Today I met a man named George. I was out running a couple of errands and saw him when I stopped at a red light. He was holding a sign that said, “Homeless. Please pray for me.” I pulled out some money to give him as I do when I feel the Holy Spirit’s nudging like that, but when I handed it to him there was something different in his eyes. He smiled and thanked me as most usually do, but then he said something else that got my attention. He said he knew God would provide. He told me his name and asked me to pray for him and when I told him mine he said he would pray for me. I promised him I would pray for him. I did, and will continue to.
As I drove away, my eyes were filled with tears and I just felt like I needed to do more for George. My heart was humbled as I thought about the joy that was showing through his eyes even in the middle of his circumstances. Here is a man living on the street with nothing but a backpack and he’s going to pray for ME? This isn’t the first time I’ve been awestruck by someone who, by worldly standards, has nothing yet they are obviously filled with the Spirit and therefore have everything. Without a doubt, I know that it is not our worldly possessions that bring great rewards in Heaven.
My Hubby and I have talked about evangelism lately and this meeting today had me thinking – why is it so hard for those of us living a comfortable, Christian lifestyle to talk to others about Jesus? We get so wrapped up in what people will think or what it might cost us that we don’t often enough talk about all that God has done in our lives. Why can someone who seems to have nothing, see so much more clearly all that God has done for them – and be so willing to share that with anyone who will listen? George had my attention for probably less than a minute at the red light, but he didn’t let that moment pass without sharing his trust in God.
God’s word tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. Even if you don’t sew, I’m sure you know how tiny the eye of a needle is compared to how enormous a camel is. I don’t want to be that rich man (woman) that cares more about clinging to what I have than about helping those in need.
As I turned the corner at the next light, I knew what I had to do. I stopped by a bookstore and bought George a Bible. Emily picked out a “31 Days of Prayer” book for him too. We grabbed a bottle of water and headed back to George. This time we pulled in and parked so we could walk over and chat with him. Emily gave him the bag of chips I had bought her at our last errand, along with the water. I asked him if he had a copy of the Bible with him and he said he did not. So I gave him the Bible with the “To/From” page in the front filled in. We chatted for a few minutes and he said he had been out on the streets for a few weeks. He said he had made some mistakes in his life and was dealing with some of the consequences. I didn’t ask what he had done because it didn’t matter. We’ve all made mistakes. Then he said, “I know that God will provide what I need. I just have to have patience. I hope…no, I KNOW, that he hasn’t forgotten about me.”
It was all I could do to keep my tears in my eyes until after I left him. I told him that God had most definitely not forgotten about him and that He will provide for him. We talked about how even in our hardest circumstances, God is there with us. He said he was just trusting that God would send someone along to give him some work. He had been to the shelter here, but said it’s always full.
I wish I could have just taken him home with me. In the end, we left him with a hug and a promise to pray for him. I know he has enough money for food, and I do know that God will provide for him, but I still wish I could do more.
As we pulled away, he was looking through his new Bible. I prayed that God would allow him to understand everything he reads. I don’t know how much experience he has with it, and I know some of it can be confusing, but I know that God can allow those words to penetrate his soul and that he will understand what he needs to. I was hoping he wouldn’t just start with Leviticus and get frustrated or confused. After I got home I decided the next time an opportunity like this comes up, I will give out The Jesus Storybook Bible instead. It’s sold as a children’s Bible but it is the best one I have ever read and is written in such a way that is perfect for adults as well. It tells some of the most commonly known stories from the Old and New Testament, and then explains how every single story points to JESUS.
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. Just when you think you are blessing someone else in need, he uses that situation to bless us in return. I hope to see George again, and I hope that I never forget him as I strive to live the life I’ve been given and as I look for ways to let Jesus’ light shine through me to others. Jesus tells us over and over (and over and over) again in His Word to help the poor and the needy. This needs to be more than an occasional handout. It needs to be our lifestyle as followers of Christ.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that what we do for others we do for him. That should motivate us to do more. I pray that I see clearly the opportunities that God puts in front of me and that I am obedient to act. Let us all look for those opportunities to spread the love of Christ. To HIM be the glory!
The title will make sense in a moment, just hang with me!
This morning our Mother-Daughter devotional was from the book of Malachi and talked about tithing. I know, most people don’t look forward to “The Tithe Talk” at church because they often feel like the church is just asking for their money. So many people are struggling to make ends meet or are living paycheck to paycheck so one more place asking for their money tends to put people off.
Let me encourage you to hear me out from a different perspective.
I mentioned yesterday how the Lord took my husband and me through a season of learning and some very difficult financial times early in our marriage. Oddly enough, it was during this season….during our hardest financial times…that my husband and I first began to tithe with any sort of real commitment. It was during this time that we learned what it truly means to depend completely on the Lord as our Provider. Another name for God is Jehovah-Jireh, which means “The Lord will provide”.
God tells us in His word to tithe, which means to give 10% of what you earn back to His kingdom. The word “tithe” literally means 10%, but of course that is the minimum, not the maximum that God wants us to give. He tells us to do this FIRST, not last. BEFORE you pay bills or buy anything for yourself.
He wants our BEST. Not our leftovers. Years ago in a Sunday School class we were discussing this and talking about how bakeries often sell “yesterday’s bread” at a discount. Sometimes it’s still ok, but often it’s old & stale. Nothing compared to fresh, out of the oven bread. God asked them to give 10% of their firstfruits – the best of the best. He didn’t want them to give “yesterday’s goat” – their sick, injured, or leftover animals. We even had t-shirts made up to remind us of this. They were great conversation starters too! The “29:11” in the picture refers to Jer 29:11, and was the name of our class at the time.
I’m sure many of you are asking, “How can I do that when I don’t even have enough money to pay my bills?”, and I understand. I was there. Or maybe you are thinking you can’t possibly tithe the whole 10% because you have bills to pay and mouths to feed. I hear you, I really do. I say you CAN do this. You can’t do it by relying on your own strength or ability. The ONLY way you do this is to TRUST HIM completely. He will provide for you.
In fact, this is the only place in the Bible where God tells us to test him!
“ Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10
So, we tested him in this, and you know what we found? God wasn’t kidding!! He threw open the floodgates of heaven and blessed us abundantly! Every time we gave our tithe – and many times I cried as I gave because I was afraid and relying on my own ability to provide – He showed us that He had it covered! So, so many times when I wrote out our budget on paper there wasn’t enough to pay everything. But EVERY SINGLE TIME we were obedient and gave our tithe to the Lord, he blessed us!
It’s not always easy. One of the lines in the song that I mentioned yesterday says, “though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name”. There were many days that there was a lot of pain in my offering. I wanted to be a cheerful giver, but I would cry wondering if I was giving the money to the church, or to God instead of the electric company or instead of providing food for my baby.
Not ONCE in many, many months did we ever end up missing the money we gave as tithe. A surprise check would come in the mail, bills would be less than expected, someone would give us some food…..so many examples of the Lord using other people to provide for our needs.
Notice I said he provided for our needs, not all of our wants. We did without some things, embraced Ramen noodles and found free sources of entertainment. But we never went hungry, without clothes, or without shelter. We also did not use any debt or government assistance during this time. Credit cards aren’t your savior – Jesus is! It was all God!! He alone provided 100% of our needs.
If you are in a season of financial difficulty, or even if you aren’t – I encourage you to test God in this! Start tithing faithfully, and see what happens! Do it first, at the beginning of the month, before you start paying the bills. Then watch and see what the Lord does for you during that month! Give Him a chance!
Read Matthew 6 today – the whole chapter. It’s no coincidence that the chapter starts off by talking about taking care of the poor & needy, prayer & fasting, and then finishes with God’s promise to always take care of us. When we are faithful to give to others, God provides for us. When we trust God to provide for our needs, we allow Him to work through others that are able to be obedient in their giving. Each time someone gave us money they were doing so out of obedience to the Lord. He wants us to take care of each other but we have to give him the opportunity to work like that.
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6: 25-34)
The sheep aren’t in charge – the shepherd is.
This morning in our Mom-Daughter Devo we talked about Saul. Saul did not obey God, so God took the kingdom if Israel away from him. In fact, the words the Lord gave to Samuel for Saul in verse 28 say “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else – one who is better than you.”
If something that is precious to you gets taken away, that is painful enough, but the Lord didn’t stop there. He gave it to “one who is better than you”.
My daughter and I talked about her stuffed animal collection and how that would feel if I took them all away. We also talked about how it would feel if I took them all away and gave them to someone else. How much more would it sting if I said I was giving them to someone better than her?
We also talked about how this parenting idea of taking things away as a consequence for misbehavior is not a new idea. God’s been doing it for thousands of years and He is the ultimate example of a parent for us to follow! See, I’m not the only parent who does this!
But doesn’t God love each of us the same? How can one person be better than someone else? Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are to love everyone equally?
Yes, God does love us all the same. However, He was taking the kingdom away from Saul to give it to someone who would take better care of it than he did. Someone who would listen and obey God. God wasn’t rejecting Saul – he could still ask for forgiveness and restore his relationship with God. It was, however, too late to get his kingdom back. God is a God of second (and third, and fourth….) chances, but Saul’s heart was hardened and it was time for God to take big action.
Emily said it’s just like if someone hired someone to do a job for them and they didn’t do it well. They would get fired and the person would hire someone else. YES! I told her she was exactly right and that happens all the time! That’s why we work to teach her to have a good work ethic now.
This story makes me think of my own parenting and how sometimes we have to give big consequences to teach a big lesson. It’s better for me to take away a couple of my daughter’s toys to teach her that she must take care of her things, rather than wait and let her learn that lesson when she doesn’t take care of her car, or her house. Better to learn the lesson early when the cost is less. Of course, we are human, so some lessons we have to learn over and over again as we grow.
I also think of the lessons God has taught my husband and me. Very early in our marriage, we went through a very difficult financial season. For a while, we both had great jobs and had great salaries. We also had the wrong attitude about it all. We acted like we deserved it all, we made some poor choices in how we spent it, and we failed to stop and remember where it came from in the first place and Who it truly belonged to. We failed to thank the ONE who supplied our money and instead we just valued the money.
Then, we hit some major medical issues and bills came that we couldn’t pay.
Thankfully, the Lord used this to take us through a season of learning. I can say “thankfully” because even though some of it was incredibly painful, it also opened our eyes to a new way of living – a much better way of living – that wasn’t dependent on money, but rather on HIM. We lost a lot. A lot. A house, a car, and a lifestyle. But we gained even more. For months when we were out of work with absolutely no income, the Lord supplied for our every need through amazing ways and incredible people. We did not go into debt, and we were never homeless.
There are SO VERY MANY stories within that season that I could tell about God’s greatness, but I’ll save those for another time.
This story reminds me of one of our favorite songs, “Blessed be Your Name” by Matt Redman. Let me share the lyrics with you. This song has spoken to my heart through many seasons of my life.
Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name
Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
No matter what our circumstances may be, it is our choice to bless the Lord and to praise His name. Will you choose to praise Him no matter what you are going through today? Will you look for the lesson He is trying to teach you? Will you see the rose in the thorns?
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This morning I ran to the grocery store for a few things just because the forecast says the roads might be icy on Wednesday so I wanted to be prepared in case I didn’t want to get out, but still wanted to cook meals. As I was leaving the store, it was pouring down rain.
Cold, hard rain.
Honestly, my first thought was “Oh great, I’m going to get wet with cold rain and all my bags will get wet!”.
Thankfully, it only took seconds for the Holy Spirit to fill my mind with new thoughts, and I stepped outside talking to God as I went and CHOOSING to be thankful. I say choosing, because it’s not always a feeling, but we have to make that choice to look for the good. Much like LOVE – we have to choose to love, even when we don’t feel like it.
“Rejoice always,pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Give thanks in ALL circumstances, it says. You might not feel like giving thanks FOR all of your circumstances, but no matter what we all have something we can be thankful for. Most of us have many somethings we can be thankful for.
I didn’t even run to the car. I chose to walk. After all, it’s just water. Sure I got wet and cold, but it was temporary. Today, as I walked to the car in the rain, I thought about all I had to be thankful for:
* The rain. The ground, plant & animals all need it. I thought about how many people in parts of the world would be celebrating for rain like this.
* The food that I just purchased. Fruits & veggies. Meat. Healthy, nutritious food that I was able to pick out myself. I don’t have to worry where my next meal will come from….or my next several meals. To be honest, I’m not even worried about whether or not I will eat next week.
* The fact that 2 days before payday, I had money to buy food.
* My truck. I didn’t have to walk to the store, but instead, I could get in the truck and turn on the heat as I drove home.
* My husband’s sweatshirt I was wearing – keeps me warm and reminds me of his love.
* The friends I have at PWOC (Bible Study group for military women/wives) – where I am taking part of this food tomorrow, and the fact that we can not only gather publically to worship God and learn about Him, but we can also post it on Facebook and invite people to come.
So much to be thankful for! I hope you all will join me this year in trying to CHOOSE thankfulness, even when it’s not our first feeling. Looking at this list, I realize I am RICH beyond measure – maybe not by society’s standards, but I’m ok with that.
Did you know that 1 in 5 children in America are “food insecure”? That means they don’t know where their next meal will come from. In North Carolina, it’s 1 in 4 children. I just read that a couple days ago and I can’t get it out of my head. I’m not supposed to. I’m supposed to do something to help.
Do something this week for “the least of these”. Donate goods, time, or food to those in need. I bet you’ll be glad you did.
6 years ago we made the decision to homeschool Emily. We homeschooled her for Pre-K through 4th grade. It didn’t come naturally to us at first. In fact, when we first became parents, we never even considered homeschooling. Through a series of events, and a whole lot of prayer, we felt that homeschooling was the path the Lord wanted us to take. At that time, we committed to praying about Emily’s schooling each and every year to determine whether or not to continue homeschooling or choose another option. We didn’t know if it was for a year, a few years, or forever.
This past year as 4th grade came to a close, my husband and I committed again to praying about her 5th grade year. Let me be clear – I absolutely love homeschooling! LOVE it! I love the flexibility in our schedule, I love the time with my daughter, I love seeing her learn and being a part of it. But, for a few months, I had been feeling something stirring inside of me that had me thinking it might not be the right choice anymore. I prayed about it. My husband prayed about it. We didn’t want to homeschool just because we always had or because we loved it, but rather we wanted to make the decision that was best for our daughter at time in her life.
We had some big things to consider.
One of the challenges with homeschooling for us is that Emily is an only child. As homeschoolers, we all laugh about the myth of “socialization”. It really is a myth because as homeschoolers, we are out in the community and interacting with people all the time. We also know that a room full of 20+ kids in a classroom setting are not allowed to socialize much anyway. However, there are some benefits to learning in a group. Many homeschool families have a built in group with their multiple kids. That is not an option for us. Groups of people can bring new ideas, new ways to do things, and a chance to build relationships.
Relationships. That’s what Emily was missing. Several of our close friends with kids her age had recently moved away. The Bible study I was attending with a “homeschool room”, only had a couple kids Emily’s age. Even then, we only saw them once a week and one of those two would not be returning the next year. The church we attend on post also does not have a large number of kids her age. This was becoming a problem for her. She was spending all her time with me, and while she thankfully enjoys her time with me, she was craving those relationships like we all do. People her own age that she can get to know and that can get to know her. She said once that she wanted friendships with people who “really know what things I like and I can know what they like”. Isn’t that what we all desire? People to really know us?
Ok, definitely something to consider. How can we best meet this need? We considered for a while joining a homeschool co-op, but the one that would have worked with our schedule just didn’t offer great class options. I didn’t want to have her just go take a class for the sake of taking a class. I wanted her to learn something if we were going to invest an entire day of our schedule to this co-op. We could still be part of the co-op just for field trips, but that didn’t really solve the relationship problem either, as it takes more face to face time to build those.
The more we prayed, the more we heard from Emily too. We made a point to really listen to what she was saying and found a lot of thought and wisdom in her words.
She expressed to us her desire to learn with other kids. She said she wished she could go to public school to see what it was like. She was concerned that she would hurt my feelings by saying that, but I assured her she did not. We wanted to hear her heart. She said that she wanted to be able to learn with a group of kids her age and be able to see where she stood in relation to them. I totally understood that. We know we aren’t to compare ourselves to others, but only to Christ. True, but there is something about knowing where you stand. She just wanted to know that she was on track. It’s not that she doubted my teaching ability, but she had nothing to compare her knowledge to. Are other kids learning the same thing? Do they struggle with similar things? Am I ahead? Behind? She just wanted to know.
She wanted the chance to make friends. To be around kids her own age several days a week and see the same kids. To build relationships. Even knowing that school would not be one giant field trip or playdate, this was important to her.
More and more, we felt the Lord was leading us to put her in school for 5th grade. Why? I don’t know. Maybe so we can serve someone at the school. A family? A teacher? Of course so Emily can be a friend to others and make friends herself. It would definitely give us as a family a way to reach out to others in the community and love on them. People we would have never met otherwise. We can serve the school and the people that work there. Be salt & light in the community by stepping out of our comfort bubble a bit.
I was starting to feel excited about her chance to go to school. When we first started homeschooling, I had a list of reasons why we shouldn’t. I wanted “me time” and a break. I had things I wanted to do. I wasn’t good enough to teach. In the end, I realized all of my reasons were either selfish or fear based. Fear is not from the Lord, so the more we looked at it, the more we realized we should homeschool. At the time, Emily had some special needs that we also felt we could better address at home. That turned out to be true for a few years, but as she grew, those needs diminished.
This year was different. All of my reasons for keeping her at home were selfish or fear based. I don’t want to throw her to the wolves. Is she strong enough? What if she gets picked on? What will she be exposed to? What was I really afraid of? I have MANY friends who have kids in public school and they THRIVE. I have many Christian friends whose kids are shining their light in public schools and thriving. But, I will miss her! We lose our flexibility over what we study and our schedule. Oh, our schedule! No more impromptu field trips just because we can.
In the end, I had to choose to trust GOD. Again, fear is not from the Lord!! Emily belongs to HIM and He is in control, always. If this is where He was leading us, he has a reason. I can trust Him to watch over her when I can’t be there. I trust that her faith in the Lord is STRONG and that she takes Jesus with her to school each and every day. I can trust that any situation that comes up, we can deal with it if we take it to the Lord in prayer.
So, we enrolled her in school and she was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement before it started. It was fun to see the excitement in her eyes. We as a family definitely felt this was the right thing for us to do, right now, in this season.
It’s been a month already and things are going great. I’ll share the details of how the first month went in my next post.
“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 path straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6
A couple weeks ago, my 9 (and 3/4!) year old daughter accidently broke one of my favorite coffee cups that was given to me by a dear friend. This isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, I think that was #3 or maybe 4 over the course of a year.
As you know, I have many favorite coffee cups and tend to attach sentimental value to each of them. However, I also realize they are just cups. Emily was so upset over breaking “the really special cup that one of your good friends gave you”, but I reminded her that the cup being broken does not affect my friendship with that person.
She was so upset and through her tears she wondered, “Why am I always the one to break them?” and “Why are they always your favorite ones?”. I joked that God was using her to purge my coffee cup collection! I also reminded her of 3 important things:
1) SHE is the one responsible for emptying the dishwasher and putting away clean dishes. She handles them more than I or Rob do, so she has more opportunities to drop them than we do.
2) She’s growing and learning. She’s learning how to handle the dishes, how she needs to hold them, how to slow down and be careful. She’s at an age where clumsiness can sneak in as our bodies are changing.
3) Of course they are my favorite ones! Those are the ones I use and the ones that end up in the dishwasher. She’s never broken one that was tucked back in the corner of the cabinet, right? My mom and I always joke about this – why do we always break our favorite things? Because we USE them!
I was fully prepared to extend grace to her (again) in this situation, because I’ve sure broken my share of dishes. In fact, both Rob and I broke dishes at my mom’s house this past Christmas. However, Emily insisted that she wanted to replace the cup for me. She wanted to save up her money to buy a new one. She earns money each week for certain jobs around the house and she was committed to not making any other purchases until she had bought me a new cup.
What integrity at such a young age!
A few days ago, she came to me and asked if she could do any extra jobs around the house to earn money faster in order to get me the cup sooner.
Extra jobs? Around the house? ABSOLUTELY! I have plenty of those.
Saturday came and I presented her a list of available jobs along with the price I would pay her to do them. She’s a smart cookie and chose the higher paying or faster jobs first!
The choices I gave her were:
* Clean the flower bed in the backyard (remove all weeds and dead leaves that had accumulated) – $3.00
* Remove the branches in the yard that were a result of the ice days when part of the neighbor’s tree fell in our yard, and set out by the road for trash pick-up. — $1.00
* Vacuum & clean out my truck (includes throwing away trash, bringing things inside that belong inside, wiping the dashboard, and cleaning the inside of the windows) – $3.00
* Clean my bathroom (she already does her own) – $1.00
* Clean the flower bed in the front yard (just leaves mostly, there weren’t any weeds), and a pile of leaves – $2.00
* Clean up a pile of dead leaves in the backyard – $2.00
She chose the 1st 3 and she worked HARD! She spent about 2 hours working on the flower bed, another hour cleaning up sticks/branches, and at least an hour on the truck. It was a warm, sunny day so she worked up a sweat for sure. We made sure she took water breaks and a lunch break with a fruit smoothie – we aren’t mean, you know!
We paid her for each job as it was completed, and seeing that money come in helped motivate her to keep going. It was hard at first as she had unrealistic expectations about how long the flower bed would take but a little encouragement and ideas on how to make it fun got her going again. We encouraged her to put on her headphones and some fun music like we do when we mow to help the time pass. She also gave herself little goals like “I’m going to clear all the way to that stone in 10 minutes”, and that helped to push her through.
At the end of the day, we rewarded our “employee” with a $2.00 bonus for her hard work and great attitude! She never quit or complained, but instead showed an incredible work ethic we are proud of.
Yesterday, she took me shopping to pick out a new cup!! I ended up not getting a hot coffee cup though because I found something else that will be perfect for my warm-weather iced coffee drinks! In fact, I came right home and made one. I love mason jars, and I love the color teal so this was perfect! I didn’t even use all her money. I assured her I would not make her spend more than I would spend myself – and I’m pretty cheap! We found it at Hobby Lobby for half price, so she spent $8.55 on it.
We are so proud of her for all her hard work, and I know that I will enjoy thinking of her every time I use my new mug!
Today Emily was re-reading one of her favorite books and it gave me a great idea. I wanted to share this with you because it’s a perfect budget friendly gift idea that would be sure to please most young kids. With Christmas coming, I thought it was the perfect time to share this.
The book is called Christina Katerina & The Box and is written by Patricia Lee Gauch. (You probably already see where I’m going with this…)
As the story goes, Christina Katerina and her mother are both excited when the new refrigerator arrives in its large brown carton, but they are excited for very different reasons. Christina quickly claims the box, where she creates a castle, a clubhouse, and other fantastic playthings with her friend Fats Watson. Every time her latest creation gets messed up, she simply turns it into something new until one day the box gets wet and Christina’s mother is all too happy to finally throw the box away. That is, until Fats brings over 2 new boxes from his mother’s new washer and dryer!
This book is full of the imagination that should play a huge part in every child’s life. Seeing something plain and simple and being able to turn it into something grand is a skill many have forgotten. It is truly refreshing to see children get excited about something that doesn’t light up, make sounds or use batteries.
Back to my idea…
As parents we always joke that kids would rather play with the box the toy came in than the toy itself, right? So let’s just skip the toy and give them the box!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to pair this book with a huge cardboard wardrobe box as a gift for a child this Christmas? Yes, I’m serious! Give them a box. I would bet that most children under 12 with any sense of imagination would love to have a HUGE box as an empty canvas for their creativity! I know my 9 1/2 year old daughter would love this gift idea – if she didn’t already own the book, that is. She’d still love the box! If you really felt the need to dress up the gift, you could include a package of markers or crayons, but don’t go overboard. The idea is to keep it simple. Let them use their imagination to create – and re-create – new adventures.
So skip the battery operated, noise making, video game playing gadgets and instead get to the dollar store for some extra wrapping paper. You’ll need it to wrap that huge box. Read the book together and turn them loose to see what they create.
My daughter, Emily, has always loved to play with boxes. She has made everything from row boats to castles and race cars to animal shelters – all from cardboard. She still tries to keep every empty box that makes its way into the house. I hope that continues for years to come!
Here are just a few of our favorites!
Check out another one of my low on cost, but big on imagination gift ideas: A Homemade Detective Kit!
This morning in my quiet time, I was reading in the book of Psalms and this verse really stuck out for me:
“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” Psalm 143:5
It has been on my heart lately to share with you a story of the greatness of God. Of His mighty power, planning, and goodness. I’ll be honest, there were times in the middle of the story where it didn’t feel very good. In fact, it involved one of the lowest times in my life. But through the almighty grace of my Heavenly Father, I can now look back at the “days of long ago” and see His hand in the story every single step of the way. I can see all the dots in the story and how God connected them to make a beautiful masterpiece of His love.
Many of you know about our experience as foster parents, and that throughout that process we had many highs and lows. If you weren’t with me back then, you can read some of my foster parenting blog posts here. The lowest low of all was when we had to surrender a precious baby boy that we had been led to believe we would get to adopt. Looking back it seems like we should have known differently based on our timeline. God placed that precious baby with us just 10 months before we would be moving out of state with the Army. But, I was hopeful and trusting. I figured if God wanted us to adopt him, things would move fast. Well, they didn’t. Because that wasn’t God’s plan all along.
It turns out that while we were caring for “Little Bear” as we called him, another family was taking classes to become foster parents. They had no children of their own and wanted to help other children and grow their family through adoption. They got certified as foster parents just in time for Little Bear to go to their home just as we were getting ready to move and had to find him a new family. Coincidence? No way! That, my friends, is our Father’s perfect timing. His ways are higher than our ways.
Now he is with this wonderful family being loved on, cared for, and CHERISHED every single day. He knows what it’s like to have family and friends. He is learning of God’s love and one day he will be able to grasp how deep the Father’s love is for him as he gets to look back and see how God had a plan for him before he was even born.
How do I know all of this? Because a dream came true! One of my disappointments when we had to surrender our foster son was that we would not be able to see him again or know how he was doing. I desperately wanted to be able to talk to the new family, but CPS would not allow it. It was heartbreaking to say the least, but I already wrote about that in another post.
But God is GOOD! He is amazing, really. And just about a month ago, by the grace of God and the wonders of technology – Little Bear’s mom…the one who adopted him and now can call him her own….contacted me via Facebook. She had been wanting to contact me for a while but wasn’t sure I’d want to hear from her. I definitely did!
I was so thankful! I knew I would never find her. I knew her first name because of conversations I had with the birth mom right after he left us (even then I would have never spelled it correctly!), but I didn’t know her last name or where they lived. I had sent a letter with Little Bear to the adoptive parents that included a DVD full of pictures and some information I thought would be helpful for them to know. I included my contact information in case they had any questions at all. Unfortunately, the CPS worker tore off my contact info before giving them the letter. At least they got the pictures! Once the adoption was final, the parents got to see his full foster care report and our names were in there. As a side note – that information shouldn’t have been in there and our personal info should have been kept private for safety reasons. In this case, I’m glad it was in there.
Now I’ve been able to connect with the woman who has given Little Bear a forever mommy & a daddy. I’ve been able to see pictures of him and how he’s grown! He looks so happy and is obviously very well loved and cared for. And just now, the story has come full circle as this family just accepted their first foster placement since bringing their son into their home. Now they have a couple more kids to love on for as long as God has planned.
What a blessing that is from God, and one I don’t take lightly, that He has let me see clearly HIS hand in HIS story as a reminder that He is always there – He will never leave us or forsake us. We just have to trust Him.
God knew all along that this family would adopt Little Bear. But they weren’t ready when he was born, so God used our family to give him love in the meantime. In the end, we may not have gotten to adopt him, but our family was blessed by him & this story in a way that will never be forgotten.
Yesterday our neighborhood water company started some work on the water lines. We were warned ahead of time that this could cause some issues with water pressure or even discoloration in the water for the next 3 weeks. I pretty much blew off the message I received about it without a second thought. Until last night, that is. When my daughter went to brush her teeth and the water wouldn’t turn on. At all. I thought to myself, "They said there would be issues with pressure, not that there would be NO pressure." and then we laughed about it and moved on. Thankfully we had a couple cases of bottled water on hand from a party this past weekend, so we told her to grab a bottle of water and pretend we were camping. Later last night, our water was back on. The pressure wasn’t great and there was air in the lines, but it was on. It didn’t even cause a disruption in our day. We went without water for less than an hour.
This morning as I got in the shower and noticed the water pressure was half what it normally is, I couldn’t help but think about how blessed we are to even have water. Clean, fresh water at the turn of a knob anytime we want it day or night. I don’t ever have to walk further than about 15 feet to get to a water source in my home. I even fill up water bottles to take it with me wherever I go. I stood there looking at the clean water flowing from the shower head and thought about how fortunate I am to be able to stand there using as much water as I need to get clean, and some just because it’s nice to stand in a hot shower. I don’t have to worry about it getting in my mouth and getting a life threatening illness. I don’t have to worry about the bacteria getting in the fresh cut on my hand.
I don’t know why I’m fortunate enough to have been born here in America where clean water is more of an expectation than a luxury, but I do know that I should stop more often to truly be thankful for such things that we consider so basic. I know that I am to do my part to help others, to give to others just as the Lord has done for me. When we look at our blessings, we should be reminded to reach out and bless others.
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." When we share our blessings with others, we are also sharing his love.
In John 4, Jesus is talking to a woman at the well and he says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
Paul, when talking to the Philippians, says "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
Jesus is our living water. He says that if we drink of that water, we will never thirst. He is that clean, fresh water pouring out of the faucet – available to us anytime day or night. All we have to do is call on Him and He will be there. If we keep our eyes on Him and make Him the priority in our lives, we will learn to be content no matter what because He provides us with a JOY that can come from nothing else.
If you want to make a difference in the life of someone without easy access to clean water, consider making a donation to World Vision. They are an amazing organization working to provide clean water and improved sanitation to impoverished areas of the world where so many are dying from waterborne illness. Thank you!
Memorial Day is always a special time to us, and we annually seek out a ceremony to attend in order to show honor to all those who have lost their lives for our country. Yesterday, Rob and I participated in a new (for us) Memorial Day event that I was introduced to through my Crossfit box called Memorial Day Murph. We may have a new family tradition!
Many Crossfit workouts are named after heroes – various people who have lost their lives in the line of duty. “The Murph” was named after a Navy SEAL named Lt. Michael Murphy. The story has it that this particular workout was one of his favorite crossfit workouts and he performed it multiple times a week. Unfortunately, on June 28, 2005 he was killed in action in Afghanistan. Now each year on Memorial Day, Crossfitters from all over gather together to complete this workout in his honor, and also to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
Oh, and to make it even more challenging….to truly do this workout Rx style (“as prescribed”), you also wear a 20-pound vest! We didn’t do that this time, but many people did.
My local box made this into a huge event! So many people came – from our own box, and other boxes in the area. There was food and a bounce house for kids, and so many people bringing donations for the Wounded Warrior Foundation! The workout was split up into heats of around 10 people each that were staggered to start every 30 minutes.
Rob and I were part of the first heat and I think we did great! My amazing hubby agreed to do the workout with me and was by my side the entire time. Running is still really hard for me (but I’m getting better!), so my runs were super slow – but he was right there pacing himself with me! He could have easily lapped me since he’s an experienced runner, but instead he was right there beside me cheering me on (and even singing to me when I asked for music) as I jogged my way through that first…and then the last…mile. That meant the world to me! I was so proud!! I managed to run the 1st mile COMPLETELY without walking at all! That was a milestone for me. When I first started Crossfit, I could barely run 200m (1/8 mile) without stopping. I might have been slow, but it wasn’t a race. It was all about each person doing their own workout competing only against themselves.
When I went into this, I told myself I would be proud of myself if I even completed 1/4 or 1/2 of “The Murph”. I’ve never done it before, and I’m still working on my very-scaled pull-ups. In Crossfit, scaling an exercise means adapting it to your ability. I can’t do strict pull-ups yet, so I use a resistance band on the bar that I put one foot in to help provide some assistance in pulling myself up. The bands are like giant rubber bands in various strengths each providing a different amount of help. I use the biggest one that gives the most help….for now. My goal is to be on a much smaller band, or not at all, by next year!
Anyway, I was shooting for completing 1/4 – 1/2 of the workout, but when I hit the 1/4 mark I knew I could keep going! Then I got to the 1/2 mark, and I knew I still had some life left in me so I kept going some more. Just past the halfway mark, my muscles started to fail so I set my sights on doing 3/4 and I did it!!!
I did 75 pull-ups, 150 push-ups, and 225 squats! Then, I completed the last full mile run again with Rob by my side. I did stop and walk a little bit a few times, but I ran most of it. So so proud of my accomplishment!
1 mile run + 75 pull-ups + 150 pushups + 225 squats + 1 mile run = 1 hour 3 minutes!!
Rob did the FULL Murph in the same amount of time, but his time would have been much faster if he ran on his own. He was more interested in doing it WITH me than in getting a fast time though. I love you, Babe!!!
I want to share with you the story behind Lt. Michael Murphy. I found this posted online and it’s a great read as a reminder of why we have Memorial Day, and why we were willing to go through a little physical suffering in honor of all those men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
Why Memorial Day Murph was started:
On June 28, 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a very committed four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the unforgiving altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. The SEALs, Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell had a vital task. The four SEALs were scouting Ahmad Shah – a terrorist in his mid-30s who grew up in the adjacent mountains just to the south.
Under the assumed name Muhammad Ismail, Shah led a guerrilla group known to locals as the “Mountain Tigers” that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border. The SEAL mission was compromised when the team was spotted by local nationals, who presumably reported its presence and location to the Taliban.
A fierce firefight erupted between the four SEALs and a much larger enemy force of more than 50 anti-coalition militia. The enemy had the SEALs outnumbered. They also had terrain advantage. They launched a well-organized, three-sided attack on the SEALs. The firefight continued relentlessly as the overwhelming militia forced the team deeper into a ravine.
Trying to reach safety, the four men, now each wounded, began bounding down the mountain’s steep sides, making leaps of 20 to 30 feet. Approximately 45 minutes into the fight, pinned down by overwhelming forces, Dietz, the communications petty officer, sought open air to place a distress call back to the base. But before he could, he was shot in the hand, the blast shattering his thumb.
Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.
Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, Lt. Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.
An MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent is as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armored, Army attack helicopters. Entering a hot combat zone, attack helicopters are used initially to neutralize the enemy and make it safer for the lightly-armored, personnel-transport helicopter to insert.
The heavy weight of the attack helicopters slowed the formation’s advance prompting the MH-47 to outrun their armored escort. They knew the tremendous risk going into an active enemy area in daylight, without their attack support, and without the cover of night. Risk would, of course, be minimized if they put the helicopter down in a safe zone. But knowing that their warrior brothers were shot, surrounded and severely wounded, the rescue team opted to directly enter the oncoming battle in hopes of landing on brutally hazardous terrain.
As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, killing all 16 men aboard.
On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs, Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson, continued the fight. By the end of the two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead.
The fourth SEAL, Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket propelled grenade and was knocked unconscious. Regaining consciousness some time later, Luttrell managed to escape – badly injured – and slowly crawl away down the side of a cliff. Dehydrated, with a bullet wound to one leg, shrapnel embedded in both legs, three vertebrae cracked; the situation for Luttrell was grim. Rescue helicopters were sent in, but he was too weak and injured to make contact. Traveling seven miles on foot he evaded the enemy for nearly a day. Gratefully, local nationals came to his aid, carrying him to a nearby village where they kept him for three days. The Taliban came to the village several times demanding that Luttrell be turned over to them. The villagers refused. One of the villagers made his way to a Marine outpost with a note from Luttrell, and U.S. forces launched a massive operation that rescued him from enemy territory on July 2.
By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.
This was the second worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly six years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.