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Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell, 2012

On this, the last day of the year 2012, you may find yourself, as do I, pondering the events of the past year and perhaps making resolutions for the new one.  Every year I have made resolutions.

 I found myself frustrated, looking back at what I had wanted to get done over the past year.  The plans that I had for myself.  Life always got in the way.  For some reason, the resolutions that I set always seemed to somehow get sabotaged.  Why does it feel like I can't ever get anything done?!

That's where I'm wrong.  True, what I wanted to get done didn't get done.  What I planned didn't get accomplished.  But is it true that nothing got done?  Absolutely not. God had His own set of resolutions, plans, and projects for me to get done, and His plans were beautifully established.

No, I may not have written any books this year.  But through a good deal of self-study and further inspiration from the Lamplighter Guild, I learned about storytelling.  God knew that I wasn't ready yet. Will I be this next year?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

I could go into great detail about the various things that God had for me this year, but for the sake of time and space, I will leave you with this encouragement,


Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
~Proverbs 3:5-6


Not that we should avoid planning and setting goals for ourselves-- on the contrary, I believe that goals are very important.  But we must always make sure that we are trusting the Lord with those plans and goals, and that we are sensitive to His will in them. God's mission-- not our mission-- must be in the forefront of our minds.  And His priorities, however small or insignificant they may seem to us, must be our priorities, in that we simply trust Him and allow Him to use us, to use our open hearts and hands to accomplish His will.  Yes, set goals, set resolutions, plan!  But don't allow those plans to get in the way of God's plans.  Don't allow Satan to lie to you, to call you a failure if you aren't able to accomplish any of your plans-- you trusted God with those plans, and He will bring to pass what He wills.  And that will be what really matters.

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
~Proverbs 37:5

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

The little girl tossed and turned in the top of her twin bunk bed.  She had been waiting all year for this day to come!  Her blue eyes searched the clock, as they had on a cycle of just about every fifteen minutes earlier that night: 5:30am.  It was pitch black outside.  She was only nine, but she still knew that she should wait-- the rest of the house was desolate.  She was the only one awake.  But it was finally morning!  Not just any morning-- Christmas morning!

She sat up in bed.  She had to do something to kill time-- she wanted desperately to go downstairs-- but she didn't want to see her presents before she was allowed to open them, it would be so much harder to wait, and worse, she didn't want to guess what was in them-- they had to be a total surprise.

Yes, all this was worked out in the nine-year-old's mind as she groped around her bed for her latest "read".  There were always multiple chapter books in her bed that either she was reading, had read, or was planning on reading-- one might wonder where the room was for her to sleep up in that crowded bunk that contained so much literature...  She found it, sat back against her pillow and opened it up to where she last left off.  She couldn't concentrate!  She was too excited!

Back to the pile did she place her book, and down the ladder to the floor she climbed.  She sneaked into the hall and stood by the banister for the stairs, listening desperately for sounds of life-- well, namely, awakened life.  What was that?  She heard someone in the kitchen!  Her heart leaped, and she slowly tiptoed down the old, creaky wooden stairs.

Each stair made it's own distinct crrrreeeeeaaaak as it was pressed, signaling the arrival of the little girl on the first floor of the historic farmhouse.  The person awake appeared at the bottom of the stairs just as the little girl was about three steps away.  It was her daddy!

"Good morning,"  whispered his warm, kind voice.

The little girl grinned widely, revealing a set of overcrowded teeth, and giggled slightly, "Good morning, Daddy!"  Her long brown hair cascaded in various knots over the shoulders of her silky, pink nightgown.

Her daddy scooped her up in a big hug as they exchanged whispered, "Merry Christmas"s then proceeded to lead her by the hand to the kitchen.  "Don't look in the dining room!" he playfully warned. But he didn't have to tell the little girl twice-- she knew that in the dining room were the presents-- and she wanted to be surprised.

She could already begin to smell the beginnings of the canned cinnamon rolls-- a rare treat, and a tradition that would last up until this very day.  The kitchen was dark, but warm and cozy.  As she sat at the bar, her daddy poured her a steaming mug of hot chocolate.  She shivered in the drafty kitchen, but the hot chocolate was good.  Mmmm... it was good.  "Thank you, Daddy."  There was that overcrowded grin again.

~~~~~~~~~

  You may have already guessed, but yes, the little girl in my little story was indeed me.  This is a memory that I pray that I will never forget-- it is the epitome of life.  The whole story is a lesson to me.  

What is the lesson that I am presenting here?  I remember my daddy, up before the crack of dawn, and how he nurtured his relationship with me.  I remember his mischievous attitude, and his servant's heart,  how he was on top of making everyone's breakfast (how did he know that I would be up so early?).  He made me hot chocolate.  

Reminds me of Russel in Pixar's Up, "Sometimes it's the little stuff that matters most..."  

Yes.  You may have thought that I have been elaborating on this point entirely to much recently, but it is such an important lesson to learn-- especially in light of Christmas.  

I don't remember any of my presents that year.  Frankly, I don't remember really anything else about that year's Christmas.  It's all about our relationships, how we nurture them-- through the little stuff.  My brothers and sisters love it when I give them gifts-- but I think they may even like it even better when I read aloud to them, or let them help me bake cookies in the kitchen.  The other day, I made a pot of coffee while I was busy working on the computer.  The coffee had been ready for a while, but I hadn't had any time yet to get up and prepare it.  My fourteen year old sister, Melody, came and placed a fully dressed cup on my desk.  I looked up and my heart melted.  I didn't ask her to do that-- it meant more to me than any gift that anyone had given me in a long time.  

What does this have to do with Christmas-- apart from my story?  God could have sent Jesus down in a whirlwind.  He could have appeared on a white horse, terrific, and awesome.  God didn't have to send Jesus as a tiny, helpless baby.  But He chose a tiny thing to conquer the big.  He chose a foolish thing to shame the wise.  He sent Himself as a baby-- a little thing that would change history, and conquer death, and pave the way for mankind to once again be in right relationship with the Father.

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
~Luke 2:11-12

"For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
~Isaiah 9:6

Embrace the little things.  You never know what they may become.

Merry Christmas to my lovely readers- all the best from our family, in the name of our Lord Jesus- King of the Universe!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Joyful Family: A Lesson in Contentment {part two}

My dear readers, please forgive my prolonged absence from this little blog as I promised you all a sequel to my previous post!  I apologize for leaving you hanging :-)

If you have not yet read my previous post you can do so by clicking here.

Now, as you all probably already know, I have a large family.  I am the eldest of soon to be 10 children.  One of my favorite things that people ask me about living in a large family is the question, "So, you guys must have a pretty big house, huh?"  When people say this I nearly fall on the floor laughing.  The irony.

Our home is 1800 square feet.  Make of it what you will.  Some people would consider that average, some would consider it small, some would even consider it large.  But in America's culture, a family of 12 living in 1800 square feet is pretty squeezy. We've been living in this house for 7 years, since there were only 6 of us children.  We originally intended on only living here for a year or so--5 maximum-- but God had other plans.

When I read the story in my previous post, my thoughts immediately went to our house.  The family in the story was so joyful, so content, that they did not even consider that they might be the poor family that the pastor was talking about.  The three forks that they shared were enough.  They weren't poor, they had enough.

It was because of this contentment that they were able to joyfully give.  They didn't see that they were in need.  They knew God would continue to sustain them with enough as they saved money to help others in need.

As the story continues, the family is broken when they realize that the church had recognized them as poor and in need.  They were ashamed.  What broke this shame and gave them joy again?  When they surrendered all that cash over to the missionary to help fund the building of roofs in a foreign country.  They gave all the excess that they had, believing that their daily bread was enough.

Wouldn't you, if you were in that family, have been grateful for the money and sometime that week before Sunday, at least gone and gotten a couple more forks so that everyone could have one at suppertime?   No, the family was mortified.  Why do you think this was?  Do you think it was because they were afraid that they had given the appearance of discontentment?  They didn't want to show up at school or even church because they knew everyone there knew that they were poor.  How come they didn't know or realize it before?  They weren't ashamed until they were compared with the world's standards of richness and found to be poor.

This is the problem.  We define richness and poverty based on the world's economy.  When we are caught up in looking at the world around us, what other people have, what other people think of us, how we should dress and act, all according to the world's standards, we are going to find ourselves majorly discontent.  For two reasons:

1.) "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied." (Proverbs 27:20)  You will never have enough.  You can be the richest man or woman on the planet and still never be satisfied with all of your wealth.  You can have the biggest house, nicest car, most expensive clothes and still be miserable and discontent.  Because there will always be something else that you want, there will always be something new to covet.  This is the common state of man; sinful, always desiring more.  When we are without Christ, our eyes, hearts, minds, will never be satisfied-- greed will take over, always taking, but nothing is ever enough.

2.) And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a) As humans, we all crave sufficiency, satisfaction, contentment--we are sinful creatures; broken, longing to be whole again. God ingrained this desire so that we might seek Him to find it-- because in Him is the only place that it might be found.  The only place.  God's grace is sufficient.   It's enough. When we receive God's grace, repent of our sinful ways and surrender our lives to Him, He promises to watch over us, to never leave us or forsake us.  This is the essence of contentment, to be found in Jesus, trusting in Him.  The world will pull us away from Jesus, away from trusting in His provision.  Teasing us with, "What about this?  Or this?  What will you do if this happens?"  Borrowing trouble, and causing anxiety instead of just resting and being still in the fact that God is enough.

The world tells me that an 1800 square foot home is too small for a family our size.  God tells me that it's enough.  It's what He has given us, now how are we going to be joyful and use it to His glory?

In God's economy, I am rich.  If I only had Jesus; if I lived under a bridge, I would still be rich.
His grace is enough.

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."

Colossians 3:1-2

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Joyful Family: A Lesson in Contentment {part one}

It had been a long morning; I had been up since 3:30am baking bread for the farmer's market that was to take place later that day.  Exhausted and needing a break from swirling cinnamon into whole wheat,  I sunk into the lazyboy sitting next to the family computer desk and grabbed the wireless mouse.  My sister's blogger account was up, so I proceeded to browse the latest posts.  I clicked on one, and there I read a story that nearly made me cry...

It was a story that had been shared by a friend of mine, Michael Schroeder, on his blog.  I was so blessed by this story, so encouraged and challenged, that I wanted to share it with you all.

There were several children in the family, but the father had died, and they lost their main source of income.  Yet, they were always joyful.  They lived in a small house, and did not have much, but what they did have, they appreciated.  There were only three forks to split amongst seven people, so they made it a game to see who would get a fork each night.  One Sunday at church, the pastor announced that the church would be collecting money for a poor family in the congregation.  The pastor told the congregation to be generous and sacrificial since this family really needed their help.
  When the family left the church, they talked over what they could do to help the family.  They did not have a lot of money, but perhaps if they cut their food bill, and only had potatoes for supper for the next month, and did not use lights at night, or listen to the radio, to save money on electricity, they could donate the saved money to the poor family.  That month was one of the happiest times the family had.  They kept thinking of ways to get more money for the poor family, and imagining how excited the family would be to receive it.  The Sunday the money was to be given to the poor family, this family walked to church, singing and talking excitedly.  It was raining, but they hardly noticed.  Joyfully, they put the money in the offering plate.  They had saved 80 dollars.
            At home, when they were talking, the doorbell rang...


Click here to visit Michael's blog and read the rest!

What did you think?  There are a couple different aspects of this story that teach a couple different lessons-- feel free to comment, I would love to hear your perspective...

Coming up, I am hoping to comment what I learned and took away from this story in a later post-- so stay tuned!  ;-)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turn Around Slowly

I want to begin by dedicating with post to a dear friend of our family who passed away last Tuesday morning into glory, the presence of his dear and beloved Savior.

~~~~~~~~~
  
As I go through life I tend to catch myself in discontentment.  Not major, down-in-the-dumps, miserable depression, but moments of "If things were this way...."   These snapshot thoughts of mine go against my hopeful romance.  They are my fleshly reaction when things aren't the way I want things to be.

When my sister, Abigail, was born, I remember holding her, delighting in her new life.  I stroked her tiny, soft hands, kissed her tender cheeks, stroked the silky head, but yet there was a fleeting thought, "I wish she could smile at me..." 

 My little brother, John-David.  I was almost 7 when he was born.  For the longest time, I filled the "firstborn son" role.  Yep, if Daddy was away I took out the garbage, I killed any unwanted pests that came into the house, I did any heavy lifting, etc, etc, etc.  As I looked at the happy, giggling 2-year-old with a pack of fruit snacks in one hand, sippy cup in the other, I longed, sometimes even laughingly, "Can you grow up a little faster?"

I always wanted an older brother.  My mom miscarried hers and my dad's first baby, the one right before me.  He would have been 20 now.  All my life, "Lord, why?  Didn't You know how much I wanted an older sibling?"  Even though I knew that it couldn't be undone.

God has a distinct and specific purpose for everything.

These thoughts, though they seemed fleeting and innocent at the time, are deadly.  They wreak havoc in the mind, open the door for major discontentment, which ultimately leads to depression.  But it's a slow, steady process of allowing those tiny thoughts to perpetrate my mind.

This is a video that I made for my dad as a father's day gift 3.5 years ago.

video

This song, Turn Around Slowly teaches a simple truth.  The truth of that hopeful romance that I was talking so much about in my last post.

Live in this moment.

Love in this moment.

Thank God for this moment.

  It's so easy for me to get caught up in how things could be.  "What would my life be like if...?"  Or to dream about what might be coming next.   "When I get married...", "When I have kids...", "When we record a CD..."  

Where is my gratitude?  Where is my contentment?  Where is my perspective

  God has given me each of these moments as a gift.  Every breath that I take is ordained by Him.  He knows me, knows my heart, knows what's best for me.  When I am living in this truth, it helps me to "see" like a child again.

"She said, 'Look at me, Daddy, and love me this moment
this moment is all that we have...'"

 Abigail is almost 6 years old now.  She no longer has those tiny baby hands and silky baby fuzz on her head.  That moment went by so quickly!  But what do I have in this moment?  Her smile. Is nearly contagious, revealing that adorable tiny dimple on one side.  

John-David is 12 now.  No longer a giggly toddler, toting snacks and juice, but a boy quickly maturing to manhood before my very eyes.  Where did the time go?

My older brother, in heaven.  I later realized that if he had been born, I wouldn't have been.  Our pregnancies were too close together for it to have been possible for both of us to have been born.  He died, I lived.

"Turn around slowly, treasure your days here.
These precious moments may come to be rare..."

  I would like to take a moment to tell you about the man to whom I dedicated this post.

  About a year ago, a family in our church bought a piece of property that had a house on it with an attached apartment for the reasons of having the father's parents living with them.  The grandfather had Alzheimer's, and it was difficult for him to do anything for himself. He could barely communicate verbally.  
  This grandfather was a godly man.  He and his wife loved each other dearly.  They invested heavily into their children, the grandfather taught his son amazing wood-working skills, work ethic, and most importantly, a love for God.  It was this love for God that kindled within the son the obedience to honor his father and mother, by caring for them in their old age-- even though it was difficult.  

Every week at church, we would watch the father and son interact.  It was hard to watch the decline in the father's health.  But he always had a smile on his face-- almost every time I saw him, he had a huge grin on his face that just lit up the room.  When I would greet him on Sunday mornings, the love that spilled from his face touched my heart.  

When we pray for someone with Alzheimer's, what do we hope will happen?  That they will be healed and back to their "normal" selves?

Don't despise the moment.  Don't despise that beautiful smile.  I know his son longed to hear his father's voice, at least say his name, once more.  But as he watched his father tap his foot to the rhythm of the music that he and his children played one night, he knew he couldn't look back and miss this precious moment.  We all smiled and laughed when the grandfather noticed that one of the dads in the church had missed a belt loop.  The way he would waved and smile at my baby brother warmed my heart.  These moments were precious, and they have now come to be rare.  Yes, how we would have praised God for his healing, but now we praise God for those precious memories.  Those beautiful, smiling eyes, "Love me this moment..."

Don't live for what could be.  Don't spend your life allowing those seemingly innocent thoughts of "what if" to flit about your heart.  Live in this moment.  Love in this moment.  It is a gift from the Lord-- cherish it.  These precious moments may come to be rare...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hopeless Romance?

I have been accused of being... shall we say, a bit dramatic.
When I love something, I love it and want everyone else to love it too.  When I see something beautiful, I want all to see it and enjoy it with me.  When I experience something amazing, I want the whole world to share in my joy.

A lot of people don't see things the same way I do.

Something that I love, that I have found to be beautiful, doesn't always excite the person I am trying to desperately to share with.

I am a hopeless romantic.

I remember the last autumn that we spent living up north, we had a huge maple tree in our back yard.  This tree was massive, the trunk probably had a circumference of 9 feet.  In the fall, the leaves would turn all shades of yellow, orange, and red-- a canopy over the entirety of our picket-fenced backyard.  I remember, I believe I was 10 at the time, standing in our driveway staring at the tree which rose up a good 5-6 stories tall.  I remember reverence, awe, and utter enjoyment.  What majesty! I had lived in that house for 5 years, I had seen autumn, I had seen the tree turn colors before-- but my breath (not to mention my heart) was stolen away in that singular moment.  I just pointed it out to my mom and dad, "Look, isn't it pretty?"  

I've always been this way, and generally my parents attributed my drama and hopeless romance it to my reading too many books. I can see this-- it's probably true.  Over the years I have gotten more and more practical, and less and less romantic.  Why?  Because I felt dumb when I would get excited over the smell of the crisp spring air, or seeing the intricacies of snowflakes for the first time, trying to get everyone else to "see", but being disappointed when they shrug and act as if it's all normal.

Sure, it's all normal.
I know that, I was just in an imaginary world for a second.  Pardon my drama... again.

I think that this apathy, this nonchalance is a direct attack from the enemy, satan.  He hates hopeless romantics, why?

 I believe that there is true value in being a hopeless romantic.... actually I would change that term, I'm going to now call myself a hopeful romantic.  This is the epitome of what satan hates so much. And I'll tell you why.

Hopeful romance is the essence of the child-like faith that Jesus alluded to in Luke 18:
15 And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. 16 But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

What are some of the attributes of children?  Excitement.  Creativity.  Simplicity.  Wonder.  Carefree.

My little 3-year-old sister will bound into the kitchen while I'm doing dishes and thrust a weed, little yellow flower on one end, dirt shaking onto the floor from the roots left on the other end, into my face, "Look, Amy!  This is for you!"  I gasp, smile, "Oh, thank you!  You're so sweet!" I take the weed and carefully place it in a little teacup of water as a vase.  My sister's grin widens, her eyes disappear into her rosy cheeks as she struts out of the kitchen feeling like a million bucks.

"From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength..."
~Psalm 8:2a

A hopeless cynic sees that weed as nothing but what it is, a weed.  A hopeful romantic sees that weed for what it really is, a gesture of love.  Being able to "see" like a child, to see the beauty of a weed as a flower, to take it as a token of affection from another child, is the epitome of hopeful romance.

So, what makes this romance hopeful instead of hopeless, and how can one see any sort of romance in a world so saturated with sin?  Asks the cynic.

My romance goes back to the cross. (Eph 5:25)  Jesus loves me, I was bought with a price. (1 Cor. 6:20)  He died that I might live. (John 3:16)  I once was dead in my sin, naked, squirming in my blood. He came along, "Live!" He breathed. (Eze 16:4-6) He picked me up, washed me, clothed me, adorned me.

I was once dead, I am now alive.
I was lost, now I'm found.

I was blind, now I see.

I've been reading a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  In this book, she writes about her journey in how she learned to go from blindness to sight, how she learned to live in the moment, to enjoy it as a gift from God, instead of merely a transition into the next moment.  She began numbering her blessings, gifts from God, some that only she could see.  Like the way that the sun poured in through her kitchen window on a mound of grated cheese.  Who sees beauty in that?  She did, because the Lord knew her, that she would appreciate it.  He loves her, and gifts her according to what he knows that she will love.

 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"
~Matthew 7:11

God loves me, and I love Him.  Ours is a relationship of hopeful romance.  I have hope in Jesus, that I will have eternal life.  I am His Bride, He woos me and showers me with blessings of His love, if only I have eyes to see them.

It comes in the forms of breathtaking color on the black arms of a gigantic maple.
The intricacies of snowflakes.
The sound of baby feet on the hardwood.
The smell of coffee early in the morning.
The yeasty smell of bread dough on Famer's Market day.
That blissful feeling of that singular peace, that surpasses all understanding.

That, my friend, is why satan hates hopeless romantics.  Because they see the beauty in the tiny gifts that God gives, they enjoy them as gifts.  They revel in the joy and excitement of their Maker.  They are intoxicated by His love, it is displayed everywhere around them.  They can't help but want to praise Him for what He has done.  He loves them, and they see it everywhere.

May we ever live our lives looking for the gifts of God.  Yes, sin permeates the world.  It is grieving, and there is a time for that.  But as a general rule, the Lord has done so much for us, it is ours to thank Him, to enjoy Him, and to ultimately glorify Him and make His name known.


"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?"
~Psalm 8:3-4


"How precious are your thoughts to me, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!"
~Psalm 139:17

"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."
~Hebrews 13:15

"That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving
And declare all Your wonders."
~Psalm 26:7



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"...this is eternal life"


"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
{John 3:16}

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
{John 17:3}

Love is always seen as the greatest thing- the highest aspiration. Even in the world. Look anywhere in the media, you see love conquering all; money means nothing, position means nothing, stuff means nothing. Love is what everybody wants- both emotional and physical. This is where so many young people get into trouble. They go looking for the fulfillment of this longing in all the wrong places.
Jesus is the answer to this longing for love- we have that void in our hearts because He wants us to seek after Him and to desire His love for us. When we repent of our sins and ask for His forgiveness He gives us eternal life, which is what? That we may know Him. The word “know” here is the same as earlier in the Bible when is says that “Adam ‘knew’ his wife” (Genesis 4:1) which would indicate an intimate physical relationship. The Lord promises to fulfill our every desire. He is everything that we need both in the spiritual, emotional, and even physical sense.
This intimate relationship causes us to have a sense of non-negotiable commitment, as though we are “married” to the Lord and His Word. When an atheist comes up to us and tries to pin us to a wall with a “scientific” fact that disproves the existence of God, if we are not thoroughly grounded in the Word, and do not understand an intimate relationship with Him, it would be easy to falter; to doubt and to question His existence. But when we recall His love, all that He has done for us, remind ourselves of His promises; when we can see evidence of His intimacy in our lives, how can we doubt?
I know that I am in this for life; I am His beloved and He is mine- and His banner over me is love!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Check your motives...

  An idea that always hits me, right between the eyes is that our motives are not always what they seem. Nor are they always pure. I know, shocking, right?

 Take this blog post for instance, I could have two different motives here.  I could be writing this post so that you, my dear reader, are blessed and encouraged in your walk with the Lord OR I could be trying to make a good impression on you and trying to make you think that I'm a super-Christian "mature beyond my years" with a lot of impassioned speech and fancy rhetoric.  With these two perspectives in mind, which would be the better mindset to write a blog post from?  Which post would be better?

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves..." 
(Philippians 2:3 NASB)

 You see, our motives tint what we do.  If I were to regard you, my reader, as more important than myself I would need to drop my pride, let go of my desire to be highly regarded, and focus on the bettering and the lifting up of you.  Even if it's at my own expense.  Again, I ask, which would be the better post?

I love how the scripture goes on, because it brings everything full circle.

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."  
(Philippians 2:5-8)

  What makes me better than Jesus?!  Jesus is God.  If anyone had a right to His own motives, wouldn't it be Jesus?  But He didn't take it.  Jesus had God's motives in mind- He put God's mission ahead of everything else- He emptied Himself out for God's sake- and for our sakes.  His motives of considering God as better than Himself (which He is God, therefore, He would be in fact, equal to God) were so pure that He gave everything at His own expense to fulfill them.

  It all goes back to pride.  Yep, you may remember my previous post about pride - it seems that so many sins can be rooted back to this deadly feeling.  PRIDE gives us a feeling of superiority which gives us an inferior view of those around us.  PRIDE causes us to view ourselves as "entitled" to "something", when in fact, we have no entitlements whatsoever.  PRIDE can tint our actions, our work, and make it ineffective for the cause of Christ!  

  When we have humility of mind and can understand who we are without Christ, then we will have God's motives in mind and wish to glorify Him in our actions and our work.  Which will be the more quality work?  That which was done to the glory of the worker, with the subjective standard of the worker in mind?  OR the work which is done to the to the encouragement and edification of the saints according to the objective standard of glorifying God and making His name known?

My dear reader, I know that my own standards and motives are shallow and too small a thing to live for.  I know that in the past sometimes it effected the quality of my work- therefore you and this little blog- and I deeply apologize for this!  With God's grace and help I am moving forward, with a higher vision and higher standards in the forefront of my mind so that I might encourage and lift you and those around me up, as well as to 
"In the same way, let your light shine before others,
 that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." 
(Matthew 5:16)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Review: Life with Lily {Litfuse Publicity Tour}

For a child, every day is a thing of wonder. And for six-year-old Lily Lapp, every day is a new opportunity for blessings, laughter, family, and a touch of mischief. As she explores her world, goes to school, spends time with her family, and gets into a bit of trouble with her friends, Lily learns what it means to be Amish and what it means to grow up. From getting a new teacher to welcoming a new sibling, Lily's life is always full of adventure.
Written for girls ages 8-12.



“Based upon Kinsinger’s own childhood, it’s reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie books.” —Romantic Times


Upon first receiving this book I was a bit surprised- it was so thick and long for girls aged 8-12!  But as I began reading I realized that the number of pages nor the size of the words mattered at all- the simplistic writing style pulled me in to Lily's level and enabled me to see life through her eyes.
  I loved how informative the story was, it truly reminded me of the Little House on the Prairie books in that I was able to "watch" Mama make cheese, do laundry, bake and sell goods!  It was so interesting to be thrust into the life of the Amish, to go to school and church with Lily and her family as well as just everyday life around the farm.
  The writing style was fabulous for portraying within the mind of a little 6-year-old girl.  I was able to connect with her, to bring myself back to those innocent, curious years and see things through those simple eyes. I really enjoyed it-  descriptive but it still conveyed a simple, to-the-point message that kept me turning pages.
   However, I did find some bits and pieces of the wording to be a bit too advanced for the intended point of view.  Words, for example, like "loomed", "pandemonium", or "coax" seem to me to sound a bit too mature for 6-year-old thoughts.  Another thing was that I wish that Lily had her own relationship with Jesus.  This was an element I found a bit lacking- Lily's love for God.
  I was truly blessed by the lessons of integrity taught within the story.  The faith of Lily's parents shone- their love for God and desire to follow His will and to please Him were an inspiration and such a breath of fresh air!
  All in all I truly found this to be a sweet book.  Lovely fiction that I can offer to my younger sisters and not be worried about any sort of elementary romance or a skewed world view.  I look forward to letting them read it!

*****

Celebrate with Suzanne and Mary Ann by entering their contest and RSVPing to the “Life with Lily” Facebook Author Chat Party on 10/16!



Two fortunate winners will receive:
  • Either the new Kindle Fire or new Nook HD
  • Signed copy of Life with Lily for you and a young reader in your life.  
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 15th. Winner will be announced at the Life with Lily Author Chat Facebook Party on 10/16. Connect with authors Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger for an evening of book chat, Q&A about Mary Ann’s Amish childhood, trivia, and fun! There will also be gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of Life with Lily and join Suzanne and Mary Ann on the evening of the October 16th for a chance to connect with the authors and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the books – don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 16th!


This book was given to me free of charge from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review and opinion.

Friday, September 7, 2012

how to make apple pie {and tie heart strings}

I've heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  You all know my capability of coming up with a thousand words- it's not difficult for me to be didactic, verbose, and long winded. (See?) My dad recently commented to me while I was typing a reply to an email, "Amy, you aren't writing a novel, ok?"  <nervous grin>  Sorry :-)

I did these photos hoping that they would pretty much speak for themselves, a photojournalism, you may say...  but because for some reason I can't get away from over-explanation, here's an intro:

A couple of days ago, my little brothers and sisters were reading a book for school called, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.  It's a somewhat zany story about how the character wants to make an apple pie, but because the local market is closed, they must travel all over the world to locate the various ingredients needed.  For example, you need butter for the filling and crust- head over to England and find a nice British cow!  You'll find her quite dignified with her lovely accent, and her manners impeccable.

Violet (age 3) was completely inspired and did not cease to plead with Momma,
"Can we make apple pie?  PLEASE???"
Abigail (age 5) was not far behind...

So after Momma picked up some shiny green Granny Smiths, I took advantage of my homeschool graduate status.  While everybody else was hard at work in their studies, I spent the morning with the two little girls making apple pie.


Counting the apples- see the recipe in the back of the book?






Working to train them one of Daddy's favorite philosophies, "Clean as you go!"






Because the butter was so cold it was hard to work with...  so we called out the "big guns".
  (Thanks, Daddy!  :-))

As I was chopping apples, they went back over the book...

Gotta make sure that we were doing everything right!











No comment, child.


When we poured the cinnamon sugar mixture on the apples all they could think about was "testing it".
"Pleeeeeeaaaaase, Amy?"


Her face just cracks me up.



...and that, my friends, is making apple pie!

No, I will admit that they aren't the prettiest pies on the planet- but who cares?  My little sisters were so thrilled, I pray that their hearts were blessed and that they will be able to recall memories like these throughout their entire lives...

I hope you enjoyed- even though my goal was to not talk very much... and I did anyway...  oh well :-)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Blessed Announcement

For a month or so I have been all but bursting with this news... it haunted me while attending the Guild- I almost felt like I was lying when I introduced myself to people as the eldest of 9...  but you're really the eldest of 10! my conscience bit me.  

Yes, my dear readers, my momma is expecting my ninth younger brother or sister in March of 2013!

{The reason why I had to wait to tell everyone was because our family usually tries to wait until a certain gestational period before we go public with the news...}

Wow, 10.  I'm the oldest of 10.  I thought 9 was amazing but for some reason 10 just sounds... well...
awesome!  Ha, I can finally breathe and speak freely now...  :-)

My parent's went for this ultrasound yesterday- the baby is 12 weeks along. He/she was much bigger than I thought!  Momma said about 2.5 inches in length...


Have any predictions on whether it's a boy or girl?
Momma thinks it's a boy- but she thought I was a boy... I think it's a girl :-)

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
         The fruit of the womb is a reward.


Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,

         So are the children of one’s youth."
~Psalm 127:3-4


Monday, August 27, 2012

blemishes or marks of love?

Today I am going to share something a bit unconventional- I may even seem a little off my nut but please, just bear with me...

  The other day as I was vacuuming and mopping our engineered hardwood floors, I allowed a small sigh to escape my lips and a few grumbling thoughts loose in my mind.  I was looking at the terrible scratches on the floor beneath our dining room table.  We had tried so hard to take as many precautions against such scratches when we first put the flooring down.  We were diligent to put "sliders" on the feet of every piece of furniture- but unfortunately, as we came to find out, even "sliders" can allow a certain extent of scratches.
  I was beginning to feel ashamed and maybe even a little bitter-  Why can't we just have normal looking floors? "People" are going to judge me on these floors- thinking that I don't take care of them because they are so scratched up! (Anyone who knows me knows that I am generally what you would call a "neat freak"- therefore, if there is ever any implication of neglect I am usually horrified...)
  
As my mop glided over the blemished wood the Lord took my thoughts captive- and He dawned a revelation on me.  

"Amy, how did those floors get so scratched up?"

  It wasn't because we didn't take the necessary precautions against the scratches (sliders) or had not

Friday, August 24, 2012

"every hour i need You..."

"Teach my song to rise to You
when temptation comes my way..."

  I believe it was a few months ago my family and I were gathered about in the living room, Daddy with guitar in hand, singing some worship songs together.  Violet, age 3, sat sweetly on Momma's lap and sang along until there was a break between songs...
 "Can I do my heart song?"  she queried,  twisting her hands together in front of her mouth with slight embarrassment from all the attention that was coming her way.  The corners of Daddy's mouth turned up in a  grin, "Sure, sweetie- go ahead."  She proceeded to jump out of Momma's lap and present her "heart song".  This presentation consisted of dramatic and aesthetic hand motions and dance moves, all of *original* choreography.  The dance was so good in fact, that some of us began to join her, looking to her to show us the next "move" in her "heart song".  Yes, that's an evening that we still talk and laugh about- I tried to describe it to my friends at church the following Sunday as I was laughing hysterically- but they didn't get it.  Hmm... maybe you should have been there.
  
  My point in bringing up this story is that I loved what she called her dance her "heart song".  I have now lovingly adopted this title to describe

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Looking Back at the 2012 Lamplighter Guild {part seven}

 As type A as I am, not wanting to have an oddly numbered series (seven?), I feel that it may be time to draw this one to a close.  I am looking forward to sharing more insights from the Guild with you all- but if I were to continue to publish it all- and in order- I'm not sure I would ever get back to "normal" posting!

I would like to wrap it up by telling you a bit about the last day.

The night before had seen us playing a rather heated, hilarious, and shall we say late game of Mao with Kathy Buchanan and Todd Busteed.  What a memory for the last night...
As I drifted off to sleep anticipation of the mixed emotions of wanting to go home, yet not wanting the fellowship or the blessed teaching to end.

 I woke up at 5am when my alarm on my phone went off.  Devotions were at 6:15am but if you wanted coffee you have to get down there sometime around 6.  My morning routine would take a bit of time to get ready, shower, makeup, hair...etc. But I sleepily picked up the phone, used my thumb to swipe the screen and turn off the alarm, and closed my eyes.  I'm just going to rest for a second. Ha.
(Just keep in mind: this was the last day!  All of the students were exhausted from the events of the week....)

Next thing I know, I opened my eyes and looked at the phone in horror: 6:05am. 
Panic.
There went my morning routine.
Blessedly, I had showered later in the previous day after swimming, and my makeup looked alright, so I jumped out of bed, slipped into my clothes for the day, and woke up my roommate as I was running out the door.  I didn't want to miss the very last day of devotions!!!

  There were two options on Thursday, to watch the making of (and perhaps act in) a short audio drama, or to practice/be in a play directed by Cathy Sara.  Being that my family would like to do skits and plays together, I figured it was probably the best use of my time to do the play... We had four hours to learn the script on Thursday then perform on Friday.  Believe it or not it went well!  I was a bit awkward...  I guess that's what happens when you've never acted before-but it was alright... :-)

Anyway, after the play in the Parlor, we all headed over to the Conference Center for the very last session.  
Romantically, it started to rain...  remember how I said that when I got there is was pouring rain?  Here it was, the day that we were supposed to be leaving, and again the rain came down.  Those of us that had been in Kathy Buchanan's class marveled at the sheer poetry.  Mrs. Buchanan had explained to use that usually in a story, when you want to get into the heart of a character, when you want to come to know them more intimately and get to their soul, you bring in a scene of darkness or rain- and it seems to open up the dialogue, to soften the mood and invoke a feeling of intimacy with the character.  At the beginning of the week, our hearts were opening up to God- we were willing and ready to learn what He had prepared for us that week.  Now, on the last day, our hearts were hurting a bit that the week had to end, but again soft and open to whatever God had next in store for us.

  That morning was such a treat!  All of the students were gathered together and were able to view/listen to some of the work that had been done over the week.  I was ecstatic as I watched and listened- everyone did such a fabulous job!

There were two "Film and Documentary" Electives... here are the videos that they made over the week:


Did you look for me?  :-D
Actually, believe it or not- most of the classes that were filmed in the first video I was in- I was literally just a few feet to the right or to the left of the camera view...  you do see me for one split second in the first one- but my hand is in front of my face.  (I was supposed to "be struck by lightening"-cut me some slack!)

We also got to hear the audio drama that they made the day before: Actor with an Attitude (or Felicity's Toupee)  They did such an amazing job (remember- FOUR HOURS to write the script, audition, record voices, add sound effects, compose music, etc. etc. etc) it made up my mind to definitely do the audio drama if I were to ever attend the Guild again!

I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to attend the Guild- it was such a blessing to not only myself, for my own personal walk, and furthering of my talents, but I pray that I will be able to bless others around me with what I have learned.  I have already said to a friend at church how I have to get the notes from Kathy Buchanan's class for her!  

It was a growing experience for my in more ways than one... Let's just say, when I got home from this trip, my friends could barely believe some of the things that I did.

"You played Ultimate Frisbee- barefoot???"
"You went swimming in a lake???"

Thank you for reading, my dear friends!
I hope that you were encouraged and entertained as well as having gotten a little taste of my memorable week...

Be warned though, I do have some photos and such that I may be posting soon :-)

If you want more information on the Lamplighter Guild click here or feel free to email me with any questions!
aheartsurrendered(at)gmail(dot)com

Monday, August 20, 2012

an anniversary

Today I am taking a quick break from my "chronicle" of my trip to the Guild and have a very special congratulation to extend.

Today is my mom and dad's 22nd wedding anniversary!

Yes, on August 20th, 1990, two eighteen-year-olds- fresh graduates from high school- took the plunge and got married.  Everybody thought that it was a huge mistake- it would never last.  Two high-schoolers?  He, the star of every high school play- the boy with the golden voice. She, the timid behind-the-scenes girl.  What were they thinking?

They weren't.  
God was.

Since that fateful day, twenty-two years later

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Looking Back at the 2012 Lamplighter Guild {part six}

  One of the classes that I attended (I think there must have been smoke rising from my notebook as I furiously attempted to write down all of the amazing thoughts that were coming to mind) that blew me away and caused me to afterwards bound to my room so that I could call my dad and tell him about it was the Theology on the Book of Ruth with Pastor Colin Smith.

  I signed up for this elective expecting some good teaching- but as I sat in that third row, second seat on the left, notebook and fuchsia pen in hand,  I experienced awesome preaching.

 We had two hours to go through the book of Ruth- beginning to end.  (Maybe that's why my pen was smoking...)  Pastor Smith divided it up into four "Acts" and proceeded to point out the lessons, themes, character qualities and changes- he showed us what a true literary masterpiece this tiny book of the Bible is!

  I am not going to make a full dissertation on the talk (though I have enough notes that I probably could) but

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Looking Back at the 2012 Lamplighter Guild {part five}

  The rest of the week was a blur of excitement, inspiration, and opportunity.

Morning devotions...
We usually split up into small groups for a more intimate setting, but one day Mr. Hamby thought that we should to up to "Eagle Point" impromptu all together.  So off we went- climbing rocky "steps" avoiding a couple of "cliffs" as we went.  
I was totally unprepared.  I had brought my dslr camera and my Bible in my purse- making it extra heavy, was wearing a rugged denim skirt, which- due to my excellent height- dragged delightfully on the ground, silver flip-flops, and coffee in one hand.  I felt like I was balancing the

Friday, August 10, 2012

Looking Back at the 2012 Lamplighter Guild {part four}

The remainder of Monday's Dramatic Arts classes were made up of Cathy Sara's "Voice and Stage Acting" and John Campbell's "Music Composition".

  Cathy Sara's enthusiasm and energy were contagious- her heart just seemed to be filled to the top with a love for the Lord.  Her desire to glorify Him with her skills and abilities through sharing them with others shone through as she coached and encouraged us- whether we were "wading through raging rapids" or "crossing a sandy desert", or any of the other wonderful scenarios that she had us in!
  One of the first exercises that she gave us was when we each had a copy of Isaiah 61.  We each had our own line according to our place in succession.  After we had read it through once, sitting around in a circle, she had us get up and walk around while we said our lines.  She then adjured us, her voice rang out in the

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Looking Back at the 2012 Lamplighter Guild {part three}

  The next day (Monday) all of the students in the Dramatic Arts were able to go to all of the available classes for that track so that we might be able to see which ones we would like to pursue further after having a bit of experience in them.
  
  My group, rotation group #1, started out by going to Todd Busteed's "Sound Design" class.  At the beginning of the class, Mr. Busteed had each of us introduce ourselves, name our hometown and the most common sound that we would hear in it.  I inwardly snickered.  As some of the students mentioned church bells I was thinking- suburbs = motorcycles?  I would have loved to say, "The waves on the beach- clapping down on the sand, seagulls circling above, children laughing and squealing with delight..." ah, so romantic... but unfortunately I'm too legalistic for that.  Come on, would you really hear that above the cars zooming by on US1?  For anyone else who was in this class with me that may be reading this:  I can be poetic- just way too honest. :-)  I ended up mentioning common sounds in my household- it's home, right?
  One thing that really stuck out to me in Mr. Busteed's class was this: don't wait around for someone to "discover" you.  Don't be waiting for the "right opportunity" to arise in which you can

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Looking Back at the 2012 Lamplighter Guild {part two}

  On Sunday afternoon I arrived at Mohonk.  Since it was pouring rain I wasn't really able to see much on the way over but it sure did make what I could see so dreamily romantic!  Everything was blanketed with a soft mist- a mild fog that wrapped around the trees and flowed down the hills and mountains.  The sky looked dark- the mood was reflectively melancholy. Looking back, those of us in Kathy Buchanan's script writing class can see the sheer poetry that God was writing into our lives during that first hour or so in New York... (more about that later.)

  After I had checked in with Mohonk, I went over to the conference center to check in with the Lamplighter Guild- to get my registration packet, name tag, etc.  During this time I was being greeted warmly by acquaintances from the conference back in May as well as being introduced to many new people- I was already having amazing conversations and I hadn't even been checked in for much more than an hour!

  The presence of brotherhood was thick- the common bond of Christ was so strong.  The love that Jesus said that they will know us by was ever present and electrifying the atmosphere.  It was such an amazing first impression!

  Because I was a scholarship recipient, I was asked to write a blog post