April 30, 2017

April 30, 2017

We love birthdays around here—the cake, the food, the attention. Somehow, we make them stretch out for days before and after the actual day. With nine folks in our family, it seems like we’re always celebrating. And life should be celebrated—meaning life, that eternal gift Jesus Christ gives those who believe in His birth, life, death, and resurrection, not just that special day you first entered the world. We’ve been partying around here for several weeks, honoring births, rebirths, and new life, and Sunday morning we continued the celebration by studying these verses: Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’” John 3:3-8 Of course, no party is perfect without a delicious menu. Sunday morning, a big bowl of fruit salad graced our table (see the recipe below), along with a few other goodies. But as usual,...
March 19, 2017

March 19, 2017

This morning, while I cooked breakfast, Hubby read Matthew 24:29 in Sunday School and then he talked to Lone Ranger and Brown Sugar about one of their biggest fears—the dark. Every night, they keep their door open wide so the light from the hallway will illuminate their room. This might’ve seemed an odd discussion to have while basking in the almost-spring sunshine as our block potatoes sizzled on the stove. But the setting and the timing were perfect, for Think Tank had just read, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Revelation 21:23). The little people should rest assured—literally: they might need a nightlight now, but one day, Jesus will provide all the light we need. He will take away every fear and wipe away every tear. (Revelation 21:4) God often uses the dark moments in our life to speak to us, as He spoke to Jacob in Genesis 46:1-4, the subject of today’s sermon. He illuminates those midnight hours in our life, when we’re at our lowest, most afraid, or most confused, bringing meaning and understanding to our circumstances. Yet, sometimes we just need to go, do, or stand still, especially when we don’t fully comprehend the wheres, whens, whys, and hows. We struggle over here with the fear of failure and the dread of the unknown. The perfectionist in me over-analyzes every scenario; I’m paralyzed by every “if…then.” Pastor Livingston explained how God uses what we see as failure to shape us and fit us for service. He...
March 12, 2017

March 12, 2017

“I think bacon is the only meat you can wrap around any other meat to make it taste better, including more pork,” Songbird observed today. “I mean, you don’t hear people wrapping baked chicken around fried chicken.” Ain’t that the truth? It works on everything from pork loin to steak to Brussel sprouts. If you need some convincing, check out the recipe for “Bacon Maple Crack,” a recipe that made its inaugural visit to our kitchen last Thanksgiving. (Yes, it’s as addictive as its name.) Sadly, we didn’t have time for any special recipes this morning since Crusader’s leave-taking hijacked breakfast and Sunday school. We just had time for plain old Oscar Mayer, and it had to work overtime to lift our spirits. Brown Sugar was sad about placing just eight mats around the table. Songbird mourned the last day of spring break and the return of early nights and mornings. Even our daffodils drooped once they heard an approaching snowstorm was threatening their early fling with spring weather.  But bacon isn’t the only thing that makes things better. I’ve been anxiously awaiting word from a literary agent for the past two weeks. Every email alert on my phone causes heart palpitations. I worry my manuscript isn’t good enough or that its message isn’t “Christian” enough. These worries lead me to believe that my meager faith just can’t do enough—which makes me worry even more. But today, Pastor Livingston taught about the “mighty man of valor,” and I felt better even before I ate my bacon. I don’t need to wonder if my faith is strong enough to win my war with...
Eyes on His Prize

Eyes on His Prize

Yesterday, TD stood there sobbing, looking out the back door. “They’re already swinging!” Sure enough, Brown Sugar and Lone Ranger were churning away. We’ve dismantled part of the playset, so at the moment, we have just two working seats. TD was late to the party and had missed the opportunity to nab a swing. “Why don’t you go out anyway? I’m sure you’ll get a turn.” As I encouraged him, I prayed that that would be the case. While God might extend goodness and mercy, it’s not guaranteed to flow from the little people. But out he went, and I watched from the window as he stood there in the yard in all his hopeless misery while Brown Sugar and Lone Ranger pumped harder and higher. Please, Lord, touch their hearts. A minute later, Lone Ranger leaped to the ground in mid-swing and skipped over. She wrapped her arm around TD and guided him over to one of the now-empty swings—with only one glance at the window where I happened to stand. For good measure, Brown Sugar hopped from hers, too. All was right with the world, at least for a minute. Now, the jaded among us would say Lone Ranger only sacrificed her seat because she knew I was watching. Maybe so. But don’t we choose certain paths because we know God our Father has His eyes and hands on us? I mean…really. It’s not out of my inner sainthood that I once gave up my Prince concert tickets because of missing choir rehearsal. It’s not out of the goodness of my heart that I walk farther to return...
Walking Wounded

Walking Wounded

Maven twisted her foot right after Christmas. After watching her limp around for about twelve hours we saw the pediatrician who sent her straightaway to get it x-rayed. Results? Negative. Fast forward about five weeks (and soccer tryouts, traipsing up and down three flights of stairs, running about like the athlete she is), and my sweet girl was still hobbling about and complaining, if only a wee bit. To the orthopedist we went for another x-ray. Results? Broken, in two places on the growth plate, no less. So, for five weeks she sported a purple cast until today, when she got upgraded to a boot. Her x-rays amazed the doctor, Hubby, and me, then and now. It was hard to believe those bones belonged to the smiling girl who’d hopped up on the crinkly paper on the table—the boots she wore were definitely made for walking…and running…and kicking. By the looks of things Maven should’ve been crying, whimpering, or even uttering ouch! with each step. Our girl was itching for her sneakers so she could play salao soccer and run winter track, not a cast for five weeks or a boot for two more. But God wasn’t surprised. He already knew about Maven’s infirmity—certainly not Hubby or me, not even the first radiologist. God saw the real injury she only acknowledged with a twinge. It was Maven’s body that cried out for help rather than Maven herself: seeing the swelling and redness, we took her to a specialist. Secret hurts, private burdens, crushed spirits We all have private pain. We hide our wounded spirits, weariness, broken hearts, and worry, and...
Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We. Love. Sundays. We all look forward to a day of rest and worship after a hectic week running from pillar to post, so we make a big deal out of the Sabbath at our house. There aren’t any fireworks; we just focus on God and family. We usually start our day with music and a Sunday school lesson, followed by a big breakfast and church service. This morning, Hubby set the tone by talking about all the reorganizing and cleaning we did Saturday afternoon (remember the sock party?). He used the passages Luke 11:25, Colossians 3:23, 1 Timothy 3:5, and 1 Corinthians 14:40 to liken our weekend’s work to the spiritual housecleaning we should do daily. Today, we added a new favorite to our breakfast menu: the Pioneer Woman’s French Breakfast Puffs. Now, this muffin is not for the faint of heart. No, really. You roll the baked pastry in butter (one cup, no less) and dip it in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. The finished product gave Brown Sugar a run for her money in their sweetness. Maven thought they tasted like apple cinnamon boardwalk doughnuts—minus the apples. Mine didn’t turn out very “puffy,” but they worked well with our grits, bacon, and eggs. The batter yielded eighteen muffins, and if I hadn’t left them in a shade too long, they would’ve been perfect. When I think about it, I guess our entire breakfast was a heart stopper! TD finally joined the grits-eating side of the family, leaving Songbird the only holdout who still refuses to let one grit grace her tongue, unless it’s got a shrimp swimming in it....