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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book Review- The Prayer Box

“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.” ~Paul Sweeney

I love books full of adventure, history and/or prophecy, mystery, danger, intrigue, romance, plot twists, etc.……that’s my kind of book! 

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate is NOT that kind of book. 

I’ll admit, it was given to me as a gift from a friend so I wanted to read it for her sake, but when I read the back cover, I was a little disappointed and just decided it was going to bore me to tears. 

Well.

The Prayer Box is a full and sweet story about…..well, a prayer box.  I had never heard of a prayer box before and don’t know that I ever will again, but the idea is a wonderful one.  This is the story of a single mom named Tandi, who moves back to the town of her childhood with her two children to start over and get her life in order.  She is hired to clean an old house that was left vacant by the death of its owner, an old, reclusive woman named Iola.  Turns out very few people cared for the mysterious Ms. Iola and very few ever really tried to get to know her.

When Tandi discovers some beautiful boxes full of letters that Iola had written through the years, scores of them, her curiosity is piqued and she starts to read them.  These letters aren’t to a long lost lover or to a child living far away.  They are to her Heavenly Father.  They are years of prayers given for the very townspeople who had shunned Iola during her life.

The real story of this book is the story of Iola Poole, as told in bits and pieces through the prayer letters.  Tandi’s story just kind of comes alongside it and makes it better.  Tandi’s faith is floundering at best, and she learns more about herself and her God than she ever dreams while reading these prayers written over decades of one lonely woman’s life. 

Lisa Wingate is a well known author and a very good one, and truly, this book does not disappoint.  It’s not one to get the heart racing, but it is one to get the heart feeling.  I recommend it to anyone who loves a good, solid, sweet story that will draw you closer to your loving Heavenly Father and make you feel like you’ve lost a friend at the end.

P.S.  And by the way, to my pleasant surprise, there is, in fact, some mystery and a legit twist at the end!  AND there is a sequel called The Story Keeper that is also very, very good and worth your time.

Happy reading,

Miriam

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

You Don't Have to be Lonely

Sing with me...."You don't have to be lonely at Farmer'sOnly.com" ....y'all that song and commercial CRACK.ME.UP. Maybe it's our recent move to the country...and the fact that Savannah is nearing what some (not her dad) would think appropriate dating age....but anyway....farmersonly.com thinks they have the loneliness issue solved. Bless their hearts...

This summer has been a whirlwind of activity in our house. As soon as school was out, we enjoyed a week long visit with my brother and his family, then a few short days later my crew left for Peru for 10 days. They came back and just a few days later Savannah left for camp, and now Tucker and Bruce are at camp and we still have a Worship Camp,VBS and finally...vacation! It's crazy!

But most of those activities haven't included me. And I have been alone a lot. Now, before someone hands me a tissue...please don't feel sorry for me. I don't think in my almost 45 years that I had ever been alone for 10 days. I grew up in a house of 6, then college roommates, I married right out of college, had kids...yeah...I have not been alone for that long EVER. So it's been a little wonderful and weird all in the same breath.

But I learned a few things....

1. Like...you don't have to be afraid.
2. Make the most of your time.
3. God makes a great conversation partner.
4. There is peace in the quiet.
5. Getting still before the Lord takes effort.
6. Being alone doesn't have to mean you're lonely.
7. God created us for relationship...and by the time 10 days was up...I was ready for my relationships to come home!
8. You can be alone and be ok...not depressed or stressed or in denial.
9. Being alone can be like a detox for the soul.
10. Being alone helps you appreciate your friendships more.

Bonus...Being alone for 10 days, I also confirmed what my heart already knew...I do not make the majority of messes in this house!

But seriously, sometimes we find ourselves alone. Sometimes it's physically alone, maybe through the death of a spouse or a divorce or empty nest. Sometimes it's emotionally alone...we might not feel like anyone understands, that we are the only ones going through the loneliness, the heartbreak. Here's the thing...we get to choose how we handle begin alone. No, we don't always get to choose aloneness, sometimes it chooses us, but we can decide our attitude and our actions during those times.

And if you find yourself in a permanent state of alone....remember you were made to be in relationship...first with God and then others. Nurture and embrace the intimacy found in alone time with the Savior and then find relationships that honor God and bring others closer to Him. It's strangely fulfilling to pour into someone else and you just might find yourself not so lonely anymore.

Psalm 68:5-6 says:

5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in      a sun-scorched land.

God has a plan for those who are alone. And so does the enemy....so be alert to the devil's lies...his methods are so lame...kill, steal and destroy...they never change...he's always going about those three things. He's a devourer. So if you feel yourself being devoured or like something is robbing you from your joy, your life...identify it as spiritual warfare, take God at his Word and fight the enemy with the truth found there. Our minds are powerful instruments. Who will you let control yours? 

Trusting the Shepherd...not the Farmer,

Gina



Friday, July 7, 2017

5 Ways You Can Help Send Your Kids to Hell

Disclaimer: Unbelief is the only thing that sends people to hell. That's why it's so important that as Christian parents we are pointing our kids towards Christ. Part of that includes doing our part, according to scripture to train and parent them Biblically. It's not popular. It's not going to win you points with your friends, unless they are likeminded. It is however going to give you peace, when your parenting work is done, that you have done your best, though flawed, to point your kids to Christ. 

First off, I'm pretty sure the title alone is enough to spur some conversation, but let me tell you, when this topic hit me in the face like a baseball flying through the air on it's way to a homerun, I figured you deserved the same wake up call as me...and I am all about the sharing.

So, some backstory...I have been working on some continuing education (CEU's) classes this summer, just brushing up on my teaching skills. Most of these I can do at home and so in the afternoons, the kids are pretty used to seeing me with ear buds and computer and think it's funny that I have to do summer school. They're hilarious.

I teach at a Christian school. We use Christian curriculum. We teach the Bible. No apologies. No floundering around those facts. So obviously, some of my CEU's are going to be geared around what God's word says. And boy....on this particular day...did they!

I was sitting in my cute comfy chair, listening to the lecture, minding my own business, when the speaker, who has taught for more than 40 years, said, "Eli's sons are burning in hell today because his father valued them more than he valued what God said." And there you have it. I hit the rewind key on my computer 4 times. I had heard right and I wanted to know more about this.

Now, I had heard this story many times before...but never put exactly like she put it, so I was interested to read the passage again in the Bible. Check it out at Bible Gateway . Ok....are you still with me? Y'all...this passage was so sad to me. Here Eli, pansied out of disciplining his sons because he valued them more than he valued God's instruction. So even though Eli talked to his sons about their sin, he did nothing to discipline or train them to do the right things. I wanted to rip through the pages of scripture and beg Eli to get his act together....to wake up and smell the coffee. He was playing around with God's people and God's house. His sons were out of control, rebellious, permiscuous, arrogant, disrespectful and the list could just go on and on and ....wait a minute.

Doesn't that pretty much describe kids today? Oh maybe your kids aren't going into the church and taking things that don't belong to them...but stealing doesn't have to be just stuff...it can be time or talents. And maybe your kids aren't promiscuous, but you allow them to watch all kinds of vulgarity and sexual sins on TV and movies and you don't monitor their social media accounts. Maybe what was cute at 2 isn't as cute at 14, when they are rolling their eyes, placing their hands on their hips and talking back. And what are we doing....as parents? Are we sitting idly by and telling them "no-no", "Johnny, you know you shouldn't do that", "don't do that", "you're gonna regret that", "lol I did that when I was your age...and worse"? and worse yet...parents blaming others for their child's behavior or attitudes. I have seen all of this play out before my eyes at one time or another.

So where did Eli go wrong? How did sons wind up spending eternity in hell?

1. Eli's sons did not know the Lord. Of course they knew about the Lord, but there was no real relationship with the Lord. Evidently, going through the motions was enough for Eli to believe he had done his job. (I Samuel 2:12)

2. And as the story goes, although they knew how to do various responsibilities in the church (tabernacle), they treated it with disrespect because there was no reverence for holy things. Eli even knew of this behavior and did nothing but verbally speak with them. (I Samuel 2:13-20)

3. Eli "kept" hearing from people about what his sons were doing. This implies that he was not ignorant to their terrible behavior but had been told time and time again. (I Samuel 2:22)

4. Eli had raised sons who would not listen to their father. (I Samuel 2:25)

5. Eli's words were not enough....disciplinary action was never given and as a result Eli was not able to rejoice over his children. Instead, he found himself in grave misery over the eventual loss of not only his sons, but of the blessings that God had intended over the house of Isreal during his lifetime. (I Samuel 2:26)

So what can we do differently as parents, to ensure our kids don't go to hell. Nothing and everything....Your kids have a free will and they will eventually choose for themselves...but God gives us clear instruction...black and white...on some things we can do that clearly contradict the methods that Eli used....take a closer look:

1. Relationship Relationship Relationship. During the early years of our children's lives a relationship is about knowing about God. We learn the stories of the Bible and we learn about miracles and prophets and all the good stories in His Word. But as our kids get older, it has to be more about a relationship...the saving relationship from our sins and then a growing relationship with our Savior. Learning to walk with Him, learning what He desires and valuing His directions from His Word...those are the things that we need to bind in our child's heart. You model and teach this by your own behavior.

2. We need to train our children to reverence the things that God says are holy. He calls us to holiness (I Peter 1:15), He is holy (Leviticus 11:45), our thoughts are to be holy (Phil 4:4-9), our worship is to be holy (Psalm 96:9)...And the list could go on and on and on....And I am asking myself along with you....what are we teaching our kids about holiness and reverence to God????

3. Eli ignored the warnings of those around him (I Sam 2:22)... God has placed people in my life that I've had this conversation with: "I want to know if you see or hear my kids doing something that is destructive to their life or the lives of those around them." Will it be hard to hear it?....YES. Will I be embarrassed?....MAYBE. Will I want to strangle my kids?....PROBABLY (if it's true). What I am saying here is...you need a few people around you that you're willing to listen to even if the news isn't good. You need the people around you who will tell you if they see your kids being unkind, rude, rebellious, promiscuous or destructive. And if you hear from those trustworthy souls....you need to take care of it. Ask your kids questions and then DO something about it if it's true. That's the training part...the discipline part. You've got to get in the game! Proverbs 27:6

4. Eli's problems started before this story. Eli had raised two sons who didn't listen to their father...and that didn't start at the tabernacle or the promiscuous behavior. It probably started much younger...because these were established habits. It might be something cute when they are little ...like a "talk to the hand" kind of statement from your 4 year old...but let's face it moms and dads...at 15 that same hand up in the air isn't quite so cute. Momma Nancy gave me some great advice when I was pregnant with Savannah. "Don't allow at 2 what you won't allow at 15." There's some truth to that. Chew on it for a minute.

5. Realize that God will take action when he has had enough. Oh He is so merciful to us, but there comes a time that when we have embraced lazy parenting, an undisciplined home, an unholy lifestyle, a disregard and lack of respect for HIM, that He moves on and gives those blessings to others...look at who the sons were replaced with...Samuel...a son that was given to Hannah, a barren wife, who was willing before the birth of her son to promise him back to the Lord, as His servant. Through Samuel, God blessed the nation of Israel. He left things better than they were before.

Parents...let's get it together. Let's quit making everything else more important than a relationship with the Lord and a holy life. Let's quite ignoring the warning signs from others and the Holy Spirit, when we sense our kids are in trouble. Let's raise respectful children who have been trained to listen to their father's (both earthly and heavenly) instruction. Because God forbid, that we don't leave this world better because our children are in it....God forbid, we send them to hell because we are more worried about social status, being their friend and how it looks to everyone else. God forbid. God forbid.

Let's change the story together...


Gina



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fear- Let's Talk About It

Fear.

Fear can paralyze us, make us not take that next step in fulfilling our dreams.

Let’s talk about fear, know it, claim it and push through barriers the devil puts in our way.

My Dad passed away this past November. I had always feared one of “those” phone calls.  I had thought about getting one of those phone calls in depth a few times, like seeing it happen in a movie, the next thing you know you have a runaway train of thoughts about what you would do in that situation.  Fear leads to anxiety ridden thoughts over the thing you fear, yet you still do not feel prepared when you are in the situation you have feared for so long.  Shocked, gutted, panicked, frozen; those words better describe getting a phone call that your Dad has had a heart attack.

It was during the next few months that I felt the Lord nudging me about fear, convicting me about the small and big fears that I backed away from. I believe it was a stage of my grieving that led me to push my anxiety to the back burner; thinking to myself: why would I be fearful if I have already lost my Dad and I survived it. 

The Lord was with me, I felt his presence every step I took, every decision I made, he helped me, calmed me. Things just seemed smaller, less of a big deal. Time on the other hand became much more precious, memories became like valuable heirlooms and I felt a rush to capture these now very important things. The Lord nudged again and I knew exactly how I was going to do this, photography.

I have loved photography for a really long time but had only been brave enough to take pictures of our kids and our family, until recently. The devil liked to tell me lies like 'well sure the photos look good to you, but not to anyone else.' or 'you thought that photo was amazing but it only got 4 likes on Instagram, you must not have real talent.'. 

A few months ago, I completed a morning devotional about living fearlessly; how to boldly walk through the doors that God opens for you. During this study, the opportunity arose for me to take engagement photos for the sweetest couple. My voice surprised me when I heard myself say “I can do it, I’d love to do it.” I am not going to lie, fear bubbled many times before the actual day of the photo session came but I persisted (I know the Lord made me keep going because I was really kind of nauseous just thinking about it). 

The session was successful and I am so glad to say that I did it! But it’s really not about me completing this photo session, it’s much bigger. It’s about looking back on your journey to seeing how the Lord changed your heart to be more like Jesus, how He worked things out for your benefit to show you His sweet grace and  how He forgives you for the fears you have let the devil place in your life for so long, this is His indescribable mercy.


Isn't breaking free from a bondage holding you back, in this case fear, so rewarding when you can see the Lord’s work in every part of your story?  So, yes, let’s talk about fear, know it, claim it and push through barriers the devil puts in our way. What fears do you hold in your heart? I pray you focus on Joshua 1:9 instead. Replace anxiety and fearful thoughts with the fact that the Lord calls you to be strong and courageous. He promises to be with you wherever you go. So do not be afraid.

This is my story,

Nikki Taylor

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Gather Around

Some of my best childhood memories are those where my family--me, my younger brother, mom and dad--were gathered around the dinner table. That table, coincidentally, is still the table my parents gather around today. Oh the stories the table could tell! I've already told my parents I want the table when they die. I think they thought I was joking, but I am not.

Even "back in the day" my brother and I were involved in multiple school activities. Like most high schoolers, those activities kept us going from morning until after dark some nights and even weekends. I seriously don't know how we made it without cell phones. My mom must've spent hours in her car just waiting for us to finish so we could go home! Regardless of how crazy the days schedule, my parents made sure we ate dinner together almost every evening. The food wasn't what brought us together but the daily connection we had talking about the good, the bad and sometimes the really ugly throughout our day.

I never knew how important those times meant to me until my husband and I started our own family. We discussed our desire to have this intentional time of connection around the dinner table. So as a young married couple we'd attempt to eat a meal I, as a young bride with minimal cooking skills, had prepared (some nights were more successful than others!) and talk about our day. We found out that first year this meal time conversation also worked over fast food if my meal wasn't executed as planned!

When kids came along our meal times sounded more like a battleground than conversations:

"Sit down!"

"No, we don't put our feet on the table while we're eating."

"Rolling olives up our legs is not something we do at the table."

"Yes, you do have to eat all your green beans or yes, you WILL be eating them for breakfast!"

Our kids have gotten older and there are less battles, although sometimes the green beans still cause an issue. Occasionally, we're surprised by more meaningful conversations involving questions that have been on their minds or a detailed recap of the day. Other nights it can be pretty quiet because, let's face it, some days are just hard and by dinnertime we're tired and feel defeated. The point is, we're together and we're hopefully building a stronger family in the process.

I want to know in this age of technology and busy schedules, how do you stay connected with your family? Dinners? Game nights? Take a minute and share your ideas in the comments below.


Jaime

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fearless- Book Review

“Some books leave us free and some books make us free.”~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I agree with Mr. Emerson.  Fearless by Max Lucado is a book that can make us free if we will let it.  Of course, it’s not the book, but the message and the applying of that message that will free us.  Fear is a natural human emotion, but just like selfishness or greed, fear must be reigned in and controlled, or it may come to control us, or at the very least, hold us back from our purpose in life.

I’ve never read a Lucado book I didn’t love and this one is no different.  Fearless is a message of hope and courage, and much of it is straight from the pages of Scripture.  The one statement Jesus made more than any other recorded in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”.  This is amazing to me.  He takes our fears seriously, and He knew and knows that fear would be and is a real and debilitating force in many of our lives.

In this book, Max covers 13 different fears, from fear of not mattering to fear of not protecting my kids to fear that God is not real.  I personally identified with every single one of the fears he mentions and was filled with hope and assurance that each one can be combatted with prayer and faith in my loving Heavenly Father.  I was challenged to trust what I know is true, pray like never before and lean into others when I need help.

Here is just a small taste of some of the gems found this book…
~”When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god.  Can the safety lover do anything great?”
~”Nothing fosters fear like an ignorance of mercy.”
~”Prayer is the saucer into which parental fears are poured to cool.”
~”Storms are not an option, but fear is.”
~”When Christ is great, our fears are not.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, whether you willingly admit fear is an unwanted part of your life or not.  You will be blessed and encouraged and may learn how to help those of us who struggle with the very real weight of fear on a daily basis.  This is an easy read and will be worth your time.  You may even want to read it a few times.

Thank you, Max, for another superb book.

Happy reading, 

Miriam


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Is Your Religion Pure?

James 1:27- Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world


I have enough trouble coping with the schedules of my kids, a crazy dog and a preacher husband....there are piano lessons, Walmart trips, ballgames, school stuff, church activities and more...and without the help of my husband and the occasional rescue girlfriend who can help with a pickup or drop off...I would struggle...BIG.TIME.

So I can't imagine what the single parent goes through. Think about it...kid sick, flat tire, air-conditioning out, lawn needs to be mowed....whose shoulders does that fall on???

Nearly 1 in 4 children are being raised in single parent homes. Recently, I asked my single parent Facebook friends to respond with their greatest fears or worries in raising their kids.

Their responses were as follows:

* responded that they were worried about the lack of relationship between the father and his children.

* responded that they were concerned for the safety of their children when with the other parent.

* responded that they were worried that they would not be able to provide basic needs for their kids.

* responded fear about CPS stepping in at any time as a concern.

* confessed worrying about whether or not they were enough as a mom for her sons.

* was concerned that her sons would not know what it was like to be real man, a father in the future.

* responded with anxiousness about whether they would fulfill God's destiny, serve Jesus

* said they were worried they couldn't be everything their child needed them to be


In a world were 25% of homes are led by single parents, I wonder if there isn't something different that we could be doing to help meet some of these needs. And before someone says, well the root of this is unstable families, divorce, weak marriages...let me assure you, that after years of counseling to help preserve God's institute of Biblical marriage, I know that single parent homes are inevitable. There are so many reasons there are single parent homes...let me give you a few:

- infidelity, in all ways...physically, emotionally, mentally
- pornography (see above)
- abuse, in all ways
-unplanned pregnancy
-abandonment
-free will and choice
-disagreements
-death of a spouse

And I can assure you that most couples that give up on their marriage, had one person in that marriage that wanted to fight harder to save it, wanted it to make it, wanted restoration. But we all know, if both parties aren't willing to give it everything, restoration is impossible.

So this is a judgement free zone...because this isn't really about what the single parents are doing or causes for divorce.

It's about what we can do to help them do what they do.

I'm convinced that these hardworking parents could use someone to come along side and help in some tangible ways...and maybe if we start dialoging we can become part of a solution, a partnership with parents who are doing their best to provide in all ways for their kids...just like us. It's kind of our common denominator.

God's Word commands the church (Christians...doesn't matter your church affiliation...only your heart affiliation) to care for the widows and the fatherless....and I can't imagine that doesn't include the widowers and the motherless (James 1:27). God knew there would be situations where there would be single parents. He also made a way for their needs....all their needs...to be met. So what are we doing? What are we doing to meet the needs of the fatherless and the motherless children that we know? It's our responsibility. It's a command. If we don't do it, we are disobedient. We sin.

So after some research, a list has been compiled of some practical ways you and I can help the single parents we know (no doubt this list is not exhaustive, so if you want to add to it, leave a comment and let us know what you're doing or if you're a single parent and someone has done something that has helped...let us know!)

1. Pray for God to make you sensitive and unselfishly discerning of the needs of single parents. (Since He commands this...if we are sincere in our desire...He will show us...because He doesn't withhold himself from those who diligently seek Him)

2. Obey His command (here's a few ideas, just in case you need them)

* If you provide a service, let the parent know. Many times single parents feel lost when emergency situations arise, so if they have a list of reliable mechanics, air-conditioning repair services, pediatricians, nurse friends...then its less stressful for them. They aren't expecting a free handout (although...if you feel led, feel free), just less stress in finding someone trustworthy

*Provide a list of your favorite babysitters.

*Pay for their child to do something extracurricular. Maybe a kids camp, or an Upwards program, or an art camp, or piano lessons. While a single parent might never ask for a handout, their kids sometimes don't have the advantage of extra things because of finances.

*If you're an older person, partner with the single parent as an encourager, a mentor, a cheer leader. Invest in the hardworking adult.

*Send them a birthday card, a valentine, a Christmas gift. Chances are until their kids get older, someone will need to step it up if the parent will be remembered.

*Be a good role model....one of the chief concerns was from mothers who fear their sons will be lacking because of the lack of a father figure in the home. Could you spare some time or share some time with the son of a single mom? Some of these connections can happen with your own kids, just including another.

*Model good marriages. Let's face it...these marriages ended for a reason (some even death) and if we are going to manage to hold marriage in high esteem, we need to model good and godly marriages.

*Be excited about serving the Lord and others. Don't complain. If you serve them, don't act like its a bother. Serve with joy. Nobody likes a begrudging gift giver.

*Provide anonymously for school supplies, new school clothes, shoes, backpacks...another way those who have already raised their children can help. You remember how expensive it is to raise and provide for kids!

*Be a safe place for your single parents families to come to in a time of emergency. Let's face it, domestic violence, natural disasters, lightning storms and power outages happen. Sometimes these things are overwhelming and knowing you have a friend to go to is not only helpful to the children involved, but to the parent who may also be feeling anxious.

*Help when more than one of their children needs to be in one or more places.... transportation to and from activities can get hairy and sometimes a carpool situation can be a lifesaver.

*If the parent is widowed, provide a break, a few hours for him or her to run errands, change the oil, get nails done or TAKE A NAP.

*Encourage, high five and pray for these families. Can't hurt, can it?

Let's get behind these families and remember that God has a plan for them just like He does for your family. Sometimes we get so inwardly focused that we do nothing or we forget part of His plan doesn't include the welfare system or government to take care of them....but it does include the church caring for them. Let's get with His program and watch His plan unfold. Can you do something???

That's Their Story,

Single Parents from around the World