Saturday, February 18, 2017

Are You Eating Dirt?

I have beautiful journals to write in, a 4” high stack of index cards with quotes and blog starters, and of course, notebook after notebook half filled with projects. But, like most writers, I have a file of “scraps.” There are funny stories about the grandchildren hastily scribbled on paper torn out of a notebook, ideas on napkins, partial pages of magazine articles that “spoke” to me, and sticky notes with ideas scribbled in the dark when I couldn’t sleep.  I’ve been “weeding out” this week, and laughed out loud at some of the “scraps,” shed heart tears over others and re-sparked some new ideas.

ne tablet scrap had Ethan’s (my oldest grandson) name at the top. It said: You stuck a candle in the dirt, sang Happy Birthday, then told Auntie, “Cake.” Auntie, afraid you would eat the dirt said, “Dirt.” You agreed, “Dirt cake."

I thought of the times God told 
me something was dirt, yet I insisted it was cake.  The friendships I wanted, the perfections I pursued, the earthly acclaim, the grass on the other side of the fence.

ach time I ate my dirt cake, the words of the Psalmist were reflected in my own heart. So he gave them their demands but sent them leanness in their souls (Psalm 106:5). The friendship turned toxic, the sought after perfections made me lose sight of the goal, the earthly acclaim was soon over, and the green grass withered and died. My soul didn’t flourish, truth died, and God seemed far away.

In my lean times, I have found there’s only one way to soul 
nutrition. It’s changing your diet. Leave the dirt behind and ask God to forgive you. Then delve deep into the Word of God. This God-breathed Scripture will kill your desire for dirt cakes.  We can say, Your words are what sustain me; they are food to my hungry soul. They bring joy to my sorrowing heart and delight me (Jeremiah 15:16).

5 Ways to Feed on the Word

    1.  Scripture Writing: Choose a book of the Bible to copy. I’ve read/listened to the Bible through many times and I’ve memorized it from childhood. I’ve found writing the Scripture helps me concentrate in a new way.

2. Scripture Study: What does the Bible say about grace? If you do a Google search on “Bible Study Grace” you will come up with over nine million places to study grace. Read and copy the Scriptures, see how others experience grace, and answer the hard questions of “How did I stray from grace?” “Am I holding on to the ‘dirt?’” “Am I willing to ask for grace—again?”

    3. Scripture Color: Become a part of the color epidemic. Choose a book with Scripture as its base like The Word in Color by Christian Art Publishers. The calming effect of coloring will push the truth of Scripture into your mind and heart.

4. Scripture Singing: Many Scripture verses have been put to music. David’s “The Lord is my shepherd, I’ll walk with Him always…” Micah’s “He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” or Ethan the Ezrahite’s “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever…”

5. Scripture Praying: I highly recommend Stormie Omartian’s books on prayer. Praying God’s Word into Your Life or The Power of Praying Through the Bible is a good place to begin. Prayer starters – God, you promised… God, you warned… God, you showed me…

Ethan is thirteen now.  We don’t have to worry about him eating dirt. This year he asked for fried ice cream on his birthday. 

Don’t eat dirt, even if you call it cake. Paul affirms Timothy’s nourishment of Scripture in 1 Timothy 4:6: If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

Be nourished!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My 2017 One Word

For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Instruments of time have filled a part of my heart for as long as I can remember. They were mixed in with Friday night town trips as much as my daddy’s bag of bridge mix and the aroma of the city library. It was walking into the jewelry store and seeing my watch maker Papa Gromley, magnifying glass attached to his eye glasses, bent over a watch, working on the intricate pieces -- restoring time. Papa and Grammy’s home held the cuckoos and chimes of the many clocks he was working on, as well as bottom desk drawer full of rejected clocks for me to play with.

Time was the chime clock my mother bought at Aleene Rank’s estate sale, in its place on top of the china closet. The porcelain statue of an aging woman beside it, green ivy intertwining them both.

Time that marked my love and engagement to RB, the metal bows we duplicated on our wedding cake. Forty-one years with its hour hand circling the face twice a day – marking births and subsequent birthdays, graduations, weddings, deaths, and the daily-ness of our lives.

Time that brought a smile to my daughters’ faces when they found wrist watches in Christmas stockings and Easter Baskets. Mickey Mouse hands keeping time and watch bands to match each outfit. Watches that marked their engagements, the circling beginning for them.

And time continued with the beautiful Windsor clock gifted to my father. Mother’s gift of trusting God to give Daddy more time when a medical diagnosis threatened to shorten his life. It’s still chiming along with divine healing and the steady beating of his heart.

God inspired Solomon’s thoughts on time – reminding us there is time for the activities that fill our days. Writing, loving, eating and conversation. Cleaning, reading, laundry and playing. Time for husband, children, grandchildren and friends.

This year I’ll use my time not only for what I want to accomplish, but also to find time for playing – something that’s hard for me to do. I’ll use time to connect with friends and spend time digging deeper into God’s Word. I’ll take time to bend the knees of my heart to talk with God. I’ll schedule more time to show love to RB and our family. I’ll invest time to be kinder, show more gratitude, and reach out to more people. God gave me this word as a reminder to live this year “in the moment” – to focus -- instead of multitasking to get more accomplished.

The time of 2016 flew, and I refuse to let Satan steal a single one of my 525, 600 moments in 2017.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Christmas Birthday

You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift.  ~John Rice

It was a long eight years. Years of hoping, yearning and many times crying over my desire to be a mother.  And then, just when I was least expecting it, I was -- well, expecting!  Oh, the anticipation and planning.  Our child!  I had come to believe in my heart of hearts it would never be.

Melanie Lynn was born on the thirteenth of December.  Holding her in my arms felt so right.  This tiny baby with a head of black hair and brilliant blue eyes captured my heart.  What fun it was to dress her in beautifully smocked dresses and tiny patent shoes.

It wasn't long until her navy Stride Rite shoes were skipping off to school. Where did the years go?  Somewhere between navy plaid jumpers and roller blades my little girl traded her jumper for a skirt and became a teenager.  Oh, how I loved her teenage years!   In the midst of a big move and new school for her senior year, Melanie's navy plaid turned into green plaid and...she fell in love.  Suddenly the familiar plaid was traded for a gown of white and my hands-on mothering was completed -- talk about a tough transition!

It's been such a joy to watch Melanie evolve into a beautiful woman of God.  She chose to be a stay-at-home mother to three growing knights and one sweet princess.  Her home is organized and decorated with care.  She shelters family and friends through entertaining and sweet gifts baked in her kitchen, tucked into mailboxes at church or shared with neighbors and Shawn's employees.  Melanie uses her gift of music to play her violin in the orchestra,  enhance her children's love of music by consistent practice of piano, trumpet and saxophone, and exposure to assorted genres -- singing in a formal community choir, entering a junior competition for voice and instruments, and encouraging them to audition to act and sing in a Christmas production. 

Did I happen to mention the joy this daughter of mine brings to me?  This month as I celebrate this gift of my first-born, I will be thanking my Heavenly Father for Melanie.


Another mother birthed a baby this month -- a Baby she wrapped in swaddling clothes and cradled in her arms.  It wasn't long until Mary's baby was using His tiny broom to sweep up the wood chips in His father's carpenter shop.

Then Jesus' bare feet were clothed in leather sandals and His broom was traded for a walking stick.  He turned water into wine and His hands touched blind eyes and made them see.  He fed crowds of people with the simple meal of fish and bread while His teachings fed their hearts.

This Jesus traded His walking stick for a crown of thorns. His body hung on a cross as the veil of the temple was torn in two.  Because of this, the sins of the world -- MY sins can be forgiven.

Did I happen to mention the joy this Jesus of mine brings to me? This month as I celebrate His gift, I will be thanking my Heavenly Father for the Son He gave so freely -- the Son who has forgiven my sins, and sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for me!

This birth of Christ is so much more than an historic moment; it is the promise of joy! A joy that sparkles in my heart more brightly than the 600 lights on the nativity tree in my living room, the festive motion lights inside the gingerbread train in the kitchen, or the glow of all seven lighted wreaths hanging outside.  Its radiance goes beyond the angel chorus announcing Jesus' birth.  The prisms overflow with the light of a thousand colors, I know my Melanie came to be my child just as assuredly as I know the Christ Child came to be my Savior.

On the 13th we'll be singing, "Happy Birthday, dear Melanie," and on the 25th those words will echo, "Happy Birthday, Jesus... I'm so glad You came."

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Singing when the Evening Comes

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning.
It's time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
Matt Redman

I love the morning hours. I wrote my books from 4:00 - 7:00 in the morning so I could be available to my children when they woke up. Just recently I began to revisit some of those early hours. When "the sun comes up and a new day dawns," it's easy for me to sing God's song. My heart is at peace, and my soul is joyful. It's just God and me.

Fast forward to the end of my day, and I find it much harder to sing. I didn't meet my writing goal, I forgot to throw the clothes in the dryer, I can't find something that I put in a special place where I knew I could find it, a waitress was grouchy, I was charged wrong on a purchase...little things that steal my song. 

In the battleground of daily frustrations, I have found standing with my sword raised above my head only serves to keep the song from my heart. Yet when I simply kneel, focus my thoughts on blessings, (which far outweigh my petty frustrations) I can start to hear a simple melody seep into my soul. As I focus on the melody, it grows and expands into a rising crescendo until I am singing "when the evening comes." 

There are times when we take the stance of a warrior. When we raise our sword and rebuke the enemy. But other times we can lay aside the armor and weapons, and allow our Most High King to restore the song to our heart. Like the shepherd, David, wrote, "He'll anoint my head with oil," as if I am a distinguished guest.

Don't look for me in the evening's battle. I'll be kneeling with bowed head, counting my blessings, ready to receive the anointing from my King's ram horn. I'll be "singing when the evening comes."


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Kindness in My Backpack

Elementary school kids pack and repack their backpack. The safety scissors, glue, 64 count Crayola crayons, ruler, markers…everything on the list the school provided. But there’s one necessity that is often overlooked – kindness.

This is a good time for you to review kindness with your children. While much emphasis is placed on RAK – random acts of kindness – it’s important to teach consistent and intentional kindness. Name calling, taunting and ridicule should never cross your child’s lips. I’ve found the best way to teach your children kindness is in using, “Treat others as you would have others treat you” (Luke 6:31).

Teach the verse to your child, and help them live it. Say, “I would want you to help me make my bed, so I’ll help you.” “I would want you to forgive me, so I’ll forgive you.” If siblings are bickering, ask them the question, “What would you want your brother to do to you?”

Here are 6 ways to help your child learn and live kindness.

1. Kindness in helping
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if you didn’t know where to go for lunch?
  • How would you feel if you dropped a pile of papers and nobody helped you pick them up?
  • How would you feel if you didn’t understand the rules of a game?

2. Kindness in joking
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if someone made fun of your name?
  • How would you feel if someone made fun of the way you dressed?
  • How would you feel if someone made fun of you because you couldn’t read?

3. Kindness in praising
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if nobody liked your idea?
  • How would you feel if nobody high-fived you for getting a good grade?
  • How would you feel if someone got mad because you were picked to be line leader?

4. Kindness in sadness
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if your daddy lost his job?
  • How would you feel if you had to move and go to a new school?
  • How would you feel if you made a poor grade?

5. Kindness in inclusion
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if you were always picked last in a game?
  • How would you feel if you didn’t have someone to eat lunch with?
  • How would you feel if you didn’t have someone to play with on the playground?

6. Kindness in sharing/giving
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if you didn’t have crayons or markers?
  • How would you feel if you forgot to bring your lunch to school?
  • How would you feel if you were the only one in the class not invited to a birthday party?

Read “Fill a Bucket” by Carol McCloud. My daughter used this with her children  and they still are careful to fill others’ buckets.  Make kindness a priority in your home. Kind hearts are found in the hearts of happy kids.

More Reading on Bullying

Kindness Teaching Tools

Monday, August 1, 2016

Growing in Grace -- To Offer Grace

May God break my heart so fully that the whole world falls in.    
                                                                             ~Mother Teresa 

There it stood. Not in a flower bed, but in the middle of a dirt pile. Straight and tall with all its golden sunshine splendor. Bringing beauty to the ugly. Growing in the midst of nothing but dirt.

Until, of course, you remember God used the dirt to create man. Man who could walk with Him in the cool of the day. Man who was made in the likeness of God Himself. Man given the choice of right or wrong.  

Sometimes I feel like the lone tulip in a dirt pile. Oh, not beautiful in the physical sense. But beautiful through the blood of the Sacrificial Lamb. Beautiful because of grace. Beauty claimed daily in my walk of faith.

But still, the dirt. In the midst of standing I see those who live and work and play. Those who haven't chosen, although not choosing is really choosing the wrong. I see them out my window delivering packages. I see them at the grandboys' games. They pack my groceries and lean out their window to hand me drinks in foam cups. They fill my prescriptions and put gas in my car. Men and women packed in the dirt of life. People who need grace.

I look around me and see the evilness of Satan. See him stepping on dirt, surrounding me in a victory dance of sorts. But I stand straight and tall with all my SONshine beauty. Growing in the midst of nothing but dirt.  

I was first planted as Pamela, but replanted as Daughter of the Son. Sent to a world longing to flower but trapped in the dirt.  "I find myself standing where I always hoped I might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting my praise" (Romans 5:2). 

I'm alone, but seeing the vision of a garden of tulips. Tulips ready and willing to find their own plot of dirt.  Tulips standing in all their SONshine beauty. 

There are many tulips to plant and not enough planters. Pray to the owner of the tulip gardens that He will send workmen to gather his harvest.  (Paraphrase of Luke 1:10).

Saturday, July 30, 2016

7 Ways to Parent Your Teen

Our teens a facing a different world from the one their parents lived. Teen suicide, cyberbullying, easy access internet porn, a violent culture which has their peers going on shooting sprees, and addictive video games. Add to that depressive disorders (11% of teens affected), and drug and alcohol use. 

When Emily was a preteen we vacationed in Colorado. She grew up on Whit's End Corner, and was excited to see what she had spent hours listening to. During our tour at Focus on the Family, a man asked if he could interview her for an upcoming article. One of the questions was, "When was the last time you had alcohol?" When Emily said she had never had any, he grinned and said, "Forget that your parents are sitting here, and answer the question." He could not believe a child her age had never tried alcohol. She did get a great "behind the scenes" tour of the Odyssey broadcast rooms, but I'm not sure he ever believed her.

Even with all that faces our teens, it is possible to let them live in the world, with a heart for God. Here's 7 ways to help your kids through the minefield we call the teen years.

1. Monitor Friendships: We wanted our daughters to be friendly with all, yet their soul friends should love God, too. We encouraged friendships with parents who had our values. That way we didn't need to worry when they were together. Encourage your children to pray for good friends. Emily's best friend prayed that God would send her a friend. From the first time they met, a friendship was born that continues to this day. I never had to worry when they were together. 

2. Saturate them with God's Word: When they have questions, find the answers in the Word of God. The girls were learning verses when they were barely talking. They may not have understood the depth of the content, but there it was, hidden in their hearts, ready to be used when temptations were whispered by the enemy.  

3. Keep them talking: One of my mentors told me the most important thing I could do is get the girls used to telling me -- when they were little -- all about their day, what they were thinking, and their hopes for the future. Then, when they are teenagers, it's automatic. When Melanie was a teenager, she was with a youth group and was being urged to do something wrong. "Come on, your mom will never know." Her response? "Yes, she would, because I would tell her." 

4. Expect much: Too often we set our kids up for failure. Don't nag your kids about their homework. Expect them to do it. I never asked the girls if they needed homework slips signed. They brought them to me. They packed their own backpacks and gym bags. Chores were accomplished on their own. Although my girls tell me (now) that when the tablecloth was dirty, they often turned it over. That makes me laugh. I can't believe I never noticed. 

5. Model the joy of service: Whatever we were doing, our children were involved. They took part in our ministries, learning to encourage others. Instead of taking part in bullying, they will find ways to encourage fellow students, even in spite of social standing or the cliques they are or are not a part of.

6. Be the parent: You often have to do the hard thing and set boundaries, say no, and punish misbehavior. Know where they are, what they are doing, and who they are with. Our girls didn't "cruise the downtown square," or roam the mall without supervision. Everybody may be doing it, but we're not.  
7. Encourage each other's teens: Do you know of a teen who is struggling? Reach out with a note, small gift, a gift card to Starbucks or iTunes. Praise their talents, attend their games, recitals, and school dramas. I was so blessed with my girls to have others who encouraged them. Mom can brag on them, but "you say that because you're my mom." However, when someone else brags on them, the words seem to hold more validity. Pray consistently consistently for them, too. I always knew Eleanor was praying for Emily as much as I prayed for her girls. 

I wasn't the perfect mother. I've yet to see a mother who is. Yet God honors our efforts. And when the enemy pulls our children the wrong way, intercede in prayer, and fill them up with love. It's natural to want to show a constant disapproval, but model God's love for us, "In that when were were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

Make 2016-2017 a good school year for your teens. And if your children are grown, pick one to encourage. You'll be surprised what a blessing these teens will be to you.