I Never Would Have Dreamed........

When Evan was a young boy, he was about as shy as they come.





Hiding behind my leg when people tried to talk to him, I can remember trying to pull him around to say "hi" and finally just saying, "He is very shy."





Before he was even a teenager, he began taking piano lessons and later added guitar lessons. I often hoped that one day he would be on the worship team at church, but he never seemed to want to share his talent publicly.





I can remember vividly the moment that I came to peace with this.





I was reading, "Shepherding a Child's Heart," by Tedd Tripp; and in this book, Tripp challenged everything I had believed about my own motivation as a mom.





Did I want Evan to play publicly for himself or for me?





What if God had given Evan these particular gifts as a way of simply worshiping alone, much like David sang and played instruments while shepherding on a hill far away from crowds?





Could I be okay with this?





As I came to grips with the reality that deep inside I was wanting to see Evan on a stage more than he ever longed to be, I let go of these desires and allowed him to simply play for his pleasure not the world's.





Now, Evan is a young man.





If you have read my blog for a while, you know that Evan graduated from Morehead State University last spring and moved to California in September to pursue his dream as an actor, of all things.





If I lined up all of my children and even all of their friends, I think Evan would have been one of my last guesses (based on their childhood personalities) for "Who will decide to be an actor?" But I believe God has placed this desire in Evan, because his passion for the pursuit comes from deep within him not from any of us pushing back home.





When Evan and Tim left our house, Evan had a car full of most of his earthly belongings and a place to stay temporarily (with a friend of ours son) until he found an apartment.





Five months later, I am thankful to say that Evan has found a roommate and although he sleeps on an inflatable mattress, has a Rubbermaid container for a nightstand, and needs a dresser, he is doing well.





He has signed with a modeling agency, has been hired by catering company as a waiter, delivers pizzas some evenings for Domino's, and has a job with a fitness gym that has been under construction for the past few months. He has been taking some acting classes off and on and has auditioned for and been selected for a small part in a play.





He reads a lot about the art of acting, and we talk to him almost everyday.





I wanted to share a picture of Evan now that he is in California.




I don't know what God's plans are for him, but I do know this:





As long as Evan keeps God first and considers Him in all of his decisions, I believe God will lead Him to the right opportunities and set his boundaries in pleasant places.





Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.





I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.





Psalm 16:5-7





Evan has been attending a church called Ecclesia, and we are so thankful for Christians all over the world who can be there for our children when we cannot.





Here is my once-shy little guy:





evan





You can follow Evan on Twitter: @eggsandsalsa.





He often sends out health tips and funny, random thoughts from the West Coast.





Please keep him in your prayers.





We claim this verse for all of our children:





Proverbs 22:6





Train up a child in the way he should go:





and when he is old,





he will not depart from it.





Evan, we love you so much. We are proud of you. We pray for you every single day. You are never far from our heart, and God is always in your heart. I told you I would not worry about you, because I have placed you in the hands of God........and I still mean that. Whatever you do, do it for His glory and He will lead you along the right path......I believe that with every inch of my soul.









My dear blogging friends, as you pray for Charlotte, Martha, Amber, Evan, and so many more that you have on your hearts, please also say a prayer for Tim's mom. She was hospitalized yesterday in Dallas, Texas. Martha was hospitalized yesterday, too. I will keep you posted on all of them as I receive news.





All of my love and prayers,



A Week of Updates......

I have received emails asking about my kids from time to time, so I thought I'd spend a little time catching you up on how they are all doing.  This morning, I'll share about Olivia since she is home and I have photographed her recently.

Olivia is definitely a teenage girl!

If she wrote her own update, she would not hesitate to say that she is both sweet and moody rolled into one!

She reminds me of Paul in so many ways.....

Passionate about sharing God with her friends, knowing the kind of life God longs for her to live, yet often doing the very things she doesn't want to do.

I admire so much Olivia's ability  to regroup and move on, though. I was a teenage girl who could hang on to my moodiness for days, and I guess now is as good a time as any to say, "Thank you, mom and dad, for the grace you extended often to your daughter who could shut down and stay shut down indefinitely."

Olivia is going to give soccer a try this spring, so I think she is both excited and nervous.

She is hoping for at least one big snow this winter.  So far, we have had a Kentucky April for the month of November...rain, rain, and more rain.

Olivia still plans to be a pediatrician when she grows up.  This has been her dream ever since she stopped talking about being a "petnevarian," which is what she always called a veterinarian as a little girl.  Olivia is an animal lover to the core.  She can bathe three dogs in one afternoon and groom them all while humming every minute.  Here she is with Dash.

olivia jan 2012 0140014

Olivia is full of questions.

She wrote Tim a note during church yesterday asking about communion.

She is a deep thinker and keeps us on our toes..........challenged, inspired, and busy every day.

Nick and Olivia were big buddies, and I know she misses him as much as we do; but she presses on with the faith of Abraham.  I am thankful for our gift from India.  If you've considered adoption but been afraid, I am nudging you today to consider blessing your life and the life of a child who needs a home by stepping out and researching this option.

We went through Holt International, and they were wonderful!

I remember the night we decided to move forward.

Tim said, "If we bought a new car and made payments, five years from now we would have a used car.  But if we used that same money to adopt a little girl, five years from now I know we wouldn't regret it."

And he was right!

God handpicked Olivia for us from an orphanage full of beautiful children and it was love at first sight.olivia jan 2012 0160016

I've always wondered if one day Olivia might decide to return to India to help others know about God.

When she was four she looked at me one afternoon and out of the blue said,

"When I grow up, I am going to go back to India and tell people about God, and Jesus, and Spirit."

My heart was filled with both joy and fear.

Then without pausing, she looked at me with a very serious face and asked, "What is Spirit?"

I had to laugh and remember that there are a lot of years of learning ahead of Olivia before she might really think about heading across the ocean to share God's love.....

Until then, I am cherishing every moment, thankful that God allowed us to share Him with her.

"Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God,

the faithful God Who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations

of those who love Him and keep His commandments."

Deuteronomy 7:9

Olivia has a classmate who is in the hospital right now on a ventilator.

Her name is Amber Ripberger.  She and her family need your prayers.

If you would like to send her an e-card, I know her mom would be touched by love from all over the world.  Be sure to add where you are from to your note.  This will make Amber smile when she can.

Here is the link to the hospital:

http://www.cabellhuntington.org/features/ecards/?doAction=ShowCategories

Also, Charlotte is still struggling and need of prayer as they await a bone marrow transplant.

Martha's first round of chemo resulted in a very, very rough week of pain.

I know that God hears your prayers and answers in ways we may not see or understand until Heaven.

Thank you for being prayer warriors for those you do not know and those you do.

I love you all so much.

If you happen to be the reader from Iceland, I would love to talk to you.  I have a friend whose daughter will be traveling there, and she needs a contact when she arrives.  You can email me at tammynischan@yahoo.com.

Praying now for all of you,

 



When You're Anxious........

Life is filled with moments worthy of anxiety.

Stressful home situations, stressful jobs, health problems.............

I've had many anxiety-filled seasons in my life.

Seasons that seemed as if they would last forever.

I remember vividly the hours spent in different doctor's offices and hospitals with Nick waiting for news, waiting for surgeries to begin and end, waiting for chemo to start.

I remember clearly the feelings inside me as I sat by the phone waiting for a doctor or Tim to call with an update.

I remember Nick's last few weeks of life and can still see images in my mind that bring back memories so painful that I have to immediately think of something else or the anxiety rises again.

I also have present-day reasons for anxiety.

Not as severe, not as personal, but still difficult.

Parental anxiety, teacher anxiety, and the list goes on and on...........

Even the anxiety of my friends and students can cause me to feel anxious as I long to help them but often have no easy solution for their problem.

Life has a way of handing us challenge after challenge.

What do we do when we feel anxious?

I am so thankful that God included the word "anxiety" in the Bible and that He knew it was an emotion we WOULD experience.

I Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

This verse is one I carried in my purse in a notebook throughout Nick's journey with cancer.

I still cling to it today in my grief and in my day-to-day life.

I love to envision a fisherman fastening all of his anxiety onto a hook and casting the line far out into the sea.

Then, instead of reeling it back in, simply letting go of the pole and allowing the water to carry his anxiety away.

Today, if you are feeling anxious.

Don't feel guilty,

as if your faith is weak.

Simply know that God understands and He cares for you.

Cast your anxiety to Him.

Allow Him to carry it for you.

Lean back in His loving arms and know that He can handle all the things you cannot handle alone.

Praying for you all today,



A Psalm for Today.......

Psalm 20

In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry.
      May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
May he send you help from his sanctuary
      and strengthen you from Jerusalem.

May he remember all your gifts
      and look favorably on your burnt offerings.

May he grant your heart's desires
      and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
      and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
   May the LORD answer all your prayers.

Now I know that the LORD rescues his anointed king.
      He will answer him from his holy heaven
      and rescue him by his great power.
Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
      but we boast in the name of the LORD our God.
Those nations will fall down and collapse,
      but we will rise up and stand firm.

Give victory to our king, O LORD!
      Answer our cry for help.

Praying for you this morning,



Just say it.........

As a teacher, I'm more than happy to help a student......

if I know they need help.

As a mom, I'm thrilled to be there for my kids........

if I know they need something.

God knows everything already, but I think He longs to "hear" our needs straight from our mouths too.

He wants to share life with us not just be Lord over us.

When perfection began, it began in a garden.

God walking with Adam and Eve, talking and sharing life together.

The devil must have hated this intimacy, and I think one of his primary goals for tempting Eve was to place a wall between God and His creation.

Do you ever feel a wall between you and God?

Do you ever feel that your foot is slipping?

Do you ever feel anxiety rising up in you?

Just say it out loud.

Tell God how you are feeling.

He longs to break through the wall and support you with His love.

He longs to bring joy to your soul.

I've had many foot-slipping, anxious days.

I am so thankful for a Father who listens, cares, and comforts.

 

When I said, "My foot is slipping, your love, O Lord, supported me." 

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

Psalm 94:18-19



Healthy Perspective...........

Job sat in ashes, covered in boils.

His children gone.

Everything he worked for years to earn swept away.

With a wife saying, "Curse God and die," and friends surrounding him,

Job listened to their desperate attempts to make sense of his pain as they listed every possible thing he could have done to make God so angry.

And yet, Job looked up.

He knew that even if God seemed to have abandoned him, there had to be more to his tragic life story.

He knew that in spite of all of his agony, ONE DAY all the sorrow would be washed away in a minute.

He didn't understand his suffering.

Deep inside he felt unjustly punished.

He was the poster child for the saying,

"Life is not fair."

But Job still looked up.

Last night, I ran to pick up Olivia from a basketball game.

As I stepped into our driveway, I happened to notice how clear the sky appeared.

Every star sparkling in such vivid detail.

Stars I hadn't noticed in a long time.

I stopped for a second and just looked up.

These stars all shone in the same positions I had remembered them in a season where I looked up often.

I remember after Nick's death looking up almost every night, as if somehow I could see Nick in the expanse of the sky.

I knew he was there in the heavens, and I still believe that today.

I knew that the God of the Universe who created every sparkling dot in the sky still loved me and that He held Nick in the palm of His hand.

But life gets busy and looking up at the sky hasn't been a nightly occurrence for me for some time.

It felt surreal to stand in my drive way last night and see the wonder of the sky anew.

It was as if three years of grief were swallowed up in a moment's time as I slipped back in time to that early pain and felt the same peace I felt as I trusted God through those first few months of deep sadness.

Today, I'm sensing someone is brokenhearted and needs to know that God loves them deeply even when "life is not fair."

I am praying for you today, and I want you to know that no matter how uncertain, how painful, how difficult your earthly situation there is one thing that remains forever true,

"Your Redeemer lives and one day He will stand upon the earth at last."

And when He does, all of our heartache will be washed away..........leaving a cloudless night filled with the wonder of a starry sky.

Keep looking up.

He's there!

I promise.

Job 19:25-27

"But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he will stand upon the earth at last.
And after my body has decayed,
yet in my body I will see God!
I will see him for myself.
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
I am overwhelmed at the thought!



Thunderstorms in January.....

First, thank you for the emails, texts, and comments in response to Saturday's post. Smile  I am taking your advice and trying many of your recommendations.  I love you all so much.  You make me laugh, remind me I'm normal, and give me hope!!

Second, I awoke this morning to the sound of a downpour outside.  I knew bad weather was headed our way last night when my mom texted and said "Check your weather before heading to bed.  Bad storms are coming."

Thunder and lightning arrived just an hour or so after her text, and I'm guessing it's been raining all night long.

Today, we are in a wind advisory, with more storms possible, and I'm thinking, "This is odd weather for January."  The 10-day forecast shows no signs of cold temperatures or snow.  No, it's more like an April forecast.  Have we somehow missed winter?

It occurred to me, as I was thinking about our strange weather, that often in life we "expect" certain seasons at certain times and when these seasons  become jumbled we grasp for understanding.

I'm reading from Job right now, and I'm struck with the "mixed-up seasons" in Job's life and how he and his friends are grasping for some type of sense in all of his agony.

His friends ramble and guess and speculate as they sit with Job and try to bringing meaning to his countless tragedies.

Even Job gets caught up in trying to make sense of his losses, his pain, his illness.

But he can't.

And if your life is anything like mine, I'm just guessing there are moments when things just don't make sense to you either.

There are thunderstorms and January, and we are left wondering, 'Why?'

Late last night I received word that a college friend's wife had died unexpectedly yesterday afternoon.

The most tragic part of this news was that our college friend died several years ago leaving her a widow with a young daughter.  There is now an 8 year old little girl who has lost both of her parents in the wrong season of life.

Thunderstorms in January.

I fell to sleep last night to the sound of thunder and with this sweet little girl on my heart.

Life does not make sense sometimes.

What do we do in this mixed-up seasons?

I think there's only one answer.

We go to Him who created winter, spring, summer, and fall, and we simply say, "Be enough, Lord."

Be enough when flowers bloom, when leaves turn and fall, when ice and snow appear, and when blossoms reappear.

Be enough even in those seasons when it feels as if one thing should be happening (like snow falling), yet we are facing something unexpected (like a thunderstorm).

"Be enough, Creator of the Seasons."

Paul struggled with a weakness in his flesh that he did not understand.  He begged for healing.  He begged for this "thorn in the flesh" to be taken away.  And yet, God replied,

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

II Cor. 12;9

I don't know what you are facing on this Monday morning in January.

Maybe there is beautiful, white snow falling in your life and everything feels "right" for winter.

Maybe you're not sure what today will even hold.

And maybe, just maybe, you are hearing thunder and it doesn't make sense.

Whatever the case, please remember,

God is enough.  He is sufficient.  He will carry you through the snow and the storms....no matter the season.



New Deodorant and Other Concerns........

Although a health issue like needing to find a new deodorant is not my usual topic choice, I feel the need this afternoon to share that I am definitely in search of some new magic formula.  I realized this morning that you know your Saturday is somewhat "free" when that is one of the top things on your list of "things to do" after finishing lesson plans and straightening the house.

There's something about having a faint odor that brings back memories of your grandpa after he's had a hard day of work on the farm that makes you realize something is "just not right."  Especially when the toughest thing I've done today is clean up a few puppy accidents around the house.

Which brings me to another concern at the Nischan house.

Somehow I have exchanged the hectic schedule of running five kids all over the world for a somewhat quiet house filled with dogs!

While Snoopy and Peppy are quite old and honestly not a lot of trouble (except that they smell almost as offensive as I do at times, and they seem to need to come inside and/or go outside at the same time I decide to get comfortable with a cup of coffee and a book), Dash and Domino are struggling to understand the idea of potty training.

Mom and Dad were here for Christmas; and when Dad saw the puppy pad in the laundry room, his comment was, "So, you're training them to go on the floor."  I laughed and said, "Actually, I think you're right."  And you know what?  He is right!

Here's the problem:

Our back yard does have a fence, but it goes up to the top of our hill where there must be small places to escape, so taking the puppies outside EVERY TIME they need to do their little thing is very stressful.  Seeing the pups disappear up into the trees and then wondering whether or not they will return is  a little more than I can take three or four or one hundred times a day, depending on how often they need attention.

So, we are trying puppy pads, but I am about to give up on this style even if it's winter and even if it means multiple adrenaline rushes every single day as I hope the puppies will return after a little potty outing.

The main reason I believe it is time to try something else is this:

I had a dream this week that was way too real and left me feeling a little rattled.

I am going to share this dream at the risk of losing you all as friends (if sharing my need for new deodorant or my rant with my kids yesterday about wearing their retainers wasn't enough- by the way, I never had the nerve to ask my kids to read that post, so I am counting on God to lead them here, I guess).

Before I share the dream, let me give a little background on my mental state.

I am reading a book with my class right now called Hunger Games.  Maybe you have heard of it.  I've never seen a book take a high school age group by storm in such a powerful way as this book is doing.  Kids have been asking for the sequels for Christmas and birthday gifts from their parents.  They have been sneaking and reading ahead and talking about the book in conversations as if it's part of their normal life to have book discussions. 

The reality, though, is that this book is fairly violent.  Much more violent than anything I've ever read.  I'm not a scary movie person.  I'm not a thriller-book person.  In fact, my son Evan has said several times, "I just can't believe you like that book, Mom.  It doesn't seem like you at all." 

I think it's seeing the kids so "into" a novel that has made me love the book.  It is well-written and has lots of suspense.  But, again, it is violent and my mind doesn't do violence very well.

At the same time, a house with four dogs is more than crazy; and at school I often think of our house and kind-of shutter as I realize that as I walk in, I will one again be greeted by a stinky laundry room that needs a deep clean..in spite of the glorious puppy pad protection.

I say all of that to say this, "I think (hope) my dream stemmed from a combination of a violent book and a house that is putting me over the edge."

Cy, please don't hate me, because honestly, Peppy is my biggest buddy.  He's sleeping at my feet right this minute.  He follows me everywhere I go and whimpers until he is right by my side in the chair.

But in my dream, we were playing a board game and on each person's turn they had to do something.  On my turn, and I cringe as I say this, "I shot Peppy."  Yes, I shot my dog.  It was awful.  I woke up and saw Peppy and felt so guilty, so evil, so warped.

This dream has been haunting me, along with my need for new hygiene supplies, and I decided this morning that writing it all out of my system might be my only escape from my thoughts.

So, I am going to click "publish," and then I am going to sit back and cringe and hope that I still have at least one friend.

I am also going to hope that someone gives me a suggestion for a favorite antiperspirant-deodorant and/or a puppy-training secret.

 

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 

If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

I John 1:8-10

 

For now I am going to embrace the freedom that follows confession and try to enjoy my Saturday,



Wear Your Retainers! Please!

In four years of blogging, I have never used my forum to speak to my children. However, this morning I felt this nudge to say something to all four of them publicly that I believe has a lesson in it for all of us. So, I write this not so much for the "retainer" lesson but more for the "spiritual lesson" entwined within it. Honestly, teeth are such a small issue on the scale of life.........but our soul.................that is no small issue.


So, bear with me for just a few minutes as I write as a desperate mom. Smile


Erich, Evan, Todd, and Olivia,


I know that you have grown weary of me asking you if you are wearing your retainers. I know that many times your answer is "no," and I tend to seem a little ruffled and disappointed. I also know that in the scheme of life, wearing your retainers isn't the most important aspect of successful living. Believe me, I would much rather know you are reading your Bible, sharing your heart with God, and putting Him first in every decision you make.


However, I do feel a sense of passion about your retainers and here is why:


Your dad and I made monthly payments for YEARS so that you could have straight teeth. We could have chosen a new car, a driveway that isn't crumbling, a fence without termites, but we chose YOUR TEETH instead and we are happy with our decision.......until we hear you're not wearing your retainers!


Your dad and I spent hours on the road driving back and forth to the dentist, sitting in waiting rooms so that you would not miss any of your every 6-week appointments. We took days off of work to keep these appointments, and we are thankful for every minute with you........until we hear you're not wearing your retainers!


But the biggest reason I am begging you is this:


I have met too many adults who have said to me, "I wish I would have listened to my parents and dentist and worn my retainers, because my teeth have moved and now I can't get my retainers on anymore."


So, after I call each of you and for the first time ever ask you to read my blog, I am officially done asking (I hope I can keep this promise.). You are on your own to live with the consequences of choosing NOT to wear the simple device that keeps your teeth aligned. I hope that every night as you crawl into bed there will be a nagging voice (mine) somewhere in the recesses of your memory asking you the question for me, "Are you wearing your retainers?" I hope the voice haunts you; and if you forget to wear your retainers for just two or three nights, I hope it hurts a bit when you put them back on so that you will realize how quickly your teeth can move out of line. I hope this pain is a warning not to forget again. I love you all so much. More than words could ever express. I'm proud of you. I pray for you every single day more than once. I want you all to live FULL God-filled lives where you bring Him glory in everything you do. I want you to feel a purpose every morning when you wake up, and I want you to feel God's presence on the good days and the bad. But, as a shallow mom, I also want you to wear your retainers. Please.



Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I want to say this to my kids and to all of you who stop by to read today.


God, as our Father, left us with retainers.


His Words and the Holy Spirit.


He left them so that we would have a guide, something and Someone to keep us on the straight and narrow.


If we keep our Bible on a shelf or nightstand, it is just as effective as my kids' retainers are in their case.


We have to open it, read it, apply it, pray over it, love it, live by it...........


God sacrificed so much so that we could have the message of Hope that comes from His Word.


I think it has to hurt Him when we don't choose to spend time learning more about Him and turning to Him for guidance and direction.


I am guilty often, and, believe me, I have felt the pain of trying to live without Him as my daily guide.


I don't want that for any of you.



Today, we may not need physical retainers in our life, but I do believe we all need spiritual retainers.


Please don't forget to wear them!


Proverbs 4:11-12


I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.



Proverbs 3:5-6


Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.



Praying for all of you today,




Minutes Matter..........

There's nothing new about the reality the statement that "every minute matters," but some mornings the clock ticks in a way that makes you keenly aware of this truth.

How long you take drying your hair, how long it takes to pick out clothes, routine tasks become stealers of minutes that often pass unnoticed.

Unexpected things like a missing PD certification form that sent me hunting online for thirty minutes until I could recover it pushed my morning ahead quickly, causing me to move in a robotic fast motion, a speed I lived in for way too long and a speed I do not miss.

Now, the clock is screaming, "You need to be on the road in 12 minutes, heading to your appointment in Ashland.  Don't be late."

And I breathe and think, "WAIT!"

I refuse to let these few minutes slip by wastefully.

So I wanted to share a little something I discovered this morning when reading in Genesis.

I was caught by the words that Jacob said to Joseph on his death bed.  He requested that his body be taken back to Canaan to be buried after he died and told Joseph of the great sorrow he had experienced when he had been forced to bury Rachel on the road to Ephrath (which is Bethlehem).

My mind is fascinated with the thought that Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, was right there in the midst of all of these Old Testament stories.  I wonder if Mary and Joseph ever told the story of their ancestors to Jesus and said, "And Rachel was buried very near your birthplace."

I wonder if Jesus grinned as he heard them talk about Canaan and how important it was to the Israelites.  How it was their Promised Land.

And I just wonder if he ever talked to Mary and explained things more clearly so that she understood a little bit more about what was going to happen in the future than we get to read in Scriptures.

Today, we are all on a journey to the Promised Land, aren't we?

Christmas is a wonderful time, but let's don't die near Bethlehem, simply embracing the story of Jesus' birth.

Let's push on toward Easter and grasp the power of the resurrection!

Today, let every minute matter.

Each of them leads us forward toward Canaan.

Thankful for each of you,



Belated Birthday Memories...

I realized I never had shared pictures from Olivia's cake-decorating birthday party, so I wanted to say "thank you" again to Kim for all of her hard work and "thank you" to Brooke for staying and being a wonderful assistant!

I think the girls had a lot of fun and, who knows, maybe one of them will grow up to be the next Cake Boss!!  I think they all showed lots of potential!!january 2012 7470088

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May your Wednesday be as sweet as these cakes!

Psalm 119:103-104

How sweet Your words taste to me;
      they are sweeter than honey.
Your commandments give me understanding;
      no wonder I hate every false way of life.



The Next Thing.......

After a week of illness and a snow day Friday, I'm finding the minute-by-minute routine this morning extra-difficult.



Still a little weak and definitely sleepy, I'm fumbling through the motions to get ready for a day of school.



This morning as I was reading about Joseph's journey from being the favorite son of Jacob to being thrown in a cistern by his brothers and evenutally sold into slavery, I felt a little guilty for thinking I had it rough today. As I continued reading the saga of Joseph's life, I noticed something special about his character. Scriptures didn't seem to include any type of lamenting from this man. There's no dark prison anguish or questioning God with words like, "Why me??"



Joseph appears to take the next thing that comes along in his journey and do what he has to do.



He works hard for Potipher.



He resists Potipher's wife.



He interprets dreams while in prison.



Yes, Joseph, a one-time dreamer himself, spends a lot of time helping others figure out their dreams along the way. As he lets go of his own needs and focuses on others, God seems to slowly pull him up and out of the darkness surrounding him.



I love that Joseph eventually names one of his sons, "Ephraim," which he says means, "God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief."



Not once do I read words expressing Joseph's grief following the loss of his father's daily presence in his life or the sadness of being betrayed by his very own brothers in the desert. However, this name choice for his son seems to show that even though Jacob was doing "the next thing" all along the way, he was still grieving.



Today, I am inspired by Joseph to be a "next thing" kind-of person.



Yes, I'm sleepy.



Yes, I'm still a little queasy.



Yes, it's raining and my blanket calls my name.



But, for today, I am called to teach, to do the next thing in life.



And I am trusting that God will make me fruitful as I lean on Him for strength.



Trust Him today with your pain, your confusion, your fatigue, your loneliness, your fear, your questions, your doubts, your grief.............



Do the next thing.



You will find God to be faithful.



Scripture promises ys that those who "sow in tears will reap songs of joy."



Be faithful today with your tears.



God is with you.



He will make you fruitful.



Thank you, Father, for stories like the one of Joseph.



Thank you for showing up this morning in something as simple as the naming of his son....



Ephraim.......



"God has made me fruitful in the land of my grief."



Help me do the next thing just like Joseph.



In Your Son's Name,



Amen



God-Sized Plans.............

Before I begin this post, I want to say "thank you" for your prayers as I have been under the weather.  I am doing much better today.  Shew!

When they were safely out of the city, one of the angels ordered,

"Run for your lives! And don't look back or stop anywhere in the valley!

Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!"

"Oh no, my lord!" Lot begged. 

"You have been so gracious to me and saved my life, and you have shown such great kindness.

But I cannot go to the mountains. Disaster would catch up to me there, and I would soon die.

  See, there is a small village nearby.

Please let me go there instead; don't you see how small it is?

Then my life will be saved."

"All right," the angel said, "I will grant your request.

I will not destroy the little village.  But hurry! Escape to it, for I can do nothing until you arrive there."

(This explains why that village was known as Zoar, which means "little place.")

As I read this about a week ago, my eyes stopped at the lines "But I cannot go to the mountain....."

Can you imagine being in Lot's shoes? 

Visited by angels, spared by God, pointed toward safety, then having the nerve to say those words?

"But I cannot go to the mountain.."

 

Lot feared God's rescue plan!

 

I wonder how many times we say, "But I cannot..." to God's plan?

 

I don't want to take this passage out of context, but the fact that this series of events is included in the story must mean it holds some sort of lessons for us today.

I wonder if one of the lessons has to do with Lot's fear of the unknown?

I love that the angel allowed Lot to act on his fear.

Lot saw a small village nearby and begged to go there instead, because he thought surely disaster would find him in the mountains.

So, the angel, said, "All right.  I will grant your request." 

I wonder if angels ever roll their eyes, because I'm just thinking that this would have been a perfect facial expression as he breathed those words.

And then, I think the angel would have shook his head as he watched Lot dart off to Zoar which he knew meant, "little place."

 

So many times in my life, I have feared God's mountain-sized callings and settled for "little places" where I can have security and daily purpose.

But, I'm thinking God often has bigger plans for us if we will just muster the courage to GO!

 

Maybe we're not running from evil.

Maybe we're not running at all.

Maybe we're just feeling a call.

 

Let's each take some time to look deep inside our hearts this week and ask the question, "Lord, what do you want from me?"

If you feel the nudge to turn towards something daring and somewhat scary that could bring glory to Him, don't find yourself choosing a Lot kind-of life and settling in a "little place."



Drink Lots of Water and Get Plenty of Rest........

Tuesday at school, I started feeling very nauseated.

By the end of the school day, my head was throbbing. Organizing my desk before heading home became a monumental feat.

Since putting on my pajamas Tuesday around 4:30, life has consisted of sleeping, being sick, and taking Tylenol to try to help with the aching all over my body.

I'm hoping for a snow day tomorrow, because the thought of standing in front of a classroom still seems like a task beyond my capability.

 

As I've gone in and out of "reality" over the past 48 hours, I've thought of all of you and wished I had the strength to say, "I'm sick."

I've thought a lot about what happens when a person is sick.

Nothing seems to matter. Nothing but sleeping. And getting better.

Pain has a way of dominating the body, doesn't it?

 

As I thought of my body hurting, I thought of the church.

The body of Christ.

And something occurred to me that had never really crossed my mind before.

Sometimes, the church gets sick. Sometimes the body of Christ undergoes painful experiences - deaths within the family, illnesses, sins that affect many....

And for that season, nothing else matters.

Nothing but getting better.

 

As I tossed and turned and reflected on what in the world God was trying to say to me in my physical pain, I remembered the words we often hear when sick and the words my doctor said to me last night, "drink lots of water and get plenty of rest."

 

Could it be that as the body of Christ, we need to do more drinking from the Living Water and more resting when we are struggling?

 

The answer may not be more programs, more services, more members, more new songs...........

 

Maybe God is calling churches to be still and simply soak in God by reading His Word and learning more about His Son.

I wonder what a seeking, resting church would look like?  It sounds inviting to me right now.

A place to quietly learn about Him, read about Him, learn to love Him more.

 

Today, if you feel that you are spiritually sick, try this:

 

"Be still (rest) and spend time with Jesus...the Living Water."

 

John 7:37

Jesus stood and shouted to the

crowds, "Anyone who is thirsty may

come to me!



Looking Back.........

But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Genesis 19:26

This may be one of the most disturbing stories in the Bible for me.

We teach it to our kids in Sunday school as if things like this happen every day.

You can find all kinds of cartoon pictures of Lot and his daughters running away from a burning town, while Lot's wife, who is never even named, is standing behind them on the road...

looking back...

as a column of human-shaped salt.

To be honest, I want to study this passage more.

I want to look in more commentaries.

I want to ask some Bible professors a few questions.

I want to know why God, a God of love and mercy, chose to be drastic with Lot's wife.?

WHY DO I FEEL THIS WAY?

Because, I am a wife and mom who is guilty of "looking back."

I am the queen of second guessing., wondering how things might have been "if such and such hadn't happened."

And maybe, just maybe, God knew that when Lot hesitated and an angel had to seize his hand and pull him out of town that it was clear that having a wife who "looked back" would be the end of this line of people.

Constant drama may have been the word of the day if Lot's wife would have stayed in the picture.

But, I have to believe there was more to Lot's wife than we ever got to see.

Maybe her heart was wicked.

Maybe her love of material "things" caused her  to long to stay in such an evil place just to keep the luxuries she had always enjoyed.

For this morning, I do believe this:

The question is not so much, "What you are looking back to see?"

I think the question is "Why are you looking back to see it?"

God knows our heart.

He is a soul searcher.

He is loving and merciful, and I do not believe He acts without reason.

 

The Bible says that fearing God is the beginning of wisdom.

So, if this story frightens you like it frightens me, then I guess it shows that we are beginning to get a little wisdom.

The Bible also tells us several times to "flee from evil" and "draw near to God."

Today, look up to God.

Don't look back to a life without Him.

I am so thankful that God is constantly pursuing us, longing to pull us closer to His heart.



What is it going to take?????

At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. "Hurry," they said to Lot. "Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out right now, or you will be swept away in the destruction of the city!" When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful.



As I was reading this passage last night, I was struck by something I had never noticed before.


After being visited by angels, seeing the evil of the town in which he lived, and being warned that the entire city was going to be destroyed,



Lot still hesitated........



Part of me wonders, "Would I have done that too?"


Sadly, I think I know the answer.


Fear is a powerful tool of the devil.


I'm sure that even though the devil is never mentioned, he was there...somewhere...playing with Lot's mind.


He's here too.


Casting doubt.


Raising tough questions.


Whispering failure.


Speaking fear.


Reminding us of the comfort we "think" we have if we just stay put.


Yes, I'm afraid if this passage was the story of my life, it would read the same...


Tammy still hesitated..


I breathe a huge sigh of relief. though, when I remember the last words of this passage,



The Lord was merciful.



And this morning, I want you to breathe that same sigh of relief.


God is merciful.


God knows we have an enemy who is relentless.


He knows that in some ways his power can be overwhelming in our actions.


But He also knows that, in the end, TRUE POWER rests in Him and Him alone!!!


So, He patiently lead us and sometimes seizes us to snatch us away from the things that are pulling us down.



As we begin a new week of January, 2012, let's take an inventory of our life.



Are there things we need to let go of but we are hesitating?


Are there relationships that are not drawing us closer to God but maybe even further away from the One who can save our soul that we need to reevaluate?


Is our thought life leading us to the heart of God or away from it?


Are there habits we need to break, but we find ourselves making excuses, procrastinating on making changes?



Remember this:


Lot was not an evil person.


He simply lived in the middle of an evil place.


Sometimes God wants to move us away from destructive things (physically, spiritually, and emotionally) BEFORE it is too late.



Today, don't find yourself hesitating.


I am sure an angel has had to "seize my hand" more than once and pull me away from negative things.


I know the Lord is merciful.



But let's not forget what happens to Lot's wife just a few verses after this.


We'll talk about that tomorrow.



I love you all.


Happy Monday!




Mixed Emotions..........

Today is Olivia's 14th birthday!

I'll never forget the day pictures arrived in the mail of Olivia's little face.

We had 6 days to say "yes" or "no."

The minute her eyes made contact with mine, I fell in love with this little girl on the other side of the world.

image

Sitting in an orphanage, her background a stack of books documenting so many others who need homes.............

I remember thinking that it looked as if she were trying to hand us her toy in exchange for our love.

I'm so thankful we said, "yes."

Olivia blesses our life every day.

Her humor, passion for God, love for animals..........

She brings joy to the walls of our home.....a home that has felt a lot of sorrow.

Happy birthday, Olivia!!!!!!!!!

olivia 011

The mixed emotions swell up, though, as I think of the fun we are going to have today.

Fourteen girls will be coming to stay all night......my friend, Kim, is going to give them basic cake- decorating lessons.

I know the night will be filled with laughter.

But, I know that so many I love aren't laughing as much today.

Martha's anxiety continues to rise as her trip to MD Anderson approaches quickly. Her appointment is Wednesday in Houston. Please keep her in your prayers.

Charlotte's treatments continue, and on such a tiny body chemo can be so harsh. Please lift up Charlotte and her family as they walk this road of leukemia.

My brother and his wife are experiencing a heartbreaking weekend. Yesterday, they learned that she is having a miscarriage. I have cried so many tears for them since hearing this news.

I don't understand a world with such happy and sad times rolled into one.

I remind myself that for now the devil has some power to steal, kill, and destroy........

but this power is temporary.

I remind myself that his goal is our pain, our destruction, our doubting of a God who loves us,

but this goal will never be reached if we cling to God through the happy and the sad.

I remind myself that even Jesus says, 'In this world you will have trouble,"

but He goes on to say, "I have overcome the world!"

Today, my heart churns with thankfulness, joy, sorrow, and many questions.

I am so glad the Bible contains the words,

"Cast every care upon Him."

and then goes on to tell why we should do this............

"Because He cares for us."

Today, if you feel burdened, confused, sad, or worried,

tell God about it.

I promise He is listening.

And He cares.



Alarms should be Alarming........

It's Friday, and I'm pretty sure the week has caught up with my body.


The snooze alarm was a pest this morning, a gnat that kept swarming.......


and I kept batting it away........


Until I realized I had missed my chance for a leisurely morning. Now every second of the clock is passing more quickly than my heartbeat can keep up.


Coffee is brewing late. I'll have to sip it while getting ready instead of under a blanket.


I'm not a fan of these kind of mornings, but guess what?


I don't really get a choice when my mind won't snap awake enough to know that the sound of my alarm is truly an alarm and not just an annoying beeping in my head.


What alarms are you missing today, pushing them away as if they aren't really "alarming?"


Maybe health symptoms, maybe spiritual signs, maybe emotional troubles, maybe relationship red flags.........


Don't ignore these alarms.


Do something today.


Wake up!


I wish I would have.......about an hour ago!!


Happy Friday even if my eyes are drooping and my typing is short!


Love you all so much!



Sunrise, Sunset..........

I love that God paints beautiful skies, morning and evening.

2009 cruise pics 0229 resized

It's almost as if He is chooses to remind us daily that on either side of dark times........2009 cruise pics 0489 resized

He is there.christmas 2011 049141

We don't have to wonder, when the sun sets, if the earth will see sunlight again.

We know.

We trust in a star over which we have no power.

We trust in the rotation and orbit of our planet, which honestly is a tiny dot in the midst of our universe.

How much more should we trust in the One who set all things in motion?

Here are just a few of the many promises made available to us through His Word:

He will not leave us or forsake us.

He has a plan for us, a plan to give us a hope and a future.

He began a good work in us and will be faithful to complete it.

He works good in all things according to His will and purpose.

He makes everything beautiful in His time.

He turns to us and hears our cry.

He lifts us out of pits.

He covers us with His wing.

He holds us in the palm of His hand.

He knows our thoughts before we even think them.

He knew us before we were ever born.

Hab. 3:4

His splendor was like the sunrise;
   rays flashed from his hand,
   where his power was hidden.



Think "Up" Even When You're Looking Down......

I was walking through our kitchen the other day, and noticed the sun shining in through our curtains in a way I had never seen before.  I tried to figure out how this happened, and it never really made total sense to me.  I guess the folds in the curtains were just right, but still the fact that no other window was affected by the light must have meant that the clouds were aligned just right over the sun so that only this section of our windows was catching its rays.  Anyway, this is what I saw on our kitchen floor:

IMG_7177_0023

 

Some might call me crazy for even noticing, even thinking that maybe God was sending love from Nick and Adrienne, but I don't really care.  This tiny gift that came from the sky was enough for me as December 2011 ended and we braced for yet another year of living in midst of our grief.IMG_7178_0024I share these pictures as a reminder of the fact that in this life there are going to be a lot of things that happen that will cause us to have a downward look (illness, rejection, loss, pain, sadness, hurt, etc.), but even in the act of looking down God can speak from above.  He is omnipresent, which means He is in your upward worship and He is in your downcast spirit, He is behind you, before you, beside you, above you, and YES, He is below you............

Trust Him in the good times and lean on Him in the bad times.

While Nick was fighting cancer, we met many wonderful families on the same road of cancer.

One family in particular became very close to us.  You might remember praying for Jenna as you prayed for Nick.  Jenna won her fight with leukemia, and she is doing great!  We are so happy for them about this!  However, not long after their life became somewhat normal again, Jeff (Jenna's dad and prayer warrior), was diagnosed with ALS.  His journey for the past couple of years has been heart wrenching,and we received word yesterday that He has been called home.  Maybe the hearts on my kitchen floor represented Nick meeting Jeff again, or maybe they were just God's reminder that His love goes in all directions.  Whatever the case, I believe wholeheartedly that the light shining in my kitchen windows was met for me and for you, so I am sharing it today as I share some of Jeff's words with you  that he penned several months ago.

I want you to see in living color what it means to think "UP!" even when you're looking down.....Here are the words of Jeff along with his photo after the ALS had begun to transform his firefighter figure into a wheelchair laden man of God.

"it was the best of times, it was the worst of times....,"

Charles Dickens was so right.

"There is nothing good about my life."  my 9 yr old daughter said that to me one day in 2006 as she lay in her bed at NCH fighting leukemia.   I don't know my reply, I was so stunned.  it was the low moment of my life.  still is.  no 9 yr old should ever utter such words.

now this 49 yr old feels tempted at times to utter the same words...almost.  shame.

I weep for my old life.  I can't remember it.

I no longer walk, I barely can talk, or eat.  most of my food goes thru my tube.  mmmmm!

Gina does EVERYTHING for me----praise.

but,  this is not the end.

W. CHURCHILL said in 1940 after the ENGLISH Defeated the  Germans in the  BATTLE OF BRITAIN, knowing that final victory still lie years ahead,   "this is not the end,  it's not even the beginning of the end,  but perhaps it is the end of the beginning."

don't know how long I'll remain on this earth. but I know it's not the end.  not even close!  it is only the end of the beginning of my everlasting life with CHRIST!    Then will the good stuff begin!  And never end.

Are these times your best?  is this life on earth all there is for you?  80 years or so....or 5 or 10 or 49?
I pray not.  like the flower these times will one day wither and fade away.
I sometimes feel sorry for myself, my life now.

But I must deal in Gods truth not feelings.       

HIS promises far outweigh MY pains and sufferings.  AMEN.

come to CHRIST, know HIM.  Serve HIM.

trust me, the best is yet to come.
PRAY FOR US.

I STILL BELIEVE......

jeff aldridge

 

Please keep Gina and their three daughters in your prayers today along with Charlotte and Martha and so many others who face each new day thinking "up" but with many reasons to look down.

If you find yourself looking down today, please know God is there with you.

IMG_7179_0025

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;

therefore I will remember you

from the land of the Jordan,

the heights of Hermon-from Mount Mizar.

Psalm 42:5-6



After Revelation........

I'm always struck by the stark contrast between the energy, momentum, and majestic events as the book of Revelation ends and the calmness, serenity, and simple events as the book of Genesis begins.

This morning I was thinking about the end times and how the new heavens and the new earth will be created by the same God who created our heavens and earth, and I wondered, "What will the new earth be like? Will the perfection of the garden of Eden be recreated?"  I think it talks somewhere in the Bible about Heaven having a tree of life which the garden also had, and now I'm wanting to spend some time reading Randy Alcorn's book about Heaven again.

We're getting ready to start Beth Moore's Bible study on the book of Revelation in Sunday school class, and I am so excited!

I think I will read the book on Heaven at the same time, so I can look for any comparisons along the way.

One thing is for sure:

Jesus is coming back one day to take us to Heaven!

I use to fear this event as a little girl.  I am so glad that the Bible says that "Fear is the beginning of wisdom."

If you fear the return of Jesus today, know that you are on a journey to becoming wise!

As you journey, this fear will transform into something beautiful.  One day, all of our fears will be wiped away as we stand in the presence of Perfection.

I think that is why the Bible says, "Perfect love casts out fear!"

After Revelation, there will be perfection once again.

Perfection that removes all fear.

Today, as you venture into the first Monday of this new year, spend some time thinking about Jesus' return.  How does it make you feel to think that He is preparing a place for you?

I'm praying for you today!

I'm praying that you will feel the excitement and joy that comes from knowing that this is not our forever home.

I'm praying that you will stand firm in the goals you have set for this year.

I'm praying that you will feel peace no matter what you are facing today!

God is on your side!  He has a heavenly home waiting for you!  Nothing can separate you from His love!

Embrace His love today and remember there is wonderful life...........

After Revelation!



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