Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Twelve Sons of Jacob

Another throwback video. Jeremiah (the boy on the left) is twice as tall now. Almost literally.

The Twelve Sons of Jacob

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah
Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 
Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin,
These are the sons of Jacob.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Not our typical trip to Canton

Mom didn't get to go to the Ranger game with us on Thursday, but she and I went to Canton (First Monday Trade Days) today with a purpose in mind. 

Usually, we go looking for craft supplies, and we did get a few things while we were there, but we went looking for plants. More specifically hanging baskets.

I bought a couple last year, so we wanted to get more this time. I bought 8. She bought four and potted plant. 

You cannot find a better deal. They were only $6 or $7 each and looked better than anywhere else you can buy. 

After we parked, we went specifically to one location. We loaded up the wagon Mom brought and had to go right back to the car with a load. We moved the car to another location, loaded up and went back to the car. Then we went back up towards where we started and bought something I was looking for to make patterns. Then, back to the car. By the time we got home, we couldn't walk. 

A cold front came through this weekend, so it has been cold and windy. Later in the week, I'll get these outside, but for now, my craft room is also the plant room. 

Some of these will multiply and multiply, so I'll transplant them once I clean out dead plants that froze right at the end of the freezing weather. (I had uncovered them once, all was well, then it got cold so they had to be covered again. They were covered, but still froze.)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Rangers Opening Day 2019

Dad and I made it out to Opening Day for the Texas Rangers yesterday. (I've only missed a few for various reasons since 1999.)

We had great seats among all the Chicago Cubs fans. The man in front of us was from Chicago, the guys next to Dad were from Chicago. It makes me wonder how some of these people were able to get tickets when I could only buy two at a time when the people next to us had three. We had to leave Mom at home.

The gates weren't supposed to open until noon, but we got there a little bit before and got in. That may have been three hours before game time, but at least we didn't have to stand for two hours to get in like people who arrived later.

The Rangers lost, but I was so happy to take a real day off for the first time in I don't know when. Like a non-holiday, actual day off. (That sick day a few weeks ago sure didn't count.)

I'm not sure when they open the new stadium next year if we will make it or not. Those tickets are going to be hard to come by and even more so expensive.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Grit to push through the hard stuff of motherhood

Part 2 of an Interview with
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin
and Gretta Kennedy,
Authors of Grit and Grace:
Devotions for Warrior Moms

From firsthand experience, Suzanne Hadley Gosselin and Gretta Kennedy, authors Grit and Grace: Devotions for Warrior Moms (Harvest House Publishers), share about the rigors and joys of being a mom. Elbow deep in the grind of diapers, laundry and peanut butter sandwiches, moms may find themselves struggling in the day-to-day challenges of parenting. “Having grit is pushing through the hard stuff of motherhood with determination and laser-focus on the end goal of raising children who love and serve Jesus,” Kennedy explains. “Having grace means realizing that God offers you peace, rest and help in this season. Also, as you give yourself grace, you will find you have even more grace to give yourself and your kids from the One who is present in your life right now.”

Grit and Grace is a refreshing collection of 90 daily devotions written by two moms who have found themselves desperately in need of encouragement. They hope to offer reassurance and hope to other moms. Through humor and vulnerability, the authors deliver short messages of truth to help moms embrace God’s calling on their lives to raise children who love and serve him. The authors cover topics such as perfectionism, comparison, joy, gratefulness, fear, rejection, weariness, calling, tenacity and hope.

Q: Before you had children, what did you expect motherhood to be like? What surprised you most when you became a mother?

Gretta Kennedy (GK):
I did a lot of babysitting as a kid and young adult, so I at least knew that kids aren’t perfect, and taking care of them can be pretty tiring. But the thing that surprised me the most was the huge responsibility of motherhood. I was the one who needed to be the expert on my child. No one else would know her like I did. Also, being a mother is totally different from being the babysitter! I was responsible for everything...not just this little person. The house, the food, the everything...oh yeah, and the children.

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin (SHG): I have worked with kids since I was a teen. In fact, I met my husband when he struck up a conversation with me about children’s ministry. I always assumed I’d take to motherhood like a fish to water. I was wrong. The stress of being a mom revealed many of my weaknesses, such as being unskilled at managing our home and all the little demands of motherhood. It also revealed my selfishness as I was pushed to put others before myself again and again. 

Q: What was one of the biggest pressures you felt as a new mom? In what ways did you feel insecure?

GK: I wanted to do everything right and have the perfect child. I wanted to be super mom. I wanted to be super wife. And I think that pressure came from within me, not so much from outside influences. I quickly learned that I was human and  couldn’t do it all...especially maintain a clean home, serve a healthy dinner on time, and be everything my husband needed as well. It was impossible. I had to find a different and new rhythm and realistic expectations.

SHG: I struggled with not feeling cut out for motherhood. I was awkward interacting in mom circles, and I didn’t feel as knowledgeable as other moms. I kind of bumbled through the daily mechanics of caring for children. In my 10-year career as an editor at a major Christian organization, I had felt competent every day and received steady praise for my contributions. For the first time in my life, I felt like I wasn’t “good” at my job and though my babies were adorable, they didn’t offer me the kudos for my work I’d received in the workplace. I compared myself to the super-moms around me and saw myself coming up so short. As a perfectionist, it was an adjustment to find that, in some ways, I wasn’t a natural at being a mom. God had to take me on a very specific journey of accepting who He made me to be and realizing that He had teamed me up with my kids, with both my strengths and weaknesses in mind. That was powerful.

Q: Suzanne, you write that your spiritual life took a hit after you became a mom. In what ways?

SHG: Spiritual disciplines have always been an area of weakness for me. Even before kids, I struggled to meet with the Lord at a consistent time each day. However, I did find time to get in the Word daily and received consistent spiritual input through working at a Christian organization, being plugged in at church and attending multiple Bible studies during my single years. I had my first child a year and a half after I got married and decided to stay home. I quickly became isolated and overwhelmed and struggled to find time to even crack open the Bible. I felt too tired to pray. I realized many of the struggles I was experiencing, such as a negative view on life, conflicts with my husband and anger toward my children were the bad fruit of a life that wasn’t connected to the True Vine. But it was more difficult than it ever had been to sit at Jesus’ feet and be refreshed by Him.

Q: Gretta, you write about losing your identity when you became a mom. Was it something you realized all at once or was it gradual? What would you like readers to realize about their true identity?

GK: I had quite the cool job before I became a mom, and I loved what I did. A young newlywed and capable and trusted in an outdoor adventure-based ministry, I found great fulfillment in my marriage and career. When our daughter was born, my life was consumed with her. Being a good mom and knowing my daughter’s every need became my top priority, and I genuinely loved it. But around the 6-month mark, it dawned on me that every conversation I had with others always revolved around mom life. It no longer mattered what I did prior to becoming a mother, and no one really cared anymore about my relationship with my husband. It was all about my daughter. I had become just a mom.

I really struggled with that because I felt there was so much more to me, but none of that mattered anymore. “Mom” was it for me from here on out. Then God reminded me very clearly that titles are not my true identity. My identity needs to be found in him alone because that will never change. So truths like “daughter of the King” and “chosen” and “forgiven” became the identities I tried to focus on. This is so important for moms to remember. The little children years are so demanding that we can forget how God sees us. We are so much more than moms. We are redeemed! We are gifted! We are loved! If we can keep our identity centered as God sees us, then as we go through changes in life, our foundation won’t be shaken and we will be more free to live as God truly intended.

SHG: My favorite devotional is titled “(Gingerbread) Man Down.” I talk about how my daughter accidentally broke two gingerbread men ornaments that had been a gift from a coworker. They had sentimental value, and I yelled at her when she broke them. A few weeks later, she presented me with a new gingerbread man ornament. It was gaudy and glittery and painted with bold colors. She told me, “Mommy, this gingerbread man is even more beautiful than the ones I broke.” In the devotion, I talk about how that is what God does for us. He fixes our broken places and gives us something more beautiful than what we started with.

Q: As your kids have started to grow up, what are some of the things you miss about having kids at the youngest stages?

GK: I miss the simplicity of sitting on the couch and reading stories, the chair in the kitchen while they help mix ingredients, and the funny ways the kids pronounced words and phrases!

SHG: Mine are still pretty young, but with the older ones, I miss their absolute need and dependence on me…just wanting to be with me every second for no apparent reason. Isn’t that a picture of my Heavenly Father and me? I am absolutely dependent on Him and should crave to be with Him every day. And I miss all the kisses and hugs. My 2-year-old is still the best at those!

Fellow Grit and Grace Warrior Moms can connect on Facebook (gritandgracemoms), Twitter (Gritandgracemom) and Instagram (@gritandgracemoms).

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated

Part 1 of an Interview with Linda Rooks,
Author of Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated

It is estimated that upwards of 80% of separated couples ultimately seek out a divorce. Despite the sobering statistics, it is possible to reconcile and build a stronger, lasting marriage. In Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated: A Practical Guide for the Brokenhearted (New Growth Press/February 25, 2019), Linda W. Rooks offers practical answers to readers’ questions, guiding them to a positive outcome for their marriage.

As separation and divorce increasingly become what many feel to be the only solutions in many troubled marriages, Rooks encourages couples to continue to fight for restoration and healing. As a survivor of a broken marriage herself, Rooks understands that readers need specific, biblical, and practical help navigating their new, unwanted journey by faith. She and her husband, Marv, were married for over twenty years when then they faced a marriage crisis and separated. After three years of separation, they have now been reunited for twenty years.

Q: You write Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated from experience. Can you share a little bit about the path that led you and your husband to separation? When you separated, did you anticipate divorcing or was it a mutual goal to work towards reconciliation?

My husband and I had a very happy marriage at the beginning, and although we had typical problems, we still had a happy family life with our two daughters. We were both active in church, involved with the children and did a lot together as a family. Despite the good times, however, we weren’t resolving problems. We had different family backgrounds when it came to dealing with problems. My husband came from a family where no one ever argued. It was a “peace at all costs,” kind of mentality. I came from a family that was very expressive, and people openly expressed different opinions and feelings. In our marriage, I would express my feelings; my husband didn’t. When we had an argument, a pattern gradually emerged in which my husband would often walk out the door and leave for a while. Then when he came back, we’d both act like nothing had happened. Since the problems weren’t being resolved, bitterness began to grow beneath the surface, and those unresolved problems and bitterness started eating away at our marriage.

Eventually, arguments became more heated, and our relationship became more tense. My husband seemed angrier with me on a regular basis, and I didn’t understand why. We continued to have more and more arguments which resulted in him walking out the door. Finally, one Easter while I was in the midst of cooking the Easter dinner, we had another argument, and my husband walked out the door and left. But this time he didn’t come back. At first, I thought he was just making a point and would be back in a day or two. When it stretched out into three or four days, I began to get worried. A mutual friend went to talk to him and reported back to me that my husband needed time and planned to be gone for a while. I was in shock. It was the most painful experience I ever had. Even though we’d had problems, I thought he loved me and would never leave me. I walked around in a fog like one of the living dead. I was in literal, physical pain. My emotions went up and down like a roller coaster from tears and depression to anger, then back to tears again.

A few weeks later, we visited a counselor who tried to get us back together. We did get back together for a couple of months, but then my husband left again, and that time he said he was thinking about getting a divorce. It was four months before I saw him again.

Q: How long was your separation and when did you realize it was time to move forward with your marriage together?

My husband and I were separated for three years. It was never anything I wanted, and I agonized over the time apart because I didn’t understand it. Like most people, I wanted to resolve everything and have him move back home as quickly as possible. But one day when I was pouring my heart out to a friend, she said, “Linda, he’s confused and needs to figure himself out. Tell him to take a year if he needs it to figure out what he wants.” I was shocked at her suggestion, and when I told her so, she responded, “What’s a year in a whole lifetime? If it takes a year for him to figure things out, then you have thirty more happy years together after that, wouldn’t it be worth it?” It took three years, but it was definitely worth it.

When a separation occurs, what we don’t realize is there’s a lot of healing that needs to happen before a marriage can successfully be restored. Change needs to take place, and it takes time for people to make changes or even recognize the need for changes. The more severe the issues and the longer the problems have plagued the marriage, the longer it will probably take. For us, we went back and forth over those three years until we had inadvertently created safety for one another in the relationship. When we both felt safe and spent time together in a kind of friendship, we rediscovered our love for one another and knew it was time to think about getting back together.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you were given during your separation?

The best piece of advice I got during that time was from a friend who told me to “put my husband on the back burner and focus on God and what He wanted to show me.” It’s so easy to become fixated on your spouse and your circumstances. You want your spouse to come home, and your mind spins around in circles, trying to understand how to make that happen and what caused him or her to leave. You become obsessed with thinking about it and paralyzed from actually doing anything.

By “putting your spouse on the backburner and focusing on God,” you allow your mind to focus on the One that can really help you. God has answers for you. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” This scripture gives us the answer to our dilemma. By focusing on God, He can show us what we need to do, what changes we need to make, and how we should proceed during this time. He also gives us His peace.

Q: A lot of people think that once separation occurs the marriage is over. What does it look like to fight for your marriage?

There’s a common misconception that if a separation occurs, the next step is probably divorce. Many marriages have survived a separation and gone on to thrive afterwards. Divorce does not have to happen. If even one person in the marriage wants to fight for their marriage, there is a good chance they can be successful in restoring it. However, the goal should not be to bring back the old marriage, but to create a brand new one between the same two spouses.

Separation occurs because something in the marriage is broken. Something isn’t working, and the dynamics need to change. The first thing a person needs to do is step back and take a fresh look at what’s been happening. For the partner that’s been left behind, he or she must begin by giving the spouse who left space to clear their head and realize that his or her feelings can change—even if they say they aren’t in love anymore. Spouses left behind need to put their mates on the back burner and focus on God so they can take care of themselves. Otherwise, they can become obsessed with their circumstances—which is pretty much the default mode in this kind of crisis. Being intentional about keeping focused on God will move them onto a more constructive and rewarding path.

To fight for your marriage, change needs to take place, and it starts with God. Often, we try to keep trying to solve problems in the same way we’ve done it in the past. When that doesn’t work, we want to give up. God can open our eyes to negative reactionary circles that may have been keeping our marriage off balance. He can show us changes we need to make in ourselves, which not only strengthen our marriages, but make us healthier individuals and better communicators.

The most important part of the battle, however, takes place on our knees. God has answers we do not have. He sees the big picture. He can lead us one day at a time and show us how to fight for our marriages His way and in His timing.

Q: What happens when one spouse wants to reconcile, but the other does not? Do you think most couples give up too easily?

When one spouse doesn’t want to reconcile, the one who does often thinks it’s hopeless. They don’t see how they can bring about reconciliation by themselves. There’s a popular adage that says, “It takes two to reconcile.” While it’s true it does take two to take that final step, many times one person who is committed to the marriage and willing to fight for it can bring about reconciliation.

In the crisis marriage classes my husband and I lead, many people come alone to the class. Yet even though they come alone, many of them ultimately are able to reconcile.  when one person begins to make changes, it causes the other person to respond differently. It’s always thrilling to see what happens when one spouse comes alone and is serious about doing the work to become all that God wants them to be, and then seeing the response of their spouse. On several occasions, we’ve seen the resistant spouse so impressed with the changes they’ve seen in the one who came to the class, that they decided to come to the class the following year to see how it will affect them. Ultimately, they end up reconciling.

I believe far too many couples give up too easily. They need to give it to God and let Him do the work in each person He wants to do.

Q: Can you share how you gathered the stories of others that are included in the book?

Many of the stories in Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated come from people who have come to our classes. Others come from those who have emailed me after reading my first book, Broken Heart on Hold. A few of them were stories shared with me at a previous time. In most cases, I journeyed with these people over a long period of time and witnessed firsthand the broken beginnings and the beautiful endings to their stories. I become very attached to the people I minister to both online and in person, and it’s thrilling to hear what happens when a breakthrough occurs.

When I asked permission to use their stories, it was wonderful to see how willing these people were to let me do so. In every case, each of these people had drawn closer to God and saw God transform them as individuals. In most cases, I interviewed the couples, and they reviewed the stories for accuracy before they became part of the book. In other cases, I used actual emails. Everyone saw sharing their story as an opportunity to use the pain they had experienced to give other people hope. They tell me that even though it was probably the hardest time in their lives, it was also life-changing in drawing them closer to God.

Although most are stories of reconciliation, there are a few where the marriage was not restored, but the individual experienced personal restoration because of having to cling to God in the midst of their struggle.  

Q: How does one navigate separation with a spouse who has abandoned his or her faith and is rebelling against God? Would your book still be a helpful resource to this individual?

A separation doesn’t always take place in separate households. Sometimes a separation can take place within the same home. You may be living in the same house, but you feel like you are living two separate lives and going in different directions. If a spouse is abandoning his faith or rebelling against God, this might be such a time. Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated addresses this as well.

In this situation, you can’t change your spouse, but there are things you can do to help him or her find their way back to God. The first is to pray for your spouse to come back to God. Identify and pray specifically against strongholds causing your spouse to turn away from God. Learn to speak encouraging words that can build your spouse up. Ephesians 4:29 says to “build others up according to their needs.” Our words and actions can be a testimony to the one who is rebelling against God. We can be a priest to them and a conduit for Christ’s love. Our love can show them Christ’s love.

Learn more about Linda W. Rooks and her ministry at and follow her on Facebook (Broken Heart on Hold) and Twitter (@linda_rooks).

Click here to order the book.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The sneeze that almost killed me

I'm on the couch again...

I know I have been whining and complaining a lot about my sinus infection and bronchitis all month, but one little sneeze almost did me in yesterday.

My ribs have been hurting from pulling a muscle coughing, especially suddenly in bed and shooting up to be able to breathe. Who knows, maybe I even cracked a rib. However, they had been better.

Until this morning.

I usually sneeze pretty hard and three or four times in a row. Not this morning. A single small sneeze almost killed me.

It felt like I had been stabbed in the kidneys (or gall bladder or whatever other internal organ is on your left side) with a knife or a broken off rib or something. I was sitting at the time, so I had to stand up and try to catch my breath. OH THE PAIN! The initial sharp pain subsided, but I was practically in tears at a restaurant because it hurts to move.

Because it's too painful to lay down, I'm back to sitting up, sleeping on the couch. Tonight will be night 6 for the month. It's a good thing my purple couch is comfortable because I would be in trouble if it weren't. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Puppet practice

I've been trying and trying to upload a video of puppet practice, but it will not upload to YouTube from my iPad.

Two of my four weren't at practice on Sunday, but I had a good puppet voice going that was entertaining everyone that would have been good for a laugh, but alas, I can't get it to work. Maybe someday when I get a chance. With less than a month left until competition, I'm a bit nervous about how it's going to work out.

I can't remember if I've mentioned (I think I've lost brain matter in blowing my nose the past few weeks), that I woke up one night thinking I needed to write a children's book based on how gross the 10 plagues were. I've never wanted to write a book before. I even sent the idea to editorial at New Growth Press. I'm very sure it won't go anywhere. There's the whole matter of the tenth one and making it not so terribly traumatic for children.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The 10 Plagues

The Plague Song
To the tune of “This Old Man”

Then God sent, plague number one
Turned the Nile into blood. 

All the people in Egypt were feeling pretty low; 
Moses told Pharaoh “let them go!”

Then God sent, plague number two
Jumping frogs all over you. (Chorus)

Then God sent, plague number three
Swarms of gnats from head to knee. (Chorus)

Then God sent, plague number four
Filthy flies, need we say more? (Chorus)

Then God sent, plague number five
All the livestock up and died. (Chorus)

Then God sent, plague number six
Boils and sores to make you feel sick. (Chorus)

Then God sent, plague number seven
Hail and lightening down from heaven. (Chorus)

Then God sent, plague number eight
Locust came and they sure ate. (Chorus)

Then God sent, plague number nine
Total darkness all the time. (Chorus)

Then God sent, plague number ten
Pharaoh’s son died so he gave in.

All the people in Egypt were feeling pretty low; 
Finally Pharaoh let them go.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Giving our neighbors to the east some love

Last weekend, I posted about making Oklahoma signs. This weekend, I worked on Louisiana ones.

It's kind of like a whole other language, isn't it? ;)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Work, Cough, Softball, Repeat

Photo from The Corsicana Daily Sun
Work, Cough, Softball, Repeat. That's what life has been all week. I'm hoping to work on some crafts this weekend, but until then, this quick post.

As for the picture above, I snagged it off Facebook. That's Peyton there in the front center.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Living Intentionally in an Unstable World

Part 1 of an interview with Melissa Spoelstra,
Author of Dare to Hope

Looking at today’s world, hope usually isn’t the first word that comes to mind. We live in a polarizing world where everyone is taking sides over issues large and small, leaving us to wonder what the future may hold. On a personal front, marriages fail, bank accounts run low, friendships end, and the everyday demands of a fast-paced life get us down. However, what the world is experiencing today isn’t all that different than what the prophet Jeremiah experienced thousands of years ago, and as author Melissa Spoelstra shares in her new book, Dare to Hope: Living Intentionally in an Unstable World (Abingdon Press), God is calling out to His people with a message of hope—a message that intentional living is possible even in an uncertain world.

Q: Several years ago, you wrote a Bible study based on the book of Jeremiah. What persuaded you to revisit Jeremiah and the subject of hope in your new book, Dare to Hope.

The message of hope continues to resonate in our culture. We all have reasons for despair and are looking for an anchor of hope to give some stability to our complicated lives. Jeremiah’s message of hope isn’t a formula, but his writings provide greater insight into God’s pathway to a deeper relationship with Him.

God’s message is counterintuitive to the American way of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord calls His people to surrender, listen, soften their hearts and take personal responsibility rather than play the blame game. These truths hit home as we muddle through our own circumstances and seek to be daring with hope.

Q: In what ways were days of Jeremiah similar to the tumultuous time we live in today?

God spoke through His prophet Jeremiah with clarity to a culture summarized by political globalization. The Babylonian Empire brought people of different cultures together. Ancient Judah also faced economic crisis because of their indebtedness to other nations. They had to pay tribute to Egypt, and later Babylon, which left the country stripped of its resources. Even with these economic issues, they struggled against social materialism. Jeremiah said that from the least to the greatest, the people’s lives were ruled by greed. On the religious front, people added other gods to the worship of Yahweh leading to religious pluralism.

Hmmm... sound familiar? Political globalization, economic crisis, social materialism and religious pluralism can all echo into our day, albeit in different ways. Jeremiah’s message brings us back to eternal truths about where our hope lies in troubled times.

Q: It’s easy to feel discouraged when observing the looming moral bankruptcy of our culture. Should we get caught up in all that is going on around us or should we divert our attention elsewhere?

I wouldn’t say we should get caught up in it, but we live in this world. We have responsibilities as Christ followers to spread God’s message of hope to others, so this means getting involved with people. People are complicated and relationships can be messy, so we are caught up in it whether we want to be or not. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. But we also can’t become consumed with everything going on around us and neglect our own ability to surrender to God through listening with a soft heart. We need balance and perspective to zoom out a little bit and try to get a glimpse of the God’s bigger picture. Jeremiah did this in his day by listening to God. In the same way, we can focus our eyes on Jesus and ask Him to give us vision as we navigate life in an unstable world.

Q: Remind us of some of the situations Jeremiah had to deal with in his own life. Did he ever lose hope?

Jeremiah was referred to as the weeping prophet because he brought a message that didn’t feel very hopeful. He called the nation of Judah to surrender to Babylon. God used him as a mouthpiece to tell the people how they had gotten off course with counterfeits. His words and illustration were harsh. In response to this, Jeremiah was ostracized from his family. He was imprisoned and beaten. At one point he was lowered into a pit filled with mud. I can’t imagine Jeremiah felt hopeful at the bottom of a pit. He voiced his frustrations and complaints to God even stating that he wished he had died in his mother’s womb. We can relate to Jeremiah’s bouts with depression and discouragement. Yet at the same time, Jeremiah knew where to turn. He poured out his heart to God and rehearsed his attributes. God reassured and encouraged him. Jeremiah chose to dare to hope based on God’s faithfulness rather than the trials he experienced personally as well as those of his nation. He wrote Lamentations and he said this,

 “The thought of my suffering and homelessness
    is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”  (Lamentations 3:19-24 NLT)

Q: The most quoted verse from Jeremiah comes from chapter 29, verse 11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Why do we need to be careful not to misuse this verse or take it out of context?

In the context of Jeremiah’s message, he says that the people will experience 70 years of exile in Babylon in the verse right before this one. He then tells them that God has good plans that include a future and a hope. So, we can hold onto this verse! The danger comes when we assume it means our circumstances will immediately turn around and be easy. God said that for 70 years life would be disrupted, but then after that, they would be restored. I chuckle when I see this verse plastered everywhere during graduation season. Its like we are saying in 70 years things will turn out okay. God’s hope is assured, but hope isn’t equivalent to easy, comfortable or materially prosperous circumstances. The prosperity gospel doesn’t work in Jeremiah’s economy, so we must understand this verse in its context. God’s good plans and hope for the future aren’t just for material gain but for spiritual blessings. We can bank on a rich relationship with God when we surrender to Him, and that is a hope-filled message. Its worth daring courageously to believe.

Q: You give your readers a little homework after finishing each chapter. Can you tell us about the Dare to Hope Challenges?

Often when I read a book, I can mentally work through the information, but often fail to take the next step of evaluating how it applies in my life. The Dare to Hope challenges give the readers a next step, to put feet to the truths mined from Jeremiah’s book.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Christ-Centered Approach to Preparing for Parenting

Part 2 of an interview with
Rob and Stephanie Green,
Authors of Tying Their Shoes

Through a gospel-centered approach to parenting, Tying Their Shoes by Rob and Stephanie Green, lays the foundation for expecting parents to welcome a new addition into their home in light of the gospel. First-time soon-to-be parents and parents expecting an additional child will find Christ-centered hope, practical advice, and encouragement toward parental unity in this invaluable resource.

The Greens know a baby brings many wonderful changes for both biological and adoptive parents. While other parenting resources exist to help expectant parents prepare for what’s around the corner, the Greens know the gospel is the best resource to ground couples in their relationships with the Lord, with each other, and with their children.

Q: There’s a lot of fear-based “preparation” expectant parents can be tempted to cling to. While some advice may be helpful, how do soon-to-be parents keep out some of the noise or voices aren’t helpful?

One of the things we like to remind ourselves is it is always possible to make things more complicated than what they are. Yes, parenting is war. Yes, we have to work at understanding our children. Yes, we want to be knowledgeable. However, I also need to remember that because we all live under the good and sovereign hand of the Lord, basic Christian teachings like identity, grace, obedience, purpose, priorities and dependence make up the core of life.

Our advice is to read books like ours to give you some things to think about. However, more importantly, do not forget to read your Bible, pray without ceasing, and rely on the one who died on the cross for you. Tying Their Shoes should push you to lean into Jesus and to rely on him even more.

When you hear or read a fear-based preparation, remind yourself perfect love casts out fear. Love the Lord Jesus, your spouse and your child. Learn all you can to be wise and thoughtful and trust the Lord for the grace and strength for this road of parenting.

Q: Do you have any advice for parents who are adding another child to the family? How do parents navigate the transition to becoming a big brother or sister well with their kids?

First, parents should be so thankful to the Lord they have the privilege of parenting another child. We have the opportunity to parent three of them. There remain certain foundational principles that apply no matter how many children parents have. For example, not finding your primary identity in your children is still an important matter. Parents should still work to make their marriage a priority. They should seek to raise every child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Those things are always true. In addition, remember each child is different. What you did with one child may not work as well with a different child. Be careful not to compare. One child may struggle to sleep more than another child. One may have more problems with reflux than another. One may cry more than another. Allow your trust in God’s sovereignty to dominate your thoughts and continually seek him for wisdom for this new child.

As far as big brothers or sisters are concerned, it is important to help them understand their place in the home. Just because we have a new baby does not mean we no longer love them. Thus, remember to include your older child(ren) in the care of the new baby.

Second, help them see this wonderful stewardship opportunity. The big brother/sister has the chance to help protect and care for their little brother/sister. They can help them learn about life. When our two oldest were little, the older was talking to the younger. He explained if you ever wanted something really bad for Christmas – ask Nanny! Here was big brother showing little brother how life really worked.

We always found in the younger years our children followed our lead. If we were excited about something, they were excited. If we were complaining, they were complaining. If you act like having a new baby is hard, then so will the older sibling. But if you act like the new baby is a gift from the Lord, your older siblings just might believe you.

Q: How would you encourage readers who have experienced difficulty on their road to becoming parents (infertility, miscarriages, adoption issues, etc.)?

Issues of infertility, miscarriage, or an adoption that fell through are incredibly hard and often take people by surprise. Few people imagine those kinds of struggles before they have them. Thankfully, the Lord has a lot to say about suffering. Many of his people struggled with the exact same thing. You can take comfort the Lord has a lot of say about your situation. We like to remind people to cry out to the Lord (Psalm 13), look for his grace in all its various forms (my grace is sufficient), and believe the Lord is for you, even when days are really hard.

Enjoy what the Lord has given. You do not know what the future will hold. Maybe issues of infertility will be gone … maybe not. Maybe you will have another miscarriage … maybe not. Maybe you will be able to adopt five more children … maybe not. Jesus encouraged us not to worry about tomorrow for today has enough trouble of its own.

In order to be encouraged, encourage others. There are other couples still waiting. Some have come to grips with the Lord’s plan more than others. 2 Corinthians 1 reminds us we can comfort others with the comfort we have received from the Lord.

Q: Would single parents benefit from reading Tying Their Shoes?

If being a parent is difficult, then being a single parent is especially difficult. Many single parents have very long to-do lists without reading another book. It is possible a single parent would grieve over a chapter addressing both a mom and a dad or to long for a relationship with a spouse like the one described in the book. 

However, single parents can also benefit greatly. It can direct them to be center their thinking on Christ rather than task-oriented. If the laundry is not done or the house is a dump, then that might not be a crisis. Maybe you were able to spend some special time playing with your child(ren).

Single parents can also benefit from seeing what kind of spouse they would look for should the opportunity come. Some single parents settle for a marriage far from what Christ would want, and as a result suffer greatly. 

God’s word doesn’t change. The truths found in God’s word are the same whether you are a single or married parent. All need the encouragement and hope found within the pages as well as to be reminded of the promises and the commands to be obeyed.

Q: How will biblical counselors and pastors benefit from reading this book?

One of our hopes is resources like this will help to prevent some potential counseling! Parenting is a dynamic process. It requires wisdom, prayer and the Lord’s grace every step of the way. As a pastor, I want people to be in the best position to respond to what they face. That involves thinking about a few matters in advance. In addition, since there is a chapter on mentors, it is possible for the church to have a more formal mentoring ministry to those expecting their first child.

Pregnancy does not typically lead people to seek biblical counseling, but as a counselor I am in favor of mentoring and learning in advance as opposed to waiting until preventable hurts and pains require additional guidance. However, maybe it is those who are expecting that do not know how counseling might be a benefit to them. Going through a resource and having a little counseling tune up may put the couple in the best possible position to handle the new changes well.

Q: If new mothers only take one thing away from Tying Their Shoes in relationship to pregnancy and labor, what do you hope that one thing would be?

God has blessed you with a wonderful opportunity to be a mom. While there will be uncomfortable days, there will also be great joy. That means you can trust him during pregnancy and with your labor. You can also trust that if your plans for labor do not work out, there was a purpose. Your great shepherd is with you every step of the way, so there is no need to fear. Rather draw near to him and trust his perfect plan.

If you experience hardship along the way then know he is with you every step giving you grace and strength.

Q: What is the main point you hope new fathers glean about their involvement with their child during infancy?

I was a very different father to my three children during their infancy. The life and family schedule were part of the reason for that difference. However, it was not all of it. I cannot hide behind an additional educational endeavor or a busy life. The fact is there was also a heart issue. I was more intimidated by the infant stage. I had a wife who was and is an amazing mom. I had a path of least resistance and I took it. That does not mean I was absent—far from it.

What I would encourage new fathers to do is engage in all the blessings and challenges. Yes, you may miss a first smile or a first step. In those moments rejoice that God has given you a job that provides food, clothing and shelter. In those moments rejoice that God is growing your baby to do exactly what babies are supposed to do. When you have moments of challenge rejoice that God is using them to make you more like Christ. It is easy to love and care when the other person gives you what you want. It is Christlike to love even when they do not.

Q: How does Tying Their Shoes fit in with Rob’s previous release, Tying the Knot?

The first book, Tying the Knot, attempts to help engaged couples begin their marriage well. It tries to connect how one’s relationship with Jesus impacts everything – how one loves, solves problems, communicates, handles financial resources, invests in community and functions in the bedroom. However, we all know that after two people get married each couple has to learn to apply the truths of Scripture and find comfort in God’s love and presence in the midst of various circumstances. God willing, this allows them to enjoy all the blessings he provides in marriage.

The second book, Tying Their Shoes, attempts to help expecting parents prepare for one of God’s special blessings in marriage—a child. We know not all couples will experience joy, but those who do have a new opportunity before them. Our goal was to offer couples a small scholarship. We know they will face a variety of difficulties and challenges. However, engaging Christ, His Word, and relying on Him in the midst of the changes can allow new parents to truly enjoy this blessing from the Lord.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cough, cough. Cough, cough.

I'm still coughing and my ribs still hurt. It's getting so old, but at least I'm able to go watch softball like tonight.

Whatever is floating around that started this mess needs to blow on out!1

Monday, March 18, 2019

I didn't sign-up for this

My kids in puppet practice yesterday didn't seem to be getting the point that they couldn't hold the puppets down low or to the side of their head. One wasn't quite getting the point that you need to move the puppets' mouth when talking. So, the three out of the four that were at the second part of practice yesterday had to march around the building with their arms raised, puppet mouths moving as they sang "The Lord's Army."

One child remarked, "I didn't sign-up for this."

My response, "You signed up for Miss Audra and puppets, and you never know what I'm going to make you do."

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Deep and Wide... a throwback

Since I've not been able to get new videos this month, I'm throwing back to two and a half years ago at the beginning of a school year when the kids claimed to be camera shy. It's backwards "Deep and Wide."

Deep and Wide

Deep and wide. Deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.
Deep and wide. Deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

Hmmm and wide. Hmmm and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing hmmm and wide.
Hmmm and wide. Hmmm and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing hmmm and wide.

Deep and hmmm. Deep and hmmm.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and hmmm.
Deep and hmmm. Deep and hmmm.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and hmmm.

Hmmm and hmmm. Hmmm and hmmm.
There’s a fountain flowing hmmm and hmmm.
Hmmm and hmmm.
Hmmm and hmmm.
There’s a fountain flowing hmmm and hmmm.

Deep and wide. Deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.
Deep and wide. Deep and wide.
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Northern expansion

Back in the fall, we kept getting requests for Oklahoma signs. Hey, if they will actually sell, might as well. 

I finally got some time in the craft room this weekend, so finished off a couple of "Boomer Sooners" for OU, then did a couple of variations of Oklahoma State. 

REALLY want to do a University of Florida because I have a gator in my MDF stash to put on it. Here's a bit of trivia for you: When I was 5-6 years old, we went to Florida to Disney World in consecutive years, and I decided at that point, I wanted to go to the University of Florida. When I was young, that's where I said I wanted to go to college. 

When we went back when I was in junior high, I even bought a couple of Gators t-shirts. True story.