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Nature Study for the Very Young {Plus Birds of Northeast Printable}

I wanted to share a few thoughts on Nature Study for the very young. This fall, I’ll start integrating “Little B” (3 years old) into our homeschooling day. Of course, nothing will be formal because at this age play is the best tool for learning — and little boys don’t sit still for long.

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But when we all go outside, we’ll bring Little B into nature study because it is completely natural for us to all observe the world we live in.

I think homeschoolers make nature study too hard, like there’s one way to do it right. We take all the fun out of it when we expect our kid’s nature journal to resemble a Marjolein Bastin print.

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Nature study is really quite simple. Everyone goes outside to observe and appreciate the surroundings. You can go on an old familiar walk and note the changes in the season as the green grasses turn to lavender hued flowers, or watch the progress of a local corn field.

In our family, we note the changing seasons, the flowers, birds in our own back yard, the cranberry bogs as they flower and the fruit grows. If you have a little one, maybe he gets excited when he sees a spider, toad, or army of busy ants.

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Why do nature study?

According to Anna Comstock, the author of the authoritative work The Handbook of Nature, nature study serves to:

  • cultivate the child’s powers of observation
  • build a knowledge of natures forces so they aren’t helpless in a disaster
  • cultivate a child’s imagination
  • give him a perception of what is true
  • discern and express things as they are
  • cultivate a love of what’s beautiful
  • give them an abiding love of nature

Anna warns against forcing nature study:

“As soon as nature study becomes a task, it should be dropped.” “If nature study is made a drill, it’s pedagogic value is lost.” pg. 7

Of course, she blames the teacher for mishandling the subject because she believes the world is full of wonder.

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Keeping a Nature Journal:

There are so many misleading notions about keeping a nature journal that I want to share some direct quotes from the Handbook of Nature Study:

“No child shall be compelled to have a notebook.” (Interest should drive this, and if you keep one, most likely your child will want to as well.)

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“The making of drawings to illustrate what is observed should be encouraged. (A drawing is better than a long explanation.)

“The spelling, language, and writing of the notes should all be exempt from criticism.” (This isn’t grammar or spelling class.)

“The book should be be considered the personal property of the child and should never be criticized by the teacher except as a matter of encouragement.”

Blueberry Picking at Grandpa's

Anna instructs the teacher to inspect nature notebook to enter into companionship with the child, or to evaluate where his interests lie so you can spread a larger feast of knowledge in areas of his interest on the next trip outdoors.

Hope poked holes into an old milk jug to make a watering can.

Practical aspects:

The field notebook should have sturdy paper able to tolerate watercolor, and  fit into a child’s bag or pocket.

The child should be free to choose his own medium, either pencil, crayon, or watercolor and should be trusted to know which medium will best reflect the object he is admiring.

Showing me the brine shrimp.

Let them begin with anything that catches their interest: plant or animal. As children get older, they may branch out into landscapes and other creative lettering in the journal.

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Don’t criticize. Remember that this is a personal pursuit.

Anna Comstock on the child’s journal: “They represent what cannot be bought or sold, personal experience in the happy world of out-of-doors.”

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Tools I’ve used over the years:

Pocket Watercolor Box

Moleskin Unlined Pocket Journal

Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils (especially great when you have lots of kids. You draw with the pencils, then apply the water when you get home! Sanity saver!!)

A few examples of early entries into a nature journal by my own 3-7 year olds.

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Other articles on the subject:

Video: Adding Watercolor to Your Nature Journal using 3 colors.

Bird silhouette for beginners

Summer: The perfect time to begin nature study

Charlotte Mason on Taking Kids Outdoors

Birds of the Northeast

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links to products I love and recommend.

White Supremacy and the truth about my heart.

It’s easy to see the ignorance of the White Supremacy movement, and I hope as Christians we’re quick to condemn the hate-filled rhetoric behind such groups. I trust we’re quick to promote the  heart of the Savior and take extra care during these tender days to love our brothers and sisters who are the targets of these hurtful displays.

White Supremacy is so distasteful, so blatant, that I can easily call it out and condemn it–

but, at the same time,

I know that Satan is laughing at me because I hold a detestable supremacy of another sort in the deepest recesses of my heart.

And while I’d never push for White Supremacy, boy do I volley for my own sovereignty whenever I’m confronted with something distasteful or unwanted.

  • It could be something as simple as an interaction with an rude person.
  • Maybe an inconvenience due to someones negligence.
  • Being misunderstood.
  • Being mistreated by someone who should know better.
  • A physical limitation.
  • Waiting when I’m in a hurry.

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When faced with unwanted circumstances, my flesh rises up, my heart beats fast, and I raise my clenched fists, demanding my rights. I rally for my own supremacy, instead of acknowledging the One who rules and reigns over all, and who appoints all my days and interactions. My fists are shaken towards Him. Can you even imagine the audacity? The shock? I’m privileged and easily annoyed and you can see how this doesn’t mesh with the Spirit-filled life.

When our flesh rises up, we need to check our entitled attitude at the foot of the cross.

In times of irritation, inconvenience, or unpleasant circumstances, my heart’s responses reveal exactly what I believe about myself and my God and these are the moments,

the hidden moments,

the heart moments,

when I have to lay aside all my rights and kneel before the will of God.

After all, I’m a Christ-follower.

An imitator of Him.

His divine DNA is pulsing through my soul and I cannot live with this dichotomy without hurting and hindering my fellowship with Him and those I am called to love (especially when they are annoying!)

Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus made himself nothing.

Christ stripped himself of all privilege.

He signed up to become a slave for my benefit and yours. He accepted God’s will, even when it involved a gruesome death on the cross.

And here I am, annoyed when asked to endure the smallest inconvenience.

  • When my kids forget something and I have to make another car trip.
  • When my husband forgets something I asked him to remember.
  • When I have to serve God alongside people who disappoint me.
  • When my Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha comes with whipped cream when I asked for none.
  • When people take advantage of me.
  • When the car breaks down.

I like how Elisabeth Elliot puts it:

“Often in the smallest hidden matters of the heart’s attitude, it is that the deepest spiritual tests are given to us. And the reality of the spiritual life is revealed in those small, hidden matters of the heart.”

As we grieve and speak out against the sin of white supremacy, let’s also pause and address our own heart’s supremacy which must be destroyed as well.

How is God testing your heart today? What trial are you face to face with in this moment?

Where do you feel entitled? Superior? Where do you demand respect and compliance?

In the areas of disappointment, inconvenience, or any distasteful thing, can you accept this as from the hand of God and simply part of the way He has ordered your steps for your own good and His glory?

We won’t grow while our hearts are hard and demanding and we can’t embrace God’s will with clenched fists and stiff necks.

Today, whatever comes your way, humble yourself.  View each interaction as appointed by God for your good and growth. Let the Bible set the parameters for your actions and reactions. It’s easy to say we have faith in God, but true faith in God embraces His will, loves what He loves, and strives to obey His Word in action and reaction.

 

 

 

When Trials Meet A Specific Need

The Christian life should never be marketed as the way to an easy life. In fact, we should be honest and admit that taking the name of Jesus Christ will bring trouble of all kinds.

Once you are “born again” and God’s new “DNA” pulses through you and the Spirit of God prompts you towards Christ-like living, the struggle gets real.

You can’t lie on your taxes. You won’t hate that neighbor. You follow Christ wherever regardless of who likes it or who opposes. You stand up for the oppressed making waves with the powerful of this earth. You won’t do what you used to do, isolating you from family and friends.

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Everyone has trouble in varying degrees and the trials themselves are “varied.” 1 Peter 1:6 uses the word “manifold” or multi-colored, multi-faceted. Layers upon layers. Too messy to explain. Different from anyone else but “common”.

Some trials meet a specific need. 100% tailored for you. What about when God sends you a gift that He chose specifically for you and you open it to find out that it’s a great big trial? 1 Peter 1:6 says that sometimes they are needed. “If necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.”

This is hard to swallow, isn’t it? We want all the good without the bad. Gifts without the gall. But God knows the big picture and allows a trial for our betterment…  because it’s the VERY thing we needed.

As Christians, we aren’t living for the here and now. We are being prepared for a future, our life and inheritance in heaven. We’re also being prepared for future ministry at the revelation of Jesus Christ. If we could keep that in mind–that this trial, if responded to properly– will help me to praise God and show His glory more accurately now and at His coming, we’d see things a little more clearly.

If you’ve been alive for any period of time, you’ve seen people make the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe they fail to consult Scripture and make poor decisions. Maybe they say no to obedience or compromise on the “little things.”

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I’ve watched as Christians enter and exit failed relationship after failed relationship like a revolving door. The details may change but the root causes are all the same. They leave a church or a spouse or a longtime friend or a job. It’s never their fault. They’re always the victim. They’re always disgruntled and vocal. They’re usually pretty blind and oblivious to their own struggle and how others perceive them.

In my own life, God has used various trials to teach me lessons. When people fail me, I’ve learned to stop looking to people to meet my needs and to put my trust in God. When people have hurt me with words, I’ve learned to look at my own speech, and watch my own words fiercely because word-sins are far reaching and we pay “double” the price here and in eternity as we lose respect and relationships on the altar of saying whatever, and we give account at the judgement for every idle and evil word we’ve dished out.  When people don’t have the capacity to love me because of their own junk, I can look to Christ who loved all the unlovely at His own expense and still choose to reach out to them because my needs are already met in Him. Whenever trials are recurring, God is working at something deeper than the “surface” issues we assume. He’s trying to release my death grip on some idol, or cause me to see Him as greater. He wants to kill my pride and grow my humility and love.

Perhaps you are someone who struggles to forgive and you seem to have an endless list of offenses to forgive. You work at it and pray about it and spend inordinate amounts of time obsessing over wrongs done and then praying for a forgiving spirit. This is a trial. The people you are offended with may change, and the situations may change, but at the end of the day (or the decade!) you still hold a grudge and fail to love. You still have malice and jealousy rooted firmly in the soil of hate in your heart. You feel discouraged because you try, but God continues to bring “manifold” people into your life to rub you the wrong way and you are still on Satan’s short leash in the forgiveness department.

Of course, unforgiveness is not a Christian virtue so God brings another trial. “If necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” God is going to bring you to the point where you see that your unforgiveness is not ultimately the problem. He’s going to wear you down and show you that the pride in your heart that causes you to be so constantly offended and unloving is what He’s going for. You might be content to work on forgiving. God says that a humble man in un-offendable and He wants your deeply rooted pride gone.

Whenever you are in the middle of trials, remember that this moment is not all that there is. Eternity is coming and today’s trials are the schoolhouse God uses to prepare us for living today and for eternity. Trials are a grace, friend. They’re hard, yes. They hurt, sure. But they are controlled by God. That’s a comfort. We have hope. He’s not trying to “kill us” or make our life miserable. His intentions are for your betterment and His glory. He desires to make us just like His Son, Jesus. What could be better than that? Who better to emulate?

What do you need to let go of or put on in order to be conformed in these needful trials to God’s will and the image of His dear Son, Jesus? Are you willing to do it? Let’s face it. Sometimes our flesh rules and we don’t listen to the Spirit’s still small voice prompting us. If you want to follow the Spirit more than your flesh, say “Yes, Lord” whenever you are prompted to obedience or are reminded of a convicting Bible verse.

Humble yourself. Be watchful and aware of whatever short chain Satan has you leashed to, be it unforgiveness, addictions, anger, laziness, whatever. Resist and persist.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

 

 

Love the Imperfect “Right Now”

Yesterday, I woke with the knowledge that I was already behind. Coffee mugs, ice cream bowls, and popcorn kernels graced my kitchen sink and told the tale of the late night festivities that come with a house full of older children and their friends who come alive at night when I am ready to collapse into bed.

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An untidy house can send me over the edge depending on my mindset. (Did I mention I was tired?) Plus, my to-do list was long and our little one was up three times the night before.

These are the days when I feel my lack: not enough time, skill, wisdom, wit, energy,or money to create the life I’ve crafted in my mind as “ideal” and I feel myself sinking into discouragement.

And it’s rough, dear friend, when you hang on to ideals and compare them to the life that is right in front of you right now. It’s a sure fire way to make yourself miserable.

Today, maybe you are lacking as well. Maybe your ideals and your present circumstances are nothing alike. You believe you need:

  • more understanding to be a better wife,
  • more patience to be a better mom,
  • more money to provide better meals,
  • more wisdom to relate to people better,
  • more opportunities to get ahead,
  • more organization to be efficient,
  • more free time to pursue hobbies and dreams.

But here’s the thing: the need for more is a little lie I tell myself. It stems from a heart that believes that God short-changed me. The belief of “not enough” is a poor-me mindset, living like an orphan who needs to fend for herself, when I am in fact, a daughter of the King who has promised to take care of every one of my needs.

This quest for more because of a perceived lack is not a new phenomenon. No, it’s as old as

  • Sarai who wanted a son pronto, so used Hagar to get her way
  • the Israelites who needed better food because they were fed up with manna,
  • David, who believed he should have more in the wife department so killed and committed adultery to get it,
  • Annanias and Sapphira who wanted prestige and all their money at the same time, so they told a tall tale.

The lie of “Not enough”, when mulled and meditated upon, when toyed with and hand-crafted in our thoughts and imaginations, emerges as a micro-idol that lodges into my very being like a parasite. I barely know it exists until it shows itself in the unexpected moments:

  • complaining
  • blaming God
  • sour attitude
  • depression or apathy
  • lack of submission to others
  • demanding my own way

No matter what form it takes, its core of self-reliance, discontentment, control, and self-pity must be rooted out with gospel-truth.

My lack is supposed to show me Someone who never lacks and is all-powerful. It’s meant to break the death grip I have on preserving my own life through my own resources, and pry away my fingers so that I can gently hold the hand of my loving Heavenly Father who wants to provide what He knows is best for me.

The truth is that I have everything that I need in Christ. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want/lack.” This truth has been a great simplifier for me in my Christian walk. I can be at peace knowing God always gives me what is good and is too good to withhold any good thing from me.

When dishes in the sink mount, and dust flies in the air, and I can’t seem to get ahead, I need to preach to my own heart that failings don’t define me and inadequacies don’t disqualify me from the love of God. I can love the imperfect present because I am loved in spite of my dirty dishes or toddler who tantrums. I’m cherished regardless of how put together I am in the moment because God’s love is not about me measuring up. I’m still in His care when I’m exhausted and depleted and frustrated and feel un-spiritual. I still have His resources when I’m disappointed. And you can rest, too, whatever your lack, real or perceived. God has us where we are for a reason, and He will never give us something that is not for our good. Learning to be content in this present place is where the gospel-work is being done in our hearts today, friend. Let’s let God do His work in us.

Love,

Sarah

New Year’s Resolutions for the rest of us.

This post is for women who can barely get ready in the morning without littles banging on the bathroom door, for the mom who is nursing a baby and trying to train toddlers, the one who can barely eat a meal while it’s warm without an interruption.

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This post is for the mature woman who is caring for an aging parent  whose days are more like one continual stretch, dotted by doctors appointments and scares at the ER.

This post is for all of us who are caregivers by choice and nature, whose days and schedules are not our own.

This post is for all of us who want to make New Year’s resolutions but who are too scared or too realistic to try anything “big” because big dreams require chunks of time and we don’t have that right now.

Me? I’m in a season of homeschooling and carpooling and caring for a just-turned-3 foster son whose needs are ever evolving and whose care consumes most of my days. So setting anything but the most basic goals is not a realistic option for me.

As Katherine Brooks pessimistically replied to Anne of Green Gables hopeful ideas for her future–“Bend in the road? There’s no bend in my road. I can see it stretching out straight in front of me.”

If you’ve chosen a life of caring for others and your schedule is not your own, and there’s little to no “bend in your road”, and you’re feeling a little down about that, wondering if your life will matter, here are a few thoughts I’ve been processing myself, that I hope will encourage you.

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  1. Success is not defined solely by doing great things. Success is doing small, faithful things with great love.
  2. Success is not reserved for the woman with no boundaries or constraints on her life. Success is doing what you can with what you have. Many of the greatest inventions were born out of need not abundance.
  3. Your quiet time may not be as quiet as you like, with toddlers on your lap or interruptions that you can’t avoid. Remember that Bible reading is only half of the equation. Meditation is the secret weapon that brings change and peace. So even if you’ve only got 5 minutes to read the Bible, you will benefit greatly by meditating on what you’ve read throughout the day. I try to write one truth on a 4″X6″ card to remind me of the verses I want to think about that day.

Reading is the exposure to the Scripture, but meditation is the absorption of the Scripture.

Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life

When living your daily life, even when your time is not your own, you can still grow spiritually by asking this simple question before you act or react: “What will bring the most glory to God?”

Spiritual growth can happen no matter what our circumstances because God uses ordinary days to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus.

  • So on the days when you feel like you have no control over your situation (kids sick, dog throwing up, money tight) ask, “What does the Bible say about this situation?”
  • When you are unsure about the future, ask “What truths about God do I know for certain?” and meditate on those.
  • When you are frustrated or feeling stuck, ask “What is God teaching me about contentment and godliness today?”

For all of us with no foreseeable bend in our road, we may not have grand goals or plans for the next year, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t set our heart to seek the “things which are above, where Christ is”. And isn’t this what true spirituality is all about? Seeking God’s will and glory faithfully, right where you are, trusting Him with every detail of your life?

Happy New Year, friends. May we all be faithful wherever we are and love God and others more in 2017.

Measuring God’s Goodness, In Joy or Trials.

How do you measure God’s goodness to you?

If you are like me, you tend to equate material and physical blessings with God’s smile, and hardship and trial with God’s frown. When my kids are doing right, and we’re on top of the world (aka organized and on track for school) or when God provides ministry opportunities and we see fruit in our work, then God is blessing us.

But the dark side to this thinking is that when trouble strikes, we assume Satan is after us because we’ve been so righteous (pride) or that God’s somehow withholding blessing from us (self-pity…aka…pride).

Looking back at this past year, our family has had tremendous blessing. We’ve traveled more than ever, enjoyed health and happiness in our family, grown in size with a new son-in-law as our daughter married, and we’ve seen God provide in miraculous ways for our family. If I’m not careful, I can equate God’s goodness to us as a correlation to our performance or His happiness with our family.

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Our family has also known worries and trials that we’ve never experienced before with the care and keeping of our foster son. Emotional unrest, uncertainty, and fear were all very present in 2016. If I’m not careful, I can equate all of this to God’s displeasure or a reflection of our poor performance in our Christian lives.

The wonderful truth about God is that He is good to His children because that’s His nature. The end. It’s not based on how good we are. This is at the heart of the gospel. God seeks us when we are sinful and unlovable, and does all the work to save us. It’s not about us or about our performance. I don’t know about you but I need this reminder daily.

This small line of verse has been ringing in my ears for the last 6 months:

“Every joy or trial, falleth from above,

Traced upon our dial, by the Son of Love.”

“Works Christianity” can creep into my mindset so easily, even though I’ve fought that natural teaching my whole life, and worldly philosophy like Karma and survival of the fittest can jade my worldview, distort the truth of the gospel, and rob my joy.

Circumstances are not an indication of God’s pleasure or displeasure, love or coolness toward me. God’s act of sending Jesus to die for us on that bloody cross is the final indication of His love for us.

When we have plenty of money, lots of opportunities, when life goes smoothly and people treat us with love and respect, God does indeed love us.

But when God seems distant, and everything we touches falls apart, when money’s short, and hurt surrounds us, God also loves us.

Whatever comes our way, “every joy or trial”, comes from His good hand and it’s intended to bring us close to Him.

Whatever accomplishes that,

whatever makes us look up at Him, whatever strips us of our own delusions of goodness or self-sufficiency, whatever makes us realize how small and out of control we are apart from Him, whatever drives us to cling to Him as our only Hope, that is exactly when we can see the love and goodness of God despite the circumstances.

This past year, despite highs and lows like we’ve never experienced before, the goodness of God’s love has shined through the circumstances and God’s grace has shown us His presence.

In the end, dear friend, God is the goal and to know Him is the stabilizing factor in our lives.

Whatever your goals for 2017, don’t assume that God’s goodness is measured by the amount of ease, plenty, respect, happiness, approval, or health you’ll experience. Good or bad, come what may, be willing to embrace everything and anything as from the Father’s good hand, knowing He’s there with you and present, and that is the ultimate gift.

 

A Mary Heart During the Busy Season

Got a minute? Good. That’s all I’ve got these days. So my posts will be short, because we’re all busy.

Christmas hands us a never ending to-do list: present-buying, baking cookies, decking halls, and family parties. All this merry making can be exhausting.

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Tis the season when we tend to neglect our souls. {Yes, you, mom.}

How can we accomplish so much without becoming frazzled?

How do we keep our hearts focused on Christ in all the clamor and noise?

The only way is to choose the “one needful thing”–a mental “sitting at Jesus’ feet” during the hustle and bustle of the season.

This is done by dwelling, living, staying in the “secret place of the Most High.”

Ps. 91:1 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the Shadow of the Almighty.”

At the end of a busy day, I love sitting and staring at my Christmas tree. It’s calming to my body and restful for my mind.  In the same way, our soul is refreshed when we gaze at the Light of the World, and reflect on His beauty and goodness. When we are still and focused on the only One who will truly satisfy every longing in our heart.

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You may not get long periods of time to physically sit, but it’s a mental mindset that is thinking heavenly thoughts while carpooling kids and speed-cleaning the house. It’s remembering His faithfulness as we fold our clothes and set our table.

I noticed this “dwelling” this morning in the Luke 2 narrative of the Christmas story.

Mary and Elizabeth both had “dwelling hearts.” Mary’s mind was focused in the whirlwind of events happening around her. Her heart was humble and her eyes spiritual to see what God was doing in her home and in the lives of her friends and family.

We see Mary’s humility in her words: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Basically, I want God’s will for my life and will embrace it immediately, wholeheartedly, even if it means people will misunderstand or life will be hard.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior.” Her focus in on promoting the Lord and agreeing with what God was doing!

Notice that Mary does not focus on herself. She’s not gloating. She’s thankful to be part of God’s redemption story to redeem mankind.

Elizabeth is another example of a humble, God focused woman. She’s spiritually sensitive. When her cousin Mary comes to her home, pregnant with the Lord Jesus Christ, we see her humility in this statement: “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

She feels blessed to have Mary, pregnant with the Savior entering her home. No animosity, no jealousy, no soap opera drama, no comparing, no thoughts of “She was chosen to have Jesus and I’m just having John the Baptist.” These women were righteous, inside and out. Not perfect, but striving to do right, and dwelling on the bigness of God and aware of all that He was doing around them.

And that’s our job today as well. You won’t be visited by an angel, but we’re all part of God’s redemption story as well go about our lives building and promoting the kingdom of Christ in our own little corner of the world.

Pray for eyes to see what God is doing and how He can use you.

Embrace your “lot” in life as “servants of the Lord,” like Mary and Elizabeth did. God is in control and you and I are part of His story. A humble heart and a heavenly mindset will help us to embrace our little piece of God’s story with contentment, joyfulness and anticipation of the great things the Lord will do for us!

So happy serving, and may your heart also rejoice in God your Savior as you cook, clean, carpool, and love the people God sends your way.

Additional Articles to Inspire You:

Have a Mary Heart includes two acrostics. Which one are you?

Scurrying or Seated by Karen Ehman

This interview with Pat Berg on how she does her quiet time.

Also, how Sally Clarkson approaches her quiet time in Walking with God for the normal, everyday mamas.

DIY Doctored-Up Dollar Tree Church Ornament

Wanted to share an easy craft I’ve been working on for Christmas.

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I love New England churches, so when I saw that Dollar Tree had these ornaments, I snatched up a bunch to doctor-up.

I simply added twine, plaid ribbon from Michael’s Craft Store, and mica glitter with a glue gun to add “snow” to the roof line and perimeter of the church. You could also add a silver bell in place of the pine cone that comes with it.

They’ll be really cute attached to brown paper packages.

Enjoy.

Spanning the racial divide with authentic love.

The news of this past week has left my mind spinning, my insides churning, and my spirit grieved.

News of two African American men shot on video by the police as a first response rather than an absolute last resort, and then news of five officers shot down by snipers in retaliation has left me heart sick. These men, all made in the image of God, are now gone, their names now reduced to hashtags and public comment and the careless words of the passing scene.


How do you respond when people are killing other people and the racial divide seems to be wider and deeper and more sensitive than we’ve seen for a very long time in this country? What can we do about this problem? Is it even solvable? How much do we tell our kids?

I’m going to share a few disjointed thoughts. Please give me grace as I speak from my own experience, with no pretense of being an expert of any sort on this subject.

On Comforting the Mourning.

When heartache comes to any people, I believe we should reach out to them. We should grieve with those who grieve. I believe we’ve failed at this when we wait to see if they “deserved” it or not.

One night I was at the Jordan Hospital, visiting a family member who had been brought to the ER. I was waiting outside after a very long night, and I saw a woman stumble into the parking lot, sobbing, crying, “He’s gone! He’s gone. I can’t believe he’s gone.”

I ran over to put my arm around her and offer her any kind of comfort I could, and to guide her out of the middle of the road where she was about to collapse, and through whispers of several other people nearby, I learned that she was weeping over someone who had died young by overdosing on heroin.

Even though drugs was the cause of the death, and some would say that he basically did it to himself, this woman was really still grieving and the Christian thing to do at that moment was to comfort. This woman will hear the “facts” for the rest of her life. Heroin killed that person. He did it to himself. The junkie got what he deserved. I’m sure she’ll hear it all. But regardless of the facts, this fallen world hurts, and loss and grief need to be acknowledged and comforted and wept over.

In talking to my AA friends who are also believers in Jesus Christ, they say that the white community has not been there for them in their sorrow. That our silence reads as unconcern and indifference.

You cannot comfort someone who believes you don’t even notice enough to comment, can you? I see this as a problem because all Christians should be known by their love as THE distinguishing mark of a believer.

I know white people who don’t speak out because it seems like whatever language they’ve tried in the past, it’s somehow given offence to their black brothers and sisters. We don’t want to offend, so we stop talking all together. But I’ve learned that this is not the right response.

This week, in the wake of such horrible events, I texted several AA friends, to let them know that I love them. I talked to our dear friend, an AA police officer, to let him know that I am concerned for his safety and to hear his thoughts. These are people I dearly love, who we “do life” with, worship with, and whose kids sleep at our house and vice versa.

The Influence of Faith During Trials

I have personally been encouraged and strengthened by watching my AA brothers and sisters in Christ react to this heartache. Isn’t it true that during times of trial and tribulation, persecution and grief, that God’s glory shines brightest in a people who are praising him through grief-stricken hearts?

On Sunday morning at our church, my heart pretty much melted inside me as I listened to one of our AA deacons who I love and respect so much, open the service in prayer and pray for our country and for the heartaches of this “standing congregation.” Mr. Green always praises God for answering the prayers of the saints and being near in times of trial, and calling us to draw closer to the God who gives breath, and knows every individual need and heartache. He always talks in terms of “us” because he understands that there is no Greek, or Jew or any distinction. He exudes faith and trust and hope, and I am instructed and strengthened every time he prays.

I’ve also appreciated the openness of many of my AA friends who are also bloggers and writers and pastor’s wives, who’ve encouraged dialogue and allowed hard questions to be asked without taking any offence. I’ve learned by watching their holy example.

What Can Be Done?

I’ve seen a lot of people on FB and social media asking what can be done? Where do you even start?

I’ve been praying about this all week. Of course, we want the Holy Spirit to lead in all that we say and do, so that’s where we need to start.

As you pray for guidance and a tender heart, I truly believe the Holy Spirit will guide you into the right course of action. Your assignment may be different from mine on a practical level, but the big picture will be the same: bring glory to God by loving all people well.

Here are a few of my “answers” after much prayer this week:

I’m praying that God would open my eyes to people who are overlooked, hurting, or disenfranchised–black or white.

I’m going to speak up and affirm those I love, rather than assuming that people know I care.

I’m starting with the people who God puts me into direct contact with physically/location-wise. I am more responsible to God for the people He providentially puts into my path today, than to those I’ve never met.

I’m talking to my kids about loving others well. I am responsible before God to train my kids to love others well, do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. You are responsible for your closest sphere of influence as well.

I’m listening to learn. We all have preconceived ideas and prejudices, don’t we, whether black or white? We all see life through our own lens. Listening and considering another person’s experience and point of view is how we build bridges instead of building walls.

Right Response

I’m praying that we would all respond righteously as we are each responsible for our own actions and reactions.

I’m praying that we’ll be quick to share the gospel of reconciliation. We know that there will never be peace on earth as long as sin reigns. This makes us long for heaven when all injustice will end and wrongs will be made right. People need the Lord.

We know that the behavior of the world is not necessarily the behavior of the saints. The church should be a little taste of heaven here on Earth with the unity of the saints a picture of what is to come. I’m praying that the church would love more and more and that we’d be the unified bride of Christ.

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

 

 

One little phrase that has helped me so much

I recently shared with a friend a tiny phrase that has been “revolutionary” to me. It’s pretty much changed my outlook on everything.

Although I’ve read this phrase many times before, somehow the truth of it took root several years ago and gave me such comfort and encouragement that God is aware of every detail of my life and I can trust Him and obey His Word with confidence.  It has helped me so much and I want to share it with you today.

"The Judge is at the door."

“The Judge is at the door.”

It’s in the book of James, chapter 5, after a lengthy discussion about what genuine faith looks like, and after multiple warnings against using our tongues to sin, chapter 5 gives us this encouragement to be patient with others and to stop grumbling:

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Do not grumble, so that you may not be judged. Don’t assume the position of Judge by badmouthing people in your heart or under your breath or you’ll be judged–oh and by the way, the Lord is listening –He is standing at the door–and will act soon. So, watch your own words and don’t sin by complaining about others. This will give you less to answer for.

Here’s a mom-example:

Have you ever entered a room only to overhear the tail end of a “gripe-fest”? When the kids see mom, they stop, because mom has expectations and “griping” isn’t tolerated. Mom’s the “judge” in the house -and just her physical presence is reminder enough that bickering is off limits and she’ll punish those who disobey the family rules and injure others with their words.

This is the picture we have here.

The judge is standing at the door.

  • So no more complaining. Watch your words. Be careful of your heart, because Jesus will judge you and them.
  • No more two-faced speech, blessing God and cursing men because God is aware and will act.
  • No need to set the record straight or seek revenge, because Jesus is near and He will judge.

Even our unspoken words and the discontentment that lives in our hearts are known and seen by the Judge.  Motives are clearly seen as well. This realization should make us do some self examination.

This has helped me to ask,

  • Am I being obedient with my speech?
  • Do my words show the marks of a person with genuine faith?
  • Are my words laced with wisdom and goodness to everyone I come into contact with?
  • Am I justifying sinful speech because I feel I have a good reason to complain?
  • Am I living with the realization that God is near and real, or am I living as though He’s inconsequential and my action/words won’t have consequences?

When others lack integrity of speech, it can be tempting to complain in our hearts about their failures and recite their wrong doings over and over again in our mind. But this is unnecessary because their words have nothing to do with us, and everything to do with them–and God will judge them.

We don’t need to worry about injustices or past hurts because God sees and knows all of it and will judge righteously on our behalf.

For those of you who have been hurt by people who should have known better and who will never on earth apologize or admit fault because of their own pride, God will judge them. We can take comfort in the fact that He’ll do a just job of judging and we can give up that grudge and stop holding vengeance over that person’s head. God is God and He’ll do what is right.

“The judge is standing at the door” is also a reminder that we live for an audience of One. 

It’s an encouragement to speak with integrity because Jesus commands it. It propels us to love the unworthy and unlovely because God commands it.

Instead of murmuring about the difficult people in our lives, we are given the opportunity to practice patience with those who sin against us. God’s not done with them, and He’s actively teaching me through their undesirable action, to see if I’m going to obey and trust His word and leave the judgement to Him.

The judge is standing at the door– He expects me to obey. Isn’t this what genuine faith is all about? Living in the reality that God is really real and that He has expectations for my life? When I claim to be His follower, I am bowing my will and desires to His better path and plan? 

There’s comfort knowing that He’s in control, good, just, and He will judge.