Sunday, November 29, 2009

Encouragement for mums.

"What you teach the children- sticks" was a note I made during my lunch with Hettie and Eirwen. Not only did they directly draw attention to this, but woven in and out of our time together were stories, truths stated, or hymns rehearsed that they were taught when they were young.

[Its never ceased to amaze me that our brains can constantly learn new songs while never forgetting old ones. I believe whole-heartedly that it was on purpose God made our minds as such. Always building upon our knowledge of Him. I have confidence that this will not change even when we reach the Glorious Paradise.]

So, moms, (or mums- whatever country you're in) please do not complete reading this blog post without being encouraged. YOU, dear heros, are witnessing to your little children each and every single day. They are watching you. (Possibly more than you'd like them to.) And even though, time and again, you are repeating yourself- over and over, "Don't touch this" "Don't say that" "What's the magic word?" "Say you're sorry" "Forgive your sister" "Obey mummy the first time"...whatever phrases are used most commonly throughout your day...


I sat with two women who QUOTED for me things their parents or teachers had taught them over 80 years ago. Did you catch that? 80 years later these truths and words live on. While they're parents have gone to be with the LORD many years ago, the investment they made remains...and continues. Because while Hettie and Eirwen don't have children of their own...they are passing what they've learned along to others- including me.

For this specific note to be made in my time with them, spoke volumes to me: It sticks. So, TEACH! Whatever you're training them in, whatever you're telling your children...they're not going to forget it. This then merely begs the question,

"What are you teaching them?"

In attitude and action, let alone words. Though I do not yet have children, I've gotten a small taste of what this "stickiness" is like with my LIFE girls. Often I am afraid when they begin to quote me and I don't have any recolection of that particular conversation, nor the statement that is being quoted back to me. My words must be watched far more carefully than they are.

For us as Singles, what about when we babysit? Even just yesterday, I was asked by parents if Americans used the phrase, "[Something] is a keeper." Their 4 year old daughter had said, "It's a keeper" about a picture and they'd never heard the expression before. Yep. That would be me.

Yet again I realized the power of words sticking in kid's minds. I don't ever remember saying that in front of her; but I must've! Sort of a scary thought. It made me wonder, "What else have I said?!"

I can't tell you how true this is in my own life: Things I've learned from my mother. Songs like, "When I am afraid I will trust in You" to a little picture she used to have of a man on a yellow ladder leaning against the wall with, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." My mom taught me how to make butter: "We're going to make butter, by mixing milk and cream, we're going to make butter, soon you will see. Shake it shake it shake it, shake it all around, shake it shake it shake it- shake it up and down!" We'd jump around in the basement with a tupperwear container making butter for HOURS on end. (Moms: I highly recommend this activity.) Even today at 23 the tunes of those songs and various memories fill my mind. It's fun telling my mom things about my childhood that she doesn't even remember. Think about all the things your mom has taught you. Let's praise God for mothers!

But for us: what are we communicating about God to others? About the Gospel? What will our grandkids and great-grandkids be quoting about us 100 years from now?

It's certainly worth evaluating and making intentional changes where needed...because what we teach will live much longer than we do.

Friday, November 27, 2009

broken vessel. emphasis on the broken.

This girl (me) had the most pathetic time with the LORD this morning if you measured on a scale of time or distraction. My prayers on the way to work about today and for tonight were pleas for faith that He is working and not indifferent or unexcited. Because...that's what I am. Indifferent. And unexcited.

Today was a day of being homesick.

In increasing exhaustion, I've begun to lose my voice. Friday's are long days. Work til 5, home for a little over an hour, back to set up for Teens.

I find VJxtra the least motivating because few come, and my relationships there are not yet strong. Guess what tonight was?

So, I go early to get fondue ready. And on my drive over, thanks to not having a working radio or CD player (really, such a blessing) I confessed aloud to the LORD that I didn't want to go.

I asked Him to change my heart. To blow my mind away like He has so many times- to please give opportunities for the Gospel to go forth in a changing way in someone's life tonight. For something SO big to happen, that I'd have to blog about it. Yes. I actually prayed that.

So...guess who "randomly" showed? A girl from Bettws who's not been to church in about 9 months and has been rebelling.

Guess who was in my "group discussion" at the end? Just her.

We sat in Pete's office and talked about how the idea of getting our life together or forgiving ourself first before going to God for forgiveness isn't the Gospel. We go in our mess. In our sin. Not having anything together. We point to Christ and say, "I'm with Him." It is ALL of Christ and none of us. Her smile warmed my heart and beckoned me to join her-- enjoying the beauty of the Gospel and what freedom is found in it!

Praise God for the Gospel Primer to quote when I'm not sure how to explain what I mean in simple words. Can't tell you how many times I've drawn from that resource.

The night ended with her saying she wanted to go home and pray for forgiveness.

I don't know if she'll do that. I don't know if she "gets it" yet. I don't know if she'll ever be saved. I don't know anything about her. But what I do know...

is that our God is a humble God. A Faithful God. And that it is good for our own souls, to share the Gospel with unbelievers.

Please join me in praying that salvation would be hers toinght. Father, reveal Yourself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's been up as of late...

Lots to post about it feels like.

I picked up "The Prodigal God" again- always a good decision. Once again, this book has proven to challenge, encourage, and rebuke me. God is holier than I realize. My sin is more grotesque than I think. Jesus Christ has saved me far beyond what I'll ever know. Not just from my sins- but from my damnable good works too. (Damnable because of my motivation in doing them.)

The Gospel is not man-centered. It's not about us. Or "what we can do" for God. It's about Him. The Maker, Creator, Sustainer, and Saviour. It's not about living moral or "good" lives. It's about being changed. And being set free. And out of joy, with eyes set on Him, being amazed that we are children of the Living God-- and enjoying that we are heirs of eternal glory in heaven!

I could not commend this book to you more highly.

More news on the "going home" front: I have a place to live in Orlando!

In God's provision, yet again (He never fails me), He has given me another family to live with- I'm thrilled! Chris and Emily Morgan. They have a daughter, Sophia who's 3, and a son, Thomas, who's 18 months. I just got off the phone with Emily, and I am very excited. God's timing is always perfect-- sometimes I just recognize it more than others. Can't wait to tell you more about them.

Oh, and about going home. My hope/plan is to pick up my "hair business" again from the angle of evangelism. I have such amazing opportunities to talk to people on a regular basis and be involved in their lives...and I've been brainstorming for years about what this could look like. Lots of counsel, lots of prayers...thousands of ideas, and made-up promotions later- here I am: full of faith. Faith not because its fun (though it so is) but faith because God has just put it there. I am so excited about what is ahead.

...but along with the excitement of "going" is the sadness of "leaving"...

Friends. "Family." Life girls. Christchurch. Working in the office.

I am thrilled at the thought of heaven.

Tomorrow we will have Thanksgiving Dinner at the Mc Cans with the Pastoral Team and their families. (Yes. Anne Marie is amazing. I know. I get to LIVE with her!) I have had several people ask how I'm doing/if I'm sad about not being with my family for Thanksgiving...but there is so much grace. (Thank you for praying. And thank you for asking.) Because the rest of the country doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, it doesn't actually feel like a holiday ::gasp:: I know; you're horrified.

Neither the "leaving" nor the "going" has really hit me yet. Less than 4 weeks until I'm in the States. 47ish days until I'm in Orlando. I want to squeeze every second out of what I have left here! I covet your prayers for wisdom of how to spend my time. Different events, invitations, offers, etc.

Goodness, I am so stinkin' spoiled.

Much love to you all- and Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your families and, of course, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Reinforce what we profess to believe by how we live...

Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice what we believe. Practice faith. Practice trust. Learn it, and keep learning it. Not just head knowledge, but live it out. Work it into your life.

This was a repeated thought throughout my conversation with Hettie and Eirwen several weeks ago. Their commitment to learn evidenced beautifully glorious humility, and reflected their heart: they are still in this race...and they're going strong.

How 'bout us? Would those closest to us describe us as being "committed to learn?" Do we think we know it all...or at least a lot? Are there areas we think, "I've got this down."?

From what I understood Hettie and Eirwen to be saying, this is DANGEROUS.

When I asked Eirwen what she would tell herself when she was 23 if she could go back in time, she hessitated not even for a moment and said, "Be more consistant with Bible reading." She emphasised the importance of her OWN Bible reading...not just fellowship with others. She said, "You can feel on top and then shockingly see that you've cooled off. Start again."

The "start again" tagged onto the end revealed to me their grip of grace...or rather, their understanding of grace's grip on them. It was almost as if to say, "Don't be condemned, don't wallow in self pity...just change." This shows a faith in God to change their hearts. Knowing He doesn't want our hearts to "cool off." Knowing and trusting He will ignite passion in us once again.

It's this transfer of head knowledge to heart-in-action that seemed urgent to our generation. Don't just believe it. LIVE it. Where is it in your week? With any truth- we would do well to pick one, and start working it from our head, into our life.

Another quote I wrote down, "If you do something once, its easy to do it again." This was elaborating on the importance to stick by our convictions. To not give in to temptation; for that is a slippery slope.

Perseverance. That's all I kept hearing. Keep going. Keep trusting. Keep having faith. Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep asking. Don't lose heart. Work it out. Work out your faith. Live it. Do it. Don't just say it.

He is with us. He is our Help. And as we rest in His strength, this "living what we profess" can be ours too.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

News is out...

Just wanted to let everyone know that after much prayer and counsel, I've decided to move back to the States right before Christmas.

It has been a long (at times agonizing) decision because I love Wales and Christchurch so dearly, but I'm just ready to go home and get back to "normal life"...whatever that is. =)

The final destination is (well, heaven, but for now,) Orlando. With friends and family all over that I haven't seen in almost a year and a half, a few stops will hopefully be made on my way down there. Arriving in FL around mid-January. (Plans are very fluid at the moment.)

I'll be with the fam for the holidays and can't believe its less than 6 weeks away. So many mixed emotions. So coveting your prayers- thank you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

so beautiful.

i can't take credit for this picture- someone else took captures it so well.

a picture of a picture!

sea foam would get caught in the air and FLY up that whole moutain-ous cliff onto the top where we were; crazy!

I had such a fun weekend. It was wonderful to experience the British culture with friends in the technically "not British" Northern Ireland. Well, western. I have been marvellinig at the kindness of God. Mercy that not only saves, but blesses. Grace that climaxes at Redemption, but overflows with every good thing...

It was a great weekend away enjoying sweet fellowship and having deep conversations about humility, our speech, and what God is doing in each of our lives.

And yes. I am totally spoiled.
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cliffs of moher. cliffs of insanity. this is sarah morgan and me. she worked so hard planning this whole trip.

the gang: luke, john, steph, rebekah, sarah, demaris and me.
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I interupt this "learning from the wise" program with a few pictures from the weekend. I had some friends from Florida going to Ireland for a week, so, for $30 USD, (20 pounds) I hopped on a plane to see them for the weekend!

We met at the airport in Dublin early Saturday morning-- lots of hugs and squeals and, "I can't believe it"s.

Got the rental car (I was the co-pilot explaining how round-a-bouts work and reminding John to stay on the left hand side...he did great) and we went to Trinity College and the Guiness Brewery. (thought of you the whole time, JRo.)

Went to Sean's Bar- the oldest pub in the world! Heard some good irish music, but left soon after we got there because they didn't sell food...and we were HUNGRY.

arrived in Doolin late on Saturday night (ha, not really that late- like half 8) but it was PITCH black and had been for hours. Stars were breathtaking. This is the cottage! They're all still in it until this Saturday.

We went to the castle the family of the cottage ownes. This was the view from the top.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Acknowledge gifts from the LORD and thank Him...

On Sunday, Hettie and Eirwen's gratefulness and expressions of praise and worship were woven throughout each question answered and topic discussed. The faithfulness of God. The kindness of God. Wonder and amazement at His care in the details. Expressions of faith and excitement in things to come and the power of God...all because of His character- and then words of adoration would follow.

Without really saying much about thanksgiving or a grateful heart, Hettie and Eirwen taught me so much. When we recognize something as the providence of God, or His mercy...instead of just seeing it, we would do well to imitate their example and turn our hearts to praise and gratitude. Not a long-winded "fluffy" prayer, but even the quick but deeply felt, "Thank you, LORD" is good for our hearts. (And it is so good for me to remind myself that He is involved in the intimate details of my everyday life.)

Even as I type, I am reminded of the story of Hannah in the Bible. She wanted a baby SO badly and wasn't able to have one. After casting her cares on the LORD and leaving them with Him, she later became pregnant...and her prayer of "praise" is longer than her prayer of petition and request.

If you were to make a diagram of my prayers of thanksgiving compared to my prayers of request, I would be horribly ashamed at the result.

Monday, on my drive home from work, I gave it a go. Since I've purposed to dedicate my commute to intentional time in worship or prayer (for our teens discipleship group) for this month, I took the opportunity to implement one of my recent lessons.

I started praising God and thanking Him for different things: people, relationships, this season of know what? It took the entire drive home, and my list had hardly begun. One thing lead to the next, which lead to the next...I was overflowing with joy and practically giddy in my car. When I start to recognize gifts as from the LORD...I start to see them everywhere!

I find it gloriously mysterious that the righteousness of Christ, even in the area of intercession, is on our record. Praise God.

So, how 'bout you? What are you grateful to God for?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Learn to graciously say no...

Two points to this post. Learning to graciously say no...tied in with "don't rush."

Hettie responded to Eirwen's comment of not worrying by informing me that my generation or "young people nowadays" are so busy. We say "yes" to too many things. She said when they were my age, everything was done at a much more leisurely pace. Here are just a few points she said that I took down:

It'll all fall if it's not in His Name and Power. (meaning the things we do.)

It's a discipline. (Saying no to people or opportunities. They've had to re-inforce this in recent years as they've been able to do less without taking naps inbetween. Made me wonder: am I senstive to my current season and what discipline looks like with my schedule...and how saying yes/no today might affect my schedule differently than last season?)

It takes grace to say no.

Hettie said that she almost said "No" to me coming over for lunch. But with Eirwen's, "Yes! That would be lovely!" -- she couldn't let her down. She looked up at me and said with a smile, "And now we're suffering the result."

There's a difference between what has to be done and what can be done.

Ask, "Why am I doing this? For self or to honour the LORD?"

Again, I asked: How? How do we know when to say no? The answer:

Keep close to the LORD. Moment by moment; keep close. Ask Him to show you the way. He will give you promptings.

(Just a note: in the midst of this, their hearts overflowed with praise and thanksgiving to the LORD as they recounted for me different times that the sovereign hand of God had arranged things JUST SO in their schedule. When they had said "yes" and then it got canceled, with a real need immediately popping up to take its place. This heart of gratefulness was woven throughout our conversation. They even shared about how God regularly provides parking spaces for them!)

I began to ask: What? What are the things to keep as priorities?

Out of all the things I'm sure they do throughout the weeks, you know what the only two were they shared with me besides church meetings?

1. Fellowship and accountability with very very close friends once a week. We're talking hours devoted to this. A commitment all afternoon each and every week. To prevent their hearts from "coolinig off" they said.

2. Reaching out to an un-saved friend once a week-- again, really investing hours into this relationship.

I thought this was a great picture of what our priorites could look like. Sure, it looks different for everyone- and different within respective seasons...but we need to be reminded of the Gospel in our own lives...and then share it with others.

I was struck by their "no rush" approach to everything. Even when Hettie was giving me directions in the car it was, "When it's convenient for you, get in the next lane." They lived and spoke as if they had all the time in the world! What if I did that? Why do I feel like I need to get on to the next thing? Am I feeding my idol of productivity? Am I enjoying the LORD in this moment- here and now?

It's funny how much growth I can see in this area of my life just being out of the American culture...and yet, oh, how much more growth needs to take place! America is very "productivity driven"'s built into us and we don't even know it. (obviously this is a very general, broad sweeping statement...) I still battle regularly reminding myself that certain things just "aren't that big of a deal."

I've gotten a lot of grief over the last several years for "being a granny" or "never doing anything" or "being boring" when I say no. (I wonder if I've missed the gracious part.) But in listening to Hettie and Eirwen and the fear they have of the LORD and their desire to honour Him, even if no one understands...provoked me once again. In some ways, only I know my limitations. And I need to not be afriad or apologetic of them. This will be an ever-changing thinig in our lives: schedules. We need much grace and wisdom. (Good thing we know where to get that from!)

So, what about you? Are you learning the art of graciously saying, "no"?

Be anxious for nothing...

My first question was something very general-- I just wanted to get them talking. Something to the effect of, "So. Tell me something I need to know."

Eirwen did not hessitate for a moment. She (in a very British way) looked to Hettie and said, "We've been learning not to worry, haven't we?" (Brits regularly look to the person next to them and ask for affirmation/confirmation when sharing something involving both of them. Asking, "haven't we?" or "didn't I?", etc. I think its so sweet.)

(and I noted the humility and beauty of finishing strong...they are both still learning...)

Then she looked me dead in the eye and said, "Be anxious for nothing." She must've said this sentence at least ten times that afternoon. And not becacuse she forgot she said it before.

To be honest, I wondered to myself..."What in the world do you have to be anxious about?"

Things that I tend to be anxious about at 23...won't exist when I'm in my 80s and 90s. But...different things will. Apparently, worry is not something that goes away no matter what season we're in. Trusting is an always-learning thing; we never fully arrive in this life.

At one point, I asked Eirwen: how? How do we keep our hearts still? She said, "We choose it. It's a decision."

How come that sounds so simple, and yet I live like it's impossible?

Hettie shared a story her dad used to tell her, it went something like this:

There was a woman who had a basket of things she's bought at the market. On her walk home, a man stopped in his carriage and asked if she'd like a ride. She said yes. She sat in the carriage with her basket of things on her lap.
After a while, the man said, "You can put your basket on the floor..." She looked at him and said, "Oh, no! I've troubled you enough with a ride, I can't ask you to carry my things as well."

We all chuckled. She said, "If you've cast it on the Lord, why do you carry it around? God gives grace to the humble. Repent of impatience and lack of faith. Ask Him to guard your heart."

As I think about things to cast on the LORD...uh, yeah, that list is really long. So, why not start now? With the next "concern" that pops into my head. I don't have to tackle all of my sin at once. Just the next thought. And then the next one after that. One at a time. Slowly.

These ladies talk and live like there is absolutely no rush; which I find so ironic...because I'm much younger and live as though there IS a rush. Ok, I'm getting on to the next point already...more to come...

Wisdom from the wise...

On Sunday afternoon I had the distinct honour and privilege of going to Hettie and Eirwen's for lunch. Our Home Group takes turns bringing them lunch each week...this week was my turn. Being cheeky, I asked if I could come along.

As we sat eating stuffed shells (thanks, Meghann!) I began to ask just a few strategic and purposeful questions about God and life. It was less than 60 seconds before I ran into the next room to grab my journal to document their answers. I hardly said a word the whole time I was there.

I was astounded by the things they were saying, and the great truth contained in them. I have purposed to dedicate several posts to what they had to share with me, in hopes that you can benefit as well. None of this is new. Most of us have heard these things time and again...but to hear them from women like Hettie and Eirwen who are seasoned women who love the Lord (and have been Christians for about 80 years)...these are what they considered most important to share with me.

1. Be anxious for nothing.

2. Learn to graciously say no.

3. Acknowledge gifts from the LORD and thank Him.

4. Reinforce what we profess to believe by how we live.

5. What you teach the children, sticks.