Friday, March 29, 2013

Faithful Friday: Forgiven

When I reflect on Good Friday, my thoughts go to the cross. 
And to the unimaginable pain of Crucifixion my Savior suffered. 

For me.  ...For all of us.

Crucifixion was reserved for the worst.  And it was one of the most dreaded forms of execution.  Not to mention the suffering Christ went through in the severe beatings and humiliation before he ever made it to the cross, once there the pain was not only unbearable, but slowly torturing.  It was excruciating.

Arms were outstretched and nailed to the cross, yet supported the whole weight of the body.  To breath, the condemned would have to lift themselves with those arms.  Lungs heavy, one would eventually die from suffocation.

In the midst of this agonizing pain though, we see the heart of Jesus.  

While on the cross, suffering and naked, as others sneered and mocked him and gambled over his clothes, He showed compassion and forgiveness, even to the undeserving.

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34

On each side of Him, criminals hung.  One mocked Jesus with insults, "Aren't you the Christ?  Save yourself and us?"  While the other recognized the injustice.  He replied, "Don't you fear God?  We are getting what our deeds deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong." And he asked that Jesus remember him.
(Luke 23:32-43)
Again, Jesus focused on others rather than himself.  With unconditional love and forgiveness, he answered with a promise of paradise.

And today that offer of forgiveness still stands.  If you've never taken your sins to Jesus, it isn't too late.  He's already paid the price and he's waiting, arms outstretched to forgive and welcome you in.  With one decision, you can make this Good Friday the BEST Friday you've ever experienced. 

Join me in celebrating the joy that this season of Easter brings.  The story didn't end at the cross.  The joy of the resurrection is that our story has an eternal ending. 

He is risen!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Faithful Friday: Grace Given Here

Grace is one of my newly favorite words.  I don't know that until recently I truly reflected on what the word means, and even more so, what a gift grace is from God.

While decorating for Christmas, I found a print that said, "Love is spoken here, Joy is chosen here, Grace is given here" and hung it in my kitchen.  The words resonate so much with me and my household it remains there today.

What I've found is that Love comes easily, Joy, of course, is chosen here, but that Grace isn't the easiest to give.  I'm continually reminded of what a gift it is from God
- and how much I fail in giving it freely to others.

There are many definitions of the word
- grace[ grayss ] 
My favorite was generosity of spirit: a capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive

Simply. Grace means to get something that you do not deserve; unmerited favor.

I am reminded of this when recalling that I snapped at both kids at various times yesterday.  One resulted in Tim and I agreeing to disagree, because he witnessed it, and suggested I apologize.  Not a good moment to request kindness from me.

Writing about it today makes me guiltily see how silly it was to even get upset about it.  Yet my stubbornness continues on to defend my actions.

Let me begin by inserting this clause, Tim is a wonderful parent.  He's much more active than most men I know (or at least to hear their wives complain).  And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, how blessed I am.  But, I also know that when it comes to daily parenting, I take a lead on many things.  Being the "bad guy" is one of them.  I'm here more so I'm the one who reminds about chores, again and again.  I'm the one who facilitates schedules and keeps track of where everyone is and goes.  It's me who ensures homework is done and grades are in shape.  Tim is called in as a buffer, when needed, but by and large I'm the one who oversees the management side of life with teens.

Yesterday was no exception.  In all my juggling expertise as a Mom, the afternoon found me leaving one with a task to help with supper, while transporting the other to the dentist, adding on a trip for a few groceries, and rushing home to get homework/chores/dinner all done before the kids had to leave for a youth revival.  In the chaotic mix of what was a typical afternoon, I called on the kids for help.  One was to put away groceries while I started preparing our meal. The other was asked to man the grill and watch over what was cooking. 

Neither of those tasks ended well.

The grill, because it was not being paid attention to, flamed up and burnt the hot dogs and hamburgers to an inedible crisp, causing a waste that even the dogs wouldn't touch.  Luckily, we had extras to start over, but it wasn't until after I raised my voice, aggravated at what occurred.  In the moments after, something nudged me to apologize but I ignored it.  Again, can anyone say stubborn?!

At the end of our busy evening, kids home from said revival, all were looking for something to satisfy their sweet tooth.  One began digging through cabinets and pulled out a nearly soggy box of ice cream sandwiches.  This just didn't set well with me.  And yes, I'll admit in hindsight I shared no grace with my reaction.  In fact, it sent the one responsible to bed before they probably wanted because they felt bad for the mistake.
Now, before you jump to conclusions, my reaction to either wasn't terrible but it wasn't nice.  I raised my voice and reminded them in a not so kind tone to pay attention better, because I'm the one who has the daily frustration of corralling those limited attention spans and keeping them on task.  The ice cream was just the straw that broke the camels back, or, rather melted this mom.

In prayer last night I took my apologies to God, because both the kids were already asleep, and it took me that long to submit I was in the wrong.  As I do daily, I came to him with my shortcomings, humbled at the fact that he so freely forgives and provides GRACE even when I don't deserve it.  And reminded, yet again, how much I need to share grace with others, but realizing it doesn't come from me anyway; it is just letting God work through me to provide grace to others, even when they don't deserve it.

“Now I am putting you in God’s care. I am depending on the message about his grace to make you strong. That message is able to give you the blessings that God gives to all his holy people.  Acts 20:32

*PS - I cannot describe how much difficulty I've had in writing this post, technically.  Every time I'd load the picture, it would be upside down.  I'd type a paragraph, it wouldn't save.  It was as if Evil was determined to keep me angry, to keep grace from entering.  May we be ever mindful of how creative IT can be to distract us, irritate us, and keep us stubborn in turning toward God!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

To Spring or not to Spring?

It snowed here on the first day of Spring!  Sadness.
I didn't see it but I sure felt the brisk winds that ruined all chances of a decent hair day.

The only true signs of spring have been the chirping birds, who seem to be tweeting, "hang in there!" and the tiny buds on my pear trees. 

But I'm longing for spring.  I need sunshine.

I'm ready for alfresco dining and enjoying the favorite non-room of our house.  It's freezing today but I'm grilling tonight in protest anyway.

My fingers are itching to dig into the earth and plant flowers.  Dirt therapy.

Tim's already preparing for fishing season, as he pulled the boat out of our soggy backyard last weekend.  Soon I'll hear the roar of that motor as he tinkers and tunes it for the water.

In anticipation, I am excited to breathe in freshly cut grass and to have my curtains blowing in the breeze.

I'm eager to venture to our newly developed park and walk the paths with our dogs, kids in tow on their bikes.

And camping.  Spring time camping, before the weather gets too hot....the nights are cool and there's a foggy mist on the lake as the sun begins to rise.  Nothing better.

So many joyful moments.  So little time.
Come on sunny weather, mama's ready for spring!

What are you looking most forward to this season?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Be a Good Neighbor

What would be your definition of a good neighbor?  In today's society, most would probably say a "good neighbor" is someone who keeps to himself, is quiet and respectful of those around them, and keeps a tidy yard.  Because, let's be honest, we've all lived beside someone who isn't one of these things.

Our sermon Sunday challenged us to be more, as a neighbor. 
And I was blessed for the reminder.

Tim and I had nursery rotation yesterday, so we opted to skip Sunday school and attend early service.  Though I know our sermons are now podcast, being there in person made such an impact and I am thankful we didn't miss it.

We took a "Good Neighbor" quiz as we were asked questions like, "Are you aware of the problems your neighbors may be facing?" and just simply, "Do you pay attention?" 

I wasn't pleased or proud of my score.

While we know most of our neighbors, there are some I would pass right by because I've never seen their faces.  Couldn't tell you their last names, unless it was on the mail box.  Our kids hang out with other teens on the block and I couldn't tell you the first thing about their family.  We truly do each live in our own little yard. 

Sadly, I probably know more about people I really don't know at all from Facebook, compared to the people who live on my street.  It's the world we live in, we're all closed off behind the safety of our laptop screens.  It's so much easier to simply post, "praying for you" on a status than getting out of our comfort zones and knocking on someone's door to help.  And maybe it is because of the reception we know will come if they answer.

It's the same, for many of us, when faced with sharing the gospel with the lost.  Neighbors aside, I have people in my own family I know that are lost.  People who I love and want in Heaven with me, yet I don't have the words or know how to reach them.  In some cases, I think maybe it is easier to reach a stranger and tell someone about Jesus.  And it shouldn't be that hard!

The ending of yesterday's sermon was profound.  Soul shaking.  Heart stirring.

There's a cross in the corner of our church where names of the lost had been attached.  Yesterday we arrived to find it empty.  Our preacher had pulled off all the names to review.  In one hand he held the names of those who had been saved.  We rejoiced in removing them.  In the other he held names of those who had passed, and to our knowledge, left this world not knowing the glory that could’ve been on the other side. My heart sank.

As names were reviewed and new ones added, each were placed back on the cross with a stapler. With each loud clank into the wood, I envisioned Christ being nailed to the cross for our sins. Every metallic clank, a symbolic reminder of his sacrifice for us, for them.  He's already paid the price, all we have to do is accept the gift.

For God so loved YOU that he gave his one and only Son, that if YOU believe in him, 
YOU shall not perish but have eternal life.

We are never promised tomorrow.
I rest because I know when my tomorrow ends, my forever begins.
It is my prayer that you know this too, friend. …neighbor.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's not easy being green

When I was a teenager, St. Patty's Day was a fun holiday for me.  Being part Irish, I felt it necessary to claim my heritage on this day and don a special green button that said, "Kiss me, I'm Irish!"  Of course, if anyone responded to my button's plea, I would have been horrified!

Now, St. Patty's is just a chance to read the beautiful blessings and prayers of the Irish and to wear green.  Being that Austin's favorite color was green, and the t-shirts we had made for his scholarship fund are the same color, it has become an extra special day we can wear his shirts with pride. 

wow, how Noah's grown.  2010
 I'll leave you with a beautiful blessing.....

May the blessing of God's soft rain be on you,

Falling gently on your head, refreshing your soul

With the sweetness of little flowers newly blooming.

May the strength of the winds of Heaven bless you,

Carrying the rain to wash your spirit clean

Sparkling after in the sunlight.

May the blessing of God's earth be on you,

And as you walk the roads,

May you always have a kind word

for those you meet.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Faithful Friday: My Life Song

Throughout my life I've kept many journals.  It began with a small pink "Dear Diary" with a heart shaped lock, to the online blog you read today.  In between, my Dear Diary days moved to dreams and gratitude journals.  Recently, I began keeping a scripture journal.  This change has made such an impact on me spiritually.

I've always been drawn to words.  I write them down, remember them.  Quotes call out to me.  I highlight and share them. Scripture strengthens and sustains me.  I retain, underline, memorize, and strive to live them. 

My current Bible, though still fairly new, a beloved birthday present from my mom last year, is already filled with notes and lines drawn under or around important scriptures that spoke to me.  But sometimes I'll come across them later and wonder what led me to underline them. 

Now that I'm keeping a scripture journal, it gives me a chance to reflect and write more about my reading that day.  And though I've only begun it this year, I can already go back and read again to remember what God was sharing me.  I can see how a concern played out and how that scripture prepared or grounded me for what was to come.  As someone who loves to write, I can't believe this isn't something I've done before and I'm a little sad thinking of all the God moments missed out on.  Then again, maybe I wasn't ready to listen until now...

This week, I came across a beautiful song in Psalm.  I was familiar with several verses within it but I don't know that I recalled the entire Psalm.  Every line just reached out and spoke to me, and I found myself nodding and tearing up, feeling as if someone looked into my soul and wrote the words of my heart.  My journal entry ended simply with, "Is this not my life song?!"

Psalm 30

I will exalt you, Lord,  for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night, but JOY comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cleaning the Big House

We signed up on the church cleaning rotation this year.  Tim and I figured it was a family activity we could all do together.  I'm not sure the kids were thrilled at the idea, since that five letter word usually gets groans and eye rolls around here.  I've enjoyed it though.  But then cleaning and organizing is kind of my thing.

Or rather, I take it at spurts.  My sink may be gleaming from a recent scrubbing but laundry is hiding in the other room.  I can never fully manage to keep everything clean at the same time.  Tim says our house gets only really clean for company or the holidays.  He also jokes I never feed him well, except on those occasions mentioned above.  I'm pretty sure he's neither starving or that I'll appear on an episode of Hoarders anytime soon.

The kids would say I'm a neat freak.  This was a hard life change for Tina when she first arrived.  To her, putting up the dishes meant swinging open a door, tossing it inside, and shutting it real quick before something fell down.  A few broken dishes and serious conversations later, I think I've trained her to do better.  When Noah was little, I'd hoped a little of my OCD had rubbed off him, as he liked things a certain way too.  Over the years though, he's dusted most of that off.  Or rather, maybe that's the only thing he's dusted!  Seriously though the kids do decent.  They know how to walk a fine line between messy and good enough not to get fussed at by mom.

Our first time on the rotation was a learning experience.  It probably took us double the time of anyone else, but we wanted to do a good job and really didn't know where anything was.  I truly found joy though while cleaning.  The scripture, "whatever you do, do it for the glory of God," just kept whispering within me.  Scrubbing counters or floors, wiping down walls, and taking out the trash, I felt pride in my church.  I felt blessed to be a part of this family.  Cleaning reminded me that is our church too and I felt grateful.  Later I joked that every member should be assigned a shift, just to experience that feeling.  Somehow I don't think it will pass at a business meeting though.

And honestly, being told to do it, rather than sincerely wanting to, probably makes all the difference in the world.  When you love something, you freely give of yourself.  Volunteering at church is an honor for our family and one that blesses us each and every single time we do it.  Whether it is helping in the nursery, at VBS, delivering meals at Thanksgiving, or cleaning the floor!

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Simple Sundays

Do you remember Sundays as a child?  For me, they were simple and slow, especially at my Grandpa Coons' house.

Sundays were meant for church and rest.  And that's just what we did.  The most exciting thing was discovering whether or not Grandpa was taking us out to eat for lunch after church.  (Oh, how I miss those plate lunches at the Cadillac and the Kings Table buffet!)

As a child, I didn't appreciate rest.  In fact, many Sundays I probably complained, at least internally, from the lack of anything to do.  We'd come home from lunch and just sit around, maybe nap.  If it was during the school year, the afternoon meant a long drive home.  If during the summer, it meant hanging until evening service.

Now that I'm grown, I love nothing more than a peaceful Sunday.  Over time, I've learned to protect this day and try very hard to schedule nothing on a Sunday afternoon and even more so in the evening.

Quite time with God on Sunday morning, just me, my Bible, and a steamy cup of coffee before my family and the world wake up, is one of the highlights of my week.  For the rest of the day, a perfect Sunday includes Church, lunch, a glorious nap, more Bible study and longer journaling, and a simple evening with the family.  I find my moments with God, on this seemingly unscheduled day, are all the better because of my unrushed pace.  There are no other commitments, no expectations of my time. I long for this peace.  And I think my appreciation and gratitude of this simplicity has only recently occurred to me, or at least my realization has been heightened.

Sure, there are a laundry list of things I could be doing (laundry one those unpleasantries), but I figure I have all week to accomplish them.  I remind myself that even God himself took a break. 
               "and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done" Genesis 2:2
And as my sister, Angela Thomas, would say from the Brave study I'm reading, "I'm taking a Sabbath!"

Now, if I could just get the kids to appreciate this precious break....but it will probably take them as many years to do so as it did me!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Faithful Friday: Send Me God

"Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now." ~Saint Teresa of Avila




As my husband is in the fire service, we are frequently shown the needs of this community, and of those passing through.  We meet people at some of the most critical moments of their life.  Aside from him doing his obvious job, Tim very often goes above and beyond in helping those in greatest need.  It's just his nature and one of the reasons I love him so.

When I was in fire service alongside him, it was my natural inclination to be drawn to the children involved.  I prayed on the way to a wreck or house fire.  Once on scene, I would gravitate to the little ones.  Whether it be to calm them for medical care, or distract them with a teddy bear, the mother in me would seek them out to help.

Last night, on our way home from a school function, Tim received a call seeking help.  I believe it was no coincidence that God had us directly across the street from where the need was. 

An immigrant family, who spoke little to no English, was stranded.  Having traveled many miles, with many more to go, they'd reached the end of their abiliy to continue further.  We felt blessed to help in the small way we did and to join a team of others who provided care.

Upon meeting the father, and him thanking us repeatedly in broken English, he went to his van and opened the door.  Out jumped two of the most beautiful little boys, bouncing with energy.  Oh, my soul they were heartbreakingly cute.  Though we didn't speak the same language, our smiles spoke to each other.  Loving, sweet, bubbly hugs from both of them filled my joy tank beyond capacity and I've replayed that simple, yet profound scene, over and over since.  I think the stickers found in our truck to share with them filled theirs.  Happy squeals are universal, even if I didn't know what they said to their mom.

On our way home the kids shared what an impact that made on them and how good it felt to help someone in need.  We all went to bed feeling grateful for God to putting us in the right place at the right time.  It's amazing the opportunities that he'll send your way, if you just open yourself up to him and SUBMIT to him to be used!


For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.   Matthew 25:30


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

No Snow, Snow Day

Ohio county is know to have taken a day off school for suspected snow, as weather predictions round here aren't aways accurate.  Usually you're better off to just to look out your window, if you want a true forecast.  Yet, we've known since Sunday there would be no school today and it had nothing to do with the sky. 

Unless you count the colors of the sky - typically blue and white.  Because, if you're an Eagles fan, you know those to be our school colors.  The kids were off today because the boys went to State.  And since it's over a three hour drive to Rupp arena, and most of our county bleeds blue, the school was smart to close for the day.

So, a random Wednesday turned out to be a bit of a holiday.  Tina went home with her Mamaw last night to spend the day with her sister, and Noah celebrated by playing a newly rented Xbox game well into this morning.  I was just happy to get thirty extra minutes of sleep, not having to send them off for school. 

It's the little things.

By the afternoon, all were awake and back home, hungry and ready for dinner.  With Tim, my picky eater, gone to a fire training, I opted for a treat I knew the kids would enjoy.  (Momma too.)  Chicken fried rice and egg rolls!

Before dinner though, we turned the couch around to face the computer screen and watched our home team.  The kids got a kick out of seeing familiar faces in the crowd - and on the court.  We even snuck in a concession stand favorite - hot buttered popcorn.  Our dogs didn't know what to think, with the living room turned upside down and kernels flying, but they had a good time cleaning up our mess.  Though we were sad to see the boys defeated, it was fun to experience some home town pride, all from the comfort of our couch.

The rest of the night was rather lazy and the kids got in bed much later than normal, but I figure they won't be the only ones sleepy tomorrow.  ...Maybe we'll luck out and wake up to snow!?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Faithful Friday: Redeemed

Once a month we get together with a small group of others from our church, known as a Lifegroup.  Looking back through my planner, I was amazed to see we've reached the one year mark!

Last February a handful of people, many new to EHBC, came somewhat apprehensively to our pastor's home for a potluck meal.  Sharing tacos and simple conversation, relationships began to form.  We ended the night with group prayer, opening each of our lives just a bit to new friends.

Month by month this continued, most of us taking turns to host in our homes.  And each month those relatonships, now strong friendships, continue to grow and thrive.  This gathering is one of the highlights we look forward to each time we turn the calendar.  It's something our entire family enjoys.

summer 2012 Lifegroup picnic
Not only that, it has strengthened our family and solidified our place in the church.  Coming from a big church, where our family got lost in the crowd, having these connections keep us grounded.  It's such a wonderful feeling to not only see friendly and familiar faces each week at church, but to also look out and see true friendships.

These are people who we've shared our souls with.  We've prayed together, cried together, laughed together, and of course shared yummy food together.  We don't just gather once a month to eat or pray, but we've become a part of each other's lives.  We're a phone call or message away when life's burdens come our way.  We're there to hold each other accountable and to protect each other's families from the enemy and distractions that can pull us away from being obediant to God.  I hold these people in my daily prayers.  They are truly like a second family to us!

Dec Lifegroup Party
This weekend we are blessed to have Lifegroup meetings two nights in a row.  Tonight we'll join with other leaders to learn and share how our group is doing.  And then tomorrow, our Christian family - Lifegroup Redeemed, will gather for food, fun and fellowship.

Yes, it makes for a busy weekend, but I couldn't imagine not spending time with this group.  I found a quote today that sums it up well, "Fellowship is not just something that we try to fit into our Christian life after we get everything else together."  It is what helps us keep it together!

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

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