Three Little Miracles

Yes, God still works miracles! A few years ago, I was blessed to be a part of one! There is no other explanation of how all these people and circumstances could “just fall together”!

It all began on a fall Saturday morning. I was in Montgomery at His Vessel Ministries attending a meeting. After the meeting, I ran into an old friend. We’d met through a Discipleship class at the Ministry. As we were talking she shared that she and her husband had decided to adopt a child through the foster care system. They had been married 24 years and unable to have children. They now wanted desperately to adopt a child. She asked me to pray for them because the foster system was so overwhelmed with placing children in foster homes there wasn’t much time to find them a child to adopt. Immediately someone came to my mind. “I might know of a child.” Her face lit up like a Christmas tree! I didn’t want to get her hopes up, but I was already getting excited myself!

On my way home to Cullman, I called my friend. She and her husband have been foster parents for several years. I knew they had a baby that would be up for adoption soon.

When I told her the story, she said, “We have decided to adopt the baby. But, the three girls we have now are getting closer to being ready for adoption!”

Wow! Three girls! She only said they wanted one! I better check. She might not be ready for 3 little girls. Well, not only was she interested, they would have taken them at that very moment if possible! I reminded her, “This is not final yet!” But already a seed of love had been planted in her heart.

I invited her to come up and visit us the following Sunday. They went to church with us and my friends with the girls then ate lunch with us. I know you’ve heard “love at first sight,” but it was! The girls and this couple fell in love! One of the girls climbed up in the woman’s lap, looked her in the eyes, and said, “Can you be my mommy?” Yes, we cried!!! And the other two were glued to the husband.

They of course, didn’t want to leave, but they had to go back to Montgomery. The seeds of love were growing! In my heart I was praying that they wouldn’t be disappointed. But I was also praying that God would join these girls and this couple.

Another amazing detail, the women had met before. My friend in Cullman had been to a meeting at the Montgomery friend’s house with me. I had forgotten that. So, they were already connected which helped the process of adoption.

The couple applied for respite care, and 2 months later they were taking the girls for weekends. All of us were praying that somehow God would put this all together. But, actually God was the originator of it all! Through court dates, and appeals, wondering and waiting, God continued to bring it all together.

Of course there were challenges, these girls had been through the trauma of being taken from their home, living in foster homes, and not understanding all of this. Yes, they had behavior issues. But the two mothers were able to help each other through this.

A year later, the husband made a call to their lawyer telling him they were finally ready for a court date. Usually this takes months; they didn’t have months. His father had some serious health issues, they needed to go to Texas to take care of him. And he, being in the military, had been transferred to Mississippi.

That night he got a call from the lawyer. “Can you be here in the morning.”  ?!

The next morning, three little girls became “their little miracles”!

All glory be to God from whom all blessings flow!

Yes, I believe in miracles! A husband and wife married 25 years decide to adopt a foster child.

Three little girls half a state away needed parents. And God had a plan!

He always does!

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A New Arrival

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Ephesians 3:14-18  “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

The sweetest gift arrived for our family a few weeks ago in the form of a sweet baby boy.  My first grandchild. Firstborn of my firstborn.  What a joy, and how excited our family is to welcome him. He is loved more than he will ever comprehend.

I heard his paternal grandmother say that day that there is “so much love” for our grandson. He is so dearly loved by his mommy and daddy and all the rest, but nothing can compare to the love that our heavenly father has for him. “For God so loved the world… .” Enough to send his only son to die for us and to sacrifice his blood as the atonement for our sins. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.” (I John 3:1)

I am reminded afresh and anew of how much my heavenly father loves me and delights in me, His child.

  • He sings over me (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • He cares for me (Matthew 10:30-31)
  • He protects me (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
  • He is concerned for me (1 Peter 5:7)
  • I am written on his palm (Isaiah 49:16)

IMG_0282 (1)How God must delight in weaving his little masterpieces together in the womb. He says he knows us before we are formed. In all of his wonderful creativity, he knits together the most precious gifts to give to us as newborn babies. Master craftsman, if you will, when you think of all the splendor of creation.

I wanted to jump up and down with excitement when we knew our little one had arrived and I must confess (with video to prove) that it was too much when I found out that his hair was red. I jumped!

It is amazing to think about how blue eyes and red hair can be formed on one child and because of DNA and lots of other scientific things that I don’t understand, another can have brown eyes and black hair. Or blonde and blue or whatever that precious masterpiece happens to have. And that soft, velvety skin of different shades that the creator adds to the mix. Tiny fingers and toes and legs and arms and button noses. All the little internal organs that work together. Oh my!

What a mighty God he is! My momma has questioned many times how someone could look at a little innocent baby and doubt our God.  I guess many do who don’t know him. But God does allow us to see himself in his creation. (Romans 1:20) Nothing is more tangible than holding our little bundle of God’s creation in my arms and kissing his sweet cheeks and nuzzling his little neck and snuggling him close.

maxresdefaultGod sent the sweetness of Heaven in the form of a baby, His Son, to ultimately be our savior. “God incarnate in the form of helpless babe.” He sends the sweetness of heaven in the form of babies – our own children, our grandbabies, and nieces and nephews. Sweet little babies.

How it pleases our heavenly father when we are birthed back into his kingdom! There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10) We rejoiced over our precious grandson’s birth just a few days ago, but we are already praying and anticipating the day that he will be born again. We will rejoice with our heavenly father over another who has repented. Oh what a day that will be!

We laughed and shed tears of joy and hugged and grinned and oohed and aahed. And talked about who he looked like that day of his birth.  We most want our grandson to resemble his savior one day. But right now his is a perfect mix of both mama and daddy. And we just love him.

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The One Hour Clean Up

“I’m setting the timer for 1 hour. Now Go!”

Thus started our Saturday “One Hour Clean Up”, a tradition in our family for several years when the kids were children and teens.

The purposes for instituting this Saturday ritual were two-fold: 1) we wanted our children to learn responsibility and develop a good work ethic, and 2) I was a busy homeschooling mom and desperately needed help maintaining order in our home.

I can’t clearly remember the day we started this tradition by accident, but my foggy recollection is that the house was horrendous, the day was beautiful, and the kids wanted to do something fun. I do remember realizing that it would take most of the day, as usual, for me to get the house in order by myself. I then had the options of 1) saying “No” to their requests for an outing, 2) letting dad take them while I stayed home to clean, or 3) insisting that the whole family help where we could all go out together. Since an underlying goal for our family was to raise responsible, hardworking kids, my husband and I quickly decided what to do. We would have everyone jump in and help, getting done whatever we could in only 1 hour, and then permitting ourselves to stop cleaning and go have fun.

cleaning-washing-cleanup-the-ilo-48889We made a list, set the timer, and dove in to the mess. When the timer went off we were shocked! The house looked remarkably clean and neat. It would have taken me at least 4 or 5 hours to do by myself all that we had accomplished together. Granted the mirrors were only wiped 3/4’s of the way up by the kids who were too short. And the wash cloths were folded, but not in perfect squares. Even the beds were made, although the comforter corners may have not been perfectly aligned. The dishes, laundry, floors, and bathrooms had been appropriately washed, folded, swept, mopped, and cleaned. It seemed as if we got more done than we thought we could have before we started. It was amazing!

I’ve heard that farm animals used for plowing, such as oxen, when yoked together can do more than double the work of one animal alone. First, herd animals work better in teams than on their own. There’s encouragement and inspiration in teamwork. Synergy, they call it in the business. The second reason has to do with the static coefficient of friction being higher than the dynamic coefficient of friction and because the animals have twice the strength on that initial pull to get going, they get a jump-start on the task. (That’s about all I can explain. Go ask your nearest mechanical engineer or physics teacher for more info.) All I know is that our family herd yoked together for a common goal and “Got ‘er done!” God has already shared that principle with us in Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”

As we left the house that day to “go have fun” we all realized we had already been having fun together. From the 4 year-old to the 8 year-old to the 11 year-old to the 14 year-old to the two 40 year-old parents, each person exhibited excitement, camaraderie, and a sense of being needed and being proud of their contribution. We learned a lesson that day and the new tradition began with enthusiasm. What is one hour on a Saturday morning when you’re all working together and when you get to have a day full of fun afterwards? The One Hour Clean Up became the weekly norm.

But how does that affect my life you ask? I… live alone, or have no kids, or have a maid clean my house. Let’s think of the ramifications of this principle in another area of life. Basically the idea I presented in my family scenario is this:

6 x 1 = 1 x 6
6 people x 1 hour each can do the equivalent of 1 person working for 6 hours!

 

It’s the commutative property of mathematics (if I remember correctly) at work. So yes, those math lessons are important in real life! But how can we use that bit of data in other situations? In church? In service? In volunteer work?

Well, here’s an example. You’re having a churchwide activity. Let’s say you have a class of 24 people and need 2 people to man a booth for 3 hours. If 6 of the 24 volunteer, they each will have to work 1 hour. If 12 volunteer they will only have to work 30 minutes each. If no one volunteers to help you and your buddy, you’ll both have to work the entire 3 hours.

What about in a particular ministry at church? Men’s ministry for example. They have Bible studies, camp outs, retreats, steak nights, archery shoots, breakfasts, and maybe even fishing, golf, or basketball tournaments. If we leave the planning all up to the Men’s Director he’s going to be one busy man with something new to plan, prepare for, and lead every month. But if we get 4 people operating in their gifts and areas of expertise – they each only have something once every 4 months at most. And what if 1 guy can only do the steak night every year? Well hey, he’s got a whole year to plan and only 1 responsibility! And at the same time he is lightening the load for the others.

volunteer-1326758_1280Why do you think service groups, ministries, and volunteer organizations are always asking for volunteers? To lighten the load. Whether it is the Salvation Army, Red Cross, an inner city tutoring program, or a church ministry, your small contribution may not seem like much to you. “Surely my 1 hour a week doesn’t even make a difference?” you may say. But when my one hour adds up with your one hour and my college student’s hour and your best friend’s hour who decided to go with you and the couple-from-the-other-side-of-town’s hour, we end up with 6 hours of productive work instead of just one.

So my challenge to myself and to you is to find something you are passionate about and have a bit of ability to do, and serve for an hour a week somewhere. Serve in Jesus’ name. Be His hands and feet and heart to the world. Spend more time and energy reaching out to the world than you do bemoaning the current state of affairs. Make that call to Teen Challenge and see how you can help. Let your church leaders know what you are skilled at, and be willing to head up that once-a-year event or clean out that storage closet or lead that study. Be the one who starts a program to adopt an inner city school. Help with that fundraiser. Do a backyard Bible club each summer. Organize that school clean up. Bake for that bake sale. Join or start a sewing ministry. Whatever you’re good at, get connected with a ministry that needs your kind of volunteers. It will not only help that ministry, but you in turn will be rewarded by a feeling of camaraderie, fulfillment, and purpose.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:15

 

Be Still

Be still and know that I am God.

I had forgotten to get gas. Again. I coasted to the gas station thereby further postponing a favorite Wednesday afternoon confection. Milkshakes would have to wait until we had the necessary petrol to get us to our shake destination and beyond. The Martin 3 were all set for milkshakes. We had just come from our usual milkshake purveyor whereupon we were informed that the “shake machine just went down.”

Milkshakes would be had, but first gas.

640px-shell_gas_station2c_opuc5a1tc49bnc3a12c_brno_28229As I set the pump to go, placed the nozzle in the gas receptacle in my van and began to pump, I leaned my weary back against the van and watched the numbers steadily move upwards. It had been a long day and even just a few minutes of peace propped against my van were welcome. Immediately the solidarity of my prop began to waver. Indicative of the wiggly occupants, my van gave way to the force inside.

“Be Still!” I commanded.

My youngest had an “itch.”

Again, “Be Still!” Again, protest from inside.

Garbled words I couldn’t make out beyond the itch issue and looking for something. The van continued to shift beneath my back, “If y’all don’t be still this the van’s gonna roll right away!”

Hearing the words from my mouth caused me to pause and look around. In my head I had planned to sound like a stern Mama who means business, one who would never entertain such frivolousness as a milkshake on a Wednesday afternoon. Out loud I sounded like a hypocrite with a tremendous Southern drawl. I knew it and my kids knew it. The lady at the pump facing me knew it.

“Be still.”

I hear this phrase often. He is not one to order folks around, and by folks I mean near anyone but the 3 Martin kids. So when he says this to me, I know my husband, Scott Martin, has reached the point of exasperation.

“I said Be still!” They’ve heard him say it to me multiple times in the course of their lives, so when I said it to them I suppose it didn’t really give them cause to act.

When I was a kid, my mama used to say the same thing. She has said on more than one occasion “You weren’t a bad kid you were just into everything. I couldn’t turn my back on you for a second.”

Not a bad kid. Not a bad adult, I just couldn’t, I just can’t be still, or at least that is how it sometimes feels.

Being Still requires much in the way of self-control. It requires that I am intentional about what I am doing, or not doing. To be still requires not just self-control but a concerted effort to do just that. To be still requires practice and patience, I am seriously lacking in the latter. Ninety-Nine percent of the time Scott Martin tells me to “Be Still” I am completely unaware that I am not “being still”.

girls_in_pewWhen I was little the “Be still” would often come when I was in church, it would be commanded as I received a hearty pinch on my shoulder from the church pew behind me. I recently learned that horses respond to pressure and release. In a sense I was the horse, Mama the horse trainer. That pressure on my shoulder was my signal to be still. To be quiet. To cease doing whatever it was I was doing. Evidently, horses are better learners than I because I still struggle with this one.

I spent some time a while back focusing on the Being Still. It might be because my Mama painted Psalms 46:10 on a 4 foot tall canvas that hangs in my living room, or the fact that my Husband makes that statement to me no less than five times per week, or perhaps it is because it seemed for a while that no matter where I went those words were chasing me. I’d be in a store minding my own business, doing my dead level best to stay on task and get a move on, when all of a sudden I’d look up and there it was, scrolled in some fancy font on all manner of surfaces.

Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

It would seem I needed a reminder or several as it were, to Be Still. That prompted me to think and ponder on it. If I want my children to retain something, I do not have the luxury of telling them one time and it sticks. I must say it repeatedly. Sometimes I have to demonstrate what I want them to know or write it down. Often times, I then begin to rhetorically converse with myself about the monotony of having to repeat myself and how wearisome it seems. It takes me back to a time when Maggie Martin hadn’t been Maggie Martin all that long.

She was 18 months old when she got off a Greyhound bus on Good Friday Morning at the downtown bus station and her life with us began. From the very beginning food was, and still is, a big deal to Maggie, she is all about quantity. Quality, not so much. She’ll take a sub-par all you can eat buffet, over a smaller portioned gourmet meal any day. I reckon that is rooted in memories of when food was not always available or nutritious.

In the early days, I spent the first several years of her life attempting to repair her poorly nourished gut. It was one such occasion when I learned a valuable lesson. It was early, like dark-thirty early, like every morning before and every subsequent morning, she wandered into my room, stood on my side of the bed and in her toddler voice said, “I’m hundry. I want a tootie from Piddly Widdly.” (Translation, “I’m hungry! I want a cookie pexels-photo-89690from Piggly Wiggly.”)

As I did every morning I got out of my bed hauled my tired ol’ self to the kitchen and began preparing her daily oatmeal. The entire time she would protest.

“I don’t lite oat-milk, I want a tootie!”

She was letting me know, just like she did every morning that she did not prefer oatmeal, she would like to have a cookie. My rebuttal was always the same, “We don’t eat cookies for breakfast we eat oatmeal.” Everyday I would then sit down and feed her said oatmeal whereupon she would declare, “I lite it! I lite oat-milk!” My response was always the same, “Yes ma’am you do.”

She would then complete her breakfast and we would begin our day, long before the sunshine would. The battle won until it repeated itself again the following day just as it happened the day before. One particular morning I must’ve grown weary of the oatmeal versus cookie battle because I looked at her and said as I placed the prepared bowl of oatmeal on the table, “Maggie, what in our history together makes you think I am going to let you have cookies for breakfast?”

She just looked at me with her big brown eyes, eyes that had seen more in their 18 months of life than many adults have and continued on with her oatmeal protest. As He is accustomed to do, the King whispered in my ear. “Amy, That’s exactly how you are with Me.”

I realized in that moment that what Jesus was saying was there was nothing in our history together that dictated He is ever going to fail me. Nothing that set a precedent that would indicate He is not going to keep His word. Yet I often find myself in a tizzy of sorts, ceasing to be still and in doing so, not knowing that He is God; failing to acknowledge that He is in control.

Maggie had yet to understand that her days of worrying over food or lack of were over. She had yet to understand that she actually liked oatmeal and it was good for her. That as her Mama, I loved her and would consistently provide for her what she needed. By persistently putting into practice what I knew was true, I eventually convinced her once and for all.

I know because she no longer asks for cookies for breakfast, she asks for oatmeal and even makes it herself.

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A Weird One

Giggles. “I just noticed how weird his….Bahaha his eyes look.” – Shelton.

Weird had most definitely been the word of our day. As this weird day had drawn to a close I was snuggled on the couch with Shelton and Maggie. We’d watched a special on the Terracotta Army buried in China and a documentary on William Shakespeare. We’d decided we would like to visit China and Stratford-on-Avon. The classically educated Shakespeare provoked the weird eye comment. Words like rhetoric and logic Latin and Greek recognized by my own classical learners. Shelton’s giggles and observations served to remind me of the bizarre and weirdness of that day.

As the dawn broke that morning and the earliest of Martin risers meandered to the kitchen it was apparent that today would be an “off” day for Maggie. Her choice of a paring knife to spread her homemade butter and jam onto her scrambled eggs evoked a foreshadowing of the “off” day. She “forgot it wasn’t toast.” Those days are ones where things are just off. Her struggles more apparent and obvious to those of us who spend everyday with her. It grieves my heart but kicks me into gear knowing she needs more in the way of help.

Scott Martin had finals that week. Finals mean the louder of the Martins vacate so as not to disturb the test taker. An off day, a plan to vacate, and a to do list a mile long. I should 2005_honda_odyssey_lx_-_nhtsahave deduced early on… weird was in my future. So as my tired old minivan wandered down the roads of Gardendale I shouldn’t have been surprised when the low flying bird collided with the front of my van, death instantaneous, the impact propelling the dead bird carcass onto my windshield wipers where it became lodged.

A little known fact, when I get nervous I laugh. I laugh a lot, an uncontrollable, awkward laugh. Birds are not my favorite. Birds make me nervous. The dead bird on my windshield thrust me into such a fit of laughter I could no longer drive my vehicle and was convinced I might be forced to abandon it on the side of Mt Olive Road. The Martins all having witnessed the event and now witnessing their Mama lose it all had various comments.

“Did that really just happen?”

“Oh it happened!”

“I can’t even!”

I fought hard to compose myself. The decision was made to pull over near a grassy area and propel the dearly departed via a wiper blade into the grass where he would return to earth from which he came. Still experiencing after shock fits of laughter, a short time spicy20chicken20cowlater we reached our destination, the local Chick-fil-A. Charlotte had been saving her gift card she earned early in the summer rocking babies and feeding toddlers during a babysitting gig. The time had come for her to relinquish it in exchange for a much desired spicy chicken sandwich.

As is customary, Shelton chooses a table, gathers condiments, and the girls and I obtain the food. As we sat down at the table I was seated directly across from Maggie. In the same position at the table behind us was another family. A common denominator was obvious to me as I looked around our dining table: three separate families, all with multiracial children, two of which were seated in the exact position. To my right an exasperated mom of said children and who, in the words of Maggie, was “talking mean to her kids.” Soon the mean talker mamma left and another weird thing happened. Maggie and her opposite table counterpart were clearly affected. Maggie watched intently as the woman gathered her children and looked at me with the question she asks often, “Why do people talk mean to their kids?” The counterpart at the opposite table shed tears. Soon he was wiping his eyes with the recycled paper made napkin. Within moments Maggie was doing the same.

54c6bfefb302dd3b87d157dae74c5981I offered all I could to Mag’s, the only balm that can truly ease a broken heart, prayer. We prayed for the mama and we prayed for her kids. We prayed for the weary and the broken. We asked for forgiveness if we’d acted in such a way that doesn’t honor our King. After our prayer we carried on with our meal. The crying counterpart continued to mourn.

The weirdness of the situation, the seating arrangements, even the unspoken thread that seemed to link them, a history of mean talking did not escape me. Wounds made long ago by mean talking and mean acting that still feel fresh when confronted with that mean talking mama. Soon our meal came to a close and we moved on with our day. We giggled as we talked about the bird incident and how Daddy would react when we told him. We laughed hysterically when I purchased “Jesus’s head stickers” that Charlotte promptly placed in the glove compartment for safe keeping. Everything about that was weird.

Soon we arrived home and the weird gave way to mundane, that was until the Shakespeare observation. Did Shakespeare have a lazy eye in need of correction? Maybe some not yet named ocular disorder. Perhaps the artist’s rendering was inaccurate or he spilled some ink in a most unfortunate place when depicting the famed playwright. As Shelton surveyed the likenesses on the television screen, he had drawn the conclusion that regardless the etiology, Shakespeare looked weird. As I made my way to bed that night I gave thanks for weird, for unique; most of all I am thankful for laughter and for a King who freely gives it as a balm to the weary and broken soul.

A bit more weirdness to brighten your day!

Pig photo credit

 

Spectrum of Faith

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Years ago, I made a conscious decision to see the world the best I could the way my son Shelton does. To understand how he thinks and what he feels, to do my best to understand the world from his perspective. Years ago, the word autism became an everyday part of my vocabulary. Years ago I was devastated, there is no cure, there is no explanation. It simply just is and I was angry that it was our is.

early-diagnosis-autism-neurosciencenews-publicI felt I was armed with little in the way of resources, so I made the decision to learn and understand, to read and to inquire, arm myself with information and pray. I would, I have, I do pray. A lot. In the beginning I asked my King to take it away. Upon reflection of my past behavior, that tends to be my go to with King, just take it away and then I do not have to deal with it. Clearly, I avoid conflict. Clearly He does not seek my counsel on what I think is best for me. When He does not honor said request, I then become angry, indignant, and attempt to give the King the silent treatment. This proves to be a futile effort, rudimentary in its effectiveness. Eventually faith and trust give way. I accept the is, and I make concerted efforts such as the ones laid out above.

Now, many years later, my efforts are not always as intentional. One such instance happened a couple of years ago. I was scanning the radio stations when I heard an interesting talk show debate of sorts. The voice of the host, the lack of inflection and excitement despite the passionate subject matter, seemed vaguely familiar to me and I continued to listen. Over time, I grew to like the show host and co-host. Their discussions were informative and varied, but I could take them, or leave them, all contingent upon the next song played. My opinion and understanding changed entirely the day I heard them discussing how the parent of an individual with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was told by a person of authority that this child was incapable of having a relationship with Jesus. In essence, the authoritarian told the parent to give up hope and not to expect from his or her child the impossible. I was stopped at an intersection, headed into Fultondale. That discussion marked me. It immediately gave me cause to listen. I turned the radio up and settled in.

I’ve also made a conscious decision to be honest, to be candid, if I’m gonna lay it all out there I ain’t even gonna try to lie. So here goes honesty, it marked me because if I am honest, I will admit the very thought has crossed my mind. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a relationship with Jesus hits the top of my priority list for my children. It is often the answer to the rhetorical “Why I do what I do” or “What are we doing?” If I do nothing else in this life I want their relationship with the King to be better than my own. All of my children have professed a relationship with Jesus, each one fleshing that out as uniquely different as they are.

pexels-photo-207653Shelton, randomly just told me he loved Jesus and that was that. He isn’t such a big talker about it. He rarely gets emotional. Being the overly emotional and dramatic individual that I am, this is a concept I have difficulty with. As I listened to the radio that day the host divulged a fact about himself. He reported that he too was on the autism spectrum. He then debunked the entire theory that the individual in question could not have a relationship with Jesus. I ain’t even gonna lie here, I got out of my minivan elated, an extra pep in my step. Hope again prevailed and I carried on about my day a little lighter.

From that point on I was what they call “a dedicated listener.” Shelton most especially enjoys the show. To date my favorite was his reaction to the discussion that revolved around “Fiddy Cent” and his large donation to the Autism Society (fueled by his indiscretion at an airport involving an individual on the Autism Spectrum). Between Shelton and the host’s explanation on how it feels to be bullied when you are on the Autism Spectrum, I was enlightened. All I can say is, I had no idea. It was eye-opening.

It is now customary for us to listen to the show as we traverse the Alabama terrain going from place to place. On just such a day recently my wandering thoughts were focused on what my ears were actually hearing. It was a discussion on the emotional matters. The scenario being described, I’m familiar with. An emotionally driven and charged time of reflection, worship, prayer, a box (or twelve) of tissues scattered about the premises, crying and hugging and crying and more hugging. My emotionally dramatic self loves a time like that. I’ve been a puddle lots of times, but as my world has morphed into that of being the mom, and as my age has progressed and time has passed, those times are fewer and far between. It is not that I am no longer moved by the King, in fact I am more moved now than ever but those moments tend to occur more in private than in public. (There’s also the small logistical detail that my dry eyes do not as readily produce tears.) Over time though, I’ve come to realize, rarely was I weeping over that which should have grieved me. Rarely did I weep because I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God, or devastated by my own sin.

So as the host described such a scene and interjected his perspective of having not understood it. He made the following statements, “Statements of the Day”, maybe of the decade…”All that is emotion. There isn’t much in the Bible about emotions. There is a lot about faith. Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.” I wrestled with that one for the remainder of the afternoon. Those I saw may have even wondered where my mind was. It was here, camped out wrestling over that one, weighing what I know about faith and service against the stated argument. I even went to the recess of my memory and recalled a statement made by a friend of mine several years ago about how the King himself, hadn’t allowed himself to be dominated by emotion and feelings, how when He could’ve buckled beneath it He didn’t. In the midst of Lego sea creations, brain-builds of all sorts, hello’s and goodbyes, errand running and lunch I wrestled, and again the King said to me “What is your name?” He asks me that when He wants me to refocus, to gain a new perspective. Declaring my name gives me cause to pause and reflect. I’ve come to realize that emotion isn’t a bad thing; God made me to feel emotion, but it is not to dominate me. All that emotion doesn’t add up to faith. Emotion is not required for a relationship with Christ, faith alone is.

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Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.

Wisdom from Children’s Books

I was on Facebook this morning and ran across an interesting article called “20 Quotes From Children’s Books Every Adult Should Know” from encurious.com. I enjoyed reading as a child, and I read to my children, so I was interested in the concept and I looked to see which quotes were chosen.

“Promise Me you’ll remember you are Braver than you believe; Stronger than you seem, Smarter than you think.” ~ A.A. Milne

The next was, “A person’s a person No matter how small” ~ Dr. Seuss. I have found a lot of wisdom through the years from Dr. Seuss.

The next quote was, “No act of kindness, No matter how small is ever wasted” ~ Aesop

My mind wandered from the article to think of the scripture from Matthew 25:40 NIV that went along with this quote. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” As I looked back to the first two quotes, I thought about what scripture would go with each of these quotes. The quote from Winnie to Pooh brought me to Luke 2:52 KJV “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and Man.” Then the Dr. Seuss quote took me to Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them; the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

pexels-photo-206673As I read through the list, my eyes stopped on a quote from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Braum – “There’s no place like home.”

Home can mean a lot of different things but I consider that Heaven is my home. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3 NIV.

The quote chosen from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery was: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

My scripture thought for this quote comes from Romans 10:10 NIV which says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you profess faith and are saved.”

The next quote was by Shel Silverstein which said,

“Listen to the Mustn’ts, child –

Listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts,

the impossibles, the won’ts.

Listen to the never Haves,

Then listen close to me….

Anything can happen, Child,

Anything Can Be.”

My thoughts went to one of my favorite verses. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NAS.

Then came my favorite Mary Poppins quote: “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun, You find the fun and Snap! The job’s a game.” ~ P.L. Travers

This took me straight to Ecclesiastes 9:10a “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

As I continued to read through the list of quotes from children’s books, I came to another of L. Frank Baum’s quotes but this time is was from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. The quote is: “The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.”

My thoughts turned to Jeremiah 1:8 where the scripture says, “ ‘Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”

When children ask how much they are loved, sometimes the answer is the next quote, “I love you to the Moon and Back.” By Tim Warnes and Amelia Hepworth.

Jeremiah 31:3 tells us “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

poor-2754335_1280Another quote in this list came from Dr. Seuss in “The Lorax.” “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s Not.”

The Bible tells us in Luke 10:33-37 ESV, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

I continued to read the article where Piglet asked, “How do you spell love?” Pooh replied, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.” ~ A.A. Milner ~ Winnie the Pooh.

John 15:13 tells us, “Greater love has not man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The last quote was from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. “Why did you do all this for me?” He asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

My thoughts went directly to my all time favorite scripture, John 3:16 ESV, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As you go through your day, look for God’s word to jump out at you. If God can speak to us through quotes from children’s books, He can speak to us anywhere and through anything. Look for God as you go throughout your day. How is God speaking to you today?

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The Day the Cows Came Home

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For reasons I do not know or have yet to fully understand – although I am somewhat convinced it has to do with dependency – financial struggles have been the baseline under which we as a family operate.

There has never been feast or famine, there has always been just enough. The summer months tend to be lean months for our budget, we barely make it to a vacation paid in full. As school starts up and the days shorten, the budget improves slightly and by the calculator-calculation-insurance-finance-53621time the Christmas season rolls around it inevitably proves to be more lean than its predecessor autumn.

We’ve learned to roll with it, define what it is, and in which season we are in. This serves to prime the pump for a miracle. There was a particular day last fall when I and the Holy Spirit alone knew the essential home item, toilet paper, was making its way to the last few sheets. As I took note of such need and asked the King to intercede I had no idea that He had just that day prompted a dear friend to purchase the biggest pack of Angel Soft my eyes had ever seen. Then in a fish and loaves kind of move, that toilet paper seemed to go on and on. When one roll was placed on the holder to either be folded or wadded (I’ve learned there are two kinds of people in this world – wadders or folders – I am the latter, a fact I find ironic as I am disheveled in most areas of life save the one).

The following month The Lord Jesus used various anonymous gifts to sustain us through those lean times: a gift card here, a “I’m cleaning such and such out, you want it?” and the such-and-such would be precisely what we needed. I would find myself recollecting “The Green Grape Story.”

grapes-frozen-fruit-summer-organic-115007.jpegMany years ago, before I knew what it was like to rely on God to provide, I heard this story. I listened and can still recall the details of, at the time, a very foreign concept to me. The speaker was conveying how her young daughter, had requested green grapes for her snack. The Mama knowing full well grocery and payday were a bit away, made no promises that green grapes would be in the near future. That afternoon when the Mama arrived home, someone had left a box of random grocery items for the family and there among the items was a bunch of green grapes. There are times of lean when I recollect the “Green Grape” story, and I am reminded that Jesus knows exactly what we need and delights in giving us good gifts.

The Angel Soft from Heaven has been just one of the tangible ways The King has met our needs, and on a recent Cow Appreciation day I was reminded of another. It is no secret that the Chick-fil-A (CFA for short) is a Martin family favorite. When given the choice, it is always a chosen eatery. As recent as the day before Cow Appreciation Day, I had to decline a request for lunch at the favorite restaurant of choice, noting the dwindling budget and sighting the “sandwich stuff” already at home in the Frigidaire. I reminded my children that we would be dining at home sans chicken and waffle fries. They reluctantly accepted my verdict and we made our way home. Early the following day I was perusing the internet, researching, investigating and figuring out just how to make that tight budget just a wee bit more flexible when I stumbled across the Cow Appreciation day info. As a veteran participant I knew the drill: dress up like a cow, get free food. When I made mention of it to my youngest she immediately said, “But we don’t even have a cow costume Mama but you do have that donkey one.” True, I contemplated, could I pass that donkey for a cow? Not likely. The bushy tail and oversized lopped ears are a dead giveaway. Perhaps we could make a cow costume. Perhaps, one but not the required five. “There ain’t no way” was my exact thought as I yielded to the incessant plea to just go see if we had what would be required to construct the costumes.

As we made our way downstairs I gave her the daunting task of finding white t-shirts. I knew full well we did not possess one, much less five tee shirts of coordinating colors. Our laundry piled high on a table makes finding a white shirt in in that pile more daunting than a two inch straw colored needle in a 75 foot haystack. In a matter of moments I had just what was needed for the base of the cow costume. A little more searching and a few minutes later I had a small remnant of scrap black fabric, I began to cut random cow spots.

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I expected to get no more than four or five spots but it was as if the fabric just kept multiplying. My scissors cut and the moment I looked away there was always more. The final spot was cut and I began to pin those spots in place. In a few moments I had constructed 5 costumes, cow ears and to my amazement they didn’t look all that bad.

As we arrived at our destination I marveled at how smoothly it had all come together, how the King knew the details, how He knew it would delight the hearts of the Martins to have lunch at their favorite. I marveled at how He provided in a most unconventional way. He knew I was capable of making the costumes, he expected me to take a leap of faith and at least make my way downstairs in search of supplies, and he knew I would be delighted to have an opportunity to craft and create with my youngest.

His word says that He will give us the desire of our heart if we delight ourselves in Him. (Psalm 37:4) I forget the delight part. I am all about the “give me” part, but the truth is when we delight ourselves in Him, He puts the desire in our heart and we can trust that desire is in essence His desire and He will use that for good.

The cows came home that afternoon, full and happy, giggling over bad jokes and puns that were “udderly” hysterical, having made a day of delightful memories. I marveled at how once again He who is good provided.

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V.B.S. – Very Busy Season

2014 Randolph vacation Bible schoolIt’s that time of year again! You know what I mean. School is winding down, but the kid’s ministry at church is gearing up. The Big Week is just around the corner – that life-changing time for kids in our communities. Crafts are being dreamed up and inflatables reserved. What is it?

VBS!

You are most likely familiar with these letters. VBSVacation Bible School, that focused week of Bible teaching and fun for elementary kids that many churches offer each summer. Maybe yours is the first week of June, or maybe it’s mid-summer. Whichever it is, plans are being made, supplies are being gathered, decorations purchased, cookies and Kool-aid donated, and folks in your church have begun praying for the salvation of the children that will attend.

pexels-photo-83761But possibly when you see those letters, VBS, all you can see is a Very Busy Season. You think of all there is to do before the end of the school year, and you just want to rest when it’s over. Or you think of the challenge ahead this summer – keeping the kids entertained so you don’t hear continuous whining and fighting. Perhaps you’re in the heat of planning a family trip, getting ready for a wedding celebration, or transitioning a graduating senior to college. Even if it is something more constant like a demanding job, being a caregiver, or fighting a terminal disease, many of us can only see the busy-ness at this time of year.

1000w_q95Whatever season you are in at the moment, I challenge you to get a VBS mindset! VBS is the Vital Business of our Savior! This concentrated time of teaching, prayer, and fun, is crucial for the spiritual life of our children. Those who are in lonely and broken situations will be able to experience the love and acceptance of the Father through the hands of those VBS workers. The hurt and wounded will hear stories of God’s healing and redemption of any situation. Hope is given to the heart of many a child during VBS.

pexels-photo-261895But most importantly, this is an opportunity for each child to come into a saving relationship with his/her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How are we to know but what this may be their only exposure to the Gospel. It’s time for us to jump in on this Vital Business of the Savior: teaching, praying, giving, setting up, baby-sitting for the leaders as they prepare, donating supplies, making things, studying the lessons to teach, planning the fun!

How will you jump in and get involved?

VBS rings out with beautiful children’s Voices Blended in Singing.

It offers Vital Bible Study to teach these little ones the ways of Christ.

It plants Victory-Bearing Scripture in each child, a seed that will grow in their little hearts like a plant and bear fruit in a future season. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

And it gives a View of our Beautiful Savior that they will carry with them throughout their entire lives.

VBSVow to Be Serving these little ones in whatever way you can, no matter how busy the season is. And remember, no matter how small or how large a part we play, we are all needed.

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16

Back to Basics: Scripture Memory

Teaching Children (Or Yourself!) to Memorize Scripture

by Joy Hutzler

Does the thought of memorizing scripture intimidate you, or worse, bore you? The Bible tells us over and over to memorize its words because they are living, powerful and necessary to effectively live out our faith.  If it’s so important to know God’s words and have them written on our hearts, why do we so often struggle to commit them to memory?  If I’m speaking personally, scripture memory is another discipline that I struggle with because it takes effort, time, and intentionality that I often just neglect.

red-bear-child-childhoodBut I’m a mom. And I have four children that I’ve been entrusted by God to raise up as arrows to send out to the battlefield.  I’d be a deadbeat in spiritual training if I didn’t equip them with the weapons they will need to be effective warriors for God’s kingdom. If they’re to fight off the kingdom of darkness and walk in the light, they will need the weapons of their warfare, which is the word of God.  So, since I can’t neglect teaching them the stories from the Bible or how to use and study the Bible, I also must train them to memorize it, so that the Spirit will be able to use it when they need it.

I have found that it’s actually not that difficult to memorize scripture. My children start learning to quote scripture once they start talking. It’s really not that hard…and I’m going to show you how to do it.  Afterward, I’m going to link to a few videos of some of the verses that my children have memorized.

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First, you need to decide what verses you’re going to memorize. A quick search on Pinterest for scripture memory for children will produce a number of links to sites that will give you lists and often printables that you can use to guide you in this process. One of my favorite lists is this ABC set. My 2 and 5-year-old learned all of these over about a 8-9 month period by just practicing one verse at a time several mornings a week at breakfast, and reviewing the old ones once or twice a week.  Mostly now that they are a little bit older, we just memorize whatever is part of their Bible curriculum (we homeschool.) But you can use verses from Sunday School or Awana programs or look on Pinterest and find a list. My youngest two (2 and 1) listen in and participate when I’m teaching new verses, and I have been amazed to see how much they pick up just by being in the room!

b2bbf98979e4eb9a5283366f44737314Second, you need to make time to practice the verse and review old ones. This could be at mealtime, in the car, or at bedtime.  Choose a time when it will be easy to remember to practice, and when you can get your hands on the printed verse (with your Bible, or a printable, or even pulled up on your phone). After you introduce a verse, practice it a few times. On the next day, practice your new verse a couple of times and pick an old verse or two or three and review them.  Literally, all of this will take 3-5 minutes at most.  You’d be surprised, though, what kind of conversations learning new scripture will start! Be alert to opportunities to teach spiritual truths and willing to take an extra couple of minutes to do so. This is the whole reason we are memorizing the Word!

Last, you’re going to need a catchy way to remember the verse. This might not come easy for everyone, so I will link below to some CD’s that are full of scripture already put to music and that might be a big help.  When I introduce a new verse, I simply look over the verse a couple of times on my own and notice when reading it if I can put it to a rhythm that will make it easy to remember. Sometimes I make up a little tune. Sometimes I have them say the verse in a silly voice or emphasize one part of the verse over another. Doing something out of the ordinary, rather than simply reading/quoting the verse, helps it stick to the brain more easily.

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So, there you have it! All you need is to figure out what verses you are going to memorize, find a time to practice, and put it to a catchy rhythm or tune. You’ll be so thrilled to see your children memorizing God’s Word, and the added bonus is that those words are settling into your heart and mind as well as theirs! It’s a win-win!

Here’s a link to my youtube channel, where I have a few videos posted of some verses we have learned. These may give you an idea of how I come up with a tune or rhythm to teach the verses.

Check out Seeds Family Worship, which is word for word scripture put to modern music.

BONUS: Scripture Lullabies are beautiful songs written from scripture, though they may not be word for word.  They are still great to have to listen to or playing in the background of your home or nursery. AND one out of ten of their CD’s is donated to a crisis pregnancy center to bless a new mom in a crisis pregnancy situation.

And finally, here is my 2 year old quoting Romans 8:28 last week.