Monthly Archives: October 2012

Coming Face to Face with God

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Sometimes God just stretches you.

God stretched many people in the Bible, to places where things just seemed impossible.

Moses, Job, Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Abraham and Sarah, and the list goes on and on.

I am slowly learning that sometimes God puts us at a point where things seem so impossible for us, that when they fall into place, there is no way to credit anyone BUT him! We are in such a place right now. This is a time to praise the Lord for his goodness, and mercy, and humbly come before in in prayer.

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, and we are so so thankful that we are all safe, we have electricity back, plenty to eat (our food kept well.) During the storm, I couldn’t sleep. My husband and I both sat there, awake, listening to things banging on the side of the house. It was nerve wracking. We were terrified of the tree in our front yard (which is somewhat rotten in the trunk,) falling on the house, and that it would hit our children’s bedroom. We trooped everybody into our room, which was probably the safest room in the house, and the kids bunked out on the floor, all snuggled together in a pile of cuteness.

At one point I said (with anxiety and urgency, I’m sure) “Oh no! What about the cat?!” I had tried to get her to come inside, but when I had called, she was nowhere to be found. Hearing that wind blow, and things bang against the house, I was truly worried for her safety. We had even made a small shelter on the back of the porch, away from the rain, but she wasn’t using it. I was REALLY worried. A little voice piped up in the dark. “It’s ok Mom! God is controlling the storm! He’ll take care of Kitty! I just know he will!” Oh the faith of a child. It was a precious moment, and a truly humbling one.

We sat awake long after the children, in all their childlike faith, went to sleep. They slept through the whole thing, unafraid, and trusting that God would care for them. My husband and I got very little sleep, as we sat up and weathered the storm. The winds were blowing very hard, and trees were shaking like little rag dolls. Oddly, despite all the cloud cover, and lack of lightning, we could see everything perfectly. At one point I went on the back porch to call the cat again. The force of the wind scared me back inside before I even cleared the door. As we sat there, unnerved and scared, we remembered a children’s sermon spoken at our church, based on Psalm 29:

In the psalm, the psalmist describes a storm, controlled by God, terrifying in its power, so powerful that it shakes the famous cedar trees of Lebanon (shaking of the trees seemed rather appropriate at this time.) He speaks of the majesty of God’s voice. and he concludes the Psalm with a description of how Israel faces this mighty storm. Not as an uncontrolled terror, ready to gobble them up, but as a carrier for God’s Glory.

“and in his temple, ALL cry GLORY!”

These are not a people crippled in fear by this storm, these are a people who have gathered to worship the God in control of his storm. To glorify his power and majesty.

We felt a peace after discussing this, and then went to sleep until the morning.

When we awoke in the morning it was with the attitude of children on a snow day. We found that during the night we had lost power, but we had expected, and prepared for that. We enjoyed time as a family, playing cards, teaching the girls how to keep score, and group “families” in Rummy. I even taught the kids how to play War. We discovered the bathroom roof was leaking, but it was a bit worse than usual, as the roof had leaked before in a bad storm.  We whipped out the buckets and towels, and went about our business, content with the thought that with proper water damage management, it would only take a leak repair once the rain had stopped. We knew that:

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

We were secure in the thought, that whatever had occurred in this storm was not beyond his power to provide for. But what we did not know is how far our faith in his provision would be stretched.

When the rain *had* stopped, my husband went outside to asses the roof. We thought it must be leaking so profusely because a puddle or something had formed over the leak. We did not know what he would find. He went out over the 2nd floor balcony, set up the ladder on the first floor roof, and climbed on up, only to find that about a third of the roof over the bathroom, and our bedroom, was ripped off like the top of a tin can. The corner was pulled upward, exposing the beams and insulation below. First thought? How are we ever going to pay for this? We don’t even have the money on hand to buy the minivan we so sorely need before March when Isaiah makes his appearance, so how will we pay the thousands of dollars for a new roof, new insulation, and repairs to the very badly water damaged ceiling in the bathroom?

This is that impossible moment where the  math doesn’t add up. There is not, and cannot be enough money, on our own power, to pay for this roof and a minivan before March. Even with the Insurance claim going through, they will not replace the roof, they will only pay for the portion that was damaged, despite the fact that now the whole roof must be replaced.  We also have a bit of a hitch in the giddy-up, in that the roofer showed up and nailed the roof back down *before* we could get pictures of the storm damage as it was. We are hoping his statement alone is enough for the insurance co. The damage is still there, and still evident. And this fix was only enough to stop the leaking temporarily, and keep the roof from blowing off any further. We have yet to make a decision regarding permanent repairs, until we hear more from our insurance co.

We know at this point that ONLY God can make this happen. And let me tell you, prayers are flying up from this house with frequency and urgency. This is one of those moments where doubt just doesn’t enter in. God will provide.

Psalm 34:7-9
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

We have one thing we are immeasurably thankful for, that it wasn’t worse. Looking at the pictures from New Jersey and New York, we are in awe of what this storm has done to many folks. We pray for them all, as they face clean up, repairs, and putting their lives back together. We also pray for the families of those who have died in Hurricane Sandy. Please pray with us for the many lives affected by this storm, and that despite the many who are in a tough spot right now, that we will all recognize God’s glory in the wake of this large and destructive storm. We know he can work anywhere, in any way he chooses, and we pray for those who are recognizing his power for the first time, or seeing it in action again.

Pregnancy Update: We’ve reached the Halfway Mark!

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Me and my girls

I’m not meticulous enough to do weekly updates on this current pregnancy, pregnancy number 4, but every now and then big stuff happens, and who am I to ignore it? Blogging is the way to go! So get comfortable, you’re gonna hear a pregnancy update!

We all know Pregnancies are pretty much one big development after another, so, today’s big development number 1: We’ve reached the halfway mark! 20 weeks! Yay! You may now pull out your togas and umbrella drinks and celebrate with me briefly. Don’t worry, I’m against party hats, so you can forego that ridiculous discomfort…

Part of the whole halfway mark is the biggie: The lets-see-if-we-can-tell-the-sex-ultrasound! Unfortunately, my husband and I really had issues with this particular milestone this time around. He didn’t want to know, and I did. Why?

Let us just say in our not so distant past, prior to, and part of the culmination leading to a huge change in our hearts regarding God, his Will, and his Word, we had a bit of a control issue with our whole procreation thing. I constantly wanted to NOT have babies, and my husband wanted to keep trying for that elusive boy. When we found out that Ava was a girl, it was difficult. He was disappointed that his prayers for a boy were not answered, and I was desperate for him to not be disappointed. At one point our marriage hit such a low point that I was sure it would not survive it. But by God’s grace, it was this that pushed us to a turning point. When you see a sinful, selfish person looking at you from the mirror, you realize the need for change. He blessed us with a beautiful and *very* delightful and vivacious Ava! 🙂 We have been SO blessed! It took that moment of bottoming out, however, to show us that our idea of family was very very short of a good family, and that on our own, we could not be perfect, or even good. Sin always kept us from contentment, peace, victory. When we sought God’s Word, his Will, life changed into something we never knew it could be. It became GOOD, satisfying.

So this time around, Allen said something like “I will not spend my time obsessing over what I want, I will wait and see until baby is born, and fall in love with him/her then!” But, I had a feeling it was a boy, and I felt we needed to know, considering that 3 daughters later, we are just shy of painting our house Barbie pink, as we pretty much are up to our eyeballs in that color. Boy things do not exist in this home! I needed to know so we would have what we need, and know what we don’t have! We agreed that I would find out, and he would not know.

Today was the big day! I would find out, tell the world, but keep the secret from him. We were agreed on this point. I went to the ultrasound with Brooke (the best moral support a friend can be!) and all three girls. We waltzed in there 20 minutes early (not like we were anxious to know or anything…) and FINALLY they called us for the ultrasound. The tech told us the baby was healthy, good, measuring well, good, and….. A BOY!

I was so excited I could have jumped out of my skin! The girls were so excited, and there were quite a few “Can we keep this secret after all?” dicey moments. We went out for a bite to eat, and to acclimate ourselves to this lovely new realization that God was blessing us with a son, brother, and whatever else God has planned for this precious little boy’s life. We hope it is to be a man of God, unafraid to speak God’s Word. It is fitting then, that we had chosen the name: Isaiah Allen. The girls were still jumping out of their skin at the prospect of having a brother. They were so excited that Brooke had to take them outside to do somersaults so they wouldn’t do them in the Doctor’s office, or just cause they were energetic, but I’m positive it was the excitement!

Nonetheless, we finally got home. Allen walked out the door, and I couldn’t help myself. I smiled.

Whoops. Now he knows! I smiled!

And so he does know. No secrets around here! I was too excited to keep it under wraps! That smile did me in! 😀 But we are excited beyond belief, all of us, to invite little Isaiah Allen in March.  As part of a count down to his very exciting birth, I will be sharing birth stories of each of my little ones, and I’d love to hear all of yours! Feel free to link yours in the comments below. 🙂

 

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This morning I woke up inspired by my fellow Mom bloggers. I have read and followed many encouraging women such as The Straightened Path, Raising Olives, Life in A Shoe (Congrats Kim on your new little one!) and Large Families On Purpose. I have found these ladies to be the constant voice of encouragement as we work to measure up to the Godly standard for a family. This is not a quick transition, as a post I stumbled on this morning reminded me so refreshingly. Growth takes time.

Our story has been one that has happened gradually over the matter of a few years. It started with my last pregnancy, and an encounter with someone who embodied the love and grace of Christ, that forced us to look at our lives and realize just how far we had walked away from God. Since that realization, coupled with a bottoming out of our family life, (You have to reach Rock bottom to know God is your Rock, right?) things have been changing bit by bit as the Holy Spirit changed our hearts, and used scripture to turn us more and more toward him. I won’t go through every little detail and change, but suffice it to say, 2 years later, we are a completely different family with different goals, priorities, circumstances, and daily lives. I went from being a career minded woman in school with a full time job to being a stay at home Mom homeschooling our oldest. My husband went from being a man who was nagged within an inch of his life to taking leadership of our family with love and mercy. Life has taken a complete turn around.

Today, as a part of that turn around, I was convicted (*several* times) about a constant issue of mine: Self Control. My lack of self control has not only affected my ability to be a helpmeet to my husband, but to properly train my children as well.

Reading a post on Large Families on Purpose about sharing bedrooms hit home. I am currently trying to rearrange our home to make room for a new little one. We are moving our youngest into a bedroom with our two oldest to make the “nursery” available for the new one. I am also coupling this project with Holiday Prep (I am a BIG Christmas Decorator! I LOVE Christmas!) House purging (We have too much stuff and not enough room!) and Seasonal Clothing Rotation. I am doing all of this at once, not because I thought it would be wise, but because they all affect each other! We need to find more space for the new baby, we need to rearrange clothing storage to do that, and the decorating is something I love to do…  *blush*

But, in reading this post, seeing the beautiful bedrooms, and the practical, but elegant arrangements, I felt overwhelmed. How will I ever measure up? How will I ever begin to maintain a home that can not only house, but nurture and develop the character of 4+ children? I suddenly felt how woefully inadequate my skills are for such a task, and how weak I am in self discipline.

For instance:

Every morning, as her children awaken, she has them start immediately on tasks, (morning duties and school.) and are not allowed to enjoy free time until those are complete.

*instant conviction*

I don’t do that. and I certainly don’t expect my children to. There was a time when I did, and our house was fantastically clean, and getting better every day, but this pregnancy has been rough, between the first trimester issues, then the second trimester began with other physical issues. Three weeks of sickness later, I have developed a routine that is an encouragement to laziness. We now have roughly an hour in the morning where my children awaken before I am ready to be moving. I’ve let them start their day with cartoons. Then, when I am up and moving with our youngest, I ease them into the school day, which has a few breaks for free time, and then, we finish sometime before supper. This drags our day out quite a bit, and keeps me from getting much done, other than school work and basic chores. When my husband gets home, I knuckle down and complete whatever I haven’t all day, while he keeps the kids busy. This worked when I was sick, but now that I am better. I know I have allowed bad habits to develop. I don’t know where to begin to bring everyone back from the land of leisure, and back into serious business.

I have lost sight of God, and begun to think in terms of me, and what little I have. Alone, I AM inadequate, but with him, “I can do all things.”

I have lost sight of the scriptural principle of work first, play later. I have let my sickness overpower a trust in the victory I have in Christ. I have lost sight of what God’s word has to say about diligence, perseverance, and submission to God’s plan. I know that Proverbs speaks often of the ant, and of the benefits of work. I know it is true, I’ve seen it, but it is oh so easy to slide by on only what is required, and nothing more. I can improve so so much. and I KNOW that that clean, elegant bedroom is the result of a well disciplined family who puts work first. I know firsthand the happiness of self discipline, but, I don’t measure up. So how do I fix this cycle of bare minimum and begin to achieve things in our home, our character that honor God? I can’t fix it, only God can. So, firstly, a bit of prayer, and acknowledgement of his strength, power, and victory in my life, and then I act on that. Right now.

Time to get on my knees, ask for his strength, and conviction, and then roll up the sleeves, and begin work. As my Mom says, start at your feet. 🙂

Measuring Up

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So is Halloween a Harmless Holiday, or something that we as Christians should avoid?  I’ve struggled with this question quite a bit as a parent. My parents raised me in a home where Halloween was downright bad. My parents discussed the history of Samhein and the origins of the Holiday. They also explained to us exactly how that clashed with a Christian heritage, and how the Catholic Church in attempting to make Christianity more palatable to pagans, ended up marginalizing Christian principles with this particular Holiday, and what started as a compromise ended up as an adulteration. I have many precious childhood memories of fun Halloween nights where all the lights were off, and we ate supper in the dark to avoid the Trick or Treaters, in the hope they wouldn’t know we were home. We would spend the rest of the evening playing hide and seek in a dark house.  One particular night that stands out is one where we tried to eat tacos hiding under the kitchen table. I don’t remember why we took it that far, but I do remember what fun it was.  I never felt deprived. In fact, it all felt kind of special.

As an adult, however, once I began dating my husband, he introduced me to Halloween, the American Version, and I saw a whole other experience, one my parents had scrupulously avoided. My first trick or treating experience was with my husband, he was Superman, and I was Lois Lane. We were college students traipsing around a college town, gathering candy. How bad can it be? There were a lot of princesses, fairy tale characters, video game characters, super heros etc. Why on EARTH did my parents villify this? I embraced it wholeheartedly, and when we had our first child, we dressed her as many different things, a dog, a unicorn, etc. Our second one as well. But with a recent change of heart regarding our faith and how seriously we take God’s Word, we’ve had to rethink Halloween.

In a nutshell, there have been HUGE changes in our life and family recently. Many different factors made us take a good hard look at our life and what we were REALLY accomplishing. We were forced to conclude that without God we are nothing. We also were forced to conclude that if you are not For God, you are against him. We’ve shed a lot of American norms in our life as a result. If God’s Word is paramount, how can we live a life based on man’s expectations and cultural norms, ignoring scriptural principles and commands at our convenience? So when it comes to Halloween, how can we apply God’s Word, and make it paramount?

Historically:

Historically Halloween was a Christianized version of a pagan festival. If you want information on this ancient festival and modern traditions, how they originated, what they mean etc, click here: The True Halloween

God’s Word has a lot to say about making pagan ritual a part of our lives:

Deuteronomy 18:9-13 (OT)

“When you arrive in the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NT and OT)

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

God is serious when he says: Don’t ally yourself with paganism. Don’t even touch it, avoid all appearances of Evil. How can we know that we are either for God or against him, and yet celebrate a Holiday that has a basis in Paganism? We, in our home, cannot. As my husband wrote on our kitchen board: “As for me and my house, We will serve the LORD.” (Joshua)

Philosophically:

Philosophically modern Halloween is a celebration of death. Ghosts, zombies etc are all the rage these days. The paranormal is celebrated as creepy and deliciously scary, haunted houses, haunted rides are all popular ways to celebrate death. How can we celebrate eternal death and reject (even for one day) God’s gift of eternal life? In doing so, we are forgetting Christ’s sacrifice that makes eternal life for sinners possible. We are commanded to remember his sacrifice. This directly breaks that command. It is that simple.

Death is the culmination of sin, and fear a rejection of Victory in Christ, the Bible says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” to fear something else is to arrogantly assume God’s power cannot defeat it:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. Deuteronomy 13:4

“Therefore submit your selves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.  James 4:7

Practically:

Practically, how can I speak to my children of the impact of Christ’s death and resurrection when they are constantly bombarded by images and costumes of death glorified? We live a victorious life in Christ. Not a defeated fear filled life in death.

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Practically we avoid Halloween as best we can. I can’t help the ghastly decorations on porches and gory displays of death. I have had a few distressing moments of my children crying over a truly terrifying porch decoration. Laugh at me if you like, but no 6 year old likes, nor should be expected to handle a lifelike zombie holding someone else’s decapitated head. Not appropriate at all.

  • We don’t do Jack-O Lanterns (ok, so there is a nice way to do those, but we prefer to make our pumpkins into pies and EAT them! 🙂 the kids enjoy the taste of harvest!)
  • We dress up year round. Our extensive collection of dress up princesses, pirates, maids, etc allows the children to use their imagination whenever, and believe me, they do! They do not need *one* night for permission to do this! They do it whenever!
  • We enjoy harvest foods and smells and experiences. We make apple everything, pumpkin everything, and go to town! Who says candy is a great treat anyway? Pumpkin pie has just a tad more nutritional value!
  • We FEAST! In a celebration of eternal life, we feast throughout this season and think about and talk about the things that we might get to do in heaven as a result of God’s generous gift of eternal life. We discuss what the Bible says about this gift, and what we may do in heaven. We talk about the marriage feast of the lamb, and about Christ being the only man to defeat death because he IS God!
  • We teach. We use this as a time to discuss the vast differences between a life dependent on Christ, and a life dependent on men and man’s ideas of what life should be. We use this time to apply scripture to our daily life, and to bolster courage when it comes to making unpopular decisions because God’s Word is not always concerned with leading us to the popular cultural choice, but because God is concerned with eternity, and Godly wisdom.
  • We do so with grace and poise. We try to find ways not to alienate family members and friends who do celebrate Halloween. Not everyone is at the same point in the process of sanctification, and I will end this post on the fact that we are NOT perfect on this, or any other topic, and that our family is still a work in progress! God’s Word has a lot to say on a lot of topics, and we have a lifetime to learn it! Perfection is not ours until heaven is attained. We do not believe that we are any better than anyone else. We are grateful for God’s grace and mercy in our lives, and astounded at the rich blessings he bestows on us as we learn how to apply his Word to our lives.

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Lastly: For an interesting discussion on this topic, and a very enlightening opposing viewpoint (with which I do not agree, but he has some interesting points.) Feel free to check out this post:

7 Reasons Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloween
My only closing question is this: How do you deal with Halloween in your home?

Halloween- A Harmless Holiday?