Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"But God remembered..."

And so, I've committed to this study through the Bible in three years plan - what was I thinking? I won't lie, it isn't going well.... I could blame it on the headache or the lack of sleep, holes in my memory or kids disrupting...but what it really's just that I am not studying this Word to know the words on the page, but to know the Author, the Living Word..and when He speaks, I tend to linger long on the passage, listening to His voice. Conversing with Him. So, that old familiar story of creation is exciting, the story of Noah's ark is taking my breath away, because the Author, He meets me there, not in ink on page, but His Spirit on the tablet of my heart. And lately, I have been stuck..stuck on these four words, simple words, really.

"But God remembered Noah"

Right there, black words on white page. And I read them, words that I have read so many times before, but this time, I pause and then read them again...perhaps seven times I mouth the words right outloud. Genesis 8:1. Oh, yes, there is more to the verse...but I never make it that far. Because I've read about the storm, the waters that flood and the man and his family whom God chooses to preserve through the storm. He is an extraordinary man, this Noah. He is regarded by God as righteous...and when you come right down to it, God's judgment is the only one that matters. But, this story, as so many is not really about Noah at all, but about the God who saves, delivers, anchors. This is who I really want to know...and so I mouth those words again.

"But God remembered Noah..." Genesis 8:1a. Four words packed full for me. The water and waves, they may rock the Ark I am in, but they can not strip me of the hope of those three little words: "...God remembered Noah..." Noah was not forgotten. Did he ever feel like he was forgotten in an ark tossed by the waves and full to the brim of life - you know the kind of life I'm talking about - smelly, noisy life? I read and reread those words. The ark, a year on the water, all those living breathing animals - even a large ark would seem like close quarters for a family of eight and two of every unclean animal, seven of every clean. Let's not kid ourselves. It was stinky business. But God remembered Noah. Did Noah ever wonder when it would end, how long the flood outside would rage on? Did he ever question God? I don't know, but for some reason, I doubt it. Just considering that he did all as the Lord commanded him makes me think his faith was unshakeable. He knew his God.

So why are these four little words being played like a drum over and over in my head? What about me? I know what it feels like to be in the storm, rain falling, water rising, and the boat, it may rock, but it will never be overturned because it is held upright by the anchor of His grace. The torrents of pain swell in my head, beating like a drummer, my mind cries again for relief. But God, He gives me this, "But God remembered..." He who penned my life, the Author of all life, He remembers! His grace carries through this storm and through this trial. Just as He remembered Noah and those critters on the ark, He remembers me. He will not forget.

And then, oh, the Spirit of the Living God, He whispers this verse to me, and my heart, it leaps with joy. Isaiah 49:15-16a "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." (emphasis mine) Sweet words, aren't they? This, He whispers to a mama who did indeed forget her children...but even so, HE WILL NOT FORGET ME! Just when I feel like all is lost and that the One in whom I have placed my trust is no where to be found...just then, when the pain in my breast swells to unbearable and I feel like I have been abandoned, right there, He is with me - He is with you - HE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN. And you and I can know that He has not forgotten, He wears your name, my name, in His nail pierced hands, and just like in Noah's day, God remembers...and He is the Ark that carries us safely through the storm...the Anchor that holds when all else thankful that God remembers.

Just really, overwhelmed by His grace, His goodness...that He chooses to remember me! In the midst of a headache that has lasted too many weeks, of waking again on the bathroom floor, no idea how I got there, the tiny room spinning mercilessly around me...HE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN. He has engraved me on the palm of His hands.

And for you today? For you, His message is the same. He who remembered Noah remembers you. He sees your storm and He will carry you through. Your name is engraved on His hands and His love for you is beyond measure.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Swirling Grace

And so, there is all this beautiful grace swirling around me, and Christ alive in me. My head still aches, but what is a headache when you are holding on to the living Word - or rather, He is holding on to you? What are stacking medical bills, no insurance and short paychecks when your Heavenly Father owns it all and all you have to do is rest in Him? His grace proves sufficient in even this...and I bow head and give thanks.

The other day, I met a woman who bitterly shares her story - she is about to be evicted from her home. Her paychecks are short from unpaid holidays and weather days. And me? I totally understand because our life is much the same - yet, so completely different. For me, the bills are a matter of resting, leaning, clinging to the Living God. I breath deep of His grace and ask for faith to believe that He is enough, that I can give to this one without reserve now because I truly can not out give His abundant grace. But for her who does not know the Giver of all good things? For her it is a matter of fear and bitterness. And so I hear the whisper in my heart, "Give generously now, to this woman and her children...tell her that Jesus cares, not just with your words, but by sharing My gifts with her." And so, I open up the wallet and do what He requests. I whisper to her, "This is all that I have, but I will pray for you." She smiles cynical.

My heart, it aches for this woman, because she does not know that she has Someone to turn to, One who will hold her steadfastly, whether the bills get paid or not, who has provided for a far greater need than an earthly home...and if He could provide through Jesus, a way to have a place to belong forever, a way to be made clean and acceptable before a holy God, than surely, He can care for her every need here...she does not have to weather this storm or any storm alone, but Jesus longs to be an anchor for her soul. And so, I share His gifts, His grace with her. HIS GRACE ENABLES me to do this without fear for myself...because by HIS GRACE and HIS CALLING, I know who my Provider is. And so, for this grace, every grace, I bow head and give thanks...because I have so much more than I could ever ask or imagine. And, I bow head for this woman, asking God to break through her bitterness, her cynicism and reach her aching heart, to meet her need and to be her Provision.

And for us today, in the midst of medical bills and migraines, holes in the memory and short pay checks? Just as always, He promises to be enough...and the bills, they may pile, but never higher than His provision...never higher than His grace. And, we don't have a need that He won't meet...and His provision will always and forever be sufficient for us.

As I typed these words, just ready to hit publish, the phone, it rang. A sweet sister, she wanted to bring dinner because she knows my head hurts...and I smile. His grace is always and forever enough. Again, I bow head and give thanks to God for this provision, HIS GRACE, swirling around me, He is the Light on the darkest of days.

And before I post this, I hesitate, not wanting any to think this is a plea for money. I want it to be heard as it is meant, praise and thanksgiving for His amazing grace. So I hit save instead of publish...and save it for two, maybe three days. And what does God do? A man, he corners the husband at church and asks for the medical bills. When the husband comes home, he shares this with me and our thanksgiving mingled with grateful tears rises to the Throne of Grace, to this One who knows our every need and provides, even before we ask. As always, we are overwhelmed by His amazing much more than we deserve!

And as I begin a new day? My mind it wonders and my heart it anticipates what opportunities the Heavenly Father will give me to be His grace to someone today. So, I begin it in prayer, for eyes to see and ears to hear His voice...and a heart that does not live afraid to give lavishly as He has done for me through Christ Jesus...because really, in Him, I have all that I need.

Today, may you find His grace sufficient and His love enough. Whatever storm the wind blows into your life, may He enable you to remember that in Him, you are anchored. Winds can not blow and waves can not toss beyond the realm of His amazing grace.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Our Little School at Home

All week, the list of school closings seemed to include every school district within northern Ohio and southern Michigan, but not here. No. Our Little School at Home was open and in progress. Joshua was not too happy about that...after two weeks of the bare minimum of school due to my migraine, followed by two full weeks off for the celebration of the Savior's birth, no one really wants to start back except maybe the littlest among us. That kid loves school...except reading.

Little Hearts for His Glory

This week, we discussed Martin Luther and how he prayed and studied God's Word faithfully, trying to understand how man could be right with God. And, these words "The just shall live by faith" that rocked his world, the entire world, with one humble man's heart seeking God. He shared his memory verse on facebook to his Daddy: Acts 16:31: "They said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.'" Hearing his little voice quoting Scripture delights this mama's heart. One day, he got to make a box for art to help him remember that "The just shall live by faith..." and that getting to heaven is not something we can ever earn. He was stunned when he realized people believe that there is any other way to heaven than Jesus. Love the way that this sweet little curriculum speaks to my son's heart.

His handwriting is really progressing, and I am so pleased. He actually begs to complete extra pages of A Reason for Handwriting. I am so thankful! We are using The Reading Lesson for reading, and I enjoy how simple it makes reading. Although, I have found that he needs more practice on concepts than are offered, so I am trying to make cards of new word groups as he learns them. That way, we can practice word groups and rules apart from the book. Reading is his least favorite subject!

For my oldest, I used Math U See for years, but with this littlest one, I am using all of Heart of Dakota's recommendations. He LOVES math (Singapore Kindergarten B). He begs to do more daily. This is so refreshing!

Missions to Modern Marvels

The oldest kiddo is doing great. This week he studied George Washington Carver, a man of faith for whom we both have great admiration and respect. He studied World War I and the Roaring Twenties. He wrote his paper on the fashion trends (giggle giggle), complaining the whole time to his mama that it was really a difficult topic to write about. His Bible study on Romans, James and Galatians is going well and he is memorizing much of Romans and James for Bible Quizzing (only God could orchestrate that HOD Bible study is the same as the text chosen for Bible quizzing). Math (we are using Saxon) is SLOWLY progressing. I am more concerned that he has a good grasp on the concept than I am about keeping up with the lessons. We skipped grammar and dictation this week, mainly because I am struggling to accomplish much and trying to catch up with the house work that has suffered. Really, though, his grammar skills have been so strengthened since we switched to Rod & Staff, that I am committed to use this curriculum from the beginning with the little guy! For science, we are not using the recommended HOD resources, although they look really good. Instead, he is completing Apologia Exploring Creation Through Biology. My guy is really enjoying this and is slightly hesitant at dissection, but we are working through it. Overall, a good week!

Ever thankful for the Lord and His provision of a curriculum that draws me and my kids closer to the Him. He is so good and I am so blessed!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Health Update

I just wanted to post an update to my health, for those of you who wonder how I am doing and have been praying. Today, the headache, it still racks my brain. It is my daily goal - one which I fail more than succeed at - to focus on the graces and gifts that I have been blessed with, rather than complaining about the pain. As for my memory, it is still not completely restored - but I think most of it is back. That is kind of said with a question mark, because really, it is hard to know what you don't know.

There are things that I am very aware that I don't remember like getting married (but I most definitely am - everyone in my family assures me). And so what do you do with that? How do you make it okay to sleep in bed with a man that you speak of as your husband, but that your mind just doesn't remember becoming your husband? We did the only thing we could: Friday, January 10, Todd and I chose to commit anew to our wedding vows before the Lord with our children, a sweet Christian couple, and the former pastor of our church and his wife in attendance. We were so blessed! The pastor's wife prepared a beautiful reception of cake, tea and punch. It was a precious time of renewal and fellowship. Several people have asked me if I have looked at our wedding pictures to help trigger my memory, and I said, "Well, no, I never thought of that." But let me ask you, if I don't remember getting married, how likely is it that I remember that I have a wedding album? That is right. Of course, it never occurred to me to get out the wedding album, because, honestly, I did not know that one exists.

And then, there are other things that I don't remember, like a person that I met at church. I see her face, I know that I should know her, I chat with her briefly, but her name...well, I am not sure - did I ever know it or have I just lost that memory? Remembering that we have a new pastor at church - although I guess he has actually been the pastor for a couple of years, Todd tells me this and it seems familiar, right - and the memory comes back. Someone asks a question and it seems buried, like I know the answer, somewhere in my head, but it is going to take some digging to uncover the memory. And then, I remember - all foggy at first, but then more clearly.

The medical tests have come back negative for a stroke, for any blood clots or bleeding on the brain. These are all good things. So, the doctor thinks this is just a migraine, perhaps antagonized by sinus if there is anything "just" about a headache that has hung on for over three weeks and has robbed of memory. But, this is good news, and so we bow our heads in thanksgiving.

Overall, I am doing so much better and am ever grateful and humbled by your prayers. I am functioning normally (mostly) and completing the tasks the Lord has set out for me to do each day.

All any of us have is this present moment, and so I pray God will enable me to live fully in it, acknowledging His many gifts to me and constantly praying for eyes to see that He is good. His love endures, even when my memory fails, even when the head aches and the stomach turns, through every circumstance. He is an ever present help in times of trial, He is a strong tower and He invites us through Christ to run in to Him. And I don't know about you, but by His grace, I am running, running right in to His open arms.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

His Purposes

The husband, he opens the Word and reads to us this cold, snowy morning. The gathering at a building is cancelled, but the gathering into His Word, into His heart, under His wing...that is not something weather can cancel. And so he reads. He reads through the Jesse tree Scriptures, picking up right where we left off when my headache hit and my memory failed. Oh, I know that it is after Christmas, but this anticipating His does not end with the celebration of His birth. It begins with that day, unfurling hope in our we await His coming again.

And so, this husband of mine pauses for us to share what the Lord speaks to our hearts. Me, I choke at the words. Every Scripture is a red cord whispering hope to me...the Messiah is coming. But this one Scripture, it corrects - it challenges me. He speaks after reading the story so close to my heart, the story of a woman who is barren...womb closed. Her husband a priest named Zechariah. He talks of what it meant for a woman in that culture to be barren. Heartache and sorrow.

Judgment, I am sure it tried to find and label their sin. That hope that every woman in Israel longed for...a blessed son, to have her part in the inheritance of Israel. Surely God had withheld a child from these two because of something that they lacked, something that they had done, some disobedience, some secret sin. Surely their suffering of the closed womb was evidence of what was buried deep in hard hearts. This is man, judging those whose hearts he can not see, judging according to man's wisdom.

But truly, it is God whose judgment matters. And what does He say? How does He describe this aged couple, time of childbearing behind them? He declares them blameless and righteous. He is going to His His way...and they have not lost hope in Him. Elizabeth and Zechariah, they have walked blamelessly before Him, through circumstances that broke hearts and challenged faith. Righteous. And so, He describes His servants. Him whose judgment is right and true.

The closed womb was for His glory, not for His judgment. Those who judged, judged wrongly. They were not able to see the purposes of the Lord. He brings this child to a faith-filled couple and this child will turn hearts back, preparing the way for The Child. And the Lord uses these two whose hearts have faithfully waited on Him to birth and raise the one who announces the Lord's coming.

My eyes, they brim with tears as I remember the people in my life whom I have wrongly judged. My eyes, they are too oft blind to the high purposes of God, so I foolishly think that a struggle in a friend's life, it must be because of some silent sin, some wrong decision...when really, it just might be that she is righteous and blameless in His sight, clinging in faith, tightly holding to the promises He has whispered in her heart. And me, I have no wisdom to understand her trial. I am blind to her heart and have no vision of sin lurking there, just because of the circumstances she endures. To my sin and to my shame, I have too oft done this unrighteous judging.

And so, I confess and repent. I flee to the Savior and ask for forgiveness and grace. I seek grace and wisdom from Him, His Truth, so when my sister-in-Christ calls with her struggles, she will not find a harsh judge, but instead encounter a grace-filled friend, encouraging her and pointing her to the Savior, speaking His grace and His love to her.