December 15, 2010


Today, I took William to a birthday party after preschool. I forgot to attach one of Will's adorable little calling cards to the gift. I searched the car for anything that would work as a last minute birthday card for a 4 year old boy. How hard could that be? Any piece of paper should do.
A Target receipt? No, I actually needed to keep that.
A Chick-fil-A napkin? I considered it for a second. It was clean!

I had not one sheet of paper in the car to scribble a note and sign Will's name. My recently imposed, strict policy of having the kids remove their stuff after each car trip had now backfired. Where is a Hello Kitty journal when I need it?

Digging deeper in my purse, I discovered a blank mailing label from my errand to the post office. Perfect. It already says: "To: and From:" And maybe it would have been a clever themed gift idea if I had wrapped the gift in brown paper like a package. . .Next time.

So, today, Will arrived to his friend's house with a very cool Cars gift bag with a mailing label proudly stuck to the tissue paper. So, why do I share such a silly story? Because during this problem solving session today, I realized that I am letting small things go. Small details that nobody is stressed about. . .except me. Life is going on for Dan, for the kids, and for their friends. I don't want to miss the fun because I am pouting about the last thing that didn't go perfectly.

At the moment, I was proud of myself for improvising.
Hey, I was actually proud that I remembered to take him to the party.
Happy Birthday, Will's Friend.

December 1, 2010

Oh Joy! Oh Joy!

Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to those who have nothing ready, this day is holy unto the Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." -Nehemiah 8:10

Lately, I have been struggling. I have been grieving. I miss my grandmother and her unshakeable trust that God had a plan for me. I miss my father in law's adoring smile for his granddaughters. I miss my clothes from last year that are now one size too small. I miss my friends who are in new seasons that do not include me. I miss babies in my house. I miss scrapbooking. I miss the homeschooling lifestyle where I made the schedule for our family. I miss the old me.

In the midst of change, I am usually happy for something new. But for all of the good that I know is coming, I have been struggling about what I'll have to sacrifice and what I might miss. But just when I was feeling weak and worn out, joy appeared. Where did it come from? I think it was Thanksgiving. We usually travel to Alabama for Thanksgiving weekend. But this year, we hosted Dan's mom and sister at our house. This is only my second Thankgiving to host in 16 years of marriage. Please refrain from comments about my cooking that explain why that might be the case.

Last week to celebrate Thanksgiving, we talked a lot about the "God is good" things that are happening in our lives. We took some time to say thanks to the Lord and to each other. I believe that this intentional worship brought a harvest of its own. In the same way that the Fruit of the Spirit grows on a Holy Spirit tree, joy grows out of worship time. There is now an unshakeable excitement about 2011 at our house.

So the theme of Crawford Christmas this year is joy! We've never had a theme before so this is kind of a big deal.

In the past, our front yard Christmas decorations featured a few white lights and our retro nativity scene. All Jesus! All season long!

But this year, I gave in to years of pleading from the kids to lighten things up a bit. We bought those lighted candy canes that line the driveway and front walk. We have a nativity scene on a flag. We have multi-colored rope lights. And a lighted sign on the front door that says "JOY." You can see our candy cane lane from 10 houses away. We enjoy driving and looking at the lights at other people's houses each year. We wanted to add something merry and bright this year for our neighbors to enjoy. It is joyful in our front yard this year. Oh joy!

And now I can't help but feel joy when I look ahead to this new season of our lives. Mommy is returning to work (part time for now) after a decade at home. Daddy is driving more carpool. Charlotte is cautious about change of any kind but is leaning on Jesus in new ways. Julia is maturing into a generous member of this family. William is thriving in his new schedule. He loves it all :preschool mornings, days with Mommy AND the sweet babysitting friends while Mommy works. God is on the throne!

When the schedule needed to change, God revealed his blueprint for the new way that we would live and work and play together as a family. The baby years are gone, but some amazing family time is on the horizon.

James 1:17 says that He brings every good and perfect gift. He is Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He completes what He starts (Philipians 1:6). He brings joy to the world. His joy is our strength! Oh Joy!

November 24, 2010

10 Thanksgivings Ago

A decade ago, the Lord taught me about gratitude's link to obedience. Have I written it about it here before? I need to check the archives. I think of this often at Thanksgiving. I think of it throughout the year when I am overwhelmed by something amazing and HUGE that God has done for me. There is a connection between gratitude and obedience. I see that now. I treasure this nugget of revelation. I am so glad to have a quick Thanksgiving test that I can take.

Am I thankful?
A simple question that really means do I "feel" thankful? Do I feel content or happy with where life is these days? Are the big things in place? Healthy kids and happy husband? Check. Check. (Can you picture my cute, pasted on smile?)

But the better question is: Do I "act" thankful? Obedience is the tried and true best way to show my gratitude for everything God does to protect, lead, and love me. If He asks something of me, will I do it even when it's a stretch for me?

John records the conversation with Jesus and His disciples, when Jesus challenges them by saying, "If you love me, obey me." That verse is so powerful. John 14 was a life changing chapter for me. As a child, I read the New Testament, skimming past the passages that I did not understand. This was one of those confusing, earn your salvation, kind of messages. But when I read it in 2000, I knew that He was speaking to me. You are ready to do this. You are ready to love me back. You've wanted to love me, but you didn't know how until now.

For so long, I wanted the Lord to know how much I love Him. Now I need to show Him as much as I tell Him. Too quickly, I can begin to build a separate life from the one He is leading. Without obedience, I am not really grateful. Instead, I am doing my own thing, apart from Him. I am no longer His child; I just attend His church.

Thanksgiving brings me back to this fork in the road from the year 2000. I chose the road with the flashing neon arrow that the Holy Spirit paved and marked clearly for me. I chose life.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. No, the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it. I set before you today, life and prosperity, death and destruction. Now, choose life so that your children may live.
-Deuteronomy 30:11,14,15,19

November 16, 2010

He changed the subject while I was still talking.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:3-5

Each year, I pray for creative ways to teach my children about thankfulness while reminding them of the history of the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a season of patriotism for me. It is a season of reflection. But more importantly, it has become a 4 week workshop where I attempt to prepare my kids' hearts so that they are grateful for the Christmas gifts that they receive.

We want to spoil them. They want to be spoiled. Win- Win, right? Well, we don't like the inevitable pressure to "wow" them. We don't want to sacrifice and give gifts to kids that are not appreciative. That's why I love that Thanksgiving comes first. We can enter the season with a fresh reminder of the generosity of Jesus Christ and the blessing to live in a free country.

Each year, I pursue subtle ways of teaching our kids about being thankful. I pump them up on Thanksgiving: the history and the Christian perspective on this food - centered holiday. Then just a few weeks later, we turn right around and spoil them to the best of our budget. Some years, the result is precious, thankful responses to that Christmas bounty. Once or twice, I have seen that dreaded look of disappointment. But we always have a super fun family day together, playing games and taking pictures.

My prayer is that as they grow and mature in the Lord, their gratitude will grow too.

We don't take care of our kids because they are thankful. We don't bless them because they deserve it. Jesus did not die for us because we worshipped Him. He died for the whole world, even those that will never believe that He is who He said He is.

This week, I asked God how to teach thankfulness to my family. "Lord, do they need more chores to appreciate the value of money and understand hard work? Do we need to have a family devotion on the matter? What, Lord, what? I am worried about them making extravagant wish lists. What should we do?"

He changed the subject while I was still talking. Although that is frustrating when another person does that, it's so great when the Holy Spirit does that. He had something to say to me, and I did want to miss it.

Instead of parenting tips, the Lord reminded me to be thankful. He wanted me to show my three children what this season means to me. He said, "sing songs and read Psalms. Be quick to say thank you to Dan and the kids when they do something that you appreciate. Bring an attitude of thanksgiving home with you."

Then confession time began, because I have been frustrated with the price tag of Christmas and the not getting homework done in a timely manner and the messy rooms and the unmade beds. While trying to trick my kids into a false humility, I have been missing out on living Thanksgiving.

No more! I heard His message loud and clear. When the Lord changes the subject, I want to change too! So, I'll start now with some worship time. Gotta go and get my praise on. . . Thanks for reading.

November 11, 2010

A time to weep

A week ago, I started crying when I read one simple verse. And now I can't stop. I cry at things that are cheesey and sappy and the slightest bit sweet. I cry (with joy) when my kids are kind to one another. I also tear up when they are fighting, not wanting them to waste time on frivolous things. God has given us to each other to build up one another, not to tear each other down. I cry at worship songs. OK, that's not new.

I even cried a little in Walmart today. Yes, that has happened before, but out of frustration, but today's episode was about a Christian Christmas decoration. What is going on? My heart is bursting with thankfulness, and every little thing has me shouting His praise. It's sweet, but also inconvenient. The children are concerned. Mom, are you crying?

Oh, you ask? Which verse started all of this? Oh, yes, that one verse. The one that has triggered Niagara Falls.

"He sets the lonely in families."

It was tucked into an article on a blog that my sweet sis-in-law just posted on Facebook. I knew when I read it that it was Scripture. I knew I would find that powerful truth in God's Word. I also knew when I read it that I would never forget it. So I looked it up.

Psalm 68:6 reads, "God sets the lonely in families; He leads the prisoners out with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun scorched land."

If this is the heart of God, then I want that heart too. I want to be on His team. Wearing His colors. Playing on His field. Working in His fields.

God sets the lonely in families.
When I see families, I can know that God is for the good of that group.
Family was God's idea. Loneliness was not His plan. He will show us who is supposed to be in our family if we ask Him.

He leads the prisoners out with singing.
When I see the Lord leading a prisoner, rescuing someone from bondage, I can know that their song is a song of freedom. I can rejoice and worship God with them. Their freedom song is really my song too. I want to worship Him with my fellow, former prisoners.

But the rebellious live in a sun scorched land.
When I see the rebellious, even in the mirror, I want to remember what a hard life that will be. That living in a sun scorched land will lead to disaster. I want to stay open to God's leading. Not stiff necked and alienated. Not defiant, disobedient, or even fractious. Just thankful.

And weepy.

October 30, 2010

So glad

God knows our hearts. I am pondering this thought today. For our family, we don't want a nice version of Halloween. We now want to skip it altogether. But in 12 short years of Halloween skipping, we have planned several kinds of diversions for our kids on the 31st of October. Church parties in costumes, church parties without costumes, church parties where everyone but us were wearing costumes, out to dinner, mini golf, weekend trips, and the bounce houses place.

A few times, as we left the innocent fall festivities, I felt so grateful that God knows my heart. I felt like I had struck out. No run. No man on base. Not even a hit. Just struck out as a mom and a daughter of the Most High. I don't want to use my kids to make a statement about something. I just want to obey the Lord.

As they question me on why we can't do something, I need to know what the Lord's point is. I don't want to make up something that God is not really saying to us. He knows that we are dodging and weaving around Halloween each year. He knows that we are in this world, but not of it. He is guiding and warning us at each opportunity to keep our hedge of protection in place. We do not want to play with something that the Bible has warned us to hate.

We pray all year against fear and deception. We pray all year for light and faith. It really seems fake to celebrate in any way an occasion that is all about fear and darkness. Even for just one day or month of the year.

Friends and neighbors may be confused or feel judged or feel resentful. They may think they know why we are skipping Halloween.

But I am so glad. . .SO GLAD. . .that God knows my heart.

October 12, 2010

Word4Word Kids on BetsyB.TV

Word4Word Kids is a creative presentation of God's Word. Entire families are going to love this show. Parents and children are going to learn whole chapters of the Bible, just from singing these songs. Kids will apply thes passages to their real lives from the ideas presented in each episode.

A week ago, Dan and I watched the first episode: 'Foolish and Wise' for the first time. We are proud. It is visually beautiful. It is full of fun surprises and dry humor that our family always appreciates.

So, what's next? It's TV time. And with that, comes a whole list of "what's next?" questions. The families and friends who worked on this show are eager for it to be enjoyed by families all over the world. We want this production to be fruitful. Several networks have the capability and audience to reach these families. We are asking for Holy Spirit guidance to the heads of studios who will nurture this production.

This show was created for television. It has the cast and story to support a series. It will make a great series. So, please pray for Betsy Beers and her team in the coming days. Betsy is writing and working on the series, even as she waits for the first show to air. God is good. He asked for this act of obedience, and Betsy and her team have completed the first installment.

Word4Word Kids is obedience that is currently in Blu-Ray and DVD form. His creativity and blessing are on this show!

September 30, 2010

Same Old Thing

Does it seem like life is cyclical and that we are all just living the same hard circumstances every so many years? And that our happy times are sandwiched between complete despair or that things just worked out for us for a little while? Life seems like that to me at times and even Solomon analyzed the meaningless of life in the book of Ecclesiastes. He despaired over his wealth because he would have to leave it to his progeny that didn't earn it and may not be able to maintain it. He lamented his hard work for the time lost. He regretted his pleasures because they did not last. Cycles can be discouraging. But seasons can mark our progress.

"I know that there is nothing better than for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in his toil- this is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

We know from Solomon's wisdom and the counsel of God's Word that the life in the Lord is the only option that is not meaningless. When we ask, "what is the point?" He answers, "God does it so that man will revere him." (v.14)

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion on the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

When we are on the treadmill and do not see the point anymore, we need to look back at the itinerary that we have already completed. He is moving us in the direction of that satisfaction that we all seek. He wired us to work for that. Work alone will leave us overwhelmed. Not working leaves us depressed. The missing piece is satisfaction. Rooted in a fear of the Lord -that awe will lead us to that list of Spirit fruit in Galatians 5- we can see the path again.

The Holy Spirit has been showing me that the Christian life is not cyclical, but seasonal. Yes, we may feel that we've seen the season of fall or winter or spring. But we've never been here. This year is a stretch of road we have not walked. We are older and wiser. We grew. We opened up our hearts. We repented. We changed.
Hopefully we changed.

There are usually two roads, and I need to stay on the one less travelled. But we can not fall for the discouragement gimmick that this financially hard time is just like last time. Or this disappointment is the same old thing. It's probably not. If we are pursuing the Lord, we are moving forward. This stretch of land may seem familiar, because challenges are all. . .challenging. Difficulties are difficult. The adjectives may be the same, but the nouns and verbs have changed.

Guarding our thoughts is the tried and true way to avoid the same old road. Temptation to sin comes at us all day. When we have a little idea, a sinful suggestion, we can set it aside and choose life. Or it will choose to visit us throughout that day or move in for the whole season. And soon we find ourselves believing that lie. It just seems so familiar; it must be true.

We can start drowning in thoughts that nothing is ever going to change for us. But in reality, the only same old thing that never changes is God's investment in us: He showed His love among us; He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. (I John 4:9) This is not a faraway, fairy tale, hard to imagine, kind of love. This is a lifestyle of being loved and protected.

Walk on, Loved One.

September 21, 2010

Nerds are Cool

OK, it's time for me to come clean and admit that I live in a household of nerds. We are. There's no denying it. We are each nerdy about different things but all nerdy about God's Word. It hit me last night that the nerdiness of the parents here is amusement for the children.

Dan and I enjoy a few minutes with Julia, our 12 year old, each night after her brother and sister are sound asleep. We hear about her day and often tell her that we're so proud of her. She then goes to read in her room or to sleep, depending on the day she's had.

Last night, we chatted with her and then bid her good night. Julia grabbed her Bible from her backpack to go read before bed. I felt the mood change in the room. Dan and I both grinned at each other and then at her. We were wanting to be cool, but were both very curious about what passage she was planning to read. I eagerly asked her if she had a verse selected or if she wanted a suggestion. She was open to my suggestion.

I started my little speech: "I was reading Ephesians 4 today. You may want to try that. Take a few verses at a time. There's a lot in there. Good stuff."

Dan laughed and added, "Or Proverbs 12. That's what I studied today. But whatever you want. No big deal. I'm sure Mommy's chapter is fine too."

We are all three laughing by this time. NERDS! All of us. Bible Nerds, no less. But I'm not kidding. It is so fun to read on your own and then go discuss it. It's so special to have someone to talk to about what you are learning. It's powerful to discuss and to testify about the themes in His Word. It stays with you so much longer. Dan and I are seeing that in each other. And we were thrilled to be able to include Jules into that with us.

This morning, I asked whose passage she read last night. Not that it's a competition or anything.
As the darling daughter that she is, she had read both of our chapters! She said that actually fit together and she took away a good teaching on righteousness. That's so interesting! She's so cool. God is so cool. And we are so nerdy.

We have our own little book club developing here. We are on a new level now that Julia is getting older, but Little Brother and Little Sis are not left out. Veggie Tales has sparked great interest in Bible characters for all of our kids (and us too!). It's fun to go back to the Bible and show what the Veggie stories changed from the actual events for silliness. William loves action like David and Goliath. He does a slapstick, one- man drama, re-enacting David whirling his slingshot and then Goliath getting hit with the stones and falling down.

Charlotte seems so quiet while we are all talking and sharing, and then days later she shares a major insight with us. We never know what she's absorbing until she talks about it later, but now we know not to dismiss her. She is listening! And she is wise. She even applies verses to specific situations with her friends and how she relates to them. God's word is bringing wisdom into this house.

Families will develop similar interests and habits. Each person in the family may show it or share about it, according to their own personality. But it is happening. It may be an attitude or an openness that gets passed on to your kids. But it is happening. They live with us, and they learn from us. I do understand that we are a little strange about this. Nerdy, you might say.

Does it surprise you that Dan's dad had several Bibles open at a time? He compared different commentaries and translations while preparing his Sunday School lessons. He was an intriguing Bible teacher. Dan's mom read her Bible every morning; she sang about, and talked about her faith on a daily basis in front of her kids. That's where Dan called home.

My parents encouraged us to talk to them about God's Word when we were growing up. They always welcomed any analysis or discussion about spiritual things. I never remember them turning me away with my questions or my discoveries. I saw Dad reading Proverbs early in the morning. Mom is still my favorite Bible nerd of all. I miss our talks when busy life squeezes out our extended discussions.

But do not be deceived: I am not organized about family devotionals. We are not currently on a regular routine about this. (It does produce fruit when we make it a priority though.) We are just living and praying and studying and seeking as part of our normal, everyday life. Word Nerds: one and all!

August 31, 2010

Back to School Power Hour

My friends have just left; my Bible is still open to the passage in James that we read. A month ago, I sent an evite for some friends to come over today, to drink coffee and to pray about the school year. We did all of that. But more importantly, we each asked God for something that seemed BIG to us. We prayed for each other and our HARD stuff. 'BIG things' are the things that probably won't just work out on their own (or they would have already). They are situations and relationships that need a healing from the Lord.

We will pray in faith. Not just hoping in hope that life will improve. We place our hope in Him, because we know Him so well.

We will be studying Proverbs 15 to make a list of specific things to pray for our families. We will get to know Him better and therefore strengthen our faith to believe for these things. Join us as we pray for our families this year. Pray for BIG things for your family too!

Other verses to ponder:
James 5:15-16: The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise Him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Mark 11:20-25 : Therefore I tell you anything you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

I am starting with forgiveness and faith, because I am eager to see what God is going to do with my BIG requests.

July 29, 2010

Powerful Truth

Stand against godlessness. Pray for power. This list at the opening of 2 Timothy 3 makes me tense. It is all of things that we are carefully guarding to NOT happen in our families and in our relationships. This passage is addressing the godlessness of the last days. We are living in last days. So we pray for Spirit fruit to be grown and enjoyed in this home. We, along with our friends and our parents are praying to NOT be a statistic of the list that Paul wrote here.

We ask to enjoy our children. We pray for children who love others, who build up others, who forgive, who obey their parents, who are grateful, who love good, who are thoughtful and humble, and who love God. We are looking for ways to encourage our kids to embrace godliness and God's power. (We specifically ask for the inverse of verses 2-5.)

Unload the sin. Receive the truth. Paul describes these people as "loaded down with sins and swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning, but never able to acknowledge the truth." This describes a frustrating cycle that we see in people who have been seeking God for a long time, but can't seem to grasp the freedom and the power of walking with the Spirit. How many discouraged people say that they want change, but cannot do better? They are loaded down. They are stuck. I have been there. And although I have compassion for stuck people, I know that compassion is not going to unload their burdens. Power IS!

The powerful truth is that Jesus already paid our debt and offered to carry our load. We really don't need to help Him. This may sound un-American where we are taught that hard work yields the best harvest. Actually, strong seed, good soil, bright sun, and rain from the heavens will tend the crops better than perfect harvesting. (Funny that Jesus referred to the Father as the gardener in John 15. He also instructed us- His disciples- to remain or abide in Him if we want to bear fruit.)

So, I see the truth of how my very best for myself or for our children is to watch for these symptoms of "last days sins" in my life and then quickly unload them. I don't want anything to block my understanding of Spirit things. I want to have hands that are free from burdens and ready to receive. This passage is preaching itself to me lately. Thanks for letting me share.

Stand against godlessness. Pray for power. Unload the sin. Receive the truth.

July 27, 2010

Denying the Power

2 Timothy 3:5 Holding to a form of godliness, but denying its power. These words are ringing in my head when I am facing difficulties of any kind lately. When I find myself overwhelmed, I need to check this first. I know that you know and I know that we are to cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us. I know that you know and I know that we are to trust and obey, for there's no other way. So, why the panicky feelings? Why the fear and the doubt? Why the temptation to walk away from the Lord and figure it out on our own?

As believers, we can hold the tools that we need and actually not use them. It's the best trick of the enemy: to convince us that we don't have what we need when we really do have what we need. We can love God and even serve God, but struggle in the same areas for years without seeing any real progress. Why?

Where have I been holding on to my form of godliness, but denying its power? How does that look for me? I can "work" for the Lord, using my own ideas and my own strength. I can sign up and sign on for a list of good projects and yet deplete my own resources for the projects that He has specifically assigned to me. This summer, I was sure that the Lord asked me to table some of my good ideas and pursuits and invest time into the ministry of BetsyB.TV. Obedience feels good, but more importantly obedience will bear fruit. I know because of the many times that I missed it and missed out.

A religious spirit can appear to be a form of godliness. Christians can carefully obey God's written word. That is a form of godliness. They can sow and reap and plant and have harvest. But there is a cap on the godliness that we pursue through our religion. Religion will only take you so far. The power of God is the ever present help in time of need. The power of God is the only way we can see the fruit of the Spirit. The power of God is the way that we can maintain a lifestyle of obedience even when we missed our daily devotions that morning.

Let's study this passage more, because I want godliness PLUS the power! Do you?

June 27, 2010

Word4Word Kids 4 BetsyB.TV

Word4Word Kids is a kids' TV adventure series. Families will learn Scripture through the songs and stories presented in this show. A pilot episode titled "Foolish and Wise" will be shot in Central Florida from July 5-10.

The Crawford family is involved in this production in several ways: Dan as a songwriter and performer, Julia as a singer, and Charlotte as a cast member. And currently Leigh Ann is coordinating the cast schedules and costumes and will be kid wrangling on set.

Please pray for us in the coming weeks. This show presents a powerful message in innovative packaging. We believe that God is leading us- and others who have partnered with the show- to finish what we have started. By the end of the summer, we will have a creative show, ready to air and ready to teach God's Word to families.

Cover the cast and the crew in your prayers as we complete the assignment that the Lord has given to us. I believe that Betsy Beers could make a great show on her own, but we are expecting the power of God to start a revolution, not just another TV series. Thank you for your patience with us and your support of our family's summer ministry.

Some dates to remember:
Final Pre-production: June 28- July 2
Rehearsal: July 3
Location Shooting: July 5-9
Opening credits shoot on set: July 10

June 26, 2010

12 candles shining

What you say goes, God, and stays as permanent as the heavens.

Your truth never goes out of fashion. It is as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up.

Your Word and truth are as dependable as ever; that's what you ordered- you set the earth going.

If your revelation had not delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came. Psalm 118:89-92 (MSG)

We are celebrating our oldest daughter's 12th birthday this weekend. She is worthy of her own blog entry. Dan and I are honored to be her parents and are so pleased that she is also our sister in Christ. There is something I've noticed in her that is worth mentioning on this birthday. She walks in the light, and people are drawn to that light. So often, I see new people come into our lives and talk about what is "special" and "different" about Julia. Yes, there is an extrovert at the heart of this story. She loves people. She finds it easy to love God's people and to pray for people who need to be God's people. But she carries a torch with her. She is ready to shine whenever she's called upon.

But walking in the Light, even when it is unpopular or difficult, is what keeps the bright light shining. She is only beginning to make some hard choices. But what happens now will affect her life for years to come. I am praying for strength and focus within her as she pursues new depth in her walk with the Lord. I pray on this birthday that Your Word and truth, Lord, would anchor Julia when the ground begins to shake. I pray for her to find delight in Your revelation, and that she will not give up when hard times come.

Her 12 candles are shining. I am praying for more holy fire for her!

Bless her year, Lord. Thank you for J-u-l-i-a!

May 10, 2010

Worth it!

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? -Matthew 6:26

Earlier today, we wrote thank you notes to our daughters' teachers. We made cards that said they were worth 100 Grand, using the mini 100 Grand candy bars to make the point. (Julia said that she has one teacher with my humor. I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but she meant it as encouragement.) This has been a special school year for our first grader and our sixth grader. We want to show their teachers how grateful we are. We trust them with our most precious girls, because we know that the girls are treasured by the faculty.

I am watching Matthew 6:26 happening in my backyard right now. Three birds and a large rabbit are feasting in our grass. The big brown bunny is feasting ON grass, and we all noticed that he has not missed any meals lately. The majestic cardinal and his two orange-beaked buddies apparently found a family of delicious insects for their dinner. My bird feeder needs to be refilled, so they were on their own tonight. Well, not really.

We watch through the window, hoping to not disturb the animals. Will, our 3 year old whose only volume of late is quite loud, would have surely scared them away before we could open the back door. In my head, I hear the Word. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." I always thought of this as a passage about priorities, but as I re-read it tonight, I see that it is also about trust based on value.

Trusting God is not simple for us, even though the Father wants it to be. We struggle with the worries of this life, and we are working on the schedules and the details of our stress inducers. Along with that, many of us also feel insecure about our value. Some days, we feel like more trouble than we are worth. We are in more trouble and debt than we can escape. Are we an asset to our families? Are we valuable to God?

Most Christians would argue that God is reliable and good and trustworthy. He's God. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 : now that's a verse I can quote. But what about Matthew 6:26. "Are you not much more valuable than the birds?" Which issue should we tackle today? Our trust problem, our worries, or our value? Are we worth it?

So what is the connection here? Can we work on one area and receive a breakthrough in two others? I believe we will receive a double blessing here. If the worries of life are keeping us from trusting God, then we can start with soaking in how much we matter to God. We are a treasure to Him. We were worth the price Jesus paid for us. Jesus asked that rhetorical question about us and the birds. He not only taught us about our value, as recorded in Matthew 6. He showed us what we mean to Him. He gave up His own life, because we were worth it.

Jesus explained the connection between our worth and our trust in the Father. Because we are valuable to the Father, we can trust Him to be good to us. We take care of the things that we value. We thank teachers; we mop the floors- eventually. We have children; we protect and provide for them. God made the birds; He feeds the birds. God made the lilies; He makes them bloom. God made us; He takes care of us. Jesus called us "more valuable" than His other creation.

Please don't let this be an oversimplified, "it will all work out" pep talk from me. This post is just a clue that maybe our trust problem is really a "value" problem. Spend some time in Matthew 6 and soak in a pep talk from Jesus himself.

April 12, 2010


Last week, the darling husband and I sat around on the beach for two days. My sweet parents kept our three kids, ages 11, 7, and 3. We talked about a myriad of things without interruption that first day. By the second evening, we were staring at each other is silence. Dan broke said silence when he commented that we had covered every topic he could imagine. It was so strange. We usually have several disjointed, incomplete conversations going throughout the week. Instead, we were thoroughly caught up and completely relaxed- not talking. For those who know me, just take my word for it. I was enjoying the quiet.

We have attempted to meet for lunch more during this school year, but those lunch dates often evolve into weekly planner sessions. It was three years ago that we had time alone. And it had been three years before that. So, some peace and quiet was due, I suppose.

Something strange happened while I was relaxing on the beach. Dan had gone back to the condo to retrieve a book. (We do not usually read on the beach; we are usually gathering shells, building sandcastles and life guarding our own kids.) Instead, I sat still reading a magazine article on taking time to enjoy life (no kidding). I suddenly began to cry and couldn't stop. I knew immediately that I was grieving but wasn't sure what triggered it. Currently, we are in a great season of life. Marriage communication and closeness is high, children worries are low. We are not perfect, but we are content. So, why the grief?

A list of hurts and struggles from my friends' lives came flooding in my head like a flashback in a movie. I was overwhelmed by the pain that some of our dearest friends are enduring these days. One friend's sister in law died in childbirth last month. One friend's husband has been searching for a great job for a year, while working too hard at those not so great jobs. One friend is starting a new life with her four young children and without her husband, who is starting his own life without them. One friend miscarried her first baby. Another friend is overwhelmed and has more hard days than good ones. I was still crying when Dan returned to the beach chairs.

We have a need to grieve. We can let go of hurts and take them in stride. We can feel sad for each other, but at some point, the wave of grief may pass over us. I have been crying for days. The floodgate opened, and every tender moment and sweet story or hug from my kids leaves me teary. Each time, though, I know that this season of grief will, by God's goodness, be followed with joy and blessing. I dry up and stand up and walk on.

Because of God's Word, I know that Jesus said blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. I also know that mourning will turn to dancing. I am reminded that he trades beauty for ashes. We lay down the ashes, and we receive the the crown of beauty.

For many of us, that will be joy. For most of us, that will be a bright light in this dark season of our lives. For some of us, that may be serious solutions to very difficult problems. For a few of us, that may be getting up out of bed and going through this hard life another day. We don't give up. We don't hold on to our ashes. We grieve and then we trade. That word instead indicates an end of one thing and the beginning of something else. Instead changes everything.

Isaiah 61:2-3: To comfort all who mourn, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of despair, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

March 10, 2010

No foolin'

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

April 1 is coming up fast. That day on the calendar is filling up fast as well. William will be 3 years old that day and he shares his birthday with my niece Lydia who will be 2! Charlotte has a field trip, so I just learned. And I am speaking to a MOPS group that morning. No problem. It sounds like a normal day, now that I think about it.

The Lord is preparing me for this special day. He is reminding me of verses to share that will remind these mothers of his plan to rescue them. He is directing me to share my heart and my experiences but most importantly: His truth. That's the whole deal with this Devoted Living ministry. God's Word is the best comfort that we can offer each other in troubled times. As God encourages me, I hope to share that with my friends and their friends.

The topic that I was asked to speak about is: Navigating Life in Choppy Waters. I know that I need to leave these ladies with an understanding of Who calms the seas. The Rescuer, the Comforter, the Deliverer is the one that we seek. We cannot afford to give up and wait to drown. Even though most of us have had days or even months when that seemed our only option. We will also look at ways to live with a depressed person. When someone in our home is without hope, a spirit of hopelessness will taunt us everyday.

Pray for the Lord to speak through me: His words, not mine. Ponder these verses along with us on April 1. No foolin'!

Isaiah 61:1-3: He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

February 24, 2010

Breaking Up

Breaking up can be so painful. But it can also be the best thing that ever happens to us. Some circumstances and some relationships are not good for us. We are not getting better. We are stuck.

A dear friend sat in her doctor's office recently, and her nice oncologist announced that he was breaking up with her.
"Excuse me?" she asked.
"I'm breaking up with you. You don't have cancer. You don't need to see me anymore."

This is the kind of break up that we need. Wow, we can even break up with cancer because of the mercy of God.

Who needs a break up meeting with you? Which sins and habits are following you after you asked them nicely to leave? Still there? James 4:7 assures us that if we resist the devil, he will flee. If one warning didn't end it, then stand and resist. If you're feeling weak, call a friend. Or send me a note, and I will resist with you.

Sometimes an unwelcome, harassing spirit is weighing you down. Break up with it! Is it a cycle of disappointments and rejections? Are you hurting? Have you had enough of that cycle?

- Teach us your way, Lord. Lead us in a plain path. Psalm 27:11 -

You are too busy in your wholeness for that now. You have plans to be on a clear path from the Lord. You don't have time for detours.

Today, we break up with brokenness.

February 10, 2010

The Pits

When we are in the pit, do we decorate and order furniture to make it comfortable there? No! Do we settle in and accept this as the best existence we can have? Remember that we are not created to live in pits. Those temporary snares do not change us into pit dwellers. Our Redeemer already transformed us into new creations. A pit should not change us back.

From the pits, we look for a rescue. We are calling on the Redeemer to get your life back. Or even better, as Psalm 103 mentions, praise Him for a redeemed life. Better than the one you had before.
Listen to this list of benefits: forgiveness,healing, redemption, love, compassion, satisfaction, youth. . .good things.

Take a look at Psalm 103:2-6:
Praise, the Lord, O my soul; and forget none of his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

January 31, 2010

The influence of encouragement - part 3

Last week, I shared about the encouraging environment that I was offered as a child. My mother was very specific in her prayers and with her words. (She even wrote poems and scriptures on my paper bag lunches in high school.) I had no doubt that she was trusting God to lead me on the path He made just for me. It was up to me to seek Him and to eventually believe for myself as well.

Now, let's look at our circle of influence. Who is listening to us each day? Our family? Our staff? Our friends? Are we looking for ways to encourage or are we just saying whatever comes to mind?Remember that encouragement should lead us to a confidence in the Lord, not just confidence in general. Self confidence is sometimes based on talent or ability. Self confidence may be the result of growing up loved and supported. These are fine, but only a confidence in the Lord's plan and His power will remain long after our natural abilities and charm are wearing down. Godly encouragement is not cheerleading; it is reminding others of what God's Word already says about them.

Let's offer (and pray to receive) that kind of influence.

Psalm 71:5-6 - For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth, I have relied on you; you have brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you.

January 27, 2010

The influence of encouragement - part 2

When we make a lifestyle of encouragement, we are not just telling people what they want to hear. Encouragement is not just flattery; it is an effort to agree with God's best for that person. At home and at work and at school, we spend a lot of time with the same people each day. We need to determine what kind of influence we will have. Will we build or will we tear down?

My teen years were filled with dating disappointments and stress about grades. I wanted to grow up but tried not to grow out of my place in my family. My mother was an encourager. She reminded me that God had a plan for me. She focused on my place in our family rather than harping on every mistake that I made. She was quick to send me to "get it straight with the Lord." But morning greeted me with mercy and lunch bag literature. This bag said:

April 18, 1988

Fifteen years ago,

God gave me a special gift;

He answered a prayer I'd prayed

Years ago, that went like this:

I need a girl, Heavenly Father,

Whose heart would love You,

She needs to be sweet and smart,

And she needs to love me too.

She'll make my day with her pretty smile

And try real hard to keep me in style.

She'll be the perfect daughter,

A special blend You see;

She'll be like her dad and her Jesus

And just a little like me.

Now she's here

And to my delight,

God, you made her

Absolutely right."

Love, Mom

I may not have met all of that criteria all of the time, but that was her prayer for me. ahhhhh

The influence of encouragement -Part 1

Sometimes the road seems funny,
Twisted and hard to abide
Sometimes the road seems easy,
And you feel happy with peace inside.

Just remember this, my love,
Regardless of how it seems,
Jesus has a plan for you
That is beyond your wildest dreams.

So praise the Lord
when you don't know why
'Cause there'll be a celebration,
By and by.

Love to my treasure,

Written by Charlotte D. Laughlin on her high school daughter's (my) brown paper lunch bag. Receiving these notes of encouragement and perspective helped shape my worldview. My problems were kept in check as I was taught to look up!

January 26, 2010

Paper Bag Perspective

My brown paper bagged lunches were often covered in the most precious words of encouragement. I transcribed them into a notebook so that I could let the bags go a few years ago. Today I read through the notebook and knew I should share them here.

Check back later to read these notes. I plan to post them tonight after I tuck in the kids. It will explain a lot about the perspective on life and love and the Lord that Mom offered me. You are going to enjoy these paper bag messages.

Leigh Ann :)