Let the poor say, "I am rich"

What makes us wealthier than having a family? Never in my life have I been wealthy by American standards, and I probably never will be. However, I was raised in a family of faith that treasured art, music, learning, and relationships and because of that, I am wealthy. Although our journey as a family has been difficult, God has been faithful and has brought us through the trials. Yesterday we all gathered for Thanksgiving. Here are a few pictures from the day.

Emily, Amy Jo, and Kayley

SIL Molly with my dad.


SIL Lori and my brother Alan with their son Jonathan.

All the grandkids at the big table!


We like to take pictures. 🙂 This is my brother Lawrence.

COUSINS!

Beyond family, Christian friends are God’s greatest blessing. My friend and co-worker Henry gave us a pinata that we had a blast with! Thanks Henry!!



We let the little guys go first so my nephews David and Jonathan got the first whacks. SO much fun!
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And now, let the weak say "I am strong!" (part 2)

Note to self: Do not attempt to blog after midnight. It will result in oddly formatted posts and a complete lack of the point you were attempting to make.

What I meant to say yesterday was how wonderful it is to have friends because they help us to be strong when we are weak. How many times in my life have I desperately needed strength? Either a listening ear or prayers or some guidance and counsel? The relationships God has blessed me with over the years have provided me with strength during the worst times of my life and have given me so much joy during the best times.

Isn’t it wonderful when you can laugh until you cry and then cry until you laugh?

Thank you for being part of my strength.

And now, let the weak say, "I am strong!"

That’s my sister in the background and some sort of ice cream and chocolate concoction we ordered at the Dairy Queen in Brownsville, TN last time we were there.

It was strong and we were weak. 🙂

Oh, yes, I am thankful for ice cream and for occasional trips to the Dairy Queen in Brownsville, TN, but mostly I’m just thankful for friendship and fellowship and all the fun things we get to do together. Isn’t it wonderful that we are wired to want and have friends? And then there are those really GREAT friendships where you don’t really have to do anything. Just being together is enough. Thank God for friends! And I do thank God for each of you. I hope you know that!

Jesus Christ, His Son

Regardless of how amazing it is that God could care for us, we would not be able to connect with Him so personally without Jesus.

One of the thoughts that gets me through life is the knowledge that the real world is still to come. A world without tears and separation. A word without misunderstandings and hurt feelings. A world of unlimited, eternal joy spent in the presence of God and those who love him.

I know that when I get there, I will never want to leave. Who in their right mind would choose to leave perfection? Who would risk walking away from that? What if you couldn’t get back? What in the world would motivate that kind of behavior?

Love would. If you lived in the perfect world but you knew that the people you loved could never come see you unless you went to get them, would you leave? Would that be enough motivation? That’s a hard decision for me! Maybe I’m selfish — OK, I know I’m selfish — but I have a hard time seeing myself leaving perfection even to go get someone else.

But that’s exactly what Jesus did. Not only that, but He became fully human. A helpless infant limited by space and time and emotions and all those things that make life so wonderful and messy at the same time.

That, my friends, is love. Jesus had everything that you and I have ever dreamed of and He left it. No guarantees that any of these crazy people down here would ever believe He was who He said He was. No guarantees that a single one of us would say, “Hey look! There’s God in the flesh! I think I’ll devote my life to HIM !”

No guarantees. All risk. Crazy, risky love.

I’m not that brave. I want some guarantees. Will you love me? Then I can love you. Will you laugh when I’m trying to be funny? Good. Will you understand me and help me when I’m struggling? OK. Then you can be in my life. Call me names, spit on me, and deny you’ve ever met me? Forget it. No way I’m risking myself for you.

Aren’t you glad that God is not like us?

Remember this? If a =b and b=c then a=c? Let’s put that concept into scripture.

God is love right? And what is love? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

So, God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, and He does not boast and is not proud. God is not rude and is not self-seeking. He is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

How amazing it is to have a God like that. Not some distant, score-keeping megalomaniac dictator in the sky. THAT is what people do to power. God — in the form of Jesus — uses it to come, serve, and rescue us.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

Give thanks for He has given

It’s a remarkable concept, you know. The possibility that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being that actually cares about what He creates. Not one who sits idly back or amuses himself with our antics, but who cares about us. Enough to give.

Right now I’m reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s an account of the author’s decision to spend a year abroad in order to regain balance in her life. She spends four months in Italy, four months at an ashram in India, and four months living in Bali working with a medicine man. During her time at the ashram she was able to spend hours each day in meditation in an attempt to connect with God. At the end of her time there, she finally felt that she had accomplished that. After four months, her time of meditation yielded the experience with God she had been searching for.

It saddened me to think about the way so many other religions portray God. He is OUT THERE. He is DISTANT. He is BEYOND REACH. He can only be found through drastic, monumental human effort. Even in the Hindu ashram — a place where people look for God within themselves — it took four months for the author to feel she had experienced a connection with God.

It’s a frightening thought.

Where is the God who is portrayed as singing over His children like a mother singing her children to sleep? Where is the God who “gently leads those with young.” Where is the God who picked up an abandoned newborn on the side of the road and took it home and raised to be his own beautiful daughter?

Serving a caring God is an amazing concept. A God who gives mercy and new beginnings. A God of love. I’m so thankful for a loving God who continues to give every day. And I’m thankful for the people who taught me about Him.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion, ” says my soul, “Therefore I will hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

to the Holy One

November is a bittersweet month for me. The weather is wonderful, the leaves are beautiful and Thanksgiving provides a break from the routine. It’s also the month that marks my Grandfather’s death in 1989 and my Grandmother’s birth in 1915. Since her death in 2003, I’ve missed her deeply.

We spent every holiday in the home of these grandparents and they were times full of tradition. In addition to the customary practice of having everyone tell something they were thankful for, each year at Thanksgiving we would sing the doxology before eating our Thanksgiving meal.

I am so thankful I was raised in an extended family that believed “every good and perfect gift comes from the Father,” and that He was to be thanked and praised for His work in our life. To honor the years of teaching by example and — ultimately — to honor and thank our Father for all of those “good and perfect gifts,” I’m sharing a picture of their house and the words to a much-loved praise chorus. Perhaps the music still lingers in the air.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly hosts!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Give thanks

Today I’m thankful for migraine medication! Without it I would not have been able to enjoy the following things all in one very busy Harding University Homecoming Saturday.


The leaves around Searcy are BEAUTIFUL this time of year. I didn’t realize how much I missed this when we lived in SE Arkansas. The first fall we were back, it took my breath away.

This is my mom — on the right — with her college friend Sally Rogers Clark. I heard a lot of stories involving Sally Rogers Clark while I was growing up. It was always said that way — “Sally Rogers Clark” — which is what I remember. I don’t remember the stories themselves.

When I was a freshman I had a friend named Sherri. About halfway through the semester we were talking and I mentioned my mom’s maiden last name, Christmas.

Sherri looked at me — “Your mom is Mary Christmas?”

“Yep!”

A moment of quiet.

“My mom is Sally Rogers Clark.”

Harding does really weird things to your life.


This is Emily and my friend Jean and two of her friends who came from Dallas for Homecoming. They all participated in Harding’s annual “Stroll for the Cure,” a fundraiser for breast cancer research. I was so proud of Em for doing this. She walked in honor of our friend Kathaleen Miller who is a 9-year survivor. I have many friends who have been affected by breast cancer. It seems to hit the Harding community fairly often. I’ve been meaning to write about my friend Jan Jones who recently passed away. She overcame breast cancer 17 years ago, but lost the battle to pancreatic cancer earlier this fall. Many people walked in her honor. Renee’ Tucker was a very good friend of mine who passed away while I was pregnant with Caleb. Had he been a girl, he would have been named Hannah Renee’. Vicky Dell was a Regina sponsor when I was a student at Harding. She passed away several years ago too.

You may wonder why I didn’t walk. The next picture explains where I was.


Look at my boys!! Their yellow belt testing was scheduled at the same time as the Stroll for the Cure. Living in Searcy means that life doesn’t stop for Homecoming activities. I was SO proud of them when they broke their boards and earned their belts. They’ve both worked very hard for this. I think you can see their joy in their eyes. Their instructor Derek is a great teacher and a wonderful role model for patience and encouragement. I cried. It may have been the migraine, but I doubt it.


Can you find me in this picture? After lunch we visited the newly opened Harding History House and I was overjoyed (NOT!) to find a picture of 11-year-old me hanging on the wall for all the world to see. And for my kids to laugh at, needless to say.

This was taken at the official ceremony which commemorated the change from Harding College to Harding University. This sign used to be in front of the Heritage Building, but the building has been GREATLY expanded and this sign is no longer in place. There will be some sort of prize for the first person who guesses which geeky 70’s child is me. (Family members are excluded from guessing, but — ooh — Sheila, are you there? A certain PJ photographer named Darrell is also in the picture!)

The day isn’t over yet! In a few minutes we’re loading up in the van and then we’re off to see the wizard!

Really.

This year’s musical is The Wizard of Oz. How cool is that?

with a grateful heart

Although I’m thankful for all of my co-workers, today I want to tell you about Eric. He works in our reference department and is a great liaison with the students. Eric is a lot of fun and is a gifted musician, but rather than writing a lot about him, I’m going to share an email that he sent this morning. I think it shows his heart and you’ll see why he is such a blessing to everyone who comes in contact with him.

A 92 year-old lady from my church, who I consider a good friend, died last night at 2a.m. If she made it through the night I was going to visit her this morning, but they didn’t expect her to and they were right. Her going was really a blessing, so I’m not that sad about it, but I just wanted to share about this lady. She had lost her sight years ago and has been in a wheel chair for the last 4 years that I’ve known her. She also lost her husband about 30 years ago. Since then she has been praying that God would take her soon, not because she was depressed, but because she just had gotten to the point where the people she loved most were with the Lord and she knew she’d rather be with Jesus than stay here. She was full of life and joy every time I saw her; and though she couldn’t see me, she always knew who I was and when I was coming over towards her way before I’d get there so that she could greet me before I said anything. She loved worship more than anything else, and she loved to warm my hands up with hers on the mornings when it was cold.

She had gotten to the point in life where all she would say was “God bless you” or ‘praise God’ or how much she loved this or that. In telling somebody that last night, I thought to myself that I hope I get to that point in life pretty soon before I’m old and blind people dismiss a lot of what I say. Like kindness: we know kindness should just naturally flow out of our lives, but yet we have days for “random acts of kindness” where we are kind on purpose because we know there is benefit in doing kindness purposefully and not just waiting until it happens accidentally. By purposely doing it, it might become part of who we are and then just naturally flow out of us. I believe we can do that with what comes out of our mouths, blessing people and blessing God being the purpose for which we have a voice at all, and a tongue and mouth to form and project that voice. Hounds have noses created by God for the purpose of keenly smelling anything around them. In smelling things out, they fulfill part of the purpose for which they were created and so glorify God. Our tongues were created by God to bless Him and other people and to bring life. If we don’t use them in that way, we’re not even good animals, like a hound that won’t use his nose for the purposes it was created.

I say all this to challenge myself and you to (on purpose) use our tongues to bring life and bless God and others through faith filled words. Love,
Eric

Next semester, he’s leaving his full time job here to return to full time graduate work in order to become a certified ESL instructor. God has called him to work with Hispanic immigrants and this is the path he’s taking to do that. We will miss him, but I know the world will continue to be blessed with his presence.

Give Thanks

This month, in honor of Thanksgiving, I’m going to make the effort to post something I’m thankful for each day. If I don’t post one day, I’ll do two the next. I’ll probably take a break for a few days around Thanksgiving itself because I’ll be busy cooking, but my goal is to post each day.

Anybody want to join me? Here we go.

Today I’m thankful for art, specifically painting. This morning I got to visit with one of our Art Professors while she was hanging some student pieces in the library. The talent expressed in the painting was just amazing. I’m always impressed by the amount of courage people show when they paint and share their creations with other. Two years ago I spent hours walking around the Chicago Art Institute only looking at the paintings. Viewing Van Goghs, Monets, and Cassatts in person was both an emotional and spiritual experience. Our human ability to create beauty is one of the many ways we are made in God’s image.

Some of my favorite paintings are from a group of young Englanders from the 1800’s. Known as the Pre-Raphaelites, they were a very creative group who not only painted but also wrote poetry and short stories. Many of their paintings are illustrations of literary pieces. They gloried in detail and found beauty in the smallest places.

This one is Edward Burne-Jones’ The Beguiling of Merlin which portrays the moment when Nimue led Merlin into a trap that kept him from helping Arthur out of the sticky business with Guenevere and Lancelot. Look at the expression in Merlin’s eyes and Nimue’s direct, intentional gaze. Can you count the individual flowers? Other painters might have minimized the individual appearance of the blossoms, but to a Pre-Raphaelite the details were the beauty.

This piece was used as the cover art for one of my favorite novels, Posession: A Romance written by A.S. Byatt. If you love literature and haven’t read this book, you should. It’s pretty amazing. It’s very literary and brainy and makes libraries seem like interesting places to be. Gotta love any book that can do that.

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