Women for Missions, December Meeting

One of the joys I have experienced this year is getting to serve as our church's Women for Missions Vice President. Here is a recent guest blog post I did for Hampton Park's website:

"I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness, brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?" (an excerpt from Adoniram Judson's proposal letter to Mr. and Mrs. Hasseltine for permission to marry Ann, quoted in Arabella W. Stuart's The Three Mrs. Judsons)

Our speaker this month at Women for Missions was Mrs. Brent (Sheila) Moeller. And though Brent's proposal to Sheila and the Williamses wasn't quite so dramatic as Adoniram Judson's (circa 1812), God had very definitely already begun directing Brent's path to South Africa when he asked for Sheila's hand in marriage. She was well aware that marrying Brent meant giving her life for the sake of the Gospel, and she gladly accepted.

Brent and Sheila have now invested twenty years planting four churches and participating in the sufferings of Christ for the advancement of His Kingdom in South Africa. This last term in many ways has been the most challenging on many counts including personal health trials. But God has sustained them, and Sheila was able to share with us her beautiful smile and a gracious testimony of praise.

While enjoying a beautiful assortment of Christmas goodies, Sheila exposed us to a collection of "English" phrases commonly used in South Africa. Then after jotting notes of encouragement to our missionary ladies around the world and focusing our attentions on prayer for them, Sheila shared with us an open word of personal testimony as well as her family's ministry DVD.

Vibrant African singing accompanied photos and video clips of the Moeller's ministry. One vignette occasioned some explanation: a group of men danced and clapped, singing enthusiastically at a tent revival. Sheila explained their culture's tradition of taking turns dancing before their king. First the grandfathers, then the grandmothers, followed by the men and women, the youths, and finally the children, each dance and sing before their king to declare their allegiance to him. In this evangelistic revival, the Christians of their community declared their allegiance to their new King, Jesus. What a beautiful and meaningful expose.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Sheila. And thank you for ministering faithfully alongside Brent and with your three children. We count it a privilege to partner with you for the sake of our King.

If you missed this month's meeting, please grab the prayer list from beside the WFM bulletin in the hallway behind the main auditorium. Our next meeting will be the first Tuesday in February (speaker: TBD) at 7 pm in the Blue Room. We would love to have you join us as we put together gift baskets for our missionary kids who are attending college here in Greenville (about 15 of them) and who especially love home-baked goods.

Until then, keep upholding our missionary families before the throne of grace, praying especially for their gospel outreaches over the busy holiday season and for their faithful endurance in their personal walks with God.

michelle 




Proverbs 4



This one's for Micah, who after a recent crash on his bicycle wanted me to take a picture to send to Grampa before he'd get up. From a mom who is very thankful for the KidVantage program at Sears that replaces holey blue jeans for free if they "wear out before they grow out." 


Throughout Proverbs 4 the word picture of a path shows up: the path of righteousness/way of wisdom and the path of the wicked/way of the evil. 


From Proverbs 4:


11 I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered;
and if you run, you will not stumble.


My attention was drawn to the word hampered. I had to check in with Webster on this one because the first thought that came to my mind was the laundry hamper. (Yes, typical Mommy moment.) And whereas there's a stinky connection between people who try to make you trip or throw nerf footballs at your bicycle spokes, hamper in this context has these ideas:


to keep from moving or acting freely; hinder (hold back, thwart progress); impede; encumber (hold back motion or action of, as with a burden; block up; burden; weigh down).


Lots of cross-references come to mind (e.g., Hebrews 12:1; I John 5:3; biblegateway.com search of "burden" in Nehemiah, ESV), and allusions to Pilgrim's Progress with that burden, etc. The idea is clear: it's anything that gets in the way of progress or growth in your Christian life.


There are those who ...
16 ... cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
[who] are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
But as long as you follow the way of wisdom and the path of righteousness, passed down by parents who themselves have learned to fear the Lord (see the first verses regarding the instruction of parents: hear, give attention, etc.),
26 ...then all your ways will be sure.
And ... coming back to verse 12:
When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.
Sure, you may still need replacement pairs of blue jeans, and you may still fall off your bike. There will still be people who try to trip you up. But God's proverbial principle here is that His wisdom will keep you from spiritual destruction as you stick to what He's taught you. His wisdom will protect you, like a body guard, along the right path. You won't be hampered, but instead you'll have so much freedom of movement as you walk, run, even "soar with wings as eagles" (Isaiah 40:31) in your relationship walk with Him.

Have fun with this one. And note, when you do get your eyes of the path and stumble, God is ready to pick you back up and restore you, cleanse the wound and set you straight again. Praise the LORD!

michelle

constantly risking absurdity

Pulling out a college critique, remembering and loving what I learned, and willing to share this one because it's so fun. I'm sure I haven't "caught" everything in this poem, and I'd love to hear your comments on it below. But here's what I came up with as a poetry writing student. Comments in brackets are more recent additions of thought.

"Constantly Risking Absurdity" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a fabulously crafted poem comparing a poet to an acrobat. I love this comparison! This poet risks "absurdity" by breaking traditional expectations of a poem. He risks death of his writing career if his poetry is not caught by his reader--just as the high wire acrobat risks certain death if she is not caught by the "little charleychaplin man" (29).

I love Ferlinghetti's choices of words. [He plays with sounds, consonants ("constantly risking absurdity," 1, "balancing on eyebeams," 9), and vowels ("like...climbs...rime...high wire," 6-8), sometimes with alliteration ("perforcperceive," 20, "taut truth," 21, "fair...form," 31), sometimes with internal rhyme ("climbs on rime," 7). He combines words or separates them out, to make his own point, or just to show off: "any thing" (17), "charleychaplin" (29), "spreadeagled" (32).] He chooses the unfamiliar spelling of rhyme/rime (7) [which may intensify his risk taking since "rime" most often means an icy coating, leaving his "high wire" slippery and dangerous]. Ferlinghetti thus "climbs...to a high wire of his own making" (7,8) as the creator of this poem.

He is a [super] "realist" (19) needing to express an accurate, concrete representation which he "by force of his circumstances" (Webster, "perforce," from line 20) "understands through his senses" (Webster, "perceives," also line 20).  Nims's textbook on writing poetry teaches the concept of using concrete images (Western Wind, 4), which seems to be exactly what Ferlinghetti is trying to communicate the importance of. ["Super" could mean he's a fabulous realist (wonderful poet), or perhaps, that he is above or beyond realism: Ferlinghetti was an advocate of surrealism.]

I love all of the poetic "entrechats" (13) and how Ferlinghetti accomplishes these great stunts without compromising the clarity of his poem (16-18). He has carefully placed each word just as an acrobat would selectively place each "stance or step" (22). I, as the reader, am sort of the "little charleychaplin man" (29) who has caught the "Beauty" (25) of this poem and absolutely fallen in love with it!

Ferlinghetti's chosen "form" (31) reinforces the risk of absurdity that is depicted in the content of this poem. He has chosen to use an absurd layout [not always accurately depicted on online versions, the lines of the poem were intentionally started at varying points across the page]--totally nontraditional and unconventional--and he forsakes the customary principles of punctuation and capitalization as well.

Yet his writing is "taut" (21)--tightly woven and "marked by economy of structure and detail" (Webster, "taut"). [He has created his lines--"a high wire of his own making" (8)--and he must across it.]

In my opinion, Ferlinghetti defied death with this poem...and won, poetically speaking.

Marginal notes:
Poetic puns:
"above the heads/ of his audience" (4,5)
"climbs on rime" (7) rime/rhyme
"sleight-of-foot" (14) foot/meter
["supposed advance" (23)]
"with gravity" (26)
["fair eternal form" (31)]

[Other critiques or analyses that I found interesting are here, herehere and here.]

Questions:
Question: Some have wondered, does he mean that Beauty is on a higher perch that Truth, more important? [To me, Truth seems to be the rope, what he's crafted/written; The poet seems to be an acrobat performing alongside Beauty.]

[Question: Did Ferlinghetti have a Beauty that performed alongside him, perhaps another poet whom he loved?]

[Question: What does "to the other side of day" mean (12)? Does this go with "death-defying" (27) or is it different?]


Dear Judy: a tribute to a beloved friend



Judy always loved a live Christmas tree.
And she loved sharing what she loved with the people she loved.


Dear Judy, 
There are very few people who would open their homes to a young couple with their infant son, but you did that for us. Not that it was out of character, you'd welcomed a  young lady with three children before, even built the little boy a room of his own. I cannot express to you how much your love and open hospitality --even to the point of sharing your kitchen with me--means. From you I have learned that my life is not my own, that God rewards those who share, that cleaning your dishes before you go to bed really is worth the effort, that a dog can be a welcome friend, that giving is a blast, that sour cream and/or cream cheese make the best meals, and that Judy's house is always home.
Micah with Judy's dog: Sophie.
There's a small rocking chair in the baby's nursery. I will always remember what you told me about how it was the one thing your parents gave you, how they worked hard and there weren't many vacations, but that you knew they loved you. It is a visual reminder to me about what really counts in a child's life, and that it's not all about what money can buy. 
In loving memory

I cannot imagine the trial God is taking you through right now, and even though I have not communicated all that I wish I could have, I want you to know we've been praying for you, missing being with you, loving you. Being confident of your future hope, I am praying that God will give you the grace to keep on believing, to count even this as a joy if it means seeing your Savior soon, and that in the end there will be peace. You've worked so hard all your life. Rest is near. Give my little girl a hug and kiss for me. Talk to Jesus about us: pray that we'll be faithful here until He returns.
Sleep well. I will always think of you as a dear friend. Thank you for everything.
With love,
michelle


Judy went into the presence of her Savior this morning after a battle with breast cancer, a battle she'd actually won um-teen years ago. Ruth, a dear friend who stayed with Judy to the end, read my letter to her last night. Here is what she told me:
Michelle, I was able to read your email to Miss Judy last night before she passed. She was not able to communicate very well but she did squeeze my hand several times and I think I caught a very faint hint of a smile. I am so thankful that she is now free of pain.
My kids called her Aunt Judy. She was like family to us. Their prayer was that God would either do a miracle and heal her or that she would fall asleep and wake up in heaven. 
Miss Judy entered the presence of her heavenly Father this morning at 4:03. She went peacefully in her sleep. 
Please pray for those whom Judy touched--family members, neighbors, volleyball officials, shuffleboard friends, coworkers, as well as church family members. Many will be reflecting on Judy's life and testimony in the upcoming days and months. Pray that God will use the funeral as well as memories of her to draw souls to the same Savior she loved and lived for. For those who expect to see her again, pray that God will make our faith strong, our hope sure, and our lives a shining light like Judy's. 


With love, 
michelle



kind provision

As I sorted through the produce on the "50 cents per pound" table at our local farmer's market, the Spirit reminded me of God's kindness. In the law, He ordained that farmers not harvest all the way up to the corners with His kind intention being that the poor could glean some good. Boaz's kindness to Ruth, instructing his harvesters to leave anything they dropped for her to pick up, came to mind as well. And I felt a connectivity to those in generations long past because of our Ever Present God. The fact is, God never changes. He is kind. He is gracious. He looks out for the poor and provides for those who honor Him. It was a moment, a whisper, but it spoke volumes of encouragement to my heart. Some would say we're poor. I don't think of it in those terms. My Father is rich, and He gives me everything I need. And I'm thankful when His Spirit witnesses to my spirit that I am His, and He is looking out for me.

Trusting you are seeing God's sweet acts of kindness in providing for your family as well. Grace to you, my friends, whatever your circumstance today. With love, michelle

Proverbs 3

The metaphor in Proverbs 3 that has really caught my attention this week is verse 18:

"She [wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed."
It's autumn in the Upstate, and the trees are absolutely beautiful! I could go off on that beauty actually being because of the loss of oxygen (or whatever), and that the reality is that the leaves are dying, preparing to fall to the ground and be crunched about upon, or bagged and composted, or left and buried beneath snow (if we're lucky). And you could say that's morbid. Maybe it is. But I could come back that without death, there's no life, which is a rich spiritual reality, and we could go on discussing deeper theology. 

A similar discussion came up recently in my sister's 2nd Grade Sunday School Class. They got a little deeper into the chemistry of it all, as evidenced by her chalkboard drawing, copied here:

But I've chosen to go a slightly different route. 

As I've thought about this verse, the "tree of life" actually brought to mind a tree in Narnia. Digory (who grows up to be the professor in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) brings back a piece of fruit from Narnia's "tree of life" to give to his mother (who is basically terminally ill) with hopes of her recovering. 

His obedience and faith are both tested in the process of acquiring the fruit. 

In the end, his mother is miraculously healed, he plants a seed from the fruit in the backyard, and eventually he turns the wood from the felled tree into a wardrobe (which four children years later discover the magic to). 

First edition cover, 1955, Wikipedia image.
C.S. Lewis crafted a beautiful beginning to his Chronicles of Narnia in The Magician's Nephew. I've so enjoyed listening to it over the past few days (and, yes, this is where the photo spoof featuring Mark emerged from). It's been so much fun reflecting on the wonder of the creation of a new world. What a beautiful semi-allegory of the beginning of our world in the garden of God. 

Wisdom, like the fruit from the tree in Narnia, takes faith and obedience to acquire; but in the end, she brings the best of all this world ... and eternity ... can offer.

In his commentary on Proverbs, Pete Steveson (whom my kids actually call Grampa Pete because his wife was my mentor-mom at our local church) points out how we first see the "tree of life" in Scripture in Genesis 2 and 3, then see it again in Proverbs (here in chapter 3 as well as chapter 11, 13, and 15), and then we see it once again in Revelation 2 and 22. Grampa Pete points out the symbolism for "eternal life" in the Genesis and Revelation references, and applies the same symbolism here. 

Derek Kidner discusses the "tree" and the "fountain of life" together, and writes: 
"This tree or fountain symbolizes the blessings of a right relationship with God.... The Old Testament affirms that what was lost with Paradise and waits to be regained can be enjoyed in some measure here and now when man walks with God." 
Truth Talk Talking Points: 
  • Start simple. Ask, "what is a tree?" and see what your kid can tell you. (I asked Micah that this afternoon, and he gave a pretty good definition about it being a large plant that may give us fruit or flowers or maybe just leaves and shade; and then happily listed a few specific varieties he knew the names for. He is no longer perplexed by my random questions.) You may be surprised what your kids' answers are and how much they like sharing what they know!
  • Then, if your kids are nuts about Narnia the way mine are, talk about the "tree of life/youth" in The Magician's Nephew. The Focus on the Family Radio Theatre production is fabulous!
  • Now read Proverbs 3:18 together: 
"She [wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed."
  • Remind them of vocabulary: "blessed" basically means "completely happy!" To "lay hold of" or "hold fast" basically means "to grasp and not let go of": they've probably heard the expression (or used it at school): "Oh, I get it!" or "I've got it." It's that sort of idea. You're not grasping onto wisdom like holding onto a tree branch trying not to fall, and yet in a way you are. Though remember that with wisdom, the key is not just knowing it in your head; it's applying it, living it out!
  • Now you're ready to talk about how we get wisdom: reading the Word, listening to our parents, teachers, pastors, etc.
  • Talk about the blessings that grow out of that: the "tree of life" that is your reward.
Craft Idea: 
For a final craft, make a tree out of cut or torn construction paper. On each of the leaves or on pieces of paper fruit or flowers glued onto the tree, write blessings that are yours when you grasp hold of God's wisdom and don't let go of it. (I'd love to have you post a picture of your kid's tree.)

I hope this post has given you inspiration to go talk with your kids. Yes, rabbit trails are great. Just make sure you do come back to the Word, for that is where we get Wisdom. And with Wisdom, there is great reward. Hang on tight! 

Now go have fun talking with your kids!

michelle


presentation points


Carrot soup seasoned with cayenne and ginger, and presented with basil leaves and Greek yogurt applied by medicine syringe. Let the kids get creative with their presentation for dinner. This creative design was a combined effort by Micah and Jordan-Elliot. Serve with toasted baguettes. Bon appetit!

the month of October


I have finally come to grips with the reality that as a woman, I cannot actually multi-task very well. I'm a little too OCD for that. This past month, working on my query letter and continuing revisions for my middle grade novel took a pause, as did blogging. My sincerest apologies. A post on Proverbs 3 is in the works.

But, as a voice speaking wisdom has been quoted to say, "The starts and stops are both ordered by the Lord." Pauses give time for the mind to mull things over and spice things up ... even subconciously perhaps ... so that hopefully the finished product is like a fine apple cider with peach flavoring and mulling spices. Which brings me to the source of my God-ordained pause.


This past month, as an answer to prayer and a divinely-ordained, fun way to provide for our boys' Christian education, I was able to write product descriptions for Live Oak Farms in Woodruff, SC. Taste testing is always the best way to describe, and, yes, that got to be part of the job. But I also enjoyed researching online to discover the unique qualities from the various producers.

Some of my favorites? Numi Tea, McCutcheon's Juice Sweetened Pumpkin Butter and Peach Cider, Uncle Scott's Rootbeer, and Live Oak Farms' Black Olive Marinara Sauce, Cheeses, and Goats' Milk Fudge.


Check it out. Shop online, or go take a horse-drawn tour. Let me know your favorite products. Or, just let me know how October went for you. What God-ordained pauses did you enjoy or see benefit from?


book review: the watermark, travis thrasher

"It's one of those subtle marks on stationery that you can't see unless you hold it up to the light. For some reason, I think of that word when I think of you. For so long, you've been running from the light, Sheridan. But now your life has been held up to the light. And the mark that's always been there is now obvious to all who know you.

"No matter what you've done, what mistakes you've made, what you can't go back and change, you still belong to Jesus.... He's marked you for life."
THE WATERMARK is a beautiful story of second chances set in suburban Chicago. Perhaps that's just one reason why it hit such a chord in my heart. Those of you who know me well will remember we spent one year in the windy city, working in a Christian school and helping with the church's youth group. We don't talk about it much. It's not that we didn't love the ministry. And even though the year was marked with heartaches for the church and school, I think it's mostly that we left when we did. The story of John Mark, the one who separated from Paul but was later counted useful to him again, is just one of the biblical examples that's been an encouragement as we seek to serve our Lord faithfully again. See, God's story offers not just second chances, but chance after chance after chance. And it's not a night & day, wrong turns right in a flash (except in the reality of  God declaring us righteous at salvation). So often we wander, even after salvation. I think of a dear friend who at one time was so thrilled to have been saved and then later became convinced that he was a homosexual and couldn't understand why God had made him that way. Some would say he was never saved. Really? I tend to believe he's so far from the light, the watermark's not visible. The best thing we can do is love him and invite him back into the light. But this is supposed to be a book review, so I'll get on with the book.



I literally started THE WATERMARK after supper and finished it before midnight. The basic idea of this novella by Travis Thrasher is that God's mark on a believer may not be obvious when that person has turned from God and gotten himself entangled in the darkness of sin, but as that person is again exposed to the light, the watermark of salvation is obvious.

Told in the first person POV of Sheridan, Thrasher does a phenomenal job of maintaining that POV through three major story parts: "an undeniable past," "an uncertain present," and "an unexpected future." Sheridan's is a voice easy to listen to, convincing and honest.

When Sheridan decides to go back to Covenant College after a seven-year cessation, he's not deciding to turn his life back over to God, just hoping to finish something he started a long time ago. There's been so much pain and guilt in the mean time, and there's still not a whole lot of hopefulness. 

But through a newly developing friendship with a girl aptly named Genevie, Sheridan begins to rediscover his relationship with God.

"Show, don't tell," is one of those writing rules that you hear repeatedly, and it's one that Thrasher demonstrates with this novel, often even when you wish he'd just tell you what or why. But because he withholds the information so well, I'm not going to mess up his story and tell you now. You're going to have to read his book. Don't worry, you'll be glad you did.

The cover identifies THE WATERMARK as "a tender story of forgiveness and hope." And even though (for whatever reason) the dust jacket is lavender, it's not just for girls.

I definitely see potential for THE WATERMARK to be used in outreach ministries and with those who either grew up in a Christian home or went to a Christian college but have turned away from the God they once loved. The gospel is clear yet gentle, cushioned in a well-crafted story with believable characters and on-going struggles.

There are a few things that date the book, such as references to cassette tapes, yet those are so easily overlooked and the story itself is timeless. This is how God works: then, now, past, present, and future.

I picked my copy up from our public library, so it's available. But I'm guessing I'll be buying more than one copy to loan or give out. And I'll conclude by quoting Francine Rivers, "I loved THE WATERMARK. It is a moving story about redemption and love that delivers a punch to the heart at the end."

Proverbs 2

When I read it silently, I still hear this 2nd chapter of Proverbs in an Australian accent. On that Aussie mission team I mentioned in my last post, we got to spend a couple of weeks at a Christian camp counseling young people. The memory passage for the week was this one: Proverbs 2. And I still remember sitting on a rock wall, listening to that better-than-Brit accent say "ev-ry good pauth" (verse 9). It messes it up when I try to say it out loud. Like with the store keeper who told my American friend attempting the Aussie accent, "Keep practicin', mate," mine is obviously not authentic. They say we are too particular with our pronounciations. Ah well. They also say "snickerdoodles" are what doggies leave in the yard, rather than a "cinnamon sugar 'biscuit'" (cookie). But that's not really what this post is even about.

Proverbs Time with your kids. Chapter 2.

Who doesn't love a treasure hunt? I'll never forget this past Mother's Day when my seven year old made up a series of clues I had to figure out to find my little potted morning glory. It was precious.

The word "treasure" (verse 1) and the simile "seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures" (verse 4) are priceless pictures.

God has wisdom just "stored up" (verse 7), and He's promised to protect us on our quest ("He is a shield ... guarding ... watching over," verses 7 & 8).

So, we're goin' on a treasure hunt. We get to search for "hidden" treasures.

Allen Arnold hit it on the head in his recent article on Leadership: "I lead others best when I follow Jesus first." As moms or aunts or classroom teachers or girl scout troop leaders or ... whatever role(s) God's given  us, if we want our kids to seek for the wisdom treasures God has stored up for them, we first must seek for the treasures He has stored up for us.

Is there anything sweeter than a child pulling open his Bible before he can even truly read simply because he's following mommy or daddy's example? Have my kids seen me on my treasure hunt, digging for wisdom, devoting myself to the fear of the Lord, raising my voice ... not at them, but ... to the Lord begging for understanding? 

And then, do I take that next step and teach them how to dig into the Word? These Proverb talks are a great place to start.

Extra: Pirate Treasure Hunt Tips and (my favorite part) a photo of pirate face cupcakes! Great for SS party or birthday treat for that special kiddo.

love on purpose

Luke 11:11What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Raising kids is not a hobby, as much as some in our American culture would like to view it that way. It's 24/7 investment. Like starting a business, it takes a lot of work if you're gonna get it off the ground and headed in a profitable direction. It's best when there's a partnership--two parents teaming together for the same goal. But even when that's not a possibility, remember you're in this with God.

He encourages us to not be weary in doing well, but to take opportunities to show love to others, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6). If the household of faith, how much more so, our own individual believing household?

Titus goes so far as to tell us that one way to make God's Word appetizing to others--to prevent His Word from being reviled or blasphemed, a bad taste in someone's mouth--is for believers to live certain ways. Whereas Luke address fathers, Titus addresses young mothers, telling us to love our husbands and their children.

Recently, I've seen what intentional love does for a kid and so encouraged that I'm not going to give this one up. It takes forethought and creativity, but it is so worth it. Specifically for your children, how can you show them love?

  • Put a snack on their seat in the car for when they first get in from school.
  • Swing through Chik-fil-A for a kid's Icedream cone.
  • Plan an excursion after-school: to the park or a pet store or a friend's garden or the farmer's market where they get pick out a favorite fruit
  • Stop by the library for kids' events, Snakes Alive shown to the right: not so recent, but I love this pix! Upcoming events here in Greenville.
  • Go home and make Jell-O together, the quick set kind so you can have it for supper that night!
  • Read them a book--one on one!
  • Tell them, "I love you!" just because and give them a hug....
What other ideas can you think of that are intentional, non-expense acts of kindness for your children? Add a comment.

In the mean time, enjoy your kids. Show them you love them ... on purpose!

=)

michelle

Proverbs 1

As promised. I figured I may as well start at the beginning. And my focus will be on the metaphors and similes found in the book of Proverbs. In all of writing, my favorite literary devise is an apt simile (using "like" or "as" to describe something, usually something quite different from the original idea but with at least one specific picture that makes your original idea more memorable).

Here's the first one from Proverbs 1:
8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
   and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
9for they are a graceful garland for your head
   and pendants for your neck (ESV).

Specific Words.
It's important our kids understand "hear" as used here. =) Rather than telling them, ask them what they think this specific word means. If they're not getting it, try giving them multiple choice options. (And just a note on multiple choice, some kids will always want to pick the last thing you said, so change up which option is your "correct choice.")

"Hear"--is it:
  • saying "uh-huh" or "yes, ma'am/sir" whenever mommy or daddy says something?
  • stopping what you're doing and thinking about what they're saying?
  • obeying based on what mommy or daddy says?
Notice, the "forsake not." Forsaking or neglecting has the idea of leaving something alone, or not doing something you're supposed to do. I explained it to Jordan (5) this way: if I were to leave Mark (3 months) in his crib and go to the grocery store without him, I would be neglecting him, or forsaking him. It's not what I'm supposed to do; I wouldn't be taking care of my responsibility. Jordan right away knew that was an AWFUL idea. He is very protective of his baby bro. In the same way, though, if you leave off cleaning up your toys or making your bed and go play instead, you're neglecting doing what you're supposed to do. That made sense to him. When parents give instruction, it's not just to hear themselves talk; it's with the desire that their children would obey what they're telling them, learn from what they have to say.

If your kids are a little older and can understand "parallel construction"--two things lined up that have the same direction/meaning--you can point out how "hear" and "forsake not" are set up as "parallels"--both have the thrust of doing/obeying the instruction/teaching (another set of parallels). If you journal as you go, it may be fun to draw parallel lines and group the concepts together above and below each other.

Then there's the metaphor (where one thing stands in the place of another, like a simile but without the "like" or "as" and so a little stronger):

"they are a graceful garland for your head
   and pendants for your neck"

Get the picture. Think Olympic athletes. Back in the day, a garland was placed on the winner's head; we still place a pendant or medal around the neck of the winner. My kids immediately connected this to the DVD of Eric Liddell, the Olympian who wouldn't run on Sundays and later became a missionary. So the idea of the garland and pendant is, basically, that of being a winner!

Then find the comparison. What is the graceful garland and pendant compared to? The instruction/teaching of a parent, and specifically the hearing/obeying/not forsaking of that godly instruction.

So the lesson's simple: obey, and you're a winner!
And now they have a great word picture to go with it.

EXTRA:
  • Craft for kids: Make a pendant and write "OBEY" on the "medal" and a leafy wreath.
  • Write the verse and draw a picture of an Olympic athlete. 
  • Think about using some of the words from your Proverbs Time for spelling: hear, forsake, winner. Or harder: Olympian, graceful, pendant, obedience.
  • Other fun Olympics links here.

Enjoy the time you get with your kids talking about the Word. And then watch for opportunities to apply it. I typed half of this on Monday afternoon, and--no joke--Monday night, we had a reason to talk about
"not forsaking your mother's teaching." And I was thankful I'd thought about it during the day, because God's Word is a far better counselor than I am.

Blessings,

michelle

I'd love to hear from you. Please post how your kids responded to this Truth Talk/Proverbs Time or which lesson idea was your favorite part (most helpful or most fun). Looking forward....

when hail hits the peaches

My heart truly does go out to the peach farmers whose groves were damaged by hail. At the same time, I'm thankful for their resourcefulness in still selling these hail-spotted peaches at their local farmers' markets for reduced prices. Last Friday, I hand-picked some of the lesser damaged peaches from a basket at our market on Rutherford Road and paid just forty cents per pound. (Praise the Lord!)

Alan's work schedule has changed (once again) as the seminary semester starts up this week (only two classes left before the dissertation!). And so, for this one morning before classes start, he was able to take the boys to school for me and come home for a date breakfast.

The menu was fairly simple: eggs, sausage (for my protein man) seasoned with this amazing "sweet and spicy rub" that my sister introduced me to, and homemade lattes (because we like a little coffee and a latte milk/almondmilk, and because it just sounds fancier).

But then I wanted to round out the meal with some fruit.

The peaches I picked up on Friday were just ripe! And I had the following on hand, which combined made for the perfect finale to our breakfast date:

Plain Greek Yogurt (I prefer Cabot's)
Sliced Peaches (hail-damaged or not, as long as they're fresh!)
Pickled Ginger (like you'd usually serve atop your favorite sushi)
Ground Nutmeg

Delicious!!! You've got to try this!!

"We should do date breakfasts more often," Alan smiled.
Yes, we should!

book review: babu's song

The church I attended during college had a monthly Ladies' Missionary Prayer Group at which there was a key note speaker followed by breakout prayer groups and fellowship. I thoroughly enjoyed this one special night a month, getting away from university studies.

One of the treasures I always took away was a book checked out from their collected library of missions related biographies--like My Heart in His Hands about Ann Judson--great for Sunday afternoon reading. But I also loved checking out their collection of children's books, mostly with a missionary emphasis, but also some non-religious titles like Jambo Means Hello with a country-culture-language emphasis.

I don't remember seeing this title (Babu's Song) there, but was delighted to find it at our local library, and would love to add it to my own children's lit library soon (as I've done with Jambo Means Hello). And I think it would be a fabulous addition to any church's missionary library for children.

Babu's Song has so many jumping off points to discuss making wise decisions, loving others sacrificially, working hard, living without a lot of things, being creative and content, etc. It's actually in several curricula for second graders and thus has book link vocabulary, spelling and writing activities available online, like this one created by Sandy Fiorni.

Babu's Song connected with my boys because of its protaganist's love for soccer, his relationship with his grandpa, and because eventually we'd love to live in Africa (if the Lord wills, obviously).

For now, I hope you enjoy this thoughtful read (along with the delightful watercolor illustrations) as much as we did.

proverbs time

I have been spending a lot of time in Proverbs since Mark was born, primarily because even if I can only squeeze a few minutes here and there I still get pithy and applicable truths to meditate on.

The breakthrough recently has been then turning around and having pithy applicational truth talks with my older boys. We call it "Proverbs Time." And I'm finding that, especially if we have these talks regularly during non-confrontational times, when confrontations arise (and it's not like they won't between a five and seven year old, so when they do), we can point back to a proverb we've recently discussed, and they have the pivotal truth they need to turn (repent) from foolishness and/or evil to wisdom and righteousness.

Honestly, it's helpful for me too, because it means I'm thinking and applying the Scripture more frequently too and I'm using Scripture in my child training. I love God's Word: it is so powerful and promotes peace in our lives. Thank You, God.

It is my hope to blog on specific proverbs that we discuss as a hopeful tool for you as you work with children God has placed in your sphere of influence.

Looking forward,
michelle

recipe: rosemary pork and spiced apples

 Gold Star Pork Stew Meat was 1.99/lb last week at BiLo. Yeah! And I had this distinctly accented voice in my head saying, "pork chops and applesauce," that others of you could peg, but all I remember is the phrase. My stomach says, "I want something pork with apples, but with a fresh spin." So I search "pork + apple + recipe" and get way too many ideas, scrap most of them, but toss a few in the back of my brain and start cooking.

Stock Pot, Medium High.
Start with 1/4 cup butter.
Add 6 apples, sliced and cored, but not peeled.
Spice it up with 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg, or try pumpkin pie spice, more or less to your liking.
Stir, nicely coating apples in the spice mixture, then ...
Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook w/o lid just until tender (about 5 minutes). 


spiced apples.



Set aside liquid (drained off apples) and spiced apples separately. You'll add them both back at specified points in the process.

Now you're ready to brown the meat in a generous amount of olive oil in the spiced pan.
I had 1.83 pounds of meat, but anywhere from 1 1/2 pounds to 2 pounds would work for these amounts.
Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (opt.) and 1/2 tsp rosemary. Brown.

Once meat is browned, kick it with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar.
It's gonna bubble up. Just let it work it's magic for about 5 minutes. This will both tenderize your meat and give it a tangy German flair.


pork with apple cider magic.


After about 5 minutes, go ahead and drain off the vinegar.

Add spiced liquid from apples back into the pork. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
Let cook thoroughly. Just before serving, return apples to pot to ensure warmth and stir in 1/3 cup brown sugar (opt.).

Serve with tangy green beans (or steam-in-a-bag peas for ease) and brown rice. Enjoy!!!


bon appetit.



unique souls

"Aw, he looks just like his brothers!" That's probably the most frequent comment I've heard regarding Mark's appearance this past month, the first month of his life. I don't even think Micah and Jordan-Elliot look alike...

...except when they're sleeping. And it finally hit me: when their eyes are shut, they do all look very much alike. But when their eyes are open, they are their own unique individuals.

The eyes, they say, are the windows to the soul. And the truth is each of my boys is a unique soul, a one-of-a-kind creation with a one-of-a-kind purpose to fulfill in this world. When their eyes are shut, all you can see if the physical, which is most likely what others are noticing: the physical similarities. But when their eyes are open, their spirit shines through, and as their Mom, I see their uniqueness far more than their similarity.

It shouldn't surprise me. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." In studying that verse this past year for a seminar, I came across these interesting facts about the specific words in their original Hebrew language that we translate fearfully and wonderfully. "Fearfully" is a word that is used only of a work of God, a divine creation. And "wonderfully" literally means "unique or one-of-a-kind."

And with these concepts in mind, it is only appropriate that the determined response to knowing this is: "I will praise You!"

I look at Mark and marvel. And the responsibility of being entrusted to nurture another soul humbles me and urges me back to the Creator of souls Who also longs to be each soul's Redeemer.

"May the Lord Find Us Faithful!"
michelle

"just the beginning"

Thirty-three weeks and Braxton Hicks have become a daily occurrence. Named for their identifying doctor, Dr. John Braxton Hicks of England, Braxton Hicks are simply "practice contractions." There's still so much more to take place before this pregnancy is complete: like further brain development, lung development and a couple more pounds of happy baby chub. But we're getting close....

Alan and I are reserving the right to change our minds at least until we see his face, but our thought is to name our new little man "Mark," so I've been reading through the Gospel of Mark in preparation: actually, I just finished reading through it last evening.

Largely because of my current status ("great with child," a.k.a., "very pregnant") and because of the significant international tragedies in our recent current events (Egypt, Japan and other islands, e.g.), the following passage in Mark 13 jumped out at me.

3And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?" 5And Jesus began to say to them, "See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. 7And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
 9 "But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

"The end [of this world and life as we know it] is not yet.... But be on your guard." The Braxton Hicks, so to speak, are here spiritually. It's time to start practicing for the real thing. More difficult and significantly more painful things will undoubtedly (must) take place before our Lord's return, but we are now experiencing "the beginning of the birth pains."

I personally am enduring physically to the end of this school year (for me) as well as this pregnancy: only 5 1/2 weeks until induction day (yeah!), if little "Mark" doesn't decide to come before then. But the end is in sight. His bag is packed, and mine will be shortly. The car seat's already buckled in place, and arrangements have been made for big brothers Micah and Jordan-Elliot.

Spiritually, we all must be on our guard, knowing that the end is near, confident that "the one who endures to the end will be saved!"

There is much more still to come, yet we are so close. All of the events that must take place before the end could take place in a very short amount of time.

And just as there will be great rejoicing (by the grace of God) when I see my new baby's pink little face and hear his first cry, and even more so, there will be manifold rejoicing when we hear that trumpet sound and see our blessed Savior face to face.

Looking forward,
michelle

country sausage patties with apples

Every meal ought to be a celebration of God, the food He provides and the ones we love seated around our table. Tonight's meal was definitely worth celebrating, thanks to my thoughtful mother-in-law and her delightful Fresh Market gift card for Christmas.

The boys and I enjoyed picking out some special meats and other fresh items on our shopping splurge today: a grand adventure compared to our usual Aldi routine.
Featured Fresh Market Purchase:
1.58 pounds country style sausage

What I did with it:

2 Gala apples, cored, sliced & diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp cilantro
1/8 tsp rubbed sage

1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 eggs

Mix with fingers! (Yes!)
Make into 12-13 "1/4 cup" patties.

Here's what mine looked like:


Bake at 450 degrees, about 12 minutes, flip 5 more minutes:
should be bronzed on the outside, no longer pink on the inside.
Plate it up with eggs & biscuits and fresh fruit.





Our fruit selection: Fresh Market oranges--Today's special: 98c/lb.
Everyone enjoyed! And there's plenty for breakfast tomorrow--what a great way to start the Lord's Day!

a prayer for egypt

We sat in Pizza Hut, awestruck at the violence in Egypt displayed on the overhead television screen, and just as quickly urged our children to shield their eyes as blood ran down dirt-darkened faces, but they'd already seen.

That night, after the questions had been asked and the children tucked safely in their beds, my eyes fell to Psalm 7:9 (NIV):

"Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure—
You, the righteous God
Who probes minds and hearts."

The next day (yesterday) I got news from a pastor-missionary who teaches in Egypt. He shared the disillusionment of a democracy in the current cultural reality, as well as the vulnerability of families lacking the protection of any police intervention, men taking measures to protect their wives and children, families who have barricaded themselves into their apartment buildings but are now running out of basic necessities such as food and water....

My mind goes back to the woman and her two children whose only resource was a jar of oil. Her God is our God. He can still multiple meager resources to meet desperate needs. He can, and I have to believe He will. We have but to ask, to ask in faith, believing....

And today, my heart repeats:

"Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God
Who probes minds and hearts."

"O righteous God
Who searches minds and hearts
,
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure."

Amen.

To listen to a beautifully-read audio file of this verse in its context, click here: Psalm 7.
Keep praying.

michelle

that the word of God not be blasphemed

We tend to remember best the things we know apply to us.
Recently two friends read the same document regarding health insurance policy changes. One remembered the portions addressing the extended ages of adult dependents as her children are in college; the other, a young mother, had her attention focused on the portion regarding electing PCPs for pediatric care.

Bible passages directly addressing women rightly stand out. Recently while studying the book of Titus along with a group of others at church, a specific phrase in chapter 2, caught my attention. It's highlighted below:

3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2, NKJV)

Blasphemed. Even the word itself leaves a foul flavor on my lips. It's one of those words thick with connotative repulsiveness: I've only ever heard it spat out like mashed up green bean baby food. I wasn't sure how much I was reading in vs. the word's actual denotative meaning.

Merriam-Webster to the rescue. (I love free online dictionaries!) BLASPHEMY:
1 a : the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God
1 b : the act of claiming the attributes of deity
2: irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable

Multiple translations of the Bible assist in giving us a round understanding of words as well, showcasing synonyms as each translator determines to use the word most likely to give the full gamet of meaning from the original language to the modern language.

So here, in this passage specifically addressing women, we are given a charge to live in such a way that God's Word not be maligned, insulted, reviled, dishonored, shamed in any way.

The way I live my life should, instead, magnify the Word of God and the God of the Word. The way I live as a believing woman should exalt, speak highly of, commend and leave others in awe of the Word. It should draw to seek out the meaning of the Word, to desire to know God.
Titus 2 directly affects my day-to-day decision making: what I spend my time doing, how I speak, how I spend time with my own children, how I dress and carry myself, how much I work outside the home, how I keep my home, how I show love to and respond to my husband.

May we each live as women devoted to God's way, that the word of God not be blasphemed.

How has Titus 2:3-5 influenced your life decisions? Post your comments below.
Read here how one expectant mom's life is impacting those observing and treating her in her battle with cancer.