August 31, 2012

God's Goodness... expressed in His provision

Back in June, I wrote about being challenged from scripture to not worry, but to trust God to provide my family's needs. This is a lesson God has continued to teach me all summer (and I'm betting it will continue the rest of my life).

I'm a bit thick sometimes, so I don't always recognize His provision. But this week, even I couldn't miss it.

My husband recently accepted a pastorate in Southern Indiana. However, the church is quite small, which means our housing budget is small. We visited the area a few weeks ago and did a bit of rental shopping while we were there. We shopped via Craigslist, which turned out to be a really bad idea. We checked online classifieds; this didn't take long, as they were non-existent. We drove around and looked for houses with "For Rent" signs. We drove and drove. We left messages; very few landlords returned our calls.

After we returned to Georgia, some folks in the church picked up the search. And, as it happens sometimes, some friends of an acquaintance of a friend had a house. An empty house. A job change prompted them to move out of state and buy a new home, but their old home continued to sit for sale with nary a nibble. They had not considered renting before, but would love to have someone in the home who could cover just their mortgage payment and utilities. Someone who would care for their home like it was their own. Someone like us.

* Their mortgage payment exactly matched our monthly budget goal.

* The home is more than large enough for our family, with plenty of storage space and a nice big kitchen. There's even a dining room (so we're glad our dining set never sold).

* The home will be wonderful for hospitality.

* The back yard is fenced and the owners are happy for us to bring our dog.

...because how could we leave this sweet girl behind?

* There's an amazing playground set in the backyard. (For those of you who wonder why a mom of teens would be excited about this: our new little church has a number of little families with lots of little children. Another plus for hospitality.)

My kids with new little friends.
* Location, location, location! This home is in a great neighborhood and is within 20 minutes of both our church and Southern Seminary, the two places we'll spend the most time when not at home.

God didn't have to provide for us in this way. We had prepared ourselves to live in a less comfortable home, or to find additional income to pay a higher rent (meaning my husband's second job, yet to be found, would require more hours).

But God, in His gracious wisdom and goodness, brought all the pieces together in His perfect timing. As He always does. And, thankfully, even thickheaded me could see His handiwork and marvel this time.

And I'm once again reminded of His truth at work in my life:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6:25-30 ESV)

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August 30, 2012

Real or not real?

Thought it would be fun to see how well you know me. I've listed several things about me below... all are facts except one. Can you find it?

I enjoy a good piece of chocolate every now and then... or so.

I'm a Texan by birth, and it's not my fault that I wasn't raised there.

I'm an Atlanta Braves fan, even when it hurts.

I enjoy good Mexican food. As often as I can.

I am moving to Indiana or Kentucky.

I once held a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

My first car was nicknamed "The Tank."

For a brief time, I was an army wife.

I take a twenty-minute power nap every day.

My superpower is making kidney stones.

I've attended a bass-fishing tournament and expo. Twice.

I have an In-N-Out Burger lovin' family.

I don't have a favorite color.

I get a little nuts about mice.

I'm a middle child.

I once dreamed of a corporate career in marketing.

Well, did you figure it out? Let me know in the comments below!

(Oh, by the way, there's an announcement of sorts tucked away in there as well. More on that later.)

August 25, 2012

Adorning God's truth as a wife

When I read 4 Responses to the Challenge of Same-Sex Unions (Al Mohler via Ligonier), it really got me thinking. Just last night, we'd had a little conversation in our home about society's attempts to normalize homosexuality and how the Bible provides the plumb-line for our normal: holiness.

Dr. Mohler sums up the conundrum so well:
We are facing a true moral inversion -- a system of moral understandings turned upside down. Where homosexuality was even recently condemned by the society, now it is considered a sin to believe that homosexuality is wrong in any way. A new sexual morality has replaced the old, and those who hold to the old morality are considered morally deficient. The new moral authorities have one central demand for the church: get with the program.
This puts the true church, committed to the authority of God's Word, in a very difficult cultural position. Put simply, we cannot join the larger culture in normalizing homosexuality and restructuring society to match this new morality. Recognizing same-sex unions and legalizing same-sex marriage is central to this project. 
 I thought back to a seemingly unconnected sermon preached by my husband last Sunday. The message dealt with the unbelief of Abram and Sarai as they became impatient with God's fulfillment of His revealed plan for them. Sarai came up with Plan B, drawn from the normal practices of society around them; Abram submitted to her plan, and the rest is history.

At the end of the message, Jeff provided some helpful acronyms including this one which helps us understand what it means to wait on the Lord.

See that A up there? It helps us remember to adorn God's truth -- to live in a way that makes the truth of God attractive to the unsaved. And that's what Dr. Mohler got me thinking about today.

You see, biblical marriage is such a beautiful picture of biblical truth.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV)
Wives, let's talk a minute. There's so much controversy about wives submitting to our husbands. Yet we are told in Ephesians that our wifely submission paints a picture of a greater submission: the church submitting to Christ.

If I am to adorn this truth -- that is, beautify it -- I must make it look attractive. I joyfully submit as a way of honoring not just my husband, but my Lord. I recognize Christ's authority and sovereignty over my life and that, in this authority and sovereignty, He has placed my husband as head over me. I also adorn the beauty of godly marriage, lifting it to the holy position for which it was intended. And, should I be married to an unbeliever, adorning this truth is a means of sharing the gospel of God's grace with my husband.

If I do not adorn this truth, I damage, mar, or deform this truth. I degrade Christ's authority and sovereignty. And that's what Dr. Mohler ultimately led me to think about. This truth didn't originate with Paul; it was God's original design for husband and wife:
Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper for him." ...So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord god had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:16, 21-22 ESV)
Of course, Satan couldn't leave well enough alone. As the serpent, he tempted Eve, she invited her husband to participate in sin, Adam relinquished his headship; Abram and Sarai repeated this, and we continue the cycle of sin today.

Elyse Fitzpatrick explains the bigger picture:
When Satan tempted Eve, he wasn't doing so because she was stupid, but rather because he wanted to attack God's designed order, something Satan hates. He enticed Eve to lead Adam, to become more important to him than she should have been; he wanted Adam to worship and obey her, rather than God. He duped her into subverting her role as helper. (Helper by Design, p73-74)
Divorce rates continue to be unacceptably high among professing Christians; churches deal with adultery among clergy and laity alike. These sinful acts have degraded God's truth and authority, especially in marriage, in the eyes of the watching world, for certain. Yet I'm wondering if a more subtle degradation has been even more damaging. Have we, as married Christian women, failed to adorn God's truth as it relates to marriage and womanhood?

Ladies, we didn't get here overnight. While my own mother adorned the truth of biblical submission before my eyes throughout the seasons of my life, the world has had its influence upon me, as well. In my young adult years, my thoughts were infiltrated by a worldview presented by my reading, watching, and by my college environment. In later years, I found my discernment tested even in Christian circles, as I continued to be faced with women disparaging their husbands, openly lusting after celebrities, and seeking their independence (and this was just in my homeschool group!). And, of course, my own fleshly bent toward rebellion continues to this day.

In all of this, what painting have we presented to the world? Have we reinforced an apathy or rebellion toward God and His truth through our own apathy and rebellion? Have we encouraged resentment toward God's authority in our less than joyful submission? In marring the beauty of godly marriage and  godly submission to our husbands, have we laid open the way for homosexual union to be more appealing?

Two people of one gender might level the playing field... is this the rationalization?

Ladies, let's adorn God's truth in our daily lives, hour by hour, minute by minute. Let's show our families first, and then the world, the beauty of marriage and all of God's plan for life. And let's discipline our lives to make this adornment an outpouring of the heart, not merely silverplate for the eyes of others.
...but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. (1 Peter3:4 ESV)
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, so leave me a comment below!

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August 13, 2012

Perspective on reading...

James T Boyce Centennial Library, The Southern Baptist Seminary
I've been an avid reader since I was about four years old (apparently, my mom homeschooled me a bit before I went to kindergarten). And I've been thankful that my kids enjoy reading, as well, especially since reading is so much a part of our homeschooling plan.

Earlier this summer, I came across an excellent article from John MacArthur about the value of a liberal arts education. He began the article with a summary of a University of Virginia survey on key skills to expect to gain from a college degree. The top three skills were communication skills, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking skills. Those surveyed also overwhelmingly recommended the pursuit of a liberal arts degree.

As I read through the rest of the article, I realized that our mostly classical approach to education has quite a liberal arts bent. And I wished I'd had this perspective when I was in college -- at that time, I thought the liberal arts program was for those who didn't know what they wanted to be when they grew up. Ironically, I ended up changing not only my major, but also changed schools, and ended up earning an associates degree in, of all things, general studies. It was basically a mini liberal arts degree.

As my daughter begins her junior year and my son approaches high school, I find myself further honing our approach to education. Because our education style is so literature heavy, I want all of us to learn to be better readers and discerners as we read. One tool that is helping me to do this is the book, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke. I'm not through the book yet, but I wanted to share a couple of quotes that are already helping me think through reading.
" is impossible to be a discerning reader of books without first understanding the Christian worldview." (p52)
It's important to note that Reinke had previously described how the Bible provides the means to a Christian worldview.
"The gift of literacy is more profound than merely mastering literary techniques, improving comprehension, and learning to speed-read. Fundamentally, literacy is a spiritual discipline that must overcome the spiritual darkness that veils us. If we ever hope to spiritually benefit from our reading, the Holy Spirit must intrude upon our lives and remove our blindfolds so that we can behold the radiant glory of Jesus Christ (John 1:9)" (p33)
 I'm intrigued to read what Reinke will have to say about choosing what we read in light of this principle. I know some believe that fictional literature is a waste of time; I see incredible value in good fiction but believe we should balance our reading.
"In a world so easily satisfied with images, it's too easy to waste time away with entertainment. We have a higher calling. God has called us to live our lives by faith and not by sight -- and this can mean nothing less than committing our lives to the pursuit of language, revelation, and great books." (p50)
This is such a strong statement, yet I see the truth in it. How much more discerning would we be if this were our pursuit?

Lit! has been an enjoyable and challenging read thus far. My older son read through Adler's How to Read a Book, but I plan to have my daughter read Lit! instead as she begins her school year. I think it will provide a more contemporary approach, especially as it addresses the effects of the internet on reading habits. And I think I'd like to read this book after I finish Lit!.

What are you reading these days...and why?

August 4, 2012

I've gone to the dogs... well, one dog, anyway!

"Don't be mad," he said.

Not exactly the words I wanted to hear coming from my cell phone. On my son's birthday. Two days before Christmas. While family was in town.

I was even more surprised by what came next: "Do you have $15 cash?"

About thirty minutes earlier, my husband had gone on a Dunkin Donuts run for the family. He took a route we frequently used; I traveled it at least once a week.

And I'd seen the sign: FREE PUPPIES. The kids always made sure I saw the sign. Every couple of weeks, the breed (or mix of breeds would change), but the sign was perpetually there. I'd just chosen to ignore it. Especially since we'd decided this wouldn't be a good thing for our family with a possible move in our future.

And yet, here we were, at the crossroads. Would I bend or would I be the fun sucker?

Yeah. I bent.

My husband swung by the house, picked up the cash and our oldest son (Christopher was now his unknowing accomplice), and headed out to seal the deal. Before they left, I asked only that they make one additional stop on their way home that evening to get a crate, kibble, and whatever else this alien creature might need. The last thing I wanted to do on Christmas Eve was be anywhere near any shopping centers.

And that was that. For the first time in fifteen years we were dog owners again.

She wasn't my dog (I made that clear), but I boiled chicken and rice for her over the next several days until she got over her worminess.  My daughter would ask, "Do you love her? When will you love her?" I'd answer, "Maybe when she stops throwing up on my floor."

She wasn't my dog (I reminded the family), but I helped to clean up her occasional accidents (usually caused by the excitement of meeting a new friend).  "Do you love her yet?" AnnaKate continued to ask. "Not yet, maybe when she stops wetting on the carpet," I answered, "But I do sort of like her" (bending down and patting the puppy on the head as I walked by).

She wasn't my dog (I reiterated when they returned from the vet), but when her leg was splinted due to a pulled tendon, I wrapped it in plastic so she could potty in the rain without getting the bandage wet.

That's when she got me. I wrapped it the first time, then removed the plastic wrap when she came back inside. The next time she had to go out, she stood at the front door and held the paw up for me, just looking at me with big brown eyes.

I think AnnaKate must have seen me as I wrapped the paw again. "Mama, do you love her? You do love her now, don't you!"

Doggone it. I did. And somehow, a silly little puppy named Bella has captivated us all.

August 1, 2012

The Back to School Boost for Moms!

About this time of year, I'm feeling unorganized and a bit overwhelmed. As of today, I'm still dealing with loose ends from our last school year and still making plans for the coming school year. And I have the added challenge of not being sure exactly when we'll be starting school or eve which state we'll be schooling in!

In the midst of figuring out new schedules, I still need to keep everyone clothed and fed, as well as keep the house clean. At this point, I start feeling a little less than Proverbs 31-ish, if you know what I mean.

I have a feeling that whether you homeschool or not, if you have school-aged kids you may be feeling the same way. I have two things for you that I hope will help.

First, if the all the details are causing you to be anxious, read this. I probably need to re-read it once a week... or maybe once a day right now.

Second, if you'd like a few very practical resources to help you regain control, have I got a deal for you! How about five resources for just $10? Here's a special Back to School Boost for Moms eBook Bundle:

For one week only (Aug 1 - 8), you can get 5 e-books for one low price.
Just $10 for all 5 e-books.
  1. Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free
  2. Create Your Perfect Cleaning Schedule
  3. The No-Brainer Wardrobe
  4. Cupcakes! Twelve Months of Happiness
  5. Feast in 15: Speed Cooking for Weeknight Dinners
The cost to buy all five e-books separately is $28.95. 
For this week only, you can get them all for just $10! 

For more info on each e-book and to purchase the bundle, click here.

But hurry -- this deal won't be available after Wednesday, August 8!

Note: As an affiliate seller, I will receive a portion of the proceeds from each sale linked through my site. My family thanks you for your purchase!