What I Am Reading Wednesday

Liberty Park

Hello friends! We made it back from our New York and New Jersey excursion very late Monday evening. Catching up on grocery shopping was an easy task especially with the free bakery cookie the kids look forward to. The laundry and house cleaning are another slow turn of the page however.

Central Park

I enjoyed an unusual amount of mommy reading time as the kids flew with Ron on the trip north. What a good man to let his wife enjoy alone time two rows back while he entertains the littles. I touched the Kindle app on my iPad free of too many distractions and enjoyed the ride. (Potty breaks did involve some tag team effort a few times). Thank you honey!

So, what did this hands free mama read on the plane? So glad you asked. Chinese drum roll please…

 

God made the heart of every married person to be romantic, and to feel the passion that springs out of romance. He designed your hearts to need a regular cycle of romance and passion. Living without this cycle is death to your marriage and will put you both at a great risk for an affair. So, let’s get to work on your romance. ~Dr. David Clarke in Kiss Me Like You Mean It: Solomon’s Crazy In Love How-To Manual.

Ron and I were privileged to hear Dr. Clarke speak at our church four years ago. He is a local Christian counselor with a multitude of experience. Dr. Clarke’s writing style is equally witty, somewhat cheesy, and super helpful as his live seminars. I highly recommend this read for all post-newlywed couples. Especially if cheek kisses, air kisses, or quick pecks are a usual methods of kissing between you and your spouse! (See chapter’s 9 and 10)

I first heard about Dr. Clarke’s new book from my friends Karen and Danny who blog about marriage at Marriage Bytes. Dr. Clarke also blogs weekly. Check out his blog here.

Here is one more NYC shot for the road. I will start Tour de NYC next week. Until then, that is what I am reading this Wednesday; what about you?

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What I Am Reading Wednesday

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!~ Emma Lazarus

This week we are preparing for our spring break trip to New Jersey and New York City. Our book basket is filled to the brim with books which reflect our future travel. Here are some of our favorites from the week.

This wonderfully illustrated book is full of an easy-to-follow story line as well as chalked full of wonderful facts on the bustling city of New York. It captured both the children’s attention levels and kept them throughout the story.

A beautifully illustrated story of the construction and journey of Lady Liberty from Paris, France to New York.

Miffy loves NYC and our kids loved Miffy as well as the real-life photographs of many monumental sites throughout New York City.

Here are a few I would recommend on New York for children second grade and older.

Laugh if you will, but this is where I am getting my factual background for our trip up to the top of the Empire State Building…or at least the observation deck on the 86th floor.

Emily continues to move through the Little House Series. Currently we are reading

A poem that Ma wrote in Laura’s autograph book is one that I desire to commit to memory.

If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,

Five things observe with care,

To whom you speak,

Of whom you speak,

And how, and when, and where.

Today we read chapter 17, Name Cards.  Our eyes widened and lips turned upward in a smile when to our delight, Almanzo asked Laura to go for a ride in his enviable buggy behind the beautiful Morgan horses, Lady and Prince. Ah, romance!

Joshua currently enjoys reading

We are working on learning his colors. However, he most enjoys making the animal noises.

I am continuing to read


That is what we are reading this Wednesday, and you?

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The Unseen Soccer Mom

I pass moms that look similar to me frequently.

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Dunkin Donuts coffee. Check.

Two or more car seats. Check.

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One of two styles going on: 1. Workout soccer mom. 2. I am trying to accessorize with earrings and matching clothes soccer mom.  Check. Check.

Smiling while dragging assisting one child and carrying the other one on your hip. Check. (This is only a portion of the time. Often they are running ahead of me in the grassy or carpeted portions of the landscape or sweetly holding hands. Check.)

Watching as the kids run into daddy’s arms and welcome him home while finishing up that one last thing.Then welcoming him with a hug and kiss (assuming I am not at the breaking point). Check.

What about all of the unseen moments of a mom? Are the private moments and mutterings identifiable?

Last week while parking at Target I was listening to Moody Bible Radio and heard a preacher say something along the lines of the following.

Women size one another up upon first meeting. They quickly look at one another and determine many things about one another including will she be a threat to my husband? Will she threaten my social standing in a group?

In other words, is this woman superior to me in some way and ultimately is she a threat?

Oh my, that takes soccer mom to a whole new level! The pastor preaching said that he knows this happens because many women have told him.

Can you identify with these statements?

My answer is a resounding YES!

Yikes! That scenario spelled out puts many feelings in perspective. I can attest this happens in my mind instantly without seeking to do so nor being cognizant that it is happening.

This is a result of sin entering a perfectly ordered world. Pride and insecurity at their worst.

When I look at moms that are similar to me on the outside I wonder the likeness of the unseen portions of their days.

Did they have their time in God’s word this morning? Do they know Jesus at all? If they do not know Jesus how on earth are they processing all the demands of marriage, family, and perhaps career? What is on their minds, to do lists, bucket lists?

What insecurities tease them? What temptations are they struggling with? Do they know they are beautiful and loved?

I am really not a soccer mom. My daughter takes dance and my son has not begun organized sports. However, I am a mom and I understand the world and the Bible are two different pulls on our lives. I know that authentic encouraging relationships between women are hard to develop. I am so thankful for women that God is placing in my path that are reaching out to me.

Can I honestly say that being a (youth) pastor’s wife somewhat makes relationships even harder? Is that ok confess? I hope so.

Whether we size one another up or not, we need each other. We need community among women that will encourage us on grande vanilla latte matching earring days and on homemade Foldger’s in my cup out the door to the gym days. It is how we proceed after the initial seconds of sizing each other up that will determine the flow of our relationships.

We need to be willing to communicate some of the unseen soccer mom at surface level so that in looking at one another we see more than coffee cups. We see souls searching for the same One. We see that we are really not all that different. We see a sister.

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Remembering a Mentor in the Faith

Dear Dave,

It will be two years since I last saw you and two years that you have lived in eternal time with Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Does time fly in heaven as it does here on earth?

I am writing to tell you of your impact in the faith on my life. This letter comes with much forethought and tears many times I think of you. See, I cry here on earth because deep in my spirit I know I am not home yet. This truth sometimes is a distant knowledge of which I must remind myself. At other times, it is as close as a whisper in my ear.

Because of your work for Jesus Christ in planning our mission trips to Ukraine, much work continues to go forth. Joe is serving as a full-time missionary in Horodok. Merrie and some of the others continue to take summer missions and continue to plant and water the seeds of the gospel that you helped to plant for many years.

Ron and I are continuing in the mission minded path the Lord Jesus used you to pave in our lives. I will be returning to the foreign mission field for the first time since our Emily was born four years ago. Do you remember that last trip? It came just after our return from a winter mission you helped me plan.

You were content to let a 25 year old young lady learn the ropes of leading a mission team and allowed her to take leadership responsibilities. Thank you for your training! Because you were content to nurture my call to serve in missions, a winter trip to Ukraine took place allowing for us to get our feet wet teaching English as a Second Language as a missions tool to reach the lost for Christ. One of my favorite parts of this trip was the fact I was accompanied by my sister. Thank you for your belief in me.

Few people touch the lives of two siblings groups out of one marriage, but you did. You led trips to Ukraine where both Ron and his brother, Tom, and I and my sister, Julie were able to go. These are memories that Ron and I will cherish forever.

This July I will be going on a new mission with a different destination than our beloved Ukraine. Following in the footsteps of Ron last year, I will be traveling with our team to Honduras to build four homes for children and their families who live and work on the trash dump in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.  Our work partners with a Christian school and church lead by Pastor Jeony of AFE.

I am so excited to plant my feet on foreign soil once again!

Dave, I wanted you to know that you are not forgotten. That your spiritual legacy lives on and the work continues. I am so blessed to have known you friend, and I look forward to seeing you when I come home.

Love,

friday favorite things | finding joy

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What I Am Reading Wednesday

{Alternately Entitled} What I Am Eating Wednesday

My favorite mom and pop store in my hometown was a hardware store. The wood flooring easily indicated where everyone was in the store as a hollow sound resonated with each step.

The bins and bins of bolts, nuts, nails, and screwdrivers provided ample opportunity for my sister and I to rummage. Perhaps the old-time feel came from the Coca-Cola machine. When you put your quarters in, a beautiful glass bottle rolled out to your palm. The cool refreshing drink was made even more delicious by the quality of the packaging and the novel experience.

This is the way that millions feel about the popular fast-food chain, Chick-fil-A’s, service.

Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A have a relationship that goes perhaps 80 years back.  Founder of Chick-fil-A, S. Truett Cathy was selling Coca-Cola long before he “invented” the chicken sandwich. As a young boy, Mr. Cathy learned the power of a profit. He would buy a 6-pack case of Coca-Cola for 25 cents then sell each one door-to-door for a nickel each. Making a nickel’s profit per case.

Mr. Cathy recently published, Wealth is it Worth it?

This is a fast, insightful read that I would liken to the easy reading of,Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. Mr. Cathy uses brief personal stories and narratives of other wealthy men and women to help the reader determine if wealth is worth the cost. Multiple pages interspersed throughout with insightful business and life-quotes make great inspirational points that readers will walk away quoting.

The Chick-fil-A story is one that teaches readers the power of business which considers consumers as customers with a story, not merely a means to make money.

Additionally, Chick-fil-A is committed to helping you write new stories in your family with special nights like Daddy Daughter Date Night.

Last night, my husband and I received a copy of Wealth: Is It Worth It? at our local Chick-fil-A Customer Appreciation Dinner.   Here are some photograph highlights:

 

As our final parting gift, we were given a first taste of Chick-fil-A’s new chocolate chunk cookies due in stores next month. I ate mine this morning with a hot cup of black tea…it is the best chocolate chip cookie that my mama didn’t make! Be sure and purchase one in April. It may be the treat to eat while reading Mr. Cathy’s book.

 To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” ~Chick-fil-A Mission Statement, Wealth Is It Worth It

That’s what I am reading this Wednesday. What about you?

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Restoration Projects

When winds howl at 95 mph and storms rage, damage is inevitable. Lucky people may escape with mere brush to pick up. Others are left with gaping holes in their homes’ infrastructure or worse, no home at all.

Imagine if your hometown is declared a national disaster zone by the President of the United States.

News teams swarm in donned in their galoshes, rain-gear, and microphones in hand.  Everyone makes the assumption that the President will make a speech empathizing with the community, promising to send aid to restore what the hurricane destroyed, and recognizing with understanding some valuables cannot be replaced. “National aid is sure to come,” think all watching.

Consider their surprise when the President walks by the cameras and outstretched microphones and boards Air Force One with a wave and a smile. He leans over to his press secretary instructing him to tell the people they can attend his next press conference. “I want to put this disaster behind us and forget it ever happened.”

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What? Forget 95 mph winds blew through and crushed everything in their path? “Come on”, you think, “I am not the President, but even I know it is impossible to act as though this hurricane never happened.”

It is the same way in our lives when families have a blow up of any size. Regardless of who started or finished the argument. It is impossible to merely sweep hurts and memories under the rug and avoid restorative reconciliation.

Yes, forgiveness on our part, even unsought forgiveness, is necessary. However, merely pretending a hurricane never happened is impossible.

While denial may be the best option for our pride, it is not the way of our Father and it does not restore health to the relationship.

Matthew 5:21-26 and Matthew 18:15-35 have much to say regarding anger, repentance, and forgiveness among brothers and believers. I am still sorting them out.

Consider with me that every good and even questionable mother teaches her young children to say “I’m sorry.” Our children are instructed to say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” To which the other should reply, “Yes, I forgive you.”

If children can kiss and make up, why not grown adults?

How can we ask our children to do what we are not willing to do ourselves?

I know what it feels to be an angry bird. I have a black belt buried in my back yard as a coercion ninja. Yet, I also recall this:

Put on then, as  God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,  compassionate hearts,  kindness,  humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and,  if one has a complaint against another,  forgiving each other;  as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on  love, which  binds everything together in  perfect harmony. ~Colossians 3:12-14

God is in the restoration business. He takes our failures, our sins, and when laid at the foot of the forgiving cross of Christ turns them into something redeemed. Something profitable. What needs restoration in your life? I am praying for restoration in mine.

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To Scoop Them Up

The days flee and the nights escape us. Little ones, while tucked in, grow and develop when our eyes are closed and our thoughts rest.

Each day we see them and know they are growing. Each night we check on them one more time, finding them in their most precious, peaceful positions. Why is it that children are most peaceful when sleeping? Why do we want to kiss them until they wake up?

Little-lisped “s’s”, normal for their developmental age flow out of, “Yeth it ith.” “I thee it.” We melt and smile.

Pages turn unfolding stories as in turn we are writing our own.

Even unspoken, blank portions of our story can become a writing down. A working in and out of the Holy Spirit. As all things can if we seek Him.

These memories and moments I want to scoop up. All the hurts and chaos I want to let flow on like water off a duck’s back.

To have eyes that see; ears that hear; understanding. These are gifts from God. In this temporary home may we seek after such as we choose to pursue Jesus. Let us scoop up the memories and live eyes on the eternal.

Two memories we scooped this week:

Joshua caressed my hair on the way out the door Wednesday night and said, “Like your hair,” as he tilted his adorable two-year-old head to the left and lifted his shoulder. Prince charming?

Emily asked, “Can some people be blind and not hear?” I told her of Helen Keller, one of my favorite people to read about in grammar and high school. I thought we had a book at home about her.  Emily asks, “Is it a children’s book or one of your books mommy? I don’t think I could sit for one of your books.” The wisdom!

Linking my favorites with Rachel as she celebrates one year of Friday Favorite Things:

friday favorite things | finding joy

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What I am Reading Wednesday

Last week I finished the book,Gilead: A Novel, in which one character extends a blessing to another:

And he took his hat off and set it on his knee and closed his eyes and lowered his head, almost rested it against my hand, and I did bless him to the limit of my powers, whatever they are, repeating the benediction from Numbers, of course–“The Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Nothing could be more beautiful than that, or more expressive of my feelings, certainly, or more sufficient , for that matter. Then, when he didn’t open his eyes or lift up his head, I said, “Lord, bless this beloved son and brother and husband and father.” Then he sat back and looked at me as if he were waking out of a dream. ~Gilead, p. 241

Outside of the Bible, this was the first time that I had read of a ceremonial blessing in print. What are the elements of a blessing? What is a blessing?

For starters take a look at what a blessing isn’t:

Please excuse me as this is one of the most often quoted movies among our friends. It is right up there with Dumb and Dumber. If you have made it this far in life without viewing either of these movies then suffice it to say there is no need to change that!

As I was saying, a blessing. A blessing as specified in the Old Testament and outlined in the book I am currently reading,

includes four parts:

  • meaningful touch
  • a spoken message
  • attaching “high value” to the one being blessed
  • picturing a special future for the one being blessed
  • an active commitment to fulfill the blessing

The first element, meaningful touch is where we will camp today. The research on the importance of physical touch for all individuals, not just newborns, is amazing. Physical touch as small as brushing someone’s hand in the exchange of money increases our favorability of the encounter. I sometimes purposefully avoid contact when exchanging money or my credit card…maybe I will revise this practice.

Wisely or unwisely, I find myself avoiding self-initiated physical touch with people of the opposite sex. Thankfully, according to my husband, I am not a flirtatious woman so I really should feel free to give a pat on the back, a side-armed hug, or a reassuring squeeze to arms of both men and women. According to the research that Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent present, it is very good for everyone’s health and well-being including the one providing the meaningful touch.

This goes for rapport with clients and patients as well. A neurosurgeon tested this theory by touching half his patients on the arm or leg. The half that received these reassuring touches felt that the doctor had been in their room twice as long as those not touched! (The Gift of the Blessing, 1986, p. 42)

At times, the smallest act of touch can be a vehicle to communicating love and personal acceptance. ~The Gift of the Blessing 

Do you feel as if you have missed out on being blessed by another? Is there someone that desires your blessing and you have knowingly or unknowingly withheld it? The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptancemay be a wonderful resource for you.
That is what I am reading this Wednesday. What is on your bookshelf?

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It Is Like Wearing a Bathing Suit

Being from the south, beauty pageants are in my past, as well as swim suit competitions. Talk about wanting to permanently erase some images from all minds exposed to that! Never mind the swimsuits for “scholarship programs,” comfort in a swimsuit in front of peers has never been a breeze.

For instance, the constant primping that teenagers inevitably face before pool parties and meet-ups at the beach. Oh, the agony! (OK, most of the time it is not that bad, but work with me here.)

Being a pudgy child, it may be that discomfort in a bathing suit has been a reality from elementary years. Though by no means enough of one to keep me from the water. This fish loves to swim and explore the shore.

Why all of this talk about uncomfortable bathing suit scenarios? I am getting there.

With writing comes moments of exposure akin to public speaking in a bathing suit.

A recent re-tweet on Twitter summarized “good writing” as follows, “If you don’t spill your heart’s blood on the page, or leave your soul’s echo in the story, they’re only words.”

On trips to the beach I am primarily comfortable in my skin. Everyone is in a swim suit…some needing more fabric than they allotted. Everyone is more exposed. Move this to a pool party among coed believers and up goes the inhibition alert. Especially when it is a kids pool party and I am primarily the only mommy in the pool. Anyone else been there?

The readership of my posts makes me feel the same way. With no Google Analytics or any other stat counter plugins on this blog, I have no idea how many people nor whom is reading my diary so to speak. Unless people I know personally tell me they have read a post then for all I know I am writing to my pals and gals at the beach.

Why would writing for an audience of strangers feel less threatening than writing for an audience of friends, family, and acquaintances?

Much like evangelists in the past who traveled between differing congregations, a blogger without real community readers, those who know him or her and their daily walk, can write virtually without accountability. That is why my insecurity as a writer makes me cringe at times when a friend or acquaintance tells me they read a post. I worry about grammar errors, the quality of the post, was I dogmatic, was I too vulnerable, how did this change their opinion of me?

All of these insecurities are not of the Lord. My purpose in writing is to share. Be it our life, our Lord, or encouragement to run the race with perseverance.

When a friend tells me she read a post,  it also makes me joyful because it provides accountability. Often times real-life readers provide affirmation and spiritual support. Authenticity is a cheap word in many cases today, but true possession of authenticity in speech, life, and writing is worth more than thousands of page hits per post. Thank you to “real-life” readers who help keep me authentic.

I praise the Lord for giving me this word picture while I was at the beach with my kids today. While comfortably wearing my bathing suit in front of strangers He brought this concept full circle. Praise be to His Name, Jesus.

P.S. Don’t worry, I never blog in a bathing suit in real life. Thanks for stopping by. I am linking with Katie and Stacey at:

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Creation: Why does it matter?

 

 A single visit to the ocean on one vacation will likely not be enough to produce a deep love and appreciation for God’s creation. A single museum visit or concert will probably not instill a deep understanding of how God’s creative image inspires people to create. But moment by moment, as we take time to reflect on creation, sketch a favorite mountain scene, write a poem of praise, or admire the new buds on a tree–and share all of these things with our children–we have the opportunity to cultivate an appreciation for God’s creative greatness in their souls and invite a grateful, in-his-image creative response. ~Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood, p. 195

 

 

 

As in stooping low we serve, bending the knee we humble, and pouring out we teach, so in quiet observation the created studies the creation and creating overflows. Man cannot help but attempt to create beauty from the beauty observed in creation.

Every gardener knows that in digging down deep, planting a seed, and tending to it regularly new life springs forth from the ground. In the same way newness of life is observed in those who abide with their Creator God. When we hide His word in the soil of our hearts a seed is planted and a harvest is sure to come.

Chance it to say that most outward, outright sin begins as inward iniquity…sin of the mind.

To take the inward iniquity of man and simply deny the outward temptations will not work forever. We must hide God’s word in our hearts that we may not sin against God. Scripture memory gives us a replacement thought, a living Word, to combat inner uttering and outward pulls toward our weak flesh.

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. ~Matthew 26:41

Even a father in the faith, Paul, cried out,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. ~Romans 7:15

We are no better and no worse than Paul… and neither are our children. That is why we must teach them God’s word and creation science so that when they are old they will not be easily persuaded to leave the path.

I am very far from having all the answers. However, we are as close to the scriptural truths as we place ourselves.

We must, in the words of Bro. Bill Anderson, put ourselves at the spout where the blessing comes out. Both you and I must do this. Meditation and memorization of God’s living word will bring us closer to this point. Involving our children in this will bring them closer with us.

Today, as we were outside playing in the dirt from which we came, I proceeded to recite the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-20 that I have attempted to memorize the past weeks. At the beginning of the first attempt, Emily asks, “What are you doing?” “I am reciting the scripture I have memorized.” “Like me in Cubbies?” she replied. “Yes, except my verses are all lumped together.”

She and Joshua heard me recite this portion of Scripture around four times as it took that many takes between questions from the children, a settlement of property dispute over a bubble-wand, and other happenings.

In creation, the created was creating and the Creator was glorified.

My children were watching and then followed my lead. Emily picked up her camera and began recording Joshua and the leaves, trees, and grass around her. She also prompted him to recite one of her Cubbies verses. Joshua, in turn, was given my camera and snapped shots of the “birds.” As he aimed the lens at the trees, we watched birds fly in and out as they were singing their praises to God.

 

 

 

Many in our culture would have you believe that religion is for the spirit only. The God who created us made us both intellectual and spiritual; therefore we must teach the Bible, creation, science, math, and everything else under the sun in relation to God, the truths of the Bible, and the evidence of Intelligent Design.

I was first introduced to such thinking above in the book,Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, by Nancy Pearcy. I was not sure that I was smart enough to read this book…the verdict is still out. However, I finished it. When the final page turned I was met with a quest to learn more, study more, and become more of a worker approved rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

In order for our little children to grow up and not depart from the faith we are teaching them, we must give them the tools they need to defend their faith against our culture, “scientific” theories such as Darwinism, and other worldviews they will encounter.

This begins with a solid foundation of hiding God’s word in their hearts.

Next, we continue equipping them via instruction at age-appropriate levels while engaging them in activities within God’s created order.

By providing evidence of God’s work in nature, it restores Christianity to the status of a genuine knowledge claim, giving us the means to reclaim a place at the table of public debate. Christians will then be in a position to challenge the fact/value dichotomy that has marginalized religion and morality by reducing them to irrational, subjective experience.  ~Nancy Pearcy, Total Truth, p. 178

Here is our video with recitation of the Sermon on the Mount. For the non-blogger friends of mine, it is called a vlog. So, listen and watch til your “vlogging” hearts content. Thanks, if you make it through its entirety.

 

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