Friday, December 25, 2009

Light of the World

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made that were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was the life and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light;
in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:5-9
"The Lord is my light and my salvation-
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life-
of whom shall I be afraid?"
Psalm 27:1
"Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path."
Psalm 119:105
"You are the light of the world.
A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.
Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16

Celebrating Jesus today...the Light of the World
Merry let your light shine to bring Him glory

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Living Nativity & The Christmas Story

Merry Christmas...enjoy these passages of Scripture that tell of the story of the birth of our Savior.

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (this was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:1-20

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.'
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written:

'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, and are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd to my people Israel.'

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'God and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. An having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." Matthew 2:1-12
Merry Christmas from our family to you~

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The First Gift Under Our Tree

What can we give to Jesus?

A few years ago we began a new Christmas tradition. Before anything else went under our tree, the first gift that was placed there was for Jesus.

We talk as a family about God's greatest gift for us...His Son Jesus. God gave us Jesus and that is why we celebrate Christmas. He is God's gift to us...but what can we give Him in return?

Each year every person gets a piece of paper to record what they would like to give to Jesus for Christmas. Looking back over the slips of paper it is fun to see the responses of our children and how their ideas of what to give Jesus have changed over the years.

When they were really little they would say things like:
  • candy

  • I will give Jesus a boat, and an airplane and candy.

As they have gotten older their responses have grown with them:

  • my heart

  • love

  • worship

  • thankfulness

Perhaps out of all these ideas, the greatest thing we can do in response to God's greatest gift is to receive it ourselves. God gave us the gift of Jesus, to save us from our sins so we could live forever with Him. It isn't enough that He gave the gift...we have to receive it, to take it, open it, and claim it for ourselves. If it stays unopened under the tree, our destiny will not be with the One who created us and loves us.

In John 3:16 it says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

This Christmas it is my prayer for you that you will open the gift of Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life that God has for you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Peaceful Christmas

There is something different about Christmas this year...

There is a peace and a rest from the normal hustle and bustle of the normal Christmas season. I think some of it may be attributed to our recent move. Some of the activities I enjoy (and miss this year too) have left my calendar open. The cookie exchanges, Christmas parties, caroling events...the things that have been part of my Christmas in the past, are not a part of my Christmas this year. The white space on my calendar has been refreshing.

It has allowed time to have Advent Christmas readings as a family. It has allowed time to spend in Bible study and reflecting of Who God is and what He has done. It has allowed time to focus on relationships rather than the "Christmas routine".

I'm sure it has helped that I purposed to finish Christmas shopping around Thanksgiving time, that three little "Christmas elves" decided to decorate the house for me while I slept the night after Thanksgiving, and that my heart has been tuned more this year to what is important, rather than what is urgent.
Maybe some of it has been seeing my 20 month old carrying around baby Jesus from our nativity set daily. It has been a great reminder that throughout this season, the most important thing is to carry Jesus with me and to share His light with the world.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Seeking Jesus...By Mistake

Several years ago, when Courtney and Isaiah were both under five years old, our church hosted a Christmas craft night. One craft our family made together was a wooden nativity set. The pieces were made out of blocks of wood, painted, and then covered with fabric to represent Mary & Joseph, the Shepherd, the Wise men, and Baby Jesus. The set was perfect for little hands to recreate the Christmas blessing. The only problem...the pieces kept getting misplaced.

"WHOEVER FINDS BABY JESUS GETS A PIECE OF CANDY!" I said in exasperation. Once again, the nativity set was incomplete and all of my searching was in vain. Candy was a great incentive to the children. They ran all over the house and searched with all their might. In a few short moments Courtney's delighted squeals could be heard, "I found baby Jesus!"

The next morning a very interesting thing occurred. Courtney asked, "Mom, could you hide Jesus again so we can search for Him?" I knew my sugar-loving children were in it for the reward but I began to see how right they were with wanting to search for Jesus.

Christmas is ALL about Jesus. It is the celebration of His birth on the earth. He is God's gift to us...the way the truth and the life...the only way to God.

That Christmas my children taught me a lesson. They taught me that I need to daily seek Jesus with all my heart. They also showed me the JOY that comes in finding God's precious gift. The frustration of lost nativity pieces soon became an incredible blessing for our family as our children searched for Jesus each and every day!

This Christmas my prayer for you is to find the joy that comes from knowing Jesus and seeking Him with all your heart!

"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?

We saw his star in the east and have com

to worship him."

Matthew 2:2

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Boys and Soap

Alright, I must confess that with our move there is one bathroom in our house that has been neglected...the boy's bathroom. It is downstairs near their room and over the past month I have overlooked it, not intentionally, but life is busy with seven children and many boxes to unpack.

A few days ago I decided to conquer the bathroom. I donned latex gloves and gathered my cleaning supplies. I tackled the sink first and then went on to clean the shower. To my surprise there was no soap. It wasn't that the soap had been all used up...there was no evidence that soap had ever been in the shower!

I called two of my preteen boys to the bathroom. "Where is the soap you have been using during the past month?" Their response was simply, "There wasn't any in there so we didn't use any." My mouth dropped open as I said, "You haven't used any soap in a month!?" They just shrugged their shoulders and smiled. I quickly opened the bathroom closet door and showed them the two neatly boxed bars of soap just waiting to be used.

"When you take a shower use soap...every time. If it is gone ask me and I will get you some more." They nodded, smiled and left the bathroom. I thought, "Surely my teenage son has his own soap that he has stashed away after each shower." After the same line of questioning I discovered the results were the soap!

Isn't is interesting? For a whole month they have simply rinsed off and thought it was good enough. They knew about the soap because they are the ones that actually put it in the closet after I bought it. They have been taught how to take a shower but they didn't take the time to go to the closet, open the door, take out the box of soap, put it in the shower and use it.

Hmmm...I wonder how much of my life has been similar this past month regarding my time with the Lord. I know I need time with God, I know where my Bible is, I know what I need to do in order to have a "quiet" time in my home but somehow the distractions of life have crept into my life. Okay, I haven't gone a whole month without a quiet time, but I also haven't spent the time bathing in the Word of God and letting His Spirit cleanse me from the inside out. More often than not I've had a "rinsing" rather than a "cleansing". So often I've gone through the motions to check it off my list, rather than going with a heart ready to hear from the Lord.

I'm not thankful that my boys have gone so long without a proper scrubbing, but I am thankful for the ways that God uses the ordinary things of this life to teach me more about Himself. We all learned a lesson from this one!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


As a mom I have often prayed that if my children were doing something they shouldn't be doing that they would be caught in the act. Many times God has answered these prayers. Although it has been awhile since I have voiced that prayer, it is a prayer that God still answers...

Just last week while I was preparing for a friend to arrive I walked to the closet to put some things away. I noticed a folded piece of paper lying on the floor inside the closet. "It looks like someone just tossed this in here." I thought to myself. I unfolded the piece of computer paper and was immediately saddened. It had a picture that had obviously been downloaded and printed from the internet. One of my sons had gone to a place he shouldn't have been on the computer and printed off an image that was inappropriate.

"Give me wisdom, Oh Lord, as I confront my son" I whispered as I went looking for him. During those moments as I waited for him to arrive God gave me an incredible peace. Yes, I was heartbroken for him and his sin, but I was also thankful that God had opened the door for him to be caught so this sin could be dealt with now, rather than be allowed to grow in secret and silence.

"John*, I am going to ask you something, " I said as I spoke to him, "And I want your word that you will be completely honest with me." He agreed and I went on. "Have you been anywhere on the computer where you shouldn't have been?" His gaze went from my face to the floor and then he noticed that I had a folded piece of paper under my arm. "I guess you already know that I have since you have that paper. I was going to throw it away and talk to Joe* about it." (Joe is an older young man that my son had been on a youth retreat with several months earlier. Joe is a godly young man. During the retreat he had been very open about the struggles to remain pure in this generation with pornography so easy to access through the internet.)

I was thankful that John was not defensive, that he felt bad about what he had done, and that he had a plan to confess his sin to another person. As we spoke further I asked how he came upon this picture. He had not gone looking for it. He was searching for answers to his school assignment for a particular country. When he clicked on the link for the country there were models along the side. So, right there he had a choice to click on the model or to look away.

As a mom it saddens my heart to know that even though we have put safeguards in place, temptations will seek out my sons. The devil does "prowl around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Pornography is a sin that can destroy the hearts and lives of men. As parents we not only need to put safeguards in place, but we need to train them what to do when the temptation comes looking for them.

In this day of easy internet access (even through cell phones) we need to train our children how to handle the temptation. They need to know how to flee from it and how to confess it to another person if they stumble. We also need to continue to press into their lives and ask them tough questions and check up on things like the internet history on our computer to see what sites have been visited. "Trust but verify" is a favorite slogan of my husband. To think, "My son (or daughter) would never do such a thing" is to set your child up for failure. Teach them righteousness, but train them for the battle so they can stand firm in this day of temptation.

*names changed

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Holding On Instead of Letting Go

First Birthday Celebration

In April we celebrated MaryElise's first birthday. It was a fun celebration of her life. One thing we had for her to wear was a little princess birthday hat. The hat was fuzzy along the bottom and fit on like a hairband. When I put it on her in the high chair she didn't seem to mind. Later in the day however, whenever it was put on her head she cried. In fact, she even started crying when she saw the hat.

As evening approached we had cake and presents. Sometime during the opening of presents I wondered what MaryElise would do if we handed her the birthday hat. So, one of her brothers picked up the hat and I handed it to her. She took it in her hand and looked at me with tears in her eyes as if to say, "What are you doing to me?" She cried, but continued to hold on to the hat. All she had to do was let go and move away from the hat but she didn't let go. She held on tight and cried even harder. Finally I took the hat away and comforted my baby.

I learned a lesson that day about my own life. How much am I like MaryElise? There are things in my own life that I continue to hold on to that I really need to let go of...hurt feelings that cause bitterness to grow, unkind words that need to be stopped before they leave my lips, temptations that I need to flee from rather than embracing. It is so easy to hold onto things that hurt us and others rather than letting go and walking away. God gives us the ability by His Spirit to flee from temptation, to forgive when we have been hurt, and to speak words of kindness and truth.

I am so thankful for my precious daughter and the way God continues to use her life to teach me more about myself and about Him too!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Waiting on God

Lessons from my Children

Sometimes I am surprised by the way God uses my children to teach me lessons about Himself.

I must confess that sometimes I get frustrated at my children's response to "wait just a minute" or if I tell them "no". In their impatience or disappointment they show a lack of trust in me as their mom. Don't they know that I love them and I want what is best for them? Sometimes my "no" might be because I have a surprise waiting for them right around the corner or my "no" might be because I know what is best for them. To give in to their demands would mean the best would be spoiled (and they might be too!)

But how often have I treated God the same way? When my prayers go unanswered or God says, "No" to my request, I question if He really knows what is best. Instead of looking at His character I look at my circumstances to determine my joy and contentment. What a mistake!

As we have waited for our house to sell we have been disappointed by 3 low offers. We have also lost the perfect house we made a contingent offer on in Washington. It has been easy to doubt, to question, and to second guess decisions we have made.

During this period of waiting God has been working. He has not been surprised by the low offers we have received. He has not been surprised that the house we wanted got another offer. He has not been surprised that we are still in Arkansas. He has a purpose and a plan in every part of our waiting.

We have seen God's provision in allowing Courtney to finish her sophomore year here in Arkansas. We have been thankful for more time with friends here in this state. God has taught me more about His character and His faithfulness. God has given me time to allow my trust and faith in Him to grow rather than to rely on my circumstances.

I looked up wait in the Merriam -Webster dictionary and here are some of the definitions:

  • to stay in a place of expectation of
  • to look forward to expectantly
  • to be ready and available

That gives me a better idea of what it means to wait upon the Lord...rather than thinking of being deprived it gives a picture of eager expectation.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14

"Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors." Proverbs 8:34

"The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him." Lamentations 3:25

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning." Psalm 130:5-6
Now I am looking forward to expectantly to see what God is going to do in our situation and what else He is going to teach me about His character.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

To Finish Well

Pinewood Derby Days
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
Hebrews 12:1

Last Saturday was the Pinewood Derby for our Cub Scout Pack. Benjamin and Josiah had a great time creating their cars (and thanks to Matt for helping cut out their detailed shapes!)Unfortunately, Benjamin was sick so he didn't get to see his car race but we enjoyed watching the cars compete against the others from the pack.
As I sat there I thought of how each car began the same...all the boys had an "Official Pinewood Derby" kit with a block of wood, 4 wheels and 4 axles. On race day it was amazing to see how many different designs could be made with the same materials. The cars were all designed for the same be in the race and to hopefully win the race.
As believers we are very much like a Pinewood Derby car. We are all made to be in a race...not a race down a pinewood derby track, but the race that God has set before us. We are "shaped differently" with our gifts and personalities but our shape and gifting comes with a be in the race and to race with our eye on the goal. We may not be the "first one down the track" but the important thing is for us to be in the race and to finish the race.
Our goal is to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us". In this season of my life with several children at home my goal is raising them and pointing them toward Christ. My desire is for them to grow up loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. I also want them to see that God has uniquely designed them. God may call Courtney to be a writer, Isaiah to be a missionary, Benjamin to be a pastor, Josiah to be a football player, Caleb to be a lawyer, Whitney to be a nurse, and MaryElise to be a youth worker. Who knows? The important thing is for them to follow God with their whole heart and serve Him with the way He has gifted each one of them.
As they grow and leave home, the focus of my race will change but the goal will always be the finish the race and to finish well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Celebrating Family Friendships

I Want My Children to Be Friends

One thing that I desire as a mom is for my children to be friends. I want them to learn to love each other today and be true friends when they are adults. With seven children in the house sometimes it feels like all I do is "survive". After reading A House Full of Friends by Susan Alexander Yates, I was challenged to begin to build routines and celebrations into our family that will hopefully encourage friendships.

Our home is filled with the typical sibling rivalry experienced by most, but my hearts desire is to be intentional about providing opportunities to grow friendships in our family. One way I have done this is to begin praying for my children to be friends. My prayer is that their friendship will last a lifetime.

Some other things that I have started to encourage their friendships are:
  • Birthday Posters - A day before the birthday celebration for one of our family members I get a poster board and everyone works together to create a "Happy Birthday Poster". I have also started letting the children decorate the house with streamers and even to bake the cake and decorate it too. (I must admit I had a hard time doing this because I love to do it and - I like it done neatly!) They have found great joy in being a part of getting the celebration ready.
  • Birthday Cards - Along with the poster each child (and parent too) get a blank card and decorate it for the one we are celebrating. It gives those doing the artwork a chance to be creative, and to share how they appreciate their sibling.

  • Special Blessings - I have tried to look for ways to have my children bless their brothers and sisters by celebrating special achievements or events. One example was when Courtney tried out for the play at school. She had a minor role and was an understudy. We wanted to let her know that we think she is a "star". On opening night we decorated her bedroom door with it was a "Star's Dressing Room". Each of us decorated a star with puffy paint and a short message for Courtney. It was fun and it spoke volumes of love to Courtney (the play was months ago and those stars still adorn her door).

  • Attend Sporting Events - I love watching kids play sports, but it is a challenge with little ones. I cannot count the many times I have missed their one basket of the season when taking care of the little ones during the game. There have also been times when only one of us have gone to the game. It is so much easier to leave one parent at home with the little ones. However, we decided that we all need to be there to cheer on the one in the game (or on the sidelines).

I know I have a long way to go in the daily encouragement of friendship but focusing on special celebrations has been a great start in encouraging their friendships with each other.

What do you do to encourage friendship with your children?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sweet 16

A Surprise for Courtney's 16th Birthday

Turning 16 is a special event. To celebrate Courtney's almost sixteenth birthday I decided to invite some godly women to speak a blessing into her life on this special day.

Courtney's surprise began on the way to school. We left home with Courtney believing that I was taking her to school. I handed her a journal and asked her to read the Bible verses I had written in it that morning. She read the verses but didn't turn the page. (On the next page I had a note to her explaining what we were doing.) We passed by the entrance to the school and she said, "Mom, what are you doing?" With a smile I replied, "Read the note I wrote to you in your journal."

Our first stop was at a friend's house. Marilyn and Joanna made pancakes for us. When breakfast was over Marilyn spoke to Courtney about character and the women that had impacted her own life because of who they were on the inside. She challenged Courtney with some Bible verses and spoke of qualities she has seen in Courtney's life.

Stop number two was a haircut. Michelle, Courtney's Bible study leader surprised Courtney by showing up and speaking to Courtney about beauty. She was challenged to be beautiful on the inside by cultivating her relationship with Christ. (The haircut turned out great too!)

For our third stop we went our to lunch. Courtney's best friend Marie was waiting for us in the restaurant. Marie and her mom Lynn had lunch with us as we celebrated "friendship". Then the two girls got to go shopping together and have their pictures taken.

For our fourth and final stop we met Lisa and Katie at Java. Lisa and Katie both spoke to Courtney about her relationship with God and His word in her life. This day was such an incredible blessing to Courtney and I pray that it impact her as she heard other significant adults speak a blessing into her life.


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