Saturday, December 24, 2011

O, What an Amazingly, Holy Night!

Every Christmas I hear the old carols and am in awe of what Jesus has done for us. This song, 'O Holy Night' is...I have no words...awesome?! It was composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 and I think it is my absolute favorite carol...well, the hallelujah chorus is up there too!!!

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth--------I love it!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining-----so sad...
Till he appeared-----------------------it's like --drum roll please...
And the soul felt it's worth-------------we realize we need Him
The thrill of hope------------------the hope is swelling inside of us!
The weary world rejoices----------------hallelujah!!!
For yonder brinks a new and glorious morn--it's a new day!
Fall on your knees------there is nothing else to do, but to bow before our King
O hear the angel voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night, o night divine

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. ---can you imagine!? I wouldn't have been standing!
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;---this gets me every time...
In all our trials born to be our friends. ---God of the universe wants to be our friend!
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger, --He knows our weaknesses, or needs-He loves us!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! ---it says it all...
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another, ---Love- the fulfillment of the law.
His law is love and His gospel is peace. ---His commandment is to love-
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.--He came to free us-and become sin itself for us.
And in his name all oppression shall cease. ---Only He has the power to break the enemy's hold
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, ---Praise Him!
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

May we live each day remembering all that Jesus has done for us- He left heaven, was born as a baby in a stable, lived among us, chose to die for us, set us free from sin and sickness, and offers us eternal life with Him!!!

                                     Happy Birthday Jesus!!!

Merry Christmas and may God bless us all everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Is it a Wonderful Life?

I just finished watching the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life." (If you haven't ever seen it i highly recommend it. If you haven't seen it in a long time-revisit it).  It is a movie that always makes me cry-in a good way. Cry because God answered George's prayer waaaay above what he ever thought or dreamed of.  It's a movie that proves that our God is generous. It's a movie that proves that God has a plan for each person's life. It proves that God uses all things for His glory. It proves that God is aware of the things that matters to us. It proves that God does not abandon His people. It proves that God's plan is a good one-even if we can't see it.

So the basic premise of the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," is that the character George Bailey wants to leave his home town, travel, go to college, be an architect, become a millionaire and do great things for the world-even possibly become famous, but none of his dreams for his own life come true. He grows weary, working hard and not accomplishing the things he deems important for his life. Then his Uncle Billy does the unimaginable--he looses $8,000!

George states to Uncle Billy, "One of is going to jail! Well ain't gonna be me!!"
George is terrified of the future. He's discouraged over his past. Life is no longer worth living. Then he prays a simple prayer,
"Dear Father in heaven i'm not much of a praying man,
but if you're up there and you can hear me show me the way.
 i'm at the end of my rope. show me the way."

A simple prayer-that some might even say - a prayer without faith-but God answered him.
Part of his prayer is answered when he meets his guardian angel-Clarence.

Clarence gives George the chance to see what life would have been like if he had never been born. Absolutely incredible! Can you imagine being able to see this life if you had never been born?

When George sees how badly the people in his life turned out without him Clarence says:

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives.
 When he isn't around he leaves an awful whole doesn't he?"

 He also says:
You see george, you really had a wonderful life.
 Don't you see what a mistake it would be
 to throw it all away?

When george realizes this for himself, he prays again:

"Clarence-help me, get me back, i don't care what happens to me,
please, I want to live again.
please God let me live again."

George goes back to his life and everything is exactly as he left it: He'll still be arrested for loosing $8,000, he's poor, he has no college degree, he's not an architect and he's still in the very town that he always dreamed of leaving- BUT he's happy. He sees how wonderful God had blessed his life with a wife and children. He sees how God worked through him to touch so many lives and how the whole town stayed pure because he was able to fight the town's nemesis-Mr. Potter. He sees how God used him to do great things.

I love how in the beginning of the movie he says: "One of is going to jail, but ain't gonna be me!! But by the end he's found to say: "Isn't it wonderful? I'm going to jail! different perspective-only God can do that!

One of my favorite quotes of the movie that always makes me cry is:

 "It's a cable from London-
" Mr. Gower wired you need cash. stop.
 My office  instructed to advance you up to $25,000
- hee-haw and Merry Christmas. Sam Wainwright. 

God is never late. God is never worried. God always has a plan. God never abandons.

So, why have I told you about a movie that you already know so much about? Well, my husband was trying to explain part of what motivates me to do the things I do or the passion behind the things I do them to a dear friend. He said of me;  "Ellen wants her life to count for something. After all she’s been through, she believes God rescued her for a reason. Her heart is that of the person who has been forgiven much – she loves much, and wants to love God with all her heart by loving His people with all her heart." So, I guess I'm a 'George Bailey' of sorts. I want my life to count for something. I really do believe that that statement, "wanting my life to count for something" was at the heart of George Bailey desires. Not wanting to do the daily grind without a purpose-without a heavenly goal.

I, personally, want to give back to others what God has so freely given to me. I want to share the hope I have, the love I have, the freedom I have experienced with others because without the touch of God in my life I would have none of it.

Like George Bailey, I still have dreams. I still have hopes of being used by God. I have something in me that wants to do something big. I have no idea what that might be, but I know that I'm not done yet. Don't know if I've even really started- I'm still looking, but for right now, I know I'm right where God wants me and my heart is full. And because of that- I can say confidently, 'It's a Wonderful Life!"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Happening...It's Really Happening.

After posting this picture I sat looking at it and just loved it.
 It really made me smile.

As I stared at them I saw myself in the one on the left
and my sweet daughter on the right.
My snowman has lost its glitter, most of it's felt buttons
and it's simply worn.
My daughter's snowman was made with materials that will last
and it's pretty.
 They are clearly not the same.  

And I will say, as worn out as I am, as much as trouble or heartbreak has broken off little pieces of me.
As much as the enemy has wanted to destroy my very life-
I am still standing! I am still here! I am still serving. I am still hoping to be made new some day.
I am still watching the Creator of me -change me, form me, recreate me and make me into that new creation.

(i know when He sees me He sees the "new creation," but when someone 'pushes' one of my insecure buttons i don't feel very "new creation.")

I am looking forward to the day when I will look less worn out-less weathered in spirit, and more free, more joyous, more wise. I look forward to the day that I am truly a new creation in mind, body and spirit. I believe it will come-and I am expectantly, and hopefully, looking forward to it.

Another thing about these little snowmen
is that when I saw them together
 I thought about my childhood.
 Thought about my daughter's childhood.
Our childhood's are as different as these two snowmen.
and I realized that, that's a good thing.
 Actually, that's a great thing. 

How glad I am that my daughter will not experience the pain I have. How glad I am that her life is being built out of things that will last. She is growing up knowing the Word of God. Knowing the love of Jesus. No matter what she goes through she will not be moved-or changed.

Sure, she will have her own issues to work through, but by God's amazing grace she is saved from so much.
The generational sin, junk, is not being steadily passed along. The richness of knowing Jesus is growing and there will be a heritage of believers in my family. I claim it!

My little three year old asked Jesus into his heart on 12/12/11. How amazing is that???
My son from his tender years will know and grow in the love of Jesus. There is hope. God is turning one worn out life into something new. God is taking said- worn out life- to create life that knows Him.

It's's really happening.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Little Snowman...A Great Memory.

On my Joy School blog I mentioned how I went to 'Joy School' when I was little --here's what I said...

 "Well, when I was three years old some ladies in our church started a little school for me and my friends- they named it Joy School. I have never forgotten how very excited I was each week to attend Joy School- to sing songs of Jesus, and make crafts. I'll never forget the Christmas party they threw- even the parents were invited. My mom came. I sat on her lap throughout the whole party. We made a snowman ornament craft (that I still hang on my Christmas tree each year) and ate pfeffernusse."

it's true I still have the snowman...

and here it is~

(the cute handwriting of a four year old =)

Every year that I have taken that snowman out it really brings back sweet memories. Memories of the church basement being decorated for Christmas. The tables had white table clothes, beautiful dishes and cups, hot cocoa, marshmallows, (of course), treats and craft material set out.  Memories of my friends and I being so excited. Memories of my mom showing up and allowing me to sit on her lap. Memories of Christmas songs being played. Memories of trying pfeffernusse for the first time, loving it, and being allowed to eat as much as I wanted. Memories of making a craft that I could be proud of.

So over the years, when Christmas time came along, I would always look for the craft materials I used to make that snowman. As a teacher I wanted it so I could make the snowman with my many students over the years. I have never found it-- until this year. Just the other week I was in the veterans thrift store with the girls, when in their Christmas craft box, I saw a craft kit for a snowman- it looked kinda like what I had as a child and for a dollar I bought it for my seven year old.

The other day I took out our Christmas crafts and set my daughter up to make her snowman. I showed my husband and said, 'Hun, doesn't this look like the craft from when I was four years old?" He picked up the package...

read the publication date and it said it was made in 1973! (I made my craft in 1974!) how funny is that!? Not only that, but it was made in Bronx, NY! I laughed! who knew I had to travel eight hours from my birth place to find what was made back there?! LOL!

Honestly, I'm not making this up, my daughter has absolutely loved making her snowman. Her snowman is different than mine- her's has sequence and pretty beads and she has enough beads left over that she is covering the back too!

 How neat is that? isn't it pretty?

I know so many times I want to completely throw the towel in on my childhood memories and say,
 'Lord, please take them all away--there's too much pain.'
 but then He lets me see that it wasn't all bad. and somehow God has allowed me to remember these sweet times, to treasure them in my heart and be able to repeat them with my daughter.

 I treasured today. I treasured being able to put on Christmas music in my home, sit with my daughter and make a Christmas craft. I hope and pray that today will be remembered by her and that she will desire making special memories or even crafts with her daughter.

Thank you Lord for Christmas. Thank you for allowing there to have been a time in my life, Christmas time, to be filled with sweet memories and sweet times. Thank you Lord that it wasn't all bad. thank you too for those ladies, whoever they were- I have no idea, but bless them for creating a place that was safe for me, that showed me how people loved you with joy. I am blessed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hark the Herald Angels Sing...Now That's Something.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." I had no idea who wrote the song, but I knew it had to have been someone who really loved Jesus and totally understood the reverence of Christmas.

 I think it wonderful that this song is taken from the perspective of the angels. We've seen so many cartoons and movies made that cover Christmas from the view of: Mary and Joseph, a lamb, a donkey, a drummer boy, etc. but from the perspective of the angels- now that's something. The angels knew Jesus. They were in heaven with Jesus. They knew not only who He was, but  that He was coming and why He was coming.

Well, I won't hold you in suspense any longer, although, I will add I hope to raise Godly children like Mr. and  Mrs. Wesley one day. The writer was the brother of John Wesley-Charles Wesley. I thought that was pretty neat. Charles wrote the song and William H. Cummings worked on the music written by Mendelssohn to fit to the song hark the herald angels sing. 

I've sung this song so many times and have never really looked at the meaning of the song-sure it's a Christmas song, but what is Charles Wesley proclaiming? When I simply read over the words the song no longer felt like a song, but rather a declaration or a statement of what I believe.

The song begins with "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" hark- means to pay close attention to or listen- and herald means an official crier or messenger, one that precedes or foreshadows: one that conveys news or proclaims : announcer  : one who actively promotes or advocates.--isn't that amazing! he starts the song with the angels telling us to,  'pay close attention because we are official messengers announcing news.' and the news follows: the KING has been born! Glory means: worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving. Praise God for what He has done- He has come to earth!

Now why praise God for coming to earth? Well, he tells you in the next several lines:
'Peace on earth' has come for the Prince of Peace is here!
'God and sinners reconciled' - because of Jesus' sacrifice of coming to earth and dying on the cross we can be in relationship with the God of heaven!-
I love the next lines:
'joyful all ye nations rise- Jesus came for ALL nations-every tribe, every nation! so rejoice!
'join the triumph of the skies-with the angelic host proclaim'  join with the angels singing!
'Christ is born in Bethlehem'!

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"

Hark! The herald angels sing              
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Christ by highest heav'n adored      -Jesus came from heaven -(don't forget that).
Christ the everlasting Lord!             -Jesus is the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come         - Jesus is NEVER late-He born late in the night
Offspring of a Virgin's womb          -He was born of a virgin-a miracle-faith
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see      -He was born flesh-to be among us
Hail the incarnate Deity                   -the world will tell you different-but God was flesh
Pleased as man with man to dwell-    and happy to do so
Jesus, our Emmanuel                        -Jesus IS our 'God with us"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!    -Praise the Prince of heaven for coming to earth
Hail the Son of Righteousness!            - Praise the ONE that is 'free from guilt or sin'
Light and life to all He brings                - He brings life to ALL of us
Ris'n with healing in His wings             -HE brings healing to us all
Mild He lays His glory by                     - He laid His kingdom down to come to earth (WOW!)
Born that man no more may die             -His purpose in coming-to die for us
Born to raise the sons of earth              -He is born to raise us up with Him
Born to give them second birth             -He is born to give us a second birth in Him
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
i cannot imagine ever being able to write a song like that! all of that is in my heart, but to get in down in words like that-amazing.

in the few days left until Christmas -take some time to sing this song and so many others that proclaim what Christmas is really all about. proclaim it like the angels did that precious night of our Savior's birth. proclaim like a declaration of what you believe. God has come to earth for US!
 He loves us.
He loves you.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Memories...

So where does one begin?

I have a rush a memories flooding my mind -good and sad ones all mixed together, but...i'll stick with the sweet ones.

Okay, so here we go...
--One Christmas I really wanted a particular baby doll. She had a plastic head, arms and legs, but her body was soft-I think she was called, "Baby so Soft." anyway, I really wanted her, but I found out later that my mother said she would not buy me another baby doll. well, when one of my sisters heard that i wasn't going to get the one thing i really wanted for Christmas she saved up her money and bought it for me. my mother, who would not stand for being 'out shined' ran out and bought me one too!  so, on Christmas morning i not only got the dolly i wanted, but twins!!!! it was the best surprise. i delighted in my twins for years. (how amazing to me that the Lord gave me twins in real life too!).

--another story--i remember when i was twelve years old my sisters boyfriend (whom she later married) asked me what was the one thing i always wanted for Christmas and never got. I quickly pulled out a magazine and showed him a picture of a dollhouse. (i remember the first time i saw that dollhouse -i had to have been in the third grade). anyway, he told me that that would be a really nice gift, but there was no way he could afford it. i completely let the idea of ever having my own doll house go.

Christmas morning came and in he walked with the biggest package i had ever seen! with tears in his eyes  and the happiest smile he looked at me and said, "merry Christmas ellie." I slowly opened it. i was too afraid to dream. as i unraveled the paper my dreams came true. i fell in love with it at once. as i stared at it in awe. i heard him say how sorry he was that he couldn't afford the one i wanted, but how he hoped this one would do. then my sister said, "ellie, he designed and made this one for you." i tell you my heart was completely overwhelmed. i felt so loved. ---since that time i have made three dollhouses and refurbished one.  (-two of the dollhouses i have given to my own daughters).

--i remember the first time i ever saw the movie, "it's a wonderful life." it had been a long day of our regular chores on a saturday. i was so tired. my sister made hot cocoa and sat me down to watch the movie. i was glued from the very moment it started. i didn't know who jimmy stewart was or how famous the movie was either, but i did know that God was watching out for this guy, george bailey. i was so touched. so moved. so encouraged. so filled with hope. a hard day turned into a day of joy. best movie ever. i have watched it every Christmas season without fail and my husband even made a movie of it staring himself as george and me as mary. we have a wonderful life, know it and thank God for it!

--as an adult i just loved the first Christmas in our own home. it was a Christmas of alot of  'firsts"
--it was the first Christmas living out of ny,
--first Christmas in a house that my husband and i had recently bought and
-- our first child's first Christmas.
i remember waking up on Christmas morning with more delight and excitement in my heart than ever i was a child. i skipped over to my son's room and scooped him out of his crib. we all went downstairs, played Christmas music, lit a fire in the fire place, and opened presents. the joy, the freedom to be loved and to love. each Christmas that we have had a 'new arrival' join in on the fun it has felt as fantastical as that first one. each Christmas sitting around the den and watching the children open presents, honey video tapping, music playing, fire burning,-- has reinforced how very blessed i am.

so there you have it- just a few memories of Christmas past. i find it is always good to sit and remember. to see how very much the Lord has blessed you and take time to thank Him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What was Christmas like in Your Home Growing Up?

i'd love to hear about all your
- traditions,
- memories,
-favorite movies,
- your favorite present ever!
or -whatever you'd like to share-

I think it would minister to so many if we all just take a moment to share one, two or as many things that come to your heart that made Christmas special.

and then i'll share mine ;)
by the way...Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Most Powerful Words You'll Ever Hear (part 2)

Jesus spoke the most amazing, powerful words. I already mentioned some of His life changing words, but Jesus had alot to tell us and it was all powerful:

Jesus said: "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:44-45  
(Are you kidding me?!!-It's more like hate my enemies and gossip about them behind their back-Why not? they hate me anyway! I have, obviously, been personally convicted by this Bible verse).

Jesus said, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16
(What!!! It's is all about ME being first. I grew up being told to, 'Take care of # 1'-me).

Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God and Money." Matthew 6:24 
(Really??? We are a nation of people who love money- we love new cars, new clothes, a Martha Stewart style home, the best of everything).

Jesus said,  "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." Mark 9:35
(I was taught, by watching my father, that if you are a leader you lord your power over those under you- you make the servants do all the work. how is it possible that the head serves the foot???).

These words are radical, powerful, life changing, convicting and yet- still not the most powerful words you'll ever hear. The absolute most powerful words you will ever hear is this:

Jesus said,
 "It is finished."
John 19:30

"It is finished." amazing. done. complete...but what does it mean?

Our sin, our mistakes-our "mistakes" done on purpose- all of it, makes us imperfect. God, however, is perfect. Perfect-no sin, no mistakes, no unjustified  anger, perfectly patient, perfectly kind, perfectly loving, perfectly joyful, perfectly at peace, perfectly wise, perfectly self-controlled. Our sin-our 'not-perfectness' separates us from God. nothing we do can ever change the fact that we are imperfect and He is perfect. we can't make ourselves perfect. sure, we can try, but it's of no use.

We can go to church every Sunday, we can be in ministry-even be a missionary, we can give up drinking, smoking, drugs. We can give up promiscuity, stop having fits of rage, lying, stealing, basically- stop breaking the ten commandments, but if we haven't come to the place where we believe that Jesus paid for our sin by dying on the cross -that He took the punishment for all our 'wrongs' well, then, it is all for nothing. All that hard work of trying to be good, trying to earn our way to heaven is for nothing. We can't not be a sinner- we are sinners! We sin in our thoughts! In our words! In our actions! and like any good parent knows, if you disobey the father--there will be a punishment.

Jesus, who was perfect -who never did wrong, took the punishment for our wrongs so we wouldn't be punished. When He uttered the words, "It is finished" He was saying, 'My children who believe in me will never, ever, ever, ever, know punishment. They will not know the threat of being punished or carry the fear of being punished- it is over- it is finished.'

 When the enemy whispers to you and says,
"Jesus will never forgive you for that!"
 it's a lie because,
 "It is finished."

When you have guilt over doing something so dreadfully wrong,
you know why?
"It is finished."

If "religion" is keeping you from believing
understand- this is not religion-
it is the very words that came from
Jesus' mouth-
He said, "It is finished." not man.

And I think what adds to this amazing statement is that when Jesus died on the cross over 2000 years ago all our sin was in the future then- which means all our sins- past, present and future are taken care of- He took the punishment for it all- for everyone--forever!!! "It is finished!"

"It is finished" are the most powerful words you'll ever hear
 for it carries freedom for the whole world!

"Don't be afraid; just believe." (Mark 5:36)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Last Prima Famiglia Thanksgiving-The Beginning of the End.

It was 2001 and it was the worst thanksgiving day of my life. I couldn't remember a time, prior to this event, that I had ever cried so deeply and so long. I had no sign of when the pain and ache would end. I honestly felt as if I would cry myself to the death.

Growing up my sister, five years my senior, and I were very close- as close as two sisters could be in my home. She was older than me and sorta watched over me, but she also used me as her little side kick-- and honestly, I was okay with that. She was the only one that paid any attention to me on a day to day basis. I did whatever she said. If she wanted go to the 7:30am church service on a Sunday morning, I went. If she wanted to spend an entire day mowing, front and back lawns, picking weeds, and planting flowers, I was her man-I mean I was her 7 year old kid. If she wanted to go shopping and didn't want to go alone- I was there holding the bags. If she wanted to watch 'knot's landing'-I was there watching a show I couldn't understand. If she was frightened of the thunder storm in the middle of the night, I was the one who allowed her to crawl in my bed and made her feel safe. I was also the one who agreed with her in everything. If she said to jump, I asked, the proverbial question of "How high?" and I loved her with all my heart. She meant the world to me - because--she was my world.

She was also an artist and I looked up to her. She would draw amazing Christmas scenes on eggs that she blown out. She made beautiful things with shells and crab legs that we had found on the beach. She had this sweet tender side, but that was not the side of her you would often see or that she let just anyone see. She was mostly bossy, aggressive, forceful and if she didn't get her way-brutal. She was not a girl of many words-fists with punches behind them were her language. I fell out of line a few times, but it didn't take me long to get back in line and start marching right behind her. No, she was not one you would ever say no to or cross. For she knew just how to make your life miserable. So with me in line, being quiet, as her servant, little, puppy--we got along great.

I knew everything about her life. I can't say she ever really knew me though. I can't remember a time where she asked me how my day was, or asked me why I was crying. Funny though, I loved her still. At that time I was so grateful to her. I cannot express that gratitude towards her-maybe, I guess, it was the fact that she allowed me to watch her. I learned so many of the plain day to day things of life from her. (You see my mother and father were in their own world's -so this particular sister was like a mother to me--and I guess one just loves their mom no matter what--flaws and all).

So in 2001, we were grown adults. She and I were married. She had three children and I was pregnant with my second. My husband, one year old and pregnant self traveled from our married home to my childhood home to be with my side of the family for Thanksgiving. When we arrived there was a 'cold air' about the family, but we were happy to be visiting and looking forward to the day's events.

We woke up early on Thanksgiving day, bundled up and headed into Manhattan for the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade. It really was alot of fun, but inside-- my stomach was doing flip-flops. I knew I must have 'gotten out of line' with my sister some how, didn't know what I had done, but knew that the 'punches' were on their way.

On the car ride home from the city I sat next to her on purpose hoping to get a chance to confront the issue, say my apologies and continue with the day, but I soon realized that it was not that simple. Essentially I was told that the family "finally saw me for who I really was" and they hated me for it. She listed my cowardice and shyness as offenses to the family.

When we arrived back to my childhood home, my mother was in complete agreement with the 'airing of grievances.' My sister continued to tell me of my 'sins' against the family. My confusion was great and  I couldn't see any of it as sins in the least. Then the final blow came...she said, "None of us have ever loved you- we have carried you along because you are blood."

The words hung in the air. At first my mind asked, 'Could this really be true? Could she really mean what she is saying?' Then I knew it was true. All those relationship only service. My mother walked by again, glad the words were finally being said and kept going.

My brother and his beautiful family had not arrived yet and I knew that they were not a part of this census--I remained silent.

Thanksgiving day went on as scheduled. food, wine, smiles, guests. I was broken. I tried so hard not to cry, but at last I went into the bathroom and the flood of tears began. My mother came in and yelled at me, "Pull it together!! How could you be so absurd to ruin Thanksgiving!!!"

I did pull myself together, I wiped my face, went downstairs, got our things, and my new family-husband, baby and I walked out the door.

(Part of the Prima Famglia saga)

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Most Powerful Words You'll Ever Hear (part 1)

Jesus said some pretty powerful words to people---

-Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.
"I am willing." he said "Be clean!"
Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.
 (Matthew 8:3)

-Jesus said to the centurion, "Go!" It will be done just as you believed it would" (Matthew 8:13)
-"Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9:2b)

-"Take heart, daughter, he said, "your faith has healed you." (Matthew 9:23)

"When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
"Friend, your sins are forgiven."
 (Luke 5:20)

-Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said,
"Young man, I say to you, get up!"
The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother."
(Luke 7:14-15)

"But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
"If you can?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
(Mark 9:22-23)

Now just imagine if you were one of those people Jesus said these words to. Imagine if you had a son who died, a daughter who died and Jesus said to YOU, "Go!" It will be done just as you believed it would" Can you imagine within the next moments your son or daughter rose from the grave? Jesus spoke some mighty powerful words.

Imagine you had leprosy or an issue of bleeding and Jesus said to YOU  "I am willing. Be clean!" 

Those are pretty powerful words. I gotta say if any of these words were spoken to me-or these things happened to me not only would my faith be strong-stronger--I'd be radically changed. I believe that the Word of God or the Bible is as true today as it was thousands of years ago. I believe that the true life stories that were written down by the apostles and disciples of Christ are for US today.

What do I mean...

Okay, so I believe that God inspired the apostles and disciples of Jesus to write the true account of Jesus' stay here on earth. -all the stuff He did and said--people He healed--His teachings--things that God the Father wanted us to know.  Why? What can we glean from the healings Jesus preformed for other people?

 Was it so that we would merely know that Jesus was our healer
 is it so that we would know Jesus IS our healer? 

I truly believe that Jesus is our healer today. We read these amazing and miraculous stories not so we would say, "Man, I wish I could go back in time and have Jesus heal me -that guy was lucky." That would be rough.  Jesus wouldn't do that- Jesus gave us the Bible to build our faith. As we read these accounts of healing- faith rises up in us and it strengthens our resolve that we will be healed too. 

I also think it's neat how the apostles didn't take an account of the names of the people healed. No names, isn't that interesting? Important enough for the writers to record the story, but not important enough to write the names? Jesus says things like, daughter, you are well. Son, your sins are forgiven you. No names. Is it so we can put our own name in? "Take heart, Kelly, your faith has healed you." We don't have to wish for Jesus to say these words to us- He has said them-directly to you.

You may have something in your life or some sickness in your life that wasn't mentioned in the Bible and it's hard for you to believe that Jesus will heal you of  that particular thing. Well, it says in the Bible, He healed all their diseases. If the Word of God is as true today as it was 2,000 years ago, then I gotta say that God can heal you now and from whatever disease you've got.

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. " (Matthew 4:23)

These are powerful words- powerful truths--we need only believe.

"Everything is possible for him who believes."
(Mark 9:22-23)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Family...A Precious Word.

Family.- A group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.
             Basic unit in society consisting traditionally of two parents rearing their children. (Webster Dictionary)

Mishpachah - (Yiddish) The entire family network of relatives by blood or marriage (and sometimes close friends).

These scholarly definitions are not truly defining family for me. My idea of family is so much bigger, and I think so much better.

So, here's my definition of family...

Family- begins with two people, a man and a woman, who love each other very much and are blessed to have children. Their children have children and their children have children. And they are there for one another. No matter what they are there for one another. Family looks out for one another. Family listens. Family helps. Family understands. Family prays. Family loves. They love with hugs, and squishes, and presents, and words of affirmation. Family is always excited to see you. A family member's door is always open. You are never turned away.

Family doesn't notice if you are wearing make-up, and hair is 'depoofed.' Family laughs with you, not at you, for the chub line around your middle and sometimes they laugh at their own chub too. Family talks about who got dad's chin and eyebrows while so-and-so got mom's hair and freckles.

Family takes your phone call no matter what the time of day or night. Family talks on the phone for two-to-three hours or minutes or just hangs up when they hear the baby is crying in the background and you just had to go-no explanation is needed.

In family the older ones pass down the family traditions, wisdom, and Godly advice and the family recipes. Family loves to eat together. They love to eat the same food that they have enjoyed together for years. nothing new, but always good.

Family loves your child from the moment they know the little one is inside of you.  They tear-up with joy to hear the words, "we're having a baby." Family loves to smell your children's hair and toes and kiss their bellies. Family loves to call each other by their nickname. Family loves the new words that are added to the family vocabulary like "shew-shew" for shoes or "tutle" for turtle or "that's fa-diculous" for 'that's ridiculous.'

Family thinks of you and buys you little chakas 'just because.' Family travels eight or so hours just to see you. They sleep in sleeping bags on the floor and cram in together just so they can get every possible minute together. Family plays games like Guesstures- acting out silly things and die laughing together. Family remembers the inside jokes and those jokes can last for years and no one tires of the retelling.

Family remembers your heartbreak. Family cries with you. Family suffers with you. Family sticks by you. Family never forgets you. Family knows who you are and loves everything about you. Family hopes for the best, prays for the blessings, and never lets you go.

So, if your family isn't perfect- an aunt is annoying, mom bugs you about something, grandpa makes obscene noises at parties, a possible competition going on between sisters or brothers, financial worries, feeling like you don't necessarily fit in...remember that you at least have family-that you have been blessed with family. With all of it's quirks and hick-ups - they are still family and no one and nothing can take the place of family.

My definition for family is possibly a bit too long for "Webster," but if you are to define a word, I say, you best get it right.

(part of the "Prima Famiglia Saga")

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Just an Ordinary Day

Today I got up, went downstairs and found most of my little ones awake. My eldest had already loaded the dishwasher because the night before I was just too tired to load it myself. We had breakfast and played a around of Bible "Jeopardy" in preparation for the Bible test they were going to have. (Girls won 6,200 to boys 6,100). Next, we cleaned-Monday is our cleaning day. We started school--little boy was in play time-- little girl was asleep.

When eleven am rolled around I wanted to head to the library to return the dvds and to take a break. We loaded up into the big blue van- everyone helping to get the little ones locked up and off we went. We marched. Return our handful of dvd's we rented and went back to get some more. The kids each got to pick one dvd- I think I got something for Ben and I and out we went. The kids love to run around the walled in tree area- even the littlest wanted to go today-(she really was too scared). After that we loaded up again and off to Sam's Club to hand in a prescription for contact lenses. The guy said I didn't have what he needed to fill it- drats! Back into the van and home.

At home the babies go down for naps and the "big" kids finish school. I tried to get some quiet time to read the Bible. My big girl worked on a children's track to hand out at night of no fear. I'm amazed at her genuine heart for the lost. I am teary-eyed.

Hubby walked in around 2:30pm. We all talked to him and then I ran out with oldest and youngest to the eye Dr. to pick up another prescription and also the Dollar Tree. Home again - I made Chinese for dinner.

After dinner, I was off again to drop oldest at soccer practice.  I took two little ones of mine with me and  went to Ollies to try and find a birthday present and then to Joanne's to find fabric so I could make the girls dresses. I was looking for fall fabric, but actually came across a Nativity fabric- I guess I'll be making Christmas dresses instead of fall dresses.

Home again- put little boy to sleep with books read, Bible songs sung, and oodles of kisses-- listen to big girl talk of her wonderful piano teacher and lesson-worked on a history project with biggest boy- put three more to bed with prayer time and kisses on sweet chubby cheeks and watched a movie with biggest boy and hubby.

Now this--my blog.  Big days--I'm gonna miss them. The simple everyday things-the chores, the outings, being together-it's just an ordinary day-I have had so many of them- nothing great to boast about-just us. us--being together. Can't really imagine a time where we wouldn't all be living together-sharing our day to day lives, but I know it must come. I truly cherish these days.

"This is the day, (albeit- boring or exciting, successful or full of defeat, full of labor or slumber, laughing or crying, changing dirty diapers or not so dirty diapers, quiet time or loud times, school or breaks) the LORD has made and I will rejoice in it." (Psalm 118: 24 NKJV)

For He has given me a day to be me, a wife, a mom and I praise Him for counting me worthy of such a task. thank you Lord for all you have given me -I rejoice in it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I used to watch the show "cheers." That is when it was airing regularly. The show was pretty good-it made me laugh and I love to laugh, but I have to say the thing that got me hooked to the show was the opening song.

"Where everybody knows your name...
and they're always glad you came..
you wanna go where people know
people are all the same
you wanna go where everybody knows your name."

I loved that song. I also loved when "Norm" came into the bar everyone shouted, "Norm!"

When I was in my young twenties I was visiting  Boston and doing what tourists do-sight-seeing. One place I just had to go into was "Cheers" --the real bar. I seriously couldn't wait to walk through the door-I'm not sure what I expected, but it was absolutely nothing like the show. Everyone there was in their own cliques talking - and there was no "Norm!"

But how I used to long for that -to belong to a group- really -to just belong. I remember so many times I wanted to jump into the show and be a part of it- the jokes, the camaraderie, the family. 

In my own family I didn't feel like family. I remember sitting down to dinner. I must have been younger than four years old- I was sitting on a high stool-(I guess that was my chair)-too big for a high chair, too small for a "big" chair...(sounds like the story of the Goldilocks)  Anyways, I remember looking up and staring at alllll the faces around the table. There were soooo many people. I felt shy and scared. Let me paint the picture for you... we were a family of nine, around a smallish table, in a smallish kitchen, in a smallish house. We were also Italian which makes for a loud, boisterous group of people. It was intimidating to say the least. I remember not recognizing all the people at the table-it's odd to be living in a house with your own family and feel like a stranger.

In the city of N.Y. I didn't really feel like I fit in either. For example: alot of my friends and family were a tough crowd-a mean sarcastic group of people- rough all over. (Much like the typical New Yorker is depicted) but I was quiet and liked the funny side of sarcasm. At work, the girls were not married and went out to a bar every Friday after work. But I had a husband to go home to and quite honestly, I had never been in a bar before- I was afraid of going- I would have been the only one ordering a coke and golly, if a guy walked up to me I would have freaked! Also at work, I was the only Christian and it seemed like everyone knew it. Yes, that was a good thing, but so many times I felt like I was under a microscope. It's hard to be placed in a position of  "role model" when you yourself  a) didn't ask for it and b) aren't perfect. I don't know how much I 'fit-in' at work on this level either.

The constant struggle of trying to fit in when I could clearly see that it just wasn't going to happen was frustrating and lonely. I turned to the scriptures. The scripture that I would hold on to was in 2 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore since we are a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come."  tremendous!  I remember how liberated I felt. I was new- I was a part of the family of God. The "old" was gone- the "old" of trying to fit in and be accepted was gone- I fit into Christ because He made me and made me a part of His family. I was content.

When my hubby and I finally left N.Y. I remember thinking, upon arriving in VA.- "I'm home! this is where I belong- this is where I should have been born. I used to say, "I may be a Northerner, but I got here as fast as I could." but in VA, well, I don't think I really fit in here either.

I remember I wasn't living here long when I had to go to T.J.Maxx to return something. I had my receipt, but it was alittle complicated-I wanted to return two items-one to give back, but the other item to exchange for a smaller size. After I explained to the cashier the two different returns, I handed her my receipt and my driver license. She looked at the receipt and was taking her time to do the return.
I said, "I'm sorry for the confusion."
Her reply--"No, you're not."
I was shocked, I said, "no, I really am."
Again she said,"No you're not."
I asked, 'Why are you saying that?"
She said, "You're from N.Y.-you're not sorry."

I tried to convince her that I was sorry, but she would not hear of it. I was a New Yorker and I was not sorry. I walked out really hurt. I thought wow, I'll never fit in. It was then that I realized that I had much deeper hurts than I ever realized.

In N.Y. I was considered sweet, non aggressive, shy, and some thought me funny-I didn't fit in.
in VA I think I'm looked at as aggressive, loud, a few think I'm funny, not too sure if they think I'm sweet. I don't fit in.

So back to the Scriptures I went. Ephesians 1:13-14 is one that did it. "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory." ...being "sealed." I finally found where I fit in- in God.

Through the years I have struggled with this time and time again (even last week!)- I don't seem to fit in- and maybe, just maybe, that's how God wants it- you see every time I have tried to find acceptance it was in others- relying on people to make me feel accepted, loved. even my location was a false hope of fitting in and finding safety. But God wants to fill that insecurity in me. He wants me to be filled with Him- the truth of what He sees in me.

So I've learned that no matter who I am with or where I am- I am accepted because I am a new creation and accepted by God. It sounds so simple- but truly, to put our hope in being wholly accepted by any one person or even in a place is a farce. In this world the rejection is constant- but in God we are accepted, forgiven, healed, approved of and sealed.

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prima Famiglia

I am one hundred percent Italian and second generation born in the United States of America. So, like most newcomers or immigrants my grandparents came over in a big ship that landed in New York. They settled in the Bronx. There is a little town known there, or should I say Avenue, "Arthur Avenue" that was/is predominantly Italian and has stayed that way until this very day. (I believe the mafia has some hand in keeping it exactly the same---yikes-you didn't hear that from me).

I grew up making monthly pilgrimages with my family back to the old place. Walking down the street as a child it was like we had landed in Italy itself. The people, the language, the shops-it was amazing. Every time we visited, my father would take us to all of the same shops-one being the poultry shop. As we approached it we could see all the live chickens in the store front window. It was kind of like a pet store, but only for selling chickens and yes, we got to take a chicken home, but not as a pet.

 I remember the very first time I ever entered. I was very excited thinking that we were going to have a pet chicken and take it back to Queens, New York. My father said, "Go ahead Ellie, go pick out the best and biggest chicken." I took the choosing very seriously- I studied them, watched them, talked with them, petted them, and when I found the chicken that was going to be my life long pet my father said, "Good job." The owner of the shop quickly grabbed the chicken by it's legs and carried it upside down to the other end of the store. I thought that wasn't very nice to do to my new friend. My father said to me, "Follow the man and watch." Watch what? I thought. Are they going to put a pretty pink bow around her neck? Put her in a cage so I could carry her home? Nope, that was not the plan. I watched as they lowered my screaming, cackling, new chicken friend into scalding hot water-into, what became, a silent grave. She came out not moving. She was dead. In complete fear, sadness, and shock tears began to roll down my cheeks. My father, on the other hand, seemed quite delighted with his new purchase of dead chicken and we briskly walked out of the store to join the rest of the family.

After that, we continued down the street popping in and out of shops. We would go into the bakery-all goods within it were Italian-(Didn't really need to mention that did I?) Anyway, entering the bakery was better than burning any yankee candle. If I try hard enough I can still smell that sweet aroma of fresh baked breads and cookies. I would stare at all the varied cookies and say to myself, ' If you could have any cookies which would you choose?" I would always choose one hundred canoles, a least fifty of the different almond cookies, and beg for a slice of Napoleon cake.

Next was the meat shop. ummm, no good memories there- moving on.

We would take a break and have lunch. I tell you in no other time in my life did I ever see my father get excited and smile more than when he was choosing the lunch for all of us. Who knows what he was saying to the waiter, but boy, when the food arrived there were massive amounts of it and all delicious. Pasta, meatballs, broccoli-rabe, breads, sauce, olives, artichokes, wine--delicious!

We were italian. We were family. And I knew my heritage.

'Prima familigia' translates: family is always first.  Growing up Italian, although I was of the Roman Catholic faith--family was my religion. God and family were equal. I'm serious-if you think i'm kidding just watch any clip of the Godfather movies-one, two or three. Yup, to Italians family is a religion. Also, I'd like to mention and to further prove my point- 'prima familigia' doesn't just mean 'family first' it is understood 'family is always first.' Italians do not have a phrase-family first- the way they would say it is 'prima famiglia' which to them means-family is always first--I ask you, how crazy is that!!??

Honestly, I never realized how much my family had a hold on me until a few short years ago. In the past, my family could abuse me, make fun of me, threaten my very life, and yet I was taught--you forgive, forget, and move on. Walking into the house where family was waiting- you came in smiling, hugging, kissing hello, and being joyous. Happy, happy-all the time.

So, when a few years ago, six to be exact, I was threatened with being 'cut-off,' (an Italian phrase which means a family member is disowned by another family member).  I felt like a whole part of me was dying. My family, like knowing Jesus today, was everything to me. I don't know if expressing myself in words will ever really convey the hardship I have gone through. It felt like I was being cut in half- a cutting- properly phrased- a cutting-off. My family was in my mannerisms. My family was in my voice, my hair, my face, my thoughts, my memories. Even my blood was family-that was drilled into my head over and over again-"We're blood, we're family"-(If you say it in a deep, Marlon Brando, maffia type voice-then you've got it). With great fear I knew being cut-off was inevitable.

You see, the things my family had been doing over that last year together, the choices they were making, were getting too difficult to just 'smile' away anymore. I had to confront. I had to be different. I had to stand for what was right. I had to stand up for my true God- I had chosen to follow Him, and Him only. The choice made my knees buckle. Made me tremble. Made me loose sleep. I was a wreck.

In that choosing- my family felt betrayed. they warned me to submit- I could not.

The words, "You're cut-off from the family," never actually were said. nothing was ever said. The phone just stopped ringing. My parents were gone and I was dead to them.

My sisters, well, they cut me off in the usual Italian way with the shouting, arguing, and ugly e-mails. I think they finally worn themselves out and then they were as silent as my wet chicken. I have lost my parents, four sisters, their husbands, seven nieces and eight nephews.

I remember when reading through the gospels for the first time, twenty or so years ago, coming across the scripture in Luke 12:51-53.

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

I didn't like that at all.  Jesus didn't come to bring division, He came to bring peace-happy, happiness all the time. He was meek and mild and a child that never grew up. Right? Well, that's what I wanted to believe and honestly, every time I came across that scripture, because I didn't understand it nor did I like it, I would skip over it (!) I really didn't like hearing that my mother might come against me one day and I didn't understand why He would say He came to bring division-why would He say such things?

I understand now. Taking a stand for Christ will bring division. People don't want to die to self. People are selfish. People are prideful. People are their own gods. People are sinners and like sin.  People don't like the Ten Commandments. People don't like change.  People want to hate. People want to feel superior to others- to gossip.  People want to do what they want to do and that's that. And everything about Jesus goes contrary to what comes natural to humans. So to take a stand will bring division, not peace.

After the final call had been made, and I knew they were all really gone, I mourned. I mourned for about three months. They were dead to me because I knew I was dead to them. I knew that I would never hear my father call me 'Ellie' again, my mother say, 'How's my girl?', my sisters and I laugh over stupid things and laugh because we just 'got' each other or have those inside jokes that really only sisters have, and I would never see my nieces and nephews grow up. It was over.

End of part 1-the prima famiglia saga.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Energizer 'Christian' Bunny

So here is my third tribute to an amazing Godly woman -Maggie.  A woman of God that I met eleven years ago. She was in her eighties than- white, beautiful hair and a smile that shone even brighter. She reminded me of my grandma- little, petite and lots of energy. I bonded to her immediately because of that, but I was soon to meet her and be amazed.

I met Maggie in a woman's Bible study hosted at my church. I remember when I saw her I thought, "Oh, praise God, that lady met Jesus late in life, but she met Him." I thought it was awesome how this woman in her eighties met Jesus and was coming to a Bible study to learn more about God. I could not have gotten the story more wrong.

Maggie has known Jesus for most of her life and here I was thinking she was a new Christian. why did I automatically think that she was a new Christian? Well, it goes back to my mother's fortieth birthday- my mother made some speech about how half her life was over and it would be all down hill from there. How she'd only get fatter, uglier, more wrinkled and there wasn't anything she could do about it. Her attitude about life pretty much matched the attitude of her appearance. She saw herself as an old lady at forty and gave up trying. I was only ten at the time.

So, when I met Maggie, (I didn't realize it), but I had had this thought that life was over at forty-no trying to better yourself, no trying to learn anything new- life was over. So how could Maggie at eighty be at a Bible study to better herself unless she was a new Christian? An "old" Christian would say, "Been there, done that."  or "What's the point? I'm not going to change this late in life-life is over." (Completely horrible I know-but I was raised under this philosophy-so don't shoot me).

Maggie, a Christian in her eighties studying the Bible. A Bible study, I might add, that was about 'Breaking Free.'  I sat back each week and wondered about her. She'd come in, Bible in hand with work-book and homework completed. I loved it. She was living life. Still going. Still seeking God.

Since then I see her come to church every Sunday. She comes- no one would judge her if she said she was too tired to come to church. No one would blame her if she said, 'I've heard it all.' She probably could even give a great sermon, but she listens to the preacher with no judgement. I think one of the most amazing thing is when I see her singing along to a loud, electric guitar, drums banging, worship song. She could complain that it's too loud. She could say, "Why don't we sing the old songs." But not Maggi. She is not stuck in the past- never has been. She has been marching forward since the day I met her. She is still marching in her nineties.

She completely shocked me last winter on a cold, dark, Wednesday night when she simply walked through the door. I had thought of not going to church that night due to the weather, but there was Maggie-driving alone, coming in to pray. Today Maggie is still going to Bible studies. On Monday she attends one and on Thursday she leads one. Nothing stops her. she is living for Jesus and nothing is going to slow her down or stop her. Not the weather, the darkness, not her age.

Maggie, through the years, has been there for me. I run to her and tell her the latest update on either the ridiculous minutia of my life or for the things that weigh down my heart. She is there- ready to listen-ready to pray- ready to advise. She is my little energizer Christian bunny.

Maggie has taught me that as long as God has you on this earth you are to live for Him. I haven't asked her, but I would guess one of her life verses is:

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Because of her example, Galatians 6:9 is one of my life verses. Thank you Maggie for being the example I never had. For being there for me. For teaching me to forge ahead no matter what. To never give up. To never give an excuse as to why I shouldn't follow Jesus.

True story-a few years ago I was asked to teach the girls cheer leading for our VBS-I didn't think I should do it.  My excuse: I was eight months pregnant. I had never cheered before. I had absolutely no idea how to teach it. Maggie said, "Is God asking you to do it?"  I said, 'I think He is.' Her response, "Well I guess you're the cheerleader teacher."  If God is asking you to do something, well then, you better do it no matter what your age, situation, problems- if He asks- then He has a plan and He will make you able. By the way, I taught the cheer leading classes that summer and had a blast. If you really love Jesus you'll serve Him no matter what.

Lord, I want to be like Maggie. I want to never tire of doing good. I want to study your Word over and over again until I can breathe it. I want to be there for people. I want to serve people. I want to be in your house- old with white hair, -until you take me home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Woman Who was Ready

as i read the Bible i allow my eyes to slow down whenever i see a woman's name mentioned. i'm looking for a role model-someone to emulate.

so--women in the Bible-who do i like?  i like mary. (all the marys actually-they all followed Jesus with abandonment-when all others had run and hid they didn't -they were at the cross!).  Elizabeth is pretty cool too-she happily receives a baby in her old age, she's filled with the Holy Spirit and has a prophesy. this is what is said of her, "...his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." (Luke 1:6) and i just love what she says to mary, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." (Luke 1:45)  Abigail, she's another one-i like her too. Now Esther-wow-she really tops them all, (i guess). she was a nobody, brought into royalty, becomes queen, but remains humble. still remembers who she is and where she comes from. she listens to her cousin mordecai. she prays on it. she fasts. she gets others to pray and fast. she is calm. she isn't running, crying, complaining, worrying. you never hear her say, "why does this have to happen to me?"  "why can't someone else do the job?" 

esther gets a plan. she carries it out-slowly. finds favor with her king and saves the Israelites. man, she was amazing.

 i've never actually met any of these women, of course-but through my life i have come across three other amazing women of faith. i have mentioned anne in an earlier post,-she taught me to follow Jesus no matter what the cost.  today i'd like to talk about another woman- who taught me to be ready-mother howard. just the mention of her name brings tears to my eyes. a woman completely sold out for Jesus. so at peace. so in love with Him. so, 'i'll, 'do whatever He says.'  she taught me to be ready. be ready in season and out of season." Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2)

she saw me hours before i ever met her.

one morning, twenty years ago, she woke up and while lying in bed she had a vision of me. she had no idea why she had a picture of me in her head. she had never met me before. never heard of me. but there i was in her mind. she went about her morning getting ready. she was recovering from a recent heart attack and was moving considerably slower. all morning - me. she would close her eyes-me. her heart was excited. she knew or believed i was coming and she was getting ready.

mother howard. she - well, i really don't know many facts about her, but i sure do know some of her stories. she had a heart for God. raised in the south- daddy was a preacher-she loved church, the Bible and the things of God. she eventually got married and had children. her love for the things of God never stopped. she would say to me that she would talk to God like He was standing in the room. she never heard His voice audibly, but his voice was so clear to her heart and mind that He might as well have been standin' there.

one story i remember-she was poor-married-with children. one day she heard the Lord say, "get on the 1pm bus to a specific town."  (i can't remember the name of the town)  she spoke up-, "but Lord you know i don't have money for a bus ticket- where am i going to get the money?"  He told her, "look in the linen closet for a large, outdoor light bulb." she looked and found it. He told her to return it to the store -that will be enough money for the ticket.

she got her family to watch the children, grabbed her suitcase that was always packed, ready and waiting in the closet  and went to the store. she had no trouble returning the bulb and it was the exact price of the bus ticket. she got on the bus and sat down. she got off the bus at the town she was told to go to and sat down on the bench at the bus stop. she had not gotten instructions on what to do next so she just waited. it had been a couple of hours, but then the Lord said to her, "there he is, go and speak to him."

she got up and started following a complete stranger. she had no idea what she was going to say when and if he ever did stop. but the Lord said, "follow him" so she did. after a block or so the man realizes that there was a woman following him. he stopped and asked, "can i help you?"  at that moment the Lord revealed to her what she was to say. "you are a married man, and yet the home you are going to is not your own".  he tried to explain it away- she told him that the Lord sent her to him and how the Lord sees his adultery and wants him to turn from his sinful ways. the man cried and walked on.

((((CAN you believe this story??? Can you believe her boldness????
back to the story--
the place where they happened to stop was in front of the mistress' house. it was revealed to mother howard. she then knocked on the woman's door and told the woman how she was sent to stop her affair with the married man. mother howard then left the woman, went back to the bench at the bus stop and thought that was all she was to do. minutes later she heard singing at a church. it was an evening service in the middle of the week. she went in and sat down. a lady dressed in black, and shawl (that covered over her head and most of her face), came in sat down and was crying. mother howard put her arm around her. the woman looked up and it was the very woman she had met that afternoon-the mistress. mother howard prayed for her to accept Jesus in her heart and be her Lord and Savior, to forgive her of her sins and be saved.

the next time mother howard returned to the bus stop it was to go home.

i would literally sit at mother howard's feet every day and ask for more stories of her walk with Jesus. she told me that the hardest thing about her heart attack was that she could no longer get up and go where ever  God wanted her to go. one day she took me into her bedroom, opened the closet door and pointed to a suitcase. I took it for her and put it on the bed. she told me to open it. i couldn't wait to see what was inside. inside was a set of clothes, pajamas, toothpaste, toothbrush and a Bible. there was no literature, tracks, or written out sermons- this woman was just plain ready in season and out. she was not only ready, not only willing, but out right excited to follow Jesus where ever He would go.  but that morning when she saw me in her mind, knowing that she could no longer travel for Him, Jesus said to her, "I am bringing my lost ones to you now."

i lived with mother howard for forty days. our goodbye was painful for me, but her stories still live with me. she is now in heaven i am sure being crowned with many jewels and rejoicing with her King.

Lord, may my heart be willing and help me get my feet ready for the work you have for me. i want to be ready to go in season and out.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Night of No Fear

When I was young my church did not turn Halloween into a  "night of no fear" with the inflatables and games and lots of free candy as the church I attend today does. When I was young, it was just plain ole' Halloween, but I will say as a kid I loved it anyway.

There are two things I remember about Halloween- two things that made the night really special. The first thing was the candy of course. The other thing that made Halloween special was the simple fact that my neighbors opened their door. I'd knock and they would open the door!  Now that may not sound like much to get excited about, but for me it was. I grew up in NYC and you see normally people just don't open their doors-- except on Halloween.

I remember two times a year I would get dressed up in my girl scout uniform-my beret, dress, sash, green socks pulled up to my knees and I'd have my clip board in hand. I'd go door-to-door selling girl scout cookies.  I would knock and no one would open the door. House after house no one would open the door. Now, you might think, "Well, no one was home" and that might have been the case for some, but not all. I remember knocking on neighbor's door and actually see the curtain of the window by the door move- they looked out, saw it was me and would not open the door. I even remember hearing the chain lock on the door sliding across and yet no one opened the door--not even to open the door and say, "I'm sorry dear" or something like that.

So you see, Halloween was pretty special to me- I knocked and my neighbors opened the door. and I will say that they not only opened the door, but when they did open the door they were kind. They were welcoming. they said things like, "So, what are you all dressed up as?" and talked sweetly to me. Yup, Halloween was different then all other days of the year for me and my neighbors.

Well, as time went on- I remember being 13 years old and still trying to get away with dressing up and going trick or treating. It was more like begging for candy because I knew I was too old to be going around, but I wanted to give it one last try. My very last year of trick-or-treating I grabbed a black garbage bag and pushed my feet through, pulled it up- poked my arms through--stuffed it with newspaper and pretended I was a bag of garbage!

Well, that was pretty much the last year I saw my neighbors, the door to Halloween was closed and life for me continued to have doors closing on me. The door of happiness, and the door of hope- life began getting more and more hard. When I turned eighteen years old i thought very seriously about giving up God's greatest gift- my life. Life was that hard.

One day I happened to be in a place that had a chapel. I stood in the middle of the room- it was empty- and stared at what I knew was a Bible. I had never opened a Bible before or read it's pages- but there it was- opened and sitting on a little table. I went over to it and glanced at the words. It was opened to Matthew 7.  "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds and to him who knocks the door will be open to him."

I read those verses for four days- it took me four days for me to come close to believing it. I had knocked on my neighbors doors and they wouldn't open them - why would this be different?  I wasn't sure I could trust it- but on the fourth day I said, "Lord, if you are there, I'm knocking- come in and be with me." I believe the Lord Jesus did come into my heart that day. The door of hope was opened and I began following Him.

After that, well, I wanted a Bible of my own. I wanted to know Jesus. I read the book of Matthew first and read clear to the end to the book of Revelation. And do you know what I found? In Revelation 3:20 it says Jesus is doing some knocking. It says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in. And will sup with him and him with me."

I think it is absolutely amazing to me that Jesus is knocking - and what is so neat is 23 years ago when I read that scripture- Jesus was knocking- and today if you read it - Jesus is knocking and tomorrow if you read it --Jesus will be knocking. You see- Jesus' heart is to have a relationship with you --and He will wait and knock until you make the decision to open the door and let Him in. He loves you that much.

He is waiting for you- to make a decision to want a relationship with Him. are you ready?  You have a choice.
We all do.
I did too.

I think, in my case, God had been knocking on the door of my heart since I was a little girl, but it took me about 18 years to get the courage to open that door.  I was afraid for Jesus to come into my heart. I was afraid of letting go of my life to Him and having Him change me. I was afraid of Him seeing all my sin-afraid of getting in trouble.  But all that fear wasn't from Jesus.  Jesus is standing at the door of your heart knocking. Waiting. hoping to know you. Jesus created you and wants to know you.  All we have to do is open the door- ask Him.

On this unholy night of Halloween- let's make it holy
on this night of fear- let's make it a night of no fear
on this night where people are knocking on doors- let us knock on the door of heaven and receive the free gift from Jesus which is a relationship with Him.

--If you you have never prayed a prayer to ask Jesus to come into your life-
--or you think you prayed a prayer when you were just a kid, but can't remember-- it never hurts to prayer it again.
--or you are a follower of Jesus, but know that you are not really living for Him- still have rage, bitterness, unforgiveness, gossip, judgement, Jesus is knocking on your heart too.

Let's knock and let's open the door.

I wrote a prayer below-if it is something you would like to pray-take a moment and pray it. Jesus hears your prayers, He will come.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for knocking on the door of my heart.
Thank you for loving me so much that you would wait for me.
I hear you knocking and I open the door of my heart for you to come in.
Come into my heart Lord Jesus and make me your own.
Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.
And thank you for the gift of eternal life.
In Jesus' precious and holy name I pray.

If you prayed this prayer and would like to tell me or have any questions please contact me:

Friday, September 30, 2011

"Do Whatever He Tells You."

Years ago I was in a Bible study class with, what is now, a dear friend-Anne. I can only guess her age-from her pure white hair and the memories she spoke of,  she was in her seventies. How precious her faith. I met her, I don't know, some seven years ago.

During the Bible study year, we would spend a week studying a chapter of the Book from the Bible we were covering at home and then come together and share what the Lord had shown us. All week I couldn't wait for class. I would arrive early, settle my children in their classes and then run to grab a seat somewhere close to Anne. Every word she spoke was completely inspiring, touching, true and deep. I would say to myself, 'One day Lord, I have to have the kind of faith Anne has. I want to see you as she sees you. I want to have her strength, her fortitude, convictions, boldness, and complete and utter joy.'

Funny, we became true friends. I say funny because I had reasons to adore her-to follow her around like a lost and hungry puppy, but she somehow adored me. I'd come around-our eyes meet -and she would light up, stretch out her arm and wave for me. she had stories of faith to tell and I had eager ears to hear. We were a pair.

Don't misunderstand me-she had a life of struggles. Hardship. Downright tragedy. Her husband at the time was suffering horribly from alzheimer's disease and she was his only care giver. She held on to her husband with one hand and the Bible with the other. I never saw her faith waiver.

One day after class we were walking out together. I asked her, "Anne, what is your favorite scripture in the Bible?"  She looked at me, stopped and smiled. immediately she spoke-without a second look, or guess, with complete assurance she said, "Do whatever he tells you." John 2:5. she continued... "I have tried to live my whole life by these words."

I truly thought she was going to say the scripture about carrying your cross, or it is not i that live, but Christ in me, or  I am the way, the truth and the life...or even from the Old Testament-the Lord is my shepherd.  but - how simple. How true. And it was just like her to have found that scripture- how lost it is among the story of Jesus' first miracle and among so many other scriptures. I was convicted. I was pierced.

I have challenged myself to live by these precious words. To "do whatever He tells you" brain sometimes cannot conceive how to do that all the time, but I have had to really trust that if He is asking me to do it, then He is not only going to be with me along the way, but also make me able.

In the past few years I've been challenged so many times. For instance- homeschooling my children. People think that just because my degrees are in education that I wanted to or even dreamed to home school, but to be honest, I never thought I'd do it. I was totally scared of the responsibility of teaching every grade to my children. I was a teacher yes, but I taught the same grade for several years before switching. In homeschooling every year is a new grade, new books, new curriculum to grasp.  I did not think I could handle it. I also wasn't so sure about the whole "socialization" thing. I knew some home schooled kids-they weren't -I don't know. But He asked, I obeyed. 

Another time I was asked to lead a vacation Bible school at my church. I used to sit back in awe of people who did huge things like that- that was not me. I never saw myself actually leading a VBS. I had never even attended one as a child!  Stuff like that-God asking me to do things that I was either afraid of doing or just never saw myself in that role- I said yes.

In my years of reading the Bible-(I am not boasting by any means)- I am seriously just a girl...who loves and adores the words within it. I have found it to be a treasure chest of rare and amazing jewels.  I read it over and over again and fine new meanings that touch my heart. New understandings of our Father in heaven and our Lord Jesus. I can never get enough. No book I have ever read has moved me, touched me, changed me as the Word of God.

Anyway, I have read the stories of Abraham, Moses, Daniel and his three buddies,  Nehemiah, Ezra, Esther, Paul, Peter, John- these are people who did anything God asked them to do. I watch movies like Braveheart, Luther, Amazing Grace, Glory - and watch how these men followed God unto death! They did whatever He asked them-and what a profound difference they had on this earth. I remember a quote from Braveheart- a friend is arguing with William Wallace over the idea of fighting England and Wallace says, 'I want to have a home, be married, and have children too, but this must be done.'  these men went against their own desires-dreams for their own lives to answer the call of God for their lives. Abandoning their own earthly desires, to do whatever He asked them to do.

Am I willing to do whatever He asks me to do? To pray with the cashier at Walmart? To share the Gospel with a person in the parking lot? To say hi and make a friend with a new comer at church? To get truly active in a ministry-put my whole heart into it? To take a missionary trip? To commit to read the Bible every day? To abandon addictions? To get into counseling and be emotionally healthy? To love my husband as myself? To stop finding comfort in food, but in Him?

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes..." Romans 1:15-17

My prayer is that I will do whatever He asks of me. To have a heart open, not closed- not filled with so many issues that it snuffs out His voice.- to hear Him. -to be ready to obey. my prayer is that I never tire of the Bible. That with each opening, my heart will race to hear from God. my prayer is that I will pass on this love of God's Word to my children. my prayer is that iI will, 'Do whatever he tells me' and make it the verse I live by.