Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh, Give Thanks

"So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, Will give You thanks forever;
We will show forth Your praise to all generations." Psalm 79:13

My heart is so full of gratitude, love, thanksgiving and praise for such a precious and special time visiting with my two aunts and my grandmother. My family has been blessed these last two weeks with a wonderful visit with my nephew Max....getting to know him as a young man who loves Jesus and is so humble and sincere....embarking on adolescence and the uncertainty, decisions and pressures that brings....but yet still being such a kid and watching my children and Max laughing together, being silly and just enjoying a cousin relationship.

I took Max to the airport on Monday afternoon and came home to my home filled once again, but this time with my two aunts from NY and my 88 year old grandmother.

These last two days we have enjoyed deep conversations, openness in our wonders and questions of life and God's role and part in our lives. Openly discussing what a "relationship with Jesus Christ" looks like and why does a God who loves us allow pain to enter our paths, what does heaven look like..... Questions that we don't have all the answers to, but questions that allow us to dig deeper into the richness, the majesty of God and our relationships. We spent time reminiscing about the past, pondering the future, catching up with each other's lives. We laughed, we cried, we enjoyed each other fully.

My aunts and grandmother embraced all my children and wanted to see their lives, their personalities, the little people that they are: they hunted for toads with Luke, they read to Faith and Jed, they bathed Faith each night, they listened to my boys rock the house on their guitars. we cooked together, we ate together, we sat together....they lived life with me and my husband, and all the craziness that envelops the Davis household each day! (whew....they can be quite crazy around here!)

We enjoyed an afternoon out yesterday doing adult things...antiquing and lunch at a sidewalk cafe in a nearby town. What a treat!! :)

And this morning, before they left....I got to sit with my grandmother and share my heart and seek forgiveness on a difficult time in my childhood...I needed her to know I was sorry and for her to know the love that I have for her and how deeply it runs in me. Thank you Lord Jesus for that opportunity. I am eternally grateful.

The generations....from Maxwell, to my aunts, to my grandmother....Lord, I give you thanks and cup runneth over.

All of us....the generations...what a treasure

My grandmother (isn't she beautiful...if only I can age this gracefully)...and her great grandchildren

Me and my Aunt Pam, my grandmother and my Aunt Kay-too special for words!

May we all cherish each and every moment we are given to spend with loved ones... may we love each other as Jesus loves us! May we not hold back a part of ourselves...give yourself freely.

In HIS love and goodness-Stacy

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The GPS Lady

Ocean City, NJ

"And a voice came out of the cloud saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" Luke 9:35

Have you ever travelled uncharted paths....roads unknown to you, foreign roads, unmarked... but unfolding right before your eyes? And then with each tentative step, things start coming at you from every direction. You get distracted, you get a little weary, maybe think I have to be on the wrong road....this can't be right??? But then you hear that quiet assurance, the voice of God speaking into your heart that says "This is the way, walk in it." Isaiah 30: 21

And you feel safe, despite the uncertainty of the road ahead.

You feel like you can take that next step. You focus on the voice, God's voice, and follow, maybe still tentative.....but assured that you are in the Father's hands.

Well, I ventured to the NJ shore on Friday with 6 kids in tow...uncharted territory for me alone. I had hoped that my husband could take the day off and join us, but he had a day packed of endless meetings....I understood, a little disappointed, as I love to have him with us, but I know he does have to work so that we can pay bills and be able to have some fun choices! Thank you honey, for being such a faithful, hard-working husband and daddy and for providing for us as you do!

He thought I was a bit crazy to take on the task of packing, driving, unpacking at the beach, and then making it back home all in one day. But he is used to my crazy ideas and knows that I can do it. It goes back to my childhood when there was so much I just had to do, because I didn't have anyone to help me. I knew the day would be long, but the kids would have a blast, and I really love the it was all worth the trouble. My best friend and her husband and children were vacationing at the shore last week and I was going to hook up with them at the beach. We also had another friend who was staying with them a couple of nights, and she would be there, as well, with her two kids. We had a beautiful day ahead of us. I was quite excited.

Well, back in April, my husband decided we needed to buy one of those GPS things. We were road tripping to Florida for a vacation and he thought it would be useful. I wasn't really in on it...I thought Mapquest would do just fine (and a lot cheaper!). But he convinced me that it was really indispensable and would get a lot of use. And, really, he does earn the money, so who am I to say he can't have this toy that he really wanted. He doesn't ask, or want for much. I on the other hand spend most of the discretionary money. So, GPS it was. Oh, and we had to get the one where the lady talks to you and tells you each turn as it comes. It's a little weird, you know what I mean, if you have one. Her voice is very calm. She will tell you to stay left, to stay right, to be prepared for the exit ahead. If you miss the turn, she will tell you she is recalculating and she will then tell you how to get back on track. I must say, it was a nice thing to have on our road trip. But I never really used it myself. I was always in the passenger seat. Not on Friday, I was driving. Just me, 6 kids and GPS lady.

I am not much of a technical person. So, Friday morning, I asked my 9 year old son (who is very much like his dad....very technical), to program our beach destination into the GPS and get us going in the right direction. I told him the street of our final stopping ground. He promptly did as he was told and had it all set up in the car. We all packed up the car. From the looks of it you would have thought we were going for a week with all of our gear, bags and the like, but really it was just for the day. We were off around 9:45 am...all looking forward to the day ahead.

I pull out of our development and follow the voice of the GPS lady, as she told me each turn to take. In the past, when we have gone to the shore, we have always gone this back way. But I haven't travelled it many times, so couldn't really find my way alone. As the GPS lady beckoned me on, I realized she was not taking me "the back way." I started to get a little nervous, as I didn't even check to make sure my son programed our destination correctly...nor did I know how to check....ummm.....I didn't even mapquest our destination.....who needs mapquest when you have the GPS lady??? Quite presumptuous of me to blindly follow this lady and trust her with the crew I had packed into our Suburban.

But I trusted her nonetheless.....right, satellites were guiding us from many different points. I could see my little car on the road ahead of us on the little computer screen. Well, as we start travelling toward Philadelphia, through the city, in a lot of traffic....I get a little nervous and fear begins to creep in.....maybe I'm going in the wrong direction? I start to lack some faith in the GPS lady and call my girlfriend at the beach....she gives me the reassurance I need that this way will bring me to our destination, and in fact our other friend had travelled this very road yesterday. I take a deep breath....ok....onward we go.

As I am crossing over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge into NJ, I have cars speeding quickly by me. There is a lot of traffic. I have to make sure I am in the right lane or else I will end up in Camden and not toward the shore....the road starts to break into four different lanes going to different destinations.....all the while, my 4 year old needs a drink, my 2 year old now decides she needs her blankie that she has dropped and I am trying to tune my ears into the GPS lady to make sure I don't wind up in Timbuktu.

As all of this is going on around me.... and God uses this moment to speak into my heart. He says.."This is your walk with Me." This is what it is like as we daily walk together. Just listen to my voice...put aside the distraction, the noise and follow. Trust. Obey. Walk.

I love how God uses everyday situations and things, like the GPS teach us. I start absorbing everything He is bringing to mind about the similarities. As I am driving, I grab a pen and a scrap sheet of paper and don't want to lose what He is saying. I start scribbling notes down as I am driving. (Not a good idea...)

He is speaking to my heart. He has a set destination for each one of us. Others have travelled similar roads, maybe even the same road....but if you've ever followed anyone on a trip, you know that it is hard to follow someone else.....God has His own path for you, even on the same roads that others have travelled. He doesn't want us following someone else....He wants us following HIM and Him alone. We can learn from each other, we can help each other along....but when it comes down to it......God wants to lead and us to follow. He has something special for each of us on the roads He has chosen. It won't be the same thing as the person who has travelled before you. As we follow, He teaches us, He encourages us, He helps us along. He reassures us that we are on the right road....kind of like the GPS lady.

And as the cars were flying by me, as the road was changing and I had to listen closely to the GPS ladies instructions, (and yes..put down my scrap paper)...I realized my walk with God is no different. There are so many daily distractions that keep my eyes off of Jesus and the path ahead. Satan enters the road and tries to woo me, He tricks me into thinking "I must be on the wrong road!" He distracts me. He whispers....God doesn't love you....or else He would have chosen a different road for you. This one is way to hard and rocky. It is uncertain. Quick, jump in my car and I'll take you down a different highway. Ohhh....don't go! I must shake the fear, the doubt, the worry and trust God with the path ahead....His perfect plan. I must put aside all that distracts me and listen intently to His voice....only His voice. I must look for the next step......not the next two steps....only the next step. God will give me the next step, then as I take it, He will give me the next step. Just like the GPS lady. She doesn't tell me the three next turns, only the next turn.

When I get off course, as I often do......GPS lady recalculates. She puts me back on track for my destination. God does that and so much more. He guides me right back to His feet, so that I will follow Him. I will listen to His voice. He guides me into His Word for the rich truths He wants to give me that day. He will even pick me up and carry me if need be...if I am willing to follow. He doesn't force me to follow...

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." John 10:27

I just need do listen for His voice and follow. I need to be still, to hear His voice. I need to be listening for it and I need to be leaving the lines of communication open....I can't let my sin or me get in the way. I must seek Him in His Word, through prayer....and He has never let me down.

I need to trust God. I need to trust that He knows what He is doing and believe that He doesn't make mistakes. GPS lady....well, she makes mistakes. Sometimes there are new roads developed that she hasn't learned her there is no road.....we get lost. But we never get lost with God. He is ever present, ever guiding, all-knowing...there is no new road to him.

In the middle of travelling, I pass a sign that said-30 miles to Atlantic City....that's not where I wanted to go.....I panic. I called my girlfriend again for reassurance. Oh, what little faith I sometimes have. No, I was on the right path. But I continue to question. We can't question God and the paths ahead.....just trust that He is in control and that He will lead us to the way of everlasting.

So, we made it. We made it to the shore....and you know what....I didn't need to turn around once. The directions were perfect. GPS lady lead us right to our destination.....really God did....and you know what, at the end of a beautiful, hot, fun-filled day of soaking up the sun, playing in the water, building sandcastles, burying each other in the sand, and having great conversations with dear friends.....well, GPS lady lead me right home. I didn't question, this time. I knew her voice.....and I followed.

Here are some pictures of our day at Ocean City. Thank you Lord Jesus that you show up, so real and present, even through the GPS lady.....and show me that I need to just follow you, trust you, and lean on you to lead. And thank you for being so much BIGGER than the GPS lady! The GPS lady, she doesn't really care if I end up in the right place, but You do! You love us so.

Here is a verse that God has used many times in my life as I've travelled uncertain roads. May it be an encouragement and comfort to you walk with God.

"Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you. And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, But your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying...This is the way, walk in it." Isaiah 30:18-21

The boys on the beach

My beach girl....she didn't leave this chair the whole joke!!

Max, Ben and Seth waiting for the next wave to ride in!

Jed playing in the sand

Seth, Ben, Max and Luke buried in the sand

What a wonderful end to a beautiful day!
Love in Him-Stacy

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Max's Visit

My 12 year old Nephew, Max, has been visiting us from Texas. He arrived last Friday and will be with us until Monday. We have been having such a fun time. My children don't get to see their cousins very often, as my older sister lives in Texas and my younger sister lives in Chicago and it is rather expensive to travel as a family of 7....frequent flier miles only go so far! So, this year, as Max was old enough to travel alone.....he flew here by himself.

We cherish anytime we get to spend together. The boys love hanging out with Max. And I think Max is having a good time.....there is a lot of laughter and smiles. We also had Seth's best friend over since Sunday....he is almost part of the family, and so he fit right in.

We've ventured to Chuck E Cheese, thankfully on a day when the place was almost empty and Faith could pretty much run around without me worrying about her. I even got to play a game or two...

The kids have been swimming, jumping on the trampoline and riding bikes.....pedal bikes and dirt bikes. As boys will be isn't just a ride around the neighborhood....there needs to danger and know, the adrenaline rush. Here is a video of the first or second day and the jumps they made in the front yard with a bike jump and a skateboard ramp. They kept moving the jumps further and further apart. I guess after all these years of boys...I've learned to not be a "nervous Nellie." It might also be that I like the adrenaline rush as much as they do...

This year, our three oldest boys: Ben, Seth and Luke all entered the world of Motocross racing. They race in Harescrambles throughout the spring, summer and fall. We are loving it as a family sport. Our backyard has become somewhat of a dirtbike track, though. Max has a couple friends back home who ride for fun, so he borrowed their gear and brought it along. The boys have been practicing in the back yard....and we are hoping to race this Sunday.

Max taking his first couple of runs. (usually they wear more gear: like boots, pants, etc...but it was a really hot day!)

Max going of his first jump. The jump is behind him so you can't really see it.

They come off the driveway and up an embankment....crazy!!!

Ben getting "big air"

Ben and Max

We also went bowling yesterday. There is this little bowling alley about 20 minutes from our house. It is really old, but my kids like it better than the big "Bowling Palace" which is huge...with all the lights, electronic scoreboards, sound effects etc... This bowling place is called Frazer Lanes and it has only 25 or so lanes, but it is never crowded, they have summer specials and we pretty much get the place to ourselves. Max was the big winner yesterday with a 121! Way to go. We had a blast.

Jed bowling and Faith trying to see how it is done...wishing she could have a turn!

Luke and Ben

The clan of big boys checking out the scores

Faithee girl taking a break...bowling is hard, you know!! :)

A pack of boys....eating cereal at 10:00 one night....not quite sure why Jed was up this late..he's my 4 year old????

It's been a fun week so far.....I think we might head off to a skateboard park today....and tomorrow we are off to the Jersey Shore.....pray for mommy and 6 kids off to the shore....what am I thinking??? Hope you are all having a blessed week!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

From Benjamin to Joshua

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD...." Psalm 127:3

"Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your home, Your children like olive plants all around your table." Psalm 128:3

My mother is a very wise woman. She once told me regarding children that God has a way of using each of our children to teach us more about ourselves, our sin and our relationship to Christ Jesus. She said once that one child resembles more the mother, the next child resembles more the father (or vice versa) and the third child is a mix of both. I laughed at this early on in my parenting years, but over the years, and through many children, have come to see the wisdom in what she was saying.

God tells us that children are a heritage from Him. Basically, they are a gift. They are a heritage because they come from our know, an inheritance. They are His children, not really ours. We are told in this portion of scripture that God has a divine providence in all aspects of life. That He conceived of everything in your life and blesses you with it and it is used as a way to guide you more fully into His presence....our children are no different. God uses them to guide us toward teach us, to grow us, to conform us to His image. Our children are His blessing. His grace poured out on us.

So, I've seen where my mom was going with this. As God has gifted us with our children, they possess traits that come from Him, but also from the first father, Adam....that being sin. Any mommy knows that we don't have to teach our children the bad to talk back, how to disobey, how to hit, how to steal, how to lose control, how to be selfish......all of these lovely characteristics are there from the beginning and we as parents, have to really be diligent to train them in "the way of the Lord." As we train them in God's ways, they see the sin, repent, accept God's gift of life in Him and hopefully, as they grow in Him, God's fruit becomes evident.

We have to invest our time and energy into training them to obey, to be selfless, self-controlled, loving, kind....the list goes on. Basically, I think this covers the gamut of all our children....God uses them to show us our own sin. In my children I've seen my sin of anger, worry, control, unbelief, impatience and as I see my children displaying these undesirable qualities, and God continually convicts my heart of these qualities in me, as well. The ugliness of the sin is no different.....just often deeper in us because we are older.

Well, I came to a big revelation yesterday about how God has used two of my children (really His children...but you know what I mean) to teach me some valuable lessons. All gifts are given for purposes, some small, some really big. All gifts are given out of love. God has purposes, many purposes for our children, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others and most importantly in their lives. Our children are gifts.

Yesterday, I was going through my old scrapbooks looking for NICU pictures of Ben to share with you all. The other day when I posted on my beginnings, I went back and reread the post (we are our worst critics!) and felt like I didn't give you enough of me. I'm so new to blogging.....and I want you all to see me for who I am....a woman who loves Jesus and His Word, who believes it to be true....every word.....and who desires to be more and more like Him in every thought and action. Oh, that is my heart's cry. But I mess up everyday. I fall short. But He forgives me and pours out his grace upon me and carries me on. I want you to see Jesus in me......but first you need to see me and then, God willing, you will see Jesus. So, I'm sorry, for holding back. Here are some pictures of Ben, after he was born and from his early days in the NICU.

Ben, hours after birth

Two days after Ben's birth. The first time I get to see my new baby boy.
Our home for the next 5 and a half weeks. Oh, I wanted him in my arms so much!
Our Sweet Baby, Ben
As I was turning the pages of the scrapbook to get to Ben's birth, I came upon the page of his homecoming. I have the date December 13th in big black letters on the bottom of the page and December 11th written at the beginning of my journaling. I became immobilized. That date has been embedded in my memory for years....December 13th, the glorious day Ben came home, but I had forgotten the importance of December 11th in the life of Ben. That day is embedded in my mind for my 4th son, Joshua.

I had forgotten that on December 11th, I was in the NICU early in the morning, during the doctor's rounds. I had been getting very impatient about when Ben would be coming home. I wanted him home so badly. A couple days prior, I was asking one of the female doctor's about when she thought he would be ready to come home (hoping that as a female, she would be more compassionate to the first time mommy....she wasn't.) She basically told me not to expect Ben to come home much before his due date, January 8th. I was crushed. That was almost a month away and he seemed to be doing so well. He was in the "crib room" which was for stable babies. It was basically the growing room. He was still on a feeding tube, but off of the oxygen support. He was almost 4 pounds at this point.

Anyway, I remember talking to the nurses that morning, kind of venting my frustrations. I must say, NICU nurses are angels from God. They are a rare and beautiful gift for mommies of sick and premature babies. Each nurse we had was gentle, compassionate, loving and an advocate and voice to the doctors for Ben. I owe so much to all the NICU nurses at the Hershey Medical Center! That morning, as I talked with this nurse, she told me there was no reason Ben couldn't go home, as long as he showed he could gain weight in a day, with no feeding tube and by being fed strictly by the breast. She told me she would go and talk to the doctors, that December 11th morning. When the doctors came in for their rounds, there I was. They repeated what this nurse said, a little skeptical that he would in fact, gain the weight. I stayed with Ben the whole day on the 12th, breastfeeding throughout the day and praying...hoping that he would gain weight. Barclay and I spent the night with Ben in a room next to the NICU and at 11:00 PM, the nurses came in for the big weight check....if he had gained even an ounce, he could go home the next morning. On December 13th, he came home weighing exactly 4 pounds.

Ben, December 13, 1996, ready to leave the NICU wearing an outfit that was way too big!!

So, here's what hit me so hard. As I had posted previously, when Ben was in the NICU, I was all about surviving....just getting through one day to the next, leaning on God, but not growing in God. God in his graciousness, grew me. I trusted Him more than I had before. But, I didn't learn how to give life over to life. To die to self and my plans, my desires, what I thought was best for me. God was gracious with us and our son Ben. He chose life for Ben. Life here on this earth.

Well, fast forward 5 and a half years to April 2002. On April 11th, 2002, I am 20 weeks pregnant with our 4th child. Ben is 5 and a half years old. We had gone in for the routine 20 week ultrasound. I was nervous, as I always am for that ultrasound....because I am a worrier. At the ultrasound, the radiologist takes a long time. I am joking with her, as she doesn't let on for a minute that she sees any "red flags." I even say to her..."Your job must be so hard in those times when you see abnormalities. I can't imagine how hard that must be to continue scanning and not be able to say anything to the pregnant mom." I've never said that at an ultrasound before!!! Here this poor woman was experiencing that exact situation....with me!!! Barclay and l leave the radiology department at the hospital and head off to lunch, celebrating the fact that we are having another healthy baby. When I get home, later that day, I receive a phone call from my ob's office. The nurse is calling and tells me that they noticed today that the baby's umbilical cord has an abnormality in it. She tries to reassure me, as I am crying at this point, but tells me I need to come in tomorrow for a level 2 ultrasound at the anti-natal testing unit. I am almost hysterical. A lot ensues in the next hour or so emotionally and I am calling a lot of people to ask them to start praying and to see if anyone has heard of umbilical cord abnormalities. Well, in the midst of all this, Ben, says to me, "Mommy, don't cry. Remember Joshua 1:9:

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, mommy, for God is with you wherever you go."

Out of the mouths of babes......what a gift my son is to me. God uses Ben to encourage me in the Lord. To get my perspective back on Him and off of the circumstances. To be strong in God and look to Him.

The next day, I feel girded up in the Lord. I feel strengthened. Barclay and I go in for the ultrasound that would forever change our lives. After the Periontologist and the nurse finish the ultrasound, they ask us what we know so far? That usually isn't a great question for a doctor to ask the patient. We tell him that we were told there is an umbilical cord issue. He goes on to tell us that our child has cysts on his cerebellum, cysts on his kidneys, it appears that his intestines are growing on the outside of his abdomen, his hands are in a downward clenched position and he appears to have only a 2 vessel cord (normal is 3). But, his heart appears to be strong, which is atypical combined with the other findings. All of these together point to a fatal condition called Trisomy 18. He goes on to say that these babies either die in utero or will die shortly after birth, as they cannot handle the trauma of delivery, or breathe well outside the womb. The outlook is grim. The uncontrollable sobs overtake me and I feel like I can't breathe another breath. I become shock. My husband asks him if he knows the gender of the baby. He tells us it is a boy. He recommends we have an amnio done right then, to confirm all the markers found in the ultrasound. We have the amnio and hear back about 4 days later that in fact, there is no question, our little boy has Trisomy 18.

The week after the diagnosis, was probably the hardest week of my life for it was a week of acceptance for me. It was a week of deciding who I was going to put my hope in: Me and my own strength, the doctors....or God? It was a week of breaking....and God did it gently to me...but He brought me to the point of crying as Jesus did in the garden before His death: "Abba Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will." Mark 14:36 I am so broken before the Lord. I need you Lord, Jesus. Teach me more about you. Teach me to let go. I know I can't walk this road alone. I won't survive this time with you only at my side....I need you driving. I let go of the wheel during that week. After many, many years of holding it tightly. Take me where you need me to go. Have your way with me. Here I am and here is my son.

We decide that week, that our son, would be named Joshua Isaac: Joshua because of Benjamin and the way God spoke through him a week earlier, and Isaac, because God was asking us to lay our son down, His son, His gift to us, as an offering....just like Abraham was asked of Isaac. We didn't know at this time, if God would be gracious to us and Joshua and spare his life, or if God was going to take Joshua home to be with Him. There was so much we didn't know. But we prayed, we prayed that God would be gracious. We prayed for healing for Joshua....that God would perform a miracle. He could heal him completely, if He so chose to. We believed that. He could make take away Trisomy 18 and make him perfect. Or, God would chose not to and would do a different work in Josh's life and would use him, comfort him, protect him in a different not seen at that moment. We trusted. But we prayed that God would make Joshua perfect.

But you know what God taught me. Joshua was perfect. He was perfect according to God's plan and purpose. He wasn't perfect in the world's eyes, or according to doctors, He wasn't, at that time, perfect according to me....when I thought of a perfect baby, I thought of a baby without health issues, without physical imperfections.......but who defines perfect? This was the gift God was giving us....who am I to say he wasn't perfectly formed? God knew Joshua from before time began. He had laid out the plans for Joshua's life and purpose.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..." Jeremiah 1:5

"I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." Psalm 139:14

God's plans are so much higher than ours. They are bigger. They reach broader paths and higher roads, they go beyond us and into the lives of others.....they aren't about us....they are about HIM.

On December 11, 2002, my precious baby went into the arms of Jesus. Joshua had been with us for 119 glorious days. When he was born, God did answer some of our prayers. He had healed Joshua in many ways. Joshua's intestines weren't formed on his outsides. He was able to breathe on his own. He lived with us in our home each and every day. He was part of our family....our clan of boys. He was on a feeding tube, he forgot on many occasions how to breathe and I would strip him down to his diaper and open my shirt and hold him skin to skin on my chest praying that God would be gracious and grant us more time....would spare Joshua's life. On many occasions, God did just that. He gave us more time. He used Joshua to reach more people for Jesus Christ. He used Joshua to teach me.

But on December 11th, around 2:3o am, Joshua woke and started gently coughing. We picked him up and held him close. His was breathing very slow. He would take a breath and pause before taking another. He was getting weaker. We prayed over him. And my husband told Joshua, it was ok to go into the arms of Jesus. He had fought hard and we loved him so, but it was ok. Jesus was waiting with open arms. We told him how much we loved him and how we would miss him. I struggled. I wasn't ready....please Lord, just a little longer...please. But it was his time.

We had prayed that Joshua's death, when the time came, would be peaceful. That Joshua wouldn't struggle. He wouldn't feel pain. And God granted us that. He was gracious once again. Joshua went quietly into the arms of our heavenly Father. I laid with Joshua for a long time after that. We wrapped him tightly in a blanket and let each of the children come and see him. We told them that this was just his body......his soul, his spirit isn't here anymore. He is with Jesus. He is whole. He is without any pain or discomfort and He is dancing and worshipping our King. Our day we will be with Joshua again. The weeks following were very difficult. Difficult doesn't really do it justice...

God comforted us in the weeks following Joshua's death with the story of David and his son, who died within 7 days of his birth. The story is in 2 Samuel 12 starting in verse 15. I encourage you to read it, if you aren't familiar with it.

"While the child was alive, I fasted and wept for I said, "Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." 2 Samuel 12:22-23

So, December 11 is a day forever etched in my heart and mind. And God used two of my children to teach me, using that same day with both. He taught me with Ben to trust Him with life.....the life of my children....every aspect of life.....He was gracious to me and allowed Ben to live, despite his 10 week premature thrust into this world. He used Ben to remind me to trust God with everything. He used Joshua to teach me about death.....not physical death.....but death to myself and that through death comes life, a new life.....abundant life....eternal life......through Christ Jesus.

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10

"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Romans 8:5-6

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For Your sake we are killed all day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Romans 9:35-36

I miss Joshua everyday. He is such a part of me and a part of our family. This August, it will be 6 years since we were graced with his presence, since we held him in our arms. God has used time to heal and to make us new. He continues to teach me about abiding in Him and letting my plans and ideals go, for His plans and ideals...His ways. But I still miss him. There are days, times that are harder than others. Every August 14th is painful.......and every December painful. The days inbetween....well, it depends on the day, or the memories that come back...or the conversations. But God continues to heal me and my family. He is faithful.

My children, you children....they are a heritage from God....they are olive branches around your table. They are gifts, with purposes. I am a blessed mommy to 6 beautiful children......and thank you Lord Jesus, for blessing me with these children and for using them to teach me.....teach me more about you.....please don't ever stop teaching me.....I pray I am a good learner.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Prodigal Daughter.....and a mother who prayed

This past week we were cleaning out some storage areas in our home. In going through old bins and boxes, I came across a box taped closed, with my mother's writing on the outside of the box, labeling the contents as "Stacy-Childhood." I must have received the box from my mother sometime in my adulthood, never to have looked at the contents, for the box was almost like a Christmas gift waiting to be unwrapped....I had no idea what laid inside.

Just before coming upon this box, I had travelled down memory lane with some other boxes and a big trunk of my husbands. I sat with old high school yearbooks and leafed through pages of high school history....history I shared with my husband. It was fun to read through what we said to each other our junior and senior years....not really knowing then what we share now. And then I came upon shoeboxes filled with letters and notes I had written Barclay during high school and into college...pledging my love to him and be silly and waiting for the day that we wouldn't be having a long distance relationship. (He went to college in Syracuse...I, in was a long drive!) I was having so much fun and getting quite distracted from the task at hand....organizing and consolidating these boxes.

And so, I come to the box holding the contents of my childhood. I was eager to get inside and see what treasures lay waiting. My mother has always told me that it is important to have visual reminders of history, of your life. So, she, over the years collected important memorabilia and pictures, report cards, pieces of schoolwork from each grade, and just stuff that resembled who we were. She kept all of these over the years, and then sometime in my adulthood, probably when I got married (I don't really remember), she gave me this box. Well, as I had been walking down the halls of my history, I kept walking and eagerly tore in to see what treasures my mom thought important to save.

When my sisters and I were little, my mom gave each of us a book called "School Days." This book had pages for every year of school, with a place for your school picture, lines for important information and then a pocket to hold loose articles. I pulled this out of box, as it laid on top, and starting flipping through the years, laughing at those school pictures...the one in Kindergarten taken the day after I decided I needed a haircut and cut my own hair on my bedroom floor. And the picture where I had terribly chapped lips and it looked like I had three lips instead of two. That was really pretty. And then I get to high school and for some reason, I put my hand into the tenth grade pocket. Thinking I would pull out my report card or something, I pull out a letter instead. The outside of the letter was addressed to my older sister Heather, but it was addressed to my Dad's home. Now Heather, at this time, was in college in Ohio, not living with my dad. So, I was a bit puzzled by the letter. I open it up with curiosity. This is what I read:

Dear Stacy and Heather,
It was so good to have you home and all your hard work was greatly appreciated. Heather, I sent your tuition money off so that is taken care of. Whatever you charge, you pay for.

Stacy, you made a very big, difficult decision. I'm so proud of your and know it is right. We prayed for you in church today and look forward to getting you at the airport. I hope you never doubt that you are very wanted here and though I don't ever show my feelings, they run deep. I've prayed much and for a long time for this day. I know God will work it all out though He can't always take away the pain and difficulties of life. Fire always burns but God will bring us through it. I love you very much. Mom Hurry Home!

I have tears streaming down my face. I never remember this letter. I know I received it, but I never processed the words that my mom spoke....until now. Her words cut deep into my heart on many levels. Let me explain.

My mother had a stroke when she was 34 and pregnant with my little sister. My memory is rather foggy for most of my childhood, so I am so glad my mother had the wisdom to give us "visual reminders." Anyway, I was sent to live with my aunt during the time my mom was in the hospital (almost a year-I think 9 months or so). My younger sister, a newborn, was given to my other aunt to raise during that time. My older sister, who was in school, stayed with my dad. I don't remember much, if anything during that year. I was 3. Now, as an adult, I can appreciate what my aunt did in graciously bringing me into her home and family. Anyway, when I came back home, my mother was in a wheelchair and we had family members and hired nannies come and stay with us to help my mom care for three small girls. By the grace of God, my mother began walking again and relearning much of what she had lost physically and mentally....but her ability to express emotion.....seemed to be lost...or deeply suppressed. Little by little, over the years, the help was no longer needed. And it was my two sisters, me and my mom.

My parent's marriage, apparently was rocky, prior to the stroke. I don't know to what extent, even now, I've never asked many questions. But a couple years after the stroke, my parents divorced. Now my mother, she grew up in the Wesleyan Church. She loved Jesus Christ more than anyone I knew, but sometimes was a bit too disciplined. We had family devotions every night at 5:00 before dinner and read from the Bible and the Daily Bread devotional and then had to take turns praying outloud. Sometimes, my mom would ring a bell and call us all into her room for family devotions....even if we were in the middle of had to stop. None of us girls really liked family devotion time, but we begrudgingly obeyed.

I grew up going to church every Sunday and Wednesday night. We attended a Christian Missionary Alliance church for many years and then a non-denominational Bible church. A personal relationship with Jesus was encouraged and taught. I accepted the Lord, with my mother, at the age of 6. I remember it clearly. My mother made us all tithe any money we received and I vividly remember the tithing jar. My mother loved us dearly, she gave everything she had to us girls, but she was hard to get along with. She tried so hard, but she didn't show emotion. She didn't give us warm embraces. We worked hard around the house and we had to. It was ok. But life was hard for a young girl. And I was a stubborn girl (much like my mother...and we often butt heads.) I didn't submit to her authority. If anything, I rebelled against it.

I struggled with the appearance of my life to others. My mother was physically handicapped and unable to work any longer. My father lived about 30 minutes away and we saw him every Sunday and once a month for the weekend. We lived up on a hill, on a dead end street, not in walking distance to much. And we were rather poor. As I type that, I must say, I never felt that growing up. If you looked upon me or my sisters, you never would have known that. We had so many people give us "designer" hand-me-downs and we always seemed to be in the "popular" groups. My mom made every sacrifice imaginable so that we didn't go without. But we didn't have a car. That was hard...and many times embarrassing. Embarrassment was a big one for me, over the years. I was embarrassed that my mom was handicapped, I was embarrassed that we had to ask for rides everywhere, I was embarrassed and insecure that we "looked" different than many other families. I longed so much for a "normal" family. I longed for stability. Little did I know at the time, that we were stable....we had a mother devoted and fixed on Jesus. He provided for and sustained us so many times.

This was the beginning of my need to control my circumstances and life situations. This was the beginning of fear and worry dictated my thought and emotions. This was the beginning of living life my way...not Gods. Now you might be thinking..."Come on" I was only young and growing up and learning as I went. But I wasn't. I became rebellious and longed for, ached for something normal. So, when I was 11, and in the middle of 6th grade, my mom and I got into a really heated argument. We screamed at each other and in the midst of yelling my mom tells me to go live with my father. Being the stubborn girl I was, I called her bluff and went into the kitchen called my dad and told him he had to come get me. I was leaving. And I left.

This was my way out. My mom opened the door and I ran. I ran into the arms of my father and his wife. This was the normal family I longed for. Security, safety, peace. Over the next week or so, my dad allowed me to make the choice about where I would live. I was insistent. I would not go back. Maybe I didn't leave him the choice. But my mind was set. This was my new home. And so, I lived with my dad, my stepmom and my two new siblings, a younger brother and sister for almost 4 years. I love my dad dearly. I love my stepmother and my brother and sister.....but this is not where I belonged. I was running. I was fleeing the difficulty. I was fleeing that which was uncomfortable. I saw an open door and I ran, as fast as I could through it. I didn't stop and consider my mom, my dad, my stepmother, or my sisters.....and God's will for my life.....didn't even enter the realm of thinking. I only thought about me.

Well, as we all know, life isn't always greener on the other side. And I had the appearance of a "normal" family, but there was brokenness all around. There was brokenness in me, in my mom, in my sisters and probably in my dad. My mom and I didn't talk much. My sisters pretty much hated me, and my relationship with my dad and stepmom was strained.

I didn't have peace because I was walking my own road....not His. I was living my way. I wasn't a bad girl.....I didn't rebel like some teenagers and drink, or do drugs, I wasn't promiscuous. I worked hard at school and I got good grades. I did my jobs around the house and tried to help out. But rebellion covered me. I was difficult to live with as a result. I was confused, I was hurting, I was broken and my brokenness ended up breaking any relationship I had with my dad or my stepmom. We fought....all the time. Life wasn't getting better, it was getting worse. I remember a couple times crying so hard in my room and considered taking my life. I couldn't do it anymore. I still prayed. I still went to church (each Sunday I walked to a Lutheran church with my cousin....I remember going through confirmation and having many in depth conversations with the Priest about God, because the ways of thinking and teaching were different than what I had learned.) God was present with me. He never left me. But I didn't allow Him room. He was on the shelf.

Well, in high school, everything came to a head. Nothing was easy or good. I sought counseling at school for I knew I needed help. She helped. It was someone to talk to to help me understand and reason with me and comfort me. I continued to rebel against my dad and stepmom-more in my heart than in action (but sometimes in action, too). They were very strict. I wasn't allowed many friends, and wasn't allowed to go many places. I always thought that if I just did what they told me, they would love me. I knew they loved me....but I mean really love me. I realize now, that years later, I put these same constraints on God's love. If I follow everything He says, He will love me. But He loves us regardless. He desires our obedience. It pleases Him greatly, but His love is not dependent on our obedience. His love has no condition.

But I felt alone. I needed help. I reached out to my older sister who was in college. I told her I needed help getting home. My sister and I went back to my moms house (now in Virgina) for Christmas during my 10th grade in high school. I apologized to my mom for all the hurt I caused her, all the pain I inflicted on her those last 4 years. I asked her if I could come home. After I went back to my dad's after Christmas, I packed my things without telling my dad.....and the morning of my flight.....I told him I had to go home......and I left.

My mother welcomed me with open arms....arms of love and forgiveness. You see all those years, my mother had been praying. She prayed for my safety, my well being, that I would grow in an understanding of God....she prayed for my return home and she never stopped praying until I came home...and then her prayers just changed.

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16

I didn't know my mother was praying like that until this week. I didn't realize the depths of the pain I caused her until this week. I didn't know she longed deep within her for the day I decided to come home. She didn't force me home. She never made me feel guilt for leaving. She loved me inspite of it all. She modeled Christ to me. That is how Jesus Christ loves each one of us. He doesn't force His way upon us. He doesn't make us feel guilt and He loves us no matter what.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Revelation 3:20

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1

"Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:6-7

All He desires is that we submit to His authority and obey. He knows the way. He wants to take my brokenness and make it beautiful......and He did. It took a long time.....because I resisted for so many years. It was easier to live with the brokenness than to have Him heal because I didn't know how to walk through it all. For so long, I didn't know how to let Him lead, and guide me. I didn't know how to surrender because for so many years, I had to control just to make it. I needed stability and I needed to feel a sense of power, even though I was really powerless and weak. Really, it wasn't until Sweet Joshua came into my life, that I learned how to lay it all down and let God do the work....not me. So this blog....His Way....Not Mine, oh, it began in me at a young age. It took a long time for me to live it. I understand the "theory" behind His way not mine, but I didn't live it until 6 years ago......and I'm not going back.

My childhood.....being the was part of the pavement of learning that my true home, my true security, my true peace is only with God, my Father. I can't control the circumstances, I can't control outcomes....but what I can control is my choice to follow HIM.

Thank you my dad, for loving me and allowing me a resting a place.....and thank you mom for praying without ceasing and leaving the back door and the front door open for the prodigal.....and thank you for the arms that took me in and embraced the brokenness of me. It is by God's grace that the pieces have been put back together.

And so, I hold that note tightly to my heart as a piece of my "visual history" from my childhood. My mother's words were so true: "Fire always burns, but God brings us through it."

"To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness: That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." Isaiah 61:3

Friday, July 18, 2008

Search me Oh, Lord

"Therefore, whoever hears these saying of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock." Matthew 7:24-25

Is your house founded on that rock.....on a relationship with Jesus Christ? For that and that alone will give you a firm foundation. Your foundation will be rooted in truth and righteousness, love and forgiveness, grace and mercy, redemption and hope.....for as you read His Word, as You find the heart of God, as you learn about what He desires from us and what He wants to give us in return.....your foundation becomes strong. You are prepared for the storms that lie ahead, storms that have the potential to destroy.

This post today is not at all what I thought it was going to be...I sat down to write a blog entry called "The Prodigal Daughter." (that would be me). Some things have happened the last few days that have been significant in my life and so as I've been meditating and praying on my next posting, God has been moving thoughts of Him around in my heart and a lot of stuff about my childhood. So I sat and pulled out my Bible to begin and as I opened His Word, I stopped in Matthew and read the verse at the top and God put a new post in my heart. So here it is....I'll still post on the Prodigal Daughter, but I guess not today.

I am quite new to this whole world of blogging and being a homeschooling mommy to 5 children aged 11 1/2, 9, 7 1/2, 4 and 2: I don't have a lot of extra time on my hands. I get up early to have my quiet time with God most mornings (I long for every), and then around 7:00 the craziness of my day begins. I have a lot more "down" time in the summer as I am not planning school lessons, teaching and overseeing my children's education.

So, it was a perfect time for God to nudge me into the world of blogging. I stepped with timid feet, as I so want to make sure I'm keeping all my priorities in know, God, husband, children, community. I pray that God will give me the balance He desires. But now, I have jumped right in and God has blessed me so in being obedient. My desire it to share with you all that God has brought me and my family through, to encourage you, to grow with you, to be transformed alongside you and to give God all the glory. It is by His grace that I stand today...."steadfast and immovable....always abounding in the work of the Lord....knowing my labor is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (that is a key verse in my'll see it on my site.)

I am quite excited to share also, that God used a dear, sweet friend and sister in the Lord, Jill, to encourage me in starting this blog. (Check out her blog and you will be encouraged in the Lord, especially if you are an adopting mommy...forever n ever n always...her link is on my sidebar.) Thank you, Jill. And so God put this desire in my heart one morning, and later that day, Jill gave me the push I needed amidst the uncertainty of it all and then later that same day in my quiet time (I had it in the afternoon that day...but see God knew that was how it needed to be orchestrated on that day!! He is so perfect.)-He gave me the title for the blog and to my amazement, it was available......why I am continually amazed when God puts the puzzle together....I don't know (lack of faith...hmmm)....I am always in awe of God!

So here I am. Let me start my story of stillness, of the rain descending, the floods coming and the winds that blew and beat on my house......but we did not fall. My story is most of ours I won't go into a ton of detail today, but give you the sketch. As the days and weeks go by, I'll fill in all the blanks...I promise.

My husband, Barclay, and I married right after college graduation. We had been together since our junior year of high school. I had accepted the Lord at the age of 6, but had entered some years of rebellion. Barclay knew of Jesus, but hadn't made a personal commitment to Christ. He hadn't admitted his sin and his need for a savior. There wasn't a relationship, yet. Soon after we were married, we began looking for a church home (we grew up with very different examples of church). God's hand was upon us and by His grace, my husband entered into a personal relationship with Christ shortly after we were married. He was on fire! I recommitted my life to Christ. I was on fire! We began attending a church that taught God's Word, but in a legalistic way. It is a foundation that was firm, but at times unloving. Not really representing the heart of God through grace, mercy and love. But we learned God's truths from the Bible, nonetheless and we dug deep. God was laying a foundation for our marriage, our family and our children, yet born...but most importantly for our walk with Him.

"He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock." Luke 6:48

About one and a half years into our marriage, we found out we were pregnant (so much for the 5 year plan!) We were thrilled, but my husband was still finishing grad school, I was working and he was preparing his dissertation and looking for a job. It wasn't the best time to start our family. So much for the doctor's saying it would take a couple months to get pregnant after being on the pill......really someone else was in charge.....not the doctors. We were thrilled nonetheless. We knew God would work it all out.

Well, shortly after my 6 week prenatal appointment, I get a call from the ob's office saying my bloodwork had some abnormalities and I needed to have further testing done. What???? The "What to expect" book didn't say anything about this!! There was no page to turn to for the answer. So, I prayed. After after many, many tests and ultrasounds, the doctor's couldn't find an answer. The baby was growing normally and I looked on the outside completely healthy....but my bloodwork said something different. I ended up having to see a hematologist/oncologist every 4 weeks along with my regular prenatal appointments. I was having platelet issues. Platelets allow your blood to clot and mine, well they were very, very low.

In the midst of this all, my husband gets his first job at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA in the orthopedic research department. (He is an engineer by schooling and is in spinal product development-designs, develops spinal implants.) I quit my job at a local newspaper, in advertising, we take a 20K paycut, and we move from upstate NY to PA....oh, and I'm about 5 months pregnant....with a high risk pregnancy. The rain begins.

To top it all off, due to the legalistic teachings we were under, we can't seem to find a church that we both church begins to fall out of our daily Sunday routine. The foundation is still there....oh we are laid on the rock....but now, we aren't being fed, we aren't abiding daily, we aren't fellowshipping and the flood waters start to roll in. Thankfully, God puts me in touch with a group of doctor's wives from the hospital and I begin attending a precept Bible Study....thank you, Jesus. He is faithful!

Well, on November 1, 1996, I go for my 30 week ob appointment. I am temping at this time to help pay the ever increasing bills (that we can't afford) and I had noticed a lot of swelling in ankles and hands....but not too concerned. Well, I am admitted that day to the hospital due to high blood pressure, and protein in my urine, and a 10 pound weight gain from excessive fluid. Oh and did I mention my platelets were at 40,000...normal is 150,000-450,000. My baby isn't due until January 8th. I go downhill quickly and am put on magnesium sulfate because of my high blood pressure, my kidneys begin shutting down, as does my liver and my platelets continue dropping. I developed HELLP Syndrome. My son has to be delivered, or I will die and so will he. They do an emergency c-section..... my husband is praying that I don't bleed out due to the platelet levels. I don't. All goes well, without complication and Benjamin James enters the world on November 4th...10 and a half weeks early weighing in at 2lbs 12 oz and very sick.

The floodgates are open wide. I am in a fog and I am just trying to keep my head above the waters. This was so not what we planned for, nor expected......but God came alongside us, and permeated every ounce of our beings. I remember daily, standing over Ben's isolet in the NICU and praying Psalm 23

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." v.4

I wasn't being moved from God's truth. I struggled, I fought, but I stood firmly on Him. But you know what, I didn't let Him search my heart during that time. You see, the trial, the flood, in my mind, it was about surviving....Ben surviving and I surviving. I didn't humble myself at the feet of Jesus. I didn't let Him break me. I stood my ground...His ground, but I didn't give Him access to my heart. I needed Him to bring me through to dry ground. Lord lead me. Lord deliver me. But never Lord show me....Lord teach me, Lord change me to grow in You.

Oh, what a difference when we go through trials letting God lead and search our hearts and teach us versus going through a trial and just making it, with God in tow, to the other side. It isn't about getting to the other side. God wants so much more. It is about growing us, teaching us, using us for His glory, His purposes, His plans.....His way, not mine! It is about moving forward in our understanding of who He is, versus just planting your feet and not being moved at all. He wants to change us. At that time, no, I didn't think I needed to be changed. I was ok, right Lord? I just needed to put my head down and plow through.

No, God wants to use rain, floods and beating winds to conform us to HIS image. He wants us to think like Him, love like Him, forgive like Him, and hope for the things He hopes for in our lives. For His glory, not our own.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purposes. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." Romans 8:28-29

Oh, God will bring us to the other side of a trial because He loves us so much, but without obediently following Him, submitting to Him, and being a doer of His word, we won't be conformed. Without giving Him access to all parts of our heart, we aren't giving up "our Will, for HIS."

Ben was discharged from the NICU on December 13th, five and a half weeks after being born. We made it through that flood. We didn't fall, but I wasn't obediently following Him at the time. I wasn't a doer of His Word. I just needed to make it through with a healthy child in my arms. Little did I know at the time, that Ben was just part of the preparation that God was setting before me for a path to come.

I guess I'll stop here now that this posting is quite long, and I did give you lots of details, not just the sketch, like I intended. My encouragement to you, is that if you are in the midst of the rain or the floods, or the rain beating down.......give God access to every part of your heart. Oh, let Him mold you, let Him change you, let Him teach you, let Him have you completely....not just your feet so you can make it to the other side. He wants all of you. There's so much more. I can't wait to share it all with you and to give Him the praise. Thank you for stopping by and encouraging me as we continually submit to His way, not our own.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23 & 24

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Come let us Worship and Bow Down evokes emotion-we celebrate with it, we mourn with it, we dance to it, we sing with it. It penetrates the innermost parts of our beings and brings forth many different emotions.

Music will transport us. A song will carry you back years, to former days, as you recall where you were when you first heard a song, what you were doing, the significance of that song in your life.

Music will make you move. A song will make you tap your foot, clap your hands, shake your hips and sometimes shout out loud! It is powerful.

Music will educate. It will teach us about different time periods....the renaissance, reformation, classical periods, the 20's, the 30's, the 50's! It will give us a foundation from which to expand our minds and draw from history from all over the world.

Music will entertain. For years, music to me was entertainment. I have always loved music (except when I had to play the clarinet for 3 years-thanks mom! She truly just wanted to give me a musical background to draw from and for that I thank her. I did learn how to read music, but as soon as she said I could quit-I did!) But music was entertainment. If I liked the beat, or the words, I listened to it. And even now, if I am in a store and a song comes on from my past, I am back in that moment, that time-transported to the 80's listening to Denise Williams sing "Let's Hear it for the Boy." I remember dying to get that song on a 45 and I would listen to it over and over and dance in my room belting it from the top of my lungs. Or songs from the BeeGees, Billy Joel, The Police, REM, Whitney Houston etc..swept away into time I would go. But back then, music never called me to action. It didn't make me think outside myself (because I was being entertained), it didn't bring me to my knees.

About 5-6 years ago, I remember driving with Ben, about 5 1/2, and Seth, around 3ish, and I probably had Luke at that time, just an infant, we were out running errands and I was listening to the Dixie Chicks...I was belting it out, tapping the steering wheel and as I was coming down a hill (I remember exactly where I was) I remember turning in my seat and hearing Ben sing right along with the song. Now the words in the song aren't bad, but I was instantly struck. You know how our children often say (or even we said as children), "I just like the beat, I don't listen to the words!" Well, in that instant, I knew my small child was "listening to the words."

I was convicted in my spirit, deep within, regarding my responsiblity with my children. God spoke so gently to my spirit about being an example to my children and protecting their ears. About giving them more of HIM, even when I was driving in my car. I often say to my children, "what goes in our minds, never comes is always careful about what you put in." And He spoke to me-that He wanted my mind to be fixed on Him. My music selections, from that time on began slowly changing. That is one of the attributes that is so beautiful about the Holy Spirit. He speaks to our hearts....and meets with us in divine moments. When He speaks, you don't feel condemned, you don't feel guilt-those things don't come from our Father. You feel safety and peace. The trick is to obey, when you hear Him speaking. That topic we can save for another day!

I was opened up to a whole new world of music. Music that began bringing about action.

Psalm 40:3
"And He has put a new song in my mouth-Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord."

David is singing unto the Lord. He is in a time of horrible distress. The new song in his heart is trusting in God and turning to him for strength. Praising God amidst the frustration and trial. The Lord's salvation brings David to his knees in praise of His King.

He was called to action. Worship.

God desires our worship and praise-everyday. He deserves it. It is rightly His. And not just when life is good and runs smoothly....anyone can praise Him on those days. But He desires our worship and praise in the difficult times. I know how hard that is.

Six years ago, when I was 20 weeks pregnant with our fourth child, my husband and I found out that our son, had a fatal, genetic condition called Trisomy 18. This condition is referred to by doctors as "incompatible with life." Can you imagine hearing those words about your child? My world began spinning out of control. In the days following his diagnosis, I retreated to my bed where I pulled the covers over my head and tried to just stay asleep. I wanted so badly to wake up and see it was all a really horrible nightmare. In those days, my husband would come into our room, sit on the side of the bed and read to me from the Psalms. The songs of praise to Our King!! My husband was hurting just as badly as I, but he was able to praise our God and Father, to worship HIM, whose love for us doesn't go away in the trials. To thank Him for Joshua, our son, even if Joshua would be with us for a short time. But just to worship Him.

God brought me to my knees during that week of mourning my son and his future. Mourning what as a mom, I would never experience with my son. You know what I did during some of those days. I listened to a CD given to me by my church family. Music. A "Comfort CD" as it was entitled. Each song, praised God for His faithfulness in the midst of trials, pain, disease, and death and each song was selected by a family or person who was or had experienced pain. Their testimonies were written in the CD cover. I would listen to the songs about God and I got immersed in the words. And then, after a couple days, I opened my Bible and searched it for His truths. It was a hard week. Probably the hardest week of my entire life. Because during that week, God taught me how to praise him and worship him in everything. And when I laid down my plans, and my desires and ultimately, my son at the feet of Jesus...trusting Him with my son and our future, God "put a new song in my mouth." Don't get me wrong....the 4 1/2 months that followed leading up to Joshua's birth and then almost 4 months later, before his death......oh, that road was difficult and I waivered, I fell down, I mourned, I cried-but I praised God for His faithfulness. I was called to action.

Psalm 95:6
"Oh, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker. For He is our God. And we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand."

When you enter my home these days, or tag along with me in the car, or come running with me....what you will hear are songs of praise. The world of Christian music is huge. And God has imparted so many gifts to these people who sing His praises, and there are so many styles of Christian music......rap, hip hop, pop-style, hymns, alternative rock, rock etc....You'll hear it all within our walls. My 11 and 9 year old...they are bopping around the house to TobyMac, Matthew West, Sanctus Real and Building 429, as my husband works around the house he'll be praising alongside Newsboys and me.....well-you get a variety, some of which is on my blog-but right now I praise alongside Kathleen Carnali. Her words to our Father bring me to my knees in worship.

If you enter my home on any given day, you'll

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Welcome. I am so honored to have you come along this daily journey with me as a woman of God, a wife and a mother and most importantly as a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that as you read this blog, you will be inspired, not by me......but inspired by what God has done in and through me, inspired by His amazing love, His grace, His forgiveness, His breath of Life and the works of His hands. He takes that which is marred and broken and makes it beautiful. Beautiful for His purposes and pleasure. Oh, that I may please Him in all I do and say. That you would be inspired to seek God in all things and that you would be inspired to dig into God's word and get to know Him more intimately.

Inspire.......Did you know that inspire means to blow or breathe into or upon, to affect so as to enliven, animate, or stimulate.

How many do we inspire each and everyday as we breathe upon them?

I was listening to a teaching the other day by Kay Smith, wife to Chuck Smith, amazing Biblical teacher and founder of Calvary Chapel Churches. Kay Smith presented me with this idea of inspiring and I have been meditating on it for the last couple of days. As I looked at what God had to say about is only mentioned twice in His word.

First in Job 32:8, NKJV "But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding." (KJV has breath as inspiration)

As God breathes upon us, He teaches us and gives us understanding. Understanding of who He is and His plans for you. Understanding of His ways, His thoughts, His ideas, His truths.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, He says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

All of God's Word, from Genesis to Revelation was given by God as He breathed it into those who penned it onto paper. He breathed upon them. He infused them with His thoughts, His words, His ideas, His will. But what hits me the most, is that we, through the power of the Holy Spirit can experience HIS Breath today!

God breathes upon us daily, those who walk with Him and those who have surrendered their lives to His. Those who have believed by faith that He is who He says He is: Jesus Christ is the son of God, the Almighty. Christ came to earth as a man. He walked the earth. He experienced pain, death, sadness, temptation, joy, happiness, frustration and so much more. He loved like no other and He gave His life as a randsom for mine....for yours. He laid His life down, that we may be made whole and forgiven of our sins....the marrings upon us, our brokenness. And He is alive today. He isn't in a tomb somewhere, He is risen and we worship and serve a living Father, who breathes upon us each and every day....He inspires us to get to know Him more intimately. That is His love for us. All He asks is that you believe, by Faith.

And He gave us HIS Word....the Bible. It is alive just as He is alive. It is HIM.

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

As God inspires us through His word and breathes upon us and into us, He always gets to the heart issue. He shows us what is on the inside. And let's be frank usually isn't pretty. At least, mine isn't. How many times have I breathed upon someone like a dragon, with harsh words that hurt? How many times have I breathed upon someone with self-serving motives, or without considering their feelings, or allowed my emotions to dictate my words? Oh yeh, did I enliven or stimulate (inspire), you bet......often an argument would ensue or harsh words spoken back. And then we retreat....we coil into ourselves and start stepping back away from that person. bet, but in an ugly way.

As we breathe upon our husband, what are our words like? Do we inspire our husbands in the Lord? Do we inspire them to be all that God has created them to be? Do we inspire them so they are built up or torn down? Do they walk out the door to work in the morning feeling enlivened and ready to take on the job ahead of them, or because of our breath, do we belittle them and cause them to shrink into themselves, seeking shelter from our breath?

And how about our children? Do we inspire them? How do we breathe upon them....with words that are harsh and spoken in anger, impatience, frustration.....or do we inspire them with love, and gentleness and softness....sometimes a firmness is needed, sometimes there is correction that must take place. But are we inspiring them toward God and being an example of who God is.....or are we inspiring them through fear and harsh words.

Our breath has weight. Our breath can sometimes come from a place of ugliness and sin. But God's breath always comes from love. Usually His breath is a gentle breeze. It speaks softly to our spirit. It caresses our face and lifts us up when the weight of the world gets to be too much. And other times, God's breath is a more forceful wind, like with Job as Job was attacking God. But God's breath always comes from the love that He has for us and His desire to show us His love more fully, it is for "instruction unto righteousness." He desires for us to be conformed into His image.

And with any will carry you. As a leaf falls from a tree in autum, that gentle breeze carries that leaf to a resting point. What is your resting point? Is it at the feet of Jesus? That is where is needs to be....daily. That way, as we learn more about God, our Father and His son, Jesus Christ, we are able to become complete and equipped for the work He has planned for us. We are equipped to inspire our husbands in the lord and give them the respect they are due. Through spending time in God's word, we can train our children to hear God's voice, to walk in obedience and understanding. We are able to breathe on them the gentle breeze that comes from God....because we are abiding. And we are carried. We are carried by Him and taken to the places He longs for us to visit. When we are abiding, we can accept those places, the good easy places to visit, and also the difficult, and hard places to visit. And dispite our location, dispite the pain, we can inspire others in the Lord.

Oh, that is what I long for you be inspired in the Lord, by and through His word. Nestle in and stay there....with Him... and let him breathe on you so that you can breathe Him lovingly onto others.