Thursday, January 31, 2008


"so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" Philippians 2:15

Ryan and I just got back from the Bahamas at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning. We had a lovely time, missed our son tremendously, and really enjoyed having bonding time for our marriage. God is so good, and we are so appreciative of all the good gifts He continuously pours into our lives. I will post more about our trip later this week.

While we were in the Bahamas, we stayed at an all-inclusive resort; so we only wandered off the hotel campus once during our stay. At night, we would try to partake in the evening's more tame planned events, which two of the nights was a sing along at the piano. The resort hired a local man named Heston to come play the piano and have guests sing along to classic songs from 50's to 70's. Ryan and I loved this part of our trip, as we both like to sing.

To say Heston was talented is an understatement. More than anyone I've ever witnessed, he had an AMAZING singing voice and the piano playing skills of a professional. Without a doubt, he could be a famous musician someday. Time and again, the many guests singing around the piano would gape at his talent and skill.

On the first night Ryan and I did the sing along, I watched Heston closely and noticed that he didn't ever sing the word "Lord" if it was flippantly placed in song lyrics (example: Good Golly, Miss Molly). I also noticed that in one song it said something to the effect, "do you believe in the good Lord above" . . . to which Heston quietly pointed upward and said in a sing songy answer, "Yes I do!" When Ryan and I got back to the room of our hotel wing, I told Ryan I thought Heston might be a Christian, and I hoped we could find out more.

Well, God arranges things nicely. Ryan and I got to the piano early the next night, and when Heston arrived, the three of us chatted a bit. Heston was ecstatic when he found out we lived in Orange County, California. His father, who recently passed away, was a pastor who had been visited by Rick Warren. Because of this, Heston had also met pastor Warren and wanted to come visit Saddleback church desperately. He chatted briefly to the fact that he was currently deciding as to whether to use his gifts more in his own church or step back for sake of job and family. I was so inspired that God allowed this conversation! Heston asked for our e-mail address, as to which we gave him, along with our church's website and I Peter 4:10 written below it all: "Each one of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." Ryan graciously ran up to our room and gave Heston a copy of the book he was reading, "The Call," by Oz Guinness. Though Ryan was two chapters shy of finishing, the book spoke to the use of gifts our Creator gives us and how God may or may not use you to work in a church job. It spoke perfectly to the dilema Heston was facing. (Certainly not a coincidence).

Though you might be thinking that God used Ryan and I to minister to Heston, He also used Heston to encourage us. Upon hearing we were Christians, Heston smiled and said, "I knew it!" Among all the drinking (many drunk) and scantily clad guests, Ryan and I stood out to him. He told us that he had noticed us the night before, because our conduct was so different from the others in the room. He said it was "a breath of fresh air." Now I certainly do not want to sound prideful in writing this part. If anything, it made me feel disappointed that I don't hear this more often from strangers. I don't count it too great of a success that Ryan and I stood apart from a group of rowdy, drunk all-inclusive hotel guests. How difficult is that? My point in all of this is that it made me feel encouraged to live a life set apart with more vigor. I never assumed Heston was watching us, but I am glad my witness was not tarnished with sinful behavior. Because Ryan and I were living as Christians set apart from the lures of this world, the Holy Spirit was able to prompt us in conversation and action to help another person. I feel energized in my battle to live boldly and get through those "awkward" times with a resolve not to compromise just to "fit in."

I don't know if we'll hear from Heston. He said he wanted to take his family to Orange County this next year, and, if so, he would e-mail us. God certainly works in unexpected ways, so don't be surprised if we introduce you to our visitors, Heston and his family, in front of the church some Sunday. Either way, it was a meeting that encouraged and strengthened me in my walk, and it underlined the fact that God is everywhere--even at a piano bar in the beautiful Bahamas.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More than Many Sparrows

Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by
prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And
the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus."

I used to say I would never be one of those moms. Time and again, I'd hear about the anxiety moms would share about their children. I remember one mom, in particular, who would cry when she had to leave her children for any extended length of time. I would give a reassuring hug and wonder why she was so distraught.

God certainly humbles us when we think we are not fallible. Tomorrow, Ryan and I leave for a five day anniversary trip. We decided to celebrate five years and have a short, yet extended time together before any thoughts of baby two limit our solo time together again for a few years. When we made the plans, it sounded relaxing and fun. Now that I have to say goodbye to Carter tomorrow, I am sad and anxious. I feel guilty for leaving him when he doesn't understand, and I am worried because our phone access will be limited, if any. We are leaving him with both of our parents, who he absolutely adores; but, in my mind, no one is like mom.

Through this process, I've learned a few lessons. Of course, I've been convicted of my anxiety and lack of trust in God's plan. Jesus has many words of instruction on worry and anxiety. He certainly was qualified to feel those emotions, but we know He always trusted His Heavenly Father. In Matthew 10:29-31, Christ reassures us,

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the
ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your
head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many

Any worry or panic I feel concerning Carter is a lack of trust in God's care for us. I can do my part by packing his bags carefully and making sure my instructions are clearly written, but once I stop trusting God's plan and will for Carter and try to worry the unknown into my control, I have sinned. Confidently, I can be reassured that whatever happens to Carter is allowed by our loving God, who knows even the number of hairs on my little boy's head. Though there might be no person like mom to Carter, even mom cannot come close to caring about him like God. It is so peaceful knowing someone loves him even more than I do.

Another error I have exposed is my lack of understanding that my first ministry priority in my family is to be my husband. Ryan finds great joy in traveling and getting away from home. With a 22 month old, we don't get to indulge in this practice very often. What joy I should feel in the fact that Ryan and I have a chance to do something that will rejuvenate him, our marriage, and bring us closer together! I have a responsibility and ministry as a mom, but leaving Carter for five days with his loving grandparents is not a neglect in that role. If I am honest with myself, I more often neglect the role of being a Biblical wife due to the weariness, time and emotional toll of being a stay-at-home mom to a toddler. This trip should be a time to focus on my husband and our marriage, not to angst over a perfectly cared for child. How silly I can be when I turn God's blessings into my own trials and difficulties due to my sinful heart.

You can pray for my attitude while we are gone. I AM excited to be with my husband and have some uniterrupted conversation and time to just be together. However, I know how quickly my flesh can corrupt the blessing this trip should be, and I can forget the fact that I Peter 5:7 tells us we can "cast all (our) anxiety on Him, because He cares for (us)." He loves our family more than many sparrows, and He loves us more than I can ever fathom loving Ryan or Carter. Thank you, Father!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Desert Valley

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

This last weekend was our Brian Head, Utah ski trip. We were going with Ryan's family and our mutual family friends, the Van Schoicks. All of us were driving the 8 and 1/2 hour drive, so I bought many Wiggles and Elmo DVD's the week prior, found and borrowed ski clothes for our family and spent a couple of days packing.

The day to leave finally came, so Ryan and I packed Carter into our SUV on Friday and drove 8 hours to Utah. The trip up was flawless. Carter took over a two hour nap, I didn't have to ask Ryan to stop too often, and, with the help of some Wiggles videos, Carter didn't utter a peep or whine the entire 8 hours. Then we hit the Utah state line.
We were so tired from driving all day, and the excitement of getting to the cabin and sleeping was getting more and more real. As I was pondering a warm fire with snow falling outside, I was disturbed by a weird noise from the back seat. I turned around just in time to see Carter get sick repeatedly all over his blankies, clothes and car seat. We had eight normal hours in the car, and just as we got within half an hour of our vacation spot, Carter came down with the stomach flu. Ryan and I both looked at each other in disbelief. We were going to be around three other toddlers over the weekend, so there was no way we could bring a sick Carter into the confined cabin. We ended up pulling over into a hotel in Cedar City to weather the night of sickness. We had pits in our stomach and disappointment all over our faces. We chatted and knew we had to drive another eight hours back home the next day.

Well, Carter was done being sick by morning, and he then acted as if nothing had happened. We decided to drive the half an hour to the cabin to drop off Ryan's mom's birthday present and to just see what Brian Head, Utah would have offered. We arrived to find out one of the other toddlers had thrown up once the night before and that poor Susan, Ryan's mom (birthday girl), was sick with aches and chills in bed. This wasn't even counting one part of the family who had all had the flu the week prior. After realizing everyone was sick or exposed already, and after hearing everyone repeatedly urge us to stay, we decided to take a risk and stay for the weekend.

No one else got the stomach flu, and the trip was fun, other than our dear friend breaking his poor shoulder skiing (but that is another post, another time). What stays in my mind is the realization that I took a step of growth in my Christian walk when we realized Carter was sick that first evening. My first reaction was panic and disbelief, and I heard myself quietly asking God, "Why?" I am sure it wasn't an innocent "why", but more of a whining, grumbling, and complaining "why". I was getting tears in my eyes as I stared out the window into the desert sky, but the whole way to the hotel, I kept hearing Job 2:10 in my mind. "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" After musing on this thought, I hummed some praise to God and felt His peace settle on my heart.

I am so ready to accept bonuses, praise, gifts, blessings and perfect situations from God without a "Why?" We all struggle with an attitude of such entitlement. However, when plans are spoiled or sickness or trouble enter our lives, we stop and direct inquiries at God. If we are Christians, following God's will, we are to obey and follow, no matter whether God leads us through the highest of hills or the deepest of valleys. As Job points out, we need to accept the good and the bad that God allows, for He is God in all situations, and our faith must not waver when we are in darker places.
Certainly eight hours out of life and a case of the stomach flu is not the darkest valley I will ever navigate. God has allowed more difficult challenges in my life than this weekend. However, I was pleased to learn a lesson in righteousness as I traveled wearily at night beneath the deep Utah desert sky. I CAN choose to take the good and bad situations in life in equal stride when they are from my loving Heavenly Father. He is far bigger and greater than any desert, any illness, any disappointment and any loss. He is my God.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Encourage One Another: Tana Larson

I Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

In December, I took a break from my I Thessalonians 5:11 posts, but I wanted to make sure I started off 2008 well and posted one before I leave on the first of our two January trips. (see post below). Today, I want to acknowledge and encourage the labor and hard work of Tana Larson.

If you have partaken in any manner of Women's Bible Study: listening to CD's, gotten a notebook independently, come on a regular basis or perhaps even just used the prayer notebook that WBS graciously offers in the Compass Book Store, then you have benefited from the work of our sister in Christ, Tana.

Though there are many dear sisters who work vigorously to help Tana coordinate all the facets of this ministry, Tana is the go-to-person for Women's Bible Study. Under the direction of our Women's Ministries director, Stephanie Schwartz, Tana directs, emcee's, and oversees Women's Bible study at Compass Bible Church.

I remember the first Compass Thursday Night class this fall. I was running between childcare, the church and the Compass Room, because we had gotten so many new Thrive attendees, and we were juggling our first night. I ran into Tana in the parking lot, and I stopped to chat with her about shifting members in our WBS small group, due to its size. She had spent the last two or three weeks accomodating requests, graciously enduring "suggestions" from members, and trying to balance and get leaders for all the small groups. Most of us would be tired and not really excited to further discuss yet another roster problem. Tana met me with a smile and patiently listened to me ramble about our new moms needing spots and the size of our group. I left the conversation encouraged myself and feeling like the leadership of the ministry cared about my opinion. I also realized how MUCH Tana works for this ministry in ways that most of us don't realize. She had been up late (that is understating it) into the evenings e-mailing, calling and getting rosters finalized. Never would she broadcast that to the group.

Something I hear over and over again about Women's Bible Study is how much women grow and are confronted with the truth of the Bible when they attend. Another often heard remark is how ORGANIZED this ministry runs. People joke about the fact that, of course, women's ministry is organized and detailed in planning, but it is overlooked that the organization is due to the efforts and planning of its leaders, which includes our hardworking Tana!

Tana is a very outgoing, caring sister in Christ. If you sit by her or run into her at a function, she'll gladly chat, often bringing her conversation to point to God and His attributes. I am so blessed by all she does for WBS. For the past two and a half years (since I was able to stop working) I have watched my personal walk take direct, truthful and benefitial encounters from the lessons given on Wednesday morning. If you looked at the list at the top and realized you have benefited from Tana's hard work and direction, take a moment to say thank you when you see her. She is a dear, effective worker for God's glory.

I Corinthians 15:58, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Catching up with Carter: personality, Disneyland and "school"

Okay. I haven't posted about Carter in a bit, and we've been busy. In fact, we are going to be even busier. We have a trip to Utah and the Bahamas this month, so you will see fewer posts on my blog in January. For now, here are three fun updates about Carter.

I thought this sums up Carter well. I went to pick him up from children's ministries this morning, after my Women's Bible Study. All the toddlers were on the floor in a circle near the teacher. Some were playing with toys or puzzles, but a majority were watching my son. He was standing at the head of the circle, pressing buttons on a yellow bus toy. When the tin-sounding music would start straining from the bus, he'd squat like he was surfing and wiggle his bottom in a crazy, toddler dance. This was accompanied by his high-pitched giggles and those of the kids and teacher who were his audience. Always the class clown. To all his future teachers, I apologize. I've had students like my son, and I'm working on training his little heart to be obedient when he needs to be.

Yesterday we took Carter to Disneyland for the first time. Ryan and I were so excited to receive annual passes and parking from my parents! We drove up after Carter's nap, and he was absolutely at a loss for words. When we first walked under the train tunnel to enter Main Street, he actually sat frozen in his stroller for a few minutes. It was too amazing for movement--even from Carter. He wanted to see the horses pulling the cart, go on the choo-choo whistling in the Main Street Station, visit the characters warmly waving at every family nearby, and touch the millions of decorations and details we passed. The park was still decorated for Christmas, so we were able to see snow on the castle and all the lights when it got dark later that evening.

We started slowly, having him go on the carousel first. Did you know that a carousel has moving parts (up and down) that go around and a merry-go-round has static horses that only go around in a circle? Anyway, we then tried Pinocchio, which proved to be a bit darker and scarier than I remember. Thankfully, Carter was enthralled with the moving car and the loud music more than he was bothered by the dark creatures plagueing the rider. In the picture, you can see Carter hanging from the line directors like a monkey (his feet are hanging, though you can't see it.) Again, this was for the amusement of all the moms laughing in sympathy for me. We went on Dumbo, which Carter liked, but called "swings" for the rest of the day. The Casey Jr. train proved to be a hit too, as Carter admires and loves anything locomotive related. He happily waved to all the tourists as he chugged by them in the monkey cage. We also went on the real train that goes around the whole park, which Carter found amusing for only the first five minutes. I think he likes to look AT the train, but riding it and not being able to see it isn't the same. It took about half an hour to go around the park, and they kept asking him to sit down, which most of you know is NOT his forte. We then went on Pirates, which he doesn't find scary yet. He was interested in the fact that the whole ride is a tunnel, and the excess of water features also gave it a thumbs up. It's a Small World was fun, but he was starting to get tired. He wanted to wiggle out of his seat and was hard to contain. Again, the water and tunnels kept him somewhat satisfied. In the end, we also partook of Toon Town and walked around Tomorrowland and Adventureland. It got amazingly cold as the day progressed. We knew it was time to leave when his teeth were chattering and his hands shaking--despite a long sleeve shirt, a thick sweatshirt with a hood and a heavy canvas jacket with a hood over that. He lasted until we got to the car, but the warmth of the automobile and blankies we had waiting in his car seat were too much to resist. As we drove away from the gigantic Mickey and Friends Parking Structure, he was snoring away, dreaming of tunnels, trains and Disney magic.

Finally, Carter has dumped Elmo--not entirely, but he is newly interested in The Wiggles. He jumps, dances and sings to the acts the four singers provide. Since he would watch the Wiggles for hours of the day, I decided it was time to do some structured learning time with him. Three times a week, we go upstairs to our "school" table and learn. We've been covering alphabet letters, numbers, colors, shapes, comparisons (big and small, short and tall, etc.), fine motor skills and Bible. He has Genesis 1:1 posted on his closet mirror with drawings to help make it kid friendly. He doesn't sit still very long, which is partly because of needed training and maturity and partly because he has the energy of the Energizer Bunny. Having taught elementary school, I know kids are different. So, we sit for some of the lesson, but we jump and clap to the alphabet and play "drums" when we count. One night, Carter amazed Ryan and I by identifying almost the whole alphabet on flashcards. The next day he only knew A, O and E. Another day he counted to 10. Currently, he can count to 1. It is amazing how one day they concentrate and recall and the next day they fuss and look completely overwhelmed. "School" is a way of disciplining my patience level too. It has been fun to see him learn and explore his world. I love being his mommy! Well, if you read this far, thank you for obliging a mother's interests in her kid. : )

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Pursuit of Holiness: Conviction and Responsibility

Colossians 3:5 "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly
nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is

I am reading such a wonderful book! I am on chapter 10 of Jerry Bridges' The Pursuit of Holiness. I knew from the first page that I had found a convicting and truthful read about holiness. In the forward, the book tells us that even our beloved Declaration of Independence tells us that one of our unalienable rights is "the pursuit of happiness." If we are Christians, we are not to actively seek our own happiness. We are to seek God, His will and have a lifelong pursuit for holiness. I Peter 1:15 tells us "Be holy, for I am holy." As Christians, we are countercultural indeed.

Bridges tells us over and over that, "God has made provision for our holiness and He has also given us a responsibility for it." (77) He provided Christ, the forgiveness of all our sin, and gave us the Holy Spirit to reveal sin, promote a desire for holiness and and strengthen us as we fight sin. In addition, he has provided His Word to spell out His will, His laws and His truths.

Our responsibility lies in responding in obedience and using God's tools to put our sinful desires to death. Bridges uses many verses to prove this point. Here are a couple: Colossians 3:5 says, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature." Hebrews 12:1 urges, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everthing that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

One way we can effectively feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit and put to death the sins we commit repeatedly is by reading God's Word. Bridges points out that our minds are "accustomed to the world's values." (85) We are hit with such things as ads, radio, billboards, newspaper articles, and friends who all espouse worldly wisdom and entice us into sinful desires. We must combat this with God's values. We need to be in the Word daily. We need to memorize His Word so it is ready for us in the battle of temptation. We can renew our minds and reprogram what bombards us all day from the world. Bridges points out that even the kings of Israel were told to be in the Word they had "all the days of (their) life(s)" so that they could learn about holiness and God's specific instructions. (Deuteronomy 17:19)

I loved the next section of the chapter, where Bridges talks about discerning whether an activity, which is not specifically mentioned in scripture, is holy or potentially sinful. He gives 4 questions, based on I Corinthians, to ask about the activity:

1. "'Everything is permissible for me'--but not everything is beneficial" (I Cor. 6:12) Question 1: Is it helpful--physically, spiritually and mentally?

2. "'Everything is permissible for me'--but I will not be mastered by anything" (I Corinthians 6:12) Question 2: Does it bring me under its power?

3. "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall" (I Cor. 8:13). Question 3: Does it hurt others?

4. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31). Question 4: Does it glorify God?

If we ask ourselves these questions honestly, we certainly will feel freedom in acting or conviction and desire to stop.

The end of the chapter discussed our desires to sin less and less as incorrect. Rather, he hopes we all aim to NOT sin, rather than accepting "a little" sin to be okay. We know that we will sin on earth, but our aim and goal is telling of our commitment to holiness. He compares it to a soldier in battle who aims to only get hit by gunfire "a little". How silly! That soldier better make his goal to stay away from that gunfire! We seem to all drag our feet a bit when we desire something sinful: one more look before I turn it off or put it down, one more glutonous meal before I buckle down on my diet, and just one more T.V. show or e-mail before I go do my Bible study. We need to make sincere resolutions to be HOLY. It is a long and hard battle, lasting this lifetime, so let's earnestly get started!