Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless HIS HOLY NAME.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Child's Art

I have always loved my children's drawings and art work. Since they were very small, I have collected and saved back their finest masterpieces.

Their pictures and drawings give me an idea of what is in their little minds and hearts, and it allows me to know what they are thinking. This has always been so important to me!

The things my children say and the way they say them are a signal to me of their attitudes and their innermost feelings.  And their attitude is the light that shines on what is in their souls. 

"The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly."  Proverbs 20:27

--If you can read this one and figure it out, you'll get quite a laugh!--


There have been times that I have paid special attention to some things my children have said and the way in which they were said; and sure enough, there was an "unsettled bit of business" in their little minds and hearts. A bit of talking to, encouragement to talk to Mama, some tears shed, reading Scriptures pertaining to the subject; a word of prayer with my child, and it was all taken care of.  He's back to his old happy self, and Mama feels relief and gratefulness in her heart. "Thank You, Lord!"

May God help us parents to really look into our children's eyes, to see their expressions and to see the attitudes and meanings behind the words they say. Look at their drawings and ask them what it means and what they're expressing.  Don't be too busy with life's less important, sometimes demanding things. Make your children a priority. 

Taking 3-4 minutes to look at her picture and to talk about it with her may save you heartache down the road in her life. Mommy sees and appreciates my work; she takes the time to ask me about it and makes sure she understands what I'm conveying through my pictures.

Then she hangs it on the fridge and shows Daddy when he comes home. This makes me feel appreciated. I am special, and I am loved. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

How Does She Do It?

Have you ever watched one of your Mommy friends and asked that question?  "How does she do it?"


I have.  On a day when the kids are lagging behind in their school work; when you just can't get around to cleaning the bathroom (the last 3 days); the laundry is piling up because it has been raining  and the laundry can't be hung outside; you look out the window and see the neighbor walking by to take her children to school, and she has her hair done up so nicely and she looks so fresh so early in the morning.  Or you feel like you're really "on the ball" this morning and everything seems to be under control, only to realize...you're not sure what you will fix for lunch and the children are hungry.


Have you ever had a day like that, or am I the only one?  And you're standing over a sink of dirty dishes, and another Mommy friend comes to your mind, and in frustration you think:  "How does she do it?  She has seven children and her house always seems to be in perfect order; the children's school work is done; her laundry doesn't ever seem to be piled up; she always looks like she stepped out of a fashion magazine."

I've had days like that, and the devil perches himself right up onto my shoulder and begins his accusations, and discouraging darts strike right through my mind and heart.  If I let myself, I can get pretty low, and be really hard on myself.  "You got up at 6:30.  What do you have to show for it?!"

If I can make myself reason correctly, and let the Holy Spirit speak to me instead of paying attention to the devil, I realize several things:

1)  Comparison is the thief of joy and contentment

II Corinthians 10:12 says that "...but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."

I must realize that I will never be like my sister, Sarah.  She is the sweet and patient mother of six beautiful children.  She has the gift of being able to just sit down in the midst of a messy living room and relax and enjoy watching her children play.  She is not worried about cleaning up the living room before sitting to relax.

My sister-in-law, Jolene, is the perfect example of organization and being able to stick to a job until it is done.  Her beautiful daughter is always (ALWAYS) dressed in doll dresses, with her hair done up in the cutest styles.  In my mind, she is the ideal mommy.  But I am not her, and I will never be just like her!

My friend, Colleen, always makes time for tea parties with her girls and has time to sew such lovely things, and makes (yes, I said MAKES) dolls for her girls for Christmas.  What an ideal Mommy! But I am not her, and I must realize I do not have the gift of sewing or making lovely crafts.  I can't be just like her!

Not long ago, I threw up my hands in frustration and thought, "I will never be patient like Sarah!  I will never be organized like Jolene!  I will never be creative like Colleen."  Then I thought, "I am not them!  I will never be them!  I am myself and God made me who I am!"


There is a danger in comparing yourself to people whom you THINK are smart, organized, patient, creative, and just always "on the ball."  Comparison is the thief of contentment and can steal your joy.

2) You are who God made you to be

I can lament not being all that I want to be.  Or I can say, "Hey, I am NOT Jolene or Sarah or Colleen.  I am MYSELF!"  My mother said something recently that just really blessed my heart.  She was speaking on "The Ministry of a Mother," and she said, "God placed your child in YOUR womb because He knew that your child needed YOU for his mother."  You can say, "Oh...my poor children will NEVER have a perfect mother!"  Or you can say, "I am the mother God chose for my children!"

God knows me.  He knows my failures and He knows my frustrations and He sees me when my house is a mess and my day isn't going as planned.  And yet, He gave these children to ME.  He chose ME to be the wife to that wonderful man who is my husband.  I love reflecting on the thought that, in spite of the fact that He knew what my faults would be, He still entrusted these precious children into my care.




I like observing Sarah and Jolene and Colleen (and others) and I try to let them encourage me and inspire me to do better.  But I can't compare myself to them because I am NOT them!

3) Enjoy what God has given to YOU

When you let comparison rob you of your joy, you are missing out on great blessings every day.  I remind myself that, although I am not perfect and my children aren't either, they are so precious, and there is no greater earthly treasure I have than them.  I live in a comfortable house, and it fulfills the needs of our family.  Our house will sometimes be a mess, the furniture will sometimes be dusty, dinner will sometimes be a little late, the laundry will sometimes get piled up; and although I like to get my chores done in the early hours of the day, it is OKAY if it doesn't all get done.  Life can still be sweet and fun when things are a little messy.



What do I want my children to remember when they look back on their childhood?  Do I really want them to remember a Mommy who was always stressed out because she just couldn't get it all done?  Or do I want them to remember a peaceful and joyful Mommy who conveyed an "it's okay, I will eventually get it done" attitude?




4) Let Jesus be your example

God is so compassionate. He made you.  He knows you. He doesn't expect you to be like anyone else.

"But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth."  Psalm 86:15

I thank the Lord that He knows me and loves me as I am.  He sees my struggles, yet He encourages me and gives me hope.  The devil tries to get me to see only the negative, but the Lord helps me to see that I can do all things through Christ.  He is my strength.


So determine that you are going to enjoy being YOU the way that YOU do things, and don't forget to do all that you do for the glory of God!

Have a beautiful day with Jesus! You and He make a great team!



Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Marvel of a New Road

We pulled off the main highway and my husband drove down the new dirt road.  We were on our way to a jungle village which we had visited many times in the past twelve years.  "I hope the rains have not washed out any parts of the road," my husband said with a bit of worry in his voice.  "If it has, we will turn around and go in the other way."

"The other way" was the way he had always come in.  It was another hour's drive on the main highway, down an extremely bumpy road for another 25 minutes; then we'd have to cross the swinging bridge hanging at least 25-30 meters high; walk through corn fields and cow pastures for another 30 minutes until reaching the foot of the mountain that we'd have to climb.

I had made that walk and climbed that mountain (up and down, mind you!) pregnant (twice), carrying a baby and a backpack countless times; we had made that walk in the dark, in the rain, walked in knee-deep mud, many times hoping the cows in the pasture didn't charge at you as you passed them at arm's length.  Children see everything as an adventure, especially when you can ride a horse!  We have surely made a lot of memories on the old trail, for sure!

But quite contrary to my husband's fears, the road to the village was just lovely, and our vehicle made it through the "back way" with not a single problem.  The view was beautiful, and I got to see the other side of this majestic mountainside.  It was absolutely breath-taking.  And to listen to my husband exclaim over and over what a miracle it was to have a road back to this village was priceless.  He relived the days when he was just a very young boy, walking with his Daddy and Mama down a small path over this same territory.  "I just can't believe it!" he said over and over.

In a short time, we were riding down the gravel road that we had walked over countless times, to his sisters' homes.  The last time I had walked down this road, I was jumping from rock to rock to avoid stepping in mud.  The rocks were huge.  One had to be careful not to slip!  So many times I had held tightly to my children's hands so they wouldn't slip and fall on this very same path.

And now, we were in an air-conditioned vehicle, driving down this same road.  You would have had to experience the many things I experienced in this same place to truly appreciate the wonder of the new road.  I hope I have adequately described it to you.



As I stepped out of our car, I realized that I had forgotten just how hot it got back there.  We had arrived at the home of one of my three sisters-in-law who live there with their sweet families.  They immediately ushered us into the little kitchen, where a short, tin roof made it feel as if you were sitting in an oven.  Off to the side, an open fire burned as they prepared their dinner.  We were served cold watermelon.  How refreshing!

My sweet mother-in-law, recovering from an awful case of Shingles, was staying with her daughters as she rested and regained her strength.  Everyone was so happy to see us and welcomed us warmly.  They always give us the very best that they have. 

Feeling as if I were going to suffocate from the intense humidity, I walked outside and sat in the hammock with Baby Tommy.  It felt maybe 3 degrees cooler outside.  At a short distance I could see the chickens and turkeys in the pen.  Off to the side was the simple wash area.  Then just past that a beautiful view of the river flowing down beneath.


I had forgotten a few things, I realized as the days passed.  The rocky walk to the outhouse.  The big bullfrogs that hide in the outhouse at night.  The constant struggle to keep my ready-to-walk-but-still-crawling-around 14-month-old baby off the dirty floors.  The crows that land on the tin roof early in the morning and make enough noise to wake a sleeping baby boy.

Too often, we tend to allow the inconveniences or discomforts of life to overshadow the amazing, fun things we are to enjoy and cherish in life.  The fellowship that we always enjoy with my husband's family; the retreat from a busy life in  the modern city; the beautiful sounds and smells of nature; watching the children enjoy the thrill of riding a horse and laughing with cousins; the beautiful Ch'ol dialect spoken by these dear people...I didn't want to take this for granted.  The discomfort would last only for a few days, but the sweet memories we were making were going to last forever.








I look at my husband, his heart full of laughter, relaxed completely as he jokes with one of his brothers-in-law.  He is so happy here.  I enjoy seeing him this way.

Debbie came close to me and whispered, "Mommy, I am so hot!"  I took her hand and led her to the wash area.  I had her lean over the wash area and poured water over her head, down her neck, and got her clothes wet.  She looks up at me and grinned.  "This is fun!"   'That's the spirit!' I thought.  That became our routine...about every 2 hours.  It kept her cool and happy, and she told me, "Mommy, this is SO MUCH FUN!"  Amazing, the simple pleasures in life.


That first night, when we finally got to bed, my baby boy sleeping beside me, I closed my weary eyes and thanked the Lord for a safe place to sleep.  I opened my eyes once more to look at my husband.  He was just staring at me.  He smiled and said, "Anna, who would have ever thought?!  I just can't believe we rode in our car all the way here!"  I wouldn't have missed that moment for anything in this whole world!



We did enjoy 4 days of sweet fellowship with the dear family members, fellow-believers.  The last night we were there, my husband took his guitar and our electric keyboard out of the trunk of our car and hooked up the keyboard.  We realized the electric power was not quite enough for the keyboard.  So my husband strung an extension cord out to our car, started the engine, and plugged in an electrical strip to the cigarette lighter.  As my husband's family listened, our family sang for them..."Until Then," "Mansion Over The Hilltop," "On The Jericho Road," "One Day At A Time," and other songs.  There is hardly a better way to make a family reunion complete than to have a little singing.  What a joyous time it was!



It was a sad good-bye the next day as we drove off.  How my mother-in-law wept!  (I believe that the older one gets,  the harder good-byes become.)  As we waved good-bye, I couldn't help but be thankful in my heart for the time we were able to spend there.  Before we made the trip, part of me was dreading the trip, knowing it would be hard going back with a baby.  I prepared my heart days before the trip, praying the Lord would help me to "rough it" with a good attitude.  (I realize now that Satan tried his best to steal this opportunity from me, and I'm so glad I didn't let him have his way.  It was an experience of a lifetime!)


And you know what?  The Lord helped me!  Dread turned to happiness.  Fear turned to thrill and excitement! Nothing could take the place of the thrill of riding beside my husband and watching him enjoy the wonder of a modern road back to the place that seemed so remote and far, far away!






I hope that this little adventure that I share with you will encourage you to enjoy the ride of life that the Lord takes you on.  Comfort is really not important if you can cultivate the right attitude in life.  I was reminded of that once again on this trip.  The first of many to come, I hope!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bird-Chirping Weather

I saw the following quote on Pinterest, and I just loved it!


 What a wonderful feeling Spring brings, doesn't it? It reminds me how blessed I am to be alive!

While we don't have hard winters in this part of the world, there is just a wonderful thing about early-morning sunshine, deliciously warm days, birds chirping, lovely butterflies flitting around; my heart is gladdened to see my children run outside in the sunshine, chasing one another, or kicking a soccer ball.  Baby Tommy shrieks gleefully at a walk outside in his stroller.

How could we NOT enjoy Spring?!

But with the feelings that Spring brings, we should be reminded that every day we live is a blessing, and an opportunity to bless the Lord with all that is within me.  He has done so much for me.

"God that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;  Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;"  Acts 17:24,25.

So...whatever you're going through...whatever your worries...whatever your circumstances:  Eyes up (on the Lord)!  Heart and lips tuned and ready to sing praises to our Creator!  For if He sees the sparrow that falls to the ground, I know that He sees me, He loves me, He blesses me every day.

And..."This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Happy Spring, Everyone!!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Let Us Not Be Weary



He sat in his small, dark prison cell, thinking.  Doubts began to fill his mind as he sat on the cold floor.  How had he ended up here? he wondered.

How dynamic his ministry had been, baptizing dozens of followers daily!  He was criticized by the priests and Levites, sent of the Pharisees from Jerusalem, wondering just who he was.  “I am NOT the Christ,” he had said.  “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”  He had been chosen by God Himself to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He recognized that he was truly unworthy to even loosen the very shoes worn by the man who was preferred before himself.  The very next day, John presented Jesus to his “congregation,” pointing to the very Son of God, declaring, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

How privileged he had felt to have been chosen for such an important task!  That of pointing others to the Savior.

But now he felt so confused.  How had it come to this?  This moment in his life when he sat in a prison cell.  True, he had spoken out against the ruler’s sinful relationship; and now he was locked up.  How he longed to be free once again, declaring the mighty works of the Living God!

Now he felt confused and discouraged.  Had his preaching been all wrong?  Had he, indeed, steered people to the wrong man? Not too long ago, he had said with such confidence, “This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.”  And, “…but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”  He was so sure then!  But now, sitting in a cold, darkened cell, doubts began to fill his mind.  Satan was beginning to fill his mind with doubts about what he had been preaching all along.

Is it really worth it?  All my life has been dedicated to preparing the way for the Messiah.  I was so certain that it was He.  Now I’m not so sure.

Perhaps John had hoped that Jesus would free him from his prison.  After all, he had done so much, preparing the way for the Messiah.

So he sent two of his disciples to Jesus, asking specifically:  “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” He waited for the answer to come.  What would Jesus say?  How would He respond to this admittance to doubt and discouragement?

At last, the disciples returned. How his face burned with shame when his disciples returned with a direct message from Jesus!  “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”  He hung his head, ashamed he had even had those thoughts!  Jesus must be so disappointed in him.

How could he have been so foolish to swallow the lies whispered by Satan into his ear, bringing forth doubt and confusion?  Of course, Jesus WAS the Messiah, the long-awaited One who would bring salvation to Israel! 

Certainty then replaced the doubts.  Confirmation, reassurance and peace replaced the awful feelings of confusion.  All it took were the words of Jesus to reassure him that, indeed, He is the Christ, the Messiah, sent from God Himself, the Perfect Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.

What John did not know at that moment was that just a short time later, Herod would command that John be beheaded.  John had fulfilled God’s purpose for his life on this earth.  And it would bring glory to God to suffer at his death as he did.

How often we begin to doubt the precious words of our Holy God!  What a terrible thing to live in confusion and uncertainty, taunted by Satan’s lies, “Yea, hath God said?”

Do you find yourself in a prison?  Do you find yourself in a situation that seems hopeless?  Do you feel that life has paid you evil, after living your life for God?  Have you given your life to preaching and teaching the Gospel, and yet you are suffering? Perhaps you find yourself doubting.  Everything you have lived, believed, and preached, is suddenly coming under attack.   Do you find yourself asking, “Is it really worth it?”  Are you ready to just give up?  What do you do?

Maybe we can learn some things from John’s situation.  We can sometimes relate to John’s circumstances.  Perhaps the following can bring hope to your trembling heart.

Matthew 11:4, 5 tells us that Jesus took the time to reassure John’s faith.  John was wise in asking his disciples to go to Jesus Himself, and to ask Him.  Tell it to Jesus, my friend.  He is waiting with answers and reassurance.

It IS worth it to serve Jesus.  The blessings are great.  The reassurance will come.  Just hang on!

Matthew 11:7-14 says that Jesus spoke highly of John.  John never heard these words spoken, and never knew that Jesus said them, for Jesus spoke them after John’s disciples were gone.  John’s mission in life was special: to prepare the way of the Messiah.  This was prophesied before John’s birth in Malachi 3:1.  John was created for a special purpose.

And God created you for a special purpose.  He has a specific task for you to fulfill.  If we seek His face, He will be found.  He will lead in the path to which He has called you!
  
Jesus asked in Matthew 11:8, “What went ye out for to see?”  

What did you expect?  All too often, our expectations of what our circumstances in life should be make us unhappy with the daily blessings that God brings to us. Sometimes we expect that serving our Lord will be easy; we don't expect difficulty. Is serving Jesus always a bed of roses?  Smooth sailing all the time? Soft raiment?  Not always.  Soft raiment is for kings and such.  We are not kings, but servants of the King.

Maybe you find yourself on the mission field, far from family and friends and all that is familiar.  You are out of your comfort zone, perhaps in a house that doesn't have all the conveniences to which you are accustomed.  Take heart, Dear Friend.  His grace is sufficient to get you through the most frustrating of circumstances.  Just hang in there and don't become weary.  God sees your circumstances; He placed you there!
John was a prophet, yea and more than a prophet.  All the prophets prophesied until John.  “This was Elias which was for to come,” Jesus said.  What an important mission John had in this life!  God had chosen this specific path for him, as He had chosen how his life would come to an end.

God allowed John to be beheaded.  John’s mission on this earth had been fulfilled.  He was obedient and fulfilled his Father’s will.  God did not free him from his prison.  It was for God’s glory that he suffer and die as he did.

All too often, we cry from within, "God, free me from this prison in which I find myself!  I cannot take it another day!"  And God says, "You can, my child.  You can do all things through Me, because I am here, right beside you, and I strengthen you. I see the whole picture, and it will all come together for good one day, you just wait and see."
What is your motive for serving God?  Why do you serve the Lord today?  May it not be to please or to impress man.

Let me encourage you to do what you do for God’s glory, and when the going gets tough, just think, "Lord, if this is what brings glory to You, I am willing."  Our purpose in life should be to bring glory and honor to our Lord, in whichever way He chooses. Is it always easy?  No, it is not.  But I would not trade for personal comfort and a life of ease, the certainty of knowing that God has chosen this specific path for me, and that He is in perfect control of my situation.  I rest in the peace of knowing that all things are working for my good.  He loves me.  Yes, He loves me.

If I can encourage you, Dear Fellow-laborer:  Just be faithful.  Our Heavenly Father sees us and knows our needs, even before we ask, whether our needs be spiritual, financial, physical, or emotional.  He knows all things from beginning to end.  He foresees all that will come.  Hold to His hand.  He is unchanging.  His Word is truth, and it is constant in a world of uncertainty and instability.

And one day, as did John, you will hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”



Friday, February 7, 2014

Birthday Boys!

My heart is just bursting with the thoughts of God's goodness upon my life.  It seems that every day I am loaded with His benefits.  What a merciful God we serve!

I have so much to write about, so much that has happened the past couple of months, and due to lack of good internet service, I am behind on the posts that I have wanted to write.

But in this post, I will share pictures of both of our sons' birthdays:  Andrew Jonathan turned ten on December 22, and our Little Tommy Greg turned one year old on January 18.

Both of our sons are so precious.  Watching our Baby Tommy Greg this past year has actually reminded us of our Andrew Jonathan when he was that age.  Little Andrew was a lot like Baby Tommy Greg is:  Chubby, active (very active!), quick to learn, adoring his Daddy and clingy to Mommy.  It has almost been like reliving Little Andrew's infancy, which has been a lot of fun.  In fact, today, Baby Tommy Greg is wearing the same pajamas that belonged to Little Andrew.

"Thank You, Heavenly Father, for our boys.  They are both so unique, each created with a special purpose.  Please give us wisdom to train them up for Your honor and glory, and may Your Holy name be exalted through their lives."



We had a special guest at Andrew's birthday party, a new friend we met in December.  Kelli Copeland is a friend whom we met at an orphanage near to the city where we live.  She is a big help to the precious couple who takes care of the 19 children in their children's home.  Kelli spent several days with us toward the end of December, and she was here to help us celebrate Andrew's 10th birthday.  What an added blessing it was to have her here!
 Also to help us celebrate were Philip and Liz, and their 4 precious boys (Josh, Sammy, Mark, and brand-new Baby Gabriel Robert Joel, born December 12).  It was definitely an unforgettable birthday for Little Andrew.  He told me that night, "Mommy, this was the best birthday ever."



And our Baby Tommy Greg turned one year old on January 18. It seems impossible to me that he could already be one year old.  How quickly time has passed!  But we are very thankful that the Lord has allowed us to have a healthy baby this year.

For his birthday, his Mimi and some special people from our "home church" came to his party.  It was so much fun having them (as well as Pastor Manuel and his wife, Lidia; and their daughter and granddaughter, among other guests)!


"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners,
nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
his leaf also shall not wither;
and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
Psalm 1:1-3