Tears of Remembrance

IMG_8469For the past week I have caught myself shedding a tear without  realizing I was crying. While driving to work, trying to fall asleep, having my morning coffee I have felt a tear on my cheek after pondering on my family’s fast approaching change. I don’t think I could even explain to you or myself the emotion that is producing such tears.

A week from today my husband and I will tell everyone goodnight, lock the doors, turn out the lights, and then I will lay my head on my pillow with an overwhelming thankfulness that all my children are home in their beds safe and sound. Over the past several years, these nights have been few and far between but much anticipated and relished by this mom. I have always, like most parents, fallen asleep thinking and praying for my kids. When they were small I loved to walk down the hall and peek in as they slept. I was always blessed by the peacefulness I witnessed as they slept.  My favorite part of the day is at bedtime when everyone is home and all is quiet.  The quiet has always given me a sense of rest and thankfulness. My children are occupied, safe and free of harm for the moment.  As this thought comes to my mind, tears fall that my oldest is now a man all grown and on his own. His room will soon be transformed to a guest room.  In the future when I lay my hand on the door to gently open it to peek in, I will remember the little blonde headed boy hard to wake up for school, the teenager who assured me “Mom, I got this”, and the young man who packed up for college.

Next week my son will bring a new member into our family. The thought of her being my daughter in-law has brought tears as well. Loving her is so easy and my gratitude for her has brought tears down my cheeks for sure. She is the light of his life and brings a huge smile to his face. She is beautiful inside and out. Her compassion, thoughtfulness and love for Jesus Christ far exceeds the prayers I had prayed for his mate.  They bring laughter and stability to each other and to those around them.  God has joined them with a like minded passion for ministry where ever it leads.  I’m thankful she will take my role as number one lady in his life.  I pray I will be able to bless her in the years to come as much as she has blessed me with her love for our son.

My trail of tears is evidence of past blessings and future blessings. They are a reminder to me that parenting changes more often than we would like. Just as we find a rhythm and normalcy, they take a turn in a different direction.  This perspective is not from perfection by any means but from the reality that your time is quick. Moments are fewer than our simple minds would lead us to believe. My role as a parent is the most significant task I will ever encounter. Proverbs 22:5-7 instructs us to teach our children in the way he should go.

God reminded me through my tearful thoughts of 5 approaches that I have learned as a mother that have helped me stay focused to instruct my children in the way God would have them go.

  • Be Authentic   Our children need to see our faith. They need to witness the imperfections of our personalities, and our stride to allow the Holy Spirit to fill these imperfections is faith building for us and our children. They most likely have some of those same weaknesses and need to witness how to overcome them to have victory over areas in their life. Our actions need to be the same whether at home or in public. Eyes are watching us closer than we think. What our children see will give them a character reference they will use the rest of their lives.  Authentic always trumps perfection.

 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Hebs. 11:1

  • Be Appreciative   Often times we as parents get so caught up in the business of life we fail to see and appreciate our blessings. Not only the blessings of good health and   provisions but the blessings of growth. Often times we grow more during times of heartache and trouble. Those are the times that lead us and our children to humility and heart change. It’s hard to sit back when our children encounter hurt and disappointment. We want to jump in quickly and take it away or make decisions for them. When they experience the grace of God in times of repentance or regret it depends their relationship with their heavenly Father. We must be grateful for the work in their hearts no matter the circumstances.

 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess 5:18

 

  •   Be Affirming Spiritually   Parents usually find it natural to affirm good grades, achievements in sports or hobbies. We  have to affirm spiritual truths when we see them in our children’s lives and those around us. Affirming to the next generation the spiritual calling and purpose on our lives is of utmost importance. We sometimes lead our children with the assumption that they will grow up to have a reverence to God and His purpose in their lives. This may not be the case. Ratifying the importance and place of lordship is crucial in raising spiritually mature young adults and will help   clarify their calling in life.

 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19

  •   Be Active    Mothers are pros at taking everyone’s schedule  and combining it into one master calendar. The calendar that rules the household. Practices, appointments, activities fill up the squares with their own special colors and codes.  All three of my children are as active as most average kids these days. I so enjoy the sideline view of the sports world when my children are playing. The happiness all of that activity has brought me cannot compare with the overwhelming blessing of being active alongside my kids serving God. I was able to witness firsthand the “Jesus” moments in their lives. I was blessed to witness them as God led them to the altar of repentance and pray with them countless times. I wouldn’t trade a single youth worship service or camp for anything. No matter how tired I was or how loud the music was it was well worth the tiny inconvenience. Watching your children worship the Lord brings blessing after blessing.

“Only be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves, so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren.   Deuteronomy 4:8-10

 

  •  Be Alert   Mother’s intuition has a way of keeping us aware when things aren’t just right with our families. That gut feeling can lead to powerful prayers. As this world reaches to entangle our children, we have to stay alert to the enemy. Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17  “ I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but  that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not  of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth”. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could love our children more than we do. But God does just that. He offers a love that   gives grace and forgiveness to them if only they surrender. We must be alert to God’s conviction in their lives and call for  them. Instilling God’s word by incorporating God in every area of your family’s life is crucial to their spiritual faith. Family worship, a family prayer box, or a family memory verse to claim for a season can all be instruments used to protect your child from the evil one.

  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour    1 Peter 5:8

As my head hits the pillow next week this “Mother of the Groom” may continue to shed a tear or two. Each tear will be a reminder that I am blessed beyond measure. Thank you Lord for my new sweet member of my family and being there to help me as I’ve had the honor of being a Mom to my oldest fellow.

 

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A Sacrifice of Praise

Todd Smith

Yesterday a long time friend’s life was remembered and celebrated. I unfortunately, was not able to attend his funeral but have heard accounts through mutual friends of his steadfastness of faith and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.  Todd Smith was definitely all of those things and more. His heart was always open for opportunities to help others and spread the gospel.  I can remember asking Todd to explain to a student I had years ago the nuts and bolts of purchasing a car. He calmly and patiently took time from his busy schedule and explained to this sweet girl exactly the steps she needed to take. It seems like yesterday that we all sat in Sunday School together as the young married.  As I remembered Todd, and prayed for his wife Lori and their four children yesterday, God reminded me of how this family taught me spiritual lessons long ago.

Lori and her children offered to the Lord a sacrifice of praise as they mourned the loss of their beloved husband and father.  At a moment in life when there seems to be so much confusion and hurt, they knew the one thing that needed to be done, was to offer praise to their heavenly father. My facebook newsfeed was full of witnessing accounts of the awesome strength seen from the family and the amazement that they could stand strong and worship during this time.  I myself witnessed this same ability in another Smith relative years ago.  It is a picture that stays in my mind and reminds me to find strength to praise God in times of trouble.

Lori’s mother, Carlene Hoskins, also exhibited the strength so many have been amazed by, years ago. She was one of several people who shared their testimony as part of a musical that our church performed. “God With Us” was a powerful event that echoed praise to God in all our circumstances. Mrs. Carlene did just that. After fighting more than one battle against cancer she spoke of God’s presence and power to the crowds that gathered. I don’t remember all the words she spoke but I will never forget watching her as she stood at her seat after speaking demonstrating true worship.  Although she was in a crowded sanctuary she worshiped as if she was standing at the foot of Jesus. She raised her hands in praise to the one who saved her soul and walked with her every step of the way.  You could tell that in her moments of pain and weakness He had made her strong and she had not forgotten.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. Hebrews 13:15

 

That mental picture of Mrs. Carlene has returned through the years when I’ve taught about worship or when I’ve been asked questions about worship. “It is well with my soul” was perfectly demonstrated by Lori’s wonderful mother years ago and now Lori herself has demonstrated it again.   What a spiritual heritage the Smith family lives before us!  My heart aches for Todd’s family and their loss and for the days they face. My prayers will continue for you all. Thank you for being a vessel God uses to teach us that there is power in His presence.

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That Moment When…

Hand in Hand

That moment when you receive word that life’s normalcy has been forever changed. We all experience moments of impending news that will be forever engrained in our memories. Forever memories like standing in the kitchen answering the phone to hear my grandmother’s frantic voice telling me that my grandfather was unresponsive to walking around the back of an ambulance that would transport my six year old to the hospital. Often times these circumstances create overwhelming feelings and thoughts. I have found myself many times in the midst of the mental process asking myself “Is this real?” Life seems to change quickly and furiously with news of test results, heart conditions, car accidents, seizures, tornados, the list could go on and on.

Recently I was reminded, as I experienced one of these type events, how deeply the fear and hurt goes through our minds. As I processed the situation, I was reminded that just like in Old Testament days, God goes before His children.

Deuteronomy 31:8

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you;

He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed

I was able to see clearly that steps were taken and preparations made that proved God had entered the circumstances long before me. He wasn’t called in for a consult. God promises me He will never leave me nor forsake me because I am His child.

My husband and I received news that he may have a serious medical condition, that if not diagnosed, could be life altering. This news is what led me to begin this blog entry. I began to journal my thoughts and mediate on God going before me. I began the entry and set it aside to finish later. Unknown to me the next twenty-four hours would produce two emergency phone calls.

The first call came from my husband saying his pain was too much to handle and he felt we needed to go to the emergency room. After seeking medical attention, my husband went home to rest and I went back to work. Not long after arriving at work I received my second call. As I answered the phone I heard my daughter’s voice franticly telling me she had been involved in a car accident. I grabbed my keys and set out to the scene. As I drove, God reminded me of the second part of the verse I had just recently been given. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that my Lord not only had gone before me but was also with me and my daughter. I began to praise Him and remind myself to look for spiritual evidence of His presence. The crumbled car yet there were no serious injuries, the calmness both my husband and I experienced in spite of surroundings and his undiagnosed medical condition, witnesses at the scene that were able to immediately help our daughter until until we arrived were all examples of God’s presence.

I have endured many circumstance that evoked pain and sorrow through my life. Not all of the emergency call have ended in the way I would have prayed or hoped. Just like the present situation, I can look back and see God going before me and God being with me. Presently as we wait for a diagnosis of what may be life altering, I am not fearful or dismayed. I am choosing to see God’s hand instead of the brokenness of my circumstances. Oh, how it has blessed me to have the peace of God in the midst of this trial. I pray my family’s light of God’s glory is seen brighter than our circumstance. Only through His strength can we have this power and hope. My friend if you are not a child of God my prayer is that God would prod your heart to see just how much He loves you. He is there for you and can not only give you eternal life, forgiveness of all your sins but also a peace that passing ALL understanding.

Matthew 5:16 let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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Big in the Sky

I can remember feeling so much peace and assurance years ago when someone shared with me that God doesn’t keep his will a secret from us. My early adult years were filled with actions of a spiritual detective hoping I was on the right clue trail. Relief came after being taught God wants us to ask His will for our lives and He will be faithful to reveal it, I began to pray just that. One day after praying such a prayer I can remember asking God to “write big in the sky.” I wanted to make sure I was still following that clue trail. I must say I’ve had some answers revealed to me through situations so bold they couldn’t have been missed, just like they had been written big in the sky.
This week after praying with a young friend for God to reveal to her His will for her vocation, I added in the prayer “Write big in the sky, Lord”. After we finished praying, I remembered for just a glimpse those moments when He spoke loudly to me. The memory of those times brought great joy for those few moments. However the significance of those words did not linger in my thoughts.
Just days after that prayer, I began experiencing a very troubled time. A time when I  knew God was calling me to be obedient. Yet I wasn’t quite sure what that obedience needed to look like. I didn’t have time to “look to the sky.” Words needed to be said, actions needed to be taken, as well as decisions had to be made. I found myself in warfare and quickly searched my heart and head for wisdom. Unfortunately, I found my heart and head untrustworthy. My emotions and head flooded me with images that might not have passed a litmus test for spiritual truth. It was in these moments, God granted me wisdom through His word. Passages I had read and studied months back came to my rescue. They rescued me from my battered emotions that would have directed me to be the victim. They rescued me from my mind that may have insisted for clarification of words being spoken. God’s word spoke to me louder than reading a message He could write in the sky.

If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
As soon as I could get a moment to myself, I searched for the verse God brought to my mind and I found it in Romans 12:18. I knew it had to be my anchor in all decisions I faced that week. It provided me with a path that I knew would be God’s will. Many other verses were used to guide me out of troubled waters. They reminded me that although I couldn’t see the end, I was walking in the correct path of obedience. I was reminded today while reading the scripture in my devotion that I was not led by voices, dreams or even a sign so big it would be hard to miss. I was led by God’s word.

Judges 6:37-40
You must not be led by voices, dreams, and fleeces.
Thankful today for all the sky script through the years and extra grateful for the voice of truth spoken by His word!  2 Timothy tells us all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, connecting and training in righteousness so that servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. By the grace of God I was blessed to experience the usefulness of God’s word yet again.

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The Good, Bad, and Ugly

I, as many of you, enjoyed the start of a new year and all the possibilities it may bring- unchartered territory and adventure ahead, especially with teenagers in the house. As fireworks blast into the air on New Year’s Eve, I was flooded with memories from the past year. As I remembered circumstances from the past year I realized I subconsciously categorized them into two categories: good and bad.

After my inventory of good and bad circumstances of 2013, I gave 2013 the grade of “good”. Feeling blessed my good outweighed the bad, unlike many years in my past, I went on without giving it much more thought.

A couple of weeks into our New Year, God seemed to echo Genesis 1 in my thoughts. I kept going back to “and God saw that it was good.” God chose to create our world in stages. He created the world in His timing and in the order that He wanted to and then He looked at each work of creation and proclaimed that it was good.

It was then that I realized that I had analyzed my circumstances from this past year instead of God’s work. I had remembered the jobs opportunities, my kids’ behavior, my house repairs, finances, friends, family, sicknesses and deaths. I looked at each situation with a circumstantial focus, which is not the equivalent of God’s focus. I was reminded God’s focus is on our heart.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

So I began to reflect back once again on the year that had just come to a close, but this time I tried to remember the heart that engulfed those circumstances. How did my heart respond to friends, family, strangers, loss, gifts, opportunities given and opportunities taken away? What were my heart’s reactions when faced with both trials and treasures? God continually works in us to make us more like Him. This past year each one of the circumstances, which I had viewed as situations that either I benefited from or harmed me, God was using to minister to my heart so that I would be more like Him. Now for this I needed more than two categories; you see, there had been good in my heart along with bad. Sadly I think I saw some ugly.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

Each year that passes believers are being transformed to be like our Lord.

Now looking back on some situations, where before I only saw the hurt feelings and disappointments, I now can see God’s subtle whispers of warning. Warnings of: use caution with your tongue, your priorities are becoming blurred, be kinder, and love the people in your path. Unfortunately, I must confess many times those whispers were never heard because of busyness and selfishness. Some of the whispers had to become louder than I would have liked. A few had to be loud enough for me to hear over my own voice. Those are the ugly.

But God’s word promises me that His mercies are new every morning so I am receiving that merciful grace and determined to grow in the next year so much that when I hear a whisper from my heavenly father I will respond with quiet and seek His word so that I will hear His voice and not mine.

God has reminded me as this first month of the new year comes to an end, that He has called us to be the light of the world and that when our hearts forgive others, love others, minister to others and pray for others we are that light that brings God glory.

Ephesians 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of the light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness,
righteousness and truth and find out what pleases the Lord.

So my goal for this next year will be to live as a child of light in all my daily tasks. I pray that my ears and eyes are tuned in closer to see His hand and hear His voice. Reminded of whom I belong to and the power available through Him, I am committed to produce the fruit of light. Oh, to hear the words and God saw that is was good.

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