Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Blessings!

Our family had a wonderful Christmas. Since Costco put up trees and lights back in early October (or maybe September), Carter has been saying, "Christmas is coming!" Well, it finally came, and it was wonderful.

We had a little hectic week prior to Christmas, as both Carter and I came down with a mild tummy flu, and then Carter woke up five days before Christmas with double pink eye and a double ear infection. We were back at the doctor on Monday to switch his antibiotics when he broke out in full body hives as an allergic reaction to the first medicine. God is merciful, and Carter was healthy and able to be in public again on Christmas Eve--just in time!

On Christmas Eve, we had family time around the house, and then we went to afternoon church services at Compass Bible Church. It was a wonderful service reminding us of how Christ glorified the Father by coming and living a perfect life and dying for us, and how we can glorify God in our own actions as well.

After church, we headed to my sister and brother-in-law's house to celebrate Christmas with my side of the family. The six kids were excited to open presents, which we did after a yummy Mexican food dinner. Carter loves going to my sister's house. They are blessed with a home in Nellie Gail, and he calls it the "trampoline house." They have a giant yard with a big trampoline and a tropical pool with a rock slide. It was drizzly, but he got a little time on the trampoline. He was fine being inside too, since the game room had both air hockey and a fooseball table.

On Christmas morning, we got up late (8:00) and enjoyed the cold, rainy morning. We prayed together as a family and opened most of our presents. At about 10:30, we headed to Ryan's parents' home, where we had breakfast and opened presents. Gabe, Ivy and Carter all loved the presents, but Gabe was an absolute joy to watch, as he shook his hands and bounced around in excitement. Later that afternoon, Ryan's extended family came over to his parents' for a delicious dinner with all the trimmings. It was such a fun day--spending time with family and thanking God for all the numerous blessings we enjoy, all undeservedly.

Carter made out with WAAAAYY too much loot this year. We spent most of the 26th unboxing his toys and finding creative ways to store all the "stuff." Next year, we'll be back to buying very little for him and letting the other family members fill the toy box. Not surprisingly, his favorite toys were anything with noises, buttons and movement. It was fun to see him playing with all the alphabet and counting toys this year and hearing him actually count and identify all the letters. He's growing up fast! Baby brother even got some outfits, which means he won't be wearing entirely hand me downs.

Enjoy some of the pictures. We can't wait to hear all about your Christmas celebrations and the blessings you enjoyed!
Carter enjoying the giant trampoline while grandma watches his stunts!
Carter and his cousin, Grace, pretending to play checkers.
Carter, Gabe and Ivy are excited for presents!
Silly cousins: Stephen, Grace, Connor, Lauren, Carter and Cassie

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Jesse Tree


In talking with my friend, Christa, I found out about a wonderful resource that I wanted to share with you all--Jesse Trees. I'm probably out of the loop, and you all know about this already, but I thought I would post it just in case.

I am ordering this next year, but the Jesse Tree uses all the days of advent to talk about Old Testament stories and prophesies leading to Jesus's birth. It starts with the fall of man in Genesis and works through the Old Testament. From what I understand, it is a good way to also cover the gospel message with your family.

I am sure there are multiple websites to view about this, but one helpful one I found was http://www.jesse-trees.com/. You need your own mini-tree (buy a fake one at Walmart) to decorate, and you can either make or order the ornaments for each day. There is a devotional that has a lesson aimed at children. The website I listed also has song ideas to sing each day, children's books listed that coorelate with the lesson and a free downloadable coloring page area. I would say the lessons are aimed at early to mid-elementary, but you can differentiate your lesson (there is some good teacherese for you!). The website has a new devotional this year if you want a study just for adults or teenagers.

I hope you take the time to check out the website. Our church's pastor's family does this every year, and I hope to start the tradition next year!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Identifying the Sin in Being Worried Sick


I know I am WAY behind in posting. I'll spare you all the details of our busy schedules, as I know everyone is in the same boat this time of year.

I was having trouble brainstorming ideas for my post, and then I thought I would just honestly share thoughts on my mind lately. I don't normally struggle with anxiety to a large degree. However, lately, I have really been sinful in this area.

As with every year, sickness has been running rampant through our church and the children's ministries program. Since many church friends are on Facebook with me, I can count numerous status updates each day about new families falling prey to the stomach flu or the bad cold making rounds. The cold has already hit our family, but I will do just about anything to avoid the stomach flu.

I use the excuse of pregnancy and the need to stay healthy, but my preoccupation with avoiding the stomach flu has reached sinful levels. I wash my hands forty times a day, and I pray for protection from the flu about three times a day. If we are driving to church, I always remind Carter of "buggies" and to keep his hands out of his mouth--ya, right. I have even considered not taking Carter to church during the worst of it. Can you believe it--going to church to worship God, and all the while keeping Carter at home because I am not trusting the God I am worshipping to take care of us.

Really, though, I am trying to take control of the situation and am not trusting God's plan for us--to get sick or not get sick. It is out of my hands. No matter how much I hate the stomach flu, I have to trust God knows best and he will provide protection against the germs or give us endurance to get through the illness. He wants us at church, and I need to be obedient in bringing both myself and Carter to church--flu or no flu.

Another health anxiety I have had lately is my pregnancy. I am getting numerous questions about when I am due, and most well-meaning people believe I am going to say within the next month or so. When I laugh and say, "March 15th," they have horrified looks on their faces. This baby is bigger than Carter, he is very high, and I am popping out more because of my second pregnancy. I am pretty uncomfortable already, and I start worrying about the next three months. If I can barely walk any considerable distance now, how am I going to function that third month from now? How in the world am I going to birth a bigger baby than Carter when I could barely get him out?--I had to have vaccuum assist with Carter due to his heartrate dropping after 18 hours of labor.

My sin lies in my habit of persisting in these thoughts and going into panic mode. It doesn't take long before my eyes are off the blessing of the baby, and I am dwelling with depression on all the horrible inconveniences and trials I have ahead of me.

This is the baby God made for my family. He is big. I have uncomfortable pregnancies, and this is a trial God has allowed in my life. There is a reason. I am to be thankful in all circumstances.

I have identified these sins of worry and anxiety, and I need to now focus on obediently repenting and changing my thought patterns, attitudes, and actions. You can be praying for me in these details. Ask me how I am doing with my anxiety and worry--in all circumstances!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Different Kind of Thankfulness


With Thanksgiving Day approaching, we are all hearing about the need to be thankful--both from the secular and Christian world. As Christians, we know that God is serious about thankfulness. Understanding what we have been given leads to contentedness and praise to Him. In fact, the Bible doesn't skimp on the mandates to be thankful. Here are just a few verses which call Christians to gratefulness ALWAYS!

I Chronicles 16:8 "Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done."

I Chronicles 16:34 "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endres forever."

Psalm 30:12 "that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lrd my God, I will give you thanks forever.'

Psalm 35:18 "I will give You thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you."

Psalm 100:4 "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name."

Psalm 118:21 "I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation."

Pslam 118: 28 "You are my God, and I will give You thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt You."

I Corinthians 15:57 "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Colossians 1:12 "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."

I Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Hebrews 12:28 "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,"


Clearly, thankfulness is an important matter to God. If Christians truly understand their sinfulness and the gift that God has graciously given them through Jesus, the only natural reaction is inexpressible thankfulness and awe--all the time!

In knowing this, how should our Thanksgiving holiday differ from the world's? Circumstances shouldn't matter. Though the ecomomy is far from reliable, politics look bleak, sinful morality is invading law, many are suffering from illnesses ranging from the flu to cancer, and it is more and more common to suffer persecution for Christ, Christians should face such times with a joy that cannot be explained by the world. God is sovereign, His promises are certain, and this world is fleeting! What hope this creates and what a rock on which to stand for those who follow Christ.

While the secular world might struggle to find a list of items for which to give thanks, Christians have an ever-steady gaze on eternity, grasping all the more firmly their faith in Christ when the tempest of trials roars around them.

Take time this season to see if your thankfulness is more than a list or a prayer, but an all-consuming attitude of your heart. It should overflow in your speech and action throughout the year, enabling you to be an effective ambassador for Christ.

Repent of any discontent attitudes you have expressed lately and make an action plan to foster true, Biblical thankfulness in your heart. If we were honest, our list of thanks is long. Every good and perfect gift in our lives is from above. Somehow, if trials are too severe to recognize temperal blessings, we still have an anchor of hope. We have a Savior! We have a future! We have a holy God who allows us to come to Him through Christ! Thank God today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy birthday, Ryan!


This week is Ryan's birthday! In celebration, Ryan, Carter and I will be going to Disneyland on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and staying at the Grand Californian for two nights. Due to pregnancy nausea, we didn't get a real vacation this summer, so, now that the nausea is better, we are doing a couple of little get aways before the baby comes.

I have written before about what a blessing my husband is to me and our family, but I have to say it again. He is an amazing spiritual leader and hard worker. What a great example he is to myself and our kids.

In celebration of his birthday, here are a few Ryan facts you may or may not know. Enjoy!


--Ryan's favorite foods are steak (really seasoned), Coca Cola or Dr. Pepper, popcorn, chips and salsa and chocolate.

--Ryan has lived in California, Ohio, Michigan, Washington DC and the Dominican Republic.
--Ryan loves geography and knows a lot of trivia about it.

--Ryan became a Christian at Jr. High camp in Ohio.

--Ryan likes to read and listen to his i-Pod before he goes to sleep each night.

--Ryan loves going to the movies.

--Ryan speaks Spanish fairly fluently (he wrote a proposal paper completely in Spanish while living in the Dominican Republic). He'll deny this, saying he hasn't used his Spanish in years, but he'd pick it back up.

--Ryan majored in business and got his master's in international relations.

--Ryan loves to travel internationally. (Though any kind of trip is fun to him).

--Ryan never naps.
--Ryan loves mountains--anything about them: camping, backpacking, hiking, etc.

--Ryan was a happy, but crazy/active kid who talked a lot. (Remind you of anyone?)

--Ryan had a fooseball table in his dining room when Chiara met him.

--Ryan hates spiders.

--Ryan was a high school valedictorian, graduated the top of his class from Michigan State and attended Johns Hopkins International School of business. (Can you spell S-M-A-R-T?)

--Ryan loves soccer and still tries to play it at lunch from time to time at work.

--Ryan fainted during a high school choir performance.

--Ryan likes to tell jokes and be funny.

--Before working at Taco Bell, Ryan wanted to be an international business consultant who could help poor companies get started in poor Latin American countries.

--Ryan would love to go to Africa, Australia, and a place with giant waterfalls in South America (sorry, honey, I forgot the name).

--Ryan snuck into ancient ruins in Guatemala and spent the night. He went to a "temple" to change his clothes, only to look up and see he was in a room with hundreds of bats.

--Ryan used to run track and cross country in college.

--Ryan got lost running in Washington DC on a high school missions trip and had to get help from firefighters.

--Ryan is the love of Chiara's life.

--Ryan makes everyone smile.

--Ryan is special, and I wish him a VERY happy birthday!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Sin of Passivity


James 4:16b "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."


This post might be more of a personal confession, but I think the thoughts and points will resonate strongly with most of you.

Yesterday's election, and the months leading up to it, woke me up to the state of society around me and exposed the ugly sin of spiritual passivity in my life. One of my spiritual goals is always to be better at boldness and sharing the gospel. I wish I had the desire to proclaim Christ and truth more clearly, proficiently and often, but I let the cares of this world and the comforts of this life lull me into a state of lazy attempts to bring others to church or to show love in how I live my life ("They will see the difference in my own life," I say. "They will see Christ shining through my example.")

My comfort induced spiritual coma was rudely awakened by the issues brought before us all in the election. Suddenly, as I mentioned in my last post, I was confronted with Christians who were ignoring parts of scripture (such as I was to be a bold witness for Christ!) to better conform to the modern society around them. Ignorance was stripped away when I realized how little the truths of God mattered to both secular society and "Christians."

Certainly, it would be easy to point a finger at others and accuse them of false teaching, twisting Jesus' commands and words without context. However, I find the Holy Spirit pointing a finger at me and reminding me that years of Christian passivity and "tolerance" has allowed Satan to better spread lies and ignorance in our society.

I don't think I was the only person who was suddenly shocked to find that Christians were arguing with me about the rights of gay marriage and abortion. I wasn't the only one discouraged at the number of people voting in favor of murder or sexual sin. "Of course people understand what God commands," I supposed.

Scripture tells us to share the truth with others--not just live a life that appears attractive to others. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 is clear in what we need to do at ALL times. "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afllictions, do the work of an evangeslist, fulfill your ministry."

Notice the verse says to Preach the word--not just the gospel (which is the foundation, of course) but the WHOLE Bible. Not only do we need to share the Good News with the lost, we need to correct Christians who are errant in obeying and understanding God's scripture. The verse also states in season and out of season. What does this mean? This means we must preach the word both when it is popular and suitable to do so and when it is not well-received or convenient for us. We shouldn't just get active in speaking truth during an election--we need to have ZEAL for God's truth all the time.

I am ashamed that I was caught so off guard in my passivity and lack of awareness at where people stood on eternal truths. I assumed most people in society were not truly saved, but I had no grasp as to the extent of false teachings in churches and the lives of Christians across America. We too quickly abandon the unpopular exercise of amonishment in favor of love, tolerance, and encouragement (which each have a positive place behind the exercise of TRUTH).

I don't think I'm the only one feeling convicted of falling short in this area. We know God is in control of our country and our society, but we also know that He allows us to see the repurcussions of our sin, such as when we are not bold and obedient for Him. Perhaps, though He works all things out for His glory and the believers' good, we are truly reaping what we sow--or, as I am mourning in repentance today, what we fail to sow.


James 4:4 "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Authority of Scripture


I'm tired today. I am not speaking of physical exhaustion, but I am feeling emotionally tired. For the past few days, I have been bombarded with instances of "Christians" voicing opinions that are contrary to scripture and God. They do all in the voice of love and tolerance. Many do it in ignorance of the truths of scripture. However, they all are wrong and are missing the mark.

This isn't new in our modern society, however. The elections and mainstream media are just highlighting the prevalency of this erroneous thought lately. These viewpoints punctuate much of society, and it is making me sad. The authority of God's Word, the Bible, has taken a back seat to opinions, cultural beliefs and political correctness. The Bible is deemed too negative, too judgemental, and too out of touch with today's society and its evolved sensibilities. "God is all about love!" they chant. "God wants us to be tolerant and not judge!" they respond. Wrong. To hear some wonderful sermons about these very points, visit our church website at http://www.compasschurch.org/ and listen to the sermons for October 26th and October 19th. We mistake God's patience for His approval. We are clearly told, however, that we will all be accountable to our Maker--regardless of whether we agree with Him or not.

Today, in the Orange County Register, Robert A. Schuller, is celebrating the great work that the Crystal Cathetral has done in theology. "He said the biggest accomplishment of the 'Hour of Power' is that it is transforming the theology of the church across America from 'a negative theology to a positive theology. Historically, there has been a tremendous emphasis on sin,' he said. 'Crystal Cathedral was larely responsible for developing self-esteem among the faithful. This church has taken the gospel in a positive light and spread that positive message around the world.'"

Upon first read, this doesn't sound awful to most Christian Americans. We are so used to now hearing about the need for positive outreach and helping people in love. Look closely, however. He is saying that the emphasis on sin in the gospel message--what leads us to repentance and true salvation, mind you--has been replaced with the message of self-esteem. Since when do people need more focus on themselves? The gospel message is first about SIN!!!!! We won't understand our need for God and Jesus' death on the cross if we don't understand our sin and lack of holiness.

A friend of mine posted a quick note on Proposition 8 on Facebook. For you out of state friends, Proposition 8 is trying to keep same sex marriage from being legal in California. This seems like a no brainer. However, there were 28 comments to his quick note, most of the comments dissenting against his stand against homosexuality. Sadly, these comments were made by professing Christians. They had no understanding of scripture--things were taken out of context or were seen as culturally irrelevant in modern day. The Bible isn't a work of literature with which we can agree or disagree if we are followers of Christ. It is the inerrant Word of God! This isn't like picking your toppings on your frozen yogurt. You have to accept the whole package and obey God's commands. If we don't see the Bible as the definitive view of right and wrong, we are joining in the sliding morals and rules of our relativistic society. 2 Timothy 4:3 tells us, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

God has never been about our opinions or feelings on what is holy and what is sin. He doesn't need to be. HE IS OUR CREATOR! Isaiah 29:16 says, "You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'He did not make me'? Can the pot say of the potter, 'He knows nothing'?

These discussions among "Christians" about truths spelled out in scripture are tedious. If a person claims to be a follower of Christ's and yet rejects scripture's truths, they are probably not His, or they are ignorant and need to be taught. The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent , equipped for every good work." We need to make sure we use the "Manual" God has left us to make our decisions and decide what is right and wrong. God tells us in Psalm 19:7 that "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple."

On the other hand, the great debates and philosophies of this age are really nothing new. Throughout history, people have claimed to know a better way and to be wise in their own eyes. God responds to this. I Corinthians 1:20 scoffs, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philospher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" I Corinthians 1: 27 adds, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." God's truth might seem archaic and silly to our "evolved" society, but, in truth, society is in bondage to its sin and stuck in its foolishness.

So, should we throw up our hands and walk away? Not necessarily. We have been commanded by God to admonish and encourage other believers and to share the gospel with those who are not saved. Though it is an uphill battle, we know we are using God's power, and not our own. Paul didn't despair. He said, in Romans 1:14, "I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish." There will be many who do not repent and do not see the truth, but there will be some that see the truth and are snatched from the fire.

We should never discuss cultural ideas in the light of relativism when there are Biblical truths that address the issue. Use the authority of scripture. Though it will be rejected by many, we know the power of the Word to save and bring to righteousness! Hebrews 4:12 attests to the power of Scripture. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thought sand attitudes of the heart."

Though I lose heart when I feel overwhelmed by the lies of society and this world, I know God is still victor. I feel better after writing this post. I needed the reminder that we should "fear not, for [He] has overcome the world." (John 16:33)

" . . . for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." I John 5: 4-5

Friday, October 24, 2008

Legacy

II Peter 1:12-15 "Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind."

In Women's Bible Study, we are learning about II Peter, and we just studied II Peter 1:12-15. in the prior verses, Peter reminds the church of the basic truths of Christianity. Here, he mentions his death and martyrdom is near. Instead of lamenting his own dwindling life, giving up His calling to go just spend time with his wife and family, he had an eternal perspective and wrote of how every ounce of energy left on earth would be spent in strengthening Christ's church and reminding them of Biblical truths so they would never forget.

In small group, we talked about how Peter's legacy was to reach out to other believers in order to strengthen, admonish and encourage them. He used his own past failures of anxiety, fear, denial, and lack of courage to teach others to not fall prey to these same vices.

The question was posed: What is your legacy now, and what would you like your legacy to be?

If I were perfectly honest with myself, my legacy is being busy at church, staying at home with my kids, and keeping a clean, nice house (I hope). Though those are great things, they only SCRATCH the surface of what I wish to do.

If I had to sum up my desire in one goal, it would be that my legacy to others is that God is EVERYTHING. He was the LORD of my life, and I didn't let other worries and concerns distract me from that truth. He was my number one priority. I can't say that is my legacy now.

I spend more time griping about whatever, worrying about this and that, and gabbing about kids, personal appearances and other "distractions" than I spend on REALLY discussing God with others.

Take time to think about your legacy. If people had to sum up the whole of your life, what would they say? Are you worried more about what people say about you/their external perceptions than you are about what God thinks of your actions, thoughts and attitudes?

LORD, forgive me for my weakness and sin and for not always making You my number one priority. I love You and want my legacy to be YOU. Thank you for Your mercy and the opportunities You continuously put before me to serve You!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Carter's First Sports Class



When Carter found out I signed him up for a baseball (T-ball), soccer and basketball class, he was beside himself with excitement. The class is a mommy-and-me half hour class through the school district, but Carter keeps calling it his "soccer team class". This morning was his first class, and he was literally jumping all over the house until it started at 9:00. Carter has two friends from Compass Bible Church in his class too, Parker Vigue and Luke Cummings.


Coach Tyler is Carter's teacher, and, poor guy, he is about 23 and has little kid experience. I was laughing inside when he lined the kids up (all between ages 2 and 1/2 and 3 and 1/2) in a horizontal line and asked them to patiently wait there until he called their number to run a relay. All the kids were confused because they got a number that wasn't their age (except Carter, who was number 2 somehow). One kid dissolved into tears until they changed his number from 5 to 3. "I'm 3!" he howled. It was hilarious.


We practiced catching and throwing a wiffle ball (baseball). Carter has an amazing throwing arm, but he couldn't catch the wiffle ball if his life depended on it. I'm trying to teach him he can move his feet or hands in any direction to get the ball. He stands there like a statue until the ball drops around him.


The class was fun, and Carter had a blast. It was fun seeing Carter interact with peers and teaching him in his favorite manner (kinesthetically). He can't wait until next Monday!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's a Boy!

Well, we had our big ultrasound yesterday, and we are officially a boy family, which is something I imagined all along. I just don't believe I'm girlie enough to have a daughter, as I didn't enjoy dolls growing up, I don't do nails or hair, and I am not in tune with my emotions like most girls. Ryan and I laugh that I act more like a guy sometimes with my habits than he does. I always liked the matter of fact and sensible way guys deal with life--no drama.
What gives me the greatest joy, however, is that I know the gender, and everything else about this little guy, was planned by my Creator ahead of time. He is the picture of health, and it was answers to our prayer that there was not a single physical worry about the baby.
I can't wait to meet him--no names yet, but we have a list started. Carter is going to be both excited and, probably, put off by the arrival of another boy, but they will be good buddies as they grow up together. I pray I have enough energy to be a mom of two boys, but it will certainly keep me from being physically lazy! I'll keep you posted on names and news as the pregnancy progresses.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fireproof


I am not usually one to promote anything in Hollywood, but this weekend Ryan and I saw a movie that was such a breath of fresh air. In our marriage ministry, we had been promoting the new Christian movie, Fireproof, and even held an activity to go see it at our local theater. Unfortunately, that was the day after I came down with a bad cold, fever, chills and a sore throat, and it was the same night as my dad's surgery, so we were not able to go that evening.

Well, this weekend, my parents watched Carter while Ryan and I went to Outback for dinner and, afterward, saw Fireproof. To be honest, I was thinking it would be an uplifting and inspirational movie, but I expected some low budget acting and cheesy scenes. I had seen Christian movies in the past, and this seemed to be an expected formula.

Wow, was I floored! Fireproof should be on every Christ follower's must view list. It presented the gospel more clearly and accurately than any Christian film I had ever seen. It didn't just talk about God's love and grace--it dealt clearly with the issues of sin, missing the mark of God's holiness and our need for forgiveness. It wasn't just about saying a "sinner's prayer." The movie clearly showed a changed life and fruit from the repentance and faith that led to the salvation of a character.

In addition, Ryan and I lead a marriage ministry at church and find it so discouraging when we see how Satan sneaks into marriages with lies and temptation. This movie dealt with common problems head on and in a very realistic way. I was shocked that it was so honest and didn't romanticize the problems that marriages face.

I won't say any more, for fear of giving away too much of the plot, but I cannot urge you enough to see it. Bring non-Christian friends--especially those who might be struggling in marriage. Even if they are not, it gives an extended and amazing presentation of the gospel. Ryan and I both said we enjoyed the movie so much we were sad when it ended. The whole movie audience applauded when the credits were rolling at the end. I left the theater that night so full of joy and amazement that this type of message is allowed in a mainstream theater--though it be in limited release.

Before it leaves the theater, please go see it. You won't be sorry. Oh, and you'll understand the picture of the salt and pepper shakers AFTER you see the movie!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Overwhelmed



As most of you can gather from my lack of new posts, life has been hectic this last week. Last week, I celebrated my birthday on Tuesday. We were able to spend the afternoon and evening with friends from out of town on Wednesday. On Thursday, I came down with a cold that--due to my run-down body--has turned into over a week of coughing and sinus infections. On Friday, my dad had surgery for his prostate and, thankfully, has been able to recover slowly, and well, at home since Saturday. Sunday, my father-in-law had a bicycle accident and landed in the emergency room with five broken ribs, a broken clavicle and a scatched or punctured lung. On Tuesday of this week, we received all new bedroom furniture, which required that I pack up all of our bedroom on Monday. In all of this, we have had to continue our normal weekly responsibilities of leading a ministry at church, parenting a two year old and dealing with pregnancy nausea and fatigue.


During this time, my attitude has not always been great, but I am aiming to focus on Christ's sovereignty and the honor of representing Christ to others around me. As always, God has provided and given me strength for each day. None of these events is as devastating as what some friends are facing currently, and I know it. God faithfully puts my struggles in perspective and keeps me striving for a thankful heart in all circumstances.


How easily we get overwhelmed! Life is messy and hard sometimes, but God doesn't change with the circumstances. He is in control. He is still my Redeemer and King. His promises do not change, and He still requires holy obedience from me.


Thank you, LORD, that you show me Your strength in my weakness. Thank you for being the Rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 139:7-8 "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of You hands."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Haircut--Part 2



I have posted before about Carter's affinity for screaming during haircuts. If you missed the background story, read "The Haircut", in my November 16, 2007 post.

Yesterday we reached a new level of embarrassment. I naively called First Cuts to make the dreaded haircut appointment, and we were told there were some "notes" in Carter's file. The receptionist sweetly explained they would have the "quiet room" ready for us when we arrived.
Upon getting there, we sheepishly approached the front desk, upon which the receptionist looked up disapprovingly and said, "Is this Carter?" They were really not looking forward to this.

She whispered to one of the hairdressers and gestured toward the back of the store. The hairdresser went from smiling sweetly to a resigned sigh as she led us to the back of the room.

The quiet room is in the very back of the store, and it separates the "special" haircut chair from the rest of the room by a glass partition. "When he cries, it scares the other kids," she explained as she shut the door behind us.

It was horrible. I had to hold Carter on my lap, and all the other moms and kids stared at the banished mother and child who were on display through the glass in the "quiet room."

Carter did well for about 2 minutes. However, as soon as the first chunks of hair fell on his hand--he refused to wear the cape--he screamed. He didn't stop until he got down from the chair. He is deathly afraid of his own hair falling on him. I don't understand. At first I thought it was the razor or the idea of being messy, but I realized he thinks we are mutilating his head somehow. Seeing chunks of hair falling on him is torture to him. He tries to shake it off, which only sends hair flying all through the air onto me and the rest of him.

Luckily, they gave us the fast hairdresser. She had his hair done in about 5 minutes. Carter's lung capacity was a huge motivation for her. After a good dusting of baby powder to get the hair off Carter's arms and hands, we paid a generous tip and hobbled out once again. You can see the before and after pictures on this post.

I had heard they are less afraid of haircuts between 2 and 3 years old. Carter is 2 and 1/2 now. I'm still waiting. The hairdresser told me the next baby won't be afraid of haircuts. "You always get a good one and a bad one," she reassured me. Well, we are already banned from Supercuts, and now we are banished to the quiet zone of First Cuts, so I'm praying she is right.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Make Every Effort


When I taught third grade, we would introduce the kids to typing programs during computer lab. At first, the keyboard was tedious, took time and seemed much more of a pain than a learning tool. However, by the middle of the year, those children who had practiced their typing on a regular basis were beginning to see the benefits of the tool. Suddenly, searching the internet was easier. Finally, typing out an essay was faster than writing it by hand. It would frustrate me when I witnessed some of my students stuck in phase one of the keyboard introduction, refusing to practice and missing out on the usefulness of the tool they had before them. They expected any typing to be done by their parents or teacher, thinking that it was too much work to learn finger placement and practice typing accuracy and speed. They were missing a huge benefit.

Today and next week in our church's Women's Bible Study, we are studying the first half of II Peter 1. Today we studied the necessity of using the tools God has given us. First we camped on the well known verse of II Peter 1:3, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His glory and goodness." It is convicting to read that passage and realize we have no excuse to say we are lacking a tool to be holy in a situation. God has given us the Holy Spirit and His Word to guide us in our actions. In my Bible's commentary on this verse, John MacArthur even writes, "To be godly is to live reverently, loyally, and obediently toward God. Peter means that the genuine-believer ought not to ask God for somthing more (as if something necessary to sustain his growth, strength and perseverance was missing) to become godly, because he already has every spiritual resource to manifest, sustain and perfect godly living." (Pg. 1922, NASB) How often, when I have sinned, do I run in repentance to God and ask Him for more strength next time I face that situation?! He has given me His strength already! What I lack is obedience.

In conjunction with this verse, we studied the famous passage of I Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." Growing up, I always thought that this verse meant God would give me a moment to flee the temptation through supernatural means--a phone would ring, a person would interrupt the conversation, the electricity would go out, etc. Something would interrupt the moment enough that I would have a way to escape the tempting situation. Again, I was putting much of the responsibility on God, without much effort on my part. Of course, God graciously can, and does, do this from time to time, but that is not what this verse is primarily saying. As we just mentioned in II Peter 1, God has ALREADY given us the means necessary to escape and fight temptation. We have His Word and the Holy Spirit. If we truly are saturated in the Word and know God, His pure and perfect will, then we will be able to recall truth to fight the sinful lie we are facing.

Here comes the convicting application. We must make an effort. The strength and holiness is all God's, but He lovingly equips us. We must use the tools He gives us. We must be in the Word daily--reading, studying, memorizing, meditating. We must have prayer and have quiet time to listen to and converse with God. We must respond to the Holy Spirit when we feel conviction or prompting. We must make every effort to use what God has supplied to us.

II Peter 1:5 tells us that to avoid the corruption of the world we must be "applying all diligence" or "making every effort" to exercise godly qualities. In fact, Peter even lists several upon which to focus. There is no doubt that this requires effort.

Despite what the world tells us and what our fleshly nature desires, the Christian walk is not an exercise in laziness and just gathering blessings from above. We are aliens in this world, fighting a daily battle against sin and Satan, and denying our flesh to become more and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thankfully, God gives us all we need to do this successfully. We just need to make every effort to utilize His gracious gifts to us.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thrive


For six years now, Ryan and I have participated in a marriage ministry at church. It has evolved over time, beginning as a group for young marrieds with no kids. The group is now much bigger and encompasses marrieds--ages 20's to 40's--with or without kids.

It has been an amazing journey to make friends with other young marrieds before any of us had children and to be there as some of us have had our first and second (and third) babies, as we have struggled with financial difficulties, as we have navigated our marriages with the adjustment of children, as we have grown in our walks with God, and as we have become more apparent and real in our own friendships with one another.
We have the ability to turn to others to ask about quiet time with newborns, disciplining in a Biblical manner, ministering to our spouses in creative ways, potty training, date night ideas, etc, etc. From this group has sprung moms groups, CARE ministries providing meals, flowers, cards and prayer, activities groups (see our 80's night picture above), workout groups, babysitting swaps, open doors into other service areas at church, and a million other networks that bless the socks off many people. There have been a thousand baby showers, dinners brought to families in need, kids clothes and maternity clothes swapped among Thrivers, prayer warriors lifting up anything from doctor's appointments to marital problems, small group Bible studies and accountability meetings.

This Thursday, Thrive starts up again. Ryan and I cannot stress what this group means to us individually and as a couple. We joined the group as an engaged couple six years ago. We quickly found friends who would be dear brothers and sisters in Christ to us. Our marriage has always had a support system through this group and the couples who attend it. From the beginning, we learned the vital importance of centering EVERYTHING on God and His will for us. We have been spurred on and prompted by others going through similar situations.

The purpose of Thrive is to have a group that spurs us on to grow in our walk with God, mature in our relationship with our spouses and deepen our friendship with other couples in our same lifestage. This year we are studying the book of II Timothy. Our theme is "Finish Well." Ryan and I spent the summer writing the homework/small group questions for the year, and I am so excited for the encouragement and conviction that will come from this study. In addition, we are stepping up our accountability to require more from us, knowing that God wants us to be progressing forward.

God has used this group tremendously. It is such a blessing that I sometimes feel guilty for enjoying it so much. I cannot wait for this year to start in order to see where God is leading the group.

You can learn more about Thrive at the Compass Bible Church website: http://www.compasschurch.org/ and clicking on the link to the marriage ministry or by joining Facebook and viewing our group site: Thrive marriage ministry on the Facebook network.


Hebrews 10:24-25

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Snoogle




Well, in vain hopes of sleeping better on those nauseated nights, I searched storage and aired out my pregnancy pillow, called a Snoogle. It didn't help me at all, but Carter found a new favorite toy. At first, he was a little frightened of the pillowy heap on the floor by my bed, but as soon as I reassured him that it was only a pillow and told him it had a name--Snoogle--he was hooked. He claimed it as his own and calls to me various times throughout the day, "Mooooommmmy! Come Snoogle with me!"


He is in a momma's boy stage, hugging me constantly and saying, "I love my mommy." (much to Ryan's chagrin). He loves his daddy too, but perhaps he has an inkling of what is to come in 6 and a half months and he's latching on a little tighter.


I have also finally seen him love books. Both Ryan and I love to read (though Ryan, the business major, reads more currently than his English major wife), so I kept wondering why my active little boy hadn't "discovered" a joy for books. Now, he loves stories. His current favorites are The Very Hungry Catepillar (because he can count all the foods) and a story, called Little Buddy, that I made up to pass time with Carter in an airport. He'll settle for any book, though. I took him to the public library again, recently, and I can't understand why the Mission Viejo branch fills the kids' section with toys. Of course, he doesn't sit and read. He wants to play with blocks, puzzles and Legos. I'll have to try a different city branch.


Anyway, enjoy the Snoogle pictures. They crack me up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Because I said so


Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."


Carter has definitely been exercising his little will lately. His preferred expression after any statement is "Why?" This can be an innocent, curious why or an insolent, challenging why--much in the way you would imagine a teenager uttering the phrase. The disrespectful why usually follows an imperative which he doesn't like--pick up your toys, turn off the TV, do not eat that now, etc. Sometimes I take the time to explain my reasoning to him, giving him the valid safey reasons, affecting circumstances, or motives behind me asking him or telling him to do something. More often than not, however, I have reverted to the expression, "Because Mommy said so, and God tells you to obey mommy." I shouldn't always have to explain my thought processes or reasons to a two year old. Sometimes I want him to understand, but sometimes I just want him to obey--regardless of whether or not he understands why.

This week has been a hard week for many in my extended family. In one week, they will have faced trials of a miscarriage, job loss and surgery. It was one of those weeks when, much like my two year old, I was required to obey God's plan and direction, but I was tempted to pout and ask "why?" However, I know that rebellion and anger is a futile exercise. God is sovereign. He is in charge. God is perfect and has a plan for each of His believers that will all work out for good. I have limited understanding before an omniscient God.

My sister-in-law has been a perfect example of firmly trusing in the midst of a very difficult trial this week. She and her husband have never wavered in their faith and love for God, even when He asked for a large sacrifice and loss. She has been an amazing example to many at our church who are undergoing trials and might be struggling to stand firm. With grace and humility, she has gently submitted to God's will with obedience and hope.

We don't always know the reasons why things happen. We do know God has complete control, and only those things which He allows can enter our lives. Instead of mimicking the stubborn attitude of a two year old, may we have the maturity and hope to obey our sovereign Creator--even when all God reveals to us is, "Because I said so."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thankfulness


Okay, one of my ways of combating self pity and the blues during my days of morning sickness is to constantly give praise to God and thank Him for His goodness. It is such a reality check when I take the time to just list the gifts he has POURED into my life. I urge you to do the same if you are ever tempted to compare your life to another or feel that life has been or is somehow unfair.

Thank you, Heavenly Father for:

--My salvation. I am a sinful person washed clean in your blood and sacrifice!

--My husband. He makes me laugh, he loves me for who I am, and he understands me. I love him so much! Help me to always Biblically serve him and love him unconditionally.

--My son and our second baby on the way. I love my children and am in awe that you entrusted them to me to teach Your ways. Give me strength to do better!

--My church body. I love our church. I love the teaching. I love the desire for God's truths. I love the fellowship and encouragement. I love the support. I love the opportunity to serve your beloved. I love knowing you are growing me each and every day.

--Thrive. I love our marriage ministry. I am constantly encouraged and humbled in this group. There are so many men and women who show me how far I have to go. They are amazing slaves for Your kingdom. I love working on my ministry to Ryan and growing closer to you, God.

--Friends for Carter. There are so many great friends at church for Carter. You gave me a very social little boy, so the plethora of little buddies is such a gift!

--Your Word. Each day I learn more about You and what you are teaching me, and I find such a peace and comfort from the truths you present to me.

--Our home. I forget to be appreciative of this. Cleaning, gardening and household duties get my mind off the focus of the blessing of having a bright, happy home for our family. May I do my best to represent You correctly to anyone who enters here.

--Ryan's job. Though it is long hours, you have provided tremendously for us. You have given us stability and financial blessings. May we use this gift to bless others!

--Friends. It really wasn't until I was a Christian after college, and my focus began to turn outside myself that I came to realize the blessings of friends and serving others. May we sharpen one another and encourage one another--never forgetting to tell one another how thankful we are for our friendship!

--Family--It is such a tremendous blessing that you have given us much of our family living within minutes of us. Most importantly, we are all believers--like-minded and understanding the hope we all have in even the hardest times.

--All the parks we have around us for Carter to play his little heart out.

--Books. I love to read, and I love that you have given me a great enjoyment for reading.

--Creativity. This might sound strange, but I love that I can escape while baking a cake, drawing a picture or writing a story. I enjoy being creative and using a gift you have given me. It gives me great joy!

--Health. God you gave me a body that has relatively few issues with disease or illness. Thank you that I can get out of bed each morning and that even morning sickness is doing its purpose in my life right now.

--Football. I love watching autumn football games--the band playing, the whistles blowing, the helmets crashing and the crowd cheering. It is a fun hobby every year!

--Cooking. I love to cook, especially in the cool weather of fall and winter. Simmering soups and crock pot creations smell so comforting when you enter your home from a chilly day outside.

--Sleep. I do love to sleep! It is amazing how much you realize the gift of sleep when it eludes you. Thank you that my body can rest and the flurry of life takes a break.

--Music. What a special gift you give us in music. We can express our feelings and enjoy something beautiful.

--Trees. Strange, I know. I love trees. If I ever took a painting class, I would paint trees. When I was little, I would sit still and listen to the quiet rustling of leaves in the forest near us as the wind would dance through the Eucalyptus trees. Lacy Birches and stoic pine trees are some of my favorites too.

--Fun. You are an amazing God to give us fun breaks. Trips to Disneyland, vacations, family get togethers, dinners out. What a treat that with the labor of life, you give us enjoyable moments sprinkled throughout.

--Prayer. It is staggering that I can speak to the Creator of the universe. You hear me and respond. What a privelege!

Okay, this post is getting long, and I could go on forever. Truly. Once you start your list, you get on a roll. I could go on and on. I feel lifted with gratitude to God! He is such a loving, gracious Father. Thank you, God!

Monday, August 4, 2008

God is Faithful


Lamentations 3:22-23 "Because of His great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness."


Well, I haven't had much energy or concentration to blog, as morning sickness has settled in for a little while. I have a huge praise that, though it is hard and more than what most people experience, my nausea is much less than the severe sickness I had with Carter's pregnancy. I would have required help to take care of Carter if I was as sick as before, so it is a huge answer to prayer that I am making it through my days without trips to the ER for hydration or hours spent curled up on the bathroom floor. God is truly good!

Today I went to the doctor's for my first prenatal appointment (8 weeks), and it was so wonderful! I saw the baby on an internal ultrasound, and I got to see his or her little heart fluttering away. The baby is measuring about three days bigger than my due date (March 15th), but this is quite normal. Carter measured big early on too, but then he was an average size baby at birth (7lb., 7 oz).

Seeing as my tummy is already quite protruding, I was nervous about twins, but only one little baby was there! Again, I showed early with Carter too. I dread it when people ask me how far along I am, as they expect me to say "about 16 weeks." I have already been asked by two strangers if I know the sex of the baby--I am assuming they thought I was about halfway through my pregnancy journey. Oh, well. I know the baby is a healthy size, and my tummy certainly will provide plenty of padding for this little one.

Seeing all the blessings God has poured down upon us, and realizing He gets me through each day of morning sickness with His grace, a song that has been stuck in my head these past few weeks is "Great is Thy Faithfulness." I have been singing it in the shower, the car and around the house. Carter asks, "What you singing about, Mommy?" He asks me this whenever I start singing any song. Seizing the teachable moment, I am able to share with him that I am singing about God's goodness, His promises, and His provision. I love the lyrics to this song:


"Great is Thy Faithfulness,

LORD God, my Father.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.

Thou changest not. Thy compassions they fail not.

As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy Faithfulness, Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.

Great is Thy faithfulness, LORD unto me."


God has provided abundantly for me through this time of sickness. May I not forget His daily examples of faithfulness and love, even when it is difficult. All praise be to our faithful and merciful Heavenly Father!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Boo Boo Shoes


Hosea 14:9

"Who is wise? He will realize these things.

Who is descerning? He will understand them.

The ways of the LORD are right;

the righteous walk in them,

but the rebellious stumble in them."


Carter has a particular pair of toddler-sized flip flops which have ceremoniously been nicknamed his "boo-boo shoes." Whenever he wears them, he is due to experience at least a couple of fairly major wipeouts. In fact, Carter wore them this last Saturday to Lake Mission Viejo. Before lunchtime, he had a fat lip, a wiggly tooth and two skinned knees.

Carter knows the danger of his shoes, and when his eyes are rimmed with tears after a fall, he contemptuously glares at his boo-boo shoes, knowing full well where to place the blame for his lack of coordination. Despite this, he gravitates toward them every morning, pleading with mama to let him wear his "flip flops." Deep down, he feels like they are big boy shoes, and his vanity and strong will suppress the red flags that are warning him of impending danger. More often than not, I veto his desires, as I know the shoes are not practical and will cause him to fall.

To take a literal illustration and figuratively twist it, I was pondering Carter's shoe dilemma with my own struggle to "put off" things in my life that inevitably cause me to stumble in my Christian walk. In Philippians 4:8, God tells us to think about what is pure, true, right, lovely, noble and admirable. As we all know, it is a battle to dwell on rightoeus thoughts when we are living in and surrounded by a fallen world. However, we can make daily choices that can hinder or support us in our pursuit of holiness.

When I know I should be having quiet time with God, am I pushing everything aside and grabbing my Bible, or am I settling onto the couch for one quick click around the channels or a much desired catnap? When a magazine causes me to struggle with vanity or covetousness, do I cancel my subscription or do I gloss over my sins and continue to pick up the pages that lead me astray? If a certain friend continually gripes, gossips and brings out the worst in my sinful nature, do I repent of my contribution and admonish the friend (perhaps even having to put the brakes on the friendship) or do I ignore the situation in an effort to be "at ease" with others?  In other words, do I value people pleasing more than I value obedience and righteousness?

God often gives us red flags that should send us running in the opposite direction of the danger, but, sometimes, much like Carter with his big boy shoes, we are drawn toward the danger due to the lure that sin can take on our hearts. It often seems attractive and benign, but it ensnares us and causes us to fall.  Let us listen to the loving discipline and warnings of our Heavenly Father. Recognize what in your life can cause you to stumble and experience spiritual injuries. Turn from what causes you to sin and replace the danger with righteous disciplines, friends and conduct.

Psalm 116:8

"For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,

my eyes from tears,

my feet from stumbling,"


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Waiting on the Lord


Psalm 27:14

"Wait on the LORD;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the LORD!"


For the past month, I have been repeating this verse over and over in my quiet time, while I am getting ready in the morning, and while I lay down to fall asleep at night. I even wrote the verse in "window" markers on our sliding mirrored wardrobe doors. It has given me such joy and hope!

Ryan and I have been waiting on God for a few months. We had plans to get pregnant at the end of spring, and we thought, since Carter came so easily, we wouldn't have any issues. Well, we quickly found that saying you are giving your plans to the Lord and actually GIVING your plans to God are not always the same. Our mouths had uttered "God willing" numerous times, but our trust was tested when our pregnancy tests came back negative a couple of times and health issues were at our door. We, and I mean mainly me, had to work through some disappointment, some anxiety and some just plain sadness in the process. God exposed sinful idols and selfishness that needed to be pruned from our hearts during the wait.

Well, this week we found out we are pregnant! We are due March 17th, one week before Carter's birthday. We are ecstatic to meet this little blessing and answer to prayer, but I am mainly in awe of the work God has done on my heart. I was able to live out the promises and truths I mentioned in my recent post, "Trusting God on the Detours." I failed miserably on some occasions, and I trusted on others. Through it all, I have clung more closely to Him and realized how my expectations can lack flexibility and how they can be plainly sinful.

Through the wait, we had bloodwork done, which revealed a hypothyroid condition I would possibly have missed for several years if I hadn't had God say, "Wait." However, regardless of whether or not I see the reason now, I trust God knows best. The sooner I lay my plans at His feet and submit to His will, the sooner the peace and strength He offers can bless me while I wait.


Psalm 28:6-7

"Blessed be the Lord,

Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!

The LORD is my strength and my shield;

My heart trusted in Him and I am helped;

Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,

And with my song I will praise Him."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cousins

What fun it is to have cousins, siblings, or relatives close in age! Carter is blessed to have many friends at church, but his cousins, Ivy and Gabe, are each around a year of his age. In addition, we all live close by, so we have family get togethers often. They have so much fun together! It will be a joy to see all the wonderful times they have together in the future. God blesses us all abundantly--even those who are only two!

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Dad


Every year, my dad has to celebrate his Father's Day and birthday together, since they are usually only a couple of days apart. He never complains, though. He just enjoys having the family all together. This year, I thought I'd help celebrate by sharing some special memories and explaining what a blessing God has placed in my life through my earthly father, Mike Padilla.

My dad is a dentist ("Painless Padilla" was the joke), and this job fits him well, as he is a very personable guy. He can talk to just about anyone, and he always puts others at ease. Anyone who meets him comes away smiling and saying how nice he is. For years--before I was born until a couple of years ago, so over 31 years--my dad was a dentist in the Veteran's Administration in downtown Los Angeles. This might not seem very signifigant, except that we always lived south of Irvine in Orange County. My dad would get up at 4:15 or 4:30 and head off to work when it was still dark every morning. He would commute up to Los Angeles and back every day. Getting up early allowed him to be home early too, and he would walk in the door between 5 and 5:30 every day when I was growing up. I don't have many memories of him walking in and talking about his day. He would enter the door, give big hugs, ask all about our days at school, and help my mom finish up the details of dinner.

In fact, he spent his weekends working hard too. I remember well helping him wash the cars, work in the yard, paint, run errands, etc. on Saturday mornings. He would often save Saturday afternoons for family time, and we would all go to the pool, park, movies or somewhere else fun.

Sundays were always about church. My dad set a good example of always going to church. He set attendance at church as a priority above other things. In fact, growing up, he also urged me to be highly involved in church activities such as AWANA, youth group, worship singing, etc. The foundation he laid for me in learning about God was very important. The years he invested in my spiritual health helped me to better understand my need to become a Christian years later, when God called me to repentance.

My dad also taught me some good habits I still have (or strive to have) to this day--being on time, sticking with a commitment you make, working hard with a good attitude, balancing your life with hard work and a sprinkle of reward here and there, being kind to others, and taking the ups and downs of life with hope and trust in God. Of course, I picked up some quirks from my dad too--a love for anything sugary and sweet, a love for television and movies, and the thought that if something is in a neat pile--no matter how many piles I have--it is organized. Ha!


I am so blessed that we live very near my parents. Carter thinks grandpa is hilarious. I think Carter has my dad wrapped around his finger, too. You might see my dad biking around, working out at the gym, gardening in his amazing yard or ushering at church. If you meet him, you will smile and think, "That Mike Padilla is a really great guy!" He is! I love you, Dad!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

But You Can Please God


I was born a people pleaser. I hate to have others unhappy with me, which caused me to live a fairly obedient childhood. I was always getting behavior awards at school, but, obviously, for the wrong reasons.

We have been wrapping up a "Gospel Crazy" series at church. Time and again, we have been faced with the blaring truth that we either fear displeasing men or displeasing God when we do not choose or choose to share the gospel with others.

My nature is to fear displeasing other people. I remember being a little girl in Brownies/Girl Scouts. I dreaded the cookie sales each year. I would put on my uniform and timidly knock on people's doors, PRAYING they wouldn't be home. If I were rejected face to face at a particular house, I felt the sting for hours. I took it as a personal rejection. However, every year I sold cookies because I also dreaded displeasing my troop leaders and troop. I wanted my merit badge, and I wanted to do well.
However, as I have matured in my faith, I have realized that the focus is not my feelings, but the focus is obedience to God and the salvation of others' souls. Long ago, when I became a follower of Christ's, I had to give up living for myself and submit to God and put others first. Because of this, the idea of someone dying and facing an eternity in Hell and punishment should be more horrible than my dread of someone rolling their eyes at me behind my back. The idea of facing my sovereign GOD and CREATOR one day should inspire me to find courage in the face of my nervousness at sharing the gospel. God also promises us that the "merit badges" we will get in Heaven are far beyond any reward we have gotten here on earth.

As I have posted before, I am reading a book called Pleasing People, by Lou Priolo. I thought I would motivate myself and my readers further by listing reasons why we can never fully please others . . . But we can please God. This list is taken from chapter 5: You Can't Please All of the People Even Some of the Time.

Reasons why trying to please men is useless:

1. It is fruitless to try to please men because each person is different and, therefore, by pleasing some, you will inevitably displease others. (page 84)

2. It is unrealistic to try to please people because selfishness distorts their thinking and raises their expectations above that which you can reasonably fulfill. (page 86)

3. It is futile to try to please people because most of them are unregenerate and believe you to be "foolish" and strange." (page 88)

4. It is unreasonable to try to please people because, even among Christians, judgmental attitudes and critical spirits are still present. (90)

5. It is futile to try to please people because even Jesus Christ, the Perfect Man, did not please everyone. (91)

6. It is useless to try to please people because they are fundamentally incapable of being pleased by anyone or anything other than Christ. (92)


These are just a few reasons given and explained in the book as to why we shouldn't focus all our energy on pleasing men. However, we do know that what makes God happy and pleased is clear and unchanging. Humility, obedience, thankfulness, holiness, and redemption in Christ are all some ways we can please God. When it comes to the gospel, we please God when we step out and share with others. It is a command we need to obey. We can never please every person all of the time, but we can pursue obedience and holiness to please God. What a wonderful inspiration to someday hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Friday, May 23, 2008

Trusting God on the Detours

"O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done marvelous things,
things planned long ago." Isaiah 25:1

My husband and I have never been accused of being spontaneous. We are planners. Every aspect of our life is on the calendar or thought out ahead of time. However, we know there is a fine balance between planning, being prudent and yet allowing God to lead you in His will--in His direction.

This month, I had a couple of unexpected turns in my plans or calendar. From past experience, I know it is wise to trust God when He has plans that differ from mine. This doesn't make it easy to completely let go, but it gives me hope and encouragement when I am on a strange path of life. God's plans are faithful, good and loving. Though it isn't always comfortable going in an unplanned direction, I love it when plans are only in God's control and I can just let Him lead.
I used to love Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken. It was so full of melancholy, strength and vivid analogy, that I was drawn in the first time I read that poem on my mother's classroom wall. As I have grown in my walk with God, I have realized the difference between a Christian and the narrator of that poem. There is no wistful looking back on choices if God is leading. When I try to guide myself, I definitely might make wrong turns, regret decisions I made or wonder what life would have offered if I had taken such-and-such a path . . . However, whether a road is well trodden or unfamiliar, if God is leading, I am going in the right direction. What comfort and peace there is in God being the Master of your life!

Thank you, Lord, for giving me direction and caring for me each and every moment of my day!

"Many, O Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare."
Psalm 40:5

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

God Provides

This week, God has generously poured His provision on myself and my family. I feel like every turn I take, I hear good news, answered prayer and encouragement. There have been a couple of bumps in the road (for example, I saw the elusive rat in my garage, and it is about 5 pounds--HUGE!), but God has been faithful through everything and I have felt His hand through the yucky and the good. This was such a blessing to me this week, as Ryan is in the midst of his ten day business trip to Italy. I am having such a good time rejoicing with those who rejoice and feeling the prayers and care of my family and church body.
Facebook has been SUCH a blessing! I have gotten so many nice posts on my wall to tell me people didn't forget I'm alone and I'm being covered in prayer. Friend after friend has invited me to dinner or lunch, and Carter and I don't even have time to dwell on the sadness of missing Ryan.

My parents and in-laws have endured rain at Disneyland and nights of babysitting Carter to allow me to continue a fun week with little breaks in my schedule. They always are willing to help in this way, and I am so grateful for having them in my life.

God provided Ryan with a Christian mentor at his small training in Italy this week. At a time he felt alone, the new mentor came alongside and was able to encourage Ryan in his walk in a business setting.

My sister-in-law was able to hear God's answer to prayer concerning our church's Family Flick Night venue. His answer was amazing and just in His timing! We are so thankful!

There are a million examples of answered prayer this week, but I won't bore you with all of the details.

All I wanted to post was God is Good! He has poured His love upon me in so many ways I don't deserve, and I am thankful!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

In Their Shoes


On Friday of last week, I took Carter to Disneyland in the morning. Since we went first thing, we made our way toward the carpool lane of the freeway to avoid the rush hour traffic. As we were sitting in the left lane, waiting for an opening in the carpool lane, a car went around me and the man used his pumping hand and specific finger to let me know I had displeased him in some way. I still have no idea what I did wrong--too slow?, did I cut him off and not realize it?, did he not approve of my Compass BIBLE Church sticker?, or any other myriad of "mistakes."


God totally was with me, and I didn't react in anger or horror. My little two year old probably didn't even notice this man's "sign language", but he does watch my reaction to drivers and my words. I was able to even, in that moment, feel sad over the man's anger and bitterness. What kind of a morning had he had to make him feel that filled with rage? Not a great one, I imagine. I was able to pray for him and genuinely hope he knew, or could find, Christ.


More often than not, however, I feel entitled to be treated fairly by others. Most of the time, I react indignently to unfair treatment. I wish I could more consistently have more of an external viewpoint and love others in all circumstances. I am working on this constantly, and God is giving me encouragment in His Word, teachings at church and even examples, like the one mentioned, where I am able to feel love through mistreatment.


God wants us to walk in others' shoes and feel empathy with others. The problem is that we, more often that not, are too absorbed in our own schedules, lives and families to look at a stranger and care about their circumstances.


Christ was a perfect example of looking beyond Himself and loving others. He took time in His fatigue and schedule to heal sick, talk to sinners and encourage the downtrodden. One of my favorite verses of compassion is Matthew 23:37. It states, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." Christ realizes that these people will hurt Him, taunt Him, ridicule Him and kill Him, but He is able to have compassion over their sinful state and obstinate hearts. He doesn't excuse their behavior, but he loves them and wishes they could see the truth.


The next time a person mistreats you--a cashier is impatient with you or your children, a car cuts you off, or a co-worker gives you undeserved grief--walk in their shoes for a moment. Consider the possible circumstances of their lives and, most likely, their separation from God. Pray for compassion and think about why they might be acting in sin. This will prompt a heart filled with Christ's love to react to their unkindness with patience and caring.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pleasing People

"'There is no other form of wickedness that can become more intense, nor its plans more vast, nor its obstinancy more enduring, nor its destruction more extensive, or more dreadful than the love of distinction."'--Timothy Dwight's sermon entitled, "On the Love of Distinction" (President of Yale College from the late 1700's to the early 1800's.) (pg. 17)




I am four chapters into a convicting and powerful read called Pleasing People, by Lou Priolo. As I stated in my earlier post, I hope to take each chapter and post some of the gems of Biblical truth and insight into sin that Priolo brings to light.



Chapter one is called "Characteristics of a People Pleaser." Priolo begins the chapter by stating the truths of I Corinthians 2:13. He warns against leaning on human wisdom and psychology to understand what man has labeled "co-dependency." Instead, I Corinthians tells us to diagnose our sin and lives, "not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words." Priolo goes on and defines "co-dependency" as idolotry--looking for other things to do what only God can do in my life. He says that people pleasing is a more specific diagnosis that falls under the category of idolotry. It it the idolotry of self and approval from others over the approval of God. (John 12:43)




He gives a quiz to see if the reader falls into the category of a people pleaser. Let me spare you the pain of the questions. You do. I do. We all do. Even if you do not consider yourself a people pleaser, Priolo points out how we are all tempted to care about others' approval more than God's--though some more often than others.




Priolo says there are two driving forces to people pleasing--the desire for approval of others or the fear of losing someone's approval or respect--the two sides of the same coin. He gives a few ways in which you know that you sin in desiring mans' approval more than God's.




1. He fears the displeasure of man more than the displeasure of God. Fear of man is the motivation here. You have thoughts such as, "I'm not prepared to meet this person," "What does he/she think of me?", I can't reveal too much of myself or he will know what I'm really like and reject me.", etc. A people pleaser who fears mans' disapproval "is often willing to forfeit the peace of God that comes from standing up and suffering for the truth." (25) He also makes this careful distinction. "A people-pleaser is not a peacemaker, but rather a peace-lover. A peacemaker is willing to endure the discomfort of a conflict in the hope of bringing about a peaceful resolution." (25) They choose lack of conflict over giving the Biblical action or truth.





2. He desires the praise of man above the praise of God. Priolo gives the example of the Pharisees as a biblical portrait of this characteristic. He says that this individual says in his first thought, "not 'How will God be glorified by what I am about to do?' but rather 'How will others perceive me when I do what I am about to do?'" Priolo gives the Biblical examples of being pleasing to and glorifying God in Phil. 4:8, Romans 12:1, and Luke 17:15.





3. He studies what it takes to please man as much as (if not more than) what it takes to please God. This person is considered sensitive. They might label themselves as "reading people well." Priolo states, "The people-pleaser is so intent on gaining approval that he spends much of his time studying the interests, aversions, words, inflections, and body language of people. He is often inordinately sensitive to the countenances of those he is trying to please." (27) With this characteristic is a hypocritical love. He serves/loves others with the wrong motives. He is not really trying to show love Biblically, but, rather, he is trying to improve his own reputation or standing by acting in the interest of others.





4. His speech is designed to entice and flatter others into thinking well of him. Priolo gives the truths of I Thessalonians 2:4-5, which tell us we have been approved by God to give the truths of the gospel in order to please God, not man. However, a people-pleaser:
-Rarely confronts sin in the life of another believer.
-Rarely challenges or even questions the opinions of others.
-Prematurely terminates conflicts (usually by yielding, with drawing or changing the subject)
-Rarely reveals to others the truth about who he really is inside (especially struggles with sin)
-Finds it difficult to say "no" to those who make requests of him, even when he knows that saying "yes" is will not be the best choice.
and the list goes on . . . (pg. 28-29)





5. He is a respecter of persons. This type of individual will put more value on certain people because of their position, authority, reputation, wealth, looks, etc. He is often more kind and caring toward these certain people in order to gain, what looks like to him, an advantage. This goes against the commands of Leviticus 19:15.





6. He is oversensitive to correction, reproof, and other allusions of dissatisfaction or disapproval on the part of others. Any negative comment appears to be a threat to his reputation and he returns Biblical admonishment with foolish contempt, hate, withdrawal, sulking, or pouting.





7. He outwardly renders eye service to man rather than inwardly rendering sincere ministry to the Lord. Doing service for others to see, rather than for glory and obedience to God will cause sin and imbalance. Burnout often will follow. Also, this person doesn't base success on whether God was pleased with the service or attempt, but on how he did in the eyes of man and his definition of success.





8. He selfishly uses the wisdom, abilities, and gifts that have been given to him for God's glory and the benefit of others for his own glory and personal benefit. Wishing for more and practicing a lack of contentment is a sign of using gifts for the approval of others. Priolo gives a long list: "personal wealth, physical beauty, spiritual gifts, wisdom, vocation, artistic ability, athletic ability, verbal ability, musical ability, education, intellectual ability, financial status, family heritage, position in community, position at work, Biblical knowledge, reputation, spiritual accomplishments, location of one's home, appearance of one's home, accomplishments of children, and wordly possessions" are just a few he mentions. In themselves, they can be pleasurable gifts from God. However, when we lust for more or use the gifts to merely serve self, we have sinned.





9. He invests more of his personal resources in establishing his own honor than he does in establishing God's honor. The time, effort, thought and money given to personal edification are more than those given to God or His church body (for the proper motives).





10. He is discontented with the condition and proportion that God has appointed for him. We question God's choice for us. The people pleaser always wants more honor, authority, influence and wealth. A people pleaser isn't thankful.


Okay, that is the end of chapter ONE! I know! I was so full of pain seeing how subtle quirks in my behavior were downright, ugly, prideful sin, that I didn't know if I wanted to read further. However, I did. I'll post more later. I told you this was a convicting and powerful read!