Easter’s on the Way!

If my life lately has a metaphor, it’s the Good Friday through Easter holiday. Frankly, I’ve been stuck on Good Friday (that awful day) for a while!  My husband and I have weathered deaths, our parents’ changing health (including my mom having a major heart attack and going into full cardiac arrest in front of me), my husband retiring from farming, various other major life changes, and our son graduating from Tech and moving 10 hours away. Those things plus the everyday-ness of life has just be A LOT lately. It’s been the Friday before Easter in our lives for many months.

But…the hope beyond those seasons of ‘Fridays’ is that Easter—that glorious fulfilment of Scripture—is on the way!! I’ve often asked myself, “What would you do without your faith in Him? Where would you be without it? What if I didn’t have the promise of the cross?” I tell the Lord often, “We have come so far,  you and I.  You have been so good to me in the midst. You alone have shown me the path through this season of sacrifice, pain, sorrow, change. You alone have gone to battle before me and for me. Thank You. Thank You. Thank you.”

Philippians 1:6 often comes to mind…actually I’ve worn it out by leaning on it so much!  Simply put, God finishes what He starts. He carries it through. In the ugly, the good, the tears and the laughter, He never fails us. That scripture goes on to clarify that He will carry on that work until His return. Wow! What a promise!

The kicker is that while He’s doing His thing…you know, carrying on the work He’s started in me…am I doing mine? Am I trusting Him on the Good Fridays of my life? If I were honest, I would say that’s where the lesson is for me now: to lean into Him and not to lean on myself or circumstances. To fully trust in Him and His Word is the only rest and hope I have that I will even make to my ‘Easter.’ To drop off my fears and worries at the foot of cross because, as His child, my burdens are His to carry. He paid a beautiful, terrible price for them.

In the Bible, a lot happened in those three days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday! Christ’s crown of thorns was removed, death was overcome, the grave was emptied in the most wonderful example of God finishing was He started!  I’m so thankful to have Christ in my life! It may be Friday for me today…but Sunday’s on the way!!

This post was written by Deborah Smith. To read more about her, click here.

Thoughts on Parenting from an (Near) Empty-Nester

teensThe year was 2012, and our son Logan was graduating from high school and moving away to college.  I found myself in a bit of a panic, thinking, “Yikes! Have I instilled in him every value I want him to live by?” Well…the answer is hopefully yes but probably not (As a parent, you’re encouraged by that, I’m sure).

In truth, there are lots of things I wish I had known over the years of raising my kids. I wish someone had informed me that no matter how many times you help your son clean up his room, there will be that one random Lego under his bed that you suck up in the vacuum cleaner, causing racket that will make you believe that every screw is vibrating loose and rendering said vacuum useless.  Or that junior high girls turn into oversized whiny toddlers with competing desires to wear makeup and NOT deodorant. I should have mentally prepared…

Reflecting back, though, there were principles that became pivotal to how Lyle and I raised our kids to pass along our faith. We lived with Deuteronomy 6:6-8 as our guide: Teach the Word to our children as we walk through our daily lives. I am going to assume that you already want to read the Bible with your children and pray with your kids as you parent, so I hope these additional ideas will be fresh for you:

1) Boys need to hear the voice of their father in their ear (as their father is listening to THE Father!). In John 12:49, Jesus says He only speaks what His Father commanded Him. As a wife, I have prayed for my husband to hear what the Lord tells him to do, just as Jesus did. I grew up with a Marine father and am generally about as tough as a mom can be, but all that toughness often translated to nagging in our son’s ears. The concept of respect is deeply engrained in males, however. So enter Lyle, the father, who could say LITERALLY THE SAME WORDS as I did, but Logan—because he desired his dad’s respect—would obey.  Mamas, let your man take the reins, even when it’s difficult to agree with his method of discipline.  You’ll earn your husband’s admiration and (hopefully) your son’s cooperation.

2) Show interest in your daughter’s interests so that you can remain connected and speak truth to her. We spent our time with Leah hearing about My Little Pony, reading Lemony Snickett books, talking about school friends, boys, and watching romantic comedies…and through that investment God provided unexpected opportunities to share our perspectives (and the Word).   I will admit that paying attention is not always easy, especially if you disagree with your daughter’s latest pastime, but combining that questioning with a loving community allows them to grow.

In creating an environment where sons and daughters are loved and guided, your home will be a place where faith will be taught AND caught!

This post was written by Shelli Jarvis. To read more about her, click here

It’s Okay: Ask for Help!

Last week, I had to go to the store after work—and then Howell went with me again after I got home because of an important item I’d forgotten in my hasty visit.

I’d spent hardly any time at home between grocery store one and grocery store two. We had dinner plans after that, so we jumped from one place to the other.

We didn’t get home until after 9:00 p.m., and I still needed to make sausage balls for a work event the following day.

As we were leaving dinner, I grabbed Howell’s hand and said, “I need help!” 🙂

Y’all. I know I say it a lot, but my husband is the best.

We got home, and he pulled out the mixing bowls while I pulled out the ingredients, and we stood—side by side—rolling 100 sausage balls.

I finished in probably half the time it would have taken me (rolling takes the most time, really), and I was grateful for his help.

That got me thinking: I’ve written before that our husbands want to help; we need only ask them.

Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m trying to do it all until I’ve completely worn myself out.

Any time I ask Howell to help me with something (“Can you pick up the dry cleaning?” “Can you run to the store on your way home?” “Can you do…?”), he’s always happy to do so.

The problem is, I forget to ASK FOR HELP.

Can anyone relate?

Wives, we weren’t meant to shoulder all the weight.  

Although 1 Peter 3:7 is addressing what husbands should do, I love what Julie, our pastor’s wife, pointed out recently at our women’s event. She said, the Bible calls US the WEAKER vessel. It’s okay. Get over it. Accept it. Be happy about it. 

#Truth 

Sometimes I’m so busy trying to be strong, that I forget it’s okay to be weak. Not only does the Lord tell us that when we’re weak, He’s strong, but also He gave us husbands who are strong for us. 

Culture tells women to be independent–not in need of a man. I’m all for empowering women from subjugation, but in marriage, that still must be balanced with biblical truth.

And the truth is, we were made to be a helpmate for our husbands, and our husbands are to lead and cover us.

If you feel overwhelmed today, ask your husband for help—or ask him to help you say no if there’s too much on your plate. Let him lead you—and let him share the weight. He is strong and able, I promise.

This post was written by Laura Brandenburg. To read more about her, click here

In a Moment’s Time

father-daughterMoments are what truly make up the fabric of my time these days. With a toddler in tow, anything and everything can change in a moments time. Peace can turn to chaos, to-do lists float out the window to the sweet land of “Mañana” (Where nothing ever really gets done ‘Tomorrow’), and a moment to myself translates into little fingers creeping under the bathroom door. So for me, it is easy to let moments tic-tock right out of my memory and go by unnoticed while the next moment of my day begins.

However, I did have a moment with God that did take up residence. My husband and I have been on a financial roller coaster these past couple of years, and God has provided more abundantly than I could have thought possible. In January, God even provided my husband with a new job.  I thought that with this transition my heart would brim over with joy. Instead, I went into complete task mode. All of my focus and attention went into our budget: Shoring up the last year and trying to “get ahead.” I found myself getting stressed and worried on how to get it all accomplished.

It was then that God took a moment with me and revealed that I had applied a cultural norm from our society onto him and his kingdom. Traditionally, and in some ways even biblically, when a person either turns a certain age, gets a “big person job” or even gets married, they are to leave their parents’ home, authority and provision. The parents, in essence, have given their child the tools needed to fully provide for themselves. I had believed that since God blessed Derek with this job, that it was fully up to us to provide for all our needs. God had given Derek a big boy job and we were on our own. It was then that God spoke:

“Your age, marital status or income doesn’t determine my character and how I relate to you. You will always be my daughter, and I will always relate to you as your Father. Nothing can remove you from my Kingdom, you are forever in my home and under my provision.”

So I leave you with this passage from Matthew 6:30-33 (MSG)

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Love you all!

Abbie

This post was written by Abbie Kellum. To read more about her, click here. 

An Attitude of Gratitude

Starting my mornings off in my cozy bed with my personalized Bible verse has really been a positive action for me. Rise and shine!

This is the day the Lord has made. Let ME rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

I try to say it out loud and declare it to be so. 

 It is very important for me to talk myself into a positive grateful mood to begin my day and often to continue that positivity throughout my day. You see, my precious husband of 46 plus years has had Alzheimer’s Disease for a long time. I have been a caregiver for others with Alzheimer’s also. My husband’s aunt, my wonderful Mother, my special Mother Mother-in-Law, and numerous patients. I have been a RN for over 45 years. 

 Forming the habit of being positive in each situation that arises is difficult, but not impossible with God’s help.

l can do anything through Jesus Christ who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13

Find something affirmative in each situation that arises. Even if whatever is taking place at the moment is not so good, expect God to bring good out of it.

Surrounding yourself with Christians, such as your family, church family, neighborhood friends, colleagues, support groups, etc., is extremely important. You can cry, laugh, express your anxiety, get angry when you need to, and hopefully without judgement. Praying with a group is so refreshing, healing, and empowering. 

The act of grieving is so very hard when your loved one is leaving you mentally while his body is shriveling slowly away. Gratefully, he’s not in pain. I have laid next to him reminiscing about our life—especially how we met, holidays, birthdays, trips, harvesting, sport events, friends, etc. Not crying, for his sake, was extremely hard, but then on my long drive home from Lubbock back to our farm a flood of tears came. Many times I had to stop off the side of the highway to get my crying over with so I could drive home safely.

I truly enjoyed my days of laughter with my husband. I could not laugh AT him with his very bizarre actions or things he said caused by his Alzheimer’s. I did laugh about those things later though. “A cheerful heart is a good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22

Making out a list of your blessings is cathartic. Thanking God for the love of my life, our 2 wonderful sons, our 2 fantastic daughter-In-laws, and our four terrific growing-up-way-too-fast grandchildren is at the top of that list. Having the finances for my husband’s care is such a blessing. I am so very grateful for the good care he is receiving though the nursing home and hospice staff. What a blessing these hardworking loving people are.

Care givers, take care of yourself!! Ask for help. Accept help. Take care of your medical needs. Exercise, find some form of activity that you like so that you will do it. Get with a buddy so you will be accountable. Make your exercise a routine habit. You’ll feel so much better. Feed yourself healthy meals. Your body is a temple of God. Treat it that way. Show your body the GRATITUDE it deserves.

~*~*~*~

Helen Teeple is our guest writer today. She has been married for over 46 years, and has 2 sons, Brian & Keith. They have 1 granddaughter and 3 grandsons. Helen has been a BSN, RN for over 45 years. “I knew I want to be a nurse when I was 6 years old. When a RN friend called me to come to work as a Hospice Nurse I felt God was preparing me for the season of my life I am experiencing now.”

Helen is a member of the  First United Methodist Church of Floydada, TX. She grew up in Irving, TX, and graduated from TWU in Denton, TX. She lives on their farm in South Plains. “I never thought or dreamed I would marry a farmer, but God sure had other plans for us, and I’m glad I followed His directions!”

Thankful for My Happy Mommy Moments

thankful-drawingThe week before Thanksgiving break I was so ready to be home from work and school. I am a wife, a mom, a teacher and a grad student. I wanted to be home and enjoying Thanksgiving break with my family. On this Wednesday I had a list of things on my mind. So, needless to say I was a little “consumed with things.” I don’t like being in survival mode, but I was in survival mode in everything. I was physically and mentally exhausted.

On this particular Wednesday, Shelby, my 9-year-old daughter, shared something with me. In her excited voice, she said, “Mom I did the Question of the Week!” The question this week for the school was, “What are you thankful for?” Shelby had written with all her big 9-year-old heart: “I am thankful for God being on the cross, and my family and my pets.” I smiled, hugged and kissed her, and my mommy heart was overwhelmed. My eyes began to well up. What a blessing Shelby is and the message she had written spoke to me.

A few minutes later I heard Paxton had responded to the question of the week. Paxton had written with all his big 8-year-old heart: “I am thankful for God because he made us and created us. I am thankful for my family.” My mommy heart was overwhelmed once more.  What a blessing Paxton is and what a great reminder to be thankful.

What blessings my children are, and what a blessing their messages were on those little index cards. Those sentences, messages written by my children, had completely overtaken me.  God was speaking to me. He was saying “Be thankful.

He knew my heart was tired and I was exhausted. He was saying, “Be thankful.” I had allowed myself to become overwhelmed and consumed with things, and with life. I needed to see all this from a different perspective. I needed to be thankful for ALL the blessings in my life. I needed to be thankful for being a wife, a mom, a teacher, and a grad student. God had given me all these gifts in my life and that day I wasn’t seeing things from that viewpoint (and it was the week before Thanksgiving!).

God has blessed me and I needed to see things as my children saw them. My children were thankful for so much.

My two happy mommy moments reminded me of two things:

  1. From which perspective am I viewing life? EVERYWHERE around me there are constant reminders of the blessings God bestows on us.
  2. God speaks to me through my children. I need to listen more often!!

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100:4-5

 

Children are a gift from the Lord. Psalm 127:3

This post was written by Rachel Ramirez. To read more about her, click here. 

Preparing for Marriage

preparing-for-marriage-1As I’ve prayed and prepared for this blog, all I can think of is how blessed I am by my sweet husband. I know that most women think their husbands are the best, but seriously, I win. I’ll explain why.

Before I met Will, all of my previous relationships had pulled me down into emotional destruction, and I was done with that. I knew that it was so important to pray for your future spouse and to guard your heart with your relationships. I chose to be single until the Lord placed my husband in my life, fully expecting it to be years before that actually happened. I asked the Lord for complete clarity on who that would be.

Literally weeks after we met, Will started asking me on dates (to which I was completely oblivious for the most part—for real). I would unintentionally blow him off or decline. Looking back, I can see that he was trying to pursue me, but I was so focused on ‘waiting’ to only date my ‘husband,’ that I didn’t even realize what Will was doing until later, after we had started dating.

Once he finally decided to directly ask me on a date, I said yes and then immediately went to the Lord about it. I wanted to, again, have clarity about this. I didn’t want to date AT ALL unless Will was the husband God had for me. Getting the answer ‘YES’ from the Lord was the clearest, scariest, most amazing thing. I knew—without a shadow of a doubt—that Will would be the man I would marry. And soon after that, he knew the same.

Will is the absolute best, because the Lord gave him to me. Not anyone else. Him. God knew that Will would be my husband, that he would pursue me, and that I would (eventually!) say yes.

 I am his Beloved and he is mine.

Songs of Solomon 6:3

That, to me, was so, so sweet. The meaning of the word ‘Beloved’ is so vital to a relationship. To my relationship with the Lord, and my husband. Beloved means exactly that:

  • To be dearly loved by your husband.
  • To dearly love him.
  • To honor and respect him
  • To cherish and submit to him
  • To treasure and admire him.

And he does the same for me. Just as WE are God’s beloved and He is ours. I am so thankful for my sweet husband, for how he loves me. I am so thankful that I am his beloved and he is mine.

As you prepare for marriage or even if you’re already married, I urge you to press into the Lord. Allow Him to lead you, to minister to you, and to always put the Lord first. It is so worth it.

This post was written by Alyssa Brown. To read more about her, click here

The Illusion of Control

map-and-compassGrowing up, I always had a plan. Every January, my parents would pull out the calendar and we would plan events, vacations, school obligations, and sports activities for the entire year. My summers were spent doing math and science workbooks, including SAT and ACT prep. Our family schedules were synchronized and carefully executed.

When the time came, I attended a great University only 20 minutes from Disneyland and 5 minutes from the beach—yet I never actually went to Disney and rarely frequented the beach. Instead, I spent my time doing homework, researching topics related to my major, practicing piano and serving on various academic leadership teams. By the time I received my B.A., I was full of energy and zest: I knew where I was going in life (straight to grad school), what I would accomplish with my degree, and how I would do it. I had complete control over my life…which finally became a problem for the first time.

In the fall of 2009, I drove to Dallas for grad school, ready to work on my M.A. and satisfied with my new job as a dorm pastor of a local college. Only 45 minutes outside my new home, I got a phone call from my new boss. She apologetically explained that my predecessor had decided not to move after all and, though regrettable, they had to retract my job offer. Within 10 minutes I became jobless, homeless, and hopeless. I had no money and realized for the first time that life couldn’t always be controlled by me.

I spent the first month of grad school sleeping on kind stranger’s couches. While this was a hard time in my life, it was also my greatest blessing. As I slowly started getting back on my feet, I learned that surrender didn’t mean giving God the excess or things I didn’t want to handle; it meant giving him authority over situations I desperately clung to and tried to control.

In 2011, my life flip-flopped again as God called my husband and I to Northern Asia for missions. We left our family and friends in 2012, without any church backing or fundraising, to a place we didn’t know.  While I didn’t have a plan, God always did. I’ll be honest: there were some times it was overwhelming to have an unknown future. However, I was learning to trust God and not myself. Our journey would lead us back to California and eventually Texas, where surprises still abound.

While I still make plans and try to live my life with excellence, I know that it no longer depends on my strength. For that I am grateful. I would have never picked Amarillo, Texas, to be the city of my dreams… yet in this season of life (and hopefully many more) that’s exactly what it is. After all, God knows me better than I know myself and He wants His people to rely on Him.

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

(Jeremiah 29:11)

What area of control do you need to surrender today?

This post was written by Jess Bell. To read more about her, click here

Caring for “Me”

beauty-from-ashes“Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?”  Song of Solomon 8:5

I have never in my life had such a definitive change in seasons.

All my past season changes were kind of blended like fall blends into winter and winter into spring.

This season change is almost like a nuclear holocaust…just a blank landscape with a wide open space of nothing except the debris of what used to be.

I have been a care-giver most of my life, starting as a child of a single parent. I gave care to my mama, my brother, and our home to help relieve some of my mama’s burden.  Then came the season of marriage and child-raising.  We all know what that requires of a wife and mother.  Then all of a sudden the season of caring for the elders in my family arrived, and it lasted longer than the season of child-raising.

Now that all of these seasons have come and gone, I find my soul is weary and so is my body.  As I sit in my woman-cave, I look around at all of the clutter that has accumulated during this past season and ponder: “Is this indicative of my heart, Lord? Is my heart so cluttered from the weariness and emotions of this past season that I need to be decluttered?”  And as I quietly sit here, I hear my Jesus’ voice:

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you.  Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

(Matt. 11:28-30 NLT).

So, I have a choice.  I can get in my normal “who” of being task-oriented and ABC-123, and slog through this wilderness in my own effort and keep on keeping on.  Or I can stop and wait.

I can wait at the edge of this new season until I am refreshed in my soul.  I can wait until I can see clearly God’s plan for me in this new season.  I can wait and not be discouraged as I allow Holy Spirit to clear the clutter of emotions out of my heart and help me clear the clutter in my home.  I can wait while the “Mary” in me is refreshed and revived, and the “Martha” takes a rest.

So, for now I plan to do some self-care, taking time to rest by not having so many self-expectations.  I can enjoy doing life with my husband without having to put others’ needs before ours.  I can be content keeping busy at home.  I can still care for others through being diligent in prayer.  And I can look forward with expectation to what God has for me. 

This post was written by Kitty Shipman. To read more about her, click here. 

Who Would Have Thought?

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-3-44-44-pmWho would have thought that a young man named Kerry from Wisconsin would travel to Texas, meet a girl named Kerry from Kansas, get married, have 6 little Kerrys and live happily ever after? GOD DID! He in his infinite wisdom has blessed us beyond anything that we could have imagined.

I met Kerry on a blind date. He had just graduated from college, become a new Christian, and traveled to Texas to look at the Sunset School of Preaching. My aunt and uncle were his host family, and they quickly began plotting how they could set us up. We went on one double date with my aunt and uncle. I remember thinking that he was nice and rather handsome, in a “lumberjack” kind of way. You know: long hair, beard, hiking boots, and of course, a red flannel shirt. His stay was short and as he left I said, “Write me,” and he replied, “You write me first.”

Well, 7 months passed. I spent that summer in Scotland visiting one of my sisters. While I was there, I met someone else and quickly forgot about the Lumberjack from Wisconsin. Fall came quickly, and one Wednesday evening as I walked into church, I heard someone say, “Hello Kerry.” There stood Kerry, clean-shaven, short hair, dress clothes, a tie, and glasses. He had come to attend the School of Preaching. I had to do a double take; where was the Lumberjack and who was that nerd? My aunt and uncle once again went to work to bring us together.  We had a 6-month engagement and this April we will be married 35 years. Kerry and I have been blessed with a full quiver of children: 4 sons and 2 daughters, 2 beautiful daughters-in-law, 2 precious granddaughters and this April a loving son in-law.

As I reflect on the topic of marriage, it stirs many emotions. The word “journey” comes to mind, and like any journey, it has had its ups and downs. But through it all I have never stopped loving the lumberjack/nerd of a husband that God has given me.

I have learned so much by watching faithful people love one another. God has constantly placed people in my path that inspire me. My sweet neighbors have just celebrated their 71st anniversary. I love to sit with them as the husband is nearing the end of his life on this earth, and watch the tenderness and love that they so effortlessly display. The wife recently said to me, “Kerry, I just don’t understand why people give up so easily. I think that people think someone has to feel ‘lovey-dovey’ all the time. That is just not realistic; there are some days that I don’t even like Harv. But I know that the next day or even the next hour I will fall in love with him all over again.”

Such simple, sweet advice, and oh, how I aspire to be a couple that can encourage people to keep loving and fighting for godly marriages.

This post was written by Kerry Michaels. To read more about her, click here