Category Archives: Christianity

Preparing Our Hearts

Several years ago I discovered the tradition of the Jesse Tree, a tradition of using ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the promised Savior. This has been life changing for me.

I am one of those people who struggle emotionally at Christmas. I stress over choosing gifts that I think others will like, I worry about finances, I become irritated as stores become crowded with holiday shoppers. I simply didn’t enjoy Christmas for many, many years.

Thankfully, I discovered the Jesse Tree. The first year I created ornaments out of Shrinky Dinks to hang on a little wooden tree. I used a guide that I found online and each night we read the corresponding scripture and hung the ornament on our tree. It was simple but effective. I felt a weight being lifted off of me as Christmas approached and I found myself actually enjoying Christmas for the first time in years.

Each year our ornaments have been improved a little and we’ve used different reading plans, some with devotions to accompany the scriptures each day.

Last year I purchased The Greatest Gift by Ann Vonskamp. I have to say this is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. This book is beautifully written and the daily devotions that go along with the scriptures helped me focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the promise of a Savior. I can honestly say that last year was the best Christmas I have had in years.

My circumstances didn’t change. There was the ever present traffic that comes along on Black Friday and hangs around with us until the New Year, the stores were crowded with shoppers, I had a full schedule of events that surround Christmas, the indecision of holiday gifts still plagued me and yet, my heart was at peace. The things surrounding me weren’t changed, I was. My heart was prepared for my Savior.

This year I decided to share my secret with others. I am hosting a Jesse Tree Ornament Swap. I started very late and haven’t found the required number of participants but I have adapted the plan so that we can still complete the swap. This year I have 7 friends each making 8 copies of 3 different ornaments in the set, and I will be making the remaining 4 ornaments in the set.

I am very excited about this event. It’s added one more thing to my already full plate but somehow it is already making life easier. I’m busier than ever but more intently focused on Christ. That is the magic of the Jesse Tree. Each day we are focused on Jesus and that makes all the difference in the world.

I hope you find a way to focus your heart more intently on Christ this holiday season. Don’t forget to stop, step back, and make time to spend with The Lord during this busy time of year. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Advertisements

Revelations

Wow! Today has been a big God day and He has revealed so much to me. It’s probably because I have spent more time with Him in recent days and have contemplated some things that I’ve read about and heard from others. I recently finished reading the book What She Left For Me by Tracie Peterson. It’s a story about a woman who is abandoned by her a husband who is a pastor. I’ve also been reading the book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge.

Captivating has pulled me into its pages in a way that I have not experienced before. In fact, I started reading it a couple of years ago with a group of women from church and didn’t get very far before I gave up. It just didn’t speak to me at the time but now I can’t put it down. I read and reread each chapter, underlining, marking and highlighting almost every word. I am so excited to meet with a group of young women each week to discuss it. It has already brought me so much understanding into the mind and heart of women in two chapters!

I recently heard a story that reminded me of the events in Tracie Peterson’s book as well as the teaching in Captivating. John and Stasi Eldredge explain that a woman has a God-given desire to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable part in a great adventure and that every woman has a beauty to unveil. In the counterpart book for men, Wild at Heart, John describes a man’s basic needs as wanting a battle to fight, a longing for adventure, and that he longs for a beauty to rescue. Satan wants nothing more than to twist those desires into something perverse and sinful. We have to be vigilant in keeping watch over our marriages to make sure to prevent Satan from gaining a foothold in our lives. It is so easy for satan to take a man’s desire to rescue and twist it so that he believes it’s a husband’s place to rescue a woman besides his wife. It’s equally as easy for a woman to see the wrong man as her rescuer.

Our small group started studying Guardrails by Andy Stanley the last time we met. He talks about the importance of setting up guard rails in our lives so that when we encounter them they are a danger sign that we are close to sinning. If only we were always so careful to do that, but unfortunately we aren’t. We allow ourselves to be put into positions that are potentially dangerous and without that guard rail we can so easily slip into the abyss of sin.

In the book What She Left for Me the Pastor put himself in a situation where he was counseling a woman alone. He should have had a guard rail that he never met or counseled a woman alone. It started innocently but his desire to rescue paired with her desire to be seen and romanced was a lethal mixture in their marriages and soon they were seeking these things from each other instead of from their own spouses as God intended.

As I was riding in my car this afternoon I began to think about these things. A woman’s desire to be pursued is an attribute of God. He wants to be pursued by His children. I thought about how easily it is for us to get that mixed up in our earthly relationships and thought about how devastating it would be to me if my husband sought after another woman more than he does me. I would be crushed. Then I realized that I do that to God everyday. My most important relationship should be with Him! The person I long to spend the most time with should be Jesus, not my husband, my children, or my friends. He desires to be pursued by me! What an awesome thought! The Creator of the universe desires me to seek Him out.

It is my prayer that as I continue in these studies that I am ever mindful of the role I give God in my life. I adore my husband but he cannot hold first place in my life. That place is for a God alone. My children need me and desire my attention but not like that of my Creator. God help me get the right balance in my life. Help me put You in the place of importance You alone deserve. Help me to seek You above ALL things.

You Can Only Sit on the Fence For So Long

Today has been a turning point for me. My pastor has been preaching a series on the book of Nehemiah over the last few weeks which he finished up today. Through these sermons God has shown me that I have allowed some of my protective walls to decay. I have let things come between me and my relationship with Christ. I have gradually become desensitized to sin in my life and those around me.

One of my favorite movie quotes comes from the movie Remember the Titans. When the team captain sees that one of his best friends purposefully stepped aside and refused to block for one
of his teammates he goes to the coach. One of this coach’s rules is that nobody who wants to play will be cut. When Gary, the team captain, speaks to the coach about cutting his friend Ray from the team the coach reminds Gary of his rule. Gary replies to Coach Boone, “Sometimes you gotta cut a man loose.” The coach replies, “You are the team captain. You make the call but remember you’ve got to stand behind your decision.”

I have had a lot of difficult decisions to make. I had to decide whether I was still playing on my old team or on my Daddy’s team. (the new coach calls himself that early in the movie) I struggled with trying to remain loyal to the old team while at the same time being loyal to my Daddy’s team. Jesus warned us that we would have to face tough choices sometimes. I have been straddling the fence for a while now and just decided it is past time I jump onto one side or the other. I found a photo that perfectly exemplifies how I have felt for a long time. Here it is, I hope you get a laugh out of it.
href=”https://sweetpea0944.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/20110330-092020.jpg”>20110330-092020.jpg

<a

35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[a]

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

<a

Climbing Out On the Crashing Waves

A little boy sits crying because he can’t be in the sack race. Tears create streaks down his dirty little cheeks as the wash away the dust from a hot summer day. “Why can’t I be in the race?” he sobs.

“Buddy, you just can’t be in the race,” his mother answers.

“But why can’t I Momma? I can do it! Just watch me! I’ll show you I can do it!”

“It’s too hard. You just can’t do it. You have to be able to jump to play that game.”

“I CAN jump! Let me show you that I can,” he pleads.

“I wish that you could but you just can’t. You have CP. Your body just won’t do that.”

Through sobs he manages to say, “I wish CP didn’t exist! I wish I hadn’t been born with CP!”

I’ve dreaded hearing those words for over 10 years. I knew that someday I’d hear them. It was inevitable. The surprising part is that they haven’t been said before. Most kids realize their limitations much younger but Sweet G is different. There is nothing average about my Sweet G. He looks at life through a different window than most of us. His spirit is strong and true. He is kind and good. Anything is possible in his eyes.

As a small baby his favorite song was Dream Big by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband. I remember thinking how cool it was that he loved that song so much because with his disability he was going to need to be able to Dream Big. I began to think of the words as a prayer for him.

When you cry be sure to dry your eyes
‘Cause better days are sure to come
And when you smile be sure to smile wide
Don’t let them know that they have won
And when you walk, walk with pride
Don’t show the hurt inside
Because the pain will soon be gone

And when you dream, dream big
As big as the ocean blue
‘Cause when you dream it might come true
When you dream, dream big

When you laugh be sure to laugh out loud
‘Cause it will carry all your cares away
And when you see, see the beauty all around and in yourself
And it’ll help you feel okay
And when you pray, pray for strength
To help you carry on
When the troubles come your way

And when you dream, dream big
As big as the ocean blue
‘Cause when you dream it might come true
When you dream, dream big

As he got a little older his favorite song changed to The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns. That song gave me so much hope and peace and again I prayed those words as we sang them together.

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
To the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. ‘Boy, you’ll never win!’
“You’ll never win”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a Sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again “boy, you’ll never win!
“You’ll never win”

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don’t seem so high
From on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

For the most part we have Dreamed Big and listened to the Voice of Truth but every now and then I have forgotten to have big dreams and sometimes I’ve listened as the giant says, “He’ll never win.” But not Sweet G, that is, not until today. Today he realized that dreams aren’t always enough and in his weakness he took his eyes off of Jesus, focused on the waves crashing all around him, and listened as the giant laughed and said, “Boy, you’ll never win.”

One thing I know is that although Sweet G had a moment of weakness tonight, tomorrow will be a different story. Tomorrow we will stop and listen to the sound of Jesus singing over G as He says, “Do not be afraid. This is for My glory,” and out of all the voices calling out we will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth!

He Came From a Long Line of Losers

A couple of years ago I started a new Christmas tradition for our family. I made small charm-like ornaments and a stick tree that serve as a Jesse Tree. It has become a nice addition to our nightly bedtime routine during the days leading up to Christmas. Each night we place that day’s ornament on the Jesse Tree and read the scriptures that tell the Biblical story associated with the picture on the charm. It really is a wonderful way to see God’s plan for our salvation through His Son, Jesus.

Tonight our story was from the book of Ruth. As I read the scriptures telling the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi I would elaborate on parts to help Sweet G better understand. When I read the part where Ruth was gleaning the fields of Boaz I began to explain that Ruth and Naomi were poor widows and that Ruth worked very hard to gather the wheat that was left or dropped in the field. I told Sweet G that Ruth was an ancestor of Jesus and that her family had worshipped false idols but she had chosen to follow Naomi and worship the one true God. At this point in my story Sweet G asked, “Is it sort of like a long line of losers?” After a short chuckle I began to regain my composure and the thought hit me that G wasn’t really that far off. I reviewed the story of Abraham and Sarah, how Abraham lied and Sarah laughed when God promised a son would be born to them. Noah, although found righteous, at one time became drunk. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and hid from Him, then lied about their actions. I skipped ahead to Rahab the harlot and realized that Sweet G spoke the truth when he suggested that Jesus came from a long line of losers. It provided a great opportunity to share with G that God uses average people and loves us in spite of our poor choices.

I’ll never hear that country song again without thinking of my sweet Savior. “He comes from a long line of losers. Half outlaws, half boozers.” I’m so thankful that God can take someone who has a sinful past full of mistakes and regrets, someone whose family tree may have some questionable characters hanging in it and choose to love them and use them for His glory. Grace, grace. God’s grace. Oh, how sweet His love is.

Trip to the Desert and Back

A few weeks ago God began a change in me. I started to feel His gentle tug on my heart and faintly hear the sound of His voice calling me. There has been a drought in my Christian walk. One that I couldn’t seem to find my way out of. To be totally honest, I didn’t try very hard to look for a way out of the dry and desolate place I found myself. I became content to sit there and slowly dehydrate to the point that my spiritual cup was down to a few drops instead of overflowing as God says it should be.

The first thing God told me was my husband needed to spend time bonding with other Godly men. You may say, “I thought you said God called you. Now you say He wants your husband to do something.” The answer is simple. I crave my husband’s time and attention which are in very short supply. He works two jobs which total 55+ hours a week, not including commute time. He doesn’t get home until after 9:00 every week night except Fridays and works half a day on Saturday. I need time to take off my Mommy, teacher, cook, playmate, caretaker hat every once in a while. Having a child with special needs means that I take every step my child takes and sometimes I get burned out but God showed me that my husband gets tired and discouraged too. That is why God spoke to me. He wanted to guide me on the path to being a better wife to my husband. He asked me to put my husband’s needs above my own.

The second thing God reminded me of was that it is my responsibility to teach my child about God. Our family needs to be in God’s house learning His Word. It is my duty to take Sweet G whether he wants to go or understands the importance it holds.

Step three, I started reading my Bible and being more purposeful in my walk with Christ. For the first time in a long time God’s Word was fresh and alive to me. I was getting it, growing. Then I started feeling the familiar sting of satan’s fiery darts. Someone verbally attacked me on a social site over my view of an issue. My son misunderstood a couple of comments I made. My mother seems to think I am a vile and unfeeling monster because I disagree with the family on a very delicate family issue. Everywhere I turn it seems someone is misunderstanding what I say or questioning why I see things in a different way than they do.

I finally broke down in tears tonight questioning why this is all happening to me. The answer came through the post of a fellow blogger. She wrote about parenting. She reminded me that sometimes a child asks for something when in reality it isn’t good for them. Her children prefer the cardboard boxed macaroni and cheese with the fake powdered cheese over her homemade nutritious Mac-and-cheese. They don’t understand that she sacrifices much more time and energy to make the dish from scratch because she loves them and wants the best for them. As my Heavenly Father, God will not settle for the easy Mac way of life. It is not good enough for me, His beloved child. Even if it is hard to swallow and I’d be much more pleased with the instant heat and serve version He patiently gives me what I really need.

My prayer has been for God to lead me out of that dry place I’ve been sitting. As we walk the sand is hot and makes my steps unsteady at times. Walking in hot dry sand is difficult but it’s the only way to get out of a desert. The amazing thing is every now and then I take a peek inside my cup and see that instead of becoming empty it’s gradually getting fuller. Every step I take and each sip of water I drink fills my cup a little more.

Lessons From Today

My wonderful husband lovingly, patiently and persistently worked to awaken me this morning in time for us to make it to Sunday School and church. I stayed up way too late last night which is common for me. I just really wanted to be left alone to sleep but he is so much more aware of our need to worship than I am so he gently encouraged me to wake up.

I began to drift in and out of consciousness after he made several attempts to wake me. As I lay there trying to break free from the thick fog of sleep that was engulfing me I heard Sweet G’s voice. “Is Momma getting up? Is she going to church? Is it going to be just you and me today, Daddy?”

Those simple questions asked from curiosity and a deep need to know the day’s plan was what finally swooped in and lifted me out of the fog. Depression and panic become excuses at times. I don’t consciously use them to allow me to check out of life but I also don’t make a conscious effort to press forward and overcome my tendency to allow depression to prevent me from living a full life.

Sunday School was wonderful. Our teacher has a way of presenting God’s truth in a way that resonates with me. We have similar personalities and I suppose that makes his teaching real, relatable and powerful to me.

We had a special guest come and sing during the worship service. The worship was more powerful than it has been in a while. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and looked next to me and saw Sweet G lift both hands as high as he could and shout, “Yes! praise the Lord.” My initial Mommy thought was to tell him to be quiet but I didn’t. I paused and watched my little boy worship with a freedom that I wish I was bold enough to experience. I sat there in awe of his sweet spirit and his lack of restraint. He felt moved by the singing and he unashamedly praised God.

God had many lessons for me today. The sermon was perfect for where I have been in my life and pointed out some key areas I have become weak in. Our Sunday School lesson was filled with answers to issues I deal with regularly. The songs of worship reminded me that I gain strength from praising my Savior. Sweet G demonstrated freedom in worshiping Christ and in trusting Him regardless of the circumstances God allows me to face.

I prayed at the alter about some things I have been dealing with for a long time. A precious senior adult lady joined me to pray. She is the perfect picture of southern grace and devoted Christianity. Everyone who knows her loves her and admires the testimony of her life. I was honored that she prayed with me but the most amazing thing happened as we finished praying. She held me by my arms and looked directly into my eyes as she spoke to me. She said some things about me that took me by surprise. God used her to bless me and encourage me.

I would have missed all those things if my amazing husband hadn’t persisted in his attempts to wake me. He is so much more than I deserve. God taught me so much today. He demonstrated the fruit of the spirit through those around me.

Galatians 5:22-25 (KJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23[Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.]
24[And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.]
25[If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.]