruin this trip for them.

It was dinnertime and we were all getting hungry. Our trip had gone past the ten hours we were told it would take and we were still not in Texas yet. I was eagerly waiting for the Texas border while looking up on our phones to see where we could stop for dinner. Suddenly I realized my back wasn’t hurting anymore. “Yay! I’m going to enjoy this moment of relief.” I wasn’t sure if this was only a moment or if it would last longer. I did recall the Lord telling me He was going to heal me. Is this it?

Shortly after crossing Texas border I announced to my family, “I just want to give a shout out to God right now because my lower back has been hurting on this drive but it doesn’t hurt anymore!” It didn’t hurt the rest of the day. It didn’t hurt the whole time we were in Texas. It didn’t even hurt the twelve b64478ed3961651ae79597f9b31867edhour drive back home! Praise God!!! Not only was it not hurting but it felt stable in a way I haven’t felt for years.

A couple weeks after we got back I went to the chiropractor for my neck. She knows to always check my lower back because it’s usually off. This time she checked it and said, “I haven’t seen your back look this good in a long time. I’m not touching it.” I didn’t need anymore confirmation that I was healed but that was super cool to hear. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I noticed I could feel in my leg and foot. So one morning I was testing my calf and top of my foot by touching it. The feeling has been restored. That’s something the chiropractor thought would never come back. She expected me to live that way the rest of my life. But NOPE!!! I’m so excited to say the Lord has restored my back, leg and foot!!

I’m hoping that by hearing the testimony that God healed me will give hope to others who have been praying for a miracle. God is still in the miracle business and He still heals today. I can testify to that. If you’re praying for a miracle, don’t give up. Don’t give up on God. Don’t give up on faith. He restores bodies. He restores relationships. He restores finances. He is a good God.

Thank you Jesus!

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Word for the Year

You’ve probably heard of the different approach being taken for New Year’s resolutions. Instead of making a New Year’s Resolution people are praying for one word that can be spoken over their New Year. I started doing this a few years ago. I was never big on resolutions so this new approach was a welcome change for me.

In 2017 I got the word Celebrate. I was looking forward to see what we would be celebrating. What big exciting plans was God going to reveal to us? Which of the prayers I’ve been praying for years was He going to answer? Maybe all! I was excited and hopeful.

After over half the year was over I was getting frustrated. Nothing mountain moving was happening in our life – or so I thought – and it didn’t look like anything super exciting was on the horizon. What’s up with the word “celebrate”?

Finally I got it. The Lord doesn’t want me to celebrate just the BIG moments of my life but all the moments. Even everyday moments are worth celebrating. Rejoice, be thankful, smile and enjoy each day, every day. As well as everything and everyone. Especially the people. People come and people go. Seasons change, but in everything – rejoice! Celebrate! Phil 4.4

I went into 2017 with a preconceived notion of what I thought the Lord was saying and what I thought He was going to do. I was wrong. I was wrong to even put God in a box.

 

So whatever word you’ve received from the Lord, thank Him and hold it loosely. Let Him show you what He’s doing as this year unfolds and how it fits with the word He gave you. You may feel like the total opposite of what He said is happening. The Lord can give you fresh perspective to see through His eyes.

I am talking to myself just as much as I am to you all. The word I got for 2018 makes me a little nervous. Sounds to me like challenges could be ahead. Doesn’t sound pleasant. But who am I kidding, I’ve already got challenges in my life – as do we all. Maybe it’s to those mountains the Lord wants me to speak.

Regardless, I will trust the Lord with today and all my tomorrows. For I know God has good plans for me, not to harm me but to give me a hope and a future.

Let’s set preconceived notions aside and let our amazing, wonderful God show us where He wants to take us this year. It’s like a plaque I once saw said, “I may not know what my future holds but I know who holds my future.”

The Word

Ps 119.105

I love His Word. It’s something I’m passionate about.

 

His Word is truth. It brings life and light.

Hope where there is none.

Faith and strength.

 

It drives out the darkness and brings things to light.

It makes things pure.

 

At His Word angels sing and demons shutter,

blind men see and the mute speak.

 

At His Word mountains shake.

What was nothing becomes something,

what was dead comes back to life.

 

In His Word we find our heritage.

We find our hope and our destiny.

 

In His Word we find who we were created to be.

We find our reason for living.

We find strength and joy and peace.

 

In His Word we find the beauty of the One who gave us life.

We find the sacrifices He made for us.

 

In His Word we find an amazing love that never dies,

death only makes it stronger.

 

In His Word we find power to set the captives free

and break the chains of lies that have held us all.

 

In His Word we find examples of how to live.

We find a freedom that no government or prison can take away.

 

His Word is more beautiful than any jewel

more valuable than any treasure.

 

His Word has authority and power.

His Word is life.

I know that by reading the Word of God I can know my Lord even more. I learn about His character, His love, His will for my life. He speaks through His Word. So I will not only read His Word but study it, memorize it and keep it in my heart.

I want my children to also know the Lord, hear His voice and discover all the wonderful treasures found in His Word. So each week I have a memory verse for my kids. It will usually have something to do with what we are studying in Bible class. On Monday we read the verse together and talk about what it means. I want to know they have a clear understanding of the verse. I want it to be more than just words to them. Actually, them getting the meaning is the most important thing to me. Come Friday I don’t care if they stumble over the exact wording or forget where it’s found. (I hope they have an idea where it’s found because that shows they have an idea of what the verse is about.) The point is not to be legalistic but to get the Word of God in their hearts so it can grow, take root and at just the right time in their life I believe the Holy Spirit will be faithful to reveal to them verses they learned as a child to help them with situations they face as an adult. I know it’s worked this way for me many times.

I would like to challenge us all in this new year to take time to memorize verses. Pray about it and the Lord will have certain verses stand out to you. Take time to memorize those. It’s worth the time you take to do it.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Your teachings are worth more to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. Psalm 119:72

The Mighty Oak

beauty for ashes

There are many trees in my neighborhood but one in particular has always stood out to me. Just a few doors down from my house is an oak tree. It was probably planted there around the time our neighborhood started over 100 years ago. This tree doesn’t just stand taller than the trees around it, it’s a giant. I feel very small under it. It’s magnificent, strong, healthy, well rooted, and flourishing.

As I thought about this verse in Isaiah I thought about this tree. This tree does nothing to make itself great yet it’s a magnificent display of God’s creation. A tree doesn’t need to go anywhere to glorify God. It stands tall, rooted deep and spreads out it’s branches offering rest and nesting places for many creatures. From it shade is offered giving a reprieve from the hot sun. It serves as food to some and materials to build homes for others. Even when it decays it still gives nutrients to the ground for new life to begin. A tree goes nowhere yet is so important to many.

When we are who God made us to be we glorify God as this tree does.We display the Lord’s beauty as we continue to be steady in the Lord, deepening our roots in Him and growing with every season. As we do what we were made to do we produce fruit and serve those around us effortlessly simply by being His.

It’s not about our image or our efforts but it’s all about loving Him and being the daughter, wife, sister, mother, co-worker, manager, friend or anything else He has asked you to be. You don’t have to do something mighty to be mighty. Look at our mighty oak. It’s not doing anything heroic. Just being what it was designed to be. Becoming mighty often comes in being steadfast more than it does through one glorious moment. We can be mighty like the oak.

If this one tree that cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot move can glorify it’s Maker than surely you and I – who are made in the image of our Creator, who have been given all blessings in heavenly realms, who has the Spirit of the living God in us, who is the crown of creation – surely we can glorify our Creator by simply being who He says we are. Regardless of where you live, how old you are, your social status or how much money is in your account. Just be you because what God has created you to be IS enough.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for who you created me to be. Help me to continue to deepen my roots in you. May I glorify you by being who you designed me to be and help me to remember who you have made me to be is enough. May I live fully alive as I walk steadfast with You Lord. Thank you that among all you made I am your crown of creation. May my life display your splendor.

In Jesus Precious Name,

Amen

Lightly Salted

                                       You are the salt of the earth. Matthew 5:13

Several years ago my dad had a heart attack. I saw how my mom had to make changes to my dad’s diet. Lowering a person’s salt intake these days is tricky since salt is in so much of our food. My dad’s heart attack helped me to make healthier decisions for my family as well.

One day I was putting chips on my kids’ lunch plates and I glanced at the chip bag. In big letters across the bag it said “Lightly Salted”. Those two little words were a selling point for me in the grocery store. I know chips don’t qualify as healthy but lightly salted helped me feel like I was being a little healthier. At the moment I glanced at that chip bag the verse “You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13) immediately came to my mind. But what does that mean? In the American culture today we take salt for granted. There is so much salt in nearly everything that we have forgotten the significance of it.

In Leviticus the people were instructed to season their offerings with salt. Even their grain offerings. Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings. Leviticus 2:13 Before I read this I had never heard of a covenant of salt. To understand this we need to remember what salt does. Salt purifies and preserves. It actually keeps bacteria from multiplying keeping the food pure which makes the food last longer. A salt covenant was an everlasting covenant of faithfulness. A covenant that should not be broken. Salt was used as a symbol of the everlasting covenant between God and His people which is why it was used on every offering, not just meat.

Salt was used to remove the impurities from food, so by adding salt to their offerings they were offering a pure sacrifice to the Lord. Salt was a must to present sacrifices pleasing to the Lord. In the same way the Gospel, salvation through Jesus Christ, is a must to present ourselves as a pleasing offering to the Lord. Through Jesus Christ, His work on the cross and resurrection, we have salvation. It is only through Jesus that we can come to the Father free of sin and guilt. It is only through this Gospel message that we have eternal life. It is only through Jesus that we can present our lives as a pure and acceptable offering to the Lord. Just as they had to present their offerings seasoned with salt we now present ourselves through Jesus, the one who gives eternal life.

Just as salt has purifying capabilities, so Jesus purifies us from sin. If the salt has to many impurities it loses it’s ability to keep bacteria from multiplying. Which means the food will not stay pure and will rot faster. The same is true if we do not keep our lives seasoned with Jesus. In other words, we need to keep living in the way Christ lived. Free of sin and loving others. We need to continue to follow the example of Christ in how He did what the Father wanted Him to do. We need to stay pure in our thoughts, speech and motive. If this sounds like to high of a standard don’t worry. Father God already knew we couldn’t (and shouldn’t) do it on our own strength. That’s why He sent us the Holy Spirit. If we strike out on our own strength and no longer live the way Christ lived, if we take our eyes off Jesus and live like the world then we are salt that is losing it’s saltiness. Aside from Jesus we can do nothing to become salty again.

So when the Bible says we are the salt of the earth this means we are an example of what purity should like. Jesus is that example for us but many in the world don’t see Jesus and don’t know if they believe He existed. They can’t argue that we exist when we are standing in front of them. We are living, breathing examples of what Jesus does in a person’s life. We shine pureness and we are testimonies of eternal life through Jesus. We are to offer our lives to the Lord as a living sacrifice. As we go through the fires and trials of life, the impurities are burned off and we are salted with goodness that comes from the Lord. We are salted by letting His unconditional love wash over us and capture our hearts. We are salted by accepting the good news of the gospel. We are salted by learning God is faithful to us through thick and thin. Through these trials God is purifying and preserving us. Once we are salted we are to go out to the world and share our salt with them, purifying and preserving them. It should be such an unusual and welcomed difference that the world sees in us, that it’s savory. They aquire a taste for it and want to see more. They want to know more.

I continuously strive to be like Jesus. Until then, lightly salt my food but may my walk with Jesus be heavily salted.

Digging Deeper:

  • Read II Kings 2:19-22 How is Jesus like the salt in this story?

  • Have you seasoned your life by accepting Jesus as Lord of your life? If so, how has this changed you? If not, what is holding you back?

  • Ask the Lord if there is anything in your life making you lose your saltiness and ask Him for direction on how to become heavily salted.

Good Example

Recently I went to a meeting for church with my three elementary age kids. They had childcare but it was for children five and under. With a busy bag by our side we came prepared. Not long into the meeting my kids were asked if they wanted to be helpers in the child room. I was glad they were able to escape the meeting. It would’ve been pretty boring for them.

When I picked up my kids one of the ladies told me my daughter said she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do to help. The lady told her that sometimes just being a good example is enough. At that moment those words profoundly reasonated in my heart.

I often feel like my daughter did. I say, “Lord, what am I supposed to do to help. To help spread your Word, to help other people, etc…? I feel like I’m doing nothing. I’m just living life.” But right there is the key, I’m living life. I’m doing my best to live my life for the Lord. To be a good wife, mother and daughter of the King of Kings. I need to not underestimate how valuable setting a good example is. I just need to relax and know that setting a good example – to my children, to my friends, to the world around me – is enough.

Jesus showed us a good example and we are reminded in I Peter 2:21 to follow his example. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” And in Titus 2:7 it says, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”

Many times setting a good example is enough and those times when it’s not I’m sure the Lord will be faithful to tell me.

Homemade Christmas

People who know my husband and I well know we don’t have much money. It’s been that way all our married life. My husband’s jobs have been lowing paying, so we are doing well to make ends meet. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord takes care of us. We have our basic needs met but we have very little, if anything, for extras. So when Christmas rolls around each year all we have to say is, “Okay kids, you know the drill about Christmas.” They all nod as we continue, “We’ll do the best we can to get you gifts but we might not be able to get much at all.” Then we go in our spiel about how it’s not about the gifts anyway. Our kids are so used to it by now they roll pretty well with it. Of course I’d love to buy so much for our kids and my husband but that’s not always possible, not if we want to stay in our budget.

Yet through the years God has come through in some pretty amazing ways. People have bought us gifts anonymously, we’ve been given money – sometimes we knew who gave to us but sometimes we didn’t. We’ve had unexpected bonuses given to my husband. Then we-by we I mean my husband- would make a mad dash to the store with a ton of other last minute shoppers to buy presents. I’d love to tell all the stories of how the Lord has provided throughout the years but I don’t have time for that now. Those blessings have certainly increased my faith though and shown to me how faithful and loving our God is.

Since the kids don’t have access to much money we encourage them to make something for each other. Last year we stepped the presents up a notch. By stepping it up I mean the creativity and time put into the gift. Even my husband and I made gifts for each of the kids and each other. We bought one store bought gift for each child and the rest was homemade. I wasn’t sure how the gifts were going to turn out but I wanted to make the best of it. We took the month of December off from homeschooling with text books and planned and worked on projects instead. All projects had to be approved by either dad or I and I didn’t want to have to spend much, if anything, on materials. That would kind of defeat our purpose. I like doing crafts so I have a lot of supplies on hand, we just needed to add our imagination. Of course we had some inspiration from Pinterest.

We used three basic materials; fabric, canvas, and cardboard. I was in charge of the fabric projects because they had to do with sewing. We don’t have a sewing machine so all our sewing projects were done by hand. I’m sure it would be easier if you have a machine. The girls both received a flower pillow. I thought the butterfly was a nice touch from my older daughter.

My son got a Lego head pillow from his sister and a puppy stuffed animal from his other sister. She included a small container with a label that says “Spot’s food” on it. It’s actually a small spice container.

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My youngest son got a pteranodon jacket from his sister. We bought a green jacket that was on sale (I’m sure you could find one at Goodwill) and we sewed fabric pieces to make it look like wings. She had done something similar for him a couple years ago with a red jacket and sewed blue half circles filled with pillow fluff along the back to look like a dinosaur. He loved it but has outgrown that one.2016_12_29_12_12

On my next projects I got to do some painting. That was fun. I rarely have time to do things like this so I really enjoyed it. For my boys I made these canvases. I used tape to get the stripe effect. Then I hot glued buttons on to form the letter.

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For my oldest daughter I gave her a mirror with her name at the top and words along the sides that remind her of how the Lord sees here. I typed out verses that go along with the words. She hung those above her mirror. This way she’ll remember the truth God’s Word speaks over her and not the lies the mirror tries to tell us all, especially women. I wrote more about this in a post called “Do you see what I see” last December. https://shiningtheloveofjesus.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/do-you-see-what-i-see/

Mirror Edit

For this project my son and I painted some glass rocks you use for flower vases and hot glued them on a canvas. P1050243

Here’s a fun picture of the gift I made for my husband. He loves candy so much he says he has sweet teeth. So I made him this candy jar. 2016_12_24_11_49

Next are the cardboard projects. My husband was in charge of these. It’s amazing what that man can make with cardboard. Our son is a big Snoppy and Charlie Brown fan so my husband made him an airplane that Snoppy can fit in. It’s really large but really cool.

It’s 3 feet long with a wing span of about 29 inches. When he isn’t using it we hang it on the wall using shelf brackets. P1050244

For our daughter he made her a doll house out of cardboard big enough for Barbie dolls or Strawberry Shortcake dolls. The beds were made for her by her brother using leftover pieces of insulation foam. We painted them and dressed them up with scrapbook embellishments. The mattress is cushion padding covered with fabric.

 

A similar gift was a Hot Wheels parking garage for our youngest son.

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A super cool gift was this cardboard bird my husband made for my oldest daughter. When you lightly pull the chain below the bird, it moves up and down as if it were flying. It fit in well with their tropical room.

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The projects turned out well. It was fun to see what everyone made each other. An added bonus was my kids learned to sew and some learned to use a small saw, with the supervision of dad of course. We may not have been textbook learning but they were definitely learning and also learning to think of others. I’m sure we’ll remember our homemade Christmas for a long time to come.