Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: A Special Moment

Another 5 Minute Friday, with another lovely word: "Remembering"
Five Minute FridayMy memories are not like other people's. I do not remember "when I was little" in chronological order. The people I saw every day, the things I did each week - they are simply not there. My memories are more like a scrapbook. Snap-shot moments placed at random. Some of them I know were special moments, others I am clueless as to their significance in my mind. Sometimes, I cannot even remember events I know now were milestone events. Who knows why this is?
I do know, however, that I treasure those moments I have. They are all special to me, now.
Like the time I was in my room, at night, and daddy brought little Ben in and put him in the crib at the foot of my bed. I still don't know why he was in there - ours was the girls room - but he was. For a moment after daddy left, Ben stood at the end of the crib closest to the door, and mournfully marked daddy's departure. I squirmed out from the covers, crawled down to the foot of my bed, and leaned over the crib, stretching out both my arms.
"Ben, you wanna do this?" (apparently a code word, or tradition)
Ben turned and walking on tiptoe to my end of the crib, replied, "I do, I do, I do!"
We grabbed each other's hands and just stood there, perfectly content.
And that's the end of the memory.
(a memory I love)
Posting now, to avoid the temptation.
What are some of your treasured memories? Do you remember moments, or seasons of your life?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sometimes I Wonder ~ Random Moments

Here's a random question for ya:
What is the "polite" way to eat fried chicken?

photo credit
Munching on a little lunch mama had brought home - the yummiest, most un-greasy, fried chicken I'd ever had - while teaching today {no lunch break on Thursdays} I was struck with a sudden terror: "Am I being rude, eating with my fingers? Is there a way I'm supposed to eat fried chicken?"

I remember my grandpa once telling us a story of going out to dinner with his dad for fried chicken at a "nice" restaurant. Being country boys, they were a little uncomfortable when they observed that all those around them were daintily {albeit rather unsuccessfully} slicing off bite-sized pieces of chicken using forks and knives. When my grandpas' plates were brought, it took all of 10 seconds for them to discard the "nonsense," abandon utensils, and turn fried chicken back into finger food! "All of a sudden," my grandpa said, laughing and chuckling away, "you could hear this collective sigh all throughout the restaurant, and we looked around and saw everyone else setting down their forks and knives and pickin' up that chicken!"

I love that story. It makes me grin every time I think of it. Yet, it doesn't seem to answer my question. Who was right? The prim-and-proper, unsuccessful, "polite" people? Or my pragmatic, down-to-earth grandpa and great-grandpa {who were promptly copied by everyone else}? What defines the line between manners and a lack thereof? What defines finger food? If you know, please, help me out of my Manners Predicament!!


Speaking of wondering, if you're wondering who the giveaway winners are, let my put your minds at ease...kind of. Monday. 10am. There will be an official announcement. Now you know. :)

Thanks muchly to all of you who came to my party ~ I had an amazing time, reading the insights of all my visitors, and I hope you did, too!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Empyrean Bestowal, Part II: Hope Revealed

A Visit from Red
To read Part I, click here!
Photo Credit
Within six feet, my foot slipped, and I hit the pebbly ground, slicing my hands, face, arms, and legs. I closed my eyes as I began to feel the familiar pain of sliding down a rocky slope. But wait, I wasn't sliding. I jerked my head up to see the Stranger holding on to one of my bloody, numbed hands. He pulled me up; I don't know how He did it. Somehow, He did not fall. Sooner than I expected, I stood before Him, though it was I who was panting, and not He.
He put His hand on my shoulder, and explained. "You can't do it yourself. Let Me lead, and you follow."
The did not become easy of a sudden. The first ditches we mounted were ones I thought I knew to be insurmountable. He went before me, and somehow always gained the upper edge of the trench. Then, He would reach down for me. He'd pull me out the hole, and I know not how He managed to always do so, for the ditches were great.

I recognized many of these pitfalls. Most of them, on my downward, backsliding way, I had willingly slid into, thankful for a brief respite. Some, I know, were caused by my sliding. But one and all, both the ditches I had made and those I had fallen into, He pulled me out of. After every ditch and bramble, I found it easier to trust Him, grasping His hand with mine as He lifted me out from the depths. At first, I tried to hurry the process of getting up. Running, climbing or scurrying, up the ditches' side, I would inevitably fail. It was only when He was there to help me, and I let Him work with me, that I was able to mount those looming barriers. 
Photo Credit
At last, we reached a part in the road that slowly leveled out. Looking ahead, I saw before me a city of wondrous size resting upon the summit. Even from the distance yet before us, it shone like a lamp on a stand. As we journeyed nearer, time seemed to slow, so anxious was I to reach the Shining End. However, this last leg did not take long; although time seemed to last forever, only moments had passed before we stood beneath the jasper wall, in front of a gate fashioned of pearls. (There were three like it, and we entered by the middle). I was brought through it to the Palace of the King, along streets of gold. It is indescribable - the awesomeness of the city and the Palace within. But all grew dim - the gold, the sapphires, the emeralds, the countless other jewels and gems, the multitude of palace servants honoring the King - when I saw Him - the King of kings, the Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega - and the Lamb, seated at the right hand of God, Who left His throne above and gave His all for me.
I fell to my knees. What a Blessing I had received, without it belonging to me at all: that the King of the universe, the Creator of all, God Himself, came to me, that I might live with Him. He sent His Son down the path of life, to save me from my own destructive ways. "...Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (I Timothy 1:15b). May I never forget this ultimate blessing, the Greatest of Ethereal Treasures!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Empyrean Bestowal, Part I: The Final Hope of Mundi Cursum

A Visit from Red
Ahhh, friends, what can I say to you about Josh, or "Red" as he is called in the blogging world? He's my friend and partner in crime adventure. He has impeccable taste in books and amazing potential with the violin. He's learning the bagpipes. He's attentive and generous. He's the guy who seats me at dinner each night, who will be in stitches with me over something nobody else in the room finds funny (their loss), who's game for just about anything, but who maintains a balance of common sense that some of us...require. What better way to wrap up this party than with a fabulous allegory he wrote? Be patient...Part II will appear on Monday. :)

Allow me the pleasure of introducing my 15-year-old brother, Red.
Yosemite National Park
Photo Credit
I was on Mundi Cursum, travelling like the rest. The downward slope was not too great, but at times I would find myself losing my foot hold. At other times, I would collapse into one of the deep ditches, scattered on the road at frequent intervals. This was not as bad as it may seem at first; for, while the ditch's top would be parallel to the road, the road's great slant allowed a certain ease in exiting these ditches. Naturally, one climbed out on the side that led to the down-going road, for it was impossible to climb up the slope. I had seen some try, and even tried myself; but climbing only threw the person further down the path, with a cascade of dirt and rocks following him. All who tried never, ever least, any of the individuals I'd seen.
There were many beliefs about where the road led. Some asserted that it led to a luscious plain, just beyond the thick fog (the fog - such a strange aroma it held...). Others thought that at the bottom of this hill was another hill, and another, and another, until one could find a way to extricate himself from this endless journey. Still others believed that we would die on the trail, and that would be it. These - mostly hopeless - beliefs drove many to attempt the climb upward, but after the inevitable failure, the upward trek seemed evermore unfeasible.
We could not exit the path off to the side, for a wide, deep ditch filled with bramble as long as a man flanked the path. More than likely, some had ventured to cross the ditch, but I did not know any who were so foolish. Death certainly met those who tried. The situation was fatally grim. Some, in desperation, threw themselves forward, hoping to reach the end before they died. Their cries were the last we heard of them. I just wanted to get somewhere, and in my youth firmly believed in a "better place;" but years of aimless, tiresome, and endless travelling changed that; I, too, no longer contested, but confirmed, the assertion that the path was meaningless.
That's when I met Him.
The Trail
Photo Credit
He looked like the rest. Apparently, He wasn't an able climber...that's what I first thought. Cuts, bruises, and multiple wounds adorned Him. I had seen Him for some time, for instead of stumbling down the path with all, He was struggling upward. He paused at every person; His words were spoken earnestly, though gently, and never hurried. I saw those with whom He spoke look upward, back at Him, and then shake their heads, continuing their descent. Finally, I reached Him (or, He reached me...which is, I believe, the more proper verbiage).
"My son, do you care to travel upward?" He asked. I, like the others, turned my gaze to the path behind me.
"Why, Sir?"
His steadfast gaze held mine as He answered. "Because this road leads to death. Upward leads to life." Again, I glanced to the towering slope, which appeared to have a sharper incline, more pits, and greater brambles. Many of the ditches spanned the whole road. They would be impossible to climb out of, if one attempted the feat.
"Can will You bring me up?" I had seen some try. All had failed. For an answer, His steady, kind eyes held mine. With that, I did not need any other answer: I knew that this Man had the ability to make it to the top. I, exhausted of this road, the falling, the cuts, summoned the resolve to grasp this final straw of hope. My head sank in acknowledgement, and I turned my back on the Cursum's plummet.

Friday, March 15, 2013

If I Could Bless You ~ A Visit from Mikaela

We met a little over 22 years ago. I was cramped and content in a small, dark place, and she, or rather, her voice, floated somewhere beyond the confines of all I knew. I wanted to meet her! Months passed, multiplying my age, and at last we looked upon each other's faces.
We were both rather unimpressed. 
I had to learn to walk, and to want to play, but even so it was settled {and obvious} very early on: God had picked us out to be the best of friends. Since then, simply, we have been. Dear readers, meet Mikaela. Book addict, music teacher, fabulous bread-maker, and veritable source of knowledge on just about any subject her life touches (seems that way to me, at least) ~ she co-blogs with Lauren at One Bright Corner. Her writing and insights are always a blessing to me, as I hope they are to you, today. Meet Mika!
"Mikaela, I heard the most amazing song at the conference in Texas!" Mama told me shortly after she had flown home. I couldn't have been more than twelve, and I don't remember anything she relayed to me about the content of the conference - except the amazing song she had heard. She ordered the music and a CD of it right away, and our family heard "The Blessing Song" by Dennis Jernigan for the first time.

May the Lord answer you in the day of your trouble;
May the name of the Lord be your strong mighty tower.
May He grant you your heart's deepest dreams and desires;
May He answer you each time you call.

Several years later, the young people of my church learned this song. We practiced and prepared. We knew the words, the melodies, the harmonies. Nevertheless, the spirit of the song I didn't understand until we were there on stage singing for 100 people. And suddenly, I was overwhelmed as I sang out a blessing with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to my brothers and sisters in Christ. There was nary a dry eye in the church - and the Holy Spirit was moving.

May He pour out the blessing of heaven;
May you cast your cares on Him and daily fall.
May you live to see your children's children;
May the Lord Jesus be your All in All.

As a family, we sang "The Blessing Song" for Mama on her 40th birthday and for Grandpa on his 70th birthday. Imperfect voices, earnestly voicing every word.
May the Lord Jesus Christ satisfy beyond all measure;
May His Word light your path; may His peace guard your heart.
May your days be filled with gladness, joy and peace through any sadness;
Filled with love that will not depart.

Then, in 2011, we huddled together in a hospital room. Bobcha was dying, and we were saying our good-byes, knowing that after we left and drove the 360 miles separating our home from her hospital, that we would never see her again on this earth. So we sang a blessing to her. We broke and we cried - we hardly made it through - but we sang those words so familiar to us by now.
May your strength be renewed like the eagle;
As you run the race may joy flood every part.
May your memories all be sweet in each parting;
May the peace of Christ rule in your heart.
Last year, our family went through many trials. And suddenly, in God's sovereign plan, Mama was in Georgia preparing for surgery, and the six of us kids were home. Praying. Wishing we could be there to hold her hand. Worrying. Wishing we could be there to kiss her before she went in to surgery. Praying. And wishing some more. So, the night before her surgery, we sat down and recorded ourselves singing "The Blessing Song" with honest, raw tears streaming down our faces and sent the video to Mama. We were singing about life and joy and God's mercies and goodness when we were verily in the midst of trouble, pain, and hardship.
May His Word be to you health and life, joy and treasure;
May your home be a light; may the Lord guard your ways.
May the Lord be your shepherd;
May His goodness and mercy follow after you all your days!
Many of these words are taken directly from Scripture (such as Psalm 20), but they're no magic incantation. This is no blessing of prosperity and ease. This is the blessing of martyrdom and family and most of all communion with God Almighty that triumphs over any weakness, desperate circumstance, or real-life nightmare. This is the power of blessing someone in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
May His mercies be new every morning;
May His grace and Holy Spirit help you stand.
May you live your life to die for the gospel;
May you hold to His unchanging hand!
Have you given a blessing to someone? Through song, words, or prayer? Bless and be blessed, for the giver of the blessing is just as blessed as the recipient.
May the Lord answer you in the day of your trouble;
May the name of the Lord be your strong and mighty tower.
may He grand you your heart's deepest dreams and desires;
May He answer each time you call.
May He answer each time you call.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beauty from Ashes ~ A Visit from Kaytra

If I had to choose one person for whom this was true
It would be this girl.

Seriously. Whether we're studying Scripture, planning parties, or discussing C.S. Lewis, I can guarantee two things: tea, and laughter. Kaytra is a "PK, lover of tea and chunky sweaters, and an avid traveller." She also happens to be one of my dearest friends, and blogs happy thoughts at scraps of reality. Since age 13, she has had continual health challenges, but as she continues to seek the LORD and His blessings, she continues to be an encouragement and inspiration to those around her. Ladies and gentlemen, here's Kaytch!
Have you ever felt like you’re the only one going through a trial or temptation, and no one could possibly understand what your experiencing, even if they tried? Do you ever give up praying because you don't know how to talk to your Father about your inner intestine and bowels? {yes i just said that}
Have you ever looked into your fridge and slammed it shut because you are so discouraged because 99.9 percent of anything good in there is not digestible to you and will make you feel like you’re going to collapse at any moment from being lightheaded, bloated, inflamed and miserable? 
{i forget to add commas generally when i am venting.}
Have you ever cried out to the Lord asking Him, "Why me?!" 
"Why this?" 
"Why now?"
I feel like i am in a marathon, and although i have already crossed the finish line, i can't stop because i realize that i'm chained to a treadmill. 
{i need to work on my metaphors}
Sometimes i am so discouraged that i just decide not to eat at all, which leads to a "nasty Kaytra," which leads to hurting peoples feelings and more importantly hurting God.
Because He is there, He knows me, and He has designed me this way. 

"Let affliction come~God has chosen me. Poverty, you may stride in at my door, but God is in the house already, and He has chosen me. Sickness, you may intrude, but I have balsam ready~God has chosen me. Whatever befalls me in this vale of tears, I know that He has "chosen" me."
I read this about an hour ago, and I just started weeping.
I was chosen for affliction.
This broken and disease-ridden body of mine was chosen ~ to fulfill His purposes.
Not mine. He has chosen me for affliction, and i so desperately want to be worthy of that choice.
I know now that suffering is a not a sin. It is a precious opportunity, and one that i do not want to miss.
It is His choice of blessing for my life. Because often, hidden blessings take on an ugly and hideous disguise. 
Someday, I believe, God will eventually remove the layers of that disguise so that I can truly see how He used my IBS for His glory and for my good.
"For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome." ~Jeremiah 29:11
"Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead, I'll follow where He goes."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Blessed Are..." ~ A Visit from Jennifer

Uncle David & Aunt Jenn
Before the role models of babysitters, teachers, and professionals-of-your-sphere, there are, and ever shall be, aunts. "Tante Jenn" - travelling all the way from Loches, France for our party this week - is just such an example. With a contagious joy in life, a wonderful laugh, and a beautiful story of obedience to the Lord {she & my uncle & two cousins left their 'normal' lives & newly-remodelled dream house in the states to become missionaries}, I treasure every conversation we have {even more so, now that she lives half-way across the world!}. She blogs about the lessons, joys, and challenges {and sometimes good ol' funny stories} of ministering in a different culture over at Four For France.
Friends, allow me to introduce my aunt, Jennifer.
Do you have one of those friends for whom everything always seems to go well? I do.

She lives in a big house that is delightfully decorated. She has three bright-eyed children and a hard-working, faithful husband. She is popular, fit, and cute to boot. She is the type who plans out her life months, sometimes years in advance, and nothing ever seems to interfere with her agenda. She has a warm and open personality, a joyful countenance, and a deep love for Jesus. By her own admittance, she has never really suffered.

So it seemed the most natural thing in the world to me when she blithely stated, "I'm just so blessed."

Yet, when she said it, my heart beat seemed to grow heavy. I squinted, trying to assess my recoil. While I believe her statement was an expression of genuine gratitude, something about it chaffed. Finally, gently, I whispered, "People who suffer are blessed, too."

"Oh, I know," she said, a little too quickly, and on we went to other subjects.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I can't stop thinking about that brief conversation. I wonder if there is a disconnect in our understanding of blessing. What does it mean to be blessed?

According to the dictionary, it means "divinely favored." But it can also mean "blissfully happy."
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

I know that every good gift is from above, and indeed, the pleasing circumstances of my life are blessings. But if I stop there, might that be too narrow of a view? Isn't it also true that God blesses us in and through challenging circumstances?

And while I don't think we need to go looking for trouble or inviting disaster into our lives, I do sometimes wonder if our relentless pursuit of our own comfort and glory could be barriers, rather than pathways, to blessing.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

What if I chose the "discomfort" of living in a smaller house so that I might be more generous? What if I sought opportunities to serve others so that I might be more humble? what if I turned the other cheek instead of defending my "rights"? What if I demonstrated love to someone who treats me with indifference or even hatred? Do I need to wait for calamity to come to me in order to experience the blessings that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 5? Or could it be my calling to engage in suffering no matter my circumstances?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Blessing of Health ~ A Visit from Bronwyn

Good morning, everyone ~ look who's here! This is a dear friend of ours, Bronwyn. Wife of Heiko, mother of five, health-food authority, flower arranger, artist...she wears many hats {and aren't they all pretty?}. I'll be quiet now, though, and let her talk.

Everyone, meet Bronwyn.

Hi, I'm Bronwyn from over at CleanGreenStart, and I'm super excited and honored to be a guest blogger here for Sarah's Bloggy Birthday Party! Since Sarah's theme this week is Blessings, I decided to write about the blessing of health because, ahem, I do write a healthy home blog (sometimes masquerades as a Paleo recipe blog). I tend to think about healthy stuff a lot. :-)

Have you ever pondered the blessing of good health? If you're youngish, it may be something you've never considered, since we tend to take it for granted until we lose it. It tends to be the older generation, or those with chronic disease, who extol the joys of the health they once possessed. They will tell you that it is the basis for enjoying most of life's other blessings.

Health As A Blessing
Health is a blessing which is bestowed upon us, given to us, without our effort or merit.

Kind of makes me think of some other blessings. Salvation. Earth's beauty. Children. Grace.

If we arrive at adulthood in good health and with all our parts and pieces, we can hardly take much credit for it. Good genes, sufficient nutrition, and shielding from toxic exposure are gifts our parents, especially our mothers, bestow upon us before our birth. Our habits of diet, hygiene, and exercise, and our preventive and interventional medicine as children are directed by our caregivers.

To be alive, is to have some measure of health. We should be filled with gratitude to our parents and to God for the measure of health that we have.

Health As A Stewardship
But, not unlike some other blessings, health is entrusted to us as stewards. It does take effort to keep it. To nurture it, and at times to restore it.

This takes knowledge. And wisdom. Especially when several conflicting paradigms of knowledge compete in our health decision-making.

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate? Herbs or medicine? How to stretch a family budget for the best food choices?

So we ask, we seek, we knock.

God, what is Your design?
Doctor, what are the options? The side effects?
Grandma, how do you prepare food in traditional healthy ways?
Friend, how do you budget organic? Where do you shop? Got some recipes?
Chemist, what chemicals should we avoid on our skin and in our homes?
Husband, is this a priority for our family?
Farmer, what are your growing practices? Your chicken feed? Your fertilizers?
Dentist, what are whole-body impacts of this treatment?
Nutritionist, how do you read a supplement label? Can this be obtained in food?
Midwife, how can I work towards a healthy birth?
Salesman, will this product off-gas into my home?

It takes time. Diligence. Missteps, and backtracks, and learning. Stewardship always does.

And again, I'm brought back to gratitude for those who have invested in me (and continue to do so) by book or in person to make their knowledge available to me. I'm grateful to God for planting some of them in my path even before I asked Him! Whether by diligence on our part, or by unmerited favor, health is a gift He bestows.

A Blessing We Pass On
If you are a parent, you recognize that stewardship of your child's health is part of your role as parent.

If you are not yet a parent, that stewardship has already begun in the choices you make. A study done in recent years found that the most significant factor in the health of infants was the nutrition which the mother received in the ten years prior to their birth.

How cool is that? To have a part in passing on one of God's blessings to another; our own child!

The Blessing of Disease
Huh? Wait...we were talking about health. It was all rainbows and ponies. Can disease be a blessing too?

I didn't think so. Not with chronic fatigue as a young was zapping the life out of my life. How could God bless me through that?

But it was illness that made me ask why, to read, to seek help, and make changes, and my husband and children have all benefited. I've met so many people in clinics, at nutrition meetings, on farms, on my blog. They help me, and sometimes I help them, and sometimes I get to witness to them of God's other blessings. God used illness to stretch my faith in His promises, and I learned to rely on His strength in a new way.

I'm really, really grateful my health has returned, because it wasn't fun to be without it. But I can attest that God can even use disease as a blessing.

How has God blessed you with health (or disease)? What are you learning right now that makes you a better steward of this precious gift?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Blessings of a Bloggy Birthday!

{photo credit}

Hello, friends! Come in! So glad you could make it! As you can see, I've spruced up the place for all the rare fun that's to happen this week. Scrubbed the windows, dusted the cobwebs, put up some new paint ~ how do you like it? Pull up a chair, will you? Would you like some tea? How about some cake? Yes, yes, that's two candles ~ can you believe how old my little blog is growing?

As I look back over these last two years of blogging, I am overwhelmed (and grateful) for the BLESSINGS documented herein. There have been the blessings of memories, lessons, miracles, and musings. Blessings of adventures, smiles, stories, and amazement. And, of course, there has been YOU! Whether you're a bloggy friend, internet acquaintance, or a friend I run into in everyday life (sorry about that ~ I'll have to better watch where I'm going!), I want you to know that your comments put a smile on my face and give me a day of sunshine!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending some friends' church, and there I heard a beautiful truth which seems to me to perfectly define true blessing. "We do not," the pastor challenged, "come to God to get what we want, but rather what He has to give us." While I am quicker to label the gifts listed in the paragraph above as "blessings," I have learned - and am continuing to learn - that when we receive tenacity to withstand pressure, comfort to carry through grief, or ability to overcome incompetency, these are often the most rewarding of blessings. In this last year I have begun to learn that somehow, God, in the miracle of Who He is, creates the most perfect beauty out of the most hopeless circumstances. It is the nature of our God. Is He not beautiful? Is He not awesome? Is He not deserving of every form of worship?

As you munch on delicious chocolate-covered strawberries at my little bloggy-birthday party, I ask that you would meditate, would remember, would share with me the blessings ~ both the easy and the hard ~ that Christ has given you this year. Surely, as Christians, there is no greater encouragement than to hear the stories of the Saviour's work!

So settle in and make yourself comfortable. We have a lovely seven~days~of~a~party before us, with stories and encouragements galore from some truly special people. And what would a party be without prizes? ...Still a party, perhaps, but certainly not as much fun! Would you like to see the items for the give-away? Yes, I thought so. :)

The first lovely is this wonderful "Emerald of the Sea" bracelet, hand-made by none other than my own amazing Grandma! An elegant, deep green, beaded in a wave pattern, it is one of my favorite jewelry pieces Grandma has made (definitely makes me think "Ireland" :).
Next item up for the give-away is C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. I know that I've said this about nearly all his books, but this is my favorite work by C.S. Lewis. In his personal retelling of the mythological story of the goddess Psych, Lewis inexplicably grew my awe, fear, and love of the one true God. One of my top recommended books, to be sure!
photo credit (not the same cover picture as give-away book)
Are you as excited about these as I am?? Thought so! Here's how you can enter for your chance to win one of them!
1. Follow The Lord's Lass and comment with which prize you would prefer - 1 entry {required}
2. Vote on the polls which will be popping up on the sidebar this week - 1 entry per vote
3.  Blog about blessings and link to The Lord's Lass - 3 entries
Please leave one comment per entry you receive on this post. Give-away is open to both U.S. and international bloggers. :) Ends 11:59PM, March 18th, Pacific Time.
Now please, have another slice of cake and enjoy the party! Blessings!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Maybe Today

Five Minute Friday A lovely, golden-sunshine, deep-sky-blue Friday morning to you all! I hope, wherever you are, you are enjoying the same amazing weather we have here in the Northwest ~ but unless you actually live in the Northwest, I highly doubt that you are so privileged, because nowhere else in the world are colors so deep, rich, and real. (Yes, I love where I live.)

Reading my Aunt's blog this morning, I was introduced the "Five Minute Friday" challenge. A slightly intimidating idea for me (I am a bit apprehensive about writing for 5 minutes - what will come out? - and posting, without a chance to edit), I still couldn't stand to pass up the opportunity, because this week's word is Home. Timer ready? Here we go:
In my Pastor's house, held with a magnet to the fridge, is an unassuming 8.5-by-11 inch piece of paper boasting two simple words in bold print:

Maybe Today

Maybe Today - those words are so powerful to me. They stop me from any busy-ness or focus I may be in the midst of and make me wonder, What will happen today?

Maybe today you'll see the answer to all those prayers you've been lifting up for the salvation of a loved one. Maybe today healing will come. Maybe today will be the last chance you have to love those around you. Maybe, perhaps, today, is the day we will go Home.
Wow - 5 minutes flies way to quickly. Or I perhaps I simply don't understand the concept of a short, concise post...I had so much more to say! (and I apparently need to learn that it's ok to not sit and read over a sentence every time you write one.)

"Maybe Today" fills me with such a sense of longing ~ what questions and possibilities does it bring to your mind? What images are conjured when you think of "home"?

P.S. Guess what next week is? My bloggy-birthday!! I'm having a party, and you're all invited! There will be give-aways, guest posters, and all sorts of fun, so I'll see you then!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

He Said Yes: Part II

To read Part I, click here.

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Away whirled November and December, gone, it seemed, before they had come. Somehow, in those months of not thinking about the trip (so we could focus on family, holidays, and friends), our time in Europe added sunrises. The itinerary now consisted of not only the tour, but additional time in France, Germany, Scotland, and possibly England.

Every. Single. Step. of this planning was marked with leading and blessing from the LORD. Each time I stumbled upon an obstacle, or stared over a hurdle, He would effectively clear it away and give an additional blessing! Through opportunities and finances, He directed where we were to go (which is pure excitement to re-live and realize!), and He has been faithful to provide for every detail.

The greatest evidence that I have yet seen of this loving provision came two weeks ago. I had just sent off the final check in payment for the tour, and was consequently feeling a little lean in the bank account, when we (the tour group) received the first official email from Mr. Bond:

"118 days before we meet in Paris!"

Excitement and anxiety immediately picked up a game of tag on the field of my emotions. Mr. Bond had advised waiting until March or April to buy plane tickets, but how low would prices actually go? As things were, the tickets hovered well out of budget. An uncomfortable wad of worry began to grow in my stomach ~ had I misjudged my expenses?

Finally, in desperation, knowing there was nothing I could do, I snapped shut my laptop and went upstairs to do what the LORD has been urging me to do in all situations: pray. (In fact, I begin to wonder if prayer is the number one lesson on God's "teach Sarah" list right now.) Asking for peace, for faith, for contentment, and lowering prices on airfare, the Holy Spirit began to soothe me. Praying for our tour group, for the people we will meet while in Europe, for the opportunity to boldly proclaim Christ, I was wrapped up in a peace straight from heaven. God is in control.

Settling down to my Scripture reading a little while later, I found myself totally refreshed and amazed by the beauty of the character of the LORD as revealed in Deuteronomy. (I can't believe I used to think Deuteronomy a "boring OT book" - it is now one of my absolute favorites...if not "the" favorite.) Over and over again, God asserts and reveals His intense love for Israel, which in and of itself is the ultimate humility. Immersed in the story of His people, I was struck by chapter 5 verse 29:

"Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!"

This is our God, Who yearns for the times when we will turn our eyes on Him and give Him glory, so that He may shower blessings on us and cause all to "be well." Underlining the verse, I wrote in the margins, "the great mercy of the LORD, that He longs always to bless us!" Mercy. Love. Selflessness. This is our God.

Before supper that evening, mama and daddy had some errands to run, and while they were out I retrieved my "Europe 2013" notebook and settled to down to find which airlines/travel agencies had the best prices at the moment.
I looked.
And looked.
And looked.
It was to no avail - I could find no better prices, but I knew Who was in control. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there was a Portland-to-Paris ticket price, staring back at me from my screen, for a full $200 less than anywhere else.
We're talking under $500 here, people.
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There are days when you can't even get across the country for the price at which I could fly to Paris.
Another hour, another couple giddy phone calls, and we three little travellers where most certainly going to Europe! (coming home is still TBD)
Another prayer. Another gift. Another evidence of Love.
Another assurance that He will provide.
Another reminder of Who is in control.
Another praise. Another opportunity. Another plea.
LORD, keep my eyes open always to be blessed by Your work and watchful of Your purpose.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

He Said Yes: Part I

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For months now, I have thought about this post. Planned for it. Wished I could write it. Anticipated what I would say.

Now, this week, when the time has finally come, I find words to be inadequate.




Perhaps, as Mr. Knightly says in the new "Emma" movie, "if I felt less I may be able to talk about it more." My feelings are not the love of which Mr. Knightly spoke, but those of awe, amazement, excitement, praise, and love for my heavenly Father which are the natural, insuppressible feelings when one sees His work. But still, I do not know how to start. Dear Readers, will you listen to a story?

A year ago, in my ramblings through various internet haunts, I stumbled upon Douglas Bond's Website (he writes some fantastic books, ya'll - if you haven't read them, do!), and saw, to my delight, that he was planning to lead a Reformation Tour in Europe, June 2013. Ecstatic, I raved casually mentioned the tour to mom and dad, only to be told that, based on where I was at the time, they advised against my going. For the months following, I continued to mention the tour to my parents, talk about the sights with Kaytra, and dream about the travelling on my own ~ but nothing changed. Like the Beast's falling rose petals, brightly-colored leaves ticked away my time, urging me on to a decision, but daddy was still not certain I should go; I began to pray earnestly for God's leading. A half-ashamed, selfish prayer, I brought my desire to God and begged Him to make me joyful and content in whichever answer He gave.

September passed. And October. And still, daddy was not ready to say that I should go. Kaytra and I were slowly going crazy with the dream; the travel bug had bitten, but what could we do? We continued to pray, asking that the door would remain shut if this trip would be exclusively for pleasure, knowing enjoyment is not a worthy end. Despite the excitement that traversing the world offered, God's plan and work was - is - dearer, even if the answer was 'no.' We wanted our hearts in the right place.

November came, and was slipping by, when I received an unexpected phone call. My friend Charae, who I had no idea even knew about the tour, was being encouraged by her father to go ~ would I go with her? Of course! I would love to! I had before me only one problem: Daddy was still unconvinced (I had spoken to him again just a few days before), but I would ask again! Charae informed me that she had just hung up with Mr. Bond, and registration would be closing in two weeks. The minute I heard this, my heart skipped a beat and it got hard to breathe. This was it, then; the moment of truth. Was it the LORD's will for me to go on the tour or not? I was insanely excited and tremblingly trepidatious at the same time. Promising to call Charae as soon as I had talked to daddy, I immediately began to send an onslaught of texts that would have put the fastest-texting teen in the world to shame.

My answer? Silence.

I remember nothing of that afternoon. I know I had lessons to teach, dinner to make, and emails to send, but my mind was suddenly as flighty as a hummingbird, darting hither and yon. I prayed all through the afternoon, "LORD, give me joy in whichever answer you send. Let me be content. But please, LORD, I would so love to go."

Daddy came home, but I had to wait. It seemed an eternity before we could talk (although I'm sure he and mama could correct me in saying it was only a few minutes), as he played a game with the twins and I "worked" in the kitchen. Finally, mama, daddy, and I sat down and discussed details, circumstances, and conditions.

That evening, I called Kaytra, absolutely giddy, to tell her Charae and I were going ~ was she able to come too? It took a couple days, but soon it was settled: the three of us were Europe-bound.

 I was floored, speechless, amazed - to have gone from "no" to "yes" in an afternoon was incredible, and a complete turn-around such that only my Father could have made. He had said 'yes.' The anticipation and excitement of all we will see and do is trumped only by the unknown: What does Christ have for us to do on this trip?

Will you pray that we will see and do it?

To read Part II, click here