"…And she smiles at the future." ~Proverbs 31:25

Posts tagged ‘heaven’

Out with the old

2013 is done and gone. And frankly, I’m glad to see it go. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, this past year has been one of the worst years of my life. But in addition to making one miserable, having a rotten year can also be an excellent and effective teacher. Here are three lessons I’ve learned:

First, I’ve learned to love the Psalms. They say misery loves company, and there is something very comforting about having someone else pour out his heart in words I can’t seem to find in mine. Just listen to a few of the many verses of the Psalms I’ve relied on this past year:

 When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul. (94:19)

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them. (34:7)

But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
My steps had almost slipped.
Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (73:2, 23-24, 26)

Psalm 37:24

Psalm 37:24

I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness,
Because You have seen my affliction;
You have known the troubles of my soul,
But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, “You are my God.”
How great is Your goodness,
Which You have stored up for those who fear You,
Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You,
Before the sons of men!
Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the Lord. (31:7, 14, 19, 24)

The Psalms have reminded me that this is not my burden to bear. God will fight for me if I allow Him to, rather than trying to control everything myself. I can’t do it; but He can!

When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You. (56:3)

Psalm 68:19

Psalm 68:19

And I can’t leave out an old favorite from Psalm 55:22,

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

Second, I’ve learned the necessity of daily focusing on the positive. I’ve been blessed so abundantly, yet it’s easy to look past all the great people and things I’ve been gifted with if I’m focused on the rotten parts.  Spending time every day expressing sincere thanksgiving goes a long way toward helping keep the focus on what’s great about this life.

Four of my many, many blessings

Four of my many, many blessings

Third, I’ve learned to long for heaven. Yes, I’ll admit it: Sometimes my world is SO good, SO easy, SO comfortable, that I lose sight of the fact that we who are Christians are just passing through this world on our way to heaven.

But this year I have looked forward to Christ’s return like never before, and it has kept me going forward. In the words of Psalm 27:13,

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

So, maybe it wasn’t such a rotten year after all, since I learned some much-needed lessons.

What about you? I hope 2013 was FANTASTIC for each of you reading this post. But I suspect I’m not the only one who’s had it hard this year. If it’s been a difficult one for you, too, why not take a moment right now to leave me a comment and let me know what YOU are truly thankful for? You may be surprised at how quickly it will put a smile on your face, just acknowledging one of the many ways God has blessed you recently. In fact, even if you’ve just had your best year ever, I still encourage you to share what you’re thankful for here. Maybe, just maybe, it will be the perfect reminder the rest of us need.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

So glad I found them

Today was a long day…a busy, exhausting day. But today, as every day, there were so many reasons to smile, and I’m thankful I was able to find them. (I hope you found reasons to smile as well, and I hope you’ll share them in the comments below.)

Today I smiled because I found this hanging on my nine-year-old daughter’s wall:

(It was completely her idea, and discovering it in her room made me happy.)

Today I smiled because my 16-year-old chose to use his free time to do this:

(Where did he get this talent? And even more baffling, when did his hands get so big?!)

Today I smiled because I know there won’t be ANY days like this in heaven. 🙂

Today I smiled because a sweet friend offered to help…and insisted that I let her.

Today I smiled (guffawed, rather) because my 14-year-old caught me off guard multiple times with his unexpected, witty comments.

Today I smiled because we found these while cleaning out the garage, and the girls got such a kick out of them.

And as the day was drawing to a close, I smiled once more at this conversation with my three-year-old:

Remington: One day, God said to me, “Remi, you and I are going to catch an octopus.”

Me: Remi, do you remember how God talks to us?

Remington: How?

Me: Through the Bible. We read the words in the Bible, and then we know what God is saying to us.

Remington: Ohhhhh…..

Me: So…Does the Bible say that you are going to catch an octopus?

Remington: (with a big smile) YES!!

You just can’t reason with a three-year-old.

What made you smile today?

Thanks for stopping by!

9/11: Remembering the terror and the hope

Last week I had an appointment in a medical facility that used to house the offices of my obstetrician.  As I traipsed down the hall toward my new doctor’s waiting room, I glimpsed something familiar out of the corner of my eye that stopped me in my tracks. A flood of memories washed over me…memories of the Tuesday morning, exactly ten years ago today, when I sat in one of these same chairs while the world, as we knew it, changed.

Fifteen weeks pregnant with our third child, I had been eagerly anticipating my early-morning prenatal visit when suddenly, the waiting room TV began to pour forth shocking images. The newscasters were breathless as they reported, in high-pitched voices, the unspeakable acts of terror that had been committed. I sat frozen in that chair, stunned, unable to comprehend or absorb what was happening, as the reports continued.

I’m not sure now how long I sat there—riveted to the box in front of me, gaping at the destruction and horror being broadcast—before I was roused by the realization that someone was calling my name. Numbly, I followed a nurse to the exam room while myriad emotions battled within me. Fear. Anger. Injustice. Shock. More anger. My heart turned leaden as I contemplated the precious, tiny life inside me and the bleak world into which he (or she?) would be born.  I can remember that sadness descending upon me like a weight…

…until the good doctor came in, and the Doppler device was brought out…

…and a beautiful sound filled the room.

For the first time, I enjoyed the blessing of hearing this unborn baby’s heartbeat, strong and healthy. (I still get chills just remembering it.)  I heard that glorious sound—the remarkable sound of reassurance and relief— just minutes after seeing the disturbing footage that was being delivered to the waiting-room occupants and to the rest of a horrified country…and yet my spirits were lifted by the assurance that this tiny child was alive and safe.

I began to rejoice. I began to dream of a peaceful world for all our babies—one free from terrorism and its accompanying gloom. I began to pray that this miniature, unborn person might grow up and help make this world better. I began to believe that with God’s help, he (or she?) truly could.

Today, I am praying for all those who suffered loss in that tragedy, and who continue to suffer. Today, I am thanking God for all the brave ones, the unselfish ones, who came to the aid of those in need. But especially today, I am praying for the families of the unborn babies who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks. Especially today, I am praying for a group of children around my daughter’s age—over 100, now-9-year-old boys and girls who never had the privilege of meeting their earthly fathers because of this senseless tragedy. Especially today, I am praying for their mothers, who had to try to explain the inexplicable.

There is a better world coming. A perfect world.

Let’s be ready!

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

Thanks for stopping by.

Labor Day musings

It’s a thankful kind of day. (Does that sound a little like something Winnie-the-Pooh might say? Well, it’s true.)

Today I’ve been thinking about how much I appreciate my hard-working husband, who labors all year long to provide for our family.

Today I’ve been thankful that he’s held down a steady job throughout the 20+ years of our marriage, and that he’s always been willing to shoulder that responsibility so that his children can have a mom at home. Today I am proud of him for continually trying to do his job better. Today I’m appreciating the career choice he’s made, even though I know it wasn’t an easy one.

He finished college with a degree in mass communications, public relations, and advertising. I earned mine in psychology. Between the two of us, we knew we’d soon be “rollin’ in the dough.”  I think a minister is the last thing he ever thought he’d become, and I certainly had no plans to marry one. (In fact, I’ll admit I stated quite the opposite intention on a number of different occasions.)

But I love that he ended up opting for this career. He chose it, not because it would ever make him wealthy and certainly not because it would be easy. (There’s no 9-to-5 weekday schedule and leave-it-all-at-the-office-when-you’re-done in this emotionally-taxing job.)  He was just grateful for his hope of heaven and wanted to point others in that direction, and he chose his career path accordingly.

Today I’m also feeling thankful for all those who labor in God’s Kingdom, whether

missionaries struggling in the field,

elders diligently watching over the souls of their congregation,

preachers willing to proclaim the sometimes-unpopular truth from the pulpit,

deacons serving quietly behind the scenes,

Bible class teachers spending hours in preparation out of love and concern for their students,

parents striving intentionally to teach, build, and nurture their families instead of “just coasting,” or

Christian men and women who busily do what needs to be done to meet the needs of those around them.

You may be feeling under-appreciated or even unnoticed, but my encouragement to all of you is to keep up your hard work, bearing this great promise in mind:

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Gal. 6:9)

Have you thanked someone for their labor today? If not, why not add that to your list of Labor Day activities?

Thanks for stopping by.

PTP highlights

(If you missed yesterday’s post, you might want to read about what PTP is here, first.)

Although it would be impossible to boil down the past week into the parts that were my favorites, I do want to share a couple of highlights here. These are the things that I know will stay with me long after other parts of the event fade from memory.

For example, I’ll always remember that, while our toddler was sleeping on me during one of the workshops, a sweet lady I’d never met leaned over and said, “May I please hold your baby for you so you can take notes?” Remington slept contentedly on her new friend for the remainder of the class….and I took lots of notes!

Afterward, she thanked me for sharing Remi with her. How sweet is that?

Another very special memory: Sunday morning, many chose to leave the convention center to worship at area congregations. Our family stayed on site to worship with a crowd of 1237 filling the combined ballrooms. I will never, ever forget the moment the singing began. I opened my mouth to join in, but when those thousand-plus voices began praising God, a capella, I had to just sit and listen for a moment. Suddenly I was more anxious to go to heaven, more anxious to sit around the throne of God, praising Him for eternity. I choked back tears. Then I peeked sideways at my husband, who was clearly experiencing the same emotional reaction. We finally got ourselves together and sang with the enthusiastic crowd.  I will always remember this.

I loved sitting at the feet of amazing speakers all week, like the missionary from Africa who was baptized the year my father was born! I loved mingling with a mass of people who were on fire for God, excited about spreading His Good News and happy to be there to encourage each other.

This was one of my favorite recurring scenes during the week:

Each time we left the convention center we’d hang all our lanyards on the mirror of our vehicle so they’d be ready for the next time we went in.  And every time I looked at all of them hanging there together, it made me happy. It was so nice to be doing this as a family!

One huge highlight was the Future Preachers Training Class that Connor participated in. Forty boys, ages 10-14, were taught the basics of how to prepare a sermon in a series of three, 3-hour classes. They were given a topic on Monday and had to prepare a short lesson to share with the rest of the class on Wednesday. This was a real  stretch for Connor, who had to step WAY out of his comfort zone, and he came up with a great sermon on his assigned topic,  “The Bible.”  I was so proud of him!

Then, on Thursday morning, some of the boys gave their sermons in a class for the adults, and afterward they had a graduation ceremony. It was VERY emotional (again!) sitting through that class, listening to that group of young boys earnestly sharing God’s Word and thinking about all the potential they embodied. I found myself wondering how many souls would be brought to Christ because of the tender hearts of those young boys, who had been blessed and wanted to share their knowledge with a lost world. It was incredibly moving, and I guess if I had to pick one favorite part of the week, this would have to be it.

So once again, I am feeling thankful. I’m grateful to all the preachers who were willing to help mentor these young boys, and thankful for the boys and their desire to share Christ. I am thankful for all the speakers who were willing to share their wisdom and experience, and especially God’s Word, with the rest of us who were there. I’m thankful for all those who sang with full hearts Sunday morning and for the effect that had on our whole family. And I’m grateful to our elders, who allowed us to go be a part of all this.

Thanks for stopping by!

Check out all these PTP-related posts:

What I learned at PTP (Part1)

What I learned at PTP (Part 2)

What I learned at PTP (Part 3)

What exactly is PTP?

Our Great Smoky Mountains Adventure

Traveling Smiles

Should we be building here?

On our recent camping trip, we strung up a makeshift clothesline to hang out some wet clothes after fishing.  It was only up for a few hours before we needed that rope for something else, and yet when we pulled the clothes down we found this in the pocket of Troy’s shorts:

We’d seen some small birds hanging out near our picnic shelter (I want to say finches, but a bird expert I am not, so who knows?) but we couldn’t believe that they’d chosen a shorts pocket as their building site and had moved in so quickly.

(By the way, I’m going to go out on a limb here–pun intended–and say that the Heath Bar wrappers were already in the pocket before the birds began their nesting. I won’t say how they got there. But they weren’t MY shorts.)

The next day, Troy reached into our 12-pack box of lemonade to grab a few cans for the cooler, and guess what he found inside?

Here’s a closer look:

I know it’s hard to see well because of the ground it’s sitting on, but there was quite an elaborate construction in that unlikely address!

Here’s a picture I haven’t shown you yet, but it was one of the first things we found when we surveyed our campsite, and you need to know about it…

…because when we turned that nest over, we saw it again!

Let me zoom in for you:

Amazing, right? In a way, I wanted to applaud these little birds for their resourcefulness. After all, they used what was available to them and were satisfied with it, and we could all learn a lesson from that. But, it was also sadly apparent that they made some really rotten choices for their construction sites! And I think there’s a lesson for us there, too.

How much of our time, money, and energy do we pour into obtaining and maintaining the perfect home here on earth? We know it won’t last, but we often let it become our focus. We forget about II Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

For those of us who are homemakers, we see our homes as a reflection of ourselves, and rightly so. It’s important to be good stewards of what we’ve been blessed with, and if it’s our job to take care of the house then we should certainly do the best we can with what we have. But what if we took some of the time, money, and energy we spend caring for the HOUSE (cleaning, decorating, shopping, repairing, remodeling, and so on) and put that into making a HOME instead? What if we emphasized loving, laughing, teaching, learning, growing, bonding, encouraging, praying, and serving each other over our houses and the things they contain?  Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it….”

If I’m going to make a home, I want to establish it in the best possible place. I want to be building for eternity.

“For our citizenship is in heaven,

from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” 

Philippians 3:20

Thanks for stopping by!

I have everything

He fell in step beside me, as the neighbor kids often do when I walk to the mailbox down the street. And he stopped me in my tracks with the very first words out of his mouth.

“Ms. Amy, you have everything!”

“What?” I laughed, looking around and wondering if I’d heard him correctly. But the little boy wasn’t laughing. His big brown eyes were serious as he looked up at me and continued.

“You are a teacher, you have two cars…and you get to teach people.”

My first reaction was to explain to him that our vehicles were both older models and that they weren’t exactly……But no. I couldn’t get a single word to come out, because I knew that he was absolutely right. Both our vehicles serve their purposes perfectly, and on top of that, I “get to teach people.”

I get to teach other people’s children in Bible classes at church, and in both our homeschool co-ops. And I am privileged to teach my own four children at home every day. And while sometimes all that teaching feels more like a burden than a blessing, I realized there on the sidewalk by the mailboxes that it’s a gift I’ve been under-appreciating.

Because I do love to teach. I love reading with my kiddos and seeing them learn. I love learning with them all the things I never knew about history and geography and science.

But most of all, I love that I get to teach them about heaven, where we can spend eternity with the God who gave us this incredible life that’s still only a hint of the one to come.

Yes, I have everything.

It just took the eloquence of a little brown-eyed boy to remind me.

Thanks for stopping by!

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