Inspirational

My Guy is Gutsy: A Valentine’s Day Tribute to my Husband

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He’s a great catch! 😉

Gutsy is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “showing courage, determination, and

spirit.” Related words are brave, courageous, bold, daring, fearless, heroic,

lionhearted, undaunted, unflinching, unshrinking, and unafraid. Those describe Chris Stull!

On this Valentine’s Day I want to do a quick shared reflection on the gutsy

ways of this guy of mine…

• He got up at 1:00 a.m. to start a 5,000+’ grueling hike to the top of 14,259’

Longs Peak…13 hours…just because his sons wanted to do it. Gutsy.

• He took on a “leftover players” little league baseball team in which most of the

boys were afraid of the ball. By the end of the season they were champions.

Gutsy.

• He stepped in to lead a church with amazing wisdom, peace, purpose and clarity

when the senior pastor felt called to another place. Gutsy.

• He walked away from a great job with a large staff at a big church in a wonderful

city near extended family to move and plant a church in Phoenix, not

knowing where that church would meet or what that church would be called.

Gutsy.

• He chose to go from a place of full resource closets, pews and paid staff to “I

guess we should order some chairs so people can sit,” and “Would anyone

like to volunteer to help?” Gutsy.

• He has handled hundreds of difficult human resource incidents with truth and

care. Gutsy.

• He has shared truth patiently, honestly and lovingly with irate people who were

pouring their anger out on him because they were mad at God. Gutsy.

• He has preached God’s Word truthfully when he knew he would not win any

popularity contest. Gutsy.

• In the midst of taking almost a half cut pay in salary to plant a church, he

adopted two children internationally from a country that was rampant with

Ebola at the time of travel. Gutsy.

• He bravely navigates and provides for the needs of 7 children — car insurance,

car payments, cell phone payments, FAFSA apps, etc. Gutsy.

• While suffering with malaria when on a Zambian mission, he preached a full

sermon at a church that was a mile away from running water or any

bathrooms. Gutsy.

• In South Africa, though no one would go near the village witch doctor’s home, he

entered, laid hands on the woman’s sick son, and he was healed. (And the

witch doctor surrendered her life to Christ!) Gutsy.

• He has given probably 100 off-the-cuff messages or impromptu prayers at

unexpected times. Gutsy.

• He helped lead and guide people with wisdom in the horror of a Rockies

mudslide. Gutsy.

• Although a “detail guy” with an MBA in finance, he bravely has led his family to

follow the Lord when feeling the call to give to the Lord well above and

beyond anything that worked on paper. Gutsy.

• His encounters with wildlife deserve a section all their own…

⁃ He was once walking over a log and encountered a rattle snake zinging

with feet on both sides of the log and snake in between.

⁃ He sat down in a boat next to a rattlesnake – not a good fishing partner.

⁃ He was walking through a creek and encountered a moose – both ran the

fastest 40 yards that day.

⁃ He was fishing and ended up in the stream with a mama bear and two

cubs walking the bank.

⁃ He was sitting on the ground with his back against a log when an elk

climbed over the log.

⁃ He was walking in the middle of an open meadow in the pitch black when

he heard breathing and snorting all around him. The elk herd starting

running in that field as he stood in the middle of shaking ground,

thinking he would surely be trampled.

• He has completed over a dozen triathlons — swimming, biking, and running —

some in the heat and humidity, or close to freezing conditions. Gutsy.

• He sat with white knuckles in the passenger seat of a van on the Road to Hana

with his nervous wife at the wheel maneuvering 500+ hairpin turns and 500+

one-lane bridges on the sides of cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Gutsy.

(He won’t forget his driver’s license next time we go to Maui.)

• He has often folded laundry for this family of 7+ (depending on who is home at

the time), having done as much as 6-7 loads in the time of one ballgame or

movie. Gutsy.

• He has done middle-of-the-night clean up on carpets and beds when little

children got sick. Gutsy!

• He has gotten up almost every morning without fail to read the Bible and seek

the Lord in prayer, even when he didn’t feel like it. Gutsy.

If you are wondering how my guy got so gutsy, the answer lies in that last

reflection. He surrendered his life to Christ and is filled with the Spirit of the living

God. Every day for decades now he has been seeking the Lord as his source of

strength and direction. It’s not that he never feels fear. He just doesn’t let fear stop

him. His boldness comes from a deep confidence in God. I have often heard

friends talk about Chris’s “Joshua” spirit, and that’s what I’m writing about. Joshua

1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for

the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Living with him is an

adventure, and I’m thankful to be by his side every step along the way. Happy

Valentine’s Day, my love. You will always be my hero.

Pastor for the week at Wind River Ranch in Estes Park, CO

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The 30-Day Affirmation Challenge

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D
Unknown-1eclare it. Speak it out. Say it. These messages have been at my every turn the last few months. I believe the Lord is telling me it is important not just to believe truths, read truths, meditate on truths, but also to speak truths. Out loud. “ In the Bible it says, “Declare a thing and it will be done” (Job 22:28). That implies a direct correlation between speaking something and it being done.

For me, these last months have been a call to action. I put together a list of 10 scriptural affirmations that I am speaking multiple times a day, touching on areas that I want to live victoriously. I have only been doing this a couple of weeks and it has been powerful in my life. I am encouraged. I am filled to overflowing. I am caring for others in new ways.

I got so excited about it that I made a custom set of scriptural affirmation suggestions for each of my family members so that they might have readily available some scripture affirmations to speak. I am challenging them to decide on their list of at least 5-10 affirmations and then speak them multiple times a day for 30 days to see what might happen.

You know I can’t just challenge my family in this. Friend, I love and care for you too much to let you miss out on this exciting opportunity! I am including my *affirmations below and then some extra ones, so that you might have some to choose from. Practical challenge: Download the “Repeat It Again” app on your smartphone and record at least 5-10 affirmations, then listen to them multiple times a day for 30 days. Or if you don’t have a smartphone, print and post your affirmations in your bathroom, in your kitchen, and at your desk for you to see and speak daily. Maybe you might even ask your family members to join you in this challenge?

Try it! Then let me know how it goes.

Col-3-e1420051752146

Because I obey Jesus I remain in his love and have great joy. John 15:10-11

As I follow Jesus and walk in his way of holiness, gladness and joy overtake me. Isaiah 35:8-10

God keeps me in perfect peace because I trust in Him and fix my thoughts on Him. Isaiah 26:3

I thank God for considering me faithful, appointing me to His service of sharing and caring for people in life-changing ways, spiritually as well as physically. I Tim. 1:12

As I consciously put others first, I am learning to serve like Jesus.  Phil. 2:5. Ways I honor others are by swiftly returning messages and by being 10 minutes early to appointments.

My kind words are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones of others. Proverbs 16:24

I am enriched in every way so that I can be generous on every occasion, which results in thanksgiving to God. 2 Cor. 9:11

God is able to do immeasurably more in my life than I could ever imagine. Ephesians 3:20

I trust my hopes and dreams to God.  Psalm 119:116

God is faithful. He’ll complete the good work that he has begun in me. Philippians 1:6

Aren’t those power-packed? Here are some others that I included in at least one or more of the affirmations I gave my children:

In God I live and move and exist. Acts 17:28

Because I place my hope in God, I can soar like an eagle, run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

God keeps me in perfect peace because I trust in Him and fix my thoughts on Him. Isaiah 26:3

I live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 12:7

I am able to keep my ways pure, but only by living according to God’s Word. Psalm 119:9

I run along the paths of God’s commands because He has set my heart free. Psalm 119:32

The Lord stands at my side and gives me strength to share his Good News with others. 2 Timothy 4:17

As I cast my cares and burdens to God, He sustains me and I have peace. Psalm 55:22

As I wait on the Lord and am courageous, God will strengthen my heart. Psalm 27:14

The power of God works through me as I affirm that it’s His treasure inside this jar of clay. 2 Corinthians 4:7

I run along the paths of God’s commands because He has set my heart free. Psalm 119:32

The Lord stands at my side and gives me strength to share his Good News with others. 2 Timothy 4:17

I set my heart and mind on things above, not earthly things. This gives me peace. Colossians 3:1-2

I guard my heart because it determines the course of my life. Proverbs 4:23

I try to spend time with wise people. This helps me become even wiser. Proverbs 13:20

The fruit I produce brings great joy to God, my Father in Heaven. John 15:8

I give thanks to God because he is good and his love endures forever. Jeremiah 33:11

When I call out to God He answers me. He tells me things I wouldn’t know otherwise. Jeremiah 33:3

I set my heart and mind on things above, not earthly things. This gives me peace. Colossians 3:1-2

I guard my heart because it determines the course of my life. Proverbs 4:23

I worship the Lord my God and serve only him. Luke 4:8

I know that God cares for me and will meet my needs because I am precious to Him. Matthew 6:25-44

I know that God’s unfailing love surrounds me and that I can trust Him. Psalm 23:10

The Lord is my good Shepherd. He provides for all of my needs. Psalm 23:1

The “fullness of God” is available to me because I am deeply rooted in the love of Jesus. Ephesians 3:17-19

*Many of the scriptures are either from or adapted from faithandhealingconnection.org.

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Speaking of Endurance Training…

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Triathlon winners: gold, bronze, gold
Triathlon winners: gold, bronze, gold

Okay, I admit it. I was thrilled with the whole thing. My husband, son and I did our first Arizona triathlon last weekend. First of all, it was a crisp, beautiful fall morning and the tri location was nearby. I loved that it was a “reverse” tri (get the dreaded run out of the way first, then enjoy a dry bike, and finish with a heated pool swim…then wrap up in a beach towel and jacket). I also loved that we did it together. The icing on the cake was that we all placed in our age divisions. My son and I both brought home our first gold medals and Chris brought home his first bronze.

We train, and it is fun to be rewarded for it every once in a while. But this is not where we place our greatest training efforts.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” I Timothy 4:8

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1b-2

Father, thank you for the blessings of health and the energy to train and participate in the fun of competitive events. But help us to daily remember to invest our greatest efforts in spiritual training, through your Word and prayer. As we face trials and heartaches, thank you for the endurance your Holy Spirit provides to help us keep moving forward to the goal to which we have been called. Thank you for your grace and promises to sustain us and meet our every need in our journey. We can joyfully embrace the present and the future because we know your heart. May our focus each day be on the things that will last forever: God, God’s Word, and the souls of men. Amen.

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Paradise Bakery: Expected divine taste, unexpected Divine encounters

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photo-1 I almost choked on the bite of muffin I had just taken when my friend Jill told me her husband had said that my husband Chris and I should move back to Arizona and plant a church. This conversation happened last February during a weekend trip to Phoenix. I had packed my schedule with catch-up-with-friend meetings because I figured I might not be back for years.

My last day in Phoenix, I met my dear friend Jill Rhodes for breakfast at a Paradise Bakery. We had a lot to catch up on because we hadn’t seen each other in eighteen months. I was surprised when she told me they had moved to a new area in Phoenix. I was also stunned to find out they were no longer involved at the church they had been leaders in for over thirty years.

“We feel God wants us to be a part of a church plant,” she said.

“Really? Which church?” I asked. She said they didn’t know yet. I told her I was encouraged to know God was calling people like them to help with church plants, because Chris feels God is calling him to plant a church (thinking of the growing Dallas suburbs). That’s when she dropped the bomb. She told me I would never believe what her husband David, known to be quite prophetic the fifteen years we have known him, had just said two weeks before. He had told her to call me and tell me that Chris and I needed to move back to Phoenix, plant a church, and they would help us get it off the ground. I was speechless. David said that?

After I got home and talked with Chris, I realized that the conversation with my friend Jill had kicked off a series of days of messages, one after another, from God, regarding our move to Phoenix. Chris and I received texts from friends with scripture verses they said God laid on their hearts for us, emails from friends encouraging us to have faith for whatever God tells us to do, sermons on the radio that spoke about stepping out in faith, scripture from our Bible readings and songs on the radio and at church that spoke directly to this issue of us answering God’s call to have faith and go. Within three days it was confirmed on every side, including a meeting with our pastor where he affirmed our church sending us to Phoenix to plant a church. Little did I know that meeting to catch up with a friend over a muffin would turn my world upside down and so soon we would know an interstate move was in our near future.

A few weeks later Chris and I were on a plane to Greater Phoenix with one mission: to discern what area the Lord would have us plant a church in a city spreading over 9,000 square miles with a population of 4.3 million. I was pretty sure I knew where we would relocate…next door to (or at least down the street from) Jill and David. After all, God had used Jill and David to get this ball rolling. Jill and I dreamed of morning hikes in the Sonoran desert foothills and the community center where we might lead women’s Bible studies together.

But we had no idea what God was doing in the heart of another dear friend. Our first night in Phoenix Chris mentioned how much he would like to see Darian, a kindred spirit Chris had led to the Lord seventeen years prior. Chris set up an early breakfast at Paradise Bakery with him for the next morning before we started our church location search.

That morning Darian told Chris his family was doing well and after having been away for years, they had settled back into life in Arizona. He shared that he carried a heavy burden for his community, the west valley of Phoenix. Darian explained that while the population had exploded, churches had not kept up with the growth. He said it had been so heavy on his heart that he actually had considered starting a church himself. He had even seriously looked at possible meeting locations. But then a mentor told Darian he believed he was to be an encourager that would come alongside a leader who God would send, just as the biblical Caleb came alongside leader Joshua.

Thinking that part of the discussion was over, Darian then asked Chris what had brought him to Phoenix that weekend. Chris and Darian were both overwhelmed with emotion as they shared an “I might be your Joshua” moment.

photo  Interestingly enough, many people through the years have talked about Chris’ “Joshua spirit.” Our former pastor Jeff Warren drew a caricature of Chris a few years ago that depicts him as Joshua, leading the people.

Just before leaving Phoenix that weekend, we met with Jill and David at Paradise Bakery and talked about how we felt God was leading. We all agreed the location was to be the west valley, and Jill and David said they were all in and would make the half-hour drive.

A lot is cookin’ up at Paradise Bakery these days…and the bakers and their muffins are just a side story. The real story is God himself, leading us at times and places we least expect. “Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43.) I know I’m taking the verse out of context, but I can’t help but notice the pattern of unexpected meetings with Jesus at this place. Yes, Father, we are feeling a little bit of Heaven on Earth.

Funny thing is…Chris and I had a date today before I sat down to write this blog. Where did we go? We both had a craving for a Paradise Bakery salad and zucchini muffin.

Looking for Poppies

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Chris and I just returned from Europe last week, where he was speaking for a missions conference near Budapest, Hungary. I had a few surprises along the way.

  • The French computer keyboard. I used a friend’s Apple computer, and had a hilarious time trying to type!
  • A young Hungarian couple exclusively played traditional polka music at their wedding reception.
  • The flight to Europe seemed short compared to my recent trips to Africa.

At the conference we had the joy of getting acquainted with church leaders from all over Western Europe. My friend Vicki from Switzerland shared with me this story:

A couple dreamed of beautiful roadsides in their community. Pulling a large portion of the money from their savings account, they invested in a great amount of poppy seeds and joyfully scattered them on each side of the road for miles. Eager to see the flowers crowding each side of the highway, they watched and waited, watched and waited. Years passed and not one poppy grew in the area they had planted. Assuming they had wasted their money and time, the couple was greatly disappointed.

poppies

Then one spring years later, they were driving along and could not believe their eyes. Beautiful red poppies graced each side of the road. When the conditions (temperature, moisture, and sunlight) were right, the seeds bloomed. The flowers were beautiful in their time. The couple saw the realization of their dream, and experienced the fullness of Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” And others also were blessed because of their work.

That story encourages me as I reflect on what I believe God laid on our hearts in 1998 to pray for Phoenix: revival. Though we did not see evidence of revival before we moved from Phoenix in 2003, I believe the answer to our prayers is now coming into full bloom. It is heart wrenching on so many levels to leave McKinney, but I have an overwhelming sense that God has given us this invitation to go back and see the fruit of what we helped sow in prayer fifteen years ago. I eagerly anticipate seeing the “poppies” in Arizona.

I wonder how many people have a God-given dream in their heart that they have become hopeless and heart-sick over. Or how many have allowed the busyness of life to put a dream on the back burner to the point that it is almost forgotten. I wonder how many would be bold enough to take that dream to God in prayer and ask Him what to do with it. “We are not called to be spectators watching from the stands as the prince of darkness goes about to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus said there is a shortage of workers, but the actual work will be done by God’s Spirit through you and me doing great things beyond our wildest imagination. It all begins when you offer yourself to serve.” (Spirit Rising, 188, Jim Cymbala).

I’m praying for fellow poppy planters. People that will invest their efforts in work that will reap an eternal harvest. May we pray the prophet Isaiah’s prayer: “Here am I Lord, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

 

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A Lesson in Pruning

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Rose

Valentine’s Day I took the plunge. Knowing it was the recommended day for pruning rose plants in North Texas, and looking for any excuse I could find to get outside and enjoy the sunny 65-degree day, I overcame the intimidation and did it. I researched a few pruning tips online, gathered my leather gloves and clippers, and trimmed back my Belinda rose bush.

Having just attended the Ash Wednesday service at our church the night before, I worked on the rose bush and thought about the pruning God is doing in my life during this season of Lent.

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

God revealed to me my own life step-by-step as I worked on the bush:

– Removing the dead canes, I thought about how God wants to remove the worthless things in my life that do not contribute towards the purposes He has for me.

– As I snipped off small green stems I thought about the areas in my life that may seem okay, but are draining energy away from the areas in my life that God deems as top priority for this season. Actually, those “good parts” sometimes take the greatest courage to remove. But I know God will free up my energy for the “best parts” when I allow the pruning process.

– Some branches were healthy and nice sized, but they overlapped, which can make rose bushes prone to disease. So they had to go. I wonder how many times my schedule has overlapping parts that create an atmosphere of stress and worry that crowd out my joy and peace. If branches are too crowded, they can’t get enough sun. In the same way, if all my time is committed to busy activity, it leaves no time for prayer or reading the Bible– I can’t get enough of the Son.

– I then removed the inward growing branches. Outward is the healthy way for the bush to grow. I pray regularly that God would deliver me from my selfish ways and give me His love for others, spending my time and energies to reach outward. It’s amazing how healthy I become when I focus on others instead of myself.

– Next I scattered a few tablespoons of *Epsom salt around the base of my bush, and water it. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” I pray my speech and life are salty enough to cause others to thirst for the living waters of salvation found in Christ.

– Although my bush looked pretty pitiful when I was finished, I encouraged myself that it will look beautiful in its time. Roses are perfectly capable of sending new shoots out of old branches, even if they are the size of tree trunks! This reminds me that even as I age God can continue to bring new and fresh fruit through me for His glory and honor. I need not fear letting go of the old works that God has done. He is always doing new things.

“The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul, spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12-13

Father, I praise you for being the Master Gardener. Thank you for doing your pruning with tender loving care.  Give me the discipline to daily be in your Word, knowing it is one of your most valuable tools in this pruning process. I pray that I might bear a lifetime of fruit for your honor and glory. Amen.

 

rose*Here are some practical gardening tips using the inexpensive household ingredient Epsom salt:

Epsom salt is an inexpensive and organic fertilizer for the rose plant that increases the size of the roses, provides a rich color to the flower, and increases the number of buds on the plant.

Before planting a rose bush soak its roots overnight in a solution of Epsom salt and water (about ½ cup of salt in 1 gallon of water). In the hole that you have prepared to plant the roses, put another tablespoon of crystals before you put the plant in. After planting, put another ½ cup of Epsom salt in the soil and mix down to two inches deep.

For plants already in the ground, scatter one tablespoon of Epsom salt for each foot your rose bush is high at the base of each rose bush, then water the plant. Do this in the Spring and again in the Fall. Dissolve a tablespoon per gallon of water then spray on plants after leaves appear and again when the roses bloom.

*This inexpensive household product is also said to be helpful for tomato and pepper plants. The magnesium sulfate in it increases chlorophyll production and helps plants use phosphorus and nitrogen better. When transplanting tomato and pepper plants, sprinkle one tablespoon around each transplant. Then spray them with 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt per gallon of water at the first planting, again when blossoms appear, and at fruit set.

Prepare garden soil by sprinkling up to 1 cup of Epsom salt per 100 square feet, then work it into the soil before seeding or planting.

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A Wake-up Call to Live What I Believe

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I couldn’t understand the words, probably spoken in Creole, but they were growing increasingly louder and had the harshness and brashness of curses.  Just as Mariama and I came to a part in the road that narrowed to about two feet wide, three-foot-tall grass to our left and sloppy mud puddles to our right, the speaker of the brash words came upon us and passed us quickly. Still spewing the seemingly foul language, he growled an ugly “Pastor Chris” right in the middle of it just as he brushed my left shoulder and quickly pushed past us.

My heartbeat and adrenaline surged, and I strengthened my grip on Mariama’s hand and sped up my pace toward the compound, only about 50 yards away. “He’s crazy!” Mariama said. All I wanted to do was get far away from him, the man I’d seen all week storming around the village mumbling to himself.

Later, in my Bible reading for the day I read about Jesus casting out the evil spirit in a man. Because I follow the Chronological Bible to read the Bible in a year, it lists a specific story back-to-back if it is told in more than one book of the Bible. So I read the story from Mark 1, Luke 4, and Matthew 8. “That evening after sun set the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Mark 1:32-34

A verse came to mind: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” John 14:12 (New Living Translation, 2007).  I pondered on the scriptures and what had happened just an hour before. Why had fear been the overriding emotion of that “crazy man” incident? Why did I not rebuke the curse on my husband in Jesus’ Name? Why did I only fear for my own well-being and not have any compassion to help free this tormented soul? Do I really believe through Christ I can do even greater works than He did when He walked on Earth? Really…?

If I really do believe the things I say I believe, then why don’t I show it?

That day kicked off what I believe God gave me as a goal for the year: Live what I believe. Why? Donald Miller’s quote in his book Blue Like Jazz sums it up: “What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.”

How does this flesh out in my day-to-day life?

  • If I truly believe I can’t do my life without God’s help, I will spend time in prayer and His Word every day.
  • When crisis comes, I will trust God and not worry.
  • When someone wrongs me, I will forgive.
  • When I’m misunderstood, I know that God knows my heart.
  • When temptation knocks, I can resist and take the way of escape that God provides.
  • When my role changes, I will remember that my identity is in Christ alone.
  • When life gets hectic, I allow God’s deep peace to guard my heart.
  • When I look in the mirror, I can thank God for how He made me.

Father, thank you for all the promises I have in you through Christ. I pray the daily circumstances of my life will reveal a deep trust in you and in your Word. May others see your faithfulness and praise your Mighty Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Words of Truth on Busy Streets

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As we move forward to do what we feel called to do in adding some precious new ones to our family, I reflect of the messages I saw on the poda podas (the bush minivans) on my recent visit to Sierra Leone. These primary sources of transport, along with droves of walkers (that seem to be moving faster than the vehicles most of the time), are seen all over the streets in a city that has no public transit, no street lights, and few well-paved roads. I will let the poda podas speak for themselves…

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Keep Jesus the Focus this Christmas

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babyjesusonly

Many in our culture really have no idea what the true meaning of Christmas is. Our pastor recently shared that the top 10 Christmas songs have nothing to do with Christ. Imagine what Christ feels about that – a huge birthday celebration, but the one having the birthday is overlooked and forgotten.

We are so deceived…hustle, bustle, shopping, baking, wearing ourselves out, spoiled kids, overwhelmed with stuff…stomachs are left full (overloaded with sugar, usually) but souls are left empty.

Some ideas for keeping Jesus the focus of your family’s Christmas:

  • Set up nativity scenes in your home.
  • Play Christmas music in your home that sings about Christ’s birth.
  • Teach your children the history of Saint Nicholas and what he did out of his love for Jesus.
  • Read Luke 2 together as a family before opening gifts.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus.

This December let’s have Christ-mas…more of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

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First Son Takes Flight

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We took Dillon to Baylor University on Wednesday, August 15 and the day was all joy! I was excited to see his room, help him get it set up, and meet his suite mates. As a matter of a fact, the only time I cried was when I mentioned how that day was a cinch compared to what I experienced when Dillon left for the summer.

2012 April-July 513The big “moving on” chapter for Dillon began shortly after graduation from high school. Each year the U.S. President’s Committee selects two students from each state to be honored as U.S. Presidential Scholars, and Dillon was blessed to have been chosen as one of the Texas scholars for 2012. He was flown to Washington D.C. to receive his award in June.

2012 April-July 555Since Chris was out of the country on a mission trip, he wasn’t able to be there, but I was able to attend. The scholars stayed together at Georgetown University, so I did not get to see Dillon much once the weekend was underway. The “letting go” moment of my summer came just after we met to go to church in D.C.

In a dark, loud, bustling, underground subway station I had to say goodbye to my son before he left for Africa for the summer. I held on to his strong frame and tears flowed like rain. I told him I was confident in him and the Lord’s leadership in his life — the tears were simply because we would miss him.

As I walked to my hotel I prayed he would make it safely to the Dulles Airport the next day (I would have already departed on my flight from Reagan National Airport). I prayed the Lord would grant him rest on his 32-hour flight with three layovers, one of which was through an African airport we were told to avoid. I prayed he would get the required reading done for the last five required books before entering the missions school.  I prayed his body would adjust quickly to the seven-hour time difference and that someone would remember to pick him up from the airport. I prayed he would bond quickly with friends, though he was coming into the program three weeks late and he was the youngest of 300 students there.

God answered all my prayers for Dillon, his flights, and his arrival (Thank you, Father!) Though we had no phone contact with him, he had a half hour of computer access every week or two and was able to send emails. The two times we were able to Skype were a highlight – I loved hearing his laugh as his siblings told stories from the summer.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOne other unexpected contact came through Steve Hyde, missionary to Cambodia. While he and his family were visiting McKinney in July, we had them over for dinner. After introducing ourselves and our children, we told him that one of our sons was not here because he was in Mozambique. He then told us he would be in Mozambique in two weeks. He was going to teach at the missions school Dillon was attending! Two weeks later Steve found Dillon, told him he had just been to his home for dinner, then delivered a hug, a card from the family and two bags of pistachios — a favorite snack.

Besides the traumatic D.C. subway farewell, the next big realization of Dillon’s moving on came in July when we moved the kids around to different bedrooms. Since Dillon would not be home much anymore and we expect to add two children through adoption soon, he was demoted from a “prime” real estate room to a small bedroom upstairs. As I took down his pictures from his bulletin board, and emptied his closet, again the tears flowed as my heart grieved over things never being the same.

2012 July-October 218On August 11th we welcomed him safely home, then enjoyed a wonderful three days as a family before it was time to move him to Baylor.

 

 

 

2012 July-October 242For all the years I have anticipated the heartache of dropping him off at college, I never expected to be so happy. Chris and I were able to drive him to where he would be staying two hours away, help make his bed and get him settled. He has good food readily available (with which to gain back the twenty-five pounds he lost). Contact is easy – we can text or call anytime. No, I didn’t feel the grief of a big break. I felt the joy of a wonderful visit that ended with my son staying not only on the same continent, but nearby in the same state! Perspective is everything.

Dear Father,

Thank you for your many blessings and the way that you care for every detail of our lives. I thank you for your grace and mercy. I thank you for the opportunities you gave Dillon this summer to know you more and to help others do the same.  Thank you for the eighteen years you allowed us to share daily life with him. He is moving on with the vision for his life that you have placed on his heart, and we ask you to bless and protect him on his way to accomplish your will in this world.

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