Unexpected Joy

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. – I Corinthians 15:58

When I got home from a morning away recently, I found the younger boys had been busy.  They made me the following cards…just because:

from Tanner:

7-5-14 pix 1 pix #2 7-5-14

from Jackson:

pix #3 7-5-14pix #4 7-5-14

I praise God for the moments when I feel appreciated!  It helps this weary mom continue on this journey.

But I know that, really, they appreciate me more than they say.

Being a mom is hard work.  Being a single mom is harder work.  I often feel ineffective, sub-standard.  I know that is often just Satan whispering in my ear, but that doesn’t mean that I am not affected by his malicious talk.

Those are the times when I need to wrap into God and remember why I am really doing this.

I am working in obedience to what the Lord has given me to do…to be their mom.

Not always perfectly, not always kindly, not always gracefully.  But I keep plugging on.

And that is ultimately what the Lord wants…my best effort.

I pray that I can always parent to His glory.  I also pray that when I don’t, I can forgive myself and keep plugging on.

Ultimately, that is what will be best for my boys.

And for me.

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Father’s Day…Heaven!

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. – Joshua 24:15

This verse was Keith’s favorite, one that he sought to guide our family by throughout his life.

In light of his feelings about this verse, I think he would be pleased by how his boys spend Father’s Day today.

We arrived at church early so that the two older boys could practice for worship band.  They are often on stage, leading the congregation humbly to the Lord’s throne.  Today, I had the great joy of seeing them on stage together…working together to make sure the worship was well orchestrated and pleasing to God.  I cried those special Mom tears.

my blog 6-15-14 pix #1

Meanwhile, back in the church kitchen, my younger two boys were helping prepare the breakfast as they do each Sunday.  Each week, they help make breakfast and a bag lunch for a group of children we serve with a bus ministry.  More Mom tears.

my blog 6-15-14 pix #3

my blog 6-15-14 pix #2

As a mom raising boys alone, I constantly pray that I am doing the right things to make sure they are learning to be men of God in the image of both their earthly father and their Heavenly Father.

Mornings like this morning give me confirmation that, with God’s help, they are.

And I thank the Lord mightily for this!  To Him be the glory!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:37-40

During a recent cold snap, I started down the stairs early one morning for my usual quiet time.  When I was about halfway down the stairs, I realized that something was wrong.  Really wrong.

It kept getting colder…and colder…and colder.

“Something is wrong!” I said out loud to no one, and hurried down the stairs to flip the light on.

I discovered that my back door was…standing…open.

Whoever had let the dogs in the night before had not closed it well, and it wiggled open.  The temperature in the house was 48 degrees.

Right away, I had several praises:

  • thanks, God, for a relatively new heating system
  • thanks, God, for two systems in the house, one of which kept the upstairs to the usual 67 degrees despite the influx of super cold air from downstairs
  • thanks, God, for no one/nothing coming in my wide open door

A bit later I could say:  “Thanks, God, that the system was efficient enough to return the temperature to 67 degrees in just four hours (which I thought was pretty good for a 19 degree jump).

But there was another blessing in store for me…an unexpected one:  the conversation at our breakfast table.

I am blessed with sweet, empathetic children, but the empathy they developed by our one cold morning in the house brought out new levels of empathy in them.

They decided that we had an abundance of blankets in our home, and that we should share them with a local homeless ministry.

They also started making bracelets in order to raise money for the same ministry to use to take care of the street people in our area.

It was beautiful to see, even though it was an expensive lesson monetarily.

Father, thank You for the way you teach us, even when it is difficult for us.  Thank You in this case that the lesson was fairly easy to learn.  I pray that it has a long-lasting affect on all of us.  I pray, also, for the homeless forced to be out in this extreme cold.  Help them, Lord, to find a warm place to spend this winter.

All the Way

Does this ever happen in your house?

Mom, I finished cleaning my room.

Are you sure?

Yep.  It is totally done.

Would it pass my inspection.

Sure would!

Okay, I will be up in a minute to check it…

Wait!  Let me just check it again…

Now, I have great kids.  Their attention to detail, however…leaves a bit to be desired.  Well, a lot to be desired.

I try to tell myself that they are just kids.

But it still ticks me off, I have to admit.

Then, however…I think about my own “chores” assigned by God…

Love your neighbor as yourself?  Hmm…let me check on that…

Be a good steward with my finances?  Hmm…did I really need that new whatever?

Feed the poor, take care of the needy?  Hmm…maybe it’s not time for You to check on that one yet…

Honor God above all things, and love Him above all things?  Hmm…

That really puts my kids’ behavior into perspective.  I guess I need to cut them some slack, since I have been cut LOTS of slack.

Where is the balance, though?

In a recent discussion with my 11-year old, I told him that learning to obey me is training for learning to obey God.  That is definitely true!

But it is also true that I am one of their first examples of grace…and sometimes as that model, I fail, and fail miserably.

There is an old hymn written by Fanny Crosby (http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/l/t/altheway.htm) that goes as follows:

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.

When showing grace to my little ones…to the world…my example should be that of my Lord.  And, if I follow His lead, I will complete my tasks all the way, and help them learn to complete theirs in the same manner.

Showing It

This week, one of our teen bands led worship.  In that band is my 14-year old son.

We have a lot of musical talent for a fairly small church, especially in our youth.  They always do a phenomenal job, and it gladdens my heart to see them unreservedly serving their Lord in this way.

But the thing that touched me the most this morning was watching my son’s face as he worshiped his Lord even as he played to lead us in worship.

He was singing to his King.  I was crying in the seats.

His face shone with joy as a child of the King.  Beyond his musical talent (which still floors me), his worship was an expression of how much he has learned and is learning to trust the Lord.

For this momma, that is the best thing I can ever see.

I gotta be honest…I have wondered how this widow-walk would affect my boys.  Would they see Him as the Giver of Life or as The One Who Took Daddy?  Would they get that there are plans we can know nothing of here, may never know anything of, even in Heaven?  Or would they turn their backs on the Lord?

They were so young when Keith died!  My oldest, the one acting as one of the lead worshipers today, was not quite 9!

But God, in His infinite mercy, great wisdom, and unlimited caring for us as a family, has shown Himself to be worthy of our praise.  So many prayers answers even as they were barely words on our lips!  So many men ready to jump in and help teach them to be the men of God that Keith and I always dreamed they would be!

As I watched my son through the tears, I was again reminded that God’s got it.  My boys are all learning to love the Lord, and they want to serve Him.  They are all growing in Him each and every day.

They get it that God is God, even on the hard days, the sad days, the bad days.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

And that allows me to raise my arms and my heart in praise as well, worshiping right there with my son.

Amen and amen.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
   It is He who made us, and we are His;
 
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
– Psalm 100:1-3

Once a Marine Family, Always a Marine Family

A couple weeks ago, we had the extreme joy of going to the graduation of a dear young man from Basic Training at Parris Island.  Ooorah!

It was also a time of reflection for us as a family.

You see, Keith graduated from Parris Island 35 years ago this May.

We are a Marine family…yet the boys know only bits and pieces of that life, especially the little ones, since Keith retired when I was pregnant with the oldest.  Oh, they have been on base, seen the pageantry at Memorial Day (Keith is buried at Quantico and we are there for the celebration every year), and know quite a few service members, active duty and retired, from church…but they did not live the life.  Neither did I for that long, since we married near the end of Keith’s military career.

But I want them to know.

Patriotism is, to many, an old-fashioned value.  Not so in this family.  Keith proudly served his country, and talked about at least one of the boys following him some day…becoming a third generation Marine.  Maybe after seeing the obstacles, the hardship, and also the honor, courage, and commitment, one of my boys will choose to follow in his footsteps…and step on the yellow footprints.

As we walked around the base, listening to this dear young man’s story of his experience, Keith was constantly in our thoughts.  I had been on Parris Island once with Keith and heard his recounting of the island and the training.  Even nearly 20 years later, he had very strong feelings and memories.  I shared with the boys what I could remember that their dad had said.  I pulled out his boot camp pictures and let them laugh at his bald head and serious expression.  I shared the memory book Keith and I had made together as he neared the end of his military career, recounting the stories and awards.

As we walked through the museum on base, we saw pictures of Marines through time and what they did while at basic, and in their careers.  And I recalled my Marine Corps birthday balls, Keith in his blues, Keith is his Alphas, and in the utilities he wore each day for 20 years.

And when they played the National Anthem and the Marine Corps Hymn, I cried…as I do every time.  Freedom isn’t free, and my husband knew that, respected that, and did something about it.

The last stanza of the Marine Corps Hymn reads:

Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

My Marine is now guarding the streets of glory.  I miss him every day, sometimes every minute.  I am sure that 20 years down the road, no matter what happens, I will miss him.

But, thanks to wonderful experiences like the one we had with our dear friends, my boys will have an understanding of who their dad was, what he did, what was important to him.

And so will I.

And for that I am very, very thankful.

 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

– Psalm 68:4-6

 

Treasuring in My Heart – Part 1

Well, he’s done it!  This is a good “it!”

My seven year old has studied.  He has pondered and asked questions.  And now he’s ready…to commit his life to Christ through baptism.

Praise God and hallelujah!

Now, in this mom brain, that has brought about a series of emotions and feelings, all in short order.

My first thought when he told me was a very human response, I think.

Well, I guess I’m doing OK raising these kids without Keith.

Again, praise God and hallelujah!

Not that I think I am going to mess them up; and not that I think it’s really all up to me.  I just water those seeds in that sweet little soul and pray…and pray…and pray for God to bring the increase.  And He does.

And then my thoughts turn to Keith.  I want to tell him…that I’m carrying on…that we are progressing as a family…that we are moving forward with our lives here on earth.

I want him to be proud of me and the job I’m doing.  I would give anything to see that smile and the love in his eyes.

These are his kids, too.  I want to raise them to be the men of God we dreamed they would be.  That desire has only increased since Keith’s death.  I want my sons to be in the image of their earthly father, who had his eyes always on his Heavenly Father.  That is the best legacy that I can give them.

I have a quote that hangs on my wall that says the following (I’m afraid I cannot find the source):

Motherhood
It will be overwhelming.
It will be difficult.
 It will bring you to the end of yourself.
And at the end, you will find Him.
Mothering kids is hard…very hard.  Single mothering can be an extreme challenge, one that I often feel absolutely unable to complete.
But the good news is that I do not do this alone, even with Keith on the other side of the divider between here and Heaven.
And God’s grace is sufficient to cover me at my weakest, my most ineffective, my most sinful, my most foolish, my most selfish.
Praise God for His provision! But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9