Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fun Updates

So, here is the part of the letter where you get all the updates on all the fam. The purpose of the things I will share with you about each of our children is to 1.) make you laugh and 2.) let you in on the funny things that make them uniquely 'them'. I won't be sharing achievements because there weren't any. I'm kidding--just trying to make you laugh! (But we'll save the achievements for grandparents and resumes)

Since he is our newest member of the Grogan clan, Murray gets to start it off.

This is our dog Murray. We got Murray last year for Christmas. He was a perfectly timed gift from God. We needed some four-legged furry joy in our lives right about then. I also needed something to keep me busy. Wow, nobody told us how much work puppies can be! Actually, I take that back. They probably did tell us, but when you have puppies on the brain, you tend to tune out all that negative talk. But I am glad we tuned it out because he has been worth it.

Even though he is kind of dumb. He balked on the crate-training, he took ten months to potty train and he becomes 'fluff on speed' everytime we have visitors. He is also very co-dependent. He has to always be near us--always. He can't even go outside and do his business by himself. We have to walk down the deck steps and stand there and say 'Potty' twenty-five times and then jump up and down and do a cheer when he goes. If you have spent any time on the phone with me at all, you have witnessed me saying, 'stupid dog' on more than one occasion... So, I just re-read what I wrote. He actually sounds quite manipulative and in charge. Maybe it's his owner that's the dumb one?

Oh well, we all love him (well, one member of our family tolerates him--I'm not going to mention any names).
Before we leave the subject of Murray, I just have one more thing to say. Isn't his underbite endearing?
Who can we pick on next? How about Jeremiah?

Jeremiah is now five and started Kindergarten this year. School makes him feel extremely important. Jeremiah is a hard one to get mad at...especially because he is the best hugger in the world, has a sweet, squeaky voice and calls his pajamas 'jamamas'. (On a side note, Jeremiah drew my name at Christmas. I told him that 'yo mama needs some jamamas'. There must have been a miscommunication because I got pillows).

Jeremiah is the peace keeper of the family. He tends to be everyone's sidekick because of his easy-goingness. Owen is especially fond of him; wherever Jeremiah is, you can be sure Owen is close behind.

This is a year of firsts for Jeremiah: first time to play t-ball, first time to play basketball, first time to do school and first time to swim on his own. After going through these 'firsts' with three others already, I'd think it would get less exciting. But it hasn't. It seems to only get sweeter.

Next up to bat is Wes. I had to use this terminology because Wes is 100% a baseball fanatic. He lives it. He breathes it. He is serious. Wes is also a Lego fanatic and a drawing fanatic. Wes never does anything halfway. If he gets interested in something, watch out because he becomes a fanatic. Wes is also a straight shooter--to a fault. The other day when we were finishing up math, I had just explained something to him that he missed. Feeling confident that he understood the concept, I mentioned, 'I bet tomorrow you'll get this problem right.'

Wes immediately replied, dead-panned, 'If there is a tomorrow. There could not be a tomorrow, you know.'

Way to look at the bright side, Wes.

In general, Wes is kind of quiet. But it is a fisod. His wheels are always turning, and when he shares his thoughts, they can be quite complex. We like to call them 'Wes-isms'. Here is another one for ya: 'Mom, you know the first day when God created light? Well, was that January 1? Because it seems like the first day would be at the beginning of the year. But, the weird thing is, it would have been cold and Adam & Eve barely had any clothes on.'

Sophie, Sophers, Soph...what can I say? She adds a lot of diversity and interest to our lifes! And she thinks...BIG. Like a few weeks back when she dragged a bunch of extra lumber into our yard and tried to make a treehouse. She is a free spirit and I love that about her. Go here, if you want to read a 'fall-down laughing' story about Sophie from earlier this year. I will share this one last thing to give you a complete picture of Soph:

Our kids go to a school one day a week on Fridays and take various extra-curricular classes. This past fall I enrolled Sophie in knitting. I was so excited. I figured she would learn and teach me what she was learning...I envisioned she and I sitting together, sipping tea and knitting beautiful scarves...

Now, I will jump forward a couple months. Myself and my friend, Michelle, are helping Sophie organize her room one night. About every six months or so, I have to take a deep breath, brace myself and go in her room armed with trash bags. This is the second time in the past two years that I've had to call in reinforcement (hence, Michelle). Sophie is a superb 'stuffer' (things can look great on the surface, but everything is stuffed under the bed, behind the dresser, in the closet toy chest...) She is also a pack rat and hates to part with anything. Stuffer+Pack Rat=Deadly Combination. So, we are working away when I suddenly find a lone knitting needle (to knit you have to have two).

'Sophie, where is your other knitting needle?' (still hopeful that that earlier vision could still become a reality).

'Remember--didn't I tell you? Dad ran over it with the lawn mower.'

What? What? Why was your knitting needle outside??!! Oh, nevermind! Why am I even asking why? Did I happen to mention the term 'organizationally challenged'? I'm pretty sure she gets that from her dad...

Okay, moving right along (I get the feeling you're not buying that last statement).

...on to our oldest born, Joshua. Joshua is as far to the other side of the spectrum as you can get from his sister, Sophie. When I think of their extreme differences, I get this picture of them one day as adults: Sophie dressed in some get-up that she put little thought into (with a coffee stain running down the front), and Joshua dressed in a heavily starched button down and perfectly pressed pair of khakis. They have always been polar opposites. ALWAYS. Sophie does things super fast; Joshua is a slow, methodical turtle. Sophie makes rash decisions; Joshua weighs things carefully. When they were younger, their personalities clashed like oil and water. Thankfully, as they have matured, so has their relationship.

Joshua is 11 going on 40--not 11 going on 18, but 11 going on 40. Don't believe me? Here are some recent statements from him over the past couple of days:

As we are taking down our Christmas decorations, 'before we know it, we'll be putting these right back up again, you know it?'

As we are driving up to an intersection, 'That was smart of them to change the intersection light from a flashing red light to a yellow one. Now we won't have to sit at this intersection as long.'

Everytime someone comes to the door, 'Sorry things are a little bit messy around here. We've haven't had time yet to pick up.'

...Yep, 11 going on 40...

His dream would be if we handed all parental authority over to him because he is pretty sure he knows all the answers! First-borns--where would we be without them?

Last, but definitely not least (he would never allow 'least') is our little Owen, whom we lovingly refer to as 'the O Factor'. O is best known for his shenanigans earlier this year involving toothbrushes. All of our toothbrushes kept disappearing. Finally, after much investigating, we solved the case of the missing toothbrushes. Our O Factor had been throwing them into a small, one inch hole in our drywall. Yes, many a toothbrush now sits inside our wall, giving some mice something to munch on.

Actually, Owen has made significant progress this year. He has really grown up and the 'hard-core fit-throwing' is becoming more seldom these days. That's not to say he doesn't still have moments. Usually, these moments occur during transitions. He doesn't transition well into new surroundings. Like the time a couple of months ago when our church was still meeting at a hotel. We dropped him off at his classroom in the care of a young, newly engaged couple. This was their first time to work in Owen's age group. I guess Owen wanted to break them in. A few minutes after drop off, he busts through the child's gate and runs, shrieking through the hotel and does a nose plant right in front of the buffet table, startling two hotel workers. The sweet, unsuspecting, new teacher is running after him with a terrified look on her face. The two hotel workers are just staring down at him looking a little perplexed. Me? I'm pretending I don't know who that little guy belongs to. As Eric goes to retrieve him, I yell, 'can't you keep that kid under control?'

Yep, that's our O.

I hesitate to let you in on this last bit of info, but hey, why not? Owen is having personal issues of the worst kind this past month--issues of the #2 variety. Don't you use #2 terminology? Or maybe you are a little more blunt and call it poop (i can't believe i just said that). But that is what our Christmas vacation has been centered around--trying to get Owen to go #2 because he has a phobia about going and about getting changed after he goes. It's really brought Eric and I closer together. We've bonded as we've had to work as a team: 'now you hold the legs, while I wipe...' Too much information? Hey, just trying to keep it real.

Lastly, what's up with Eric and I? Well, the last paragraph gave you a pretty good picture...aside from that, well, we're probably doing a lot of the same kinds of things you are doing! Living life the best way we know how and hoping and praying somehow in the end we will have made a difference for Jesus.

That's it. That's all I've got. Hard-core fit-thrower is letting one loose. Hoping there will be a fourth and final part of this letter. We'll see.

Monday, December 28, 2009

THANKFUL (Christmas letter--part 2)

2008 was the hardest year yet in my life of 39 years and counting. At the end of it I felt ran over by a train (if you missed our Christmas blog-post last year, you can read it here). The one word that sticks out to me in 2008 is perseverance--it's what I feel like God was teaching me about as I stumbled through that year. And stumbled I did. I just felt like I was trying to keep my head above water and survive. During it all, God continued to remind me to persevere in His strength. I can look back now and know that is what took place. He got us through those times.

As I reflect back over 2009, it is a year of coming out of a tunnel and being restored. God can't change the things that happened in 2008 but He promised to walk with us through it. And that He did. It's true; time does heal things and God restored in us a spirit of joyfulness and happiness in 2009. The word that rings out to me when I think back over 2009 is 'thankful'.

Let me start out with the most recent event that occurred in our family that left us breathlessly thankful. My father-in-law, Jerry, unexpectedly had to have by-pass surgery. It was a very sudden thing. He had a few episodes of chest and arm pain and decided to pay a visit to his doctor. His EKG was basically normal; however, due to what seemed a minor abnormality, his doctor sent him on to a cardiologist (as a precaution). The cardiologist ordered a stress test. Just minutes into the stress test, Jerry began having chest pains. They then did a heart catharization. We were shocked to find that he had 80-100% blockage in three of his arteries. I mean, just days before this transpired he had been golfing and raking leaves! They immediately hospitalized him and prepared to do a triple by-pass.

During these couple of days, God kept showing up. As my mother in law (Sheila), Eric and his siblings made phone calls and tried to determine the best surgeon to use, every recommendation came back to the same name. As they made a phone call to a friend whose job takes him into stint surgeries, the friend just happened to be standing beside the recommended surgeon. He was able to ask the surgeon right then and there about the possibility of performing Jerry's surgery. Some might call this coincidence; we call it divine intervention.

The day Jerry went into surgery, it was hard to believe that he was going to have a triple by-pass. He looked like a very healthy, fit sixty-five year old. And his coloring looked so good. It seemed surreal that a team of doctors were getting ready to cut open his chest. It still amazes me that such a surgery was figured out and exists! It's amazing that they can saw through the chest, stop the heart, hook you up to a heart machine that does the heart's job, take a vein out of your leg and chest and make new arteries in the heart to circulate the blood, take you off the heart machine and restart your heart. WOW. UNBELIEVEABLE. It's beyond comprehension.

Shocked and still trying to absorb the fact that Jerry had to have a triple by-pass, you can imagine our reaction when the doctor came out after the surgery to inform us that he had performed SEVEN bypasses. Excuse me??? SEVEN? Is there even such a thing? Yes, come to find out, there is such a thing. It's rare, but it's done. We've decided this was just one more way God wanted to make Himself known to us and especially to Jerry that day. So He imprinted His number on him forever, a memorial stone that will remind us forever that He was there--the number SEVEN. A number to remind Jerry that God's not quite finished with him yet.

The surgery was about two and a half weeks ago. He is at home and is recovering remarkably. God gave Jerry a new heart for Christmas. We are so thankful and are rejoicing in that!

Secondly, we feel extremely thankful and blessed to be at our church--Fellowship Louisville. We had been meeting at the Holiday Inn since services first began a little over 2 1/2 years ago. But at the beginning of December we moved into a building and this has been so exciting. Our first service in the new building can only be described as 'one big smile'. That is what everyone was doing that day--smiling from ear to ear. It was such a joyful day and no one could contain it--it was just overflowing from everyone's faces! We are thankful to be a part of a body of believers that are earnestly seeking God, earnestly care about one another and earnestly care about those outside the walls of our church. We look forward to seeing God's plan unfold through Fellowship in 2010.

There are so many other things throughout this year for which we are thankful: celebrating Eric's 40th, our family vacation, our Community Group, running in our fourth annual Turkey Trot, watching our kids in their various sporting events, going on our church's first women's retreat, new friends, reconciled relationships, babies being born, our marriage retreat at Torch Lake with friends, best-friend Florida fun, Sophie's baptism, Wes' decision to follow Christ....these are just some of the highlights of our year!

Yes, 2009 had more ups in it than downs when compared to 2008. Or, maybe, after experiencing a year like 2008, we have learned how to appreciate and savor the 'ups' so much more? Whichever it is, we are trying to be thankful these days for the blessings, both big and small....and to remember that--no matter what--


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Our 2009 CHRISTMAS LETTER (the first of a series)

Well, it is the morning of the eve of Christmas...I wish I could freeze frame this very moment of quiet stillness. Our kids are still sleeping (well, minus one--my early bird Jeremiah has come down to join me). This is always my very favorite time of the day. At this moment, all of the lights are off except the Christmas lights. How beautiful Christmas trees are when all is dark except for the glow of its lights. The darkness makes them illuminate all the more...

It kind of reminds me of Jesus. He was brought forth from his mother's womb to be a light for us in a dark world. He came so we could turn from the darkness of sin and death and all the yuck of this world and have an abundant life illuminating with His light. He doesn't always deliver us from the hardships and difficulties we'll all experience at some point in our life. But He always promises to deliver us through them in His way and in His time. The only part that we have to play in all of this is that we must choose to trust our Heavenly Father and lean on Him.

This is where Jesus comes in. We must choose to focus on Jesus who came into this world as a sin offering. He came into this world as a bright light that never sinned. He willingly died on the cross for my sin, your sin, and all of humanity's sin so that we could have an eternal relationship with God, the Father.

How thankful I am that God brought His son into this world! How thankful I am that we can have a relationship with God the Father of All through His son Jesus! How thankful I am for this little five year old sitting beside me who just interrupted the mood and the moment by asking, with no warning, 'can people be eaten by rats?' Excuse me while I explain to him the difference between the size of humans and rodents....

...Focus...Focus...I really am trying to focus. But my life is one big interruption. You moms out there know what I am talking about! Now all of the rest of our kids have gotten up, Eric just walked in and I have been asked a zillion more things like, 'what's for breakfast?'

I have to be honest, though, and say that Jeremiah and his siblings aren't the only culprits causing my lack of focus. I have had a hard time these last couple of weeks making Jesus the absolute focus amidst the last minute shopping, wrapping, etc., etc. Oh, we've had some moments here and there, but it just hasn't felt like enough. And I have been so frustrated because I feel like this happens every Christmas! UGGHHH!

So, with all of this whirling around in my head this morning, I opened up my very favorite devotional and read this:

'We would be better Christians if we spent more time alone, and we would actually accomplish more if we attempted less and spent more time in isolation and quiet waiting upon God. The world has become too much a part of us, and we are afflicted with the idea that we are not accomplishing anything unless we are always busily running back and forth. We no longer believe in the importance of a calm retreat where we sit silently in the shade. As the people of God, we have become entirely too practical. We believe in having "all our irons in the fire: and that ll the time we spend away from the anvil or fire is wasted time. Yet our time is never more profitably spent than when we set aside time for quiet meditation, talking with God and looking up to heaven.'

'we would actually accomplish more if we attempted less and spent more time in isolation and quiet waiting upon God' ....Boy, I needed to hear that. We all need to hear that. God wants all of us to have a Sabbath this Christmas. He wants us to stay still and quiet. He wants our focus.

God gave me a gentle nudge this morning to stop writing. For now. Instead of cranking out a long Christmas letter, I think He wants me to do a series of small bite size portions over the next week between Christmas and New Year's (so, I guess it's going to be a Christmas series :) ). I am going to take the advice He gave me to attempt less and spend more time focused on Him and our family....and I will wait on Him to equip me to write His words in His time....

Until then, I am praying this for us: that we could 'Be still and know that He is God' (Psalm 46:10), and that 'we would ask that the LORD would help us to seek to dwell in His house all the days of our lives.' Psalm 27:4.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Favorite Blog of 2009

Today we built our whole devotional time around this story. This is my very favorite blog of 2009 (and maybe ever). You have to go and read about a girl who decided to trust God above all else. It will absolutely blow your mind and then you will be hooked--just like me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My favorite daily devotional of 2009

I have to share with anyone reading--my very favorite daily devotional of 2009 was 'Streams in the Desert'. by L.B. Cowman. It never failed to bring a truth from God just when I was needing it!

2008 was a year of losses. It was a tough year and I felt pretty beat up by the end of it. A friend gave me this devotional last year at Christmas, right in the midst of this difficult season. She had no idea that God was going to use this devotional to help heal my heart of all the sorrow. Many days it seemed as if God was sitting right beside me speaking His truth into my life. I'm sure I have broken every copyright law imagineable quoting from it this year on my blog... if you are looking for a great Christmas present that will bless someone all year long, go and buy this for them!

Here are a few recent excerpts:

  • May we allow God to isolate us, but I do not mean the isolation of a monastery. It is in the experience of isolation that the Lord develops an independence of life and of faith so that the soul no longer depends on the continual help, prayers, faith, and care of others. The assistance and inspiration from others are necessary, and they have a place in a Christians development, but at times they can actually become a hindrance to a person's faith and welfare. God knows how to change our circumstances in order to isolate us. And once we yield to Him and He takes us through an experience of isolation, we are no longer dependent upon those around us, although we still love them as much as beofore. Then we realize that He has done a new work within us and that the wings of our soul have learned to soar in loftier air.
  • Every difficult task that comes across your path--every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle--brings a blessing with it. And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing. ~J.R. Miller
  • Life is a steep climb, and it is always encouraging to have those ahead of us "call back" and cheerfully summon us to higher ground. We all climb together, so we should help one another. The mountain climbing of life is serious, but glorious, business; it takes strength and steadiness to reach the summit. And as our view becomes better as we gain altitude, and as we discover things of importance, we should "call back" our encouragement to others.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 CHRISTMAS LETTER...., well, it's not yet written...please check back in by the end of the week :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interesting Facts From Our Nation's Heritage

This year we are studying American history. We have been enjoying it immensely! Here are some quotes and stories about/from George Washington that I wanted to pass along:

** Once, when aproached by the Chief of the Delaware Indians regarding instructing their Native children in the American schools, Washington assured him that the children would be as cared for as their own, saying "You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention."

** Not long after the Battle of the Monongahela in the French and Indian War, Washington wrote to his brother, Jack, "By the all-powerful dispensation of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, and escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me."

It would be fifteen years after this battle, that Washington would meet the Native chief that comanded the shooting upon him at the battle. While exploring in the wilderness with a friend, he came across a group of Indians, an interpreter, and their chief, who were purposefully in search of Washington that the chief might have words with him. A council fire was kindled, and the chief spoke: "I am a chief and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes, and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path, that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man's blood mixed with the streams of our forest, that I first beheld this chief. I called to my young men and said, "Mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe--he hath an Indian's wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do--himself alone is exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies." Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss...'Twas all in vain; a power mightier far than we shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. I am old, and soon shall be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shades, but ere I go, there is something that bids me speak in the voice of prophecy: Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies--he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as founder of a mighty empire."

** "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and Bible." ~George Washington

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Matters of the Heart

Yesterday we found out my father in law has 80-100% blockage in three of his arteries. He will be having triple by-pass surgery tomorrow. We are praising God that this was found and that the medical profession literally works miracles daily when it comes to matters of the heart! We are thankful to God for how His hand has been on all the details of this situation, especially how He made it so very clear which doctor to pick for the surgery.

Please join me in praying these verses over my father-in-law over the next several days. They are all scriptures relating to the heart. God's Word is God-breathed and All Powerful; I am praying that God will literally breathe these verses into Jerry's heart and strengthen it through and through. I am praying that God's Word will be pumped through him and sustain him like never before physically and spiritually .

I was blown away by the amounts of scripture related to the heart. I guess it is because everything really does come down to the heart, doesn't it. Will you do me a favor? Over the next week, when you come across a verse pertaining to the heart will you stop and say a quick prayer over my father in law? Thanks in advance for praying!

Here are just some of the verses I found:

  • I pray also that the eyes of your HEART may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Eph. 1:18
  • Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your HEART to the Lord. Eph. 5:19
  • My purpose is that they may be encouraged in HEART and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ. Col. 2:2
  • My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in HEART. Psalms 7:10
  • But I trust in your unfailing love; my HEART rejoices in your salvation. Psalms 13:5
  • Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices, my body will also rest secure. Psalm 16:9
  • The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the HEART. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19:8
  • May he give you the desire of the HEART and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20:4
  • You have granted him the desire of his HEART and have not withheld the request of this lips. Psalms 21:2
  • My HEART says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek. Psalms 27:8
  • Wait for the Lord; be strong and take HEART and wait for the Lord. Psalms 27:14
  • The Lord is my strength and my shield; my HEART trusts in him and I am helped. My HEART leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalms 28:7
  • Be strong and take HEART, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalms 31:24
  • Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your HEART. Psalms 37:4
  • Create in me a pure HEART, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with me. Psalms 51:10
  • My HEART is steadfast O God my HEART is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Psalms 57:7
  • Blessed are the pure in HEART for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
  • Trust in the Lord with all your HEART and lean not on your own understanding. Prov. 3:5

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I Know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Jer. 10:23

I said, "Let me walk in the field";
God said, "No, walk in the town";
I said, "There are no flowers there";
He said, "No flowers, but a crown."

I said, "But the sky is black,
There is nothing but noise and din";
But He wept as He sent me back,
"There is more," He said, "there is sin."

I said, "But the air is thick,
And smog is veiling the sun";
He answered, "Yet souls are sick,
And your work is yet undone."

I said, "I will miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say";
He answered me, "Choose tonight,
If I am to miss you, or they."

I pleaded for time to be given;
He said, "Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in Heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide."

I cast one look at the field,
Then set my face to the town;
He said, "My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?

Then unto His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light Divine,
The path I had feared to see.

~George MacDonald

Friday, December 4, 2009

Truths to Impress Upon Our Children

  • Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. It is not found in new jeans, a new iPod, a car, one's abilities, or exciting, heart-pounding experiences.
  • We need to walk in wisdom, submit to the goodness of God's way and turn away from our own agendas.
  • A life of prayer and godly counsel is our desire.
  • Choices that are principled rather than popular, foregoing immediate gratificaiton for the sake of eternal reward, are the goal.
  • God's authority structures are a blessing. For an eight-year-old this means I can trust Mom's decision that I need an eight o'clock bedtime. Demanding my own way when I still need parental guidance short-circuits God's training process.
  • Loving parents are a blessing from God. Loyalty to parental instruction is an expression of gratitude to God. The majority culture offers a fraudulent counterfeit by encouraging young people to be loyal to their peers rather than their parents.
  • The heart is the wellspring of life. The things children give their hearts to--the hopes, ambitions, desires, dreams, joys, and concerns--will set the course of life.
  • Our hearts cannot be trusted (Jer 17:9). Our hearts will lie to us. Children (and their parents) are easily entrapped and need to be accessible to others for counsel, instruction, and nurture.
  • Friendships are for the purpose of glorifying God, encouraging others, showing love and compassion, and gaining encouragement to do what is right.
  • There is a sowing and reaping principle in the Bible and we need to develop a harvest mentality. Children who trust and obey God find their heads crowned with wonderful blessings. Of course, this truth cuts both ways. The ten-year-old boy who is lazy about his chores will reap what he is sowing because God will not be mocked.

---taken from 'Instructing a Child's Heart' by Tedd and Margy Tripp---

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Conflicted Heart

As I shopped this weekend on Black Friday, I had two train of thoughts running through my head all day long. Two trains of thoughts that couldn't be more opposing to one another.

On the one hand, I was intensely focused on my shopping list--what to buy for whom, where are the best deals, etc. And I will be honest. I was enjoying myself immensely in the process. I enjoy buying the ones around me something that they really want. I enjoy the joy I see on their faces when they open their presents. I enjoy trying to find something for the best price. I enjoy the anticipation that comes with opening gifts at Christmas. I remember all of those feelings growing up. How exciting it was to receive something you really wanted.

On the other hand, a tinge of something--I am still trying to figure out if it is guilt or conviction or a bit of both--also clouded the enjoyment. As I filled my shopping cart with stupid toys, gadgets and computer technology, I would have thoughts like: I wonder how that little girl in Uganda that is fighting for her life is doing. Or, right now, at this very moment, there are children dying because there is no food or clean water available where they live. I would look down at the things I was buying and I would just feel sick to my stomach.

I have this struggle every Christmas. Every year I say, 'okay, we are going to do things radically different this year.' Yet, when push comes to shove, we do things exactly the same. And we don't even do many presents compared to the majority of parents. Our children each get three presents: one Santa gift, one gift from us and one from a sibling. Oh, and we do stocking stuffers. As I've discussed the 'gift giving' struggle with others around me, they often complain about the amount of gifts given by extended family--that it is just too much. I am very grateful that in our family, this is not a problem. They receive one to two presents from Eric's parents, a small gift from his grandparents and one from the 'cousin' drawing. So it is definitely not overdone. On my side of the family, it is even less: one gift from the 'family drawing'.

So, I have been pondering--are those questions that kept coming into my head while I shopped conviction from God or was it 'false' guilt that the enemy is constantly throwing at us to quench our joy? Or--is it a little bit of both?

As I have been praying and pondering over this conflict in my heart, here is what I feel the Lord is teaching me so far--

  • Yes, three presents for each of your children is a small amount comparatively to others in your country. Yet what your children receive comparatively to the children around the world is immensely more. Remember that. Don't forget it. AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT the children who are starving and dying.
  • Stop focusing so much on the number of presents and pray for My guidance in this matter. The number doesn't really matter--it's really a matter of the heart. For 'Where your heart is so will your treasure be.'
  • Are you seeing discontentment and ungratefulness in the heart of your children? Is your gift giving causing idols to form in their hearts?
  • Are your children tied to their possessions? Are you tied to your possessions? Would you be grouchy if you were stripped of all of the comforts you have been given? From where does your joy really and truly stem from?
  • Do your children ever have to sacrifice anything to help someone in need? Maybe you need to make that happen. Are you making them aware of the needs of those in poverty? Do they realize how blessed they are?
  • Is your joy at Christmas truly from the simplicity of the cross or is your joy in the Christmas decorations, the lights and all of the traditions. None of these former things are wrong in themselves. The question, sweet daughter, is not that you desire these things but do you desire them too much?

Youch. Oh, it's painful to look at what truly motivates my heart. So, what's the verdict? Is it conviction or false guilt? I think it's a bit of both. So, I am trying to throw off the false guilt, yet see my sin for what it is--utterly filthy, no good sin. The good thing is that God isn't finished with me or you or my children yet. It is a refining process. I'm right smack dab in the middle of this one, that is for sure.