Feel the wind

I took my girls to the library today.

As we were walking in, a grandma with her two grandchildren – a boy and a girl – were walking out.

As soon as the little girl hit the sidewalk, she broke into a run. I’m guessing she was about four years old.

The grandma, pushing the little boy in a stroller, hurried to catch up with her granddaughter. When she did, I heard the grandma ask, “You just feel like running today?”

The little girl’s reply made me smile. She looked up at her grandma and told her, “I run so I can feel the wind.”

Oh, to feel that kind of freedom – where the wind is a playmate and legs are made for running.

Sweet friends, as the New Year stretches before us, my hope for you is this – that 2015 will bring you moments of pure joy, that you’ll run just to feel the wind, and that you’ll be still and know that He is God (Ps. 46:10).

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

Happy New Year!

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The gift of love

My husband’s grandparents live in the country, about halfway between Dallas and Houston.

They have their share of health problems, so I was surprised to learn that my grandfather-in-law hopped in his truck and headed an hour away to Bryan-College Station this morning.

You see, he’s had multiple back surgeries this year, and it’s painful for him to ride in a car for long stretches.

But he had a reason to go this morning, on the Saturday before Christmas – one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

My youngest daughter recently placed her trust in Christ. She’s getting baptized on the first Sunday of 2015.

Papa Grant headed into the city today to buy her a Bible.

He didn’t know exactly where he was going. He called my mother-in-law, his daughter, to ask for directions to the Christian bookstore. My mother-in-law, who called to tell us the story, was astonished he made the journey to purchase a Bible. It’s not something he’s done before.

But he told her it was something he wanted to do.

The gift hasn’t been given yet, but I’m already grateful for it. I know that Bible will be treasured above all others because of the love behind it.

My husband’s grandfather is handing down something far more valuable than a few pages and some ink. He’s passing along a legacy of faith and the gift of love.

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Before we knew the gift we were to receive, God purposed to send his Son as an atoning sacrifice for us. When we place our trust in the babe who was born in Bethlehem all those years ago, we are cleansed from our guilt and assured an eternity with God.

What greater gift can there be?

This Christmas, my wish for you is this – that you receive gifts of love from family and friends, but most of all, that you have a fresh assurance of the first gift of love – Jesus, sent for us.

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace on men on whom his favor rests.
Luke 2:15

Let’s talk: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

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From lemons to lemonade

My mom’s neighbor has a lemon tree in her backyard. She gave us a bag of these super-sized lemons, and my daughters wanted to make homemade lemonade.

Home-grown lemons

We loosely followed this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, but we added an additional ½ cup lemon juice and about a ¼ cup more sugar.

Throwing all the ingredients in the blender for a few seconds gave the lemonade a nice frothy layer on top. Yum!

Making lemonade

Figuratively speaking, we’ve all heard the pep talk about turning lemons into lemonade. Sometimes it’s not easy.

I’ve been struggling with a difficult situation for a year. A whole year. That’s a lot of time on my knees, asking God to change the situation, or change my attitude, or both.

It all stems from family drama last Thanksgiving. Drama that’s ebbed and flowed throughout the year. I’ve struggled so much that I almost don’t know how to pray anymore.

As I looked back at my posts from last year, I found a verse in Romans 8 that I leaned on.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that our small group lesson in church this morning was from Romans 8.

There are so many good verses in this chapter that I almost don’t know where to begin. I’ll start with the ones that jumped out at me this morning:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8: 26, 27)

When words run out, the Holy Spirit steps in. He prays on our behalf when our own tide of prayers isn’t enough. What an amazing thought — God interceding for us!

So much of the conversation at church this morning centered on suffering. Friends in our small group are going through serious trials – illness and facing the loss of loved ones. They’re hurting and wondering how their situations will play out, when they will end.

But we also talked about the fact that God is with us in the darkest moments. How He holds us close when we are hurting. How trials produce fruit that couldn’t have come any other way. Peter put it this way in 1 Peter 5:14:

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever.

Some struggles are physical. Others are relational or emotional. Throw in financial troubles and other situational difficulties, and you’ve got a whole host of trials to choose from. But all struggles have this in common. We have a Helper, God’s promised Holy Spirit.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:5)

We don’t face the trials alone. God goes with us. And while He doesn’t give us a blueprint of how long or how intense the struggles will be, He gives us something better.

He gives us Himself.

Let’s talk: What trials are you facing? Have you experienced God’s nearness in the midst of suffering?

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Just an ordinary Thursday

Have you ever caught a glimpse of God at work in the ordinary, everyday things of life?

I did today.

It started out as an ordinary Thursday…a little on the blah side, if you want the truth.

I lost my temper at my youngest daughter this morning. She couldn’t decide what to wear, the clock was ticking, and she was making us late. My little fit left her in tears, and she barely had time to dry her eyes before it was our turn in the car rider line. I drove away with that horrible feeling of a bad goodbye.

Blah!

I had two interviews scheduled for today. The second lady I was supposed to interview cancelled…which means more work for another day.

Double blah!!

I picked up the aforementioned daughter from school, came home, and started to fold laundry.

If that isn’t the most, ordinary, everyday action, I don’t know what is.

But…and this is the best part…

I was mid-fold when my daughter said, “I’m ready to ask Jesus to be my savior.”

Just like that.

I set the shirt down and asked, “Right now?”

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’m ready,” was her reply.

Wow!

She’s seven. Thinking she might be a bit young to grasp the magnitude of such a decision, I asked her every question I could think of…

1. Why do we need a Savior
2.Who sins?
3.What did Jesus accomplish on the cross?
4. What do we have to do to accept his gift of eternal life?
5. What does it mean to turn away from sin and chase after God?

She answered all my questions…and what’s more…she answered each question personally…how it affected her.

I knew she was ready, so I told her that all she had to do was pour out her heart to God, telling Him everything we had just talked about and inviting him into her life.

Double wow! It was a precious moment to listen to my sweet girl place her life in God’s hands. To know that she, who was His before she was mine, will be His forever.

Ordinary ground became holy ground. God is at work in people’s hearts and lives. There’s no such thing as an ordinary day with Him.

If you ever find yourself in the same situation, here are a few of the Scriptures I shared with my daughter as we talked:

This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us. 1 John 4:10

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

So repent from your sins. Turn to God. Then your sins will be wiped away. Acts 3:19

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. John 3:16

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19

Let’s talk: Do you have any others verses to add to the list? Anything else that points people to Christ’s redeeming work on the cross?

 

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Things that are good

So I recently wrote about my attempts to fix healthier meals for my family. You can read that post here.

Some attempts have crashed and burned. Some have elicited a half-hearted “Meh.” (Not sure if that’s good or bad, but I take all the encouragement I can get.)

Encouragement, however, was not on the menu last night as my youngest daughter offered up this heartfelt prayer.

“Dear God, thank you for the food on this table that’s good.”

Um, dear daughter, thank you for praying. Any other feedback should be directed to our customer service department.

But, seriously, the food on this table that’s good? And what, pray tell, are those dishes? Man cannot live on cheese and tortillas alone.

You see, I know something my daughter doesn’t. Things that taste delicious aren’t always best for us. We need other foods on our plate to keep us healthy and strong.

Don’t we tell God the same thing?

Dear God, thank you for the things in my life that are good…all the while implying we have things that are not so good and, for goodness sake, won’t he take them off our plate?

I know I’ve prayed that prayer many times. I can barely eek out words of thanksgiving before I launch into laments of not-so-thanksgiving.

But what if God, in all his sovereignty, looks at our plates and tells us to eat. That the food before is exactly what we need to make us strong.

I’m trying to stomach a few vegetables right now. The house behind us is bank-owned and for sale. Two days ago workmen in the backyard cut our phone and Internet line.

My husband called Comcast to see about getting it repaired. Next Tuesday is the earliest they can come out.

Wait, whaaat?

It’s not like we live out in the boondocks. Why so long?

The Comcast rep said we could log on to their website to put our names on a stand-by list in case they have any cancellations.

Oh the irony.

So I called the real estate agent who has the listing to see if she could arrange a temporary fix.

Three phone calls later, her message came through loud and clear, “Not my problem.”

So we’re off the grid. Laying low, people. Which means you won’t read this post until next week when our Internet connection is fixed. Unless I pack up my little operation and take it to Chick-fil-A, home of the chicken sandwich and free Wi-fi.

But after much grousing and dreaming up all sorts of wonderfully evil payback schemes, my husband and I decided there isn’t much else we can do but accept the situation for what it is.

A chance to disconnect. And nope, it didn’t taste good at first.

But I’m beginning to see fragments of beauty in it. Like the fact that I’ve read from my real, actual Bible instead of an electronic version. The Bible that has my handwritten notes in it, little glimpses of years past.

And the fact that I finished a book today that’s been sitting on my nightstand for more than a month.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s good to pull the plug once in a while. Maybe.

So what if the trials we’re facing today will nourish us for the future? What if the temptations against which we struggle are strengthening our dependence on Him, the Author of Life?

Consider these words from Proverbs 3:

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

Like my daughter, I may not like the look of everything on my plate. But I’ll take a bite, trusting Him to give me what I need.

Let’s talk: Do you have anything on your plate you don’t like? Have you seen any ways God is using it to strengthen you?

*Update: Internet is restored. Yay! Although it’s a tenuous connection at best, because there is an orange cable running across our yard that the dog could chew up at any moment. But, hey, I’ll take it!

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Too heavy for you

We were hanging out with friends on Sunday night, the dads watching football in the living room, the kids playing outside, and the moms gathered in the kitchen where we were, of course, solving all the problems of the world.

One of my friends brought up something her son had seen on TV, a topic that was beyond his nine years. (Take your pick from today’s news: Ebola, Isis, abortion, same-sex marriage – there’s a lot of ‘stuff’ floating out there.)

She wasn’t sure the best way to handle it, other than to tell him it was something they’d talk about when he was older.

Then, THEN, one of the other moms gave such a brilliant illustration I had to pass it along, just in case it benefits any of you, my reader friends.

She said that when her kids ask about a weighty issue, she’ll remind them of how it is when they’re at the airport.

“You know how your suitcase gets so heavy, I carry it for you?” she asks. “This [insert issue] is too heavy for you right now, so let me carry it a little longer.”

Awesome, right?

I’ve got this little gem filed away in my mind for future use with my daughters.

It also got me thinking this is often the case with God. How many times has He ‘carried’ something because it was too heavy for me?

How many times have I petitioned Him, begged for answers, when – if I’d just be quiet long enough – He’d lean down and whisper, “This is too heavy for you. Let me carry it a little longer.”

Psalm 63:8 says

I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. (NIV)

Or from The Message (because I’m into it right now and want to share)

I hold on to you for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post.

There are new headlines every day, every hour. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. But if we cling to God, He’s got this.

Let’s talk: How do you answer hard questions from your kids? Any other tips to share?

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When you don’t measure up, Part Two

So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my last post was about not measuring up.

I seem to be doing a lot of that these days.

In an effort to eat a little better, I’ve attempted to add one über-healthy meal to our menu each week. Two weeks ago, it was a kale-bean soup. I was the only one of our family who tolerated enjoyed the soup.

Last week, it was baked chicken, steamed broccoli, and quinoa. Sounds delicious, right?

Uh, wrong-o.

My youngest, knowing that she had to at least attempt a bite, muttered under her breath (but loud enough for me to hear):

“This is the worst meal we’ve every had.”

Hmmph, no compliments to the chef. My husband wasn’t much better. He drowned the quinoa in hot sauce, took a bite, and emptied the rest of the hot sauce bottle on to his plate.

O ye of little faith.

So we’re back to spaghetti and barbeque this week. Feast away, mi familia.

Episode number two is even sadder. As in, my oldest daughter lost a tooth and the tooth fairy FORGOT to visit. Aaaaacck! Why is it so hard to find good help these days?

Anyhow, after much cajoling, I convinced daughter #1 to give the tooth fairy a second chance.

“I’m sure there’s a good reason she didn’t come,” said I.

“There better be,” said she.

But I think she’s on to us because that night before she went to bed, she skulked past us with this warning,

“I want a good story from the tooth fairy, not ‘I was tired and had to sleep.’”

Hmmm, methinks she knows.

So I rose to the occasion. Writing a lengthy epistle with my right hand (not easy for a leftie), I concocted a very believable tale about how the tooth fairy was visiting a little boy in Alaska when her wings froze and she had to wait until they thawed before she could fly to our house.

I think the story did the trick. Either that or the $5 the tooth fairy left with deep remorse for her tardiness.

Crisis averted…until the next one.

In the midst of all this crazy, everyday living, I’m so thankful for God’s assurances of unfailing love.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Or as it says in The Message:

“I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!”

Love, love, and more love, indeed. Even when we mess up. Even when we’re feeling low. Even when we don’t measure up. God’s love for us doesn’t depend on any of these things.

He loves us because we are His.

Let’s talk: Any rough patches in your week so far? Any instances where God has stepped in and shown you unfailing love?

 

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